Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Organic Gardening Magazine Takes the Garden to the Grill -Magazine Celebrates 70 Years with Fresh Menu Ideas for A Flavorful BBQ Season (Review)

Organic Gardening Magazine's August/September issue- on stands now- features garden-fresh recipes for the season. (Organic Gardening Magazine)

Grilling season is in full swing, but the same old menu of burgers, hot dogs and macaroni salad could use some fresh ingredients and ideas. Whether you have a home garden or a local farmers' market, summer brings an abundance of fruits and vegetables that are prime for grilling. In celebration of its 70th anniversary year, Organic Gardening magazine is keeping the season festive with recipes that take the garden to the grill.

Produce is the tastiest and most nutrient-dense when it is in-season, and it can be more affordable too. Grilling brings out the flavors and juices in fruits and vegetables: corn and zucchini take on a delicious, smoky flavor and the natural sugars in peaches and pineapple caramelize to perfection. Not sure where to begin? Organic Gardening's Consulting Food and Wine Editor Victoria von Biel offers the following tips for a more flavorful grilling season:

Start craving those veggies:
    --  Keep temperatures low and the lid closed for veggie grilling success
    --  Forgo the pot: toss corn on the grill for tasty, smoky flavor; dress it
        up Mexican-style with some spiced mayo and cheese
    --  Juicy, meaty, marinated Portobello mushroom burgers please meat lovers
        and vegetarians alike
    --  Tired of losing sliced onions in the flames? Pick up an affordable grill
        basket- they are great for delicate fish fillets, too
    --  Don't be afraid to experiment: grilled romaine makes a fabulous Caesar
Find hot new ways to enjoy fresh fruit:
    --  Make sure your grill is nice and clean; you don't want your pineapple to
        taste like last night's salmon!
    --  Fruit should be firm, and not overripe for the best results
    --  Brush fruit with butter or a bit of oil to prevent sticking
    --  In-season stone fruits like peaches grill to pie-like perfection; serve
        with ice cream or fresh whipped cream
    --  Surprise guests by tossing those watermelon slices on the BBQ and
        squeeze some lightly grilled lime wedges on top
    --  Dessert is not the limit: try grilled pineapple on a burger, or grilled
        plums in a salad!
Go bun-free:
    --  Expand the menu with simple, produce-driven sauces and salsas that
        splash flavor on fish, steaks and chicken
    --  Zesty salsa verde made from garden-fresh herbs like cilantro, basil and
        mint takes just minutes to whip up and is perfect on almost everything:
        chicken, fish, steak, and grilled veggies.
    --  Sweet fruity salsas can be balanced with spicy hot peppers, garlic or
Recipes, tips and other seasonally smart ideas can be found at www.organicgardening.com


My Thoughts:

If you follow my blog, then you know I read cookbooks like are novels.  And, the same goes for cooking or food magazines.  So, when I recently saw the above video, I had to reach out to Rodale and see if they would be so kind to send along a few samples of their magazine, Organic GardeningI was sent the first four issues for 2012, and couldn't have been happier.  They arrived the day before we were leaving for a week's vacation to celebrate Savannah's birthday.  

Hoping the girls would sleep on the way up, I snuck the magazines into my bag, and planned to read through them while my husband drove the 3 hours to NH.  Unfortunately, the girls didn't fall asleep until halfway through the drive.  But, I was able to get 2 of the magazines read cover to cover by the time we arrived at my parents summer home.  You should have seen the magazines.  It looked like I had half the pages folded, as they either contained useful advice I wanted to try with my gardening, or a recipe that looked tasty and easy to make.  During the rest of the vacation, I was able to finish reading the two other issues of Organic Gardening, and like the two previous issues, had it all marked up, so I could try things when I arrived home.  

My mother is also a fan of cookbooks and foodie magazines -- guess there is where I got my love of cookbooks and cooking from -- so, I let her read through the magazines.  She had seen this magazine in the supermarket, but never had a chance to pick up a copy.  By the time she was done reading through the first issue, she had the mail-in subscription card ripped out and completed.  Based on what she read, she didn't want to miss another issue of this amazing magazine.  We both agreed that the content regarding organic gardening and foods was top notch, and the photos were crisp and engaging.  Some magazines you find yourself skimming through the pages.  But, not with this magazine.  You will enjoy reading it cover to cover.  I dare you to try and finish reading it, without folding down pages or marking it up, so you can try out recipes or other ideas/tips.

Now that my mother is a subscriber to Organic Gardening, I will definitely be asking to read each new issue.  And, since returning home from vacation, I have had a chance to try out some of the recipes, and boy were they delicious.  We especially loved the berry muffins, which we used freshly picked blueberries and raspberries from our garden.

So, if you love to garden, or enjoy reading food-related magazines, then you will love Organic Gardening.  Make sure you look for it the next time you are at the market.

Follow Organic Gardening on Twitter @OGMag and Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/OrganicGardening. Organic Gardening is also available on the iPad.

About Organic Gardening (www.organicgardening.com)

Celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2012, Rodale's Organic Gardening is the leading magazine resource for an organic approach to home, food, and garden. With the mission of "living lightly from the ground up," the magazine empowers readers to lead simpler, healthier lives by making positive connections with the world through gardening. Featuring fresh ideas for home-cooked meals, accessible tips, tools, and tricks for gardeners of all skill levels, and gorgeous photography that inspires, Organic Gardening helps readers garden to truly live their whole lives.

