Thursday, March 27, 2014



This darling baby boy....

...turned into a handsome teenager...


Or at least it seems that way.

Happy birthday, Daniel!!!!

(I'm officially the mom of a teenager today - !!!).

Review: Müller FrütUp - Summer-Inspired Yogurt

Disclosure: Thanks to Müller FrütUp  for sponsoring this post. 

It’s been a never-ending winter in the Chicago. Through we're no longer experiencing Polar Vortex conditions, this spring has been simply dismal. 

Summer flavors woke up our weary winter selves yesterday when we sampled Müller FrütUpa cool, creamy, lowfat yogurt that is topped with a vibrant layer of summer-inspired fruit mousse. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Baking Fun with the Pillsbury Bake-Off Winning Recipes

Disclosure: Special thanks to Plateful Coop for sponsoring this post. 

In our home, we love baking. Nothing beats a homemade treat fresh from the oven. Pillsbury and Reynolds make it all 10x easier, too. So we were more than happy to test out some of the Pillsbury Bake-Off winning recipes, with a little help from Reynolds Foil, Reynolds Baking Cups, Reynolds Parchment Paper, Reynolds Slow Cooker Liners, Watkins Vanilla Extract, Pillsbury Flour as well as other Pillsbury baking treats

Here are our picks for the best of the Pillsbury Bake-Off 100 Winning Recipes:

Monday, March 24, 2014

Easy, Inexpensive and Fun (!!!) Birthday Party Idea for a Tween / Teen - A Photo Treasure Hunt

I can hardly believe it, but my son is going to be teenager this week(!!!). This past weekend, he invited his friends over for his birthday party to remember.

Years ago, when I turned 13, my mom planned a "Polaroid Treasure Hunt" birthday party for me. My friends and I were divided into two teams, each team armed with a Polaroid camera, and we had to find different things around my suburban Chicago neighborhood, taking pictures of each unique find. It was a photo treasure hunt, 1980's style. Of course Polaroid technology is long gone - and when I tried explaining the old-time tech to my son, he couldn't quite believe (or understand) it. For his 2014 13th birthday party, I planned a photo treasure hunt using modern day tech - smartphones.

Here's how it worked:

I divided the kids into two teams. Each team received a list of photo related tasks that needed to be completed and a map of our neighborhood. As they took the photos, they texted them to me (this also meant I could keep good track of the kids as they wandered our city neighborhood).

Some of the tasks included....

Take a picture of an animal (a dog, a cat, a squirrel...)

Take a picture of three team members climbing a tree...

Buy a pack of M and Ms, divide up the colors among your teammates, and take a picture of your hands...

Take a selfie with a stranger (ask politely!)

Other tasks included forming a human pyramid, squeezing your entire team onto a slide at the local park, and taking a short video of a team member doing a cartwheel. 

I arranged the tasks so that each team set off in separate directions. The second to the last task was to meet up at our local corner pizzeria, where everyone was treated to a Monster slice of pizza. I popped in to pay and the kids enjoyed eating pizza on their own like the teenagers that they now are. The winning team was the team that texted all the required photos and made it to the pizza place first (they won a movie-sized KitKat). 

Their final task was to return home by a certain time to enjoy birthday cake. 

I could tell the kids loved the challenge by their big smiles in the photo texts and they way they breathlessly and happily raced into the pizza place, sharing stories about their photo adventures.

I'm a high school teacher and I work with teens on a daily basis. Here's one thing I know for sure about teens: They like to work together, they like challenges, and they love to be active and run around, interacting with each other and the world. That said, they just need a little encouragement. Once they have that, they'll be off and running and having a blast. 

Since we live in an urban neighborhood, I had to encourage a little bit more caution. Here were the rules of our game:
  • No crossing big streets (Western Ave. and Fullerton Ave.)
  • Be careful crossing all streets and alleys!
  • Stay on the sidewalks.
  • Be respectful of our neighbors - no screaming or running on people's lawns. 

Finally we returned for a homemade Oreo ice cream "cake". It was so easy! I layered chocolate wafers on the bottom, filled up the cake with Oreo cookies and cream ice cream, and then topped with mini and regular sized Oreos, writing my son's name with piped chocolate fudge.  

