January 25, 2015

10 Ways to Get HAPPY Right Now!


                

Do you feel sad? Maybe a little blue? Well, you aren't alone... January is officially the saddest month of the year. Even the fact that Saturday was National Compliment Day didn't help to brighten our spirits apparently.

I think the official saddest day of the year was last Monday, but I thought it was the 4th Monday of January. (hence... why this post is up now... ha!) But why in the world would the saddest day of the year be on MLK Day? It's not a very nice way to honor Dr. King AND most people are off work that day... so what's depressing about a day off?

Anyway... The first saddest day of the year was announced back in 2005 when a researcher at Cardiff University figured out a method to the sadness. According to Dr. Cliff Arnall it's the Monday in January with a perfect combination of depressing factors.

Here's the list according to the article:
  1. Weather conditions (Gloomy January with its cold weather & lack of sunshine)
  2. Debt level and our ability to pay that debt
  3. Time elapsed since Christmas
  4. Time elapsed since failing New Years resolutions
  5. Low motivational levels
  6. Our need to take action (better ourselves, resolutions... then disappointment about failing or not seeing changes)

So to counteract this sad & miserable month.. I have 10 things you can do RIGHT NOW to make yourself happy!
  1. Step out of your comfort zone: If you normally keep it casual for work, dress up a bit. Wear a bold lip color. Introduce yourself to that group of moms at the park that you have always wanted to talk to. Switch things up and you will be surprised how fast it can boost your mood!
  2. Send someone snail mail: If you have been thinking about someone... a friend, family member, or neighbor.. send them a little hand-written note. It will make you feel better & brighten their day at the same time!
  3. Exercise: Bring on those mood-boosting endorphins! Even a quick walk around the block or 10 minute YouTube workout will help!
  4. Take some time for yourself: Try to carve out a bit of time to do something you enjoy. Read a book, get a pedicure, or head to Target by yourself. (can you tell how I enjoy time for myself? ha!)
  5. Do something nice for someone else: Buy a co-worker coffee when picking up your own. Bring flowers to a retirement home. (Ask employees to bring them to whoever they think needs them the most that day) Give out a few compliments. Brightening other people's day will make you happier as well!
  6. Put your phone away for a few hours: It can bee very 'freeing' to get rid of your phone, even if it is just for a short time. You may focus on your family more or get that project done that you have been putting off.
  7. Call a good friend: Girlfriends make us happy, so give your bestie a call. If you can meet up with them... even better! I am always in a better mood after I speak to my friends.
  8. Listen to your favorite music: Put on your favorite music and dance around. If I have had a stressful morning, I just put my favorite Pandora channel on (which may or may not be Britney Spears radio) and sing my way to work. Instant happiness. 
  9. Watch or read something funny: Pop in your favorite comedy or funny TV show, or hop on YouTube there is tons of funny stuff on there. I am guaranteed a laugh when I read texts gone wrong or watch news bloopers on YouTube.
  10. Be Thankful: I am one of those people that believes happiness is a choice. There will always be circumstances beyond our control and things we cannot change. But I do think that taking a few moments each day to focus on the GOOD things in your life can make a big difference. Right now... this very second... think of 5 things you have to be thankful for today. It can be the basics: you are alive, you have shelter, your children are safe. Or it can be mundane: your nails look nice or you made it to the gym today. Just think of 5 things (10 is even better) that are GOOD in your life right now. Boom. Happy. Now do that every single day... write down the 10 things.. that is even better... and finding your happy place will be easier than ever.
                            


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January 22, 2015

Misha's Cupcakes: Cake in a Jar! (& a Grand Opening party!)


Valentine's Day is right around the corner, why not send some love... with these adorable cakes in a jar! If you live in South Florida, you have definitely heard of Misha's Cupcakes. She sells her sweet treats nationally, and recently unveiled her newest masterpiece... a cake in a jar!