Disclosure:  I was sent samples from the vendor in order to write up an honest review.  The views above are mine and mine alone
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Monday, July 30, 2012

Reaching My Fitness Goals with the Help of the Fitbit Ultra Tracker (Review)

Profile Picture

The Fitbit Ultra Tracker is one of the most helpful fitness gadgets on the market. The small size of the unit makes it easy to clip to a workout top or slide into a pocket, without getting in the way of a workout or your daily life. 

Some of the features included in the Fitbit Ultra are step tracking, stair climbing tracking, calories burned and even the amount and quality of sleep you are getting each night. By uploading the raw data from the Fitbit device into your account at Fitbit.com, you can analyze your overall health and fitness levels. You can even set goals for yourself, and use the tracking device to monitor your progress. Tracking the food that you eat each day, when coupled with you exercise level; can help you to reach your fitness goals faster. The device also comes in two different color combinations, a black and blue model and a black and plum model, letting you tailor the unit to your personal tastes. 
The Fitbit Ultra is simple to work into your daily routine. I found myself forgetting that I had it one, as it is so lightweight and discreet.  You don't even know you have it on. Making this fitness gadget a part of your day, everyday, will give you the greatest amount of data and the most accurate picture of your health and fitness level possible. 

The online community for the Fitbit Ultra provides not only feedback on your progress, but also encouragement to keep working towards your goals. Using the Fitbit to track your daily activity is beneficial, and can even be fun. You can work towards badges online, which are given out for specific goals and steps that you have accomplished. Plus, you can interact with others that have similar goals, to help keep you motivated. The Fitbit Ultra is easy to work into your life, and it can provide noticeable results.
I have been using the Fitbit Ultra for over a month now, and can't believe how much I have learned about my overall fitness levels. Prior to using the Fitbit Ultra I would base my workouts on the time spent in the gym or by taking an hour-long cardio class. But, I really wasn't measuring my overall physical activity. It was not until I began wearing the Fitbit Ultra everywhere I went, and even sleeping with it, that I could see where and when I needed to make adjustments to my fitness regime. Even with two young children, who still get up in the night for feedings and diaper changes, I was finding myself waking up 2-3 more times in the night and staying up for an average of 20-30 minutes. If you asked me if I got up besides the times to tend the girls, I would say, "No." But, after plugging this device into my computer, I was able to see otherwise. And, my husband was able to confirm this. Who knew? Maybe that is why I would find myself dragging in the AM.

My husband was so intrigued by this little device and how much data it couldn't capture, that he wanted to try it out for himself. So, I let him take it to work with him one day, after having used a basic pedometer the day before. Upon returning home and checking out his daily steps, he couldn't believe how active he was. The plastic pedometer he used to carry was not accurate and would reset or move ahead when jiggled. With the Fitbit Ultra, you can drive with this, jerk your arm or body part wearing the piece, and not have to worry about it misreporting steps, etc. Both my husband and I agree that this is an amazing device, and one that every person, no matter their fitness level, would benefit from. I have found it to be a great help, and way to keep me motivated in losing these final baby weight pounds.

If you ever wondered how many steps you take in a day, how often you wake in the night, or just how well your planned fitness regime is working for you, then you will benefit from the Fitbit Ultra. This was the missing link in a complete fitness regime that I thought was working for me. Based on the day to day results/tracking, I know otherwise and can tweak my routines to help me reach my goals.

---BUY NOW---

Fitbit Tracker

Click here to order the Fitbit Ultra Tracker for only $99.95, directly from their website (in two different color choices)

Disclosure: I was sent a sample from the vendor in order to write up an honest review. The views above are mine and mine alone.
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The Freshfoods Line From NUK -- Makes Serving Homemade Baby Food a Breeze (Review)




Nurture your baby with Freshfoods, a complete line of products to help you easily and quickly make real, homemade baby food. Freshfoods was developed in conjunction with Annabel Karmel, a leading expert in child nutrition and leading children’s cookbook author. With Freshfoods, you’ll have the confidence to make and store homemade baby food, getting your baby off to the healthiest start in life.


Now that Arabella is 8 months old, we have begun introducing more foods to her.  What I learned from having Savannah and dealing with her picky eating habits, is that you need to introduce a variety of flavors into your child's diet once they begin to eat baby foods.  So, that being said, I made a point to cook foods that everyone, including Arabella can enjoy.  Just last night, I made homemade chicken soup with an assortment of veggies we picked up at our weekly CSA food share at the local farm.  I love not only letting Savannah see where the food on the table comes from, but she has been enjoying picking beans and other veggies from the fields.  As I prepared the meal, I kept reminding Savannah that these were the veggies she helped pick.  And, when it came time to enjoy the meal, everyone was able to sample this bounty, including Arabella.


A couple of weeks ago, I received the Freshfoods Mash & Serve Bowl and freezer tray, along with Gerber feeding spoons try out, thanks to the folks at NUK.  Here is more about the samples I reviewed to try with Arabella:


Freshfoods Freezer Tray

Preparing fresh food for your baby can be healthy and cost effective. The new Fresh Foods line helps make feeding easier with the ability to mash, store and freeze your own baby food. Use the Freezer Tray to freeze and store the perfect portions of your homemade baby food. Healthy and nutritious is now quick and easy, too!

