My idea of a perfect Mother’s Day: Sleeping in, then waking up to big mug full of Hubby’s pressed coffee and a long snuggle with each of my three kids, followed by brunch at El Meson.
The perfect Mother’s Day gifts?: Homemade cards, flowers and brunch at El Meson. (Did you catch the hint that time, dear?)
But a teensy bit of luxury is always welcome, as long as it doesn’t break the bank.
I recently opened a package from the Adventures in Motherhood mailbag filled with samples of sumptuous skin care products from Mustela.
These rich lotions are just the thing for moms-to-be, new moms and old has-beens like me.
Mustela Hydration (about $16 per 7 oz.) is a must-have, especially with leg-shaving season upon us.
The natural ingredients include wheat germ oil and vitamin E that nourish and renew tired mommy skin. Slather it all over morning and night, and feel it sink in and silken your skin, with no greasy residue.
And I really like the fact the Mustela products can be used by breastfeeding moms. The lotions are hypoallergenic and free of paraben, phthalate and phenoxyethanol.
Lansinoh was my only refuge during my breastfeeding days, and while the lanolin-based cream worked great, it felt like I was spreading on bacon grease. Yuck!
Mustela also carries an Intensive Action cream for stretch marks. I laughed when I pulled it out of the box (because I consider myself beyond help in this area. I know: TMI).
My 5-year-old asked what the tube held and I told him. He promptly said, “You REALLY need to use that, Mommy.” Thanks, kid.
Mustela is available online or at Sephora, as is 5-in-1 Restore Cream Age Delay from First Aid Beauty. It’s a bit on the pricey side ($36 for 1.7 ounces), but it’s a treasure.
I even put the Restore Cream on my oily T-zone at night after my usual witch hazel cleanse (Dickinson’s Cleansing Astringent is about $4 a bottle, but the generic stuff is half the price and works just as well).
The Restore Cream absorbs really quickly and leaves my skin feeling supple, fresh and younger — really!
In case you’re wondering where the 5-in-1 comes in, the cream is designed to:
Reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
Correct uneven skin tone.
Nourish and moisturize.
Combat free radicals. (Yay!)
A less-expensive gift option is the Burt’s Bees line of earth-friendly natural skin care. On a few Mother’s Days past, I’ve received Burt’s Bees gift sets, which allowed me to sample several of their products and find some favorites.
I swear by their roll-on Herbal Blemish Stick for monthly breakouts (again, TMI). My teen and tween both have their own bottles (about $8 each) to dab on and effectively dry out any problem spots, too.
When I want a splash of something to refresh my senses after work, I mop my brow with Burt’s Bees Garden Tomato Toner (about $11). Love the fresh scent!
And speaking of a little splash of something, I recently enjoyed a sample of Voga Pinot Grigio. For under $10, this Italian wine was soft and simple — a nice, clean compliment to Easter dinner.
But here’s why it would make a cool gift: The intriguingly shaped bottle! It’s mysterious and sleek-looking, isn’t it?
I was pleasantly surprised to find a cork under the screw-top cap — which makes for easy storage since you don’t have to mess with recorking and possible spillage in the fridge between pours.
And it would make a fine Mother’s Day brunch beverage if I didn’t already have my heart set on a glass of El Meson’s homemade Sangria …
My two sons are great big-brothers.
I was concerned when the Princess arrived that the boys would feel displaced, bitter even, towards their little sister.
My fears were quickly waylaid.
Not that things are always perfect, she does have a special affinity for their bedroom and toys which drives them crazy.
“MOOOMMM!!!! Sissy is in our room again!!!”
This is usually followed by a slamming door and a screech from Sissy who just wants to eat their Legos, climb on their beds and rip pages from their books.
But, despite this ongoing matter, the boys really do look out for her.
They keep an eye on the gate at the top of the steps, always telling me when it has been left open. They both like to hold her tight while going down the slide, read to her, play with her, dance with her and teach her new words (which so far, have thankfully not been the 4-letter ones they are learning on the school bus).
To say the least, I am proud of my sons for being so thoughtful and caring when it comes to Sissy.
However, I did not realize just how caring they really are - the lengths they are willing to go for her - until recently.
We were eating dinner at our favorite local Mexican restaurant that happens to have a fountain in the middle of it.
Following dinner, the kids were all surrounding the flowing waters, tossing in pennies (don’t worry, it didn’t turn into a dunking incident).
I watched from our table as the boys each held Sissy’s hand, keeping her from doing a header into the water.
My heart was melting when I noticed my 7-year-old began to lean over towards Sissy.
“What is he doing?” I thought.
