Disclosure: Some posts on this blog are sponsored, meaning that I received goods, services, or monetary payment for my writing. My opinions however, are not 'purchased' and are always 100% my own. Posts contain affiliate links that I earn a commission on. This disclosure is done in accordance with the FTC 10 CFR, Part 255, Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Smiley360 Site Review

I have been experimenting with a site called Smiley360. For anyone who hasn't heard of it, this site is social media junkie paradise. Since joining a month ago, I've been offered the chance to test out Campbell's soups, given great coupons, joined Twitter parties for the chance to win prizes and I've even won something!

The questions thrown up during the Twitter parties are usually things that anyone can answer such as what type of lunch you make at home, or how you use a certain product. You don't have to be fake to get noticed either, just give your real answers and Smiley360 will notice. As a matter of fact, I won a salad bowl set and some free tuna during a campaign for Starkist Tuna, and I didn't have to mention Starkist at all! (Of course, I'm mentioning them now, but that has nothing to do with anything other than explanatory purposes.) Don't be a commercial, be yourself when you join sites like this. Companies don't want your falsified sugar-coated feedback, they want the real deal so they know how to appeal to people better in the future!

The site works like this: You sign up with them and receive an initial practice-mission. It's to help you figure out how to work the site, how to share information with your friends and/or readers, and how to earn Smiles. By the time you finish your practice mission, you should be ready to go. Click the button to say that you are done with the mission and you're ready for the real deal! It only took me about a week to get my first mission offer. Check in frequently and let Smiley360 know what you think of some of your favorite products to increase your status on the site and get more mission offers. I only check in once or twice a week since I have such a busy schedule, and I still have gotten tons of mission offers.

The site itself looks a bit standard and doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles, but don't let that throw you off, this site is legitimate. This is one of my more favored sites for reviewing products as a matter of fact, and the best part is that you don't have to be a 'blogger' or a social-media-know-it-all to get rewarded by this site. Like I said before, they just want your honest opinion. The more real your answers, the more you help with your feedback. Besides, when you are genuinely interested in a product with your friends, you don't say "Try the new ABC Trashbags by Smith & Smith. Your family will love knowing that their trash is safe in these sturdy hypoallergenic bags. Don't wait, buy today!" ... And if you do talk like that with your friends, I hope you're doing it for comedic value! Think about what you would really say to people when you tell them about a product. That is what those companies want to hear, and that is what will get you recognition on the site.

So take a peek at Smiley's homepage to get started on your own missions!

Disclosure: I received no compensation for this post, and as always, my opinions are purely my own.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Mythical Colic

Me? Have colic? Surely you jest.
"There is no such thing as colic." ... said my younger self before I had kids. To me it was a mystery affliction. Some fancy label that people slapped on their babies when there was no better reason to explain the fact that they just liked to cry a lot. Doctors really didn't enforce the "colic" term any better. There's no rhyme or reason to it, there isn't any perfect way to get rid of it, there isn't a type of baby that does or doesn't get it, it just happens. Even as I sit here typing this, I think how flimsy the term "colic" sounds when put in that light. So I excuse my younger self for her wishful and ridiculous thinking, but it is oh so very real.

My new baby started out as great as any new baby could be: she slept most of the day, cried when hungry, pooped every other diaper, and got frustrated if she couldn't find the nipple quickly enough. I was okay with all of that. But around three weeks, things started to change. If I put her down she cried, she cried like she was in pain. At one point I was so certain she was in pain that I took her to the hospital. The emergency room doctor said those horrible words: "It's probably just colic."

From fussy baby...
I never thought I'd be a mother whose baby had "colic". I thought that I'd be the kind of mother who never lost her patience, who always picked her baby up at the very first cry, and who just wouldn't let her child have colic. For those of you who are laughing right now, it's most likely because you too were once a know-it-all pre-parent, with wild ideas about what you would or would not let your child do.

As parents we quickly discover that it isn't a matter of us letting the child, but more often it is the child "letting" us. Sometimes my daughter would let me sleep, or let me take a shower, but she would never let me out of sight for more than a few minutes at a time. I begged her to let me eat, to stop crying long enough for me to have just one uninterrupted dinner, but she never seemed to be in the mood to comply.

...to screaming baby.
I began taking her into the bathroom with me - something that was before my own special five minutes of peace. Once my toddler saw that sissy got to come into the bathroom with mommy, he wanted to be a part of the special club too. Sometimes I sat on the toilet with the lights off, holding the baby to nurse while I practically held my breath, listening to my son prowl around outside the bathroom door before he would finally wander off to ask daddy where mommy went. I just wanted some silence.

Colic. There isn't a cure for it. No reason for it. No prescription and no list of things to do so that the colic will disappear. It doesn't work like that. The way to "get rid of" colic is to do trial and error with your individual baby, scanning the internet late at night to see what other parents did to get some relief. And even then, nothing makes it "go away". It has to go away on it's own. One morning you wake up and the colic just isn't there like it was anymore.

And very few people on the internet (or wherever else you find sympathizers) will put it so bluntly. They will give you hope. A bleak hope, but hope nonetheless. They'll say "try swaddling, it worked so well for us", so you go and you try it, but it doesn't work. A friend will mention that her sister tried singing and it worked, so you go home and try that too, but it doesn't work. You'll try running the vacuum cleaner, rocking in different positions, keeping your cheek against your baby's cheek, skin-to-skin... you'll try and you'll try some more. The truth is, something will work eventually to keep your baby quiet. But it's something that is just as unique as your baby, and you as the parent will have to figure it out. When you do find out what it is, it won't be convenient for you, but it will likely be the only thing that keeps your little one quiet. The sound of peace will become something you long for. You'll think of all those people who found a way to calm their baby and envy them.

I won't scream as long as you sit riiiight here.
For our baby the thing that kept her quiet was being held. Not by just anyone though. Me specifically. She seemed to have some super-sense, and would fall asleep for a half hour or so just to wake up as I was stepping into the shower or taking my first bite of food all day. My arm got sore from holding her so much. The sound of crying was in my head all day long, whether it was real or imagined. At one point I sat with her on the bed, her crying and me making mocking crying noises back at her in my frustration. "Can't you do anything else?" I asked her, ready to cry myself.

"I just want a few minutes to myself and to eat and a nap!" I would cry to my husband whenever he came home.

"Bubby please leave mommy alone!" I would tell my son as I tried to get just a few minutes of sleep while my husband held our crying baby.

The constant sound, the constant holding, the constant need of another being... it can start to make you go a little crazy and a little mean. And in the quiet moments, guilt. I felt guilt from not being the charming and lovely wife to my husband, from not playing and reading and snuggling with my firstborn, and from not being a super-mom that wanted to instinctively rush to cradle my precious daughter and keep her from crying.

I kept telling myself that this would one day end, all the while entertaining thoughts of sleeping on the couch while I left my poor husband in our bedroom with the crying baby. And then one day I had three hours of sleep. I rushed to the bassinet in a panic to make sure she was still breathing.