Freshfoods Mash & Serve Bowl

Preparing fresh food for your baby can be healthy and cost effective. The new Freshfoods™ line helps make feeding easier with the ability to mash, store and freeze your own baby food. Use the Mash & Serve Bowl to mash up fruits and steamed veggies with ease. Healthy and nutritious is now quick and easy, too!

Soft-Bite Infant Spoons

Feed your infant with Soft-Bite Infant Spoons. Their soft, silicone tip is gentle on your baby's teeth and gums. And the long, slim handle makes feeding baby easier.

Before being introduced to the Freshfoods line, I was mashing food in small bowls -- usually unsuccessfully, or would have to dig out the food processor, blend, and then spent 10-15 cleaning it up.  But, thanks to the Freshfoods product line, I am able to mash up the table food we are all enjoying and share with Arabella in a matter of minutes.  If there are leftovers, I love how I can store some in the refrigerator for my husband to take to work, and then use the Mash & Serve Bowl to mash up the remaining leftovers, to pour into the Freshfoods Freezer Tray and freeze.  Then, when I am in a pinch, or prepare a meal that Arabella can't eat with us, I can simply pop 1-2 cubes into a bowl and microwave to defrost.  I love knowing that she is getting a wholesome meal, without all the added preservatives and additives you would find in jarred baby foods.

Even though I have only been using the Freshfoods Mash & Serve Bowl and Freezer Tray, along with a sampling of Gerber's feeding spoons, I know I will not be going back to trying to mash in my old bowls, or pulling out the food processor, only to spend more time cleaning it than using it.  Instead, I keep these two products right on my counter, so I can grab it whenever I want.  I estimated that I saved over $10 on baby food last week, thanks in part of the Freshfoods products.  Instead of giving Arabella jarred bananas or peaches when Savannah was having them as a snack, I simply added a small serving size into the bowl and mashed away.  Monkey see, monkey do --- Arabella is picking up on feeding cues and wanting to eat what Savannah is.  This is great, as she will hopefully be more open to trying new foods as she gets older.  And, when I go out to eat, the Mash & Serve Bowl is so compact that I can toss in the diaper bag and bring with me.  Then, while we are eating, I can mash up the table food and share with Arabella.  Knowing that she is getting fresh, home cooked meals is a great feeling, as I don't have to worry about unnecessary preservatives, additives or other add ins that she would consume from other baby foods I bought in stores.

If you have a young baby or toddler who is beginning to advance beyond baby oatmeal and pureed foods, you must pick up the Freshfoods Mash & Serve Bowl.  It really is a time saver, and so easy to use - and, clean up is a breeze.  Don't forge to also purchase a set of Gerber feeding spoons.  I found that Arabella took to these spoons (which were also sent to review), and didn't spill as often, trying to get all the food on the spoon in her mouth.  

These products would also make for great baby shower gifts, or gifts for a new mom.  I have come to trust NUK and Gerber, and will not hesitate in suggesting these products to other moms I know. I am so glad I had the opportunity to try out products from the Freshfoods line, and plan to pick up the Freshfoods Cook-n-Blend Baby Food Maker next to try.


Click here to visit the NUK website, where you can learn more about the Freshfoods product line, as well as other NUK products.  Then, where you know which items you are interested in purchasing, head to your favorite retailer to buyYou can also use the NUK online store locator to find retailers near you who carry their products -- http://www.nuk-usa.com/store-locator.aspx.

Disclosure:  I was sent samples from the vendor in order to write up an honest review.  The views above are mine and mine alone.

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Bed Rest Concierge -- Enter to Win a $50 Grocery Gift Card (Your Choice) and Save 10% on Services (Giveaway)


Last Monday I shared my Spotlight on Mommy interview with Stephanie D. Johnson of Bed Rest Concierge with you.  Click here if you missed my post.  Today, I wanted to offer one lucky reader a chance to win a $50 gift card to your favorite grocery store, thanks to Stephanie.  In addition, I wanted to share a coupon code that you can use and share with expectant moms, to receive 10% off any Bed Rest Concierge Service.

So, what is Bed Rest Concierge and how can it help makes your pregnancy a little easier?   Watch Stephanie on Bethenny Frankel's talk show (one of my guilty pleasures):


Bed Rest Concierge* is proud to offer a complete menu of maternity services, baby planning and resting mommy packages tailored for the mother-to-be. Simply contact them for a complimentary consultation and let them design a one-of-a-kind experience for you.

Maternity Concierge Services Include:

I wish I had known about this amazing, unique service with my two pregnancies, as it would have made my bed rest more tolerable.  I found myself stressing out, as I was not being productive and had so much to do.  With Bed Rest Concierge, they are there to help you get your to-do list done, so that you can get the must needed rest you need prior to welcoming your bundle of joy.


Sound like a service you need, or know someone who can benefit?  Thanks to Stephanie, she is offering 10% off any Bed Rest Concierge Service.  To receive this discount, make sure you use coupon code "LUCK2012" at checkout.  The code will also get new clients Complimentary Delivery on any Grocery Shopping Order.

