May 12, 2014

On Mother's Day

I learned this weekend that the key to having a nice Mother's Day is dropping any expectations.  Isn't that the key to peaceful parenting in general?  It seems like any time I have an expectation (the kids will just nap in the car, one diaper is enough for a quick trip out, we don't need an extra set of clothes) it just blows up in my face.
I went into Mother's Day with no expectations.  True, I knew it was going to be a cloudless, beautiful day, but that's about it.
Taken at The Rodale Institute on Saturday
I was lucky to start the day at yoga with my bestie, then stop for a leisurely cup of coffee before heading home to pick up the kids and trek to my parents' house for a cookout and hanging around, reading the paper and even taking a quick nap.

Finally, we finished the day at an outdoor show, listening to music as the sun went down, watching the kids run around, dancing and tossing balls.  It was the perfect day.
Despite how challenging being a mother is for me, I'm so grateful to have taken the plunge and experience what it is to be a parent.  It's taught me so much about myself and given me a deeper connection to humanity.  And it's made me appreciate my own mom so much more.  
Hope you had a great day too!

May 9, 2014

Buy One Get One Free #TeavanaOprahChai at Starbucks #sponsored #MC

I participated in an Influencer Activation Program on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Starbucks. I received a promotional item and a gift card to facilitate my review. 

Last week, I met up with my friend Candice in Brooklyn; it's been too long since I've seen her so I made my way into the city to spend some girl time with her.  We walked around her neighborhood, and of course had to stop for some coffee and tea at Starbucks.
I've heard about their new Oprah Chai from Teavana (a store that I love to visit, especially when treating myself to a special loose tea--last summer it was Blueberry Mojito) and was curious about it.  Candice and I spent quite a while talking (a lot about our kids, naturally) as well as the deep stuff like life goals.  I won't get into personal details, but she's had a hard year and I'm so impressed with how confident and grounded she seems, despite everything she's gone through.  Go CanCan!  What doesn't kill us...well, you know.

I only wish we lived closer so we could let the words flow over a tea or coffee break more often, especially in winter, when a Starbucks and a hot drink is often the highlight of one's day.

About that tea: the Oprah Chai is Oprah's signature blend of cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, black tea and rooibos which stemmed from her daily tea ritual.
Oprah worked with teaologists to develop the blend, but what's most intriguing about it is that with each purchase, Starbucks donates a percentage to the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation, which benefits youth educational programs.

I love chai tea and was eager to enjoy it at Starbucks as well as brew the loose tea at home.
I found that my home brew was heavy on the cinnamon, which I liked, but I would have hoped for more of a balance of masala spices.  Still, it was yummy especially blended with milk and a little honey.

The Starbucks barista made it better--its spices were more harmonious.  And that foam is a nice touch, something that I can't pull off at home.

Who knows, maybe the tea sold for home brewing is heavier on the cinnamon, or maybe I just got an odd batch.

On Mother's Day, May 11th, Starbucks is having a BUY ONE GET ONE FREE deal on the Oprah Chai; when you buy yours, hers is on the house.  It's a great excuse to take your mom out to celebrate and spend some special time together.  I'm sure she'll just think you're thrifty and aware of great deals, not cheap.  :).

Tea has always been a conduit for connection and conversation, and who better to connect with than a mom (not necessarily you're own!).  Visit Steep Your Soul for tips, information and inspiration on making space for pause and reflection over a cup of tea.

May 7, 2014

A Kids' Tinkering Kit

For Soren's birthday (over a month ago--this post is long overdue), I thought that turning six was a perfect time to give him his own tinkering kit, with "real" tools.
It would be a box of items that he will hopefully use for tinkering and building, especially that he is so drawn to that kind of creative play (um, Legos anyone?).
Here he is above, working in his "construction site."  Though you can't see them (they're buried or out of frame), he's repurposed a lot of old bricks, pipes and wood scraps to build tunnels and other things.  I had all intentions on taking him to the Maker Faire when it came to town last month, but unfortunately we had family obligations.

Speaking of family, I have fond memories of my Pap Pap and his barn/woodshop filled with all kinds of interesting and odd items that he used in carpentry and other projects.  It was always fascinating imagining what some of those items might be used for.   An old bicycle seat?  It could have make a fantastic head for a garden sculpture.

Though we don't have an extensive collection of oddities like my Pap Pap, I wanted to make a little tinkering kit that Soren would hopefully use for his own projects and creations.
We already had a set of kids tools, purchased at Home Depot a few years ago, so all we needed was a place to store them as well as some odds and ends to encourage tinkering.

I bought a toolbox online and decorated it with stickers I picked up at the Dollar Tree.
It's a roomy tool box, and sturdy too, as it's made of metal.  The top tray isn't too big, but it holds enough.

