Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas from the Love Birds

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. - Isaiah 9:6

Wishing you and your family a wonderful Christmas!


P.S. I'll be back blogging January 1, 2013 . . .

Monday, December 24, 2012

Shout Out to Mrs. Santa Claus

Now we Love Birds might not be into Santa, but last week I heard this Nat King Cole song for the first time on Pandora around midnight while I was up late cleaning on the internet, and for some odd reason I could totally identify with Mrs. Santa Claus' situation . . . 

Here are some of the lyrics of the song posted above:

Who feeds the reindeer all their hay?
Who wraps the gifts and packs the sleigh?
Who's helping Santa every day?
Mrs. Santa Claus

Who keeps his red suit looking nice?

Who does he turn to for advice?
Who gives the brownies all their spice?
Mrs. Santa Claus

You know they say behind every great man is an even greater woman, right???

Have you heard of this song? Have a Merry Christmas everyone!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Love Birds' Afternoon of Fun With The Big Toy Book

Update: I came back 1/1/13 to add a few more pictures I took at the event. Enjoy!

I have an obsession with 80s toys, in case you haven't noticed, so when I got an invitation to The Big Toy Book's Biggest Day of Holiday Play including Spirograph and Slinky I knew we had to go! Mr. Love Bird had just returned the night before after a week out of town so it was the perfect family outing!

The event was held at the Yo Hotel, a fun space that I had heard of but had never been to. With the bright, futuristic layout it was the perfect space for a toy showcase. My Lil Love Bird jumped right in, and I'm excited to share with you the toys we loved the most (and logo links are clickable to learn more about the products) . . .

Mystixx was Nia's favorite toy - it's a vampire doll that has interchangeable wigs and looks. It can go from human to vampire as Mr. Love Bird so graciously demonstrated below:

A bit creepy!

Just Play included Doc McStuffins, bouncing Tigger and Minnie's Kitchen and was a booth Nia visited a few times! She had watched Doc Mc Stuffins at my parents home a few times when we've visited in the past since they have cable but this was Nia's first time playing with the doll and she really liked it. I later saw in my Twitter feed how it seemed to be sold out everywhere! I never realized it was so popular. Nia also enjoyed playing with Minnie's Kitchen as much as she loves playing with hers at home and Mr. Love Bird got carried away with the Tigger tail . . .

{Image Credit: http://www.toddphilip.com/}
This booth was our first stop and since Nia's been recently introduced to Play-Doh, it was exciting for her to be able to play with dough that she could actually eat! She was more interested in eating the cooked dough vs. playing with it, but I felt good knowing it was safe to eat. If you'd like to give Yummy Dough a try here's a buy-one-get-one-free promo code to use at http://www.smartyparents.com: BOGODOUGH. It's good until January 1/7/2013.

{Image Credit: http://www.toddphilip.com/}

Did you know Slinky is celebrating its 50th anniversary? It was Nia's first time experiencing a Slinky and she had fun pulling the Slinky dog! Now that we're at my parents' home with a long staircase we've been having fun showing Nia how to make the Slinky walk down the stairs. It's fun seeing her partake of a part of my 80s childhood!

{Image Credit: http://www.toddphilip.com/}

I think I may have scared the rep with my enthusiasm for Spirograph! I've written it about it on the blog before and was excited to learn that it's coming back to the market. Mr. Love Bird even made a Spirograph drawing to take home! If you're like me, and share my enthusiasm for Spirograph stay tuned for a fun announcement soon . . .

{Image Credit: http://www.toddphilip.com/}
This new toy was the most intriguing to me! It's like a digital Etch-a-Sketch that erases with the press of a button. It's super-thin, lightweight and doesn't require a battery, but has enough erases for up to 10,000 uses. That's years of usage! You can use it for things like making lists, learning, doodling etc. The red one's magnetized so you can put it on your fridge and luckily I won one and am so excited to use it at home! 

{Image Credit: http://www.toddphilip.com/}
The Drip Drops was a really popular booth for toddlers - a new and only digital preschool property centered on art, color, reading and creativity is a great way for children to express themselves through art. Nia didn't get to play the game at the event, but the app of their story is available for iPad and Android. I downloaded it on my SIII for the ride to my parents and Nia enjoyed listening to the story of the Drop Drops (there was a "read to me" option) and answered the questions enthusiastically about the colors. I look forward to when the game launches on Google Play!

