September 3, 2014

Things I Probably Wouldn't Do if I Wasn't a Mother...

  • Sing Barney's "I Love You" song to my kids over and over again...
  • Wake up at 6:00am on weekends
  • Dig into a soiled diaper with toothpick to find my son's favorite car wheel swallowed by my youngest...
  • Go to Chuck E Cheese and have a blast
  • Believe that "The Lego Movie" is one of the best movies of the year and have the theme song, "Everything's Awesome" stuck in my head
  • Buy Happy Meals and see myself playing with the toys that come with it
  • Watch the Disney channel even when my kids are not watching
  • Have a stack of children's books on my nightstand
  • Snack on Goldfish and on crackers with Nutella 
  • Child proof locks everywhere in the house, including toilets
  • Remove all the nice decorations from the living room
  • Find, step on, and kick Lego pieces on the floor, all the time...
  • Give kisses and wish goodnight to my children's favorite stuff animals
  • Homework...
  • Sing the song, "Let it Go" from the movie "Frozen" in the shower
  • Turn my bathroom into my only sanity place in the house
  • Last and most important of all: Love unconditionally :)


August 22, 2014

School started this week, and the boys already have homework! Yay... You can see my excitement there, right? Well, for getting homework done, you've got to have supplies: pencils, erasers, crayons, markers, scissors, ruler... So, here I am are at home, hunting for those darned leftover school supplies. I'm thinking, "I know they're somewhere in this closet, packed away with previous years of art projects, drawings, school pictures, grade reports, the kids' letters to me and my husband, old notebook journals with their illegible but cute handwriting...

While looking for a pencil in decent shape for my boys, I'm faced with this time consuming distraction, struggling to get them to actually sit down at the table to get started with their homework.

So, when cleaning my house the other day, I noticed how wet Swiffer boxes make pretty good pencil boxes. The size of the box is great (not too small or not too big), and the lid is pretty resilient and easy to open and close. I had one of those "Aha!" moments, and thought I could use it as a pencil box.

This was a super easy project. I wanted to decorate the box, so that way it would be more exciting for the boys when getting supplies to do their homework. Hey, anything that makes homework time more exciting is a plus! I got out my bag of colorful craft popsicle sticks, and I also used Glue Dots (glue lines are perfect for the popsicle sticks, but you can use the craft style circles as well).

The design is up to you. You can create patterns, use just one color, or make it colorful like mine. At home, we called ours, "The Box of Many Colors". My kids really enjoyed the colorful pattern and even gave me some suggestions on adding some thin popsicle sticks at the top. Although they did not do this project with me, this was so easy to do that you could make this art project with your child if you wish.

Now that the box is done, it's already sitting on the corner of the kitchen counter, full of school supplies, peacocking... When the boys are ready to do their homework, all they need to do, is open the "Box of Many Colors" and get to work! A simple, cheap, and easy way to make our lives a little bit easier.

Pencil Box
What You Need:

  • Empty Swiffer box (wet Swiffer)
  • A package of popsicle sticks
  • Glue Dots (glue lines)
  • Your and your kid's creativity!


August 16, 2014

Aaahhhh! Summer Time... Eating watermelons and ice-cream, swimming, riding bikes, walking barefoot, playing with the hose, staying up to almost midnight... Wait! Did I say it out loud? Yep, every year is the same old story... I tell myself, "This Summer is going to be different! No matter what, we're going to bed early every night!" But, getting my boys ready for bed early when the best time to ride their bikes in the Summer is 8:00pm, is like getting cows to dance the tango... it ain't happening...

Then comes August, and my husband and I think, "Finally!" But then, the first day of school approaches and we go, "Huh, we're in trouble!" All of a sudden we have school supply lists, meet the teachers day, parent-teacher meetings, soccer kickoffs, boys scouts meetings, volunteer for snacks, and birthday parties. By the time I see my calendar, it's so full of notes and reminders that I can barely see the dates anymore... I look at it and go, "Wait, what day is that again? I can't see it under all these '@' symbols, locations, and the list of snacks to bring!" 

Now, besides all these changes, the most difficult thing for us is returning to a decent bedtime routine. We usually, "theoretically," start waking the boys up a little earlier in the morning a few days before school starts. That way, we can gradually put them in bed earlier at night, about 9:30-10:00pm. Did I say "theoretically"? Yep, because many times we look at the clock and it says 11:00pm, and the boys are still chatting, annoying our poor cat and dogs, asking for water or chocolate milk, needing to go potty... It's that endless story... 