Shhh... do you hear that? Neither do I!!
Then one day I started to get five hours of sleep a night, and last night I got six. Each time I wake up, my first instinct is to check to make sure she is still breathing, and each time I see her sleeping so peacefully it's like she's never cried a day in her life. It's as if the colic has magically disappeared, like it wasn't here at all and I imagined it.

For those of you who are dealing with colic, all I can say is hang in there, it ends eventually. It isn't fun, it isn't easy, but at least it isn't permanent. Find what works for your baby.

For those of you who are still skeptics, rolling your eyes and talking about "the mythical colic", just hold on. Sooner or later a baby (child, niece, nephew, grandchild, godchild, friend's child, etc.) is bound to come your way, and they too might have this "mythical" problem. To you I can only smile, because I have been in your shoes, and I have had your skepticism. I hope you never have to experience it firsthand, but if you do just know that the parents who have been colic-parents will be there when you need them - full of advice, wisdom and support - to get you through it.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Cleaning Stuffed Toys with Baking Soda?

Recently I came across an article that stated a ton of uses for baking soda. One that caught my eye was about using baking soda to clean favorite stuffed toys - you know, the kind that might fall apart if you wash them in a machine?

The theory is that baking soda is made of completely inorganic materials. Definition? Nothing that was ever alive is an ingredient of baking soda, it is actually something that can be mined from the earth! Because of this, many claim that the inorganic material "sticks" to any organic material, and pulls it out of whatever you are trying to clean. I decided to test this out myself on my son's favorite stuffy, Simba.

I was more than a bit skeptical about this. If baking soda worked so well to clean stuff like this, why haven't I heard about it sooner, and why have I been paying the dry cleaner?!? I gathered together the materials I needed to clean Mr. Simba: a 1/2 cup of baking soda, a towel to catch any spills, a plastic grocery bag, and a rough cloth to wipe the baking soda off with.

"Cleaning" the stuffed animal with this trick was as simple as sticking Simba in the bag with the baking soda, and then shaking him around for about half a minute. Afterwards, I pulled him out and began to wipe at him with the towel. I can say that I was more than a little surprised at how well it seemed to work. The dirt came off with the baking soda in most of the places, and he smelled a lot better too! I think after seeing this I will probably go through and "wash" a few more of my son's stuffed animals this way.

What do you think? Have you ever used baking soda or heard of using baking soda in an original way? Let me know about your experiences or tell me if you have a theory you'd like me to test out!

Watch the video here of Simba getting his baking-soda bath:

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

(Expired) Giveaway! Kobo Arc 64GB

Aw, sorry guys, this giveaway ended! That doesn't mean that you can't enter a whole new giveaway though! We have lots of current contests listed on our giveaways page! Click here to enter, and if you win through a contest you find on our page, please let us know, we'd love to post your picture!

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This giveaway is over. Congratulations to Lisa W. for winning and thank you to all for entering in the contest!

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It's giveaway time! Today kicks off the start of a brand new giveaway! This time the prize is a multimedia tablet: the Kobo Arc 64GB! These are perfect for long car rides, entertaining children, traveling and reading on-the-go! Check out the description below for the details on everything this tablet can do, and don't forget to enter using the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of the post!!

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Organized by Mom to Bed by 8


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I received no compensation for this publication. My opinions are my own and may differ from those of your own. MasterofMom.com is not responsible for sponsor prize shipment. Please contact teri@mompoweredmedia.com with questions or to see your business or blog featured on the next big event!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Raspberry Tea for a Migraine?

Well, I've been in bed for most of the day today with a horrible migraine, but I finally decided I wasn't going to get any better lounging about and decided to just bundle up here at my desk. Thankfully, my husband was a sweetheart and watched the kids for me while I was in a hibernation-like state. I don't know what I'd do without him some days (and other days I'd like to kick him into the ocean).

Being sick always makes me wonder about all the old home remedies that I remember being used when I was a child, and I feel a need to look some of them up and test them out. At the same time though, I feel gross, and who wants to do research when it's so much easier to lie around in bed!? However, the experimental crazy-person in me won over, and I decided to try and test out a raspberry tea drink (an incredibly strong raspberry tea, mind you) to see if it had any healing properties. From what I could tell at the time, it didn't exactly soothe me or make me feel awesome - it was actually a bit hard to choke down. But after about an hour, I did start to feel a little better. Was it the tea? Was it just simply re-hydrating myself? Was it the warmth of the liquid, or possibly just sheer luck? This wasn't any special blend I made myself from scratch, this was just regular out-of-the-box raspberry tea, and I used two bags instead of one, with no sugar.

Personally, I'm always a bit of a skeptic when I try out home remedies (even though I do believe some of them work), so when I hit on one that seems to have some success, I'm always pretty impressed. The logical voice inside of me says that I was probably a bit dehydrated, the warmth of the tea soothed my nerves, and there was perhaps something in the raspberry leaves that did a little bit to restore something in my body that was lacking - all working together for a perfectly reasonable explanation as to why I would mysteriously get better. After researching a little bit about raspberry tea, I got a pretty good idea as to how it may have helped me: raspberry tea not only contains anti-inflammatory properties, but it is a great antioxidant - meaning that it protects the body from free radicals. I don't have it down to a specific science, but I'm pretty sure that the combined properties of the tea may have been what gave me the relief I was hoping for.

Do you have a tried & true remedy that tea provides? How about a migraine remedy? Let me know if you try this out and it works for you!

Monday, March 25, 2013

At-Home Burn Remedies

Last night as I was flipping through a magazine, I heard a loud screeching sound come from the kitchen. At first I thought my son was playing around with his dinosaur toys, but howls of pain shortly after made me jump up and run to see what had happened.

"My foot, my foot!" was all he kept screaming, and his grandma quickly filled me in: he'd been standing next to the oven when she opened it, and hot liquid had dripped off the foil when she pulled a casserole dish out. Now, I don't know if any of you have ever tried to get a toddler to calm down enough to treat a burn, but let me tell you, it wasn't easy. First he tried to grip his skin tightly with his grubby little fingers (making it worse of course) and when I finally pried his hands away he proceeded to kick me each time I tried to apply something. (He was certain putting any cream on would add to the sting.)

Finally I remembered something I'd seen my mom do a long while back: I grabbed a paper towel, sloshed some milk on it, and slapped it quickly over his burn. He instantly quieted and I was able to calm him to the point that I could apply something longer lasting than a milk-soaked cloth. But it got me to thinking about burns, and what sort of crazy remedies are out there that can be used. You'd be surprised at how many can be found in your very own kitchen!

Please note that these remedies should only be tried on minor burns, and medical experts still agree that the best way to heal a small burn is by holding a wet compress to it, followed by plunging into a basin of cool water and then putting a clean (sterile) non-adhesive bandage around it.

