Monday, October 31, 2011

Giveaway: Sesame Street Live

Sometimes I go back and forth as to whether or not I want to continue reviewing and giving things away on this blog. But then, an opportunity to give away a family four pack of tickets to see Sesame Street Live at the Lakeland Center comes along, and I remember that I love blessing people with free things like this. So I agreed to share a little about the upcoming show in exchange for a four pack for myself and for one of my readers.

This year, the theme for Sesame Street Live is “Elmo’s Super Heroes.” And according to the press kit, Super Grover has lost his super-ness! But never fear, the fabulous five Super Heroes are here -- featuring Elmo as Captain Fuzzy! Elmo, Abby Cadabby, Zoe and all their furry friends are on a quest to put the “super” back in Super Grover. Singing and dancing their way through fun lessons on healthy habits, they discover how exercise, rest, nutritious food and good hygiene can save Super Grover -- and turn your children into Super Heroes, too! You’ll be feeling good when Elmo’s Super Heroes! comes to town! 

I was glad to see Abby Cadabby included because she is Charlotte and Mary's favorite Sesame Street character. And if there is any chance this show convinces either of my daughter to at least take 1 bite of a vegetable, I'll consider it an added bonus to see Sesame Street Live.

Here are some other points I was asked to share with all of you:
  • Sesame Street Live is a larger-than-life, musical touring stage production featuring Big Bird, Elmo, Cookie Monster, Bert and Ernie…and more. Each performance is 90 minutes of singing, dancing and audience participation, including a 15-minute intermission. The perfect length for very young children!
  • Three (3) delightful performances! Tickets on-sale June 1 at the box office and all Ticketmaster locations. (See the performance schedule below.)
  • You can buy your tickets over the phone by calling 800-745-3000. 
  • Ticket prices start at just $13, and then go up incrementally to $18, $23, $28 (Gold Circle) & $53 (Sunny Seats). Additional group discounts available. Groups 10+ call 863-834-8137.
  • Get the ultimate fan experience with Sunny Seats! The Sunny Seats Package includes a VIP Seat and a pre-show Meet & Greet photo opportunity with two Sesame Street Live friends. (Additional fees/surcharges may apply.)
Performance Schedule
Saturday, December 3: 5:30 pm
Sunday, December 4: 1:00 pm & 4:30 pm

Here's how to enter for a chance to win a family four pack of tickets to Sesame Street Live at the Lakeland Center's Youkey Theater.

  1. Leave a comment telling me who you would take if you won.
  2. 'Like' Family Musings on Facebook, then leave a 2nd comment with your FB name telling me you did.
  3. Subscribe to my RSS feed or subscribe by email, and leave a 3rd comment telling me you did so, or already are subscribed.
  4. Link to my giveaway on your own blog, leaving another comment with the permalink to you post.
  5. Enter any of my other active giveaways and leave a comment with the permalink to your post. Check this link for all current giveaways -
  6. Tweet this giveaway and then follow Family Musings on Twitter. Leave a 6th comment with the twitter permalink.
That's it. 6 ways to win and 1 lucky winner. This giveaway will end Sunday, November 13th at midnight. Read all contest rules here.

    Oh, and in case you don't win, I can also share this coupon code for $3 off each ticket. Use the passcode ERNIE at to receive the discount. (Discount excludes Gold Circle & Sunny Seats. Not valid on previously purchased tickets. Discount cannot be combined with any other offer.)”

    Giveaway: Shop to Stop Slavery

    Some times my giveaways are fun things for the family. Some times they are useful things for the kitchen. And some times, I have the privilege of giving away something that is so meaningful every life touched by it will be moved.

    Today, I have the blessing of sharing Shop To Stop Slavery with you. It was started by Robin, a MOPS mom, who knew there had to be a better way to give lovely gifts to our friends and family, a way that didn't rely on slave labor. So, she opened Shop to Stop Slavery and now connects people all over the world with fair trade vendors through mutually beneficial purchases.

    When I met Robin in person, her passion for helping the impoverished and victims of human trafficking was clear. She is incredibly knowledgeable about the realities of forced labor around the world. Robin told me that she designed her store to be "the online resource to buy slave free products and abolish slavery through socially responsible shopping."

    As you consider the gifts you will purchase for Christmas this year, please visit Shop to Stop Slavery and browse their diverse collection of apparel, jewelry, shoes, beauty products, food, and even sporting goods.