We do have reading time! My husband usually reads chapter books to our oldest son while our youngest reads easier books for beginner readers. Still... 


So, this year I thought about a better plan that I'm calling, "Operation Go to Bed!" Simple and easy. No uneccessary nagging needed. I'm planning on starting today. That's right! Today! Three days before school starts. If it works, we can stick to it, and, like experts say, after six months, the new routine will become automatic. *Hope* Alright, so here's my "Operation Go to Bed" plan. Ready? It's not complicated at all! Easy as 1, 2, 3! Wish me luck! 

OPERATION GO TO BED
Step 1: Announce out loud the operation to the boys
Step 2: Write down the rules on a big chart (with the boys of course... they need to practice some writing...) and post it in their bedroom
Step 3: Write down: 
  • ALL Electronics OFF- 6:55pm
  • Dinner - 7:00pm
  • Bath/Brush teeth -  7:45pm
  • Reading - 8:10pm 
  • Bed/Lights OFF - 8:45pm
Step 4: STICK TO IT
Step 5: If in case someone blows it one day, be cool and forgiving and start fresh the next day
Step 6: If it works, wake up mom, because you might be dreaming...

photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/lotzman/4272153318/">Lotzman Katzman</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">cc</a>

May 6, 2014

"Arrr... Ahoy there, me hearty! Looking for some fun ideas for Captain Mama on Mother's Day? Aye! How about helping mom look for buried treasures around the mysterious Family House Island! 

Your job is to help mom search for the most amazing Mother's Day treasures hidden on the island! However, watch out for dangerous spots along the way! Like the gigantic Loch Ness Dog (some say it's a cat...), the sinister Forest of The Dark Closet, the scary Couch Mountains of Doom, and the Haunted Tent Castle... Shiver me timbers! But, if ye and your matey, Captain Mama, overcome all these challenges, an amazing sweet surprise awaits ye at the last destination: The Kitchenland! Aye matey, what're ye waiting for? Welcome aboard the ship!" 

Hello folks, this is a silly but fun idea for moms and kiddos to enjoy on Mother's Day. Feel free to use the map (print a copy if you'd like) around your house. Start by going ashore to explore the island (parents' bedroom). There, mom will find her first hidden treasure: balloons. Watch out for the sinister "Dark Closet"! Then, move on to the bathroom. A few or more items will be hidden in that area. It can be anything from a perfume to bath soap, nail polish, or make-up... your choice! If you have a pet, it can be the "Loch Ness Monster"! If not, use your imagination and creativity! Next stop: the children's bedroom. Perhaps a beautiful purse could be hidden there? Then, it's time to go to the living room. Heads up! Must avoid the scary "Couch Mountains of Doom"! After avoiding the dangerous mountains, a gorgeous bouquet of flowers will be waiting! Lastly, the final stop: Kitchenland. However, before heading to where "I Heart U Mom" marks the spot, you must first go through the haunted "Tent Castle" (cover a couple of chairs with sheets or blankets, if you don't want to set up a real tent for the castle). Will you see some ghost pirates? Crawling will be a necessary skill to avoid them... just go with it! After courageously overcoming the chilling castle, you finally arrive at the Kitchenland! Wow! You made it! You helped Captain Mama have the best Mother's Day Quest ever!!! How about a delicious, yummy cupcake to celebrate this victory? Don't forget to give her a thoughtful and inspiring card, a BIG hug, and of course... don't forget to tell mom the three most important words she ALWAYS loves to hear: I LOVE YOU!  :D 

Happy Mother's Day!





