Praise it Forward, Please

I don’t know about you, but sometimes it seems as if the world has lost its manners. Recently, in one day, a man basically shut the door in my face despite me carrying three boxes, a girl in a store proceeded to ring me up while talking on the phone, and did not look up, and I spent 20 minutes in a store helping myself to sizes and answering my own questions since the sales ladies were too busy gossiping in the corner to do it for me. And I know they were gossiping because they had that look, you know, the snotty gossip look. Don’t get me wrong, I have my days where I am a hot mess less than effervescent, but for the most part, I say please and thank you, excuse me and sorry!

I think I find it especially maddening in the service industries. You know, where your JOB is to be of service and courteous. I spent many years in college and grad school waitressing so I could go out pay for books, and I tried to take it seriously. Anyway, after this especially frustrating day, I decided that I really wanted to thank those that did go out of their way to be nice and courteous. I knew just where to start. Garbis and Sam. Garbis and Sam are the go-to guys in the produce section of my grocery store. I should pay rent, that’s how much time I spend there! These guys are like my culinary wing-men. They have also been side-shows for my kids at the grocery store, and have been greeting me weekly for the past 8 years. They have seen me in work clothes, pre-date clothes, maternity clothes, sweats, workout gear, hair done, hair a mess, no make-up and possible pajama pants (hey, I put on a real shirt and flip flops!) and they treat me the same way every time. They have given my kids free apples, tracked down elusive herbs and organic arugula, and brought out the super fresh produce from the back when they saw me frowning at the sad strawberries. And it is always, always, with a smile. So when I was there last month, I tracked down the front-end manager and gave him a letter I had written about Garbis and Sam. He read it and was so pleased. He mentioned that they were about to get their annual reviews and that he would put this in their files! I felt great. I felt even better last week when they told me they both got raises and thanked me for the letter. I know the letter didn’t do it, more likely, it was that these guys really care to do a good job, and they do it every day without fail.

My second praise-worthy fun happened at McDonald’s. Yes, I did. I got my kids Happy Meals after a particularly brutal and hot double-header. The team was celebrating there and my kiddos wanted to join. Of course, I acquiesced. The young man taking our order was clean cut, courteous, he smiled and engaged in extra conversation, and then when my youngest dropped his cone .5 seconds after getting it, he gave us another one for free. I don’t know many teenage boys with so much charisma and thoughtfulness. I really wanted to say something, but there was a line. I hesitated, and then I asked to speak with his manager. Everyone seemed flustered. She came up and kind of had a scowl on her face. I explained to her the exemplary service I received and complimented the young man and the other people working the front end. She was SHOCKED!

“That’s all?” she asked.

 “Yes,” I responded.

“You just wanted to compliment us? No one did anything wrong?”

“Nope. Everyone was great, and I really appreciated it!”

“Wow! Thank you!”

That’s it. Thirty seconds was all it took to make hopefully a tiny difference in their day. And you know what? It made me happy too! So, I have decided not to get down about the peeps that are grumpy and rude, but to thank the ones that aren’t. Praise it forward, please!

Homemade Vanilla Wafers: Easy & Delicious!

I am obsessed with feeding my kids wholesome, good food. I am a busy mom, and although I know my way around the kitchen very well, I work while my kids are in school.  I do most of my cooking, food prep, and baking at night or in a couple of hours on any given weekend.  I like to have homemade “snacks” and “treats” on hand so when the craving comes, we can have some.  My ultimate favorite recipes are those that can be made ahead of time, will last a week or more when stored, and that my picky kids will eat.

A favorite cookie around here is the vanilla wafer.  Who doesn’t like vanilla wafers?  They are perfectly sweet with a homemade taste that is very gratifying.  I’ve taken Alton Brown’s recipe and added a few nutritious twists.  Did I mention that I like my snacks and treats to be nutrition packed too? I’m sure you’ve figured that one out by now.  Below are the ingredients and recipe instructions.  If you have 3 minutes, watch the video and see how they are made from start to finish!

Ingredients:

  • 7 ounces all-purpose flour (almost a cup)
  • 3/4 teaspoon aluminum free baking powder
  • 1 Tablespoon ground golden flax (my own addition)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 1/2 ounces vanilla sugar (regular will work too)
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk

Directions:

Position 1 oven rack in the top third of the oven and another in the bottom third. Heat the oven to 350 F.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and vanilla sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl after 1 minute. Add the egg and incorporate on medium speed for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl. Add the vanilla extract and milk and blend on low speed for 15 seconds. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed just to incorporate. Chill the batter in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes before scooping.