    To encourage you to learn more about Robin's company, she has offered this limited edition, Gebo Mana, organic t-shirt (size L) to one of the readers of Family Musings. Here's how to enter:

    1. Visit Shop To Stop Slavery and then leave a comment telling me one item you'd like to buy.
    2. 'Like' Family Musings  and Shop To Stop Slavery on Facebook, and leave a 2nd comment letting me know you did.
    3. Subscribe to my RSS feed or subscribe by email, and leave a 3rd comment telling me you did so, or already are subscribed.
    4. Link to my giveaway on your own blog, leaving another comment with the permalink to you post.
    5. Enter any of my other current giveaways and leave a comment with the permalink to your comment. 
    6. Tweet this giveaway, then follow Family Musings and Shop to Stop Slavery on Twitter. Leave a 5th comment with the twitter permalink.
    That's it. 6 way to win and 1 lucky reader. This giveaway will end Sunday, November 13th at midnight. Read all contest rules here.

    FTC Disclosure: I received no consideration for this post and am sharing Shop to Stop Slavery with you because I agree with their purpose and want to be part of abolishing modern day slavery.

    Saturday, October 29, 2011

    Super Heroes to the Rescue!

    As a team, nothing can stop them.
    When she sees danger, she gets down to business.
    Her super power is her super cuteness!
    They can fly anywhere in the world. Fast.
    Not only can they bust the bad guys, they can also bust a move.
    Even blindfolded, they can get the job done.
    The pins fell down before the pumpkin even got there, just at the sight of this dynamic duo.
    Tall ladders are no match for this super hero. She can (and did) climb that ladder all by herself.

    Super heroes always need to keep themselves well hydrated.
    And well nourished too.
    Look at how this super hero tamed the wild beast, "Princess."
    It's important for even the tiniest super heroes to practice so they can keep their game sharp.

    What fun events did your family participate in this weekend?

    Friday, October 28, 2011

    Repurposing Sheets & Stained Shirts

    I'm a reluctant sewer. I know how to do it, but I just have never put in the practice to get good at it. Sewing a straight stitch is nearly impossible for me at this point. Well, after thinking that I might be ready to give my new serger a spin, I tried staring at it until a sewing project came to mind.

    I had some white t-shirts with stains on them. They weren't mine though. They belonged to my 2 & 4 year old. I'm not sure why I kept them, but I did. I also had a set of bed sheets I bought for about $2 at a Lighthouse Ministries Thrift Store. I liked the pattern but bought them with no intention other than possibly repurposing them into clothing. There was no plan in my mind, just a love for the light florals and the so soft to the touch fabric.

    Then today, inspiration hit! I remembered making t-shirt dresses with my mom when I was a kid and I decided to do the same thing for my girls with the stained shirts and sweet looking bed sheets, based on a tutorial at My Crafty Side. Here are the results:

    Clearly, the girls love them. And I do too. I'm so happy with the way they turned out. The one cheat I took full advantage of was in how I created the gathers. I used the already elasticized corners to work the gathers in without having to do any extra basting. Oh, and I used my serger to attach the skirt to the shirt, saving all kinds of tedious fun sewing steps.

    Have you ever accomplished a crafting feat you weren't sure you could do?

    Tuesday, October 18, 2011

    31 Quick Snacks for Moms

    I've been in a nutritional glut recently. In addition to experiencing a loss of appetite due to new medication, I've been too preoccupied with life to take the time each day to eat any decent food. A recent experience with vitamin supplements really woke me up to the fact that I need to do a better job of caring for myself. So, during a brainstorming session with Karissa, I decided to make a list of 31 quick snacks for moms.