April 23, 2014

Super easy, yummy, melt in your mouth french toast recipe that you can make in about 10 minutes! Wishing you and your kiddos a happy tasty brunch! Or breakfast! :D

INGREDIENTS (*for 2 servings):

  • 4 slices of white bread
  • 4 tbsp Jif Caramel Hazelnut Spread
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon 
  • 1 tsp butter (room temperature)
  • 6 medium strawberries (washed and without stems)
  • powdered sugar (about 2 tbsp)
HOW TO MAKE IT:

  • In a 10-inch skillet, add butter and heat at medium heat. 
  • Spread 1 tbsp of caramel hazelnut spread on one slice of bread and then cover with another slice of bread. Repeat the steps with the other 2 slices of bread. Set both sandwiches aside.
  • In a bowl, add the egg, milk, and cinnamon. Beat the mixture in the bowl with a whisk or fork until they're well blended. 
  • Take the sandwiches and dip them in the bowl of egg, milk, and cinnamon. Turn the sandwiches and dip the other side. Slowly place sandwiches in the skillet with the melted butter. Fry them for about 3-4 minutes or until golden. Using tongs or spatula, carefully turn sandwiches over and fry the other side for about 3-4 minutes or until golden.
  • Remove sandwiches and place them on a plate. 
  • Pour powdered sugar into a strainer and gently tap the side of the rim to dust each sandwich with powdered sugar. 
  • Add 2 tbsp of caramel hazelnut spread in a microwave safe bowl and heat it for about 40 seconds. 
  • Using a spoon, drizzle the warm caramel hazelnut sauce on top of the sandwiches.
  • Slice the strawberries in half and place them either on top or next to the sandwiches (3 whole strawberries per sandwich). * I know half of a strawberry is missing from this picture... I ate it...
  • Serve them immediately. Enjoy!



April 11, 2014

Last year, I submitted this fun, easy, and yummy recipe called "Puppy Eggo" in Kellogg's "The Great Eggo Waffle Off!" contest. The inspiration came from my boys and their love for chocolate chip waffles. It became an instant hit at our house! 

I remembered the first time I made this special treat for them... They laughed and said, "It's a puppy!" That's how the name came about. Of course, they stared at the puppy waffle for a few seconds and went straight for the chocolate candies. The taste is amazing! The sweet creamy whipped cream blends delightfully with the chocolate syrup and the chocolate chip waffle with Nutella. Plus, a yummy salty bacon is added to balance the sweet. Of course, to make it a more complete and "healthy" meal, bananas and strawberry were included. 

I hope this special breakfast treat becomes your kids' favorite puppy too! Have fun! :)
INGREDIENTS
  • 1 Eggo Chocolate Chip Waffle
  • Hazelnut/chocolate spread
  • 1 tbs whipped cream
  • Chocolate syrup
  • 2 slices of banana
  • 1/2 slice of a small strawberry
  • 2 chocolate candies
  • 2 slices of bacon
DIRECTIONS
  1. Toast the Eggo Chocolate Chip Waffle.
  2. Spread the Hazelnut chocolate on the waffle.
  3. Spread the whipped cream on the waffle in the shape of a small circle.
  4. Eyes/Pupils: place 2 slices of banana about one square apart and put one chocolate candy on top of each banana slice.
  5. Mouth/Nose: carefully pour the chocolate syrup on top of the whipped cream to resemble a dog’s mouth/nose.
  6. Cut the 1 strawberry in the shape of a tongue and put it on top of the whipped cream (under the nose).
  7. Ears: cook 2 slices of bacon (or turkey bacon) in the microwave for about 1-1/2 minutes. Place 2 slices of cooked bacon on the left and right sides of the waffle.
  8. Enjoy!





March 20, 2014

INGREDIENTS CAKE:
  • 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2/3 cups of butter
  • 1 1/2 cups of sugar
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 cups of unsweetened cocoa powder
INGREDIENTS TOPPING (GANACHE):

  • 7 oz Hershey's bar chocolate milk
  • 1 can of table cream (creme media)
HOW TO MAKE THE CAKE:

  • Leave both the butter and eggs out of the refrigerator (in room temperature) for at least 30 minutes 
  • Butter a 9 inch round teflon baking pan
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
  • In a bowl, add the chocolate chips and butter and heat it in the microwave for 40 seconds
  • Remove bowl from microwave and stir it until smooth
  • In a bowl, add the sugar, chocolate powder, and the mixture of chocolate and butter
  • Use the mixer at low speed and stir it until blended
  • In this bowl, add the eggs and the egg yolk slowly and continue mixing at low speed, gradually increasing the speed to medium high
  • Increase the speed to high and keep mixing until all ingredients are well mixed
  • Pour the batter into the buttered pan and bake in the oven for 25 minutes
  •  Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes
  • With a knife, separate the edges of the cake from the baking pan
  • Place a serving plate on top of the cake and flip the baking pan
HOW TO MAKE THE GANACHE:

  • Break the chocolate bar into small pieces (rectangles) and place them in a bowl
  • Place the bowl in the microwave and heat it for 40 seconds
  • Remove bowl, stir, and place in the microwave for an additional 40 seconds
  • Remove bowl from microwave and stir the chocolate until smooth
  • Add the table cream (remove the liquid that comes inside the can) and stir it until well blended
  • Pour the ganache over the cake and let it fall on the edges of the cake (to create the "meltdown" effect)
  • Smooth the top with a spatula
  • Serve with some strawberries if you'd like. 



