Disney California Adventure at Night: Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

December 2012

Bedroom Makeover Project: Detroit Red Wings

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Over the summer we decided it was time to upgrade Tyler's bedroom decor from the Star Wars theme we gave it when he was five. When we asked what he wanted the new theme to be, we weren't at all surprised when it involved hockey. The Detroit Red Wings to be exact.

Our first step was to decide how much red we wanted in the room. I had the idea to do one whole wall as an accent but Phil and Tyler wanted more color. We compromised with white above and red down low where it will (hopefully) hide any scuff marks.

We went to Home Depot and used the Glidden Sports Team paint guide as inspiration. We painted the whole room white to hide the color underneath. Then we laid out the stripes and painted the red. Both paints are semi-gloss with primer.

Detroit Redwings hockey bedroom makeover ideas

We had a hard time with the striping. We tried blue painter's tape and the green Frog tape. The stripes still bled in a few spots and we had to do some manual touch ups but overall we think the paint turned out really well.

Next, we decided on the decor. That is still a work in progress, but we have put up several things that are making the room come together.
Phil made this picture frame. He used some of our old and broken street hockey sticks and a pane of glass from Michaels. The jersey is from the first team Tyler played hockey for and we included the team photo and Tyler's player card.

I bought the red sheets and pillowcase at Walmart for $14. The black backrest pillow is from Bed, Bath and Beyond ($25 before coupon). Tyler chose it because it reminded him of a hockey puck. The Red Wings comforter, pillow sham and Red Wings fleece blanket were recent birthday gifts from Tyler's grandparents.

The hanging light above the bed is from Ikea. We bought the shade, bulb and cord separately and paid about $20 for all the components. Tyler bought the Stanley Pillow Pet during a trip to Michigan. So far, the paint and supplies were the biggest expense.

We still have spaces we'd like to fill in. I want to get a valance for the window and maybe a trash can or rug, Tyler wants the Red Wings logo on the wall above his dresser and we want to figure out a way to make a headboard with hockey sticks or netting.

Detroit Redwings hockey bedroom makeover

Tyler absolutely loves his room! He shows it off to everyone and makes a bit more an an effort to keep it clean than he did before. The old Melanie might have put up a fight at the idea of painting a room red or going for broke with a theme, but since I decided years ago to be more of a 'yes mom,' I knew I had to go along with this. Paint is easy to change and Tyler's happiness is worth the multiple coats we'll have to use when it comes time to make a change. At least, it is now. Ask me again when we're re-painting.

Have you redecorated using a theme your kids chose? 
How did you keep the project budget friendly?

*Not a sponsored post. Amazon affiliate links used.

Happy Veterans Day

Monday, November 12, 2012

Last night, Tyler wrote the note below and gave it to Phil to pass along to his boss:

Dear Dennis
I am writing about the situation of Veteran's Day because my dad is in the Navy and is a veteran and does not have the day off. If you could please change that it would be very appreciated.

Thank you,
A Random Person

Thank you to all our men and women in uniform; those who have served us in the past and those serving now. Thank you to your friends and family for being your support system. Your service and sacrifice mean so much.

Happy Veterans Day!

Kids and Concussions: Our Story

Monday, November 5, 2012

Here's my wish for you, that you never have to see your child go through something like this:

About a month ago, we had to take Tyler to the emergency room for a CT scan after three days of concussion symptoms. Here's how everything unfolded:

He played a game on a Sunday morning. He and another child collided head to head (accidentally), they both fell and then the back of Tyler's  head hit the ice. He has taken harder hits than that one before. He's gone into the boards so hard I had to stop myself from running onto the ice. He has slipped, fallen and hit his head worse than that before. So when he got right back and up and continued to play, all of us, Tyler included, thought he was fine.

Later that afternoon, he was supposed to visit a friend. I told him to clean his room and then we'd go. After about half and hour, I wondered why it was taking him so long and went to see if he was playing rather than cleaning. He was asleep in bed. Our son hasn't taken a nap since he was four. That was clue number one something wasn't right.

Even later that afternoon, he complained of a headache. When we told him he should stay home rather than go to his friend's house, he started crying because his toothbrush was still at their house from a previous sleepover and now he wouldn't be able to get it back. Falling asleep, headaches and mood swings are all symptoms of a concussion.

We called the pediatrician's office for advice. For the rest of the evening, we kept a close eye on him and we woke him up twice during the night to ask him three questions each time (which he answered). The next day, Monday, his teacher sent him home from school because she could tell he wasn't feeling well. He said he'd had double vision while trying to take a test.

Tyler's headaches came on and off all that day. He would be fine one minute and in a lot of pain the next so we went to the doctor that afternoon. He was officially diagnosed with a mild concussion. Tuesday, his headaches were still coming and going, sometimes without warning.

Wednesday morning Tyler woke me before the alarm went off for school. He was crying and holding his head. "It hurts, it hurts so bad." That's when I decided to take him to the ER. The doctor looked him over and was confident his symptoms were still mild. She told us she, as a parent herself, would not do the CT scan on her own kids if they were presenting as well as Tyler, but Phil and I decided we needed to know for sure that he was OK.