    Most of these items can be eaten on the go, though some don't travel as well as others. To make it on this list the snack has to be made in 5 minutes or less and be reasonably healthy, in other words no homemade chocolate chip cookies, ice cream, or drive-thru french fries. I also tried to mostly include things that had some protein and good carbs in them.
    1. Crackers or pita chips w/ hummus
    2. Homemade microwave popcorn (the pre-made stuff is awful once you've made your own)
    3. Half a peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread w/ a small glass of milk
    4. Trail mix w/ a piece of fruit
    5. Store bought granola bar (or homemade granola bars if you planned ahead)
    6. Cheddar cheese and apple slices
    7. Yogurt cup w/ graham crackers for dipping
    8. Scrambled egg on a toasted English muffin
    9. Fresh mozarella w/ tomato slices or grape tomatos
    10. Rolled up deli meat & cheese 
    11. Almonds & canned sardines (HT: Alton Brown via Twitter)
    12. Cheese quesadilla (super quick on the stove top)
    13. Baked tortilla chips & a generous serving of salsa
    14. Tuna salad in a mini pita
    15. Fruit & yogurt parfait
    16. Applesauce and a mozarella cheese stick
    17. Celery and peanut butter (a classic)
    18. Fresh or frozen grapes and gouda slices
    19. 1 oz cashews and 1 piece of really good dark chocolate
    20. Small tortilla rolled up with hummus spread & orange slices
    21. Pudding cup (homemade or store bought) with 1 oz chopped nuts mixed in
    22. Sunflower seeds & veggies (HT: Robert Irvine via Twitter)
    23. Cheerios w/ berries & skim milk
    24. Bagel Thin w/ light cream cheese (and lox if you like it!)
    25. Wheat crackers & peanut butter w/ strawberries
    26. Greek yogurt w/ honey
    27. Plain, instant oatmeal made with applesauce, maple syrup, & walnuts
    28. Goldfish, raisins, & dehydrated apples
    29. Iced coffee & cheese toast
    30. Baby carrots and your favorite dressing (used in moderation)
    31. Soft pretzel with mustard for dipping
    In my house, I'd probably combine 2 of these to make a breakfast or lunch. Since we are a busy family, I don't like food to be a big production during the day so it is easier for me to make "snacks" into meals, especially when there are no dinner leftovers to eat up. I like to say that we eat bento style a lot.

    I plan to post this on the inside of a kitchen cabinet and always try to keep 5-6 of these snacks on hand at any given time. You may not care for all of these snacks, so feel free to leave other suggestions in the comments.

    Friday, October 14, 2011

    Fashion Friday - October Dress Project

    Another week of wearing the same fuschia dress every day is over. And I still like the dress! The half-way point is almost upon us and I haven't duplicated any looks yet. Plus, I still have more ideas from my closet. I've really learned that my closet is more versatile than I thought it was. It's really hard to say, "I don't have anything to wear," when I can make the same dress look so many different ways.

    Last week, in addition to showing you my daily outfits, I also shared with you my creative reason for participating in the October Dress Project. This week, I want to share another reason I took this challenge on - to practice humility.

    But I have a confession to make. I haven't felt very humble about my dress at all this month. Besides the taking and posting daily pictures of myself in the dress, I'm also getting a lot of positive feedback about how I look. It's hard to be humble when I am getting so much positive attention (which I'm very unaccustomed to).

    I thought that wearing the same dress every day might help me connect with women who don't have a choice about wearing the same dress everyday. No one is even noticing that I am wearing the same dress (not even my 4-year old who sees me every day!). But, by exercising so much creativity, I think I've missed this point of the project.

    Does that make this project a fail? Not at all. I see that vanity is a real issue for me. Despite my insecurities about my own body, I am craving the daily feedback about the smart accessory choices I am making. I didn't think I was vain before this week. Now I know that I am. It's kind of a shock to me that I would be vain about my appearance. I fear that when the project is over, I'll miss hearing so many nice words about my appearance. that is probably when the humility lesson will sink in the deepest.

    Now, all of my vanity doesn't mean I am not going to share this past week's outfits with you. Now does it mean that I want you to leave mean comments, or no comment at all. So, here they are:

    And this week the girls wanted in on the action and decided to copy my looks.

    Which look do you like the best from the 2nd week of the October Dress Project? (I liked day 7 the best, but that might be influenced by the beach more than the outfit.)

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011

    WFMW: Flower Dinner

    Here is one way I get my girls to eat a variety of food at a meal. Otherwise, they'd eat half a box of pasta without blinking.

    I call this "Flower Dinner." I hope you can figure out why.
    Grapes, applesauce, pasta, yogurt, plus an unseen cheese stick.
    These are silicone baking cups that are more useful as single-serving snack cups.

    Tuesday, October 11, 2011

    Fall Playdate

    A good friend of mine was guilted into throwing a fun, pumpkin decorating, candy-necklace making, yummy snack eating Fall Party. We were on the lucky end of a 5 year old convincing her pregnant momma that this might be the last chance for a play date before the newest member of their family arrives in about a month.

    It was also a costume swap, which coincided with National Costume Swap Day. Who even knew such a day existed?

    Charlotte enjoyed everything about the day - crafts, friends, food, and fresh air. I think the weather was perfect for an out door play date like this one.

    Mary had a good time too. It was one of her first being let loose with a lot of craft supplies. And I think this is the dirtiest she has ever been. Check out those "little dixie" feet!

    Our friends, the Dearies. Other friends, like Brittany of A Flower In The Rain, were there, but not pictured because apparently, I didn't make sure I took some of everyone.

    And the lovely host family, of Eat, Drink & Be Jesus. Thank you Ida & Aurora for a lovely afternoon! I couldn't have done it better myself.