February 14, 2014

Today is Valentine's Day, and I just wanted to share a cute and easy necklace I prepared for my sons' classmates today... I know you all probably helped prepare something for your kiddos already, but this "Be my Monster" necklace still would make a great party favor! This is how to make it:

YOU NEED (for 1 Monster Necklace):

  • 1 1/2 inch pom-pom (any color you want)
  • 2 wiggly eyes (any color you want)
  • 5 1/2 inch chenille stem-any color you want (for the ears/antennae)
  • 2 1/2 inch chenille stem-same color as the antennae (to make the small ring)
  • 20 inch neon necklace with connector (to close the necklace)
  • 40 beads (assorted colors) I like to use the *Perler Beads
  • 5 1/2 by 4 inch card (any color you want)
HOW TO MAKE IT:

  • Take the 2 1/2 inch chenille stem and make a small ring. 
  • Take the neon necklace, make a loop around the ring and tie a knot (see picture).
  • Glue the ring with the necklace on the back of the pom-pom. I like to use *Glue Dots Adhesives (*1 inch Glue Lines).
  • Take the 5 1/2 inch chenille stem and fold it in half (see picture). Bend the two edges in the shape of small ears/circles (or antennas). 
  • Glue the chenille stem on the front of the pom-pom. I again use the *1 inch Glue Lines. 
  • Glue the 2 wiggly eyes on the top of the chenille stem (see picture). I use the *Glue Dots  3/16 inch Mini, or you can buy the peel-&-stick wiggly eyes. 
  • Insert the 40 beads in the necklace (20 for each side). After adding the beads, tie a knot to keep the beads in place (see picture).
  • Insert the connector inside the neon necklace.
  • Use a hole punch to punch two holes on the top of the card (about 1 inch from the edge or 3 inches apart).
  • Attach the necklace to the card (see picture).
  • Write "Be my Monster!" or any other lovely personal message you and your kiddos want!
  • Have fun!