1. Try a little bit of Honey: Amazingly enough, tests have shown that raw honey will help a burn to heal faster than some burn-ointments that are available on the market. Some claim that it even reduces the risk of scarring! To try this one, simply apply a small bit of honey to the burn after you have cleaned the area, then cover with clean gauze.

2. Vinegar on alkaline-based burns: Many claim that the weak acidic level in vinegar is just right to combat burns caused by the sodium hydroxide in common cleaners found in the home (such as Fantastik or EasyOff), but just as many people seem to speak against it. One favorite remedy includes keeping a small bottle of vinegar chilled in the refrigerator for the purpose of a burn remedy, but there is a good chance the relief is more from the cold liquid than it is from the vinegar. Regardless, the vinegar-burn-remedy has a good pack of believers to back it up, so it made the list. To use this remedy, wash your burn in a basin of cold water. Next, use a 1:1 solution of water and vinegar. To achieve the cold effect for extra relief, stick a few ice-cubes in your vinegar solution. Soak a cloth in the solution and apply to the burn. Repeat as needed.

3. The potato of many uses: Weird as it may sound, the potato has long been heralded as a reducer of redness and reliever of burns! And here I thought they already were so versatile with their mashed, baked, fried or boiled uses. Apparently, cutting a potato in half and applying it to a burn will "pull out" the heat of the burn, not only relieving the sting, but reducing the look of the burn to a mere blush of what it was before. I do seem to recall one of my aunts applying a potato to me as a child, but that was for a bee sting. I guess it works for all kinds of burning sensations! To use this one, simply cut the raw potato in half and hold it against the burned area.

4. Raw onion juice, good for more than making you cry: This is one of those that I am a bit skeptical on, but many chefs insist that it will work. All agree that the juice from a fresh onion is needed, so that one you've got sitting half-used in the bottom of your fridge isn't gonna work. To use this one, cut a fresh onion open, apply immediately to the burned area. After about 10 to 15 minutes, let your burned area rest, then continue with the other half of the onion for another 10 minutes or so.

5. You say tomayto, I say tomahto: Ketchup, pizza sauce, pasta favorites, juice, and now burn-healer. Is there anything this vege-fruit can't become? According to many natural-health sites, the juice from a tomato contains healing lycopene and can be used to get rid of the burning sensation and prevent blisters from forming when a burn occurs. To use, simply cut the tomato in half and hold there until the stinging subsides. Allow the tomato juice to naturally air dry on the skin.

6. Sour cream, slather it on!: Using sour cream in the kitchen is touted as a great way to reduce the sting in a burn. Some claim that the fat and the chill of the cream combine to pull the heat out and put soothing moisture into the area. To use this one, clean the burned area and then simply apply the sour cream to the entire burn so that no air can get to it. After about thirty minutes to an hour, the burn should be "healed" to the point that you can remove the cream and go on about your business as usual!

If anyone decides to try any of these, I'd love to hear about it! Let me know about your experience, or tell me if you have a crazy burn remedy of your own!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

If I Could Do It Over Again - Week 3


As some of you may already know, I take off Sundays and use it to recharge for the coming week, go to church, and spend time with my family. I'm still putting up a post however, in case anyone is desperate for something new to appear on the internet (haha).

Instead of my own work though, I'm going to provide a link to some of the incredible sermons made by my Pastor, Troy Gramling, from Potential Church. Potential is a Community Church, and the Pastors are great at what they do!

So here is the third installment of the current series: If I Could Do It Over Again

When we walked down the isle and said 'I do' to that person, we began our married life full of good intentions. But now that time has passed and we feel regret, Pastor Troy tells us what we can do to avoid divorce and live the amazing plan God has for our marriage. Click here to go to the video, or follow this link: http://vimeo.com/59627309

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Next Big Step

Recently my husband and I have discussed moving across the country. The reasons are numerous, but the greatest reason is perhaps so that we can start out on our "own" in a sense. We've lived with my husband's mother for the entirety of our marriage, and while that has been very helpful for when we have faced financial difficulty, and for when I've needed help with the kids, it hasn't been very productive for our personal lives. We live in a world where we are told there is no great need to plan ahead, and so very few people actually do. Everything around us is so "instant" - instant car repair, instant divorce, instant bankruptcy. Whatever happened to looking for the places where a problem might occur and planning for that problem so that if it happened we were ready?

My husband and I never laid out a real plan for moving, we just assumed that it would happen on its own time. As the years have gone by though, we've grown uncomfortably comfortable in our living arrangement. The days when we were "saving up" to move out are just memories, and we content ourselves with the idea that we could move if we really wanted to.

But could we? I'd like to find out. I challenged my husband this morning to the thought that we could move if we wanted to, we're both just being chickens. It is a big risk, but it's the kind that is necessary for growth. I consistently remind myself that the God who sees me is the God who will care for me in my times of need, but then I have to ask myself: Is this me testing my faith, or is this me testing God?

Thoughts, comments? Has anyone else made a huge change in life where everything depended on the success of their decision? I've moved across the country twice before, but never with kids, and any advice would be immensely appreciated!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Me & My Little Chef

There used to be a time that recipes with a lot of chopping or shredding was enough to make me push it to the bottom of my "to-try" pile. The thought of yanking out the cutting board, cleaning veggies, shredding cheese, etc, etc, was just so unappealing and seemed so time-consuming. Now that I have a two-year-old however, these are the types of recipes that I search for. Why? Because if I chop it, he can put it in the pot. If I shred it, he can sprinkle it on. It doesn't exactly cut my cooking time in half, but it definitely helps to have a little company in the kitchen.

Last week we had mommy & "bubby" time (my pet name for him), and we experimented with making calzones for the first time. I didn't exactly know how to make a calzone, but I figured it couldn't be that difficult, so I gathered together a random assortment of things I thought I'd need: pizza sauce, refrigerated pie crust, olives, onions, sausage... and of course cheese. But since I already had an assortment (so I thought) of Sargento cheeses at home, I decided to leave that off the grocery list. When I got home I realized I only had three slices of provolone left, and the mozzarella I was thinking of was actually a package of string cheese (oops).

I decided to go ahead and make them anyhow. It was pretty easy to flatten the pie crusts and cut them into fourths. After that it was a simple matter of spreading the sauce on, chopping up the veggies, cooking the meat and then figuring out what to do with the cheese. My son helped me the whole time, muttering cute little observances like "Perfect!" whenever he put the olives in just the right place. Every so often I would hear him comment to himself, "Perhaps I need some more." I don't know where he learned to talk like a little grown-up, but I was having a hard time not cracking up as I heard his chef-like phrases and watched him squint at his handiwork.

When we got to the cheese I was going to just chop it up when I suddenly thought to myself "duh! It's string cheese." I handed it to my little chef and showed him how to peel the cheese down so he could put it on the calzones. It didn't take him long to get the hang of it and pretty soon all of them were piled up with mozz-y goodness. I tore up the provolone slices and put them in the calzones too, a little extra cheese never hurts in a pizza.