It was a gift to me to see my son having fun with his school pals. I have literally seen these boys and girls grow up from little kindergartners to teens before my eyes. 

Here's to a teenager-hood that's safe (!!!), fun and filled with great friends, lots of learning and growth, and new adventures!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Free Comic Books from DC Comics and Big G #JusticeLeague

Disclosure: Thank you to Big G and Platefull Coop for sponsoring this post.

Whole grain cereals are known to give little heroes super powers to start their days off with energy and strength. So naturally Big G cereals and DC Entertainment, home to DC Comics, have partnered a second time to deliver original Justice League comic books inside select boxes of cereal.
“People love that there is a physical comic book in the cereal box and a digital extension of the stories online” says Lisa Tomassen, integrated communication manager at General Mills. “The style of the comic books is very authentic to DC Comics, yet exclusive to Big G cereals. It’s very exciting!”

Friday, March 21, 2014

Review: Springing Forward wtih Gudrun Sjödén

Disclosure: Special thanks to Gudrun Sjödén for sponsoring this post. 

In my longstanding question for comfortable fashions that will carry me from work to play and fit my very active lifestyle, I've found an answer: Gudrun Sjödén creates clothes in unique, colorful designs and natural materials – for women of all ages, shapes and sizes. Vibrant and sustainable, this is a brand that honors women who appreciate individual style and comfortable, organic materials. 

Here's what I love about Gudrun Sjödén:

Gudrun Sjödén's spring collection is a celebration of art and colorful artists. The studio of master colorist Bjorn Wessman in Vallingby, Stockholm, was the perfect setting for the catalog shoot, since the collection features just about every bright color in a painter's pallete, a welcome sight to my eyes after the long winter. 

This beautiful dress was inspired by the Finnish artist Tove Jansson

American Dream Builders

Disclosure: Special thanks to PartnersHub for sponsoring this post. 

The American Dream Home is something everyone fantasizes about: Whether it’s a new closet, a larger family room, or simply a place to put all your stuff, there’s always something we want to change about where we live!
What if you could make your home into your Dream Home?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Make a Sandwich or Bagel Switch to Save Calories and Carbs with Sandwich Thins®, Pocket Thins® and Bagel Thins ®

Disclosure: Special thanks to Sandwich Thins®, Pocket Thins® and Bagel Thins® for sponsoring this post. 

Everyone in our family loves bagels, but since they are traditionally so carb-heavy, they were usually a no-go on our weekly shopping list. A traditional, plain bagel is typically 270 calories with a whopping 53 grams of carbs - which for breakfast means you'll start your day with a brick in your belly.

Here's a solution: 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

My Dad scanned these vintage 1970's photos of me yesterday - such happy childhood memories!

I was a happy baby, and I am a happy woman as I turn 41 today.

My kids woke me up with sweet birthday kisses and hugs, and I actually had a moment to sit down and enjoy a cup of tea! (It's the little things!)

I am thankful for another year on this beautiful planet together with my family.

Here's to a fabulous 4-1!!!

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Monday, March 17, 2014

#MakesMeSmileMondays Turtle Pie

I'm turning another year old this week, so yesterday my parents surprised me with a blast from the past birthday "cake":

Turtle Pie!!!

I think the last time I had a Turtle Pie from Baskin Robbins was back in the 80's. I didn't even know they still made Turtle Pies at Baskin Robbins. Apparently my parents' local Baskin Robbins doesn't feature them but they will make one if you ask.

What's a Turtle Pie? 

Pralines 'n Cream Ice Cream topped with Caramel Praline Topping and pecans set upon a a Chocolate pie crust. 

Growing up, I never really liked plain old birthday cake. I know, weird, right? So my mother always made me ice cream cakes or bought me my favorite Turtle Pie from Baskin Robbins. My kids have both inherited my dislike for birthday cakes, too. As an adult, I do like a nice cupcake with top notch buttercream frosting, but I'll never waste calories on a cloyingly sweet slice of birthday cake. Yuck! On Saturday, I gave my daughter beautifully decorated, fancy red velvet cupcake and she refused it - we just don't like too sweet cakes! But on Sunday, the Turtle Pie was a hit with both the kids, and my son requested it for his upcoming birthday, too.

