Thursday, March 26, 2015

Let's Make Nice Girls

The Headlines:

Let's stop talking about Mean Girls.

And start talking about Nice Girls.

Take the MAKE NICE GIRLS Pledge.

Here's a downloadable.

I talked about Mean Girls enough earlier this week.  I gave parents 5 ideas on how to deal with them.  In case you missed it, you can click HERE to read it.  But I want to be done with that part of this story.  I want to now focus on what we're not talking about as much as mean... which is NICE.

Now, before I go on... let me be very clear.  I'm no psychologist, pediatrician or doctor of any kind.  I have no training in those areas but I'm not sure you need that for this.  I am a human being, a concerned Mom... not to mention, I was voted "Nicest Person in the Class" back in 6th grade!!!! And frankly, I think that makes me an expert! ;)

Girls (boys too but for the purpose of this discussion I'm focusing on females) need friends.  They yearn for them, they thrive with them.  They make them feel strong and secure.  They re-inforce a girls mind and actions.  If they are surrounded by good, they will do good.  If they are surrounded by bad, they will be bad.

So... together

How?  It starts with you.  You're the parent.  If you don't tell them, teach them and show them how to be NICE... they won't learn it.  Start talking about it.  Everyday before my daughter goes to school I say: "be nice to people" she knows it's a priority.  But let's go one step further.  Have them get serious about it.  Make them sign a document that says they will be a NICE GIRL.  I know it sounds a little weird but maybe it will be the reinforcement they need.  They are children, right?  Their friends can sign it too.  Heck, maybe we can actually get some NICE out of this thing?

Now, my daughter's only in 3rd grade.  She's had very few run-ins with Mean Girls because she's so young.  But I've seen glimpses and I'm aware that Mean Girls are coming.  It scares me because I'm not sure what we'll be up against entirely.  With this social media age - I feel Mean Girls are capable of anything.  They can be un-stoppable if not monitored.  They can ruin friendships, reputations, lives... all with a few clicks.  So there's no time like the present to start MAKING NICE GIRLS.  Here's how:

This one is really easy... if you're doing something to someone that you wouldn't appreciate, don't do it. Do you like it when someone asks you for "cuts" in line? Nope. Then don't do it to someone else.

Someone you go to school with really wants to try out for ____ (fill in the blank) encourage them to do it! Be a support system.  Don't flip your hair and say "whatever!"  Or if it's really not a talent of theirs (like they can't swim but they want to be on the swim team) suggest and encourage them to run track because you can never catch them when you're running to the line for lunch.

The good things you do, as a girl, matter. What you do to one person can have a profound affect on them.  Even little things, to you, may mean much more to others.  You can talk to a girl that doesn't seem to have many friends or you could hang around the girls who make fun of everyone who come out of the bathroom.  What do you think evil feels like?  Choose the good... it makes you feel better.  
This is hard because sometimes girls want alone time.  I remember I loved to have a special, best friend when I was a girl.  It was reassuring.  My daughter likes that too... but I remind her it's never a bad thing to have more friends than less.  That line - "The More the Merrier" is so true.  You can be alone, later.  Schedule a play date, hang time, sleepover - whatever - but when you're around others - invite them in too.

Words hurt.  Sometimes way more than actions.  Almost always more than actions.  "Sticks and stones may break my bones - but words can never hurt me!"  I call (you- know-what) on that! Who made that crock line up anyway?  People remember, with great detail, what others say to them... actions can also devastate but words cut really deep. So think before you speak and think before you do.  Act nice, speak nice, be nice.

Finally, Tell people
Parents... talk to your kids about Making a NICE GIRL, and if she's game, tell others.  Let people know Mean Girls are not tolerated and not wanted.  Bring the idea to your Girl Scout Troop, Cheerleading Squad, Soccer Team, classrooms or just bring it to your friends.  Then ask them to sign this

It's a little blurry because I took a picture of my computer but it's a downloadable MAKE NICE GIRLS Pledge that says your child is going to be a NICE GIRL and outlines how she's going to do it.  You sign it, she signs it, done deal.  It's in writing, hang it in her room and tell her you expect her to hold up her end of the bargain.  Click HERE to look at it, print it and feel free to pass it on.

Together, let's change, what I feel, is a growing "Mean Girl" epidemic, with no signs of letting up.  We're the parents, let's take control... let's teach them and show them how to MAKE NICE GIRLS!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Protecting You & Your Children From Mean Girls

The Headlines:

Why are there Mean Girls?

Let's start making Nice Girls.

When I was a young girl I made my Mom very proud.  Wanna know what I did?

I won the award for "Nicest Person in the Class."

