Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Red Velvet Hot Chocolate is Delish!

So I think everyone knows by now that I'm a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf fan.  I'm also a red velvet cake/cup cake fan.  Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf has combined two of my favorite things for my new favorite winter favorite - the Red Velvet Hot Chocolate!  I had one for the first time today and it is sinfully delicious!

Have you tried it yet?

Also be sure to pick up one of the $1 holiday stickers for the Deck the Walls program to support The Help Group, the largest nonprofit organization in the US supporting children with autism and other special needs.  The program runs now through December 31st in over 200 Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf locations throughout California and the Western US.  100% of you donation goes to the organization.  Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf will also donate $1 from the Winter Dream Tea® and Holiday Blend Whole Bean Coffee retail products.  This will be the ninth years that Coffee Bean has participated in this program for The Help Group.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Holiday Cookie Decorating Idea

I hope that everyone has been having a wonderful Thanksgiving week!  I took the time to "un-plug" a bit, but have a ton of fun posts ready for this next week!
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Do you still have Halloween candy left over?  We sure do but we've come up with a creative way to make use of the candy... as gingerbread cookie and gingerbread house decorations!

Here's a couple of our creations...












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Friday, November 19, 2010

Great Hostess Gifts for the Holidays!

Ack.  The holidays are here!  I still can't figure out where the time has gone!  Holiday parties are already filling up my calendar and I'm quickly realizing I need to get my hostess gifts organized.  I nice bottle of wine is almost always an appropriate gift during the holidays, but unfortunately for many of us, the sheer number of choices at the store is daunting.  I find that when I find a good wine I become very loyal to that and very rarely will buy a bottle (especially one as a gift) that I haven't at least tried somewhere first. 

Last week Fresh & Easy sent out three bottles to a few of us to try out on an online (Twitter) wine tasting party (you can read the dialogues here including my confession about my favorite red wine pairing).  I have to be completely honest, I'm not a white wine drinker or a fan of sparkling wine.  I always choose a glass of red, regardless of whether it paris well with the meal.  So I figured I'd have one glass of the Hilltown Chardonnay and the La Gioosa Prosecco Spumante and end up pouring the rest out.  Boy was I wrong.  Both were wonderful and are now on my list of wines for hostess gifts and to have around for the occasional glass.  Both are priced at less than $8 a bottle and are guaranteed to taste like a much much more expensive bottle of wine.  I really did enjoy the Castillo Rioja Crianza (also priced at under $7).  The flavors were amazing and also one I've already purchased another bottle of (I've actually added all three to my shopping list this week to have on hand).

All of these are exclusively available at Fresh & Easy.

La Gioiosa Prosecco Spumante is priced at under $7 (sparkling white)

Hilltown Chardonnay priced under $8

Castillo Rioja Crianza priced under $7 (Red wine)

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Disneyland Holiday - Worldless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesdays... 

The Holidays are here!  Check out this wreath I spotted on Main Street at Disneyland!
 

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Cooking Thanksgiving Dinner for Less than $20.

With Thanksgiving rapidly approaching I wanted to post this again this year (I posted it last year, but just last week I again purchased the Turkey at Fresh & Easy because they are offering the same deal!)
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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 normally have on hand)

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Inviting Your Child’s Anger In - A guest post

A wonderful informative guest post by Fran Walfish, Psy.D.

It’s happened to all of us. Your child melts down in a huge fit of anger and you don’t know what to do. If it happens in public, on top of your frustration you feel embarrassed and humiliated. You could instinctively lash back in anger, collapse into tears, or temporarily abandon your child by walking away for a few moments. What few parents know how to do is turn the anger into a positive. But, I have good news. I can help.

Over the years I have seen many angry children in my office and have come up with a simple strategy that works. I call it 3-D Parenting. 3-D Parenting has three components: Discard the Defensive, Demonstrate Empathy with Words, and Directive Discipline with Boundaries. The main objective is for parents to become comfortable tolerating their child’s expression of direct anger.

Many parents find it hard to bear their kids powerful fury. But, staying connected during trying times creates stronger parent-child pathways and also requires tolerance. By employing these three key strategies, you will help your son or daughter stay open with you when they are filled with rage. 3-D Parenting also promotes respectful, friendly, courteous behavior in parents as examples, and in their children of any age. What more could you ask for?

So what are these three key strategies? I can best explain by telling you about a mom and her son that I treat in my office. At eight, Bobby is the oldest of three children. He is a very nice boy who continually sets his own emotional needs behind the needs of others. Also, as the oldest, his mother has higher expectations of him. Additionally, Bobby has a younger sibling with special needs and the youngest in this family just turned two.