Then it hit me: No, it couldn’t be. But, yep, it was. He did “the sniff-test!”
In the midst of a throng of people eating dinner, my oldest son was mimicking an ingrained mom reflex and giving a quick sniff to Sissy’s behind.
“Mom! I think Sissy needs a new diaper!” he hollered over the noise of the restaurant.
Everyone at our table - and a couple of others - erupted into laughter.
I scooped up Sissy and gave her a sniff-test of my own.
“So, are you going to change her?” I asked my son.
Apparently, his concern for Sissy’s well being stops at the sniff, but nonetheless, she’s a pretty lucky little girl.
Contact this contributing writer at Motherhoodcolumn@yahoo.com or facebook.com/MotherhoodCTC
Things are a tad crazier than usual at our house nowadays. On top of my full-time job and the more-than-full-time job of raising three kids, I’m helping to plan a breast cancer fundraiser (message me for details!) and doing volunteer publicity for a nonprofit group.
Oh, and my mom is having brain surgery tomorrow and we’re supposed to host her for part of her recuperation.
These pressures I could normally handle, but throw into the mix a flooded basement — with two of the kids’ bedrooms inundated with 8 inches of water from backed-up drains — and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
But instead of continuing to eat up your precious time with my whining, I’ll share a few time-saving crockpot dishes that I’ve cooked up for my family. They’re all relatively easy to throw together in the morning, so crunch time before I head off to work in the evenings isn’t so hectic.
These also work well if you’re bringing dinner to a friend or neighbor who is facing more than her share of challenges (no hints intended ;).
A friend and I organized a meals-on-wheels program when one of our group was fighting breast cancer last year, and I recently planned a mini version of the program for a co-worker whose family is living in a hotel during repairs from a kitchen fire.
With crockpot cooking, it takes the same effort to cook for two families as it does for one — and you’ll feel fabulous helping someone in need.
These first two come from a great little magazine titled “Slow Cooker, Plus Casseroles, Soups and Stews.”
It’s from the editors of Good Housekeeping, Redbook and Country Living, and the 105 recipes therein have all been triple-tested at the Good Housekeeping Research Institute in the Hearst Tower in New York City.
You can even tour the GHRI labs and see how they pull it off. (Click here for details.)
The magazine is priced at $9.99 and is on newsstands now through May 17.
Here’s a fancy-sounding dish that will please your family or impress your guests:
8-Hour Coq au Vin
3 slices of bacon, cut crosswise into 3/4-inch pieces (make extra to munch on for breakfast)
10 ounces of mushrooms, each cut in half
2 cups frozen pearl onions
1 4-pound cut-up chicken, skin removed from all pieces except wings (I cut costs by using chicken thighs)
Salt and fresh ground pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bay leaf
3/4 cup chicken broth
In 12-inch nonstick skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until browned. With slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain; set aside.
Meanwhile, in 5- to 6-quart slow cooker, combine mushrooms and frozen pearl onions; set aside.
Sprinkle chicken pieces with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper. In skillet with bacon fat, cook chicken (in 2 batches, if necessary) over medium-high heat until browned, about 10 minutes. Place chicken over vegetables in slow cooker.
Discard drippings from skillet. Reduce heat to medium; add onion and carrot, and cook 2 minutes or until onion softens, stirring frequently. Stir in garlic and cook 1 minute.
Add wine, tomato paste, and bay leaf; heat to boiling, stirring to dissolve tomato paste. Pour wine mixture and broth over chicken pieces.
Cover slow cooker and cook as manufacturer directs, on low 8 hours or on high 4 hours.
To serve, discard bay leaf. With large spoon, transfer chicken and sauce to deep platter; sprinkle with bacon.
I love the flavors of cumin, cilantro and lime in this next meal-in-a-pot:
Slow-Cooker Latin Chicken with Black Beans and Sweet Potatoes
3 pounds bone-in skinless chicken thighs
2 teaspoons ground cumin
Salt and fresh ground pepper
1 teaspoon smoked paprika, or about 1 tablespoon chopped chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (I had neither, so I used garden-variety paprika and a splash of liquid smoke)
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cups chicken broth
1/2 cups salsa
3 cloves garlic, crushed with press
2 cans (15 to 19 ounces each) black beans, rinsed and drained
2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled cut into 2-inch chunks
1 jarred roasted red pepper, cut into strips (1 cup)
1/3 cups loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
Sprinkle chicken thighs with 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.
Heat a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot; add chicken thighs and cook until well browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate. Remove skillet from heat.
In same skillet, combine smoked paprika, allspice, chicken broth, salsa, garlic and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin.