We all strive to do important things in our lives.  We attempt to get the best grade, become captain of our sports team, make the most money, shine the brightest, win the game.  It's what we do.  It's what parents hope their children do...  but winning that award when I was a girl was "it" for my Mom.  She didn't need me to be the captain of anything... she needed to know that I was nice to others.  It made her happy.  It was so simple.

I remember the vote.  The teacher announced what we'd be voting on and all the faces in the classroom turned to me.  I was nice to the "under-dogs,"  I helped those who seemed helpless, I always included people, I liked everyone... it worked really well for me.  Others even protected me because I was so nice.  No one was allowed to be mean to the "nice girl".

Boy have times changed.  Now, it's cool to be mean.  Girls pride themselves on it.  There are movies made about it.  It's a topic well known.  And that's incredibly unfortunate.  Because that's not really how the world works.  In fact, it's the opposite.

When real people go to a restaurant, if the server treats them rudely they won't get a good tip.  If you're buying a car and a salesperson is an a--, they won't make the sale.  If someone is overtly mean or crude on a television broadcast - they'll be fired.

So how can Mean Girls get away with it?  Others let them.  All girls want to be liked.  Sometimes they think being mean will get them there.  But girls who are mean - are just insecure.  Really... I'll say it again

How do I know?  Sometime, after earning my nice award, in Junior High, I got mean.  Not terribly mean, but mean-er than the "Nicest Person in the Class."  I did it because I felt insecure.  Junior High was tough and I felt lost.  The worse I felt, the meaner I got.  I would put down others to make myself feel better.  Being "mean" falsely built me up on the outside.  But on the inside, I was aching.

Many girls today are hurting.  They, too, tear others down to build themselves up.  But the wall isn't sturdy and they will crumble.  They will fall.  And they will try to take others down with them.

It sounds awful, doesn't it?  But it's reality.  A reality that won't go away anytime soon.  SO we, as parents, have to be prepared for it.  We can't put our kids in a bubble even though we want to...

Here are 5 strategies Moms can use:

#1 Talk everyday
This is easier for some, harder for others.  I, as a little girl, wanted to talk non-stop.  My daughter doesn't say crap.  She just doesn't naturally open up.  I have to dig.  Or sometimes she just erupts.  But regardless of their attitudes towards talking - keep digging.  They will know you're there and open up when they're ready.  Just be prepared - it could be at an inconvenient time - and you will have to stop everything to listen.  But it will be well worth the interruption.  Promise.

#2 Know Her Friends (and her family)
This one seems obvious, right?  I love that kids come to my house.  I get to keep my eye on them and their behavior.  See them interact.  Maybe my daughter hasn't made the best choice in a friend.  I can now see that and either steer her in another direction or be prepared when the s--- hits the fan.  Because there's a good chance, at some point, it will.

You know the saying:  the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.  You may not want to get to know that Mom - but you should.  For the same reasons mentioned above.  You don't have to be best friends but knowing them will give you insight to their child.  Not to mention, if you ever have an issue that needs to be resolved... it may be easier if you're "friends."

#3 Involve Her In Outside Activities
My daughter came home in tears the other day.  She wanted  to stay home from her golf lesson.  I made her go... know why?  Because it takes her mind off of what went wrong at school and gives her a chance to be with other friends.  If she stayed home she'd mope about what happened... since she went - new memories were made.  Also, it's just smart to diversify.  If all her friends are in one place - what happens if things go awry?

#4 Good School Choices 
Does the school's core values line up with your own?  If they don't - you're in the wrong place.  I want to like the public school system.  It's how I grew up.  I used to believe in it.  At this point, however, I can not ignore the fact that many public schools are just trying to get by.  There are so many issues to deal with - i.e.: school security, state/ntl mandates, test scores, common core,  drugs, the list is endless... and the very last thing on their list is social skills.  My problem with that... if your child is miserable at school, how much is she really going to learn?  Not to say that you need a school that teaches social skills first and math second but there needs to be appropriate checks and balances.  If your daughter has trouble at school... what happens?  It's not official "bullying" but there's clearly something very wrong.  What do they do?  Pick a charter or private (funds allowing) school that will handle matters and situations properly.  It's not running away from a problem... it's simply aligning your family with an environment that works best for you.  Think of it as a college choice... just much earlier.

Finally, and most simply...

#5 Make a Nice Girl
Why do we keep talking about Mean Girls?  Let's start a movement to Make Nice Girls.  You're the parent.  You are the one in control here.  Make your daughter a Nice Girl.  She should be liked, because she's the "Nicest Person in the Class" not the meanest.  We'll talk more about in my next post because I truly believe Mean Girls are an epidemic and if we don't do something, as the adults, to stop it.  We're just as guilty.