Scoop the batter in teaspoon-sized balls and arrange them on 2 parchment paper-lined half sheet pans, approximately 35 cookies per pan. Use the heel of your hand to slightly flatten each ball. Bake, 2 pans at a time, rotating the pans halfway through the baking, until golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the pans to a cooling rack to cool completely before removing the cookies from the pan.

Watch Alton’s 3min video and become a pro! These vanilla wafers are super easy and delicious!

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A Mom’s Guide to Dating After Divorce

According to statistics, 1,000 people get divorced every day in the United States ALONE…WOW! That means fewer than 50% of first marriages end in divorce.  Now most of you out there reading this who might be married will probably gasp a little, and I do not blame you.  But those of you who are divorced might be doing a little happy dance right now at the thought of all those possible divorcees out there for the taking. But first, be forewarned, my friends. If you are recently divorced, or have been divorced for a long time, whether you are old or young/have kids or do not, entering the dating world can be a very exciting time in your life.   It also presents itself with some challenges that you should really think about before making the decision to jump back in and get into the dating driver’s seat.  You are going to feel scared, and at times, intimidated. But never let that hold you back in finding and meeting other people because, in turn, you will find out more about yourself along the way.  If you let it, it can be one of the most rewarding things that can happen to you.

Dating after divorce can be very overwhelming, but over the past five years, I have developed my own “Method to the Madness” for dating after a divorce. Here are some tips that have helped me in the dating scene, and some tips that have basically helped me in ALL of my relationships as well:

1.         WHO AM I AND WHAT AM I DOING?  –  Make sure you can answer these questions.  If you cannot, then you should not be dating anyone until you can.  DO NOT PASS GO and DO NOT COLLECT $200.   I cannot stress this enough to all of you.  Being able to re-establish your identity is PARAMOUNT to the success of any relationship you have or want to have down the road.  Whether you want to admit it or not, you lose yourself sometimes when you are in a marriage, and you need to take advantage of this time alone.  You need to take the time to re-discover who you are and what you like.   You need to make sure you are ready to move forward and know what you are looking for in a mate.  You never get a second chance on life, but sometimes, we do get a second chance on dating. TAKE FULL ADVANTAGE OF IT!

2.                  BE ACCEPTING BUT DO NOT SETTLE –   This one is very important.  Never let possible post-divorce loneliness, sadness or insecurity make you lower your standards when you start dating again.  Everyone deserves and has a right to be happy in life.  Be respectful of what it is that you want, and be proud of who you are and what you can offer a person.  This is one of the most challenging but rewarding tasks you can achieve.  Believe in yourself and others will follow. 

3.                  DON’T DISH THE DIRT AND TRY AND LET GO OF THE PAST – It is important to not discuss your ex on your dates.  It is within reason to discuss your divorce, but you do not need to become the Daily Gazette with all the dirty details on your date. This tip is extremely important, especially if you were recently divorced or it was a messy or sticky situation.   I am not going to lie and say you will not be tempted to talk about the details on what went wrong, or who did what to whom and how and when, etc.  It is important that you try to resist the temptation and focus on the person across the table from you instead.

4.         PROCEED WITH CAUTION!!!!   IF YOU HAVE CHILDREN, TAKE YOUR TIME AND INTRODUCE THEM TO YOUR PARTNER SLOWLY!  –  I find this tip invaluable in every possible way.  My son adores my boyfriend, but we waited and took our time before we introduced him.  You need to be able to identify your relationship and what you are as a couple FIRST before you bring your children into the picture.  It can be an incredibly stressful situation for all involved, and timing is everything when bringing your children into your new relationship.   Make sure you give your children enough time to be able to adjust to the new changes on their own.  Do not ever force your child to accept the relationship, but also do not let your child call the shots on who you do or do not date.  It is important to have a healthy balance in this situation.

5.         TAKE YOUR TIME, STAY POSITIVE AND ABOVE ALL, ENJOY YOURSELF –   We all know that divorce can leave you with baggage, and we have to stay positive and believe that someone out there has that “matching set of baggage” just for us to make a complete luggage set.  It is very important to take your time and have fun with it.  This is a time of re-discovery for you in so many areas of your life, and it would only benefit you to live life to the fullest and be confident in what you can bring to a relationship. 

6.         IF ALL ELSE FAILS, THERE IS ALWAYS WINE AND CHOCOLATE –  Of all the tips out there, this is the MOST IMPORTANT AND VALUABLE ONE!!!  Well, not really — but I have benefited from this one a time or two myself.

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From Exhaustion to Efficiency: Or, How I Make it through My Week with Minimal Crying!

