Sunday, November 29, 2009

Yes, I have a lot to be thankful for...

I've got a lot to be thankful for, but don't get me wrong - I've lost a lot to get to this point.  The holidays are always a tough time for me because I always struggle with the pain of my mother's absence.  In some respects it feels like just yesterday that she lost her battle with Lung Cancer, but in other respects it feels like a lifetime ago.  She's never met my children, but she has had far more direct impact on their lives than they will ever know.  I am the mother that I am because of her.  I love that.  I am thankful for that.  I am thankful for the years I had with her.  There aren't words to express the gift that her final months were to me - being able to care for her and "give back" for all that she had given to me.  In many ways she is directly responsible for me starting this blog- to help other moms find fun activities to do with their kids.  To help build as many fun memories as possible with their kids.

The last Thanksgiving I spent with her, cooking for her after all the Thanksgiving dinners she cooked was almost like passing the batton.  I realize that now.


So, it seems like an appropriate time to share one of my most treasured recipes from my Mom - her world famous gravy.  No, no one makes gravy like she did (although my husband claims I am coming pretty close and I can't tell you how proud I am of that).  It's rather simple, but there are a few tricks that she taught me that seem to make the gravy just amazing.  My apologies if this recipe is a bit jumbled, but I am doing it completely by memory because it isn't written down anywhere except for here now.  Enjoy and tell me if you try it!


(this can easily be adapted for meat gravy by swapping out the chicken base with beef base)


Ingredients:
Juice from canned veggies (I use the green bean juice, corn would be great also)
Butter
Milk (skim is fine)
Flour (couple tablespoons)
Chicken Base (I use "Better Than Bouillon - Chicken Base")
Water
Salt
Pepper


In the used dripping pan from cooking the Turkey or Chicken - whisk in enough flour to absorb all the residual oil (you can add butter or olive oil if you didn't have much left in the pan).  Keep over low heat.  Then add a cup or so of milk (you can use milk later if it begins to thicken too  fast).  Doesn't have to be a set amount and I always use skim milk since the meal already contains enough fat! 

At this point I always add the Chicken Base to taste.  The amount you use will vary depending on how much gravy you are making.  (Tip:  You can add lots of liquid to this to increase the amount of gravy you make, just be sure to slowly add it and allow it to simmer to thicken enough).  Add salt & pepper to taste also.

Allow it to simmer over low heat to thicken.  Add the remaining juice from canned green beans or other vegetables to thin out the gravy if it thickens too much.

Enjoy!

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Hyatt Regency HB Healthy Dining Showcase


The other day a handful of Mom Bloggers were treated to a wonderful showcase of the talents of Chef Priscilla Willis on staff at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa in honor of Diabetes Awareness Month.  It was an amazing experience full of delicious and healthy food.  Chef Willis oversees The Californian restaurant's vegetarian, vegan and light fare menus.  (The Hyatt will begin offering seasonal cooking lessons beginning in 2010!) Be sure to stop in for some of the rejuvenating spa treatments in the Pacific Waters Spa where they offer one of the most rare and exotic spa treatments in the world - the Thalasso Seawater Bath.  Pacific Waters Spa also offers treatments for men and children in addition to women.

Below is the first delicious course we were treated to:
(posted with permission)


Nori Wraps -super easy, fast and great for all ages.
1 package Firm Tofu, Julienne
2 each Carrots, Julienne
1 each Cucumber, Julienne
2 each Avocado, Slices
1 each Mango, Slices
1 package Nori (seaweed) Wrapper (roasted)
1 head Bibb Lettuce

Place a sheet of Nori on a plate and filling (all the ingredients) down the diagonal center.  To fold the wrap, bring up the bottom corner and begin rolling in the sides from the left to right.  The technique is much like rolling a burrito.  Or you can tuck the ends under each other and you will have a neat bundle.  Serves 6.

Miso Sauce
1 oz. Miso Paste
1/2 cup Water
2 oz. Rice Wine Vinegar
2 packets Splenda
3 T Peanut Butter, Creamy
1 T Light Soy Sauce
2 T Sesame Oil

Wisk all ingredients together until all come together.  Taste for more seasoning.

Enjoy!

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Etnies is My Savior!


You know that instruction book that they give us when we become new parents (I wish!)?  Well, they left something out, apparently Etnies shoes are an absolute must for rough and tumble little boys.  Kyle is known for ripping through a brand new pair of expensive shoes in less than a month.  Don't get me wrong, I have no problem replacing a pair of shoes that he has outgrown, but when I have to replace them so fast simply because they have been destroyed is very frustrating.  I'll pay double for a pair of shoes that will last, as long I know they will actually last. 


I'd love to know what it is that Kyle does to his shoes during the school day... is there a secret shoe destructing machine that he has found?  Funny because Brett never found that machine...