Lastly, there's you.  As her Mom - if your daughter is enduring the wrath of the Mean Girls -  you're hurting inside almost as much as her.  You CAN help her through this... you have the power and know what is best for your child.  You know what needs to be done... because she's yours.

With that said, tread lightly.  Be careful with your choices because they will affect her.  And know... that for as many Mean Girls as there are out there - there are just as many (if not more) supportive, incredible, strong, helpful, Nice Girls out there who are waiting to meet other Nice Girls... like yours.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

5 Ways to Bring Spring In!

The Headlines:

It's still cold outside (in some places).

So bring Spring inside.

Call it "Spring-erize!"

Every year, about this time... I get inspired.  I want to lighten things up and "Spring-erize!"  You may or may not know I change the decor with every season.  So I also have "Summer-ize, Fall-erize and Winter-ize" - meaning a change of decor 4 times a year.  Well, with Christmas, I guess it's 5!  Oooooo that sounds like a lot but it's really not.  The changes aren't anything major - but they're enough to keep it fresh all the time.  I know it sounds daunting, especially if you have children and you're - you know - busy every second... but just watch...  here are

We're talking simple stuff here.  Oh, that also costs little to NO MONEY!  Here we go...

#1 Bring the Outside In
This tip gets really old because it's often said but that's because - well - it's true!  Go outside (or to your local market) and get things that are growing.  I can NOT tell you how many of my friends have lemon trees in their backyard.  I am doing them a favor by taking some!  Limes, grapefruits or oranges are pretty too.  Then of course there's flowers, herbs basically anything that looks good... bring it inside.  Put them in a bowl and it's a burst of color.  Just be careful of bugs.  

#2 Pastels Everywhere
This one's easy too.  Look for pastels... and use them.  Let your mind go crazy!  Keep in mind, however, there's power in numbers.  More of whatever-the-item-is... the better! These are just pink candles.  Up above in the first picture there's Fruit Loops cereal, down below there's candy.  Open your eyes to anything... you'll be surprised what you see!

#3  Decorate with Easter Eggs (or Easter Grass)
Easter grass (not pictured on this post) can be really pretty.  Put a bunch of it in a jar or sitting below candles.  I've done it before but not this year.  Easter eggs, also pretty.  You can color code them (like pictured here) or just put a bunch in one spot.  What's easier than that? 

#4 Lighten Up
This may be more about what you don't do than what you do...
Get the idea?  Put away things.  Dare I say Spring clean?  Take the throws, remove some pillows, pack away heavy items and bring in Spring!  Use whites right along with pastels.  White always looks fresh, clean and new - everything Spring is supposed to be!  (And/or go to IKEA or Home Goods to get the items pictured below - so cute and so cheap!)

#5  Put Out "Springy" Pictures 
I use this trick all the time.  So I apologize if you've heard it before.  It just really changes the mood for someone who comes to your home to visit.  Why?  Because guests look at pictures.  If there's an Easter picture up they didn't see at Christmas... they notice!

Plus, it puts our family in the mood too... it reminds us of the feelings that went along with that time of year... how special it was and how exciting it will be again!

Not to mention, we were probably all wearing pastels (#2)!  ;)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Microwave Eggplant Recipe

The Headlines:

This is the best Eggplant you'll ever have.

Because it's all done in the microwave!

Let's be honest here guys... we all love the microwave.  It's an amazingly convenient tool that's quick, doesn't get your house hot and it's just so easy.  If I could use it for everything, I would.  But, most of us know if you do a dinner in the microwave - it's probably either not that healthy or not that tasty.  Certainly, nothing you would serve to guests.

It's time to change that!  Presenting...

Why is it so cool and so different?  Because it's an Eggplant dish done entirely in the microwave!!! No joke.  BP (the husband) loves it for the taste but also because there's no pasta, bread or even "crumbs" in the dish!  Just sauce, eggplant and cheese!  Overall, pretty healthy.  Plus, kids love it and it would even make a good dinner to serve to friends.  Just be prepared for the talk at the table (I can hear it now): "You seriously made this in the microwave????"


And the best part, as always, it's very little work for you!

Here's what you need:

1 large eggplant or 2 small ones (so you can get about 8-10 slices worth)
salt and pepper
2 cups of your favorite Marinara sauce
3/4 cup part skim ricotta
3/4 cup grated parmesan
1 large egg
5 minced garlic cloves
2 cups shredded part skim mozzarella

Here's what you do:

Cut eggplant into slices.  Find a microwave dish that has a lid and, after you season the eggplant slices with salt and paper, stack them in the dish and cover.  Microwave for 8 minutes.  They'll come out looking like below.