I also added a hand drill and drill bits, which is a safer way for him to make holes in wood and other materials (hopefully no furniture!).
I found a lot of other odds and ends at the dollar store, like zip ties, binder clips, and cotton string.
It's something that I'm sure we'll add to in the future, depending on things that interest him.

Here's a list of some of the items to get you started on putting together a tinkering box for kids
  • twine, jute or other strings with a variety of thicknesses
  • zip ties
  • wire
  • binder clips
  • tweezers 
  • padlocks
  • hammer
  • wrench
  • screwdrivers
  • pliers
  • hand drill and bits
  • tape measure 
  • scissors
  • bungee cords
  • apron
  • tapes of various weights and sizes (masking, invisible tape, duct tape)
  • ruler
  • sandpaper
  • plastic caps from bottles
  • balsa wood pieces
The list goes on and on, and of course your child's interests will determine what's in the box.  What might you add to this list?

And as for the box, you could get a fancy, sturdy tool box or just use a plastic tote, canvas bag, shoe box or other storage container.  The point is to have a go-to place for your child to find materials when inspiration calls.  I have hope that this tinkering kit will help my son re-imagine and remake his world!

May 5, 2014

Stonyfield: Our Favorite Yogurt #MC #Sponsored

I participated in a Blogger Activation on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Stonyfield. I received coupons to facilitate my shopping trip and a promotional item to thank me for participating.
We're devotees of Stonyfield yogurt in our house, whether it's Plain or fruit-filled options from the YoKids, YoToddler, and YoBaby categories.  We also enjoy their milk and half-and-half on occasion.

Not only do Stonyfield's products taste good, but they're widely available organic options in our local stores (and even when we're traveling).  And now their new organic yogurt pouches, found in the dairy aisle, make it even more convenient to get those healthy probiotics into your child's belly.
We had the opportunity to try out a variety of flavors, including the YoBaby Blueberry and Sweet Potato, the YoToddler Pear Spinach Mango and Strawberry Beet Raspberry, and the YoKids Strawberry Banana and Blueberry.
Out of all the flavors, Jude preferred the blueberry and strawberry ones, probably because they're the flavors of Stonyfield yogurt we buy most frequently.  He's used to eating them out of cups, so the pouches took some time to get used to (and by "used to", I mean not squeezing them all over the table and playing with the yogurt).
My older son liked the YoKids strawberry banana flavor, and though I haven't done it yet, these would make convenient lunchbox foods, especially if you pop it in the freezer the night before.  By lunch, it would be thawed out yet still cold.

I tried the varieties myself, and though Jude wasn't a fan of the YoToddler Strawberry Beet Raspberry, I really liked that one.  Maybe it's just a placebo effect of knowing I'm getting some veggies mixed in with the yogurt, but that one and the Pear Spinach Mango were tasty.  Honestly, they were all good, slightly sweet, tart and fruity, and knowing that they're providing my kids with nutritious meal and snack options make me happy.
Stonyfield is our go-to yogurt because it's healthy for us as well as the environment (no toxic pesticides, artificial hormones, antibiotics or GMOs, and they even use trains in lieu of trucks for transportation when possible). And ALL of Stonyfield's organic yogurt pouches contain pure organic ingredients and never any high fructose corn syrup or artificial flavors.
Find out if Stonyfield's Organic Pouches are sold in a store near you.  You can learn more about this fabulous company and their products by following them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest.

April 29, 2014

Springtime Randomness

Though it's been quiet here on the blog, it certainly hasn't been so in my daily life.  It's springtime, and therefore lots of projects to tackle now that the weather has become more bearable.  Mulching, painting, cleaning, it fills my days now (well, besides the usual child-rearing and cooking and all that other good stuff).
We've decided that this is the summer to have the house painted.  The window trim is peeling like crazy and in need of attention, and we've been wanting to match the house to our garage siding.

My kombucha has been improving batch by batch.  So far I've flavored it with strawberries, blueberries and raisins and ginger.
The raisin/ginger so far has been my favorite (above on the left, the other is blueberry).  It's been nice having in the morning, before I drug myself with coffee.

And oh yeah, I suppose Easter was thrown in there someplace.  The boys loved the knitted rabbits and giant fabric eggs I made for them.
Someone got a little sunburned the day before--oops.  But chocolate made up for that.
The bunnies turned out SO cute!  And the eggs were simple to sew.  I used a pattern from Martha Stewart and made 10 of them in an hour (minus the stuffing part).  Also from Martha, a recipe for a Polish Easter Babka, which turned out pretty good.  It's like an eggy sweet bread, like challah.

The Easter baskets had some other goodies, like stickers, giant chalk, a butterfly net, wind-up animals and of course chocolate and gum.
It was a great weekend, with an egg hut,
gorgeous weather, capped off by dinner with friends.  What a great way to kick of spring!
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