In 6-quart slow cooker, combine beans and sweet potatoes. Place chicken on top of potato mixture in slow cooker; pour broth mixture over chicken. Cover slow cooker with lid and cook as manufacturer directs, on low 8 hours or on high 4 hours.
With tongs or slotted spoon, remove chicken pieces to large platter. Gently stir roasted red pepper strips into potato mixture. Spoon mixture over chicken. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with lime wedges.
And now for a down-home crockpot recipe, kicked up with a dash of herbs:
Chicken and Dumplings
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, halved
2 cans condensed cream of chicken soup
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, diced
2 10-ounce cans of refrigerated biscuit dough, torn into pieces
Handful of chopped fresh parsley
Dried rosemary and thyme, 1 1/2 teaspoons of each (or more to taste)
Fresh ground pepper
Place all ingredients except dough in slow cooker. Fill with enough water (or chicken broth) to cover.
Cover and cook 5 to 6 hours.
Add dough pieces approximately 30 minutes before serving.
(And yes, I left out sage on purpose, simply because I don’t like it! ;)
I’ve been using an effective and inexpensive detergent to clean up all those oily, baked-on messes: Ultra Palmolive Antibacterial Dish Liquid. A little goes a long way, with the sudsy bubbles lasting till I finish the job.
I often use it as hand soap when I’m scrubbing up after handling raw meat: It even cut the greasy goo clinging to my hands after I mixed meatloaf.
Ultra Palmolive retails for $1.99 per 10-ounce bottle, and it’s billed as the only dish liquid approved to kill 99.9 percent of E. coli, salmonella and staph on dishes and nonporous surfaces in 30 seconds. I’ll buy that.
So, what are you doing for Earth Day this year? A clean-up project with the family, maybe? Scheduling a recycling pick-up? How about changing diapers?
I don’t just mean changing Junior’s stinky pants to a clean diaper, I mean changing - literally - from disposables to eco-friendly cloth diapers.
Kristen Eggers of Lebanon, Ohio is urging parents to do just that.
The Great Cloth Diaper Change is actually a world-wide event with more than 400 participating locations.
The goal is to have enough participants to secure a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most cloth diapers changed simultaneously.
“I am hoping we will be able to show others that cloth diapering isn’t as difficult or complicated as many people believe it is,” said Eggers.
“Modern cloth diapers are completely different than the diapers used years ago.”
Eggers is also a Senior Consultant for Diaper Parties by Everything Birth. She travels to homes showing guests several cloth diaper options and accessories.
“We carry many brands, so I have many styles for moms to look at. The party is also sort of a ‘cloth diapering 101’ class because many people have no, or at least very little, knowledge of cloth diapers or how to care for them.”
Eggers made the switch to cloth diapers while potty training her daughter.
“Kids potty train so much more easily when they can feel they are wet in cloth training pants, so I started out with a few pairs. I realized I was already dealing with washing training pants; why not wash diapers, too?”
The Great Cloth Diaper Change needs at least 25 participants to be in the official count according to Guinness World Records rules.
“I am hoping this event will shine a light on the many benefits of cloth diapering and let parents see that they do have options - especially options that don’t require pins or dunking diapers in the toilet.”
The Great Cloth Diaper Change
Check-in at noon, Saturday, April 23
Marvin’s Organic Gardens, 2205 U.S. Route 42 South, Lebanon
For more information visit greatclothdiaperchange.com or email Kristen@diaperparties.com
Contact this contributing writer at Motherhoodcolumn@yahoo.com or facebook.com/motherhoodCTC
I have a confession: I have an insatiable sweet tooth. I do not like vegetables. I feel guilty as a mom because my children, too, prefer cookies over broccoli.
Although they like fruit, I began to worry.
This past school year we have had more cooties and crud in our house than ever before. I’m on a first name basis with the nurses in the pediatric office.
Within a month, we had Girl Scout cookies in the cupboard, a box of 52 (yes, FIFTY TWO) candy bars to sell for baseball, and a cookie dough fundraiser for school.
And we are concerned about poor nutrition and obesity in this country?
So, I started making some simple, healthier choices for my kids, and myself: - At the grocery store, if a low fat, organic, sugar-free or whole grain option is available, we buy that instead. - We are taking Juice Plus and vitamins every day. - If the boys don’t want to ask permission for a snack, they can have fruit or cheese. - I put cups on a lower shelf so they can help themselves to water any time. - And, we will be attending “Kids in the Kitchen” at the Boonshoft Museum.
