Thursday, August 26, 2010

!0 Tips for A Winning Shower

Who among us hasn't planned at least one baby shower? And who didn't secretly dread the task? Exactly! Forget the old school days of a bunch of ladies sitting around comparing birthing stories -- here are some ideas to update the baby shower and make sure it's a good time!

1. Couples Showers Rock -- Mom may be carrying the baby but Dad's life is about to change too. Consider having a shower for couples instead of just something for the new Mommy.

2. Think of it as a party not a shower. Shower has so many associations, not all of them good -- too much crepe paper and lame party games come to mind. Think of it as a party and I bet you quickly ramp up the fun quotient!

3. Which leads me to party games -- if you're gonna have 'em make sure they are fun! Have a onesie decorating contest -- arm your guests with some fabric paints and let 'em go crazy. This will be fun for guests and give the new parents some cute outfits for baby. My daughter is almost 3 and I still have every onesie decorated for her by our guests.

4. Ask the honored guests what kind of party they want! I bet most new parents have some ideas about what kind of party they'd like to have to celebrate the addition to their family but many party hosts don't ask. Easiest way to get their suggestions without overwhelming them with details is to ask for their help in picking the invites -- this will tell you a lot about what kind of theme they want and what makes them tick partywise. My favorite for party invites is Tiny Prints, .Get their input -- after all, it is their party!

5. Recruit helpers. Party planning is always easier when you can divide and conquer. Ask a few people to help with the party and it's sure to save everyone's sanity and budget.

6. Serve yummy food! Face it, one of the things everyone remembers about a party is what they ate. Pick a few of the honored guests favorites and build a menu around those.

7. If it's a second baby or the parents already have much of what they need, consider an "alternative" theme. Pampering parties are popular treating Mommy-To-Be to a mani/pedi or a massage. Or maybe host a party after the baby is born, so everyone can welcome the new arrival.

8. Don't have it at the new parents house. What sounds convenient at first since the pregnant lady doesn't have to go anywhere is really not a good idea. Unless you plan to hire someone to clean her house for her before AND after the party!

9. Make a yummy punch and have both alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions. Just cause Mommy can't have a cocktail doesn't mean the rest of us need be teetotalers. Just make sure to have something as yummy for the non-drinkers, such as regular and virgin margaritas!

10. Give good party favors! Does anyone really want a plastic baby bottle filled with candy? Probably not and you can do better than that! At our couples shower, we sent guests home with a dry cocktail mix printed for the big day -- they could mix it into a yummy lemonade or a super yummy vodka lemonade at home. At a friends pampering party, we went everyone home with a small spa bag of nail files, lip gloss and nail polish.

I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Tiny Prints blogging program, making me eligible to get a Tiny Prints gift code worth $50, plus 25 FREE Tiny Prints greeting cards—a total gift value of $149.75! For more information on how you can participate click here

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Unplugging -- Is It Worth a Little Inconvenience to Save Money and the Environment?

So these days I'm into saving money and saving the environment and anything I can do to save both at the same time makes me giddy. Honestly -- who isn't looking to save a few bucks these days? And it has never been more in vogue to do something for the environment. Even if you haven't been laid off or seen your pay cut, we're all thinking more about how to cut back and live a bit more frugally these days. And I'm all about that. Without a "real job" or a "real paycheck" I feel like my contribution to the household is to save us money. I'm all about getting a good deal these days. And my favorite way to save money -- unplug stuff.

A quick inventory of my house shows that on average, I have more than 30 items plugged in at any given moment. TVs, DVRs, DVD players, tuners, IPods, phones, computers, toasters, microwaves, washer, dryer, two refrigerators, alarm clocks, paper shredders, coffee maker -- the list goes on and on. Does all this stuff need to be plugged in all of the time -- 24 hours a day?

I decided to conduct an experiment to see how much energy I could conserve (and in turn cut from the power bill) by unplugging "non-essential" items when they weren't in use. Anything with a clock was quickly left alone -- coffee maker, microwave, clocks. Seriously -- who wants to reset clocks every day? But everything else was fair game. We went one month with everything as is. The next month I began unplugging small items like the toaster and other countertop appliances like the panini maker and can opener in the kitchen, the beard trimmer in the bathroom, and the paper shredder in the office. We began unplugging the laptops overnight and the clothes washer on non-laundry days, which turns out to be six out of seven days. I left the dryer alone because getting to the plug was such a hassle.