{Image Credit: http://www.toddphilip.com/}
Nia didn't play with this at the event but loved playing with her little bug in the gift bag when we got home. It's a wheel-less little bug that runs around the floor and can battle other bugs. I captured a fun video of my Love Birds playing with the Hex Bug at home: 

Thank you to The Big Toy Book for such a fun afternoon!

Disclosure: I received an invitation to TBTB's Biggest Day of Holiday Play and a gift bag of toys to take home courtesy of  The Blogger Connection. All opinions expressed are my own.

*P.S. I wrote this at my parents' home and forgot to bring along my hard drive where I stored my DSLR pics from TBTB so I used many of the event photos via http://www.toddphilip.com. I'll update the post later next week with better pics!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Lil Love Bird Wins Big With Zutano

A few days after I shared my post about our first cruise being booked I got the news that I won a $75 credit for Zutano courtesy of Sassy Mahogany Wife. I received email blasts last week for Zutano's week of savings and each day I took a look at the offers to see if I could use them for Lil Love Bird. At the end of the week I saw a 25% off code (plus free shipping!) which I coupled with the $75 gift code and got the following:

You see that??? Only $1.88! Lil Love Bird was so excited when her clothes arrived (3 days ahead of schedule!).

We decided to do a little photoshoot  . . .

I had heard about Zutano across the blogosphere and I have to say I'm really impressed with the quality - and the superfast shipping was a welcome surprise too! Nia loves all the colors and gets excited to wear her Zutano outfit - it's definitely coming along to MD when we head there for Christmas this weekend.

Thank you again Zutano and Sassy Mahogany Wife!


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Share Your Sticky Situation for a Chance to Win an iPad or Six Flags Tickets from Wet Ones

As a mom I can't tell you how many sticky situations I've been in with my Lil Love Bird - from her embarrassing, massive pre-cloth diaper explosion at a wedding when she was just a month old, to pouring her juice in her "big girl cuppie" all over the floor after I had just cleaned it, the situations are endless! Rather than get stressed out when things like this happened I've learned to #1) take a deep breath and #2) just go with it - pretty much every situation can be cleaned up. And since that wedding explosion, I never leave home without a change of clothing (talk about "new mom" lesson!). 

Wet Ones is giving us the opportunity to share all of the Sticky Situations we have found ourselves in and tips on how to deal with them through their Facebook Contest! Simply log on and share your story and tips, and you can be entered to win an iPad Mini or Six Flags Tickets! I just entered, it doesn’t take long at all, here’s the link to enter: https://www.facebook.com/momcentral/app_248884015238315

Here's the link to my entry if you'd like to vote for my sticky situation!

Disclosure: I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Wet Ones. I received a promotional item to thank me for participating.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Rekindling Your Romance With Free Dates From HowAboutWe for Couples

Enjoying our HowAboutWe for Couples date
For 10 weeks the summer before we got married Mr. Love Bird and I went to premarital counseling every Saturday for 2 hours, and if there's only one thing I took away from it, it was the importance of date night. We looked at each other and vowed to make it a non-negotiable priority and guess what? Sadly, it isn't.

With our hectic schedules and life with a toddler it's been nearly impossible to have a standing date night, but what has worked for us is carving out special time when we can fit in a date night and put it on our calendar (starred and marked in red!) as something to look forward to. That's why when I was introduced to HowAboutWe for Couples, a subscription service designed especially for couples, I knew it was something that would be perfect for us!

So how does it work? For $22 per month you and your significant other receive a new "Datebook" filled with pre-planned, one-of-a-kind experiences in your city. The monthly cost gets you FREE HowAboutWe Dates each month, sold-out tickets and members-only events, early booking on HowAboutWe Dates, up to 75% off other HowAboutWe Dates and Couples Rewards. Also if you don't want the monthly membership, dates on HowAboutWe for Couples can be purchased as a non-Member without the Member discount and other benefits. HowAboutWe knows how busy couples are. That’s why most dates are flexible and can be scheduled whenever you decide. Some are one-time-only scheduled events, like performances or special excursions.

It was so easy to pick our date from our date book - a Sunday night dinner at Olives. During the week leading up to our date we talked about how excited we were to have something to look forward to. We got dressed up and went into the city for our date night. From booking to the warm customer service at Olives everything was a delight. The ambiance reminded us of a Vegas venue we had been to a few months prior and although we had walked by Olives several times in the past it was our first time going. 

