Friday, September 25, 2015

5 Tips for an EZ Halloween Party!

The Headlines:

Planning Parties are Fun!

But they're also hard.

Here are 5 ways to make them easier. 




It's about this time of year, or before, I start to think about Halloween.  It's a holiday I've, finally, come to embrace and it's another reason to throw a party.  But parties are a lot of time & money.  Everyone needs a little help along the way.  Use these 5 tips and your party will practically plan itself!  Boo-ya!


1 - Send (a DIY) E-card
Start with your card.  I'm a big fan of paper invites but sometimes ya gotta take the EZ way out!  Like in this case.  I really do not like E-vites.  They're so so so very impersonal.  So why not create your own?  I have an App called A Beautiful Mess - check it out HERE - which allows me to put graphics, pictures and filters on my photos.  Therefore, I take this photo of a pillow on my sofa...


and turn it into this:



Then I send it over my phone or email.  Easy.  done.  Next.

2 - Enlist help
Look closely at that invite.  I ask for help!  I used to HATE asking people to bring stuff to a party at my house but I got over it.  I don't ask all the time... but sometimes.  It really takes off some of the pressure.  Not to mention, people really LIKE to help.  They WANT to bring something.  Usually.  So let them!

3 - Make an EZ Main Dish!
Serve food that you can whip up in 2 seconds flat.  Or 10 seconds.  Just easy stuff.  Crockpot required!  For a Halloween Party... Chili is always in order.  I gave you a CHILL CHILI recipe last year - find it HERE - this year I have another that's just as easy but with a few more ingredients!

Some people may even use it as a dip... because it's a little thicker - it has flour in it!


Chili/Dip
Here's what you need: 
2 lbs hamburger
1/2 tspn. cayenne
6 tblspns flour
2 heaping tblspns taco seasoning
2 cans black beans
chopped green onions
chopped cilantro
4 tbspns 4 butter
2 cups cheese
2  1/2 cups milk
3 cups salsa
1 cup water

Here's what you do: 
Place all the ingredients in a crock pot.  Make sure the flour is mixed in well or it will clump.  People will be eating dough balls in their chili.  Not good.  Then, leave pot on low for at least 5-6 hours.  I kinda forget exactly how long... just monitor it.


Until it looks more like this... the beauty of this Chili/Dip is there's really nothing to serve with it except maybe for some extra cilantro because everything is INSIDE!  It's rich and thick... perfect to put on top of HOT DOGS.  Maybe some tortilla chips.  And look at that... your main dish is DONE!



4- Add 1 or 2 Show Stoppers!
If you're throwing a party you need a few things that will stop people in their tracks.  Be it a drink, a dish, a treat or something fun to do/look at.  You can try this Cantaloupe Martini



 It is - stop you in your tracks - good.  And, as always, EZ.  The recipe is HERE ... or you can always use this Fabulous  BOO Cupcake recipe (with a special surprise inside)



that will make the kids and adults, for that matter, sing your praises.  Get it HERE!  Or try this semi-healthy alternative:


It's an Apple Dip.  Perfect for FALL.  My friend has made this for years.  Super simple.  It just turns a  healthy food - up a notch!

Here's what you need:
8 oz cream cheese (softened)
1 tspn vanilla
1 tspn milk
 3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup powered sugar

Mix it all together and serve!  You can add some simple cookies with it too... Yum!


Finally, do this NOW:

5 - Decorate
This part you can enjoy all month long.  I did a blog on Halloween Decor last week.  Read it HERE ... just some simple ideas that you can throw together so easily - but so much fun!

Now isn't that SCARY?  Your party is planned!  One more BOO-YA!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

When Eating A NUT is Like Taking A BULLET.

The Headlines:


When all you want is protect your child...


Yet eating a tiny piece of food could kill them.

A reality for too many families.

An inconvenience for others. 




A few weeks back I saw a blog that another MOM had written... I never clicked on it because I knew it would infuriate me and I decided I would steer clear.  She wrote something along the lines of: your nut allergy kid isn't my problem so let my daughter eat a peanut butter sandwich in peace!

It was an interesting point of view but many other MOMS, even those whose child didn't have a nut allergy, were ticked.  They thought it was a small thing to do, not send your child to school with "nut food" of any kind, to help the health of another.  They got it.  Sometimes people don't.


