Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ringling Brother Circus is coming to town... and I have a coupon!

Annika is a lucky girl. Annika enjoys the circus and it just happens to come to town around her birthday every year. This year is no different. The Ringling Brothers circus will be here this weekend and I will be taking her along with a friend and her mom. I love to be able to surprise my girls with these experiences. When she walks up to the arena and sees that marquis... she is going to be so excited and happy. Excited and happy little girls make me an excited and happy Momma.

If you would care to join in the fun, Ringling is offering a coupon for a family four pack for only $60 (plus some rediculous taxes) for the Saturday evening show in Manchester. Go to the website, go to the Advance or Promotion Ticket Selection, change the quantity to 4 and then put BAILEY15 in the coupon box and you will receive this deal.

They are going to be in Manchester from Sept. 30- October 3. After that you can look for them in Worchester and then Boston.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mommy and Me Monday: 3 Generations

This is my Momma, Ariana and myself at the American Idol concert. This was one of those experience gifts that I always speak of: I got tickets for my mother for Mother's Day and for Ariana for her birthday... and it was worth every penny and more!

We had such a great time. Living hours from my mother, we don't often get to go out together and spend quality time. Life gets away from me and before I know it, it has been months since we have seen eachother... and it sucks.

So this outing was a real treat. My mother watches Idol and Ariana and I watch it together every season. We all gossip about who we like and we vote for our favorites... and Ariana occasionally sheds a tear when her favorites are voted off.

So, it was a great show that we could all enjoy together. We sang along, danced... and whenever James Durbin came out screeching Guns & Roses, Sweet Child O' Mine... and my mom and Ariana were dancing around... it was a moment none of us will ever forget. I don't think it is often you could get a grandmother, mother and daughter to have something in common that they all love and can enjoy together. But we did. And it makes me smile.

Thank you Ariana and Mom... you ladies gave me a wonderful night and I love you both to pieces.

(My mom asked a friend to take this picture with my cell phone (we both forgot our cameras... argggg) and I heard her say, "She is going to need this for her blog." She knows me too well!)

Please visit Krystyn for her baby bump pic and other Mommy and Me posts.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

5 Of My Favorite Blogging Tips.

I love to reply when people comment on my blog. Love it. Love to connect with the people that take the time to connect with me.  So, why oh why do you torture me so by not having your email address linked to your blogger profile??? This means I can not easily respond to you when I get that nifty email telling me that you have left me a comment.

But, as I was reading Me As A Mother's blog this morning it occurred to me... you don't know how to link your email! And Heidi was so kind as to offer you a tutorial on how exactly you can do it and make me a happy lady while you are at it.

On top of that, a contact or About page would be wonderful as well. Unless you are blogging about your extramarital exploits or your serial killing spree, there is no need to stay anonymous. (See #3 here.) I like to  get to know the people I am investing my time reading about. No need for last names or addresses... but please let me know a bit about who you are and why I should spend time with you every day. (With that said, I just realized that during my last blog makeover, I somehow removed my About tab... time to fix that!)

Please have your blog topics organized in some way. A search bar is great... tabs across the top with your key topics... something... anything where I can find my fave posts. (Acckkk! Again- I removed my own topic tabs from the top of my blog during makeover. Whoops.) Crafterminds has a great post here.

Please, for the love of all that is holy... turn off the music! I have seen this tip for years... yet I am continually shocked to open a blog and to be bombarded with their auto-play music. Don't get me wrong, I am interested in your likes in music and love to learn about new artists, but you can simply show me a great YouTube video or tell me about a great artist instead of forcing me to listen to the same song repeatedly every time I visit your blog.

Please don't make me go through that damn Captcha process to leave a comment. I mean, I despise the spam comments as much as the next Momma, but I can not tell you how many times I have written a well thought out comment, only to move on to my next blog after forgetting to complete the whole Captcha rigmarole. You don't know the prose you are missing from this brilliant head when you stop me from commenting. And really, Blogger does a wonderful job of weeding out Spam... I never have any actually show up on my blog before Blogger has auto deleted.

