Monday, April 30, 2012

Gardening Green for the Love of Basil and Tomato

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Whitney Farms for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

I love to garden. Even just 15-minutes pulling weeds in the fresh air and sunshine can set my mood to 'happy' all day long. Gardening is good for the mind, body and soul. Plus, there's nothing I enjoy more than than a tomato and basil salad fresh from my own container garden, or giving my kids the gift of tasting truly fresh produce.
Whitney-Farms-Logo_Banner_New_C.jpg (6 documents, 6 total pages)
This year, we're going organic and I'm planning to use organic soil and organic plant food in all of my potted herbs and vegetables. My mother owns and operates a greenhouse in the Detroit area and I'm hoping she'll carry Whitney Farms® this year. Their product is 100% organic, with interesting ingredients like kelp and microbes that help to break down organic matter into nutrients. This is important because I want to ensure that the food I offer my family is as nutrient rich as possible!
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I can't get enough of my Caprese salads all summer long, so I'm very excited to taste the difference this year with this product. Whitney Farms® has a specific product for Tomatoes and Vegetables, which I'll be planting next weekend. I already have a full-flat of basil that I've just brought outside. Those babies will be ready for thinning and transplanting next weekend. My mouth waters at the thought of all the beautiful, delicious basil I'm going to enjoy this year! You can have delicious produce growing in your garden too, and you can save with Whitney Farms' $3 off coupon!

Advertisement What do you love about gardening? What's your prized plant? Are you going organic, too? Do tell!
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Friday, April 27, 2012

The Warble - Book Review & Giveaway!!!

As a busy mom of three, writer and devoted wife, I've sadly left my hobby of voracious reading behind for a few years. But when I get the opportunity to review a book for my blog, I don't pass it up! It's a great excuse for leisure reading. Even so, I generally prefer books that will benefit me in some way (like Get Famous on the left side-bar) or that I can read along with my girls, ages 5 and nearly 7 (like this one!).

Victoria Simcox authors The Warble with a delightful mixed essence of timeless stories like "The Chronicles of Narnia" and "Lord of the Rings." Because I'm raising two daughters, I so enjoyed reading a book with a strong female lead. Kristina, a 12-year-old girl who isn't exactly part of the popular crowd, is "the chosen one."

I'll tell you more about the story in a moment, but first I'd like to extrapolate a bit on the character of Kristina. She isn't just unpopular, she's actually regarded as a misfit and frequently teased. She doesn't understand why, but what I liked was that she doesn't dwell on it either. On one hand, she dreads school because of the way the other kids treat her, but on the other she gets along very well with her teachers and is a decent student. As a mom, I liked her natural confidence and ability to observe that the behavior of the other kids was more related to them and not her. Simcox doesn't spell this out, but it is easily, if not consciously, inferred by the reader.

Now, onto the story. It's a magical adventure where, through a gift given to Kristina by her favorite teacher, she is transported to another world! Animals speak and dwarfs, fairies, gnomes and scary zelbocks roam the land ruled by an evil queen. It's Kristina's job as the chosen one to return the "Warble" to its resting place, thereby breaking the spell set by evil Queen Sentiz, which keeps the land of Bernovem in her terrible control. There's a prince, of course, a few surprises and plenty of action perfectly appropriate for any school-aged child, though 8+ is my recommended age for an independent reader; I read it aloud with my girls each night at bedtime (and didn't have to worry about nightmares, even with the zelbocks!).

The Warble is an adventure story that left my girls and me satisfied, yet yearning for more! We can't wait to read the sequel! The good news is YOU CAN WIN a copy for yourself (or your children, if you prefer to share)! A hardcopy is up for grabs to US Residents and 3 ebooks will go to lucky winners around the world!

Good luck!

Friday Flash Giveaway - Friday & Saturday Only!

The only way to win is to enter, so get a move on! Good luck!
(Giveaway starts at 8PM!)

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I Have a Love-Hate Relationship with Motherhood

Motherhood is total immersion. You don't get to do it part time, you don't get vacations and you don't get to quit. Even in those moments when you really, really want to and don't think you can handle another minute of whining or breaking up fights without literally losing your mind.