Our journey into the nut free world started about 7 and a half years ago, when at the age of 1 and a half, I innocently gave my daughter a small scoop of peanut butter.  She didn't like it.  In fact, she hated it.  She spit it out... wanted nothing to do with it.  But I forced her to have the bite.  I thought it was such a good "kid food!"  I grew up with the protein - didn't we all?  Within an hour she seemed as if she was getting sick.  She was moody, her nose was running and she was going down hill fast.  Another hour or so went by and I fed her some dinner to hopefully pick up her spirits but she promptly threw it all up.  It was very apparent something was wrong.  Soon after, her eyes started to swell and she was getting a rash all over her body.



We headed to the hospital but on the way I called her doctor and they suggested I just give her a good dose of Benadryl.  We did and she got better.  Soon after, obviously, she was diagnosed with a nut allergy.  Not just peanuts.  Almost all nuts.  Peanuts and cashews are particularly bad.  Yet, Brazilian Nuts are completely fine for her to eat so as a general rule, we just say NO NUTS.   She's also highly allergic to shellfish - so we have to keep her off the Lobster!  Not too hard.  But a nut allergy, is a lot harder.

How hard?  Look at all the labels.  There's nuts in more things than I ever knew.  Not to mention almost every label says "processed in a facility blah blah blah" so I started to watch what she ate all the time and we talked about it openly.  There have been slips.  Teachers,  Restaurants (good, conscientious restaurants), Grandparents even I have made mistakes!  There was one Halloween when she had a tiny piece of candy which contains no nuts but she woke up in the middle of the night away with a terrible tummy ache and those swollen eyes again.  Or what about the time when I ate some cashews late at night, by myself, in my room.  I then used the remote.  The next morning so did she... she must have touched her eyes because they proceeded to get itchy inside and out.  I gave her some allergy medicine when it dawned on me what had happened.

All very close calls... all possible triggers that could lead to life threatening situations.  So, we carry an Epi-pen, we don't allow nuts in our house, of any kind, any more.  We have learned that a label that reads:  MAY CONTAIN NUTS is off limits.   She knows to always ask questions and, God willing, we will survive.

Many of you may be asking WHY?  Why her?  Why now?  Why anyone?  When there were almost no peanut allergies back in the 70's & 80's...?  There are different working theories.  Some say it's due to early immunizations that adversely affect a portion of the population into reacting to nuts.  Others believe nuts are in so many different food products that the number of allergies simply go up due to availability.   Another theory is called the "Hygiene Hypothesis."  It basically says that our environment has gotten too clean and therefore our bodies assume certain proteins, aka NUTS, are attacking even though clearly they're not.  Meaning, we should all live on a farm, in the dirt and perhaps our allergies will go away.  It's possible.  But I'm not packing up just yet.

For now, we go to the doctor once a year to have her re-tested.  They put pricks of different kinds of "allergens" all over her back and we wait to see what kind of reaction she will have this time.


When the skin elevates and reacts like below... she's allergic.  The bigger the bump, the bigger the allergy.


Of course the hope is that one day she'll have no reaction at all.  That at one point, this allergy will just disappear.  It hasn't happened yet.  I'm not sure it ever will.

And if you're wondering... yes... as a MOM you feel helpless.  You have to hope that others will understand the seriousness of the problem.  That your child isn't being picky... she's just choosing to live.  If my daughter ingests enough peanuts she CAN DIE.  It's serious and is even worse for others.  There's a child in my son's class who will react to the SMELL of nuts.  Now, how are you supposed to protect that?

There is also some guilt as the MOM.  I did eat a lot of nuts when I was pregnant with my daughter who has the nut allergy.  On the flip side, I did NOT eat any nuts when pregnant with my son.  He has no nut allergy.  We tested him too (pictured below).  So did I, inadvertently, do this to her?  We may never know...


Here's what I do know...  food allergies often go hand in hand with eczema and asthma.  It's the rule of 3's.  I wrote about her asthma, and the pill she was taking (Singulair ), earlier this year HERE (when I discovered it was making her depressed).  Bottom line, when you find one problem, there's a better chance you'll find the others.

Here are some other NUT FACTS (as reported by peanutallergy.com):

  • * More than 3 million people in the United States report being allergic to peanuts, tree nuts or both. (AAAAI)
  • * Less than 21% of patients with peanut allergy will outgrow it. (AAAAI)
  • * Peanut Allergy is the most common cause of food related death (AAFA).
  • * Four out of every 100 children have a food allergy. (CDC/NCHS Study, "Food Allergy Among U.S. Children...")
  • * From 1997 to 2007, the prevalence of reported food allergy increased 18% among children under age 18 years. (CDC/NCHS Study, "Food Allergy Among U.S. Children...")
I also know there are some "cures" which include treating subjects with the very thing they're allergic to - giving them tiny doses of nuts - daily - until the reaction is gone.  It doesn't give them free reign to then eat nuts all the time but the idea is that, if a small amount of nut finds its way into their food, they will still be able to live through it.  Which is better than the alternative.

