Friday, December 28, 2012

An Announcement RE: Boozing and Whoring

An Announcement

Hello everyone. Some of you may remember my Boozing and Whoring blog post where I shared with my readers some of my health struggles. In that blog post I talked about how my doctor found some irregularities in the shape of my neck and spines and that they were compressing my nerves which causes me to have tingling in my legs and sometimes not have feeling in my legs. I have been working with a chiropractor to work on the shape and curvature of my neck and spine. After going to the chiropractor three times a week for intensive treatments he was able to fix the curve in my neck by 50%. Unfortunately there doesn't appear to be anything that can be done about my back at this point. The discs in my lower back are compressing or collapsing on each other and it is very painful in addition to causing the tingling and lack of feeling in my legs. 

So I am having what I call a "mid-mobil life crisis." You may recall from Boozing and Whoring that I talked about what counts to me as "living life to the fullest" and that I don't measure my life by the number of drinks taken or marathons run, etc. Well. . .  I may take that back. . . . 

I have registered to run my first half marathon. And before everyone becomes a doctor I want you all to understand my reasoning. 

I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, type III. It is an extremely painful disorder and I am in constant pain. I have a difficult time performing everyday tasks such as holding a hair brush, opening the refrigerator door, opening a car door, holding a phone, etc. Everything hurts. So the past several years I have been focusing on doing mild things like swimming, etc. But guess what? Nothing actually makes the pain go away, it just doesn't  make it worse. So no matter what I do I'm going to hurt at the end of the day. So, if I'm going to hurt anyway I want to hurt because I did something! 

I know that this will be a very painful experience for me. But I hope in doing this that I can teach my children to do something and follow through to the end no matter how much it hurts and how much fun it ISN'T. I will be bringing my children with me to Ireland and they will be there at the finish line. They are already watching me train by observing the change in diet as well as being troopers and staying in "childwatch" at the Y so I can run. 

I decided to do this in November and have been training since then. I am going to run the Rock and Roll Half Marathon in Dublin, Ireland. When I do something I go all out. If I'm going to spend the better part of a day just running around I'm going to do it somewhere that's pretty to look at ;)

I am seeking advice from runners about anything and everything. Diets? Excersize plans? Shoes? Clothing? Encouragement! Anything! I know a half marathon may not seem like a big deal. but to someone with my disorder it will take a lot of time and training will mean a great deal to me and my children.

Please feel free to follow my journey at I made other plans.

And the best part, my mom and dad are running with me.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Melissa's Own Cooking Tips and Tricks

Melissa's Own Cooking Tips and Tricks

Me cooking for my babies, one of my favorite things!

1) Easy things to add just a little more flavor.

a) Instead of cooking rice or stuffing in plain water, try using chicken broth or adding a bullion cube to the cooking water. 

b) When a recipe calls for "bread crumbs" as a topping to a casserole or any other meal try using a stuffing mix instead of plain bread crumbs. Stuffing mix usually has a balanced mix of seasoning on it already adding just a little bit of extra flavor to your meal.

c) Easy cheese sauce: 1-1-1. 1 cup cheese, whatever flavor you like, 1 cup milk and 1 cup Cream of Mushroom Soup. Mix that together then put it over pasta noodles and call it homemade mac and cheese!

2) More baking flavor

a) Butter, butter, butter. Use real butter in all your baking for a deeper and richer flavor. It also compliments and brings out the flavors in extracts that you use like vanilla or peppermint, etc.

b) Next time you bake chocolate chip cookies replace the chocolate chips with crushed  Andy's Mints. A fun little change to a family favorite.

c) Dark Brown Sugar. Next time you bake and the recipe calls for brown sugar, try using dark brown sugar. It adds a lot more flavor and I promise you will be pleasantly surprised. 

3) Getting your young children to eat your meals

a) Children judge a book by its cover. It's just in their nature. First I think of size. If there is too much they feel overwhelmed and don't even try. So I buy tiny individual serving size dishes for meals like casseroles. Instead of putting everything into a 9" x 13" I scoop the casserole mixture into tiny bowls. I used them in the first picture, but I will post it again.

