Wednesday, April 23, 2014

diy medal display

my one and only sweet girl has become a bit obsessed with gymnastics. if she's in the house, she lives on her hands. cartwheels, handstands, back handsprings, and splits are a constant in our house. she started competing in gymnastics this year. while we are still getting used to the costs of all these gymnastics endeavors, we are embracing her absolute love for the sport. she managed to accumulate quite a few medals over the last year and we had them hanging from every possible location in her bedroom, stuffed in her drawers, and at times worn around the house by her little brothers. it was time to get organized. 

here is our solution to our medal dilemma. if you have a little athlete of your own, it can be altered for a boy or a girl and it takes up relatively little wall space. here's what you need to do:

diy medal display

purchase a pre-cut wood board. i purchased our board at michael's for about $15.00. the larger the surface area, the better. 

stain the board with your desired color of wood stain. i wanted a white washed look so i chose this particular wood stain. it gives a white color to the wood while still showing some of the wood grain.

purchase a stencil for your display, a stencil brush and come craft paint. i purchased this crown stencil on etsy. you can find it here. center the stencil on the board and, using the stencil brush, tap the paint onto the board in a thin coat. 

using the same brush, i used the paint that remained on the board to outline the stencil to give it a little more definition on the board.

allow the stencil paint to dry completely. carefully paint the board with a polyurethane top coat. to keep the stencil paint from smearing, i put the topcoat over the sides of the board completely first and then lightly painted over the crown stencil paint.

purchase pre-cut wooden letters from a craft store. i liked these letters from michael's because they are tall and thin. each letter should be painted. i chose pink, of course, for my sweet girl's pink bedroom. when the painted letters are dry, glue them into place. i used basic elmer's glue to put them in place and allowed the glue to dry well. 

measure the board and place pencil marks two inches apart along the bottom of the board. do the same a second time approximately an inch and a half above the first row, with holes alternating within the other holes.

purchase hooks. we found ours at home depot in the garden section. drill pilot holes where the pencil marks are. make holes slightly smaller than the hook diameter. screw in each of the screws so they are facing up and are able to hold the medals.

drill a 1/4 inch hole in each corner about one inch from the edge of the board. thread through a ribbon matching the painted letters. tie a knot to secure the ribbon on each side of the board.

tie a ribbon bow at the top of the ribbon and hang in a secure location. medals can be hung 5-6 per hook. hang and enjoy! no more medals flung around the bedroom!

Monday, April 21, 2014

facts up front

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this is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of the facts up front program.

as is the case for most mamas out there, i am the one that does the grocery shopping in our home. i have never been a "foodie" or a fantastic cook, but i do love the feeling that putting a homemade meal on the table for my family gives me. since i am not that comfortable in the kitchen, that level of discomfort also can extend to the grocery store and my into shopping experience. i want to watch what i am feeding my family and know what the nutritional facts are, but when i go to look at the nutritional facts panel on the back of a product, i get a little overwhelmed and lost. 

the facts up front initiative has made my grocery shopping experience so much more enjoyable by adding a simple label to the front of many of the products we love. that confusing nutritional facts panel on the back has been enhanced with the addition of a simple label that displays clearly, on the front, the key nutritional information: calories, saturated fat, sodium and sugar in a product serving. some labels even contain the fiber and calcium. 

i can easily make healthy, informed decisions for my family without spending the amount of time i did before pouring over the label, trying to decipher what i was reading. if nutritional information still seems confusing to you, the facts up front website also has a unique interactive label that explains everything from calories to sodium to make the process of finding healthy choices even easier. 

i was happily surprised to find out that many of the brands and products i already use are participating in this initiative and making it so easy for me to confirm that i have been making the right choices for my family.

the, website is truly an invaluable resource for mamas like me to not only learn more about the nutritional label and how to read it, but they also have a lot of other tools that have made my life easier. the nutritional calculator was so simple to use and provided me with personalized guidelines of what my nutrient needs are to stay healthy. 

the facts up front website also contains a vast amount of recipes to access for everything from appetizers to entrees. with a gluten allergy in the house, i personally loved the gluten-free section. 

