Friday, August 29, 2008

The Perfect Thirst Quencher



How you serve your beverage is almost as important as what you serve! I like to find new and creative ways to serve drinks at my parties.

You can do anything from the classic punch bowl and cups to something more trendy like the apothecary beverage server.



You've got your carafe, your pitcher, your decanter, even your kettle. You've got crystal, silver, pewter, gold and the list goes on and on!


I like to tie my beverage service in with the theme of my party. For example, if I'm doing a springtime luncheon, I may use a nickel bottom cold beverage server.




If I'm doing a dinner party, I may use a pewter decanter for the wine, and follow it with a baroque style tea and coffee server with dessert...




It's fun to explore your options. A wonderful source for beverage displays is Crate & Barrel.




You can find a wide selection of beverage serveware at an economical price.



Putting thought into the way you serve your guests really makes a special touch and can be a conversation piece at your affair.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

September 2008 is.....


Turn the Town Teal - to support Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian Cancer is stiking women around the world. There are many Alliances but I will be highlighting the Florida one since that is close to my heart!

Plan to join the Ovarian Cancer Alliance of Florida in celebrating National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month 2008. We will be wearing teal, decorating trees, buildings and lampposts with teal ribbons and much more! Be a part of a new tradition and raise awareness of the symptoms of ovarian cancer, and in the process YOU can help save women's lives!!! For more information or to join this effort, contact the OCAF office (ocaf@ocaf.org or 407-339-0024).

Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer:
Bloating
Pelvic or abdominal pain
Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)
Several other symptoms may include: fatigue, indigestion, back pain, pain with intercourse, constipation and menstrual irregularities.

Take Action:
See your doctor, preferably a gynecologist, if these symptoms are unusual for you and occur almost daily for more than a few weeks. Experts suggest a combination pelvic/rectal exam, a transvaginal sonogram, and a CA125 blood test. If ovarian cancer is suspected, medical experts suggest seeking a second opinion with a gynecologic oncologist before surgery is performed.

To learn more about Ovarian cancer and how to support this cause, check out these websites:

http://www.ovariancancer.org/

http://www.ocaf.org/id24.html

http://www.ocaf.org/id8.html

EARLY DIAGNOSIS SAVES WOMEN'S LIVES!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Back to school


Buzz Lightyear definitely had the right idea.
The Toy Story hero’s motto was “To infinity and beyond!” That’s how I like to think about the start of a new school year. So many possibilities. So many opportunities. On the other hand, I know my children are thinking more like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz: “There’s no place like home!”

Remember those highly charged first days? They were full of “real life” tests where there was always something novel to learn, and not always from a book.

The first day sometimes has pitfalls for Mom and Dad, too. Once, I managed to stockpile Jacks school supplies http://www.kidica.com/education/back-to-school/back-to-school-shopping/back-to-school-supplies.aspx as they went on sale the previous year. I think we had to go out and buy maybe two things—oh, yeah! I learned my lesson from previous years and from experienced moms. Buy early or get stuck running around store to store trying to find everything on that famous teacher/school supply list.

Starting a new grade or moving to a new school can be frightening. We, as parents can ease these anxieties by helping our children feel prepared for school. If your child walks or rides a bicycle to school, walk or ride the route with him. If your child rides the bus, show her where the bus stop is, tell her about the schedule, and make sure she knows how to find the bus after school. Remind your child where he will go after school, whether it’s home, to an extracurricular activity, or to a babysitter. Jack was so excited about riding the bus to and from school but as a mom with her first child starting school it surprised and worried me a bit. My husband said "Don't worry he's a smart child he can do it just give him a chance". So, of course we took him his first day and he rode the bus home that afternoon. He got off that bus with a smile so wide I was relieved. That next day he rode the bus that morning only to come home on the bus to tell me he was not going to ride the bus to school in the morning and to inform me that I or daddy will be taking him. Just in the morning, he clarified. After asking him what went wrong he said that he got lost making his way to his classroom. So I urge you if your child rides the bus, show them where the bus stop is, show them how to get to their classroom after the bus or you drop them off, tell them about the schedule, and make sure they know how to find the bus after school. Remind your child where he will go after school, whether it’s home, to an extracurricular activity, or to a babysitter.