So, what are you waiting for?  Click here to learn more about Bed Rest Concierge and how they can help you or someone you know enjoy bed rest.


Stephanie has graciously offered to give one lucky reader a $50 grocery store gift card of their choice.  To enter, please complete the entries on the Rafflecopter form below.  Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure:  I was not compensated in any way for this post.  The views above are mine and mine alone.
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Spotlight on Mommy -- Leslie Campa of L & L Butterfly Books, LLC

This week's second Spotlight on Mom is Leslie Campa, of L&L Butterfly Books, LLC.  I stumbled upon Leslie and her business last month, when I was looking for mom entrepreneurs to spotlight.  If you follow my blog, then you know how important reading to your child is for me.  I spend at least an hour in a day reading to Savannah and Arabella, including prior to nap time and then at bedtime.  Not only is it a way to bond and spend time together, but I also feel that it will help them develop a love for reading.  I remember as a child how I loved to get lost in a book, and let my imagine run wild as I read my favorite storybooks.  This is what I hope for my girls -- letting their imaginations run wild. :-) 

I was sent a copy of Leslie book, I'm a Manatee Happy to be ME!, which I will review further on Friday, and give one reader a chance to win an autographed copy of this book.  Since receiving this book, I have it a handful of times with my daughters, who love the illustrations.  So, remember to head back here on Friday to learn more about Leslie's book, and for a chance to win a copy for your child.  But, in the meantime, please enjoy my Spotlight on Mommy interview with her.

Name: Leslie Campa
Company Name/Product/Service: L & L Butterfly Books, LLC  "Taking Words on the Wings of Imagination" through self publishing children's board books and presentation of story time with the Author/Butterfly Fairy.
Company Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Facebook URL: http://www.facebook.com/LLButterflyBooksllc
Twitter Handle: @LLButterflyBook
Age of Company: October 2010
Favorite Inspirational Quotes:
In this world, we all need to do what we can to bring hope, imagination and innocent joy to our children and to each other. -Leslie Campa, Author 
If this world would realize that all living things have a heart beat, there would be a
happily ever after. -Leslie Campa, Author 
 "Words on the Wings of Imagination" -Leslie Campa, Author
"Isn't it great that we are not the same? We all look different and have special names."-Leslie Campa, Author
Favorite Book: I don't really have a favorite book, I have always loved board books for their colorful display of lessons. Of course, the Bible is a great one.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.  How many children do you have?  What are their ages? Your hobbies? Etc.  

I love bringing children of all ages joy and reminding them how special they are.  My sons are 16 and 21, and my daughter is 19.  I enjoy doing story times for young ones, I enjoy being in nature and visiting the ocean whenever I can. I love being with family members and making new friends all the time.

Briefly explain your business.  How did it come about?
My business partner and dear friend Liz Koppinger (a mother of a 3 year old) and I decided to take the stories that were given to me in my dreams and share them through self-publishing.  We chose a name that would represent who we are and ever changing lives that people have much as a butterfly changes from a caterpillar only to spread beauty and message of acceptance.   

What is a typical work day like?
I am constantly thinking of ways to reach out to schools in Arizona and children, so there is a lot of research, meditation and faith for everything I do.  Weather it is emails, an event or a mailing, I do it all and fill the orders of each and every person who orders the book.

What has been a struggle while starting up your company? 
Teaching myself how to build a website has been a challenge, media, etc. it's all a learning process but my brain is big enough to do it with God's grace of course and my business partner and friend Liz has been a huge support and backs me on everything while she runs her own business as a CPA.

What did you do in your past work life?
I have been a waitress, a secretary a financial aid officer and a Marketing Manager.

What have been some of your major successes?
We chose the first story that we thought readers and families would embrace as well as spread a message of being happy with who you are. "I'm a Manatee Happy to be ME!", the moment I wrote it, I just had a feeling that Sea World would one day have it in their manatee exhibit which I loved visiting through my life. Sure enough they welcomed it with open arms and so did Borders where I broke two records for most attendance and purchases for a debut Author's book signing event (the testimonial is on my website) and Barnes & Noble has recently welcomed us in their website store.
* We won the purple Dragonfly Contest of Arizona in 2011
* We were also featured on Jewels & Pinstripes website of California where movie stars like Tori Spelling often shop.

What have been some of your major challenges?
The printing costs can sure be a challenge but it always seems to work out if it is meant to be.

On those impossible days, what motivates you to keep going?
I keep a portfolio of all the pictures of where I have done story times.  The local elementary schools, book stores, Kid-Stock and Tutor Time, just seeing all of the happy faces remind me that I am doing something great as an individual and it's my job to keep doing it and spreading happiness. If you don't use it you will lose it. 

What is your balancing secret in managing a business and family?
My children are up their in age now but I have always scheduled Do Not Disturb Mom time and it seems to work out.  The family has always helped out with events as well if I needed an extra hand or two. Of course, my business partner is always a support in every way.

What is next for your business?
We are currently having our second book illustrated, as a matter of fact there are only two more paintings to do. Each page is starts out as an actual large water color painting.