After much tinkering with the right amount of time and cooking temp, we finally got them to come out nice and golden brown, and when I opened them up the cheese was gooey and melty. Thankfully they tasted as good as they looked, and my husband declared them a keeper. I wish I would have written down what I did, then I could actually "keep" it. What I do have though is the memory of making a meal with my son, and that's something I'll hang onto forever.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

5 Easy Tricks for Newborn Grooming

So you made it home with your bundle of joy, you've gotten the hang of changing the diapers and on a good day you can get three hours of sleep. Life is good. At least until you go to pick up your newborn and get a good whiff of an unpleasant musty odor. Lots of times babies have a way of getting dirt and grime and gunk in the weirdest places, like behind their ears, under their neck, even between their toes! And if it doesn't get cleaned out properly, you'll be looking at one stinky baby.

Baby-washing is not the easiest of new-parent tasks though. That soft skin becomes as slippery as a wet bar of soap when you get it damp, and it makes proper grooming nearly impossible. Lucky for new moms everywhere, there are ways to groom your little guy or gal without ever filling the tub. Here are some tips to make your day go by just a little bit smoother:

1. Don't "scrub" in the tub.

Now this probably sounds like bad advice, but washing a baby in a tub is not easy (washing a baby in a sink is even harder). You don't want to be so concerned with getting your baby's trouble areas clean that you lose your grip on him or her. Think about it like this - if you're going to clean your baby's neck, you'll have to lift his or her chin first since most babies have a roll of chubby baby fat hiding the crease of their neck. And if you lift it with one hand, and you hold baby with one hand, you are now a hand short for doing the actual cleaning! A best practice in the tub is to use the experience for an enjoyable time with baby, and to get the surface grime that can be cleaned off with a simple swipe of the washcloth. You'll want to save the trouble areas for later, and the rest of the tips in this article will tell you the easiest ways to handle them all!

2. Play "turtle".

The neck is one of the most overlooked places when it comes to washing a baby, but it's also one of the grimiest places on an infant. When they eat they're messy, and all that milk runs down, over, and into their neck crease. When people talk about a milky baby smell, they don't mean rotten milk smell, so make sure you keep this area clean! When your baby is brand new, it's easy to clean under the neck. Most newborns are born looking a little lean - which is perfectly normal - and they grow into their chubbiness over the first few weeks. They also learn some head control over the first few weeks, but not enough to be very pliable when you go to wash them. So by the time your baby is chubby enough that you need to lift their chin(s) to get to the neck crease, they have learned that it's easier to look down than it is to look up, and they'll most likely fight to keep their chin smushed against their chest as you try to lift it up to wash. The easier solution? Put baby on your chest and smile at him. Not only is this a great activity for bonding time, but at this angle your baby will be stretching his little neck just like a turtle to interact with you! Make sure that you get a warm, wet washcloth before you start so that you can get a few good swipes in before he realizes he's been tricked into getting clean!

3. Roll up for clean hair.

Remember to always support baby's neck with your hand!
It doesn't matter how big your baby gets, washing hair is going to be one of the most difficult chores during the cleansing process for quite a while. If you tip the head back to rinse, this causes a natural reaction to jerk the head back down. If you leave the head down, baby gets soap in her eyes or sucks water in her nose or mouth. There really isn't a good way to rinse while in the tub. Even when your baby turns into a toddler, you'll find that they'll fight you every step of the way when it comes to rinse-time. Although this trick won't work for a toddler (they are just too big) you can certainly use this tactic until your baby gets too heavy to pick up with one arm. Wrap your little one up in a towel so that her arms are down at her sides, just like a fruit roll-up. After you have your baby in the tube-like formation, tuck her under your arm foot-ball style and wash and rinse her hair with your free hand. Use a cup of water to do the rinsing, or make sure that the water coming out of the tap is at a baby-safe temperature and isn't going to change anytime soon.

4. Q-tip your way to clean hands and ears.

Oh the grime that can get caught in baby's tiny fists! Most babies keep their fists so tightly curled that it's hard to see the dirt in there, even harder to wash it out. The easy answer to this is to use Q-tips. Wet one end and put it into baby's fist as if you were giving it to him to play with like a rattle. Slide the Q-tip back and forth inside his fist to loosen the grime and get as much gunk as possible onto the Q-tip. After you've done that, do the same with the dry end. This will get the remaining yucky stuff out of your baby's fist. If you think that there might still be some icky junk left, repeat on each hand to be certain that everything is out of there.

As for the ears, besides the obvious use of cleaning the visible portion of baby's ear, Q-tips are also great for cleaning behind the ears. We all know the cliché mom phrase "Don't forget to clean behind your ears". Well as it happens, mothers don't just say that to waste their breath. More often than not, a quick inspection of the area behind your baby's ears will present a gross little patch of gray gunk that stinks of old milk and baby sweat. A quick swipe of a Q-tip or two will remove this completely. Make sure to be gentle when performing this task though, since some build-ups can eat at the skin if they aren't removed frequently. This means that when you go to swipe, you might be rubbing away fresh skin along with the dirt, and that will give your baby a sore spot.

5. Sleep attack.

Even Q-tips are no match for a baby's tightly curled toes, so to clean this area, you're going to have to wait until he or she falls asleep. Why do babies get dirt in between and around their toe curls? I have no clue. My baby wears socks most of the time and I still find suspicious looking patches of icky toe jam about twice a week! Sweat, dead skin cells, sock lint, who knows? What I do know is that it needs to be cleaned or the build-up will begin to irritate the soft skin around baby's toes, and that means it will leave a sore spot when it finally does get cleaned. The quickest and easiest way to clean this area is to wait for a nap-time when it isn't crucial for baby to stay asleep. The tickling on his or her little feet will most likely wake your baby up, so make sure you're ready to deal with them after. As a bonus, make sure to trim your baby's fingernails before you wash their toes. The action shouldn't wake your baby up, and it sure does beat trying to clip them while he or she is awake!

Have a baby grooming question about something I didn't cover? Ask your question in the comments and I'll post the answer!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Ibotta App - The future of couponing?


This week I went out on a limb and downloaded a new app for my phone. I'm not usually one to download stuff to my phone without first hearing my friends declare it useful (and by useful I mean that they didn't get a virus from it). However, this app sounded too incredible for me to risk forgetting about it or missing out while I waited on my friends to "test" it, so I decided to chance it. Boy am I glad I did.


The app, cleverly called Ibotta, uses social media like Twitter and Facebook to advertise your purchases, while you (the consumer) receive credits to your account. Credits are also earned by learning facts about the company, taking polls & pop quizzes, and watching short videos. All of this is done within the Ibotta app, so you don't have to mess with opening multiple screens or going through lengthy verification processes.