Cake in a jar!
Misha is known locally as the Queen of Cupcakes, and having tasted them, I can promise you they would be impossible for me to re-create at home. However, you can make a copycat cake in a jar... with a little bit of planning.

Can you say, "YUM?"
I found these small jars available on a wholesale site, you could get 36 6oz jars for 20 bucks! (sounds like a great deal, but I have no clue about the quality, but for a one use thing... I am sure it would work!)

Just make a batch of your favorite cupcakes, then cut them in half. Put one half at the bottom of the jar, then put frosting and your sprinkles or toppings of choice. Pop on the top half of your cupcake, repeat the frosting dance... screw the top on and you are DONE!

These would work for kids parties, classroom events, co-workers, baby showers... so many options! Decorate the jar with a ribbon, bow or even a customized sticker on the top. (Who wouldn't want their own personal jar of CAKE?!)

Misha has locations across South Florida, and she is finally opening up a location in my neck of the woods! Broward ladies, listen up... she is hosting a champagne and cupcakes party to celebrate the grand opening of her Pembroke Pines location... and YOU are invited! (and it's free! Woot! Woot!)



Even if you can't go to the party, be sure to check out Misha's Cupcakes on the web, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram!



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January 20, 2015

7 Ways to Give a Great Compliment

            

Did you know this Saturday is National Compliment Day? Well, it is! National Compliment Day was invented in 1998 by Kathy Chamberlin and Debby Hoffman. The pair also wrote a book titled, Find Something Nice to Say.

Compliments just make you feel good. One study found people even worked better after they were complimented. The most important thing with a compliment is it has to be GENUINE. People can see right through a forced one.

To celebrate National Compliment day all you have to do is compliment 5 different people. Easy. When was the last time you gave your husband a compliment? Your best friend? Your parents? Your kids?

            

Here are 7 fun ways you can celebrate National Compliment Day:
  1. Give a compliment to each member of your family throughout the day
  2. Text or call your close friends and give them a few reasons why they are awesome
  3. Have your kids write a nice note to their teacher
  4. Give a few co-workers compliments 
  5. Hide a note in your husbands car with a compliment on it
  6. Compliment a friend by leaving a nice comment on their latest social media picture
  7. Tell a mom she is a doing a great job... especially if it looks like she hasn't slept or washed her hair in awhile! ;)
So have fun & give out LOTS of compliments... and before you know it WORLD compliment day will be here. (It's March 1st) Here's an even BETTER idea... let's pretend everyday is compliment day! I know my beautiful, smart, witty, amazing readers will agree, it's an easy way to brighten up someone's day! ;)

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January 18, 2015

DIY Workout Tanks


This weekend I cleaned out my dresser, since I am trying to get my life organized this year... one project at a time! I found a bunch of T-shirts I was going to throw away, but instead I decided to cut them up so I could use them as workout shirts. I used to do this all the time in college so I decided to see if a woman in her mid-30's could still whip up some tattered T's. (and I totally can, even though I was sober this time... okay... almost sober)

I had an Angry Birds and a Batman shirt I had worn to Hudson's b-day parties with the same theme. (yup... I am THAT mom) For the Batman shirt, I just cut some slits in the back to make it more comfy to wear to workout. I decided to do a ripped pyramid for the Angry Birds shirt.
First, I cut off the arms to make it a tank. Then, fold the t-shirt in half, and used a magazine as my guide. (I wasn't about to go searching for a ruler) Then you just cut slits until you hit the magazine... about a half inch apart. When you are done just pull the strings to make it look better, and you are DONE! This makes for an awesome workout shirt since the air gets on your back so you don't sweat as much.

I also cut up a Miami Heat finals shirt we got for free at work. I decided to make this one into a t-back tank top. You just cut the arms off, then cut the back part so you basically have just the neckline. Then cut two slits down the back and braid it! You will need to sew a bit for this last part, but it is really easy. Just sew the braid to the neckline. I used blue thread since it was all I could find at the time from a sewing kit. You cant see it really anyway. Then just stretch the braid and trim the armholes to make it fit how you want.