Both us hadn't slept well since Sunday night, worrying there might be more wrong than we knew. Fortunately, the CT scan was normal. It was worth the possible risks from the X-Ray for our peace of mind. This doctor mirrored our pediatrician and said no physical activity (practice, games, PE class, recess) for two weeks. When she said that, Tyler started to cry.

I was very happy this doctor was able to talk to Tyler about what a concussion is and convey how serious they can be without scaring him. We sent him to school the next day (Thursday) with a doctor's note and instructions for him to go to the nurse immediately if he started getting blurry vision again.

We spent the rest of the week watching him for symptoms and noticed several odd things. He dropped the carton of milk twice in one morning. He tripped and stumbled walking back from the pool. We were talking about weekend plans and then a few moments later he asked, "So, what are we going to do tomorrow?" Each time something like that happened, it re-affirmed that keeping him out of his activities was the right choice, no matter that he told us he felt just fine.

Concussions affect each person differently. After the headaches went away, Tyler begged us to let him start playing again and we had to say no repeatedly. We yelled at him when we caught him riding his scooter, which he was not supposed to be doing anyway, but certainly not WITHOUT A HELMET! Tyler told us he felt like he was being punished. We told him his health and safety were considerably more important than his feelings.

During dinner the following Tuesday night (nine days after he got the concussion), Tyler was telling us about his day at school. "We were playing dodgeball at PE and I got hit in the head with the ball."

Say what?!

Tyler looked like a deer in headlights. He realized too late that he should have kept that story to himself.


This post is getting really long so I'll stop here and break it into two parts. I'll tell you about the conversation I had with the vice principal and the reaction Tyler got from some of his classmates.

My Parenting Fail: Alternately Titled Cottage Cheese Teeth

Saturday, November 3, 2012

This is second in a series of sponsored posts for The Motherhood's SweetSmart campaign.

So, let me tell you about one of my more recent parenting failures. It involves my son and his dental habits. I thought we had resolved our issues back when we bought him the Sonicare for Kids, but I was wrong. Very, very wrong.

About a month ago, he lost one of his last baby teeth. It was on the upper right side of his mouth. A few days later, we were talking and I noticed his breath was terrible.

"Holy cow, your mouth stinks! Did you brush your teeth today?"


"Well, go swish some mouthwash and brush extra tonight at bedtime."

The next day, it was the same thing. His breath was awful. Rather than swish I made him brush his teeth. Much protesting ensued and he insisted he had already brushed that morning. 

For a week, Tyler would talk to me, his breath would knock me over and I'd send him off to brush. Finally, I figured I needed to take charge and see if I could figure out what was happening in there.

We went into the bathroom at bedtime. I sat on the toilet lid so I could have a birdseye view.

"Alright, open up and tilt your head back. Let's see what's going on in there."

And then I almost threw up.

It looked like each tooth on the right side of his mouth was covered in yellow cottage cheese. The plaque was so thick I couldn't see enamel.

I got out my dental pick and started scraping. I wiped the plaque onto a piece of toilet paper so he could see it. I told him that growing pile was leftover food.

"Why didn't you brush that side?"

"After my tooth fell out, it hurt to brush over the hole so I just stopped."

Okay, then.

By the time I finished scraping and flossing, I swear there was enough plaque to make a small scale model of a tooth. We had another long talk about brushing, flossing and using mouthwash. 

I told him when he loses his last baby tooth, he can't not brush but to go back the the manual toothbrush on that side until his gums aren't tender. We talked about occasionally swishing with a mixture of warm water, mouthwash and hydrogen peroxide. 

Even though our son is 10, apparently he still needs supervision for basic things. I was hoping we have reached the point in his life where I can count on him to wash his own face, brush his own hair, clip his own nails and not arbitrarily decide to stop brushing half his teeth, but obviously, leaving him to own devices is not a good idea. I will never be able to clean the image of his furry teeth from my brain. 

Still, at least we have the tools to keep his mouth healthy. Many families so not and their children really suffer. Read on to learn a few fact about pediatric dental disease and then please leave me one of your recent parenting fails so I don't feel quite so bad!

Statistics from America's Tooth Fairy.org:
*An estimated 17 million children in America go without dental care each year.

*Pediatric dental disease is 5 times more common than asthma and 7 times more common than hay fever.

* 44% of American children will suffer from pediatric dental disease before they reach kindergarten.

*4.5 million children develop pediatric dental disease every year.

*Pediatric dental disease is a primary reason for emergency room visits in children.

*Left untreated, pediatric dental disease can lead to malnourishment, bacterial infections, required emergency surgery, and even death.

*Dental disease has been linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, pneumonia, poor pregnancy outcomes, and dementia.

This post is sponsored by The Motherhood. I received products from Johnson and Johnson Healthcare Products Division of McNeil PPC as part of the Listerine Smart Rinse Sweet Smart Challenge.

Adult Braces: My Advice for Healthy Teeth and Gums

Monday, October 8, 2012

This is first in a series of sponsored posts for The Motherhood's SweetSmart campaign.