    Friday, October 07, 2011

    Fashion Friday - October Dress Project

    It's so convenient that I decided to share some of my fashions with you last month. Because now, you'll be treated to a whole week of outfits all throughout October. That's because, as I mentioned last week, I'm participating in the October Dress Project.

    There are many reasons why I have committed to wearing the same dress for 31 days in a row. I'll try to share one reason each week, in no particular order. Last year I dove into the project because it seemed like a fun challenge that could break up some of the humdrumness of my daily life. And while it will do that for me again this year, one of my real reasons for participating is to work on my wardrobe creativity.

    • I want to make a good impression each day when my husband comes home. By no means does this mean I have to fake anything, but it does reflect my belief that home should be a haven. And that means he doesn't need to walk in the door to a disaster zone, in the living room or on his wife. I just don't want to look like a frumpy house wife when my husband comes home at night.
    • I want the way I look to reflect the way I feel about myself. The new medication I am on for my depression is working and there is no reason I have to look like I don't care about myself. It is no longer necessary. How we look is often a reflection of how we feel. I don't feel bad right now, so there is no reason for me to look bad.
    • I want to think of new ways to use my scarfs and belts and tights and jewelry. Without buying new ones. I believe creativity is fueled by working around road blocks. And sure, it would be easy for me to go out and buy all sorts of new accessories to create 31 different looks with my dress. But it isn't frugal. And it doesn't reflect my desire to simplify my life. Some day, I may only have room in my closet for a few dresses and accessories. This is like practice for that day.

    Next week, I'll share another reason I am choosing to do the October Dress Project. Until then, here are the pictures from the first 6 days of the project.

    Day 1
    Day 2
    Day 3
    Day 4
    Day 5
    Day 6

    So there it is. The first 6 days of my 31 day project. 

    Which look do you like best?

    Thursday, October 06, 2011

    My New Entryway? Maybe? Possibly?

    Karissa has great taste. And a great sense of style. She also knows how to make things her own. Take her recently redesigned entryway for example. It is perfectly functional, yet still fits her family's personal style. Here it is, in all of it's simplicity and beauty.

    And I've decided, if my husband agrees, to copy her idea for my own entryway. The girls need a place for backpacks and jackets (yes, we will at least need light ones for our Florida "winter). And I'd like a place for my purse that has nothing to do with cluttering up the dining room table.

    Here is my non-artistic, yet functional rendering of  what it might look like if I actually follow through on this home improvement project.

    This is a longshot of what the whole space looks like. There is a window just to the left of this photo.

    A medium shot of the door and wall. The brown dots represent the three hooks I'd install. Five hooks would be better, but I can't work around that security system box, which is the main drawback to this plan. Relocating it isn't a possibility.

    And a close up of what I envision for the space. On the left and right would be pictures of Charlotte and Mary and the center would either be a picture of the whole family or just Bruce and I. It all depends what we end up with from our holiday mini session at Circle B Bar Reserve with K. Barber Photography.

    Since I'm a visual person, taping the paper to the wall and then drawing the design on it really helped me visualize how this might turn out. The space is only 4' wide, so it seems that, should I choose 3" molding or trim, I'll only have room for 5x7 photos. I suppose if I used 1" trim, I could get away with 8x10 photos, but it might seem too crowded then.

    How do you help explain your design visions to others? Or are you one of those people who can just create something and have it turn out awesome?

    Where's Mary?!

    Mary's favorite game, since she was a baby, has been something we call "Where's Mary?!" It can be played anywhere. All you need are hands, napkins, hand towels, wipes, blankets, a shirt. Pretty much anything you can cover at least your eyes with will work. Even a rug.

    Where's Mary?! 
    There she is!
    And repeat. And repeat. And repeat. Until she either gets distracted or you get bored. You can probably guess which happens first!

    Wednesday, October 05, 2011

    Tips For Staying Healthy During Cold & Flu Season

    I love that my husband is a teacher. But it never fails that, at the beginning of each school year (and during cold & flu season), he brings some sort of cold home to us. It's inevitable. Sometimes he gets sick too, but usually he is just the carrier for one of us to get sick. He is not to blame. It happened when I was a teacher too. And it happens to most of my friends who are teachers. Colds are an occupational hazard.

    I've got some ideas for ways we can minimize our exposure to those cold germs and thought it would be appropriate to share them with you as we enter into another cold & flu season.

    First, I've taught (or am still teaching) both of my girls to sneeze or cough into their elbows(edited to add that I now know this is called the "Dracula"). It really does lessen the chance of spreading germs, especially considering they no longer have "sneeze" on their hands waiting to be shared with the nearest toy or family member. I even had to retrain myself to do this because I had bad habits in this regard as well.