When you find an offer you want, you simply click on the picture and a screen will appear to present you with different tasks that will give you credit. All tasks can be acquired and used for every offer, so don't skip any or you'll lose out on money! After you've completed the tasks, head back out into the main page. Scroll through all the offers and choose the ones that you want to redeem. Head to the store and make your purchases. Make sure to take the application along with you for verification purposes! Not only can you scan barcodes while at the store (to double check that you have the correct item), but you'll want to read the wording carefully so you know exactly what to grab. A jar of pickle slices isn't the same as pickle spears for instance, and if you don't grab the right one, you won't get your credits!

Once you get home, make sure to upload your receipt (again, using only the app) by taking a picture of it and hitting the handy-dandy submit button. The app will then ask you to scan the barcodes of every item you purchased that has an offer to redeem. After you've scanned them all, hit the final submit button and you'll see a message letting you know that you'll be receiving money soon. And before you know it, there it is: money in your Ibotta account that can quickly be transferred into your Paypal account (minimum of $5.00 required to transfer).

My very first trip using the Ibotta app, I made $12.25 back. And because I scoured my coupon collection before I left, I saved myself another $10.00 on the purchases at the store. Some items can be bought for next to nothing, and couponing websites such as TotallyTarget.com are now letting their readers know when you can snag a deal for pennies just by using the coupon and the Ibotta redemption.

When you've redeemed all your offers, you can refresh your selections by hitting the Sort button and then the refresh tab. If you see an offer you particularly like (or maybe dislike), selecting it and then selecting it again will bring up a thumbs up/thumbs down section where you can let the app know whether or not you want to see similar offers. For instance - my family rarely buys jam, so I selected Thumbs Down in the picture at the right. Not because I don't like Smucker's, (I do like them actually!) but because I just don't think I'd use this offer anytime soon, and I'd rather have offers that apply to me better. After I "thumbs down" it, I refresh my offers. "Thumbs upping" an offer will let the app know that you liked the offer and want to see more like it. I thumbs upped a lot of my offers, mostly things that are super easy for me to turn into a meal everyone will enjoy, like ready-in-the-bag grilled steak from Tyson. Of course I first made sure to get my Tyson's coupon here, which saved me an extra dollar!

This app works great, it's free to use & download, and I hope that more of my favorite brands opt in soon. Three cheers for modern technology and the future of couponing!






Friday, March 15, 2013

The Potty Training Journey

It's ten at night, and I'm exhausted as I stand in the boy's underwear aisle pleading with my two-year-old son. Several people walk by and laugh as I continue my conversation in an overly-excited voice. "Wow, look at those fancy underpants! Wouldn't you like some with the Spiderman on them?"

My son responds in a not so friendly voice, half a yell and half a growl, "I said I don't want the Spiderman! I don't want these or these or these or these. I just want underwear! I said I just want those underwear!!"

At this point it is clear that there has been a communication failure somewhere along the way. I'm holding six or seven pairs of underwear in every style available on the shelves, but my son seems to insist that the pair of socks several rows above him are the "underwears" he wants. When I pull them down however, he gets mad and tells me that they are socks. After about fifteen more minutes and some more strange stares from passersby, I realize that he thought we were coming to the store for more diapers.

Finally I tell him the bad news: we have diapers at home and are leaving empty-handed unless he picks up underwear. Will he? He gives me a resounding "No" for an answer and I begin to turn the cart to leave. Suddenly his whole attitude changes in an instant.

"Wait, wait, wait!" he shouts, "I need these ones." He picks up a package with Disney's Cars all over it and hops onto the back of the cart as if we didn't just spend an hour going back and forth about underwear.

At this point I have realized that the easiest way to potty-train is to expect nothing and everything at the same time. We have days where there are so many "accidents" that my husband and I take turns giving our little guy a bath, and then there are days that we both run to the bathroom in excitement after we hear a surprise flushing sound. There are also days we end up fishing toys out of the toilet after we hear the surprise flushing sound. The success of our potty-training has no rhyme or reason, and what works on Sunday will not necessarily work on Monday.

We have tried the pants-off method, we've tried the potty-every-half-hour method. We've tried treats and stickers, toys and trips. Nothing works and everything works. It all depends on the mood and mind of our fickle two-year-old.

When we get home, he proudly shows his grandma the underwear, then flees and makes a roaring sound at mommy when I say how nice they are. He's pretending to be a dinosaur now, and dinosaurs don't have mommies that say how nice their undies are.

I sit down to put my paperwork in order for the day and remember the advice that my mother gave me: "Everyone is different, and everyone develops on their own timeline. Let your little one show you when he's ready, and eventually he will be. After all, how many of your friends are still in diapers?"

The advice is solid, if not a little vague. It helps to remind myself that this won't last forever, and that someday I will laugh at how many different tactics I tried just to get him to use the toilet.

Suddenly he runs up to me, tugging on his new underwear. "Mommy, I need these off, I need the potty."

"Aha!" I think, "Success!" This whole potty-training journey has been a long one, and I'm good and ready to be done with it.

We head off to the bathroom and he does his business. When he's done he talks half to me, half to himself, all the while in the cutest little voice, "What a good job I am! I'll flush this now like a big boy! Watch it mom!"

I can't help but smile and wonder how much I'll miss this kind of thing when he's bigger and doesn't need me for every little moment...

And suddenly potty-training doesn't seem like such a long journey after all.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

World of Warcraft Addicts: Victims of Subliminal Messaging?

Now I will be the first person to admit that I like to sit down in front of my computer and play around to relax. As a matter of fact, I'm not ashamed to admit that for many years I've been a frequent player of the game World of Warcraft. The company provides consistent updates to their content, which means the game is always fresh. It's part of the reason I love to play it so much.

Over the years I've had to reduce my play-time drastically. First for a "real" job, then for a "real" relationship, and then for kids. When it came to the kids, my play-time actually came to a grinding halt for a while. Learning to balance me-time with mom-time can be tricky, and it took me a year to master the process and come to grips with the fact that I was only going to snatch time for myself if I planned for it.

I wasn't actually very surprised when I heard the rumor that WoW (the common acronym for the game) was using subliminal messaging within the game itself. The company, Blizzard Entertainment, is practically known for its cheeky way of sneaking in both popular and obscure references. For instance, the in-game NPC (non-playable-character) named Haris Pilton who sells ridiculously overpriced vanity items and bags in the game is an obvious reference to Paris Hilton, and the NPC named Jason Mathers standing by Crystal Lake is a lesser known reference to Friday the 13th. Additionally the developers have been known to hide things like smiley faces in crazy places like motes of water, boats and rocks.

Despite all this, I was surprised by how forward the messaging was. The message can be heard anytime a person's character "dies" in the game, whereupon they are sent to a spirit healer. There are thunder sounds in the background, a gritty dark look to the colors on your screen, and a whispery vacuum-like noise. I thought it was all just part of the "hey-you-died" drama. Little did I know that turning my volume all the way up would turn what I thought was a vacuum sound into the creepy voice of the spirit healer. It didn't contain a cutesy message about how great the game was though, and there was no inside joking about it. The message was clear: "Play World of Warcraft... Give us your money."