The difference was incredible. Almost $75 in one month! And we weren't even good about doing it every day! Even my skeptical husband became a convert and quit complaining about having to plug the toaster in to make Saturday morning toast! This last month we started unplugging the big downstairs TV overnight and the upstairs TV during the day. I can't wait to see what that does to the power bill!

So here's something to ponder? Is it worth a little inconvenience to save money and conserve energy? What would you be willing to unplug to do your part for the environment? Can't wait to hear your thoughts on this one!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Playa Calls But Will I Go?

So in my universe, this time of year is all about one thing -- Burning Man! In case you've never heard of it, Burning Man is an annual gathering of 40,000+ in the playa northeast of Reno. People gather for a celebration of art, community, friendship and free expression that culminates in the burning of the giant man. That doesn't really describe it but it's the best I can do -- as the website rightly points out trying to describe Burning Man to someone who has never been is like trying to explain a particular color to someone who is blind. But I digress.

Everyone around me -- both in person and on Facebook -- is obsessed with their Burning Man preparations. If you've ever been, you know why. Costumes, water, trailers, lighted objects, trading objects, hula hoops dominate the conversation. Everyone is in a scramble to finalize their preparations and begin their burn. It all officially commences on August 30 and ends on Labor Day.

And I'm still unsure if I'm going. How can this be? Well, a few weeks ago I decided not to go. My 3yo daughter still hasn't recovered from my two nights away in July for a girls weekend in Vegas. She continues to panic whenever I'm out of sight and last week, she actually had a mini meltdown when it occurred to her I wouldn't stick around for her weekly playdate with Granny. This is such out of the norm behavior for my little one who usually greets my departure with a casual "See ya later Mom", that I decided it might be best to forego my usual 5 days at Burning Man this year so as not to throw her into complete insecure hysteria. It's especially worrisome to me because two days after I would return from the playa, she will start her first day of preschool. She's never been to daycare or school or any kind so this is a big deal. Oh, and the first day of school is also her third birthday. Talk about a big day...probably the biggest of her short life.

But now I'm having second thoughts. The playa is calling me -- loudly. I long to don my wings, hoop skirt and fringed shoes and get lost in the beats, climb Thunderdome, jump fire, and ride my bike across the bumpy playa. I want my burn. I'm sad to miss it and I want to go. But I just don't feel right leaving her this year. Last year it wasn't very hard because frankly, she had so little concept of time it didn't quite register with her that I was gone for that long. This year is totally different. She gets it. Since I returned from my girls weekend she has talked nonstop about how sorry she was to "lose" me at the airport and any departure, even for just an hour, is met with tears and clinginess. I can't imagine her reaction if I left for a few days and then shortly after my return tried to leave her at school. That meltdown would be epic.

So despite my longing, I think I will let my motherhood calling drown out the call of the playa. I've considered a quick run for an overnight visit to the playa, but I think no burn would be better than trying to squeeze one into a night. The days of her needing me like this are finite. There will be other times for my least I hope so.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

When You See Someone in Need, Do You Help or Keep Going?

So I am totally hooked on Jon Quinones show "What Would You Do?" on ABC. The different scenarios they present are fascinating as are the varied responses of the unknowing participants. I'm constantly amazed at how often the first people to get involved in righting a perceived wrong are women. It's like being a woman gives us an invisible cloak that we think protects us from those who might do us harm. It's awesome! And watching this show has changed how I look at things around me and in my own community.

Last week, I was at a local park with my exercise class and while we were running up a hill during sprints, we saw a young boy (maybe 8 years old) alone and sitting on the curb with his head buried in his lap. We all ran our lap and every one of us noticed him but initially no one did anything. I started to follow suit but suddenly something in me snapped and I thought, "What if this little boy is lost or needs help? And what if my daughter were one day in the same spot? Wouldn't I want someone another mom to see if she could help?" The other moms were kind of shocked when I walked over to the boy and asked where his family was and if he needed help. One hung near me, covering my back I think. Turns out the boy's family was fishing at the river just a bit away and for some reason he got mad and wandered off. I followed him back to his family who looked both relieved to see him and a bit frustrated and embarassed that he'd wandered off.