i, like you, want to make informed decisions on what to serve my family. i believe that the new front of package labeling is vital to making not only my shopping experience more pleasurable, but to keeping my family healthy as well. what are some things that you do to keep your family healthy? have you noticed the facts up front labels yet on your favorite products?

this is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of the facts up front program.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

i love rachael ray. she gets me.

this is a sponsored post for nutrish. all opinions are my own.

i don't believe in reincarnation. however, i sometimes wonder what i did wrong in my past lives to have deserved this. my name is mr. darcy. my very name screams dignity and hierarchy. yet, my life so far has been so much less than what i expected when i was born this pretty.

not to bore you with my sad story but i was abandoned by my mother. i had to look after my siblings and we ended up in the most humiliating of places, the humane society. we were wondering if our crate was the best we were going to get until a family came along to take us home. i thought things were looking up when i saw the adult of the group. then i noticed the four smaller people accompanying her. i should have made my protests then but i went along with the new arrangement. how bad could the four little people be? 

well, let me tell you, it has not been an easy road. first of all, they added a fifth little person to the mix. this one was really little, crying all the time, requiring all of my attention. he refuses to this day to use a litter box. this only got worse as he learned to walk. then he started eating my cat food, playing in my water and incessantly chasing me around my house. seriously, doesn't he realize how much beauty sleep i require to maintain my rugged handsomeness? 

i have documented some of my hardships. please take note of what i have endured.

this is what the fifth one does with his blanket each morning. can't a guy just nap on occasion? smothering is what it is. absolutely smothering.

this is how the fourth one carries me from room to room. 

can't i just sit on the couch in peace? does it always have to mean this particular brand of torture?

they started to craft me toys that are homemade. let me just make one thing clear. this is:

i wish i could say the older ones are better. they are not. this is what bedtime for me looks like. these conditions are just horrible.

one of the worst things about my life? i am forced to share it with my sister. she is not only clearly less attractive than i, she is also quite a bother, instigating playtime when i want to rest and stealing all the best places on the sofas.

i have tried to communicate my discontent with those i share this home with. first i started to refuse to drink the horrible water placed in a bowl by my cat food. that was just ridiculous. only fresh water from the faucet will suffice.

still, no one seems to understand me. until now. working with a team of pet nutrition experts, rachael ray created nutrish super premium food and treats for dogs and cats. made with simple, wholesome ingredients like real meat, nutrish foods are inspired by tasty recipes from rachael's kitchen. rutrish contains no by-products, fillers, or junk ingredients. finally, someone who makes products that meet my regal standards. it is about time.

they created naturally dry cat food. real chicken or salmon is always the number one ingredient in every bag of rachael ray rutrish® for cats. there’s no ground corn, wheat or soy. and there’s never any by-products artificial flavors or artificial preservatives. just wholesome whole grains and veggies plus the vitamins, minerals and taurine that i need to be healthy and happy.

i have been given wet cat food less times than i can count. still, rachael has made the wet cat food especially for me as well. inspired by recipes from rachael's kitchen, these delicious recipes are made with simple, natural ingredients like real chicken or fish. there's no grains or anything artificial either — just essential vitamins and minerals for a tasty food i will love (if they ever buy the wet food for me).

the best part for me? rachael ray has created rachael's rescue, an organization created for all the forgotten pets who may not have someone who smothers (i mean loves) them. rachael's proceeds go to help these cats. to date, proceeds from sales of nutrish have gone toward food, medical supplies and treatments for animals in need. many more shelters around the country need help, and through rachael's rescue, together we can make a difference in the lives of many four-legged friends. thus far, rachael’s rescue has donated more than $6 million to pets in need. 

i am making it my mission to spread the word. rachael ray gets me. we are soul mates. i think i'm in love. i'm looking forward to staring at her picture on each bag of nutrish. here is what you can do to help your own cat feel the love. head to to find out where to purchase the food we deserve. you can also head to the "switch to nutrish" webpage for a coupon to make your shopping even easier:  finally, just go buy the food. you can find it where you buy groceries. my owners have claimed target as their second home. shopping should be easy. finally, post your pictures of your cat with the hashtag #nutrishforcats. i will live vicariously through your pampered pets. 