I'm not going to lie, having braces as an adult was a terrible experience. Not because of anything my orthodontist did, but because as adults, our mouths are pretty resistant to change. It took a lot of maneuvering to get my teeth straight. Now that the braces are off, I wish I could say I'm finished thinking about my teeth, but I'm not. You know that saying "the disease is worse than the cure?" I've been going through something like that ever since my braces came off.

In order for the orthodontist to have enough room to get my mouth in line, I had to have eight teeth pulled including my wisdom teeth. Now, even though my teeth are touching one another on top, there are really big spaces at my gumline and they're causing me huge problems.

My 'before' teeth
Had I known, I would have asked my orthodontist what problems I might expect after my braces were off. I would have asked if there was anything I could do before my braces were even put on that would help with the aftercare. Based on what is happening to me now, my biggest advice for anyone getting braces is to make sure your gums are as healthy as possible before the braces go on. Had I known this, it might have saved me some of the pain I'm having now.

The spaces and pockets along my gumline are larger than they were before my braces went on and they're especially deep around the back molars where the anchor band was. Nothing I'm doing now seems to be helping them return to a completely healthy state, though the dentist assures me the areas aren't getting any worse. Still, if I could go back in time six months before my braces went on, here are four things I would do religiously:

Floss every day
This seems like a no brainer, but I hated flossing so I rarely ever did. My teeth were so crowded together it was really hard for me to get the floss to pass through. Now, the extra space means I have to triple up on the string of floss to have even a hope of getting any of the trapped food to come out.

Brush three times a day
Even if I had to use a manual toothbrush while I was out, more brushing would mean less opportunity for trapped food and plaque buildup.Even the disposable toothbrushes are better than nothing.

Buy a cordless Waterpik
I don't know about you, but sometimes the only way I get things done is by multi-tasking. Brushing my teeth in the shower is a pretty common occurrence. I think I would use this system more often if I had the option of using it in the shower. Plus? No food bits in the sink. Yuck.

Combine mouthwash and hydrogen peroxide
This goes along with the Waterpik. My hygienist told me to do this. When I do remember to use the Waterpik, I add a full cap of mouthwash and about two tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide. The mouthwash is for freshening and the peroxide is for the germs.

My new smile
Who knows if this would have helped me, but it definitely would have given me a fighting chance at having completely healthy gums and put me a bit ahead of the game whereas now I've fallen way behind. I thought that getting my braces off would mean a return to normal dental habits but I'm spending just as much time at the dentist's office as when I had them on. More importantly, I'm still spending a lot of money on special cleanings and extra exams. If you know braces are in your future, do yourself a favor and make your gum health a top priority.

This post is sponsored by The Motherhood. I received products from Johnson and Johnson Healthcare Products Division of McNeil PPC as part of the Listerine Smart Rinse Sweet Smart Challenge.

The Things We Take for Granted | Water.org 10 Day Challenge

Thursday, September 6, 2012

I'm not sure I told all of you our latest news. We have an exchange student living with us. He arrived last week from Sweden and he'll be here for about eight months. On his second day here, he asked for a glass to get a drink of water. I handed it to him, he went to the sink and then paused.

"Is it safe to drink from here?"

I didn't think at all before I replied, "of course."

Like most Europeans, our student is very well traveled. He told me stories of places he's visited where it's not okay to drink the water.

And then I felt about two inches tall.

I've never been out of the United States let alone to another country. His question about our water and my really snooty reply was a complete smack in the face about just how narrow my world view is and how much I take for granted as an American.

Here are some facts I didn't know:
-780 million people lack access to an improved water source; approximately one in nine people.

-An American taking a five-minute shower uses more water than the average person in a developing country slum uses for an entire day.

-In just one day, 200 million work hours are consumed by women collecting water for their families. This lost productivity is greater than the combined number of hours worked in a week by employees at Walmart, United Parcel Service, McDonald's, IBM, Target, and Kroger.

-Malnutrition, due to dirty water, inadequate sanitation, and hygiene, is estimated to lead to death in an additional 2,350 children under the age of five each day. 

I have complained many times about how long it takes to fill our jacuzzi bathtub. Now I feel ashamed. I can't change my past behavior but I can be more conscious going forward.

Today is the first day of the Water.org 10 Day Challenge to raise awareness about the global water crisis and enough funds to provide clean water to 100 people to lat their entire lives. Yes, you read that correctly. A $25 donation will ensure that one person will always have access to safe, clean water. I made a donation. Will you please consider supporting this important and worthy cause, too?

If you want to get involved you have several options:

*Make a donation and help Water.org make their $2500 goal
*Follow Water.org on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook
*Start your own fundraising project
*Buy a CamelBak reusable water bottle and $10 of your purchase will support Water.org
The Mission List

Follow the conversation online #10Days10LivesTML

Pinterest Test Drive | Paper Pom Poms

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

My son's hockey club had a Fun Fest this past weekend at a local park. Each team could do whatever they wanted to try winning a team spirit award. I wanted to make decorations but not spend a lot of the team's money to do it. I liked the idea of hanging pom pom poofs from the canopy but I didn't like the prices I was seeing at the party supply stores for the pre-made ones. Naturally, I turned to Google and Pinterest to find a DIY version.