Ok... boring. I know. But I did want to share some tips with my fellow fantastic bloggers.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Homemade Lip Balm: Cheap and Yummy

I finally made the leap. It has been awhile, but this post is Going Green: Quick Tip #4. (See #1, #2, #3) And it was quick... and so much easier than I expected.

I actually bought the ingredients to make my own lip balm a while back, but I was reticent to actually try it. I had it in my mind that it would be complicated... well, it was not at all. I used 3 ingredients bought from Mountain Rose Herbs, but they can easily be grabbed from your local co-op or natural market.

I used sweet almond oil, beeswax and flavored with a few drops of spearmint essential oil. (The jojoba oil was there because I thought I might use it, but I did not.) I figured the cost to produce each tube was around 75¢, wayyyyy cheaper than the $4 a tube I pay for Burts Bees. (And that even accounts for the 28¢ I had to pay for each plastic tube, which I can now reuse.

I am not really going to put a recipe here as you can Google about a million of them on your own... and I really did not use a recipe as it done kind of like I cook... no real measurements.

I simple added 1 ounce of the beeswax (that little bar in the photo) to my double boiler. As it was melting I added 6 tablespoons of the almond oil. I heated it on a very low heat and stirred it constantly.

When it was all melted I added about 10 drops of my spearmint and stirred. I used a funnel to pour some into one of my tubes. It hardened pretty quickly so Ariana and myself tried the finished product. It was too hard for our liking so we added 2 more tablespoons of the oil to the double boiler.

After that addition, the balm had a nice soft, smooth texture which Ariana and I both liked. We then continued on and poured the mixture into the 10 tubes that I had. I had made some pretty generic labels on my printer to put on the tubes. I only wanted labels in case these made it outside my house, anyone using it would be aware of the ingredients.

I would absolutely call this project a success. Now that I know my own recipes, I can make 10 tubes in under 10 minutes. I can add some different flavors if I want and maybe even make  a few as Christmas gifts. The only thing I will do different is add vitamin E  oil to the next batch. Vitamin E will help to keep the balm so it will not go rancid. Although I am not too concerned about my balm going bad as I go through it so quickly.

You would also want to be careful in the heat as natural lip balm does not have the stabilizers to keep it from melting, so it may melt in your pocket or a warm car quicker than your Chapstick.

I am a convert... homemade lip balm all the way. Cheap, easy and I can name all 3 ingredients with ease. (Oh, and a BTW... it can also be used on cuticles or other rough patches of skin. I even rubbed some on my healing tattoo as I had a bit left in the double boiler... and it left my skin so smooth.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Handmade Gift Idea: Sematay Jewelry

I know it seems far off, but I have my eye on Christmas gift ideas already. Next to my most favorite gift idea, experience gifts, I think handmade gifts are the way to go. In the next few weeks, I will be featuring some great Etsy shops that offer some fantastic handmade items.

First up is Sematay Handmade Jewelry. She makes some adorable personalized necklaces that Ariana and Annika are just in love with.

Annika and Ariana are quite the opposite little girls.

Annika is as princessy, frilly and girly as they come.

She needs to accessorize before kindergarten every day: headband, socks, belt, scarves... whatever she can find. And so, for her, this fun necklace with her name on it could not be any more perfect. Of course, it had to be in pink, her signature color.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Ariana, who wears jeans, t-shirt and sneakers every single day, without fail.

She wanted the teal necklace because she is "soooo over the pink and purple". I was not sure she would wear it since her glasses are pretty much her only accessory. However, she has not taken it off since she put it on 2 weeks ago. I think the simplicity of the piece works well for her... I also think every little girl feels special to have their name on their jewelry.

These necklaces were a hit with both girls... and BONUS.... they are only $14.95! Check out Sematay and follow her on Twitter too.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Living our life simply... and loving it.

This is a sort of photo illustration of my recent post on affordable family fun... and a cell phone memory dump.