Do you have any advice for other mom entrepreneurs that are starting out and struggling, or are on the fence about starting a business?
Women seem to have forgotten what gifts they are to this world, we can have children, we have intuition that is amazing, we have sisters who aren't our blood and on top of that we are brilliant!  Never doubt who you are, what you are and exactly what changes do you want to make on this planet.  If you can see it, if it crosses your mind everyday, if you get consumed by ideas that come out of nowhere than that is your calling.  You jump on that dream and take one baby step at a time, before you know it you will see the butterfly in the mirror you have always been. 

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Must Haves for Travelling Mom Entrepreneurs -- The Hold Me Bag (Review)

Cherry B -- Click to zoom

A unique makeup organizer with a wrap-around self-tie. Made of Knew Suede, a high performance man-made fabric that is sleek and soft to the touch. It is easy-care as even the most stubborn makeup spills and smudges are quickly wiped away.

Choices include patterned versions that feature interior highlights made from fun, all-cotton prints that have been overlaid with a smooth washable surface, and an all-black version with entire Knew Suede interior. A zippered center compartment, "The Heart" of the bag, has a removable, reversible, thin bottom liner, 6.5" W x 9.5" H, which may be used to separate palettes or for use outside the bag. Exterior fabric of bag: black. Interior and exterior of bag have contrast stitching.

The Hold Me Bag measures a compact 10" H x 7" W x 2" D closed; it extends to 22" W fully opened.

Original patented design. Hand Made in the USA.

My Thoughts:

The end of summer has become a busy travel season for me both business and blogger wise.  In a few days I will be heading to NYC for BlogHer '12 conference, and just got back from the Toy Fair in NYC a couple of weeks ago.  As you can imagine with two young children at home, I don't have much time to pack for these events.  So, I have found from trial and error, that it is best to have a small bag packed and ready to go.  That way, if the girls are not cooperating and I find myself pressed for time, I don't have to stress out over packing.  In the past, when I was rushing, I would forget half of my makeup supplies.  Not fun, when you want to look your best for cocktail parties, dinner engagements, etc. where photos will be taken.  I know other mom entrepreneurs like myself take pride in our appearance and know that when dealing with business meetings, tradeshows, etc. you need to be on your game, including taking time to do your makeup and hair. The Hold Me Bag will help you stay organized when it comes to packing and traveling with your makeup supplies.

So, when I heard about the Hold Me Bag, I felt like they created it just for me. Before receiving this makeup bag for review, I had a few plastic zip totes under the bathroom sink that would contain my makeup and brushes.  I think this is why I would forget my stuff half the time I was packing , as I would only grab one of the bags.  The concept of the Hold Me Bag is easy --  it was created to help women save time each day by keeping their cosmetics and brushes safely stored and organized. The Hold Me Bag is handmade in the USA from an eco-friendly company, and will provide many years of use. So, go ahead and throw away your cheap, plastic makeup bags, Ziploc bags, or other bags you have been using to store your makeup and graduate to the Hold Me Bag.  You will be glad you did!  It makes traveling and accessing your mkeup and brushes so much easier.  And, the bag itself looks stylish and chic, so you will not feel embarrassed when you have to pull it out at the airport checkpoints or leave on the counter in your hotel room. 


I was sent the Cherry Blossom style and absolutely love it.  After transferring my two older (ripped and worn) makeup bags to this new makeup storage bag, I couldn't believe how much stuff it held, including palettes, which my other bags couldn't accommodate well.  And, when it folded up, it didn't bulge and items stayed in place -- making it great for travel.

I know many of my blogger friends will be joining for in NYC for the upcoming BlogHer '12 conference, as well as have other blogger conferences slated to attended in the fall.  Why not treat yourself to a Hold Me Bag before you head out on your trips.  Not only will it make storing and traveling with your makeup so much easier, but you will love showing it off to friends. :-)  I can't wait to travel with my Hold Me Bag and show off to friends (who like I have in the past) need to run out to the local pharmacy to pick up makeup must haves they forgot to pack.  Take the worry and stress out of packing your makeup with the help of this versatile and oh so functional Hold Me Bag. You will be glad you did!


Classic Black -- Click to zoom
Click here to visit the Hold Me online store -- http://www.holdmecompany.com/ -- to order a Hold Me Bag for yourself.  You can choose from a variety of styles, including their popular classic black bag.  Prices vary depending on style chosen, but range from $65.00 to $95.00. 

Disclosure: I was sent a sample from the vendor in order to write up an honest review.  The views above are mine and mine alone.
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Spotlight on Mommy -- Christine Ibarra of The Glitz Shop


This week's Spotlight on Mom really made my daughter's 2nd birthday last week, as she provided a custom made candle for her birthday cake.  You'll have to wait until Friday when I review the candle and Christine's business further.  But, here is just a glimpse of some of Christine's unique and wonderful candles:

Aren't these amazing?  Christine does a great job in making the cake stand out, and providing parents with a wonderful keepsake.  I can't wait to order another candle for her for Arabella's 1st birthday in November, and then for the girls going forward.  I want to be able to start a memory box with their custom made candles, and add photos of their special days with them.

So, if you are looking for a special way to celebrate your child's birthday, why not consider having Christine, a fellow mom, create a custom made candle for your child's cake?  Don't forget to head back here on Friday, when I will share Savannah's special candle, which really made her Toy Story cake special.  In the meantime, please enjoy my interview with Christine Ibarra, of The Glitz Shop. 