Then, put them (careful - they're hot) on top of paper towels that are laid on a cookie sheet so they can sort of dry out for 10 minutes or so...  use the same microwave dish (dry it) and put about 1/2 cup (or a little more) of the marinara sauce on the bottom.

In a small bowl mix ricotta, parm, egg, garlic 1/2 tspn salt and 1/8 tspn pepper.  Spoon a little of the mix onto the flat end of an eggplant piece and roll.  Put seam side down like below.

Add the remaining marinara sauce to top it off and once the lid is on again - stick it back in the microwave for another 17 minutes.  Take out, sprinkle with the mozzarella and microwave again for 3 more minutes.  Serves 4-5.  It will look like this...


It's hot so be careful, but with a salad, it's a beautiful and tasty dish!  Done completely in the microwave!  Perfect for people with no time - no oven - and/or cooking skills for that matter!

I'm sure Italians everywhere are mortified.  But I couldn't be happier!


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

5 Easy Projects to Make a House a Home

The Headlines:

A House is just a place to live... 

Until you make it a your own.

Then, it's a home.

Decorating is fun.  It just is.  Think of it like putting together a great outfit.

First, you Define your Style.  Read more about that HERE.  Are you Bo-ho Chic?  Tailored Classic?  Maybe Rocker Cool?  Then, you need: simplicity, balance, timelessness, some sparkle and a little black.  Put all those things together and you have a winning outfit but... you also have a standout room!

In fact, when planning a room (much like an outfit) those are the things I think about.  We bought a house in exactly the right neighborhood for us.  But everything needed to be re-done to make it our home.  And we actually WANTED to do it all.  Ourselves.  Slowly, but surely.

Remember, buying a house is easy.  Buying the right house, in the right neighborhood (for your family) is harder.  Then once you get it - the real work begins!

1 - INSTALL SHELVING (balance)

This trick can be used over and over again.  A shelf can go a long way.  It breaks up a room, it's practical, it's inexpensive and it looks cool.

We also put the same shelf (from IKEA by the way) in my daughter's room.  Read the step by step  HERE - we made a desk space from an old table I grew up using as my "dining" table.

 The look of this shelf works well in lots of places... it comes in natural wood from Ikea so you can decide what to do with it:  (stain, paint) and they're a steal at around 8 bucks.  I love the wrought iron look... it's in places (remember - black) all over our house.  Here's a closer look:

Lastly, there's a shelf in my son's room.  Different type.  These are from Home Depot...

and they're obviously "floating" but same concept.  It's part of his desk area too.

2 - PAINT ANYTHING (timelessness)

There's no end to how much paint can help things look better.  It will change junk furniture into a chic piece or a boring basket into a cool one.  Paint boxes, tins, anything!  I painted this awful, blond wood table years ago.

It made it a usable piece.  I just can't get rid of it now.

Also, this ugly old bookcase (and mirror above it actually) now looks so much better in red, for my son's room.

The rocking chair below used to be a boring wood color but fits in so much better with a fresh coat of paint.  You get the drift.  The possibilities are endless.   P.S. Spray painting takes little to no time!

3 - USE anyTHING FOR A HEADBOARD (simplicity)

This is a fun one.  People have gone coo-coo for coco puffs over this headboard in my daughter's room.  It's an old picket fence I found in an antique store.  Read the full story HERE - it's one of my most popular posts.

Other Headboard ideas: an old door hung sideways.  A large window, anything in threes (3 pictures, 3 basketball hoops, 3 -whisky or wine- Barrel Tops).  A surf board, even a cool blanket can be hung to look like a headboard.  SO many opportunities many of us don't ever consider.


Think about who lives in your house and show them off to guests.  Not the way everyone else does, but in your own way.  I like to hang my daughter/son's art work in frames.  I change them out with the season.  In the Spring the picture below hangs.

 Last summer this sat on the mantel.

Yes, it's the same frame.  I switch out art work and move it around.  Much like my family pictures.

Pictures of your family are great - just not too many.  Pictures everywhere is someone who doesn't know how to decorate, trying to fill up a room!  Think back to you college days.  Exception: a well done "gallery wall."  So think about switching out pictures and frames to match the season.  For instance, my Spring pictures have pastels in them, flowers, eggs, etc.  For Fall, it's all about oranges/reds and pumpkins.

Below is a fabulous Spring picture!

And one of my favorite picture projects I've done so far is this...

It's a giant window screen put over some mounted black and white pictures.  It's subtly cool.  Click HERE to see how it was done.