When I first met Bobby I encountered a well-mannered, shy boy who found it hard to tell his mom anything critical, or to complain. He was angry because he felt he did not get enough of his mom’s attention; she was consumed with caring for the child with special needs and running after a toddler. While Bobby was not the type to have a meltdown, inside he really was one angry little boy who was on the brink of a huge explosion.

The good news is that Bobby’s mom, Gail, was pliable and open to coaching. Not all parents are. But Gail very much wanted to do the right thing and already felt her own guilt about not giving Bobby the same level of attention that she gave her other children. One of the first things Bobby said to Gail when we all sat down together was “I want some special time with you.”

I found it quite interesting that Gail’s initial response was to say, “But don’t you remember? We did that on Thursday.” Her response was an attempt to qualify in her mind and in Bobby’s eyes that she was a good mom, and it touches on the basic foundation for any parent: you must be self-aware. Being self-aware is a basic premise for parenting and I discuss this in depth in my book, The Self-Aware Parent (Palgrave).

The importance of self-awareness is this: If you are not aware of your internal thoughts and feelings as a parent, or of the specific buttons that trigger angry responses in you, any parenting model you try will backfire. So rather than thinking ahead and talking themself through angry times with the best interests of their child at the forefront of their mind, the unaware parent jumps to reactions imprinted into them by early life relationships with their own parents. This could include angry words in response to a child who screams, or tears of frustration when your child has a temper tantrum.

Gail was not yet a self-aware parent and her desire for validation showed this. Gail did not realize that Bobby was angry because he did not receive one-on-one attention every day. When I confronted her on this, Gail did not collapse into an emotional heap or abandon Bobby in a time out, but she did become defensive. Interestingly enough, discarding the defensive is the first of the three key steps in 3-D Parenting.

Discarding your defensive feelings and behavior creates an open environment from which you will parent. Most parents want to be liked (as well as loved) by their child, but as a parent, you should understand that your child will sometimes be angry at you––especially when you ask him to stop a behavior or do something he would rather not do. Claiming himself as a separate being with individual wants is a necessary part of your child’s development, and as you know, children sometimes do this with anger.

For many parents, acting without being defensive is a new way of functioning; it is a very different framework of belief. But it is important, because your child needs to feel accepted and embraced at all times, including when they feel and express their anger.

My first goal for you as a parent is for you to honestly examine how you act when your child is angry, and see if you have tendencies toward defensive behavior. Most of us do, myself included, and it is important to let that go. Steps two and three will give you better options to replace your defensiveness with.

Step two, demonstrating empathy with words, simply means narrating your child’s angry feelings back to them. It is a reflective listening and talking skill that allows you to explore your child’s anger with your eyes and ears, and then say it back with empathy.

For example, in the midst of a tantrum many parents refuse to accept their child’s opposition, and ignore it by turning away until the child is ready to behave. As a result, your child may think his or her feelings are not valid. Instead, acknowledge that you understand your child is upset by narrating verbally what your child is feeling. So rather than becoming defensive, you say with warmth, “I see you are angry with me, and I’m the kind of mom who really wants to hear about it right to my face. Tell me about why you are mad at me.”

I cannot stress how important the empathy part of this step is. For instance, with a young child you might say, “Mommy sees you are angry that you can’t have more play time with your red truck. You want more play time, but now it’s time for your bath and you got mad at Mommy. It’s hard to stop when you want more.” Being a container for your child’s anger will help him view you as a person he can confide in. It also establishes your place as a stable figure, one who will not attack, run, judge, blame, or collapse when the going gets rough. This is very important to convey to your child as he grows and faces larger issues.

Another key aspect here is that no resolution is required. All that is needed is that you hear your child. That in itself is reparative. All your son or daughter wants is to be understood and validated.

The final step is directive discipline with boundaries. Talking through a situation, as we did in step two, allows your child to feel heard. However, once he understands that you acknowledge and accept his displeasure, you must set the boundary and follow-through by taking action and directing your child toward his responsibility––and your command.

In this case, simply walk him into the bathroom and help him into the tub. It is not necessary to indulge him with other toys to compensate for his struggle in leaving the red truck behind. If your very young child becomes totally out of control, you can sit on the floor Indian style, with your child sitting down and wrapped in your arms in front of you, facing away, until the tantrum is over.

In my practice I work with many sophisticated parents just like you. But, what is most lacking is the lasting ingredient of motoring your child through his or her responsibility. You can talk all day long, but if you do not take the step of making sure that your child completes his responsibility, then you might as well talk to a brick wall.

Without directive discipline your angry child is likely to ignore you. He will think of you as a nice, but limp and ineffectual mom or dad. Instead, once you set a boundary, enforce it. Optimal parents also take a deep breath and think before speaking, so the boundary they set is appropriate and significant, but short in duration to motivate your child to keep trying.