until next time, i will be hiding underneath some piece of furniture in the hopes of avoiding detection...or trying to eat my nutrish cat food before the smallest person beats me to it. wish me luck.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

the worst memories

there are some days i will never forget for all the worst reasons. i will never forget where i stood in my classroom as a teacher on 9/11. i will never forget sitting on a soccer field as the ground started rolling during the california earthquake of 1989. my grandparents could recall in detail the news of the bombing of pearl harbor. certain moments are stamped indelibly in our minds.

for me, one more moment is forever etched in my mind. i was pregnant for the first time and my husband and i had embarked on the adventure of a lifetime. we had moved to cartagena, colombia for my husband's job and were living temporarily in the amazingly beautiful santa clara hotel. at about 3:30 in the morning of april 6th, we were woken by a phone call. i was closest to the phone and, in my sleepy stupor, did not even register that a phone call at that hour could possibly mean something horrible. as i tried to clear the sleepy fog from my brain, my father-in-law started speaking. his words were short and to the point. phil, my husband's younger brother, had been working an extra detail that night at his job as a sheriff's deputy. he was shot. he is dead. he was 25. i sat there trying to comprehend the words and then took in the weight of it all. the most distressing fact for me at that moment was that i had to pass the phone to my husband knowing the news before him and wishing with everything in me i could shield him from what he was about to hear. i looked over at him beside me, now awake in the bed and before i passed the phone to him, whispered the words, "i am so sorry." the memory of that moment still takes my breath away. 

this weekend marked eleven years since that night. eleven years of missing someone. eleven christmases. eleven birthdays. countless moments of wondering what he would be like today. i still find myself longing to pick up the telephone and call him up to chat and laugh. he was more than my brother-in-law, he was my friend and i miss him. i can't, however, even claim to know a bit of the loss my husband has suffered. so, each anniversary comes along and again, all i can ever really think to say is, "i am so sorry." it seems silly and inadequate and yet, nothing i say could ever fill the hole left by his death. 

a few years ago, we decided to work on filling up some of the holes surrounding the anniversary day with good things. we fill up the day with joy and happy moments for our family. my husband typically takes the day off of work and we fill it with activities. this weekend meant we filled it with a trip to the donut shop with the kids. a trip to build bird feeders at home depot. dinner with friends and neighbors. a movie night out. the day was filled with hugs and kisses, sunshine, conversation. we fill the day with life and family in honor of someone who is still a part of ours. somehow, bringing fun to a horrible day turns it around. i can imagine phil in all of the moments of our day, laughing with his niece and nephews, talking with his brother, enjoying it all. we had so many april 6th's in a row that were filled with so much sadness. there is something redeeming in filling years of april 6th's with something more. 

and so, we will continue to do so. we will continue to remember him and miss him while loving on our kids. we will play and laugh and hug and kiss more than we normally do. we will fill the day with life and remember him in all the greatest ways. we will remember to keep living. i think phil would love that.

Friday, April 4, 2014

the day my boobs betrayed me

once upon a time, my boobs were loyal. they were obedient. they stayed where i put them. they stood at attention. they required very little supervision. they always faced the same direction. they were, in a word, trustworthy.

after nursing five children, i noticed some dissension in the ranks. little bits of anarchy began to arise. they started to sag, well beyond what i deem acceptable. they can literally be rolled up like a burrito and each morning's dressing process requires what looks like the stuffing of a thanksgiving turkey. they are never "at attention." i can't even describe them as "at ease." they are so lazy that, when they are stuffed into place, they can be pointed any which way known to man. my final check in the mirror before leaving the house now includes checking for a lazy boob eye. sometimes you look at my chest and you don't know where to look as they are pointing in completely different directions. it's hard for me to focus. i can't imagine what is going through the mind of a poor unassuming passerby. still, all of these bits of rebellion do not hold a candle to my boob's ultimate act of treason.