This park isn't in the best part of town, in fact, there are quite a few homeless people there and just days before a report of a sexual assault. Maybe that had something to do with our hesitancy to get involved but when I thought about it later, did that really matter? No. That boy needed a bit of help and I'm so glad I provided it. It was a good lesson to me that we can't be afraid to get involved. We are a community and that means looking out for each other. I know that the next time I see someone in need, I'm going to stop and help. Would you?

Five Lessons Every Kid Should Learn

1. Success requires being both lucky and smart. You can work hard to be smart and working hard typically leads to luck.

2. It truly is better to give than to receive. One of the best gifts in life is the good feeling that comes from helping someone else.

3. Do the right thing even when no one is watching.

4. Mean it when you say you're sorry. Hollow words are meaningless.

5. Don't be afraid to do what you think is right even when it's not popular. Better to be a person of conviction than someone who goes along to get along.

Maybe not your typical top five lessons to teach your kids but if my daughter can learn these lessons, I think she'll be well served and I'll be very proud.

I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Nanny McPhee Returns blogging program, making me eligible to get a $50 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here

Monday, August 16, 2010

Popcorn Is Good For You -- Who Knew!

So I started following a new blog today by this great lady named Leslie, and can you believe it?!? Her latest post is all about popcorn. Coincidence? I think not...more like it was meant to be.

Seriously, she had some great info about popcorn and how it's good for you. Couldn't resist sharing since in my pre-married days, popcorn and a glass of wine would frequently qualify as my dinner.

*Popcorn contains thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin, iron, phosphorus and calcium.
*In each 100 grams of popcorn there is 2.7 milligrams of iron -- more than eggs, roast beef, peanuts, milk and just shy of the 3 milligrams in spinach.
*Popcorn is also a source of protein.
*Popcorn is a whole grain!

So as long as you make it the old fashioned way (on the stove, not in the micro) and don't drown it in butter and salt, feel free to indulge!

Check out Leslie's full post on popcorn at this link

Bed Bugs Got You Scratching?

ABC News is giving me the itches. They've run a story over the past few days about the resurgence of bed bugs. While I thought the creepy little bugs were extinct, apparently they are causing problems all over the country. More than 90 percent of pest control companies say they have had calls to eradicate bed bugs. An entrepreneurial New Yorker has an entire business built around his dog's ability to sniff the nasty critters out and point to where exterminators need to do their work. Even shopping is no longer a bed bug-free activity as the little buggers have been spotted in several high profile stores including the Victoria Secret store in NYC. I shudder to think of how they discovered that -- did some poor unsuspecting customer alert them after getting bit in an unmentionable area? How awful! Bergdorf Goodman hasn't had any bed bugs but as a precaution has added regular bed bug searches to their ongoing pest control efforts. Living here in the arid high desert of Nevada, I doubt bed bugs will be much of a problem here but who knows if anywhere is safe. Check out this link to learn how to spot the buggers and keep yourself from becoming their next snack.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Kenny kicked off Top Chef? How real is reality TV...

I've been a fan of Top Chef from the beginning and am not naive enough to think that there isn't some calculation going on at judge's table. Of course, they want to keep the contestants who provide spice to the show. How else would you explain Steven the Sommelier surviving so long? How many of us tuned in each week just to see what annoying thing he would do? Remember Tiffany, the uber-obnoxious Vegas chef? Yes, she was one damn good chef but there's no doubt she hung around because she made for good TV. Reality TV wouldn't be worth watching without dramatic players. But last night Top Chef may well have jumped the proverbial shark from reality competition show to manipulated-Real World-style-staged TV. How else to explain the elimination of Kenny? Fine that the judges didn't want to eliminate Alex from the winning team. even though he probably should've been booted when he stole the pea puree. But keeping Amanda over Kenny? Especially when every judge said Amanda's steak dish was terrible. Kenny's dishes may not have fared well either, but over the course of the competition he has definitely demonstrated more skills in the kitchen. Amanda spent much of the beginning of the competition in the bottom and only made it this far by luck not skill. I think they got rid of Kenny because he was boring. Other than criticizing Angelo, he doesn't bring much drama and that made him expendable. I'm not writing the show off yet but if the pea-puree stealer Alex or the novice Amanda isn't voted off soon, I may just pack my knives and go.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Resign Rangel, Even If You Didn't Break the Law