I made both shirts in about ten minutes and I think they look really cute to workout in!


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January 15, 2015

The BEST Flourless Chocolate Cake

                    

Valentine's Day is right around the corner, and if you want to "Wow" your sweetie... then I have the cake for you! This flourless chocolate cake is the most amazing, delicious, DECADENT cake ever.

I first had this cake with my family when I was little at Ruth's Chris restaurant. We thought it was so good that we didn't stop talking about it. So my mom decided she was going to make it. She tried countless recipes until she finally found the right one. Now I make it for our family.

It had been awhile since I made it, so I decided to bring it on Christmas Day. (after we open gifts, we head over to my in-laws house where everyone meets up) I had forgotten how much everyone loves this cake, people were THRILLED to see it back!


Here's what you will need:
8oz. bittersweet chocolate
4oz. semisweet chocolate
6 eggs
1 cup of sugar
2 sticks of butter cut up into small pieces


To prep the springform pan I put a large piece of parchment paper on the bottom, seal it, then cut off the excess paper.
Directions:
  • Preheat the oven to 400, place parchment paper on the bottom of a 9-inch round Springform pan and butter the bottom and sides of the pan.
  • Cover the outside bottom of the pan with foil, since you will be putting it into a water bath to bake. If you don't do this water will seep into your cake and ruin it! :(
  • Make a double boiler, by putting a heatproof bowl over a pan with simmering water inside. Put the butter & chocolate the bowl. Let it all melt together, whisking occasionally.
  • In another bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar.
  • Once the chocolate and butter are melted, stir it slowly into the eggs bowl.
  • Pour the chocolate batter into your springform.
  • Place the pan into a larger pan into the oven. Slowly pour water into the larger pan, until it reaches a little less than halfway up the cake pan.
  • Cover the top with foil and bake for about 1 and 1/2 hours. (this kind of depends on your oven)
  • When the cake appears to have "set" take it out of the oven.
  • Take the foil off of the top and the side, and dab up any water that may have leaked into the side of the springform pan.
  • Once it sits out for about 20 minutes, put it in the refrigerator.
  • Serve it up!!
YUM! Chocolate!
The water bath is the trickiest part for me!
You can see how the edges are "set." The center may look a bit wobbly, but it will continue to set as it cools.
My hubby makes a really good raspberry sauce to go with this cake, it also goes great with whip cream and ice cream. The original recipe is made with ALL bittersweet chocolate, but we mix it with semisweet now, since the kids like it better that way. I totally forgot to take a pic of this cake before everyone hacked into it! (it was Christmas Day, things were a little hectic! ha!)


This cake does take a bit of effort, but it is really worth it. Your guests will be talking about it for years to come!


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January 13, 2015

5 Things Teachers Wish Parents Knew



I have always wondered what teachers *REALLY* want to say to parents, but can't. I get the impression they are worried to tell parents the truth, since these days some moms & dads are quick to blame the teacher for problems with their children. I have had a lot of conferences with my son's teacher this year (that's a post for another day...) and I know I found myself wondering if she is holding back.

So I decided to email all the teachers that I knew. I asked them what they wished they could tell parents, if they were able to speak to them honestly.... without any repercussions. Originally, I thought this would be a funny, sarcastic type post. (like 'Tell parents they aren't always right' and suggestions like that) However, I quickly realized that would not be the case.

A lot of teachers took the time to write me back. And these were not one or two sentence suggestions. They wrote me long, detailed letters full of everything they see happening with kids today. Some even wrote follow- up emails after thinking about issues they had forgot to mention.

Some of these teachers work in low-income communities, others in more affluent areas. I also spoke to teachers who work at charter and private schools. What I found was interesting is almost all the teachers told me basically the same things.