I think I have found the solution to my dilemma!  Last week I was lucky enough to be a part of a tour Etnies (Headquartered here in Lake Forest, CA) was giving to Mom Bloggers.  We got to see first-hand the research and testing that goes in to their shoes.  I was shocked to learn that skaters in particular endure easily up to 17 times the amount of force on their body compared to walking or other activities.  So you KNOW if the shoes are designed with that in mind, they are great for my kids!  What I found especially cool was the material testing.  They test the shoes to see how well the material endures thousands of scrapes on the surface of a skateboard (a common cause of holes in the shoes).  I'm really thinking Kyle must have found an industrial strength machine like that somewhere that he hasn't told me about!  As the people at Etnies showed us, the material they use in their shoes hold up in these tests light years better than the rest.  All I could think about was how fast I could get my hands on a pair of these for Kyle to test out on my own.  Just that morning Kyle had informed me he had burned through another pair...


I'm happy to announce that Kyle and Brett are now wearing their new Etnies and almost a week in to it, there is ZERO sign of wear or tear.  I can honestly say I will be buying strictly Etnies shoes for Kyle until he grows out of this shoe destruction phase.


I really can't speak highly enough about what we saw at Etnies that day.  Everything from their passion to reduce their carbon imprint to making shoes that are biomechanically tested which ensures the best shoe possible.  Etnies is obviously on the forefront of technology for shoes (from toddlers to adults).  You don't have to be a "skater" to wear them.  Amazing people are running the company and that just affirms my choice to purchase their shoes (especially for Kyle!).



Now here's my gift to you!  Etnies is doing a special promotion at Etnies.com enter the promotional code of "ETNIES FAMILY" and from November 17th through December 4th, you'll receive $10 off every $40 you spend, plus free shipping!  Share this with everyone you know, it's an amazing deal.  If you've got Toddlers, be sure to check out their "Grow with Me" shoes.  I wish those were available when Brett and Kyle were toddlers!

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sports Authority Event with Jillian Michaels


Don't miss this Thursday at the Sports Authority Store in Torrance (located at 3610 Torrance Blvd.)!  Jillian Michaels from "The Biggest Loser" will be in attendance giving away copies of her new Wii game "Fitness Ultimatum 2010" and also Wii Fit Boards!  There will also be other prizes from Sports Authority, Nintendo and Nike. 

Sports Authority is creating a new "We know fit.  We know fun." experience at 102 of their stores and are going to have a dedicated area for people to try out the Wii and Wii Fit before you buy it. 

If you don't have a Wii Fit yet (stay tuned, I'm giving one away next week!), but if you do "Fitness Ultimatum 2010" is a great way to keep fitness fun for the whole family.  We love our Wii Fit and I can't wait to try "Fitness Ultimatum 2010"!

Be sure to pop by the Sports Authority in Torrance anytime after 9:30 am on Thursday!

For more information go here.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

PSP Game Giveaway!

Okay, that moment is here!  My very first giveaway!  Help make this a huge success by telling all of your friends to participate and I promise to do more (I have a Wii Fit Plus Board to giveaway next week!)


The giveaway this week is courtesy of Konami Games and it's PES 2009 (Pro Evolution Soccer) for the PSP.

Here's how you enter:
Leave a separate comment for each entry to gain the extra entries (if you say it all in one comment, it will only count as one entry).  The winner will be chosen at random next Tuesday (11/24/09).  Please check back to find out if you've won!

Goodluck! 

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Getting Ready for My First Giveaway!

Hi guys!

I'm super excited to announce that I'll be doing my first giveaway later this week.  (Hint: It's something from the Konami Event!)  To increase your chances go become a fan of OCMomActivities on Facebook, follow on Twitter and be sure to sign up for the email subscription!  If we get a lot of particiaption I have several more REALLY AMAZING giveways soon to follow.  You won't want to miss them...

This is going to be fun!

-Katie

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Review Requests and Freebies - My Promise to You!

In light of the new law coming in to effect regarding the disclosure of freebies and compensation from companies and today’s article in the LA Times on the same subject, I thought it was time to address this head on in how I deal with it here.



My promise to you as a reader is to always be honest in my reviews and recommendations on this site. It’s simply not in me to write something I won’t stand behind. I’ll never recommend a video game, activity, toy, food or anything else for that matter that we don’t currently use or would use ourselves in our home.


One of the benefits of being a blogger is that you are like a reporter (without as many barriers and no one to answer to except your readers). I am constantly being approached by companies and PR Firms asking if I would like to have free samples of products in hopes that I will review them or to attend their events. This is no different than what happens in the world outside of blogging. I know this because I have been on the other side, working at a PR Firm, approaching reporters with the offers of free samples. It’s just the way the world works. I’m also savvy enough to know that just because I don’t like something, doesn’t mean someone else won’t. I don’t have an interest in “slamming” a product or service… I just don’t want to waste my time with negative posts. I have received products that we tried and I just wasn’t enthusiastic enough about the product (sometimes it just comes down to feeling the product is way over-priced) to write a post about it. You’ll notice with every post I will share the story about how we heard about the product (whether it was a purchase on our own or it was a part of an event) and I always make an effort to tie it in to show why I am passionate about it.