February 10, 2014

Some of you (especially if you're somewhat newbie like me) might be asking, "What's a blog hop?" Well, I was in the same boat as many of you until recently an amazing blogger named Fern Ronay invited me, or should I say, "tagged me" (yep, still learning the bloggers' vocab folks ;)) to do a blog hop. 
The steps are as follow:
Step 1: Acknowledge the person and site that involved me in the blog hop.
Thank you Fern for inviting and acknowledging me and for believing in my work! This is Fern's blog post when it was her time to shine last week: Blog Hop: Why Do You Write?
Step 2: Answer 4 questions about my writing process. 
Question 1: What am I working on?
Right now, I have two projects in my head and one that I'm actually doing. I'm currently writing a Christian themed children's book for intermediate readers (more words and less illustrations) and after publishing it, my plan is to dive in head first and write a novel. It's a big risk, since it will be my first novel...but, I have this story completely done in my head and it's bugging me everyday! I can't stop thinking about it! :D 
Question 2: How does my work differ from others of its genre?
For my children's books, I try to create the themes from my experiences with both my former students and my two boys. For example, when I wrote Dragon Howl I was thinking of how my students were judged based on their appearances or their label as "special". Even though they were special education students, they were incredibly smart, caring, funny, and clever. However, somehow they were not challenged enough or seen as a less capable group by other students. 
My alphabet book Crazy Town Upside Down: An Alphabet Book is different from other alphabet books because the child becomes part of the action by following and tracing each character's own adventure around a letter. It also utilizes memory enhancing techniques (rhyming, alliteration, and humor) and engages the learner across multiple learning styles (kinesthetic, visual, and aural). These strategies really help the child remember both the sound and shape of each letter. The idea of this book came to me when I was teaching alphabet letters to my students and later my youngest son. To help them differentiate between letters "b" and "d" or "p" and "q", I was creating funny stories while they were tracing the letters. For example, for the letter "b", I used to tell them that a skinny man ate a big melon and got a big belly (emphasizing the sound b made on "big" and "belly"). That became really helpful when my students were writing words or sentences. I noticed how they were making less mistakes and remembering how a certain letter was formed. 
The idea for my first book The Silly Potty Story (for boys) came when my oldest son was a toddler. My husband and I had a very difficult time potty training him. So, one day, while I was bathing him, I came up with this story about a little boy who becomes aware of his need to go potty, so his mom engages him in a silly talk about where to go potty. Since it's silly, it entertains the child and makes toilet training easier and less stressful. Also, in the story, the decision to go potty in the toilet comes from the boy himself, which is a critical step in the potty training process.
Question 3: Why do I write what I do?
I write and illustrate children's books because it's fun! It has been a dream of mine to write stories since I was a child. When I came to the U.S. in '95 on a tennis scholarship, I thought I couldn't become a writer. I thought, "There's no way I can major in English or Journalism...", so I decided to follow a different path and become a teacher. While I was a special education teacher, I was doing many projects with my students where they were creating photo or video assignments to tell stories. It was a way to motivate them to write. They really enjoyed these types of projects and were so involved that many times the bell would ring and they wouldn't want to leave for their next class! 
Being a special education teacher requires many, many hours after class filling out IEPs and having meetings. After a while, I noticed how I was spending almost 12 hours a day at school and proportionately less time at home. During that time, my youngest son was a toddler, so I decided to devote more time to my family and help children in a different way. I'm blessed that I have an amazing husband who has studied 5 languages and has an amazing knowledge of the English language. So, with his help as an editor and co-author, I was finally able to fulfill my dream of becoming a writer. 
Question 4: How does my writing process work?
Well, let's see... The ideas first pop in my head while I'm doing something like playing with my boys, vacuuming, taking a shower, etc. Then I write some notes down and run to my husband to tell him my ideas. For both "Dragon Howl" and "Crazy Town Upside Down", I had the help of my husband to develop the rhymes. Then, I sit down with my husband, and we plan together how/what illustrations will go on each page, characters, colors, background etc. Then with the "not-so-much" help of a digital illustration program, I draw, edit, redraw, change, write, edit again, rewrite, change fonts and formats, change characters' positions and colors, edit some more... It's a constant editing process... 
Now, for "Dragon Howl" I didn't have a digital art program at first, so I drew all the illustrations by hand, tried at first do all of them in watercolor (didn't really work that well...), and then decided to go digital. I did my research, bought and learned how to use a digital art program, scanned all my pencil sketch drawings, traced and colored them (very hard and detailed process), and after a year of work, I published my book.
For my "soon to be novel", the idea came into my head, and each day more of the story was developed "in my head", to a point where the whole story is now completed "in my head"... I might be shy around strangers, but I'm very verbal around the people I know and am comfortable with, so I just talk nonstop about the story to my husband, mom, godmother, mother-in-law, and close friends. I know...they know...I'm annoying... But this is not the only story I already have completed in my head! Many years ago, I had already created one and told the whole thing to two of my best friends (that was way before I was even a teacher), and my friends were telling me that I should write and publish the story. It's a love story that takes place in the past (mid 1800's), and it's in my plans to write it in the future... :D

Step 3: Introduce my 4 lovely guests for next week's Blog Hop.