Our 4 course dinner was delicious - we selected calamari as our appetizer, a lobster pasta course then branzino to share followed by a warm chocolate pudding with salty chocolate crunchies perfect for the cold night. And besides the good food I didn't mind staring at my hot date either!

During this busy time of year it's so hard to slow down and our HowAboutWe for Couples date gave us the opportunity to do that. We talked about how this past year had gone and what we have to look forward to in 2013. It really felt like we were dating again and that's what's important - to keep the flame of romance going!

If you'd like to rekindle your romance with HowAboutWe for Couples visit this link and sign up. I know you won't regret it!


Disclosure: I was provided with a free date and compensation by HowAboutWe for Couples in exchange for this post about my experience. All opinions expressed are my own.  

Monday, December 17, 2012

How the Love Birds Are Making a Healthier Holiday Table

When I was asked to share a recipe for ACS' Healthier Holiday Table campaign I knew just the one: Waldorf Salad. It's been a tradition that my mother has made for years. Some call it Ambrosia, but either way my husband hadn't heard of it prior to us being married however he's now a fan.

{Image Credit}
Waldorf Salad is a colorful, crunchy mix of fruits, celery, nuts and coconut surrounded in billowy clouds of creamy (aka fatty mayonnaise) heaven - oh and marshmallows and maraschino cherries too, if you're like my family! In other words, it's not your typical healthy fruit salad. With the ACS' recommendation to eat at least 2 1/2 cups of fresh fruits and veggies a day I knew that I could easily remix this recipe to make it healthier and better meet this recommendation.

Waldorf Salad Remix

  • 4 medium apples cored and chopped - 3 cups (I prefer Granny Smith for their crispiness)
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery 
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (toasted, if you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup red seedless grapes
  • 1/2 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Romaine or Bibb lettuce

Mix apples, celery grapes and walnuts. Put fruit mixture into large bowl and chill. Combine Greek yogurt, honey and lemon juice and toss with chilled apple mixture. Turn salad into lettuce lined bowl or platter. Sprinkle with nutmeg for added warmth. Makes 6 servings.  

Looking for more ways to include cancer-fighting fruits and veggies into your daily diet? Here are two resources filled with ideas!

If you'd like to check out more recipes and even share your own for making your holiday table healthier visit ACS' Healthier Holiday Table Facebook page.

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. I was approached by a fellow blogger who asked me to participate in this effort and coming from a family affected by cancer I wanted to contribute.

And When We Move On

When a tragedy like the Newtown, CT shooting occurs I always think to the post period, meaning a month from now, a year from now, 10 years from now etc. It's so easy to get caught up in the swarm of media coverage until the wave of the next tragic story comes along. I have not been watching the news but instead I've been thinking about all of the tragedies that have happened that we quickly move on from as one story overtakes the other: Chandra Levy, Hurricane Katrina, Natalee Holloway, the AZ and Aurora shootings, Hurricane Sandy...I could go on. (I've listed the stories that have come to mind immediately for having huge media coverage.) 

There are going to be a swarm of bloggers taking to write posts about Newtown, social media statuses telling us to hug our kids tightly etc. but the real question is what are you going to do to combat the senseless acts of violence? How are you going to take action?

As I've read those that have quickly taken to their keyboards to share their thoughts it appears that it is more than a gun control issue but a mental health issue as well. 

We cannot recoil into ourselves, attempt to insulate our families and bind ourselves in fear. What's most important is reaching out to each other in our communities. When we see someone who needs help, support, lend an ear, help them get the help they need. 

Government may be a start but that is not where all the power lies. It is within us. 

I haven't made status updates, Tweets etc. about the Newtown shooting, but instead the one item I have found that really spoke to me was this: 

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world." -- Mister Rogers (The Fred Rogers Company has helpful resources for discussing tragic events in the news.) 

What am I going to do? I am going to be alert and continue to be so. Not just from a "if you see something, say something" perspective as is the common phrase here in NYC, but from a "if I see my neighbor who needs help, I will help" perspective. You never know the silent struggle someone is going through. 

Let's be there for each other. Always. Not just for a week or a month, but for a lifetime.