Name: Christine Ibarra
Company Name/Product/Service: The Glitz Shop - creating custom-made celebration candles.

Company Location: Oakland, California

Company Website: 
Facebook URL: www.facebook.com/TheGlitzShop

Age of Company: 1 year

Favorite Inspirational Quote: If it wasn't done to the best of your ability, it wasn't worth doing. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself. How many children do you have? What are their ages? Your hobbies? Etc.

I'm a full-time student, mother, and small-business owner.  I have one child, my daughter, Andyn, who just turned 2.  Creating custom candles is my hobby, I love knowing I've created something one-of-a-kind for a child who is obviously loved very much and being part of their big day.  In my free time, I get to play my other role: wife.  :)

Briefly explain your business. How did it come about?
The Glitz Shop is all about customization, glitter, and glitz!  I take a small piece from the special day, whether it be a cake design, party theme, invitation, a napkin or cup design, or just a color scheme, and transform it into a candle.

The Glitz Shop started last June (2011) when I was planning my own daughter's first birthday. Like any other crazed Mama, the party had to be perfect, right down to the amount of confetti to be used!  I searched and searched for something special, something better, something other than your typical grocery store birthday candle, but found nothing!  So, with the power of craftiness on my side, I decided to create one myself.  After the party, all my friends and family kept telling me that I should make and sell other candles, and guess what, they were right!  And so, The Glitz Shop was born.

What is a typical work day like? 
Orders tend to be sporadic, I've gone over a week without an order, then all of a sudden get slammed with three in a day, so it all just depends.  My typical day starts at 5am, get everyone ready and out the door, school til 11am, hour commute home to work on homework and orders.  The candles are made in stages, each stage needs adequate time to dry or set before moving on to the next, only then to be set so as to be able to apply any rhinestones or embellishment; the candles can be pretty time consuming.   

What has been a struggle while starting up your company? 

Finding the time for everything!  There just is never enough time in the day to get everything finished without something or someone getting neglected, and it's usually me, I don't really remember what sleep is anymore, haha!

What did you do in your past work life?
Before deciding to go back to school and invest so much time into The Glitz Shop, I was a hairstylist and model.

What have been some of your major successes?
My major successes with TGS (The Glitz Shop) would have to be my first out of country order, my first $1000, and the thank-you letters and pictures of my candles in action!  I never get tired of seeing the candle and cake come together.

What have been some of your major challenges?
Finding the right paints, colors, quality embellishments, and packaging was definitely the hardest part!  Colors look different in person than online, so I try to really work with the customer as closely as possible until I have the finished product.  Shipping and packaging I still tweak!  Different candles require special packaging sometimes to protect its embellishments, but I'm sure I'll find the perfect set-up before long.

On those impossible days, what motivates you to keep going?
My husband has always pushed me to be better, he supported me through cosmetology school even while serving in Iraq, he pushed me to model, which landed me some really cool jobs and even a commercial, and has even offered to help paint some candles (even though I'd die before I let that happen, lol, I'm a perfectionist to a fault sometimes).  I just know at the end of the day, whether I succeeded or not, his arms will be there to catch me.

What is your balancing secret in managing a business and family?

The secret?  Family comes first, and when business absolutely HAS to come first, work as a team.  If I just have to get a rush order done, my husband will take care of dinner and bath time, and I'm lucky in that.

What is next for your business?
I haven't quite decided where TGS is headed next.  I've had partnership talks with cake shops; and have even thought about creating on a grander scale, as far as having getting pre-made candles into cake stores and bakeries, but I'm not willing to trade quality for quantity by any means.  So we'll see where life takes us.  For now I'm happy with how things are, I like being able to really think through what I'm going to create for my customers.

Do you have any advice for other mom entrepreneurs that are starting out and struggling, or are on the fence about starting a business?
Seriously ask yourself, "What do I have to lose?"  Time?  Maybe.  Sleep?  Definitely!  But if you are able to make money off of something you're truly passionate about, regardless of how much time or sleep you lose, or even how much money you make, it's a win/win!
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Sunday, July 29, 2012

My Summer Reading List -- Crazy for Bake Pops by Molly Bakes (Review)

Oct 2011
Trade Paper
6 1/2 x 9
160 pages
Buy now at Amazon for only $10.17.


Cake pops are the hottest trend in baking and it’s easy to see why. With creative shapes and delightful flavors, they’re as fun to make as they are to eat. Crazy for Cake Pops teaches you the secrets for creating these mouthwatering mini treats like a professional baker. Packed with over 75 color photos, Crazy for Cake Pops leaves nothing to chance as it guides you step by step through each part of the process including baking, crumbling, shaping, frosting, and decorating. 