Whether you are a busy working mom trying to balance the scales without having anything fall off, or  a Stay at Home mommy in charge of all the littles and praying for an iota of conversation that does not involve high pitch inflection or anything Gerber related; we are all just doing the best we can, right? While I am a working mom, another important thing for me is that my family eats together, and that the meal is nourishing and healthy. As a result, I have to find extra time in my day to plan and prepare dinner, and as tempting as it is to order in Pei Wei (Spicy Korean, anyone?), I make sure we eat in 5-6 nights a week at least. Between kids’ homework, school schedules, my work and fitting in Grey’s Anatomy, that leaves little time for messing around.  People question my ability (and sanity, but that’s another post) to get it all done, but in reality, it isn’t that big of a deal. Eating healthy and together is important to me, and we tend to make time for the things that are important to us. Here are a few tips that have helped me along the way.

grady family

My taste-testers

 

1. Prep early. There are several things I do as soon as I get home from the store that help me later. I wash and bag my lettuce in a ziplocks with a paper towel inside to soak up moisture and keep it fresh. If I have bought celery and carrots, broccoli or green onions, I wash and chop those to throw in salads or other meals. I don’t pre-chop onions, because who needs a fridge that smells of pico de gallo all week, but once I use part of one, I wrap it in a wet paper towel and put it in a ziplock and voila! No smelly fridge. I also buy berries in bulk from Costco and although my kids inhale this fresh fruit, I usually freeze a quarter of the amount and use them for after school smoothies. Berries also get the tupperware/paper towel treatment and make sure they are dry so they last longer.

2. Have a well-stocked pantry. In my dream world, this means smoked oysters, truffles, artichoke hearts and Lindt Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt,  but those may or may not be so family friendly. Instead, I make sure to always have the following: white beans and garbanzo beans that I use to make hummus or throw in a salad, black beans and pinto beans that are yummy and go with anything Mexican and in lots of casseroles, tomato products (diced, sauce, crushed, whole, paste) to use in virtually anything or as a base for sauces of all kinds, brown and white rice, whole grain pastas (penne and spaghetti or angel hair), Cream of Chicken and Cream of Mushroom soup and Quinoa (which I pronounced /kwin o ah/ until it became popular and I figured it out), couscous, Lipton onion soup mix (as a marinating agent for pork or potatoes), canned tuna, canned corn and loads of chicken broth or stock. Even if you can’t make it to the store for a week straight because of consecutive bad hair days or temper tantrums, if you are stocked in this way you don’t have to! It is also important to have a few oils (Canola, olive, coconut) and some vinegars (balsamic, red, white and rice) and maybe some cooking wine (or some for drinking that you can toss in the cooking!)

3. A little planning goes a long way! For the most part, I know that we will have one to two chicken dishes, a pasta dish, some pork or beef, and some fish throughout the week. If I am in a hurry, I can grill one of those, add a veggie sautéed in a little olive oil and garlic, and a starch and I am good to go. I like to get a bit more creative for the sake of my family, but if I have this stuff, it is very easy to create different combinations. I also use a few different food blogs for inspiration. If I have the  ingredients mentioned above and a well-stocked fridge, I can sometimes stop on my way home to grab the one or three things I may not have and then make a new meal that night. I also have a binder in my kitchen that is broken down by section: apps, salads, meat entrees, seafood entries, pasta’s, sides, desserts, cocktails (my favorite section), where I have printed out recipes or torn them out from magazines and organized them into a solid recipe book. I may or may not suffer from OCD, but whatevs! It gets me through, people. One thing I do is that the recipe doesn’t go in until I make it and it gets a score of 8/10 from me or the powers that be in my home. Otherwise your reliable book becomes not so reliable and filled to the gills!

4. Stick to a Schedule. I almost always start dinner the same time every night. I have left play dates early, picked the kids up from practice if it isn’t over on time or skipped things entirely if they get too much in the way of sticking to what works for me. This leaves me able to be spontaneous and either order in or have a GNO if I want to. However, if I didn’t make dinner and eating together a priority–well,  between exercise and work and the circus/shuffling that is our lives, I would just be another person in the take-out or drive through lines. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I have a few trusty numbers memorized that can solve my problems in 20 minutes and I like to use them from time to time to feed our family, but for the most part, we are just used to saving that money so I can buy some Manolos. Kidding. Mostly. I do want some before I die, though.

5. Balance is Everything. Some nights I may not want my menu broadcast over the internet because it seems embarrassingly simple. Other nights I want to take a picture of the meal and frame it. Some nights my family of men swoon, and reward me with hand and foot massages and scented oils.  Okay, Oreo kisses and some satisfied belly pats. But still, I will take it. Some nights I fix stuff for my carb loving 6 year old blue eyed funny guy, some nights I cater it toward my freckled, good-natured 8 year old protein lover, and finally, sometimes it is for my 40 year old garbage disposal wonderful man that thanks me after every single meal I prepare. Sometimes I succeed and feel like a rock star, and sometimes I fail, but I always try, and it is always made with love. And that, ladies, is all that matters.