P.S. I'll be back later this afternoon with the blog post I had initially scheduled for today. It's also for an important cause so please come back to check it out. Thank you!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Make It This Weekend: Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Soup

I'm a huge fan of my slow cooker - it really is the best $50 I've spent! I had a tiny sized one my mom gave me when I was living in Boston, but I've since upgraded to a programmable 6 quart model which has been a dream. Most recipes require a bit of prep beforehand, but rarely there's that one recipe that really is just pouring everything into it and leaving it alone (for the most part!). I made such a recipe a couple days ago, and it is sitting near the top of my all time favorite slow cooker recipes. 

It was All Recipe's Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Soup. Mr. Love Bird and I were actually checking out All Recipe's channel on our Roku (I'll share more about our experience with this awesome little gadget later!) and came across the video recipe. 

You can click the link above for the recipe, but essentially all the prep work you have to do is to chop an onion then toss it in the slow cooker with drained canned black and kidney beans, corn, tomato sauce, taco seasoning packet, diced tomatoes, a can of beer and 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts. After 5 hours on low take out the chicken, shred it, put it back in for 2 hours then it's ready to eat! We topped ours with cheddar and had yellow corn tortilla chips (Snyder's are really hearty). 

One thing that I did differently than the recipe: the chicken appeared to shred so easily with just forks in the Roku video, but mine didn't so I put it in the food processor. It kinda over did it, but in the end Mr. Love Bird pointed out that it was actually good to be over-processed because it made it easier for Lil Love Bird to eat. And eat she did! I have never seen her devour dinner the way she did her bowl of soup! Her tummy was so hard and full and she was blinking slowly by the end of the bowl and slept so hard that night. I think I might rename the soup "Night Night Chicken Taco Soup." 

Besides being perfectly seasoned (thanks to the taco packet) and packed with nutritious protein, the best part is the soup packed up easily for leftovers making it super easy for me to reheat and put a meal on the table ASAP. 

What do you like making in your slow cooker? If you've never tried using one this is a great first-time recipe!

P.S. If you don't like using beer you can find alternatives in the recipe reviews. We used beer and it didn't overpower the recipe, but offered wonderful flavor!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Squeaky Wheel #11: Ask and Ye Shall Receive

We purchased a First Years Jet Stroller about a year ago. It's super affordable, light and easy for navigating around NYC - I still don't understand how those folks with huge $1,000 strollers get on and off the subway!

If you saw my Instagram stream last week though you may have noticed something weird about it:

Do you see it? The handlebars are missing their foam covers. They had started coming off a few months ago and Mr. Love Bird temporarily fixed them with electrical tape, but it turned super sticky. He used that instead of duct tape so it would camouflage better (this was before I remembered Duck makes it in various colors!). Well, it was an awful mess so at last he just ripped it off foam covers and all, of course without consulting me first about how this would affect my comfort level as I'm the one pushing the stroller 99% of the time O_o

With my gloves on it was making handling the stroller really tricky so I turned to Amazon to find replacement covers and saw they were just over $6 a piece. Seriously?! For a stroller that cost about $35 to me that was outrageous so I emailed the company and they wrote back in less than 48 hours that they were putting them in the mail for me:

A few days later they showed up and now we're back in business!

I have to add that I tried this method for replacement straws for Nia's Born Free Twist 'N Pop Straw Cup, but they told me it would cost me $1.50 per straw. Didn't hurt to ask though!

What slightly damaged items in your home might this "ask and receive" tactic work with?

{You can check out more posts in the Squeaky Wheel series here.}


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Let's Help Women Like Us: Join the SHE28 Campaign

I have to admit part of the reason I liked being pregnant was not having a period. By the time my period came back nearly 2 years had gone by since I had last had one! Now that I'm back in the flow of things it's a welcome reminder each month that my body is doing what it's supposed to. It's something many women in our country often take for granted - the ability to manage our periods and have access to sanitary products, but did you know in developing countries women and girls may lose up to 50 days per year of work or school because they don't have access to sanitary napkins?

I was introduced to SHE (Sustainable Health Enterprises) earlier this fall whose mission is to bring awareness to this often taboo topic that affects women's productivity and education worldwide. SHE's created SHE LaunchPads, an innovative and sustainable eco-friendly sanitary napkin using banana-fibers as their absorbent core which will provide women the ability to have access to affordable sanitary napkins. From an entrepreneurial perspective, their long-term goal is to help the women in these communities grow the production of the SHE LaunchPads into a sustainable business. How empowering is that?