My daughter could die if she eats nuts.
 It's weird to say but it's the reality we know.  There are worse things.  There are much much much worse things than a nut allergy.  What - you ask?  See, the difference is we have the opportunity to control this health issue.  Cancer patients don't have near the control.  They're at the mercy of the cancer.  That's often the case - typical of health problems.  Just not here.  If we do this together, parents of nut kids and parents of "NON-NUT KIDS" can get through this... but only if we all take note.  Friends, family and people like you need to understand that my little girl's eating habits, as well as the eating habits of other nut allergy kids, aren't there to inconvenience you... they're simply put in place to save some little lives that are just getting started.

I did a Periscope on this subject - my daughter joins me - to see it click below:



And if you agree with any of this... please share.  You'll help a child along the way.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

My NIECE the FOOTBALL Star!

The Headlines:

It's awesome how far Women have come.

Now the question is... how far can we go?

I think as far as they want.





Back in the day, I loved going to my high school football games.  I attended every one.  I was required to... I was part of the team.  Not the football team of course.  The other team on the field.  The cheerleaders.

Nowadays, women aren't just cheerleaders.  We've come a long way.  A few months ago... news broke here in Arizona about a woman, Jen Welter, coaching Arizona Cardinal Football Players.  It was a BIG story.  Perhaps the first instance of a female coach ever in the NFL.  As I listened to all the hype I started to think about my own family.


That's right.  My 8 year old niece, a third grader, is not on the cheer squad.  She's actually played flag football for 2 seasons... now entering her third.  When I first heard it a few years ago I thought it was a phase.  So did everyone else.  But now we're not sure.  Her father, is employed by the Carolina Panthers and works for the NFL.  So she has access to everything football and has spent much time with her family on football fields...

so it stands to reason she'd want to follow in her Dad's footsteps.  But actually PLAY ball?  Now that was a new one.  As time goes on, some of us no longer think it's a passing phase.  Pun intended.  The girl really wants to be a football player when she grows up.  She tells everyone all the time.


What strikes me more than anything at this point... is how far we've come.  Because an 8 year old girl football player, though totally awesome, is kind of no big deal anymore.  Which is really how it should be, right?  People, including her BOY teammates, fully accept and respect her.  Shoot, she even scored the the longest touchdown pass of the season during their final game last year!  Her fans were proud... but there was no parade.  

So the acceptance is there but how far up does it go?  The real question on everyone's mind is will she ever really be able to take it as far as she wants?  Can she, or any woman for that matter, ever PLAY in the NFL?  I would be willing to bet, if she was good enough, she could.  It really is just a matter of time before some woman does it.    


I know that's a long way off... but what's not so far in the future is 7th grade.  When she has the chance to try out for her school's tackle football team.  She wants to be the kicker.  
But, to me the very best part is simple:  I love love love that my niece can be on the football team one day and the next she can dress like Elsa from Frozen.  Because at that moment she wants to be a movie star.  

And that's what growing up should be about.  Learning, striving, falling, dreaming, creating and loving it all along the way.  So today she may want to be a professional football player... 


but tomorrow who knows what she'll be.  Maybe she'll break records.  Maybe she'll wow crowds.

Or maybe she'll just do what she wants.  And that's okay too.  In fact, that sounds just fabulous to me. Because shattering glass ceilings are important but looking in the mirror... that's even better.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

5 Ways to "Fall" into Decor!

The Headlines:

I love fall decorating (I call it "fallerizing").

Here are 5 
cheap, easy decorating ideas. 




Every time about this time of year, I change things up.  Even though it's typically still 100 degrees here in Arizona, I pack away all the Summer/Seaside decor and I bring out the Fall stuff.   I call it "fallerizing."  It gets the whole family in the mood.

But here's what complicates this season even more: a little thing called HALLOWEEN!  For years, I used to do just Fall.  That way, I could leave it until after Thanksgiving.  Smart, right?  Then 2 things happened.   One, my kids started growing up and wanted our home decor to reflect their "favorite holiday" (in quotes because their 'favorite holiday' is always just the one in front of them) and two, Halloween decor got cool looking.

Yep, here's where my picky self really comes out.  I'm not a fan of typical Halloween decorating.  To me, it's always been, well, kinda ugly!  I never liked the googly-eyed giant spiders or funny looking witches.  I just couldn't bring myself to get into that.  But in recent years it's gotten more sophisticated chic.  And I'll admit:  I've been sucked into the fun!