In these little dishes is taco salad and I put the bowl on a plate with tortilla chips on the side. I also serve chicken noodle soup in these bowls with crackers on the side and other casseroles like Broccoli and Chicken Divan. This is also a good method because sometimes, with my children at least, when I scoop a casserole serving on their plate they think it looks "goopy" or they see something in it they don't like. In these tiny dishes it is already the serving size so you serve it as is and they don't "see" anything about it that they want to complain about!

b) Baskets. I also serve their meals in baskets when I can. They think it is fun and fee like they are eating out.

c) Then there is always the delivery. Some of you may remember my Cooking With Cookie Cutters post. My daughter will eat anything in the shape of a giraffe!

d) And finally, toothpicks. My son will eat anything on a toothpick. I always have a rough time getting my son to eat. But if I put Vienna Sausages, cheese and grapes on a toothpick then we're good to call it lunch!

I hope you all are enjoying your holiday season and enjoy all the baking and cooking you are doing for family or for you New Years party!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Year Of Sponsorships

2012 Family Sponsors

Each month we select a family to contribute $5 of every order made that month to their cause. If you know of someone who could use our services please read about our sponsor program here and write to me at

In January we sponsored preemie baby, Ryan. He was born about five weeks early due to preeclampsia. In January, when he was one month old, he was admitted to the hospital for breathing complications and rhino virus. 

He is now one year old and doing very well. He had a few hospital visits throughout the year and has to take special precautions this winter to help prevent him from getting sick since a simple cold could land him back in the hospital. But other than that he is a normal baby and right on schedule with his developments.

In February we sponsored baby Seth Miller. Seth passed away last year due to dyskeratosis congenita. Our sponsorship helped with Seth's final expenses. Since then the Miller family has had another baby, Eliza Hope. Unfortunately she has been diagnosed with the same illness. We will be sponsoring baby Eliza in January. You can read their story here. More coming in January on how you can help with baby Eliza.

In March we sponsored my silly brother and his daughter. My brother had just finished undergrad with his accounting degree and we all know how tight finances are right around transition time. At that time his daughter, Berkeley, got sick for several months with breathing problems and her treatments were costly and not covered by insurance. I just say Berkeley on Christmas day and she is doing very well. She hasn't had to have her breathing treatments recently because she has made a great recovery! 

Here is Berkeley and my daughter, Miriam, on Christmas morning. 

In April we sponsored Avery, a six year old born with hydrocephalus and Cerebral Palsy. She has been doing an experimental therapy to help her be able to walk independently. As it is experimental it is not covered by insurance.  Here is a recent photo of Avery and an update from her mom.

"Thanks to the therapies Avery's been doing, as well as her own hard work and determination, Avery has made a lot of progress this year! She likes to be upright as much as possible, and rarely crawls at home anymore. She also likes to go without her walker when possible, so in places where she feels comfortable, like church, she has been walking independently whenever she's felt up to it. It is a joy to see her enjoying such a degree of independence, and we hope that she will be able to maintain the progress she's made, and gain even more physical strength and independence as she continues to work hard in therapy and at home. Thank you Melissa for helping her get the therapies she needs!"

In May we sponsored Brenna who was born with a rare skin condition called Harlequin Ichtyosis. This was unexpected when she was born and they have incurred many medical expenses. We are glad we could help!

Here is an update from Brenna's mom:
"Brenna is doing so well right now! She was very sick at the end of the summer and ended up having surgery to place a g-tube in her stomach, which we now feed her through to ensure that she is getting enough fluids and calories. Because her body uses so many calories for skin, she just couldn't keep up by herself. Now she is gaining weight and thriving, and she hasn't had a skin infection since early September! This week, we are celebrating a milestone that we couldn't have even imagined when she was born - her first birthday!"

In July we sponsored Adam. Adam lives with his grandma. He is 9 years old. He struggles with several disabilities. Among them are blindness, multiple sclerosis and some mental handi-caps. We helped donate money toward a new wheel chair for Adam as he had outgrown his other one.

Unfortunately, Adams scoliosis has become worse and he is facing the possibility of surgery mid next year. Otherwise he is a happy child spending lots of fun time with his grandma, sister and my kids!

In September we sponsored Brewer. " Brewer has hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS). HLHS is a terminal heart defect where the left side of the heart is under developed and cannot perform it's function."