    Next, I'm a fan of hand sanitizer. I don't go crazy with it because I believe some exposure to germs is healthy in a long-term, build up your immune system sort of way. However, I keep it handy and we use it a couple of times a day when hand washing just isn't possible. (You know, when the public restroom is out of soap and towels, a major pet peeve of mine!)

    Third, as you might have guessed, I do let my kids have some exposure to germs. I didn't let them eat off restaurant floors when they were little, but at home, yes, my kids will eat Cheerios off the floor. I'm too frugal to waste an entire bowl over a few measly germs. Besides, I give them vitamins and we drink lots of fresh juice as well to give them an extra boost.

    And finally, I know some families are very vigilant about flu shots. We are not. My husband does get one as a precaution against his occupational hazard. But the rest of us, who spend quite a bit of time at home, pass on them. This is a decision that each family ought to make for itself based on it's circumstances. But just note, I think every family ought to use the elbow  "Dracula" technique.

    Those are just a handful of the things our family does to keep colds at a distance. What about you? How do you help your family stay healthy as the weather turns colder and the germs nastier?

    I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Lysol blogging program, for a gift card worth $40. For more information on how you can participate,click here

    Tuesday, October 04, 2011

    The Difference A Belt Makes

    For years, I thought that I couldn't wear belts. My perception of the plus-size figure caused me to shy away from anything that came close to nipping me in or being close to the skin. Then I started noticing Shauna's blog, Penny Chic. She had a plus size model or two and they rocked the belts. It was amazing how they could pull it off.

    So, I started experimenting with the very small collection of belts in my closet. And I realized that they actually really work for my figured. It really helped when Penny Chic offered a Just My Size belt giveaway. I won and the belt arrived yesterday.

    With my new belt in hand, I dragged my husband outside to take some pictures so I could show you how the belt changes the way I look. (Plus, you get a sneak peak at my October Dress Project outfit for day 3!)

    See what I mean? The picture on the left makes me look a bit frumpy. And the middle picture is definitely an improvement. But the last picture... that's the winner! In my opinion, the whole outfit looks more put together.

    I also love how this particular belt has a bit of pop to it because of the animal print pattern. There are a couple of other ones I'd love to get my hands on, but JMS is only offering these belts in select markets (and I do not live in one of them).

    Tell me, what did you think of the transformation this outfit went through all because of a belt?

    Monday, October 03, 2011

    I Love My Daughters

    It might seem obvious that I love my daughters. That's what moms are supposed to do. But it doesn't mean that I've always "loved" them.

    There was a time, about a year ago, where I was really just phoning in my mothering duties. I did what I needed to do to make each day work. We had good times and did fun things, but my heart just wasn't into it. It's kind of difficult to explain.

    The honeymoon period of being a mother was over. Mary was 1 and Charlotte was 3. The daily tasks of raising them exhausted me. I don't think this was post-partum depression but I'm sure it was related to my general depression over the years.

    Maybe it was their daily behavior and the natural stretching of mental muscle as they explored the boundaries in our house. Or possibly the weariness that comes from spending the previous 12 months in speech and physical therapy with Mary.

    There was absolutely nothing unlikable about my girls at all. They were, and still are, delightful creatures giving us many opportunities to laugh and enjoy their discovery of new things.

    Then, one day, at the beginning of this year, I realized that things had changed for me. And I felt madly in love with my children. It made me want to smell them all the time. And snuggle with them every chance I could get. I felt as if I would do anything to make them happy. I remember mentioning this to a friend and knowing that I wanted to blog that feeling. Because I knew it would be fleeting.

    And I was right. I've only been a mom for 4 years now, but I've figured out that the moments of "being in love" with my kids are fleeting. Just like it is with our husbands. Or best friends. That level of "love" isn't sustainable over the course of any relationship. It isn't that I am manic in my emotions towards my daughters. That's not the impression I want to leave with you. It's just that I've realized that loving my girls isn't about choosing between phoning it in or being thrilled to see them everyday.

    There's a balance to it all. After a while, I settled into a more balanced view of what my days should look like.

    Ultimately though, what I need to do, because I have been so loved by my heavenly Father, even through my disobedience and indecision, is love my kids the way that I've been loved. I choose to cherish the moments that are great and I pray through the moments that aren't so great. And hope that in the end, all they remember are the good times. 

    And someone please tell me that I'm not the only mom who sometimes, maybe, even for just a moment, doesn't really like her kids!

    Photo Credit: Bruce Sabin