You have to try to demonstrate the behavior you want to see in your kids, be a good, responsible adult so your children will grow up to be one too and use appropriate language even when you stub your toe so you don't get a call from the principal asking you where your child learned that word.

You don't get sick days, you don't get peace and quiet, you don't get a constantly neat and tidy home, you don't get clean floors or windows for more than 5 minutes at a time, you don't get to take long bubble baths or enjoy spur of the moment nights on the town with your husband, much less your girlfriends, if you still have any left in the real world (Twitter and wine don't count as a girls' night out).

I'm often frustrated by my role as a mother. I know I should think positive thoughts for parenting is only as hard or as easy as you think it is (some say). But I'm just a faulty human.

However, I have to say, gratefully, that as my children get older and leave babyhood behind, I am coming to love motherhood despite its pitfalls. What makes me forget about dirty floors, piles of laundry and temper tantrums from hell? I'll tell you...

One moment watching my children play lovingly together
Watching the boy hug and kiss his sisters goodbye as they leave for school
The joy that lights their faces when Papa comes through the door
Being handed a note by my 6-year-old, when I'm very grumpy, that reads, "I love Momy!"
Chalk writing on the floor of the garage from one sister to another telling her she loves her.
Seeing them create recognizable animals with PlayDoh.
When they pretend they're being naughty but really they've sneaked away and cleaned their room!
When they read to me.
When they share their day with me.
When they want nothing more than a cuddle with their mommy.
My boy's warm, soft cheek after he wakes from his nap.

I know these days won't last long. My little girls are getting big. My toddler boy is nearly a preschooler. They are all that matter in this world. My love for them and theirs for me makes me forget every struggle and frustration. At least for one blissful moment each day.

Sister Love
A moment that makes it all worth it. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tuesday Tips & Tricks - Use Semi-Permanent Hair Color

Time to color!
Photo credit: Angelina via Flickr
Today's Tip is for all of us moms who are past the point of coloring our hair just for fun. This tip is for those of us who actually need to do it! Skip the salon (and save a ton of money in the process, which is reason enough), ditch the permanent hair color and make the switch to semi-permanent!

I discovered my first gray hair at the young age of 16 - actually the guy sitting behind me in my history class found it, yanked it out and showed it to me. I started dying my hair at age 20 to try to be the redhead I'd always dreamed of being, but my hair was just too dark to take it!

Since hitting 30, hair dye has been a necessity. Since having children, I am too busy with kids, husband and home (generally in that order) to religiously cover those roots every three months and I detest, yes detest, having a definitive (color) line to show it. So, a couple of years ago I switched to semi-permanent color (that would be after bearing my third child).

The wonderful thing about semi-permanent, aside from the fact that it is better for your hair, is that as it fades away, your hair still looks natural. Yes, today I've got gray patches staring me in the face, reminding me that it's time, but I don't have to hurry to don an old t-shirt and plastic gloves. Better to be a little gray (I look mature, right?) then to have an inch of gray roots!!

If you're completely silver, this might not be the solution for you, but if you've just got a little to cover, or even a lot that is spread fairly evenly around your head, its perfect! The silver or white hairs won't take on quite as much color as the hair that still has pigment, but it just makes it look like you have beautiful natural highlights as well!

Happy (semi-permanent) coloring!

Which is your favorite brand? How often do you color?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Monday Make My Morning Blog Hop

Welcome back to the eleventh week of Make My Morning Blog Hop Hosted by Jeannette of The Adventures of J-Man and MillerBug, Lisa of Mompreneur Mogul and Jen of Life With Levi! We'd like to cordially invite you to...