I ended up using this one from Kristen at Big Box Detox. I loved the way mine turned out but it is not quite as easy as it looks in the tutorial. If you give this a try, here are my observations:

*Cutting through that many sheets of tissue paper is tougher than it seems. The paper might tear if you're not using your sharpest scissors.

*In the post, it mentions using pipe cleaners in place of yarn to tie off the center of the paper. Don't. Instead, use the pipe cleaners to make a nice loop at the end of the thread. The pom poms will be easier to hang.

*I had two different sizes of tissue paper 16 1/2 x 24 and 20 x 20. The smaller sheets were much easier to work with. (The orange paper is from Target, the blue from Party City)

*Make your creases as sharp as possible. 

*Tie the center firmly, but not too tight.

*After you make the fan and tie it off, separate the fan blades a bit. This will make it easier to peel up the tissue paper pieces with as little tearing as possible.

tissue paper pom pom

If I do this again, I'll try three colors instead of the two. I also think I'll cut the tissue paper in half and try making mini poofs. Happy crafting!

I Paid Off My Credit Card! | Frugal Friday

Friday, August 10, 2012

Yesterday, I reached a mini milestone. I paid off my credit card! I'm so happy right now. This is my personal 'mad money' card, not our joint card, but still. It has a zero balance! I paid it off with money *I* earned and that feels pretty damn good.

For the last few months, it's been so tempting to keep going with only making the minimum payment. I could see the balance going down, so why not? But, in keeping with my 40 Before 40 goals, I made myself add more even if it was just $10.

Before I made the last payment, I made a phone call to my bank. If you're about to pay off a card I strongly suggest you ask these two same questions.

Banks are starting to close inactive credit accounts and I wanted to make sure mine wouldn't do the same. I asked if, once I paid the card off, would they close it citing non use of the card and do they consider the annual fee as the card being used? The rep hadn't heard anyone ask the second question and she checked with a manager before answering.

I learned a few important things from that call:
1. At my bank, they will not close my account without notifying me first. 2. They do not consider the annual fee as the card being used.
3. I have 12 months from the time the card is paid off to use it again before they will notify me that they will close the account.
4. When I use it again, there is no minimum amount I have to charge. In the words of the customer service rep, "you can buy a pack of gum if you want to."

I have a pretty good credit score because of this card. There's no way I want to put that in jeopardy by having the bank indiscriminately decide to close the account because I'm not actively charging on it.

As far as I'm concerned, credit is a necessary evil. When I got my first card back in college, I had no idea how to use them. That came back to bite me in the butt. I've made a to educate myself about different types of cards and credit scores. I'm passing on that information to Tyler as well. Hopefully he'll be much smarter about it than I was and not have the same credit rating highs and lows that I've had. Next up, tackling the joint cards. But for now, I'm celebrating! (not by shopping though!)

What credit lessons have you learned? 
Have you paid off any cards?

Summer Fun at San Elijo State Beach

Monday, August 6, 2012

San Diego is a fantastic place to live. We have great weather and fun attractions. But, and rightly so, we're known for our beaches. We have miles and miles of coastline with spectacular views. We're very lucky that our family spends a full week every year at the San Elijo State Beach campgrounds. My husband's cousins hold a mini reunion every summer and we head to the beach every day they're here for boogie boarding, sand castles and s'mores.

campsite San Elijo State Beach

The campground has WiFi, Bull Taco restaurant, a full camp store and offers surf lessons. San Elijo is across the street from a 7-11, Starbucks, Jack in the Box and Subway. Also within walking distance are the Cardiff Seaside Market home of the famous Cardiff Crack (ask a local about it!) and VG's Bakery has some of the best doughnuts in San Diego.

Bull Taco San Elijo State Beach

Bring your bikes to the campground and you'll be able to get back and forth really easily to some of the nearby attractions and eateries. A few minutes north of the campgrounds on PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) is the community of Encinitas. Downtown Encinitas has great restaurants, bars and shopping. Get up early, go to Potato Shack Cafe for breakfast and share a manhole chocolate chip pancake. Head south on PCH to Las Olas Mexican Restaurant for happy hour.

The next community south of the campground is Solana Beach, also home to great shopping (on Cedros Avenue) dining and live music at The Belly Up Tavern. Have breakfast at The Naked Cafe or The Orange Blossom Cafe (try the lemon crepe) or some of San Diego's best pizza and craft beer at Pizza Port. Make sure you stop into Leaping Lotus for souvenirs and gifts.

beach camping San Elijo

Camping at San Elijo is really one of the best things San Diego has to offer, especially in terms of summer fun. The access to great stretches of beach, really good local restaurants and unique shopping can't be beat. Here are six things you should know before booking a campsite at San Elijo State Beach.

Tips for Camping at San Elijo Sate Beach in San Diego

beach campfire San Elijo

1. Book early! The online reservations go live at midnight in January. Campers wait up till all hours to jump on sites they like. The summer months fill up really fast but you can always take a chance on a walk up reservation for a site that may have had a last minute cancellation.

sandcastle San Elijo

2. If you can, walk the campground, or have someone do it for you. Some sites are definitely better than others. We usually have 5-6 tents on one site and need to make sure we've got one of the largest lots. Decide ahead of time if you want an ocean view, need to be near the showers, want to be close to the stairs leading down to the beach or near the mini amphitheater.