It takes some practice, but you can learn to direct your child’s anger with clarity, kindness, empathy, and firmness. “I know how hard it is to leave your video to go take a bath so I’m going to help you. Here we go.”

In putting it all together it is good to remember a few things:

Your child is always allowed to be angry.

Be empathetic toward your child at how hard this moment is for him or her, for the angry feelings that are expressed are very real.
Follow through with praise for successfully completing this “hard-to-do” task.

It is possible that in praising your child, she might come back with something to the effect of “You made me.” Your response could then be, “Well, I helped you. And one day soon you’ll be able to do this all on your own.” These words give your child supportive confidence to work through her anger by herself.

Remember Bobby and Gail? I taught Gail these ideas to help them through their mild crisis. Specifically, I suggested that:

Gail encourage Bobby to complain to her directly. She needs to be self-aware enough to know that Bobby’s angry complaints are not attacks on her. Instead, they are situational and he needs to vent. “I know how frustrated you feel when you don’t understand your homework assignment. Why don’t you try your best and after snack time we’ll look at it together.”

Bobby should be able to go to his mom anytime and say he needs individual time with her. Gail then should follow up on that need, if not right then, at a designated and specified time that same day. “Mommy is busy making dinner right now, but after dinner you and I can walk around the block, hold hands, and be together while Daddy watches your brother and sister.”

Gail and Bobby should have a standing once a week date to go roller skating (an activity Bobby loves). Nothing should get in the way of this weekly activity and this should be alone time with just Gail and Bobby, and without his siblings.
Gail should ask Bobby at least once daily: “How are things for you?” Because Bobby accommodates and does not want to burden his mom, he does not share his angry feelings easily. He needs to be encouraged. Bobby cannot pummel his brother or sister as a way to vent his anger. If he does, play time is automatically over for Bobby for the next three hours. It is important to structure discipline as stinging, but short lived. That way your child will be motivated to try again to achieve.

Few of us were reared with parents who said, “Come on, give it to me. I want to hear what you’re really feeling,” but that is a lot of what today’s parenting should be about. Add empathetic narration and boundaries with follow-through, and most of your work is done.

I realize it is a lot to remember. But the more you practice it, the sooner acknowledging your child’s anger will become second nature to you; and the faster your family will become happy, connected, and strong. My empathetic narration to you is, “I know you can do it.”

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A frequent guest on top-tier TV programs, including NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams and KABC-TV in Los Angeles, and often appearing in major national publications such as Parents Magazine, Family Circle and Woman’s Day, Dr. Fran continues to lead the field with her expert insights and innovative strategies for parents, children and couples.

Her upcoming book, The Self-Aware Parent: Resolving Conflict and Building a Better Bond with Your Child from Palgrave Macmillan/St. Martin’s Press, is scheduled to launch December 7, 2010. Visit her on the Web at www.DrFranWalfish.com.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Amazing Razor Tricks

A fun picture I took at the Razor event.  Note how much air he has!

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Razors are the must have for childhood

We recently had the chance to attend an amazing 10th anniversary event for Razor.  You know, those things that are practically replacing bikes as the childhood staple...

Razor rides in our family have become a daily ritual, I really don't remember what life was like before my boys had them.  Ok, I do.  I remember the first day they got them, you'd think they were riding skateboards for the first time or something.  I was nervous beyond belief but quickly realized that the Razors were pretty safe.  It all came down to kids understanding that when they started to lose their balance or go to fast, the best thing to do is step off on to the ground!  Problem solved.  The big difference between the Razor and a skateboard is this "skateboard" had handle bars!  It didn't take long for the boys to get really good at using them and made it possible for us to go on much longer family walks around the neighborhood because they wouldn't tire out.

Here in South OC, many kids also ride their Razors to school because at least at our local school, there just isn't enough parking.  Riding Razors to schools has become the way many kids get to school.  (I'm sure there is a video somewhere on YouTube of me riding the Razors home in my business clothes after dropping the kids off at school.  Please don't track it down.).

I thought my kids were getting pretty good on their Razors until we had the chance to check out Team Razor doing tricks at the picnic.  It's truly amazing what these kids can do!


One of the things I didn't know was how many new kids of products Razor has been coming out with.  Talk about cool!  My kids fell in love with the Rip Rider 360.  Everyone tried to explain to me what it was and words really don't explain it.  So here's Brett showing off what I call the tricked out trike for big kids:
video
With products like the Sole Skate (like a skateboard but fits in a backpack), the Seige and many many more fun scooters and ride-ons, your family is sure to have hours and hours of fun together.