This is my last couple of weeks and all the fun that has ensued.

We have taken the girls to the movies thanks to a gift card from Grammie (so what if Acadia fell asleep 15 minutes into Winnie the Pooh. In her defense, it was not very enthralling.)

We have enjoyed some gorgeous days in the park. For the entry fee of... well free... what makes a little girl happier than being pushed on the swing.

I went to an American Idol concert with my mother and Ariana... which was an experience gift for Ariana's birthday and Mother's Day. And what an experience it was. Rockin' out with my mom and Ariana to Sweet Child O' Mine will be a memory we all cherish forever.

We enjoyed some free local events, one being a great Family Game Day put on by CenterPoint Church here in Concord.  They offer a great family day to the whole community complete with yummy treats, games, bouncy houses and even that great rock wall/ bungy structure you see Ariana flying on. Thanks to CenterPoint for being a generous member of our community.

We were also blessed with a fantastic weekend with my in-laws as we celebrated the twins (my niece and nephew) birthday up in Northern New Hampshire. There was a long, mellow morning with breakfast on the grill, fishing on the dock, and some boat rides. It was the epitome of relaxation and living simply.

We are ending our summer on a perfect note. Enjoying every moment, relishing every ray of sunshine.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

In remembrance of those who lost their lives 10 years ago.

(Today's post is a rerun of a post I do every year on 9/11, so we do not forget those who gave their lives on 9/11)

My post today is part of an endeavor called Project 2,996, which is an effort by bloggers around the country to remember the victims of 9/11.

Today I am proud to honor the life of Thomas E. Pedicini.

Thomas was 30 years old and he was from Hicksville, NY. Thomas worked in the institutional equities department at Cantor Fitzgerald. Thomas is survived by his parents Nancy and Albert Pedicini of Hicksville; and sisters June Coaio, Pam Morace and Anne Pedicini of Hicksville.

Thomas Pedicini never strayed too far from a guitar. His brother-in- law Raymond Morace's earliest recollection of him is as "a skinny 13- year-old kid jumping around his room playing air guitar" to Van Halen. In his mother's last memory of him, he is teaching his 11-year-old cousin how to play, a few days before his death.

In between, Mr. Pedicini, 30, an easygoing sort and seemingly effortless golfer, studied business and had been working as a trader at Cantor Fitzgerald since 1998, a job he got through another brother-in-law, Mark Colaio, who died with him.

After Sept. 11, in Mr. Pedicini's apartment in Woodside, Queens, one of his roommates found a tape of him strumming and singing his way through some of his favorite tunes. "He was too shy even to show it to me, but I could hear him in there singing and playing so I knew he was up to doing something," said the roommate, Jordan Zed. He gave the tape to Mr. Pedicini's parents. More musical memories.

But Mr. Zed remembers Mr. Pedicini mostly as a decent human being whose life was going somewhere. "You'd sit around and talk about where you see yourself in five years," he said. "He had dreams and goals. He wanted to eventually find the right girl and settle down and have a family and work his way up in the firm. It seems so sad."
-Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on February 3, 2002.

In reading many of the memorials dedicated to Thomas- you can see a picture of what a kind, fun, talented man he was...

I knew Tom back in 94-97. He was so full of life! He was always active: golf, tennis, singing. He was the kind of person who made his own way. I am glad that we crossed paths for a brief time. His energy and passion for living are what I will remember and miss most about him.
-Scott Rustad,Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaTo The Pedicini Family, I was his soccer coach 29 yrs ago in Hicksville, he will always be in mine and my families hearts forever. His smile was something I will never forget.
-Anthony Luongo
My thoughts and prayers have been with all of you over the years. I always remember Tommy as the cousin that will sing with us! Keep singing, Tommy!
-Martina Lee

Hey Cuz!! I too think of you often...Not a day goes by that I dont wish you were not taken away from us. You were soo talented and a lot of fun!! I will miss you forever Tommy!! "The sun will come out tomorrow"!
-Michele Abut