I really appreciate being approached to review the products because I simply don’t have the budget to purchase and experience so many things without receiving them that way.


If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to email me!

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Konami, Frogger and Bloggers


Last week we were invited to a Mom Blogger event up at the Konami Headquarters in El Segundo. Oh my gosh! It was such an amazing and fun experience for the boys! We have family video games nights frequently so I think I was just as excited as the boys to be hanging out at the headquarters of Konami.



I’ll be profiling a few of the recently released and upcoming games we had the opportunity to test out over the next week, but I’m going to start with the smash hit favorite by a long shot according to my boys – Frogger Returns. Yes, it’s a complete throw-back to the original Frogger released 25 years ago! I’m not sure if it was the novelty of a “simpler” game that the boys loved playing it for, or if it was the fact that it was a frog as the main character (Brett’s favorite animal has been frogs for years). Convincing Brett to play another game that day was tough as he was mesmerized by the Frogger game. He kept saying, “My Dad played this game 20 years ago!” I’m not sure how he knew that, but it was cool to see a remake of an old game be so exciting to my son. There’s just something about the simplicity of the way video games used to be that is still just plain cool. I was proud of Brett, my little gamer for enjoying the old- school game so much.


Frogger Returns is downloadable as an App for your iPhone (& iPod Touch) right now (click here), downloadable on Wii Ware right now and will be available to download for the PS3 through the PlayStation Network later this month.  If you're a parent who is a little video game challenged, this will be one where you can show your kids you actually CAN plan video games, just not the 4-D ones!

Enjoy!

*Be sure to check back later this week... I'll be doing my first giveaway!!!  You won't want to miss it!

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Ahh, The Holidays are Finally Here!

There are a few things that really make it feel like the holiday season is here. Since we don't have snow here in Southern California, I look to more superficial signs of the holidays like the arrival of the Christmas parade at Disneyland (yesterday!) and the availability of my beloved Peppermint Mocha Coffeemate at the grocery store. Note I busted out the snowman cup from Starbucks too!



What things symbolize the arrival of the holidays to you?


*This was in no way a compensated or even requested endorsement. Believe me, I wish it had been! :)

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Thanksgiving dinner for less than $20?

Yes, with a small bit of planning ahead it is very possible! I promise! I happened upon a deal last week that floored me… $0.37/pound for frozen Turkeys at Fresh & Easy. If you calculate that out, you can get a fifteen pound Turkey (plenty for a small family dinner) for $5.00! This is probably a good time to note that I bought one, then went back another day and bought a second Turkey for Christmas Dinner because the deal was too amazing to pass up. Since I’m not cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year, I’ll be making the traditional Thanksgiving dinner for our family of four the day after. I’ll post the actual recipes next week (including how to make my Mom’s world famous gravy!).


I wasn’t planning on purchasing everything so far in advance, but when I saw the deals and did the math in my head I knew it was a fantastic deal that wouldn’t necessarily be around for long! Below are items I actually purchased so I know the prices are 100% accurate. Don’t believe me? Cruise on over to the Fresh & Easy site and check out the prices for yourself!


Here’s the shopping list (including the prices at Fresh & Easy just to make it simple) for Thanksgiving dinner:


1 -15 pound Jennie O Frozen Turkey--------------- $5.07


Green Bean Casserole
French’s Fried Onions ----------------------------------$2.49
1 can – Cream of Mushroom Soup -----------------$.59
2 cans – Green Beans ----------------------------------$.69 x 2


Cranberry Sauce
1 can jellied cranberry sauce --------------------------$.99


Stuffing
1 Box Mrs. Cubbison’s Seasoned Dressing-----$1.49


Mashed Potatoes
48 oz. Golden Potatoes --------------------------------$3.28


Candied Yams/Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes (whole/fresh)-------------------------$2.99


                                                                         _________


                                                                                $18.28 total
 (leaves extra for misc. ingredients most have on hand)

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Random Act of Kindness

I treasure the moments as a mother when one of my children does something filled with compassion. Its times like that that I take notice that I really AM raising my boys well. Last weekend Brett did something so truly touching that I fought back tears - tears of joy, tears of sadness and tears of pride in what a wonderful little boy he is. It really was a small little gesture he did, picking up a sippy cup that had fallen for a toddler in a stroller. But it only took one glance from me to realize this wasn't just any little girl, she was a triplet born to two parents who have been to hell and back - the Cobles. Read more details about their story here.