Plus, it offers loads of different frosting and cake flavors from classic vanilla, chocolate, and lemon to adventurous red velvet, toffee, and peanut butter cake. With tips, tricks, and techniques for foolproof pops, this book provides everything you need to bake child-pleasing, guest-impressing, cute-as-can-be, cake-on-a-stick creations. And with so my styles to choose from, no matter what the occasion, you’ll have the perfect handheld dessert option, like: 
• Tricolor Dips • Marbled • Clouds • Gift Boxes • Bird Pops • Tropical Fish • Purses • Ice Cream Cones • Tea Pots and Cups • Flowers • Sheep Pops • Teddie Bears • Poker Chip and Dice Pops • Valentine Hearts • Easter Eggs • Pumpkin and Skull Pops • Christmas Snowmen 


My Thoughts:

As many of you know, we recently celebrated Savannah's 2nd birthday.  Now that she is getting older, she is beginning to understand and wants to partake in celebrations, especially when all the attention is on her.  So, when I began planning her birthday, I had to decide if I would have a cake or go with something easier for young children to eat, like cupcakes or cake pops.  We ended up having a small cake for the adults, and also to be able to put a candle on it, and then had cake pops for the kids.  

Prior to this, I had only tried cake pops that I bought at craft or holiday fairs.  I had never attempted to make them myself, nor had the molds or maker.  What swayed me to go with the cake pops was the book, Crazy for Cake Pops.  I couldn't believe how cute many of the cake pops were in the cookbook, filled with 50 delicious recipes, all accompanied by color photos of most of the cake pops

We ended up having a Toy Story themed birthday party and bought an edible icing for the 1/4 sheet cake.  I didn't find character recipes in this book, but decided on the donut and monkey cake pops.  Like I said, I had never made them before, so didn't know how time consuming or difficult they would be to make.  I ended up making a dozen of each cake pop, and was impressed at how easy it was to make, as I followed the step by step directions.  Decorating was not as difficult as I thought -- let's just say you don't have to be a pastry chef to pull out a cute cake pop -- but, you do need patience, and a quiet space to concentrate, if working on an intricate design.  

How was the cake itself?  Tasty!!!  I couldn't believe just how moist they were.  And, when it came time to showing off my first try at cake pops at Savannah's party, they were an instant hit. Both parents and children alike, loved the cute cake pops.  Everyone kept complimenting me on the design and how moist the cake was.  I can't wait to get back in the kitchen and try out a few more cake pop recipes just in time for the holidays.  I am thinking about doing the red velvet present cake pop.  Argg, I am getting hungry just thinking about them. :-)

 Disclosure:  I was sent a copy of this book by the publisher in order to write up an honest review.  The views above are mine and mine alone.
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My Summer Reading List -- Is That a Picasso on Your Fridge? by Dan Consiglio (Review)

Nov 2011
Trade Paper
5 1/4 x 8 1/4
128 pages
  Buy now from Amazon for only $12.95.
Kids create them. Parents submit them. An art critic reviews them. And don’t think for one second he doesn’t know exactly what the hell he’s talking about!

Age can’t constrain greatness. Mozart composed at five. Picasso was painting at seven. If one doubts that young children reveal signs of genius every time they touch crayon to paper, just ask any parent about the artwork on their refrigerator door. But regular people don’t understand “art,” so it is impossible for them to see the difference between the work of an idiot savant and a kid who’s just an idiot. Luckily, New York art critic Salvatore Consiglio is here to separate the wheat from the chaff in the field of children’s art. Not afraid to call it as he sees it, Consiglio is brutally honest to any young artists who submitted “derivative” or “uninspired” work for this book — telling them straight out if it is time to hang up the Magic Markers. When the paint has dried, Is That a Picasso on Your Fridge? emerges as a bitingly hilarious parody of parents’ love for their kids’ scribbles and art critics’ adoration of their own narcissistic opinions.

My Thoughts:

 Now that Savannah has taking up doodling and coloring, our refrigerator is covered with her one of a kind works of art.  If you walk by fast, you would think you were looking at a Picasso -- hahaha, not!  :-)  But, what you will see is the passion and love for coloring by a 2 year old.  Savannah takes pride in her work, and even takes a few moments out of her busy play schedule to stop and admire her works of art.  She will even stop me at times, just to look at her pretty pictures.  As I stop and stare at her works of art, I often wonder, "Will she be the next famous painter?"  Who knows?  But, what I know is that Dan Consiglio tells it like it is when looking at children's artwork, and he does so in his book Is That a Picasso on Your Fridge?   I'll have to send him a copy of one of Savannah's best pieces and see what he thinks.  My husband and I think she has a talent, but we could be biased, as her parents. :-)

In Is That a Picasso on Your Fridge?, Dan Consiglio really critiques 60 works of art done by children.  He holds nothing back in weeding out the truly talented artists from those who are in it just to have fun and color.  After reading this book in under an hour, I placed it on the coffee table the other night.  When I returned from folding the laundry, my husband had picked it up and was reading it.  He loved the humor in Dan's critiques, and how he took each child's work of art, and critiqued it like it was hanging in an art gallery/museum.  This quick read and fun coffee table book would make for a great break from the norm summer reading list, or as a gift.  Do you see the potential in the children Dan critiqued, based upon their artwork submitted.  I don't know if it was just because I am a parent to young children who scribble and doodle, but I thought they were all good and had potential.  You'll have to pick up a copy of this book to see what I mean. :-)

Disclosure: I was sent a sample from the vendor in order to write up an honest review.  The views above are mine and mine alone.