3. Stingrays and jelly fish are pretty common on that stretch of beach. Make sure you know first aid for those types of stings.

sunset San Elijo

4. There aren't really any banks or ATM's nearby (except for 7-11) so have plenty of small bills on hand for shower tokens and Bull Taco.

5. Be prepared for pests. Squirrels are a menace. All your food should be in plastic totes with lids. Go to the dollar store and buy several of the largest ground cinnamon containers you can find. Sprinkle it on the ground around your site to help keep ants at bay.

6. The campground has covered up the electrical outlets outside the bathrooms. Invest in some type of solar or backup chargers for your devices or be prepared to schlep your things across the street to Starbucks to juice up everyday.

Since I leave the campground at night to sleep in my own bed, veteran campers probably have better tips than these.

What is your best advice to prepare for a camping trip?

This is post six in a series of sponsored posts for the San Diego Honda Dealers Association.   

Four Simple Ways to Go Green at Home

Monday, July 30, 2012

I have a love, hate relationship with going green. I like knowing that we're using less resources and putting less chemicals into our bodies and the earth. It feels good to be less wasteful. But, let's face it being more responsible is often a choice between convenience, price and effort.

I started feeling so guilty about so many of the things we were buying, I knew we'd need to make changes. We are not the greenest household out there, but we're making progress and steadily adopting new habits with results I can actually measure. Here are a four environmentally products we've been using that have a made a difference in our house.

Vapur water bottles
I can't remember when I first saw someone using these bottles. They stuck with me and I bought two about mid way through the last school year. Since I bought them, I've almost completely cut out juice boxes and pouches. I fill these the night before school and add single serve flavored drink powder. In the morning, I put them in the freezer while we get ready for school.

Vapur water bottle eco friendly
They hold more liquid than a juice pouch so I know our son is staying hydrated and they double as an ice pack. This school year, I'm going to try cutting back even more. My plan is to not buy as many drink powder sticks and instead make pitchers of juice and refill. The Vapur bottles aren't super expensive but you will get mad if one doesn't make it home from school. I'm spending less on lunchbox items and drastically reducing our waste. We took them on our last trip Disney World and it was so nice to be able to refill cold water all day.

Reusable hemp coffee filters
We drink a lot of coffee. No really, a lot. Even though I was buying the brown, non-bleached filters, I felt bad about how many we go through. We were throwing away two filters a day at least six days a week. I looked for another solution and settled on a hemp filter. I bought one to start with to make sure we like it and will use it.
Re-usable hemp coffee filter
I was worried about mildew since it's cloth but buying additional filters and caring for them according to the directions should keep them mildew free. With more than one filter, we'll always have one clean, dry and ready to use. For heavy coffee drinking households like ours, I think 5-6 filters would be perfect. The coffee tastes the same as a paper filter. I bought ours from BonaFide Green Goods.

Copco reusable travel drink cups
I've talked about these before, but since I love them so, so much I'll talk about them again. I adore my Copco cups. They're permanent fixtures in my car. My husband uses one hot cup every day and we each have them when we know we're going to be at the ice rink for more than an hour. Last week, our family was in town camping at the beach. I took an iced coffee with me every day.

Copco re-usable cups eco friendly
These cups last forever, they save at the coffee shop since sometimes they're considered a refill, they maintain the temperature better than the disposable cups, they make an affordable gift and since I always have Starbucks Via in my purse, I can make a drink whenever I want to.
Reusable produce bags
I had some credit on a daily deal site and bought these Essie produce bags about a year ago. They were another purchase born out of guilt. I hated bringing home the plastic bags since there's nothing else they can be used for. These bags are great. People stop me to ask where I got them.

An added bonus is buying more produce. I like using them so much I bring home more fruit and vegetables than I ever have before.

Those are just a few of the ways we've been greening up our lives. I'm always on the lookout for more small changes we can make. Being green is definitely a lifestyle choice and takes commitment. But, it's something we all need to do and sets a great example for our kids.

What are your favorite green products? 

This is post five in a series of sponsored posts and sweepstakes for the San Diego Honda Dealers Association. Visit and comment weekly for a chance to win Amazon gift cards! Some affiliate links used.

Hockey For Dummies | Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My Renewed Health and Fitness Resolutions

Monday, July 23, 2012

Hello, my name is Melanie and I no longer fit into my clothes. Over the past few weeks I've realized I'm no longer at a weight that is healthy for me. This year I've put fitness squarely on the bottom of my To Do list and now my bottom is paying the price.

The biggest thing I don't have in my life is training for the Breast Cancer 3 Day. I didn't realize just how much all the walking was keeping me fit. At my best, I could walk 10 miles in just under 3 hours. I may not be participating in the 3 Day but I need to pretend like I am. My health depends on it. There are three changes I need to make to get my weight under control and live a healthier lifestyle.

1. Buy ice skates
My son plays hockey. I am now team manager. I will be living at the ice rink this year. It makes sense for me to buy my own skates so I can jump on the ice during open sessions. Any exercise that requires maintaining  balance is great for developing core strength. Skating also helps work the thigh muscles. Muscle burns more energy than fat.