Find a way to be more involved in your child’s education this year. It could be as simple as talking with your child everyday about what they have learned. Set the stage for sharing by telling your child highlights of your day, just by asking and paying attention you send a message that you think school is very important.
Asking children to talk about the best part of the day, whether they learned anything that surprised them, and whether they asked good questions in class.

One of the most important tasks of making the most of the early school days is to get involved with your child's school. The PTO is a great way for parents to get involved. The teachers greatly appreciate volunteers, I know from experience. I am greatly invovled in my sons school whether it be in the classroom or with the PTO. Its nice to know the people your children will be around daily.

You never know when you might need to call on other parents for help or advice. Seek them out at school events and parent group meetings. If the school publishes a family directory, write notes in the margins with information about parents you’ve met. Compile a list of names, phone numbers, and email addresses to coordinate carpool and emergency baby-sitting. Keep a copy at work or in your car/purse so you know whom to call when your schedule changes unexpectedly.

Once again its time to pack those pesky lunchboxes. Wondering what to include? With peanut allergies http://www.cherrybrookkitchen.com/ and picky eaters what do you do? I always add frozen Go-gurts and rolled deli turkey with crackers and cheese that I cube myself. My girlfriend would make a grilled cheese in the morning and her little girl would eat it at lunch. I have tried this and my children eat it every time. I am always trying to come up with new ideas that my kids will eat. Ask your children to help in making their lunch. Ask for input on what they like. If you have any tried and true ideas please tell us about it.




Try this website and let us know what works for your child. http://familyfun.go.com/recipes/family/specialfeature/backtoschool_food_sf/
Check out this website for great ideas and questions you need answered http://kidshealth.org/kid/feeling/school/back_to_school.html

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What is Organics?




Good Question~


Organic food is food produced according to organic standards, which means crops grown without the use of conventional pesticides, as well as artificial fertilizers or sewage sludge, animals reared without the routine use of antibiotics and without the use of growth hormones and food processed without ionizing radiation and without the use of a wide range of food additives. It is produced on all levels without the use of genetically modified organisms. Historically, these farms have been small family-run farms.

Once only available in small stores or farmers' markets, organic foods are becoming much more widely available. Organic food sales within the US have enjoyed 17 to 20 percent growth for the past few years while sales of conventional food - while still larger in size - have grown at only about 2 to 3 percent a year. This large growth is predicted to continue, and many companies are jumping into the market.

There is evidence that organic farms are more sustainable and environmentally sound, among other benefits (see benefits). These claims are also still subject to dispute and are not settled among scientists. One vocal critic in particular, Anthony Trewavas from England, has written detailed critiques of organic agriculture.

Fresh food

Fresh food is seasonal and perishable. Vegetables and fruits are the most available type of organic, fresh food, and are closely associated with organic farming. They are often purchased directly from growers, at farmers' markets, from on-farm stands, supermarkets, through speciality food stores, and through community-supported agriculture (CSA) projects. Unprocessed animal products like organic meat, eggs, dairy, are less commonly available in their purely "fresh" form.

Processed food

Processed food accounts for most of the items in a supermarket. Often, within the same store, both organic and conventional versions of products are available, and the price of the organic version is usually higher (see modern developments). Most processed organic food comes from large food conglomerates producing and marketing products like canned goods, frozen vegetables, prepared dishes and other convenience foods is beyond the scope of small organic producers.

Processed organic food usually contains only (or at least a specified percentage of) organic ingredients and no artificial food additives, and is often processed with fewer artificial methods, materials and conditions (eg: no chemical ripening, no food irradiation).

Identifying organic food

At first, organic food comprised mainly fresh vegetables. Early consumers interested in organic food would look for chemical-free, fresh or minimally processed food. They mostly had to buy directly from growers: "Know your farmer, know your food" was the motto. Personal definitions of what constituted "organic" were developed through first-hand experience: by talking to farmers, seeing farm conditions, and farming activities. Small farms grew vegetables (and raised livestock) using organic farming practices, with or without certification, and the individual consumer monitored.