5 - FIND UNIQUE DECOR (sparkle)

This is my fifth and final tip on how to make your house a home.  Look for something you love, that isn't from Pottery Barn.  Find a few things that mean something to you.  It can be a heirloom, a cool find from an antique store or something YOU made.  Whatever - but it's yours and yours alone.

Here's an old school desk that used to be in my room growing up.  It now acts as a side table in our living room (and my daughter sometimes uses it as an escape to do homework or computer work on)...

These are old ceiling tiles.  I love the way they look on the wall as "art..."

I found these in 2 different antique stores over the years.  No catalog is selling these babies!

Closer up...

See?  Like putting together a great an outfit.  Each room (person) needs: simplicity, balance, timelessness, some sparkle and a little black for a winning look every time!


Thursday, March 5, 2015

Best Black Bean Soup Recipe Ever!

The Headlines:

I love a good Black Bean Soup.

This one is the best.

And, as always, takes mere minutes to prepare!

Since we're still a wee chilled out there... figured I would share a recipe that is near and dear to my heart.  Why?  Because this soup warms my heart down into my soul when I eat it - it's that good.  I, for one, happen to love soups.  Brothy is good, creamy is better and beans is a magical fruit - done!  

Typically, I order soups at a restaurant as a first course or a light lunch but I also buy soups for sick days, cold days or rainy days.  Occasionally, I make them.  Sometimes ya gotta just turn it up a notch -  especially if it's almost as easy as opening a package.

As always, this soup takes like 5 minutes to make.  

Here's what you need: 
1 tspn olive oil
1 pint fresh salsa
16 oz  can refried black beans
15 oz can drained black beans
14.5 oz low sodium chicken broth
sour cream (optional)
cilantro (optional)
avocado (optional)

Here's what you do:
Heat oil in pot.  Add salsa and cook, stirring a bit, for a couple minutes.  Add the refrained beans, black beans and broth - bring to a simmer.  Cook another 5 minutes.  Put into bowls.  Top with a dollop of sour cream if you choose and some cilantro.  Maybe a little extra salsa too.  Feeds 3-4 people.  I like a side of cut avocados with this... or you could also add that to the soup.  Major yum.  And, all things considered, healthy too.

Make it for a family friendly dinner tonight OR Cinco De Mayo is around the corner - this is an option for that too!  Add a margarita... the recipe HERE is to DIE for... and you are in for a delicious night!  I'm hungry already.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Free Stuff on your Birthday!

The Headlines:

When you or someone you know has a birthday...

Get something FREE.

Here are some ideas.

When I was a little girl, every time my birthday came we would usually head out sometime around my big day and eat.  And inevitably, my Mom would sneak away and tell the server it was my special day and they would bring a treat on the house.

It used to be a little embarrassing.  I'm bad at asking for things "free."  But I've noticed times have changed!  Now, companies WANT you to come in to get something FREE on your birthday in hopes that either A) you'll return and spend more later or B) you'll spend money there that you wouldn't have - had you not come in to get something FREE!  So, man, it's your day - live it UP.  Not to mention: got kids?  They're money pits!  If you can nab something for FREE I say go for it.  I guess my Mom was way ahead of her time...

Because check out all the FREE things you can get now on your birthday!

Arby's - FREE Milkshake
Baja Fresh - FREE Burrito
Baskin Robbins - FREE Ice Cream
Dairy Queen - FREE Blizzard
Denny's - FREE Entree
DSW - FREE 5$ gift coupon
Dunkin Donuts- FREE Coffee
Harkins Theatres - FREE medium popcorn
IHOP - FREE entree
Joe's Crabshack - FREE App
Johnny Rockets - FREE Burger
Kona Grill - FREE Meal (up to $15)
Panera Bread - FREE Pastry
Red Robin - FREE Burger
Rubio's - FREE Meal (up to $7)
Ruby Tuesday - FREE Burger
Souper Salad - FREE Salad Buffet
Snowbowl, AZ - FREE Lift Ticket
Sprinkles - FREE Cupcake
TCBY - FREE Frozen Yogurt
Oregano's - FREE Pizzookie
The Melting Pot - FREE Chocolate covered strawberries

When I was reporting in Phoenix, Arizona I remember doing a story at a woman's house who had developed a website totally dedicated to telling people what they can get for FREE on their big day.  I looked her up and, guess what? Looks like she's still going strong!  You can visit the website HERE and once you plug in your state... the FREE birthday treats start pouring in.

I will say this... you may want to check websites or call ahead just to make sure they're still giving the FREE stuff away - because the only thing that could really damper a FREE treat on your birthday - is having to pay for it!  
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