Coordinated by Junior League of Dayton, Kids in the Kitchen will include seven stations where children will learn to make healthy snacks, participate in a Zumba exercise activity, learn about dental care and much more.
“We know the growing problem of childhood obesity and believe encouraging kids to learn how to cook healthy foods is one way to combat it,” said Melissa Goffinet of JLD.
“We also believe that all kids should have fun in the kitchen. It’s a great way to bond with their families and have pride in something that they do.”
JLD, in partnership with Dayton Children’s Medical Center, hopes to make Kids in the Kitchen an annual event.
Per the Dayton Children’s Regional Pediatric Health Assessment, it is now estimated that one in four children in the Dayton region is overweight, making programs like Kids in the Kitchen necessary.
“(A) healthy lifestyle is something the Junior League is always promoting,” said Goffinet. Hope to see you there!
Contact this contributing writer at Motherhoodcolumn@yahoo.com or facebook/motherhoodCTC.com
A candy-free Easter basket? That bunny wouldn’t dare!
But this mom is very pleased when our fluffy-tailed friend includes more than the usual Marshmallow Peeps and Cadbury Creme Eggs.
We’ve already dipped into the Adventures in Motherhood mailbag to sample these new Easter-themed prizes:
— An interactive Easter egg. You read that right. And my 5-year-old son loves it!
This new twist on a traditional egg hunt from Jojo & Friends has provided us with plenty of giggles and even sharpened my preschooler’s listening skills.
Have your child turn his back, push the “on” button to activate the Jojo Electronic Easter Egg Hunt, then hide the toy behind a cushion, under a chair, wherever. The egg will call out hints for the child: “Yoo-hoo! Over here!”
When hunted down and opened, the eggs surprise the child with one of four friendly characters — Jojo the Bunny, Max the Dog, Maggie the Cow, or Bud the Pig.
Then switch up the fun and have your child hide the egg for you.
I’ve even used time with the toy as a reward: If son washes and dresses for school quickly, we have time for a game of “egg hunt.” This has cut down his foot-dragging tremendously and gives us a few minutes of fun instead of mommy-nagging. It’s a win-win!
The eggs retail for only $3.99 and are available at stores including Kroger, Meijer and Toys R Us. They are recommended for children ages 2 and up.
— You know how some songs just stick in your head? At one point when my kids were smaller, the theme from “Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!” nearly drove me to the brink of insanity.
But I risked retracing that route and took the new “Wubbzy’s Egg-Cellent Easter” for a spin in the DVD player.
It features six new episodes: Wubbzy discovers new ways to decorate eggs, celebrates the first day of spring with his kickity-kick ball and has to save the holiday when Easter is canceled.
The sweet characters have lots of fun and learn valuable lessons along the way. My preschooler loved them all and has had repeated views.
“Wubbzy’s Egg-Cellent Easter” is on sale now at Amazon.com for $9.99.
And to help celebrate the DVD’s release, one lucky Wubb fan can win a one-of-a-kind piece of Wubbzy-inspired artwork from series creator and artist Bob Boyle.
To enter the sweepstakes, visit www.Wubbzy.com. But hurry: The contest is only live through April 10.
* SPOILER ALERT * SPOILER ALERT * Baker kidlets, avert your eyes!
This year, my honey-bunnies will also be treated to these treasures:
— Klutz Thumb Wars: The Ultimate Guide (Retail $12.99). My kids are going to take thumb wrestling to the next level with the Official Sleeve of Doom!
Klutz continues to amaze with their extensive line of how-to books for kids. The fun guide books offer both hands-on learning and creative ways to goof off.
Topics include juggling, origami, cat’s cradle, face painting, balloon twisting, nail art, foam rockets and card tricks.
(If you’re shopping for Klutz online, be sure to check for discount promotional codes on coupon sites such as RetailMeNot.)
— And speaking of cards, as part of the 40th anniversary celebration of UNO this year, Mattel is introducing a new way to experience the popular card game.
Our family is crazy for the UNO Attack! version, but it’s just not that portable.
The new UNO H2O To Go game cards are made of durable plastic and are water-resistant, so families can enjoy UNO everywhere - even by the pool or at the beach.
Priced at about $8, the H2O version comes with a handy clip that keeps all the cards together and can be snapped on to your beach bag, backpack or camping gear.
And it’s a perfect fit for any Easter basket.
— Want to give a gift that will inspire your child to give back? Blessing Banks help teach kids to save money for the purpose of helping others.
Blessing Banks are available in handcrafted hardwoods ($30) for both boys and girls, hand-painted ceramic ($30) and also in a silver-plated option ($45), which would make a perfect baptism or First Communion gift.
