The Magic Room

Just about every girl daydreams about her wedding at some point. No matter if she’s hoping for a princess dress or something simple and elegant, that gown is a big part of her romantic musing.

While reading The Magic Room by Jeffrey Zaslow I was reminded of my experience while trying on wedding dresses. I was with my sister at a re-sale and seconds wedding shop and we were on our own. I would’ve loved if Shelley, or any of her staff from Becker’s, had there to help me make my decision and then lead me down to the Magic Room for my final selection.

This book is such a good read and reminds us all that life happens when you least expect it. The stories shared in The Magic Room tell of anxious young brides, mother-daughter relationships, and the irony and tragedy of love.

Make sure to get nice and comfy before starting to read The Magic Room. Once you start you won’t be able to stop.

Head on over to BlogHer and join the book discussion!

Fine art for kids: Dotting with the Aboriginals

If your house is anything like mine right after the holidays, it’s strewn with bubble wrap, boxes, wrapping paper, and lots and lots of stuff. After I did a bit of cleaning, that bubble wrap just didn’t want to be put away. While enjoying popping most of it with the tot, I thought of a fun way to use the rest for a creative art activity.

I got out the paints, paintbrushes, and some brown construction paper, and then pulled the tot up to the trusty laptop and shared with her some images of Aboriginal dot art. You could say Aboriginal rock art is the original art with some examples dating back over 60,000 years ago. Using swirling lines, dots, shapes, and repeated designs, Aboriginal dot art is vibrant and organic – and was originally created with the use of natural pigments such as ochre and painted onto cave walls or hard sand.

These artworks also contain symbols and stories representing the Dreamtime, or explanations for why certain things are the way they are. During the “time before time” Australian Aborigines created these special stories to teach and share traditions. Take a look at examples of dot art as well as Aboriginal symbols with your child before getting started.

Encourage your child to select a theme or symbol as a base for her Aboriginal dot art creation. She can focus on an animal or one of the traditional symbols and create a couple of sketches before working on the bubble wrap.

When she’s ready, invite your child to paint her design onto the bubble wrap using vibrant colors of tempera paint just like the Aboriginals did. Now she can radiate the design by creating repeated lines around the central shape.

Once she’s finished offer her a sheet of brown construction paper and then press on top of the bubble wrap. Now she can lift the paper to reveal her own unique Aboriginal dot art.

Now your child can gently wipe the bubble wrap and continue to paint and create using different colors of construction paper and designs! She can even write her own unique Dreamtime story to go along with her creation.

Here’s how things went at our house with an almost-three-year-old…

Monday spectacular: Christmas (but not Christmas)

For the last couple of years the husband and I have been a bit unsure what to do during the holidays. He’s from a Jewish family, mine has fun holiday/Christmas traditions, and we have no family in the area. The tot is still a bit young – she’s not all caught up with the whole “Santa” thing yet – and my parents decided to be snow birds and head out to our part of the country just after Christmas.

What to do?

We decided to delay the big celebration until later this week. It just didn’t seem right to open gifts on Christmas and then again on post-Christmas with the grandparents along with the nightly Hanukkah candle lighting and small gift sharing (and the tot’s birthday is in the first few days of January…. Can you say gift opening craziness?!).

Instead of just sitting around on Christmas and then hitting the all-you-can-eat China Buffet for dinner, we decided to do something different.

We packed up and went to the beach.

And it was awesome.

Twig holiday ornament


These last couple of weeks have been a bit of a blur. We traveled over Thanksgiving, I found out I’m a finalist in the Hidden Valley Ranch Ultimate Lunchbox Competition with the Food Network, and, well, we have a toddler. We don’t get snow where I live so we’re always trying to figure out fun ways to get into the holiday spirit.

Our tot is just about three so she’s still unsure about this whole “holiday” thing. We are trying to celebrate Jewish holidays as well as, um, my stuff, which is more about tradition than anything else. So we got a tree, put on the decorations, and couldn’t find the menorah. We substituted some sparkling candles instead and then watched as the tot rearranged all the ornaments on the tree.

And some of those ornaments are real and old and special.

After moving them all out of her reach, the whole bottom half of the tree looked pretty sad.

So, with the tot’s help, we created a couple of really adorable homemade holiday ornaments using a collection of twigs from the yard. These ornaments are super easy and so much fun. And your kids can put their own spin on things by adding whatever picture they’d like or even leaving the picture out all together.

Start by collecting twigs from the yard and then grouping them according to shape and size. Your child can create big thick twig ornaments or tight-packed skinny ones – either way, the ornament looks really cool.

Now invite your child to trace around a coffee mug with a washable marker. This is the base of the ornament. Go ahead and cut out the circle or offer assistance if your child isn’t ready to wield the scissors. Help your child out by using the end of the scissors to punch a hole somewhere along the outside edge of the inner circle to use for threading a ribbon for hanging later.