Consumer demand for organic foods continues to increase, and high volume sales through mass outlets, like supermarkets, is rapidly replacing the direct farmer connection. For supermarket consumers, food production is not easily observable, and product labelling, like "certified organic", is relied on. Government regulations and third-party inspectors are looked to for assurance.

A "certified organic" label is usually the only way for consumers to know that a processed product is "organic".

Organic certification

To be certified organic, products must be grown and manufactured in a manner that adheres to standards set by the country they are sold in: Australia: NASAA Organic Standard. Britain: Organic Farmers and Growers Organic Standards. United States: NOP Program Standards. In the United States, the Organic Food Production Act of 1990 (7 U.S.C.A. § 6501-22) created the National Organic Program (NOP). The regulations (7 C.F.R. Part 205) are enfored by the USDA through the National Organic Program under this act.

These laws essentially require that any product that claims to be organic must have been manufactured and handled according to specific NOP requirements. A USDA Organic seal identifies products with at least 95% organic ingredients.

For the environment
In several surveys that have looked at smaller studies to build an overall comparison between conventional and organic systems of farming a general agreement on benefits has been built.

In these surveys it has been found that:
Organic farms do not release synthetic pesticides or herbicides into the environment - some of which have the potential to harm local wildlife.
Organic farms are better than conventional farms at sustaining diverse ecosystems. That is, populations of plants and insects, as well as animals. When calculated either per unit area or per unit of yield:
Organic farms use less energy and produce less waste - waste such as packaging materials for chemicals. A study published by the National Research Council in 1993 determined that for infants and children, the major source of exposure to pesticides is through diet. A recent study in 2006 measured the levels of organophosphorus pesticide exposure in 23 school children before and after replacing their diet with organic food. In this study it was found that levels of organophosphorus pesticide exposure dropped dramatically and immediately when the children switched to an organic diet.

Buying organic~
If you decide that you’d prefer fewer chemicals and other additives in your food, the choice isn’t an easy one. Organic sticker shock can hit the most stalwart of organic shoppers. The fact is that organic farmers produce more labor-intensive products and don’t enjoy the economies of scale or government subsidies that their big brothers in agribusiness do. But we found many ways to save on the cost of organic products.

Comparison shop
Do a price check among local grocery stores for often purchased organic items and shop where you find the lowest prices. In the New York City area, for example, we found a 4-ounce jar of Earth’s Best organic baby food for as little as 69 cents and as much as $1.29. When it comes to fresh produce, remember that you’ll save by buying it in season.

Go local
You can find organic growers at most farmer’s markets, anda USDA study in 2002 found that about 40 percent of those farmers don’t charge a premium. For listings of local farmer’s markets and other sources, go to www.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets and www.localharvest.org .Join the farm team. Buy a share in a community-supported organic farm and you’ll get a weekly supply of produce from spring until fall. The cost to feed a family of four generally ranges from $300 to $500 for the season. (Some farms also require you to work a few hours a month distributing or picking produce.) The savings can be substantial. A price study by a community-supported farm in the Northeast showed that the average $10 weekly cost for a shareholder’s produce supply almost always beat farmer’s market organic prices and often cost less than the same nonorganic items at a supermarket. Go to www.sare.org for a list of community-supported farms.

Order by mail
National providers will ship items such as organic beef ( www.mynaturalbeef.com ). Some local businesses, such as FreshDirect ( www.freshdirect.com ) in the New York City area and Pioneer Organics ( www.pioneerorganics.com ) in the Pacific Northwest, offer home deliveries. Other helpful sites are at www.eatwellguide.org and www.theorganicpages.com .

Be a supermarket spy
Make sure you get what you pay for by watching where produce sits on shelves. All grocers are legally required to stack organic fruits and vegetables where they won’t be exposed to water runoff from the misting of conventional produce, which could contaminate organic items with pesticide residue. If a store is not following that rule, you may be wasting your money by buying organic produce there.