You could make your own Turtle Pie, but there's nothing quite like a Turtle Pie from Baskin Robbins! (and no, this is not a sponsored post!). 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Celebrate St. Patrick's Day with Lucky Charms #LuckyWasHere

Disclosure: Special thanks to Lucky Charms for sending a celebratory box our way!

Every year, before St. Patrick's Day, I buy my kids a special box of that cereal that is filled with lucky charms collected by a cheery leprechaun....Lucky Charms!

Monday, March 10, 2014

#MakesMeSmileMondays - Letter to My Daughter

My Dear Daughter;

Yesterday, you insisted on bringing all of your art supplies into the bathroom so you could finish your drawing while you used the toilet. I know better than to ever interrupt a woman in the middle of the creative process, so I helped you gather your crayons and we set your drawing on your stepstool before you, after which you continued your drawing while simultaneously making a poop.

All I could think as I saw you there, so immersed in your drawing that you couldn't stop for a second, was: I need to save this thought for future you. You see, sometimes when we grow into adults we can forget what we love to do; what makes us happiest. It is such a blessing to spend time with you, Chiara, since you follow your heart and do what makes you happy; at your tender age you don't need any reminding.  But one day, you may find yourself in a slump. And if you do, here's what you need to do:

You, at age 2, sketching.

You need to grab all your art supplies, your craft supplies, whatever supplies your art as an adult requires: it could be a pen, it could be a set of carpentry tools - who knows! You thrive on creating, Chiara; Since you were a teeny tiny toddler you've loved to create. You really have never liked toys or dolls so much as a brand new box of crayons, a huge stack of construction paper or a big set of colorful beads and string. Maybe when you are an adult your creations won't be paintings or drawings: there are so many ways we can bring the joy of using our hands to create art into any career.

My point is this: whenever you feel  down and out, you'll know that it's time for you to get back to your art. Even better, go outdoors and do it - you like nothing more than creating with natural materials - even stones and sticks and leaves - outdoors, enveloped in nature.

I'm going to put this letter away someday to remind you of the time that not even a poop would stop you from practicing your art.

Love always,


Monday, March 3, 2014

My 4-Year-Old Daughter Trades Out Her Manual Toothbrush for a Customized Philips Sonicare for Kids Power Toothbrush!

Disclosure: Special thanks to Phillips Sonicare for Kids for sponsoring this post. As always, all opinions are my own. 

My 4-year-old daughter actually enjoys taking care of her teeth and is always thrilled to visit the dentist. So you can imagine how excited she was last week, when she traded in her manual toothbrush for the NEW Philips Sonicare for Kids power toothbrush

#makesmesmilemondays Flashback to Oscar Night, Live from My London Flat, March 2001

The one and only time I've ever cried - continuously - while watching the Oscars - was in London. March, 2001. I was so very heavily pregnant and so very hormonal. My son would be born on March 27, 2001.

For whatever reason, I was 100x more hormonal during my pregnancy with my son than with my daughter. By the last month of pregnancy, my emotions were magnified to the 100th degree - both the good and the bad. I was obsessed with cleaning to the point I'd become a tad OCD. My food cravings were totally out of control. I can't even tell you how many times my son's father trekked out late at night to pick me up my craving faves - Ritz crackers and Haagen Daaz Dark Chocolate Chip ice cream. I was so huge, that I could no longer even button my maternity pants.

And so naturally during the 2001 Oscars, I was sitting on the sofa, massively pregnant, in one of my husband's tshirts, eating  Haagen Daaz Dark Chocolate Chip ice cream directly out of the container with a spoon, and bawling every time a joyful or sad Oscar acceptance speech was made.

I haven't cried while watching the Oscars since 2001, but Jared Leto's acceptance speech last night did make me a little teary-eyed. Congrats, Mr. Leto, and congrats to your mom, too!

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