It's amazing how one forgets, yet only to remember you with a smile.
-Allyssa Schmitt

Just thinking of you on this were a kind man, quiet neighbor, with a lovely singing thoughts are with your family....
-Layla Dowlatshahi

I will always cherish the sweet memory of teaching Tommy to sing "Tomorrow" and "You Light Up My Life" when I was his 2nd grade teacher at Old Country Road School, Hicksville, NY. Nobody knew, at the time, that Tommy had a Broadway quality voice at age 7, so we practiced everyday, to surprise his family at the school talent show. When he belted out his beautiful rendition of "Tomorrow", it brought tears to everyone's eyes.
I am proud to have touched Tommy's life in such a meaningful way, as he continued singing into adulthood and our duet, from years before, was included in his memorial cd. I feel blessed to have had such an endearing child in my class and to know that he grew up to be the responsible, respectful and talented adult I had envisioned.
Tommy was brought to heaven in God's loving arms. He is our guardian angel!
-Adele Damian

And from his mother...

Dear Tommy,

Your family, (Mom,Dad,Pam, Ray, June and Anne) are coping as best we can during this difficult time and find the following poem very comforting. We want to share it with others who visit this website
as it truly reflects our feelings for you and our deep loss.
We miss you so, so much. We try not to think that we will never see you again on this earth as it breaks our hearts. We do find comfort, however, that you were greeted by Gammie, Nana, MomMom, Father Verrall and Grandpa Joe at Heaven's door and are with them now. God Bless you sweetheart. We love you, Mom and Dad

Here is the poem:
We little knew that morning, God was going to call your name; In life we loved you dearly, In death we do the same.

It broke our hearts to lose you, You did not go alone; For part of us went with you, The day God called you home.

You left us beautiful memories. Your love is still our guide; And though we cannot see you, You are always by our side.

Our family chain is broken, And nothing seems the same; But as God calls us one by one, The chain will link again.
-Nancy Pedicini

Please take a moment to think of Thomas and every other innocent human life lost on 9/11. Visit the Project 2,996 website and see some of the other tributes. It is very important that we never forget.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

3 Simple Steps for Affordable Family Fun

I recently had a friend ask, "How do you find all those cool activities you do with your kids AND how can you afford them?"

It simply breaks down to social media. I find everything via social media in one way or another. Let's look at it in 3 easy steps to find fun activities for your family and to afford said activities.

STEP #1: 'Like' every possible community organization that you can find on Facebook. Some specific to Concord, New Hampshire are:

Frugal Concord 
Concord Got Cool When You Weren't Looking
Concord Happenings with Jessica Fogg
Concord Rec Department
Main Street Concord   

You can start by 'liking' your local Chamber of Commerce or Main Street Association and then check out their 'Likes' and you should be able to get a variety of community advocating pages. Many communities offer a wide variety of free or really inexpensive activities throughout the year. We have been to a great National Night Out, free mini food fairs at the local co-op, animal festivals at a local school and so much more this year. There is a plethora of family events out there if you just find them. And I have found that Facebook and Twitter are the easiest way for me to find these events all in one place.

STEP #2: Subscribe to all of your local coupon sites (ala Groupon.) In my area alone, there are at least 5 great sites dedicated to offering deals for at least 50% off local attractions. I started by subscribing to Groupon... and not just in my area but the Portland, Maine and Boston, Mass Groupons as well. I have found that NH businesses will often offer deals in the surrounding states to entice tourists. Other options in NH:

Living Social (also have nationwide deals)
New England Perks
Viva Manchvegas Deals
NH Daily Deals

Those are just a few in my area. A little Google search should turn up a few good choices for you.

STEP #3: Make sure to heed my advice and ask for or give experience gifts. Experience gifts for your family from grandparents or other relatives makes family outings all year way more affordable (while cutting down the clutter of useless trinkets throughout your house.)