i love to buy groupons. i buy them, forget about them, and then scramble to use them at the last possible moment before they expire. i'm incredibly reliable in my groupon disorganization. as luck would have it, i purchased a groupon for a massage for my birthday and forgot to book an appointment until the week before it expired. the only available massage therapist was a masseur, or as i like to call him, my mansuesse. before i had five kids, i used to love booking a mansuesse. they have big, strong hands, they apply enough pressure, and, frankly, they shut up for an entire hour. i used to imagine in my never-had-a-baby-body days that i was probably the highlight of the mansuesse's massage giving days. now i feel like i owe the poor man an explanation for what he is about to encounter. "five kids....the old grey mare she ain't what she used to be." still, i bravely booked my last minute appointment with my strange new mansuesse and hoped for the best.

all was well at the beginning. before my massage, my mansuesse asked me what i wanted, the massage started and i literally did not hear another word out of the man's mouth. silence for an entire hour. i was in heaven. i was finally at a relaxed point in my hour long endeavor and had been rolled over onto my back as i was massaged on my neck and shoulders. that's when the boobtrayal occurred. as the mansuesse lifted my arm above my head while massaging my shoulders, my boob that had been discretely tucked underneath the covers, decided to do a "hail mary" and jumped right out into the open. now, the old boobs would have never moved from their assigned location. this day, however, all bets were off. i could simultaneously hear george michael singing, "freedom, freedom..." in the background while my boobs were screaming for their mardi gras beads.

i laid perfectly still for what felt like an eternity but in reality was probably one second while i contemplated what to do next. i decided complete and utter denial was the best option. i figured the whole question about the tree falling in the forest applied to this situation as well. "if i keep my eyes close and never actually see the protruding breast, i can never confirm or deny that it actually happened." as i laid unnaturally still and forced my breath in and out, i did my best impression of a sleeping client. i'm pretty sure my mansuesse did not buy it for a minute but, again, if i just pretended it never happened, possibly he would not notice it either. the ridiculousness of that statement is made more clear when you understand these are not little 'a' cups we are talking here but post-baby 'dd' cups. i liken it to a giant cereal bowl full of jello jigglers falling onto the kitchen counter. one is the size of a human head. it would be impossible not to notice. still, i played the stupid card and told myself to "just keep breathing." meanwhile, i cursed my stupid, independent boobs repeatedly and vowed never to get a massage again.

it only took a second for my tactful mansuesse to lower my arm and discretely pull the blanket up. this time he didn't stop until the blanket nearly reached my neck. i could hear the collective sighs of my boobs as they were put back in captivity. i'm fairly certain the anarchist boobs' appearance scarred the poor mansuesse for life. he may never recover. yet, when my hour was up and i'd put the offending appendages back into their secure locations, i emerged from the massage room with eyes now wide open. i searched his face for the look of horror i expected to find there and, instead, was greeted with a glass of water and the last question i was ever expecting, "would you like to book your next appointment?" i'm fairly certain i could not wipe the look of shock off of my face. i quickly cursed my boobs once again, told myself to "man-up", and booked my next massage...right after i left a ridiculously large sympathy gratuity.

if this day in history has taught me anything, it is to be prepared for the unexpected where my boobs are concerned. there is no telling where they could pop out next. in the meantime, i will continue to get massages from the same man. i figure there's nothing left to lose. still, i can't help but stifle a giggle each time he pulls my sheets up a little bit higher. well played, defiant boobs. well played, indeed.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

baby bloggy boot camp

this post is written by me on behalf of liz lange and ergobaby.  product was provided.

at our first blogging conference

the first conference genelle and i ever attended was put on by the fabulous sits girls. our minds were blown. we had come into the blogging world by chance and had no idea that there was even a business to blogging. we left with a arsenal of knowledge that has helped to grow and shape where we are today. about a month ago i had the opportunity to attend another one of their conferences that took place right in my own hometown of sunny san diego (even though for the poor out-of-towners it rained the entire weekend). i was uber lucky to attend the special pre-conference event, baby boot camp and be surrounded by the cutest newborns on the planet while getting to preview incredible product from ergobaby and learn more about blogging.

baby bloggy boot camp is a mini conference within a conference where, while surrounded by awesome mamas and babies, i became re-invigorated with the idea of blogging. having the opportunity to learn from industry experts and leaders, like tiffany and fran from the sits girls and the fabulous ladies from rookie moms, was powerful and i left armed with a huge to-do list of ways to improve what we are already doing. 