(* Psst... I'm going to be giving away a Razor product later this month... But I'd really like your opinions as to which product you'd like to win.  Head on over here and tell me which Razor product is your favorite!)

*I received a complimentary Razor product for attending the event, but the opinions expressed in this post are completely my own.

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Thanksgiving Dinner Recipes for Kids

Thanksgiving is a crazy time for all families and we are no exception!  Big family get togethers can be a time of chaos and many times the younger (but no longer babies) can feel left out eventhough they really want to contribute and help out.  By finding a couple easy and fun recipes, you can have the kids not just help out, but give them something to be proud of contributing to the family feast! 

Below are a couple super easy family friendly recipes that you can have kids assemble for Thanksgiving (you will need to supervise and be ready to assist) from Todd Adelman, Director of Nutritional Services for Block Institute, and co-author of the James Beard nominated book, Special Foods for Special Kids: Practical Solutions & Great Recipes for Children with Food Allergies.

We'll be trying these this year!

Stuffing
 (Yields four cups)

Ingredients:
16 slices bread, toasted with crust removed
½ cup celery, finely diced
¼ cup onion, finely diced
1 Tbsp. margarine
2 medium apples, grated
2 tsp. parsley flakes
1 tsp. dried thyme
½ tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. white pepper
½ cup chicken stock

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Cut bread into cubes & set aside in large bowl.
  • Sauté celery & onion in margarine until soft.
  • Add celery mixture & remaining ingredients to bread cubes.
  • Toss until liquid is absorbed.
  • Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
  • Serve.
Serving suggestion: Add your favorite combination of dried fruit, nuts, etc.
Dairy Allergy: Use milk-free bread & milk-free margarine.
Gluten Allergy: Use gluten-free bread.
Egg Allergy: No substitutions needed.

Sweet Potato Boats
 (Yields 16 “boats”)

Ingredients:
8 medium sweet potatoes
2 apples, peeled & cored
¼ cup orange juice
½ tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. margarine
½ tsp. salt
1 egg
16 marshmallows

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Slice potatoes in half, lengthwise.
  • Cut small slit in center of potato.
  • Bake for 45 minutes or until tender when pierced with knife.
  • Scoop out pulp of sweet potatoes being careful to leave the skin intact.
  • Add salt to pulp & set aside.
  • Cut apples into thin slices.
  • Toss apples in orange juice & add cinnamon.
  • Sauté apple mixture in margarine over medium heat, stirring constantly until apples are soft & liquid is absorbed.
  • Add apple mixture to sweet potato pulp & process (or mash) until smooth.
  • Beat egg into mixture.
  • Fill potato shells to rim.
  • Bake on foil lined cookie sheets at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.
  • Slice marshmallows in half.
  • Top each potato half with 2 pieces of marshmallow.
  • Broil until golden brown.
Serve immediately.

Milk allergy: Use milk-free margarine.
Gluten allergy: No substitute needed.
Egg allergy: Substitute 1 ½ tsp. egg replacer mixed with 2 Tbsp. of water for egg. Use egg-free marshmallows.

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

So thankful that parent teacher conferences are over!

Brett and I
I'm so relieved to say we are done with parent teacher conferences!  This year has brought a role reversal for my boys.  In past years it has always been Kyle's parent teacher conference that had me sweating bullets.  Brett has always been my mellow easy going kid and up until this year I was never apprehensive in the slightest about his conferences.  I'm very lucky to have two absolutely wonderful children with hearts of gold, but I also know my boys aren't perfect!  My boys are also like night and day, just ask their teachers.   I guess I just never expected the night and day to flip!

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Benchmark for a good kids birthday party?

Instead of Wordless Wednesday I thought we'd try video Wednesday.  Check out this video from my youngest son's recent birthday party over at Wowzville in Laguna Hills, CA.  I think it's pretty funny that I now use the amount of screaming fun as a benchmark for a good kids birthday party.  By all accounts, this one was a ton of fun... What do you think?

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Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween has taken on a new meaning in our family...

We crossed an important milestone in our household this Halloween.  No longer is trick or treating for hours on end the activity of choice for my boys.

As Halloween approached I just had this feeling that the same excitement level wasn't there.  A couple of nights before, we took a family vote and my husband was shocked at the result (me... not so shocked), the kids voted to spend one hour trick or treating around the neighborhood and to spend the rest of the evening at home watching Ghost Hunters Live event on the Sci Fi channel (thanks to Ghost Hunters, the Flix heat vision camera in now on the Christmas Wish lists!). 

We stocked up on homemade fresh pop corn and chips and settled in for the night after our one hour of trick or treating.  Everyone in the house was content.

And by the way we found that Kit Kat bars we the most common handout of the night around our neighborhood, how about yours?

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