Here are 5 things that ALL the teachers I emailed mentioned in some way or another.

  1. Read with your child everyday: Teachers tell me they know right away which kids read with their parents each night, and which ones don't. Students who read often when they are young, end up doing better in school overall and it carries through to when they are older.
  2. Pay attention: Teachers say parents really need to do a better job in paying attention to what is going on with their kids class. Most of them say they try to make it as easy as possible for you to stay in the loop. Some do an email blast each week, other send home weekly or monthly calendars. Others say they send a sheet home each day to make sure parents know what is going on. Despite all this, teachers say most parents don't even read those planners, and your children suffer because of it. Kids will say they didn't know they had a test, or they forgot to do their class project, even though reminders (sometimes more than one) were sent home.
  3. Give your kids real world experiences: You would think this is a given, but almost EVERY teacher said this! Teachers say they are shocked by how many kids have never been to the library, or the zoo, or bowling. They tell me this becomes obvious since children can't answer thinking questions on certain tests that have to do with real-life experience. Most kids say they spend free time playing video games and watching TV.
  4. Know your kids strengths: Every child has things they are good at, and things they may struggle with. Teachers gave me examples of students who may not be the brightest when it comes to school work, but that they have parents who worked with them to find OTHER skills that they are really good at, and nurture that skill. Maybe they are really good at art, or a particular sport. They say when that happens, the kids are more confident overall, so they continue to work hard in the areas they aren't as good at. Try to pay attention to the things your kids really love doing.
  5. Take a GENUINE interest in your children: This is the one that really broke my heart and made me take a hard look at myself and how I parent my children. Every single teacher said this in some form or fashion. They said it seems like many parents don't REALLY talk to their kids. Rich or poor, they say they can tell which parents really take time and really focus on their kids. One teacher even told me that after she asked students to speak with their parents that night about the vocabulary words they learned, a student actually said, "My mom doesn't have time for that, she's always talking on the phone."

Reading all these responses from teacher was a great reminder to me, just how important it is to be PRESENT when you are with your kids. Pay attention to what they enjoy and make their schoolwork a priority. Teachers have such a short amount of time to give your children all the skills they need, so you HAVE to help. I know I need to work on #2 and #4. I learned a lot, and have made some major changes to make sure I am more proactive in Hudson's schooling. A big THANK YOU to all my teacher friends who took the time to respond... and for being so honest & open!

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January 12, 2015

Family Favorites: Books my Kids are Loving in January

             

We have been reading so much lately! Mila LOVES to have us read her book after book. She even likes to pretend she is reading herself. Hudson is turning into a fantastic reader himself, so I am trying to get him books that he is really interested in. If a book is about a topic he really cares about, then he will try to read it even if it is way above his reading level.

Hudson:
DK Readers L1: Angry Birds Transformers: Deceptihogs versus Autobirds
Hudson is really into Angry Bird Transfomers, so this book was a huge hit. He has been bringing it to school to read to his friends. Despite all the crazy words in this book (Galvatron, autoreceptors, you know... Transformer talk) he loves to read this book.

Pups to the Rescue! (PAW Patrol)
This is really both Mila & Hudson's favorite book right now. Our house is currently OBSESSED with Paw Patrol. We have about 30 episodes saved on our Tivo, and new episodes just came out this week... I have never seen my kids so excited. Mila can say every pups name, and they both gather around me while I read this book to them. Every. Single. Night.
              

Mila:
Zoo-Looking
I don't remember where we got this book exactly... Mila found it on Hudson's bookshelf one night. She has been obsessed with it ever since. She has me read this to her at least a few times a day. She likes to make all the animal noises and repeat what types of animals are on each page.

Pop-Up Peekaboo: Meow!
This was a gift from Grandma. Mila will read this book to herself over and over again! There is a pop-up sheep, that she INSISTS is a monkey... so now we just call it a monkey. She loves finding the animals on each page.
                