Here we are.. I'm proud to introduce you to...
LEILA BOUKARIM
Years before I had children, I never thought I wanted them. But the day I had my first, I couldn’t imagine my life without him. My children have made me who I am today. They are my heart, they are my soul, they are the air that I breathe. They are my everything.
My four year old is a Highly Sensitive Child. My husband and I didn’t always know that. We knew that he always stood out in every group he was a part of, in ways that were both good and not so good. And although we knew how amazing he was, not everyone could see it. He is often misunderstood by family members, other children, and his teachers. We finally put our finger on what this was when I discovered Elaine Aron and her book, The Highly Sensitive Child. After having read the book, it all started to make sense. I started to speak with other parents of Highly Sensitive Children, and it was like hearing our story over and over again.
After four years filled with challenges, worry and also lots and lots of joy, I am now confident that I know my child better than anyone else does. I know why my son acts the way he does in certain situations. I know what causes him to be anxious. I know what he enjoys. I know that he reasons like an older child. I know that he loves deeply. I look at him in awe and admiration. He has made me a better person. He is my inspiration.
I started this blog in hopes of being able to reach not only other parents of Highly Sensitive Children, but also teachers, caregivers, and anyone who knows a Highly Sensitive Child. This topic is still unknown to most, making it especially difficult on our Highly Sensitive Children to fight their way through life while being completely misunderstood. It is our responsibility to help bring to light the fact that these children are not just normal. They are extraordinary!
CHRISTINA BROCKETT
My name is Christina (or Tina if you prefer) and I am a working mom with a son and daughter. Each day is a carefully orchestrated balancing act of being a wife, mother and working professional with the occasional bit of me time thrown in. I’m the author of The Missing Pages of the Parent Handbook. 
The Missing Pages of the Parent Handbook is a product of two years of interviewing a cross-section of American parents about times when parenting threw them a curveball. I believe that I am a work in progress and document that evolution as a person, and mother, at my blog Momevolving.
SELAH CAMBIAS
I’m an award-winning author of a parenting book that helps parents get along better with their kids by learning their personality types, or archetypes. I was working as an Archetypal Consultant – someone who helps adults figure out their life’s purpose - when I figured out that it works brilliantly with children. When parents figure out what their kids’ personality types are telling us, things get a whole lot easier. 
So, to help share the nuts and bolts of what I learned and now use as a Family Coach, I wrote Family Types, A Guide to Better Parenting Using Personality Types. When I’m not working on teaching videos to share on my new blog, I’m running around my three tween and teens, trying my best to soak up every moment. You can find me at Selah Cambias-Live Action Parenting.
JODY CANTRELL DYER
Jody Cantrell Dyer is a mother, author, and speaker in Tennessee. After struggling to conceive for six years, then clumsily (yet successfully) adopting, to now navigating an open adoption with her child's birth parents, Dyer felt compelled to write The Eye of Adoption. She felt that someone needed to "tell it like it is" so others would be better equipped to handle the turbulent and triumphant, mysterious and magical, beautiful burdensome blessing of adoption.
Jody calls herself a "compassionate humorist" and is a natural storyteller. Readers laugh and think "outside the barn" weekly on Jody's humor blog, Theories: Size 12, Go on and get mad but you know I'm right.
Links:







February 2, 2014

I absolutely love this pizza! I was craving it so much that I had to call my mom to get the recipe. She also gave me 2 nice tips to make the pizza even more tasty! In Brazil, we call this pizza a "Pizza Portuguesa". What a delicious fusion of flavors from the ham, onions, boiled egg, and kalamata olives! Many might be tempted to leave out one of the ingredients like the boiled egg, onions, or olives, but please don't! All these ingredients are essential, as they work together to create an amazing, savory blend!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 individual size "ready to bake" pizza dough
  • 1 tsp of olive oil
  • 1 can of undrained whole peeled tomatoes (should create enough sauce for 4+ small pizzas; you will only need approximately 4 tbsp for each)
  • 4 tbsp of  shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 thin slices of ham
  • 1 hard boiled egg, sliced
  • 5 round slices of yellow onion
  • 14 half slices of kalamata olives
  • 1 tbsp of oregano
HOW TO MAKE IT:

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Brush olive oil on the top of the pizza dough
  • *TOMATO SAUCE: Pour the entire contents of the can of undrained peeled tomatoes into a bowl and squeeze them with your fingers leaving some thick, irregular chunks of tomatoes to make the sauce more robust. Spread approximately 4 tbsp of this sauce onto the pizza dough, making sure to add some of the tomato pieces
  • Sprinkle shredded mozzarella cheese over the sauce
  • Top with the 2 slices of ham, onions, egg slices, and olives
  • *OREGANO: Pour the oregano into your cupped hand and then rub the oregano using both hands over the pizza, making sure to sprinkle the oregano on all the toppings. By rubbing the oregano in your hands, you enhance its flavor.
  • Place the pizza directly on the rack into the oven and bake for 9 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and let it cool for 1-2 minutes before eating.