Sit Back, Grab a Latte (or your preferred beverage of choice) and Watch Your Blog Grow!
This week's featured blog is (aspiring)Domestic Goddess Mommy. Be sure to stop by, show her some love and Make Her Morning!
Here is the question: What Makes Your Morning? For these mamas, it's waking up to find that you have new fans, followers and readers! And since we KNOW that each and everyone of you have something fantastic to share, we'd like to give you the chance to do it! With the Make My Morning Blog Hop! Here's how it's going to work:
- Link up to the category of your choice. You can link up in one or all! There are categories for your blog, facebook, twitter and Google+!
- You MUST follow the three hosts in the categorie(s) you link up in. Let us know you're following and we'd love to follow you back!
- Visit at least two other blogs/pages in that category - be sure to let them know that you're there to Make Their Morning!
- Post our button if you'd like! After all, who doesn't like a good cup of joe?
- Each week a featured blog will be randomly drawn from the prior week's participants! The featured blog will get the number 4 spot in all linkys and a small write-up in the weekly hop! This will start next week!
Make My Morning will run from Monday till Wednesday - because we all know those first few days of the week are the ones that we need a little pick me up on!
Link up Your Blogs Here:
Link up Your Facebook Pages Here:
Link up Your Twitter Pages Here:
Link up Your Google+ Pages Here:

Monday Musings

This morning, I'm musing. Muse with me?

I'm the featured blogger today over at Mompreneur Mogul's Make My Morning Blog Hop! Whoo hoo. I love being featured, especially by a blogger I respect and admire so very much!

I'm out of Tide, so I can't do any more laundry. Perhaps ever. I'm also out of baby wipes (and of course, the boy just did his business), orange juice and hair gel. Oh yes, and money. Troublesome thing, money.

Back when they were small
My little kids are getting big. A friend, who was much older than me and whose children were already grown and having children of their own, once said to me, "Small children, small problems." I can see where this is going with my eldest daughter. We've got some self-esteem issues brewing. It's curious how two girls, born so close together by the very same parents, can be so different. More on that in another post.

My doctor fired me. It's their policy to discharge patients who have a balance on their account and go into bankruptcy. Can you believe that $%*@?! I don't have insurance anymore, so I wasn't planning on visiting her again soon anyhow. Still.

I've decided I want to get into educational writing. Do you have kindergartners or first-graders? I have one of each and those early readers they use in school are stale. I want some of that action. Kids deserve better books to read! Good steady writing for good steady pay. If you can break in, that is. I'm going to try. It's right up my writing alley. Have you read my book yet? Paperback, Kindle, NOOK - chose your medium. 10 Reviews and giveaways should pop up this week!

I think I'll go hopping now. Shockingly, my children are ready for school with nearly 30-minutes to spare and their lunches and backpacks are ready too (patting myself on the head)!

Have a wonderful Monday!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

I'm Dreaming of Summer Fun in the Sun!

Last summer we spent one beautiful month in France. As we're moving soon, and France is on the possible list (hubby is French), I'm feeling reminiscent.

The bulk of our time was spent in a gorgeous converted barn! We had the good fortune of borrowing a friend's home, which included a great pool. My kids loved having a pool in the backyard! My little guy was a bit weary of the water, but he had plenty of fun. The only trouble was the filter didn't work at first and there were so many bugs in the water! I don't like bugs. The skimmer was broken, so I couldn't scoop them out. I needed a pool supply store like Doheny, but I was in unknown territory. The nearest major store was 40-minutes away (I love the French countryside) and who wants to drive that far on a beautiful day?

It all worked out, though, as life always does. Whimsy aside, what I mean is that the maintenance guy came and fixed the filter! I'm dreaming of summer fun like that again. As it stands, aside from Jury Duty in early June, I don't know where we'll be or what we'll be doing this summer. But I do certainly hope a pool or a beach factor in there somewhere!

What about you? What are your plans this summer?

My kids are always happy in a pool!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tuesday Tips & Tricks - Orchids

With Mother's Day fast approaching, I am reminded of the beautiful Orchid my family offered me last year. It was gorgeous for a couple of months, making my desk a lovely place to be. Then, the blooms died and I had a a pot of what was essentially green sticks. Not so pretty.