My first thought was "Whoa. Way to get to the heart of the matter." They didn't waste much time pussy-footing around exactly what they want from their consumers, and it was a thought that put a bit of a damper on my WoW-love. Apparently this isn't a new message to players either: as far as anyone knows, this little tidbit has been in the game since it first came out back in 2004.

Is it really contributing to the consistent player base that WoW has made for themselves though? I myself am torn on the subject. Although I have been a subscriber to the game for the past 8 years, I wouldn't say that I am an addict. When I was younger, and without any responsibilities, perhaps I would have said that I played too much, but that is different from being addicted. The fact is I knew I was playing too much, but I didn't really care since I was fresh out of my parents' house and ready for some immature decision-making before I got my life in order. When it was time to face facts and get real with my life, I dutifully reduced my play time until I was lucky to play more than once a week. So I wouldn't say that I was addicted in the true sense of the word.

Did I crave playing the game though? Absolutely. I would go for a few weeks at a time without thinking of the game, and then suddenly a flash of something would come over me, and I would be reminded of questing in a particular zone, or moving through a specific area of the game. I would have cravings for the game as if it were a meal I hadn't had in a while and could just about taste.

In the end, I decided that while there may be some people out there that have been impacted by the  spirit healer and the all-too-forward message it has to offer, I have to chalk up my consistent playing to the fact that I just like the game itself. I rarely let my character die, and when my character does end up dying I usually have the sound off so I can listen for the sound of the kids waking from their naps, so I wouldn't hear the message anyway. Plus, when I've needed to set aside the game for more important things, I've easily been able to and I haven't pined for the game in an unreasonable way. I think my love for the game is just about having something enjoyable to do in my rare downtime, not about a need to continue playing.

Am I the odd one out, or do others feel the same? Are World of Warcraft players being subliminally enticed to keep playing? I'll let you decide.

Watch the video now:

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

(Expired) Giveaway!

This giveaway is over, but we have lots of other great contests going on now! Click here to go straight to our giveaways page!

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(Expired) This week we are giving away the novel, The Edge of Light, by Author Ann Shorey. I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing her book in the past week, and she was gracious enough to provide a copy of the book for the giveaway. One lucky winner will receive her novel and a $15 Starbucks gift card! To enter, please use the Rafflecopter widget on the right-hand side of this page.

Giveaway is open to residents of the US and Canada only. Must be 18 or older. Giveaway is open from 12:00 AM 3/13/13 until 11:59 PM on 3/19/13. Winner will be chosen at random and notified through the email they provide to the Rafflecopter widget.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Book Review: The Edge of Light by Ann Shorey

My love of books began when I was small, with my mom reading me The Diggingest Dog and Green Eggs and Ham. According to her, I wouldn't even use the toilet unless she was there to read to me! Fortunately I outgrew that habit, but my love of the printed word remained and I quickly went through every book that was handed to me at school. I even recall getting reprimanded by the teacher for reading ahead in our English book! I was always disappointed at the end of the year when we hadn't read through all of the stories; I needed more!

It's no surprise that I ended up as an adult who loves to read (and write) frequently. In this age of fast-paced technology, it's sometimes difficult to remember that there are still activities left to us that don't require a battery or electrical plug. So I like to stop for breath at least once a week and take a day or two reading a new book. I was thrilled when I was given the opportunity to do this book review, and although I was given a free copy in order to write this post, that doesn't change my opinion on the author or the incredible story she had to tell. (For more on my disclosure policy please see the tab titled, 'Let me disclose to you'.

As it turns out, I was deeply entranced by author Ann Shorey's novel, The Edge of Light. (Click here to read a sample excerpt.) This story captured my attention from the very beginning - some novels tend to spend the first few pages outlining the scenery, but this book jumped right into it and I was hooked. Ms. Shorey's writing immediately pulls the reader in, and it doesn't take long to feel the pain of the main character as she faces some of life's hardest struggles.

There were several things I appreciated about this book, starting with the fact that it is not an "everything's coming up roses" book. I read a lot of books where the main character suffers a loss, but it is immediately rectified and the story proceeds. The Edge of Light is a book that builds up the tension and anxiety that you feel for the main character, a young woman named Molly. She has to fight for each and every last accomplishment or small piece of progress, and sometimes her hard efforts are turned to dust by others just as she's glimpsing the light at the end of the tunnel. I even found myself getting angry at some of the other characters for their interventions, a true sign that a book has pulled me in! At the end of the book, Molly is rewarded for her hard work, but it doesn't come without the realization that while she was strong on her own, she can be even stronger when someone is there to stand beside her.

In a charming twist, the book also follows the story of another young woman named Betsy, who is a slave to Molly's family in the beginning of the story. Molly doesn't want Betsy to be a slave and makes plans to help her become free, but the two women are brutally torn apart by Molly's cruel brother-in-law. Betsy must then make her own plans to stay safe and get away from a life that holds no promise for her.
Upon reflection of the book, I realized that I identified a lot with Molly, and her expectations for herself. Many times we women set the bar so high, we try to do so much and make all of our plans based on what will happen when we use our own strength. But all too often, as in the book, other players intercede on our behalf and can make things so much worse... or amazingly better. Any woman that has ever raised children while trying to accomplish a seemingly impossible goal will see their own struggles reflected back at them in this story.

I can safely give this book 5 stars. The "win" at the end wasn't handed to the main character, the story had depth, the characters are believable. Plus, I kept thinking about the story for weeks after, which I think is one of the best signs of a good read that there is. (Luckily, for fans who want more: there are two more books in this series.)

Thank you Ann Shorey for a delightful distraction! Ann's books can be purchased on Amazon.com, as well as BarnesAndNoble.com and ChristianBook.com. They are also available in brick-and-mortar stores, if you don't see what you're looking for when you stop in, just ask the store to order it for you! For more information, visit http://www.annshorey.com/novels!

(The giveaway that was associated with this post has expired, please check out our giveaways tab for a list of available contests!)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Even Cancer Can Have a Silver Lining


Today's post is from guest blogger, Heather Von St. James. You can read more about her incredible journey on her blog at www.mesothelioma.com. Click here to go directly to her page!

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Sometimes life can throw you a curve that changes everything in your life. It happened to me when I was 36. That year, I experienced an extreme shift of emotions. The height of my happiness was on August 4, 2006, when my daughter Lily was born. As we celebrated the new member of our family with our loved ones, my husband and I had no idea that the worst times were on the horizon.

I returned to work just 4 weeks after Lily's birth, but I just didn't feel right. My energy was gone and I was losing weight uncontrollably at a tune of about 5 to 7 pounds per week. I knew something was wrong, and my suspicions were soon confirmed.

My doctor performed a battery of tests on me. We were figuring that the results would come back with a simple problem with an easy solution. Unfortunately we were wrong and about 15 weeks after Lily's birth, my doctor told me that I had mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos. It turned out that I had been unknowingly exposed to asbestos when I was just a little girl. I was told that I needed to begin treatment immediately, or I wouldn't live much longer than a year.