Each bank comes giving-ready, boxed and topped with a raffia bow, with a gift card and instructions for use tucked inside.
The same company offers Little Blessing Bags for only $2.50. They’re a great reminder that even on-the-go families can share their blessings. These would make a cool gift for Sunday school students, or they could make their own as a class project.
— Another great Easter idea that doesn’t cause cavities: Stuff something healthy into those plastic eggs you hide in the yard.
For the younger set, try mini boxes of raisins, packs of fruit snacks or organic snacks like HAPPYPUFFS.
Small cars or hard plastic animals, stickers, temporary tattoos, even quarters will delight little hunters as well.
Because really, haven’t we all had our fill of jelly beans?
Disclosure: Some featured products were provided free of cost to me by the manufacturer or representing PR agency. Opinions expressed are my own and are NOT influenced by monetary compensation.
There are some mom-stories that just have to be told. Not for sentimental reasons, but because really? Who else can tell this story?
My story begins innocently enough on a Saturday morning.
I was getting a simple, but often overlooked task done with my kids: cutting their toenails.
This has never been an easy task to accomplish, as they absolutely hate the feel of those little clippers up under their talons.
After wrestling around and pinning them to the floor was no longer an option, I made up “M&M Toe Trim.” For every toenail I was able to snip that did not result in a reflexive kick to the gut, they got to eat an M&M.
Worked like a charm.
Now that they are a bit older (7 and 5) a promised handful of M&M’s from the M&M slot machine (everybody wins!) after the fact, will usually suffice.
My 5-year-old son reluctantly sat himself down and let me clip away. We talked about, well, whatever 5-year-olds talk about while having their nails cut.
“Mom, how many raindrops have ever fallen on you?” “What is the next number after infinity?”
Then my big, tough 7-year-old son plopped himself down and tensed up as I took his foot into my hand.
“Wow,” I thought cringing. “How long has it been?”
I leaned down low and began snipping away.
I have never worn safety glasses while trimming toenails, but today would have been a good day to start.
I leaned in close - careful not to catch any skin or cut too close - when I suddenly found myself jerking backwards, crying out and clawing (no pun intended) at my eye.
Like a cruise missile right on target, a toenail remnant had launched directly into my eye. Once I realized what had happened, I ran for the mirror.
“Eeewwwww!” What are the odds, right?
But there it was, lodged between my lower eyelid and eyeball. It was all I could do to remove the DNA-rocket without gagging.
My son was giggling hysterically. No sympathy from him.
His final seven toenails were removed without incident and I consoled myself with a few M&M’s - OK, more than a few, but hey! It had a toenail in my EYE!
Email this contributing writer at Motherhoodcolumn@yahoo.com or follow Motherhood at facebook.com/motherhoodCTC
It’s Lent, and that means fish for Friday dinner at our house.
But we don’t have to settle for a box of frosty sticks: There are plenty of fish in the sea.
In fact, the recipes below are a lot healthier and tastier, and they can be ready in less time than it takes to preheat your oven.
I’ve got two slabs of beautiful, wild-caught Silver Coho salmon from Trader Joe’s thawing in my fridge right now. mouth waters
My standby salmon recipe involves me making a gloopy paste of a couple of tablespoons of chopped garlic, loads of dill and about 1/3 cup of Dijon mustard. I slather that on both sides and pan-fry in a little EVOO for a few minutes on each side till it flakes nicely with a fork. Easy peasy.
But I’m going to change things up a bit this week using a simple recipe from Sam’s Club (of which I’m a proud new member!):
Rosemary Garlic Salmon
1 1/2 to 2 pounds salmon fillet
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons Tone’s Rosemary Garlic Seasoning
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
Combine melted butter and oil and brush on both sides of the salmon. Sprinkle seasoning and pepper on both sides of the fish. Place fish in a shallow baking dish. Bake or broil 8-12 minutes (flipping once).
And what about a Lenten lunch, pray tell? Here’s a tangy tuna salad from Starkist that takes just 5 minutes to prepare. This makes a single serving, but can be doubled for a lunch date.
Tuna and Feta Cheese Salad
1 pouch StarKist® Chunk Light Tuna, Low Sodium (canned works too)
2 cups shredded lettuce, any variety
4 cherry tomatoes, halved (I love Cherubs brand — they taste so tomatoey)
1/4 cucumber, sliced
2 tablespoons sliced black olives
2 tablespoons feta cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette
Drain tuna well. Place salad greens on plate and top with tomatoes, cucumbers, olives and tuna, and toss well. Sprinkle with feta cheese. Drizzle with dressing, and enjoy your omega-3 fatty acids!