I moved the pot next to the sink. That's my I-don't-know-what-to-do-with-this-but-I-don't-want-to-throw-it-away spot. I left it there. It's still there, but now it needs a new home; perhaps back on the desk. Why? You ask. Because it is beautiful again! How did I get it to go from a pot of sticks to this:

I learned this from a customer of mine who knew more about orchids than anyone I've ever met. He shared his secrets with me after noticing the stunning orchid we had in our store (a grand opening gift from the flower shop down the street). The trick, he told me, is to water the orchid about once a week. Orchids like to dry out, he said. So more importantly, as you water, lift the plant up and out of the pot and let the water run over the roots. As they soak up what they need, the roots will go from a whitish color to green, like in the next picture. DO NOT leave it sitting in water. Note, my roots need a trimming because some of them are dead and my plant needs a bigger pot, but I haven't done either because I'm nervous.  

See how at the edge of the pot the roots are green? That's what you're going for. Even when it looks as if your Orchid will never bloom again, keep heart! It will as long as you lovingly water it, as instructed above, no matter what.

Do you keep seemingly dead plants around in the hopes of their revival? Tell me about it!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Share Your Good News

Would you share with me today? I want to hear good news! Uplifting and inspiring!! Share, Share, Share!! Come on, do it now and remember to share your blog links if you've already written a great post about it.

Mine is that we got a promo video for my picture book up on You Tube, so check it out!

Thank you in advance for your comments!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I Can Answer My Phone Again

For several weeks, if not months, I've been avoiding my phone. I leave it on silent when my husband and I are together and have a special ring tone for him and close family so I know when to pay attention if it rings. Why? If you read my last post, you may have some inclination. I know why they're calling. If you're lucky, you've never heard this on the other line, "This is an attempt to collect a debt." Well, sorry, you can't collect money that I don't have. So, I stopped answering the phone.

But now, I can answer it again. That's one freedom filing for bankruptcy is providing me. I answer it and politely refer them to my attorney. They say thank you and tell me they won't be calling me again. It's a little scary, quite stressful, yet I'm breathing a sigh of relief. And, I'm answering my phone.

Who's Calling?
Oh yeah, it doesn't matter!

Thanks to all of you for your support. It means so much.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Opportunity in Failure

Well, the store is closed and the bank account has exactly $28.00 in it. The bill pile is high and bankruptcy is likely. I now owe my parents more than their retirement fund, my husband is job-hunting and I'm earning about $50 a week writing. That's not really covering the house, 2 cars, utilities, groceries and so on and so forth.

Yes, at times I want to bury my head under my pillow and cry. But that won't make things better and it won't feed, clothe and shelter my three children nor my husband and me. So, just as a tell my daughters to do every time they develop sudden and extreme aches and pains when it is time to go to school, I am going to choose my day, my life.

Which door holds our
next adventure?
I am going to choose to see the vast opportunities in what most people see as a devastating failure.

Psychologists tell us that if you change the way you think, you can change the way you feel. That's really a whole other post and I've touched on this before, but essentially you are what you think. If you have the cognizance to step back and objectively view your thoughts, you can see that they shouldn't always be believed. If I think to myself that "I'm a failure," the objective part of my mind says, "You haven't failed. A business failed due to a lack of capital. 80% of small business owners go through the same thing. There is no shame, only the opportunity to learn and move forward toward success."

I am choosing to see bankruptcy as freedom from crushing debt. It won't all be gone. We'll still owe relatives and student loans, but the possibility of (legally) walking away from cars and a home that are worth less than we owe is, frankly, liberating. I want to pay every small business I owe money to: the wonderful pediatrician who has taken excellent care of my children for the past 6 1/2 years, the hospital where two of my children were born, the company that took such good care of my lawn... but I can't. Not today anyway. Feeding and sheltering my family comes before everything else. You accept these basics when you're  reduced, financially, to nothing.

I'm choosing to see opportunity in failure. We can do anything and go anywhere now. We have nothing tying us to a specific location. The world is open to us. It's time to get creative and take the reigns to a new life. I'm scared, but we'll get through it one breath and one positive thought at a time.