All I could think of was Lily and my husband. What would they do without me? My husband and I immediately agreed that I should take whatever steps were necessary to heal me. We traveled from Minnesota to Boston so that I could undergo the most aggressive treatment. Under the steady hand of a skilled surgeon, I had an extrapleural pneumonectomy surgery. My cancerous lung and parts of my diaphragm, chest lining and heart lining were removed. I spent 18 days in the hospital and two months later, I began chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

While I was in Boston, Lily went to live with my mother at my parents' home in South Dakota. Her grandparents took care of her during my treatment as well as during my recovery. They had a great support network of family and friends who helped them care for her. I doubt if I'll ever be able to thank them enough for all that they did. I missed a lot of things during my treatment, but I needed to concentrate on my recovery so that I could be with her for the rest of her life. It was a tough decision, but I think any other mother would have done it.

There is a silver lining to this cloud. My entire family appreciates life more since my experience, and I appreciate them more. Lily and the rest of my family gave me a reason to live.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

If I Could Do It Over Again - Week 1

I have decided that since Sunday is the Lord's Day, I'm going to go ahead and take it off too! Rather than write up a review or run myself ragged writing up a story every day of the week, I'm going to work six and rest on the seventh. But I'm still going to post!

Instead of my own work though, I'm going to provide a link to some of the incredible sermons made by my Pastor, Troy Gramling, from Potential Church. The church is a community one, and the Pastors are great at what they do!

So here is the first installment of the current series: If I Could Do It Over Again

Whether in our careers, romances, education or parenting, we have all faced the regret of a bad decision. Pastor Troy shows us how we can exchange the regret of past mistakes for the hope of future blessings. Click here or go to http://vimeo.com/58668306 to watch!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Migraine

Ugh! If there's one kind of pain I can't stand, it's the kind that sticks around all day and doesn't leave with painkillers. Unfortunately, this is one migraine I can say I brought upon myself. I've been taste-testing soups the past couple of days and I'm afraid the high sodium content did me in!

I'm off to go look up some folk remedies and see if I can't get this pain to go away. And if not, I guess I'll take a nap for the rest of the evening!

Friday, March 8, 2013

An Attack of Mommy Guilt

Today I went out and bought myself the ExerSaucer Triple Fun Life in the Amazon (shortened to Triple Jungle for obvious reasons!). This was not a planned purchase. This was the mommy-anxiety-induced-impulse-buy that marketing professionals dream of. In other words, I bought it because I felt guilty.

There are so many advertisements out there with hinting lines, tailored specifically to make the parent feel like they aren't doing enough (and that buying the product would fix that). Think about it. Commercials are full of one liners like "Doesn't your baby deserve the best?", "We want your family to feel safe, do you?", "She's more precious than anything to you, why don't you show her how much?". Why don't they just go ahead and say it: "We know you think you're an average parent, why don't you buy our junk so you can feel like you made an impact?"

I have never been a supporter of advertising that makes a parent feel like they aren't doing enough, and usually I'm strong enough to shrug off the passive-aggressive pitches. But today I got hit from a different angle while I was taking a survey about my financial security. The survey itself didn't actually ask whether my purchases had been for baby, but one line asking about "extra" purchases stuck with me. I realized that we no longer have extra purchases. We just can't afford them. My job sadly pays very little (I saw a total of $95 in the last two months, and expenses that are about three times that). And with my husband's paycheck getting eaten up each month by our bills, it's all we can do to make it most months.

I happened to look over at that moment and see my little girl sitting in her homemade quilt in her second hand bouncy seat. I was hit hard with a wave of guilt - my son had gotten new toys and anything and everything he wanted. As a grandchild he got spoiled beyond belief. And without any major expenses at that time (and two solid incomes), my husband and I gave him some sort of treat almost weekly. I got a sad image in my head of a little girl that had never had a new toy, who wasn't as smart as the first child because she hadn't been given all the educational toys, who was raggedy and holding a used teddy bear... well you get the point. In a moment of weakness I thought up a sob story.

Now this may have been building for a while or this may have truly just been a one-snap breaking point for me, I just don't know. But what I do know is that I ran out of the house and zipped my credit card through the scanner at the Toys R Us before my husband could say anything! By the time I got it unpacked and put together, I was calmed down... and disappointed when my daughter batted at one of the toys and promptly fell asleep. Not that falling asleep isn't a good thing, but after all my frenzy, I had expected something... more.

I know I'm not the first parent to fall prey to a guilt-induced shopping spree on behalf of their children, and I'm sure I won't be the last. (Heck, it's probably not even my last.) But the way I see it, feeling guilty about making an impulse buy isn't any better than feeling guilty about not buying her something. So I've made peace with my kind-of-bad-decision, and I'm hoping that the resale value stays up until she grows out of it. Plus it helps that she's been fast asleep for the past hour and a half. Hmmm... maybe it's a toy for parents...

Thursday, March 7, 2013

MySurvey.com Review

Well, the babies are still sick, and I'm exhausted, but let me at least put something of value in my post for the day!

I recently joined up with MySurvey.com, a website that claims to offer rewards and points in exchange for it's members taking surveys.

Although I am typically a skeptic when it comes to this, the website was recommended to me by someone that I trust within the blogging community. So I signed up. I expected that within a few hours I would be inundated with phishing and spam emails (and probably never even see a survey offer), but I was pleasantly surprised to receive around five survey offers within my first day as a member.

Again, being the skeptic that I am about this sort of thing, I figured that the few starter surveys were just to lure me into a feeling of safety, and that the spam emails were coming at any moment.

It's been a week, and so far, no spam at all to the email address I used to sign up. I've received anywhere between 7 and 10 survey offers per day, and about half of those are ones that I am eligible to take. I already even have enough points saved up that I am 20% of the way to a gift card. Even when I'm not eligible for a survey, the site rewards me by giving me a sweepstakes entry for a chance at 10,000 points (that's good for a whole lotta gift cards!).

The website itself is clean and well laid-out, which goes a long way in putting me at ease when I'm working with a new site. I don't ever see ads or pop-ups, and the survey notifications always come from the same email - no worrying about deciding which ones are spam and which are the real deal. The surveys can be long, but they allow you to step away from the computer without closing you out of the survey. Just make sure you come back before you've been gone for two hours, and don't close your browser window or you won't be able to take the survey again.

Now for the bad stuff: Happily enough, most of the "cons" of this website are due to my own computer issues, but it's still kind of a bummer. There are some surveys that I can't get to load when I use Google Chrome, but they will load when I use Internet Explorer for some reason. Unfortunately that means that half the time the survey thinks I've started, and I can't restart on a different browser. That leads to me losing points and surveys. The other problem is that some of the surveys are "bugged" and when I go to the Help page, the Help page is also bugged! I'm thinking that a big chunk of that is due to the fact that the website was recently redone, and they are still working out the kinks. A simple email to the site's moderator can go a long way in fixing any problems though, so I don't foresee this being a permanent issue.