I've read a lot of stories about the ethics investigation of New York Congressional Rep. Charlie Rangel and I'm no more clear than I was when the investigation began two years ago of whether or not he broke the law or violated congressional ethics. And at this point I don't even care. Still, he should resign. Like it or not, fair or not, politics is as much about perception as it is about truth. The perception of wrongdoing is just as damaging as actually doing something wrong. And people are fed up with those with in power -- whether it's politicians, Wall Street executives or celebrities -- living by a different standard of right and wrong. We saw it in the smug satisfaction so many of us got in watching Lindsay Lohan march off to jail even if she only served 14 days of a 90-day sentence. We tuned in for the perp walks of Bernie Madoff and Jeff Skilling when courts finally found them guilty of ripping off so many people. There is nothing that fills Americans with more righteous indignation than watching wrongdoers escape justice. We have a profound sense of right and wrong as a culture and we expect everyone to be treated the same, no matter their station in life. It's a concept enshrined in our founding documents. And right now, Rangel is the epitome of everything we think is wrong with politics and Washington. When we hear that the Ethics Committee came forward with 13 charges of wrongdoing against Rangel, including not declaring income and not paying taxes, it offends our fundamental sense of fairness. And when he takes a defiant stance essentially daring his colleagues to punish him, that really ticks us off. Would we dare to publicly break the law and defy the IRS? Hardly. Most of us spend a lot of energy making sure we're in compliance so we don't face an audit. We ask ourselves, what makes this guy so special that the rules don't apply? Oh, he's a politician and just another example of how those who govern our country are so far removed from those of us who live in it. If he was truly a public servant who valued the country's interests, Rangel would resign. And in doing so, restore a little bit of our faith in our government and its leaders.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

No Dear, You Can't Have It All

A new study by the University of Chicago as reported by the NY Times
confirms what most mothers know -- having kids hurts your career. You'll make less money and see fewer opportunities for advancement than men or women without kids. I knew this before I had a baby. I saw it all around me in the newsroom. Women at the highest levels of management in the newspaper business either didn't have kids or didn't stay home with them for more than the first 6 weeks. This factor weighed heavily in my decision to wait to have a child until my mid-30s. I figured I could wrap up my first career, take some time off to be at home with my little one, and then pursue a new career, most likely having to start at the bottom again. Ideal? No, but it is what it is and fortunately, I had the benefit of a successful spouse who could make the money I wasn't going to make. But so many women don't have that support or don't want to derail their careers. Why can't they have it all the way our mothers said we could? I've long called this the lie of feminism. As the first generation raised by mothers who broke the barriers, we were told we could have it all -- career, husband, kids. And I'm sure there are those who have done it -- yay for them! But a whole bunch of us have had to make choices and live with the consequences whether it be foregoing motherhood or settling for less in our careers. I don't have any qualms with my choice. I love being home with my daughter and am confident that my next career path will be a good one to bring me both personal and professional satisfaction. But I do wonder if it will ever change. Will companies and coworkers ever not take issue with a mother who takes a pass on working late nights or weekends? Will technology ever really bridge the gap? Consider that we are more connected than ever and instead of reducing the time spent at work technology has really just made work a round-the-clock-do-business-from-anywhere activity. Everyone knows you can get that email on your phone so you'd better respond even if it is late at night. Feminism has reached its goal of equal opportunity as long as women are willing to approach work the same way as men. But the idea that as women we can have it all is a complete crock of you-know-what. We give a lot of lip service to the notion that being a parent is an important job and yet as a culture we do very little to back that up. Having children comes with a price and women pay more than men.