This year my family has gone to an indoor waterpark and had a wonderful stay in the attached hotel. We have enjoyed many visits to out local water park. We have enjoyed endless rainy days in the Children's Museum. Each girl has adored their movie theater dates with Mommy and Daddy afforded through gift cards from Grammie. I can not extol the virtues of these experience gifts enough.

Couple the experience gifts with the great deals from the coupon sites and then check your Facebook a couple of times a week, and you can certainly afford some wonderful adventures with your family all year long.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Operation No-Bake Nutella Cookies: SUCCESS!

If you follow my FB or Twitter, you know that I was considering trying a no-bake Nutella cookie... and I tried... and I succeeded. They came out simply yummy. All I did was revise my momma's standard no-bake peanut butter cookies a bit, and it was easy peasy.

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1.5 cups white sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
3 cups quick cooking oats
1/2 cup Nutella
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Heat cocoa, sugar, milk and butter over medium heat. Boil these slowly (they will turn out better) when they reach the boiling point boil them for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add Vanilla. Add Nutella. Roll in oats and mix well. I refrigerated for a few minutes as it seemed a bit runny to form cookies. If you do this, be careful as you don't want the dough too hard so you cannot form the cookies. I then used my cookie dough baller to form a ball, placed it on wax paper and squished it slightly with my thumb to get a cookie shape. These are small cookies, but they are so incredibly rich, you will appreciate the small size. I think you can sub Nutella in your fave no-bake cookie recipe and it will work fine. I just cut my sugar back, as the Nutella is already so sweet.

I think adding actual hazelnuts would have been great (or any nut, for that fact.) Also, make sure you use real butter and real vanilla extract... not imitation. Those ingredients in their true form make all the difference in baking.

If anyone is curious, I did not win the State Cookie Challenge with my my White Mountain Chocolate Chip Maple Snickerdoodles. I came in around 8th... but I scored a sweet baking sheet out of the deal, so it's all good.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I won’t let another moment slip away

Do you use music to affect your mood? After the mood caused by my last post, I felt compelled to overcome the sadness with some happy tunes.

I remember in my younger years using music in a much different way.  Whenever I was down (you know, when my boyfriend broke up with me for the 12th time when I was 15) I had a cassette of very downtrodden music that I would listen to. I guess I wanted to wallow in my agony? Why do people do that? Now, if I am feeling down, I pull out my most uplifting, upbeat music and crank it up. This week, Michael Franti was my savior:

My favorite lyrics from the song remind me to live in the moment... not to dwell:
Singing hey, hey, hey
No matter how life is today
There’s just one thing that I got to say
I won’t let another moment slip away

Friday, September 2, 2011

The post where I reveal more than rainbows and butterflies.

This post may get wordy. I usually try to keep my posts short and attractive to the attention span of a busy blog reader. I also keep my post pretty rainbows and butterflies… not this one. If you care to read further, you may gain some insight on me that you I have never revealed. I am pretty sure that most people who visit this blog view me as an optimistic, crafty, tattoo loving, block-making, treat-baking Momma. All of which is true. All of which I would not trade for a million dollars (for real). But my life has not always been this way and sometimes I bury a lot inside myself and try to forget things in my life that have brought me here.

But the last couple of days gave been hard for me on the ‘forgetting’ front. It started with my newest tattoo:

My tattoo artist and I came up with this design as a memorial for my father. He was in the Air Force, so the propeller and eagle wings represent that part of his life. The ‘Forgiven’ was the message I would want him to see if he had the opportunity.

As I mentioned, I bury a lot. I am a master of not thinking about things that really bother/ have bothered me. I was in for a rude awakening immediately after I got my tattoo, jumped into my truck and looked down at it. I have not thought too much about my father since I left Maine after his funeral. The hours I was with him as he passed and then his funeral were the hardest thing I have experienced so far in my life. It was one of the times in my life where I cried often and freely… I let my emotions show. I was mourning for him. What he had lost in leaving this life. What he had suffered through during his life.