Overall, I've been very pleased with using the website, and the surveys have been interesting, albeit a bit repetitive. Make sure to be honest with your answers, even if you think that answering a certain way will get you disqualified from a survey. And don't exaggerate! If you like to critique movies with your friends, don't say that you have a job in "market research". And if you make $15k a year, don't say that you make $50k a year! If you end up getting approved for a survey based on your falsified answers, you are going to have a difficult time answering the rest of the survey (since it won't actually pertain to you).

I like this site, it makes me feel in the loop. Now when I hear someone complain about a statistic and say "How'd they come up with that, they sure didn't ask me!" I can pipe up and say that it's because they asked me instead! ;)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Sick Babies!

Is there anything worse than having a little one that you can't do a whole lot for? My poor kiddos aren't feeling too good today, so I didn't have much time to myself between rocking the baby and catering to the two-year-old.

I'll hopefully have a post with some good content tomorrow (provided I get some sleep tonight)!

Have a great one everybody :)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Food Truck Invasion: Crazydilla

For the past few years, the food truck trend has been growing pretty steadily. Long known for it's array of hot food for a low cost, the food truck industry has morphed into a foodie's dream of gourmet on wheels.

Down here in Sunny Florida, we have no end to the food truck types or events, and they can frequently be found lining up in parks, school lots, roundabouts and community spaces. For just a fraction of the cost that it would normally take to go to a gourmet restaurant (don't forget that tip!) you and yours can taste-test anything from homemade Jamaican Patties to fresh fro-yo. No two trucks have the same take on a burger (or any other type of food for that matter), and I find myself spending hours just deciding what I will eat each week.

The company that puts together food truck events in my area has named their event +Food Truck Invasion. A different selection of food trucks come together each Tuesday from 5:30pm to 9:30pm to hang their signs out at Heritage Park in Plantation, Florida, and it has become one of my favorite things to do each week.

Last week I was lucky enough (haha) to be chasing my son through a crowd, and caught up to him just as he stopped in front of the Crazydilla truck.

"Mom," he said to me, "smell that food?"

What I thought at first smelled like deli sandwiches turned out to be quesadillas that were a little, well, crazy. The Crazydilla food truck has taken an old favorite - the quesadilla - and stuffed it full of ooey-gooey deliciousness in the form of Cuban Sandwiches, Chicken Cordon Bleu, Caprese Salad, and more. The descriptions of the 'dillas they were serving just sounded too delicious and I absolutely had to get one.

I wasn't disappointed. I got the "Cubadilla", their take on a Cuban sandwich, and it was spectacular. The cheese was melty, the pickles were delicious, and that ham had a perfect flavor without being too salty. The quesadilla was crisp and the sauce to dip it in had a wonderful sweet-mustard smell to it that reminded me of a dip my grandma had made a long while back.

Although the 'dillas go for around $10 a piece, I found myself wishing I had purchased two of them! It would have been plenty of food for just me, but my son decided that he liked the Cubadilla just as much as I did, and we were soon "fighting" each other for the last bite. Luckily my husband swooped by at that moment and solved the dilemma for us by eating it without being asked. (Problem solved!)

In addition to the awesome food that can be found at these events, there are also bounce houses, regular park amenities, glow-lights for sale, music with a live dj, and entertainers. The event is free to attend, but make sure you bring plenty of cash just in case a vendor is unable to take a credit card payment due to internet issues. I would suggest bringing along your own drinks as well. Water tastes the same everywhere, and you don't want to spend five or six dollars on the same water you can bring from home for free. Believe me, that money is much better off being spent on some of the delicious food that can only be found in a food-truck.

For trucks in your area, do a web search of your zip code and the words: "Food Truck". You never know what you'll find!

Crazydilla on Urbanspoon




Friday, March 1, 2013

Does SlimAway (As Seen On TV) Work?

A few weeks ago as I was browsing through the As Seen On TV section of my local +Walmart, I decided to grab the SlimAway waistband. It came pretty cheaply at $9.99 and looked appealing with its promises to "seal in body heat to lose water weight".

When I got home, I took a picture of myself without it on. This item (like many others) also promised that I would "look slim instantly". I wanted to see if there was any change. I was a bit disappointed that the correct position on the belt for me was also the last one, which means I can never get it any tighter. I'm not a large person, but I am definitely overweight, and since I've had the baby I'm looking for anything that will assist me in shrinking it back to almost-normal. I was hoping that this would be a product I could use until I reach my correct weight, but it looks like it will be too big for me after I lose 5-10 lbs.

After I put the belt on, I did look a bit slimmer. Actually, I looked tons slimmer and the belt had pretty much reshaped my torso. I could feel the belt working to support my posture - the zippers were stiff enough that slouching was less comfortable than usual, and I sat up nice and straight throughout my first evening of wearing it. I don't know about the water weight part, (I've been exercising to lose weight at a decent pace on my own) but my skin felt very moist inside the waistband, so there is a possibility that I was sweating out some of the water around my stomach.

I was pleased enough with the results of the way I looked with it on and how it helped support my torso that I wanted to keep it. But I also wanted to further the experiment. I have a whole slew of cocoa butter lotions in my cabinet - supposedly helpful for getting rid of stretch marks. But I don't have the time to keep applying it over and over and rubbing it into myself all day. What if I slathered the lotion on before I put on the belt though? Would the neoprene inside the belt seal the lotion against my skin and continuously rub it in enough that my stretch marks would diminish?

I took another picture of my stomach and stretch marks to see if I could get a thinner stomach and/or diminished stretched marks by wearing the band for a couple of weeks.

Before

Unfortunately it doesn't seem to have worked the way I thought it would. The picture below is an after picture. It looks pretty much the same as the picture above.
After
I can see a slight lightening of the stretch marks when I am looking at them on myself, but that could be due to a lot of different things, like the cold weather tightening my skin, or the passage of time. If there had been a vastly noticeable difference, I would have attributed it to the belt. I wish there had been, but oh well! As for losing water weight, I don't really see a big difference in my waistline. I'm still slowly losing, but that is due largely in part to my healthy eating habits. Not to mention all the energy it takes to breastfeed and take care of a toddler.

All things considered, this is still a product worth buying. No one likes to be reminded of the slight pooch that pregnancy leaves, and this handy belt makes sure that while you work at getting rid of it you don't have to live with looking at it. By no means should this be used as the solution to fixing your post-baby body, but it goes a long way in boosting your self-esteem while you tackle that problem.

And for all the ladies out there who are stressing about their post-baby belly, don't. You worked hard for nine months to make a baby, don't expect that your body will just forget all the effort it took overnight. Getting rid of an after-baby belly usually takes another nine months if you focus at it, and if you are pinched for time to exercise (like me), it's going to take even longer. Just work at it slowly and don't be discouraged. That belly made something wonderful, and you earned those marks in the best way possible!