I hope that this has been enough information to get you motivated to start buying local or organics for you family! My suggestion would be to start with dairy and meat and then move on to fruits and vegs! Don't forget to visit your local farmers markets and talk to the farmer you are buying from.
Please share any infomation you have on this topic or you tips for starting out!

Monday, August 25, 2008

What's For Supper Ya'll? Fondue for Two


Fondue is fun and easy. You can make a whole meal out of it.
Start with a salad, add lots of interesting ingredients.
Next on to my favorite part...........cheeeeeeeeeeeese!!
First, pick out your favorite bread and vegetables to dip, then go to the cheese!
There are many recipes you can choose from. Here's a few to try:

Classic Swiss Cheese Fondue
1 garlic clove, cut in half; 2 cups dry white wine (Neuchatel, Rhine or Chablis); 1 pound Emmenthaler or Gruyere, or a mix, finely cut (not grated); 3 tablespoons cornstarch; 3 tablespoons Kirsch or brandySaltBlack pepper; Pinch of nutmeg; 2 loaves crusty French or Italian bread (baguettes);
Rub an earthenware casserole, chafing dish or fondue pot with cut garlic. Pour in wine and bring to a simmer over low heat. DO NOT BOIL. Gradually stir in cheese bits (grated cheese tends to lump). When melted, stir in cornstarch that has been dissolved in Kirsch. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg; stir and bring to a simmer. Keep cheese bubbling lightly over LOW heat or it will toughen. If it becomes too thick, add a little preheated wine. If it separates, add 1/2 teaspoon of cornstarch dissolved in a little wine, then warm slightly.Serve with bread cubes that guests can spear on fondue forks, then dip into the cheese mixture. Serve a tossed salad on the side and offer fruit for dessert. Accompany with Kirsch, Neuchatel wine or beer.
For your main course, you may want to try the following:
And, don't forget....dessert!
There's pink fondue, chocolate marshmallow fondue, praline fondue and so much more! Cut up fruits (i.e. strawberries, bananas, pineapple), lay out marshmallows and serve warm pound cake to dip into your sinfully delicious brew!
Share your fondue recipes with us!

Friday, August 22, 2008

More Than Words Can Say


Although I've been told we're in a "paperless society", nothing could be more inappropriate when sending the proper thank you note to someone. Emails, text messages, phone calls - all thoughtful - but inappropriate!

A truly gracious lady knows, sending a handwritten, personalized note is still the right thing to do. Now, here's the fun part - what kind of stationery should you use???

Since I was a kid, I have loved pretty papers. You've got your florals, your polka dots, your toiles - the possibilities are endless! Sad to say, one of my greatest pleasures is opening a fresh box of stationery, feeling the paper, writing a note, then sealing it (with an embossed sealer of course!) and picking out the perfect stamp to accompany it along its journey.


Let's start with the paper. There are so many great places to find just the right look you're after.

For instance:

Horchow has a wonderful collection of traditional, casual, whimsical and kids papers.

Another great source is DabneyLee, they offer a wide selection of personalized notecards and accessories.

Here's more on my short list:

American Stationery

Polka Dot Design

Chelsea Paper

Vista Print

Now, let's talk about sealers. I've done everything from stickers to the old fashioned wax seal (my personal favorite!) Nostalgic Impressions is a great resource for sealer materials. Try to match the theme of your paper with your sealer, it's a nice added touch.

Okay, stamps. If you're having a girlie affair, you may want to chose florals. The United States post office has a fantastic collection of all different kinds of stamps. I like to search their online store for convenience.


If you're doing holiday thank yous, maybe you'll want to send a stamp with a holiday theme.




Or if it's a kid's thank you, consider sending a personal photo stamp. It's easy, you upload the photo, pick a border and oila! a masterpiece stamp!


I hope you enjoy these tips and say thank you with more than words can say!







Thursday, August 21, 2008

Simons Angels


Simon's Angels was create by a family who lost their son after a year of battles! Their wish is to give pediatric transplant recipients and families a glitter of hope in desperate times. It is during these times that families need to be together, and we hope to make that possible for families in direst need of help.