Their SHE28 holiday campaign is currently running which will be producing 300,000 SHE LaunchPads for 3,000 Rwandan school girls attending 10 schools in the Kayonza district with the mass manufacturing of their SHE LaunchPads during their industrial-scale pilot in 2013. 

Want to join the SHE28 campaign and help SHE revolutionize access to maxi-pads? 

There are 4 great ways to get involved:
  1. Give $28. Support SHE.
  2. Break the silence and go viral - share the SHE28 campaign video with everyone you know!
  3. Get the word out! Tell your friends - donate your voice via SHE's special Thunderclap page running through December 24 which will amplify awareness via Twitter and Facebook.
  4. Follow SHE on its website and blog or find them on Twitter and Facebook.   
Want to learn more? Check out this amazing video demonstrating the mission and process of making SHE LaunchPads:


Let's help women like us worldwide! 


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Mary Mary Inspires Me To Prioritize My Life

Do you know that feeling when you are sure things are *this* close to spinning out of control in your daily life? Especially during this time of year it's so easy to feel that way, so when I had the opportunity to watch a preview of WE tv's hit series Mary Mary season 2 I felt as though it was speaking directly to me! Our family is cable-free, but I've loved Mary Mary for years ("Shackles" still makes me get up and dance every time I hear it!), and I was excited to be able to watch the first few episodes of season 2 which premiered last week.

A bit of background: Mary Mary (Erica and Tina Campbell) is a three-time Grammy award winning gospel music duo - and they were just nominated for two 2013 Grammy awards! Season 2 follows them as they juggle their families and music careers during one of the busiest times of their careers. My head was spinning watching them go from city to city especially with Tina being seven months pregnant at the time and Erica having an infant in tow. While they were dealing with faulty sound checks and wardrobe malfunctions I was thinking back to how I felt at seven months pregnant, and I was in complete awe of how they pulled everything off. I especially identified with Tina - she is a self-prescribed task master! I have to admit there were times that I was nervous for her being so far along, but she made a great point reminding us that just because she was pregnant doesn't mean she has to pack it up and shut it down. Both she and Erica gave their all regardless!

Seeing Mary Mary strive and attain excellence reminded me of when I was pregnant and in the midst of a business plan competition. I had worked on my plan the entire pregnancy, and I knew that a few weeks after giving birth I was going to have to pack my baby up and head downtown on the subway with her to present my plan in front of a roomful of judges. Like Tina said, I saw my task before me and I had no choice but to accomplish it! Now that my daughter's here, and I'm still finding it challenging keeping my business going while maintaining my role as wife and mother there are a few things I've learned to help me prioritize my daily life.

First, I make use of technology. There are apps for everything nowadays and I know there's the whole debate on whether Mommy Brain exists (it does for me!) so I have no choice but to put every task no matter how small into my smartphone before it slips my mind. My ongoing shopping lists are there, daily devotionals, appointments and even errand reminders such as rebates that need to me mailed. It really helps keep my life together!

Second, I reassess. This is part of the reason I sometimes have trouble sleeping! I'm always tweaking my action plan and thinking of areas for improvement and better time management in my life. If there's a way to streamline my life I'm going to find a way to do so even if it means I have to burn the midnight oil.

Third, I ask for help. Whether it be from God in prayer, my husband or my family I go to them when I need something. In one of the episodes of Mary Mary I saw Erica offer to help Tina sew up her pants right before they were scheduled to perform, but Tina refused to accept help. I laughed to myself because that is so me! Sometimes no matter how self-sufficient we think we are we just need to be willing to ask for and accept help. It's still an area that I'm working on . . .

When I get to the end of my day I go through my mental checklist of what's important to me: family, friends and faith. Seeing Mary Mary prioritize these same values really resonated with me and definitely motivates me to keep striving for excellence. It's so refreshing to see them on reality TV using their talent while being amazing moms and businesswomen!

Please share how you're prioritizing your daily life. Does the end-of-the-day checklist system work for you or do you have a different method? (You can see what others have to say here.)

It's situations like these that the three-time Grammy® award-winning gospel duo Erica and Tina Campbell face in Season 2 of WE tv’s hit series Mary Mary as they balance being recording artists, mothers, and wives. You can catch MARY this week when it moves to its regular timeslot on Thursdays at 9|8c, beginning December 13. Watch a sneak peek here!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of WE tv. The opinions and text are all mine.


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