Friday, April 6, 2012

A Spring Break Trip Home

"Home" to me has always been and always will be the 20-acre span of land that houses my parents and my Grandmother, their greenhouse and her art studio. The area is filled with trees and grass and love and my family has lived there for decades. My father grew up there and built his house just a few hundred yards away from his parents; one of his 4 brothers did the same on the other side of them. 

Though I live just two hours  I haven't been there since last summer, before we opened our retail store. Spring break and the unfortunate closing of my business offered the perfect timing for the kids and I to head home. In fact, we took a very quick, back-and-forth afternoon trip for my grandmother's 100th birthday party last October, but we barely had time to say hello before we were on our way back to our house. 

My mother runs a garden store and greenhouse that was in full planting-mode. We got to snag some seeds and flats and plant a bit to bring home. I shall have plenty of basil to get me through the summer!!! My little guy loved, loved, loved watching the chickens my parents have. Same-day fresh eggs are always a treat! Nature-girl caught what she thought was a butterfly (it was a large, lovely moth) and nurtured it through its broken wing by bringing flowers (dandelions) and shielding it from the wind by building it a little nest at the base of a huge maple that shades the vast backyard. 

I got to read my book to my grandmother! The printed edition is finally available from Amazon and I had my proof with me. She's a celebrated artist, locally, and it meant a great deal to me to share my art form with her!!!  Plus, it's always very special to see so many generations together and watch my own children develop a relationship with a woman I love and respect so very much.

What more could a girl ask for?
How was your spring break?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tuesday Tips & Tricks - Book an Aisle Seat!

Photo credit: FabulousTerrah via Flickr 
I just finished up an article on flying with babies and children and I realized that with spring break upon us and summer travel just around the corner, you should know this important tip!

Book an aisle seat!!! This is vital to your travel sanity. This one single thing could make the difference between flight heaven and flight hell! What's the big deal, you ask? You wanted to look out the window and you're certain your children will be endlessly entertained by the clouds floating by? You are wrong, my friend.

The big deal is that you will need to get up out of your seat practically every single time that 'ding' signifies the seat-belt light turning off. Sometimes you'll need to get up because your baby is crying. You will need to get up and do the *rock and shush or change her diaper. If you have one who is newly potty-trained, you will have to get up to help her relieve her bladder several times throughout the flight. If you have an active toddler, you will need to let him pace the aisles now and then.

You do not want to have to climb over a stranger, or worse let your child do so, each time you need to make a trip to the loo. Got it? Good. Happy travels.

*Rock & Shush – You know this move, I only coined the phrase! This is where you hold your screaming baby in the cradle position, rock your body side to side while simultaneously loudly shushing. You can read my full article on settling newborns here

Sunday, April 1, 2012

My Garden Needs a Spring Cleaning

My grass in better days and one of the
reasons it has been neglected
(the boy at around 9-months-old)
Though it's a little chilly outside this week, the warm weather we had in March got the trees and flowers into action. Little buds are appearing everywhere and my children are begging to be outdoors instead of for another video, thank goodness!

This morning I was watching over my little guy (that's him in the pic nearly two years ago) as he investigated the plants around our front porch. We looked along the side of the house that has been sadly neglected over the past couple of years. It looks wretched. An old broken pot, weeds running wild and overgrown perennials begging for a trim. This didn't matter so much when my only neighbors on that side of the house were field mice! Now, however, there is a house just a few feet away and people who are preparing to make their backyard an enjoyable place.

They've built their deck and the other day I saw them preparing to do patio paving. They even mowed their lawn and they don't actually have any grass! We, however, have plenty and it's getting a tad high. It makes me feel like I'd better get to work and do some clean up! I don't want my property to be their eye sore.

It's the same all over my front and back yard. Last year we were busy preparing to open our store and barely did more than maintain the garden, but at least we maintained it. This year, we'll have plenty of time, but no garden budget. Thankfully, my mother owns a greenhouse and the kids and I are headed this week for a visit. We'll see what goodies Grandma will give us and after a few days at home (my childhood home, that is), I'll surely be in the mood to spring clean my own yard! I just need to borrow a lawn mower.