in addition to knowledge, i had the opportunity to preview some incredible products from ergobaby. when i had my first child, ergo had not yet come on the market. by the time i had my second, i ditched my first carrier and bought an ergo carrier. it was *amazing*. my back and shoulders didn't hurt using the ergo and it adapted so easily to different carrying positions that were good for both me and my child. the only downside was that i couldn't use it to have my child face forward. enter the new ergo 360. releasing soon, the new ergo 360 allows you to wear your baby in four different positions while continuing to be comfortable and ergonomic. our testers loved it so much that we will be including it in our popular getting ready for baby series (when it's available), along with their fab swaddler and wrap carrier. we will be giving you a more detailed review of these products in the future in our "getting ready for baby" series, but they have received rave reviews from our mommy testers already! (we love it when a brand we adore can hit it out of the park with products really mamas need). 

aside from receiving fabulous product to test and gaining valuable knowledge for my business, the most important thing i walked away from the weekend with was a deep understanding of how important it is to surround yourself with people that make you a better person. find people that lift you up when you are down and challenge you to be a better you. find people to surround yourself with that listen to you and care what you have to say. find people that make you laugh until you snort, people that can be there to cheer you on. in blogging, we call those people a tribe. in life, they are the definition of friendship. find your people, and treasure them. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

diy: playtime door signs

i have five kids and i live in a neighborhood absolutely full of school aged children. that means a lot of knocks on the front door asking if someone inside is free to play. don't get me wrong, i love that my children have playmates and that there is no shortage of activity at our house. it truly brings me joy. still, there were just some moments when playtime is not going to happen. there is often homework to be done, chores that need attention and extra curricular activities that mean that any given day may not work for playtime. i found myself making trips to the door more often than i wanted to so i decided to craft up some simple door signs to help all the kids know when we have a green light for playtime and when we may need to try another day. these really are extremely easy to make and they have made all the difference for a peaceful afternoon any day of the week.

here is a step by step for my signs so you can make your own.

start with unfinished boards. i found these at hobby lobby for a couple of dollars each.

step one: paint each board a different color. i used red, yellow and green on purpose. if kids aren't reading yet they generally know that red means stop, yellow means wait (or caution) and green means go. i figured i'd help the non-readers learn the signs as well.

step two: i wanted to add some extra color and fun to my boards so i tore up some fun paper and adhered it to the boards using mod podge. 

step three: once the mod podge has had time to dry, i used a stencil and a huge black sharpie to write on the words. 

step four: lastly, i drilled two holes, one on each side of the board, large enough for me to push some ribbon through. after tying knots on each side of the board, they were ready to hang.

we store our signs inside our coat closet door, ready for use each day. they fit right over our outside door wreath hook everyday we use them. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

celebration: home depot birthday party

my oldest just turned 6 last week. for his birthday party, he decided he wanted it at our local home depot store. slight problem: home depot doesn't do birthday parties. 

i wanted to make this birthday a happy one for my first born, so i set out to make it happen. after lots of begging and pleading and general niceness, i was able to make it happen! (rock star mom moment).

have you ever been to one of the kids workshops that home depot has? (if not, check out your local store---they are so much fun!) our home depot hosts one every saturday and the boys and i have so much fun building an awesome project together (last week was a bug catcher). as a single mama on a budget, the bonus is that they are also *free*. the amazing woman that runs the kids workshops at our local store went above and beyond to make my son's dreams of having a "kids workshop" home depot birthday party a reality.

we took over the training room, every child built and painted a tool box with their parent (all of the instructions, materials and paint was supplied). after the building was complete, the candles were blown out on the tray of homemade cupcakes, bellies were filled with birthday, sugary goodness, and each child went home with their finished project as well as some quality time with one of their parents.

the cherry on top of the proverbial sundae was that the party was *free*. home depot didn't charge us a dime. 

the only things i spent money on were:
plates, napkins, cupcake supplies, plastic construction hats and little favor bags that were filled with a few goodies.

it was a birthday party that he will never forget....and a happy mommy moment too. happy birthday, little man. your mama sure loves you.