If your kids are into sports, use their practice time as your time, too. I remember my my mom and her friends used to walk the fields during my brother's soccer games. Fitness can happen anywhere. I need to stop making excuses and use my time more wisely.

2. Find a buddy
The 3 Day is in November. Generally, once our son heads back to school I'd join groups and train with others who were walking the event too. Having regularly scheduled sessions that I had to RSVP for before the slots filled up kept me accountable. Left to my own devices, I won't get as much exercise as I need to. If you're like me and need an extra push to stay motivated, finding a partner is the best way to make sure you will stick to a routine.

3. Drink more water
When I was training I had two refillable water bottles with me and would usually finish both. Now I drink my morning two cups of coffee and that's about it. Occasionally I'll drink something with dinner. That's not healthy. My skin looks terrible. My nails are weak. My hair is brittle. I put my 3 Day water bottles away since I'm not walking. It's time to break them out again.

I went to the store and stocked up on Crystal Light and other single serve drink powders. I know, I know. I should just use cucumber or lemon slices. But I know me and I won't do that. I don't like the taste. I used to feel guilty buying the powders, but if it's a choice between no water at all and zero calorie flavored powder? I'll choose the powder every time.

Sure, I'd love to fit into my size 6 jeans again, but it's about more than that. I'm creeping towards 40 and I'm starting to feel it. It's not as easy to lose weight as it was just two years ago. My metabolism has plummeted. If I'm going to get healthy again I have to make changes. Plus, I want to be an example for our son. We tell him all the time that he's an athlete now and he needs to take care of his body. Well, I want to make sure I'm around to see my little athlete grow into a big one.

What are your best tips for renewing your fitness goals? 
How do you stay motivated and on track? 

This is post four in a series of sponsored posts and sweepstakes for the San Diego Honda Dealers Association. Visit and comment weekly for a chance to win Amazon gift cards!

Family Road Trip : Books, Tech and Gadgets for Kids

Monday, July 16, 2012

I have a confession to make: we've never taken a roadtrip. Sure, we've taken to the freeways to visit family, but we've never loaded up the car with the specific intent of driving up the California coast or heading to Yellowstone (both are items on our family bucket list). So, I've never really had to worry about keeping our son occupied for more than a few hours. That said, we do have several items we always bring with us for car trips.

Headphones: They are a must. Our son has to use them for the DVD player, the Nintendo DS, the iPod Touch, the iPad and anything else that will make enough noise to bother everyone else in the car. We have a pair of Skullcandy headphones and they're great. When he's wearing them we can't hear any of the blips and beeps from his games.

Tech toys: As I mentioned, we're a gadget loving family. Before we head out on the road, I make sure all our apps are up to date on the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch and we look for new games to download. I make sure all my magazine subscriptions have the current issue downloaded. Even though I charge everything before we leave, I make sure we have our car kit, too.

Camera: Our son is picking up my photography habit. He's really starting to enjoy taking pictures. Even though he can take them with his iPod, I like to give him our point and shoot as well. If your kids have iPods too, there are a ton of free and easy to use photography and video apps they can use for the vacation photos.

Books: This is a no brainer. Since our son loves to read just as much as we do, a trip to the library is a must. Right now, our son is really into a few series. He's reading The Mysterious Benedict Society, The Secret Series and The Heroes of Olympus series.

It's no accident that I try to steer our son towards books with a high page count! He reads too fast to buy many short books. And yes, we know we're blessed.

Family games:  In addition to the things we played as kids like the license plate alphabet and license plate states game, I found a cute road sign bingo on Pinterest. You can download the bingo template from Oopsey Daisy.

Video camera: Right now my son is on vacation without us. I wish I'd had the foresight to order a waterproof video camera for him. He'll be riding a SeeDo, going fishing, kayaking and inner tubing for the first time. I'd love to have video of those moments captured from his perspective. This DB Power Waterproof Action camera is perfect for water activities.

Hopefully we'll be able to tackle some of the items on our family bucket list soon. There are so many cities, national parks and attractions we want to see. To quote Amy Foster from our trip to Disney this past spring, we only have 18 summers to spend with our kids. Make sure they are all memorable!

What ideas, tips or resources do you have to make road trips easy for everyone? What has been your 
favorite road trip destination?

This is post three in a series of sponsored posts and sweepstakes for the San Diego Honda Dealers Association. Visit and comment weekly for a chance to win Amazon gift cards! Affiliate links used. 

Renting A Camera Lens | Works For Me Wednesday

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I really wanted to take nice photos of my brother's wedding. I have two lenses for my Canon Rebel and neither was going to cut it. I went to a local business, Calumet Photo, and they helped me choose a lens to rent for the weekend.

The staff at the rental counter were really nice. I told them I'm new to all this photography stuff and they were very patient with me. I told them where I would be (outdoor, day and evening) and what I needed the lens to do. I wanted a good all-around lens so I wouldn't have to worry about changing lenses out or carrying our big camera bag (which isn't a bag, but an ugly backpack not stylish enough for a wedding). 