If you're not familiar with this family, they have a story filled with more pain that I as a mother can even fathom to think about for more than a few minutes without sobbing. Two and a half years later my heart breaks to think about it. That fateful night we were driving on the very same freeway and saw the signs on I-5 about the terrible car accident at Oso Parkway. Chills ran up my spine as I saw that sign and I clearly remember saying a prayer for who was involved in the accident (I tend to do that, even with Ambulances). It wouldn't be until the next morning that I heard how heart wrenching it really was. That night the three Coble children died and their mother survived the accident (along with her mother in the passenger seat). Katie, Kyle and Emma would forever be etched in my mind. The fact that my name is Katie and I have a son named Kyle made me feel bonded in a way to this family even though I had never met them. To this day I can't go past that part of the freeway without taking a deep breath and wishing I could send Lori strength to heal from her loss. On days when my boys are acting up, I step back and think of how lucky I am that I can still hug my little boys.

One year after the accident Lori delivered triplets. Those three children are angelic gifts sent to help their parents carry-on. I hope they don't see their legacy as a burden, but instead see it as inspiring and magical.

I've read horrible comments about the Cobles, people judging them on their actions after losing their children, choosing to have more children being one. People can be so cruel. My wish for them is that they find the peace they so deserve, they have found the strength to go on and they deserve every single ounce of beauty life has to offer.

And when I saw my son Brett participating in a small random act of kindness for a family that deserves it so much made me one dang proud mom.




*Lori, if you ever stumble upon this and read it, please know that for every cruel person or comment, there are atleast a thousand more of us wishing the world for your family!

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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Disneyland Freeway Exit Confusion

By now I'm sure it is more than a little obvious to you that we go to Disneyland way more than I'll admit (cough, cough atleast 52 times a year...) but with the recent construction/changes I a bit embarrased to admit I really don't know the best exit from the I-5 anymore! Coming from south OC it used to be an easy exit on Disney Way... But now that dumps you in to a roundabout detour around the park because the original parking entrance is intermittently closed! We've taken Harbor to Ball and in that way, but it lacks the easy access to the parking lots that Disney Way offered.

I'm thinking it might be time to track down a castmember to find out the skivvy on parking and what Disneyland has planned for the future (I've heard rumors about another massive parking structure but wonder how the trams would work...)

So my real question to you is this... How do you access the parking lots and what are your reasons for the routes you take?



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Friday, November 6, 2009

Pampered Pooch

Our dog is the best dog on the planet (no really). I haven't come across other dogs that work so hard to try to figure out what you want them to be doing. It was clear from day one when we brought him home that all he ever wanted was to be a part of the family. Long car trips were no biggie to him... As long as he was included. He's turned many children's fear of dogs to a love of dogs... He really is awesome...

But the other morning I caught my husband doing something that just had me laughing hysterically - giving him two bacon and two eggs from a snausages package for breakfast. I mean really? This from someone who thinks it's okay to give the kids goldfish crackers for breakfast...

Apparently this occurs every morning like clockwork! I didn't think anyone would believe me about this so I snapped a picture as evidence...



Do you do anything for a pet that you think it pretty silly? I'd love to know we aren't alone...

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Mickey's Magical Christmas


I was so excited when my husband brought home the newest Mickey's Christmas DVD... Mickey's Magical Christmas. It's the most recent in a long line of our household favorites... Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas & Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas. Just a fun little tradition around our house that helps build the Christmas spirit since we don't get snow here in Southern California!


We'll be watching it this weekend during our family movie night!


Have you seen it yet? Love it? Don't have it yet? Click here:Mickey's Magical Christmas



.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Goodbye beloved oats...

Dear Oats,

I really loved the years we spent together. Snacking on granola fought off many episodes of hunger when I was too busy to make a meal. Blueberry Oat Bars from Starbucks have been a guilty pleasure for me over the last few years. The oatmeal breakfast bars, need I say more? My oatmeal infused body wash was supposed to soothe my troubled skin. I'll truly miss my Oatmeal with brown sugar. Goodbye Cheerios (at least the kids can still eat them!!!).

But yesterday I was tested for allergies and I'm afraid you, my dear Oats are the culprit. I must go cold turkey and stop the endless allergic reaction my body is having now that I know you are the problem.

Best of luck to you in your future endeavours...

-Katie


P.S.
If you are a parent reading this and you even suspect your child may have food allergies... Make an appointment! I can't believe I waited so long!

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Dear Santa...

Dear Santa,

All I want for Christmas is one of these... (from Disneyland used for cleaning up after the parades, etc..,).




I'm thinking it would help cleaning up the toys on the ground left by my kids.

I'll look forward to it, you're the best!

Love,

Katie

P.S.

Sorry the picture is blurry, but they are so fast my camera couldn't keep up!

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