Create a smaller circle in the middle by tracing around a smaller glass (a shot glass works perfectly). Offer your child the glue and encourage her to slather it on all around the outside of the inner circle. This is a great project for younger kids and introducing the concept of staying in – or outside – of the lines. If you’ve got older kids that are comfortable using a hot glue gun, they can use instead.


Encourage your child to start lining up those twigs around the outside edge of the inner circle packing them in tightly next to each other. She can continue moving around the circle until she’s got a full ring of twigs.

Now she can cut and paste a small circular picture in the middle, sprinkle things with glitter, and let things dry overnight. Or, leave off that glitter and you’ve got a totally eco-freindly holiday ornament!

Once things are all dry, gently shake the ornament over a sheet of paper to release any glitter that didn’t stick. If any twigs shake lose too, go ahead and glue back in place.

Offer your child a length of ribbon to string through the whole, give things a tie, and you’ve got a creative homemade holiday ornament!

Happy Holidays!


Big ol’ gingerbread man

While making a total stealth run through Trader Joe’s we happened upon this.


For a $1 you can have your very own big ol’ gingerbread man ready to be decorated with frosting pack, sprinkles, and chocolate candies (but only if you have a TJ’s near you).

After decorating, the finished creation “baked” in the oven all day until after a proper dinner was eaten. It was checked on often in the oven, and when the time came to actually give it a taste, the tot wasn’t sure if she wanted to actually take a bite of her special treat.

But, then she did…

Quinoa, kale and white bean soup

The first day of winter is right around the corner which means cooler weather along with the holidays and all those cookies and treats and parties and stuff.

I already have a nice amount of jiggle-in-the-middle. I don’t need any more.

But a girl’s gotta eat, right?

My days get pretty hectic balancing the tot and work stuff. Sometimes I don’t eat lunch until 1:30 or so when she has her “nap,” and then the adults eat dinner around 8ish. The tot eats lunch around 11:30 and dinner at 5, and sometimes I’ll have a some fresh fruit or yogurt with her during her meal times. By the time the husband gets home around 6:30, I’m famished.

Yeah, I know we are eating pretty late, but I’m not about to have dinner on the table when the husband crashes through the door. The tot is a mess and, as it is, only gets about an hour with her daddy before she conks out.

So, for now, that’s our eating schedule.

Having a really healthy and filling lunch helps me get through the day – and to stay sane and not fall apart and forget things.

(I still forget things.)

Kale is in season and I’ve always got quinoa in the house – you know how much I love it (here, here, here…). I dug around and discovered a couple of cans of white beans and a few containers of vegetable stock and realized I had the mixings for a super healthy, high protein and fiber soup.

What you need

3 cloves garlic chopped

1 small onion chopped

1 tsp vegetable oil

1 tbsp butter

1 c quinoa

6 c vegetable stock

2 15 ounce cans of white beans (you can use any kind – cannelloni, great northern, navy…)

1 c rinsed and chopped kale

1 tsp balsamic vinegar

1/4 t salt

Additional salt and pepper to taste

How you make it

Start by getting a large stock pot heating over medium-high heat. Add your chopped onions, garlic, butter and oil and let simmer for a bit. You want the onions and garlic to pick up some color – but we’re not talking blackened, so make sure to stir every once in awhile.

Now you can sprinkle everything with the salt and then add the quinoa. Feel free to rinse it first (I don’t but others swear by it) and stir the quinoa together with the onions and let toast up for a minute.

Turn down the heat to medium, add the vegetable stock, stir, then cover with a lid.

That’s it.

Simmer for about 10-minutes or until the quinoa have evolved into small swirls. Now open, rinse and drain one of the cans of white beans and add to the soup. You can also add the rinsed and chopped kale along with the balsamic vinegar. Pop the lid back on and keep simmering.

Open up that other can of beans, rinse and drain, and then mash with a fork until those beans resemble a paste. Add them to the pot and then stir the soup until everything is looking tasty.

You can simmer the soup until the kale is tender, which takes an additional 5-to 10 minutes, and then serve with a sprinkling of salt and pepper – or a couple of shavings of parmesan cheese.




I’m not getting the husband anything for Christmas this year


Really, I’m not buying anything for the husband for Christmas this year.

It’s not that I’m mad at him or that he doesn’t deserve something nice or we don’t celebrate Christmas (even though he is Jewish), it’s that every year I spend hours and hours scouring around for the latest and greatest anything to get for him and always end up picking the wrong thing.

No joke.

Last year I bought him a back massager – you know the kind you plug-in and put behind you while sitting in a chair or lounging on the couch? I tossed down the cash and instantly knew it wasn’t the right thing. But, I trudged on home with it, wrapped it up, and happily presented it Christmas morning.