They recommended the Canon 24-105. With it, I would be able to take close up and distance photos and, along with the speed flash I also rented, would work well in the dark, too.

I really liked this lens. Most of the photos I took were really crisp. There was a little bit of a learning curve to it. I tried some close up shots that ended up being blurry. In the evening, the speed flash caused the camera to run really slow.

I missed several shots of my brother and mom dancing because I was waiting for the flash to re-charge. I also wasn't prepared for how fast my battery would run out. The camera died early in the evening and like a dummy I left my point and shoot at the hotel. I've never needed a back-up battery until this. It's something I'll be investing in soon.

I also wasn't prepared for how heavy this lens would feel by the end of the day. Not only was my neck really sore, so were my arms. After carrying this around all day, mono-pods made a lot more sense.

Renting a lens was a little expensive. Because I picked up the lens on a Thursday, I paid for a three day rental. Still, $100 is a small investment if you're considering buying a lens. The Canon 24-105 ranges from $800-$1100 depending on whether it's new or used. I'd much rather rent it once to make sure I liked it before dropping that kind of money. Renting a lens was a great experience and I'm sure it's something I'll do again.

Have you ever rented a camera lens? How was your experience? 

Pamper Me: How I Make Time for Me and What Makes Me Feel Special

Monday, July 9, 2012

Since I've been a work at home mom, I've had to redefine a lot things to fit our lifestyle and budget. When I had my office job, I would meet people for lunch, now I meet for coffee. I used to keep regular appointments to get my brows waxed, now I only go when I travel for blog related events. Manicures and pedicures are reserved for special occasions. Trips to the spa? Pretty much a thing of the past. I definitely had to re-think the way I defined 'me time' and being pampered. I know taking time for myself is important. I get really grouchy when I don't and then I make my family miserable.

Most women of color will tell you that getting their hair done is less a matter of vanity and more necessity because our hair can be pretty hard to take care of. In fact, before we married I told my husband that getting my hair done is and always will be a line item in our budget. He's never complained. I've learned the hard way what can happen when I don't visit a professional. There's a reason I will gladly drive 38 miles one way to see my stylist every 9 weeks. Because she's a miracle worker.

Even though I consider going to the salon a necessity, I still manage to turn the trip into a nice day out for myself. Before I get there, I usually stop for a smoothie or coffee. I bring a book, some magazines, snacks and my iPad. When I'm finished, me and my bouncy hair will try to meet up with a friend at My Happy Place for dessert at The Cheesecake Factory.

If no one is available to hang out, I spend some time window shopping at the mall and then popping into stores we don't have in my part of town. DSW, Loehmann's and Saks Off Fifth are some of my 'must visit' places. A few hours alone in the stores looking at new trends and scouting clearance racks is a great way for me to recharge my batteries.

As for being pampered, I'm lucky I get to feel that way all the time. I feel pampered when my husband opens doors for me, pulls out my chair or holds my coat open so I can slip it on. I feel pampered when my son opens the car door for me and kisses me good morning every day. Spa trips are great, but I will take these little endearments from my boys over a mud wrap any day. By adjusting my thinking a little bit, I realize I don't have to spend a lot of money or make a lot of effort to feel special.

Honda Likes Moms Sweepstakes
This is post two in a series of sponsored posts and sweepstakes for the San Diego Honda Dealers Association. Visit and comment weekly for a chance to win Amazon gift cards!

Leaving On A Jet Plane

Friday, July 6, 2012

I just left the airport and my heart is breaking a little. Tyler is on his first vacation without us. Yes, he went with family, but it's not the same!

This feels like that moment where our kids stop being just our kids and truly become part of the world at large. I have a feeling Tyler will return from his two parent-free weeks away feeling more mature and responsible. He will, quite possibly, feel he does not need me as much anymore.

Of course, I know that's what we want for our kids. Confidence, street smarts, independence and having a good head on their shoulders are things parents work hard to instill in their kids.

But watching Tyler walk away, knowing he may come back a different kid, tore me up a little. He's growing up so fast. I thought I was ready, but this morning I decided I don't like it. Not one bit.

It's the Thought That Counts?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Since the roots are still attached, I have a sneaking suspicion these were pulled from the neighborhood landscaping.

Bloggers and Compensation: I Asked and They Blew Me Off

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I'm still stewing over something so I'm hoping to write about it and move on. Back in April, I got a private message on Twitter from the marketing people behind an app I use. I had asked a question on their Facebook page, and, despite my not having my blog information on my personal Facebook page, they must have followed the internet rabbit trail back to this site. They said they would love to work with me and asked that I get in touch.

I sent an email saying I enjoy using their app and I'd be happy to work with them on sponsored content. I'm sure you can see where this is going. Crickets. I never heard from them again. Had I gone to them to ask how to get my client as one of their in-app ads, they would have responded with rates. Because they are a business. Well, guess what? So am I.

After I sent my email I jotted down some ideas to present to them beyond a general review that would have crossed all budget levels. I know this won't be the last time a company blows me off after I respond to their soft pitch with my rates, but it's still really disappointing. I used their app yesterday and today, which is probably why I'm still a little bitter. Who better to help a brand increase their social profile than its loyal users?