 

The Best Anti-Cancer/Anti-Wrinkle Way to Get a Tan

Could Rhode Island be one of  the first states to ban minors from the tanning beds?

According to a recent study posted on WebMD and The Skin Cancer Foundation: people who use tanning beds have a 74% increased risk for melanoma (skin cancer) compared to people who had never used a tanning bed!  The risk was four times higher among frequent users of high-pressure tanning beds, which emit mostly UVA radiation!

Before I was 20, I went to the tanning bed at least 3 times per week! I was under the blanket belief, it won’t happen to me, but now, as a wife and mom, my priorities have changed. I have had malignant melanoma not once, but twice. The survival rate is only 50% if it spreads into the lymphatic system.  Needless to say, you won’t catch me in a tanning bed.

Here are the ABCDs of Melanoma:

How’s that for a beautiful tan?

You can still get the glow without the radiation or the creepy little eye covers. Here are some of my favorite self-tanning products!
***note, you must exfoliate well and my favorite tip:  put one layer of hand cream on first, let it dry and it will keep your hands from turning orange!
L’Oreal Sublime toilettes,  Bronze One Day Gel and Neutrogena MicroMist self-tanning spray

 

 

What is your opinion on banning minors from tanning beds?  Do you have a friend or relative diagnosed with skin cancer?

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Divorce. Protect the Kids, They’ll Thank You.

Retro MomThose of you out there who have children will agree with me that raising your child has to be one of the most rewarding, yet difficult things you’ll ever do.  We all know how stressful bringing up children can be when you are married, but it is just as difficult, and at times even more so, when you and your spouse get divorced.    

Having been divorced for over five years now and raising an eleven-year-old child, I have developed my own tricks of the trade for raising children with your ex-spouse.  These tricks do not always involve drinking a box of wine, eating an entire bag of peanut butter cups and counting to 10 very slowly (okay, sometimes 100!) It is not always perfect but there are ways in which to make it easier for both you and your ex and more importantly, for your children. 

 Here is my own David Letterman “Top Ten List” for raising children with an ex spouse.  Well, it is actually a “Top Five List,” but who’s counting?

 Tip Number 1 – Put yourself in your child’s place ALL THE TIME –       The most important thing that you need to remember is the well-being of your child. He/she did not choose the decision you made to get divorced, so he/she should never suffer the aftershocks of it as either.  Before you say or do something that involves your ex, think about it from your child’s point of view and put yourself in his/her place.  Always remember that there are consequences for your actions.

 Tip Number 2 – No Monkey in the Middle!   –     Your child should never be in the middle of any argument between you and your ex.  It is very important to NEVER use your child as a pawn to make the other one upset.  You must put your differences aside (and trust me, you will have them) and ALWAYS put your child first!

 Tip Number 3 – Leave the boxing gloves at home! –  If you run into issues where you and your ex do not see eye-to-eye, then find a convenient time when your child is not around to talk about them.  Try to find a time when your child is in school, asleep, or even while he/she is outside playing.  You can take those opportunities to work out your differences, and try to come to an agreement without the chance of your child overhearing. 

Take the gloves off, in front off the kids

Take the gloves off, in front off the kids

 Tip Number 4 – If you cannot say anything nice then do not say anything at all – This is one that I feel is very important.  You should never talk ill of your ex-spouse in front of your children.  It does not matter how upset they make you or how furious you are with them, you always need to take the high road.  Your son/daughter needs to develop his or her own relationship with each of you, and berating each other only hurts you, and ultimately, your child.

 Tip Number 5 – Try to put yourself in your ex’s shoes – This tip has definitely helped me in times of turmoil.   It is common for both married and divorced couples to disagree on different areas of raising the children.  Heck, plenty of couples argue about everything from what kind of shoes to buy the kids to which colleges they should apply.  But, it’s important–whether married or divorced– to presented a united front.  You are always going to have differences of opinion, the key is to consider your ex’s point of view.  If you can have a healthy relationship with your ex, in the end, it will benefit everyone. 

Again, your child didn’t choose your spouse and the split certainly wasn’t your child’s fault, so they should never have to suffer for those decisions.   Once you have that mindset in place, chances are it will make things much easier for everyone…and your child will thank you down the road.  Mine has…

Divorce cartoon

My son drew these.

Divorce Cartoon 2

Kids notice everything

 

Do you come from a broken home, or are you a divorced mom?  I’d love to hear how you handled the turmoil with your kids or how your own upbringing affected your adult relationships.  Leave me a comment below and let me know your thoughts!

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