I am also back to reading... FINALLY! Two of my New Year Resolutions is to stop drinking on weeknights and go to bed earlier. (less reality TV!) Since I am not always tired when I go to bed, I have been reading, which makes me so happy. My kindle and I used to be best buddies at night, but since I had Mila I have been too exhausted to read!

Right now I am reading Station Eleven. I'm a little less than halfway in, and it's starting to get really good. I am also doing the She Reads Truth Bible in a Year challenge. I have tried to do this before, and I think I only made it to March! Ha! Maybe I will get further this time, since I am using the app, so its right there on my phone. (but I am already a few days behind) If you have any good book recommendations, send it my way!

**Nothing in this post is sponsored or was given to me for free. If a book I mentioned is available at Amazon.com I link to it using my affiliate link**

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January 9, 2015

The Best Items at Trader Joe's


It's been about 4 months since Trader Joe's opened a location near my house. I went the first weekend it opened and bought all of the 'must have' items. Now I am a Trader Joe's pro. (well, not really... but I feel like a Trader Joe's pro, so that's all that matters) I had been working on this post for awhile, but after seeing how my first post was my most viewed in 2014, I hurried it up a bit.

So here is a list of the best items at Trader Joe's. (according to ME)

Corn & Chile Salsa: This is amazing. I buy 5 jars each time I go there. (which is about every 2 weeks) I eat this stuff on everything. It is spicy and tangy and just plain delicious. I love to mix it in with my egg whites for breakfast, and I even put it on top of cottage cheese as a snack. (I enjoy weird food combos) This goes with any food that you like to have with regular salsa.

Green & White Teas: I love green and white tea. I drink hot tea everyday at work. I have tons of boxes of tea in my drawer. I like the taste of green tea plain, no sugar or anything. My favorites are the Organic Green Tea and the Ginger Pear White Tea. The Pomegranate White tea is pretty good too, but the pomegranate taste is a little too overpowering for me.

Iced Green Tea: In addition to their bagged tea... I am also obsessed with this bottled tea. It tastes just like freshly brewed, iced green tea. They also have a blueberry/pomegranate one that I like too, since the fruity taste is really subtle. I buy bottles and bottles of this stuff. I just bring the whole thing to work to switch it up from the plain water I usually drink. Even though I have taken them to work a million times, people still say, "Drinking at work?" or "You can't wait to have your wine?" Or something like that. Every. Single. Time.

Mac & Cheese: The Trader Joe's frozen Mac & Cheese is really good and I love having it in the freezer for the kids. (we like both the regular and low-fat) They love it and it comes in very handy on those busy nights we just don't have time to make a 'real' dinner. I pop this bad boy in the microwave in a 5 minutes I have a perfect little meal to split between them. They devour this stuff.

Green, Beans and Grains: This is a vegetarian Indian dish that is so freaking good. I bring it to work for lunch all the time. It is a curry type sauce with chick peas, kale, and a couscous.  It has a really good flavor, and it is filling... but it doesn't have a ton of calories, making it perfect for lunch.

Yogurt Tubes: The kids are obsessed with Trader Joe yogurt tubes. I like them since there isn't a lot of artificial junk in them. You can also put them in the freezer and the kids think they are having an icy 'treat.'

Ginger Snaps: These are so good that I have had to stop buying them because I have no portion control with these bad boys. I don't even really like ginger that much, but these cookies have the best flavor.

Vanilla Joe-Joes: I love Oreo's. So I do not want to knock them, but these are better. The cream in these cookies are so rich and smooth... it's a very different consistency than the cream in those other cookies. It is made without high fructose corn syrup and they are gluten-free, so I don't know if that makes a difference? My kids love them, I love them. You need to buy these cookies... seriously.

So those are currently my go-to Trader Joe's items that cannot be found anywhere else! I still have so much to try, so if you have an item you love from there, leave me a note in the comments section.

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