We all used it a couple of times, the tot enjoyed laying and sitting on it, and then it was tucked away in the closet only to be brought out a handful more times.

It’s in the closet right now.

So, for that reason, I’m not getting anything for the husband for Christmas this year.

I have ideas for free things (yeah, I know what you’re thinking…), like putting down the computer when he’s trying to tell me about his day, taking out the garbage instead of leaving it until it’s overflowing for him to do, not leaving the clean laundry in the basket for days causing all his work shirts to be super wrinkly (which I don’t iron), ironing, making sure I give him a kiss before he leaves for work and when he comes home at the end of the day, really scratching his back when he asks me to and not just reaching over and doing a half-ass job…

Basically being a better me.

I know that’s not really a gift, but it might make things a bit better around the house, which might make us both a bit happier – especially on those days when the tot is being, well, a toddler.

Maybe after Christmas I’ll treat him to a new shirt sans wrinkles (and then make sure to keep it that way)…


Get it Guide: The hottest holiday toys


I’ve got a toddler, which means our home is a playground/toy store. Nothing holds her attention for more than a couple of minutes and most toys are trashed, making us feel like we wasted our money while purchasing the “latest and greatest” goodies.

So when a special box arrived from Yahoo! filled with this holiday season’s hottest toys, we couldn’t wait to check them out. My daughter is a bit young for it all, but I’ve got a niece and nephew that were eager to dive in, and a husband that couldn’t stay away either.

Check out the what all the Gurus had to say over on Yahoo! Shine or keep reading for what toy won out at my house…

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Fine art for kids: Collographing with Barbara Garrison

The other day I realized we hadn’t picked up any holiday cards and there was no way I was going to attempt trekking to the store to dig through the discards. So I figured we could make some on our own, which brought to mind one of my favorite artist/illustrators – Barbara Garrison. You’ve probably seen her work without even realizing it when reading a book she’s illustrated to your child – or maybe one of the several she’s illustrated was a favorite during your childhood.

Garrison creates her creations through making collographs, or by building and gluing different materials and items onto a base. The items are then rolled over with paint and pressed onto a paper. Additional paint can be added later to the dried print to add detail and dimension. Garrison artfully arranges bits and pieces of things together to create whimsical images that convey comfort, calm, happiness, and enjoyment. You can’t help looking at her creations and sighing just a little bit.

Head on over and check out a few of her collographs for inspiration before getting started.

I enlisted the tot in scouring our craft drawer for some small things we could piece together into a creative holiday card. I had a few foamy star stickers, string, felt, pipe cleaners, and a bunch of other stuff. Once I got them in a big pile, we started brainstorming ideas for the design.

This is a great project for kids of all ages. Younger kids can help put together the design with adults assisting if a representational image is desired – or they can just have fun gluing away. The older set can sketch out an idea and cut, layer, and glue all on their own. And, you can create any kind of image perfect for using as a front for any kind of card – or just for fun!

Start by cutting a base for creating the collograph. A piece of cardboard or tagboard works wonderfully. Your child can make the piece as big or small as she’d like.

Now invite your child to arrange her selected items and see how things look before gluing anything down. Once she’s satisfied, offer her the glue bottle and let her squeeze and press away.

Allow the finished creation to dry for several hours or over night.

Yeah, waiting is hard.

Once things are all nice and dry, cover your work area with a couple of sheets of newspaper or something else to protect from the potential mess. Squirt out some black paint and offer your child a foam roller or brush and invite her to gently roll or tap the paint all over the glued items.


Flip the covered creation onto a sheet of white paper and press, press, press! Lift up the cardboard and see what the collograph looks like. Your child can keep painting and pressing to create as many finished prints as she’d like – or until everything starts falling apart (which eventually will happen)…

Once the prints are dry, your child can add touches of color or text as desired. Cut out the collograph and glue onto the front of a card or pop into a frame!

Happy Holidays 🙂



I made the final 3 in the Hidden Valley Ranch Ultimate Lunchbox Challenge!

Okay, remember awhile back when I shared how I put together this little video sharing my Turkey Tortilla Sushi recipe for a chance to be on the Cooking Channel via the Hidden Valley Ranch Ultimate Lunchbox Challenge? Well, guess what? I’m in the running! (that’s me over on the right!)

They’ve picked the final three contestants and I’m one of them!

(Yes, I’m using lots and lots of exclamation marks!)

Show me some love and head on over to check out the competition as well as revisit my recipe for Turkey Tortilla Sushi. The winner is partly determined by how many votes the video gets – so vote for me once daily until December 27th.

The winner will be announced January 9th!

(I’m so excited!)

Here’s what it the finished lunchbox creation looks like:

Thanks for your support!