Here is an update from Brewer's mom: "Brewer is doing very well! Mid-september we were able to wean him off oxygen and he has been doing really well with out it! At last he is cord and wire free!! Recently we have had an appointment with Brewer's occupational therapist and his development is right on track and even ahead in some areas! Our last cardiologist appointment was also good news and we don't need to have another appointment for 6 months! In the next year, Brewer will have surgery to help correct his mega ureter and hopefully continue to come off medications. And there is still at least one more open heart surgery and transplant to plan for. But for now, we could't be more happy about his progress and are enjoying every moment of this "honeymoon" phase! We feel so blessed to have Brewer in our family and are so grateful to everyone who has prayed for and love our boy!!"

October and November were our months to save up for our Christmas Family.

We'll begin again in January! Please feel free to contact me at if you can think of anyone that might be a good candidate for our sponsor program.

Thank you all for a great year of helping others!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

How to fold a napkin

I learned this in Debutante school. . . . Baha!! Please, everyone. Imagine me poised and refined.

As I said yesterday, there are time in my "busy seasons" (which is usually in April, November and December) I sometimes only see my kids at meal times. So I have to make every moment with them count and do what I can to make those moments pleasant and happy.

I also have to use the precious moments I have with them to teach them. And while I don't expect them to remember everything I teach them, but I know if we practice these things at least once a month or so they'll eventually remember.

Since it's usually meal times I teach them how to set the table. This is what they did.

And of course, how to fold a napkin.

First, place the napkin so it is diamond-shaped with the design side up.

Then, fold the napkin in half patterned sides together.

Then, fold half of the half down.

Next, tuck one side under,

Then, the other side. 

At this point there will still be a corner sticking out. Just tuck that under.

Then when you turn it over there is a pocket for your silverware.

There are variations on this. In the photo below I folded the napkin in half with the patterned sides out and then folded it in half again from the bottom. Then tucked in the sides. That way is really quick, but it doesn't leave as deep of a pocket for silverware.

Napkins and matching place mats are available for purchase in our clearance section.

There is no way in the world I expect my young children to remember all of this. But I have them set the table and try to fold napkins when we have guests over and they get in lots of practice even if it isn't done correctly. They have lots of time to learn and it is just something fun we do together to make our time together a little more special. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Cookie Cutter Cooking

As a working mom I am always seeking out ways to make our everyday tasks just a little better, sweeter and more memorable. There are those busy weeks when sometimes I only see my kids for dinner. So I try to make dinner a little better by adding a little something that will make dinner a happy experience.

I had more blog posts written to go with our "Decorating with. . .  ." series, but in lieu of recent events it didn't feel appropriate. So this week is going to stray from the "design" focus of this blog and focus on family and children for the week. 

Please stay tuned for a special non-design related announcement about our family on Friday!

My children are NOT big eaters. Dinner time, and, well, let's face it, any other meal of the day is usually filled with tears and screaming from everyone. For whatever reason my children just don't like to eat. My son is lactose intolerant, so I think that is why he doesn't like to eat and my daughter just does whatever my son does. . . 

There are days when I only see my kids at meal times. And I dread that my only time with them will be spent in tears from everyone! So I try to think of ways to put smiles on their faces at meal times. And I am able to achieve this through the use of 

Cookie Cutters!

I use cookie cutters for everything. Sandwiches, french toast, vegetables for salads such as cucumbers, peppers, and other things like cheese. 

Our example today will be with a ham and cheese sandwich.

First, you make the sandwich as normal: mayonnaise and mustard on the bread, then a lice of american cheese and three slices of ham.

Choose smaller cookie cutters for food items like this. I find them in the cake decorating section and usually use fondant cutters.

I also serve sandwiches, corn dogs, chicken nuggets, etc with chips or fries and carrot sticks and celery in these fun red baskets and the kids feel like they are at a restaurant!

We call what's left over the daddy sandwich because daddy will eat anything. 

Now, while I make no guarantees about this making meal time more pleasant. . . 

(Miriam sporting her new Christmas dress that I made her)

. . .  I can say from my own experience that a simple meal time becomes fun and memorable with cookie cutter meals. 

They might even be happy enough after dinner to do this:

I'll take this any day over tears and screaming, "I don't want to eat!!!!"

Make your every day moments with your children a little sweeter this week. More tomorrow :)