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Arriving on CD July 31st -- Sing Loud! with Melissa Green (Review)



For ages 0 - 9
Label: Green Circle Music
SRP: $12.99
Run time: 34 minutes.

“Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Melissa Green taught preschool in New York City for two years before embarking on a musical career.  Her voice recalls '90s songstresses Juliana Hatfield and Lisa Loeb.” 
Time Out New York Kids 

Melissa has a knack for blending catchy melodies with playful lyrics about seahorses, wagon rides, and 'Chocolate Ice Cream.' As if her originals weren't enough, she also breathes new life into old favorites.”
Los Angeles Daily News

Award winning children's musician Melissa Green looks ahead with pride to the July 31 release of her fourth studio CD, Sing Loud!  Featuring two duets that mark the kids' music debut of guest artist Brooke Shields, Sing Loud! celebrates the art of having confidence, being who you are, and empowering yourself with the knowledge that you can do anything you truly set your mind to!

Known for her distinctive, warm, "wide open" vocal style, Melissa Green has been writing and performing music for families for nearly a decade.  Sing Loud! builds upon her previous work with a new depth of focus that emphasizes individuality, courage, and pride.  With the help of producers Lisa Parade and Bob Marlette (Wilson Phillios, Sheryl Crow, Tracy Chapman, Lynyrd Skynyrd), Melissa Green has created a kids' /family album that musically documents her eclectic range of listening favorites: blues, ska, Nashville country, '50s rock 'n' roll, and today's pop, invoking such influences as Johnny Cash, The Noisettes, Indigo Girls, The Romantics, Bob Marley, Ani DiFrancio, the Dixie Chicks, Mumford and Sons, and Eminem.

Sing Loud! conveys the message "Stand tall, be proud, have fun, and get up and dance!"  Songs run the gamut from invigorating kid anthems like "Heyo,""Sing Loud!" and "Get Up" (which features a chorus from Eminem's "Lose Yourself") and rockabilly tracks like "Aboard That Train" to a cover of the Go Go's poppy "We Got the Beat" featuring Brooke Shields.  

When asked about her collaboration with Brooke Shields, Melissa Green explains, "We met six years ago and have been friendly since then.  I knew that Brooke had performed in Broadway musicals (Chicago and The Addams Family), so when I was thinking about a duet partner for Sing Loud!, she came instantly to mind.  Brooke said 'yes' right away, and I have to say she is so kind and sweet that recording with her didn't seem at all like work!  She came to our sessions rehearsed and ready to go.  She was up for everything, singing the songs any way we asked.  Brooke has achieved so much in her lifetime, and she's stayed true to herself.  I admire her very much, and it was an  honor to work with her."

While teaching at Beginnings Nursery School in NYC in 2003, Melissa Green began singing with kids.  Encouraged by her success, she honed her guitar skills and ultimately became the school's music and movement specialist.  Wishing to make her teaching more meaningful for the students, Melissa began writing and recording songs that grew out of their shared experiences.  Now living in Los Angeles, Melissa manages to teach music classes and workshops while also maintaining an active national touring schedule.  

Melissa Green's previous albums include Sweet Little One (2011), Round and Round (2008), and Here We Go (2006).  In 2008 she released a DVD, Clap, Shake and Roll, and a song-turned-book, The Seahorse Song. Her music is featured on Putumayo's Rock & Roll Playground (2010), and she was a John Lennon Songwriting Contest finalist for "The Seahorse Song" from Here We Go.

My Thoughts:

This was the first time my family had listened to a Melissa Green CD, even thought she has been turning them out for over a decade.  But, now that we are aware of this Connecticut native, we have made an effort to pick up her previous releases, as well a DVD which released in 2008 and a book, based on her hit song, "The Seahorse Song."  What hooked my husband and I when listening to Melissa's new CD for the first time was her love for the same type of music as us -- blues, ska, Nashville country, '50s rock 'n' roll, and today's pop.  She did an amazing job in incorporating both the sound and feel for each of these music genres.  Who knew a children's CD would include a song with a chorus line from rapper, Eminem?  Well, Melissa Green does this with her song, " Get Up," and makes it works.  
We listened to this CD with Savannah on a recent car trip to visit my parents, and by the time we reached their house, we were all energized and happy, from dancing in our seats, and tapping along to Melissa's catchy tunes.  Don't ask us for a favorite song, as each of the twelves songs on this CD were great.  I can see why Melissa Green is an award winning children's musician -- her music is so catchy and fun to listen and dance to.  Since our car ride, I have been playing this CD in the house after lunch.  Savannah and I have been having a blast having our own dance parties, in which we include a Freeze Dance piece.  
For my fellow CT and NY readers, there is still time to pick up tickets to Melissa Green's show at Bunnell High School, 1 Bulldog Blvd., Stratford, CT on August 4th.  This will be a memorable show, as it is the high school Melissa attended, along with 3 band members.   Click here to learn more and to purchase tickets -- http://melissagreenmusic.com/Shows.html
If you love wholesome children's music, then you will love the songs Melissa Green turns out on this and other albums she has previously released.   
Click here to order a copy of Melissa Green's CD, releasing July 31st, directly from her official website, for only $12.99. 

Disclosure: I was sent a sample from the vendor in order to write up an honest review.  The views above are mine and mine alone.
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