Skulls, Skulls & MORE Skulls
These are everywhere these days - seemingly always in style - even when it's not Halloween.  They're just chic now!  You'll see, I can't get enough of them.

You can Creeper-ize your chandeliers with skulls...
  

 Closer look... they seems as if they're a part of the piece!


Same with this one! Those are "skeleton garland" from the Dollar Store.



You can fill jars with them...


They can be sparkly...


Or on Napkins...


Use a skull as a crazy centerpiece!


Even tiny shot glasses...


this looks super cool!


And right now you can find SKULLS anywhere from Target, to Michaels to Home Goods, to Walmart and every place in between.  But get them fast... they go fast.

Bring the Outdoors In
Stuff that celebrates the season like pine cones...


or Fall leaves or Cattails like you see here on the mantel:


or honestly, whatever you can find in your back or front yard.  Anything bunched together in a group always looks way cooler than you'd ever think!

Use Candy
If you can use candy to decorate for any one season - IT's THIS ONE!  Seriously.  Halloween means candy.  Use it for more than one night!   Candy Corn couldn't be a batter decorator choice- they really are vibrant and beautiful! Especially in jars...


or with a "Crystal Head" Skull placed in the middle of it! 



Anything Orange & Brown -  Black or White
That means ANYTHING.  You'll find inspiration in the most random of items: coffee beans, black jelly beans, red apples, oranges, CEREAL... Chocolate Cheerios (below) have great, rich color... put any of those things in a jar, add twigs to the opening on the top to give it height... or put them in 3 jars and group them near each other.  BAM - COOL!


Just stick to the Fall or Halloween colors. In dish towels...






or grab some battery powered/timer lights at one of the Super Stores.  I AM SOOOOO into those!  Put them on a wreath at your front door...


or stuff a bunch of the little lights in a glass container.  That looks AWESOME by the way! Finally, the easiest way to "Fall" into you decor this season...

Kid Art

No brainer, right?  Keep and hang up your kids school art work from over the years!  My daughter literally cheered yesterday when I brought back a messy orange picture below she made in pre-school! The nostalgia is sweet and it the kids will always remember you did it!


There ya have it... 5 super easy ways to celebrate the season in your home.  Have fun, DO it and share it with your friends!

Now, the key once I put away the Halloween stuff: buy more apples and oranges!!!


**Here's my Periscope on this topic! You can see the chandeliers LIVE (to tape)...



.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Rip-OFF Restaurant Style Salad!

The Headlines:

This is the best chopped salad you may ever eat in your life.

It's kind of a "poor mans" rip off from an Arizona Classic.

But just as good (or better)!? 





When I first moved to Arizona... like 15 years ago... I kept hearing about a restaurant I must try.  So for my boyfriends's birthday (at the time - now husband) I took him to Cowboy Ciao in downtown Scottsdale.  I ordered, among other things, one of the best salad's I have ever consumed.  Tasty, innovative, crunchy, fresh, healthy... I could go on and on!  It's a salad that packs a powerful punch inside your mouth!  Plus, a total crowd pleaser. You could absolutely make this for a main course (or a 1st course) when friends come over.

They will be WOW-ed!  First reason... just look at the presentation!


Stunning.  Yes, weird that food can be stunning in your own home - but it can!

But back to the story: when my husband went to the restaurant about a month ago, he sweetly ordered me another one, it had been years since I treated myself!  As I ate I thought: this salad's so good I need to copy it.


So I did.  But I did it my own way...  the ingredients were easier to find (all of them were in my pantry) and it was just as good as the "real deal"!

For the record, here's the Real Cowboy Ciao recipe.  It's so popular... it's not a secret anymore!
Ingredients:
        2oz Israeli or Pearl Cous Cous (a larger cous cous) cook, 2oz Arugula chopped, 2oz Roma tomatoes diced (balsamic marinated, 1.5oz Smoked Salmon, .5 oz Asiago Cheese, .5oz Pepitas (Shelled Pumpkin Seeds), .5oz Black Currants, 1oz Super Sweet Air Dried Corn, 2oz Pesto Buttermilk Dressing

Dressing: Pesto Buttermilk Dressing, .5 cups Pesto, 1 Shallot roughly chopped, 1 cup A├»oli (garlic mayonnaise), 1 cup Buttermilk, .5 teaspoons Coarse black pepper, Juice of half a Lemon, Salt and pepper to taste *Add first 3 ingredients to food processor and blend thoroughly. With motor running, add remaining ingredients to combine. Store in refrigerator. Makes about 24oz of dressing

Now here's mine:


Rip-Off Restaurant Style Salad:
Ingredients:
Spinach (cut up), quinoa, dried blueberries (or whichever dried fruit you have in your pantry), tomatoes (cut very small), cold smoked salmon (lox style), sunflower seeds, grated parmesan.  