January 31, 2014

Continuing my topic about the harmful effects of artificial colors and dyes in our children's diet, I'd like to welcome guest Troy Ampalayo from Organic Superfoods and his helpful insights:

The public know that our bodies are affected differently by several food products, especially with preservatives and colors. Some of the common effects might include caffeine that is known as energy booster; red wines and aged cheeses triggering headaches; or high fat or even acidic foods that cause heartburns. But what is worse about this scenario in which most people don’t know is how these preservatives, artificial food colors and flavors affect our growing children. It is also a reason why organic superfoods advised to be part of our children’s diet. These superfoods can actually preserve a healthy lifestyle.
There are studies conducted in the year 2007 by a team from known university proves that a variety of usual food colors and the preservative sodium benzoate – an ingredient found in many soft drinks, salad dressings, fruit juices and other foods – causes some of the children to be more hyperactive and distractible than usual.
The research discovered that children aged three, eight, and nine-year olds were practically more hyperactive. They showed shorter attention span if they drink or eat foods containing preservatives and colors. However, this study didn’t point out that such preservatives and artificial colors and flavors cause ADHD or that the impact of these foods is only children with ADHD. In response to the raised questions about the matter, research points out that there is no exact evidence that the food additives cause attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but there are a number of studies which show that certain food preservatives and colorings may worsen the behavior of hyperactivity in some of the children.
Given recommendations include the consumption of foods with health benefits such as superfoods. Organic superfoods are now commonly produced in local organic farms. Children can benefit from these foods for they are full of vitamins and minerals that could help them in their daily activities.

Train the children to practice a healthy lifestyle with organic superfoods as part of their diet. You can organize healthy fruits such as blueberries with a glass of lemon juice as part of their recipe. We know that children love colorful set up. You can read some superfoods so that you can serve it with style in their plates. Be more aware of the benefits as well as the taste. Keep in mind that children also observed the taste of the foods they are eating. They really love the taste. Be passionate in serving them.




January 27, 2014

I'm a big advocate of eliminating artificial colors (aka food dyes) from our children's diet. Why? Well, it's because I have first hand experience with the negative effects on my two sons' behavior and attention span. It started when my oldest son was only two years old. I noticed how he would go from cooperative and having an active (i.e. busy but not atypical for a 2 year old child) behavior, to bizarrely defiant and hyperkinetic behavior for the next two or three days. At first I thought that too much sugar might be the culprit; however, after eliminating sugar from my son's diet for a month, I couldn't see any positive changes in his behavior. Then, I started doing my own research and found out how artificial colors and dyes (such as Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 1, etc.) were banned in Europe due to their adverse effects on children's health. In addition, food products containing artificial colors are required to have a large warning label in the U.K. They are even getting rid of artificial food dyes and replacing them with natural colors (anatto, beet, carmine, etc.).
So, I decided to do my own test. I eliminated all foods containing artificial colors from my son's diet, and the results, although unscientific, were amazing. After about a week without food dyes, my son was more focused, stopped throwing unreasonable tantrums, and had the typical energy level of a 2 year old (instead of bouncing up and down nonstop). My son was a different kid! His attitude and behavior had changed tremendously! From that point on, my husband and I took label reading at the grocery store very seriously, and wouldn't buy any fruit juices, yogurts, snacks, or even marshmallows(!) that contained artificial colors. We still permitted caramel color, anatto, and other natural colorings.
Now, you may be wondering... How do you know if it is really the artificial dyes causing the behavior problems? Your son might really have ADHD! Right? Hold your horses! The symptoms of ADHD don't come and go as they please... My son was fine for days or even weeks at a time, and then he would suddenly change his behavior. It was odd. Even nowadays, I can easily tell when my son eats something with artificial color at school or special events (it's hard to monitor every food he consumes at other places besides home). For example, my son, on a regular basis, is focused, does his homework without any problems, obeys, plays outside like any other boy at his age would play, etc. Then, all of a sudden, after consuming a product with food dyes, he comes home extremely defiant, can't concentrate, can't stop moving, etc. Suspicious, I ask him what he ate at school for lunch and bingo! Usually a dessert or cupcake containing food dyes. It usually takes a few hours for the food dyes to affect his body (usually 2-3 hours after consumption), and it also takes about 48 hours for the artificial colors to get out of his system. After 2 days, my son goes back to his normal self again. The same is also true with my youngest son. It's even more strange because normally, my youngest is even more focused than my oldest one. However, as soon as he eats something containing food dyes, his behavior is also altered.
I have discussed the issue with many mothers who come to me presenting a similar case, and I even have some of the mothers agreeing with me and seeing a positive result in their children's behavior after eliminating food dyes from their diet. I'm not here to say that artificial colors affect every child, but we ought to think, why are dyes banned in Europe but not here in the US? Money perhaps? Dyes may be cheaper than natural coloring...
The FDA keeps insisting on the need for more research... Ok, we will be here waiting patiently for the results. Meanwhile, if you are experiencing a similar situation with your child, do an experiment and remove food dyes from your child's diet. Read the labels of the products. Find alternatives for products that contain dyes. Now, don't expect miracles happening in one day... it might take more than a week to notice any difference in your child's behavior. And even if the the smallest colorful candy containing Red#40, Yellow#5or#6, Blue#1or#2 gets eaten you'll be back to square one. But, if it means raising a healthier, happier child, it's worth the effort!


photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/broterham/38615433/">broterham</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/">cc</a>


January 21, 2014

REALITY CHECK: According to Forbes, only 8% of people achieve their New Year's resolution... So, when our commitment to those New Year's diet and fitness resolutions seem to waiver and fail... How about a second chance by adding these 5 healthy foods to your diet? This list was created after much research and includes many notes from the time I was a university Fitness and Health instructor. There are, of course, many other healthy foods besides these five. This is just a short list to get your New Year back on the right track.
  • FISH Preferably fresh, contains a large amount of Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce the amount of plaque that builds up inside the walls of your arteries. Plaque comes from bad cholesterol that sticks to your arteries. Both the FDA and the American Heart Association recommend eating fresh fish at least twice a week.

  • NUTS (mainly almonds and walnuts) - Nuts have flavonoids, an antioxidant that raises the levels of your good cholesterol. They also have a large amount of Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin E (antioxidant), fiber, *folate, and magnesium. Moderation is the key: It's recommended only a handful of nuts every day. Blue Diamond brand has tasty dark chocolate covered almonds. Dark chocolate also has antioxidants. *Benefits of folate: (a) support red blood cell production and help prevent anemia, (b) allow nerves to function properly, and (c) help prevent osteoporosis. 

  • BEANS (any kind) - They're full of protein, fiber, iron, calcium, and potassium. They also don't contain any cholesterol. Among the health benefits of beans are (a) lower cholesterol levels, (b) lower blood pressure, (c) reduce risk of many cancers, (d) regulate functions of the colon. 

  • TOMATOES They have lycopene, a vital anti-oxidant that helps in the fight against cancerous cell formation. *Note: Research studies show that by cooking the tomatoes, we can actually increase the lycopene levels; however, Vitamin C content decreases when compared to uncooked tomatoes. 

  • BLUEBERRIES (raw) - Ranked in the U.S. diet as having one of the highest antioxidant capacities among all fruits and vegetables. Some of the health benefits of blueberries are (a) reduce bad cholesterol, (b) help control blood sugar levels, and (c) improve brain health. A low calorie food (about 84 calories in 1 cup), it's recommended 1 to 2 cups of blueberries per day.  
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/mairag/6419364999/">maira.gall</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/">cc</a>

January 14, 2014

Looking for a quick, easy, and delicious Super Bowl/game day party food? Or maybe just a fun afternoon snack for your kids? This yummy treat is super easy to do! Start with salty, crunchy, and buttery RITZ crackers, topped with both mozzarella cheese and delicious, warm caramelized apples with cinnamon. I call it the "Apple Pie" and Cheese Bites. It takes about 15 minutes to do and serves 6-8 people.

INGREDIENTS:
  • 1 Gala apple (peeled) 
  • 1 Tbsp of butter
  • 1 tsp of raw sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp of cinnamon
  • 16 RITZ crackers
  • 4 slices of mozzarella cheese (cut each slice into 4 squares for a total of 16 small squares)
PREP STEPS:
  • Cut the peeled apple in cubes and put it in a pot. Add the sugar, butter, and cinnamon, and sauteed until soft and golden (medium heat for about 10 minutes-keep stirring).
  • Heat oven to 350F
  • Place crackers in single layer on baking sheet and top with cheese and about 2-3 small apple cubes.
  • Bake for 4 minutes. 
  • Let it cool for about 1 minute before serving.
  • Have fun! :D