As I looked at my tattoo, it hit me: I had not mourned for me. For what I had lost. For what I never had.  I had engraved the “Forgiven’ on my foot with the sentiment that I had forgiven him. But, as the tears were rolling down my face, I realized that I had not.

I only met my father when I turned 18 and my mother revealed who he was and where he lived. My only memory of anything about him before that point was a test when I was a little girl to determine if he was my father. (For the record, my mother knew he was, it was just the first instance of many where he tested my understanding of what a bond between father and daughter should be.)

Our first meeting went so horribly wrong that I was pulled over by a police officer for swerving because I was crying so hysterically as I left his house.  My father was an alcoholic for 40 years of his life and I think that not only damages your body, but your mind and your ability to feel or be sympathetic of others feelings.

I am not sure why, after that meeting, I continued to try to develop our relationship… but I did. I never really tried to confront him about abandoning me or the effects that it had on me. In all honesty, when we met, the life he had lived had ravaged him so that I really thought any conflict would be a severe detriment to his health. Anyhow, I don’t think I would have gotten the answers I was looking for even if I tried.

I told my father, on his death bed, that I had forgiven him. I thought that was important for him to hear.  And now, as I really took time to let myself think about it, like I had not yet done, I knew I had lied.

I am not good at forgiving. I can forget (or at least suppress, at best) but I never forgive well. I think people with a religious background can forgive because they need to for some greater power. But I don’t hold those beliefs, so I can carry anger, sadness and bitterness with me indefinitely.

I am sad that I never knew the man that literally created my life. I don’t necessarily think that we have to like everyone in our family. I mean, it’s not like we get to choose them. But, I think that there is something innate where you just love them. No matter what they do or who they are.  And I am sad that he never loved me. He did not know me- even in all the time we did spend together, he never got to know me... the real me. The person I had grown to to.

I am angry that I will forever struggle with any relationships with men. I am angry at every man I know that deserts his daughter without any regard for her future well being and how deeply he is destroying her self esteem, her self worth. I am angry at my own husband the second he does not give our daughters every speck of attention they ask from him. I am angry when he does not overcompensate for my own loss.

I am bitter that I can not change, reconcile, or heal these feelings. That I feel as though I will forever carry this ache in my heart and this craving for the love of my father. Bitter that I might not be able to forgive and that these unresolved feeling are somehow affecting my life or my own daughters lives.

Ariana looked at my tattoo. “The propeller and wings are for old Grampy (forever deemed ‘old’ grampy because his life had aged him decades beyond his years, decade over their ‘real’ grampy: my step-father.) “But,” she asked “what does ‘Forgiven’ mean?”

My eyes were still swollen from the hours of crying. I was not positive what way to answer. Ariana has no idea about my background with my father. I had never wanted to give my children any preconceived (read: negative) ideas about my father. But I also did not want to lie. I said, "It means I want to forgive him for not being my father when I was a little girl."

I left it at that. Later, Colb asked, "Did it help? Do you feel better now that you have that tattoo for him?" 

No. It really doesn't. Not yet. It has helped me realize I have not dealt with anything near what I need to... but it is a painful reminder of that fact at this point. 

And that is me with a little less rainbows and flowery tattoos.

Photobombing in the Horne family album.

I think it is safe to say in any family... there is a partner who is the primary photo capturer... and then the the other partner who appears in all of the photos. In my family, I am the photog and my husband is included in any and all family photos... vacations, birthday parties, kindergarten graduations... etc., etc. And lord forbid I ask him to include me in any photos. He has the most uncanny ability to unfocus an auto focus camera.

But he did get one focused photo of me on our trip to Acadia National Park this summer...

Unfortunately, his finger slipped in front of the camera, so this one can't go on the mantle.

 He did want to make sure he got a nice photo of himself (as if we don't have a million and one already)...

but I decided I should be in at least one photo looking cute. Of course his eyes were closed, so this one is not mantle worthy either. Oh well. Halloween is coming up, maybe I can sneak into one of those photos.