All you do... is line up the ingredients like I did and serve.  People think you're a stinking rock star!  


Next, add the dressing of choice. 

**I do my favorite combination of Ranch and Italian.  I call it a "Fake Make" dressing"... you can see what I use if you click HERE.

Then... mix and chow down.  Can life GET ANY EASIER?  Now that's what I call dinner... 
I'm hungry.

Watch my LIVE broadcast, saved to YOUTUBE, on Periscope to see how easy it is to make...


or click  HERE


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

My 4 Year Old has 5 Cavities! Am I a BAD MOM?

The Headlines:

I'm embarrassed to say...

My little boy has 5 cavities.

Does that make me the worst parent ever?

Not if I don't let it.



Really... more cavities than his age?  Gulp.  Have you ever felt like the worst parent ever?  It's happened to me... a few times.  This was one of them.

A few months ago, at the beginning of Summer... we went to a routine 6 month check up for my kids at the dentist.  We started doing that when they were like 1 year by the way!  Anyways, my 8 year old daughter had her check up and everything was fine.  But when it came time to look at my son's x-rays I saw a look on the dentist's face I haven't seen before.  He took me in a room, without my children, to talk.  Uh oh.  That's when you know something's wrong.

"Your son has 5 cavities" he said kindly and somewhat empathetically, "I know that's a lot for such a young boy..." my response was what many of yours would be:

"WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT????????????"



"Yes," he goes on to calmly say... "he had a little shadowing at his last visit but now it's turned into full blown cavities and even though they're his baby teeth we're going to have to fill 3 of them."  The other two, they would watch.  I could see he was bracing himself for my reaction.  He's had Moms scream, cry, yell, faint... it's quite a shocker!  But I contained myself, as I guess, many others do not in this crappy situation and my only question was WHY?

Because at that moment, you really do feel like the biggest tool alive.  "I swear," I found myself saying, "we brush his teeth twice a day and he doesn't eat thaaaaaaat much candy!  The dentist then goes on to tell me it's not my fault.  That unless I gave him soda everyday, it's just part of his - like -  genes.  Especially due to the placement of the cavities... which were in between the teeth, not on top of them.  "Ohhhhhhh," I said, "should I have been flossing already?  I figured his teeth really didn't touch so I didn't have to keep on top of that too much yet!"  Nope, he assured me, it's the make-up of his saliva that has given him cavities.  That's why my daughter, hasn't had one yet!

So, I felt a tad better until I spoke to BP (the husband) who swore it was all those gummies I fed him.    Then another doctor friend said dentists just tell Moms the gene thing so we don't feel so bad!   Well... it worked... for a while.  But Was it my fault after all?

Two months later (after our Summer trips) we went back to the office to get 2 of the 3 cavities filled.  We split the jobs up since there were 3 so we'd do 2 total visits.  As we were driving to the first appointment he proclaimed in the car he wasn't going to do it...  he was scared.   But the terror turned quickly when he got in the chair and he was a master.


He was given a small amount of laughing gas at each visit and novacaine to get the job done.  It was a little alarming to me (yes I looked up side effects of laughing gas on children) but he did fabulous!


In fact, he didn't kick, scream, push them out of his mouth, cry or throw a tantrum of any kind.  Because, apparently, that's what MANY KIDS DO - He was the perfect patient!


They warned me the numbness would stay for at least an hour after the procedure and to be careful - some kids - bite their face off because they can't feel it!  But he didn't do that either.  He just got some prizes and were were on our merry way!


In the end, yes I'm still very disturbed he has 5 cavities at such a very young age but - once again - the dentist (who did his thesis on this very topic) swore to me it was not my fault but indeed his own "saliva genetics."  And I'm choosing to believe him.  He gave me serious reason to do so.  We are now adding fluoride to his nightly routine and I am learning more about parenting through this somewhat mortifying experience:

1 - You children will rise to the occasion... if you let them!
2 - You can do your very best to protect your kids... but sometimes it's out of your hands.
3 - Don't worry if you LOOK LIKE the worst Mom ever... you know the truth.
4 - Contained reaction is often times the best reaction.
5 - NO more gummies... just in case.

So good luck to you - if you ever have the unfortunate experience of discovering multiple cavities in your child's mouth.  Remember it's not the the last time you'll feel like the worst parent ever... but I bet your children will remember you as the best parent... first!