Now, I'm sure some of you are thinking, "maybe they don't have any money." It's possible, and it's something PR says all the time. But. I can pull up links to other posts about this app, and the links the writers used are all affiliate links. So there's money somewhere. Not responding to me at all was a bit unprofessional and it prevented us from being able to come up with an alternate form of compensation beyond a straight paycheck. While cash is king, I am open to other ideas if they make sense.

I think I've been pretty clear about how I want to work with brands. My About Me pages are the most visited on my site. But just in case, I copied the snippet below from my Policies and Procedures:

Sponsored Content: If your pitch involves 'sharing information with my readers,' be prepared to receive a response with my rates. Let's work together to create a program for your client/brand. Whether it's one post or an entire campaign across platforms (video, Pinterest, Facebook,Twitter), I want to help you create exposure for brands that fit my site.

Yes, I do make exceptions and this may have been a time I was willing to do so, but now I'll never know. Even though I used the app today, this situation has colored my opinion of them. I'm not sorry I mentioned money. They wanted me to provide a service (and use my trust capitol to provide that service); I told them the service came with a price. It's too bad, because I think we could have put together something really fun and I think it would have tied in nicely with the posts I've done before about the apps I like and the app board I have on Pinterest. I'm wondering if I should send one last email or just let it go.

Though this situation was a little discouraging, I'll be sticking to my guns when it comes to pay and sponsored content. Hopefully me maintaining my principles will attract the kinds of brands and businesses that see the value in what bloggers can provide. 

What about you: have you heard crickets when you mentioned your rates? How did you handle the situation? 

Photo credit freedigitalphotos.net

House Proud | Our Home Renovation Story

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

I got an email from someone who watched one of my YouTube videos and it totally made my day. He message wasn't about the content in the video, but rather a request for the name of the paint color in my kitchen. I'm sure it seems silly to you, but I took it as a compliment.

Our house is a fixer. Though there was another, more move-in ready model with the same floor plan for sale at the same time, we chose this one because it's on a cul de sac and had a tiny patch of grass in the front. We were naive enough to think we could renovate room by room and be finished within five years. I've watched enough HGTV and DIY Network that I should have known better. We've been here six years and the kitchen is the only room we've touched.

When we bought the house, I was working for a builder. Part of my job was to scope out the model homes of our competitors. I had a ton of ideas of what I wanted my first house to look like, all based on the gorgeous model homes I visited. I had a very specific vision inspired by one of the homes my former company designed. What a wake up call it was when it came time to price the stuff for our kitchen! Some of the the things I wanted cost the same as a compact car.

Still, I wanted to get as close to my vision as possible. Phil and I visited every home, hardware, flooring, lighting, appliance and window covering store within a 20 mile radius to choose the kitchen components. We had less than a month and only $10,000 (including labor) to pull it all together. We did go over budget but barely so. We made it happen for a lot less than a kitchen usually costs and we're so happy with the results.

Getting the email made me happy because someone else took note of our hard work and efforts. Our kitchen is a labor of love, patience and Phil's handyman skills. It definitely looks and feels like 'us.' If you're ever at my house, now you know why I won't offer to take you on a tour but I will ask if you want coffee.

Patti, the color you're asking about is Sherwin Williams #6270 in Soul Mate. Thank you for noticing.

Pinterest Test Drive | DIY for Cleaning Oven Racks

Monday, June 11, 2012

Apologies for not taking 'before' pictures for this post.

I found a list on Pinterest for easy DIY cleaning solutions and decided to test one out this past weekend. Since I've only removed our racks once since we've owned the stove, I figured it was past time they got a good cleaning.

Source: picklee.com via Jordan on Pinterest Pinned to my Green Living board

The directions call for overnight soaking. We had plans to spend the night away so the timing was great. I already had the dryer sheets (Target Up and Up brand) and Phil picked up the Dawn brand of diswashing liquid for me. At the last minute, I also put my stovetop racks in the tub hoping the formula would work for both.

We left home around 4:30pm this past Saturday and didn't return home until around 2:45 Sunday so the four racks were soaking much longer than required.

This method definitely worked on both types of racks but not quite as easily as the directions indicate. If your oven racks have been cleaned more often than mine, meaning more than once in the past five years, your results will probably be better.

After the soaking, I used the dryer sheets to scrub the racks but also had to use a sponge for some really stubborn debris. The racks left rust spots on the bottom of the tub, but elbow grease removed them. When it's time to do this again, I will put the dryer sheets on the bottom of the tub and lie the oven racks on top of them and see if it helps keep the rust away.

I still had to give the corners of the stovetop racks a good scrubbing with a coarse sponge, but the grease was a lot easier to remove than it has been in the past. My only complaint with this method would be that I had some silver flakes on my fingers that came from the coating to my oven racks. Since I left the racks soaking for so long, that could be my fault but it's something to be aware of.

Since the oven racks were out, I smeared baking soda paste on the bottom of the oven, too. It worked like a charm. While the racks aren't in like new condition, this is the cleanest they've been in five years. My oven looks great and hopefully this will help eliminate the burning smell we sometimes get. Pinterest success!
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