In the last three years we have raised over $50,000.00 to help transplant families with medical expenses, medicine, housing at Ronald McDonald or Transplant House, electricity, lodging, transportation, donation to the Pediatric Transplant Department and even funerals. Our goal at our 3rd Annual Family Fun Day is to exceed last year's total of $20,000.00. We need your help to do so and hope that Simon's story will entice you to help those who will benefit from your generosity.

Please join us on Sunday, August 24th at the Port Orange YMCA at 12:00. There will be fun for the entire family ... food, swimming, bouncy castle, raffles and a silent auction. If you can not join us, please donate to help children in need!

Lastly, please spread the word promoting organ donation ... just by passing it along, in the words of Flannery O'Connor, "The life you save might be your own."

To find out more information about Simon's Angels and how you can help, please visit http://www.simonsangels.org/
This is yet another example of what ordinary people can do to help others!
Remember, together we can make a difference!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I love everyday tips

I have tried all of these great tips. I love easy to remember tips for everyday. If I can't remember the tip then its not worth knowing in my opinion! So here are a few that I use.







#1. I had to call a service man who works on dishwashers, and he gave me this tip. Pour orange or lemon-flavored drink crystals into the soap holder and run through a cycle. The citric acid removes all the spots inside the dishwasher and will not harm it in any way. This works great!









#2. My mother gave me this great advice. If your towels ever get a musty odor which sometimes they did, you can get it out by adding a half-cup of baking soda to that load of laundry.











#3.Put an end to stinky sneakers with a couple of dryer sheets. Just place the dryer sheets in the shoes overnight, and they will be much fresher-smelling in the morning. Your closet will smell much fresher, too.







#4. Have you spilled something on your carpet and are sure it will never come out? Use carbonated water. Pour the water on the spot, let the water bubble the spot up and dab with a towel. It's great on everything from blood to spaghetti sauce. I will tell you that this does not work on a "squishy" ball with green liquid in it. This I know from experience.









#5.Every time you take the trash out, replace the bag with two bags. If you have a spill or rip, you'll avoid a mess, and it's super quick if you need a quick tidy-up before company comes or if your tired of have your trash bag always LEAKING!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

No More Plastics


Plastics is a big discussion lately! Why? Well... for very good reasons. Most plastics contain BPA?

What is BPA?
BPA or Bisphenol-a is a chemical used mostly in polycarbonate plastics (PC), which are used in: baby bottles, sippy cups, sports bottles, canned food / formula lining, and jar food lids.

Why should I avoid BPA?

Bisphenol-a is a known endocrine disruptor. Meaning it has estrogenic properties which, in recent animal tests has shown to cause a bevy of health problems such as; precancerous tumors uro-genital abnormalities in male babies, a decline in semen quality in males, early onset of puberty in females. Research is showing that plastic containers, mostly those used to hold liquids and foods, are leeching Bisphenol into the foods and liquids they are holding. Heating food and liquids with these plastics is shown to increase the leeching of this contaminate.

Bottom line: It’s icky and if you don’t want to chance it, there are ways to avoid it.

My SIL sent me a fun, stylish Klean Kanteen http://www.reusablebags.com/store/stainless-steel-klean-kanteen-c-19_25_35.html to take the place of my bottled water or my not so earth friendly cups I was using! I LOVE this water bottle. Dishwasher safe and durable, but don't forget the sleeve to go around it so it doesn't sweat!

I also bought my kids a Klean Kanteen and SIGG cup http://www.reusablebags.com/store/reusable-bottles-sigg-bottles-c-19_33.html to replace sippy cups when we are out and about.

Here are a few websites that have stylish BPA free water bottles:





Here are a few solutions to your traditional tupperware:



An alternative for baby bottles and training cups:

http://www.newbornfree.com/

http://www.greentogrow.com/

More confused than ever about how to choose the best bottles for your kids....Check out this site and it will help you step by step!

http://www.ehow.com/how_2183746_choose-bpa-free-baby-bottles.html?ref=fuel&utm_source=yahoo&utm_medium=ssp&utm_campaign=yssp_art

Have you changed your water bottles or other plastic items? What one do you use?

Monday, August 18, 2008

What's For Supper Ya'll? Biscuits, Biscuits and more Biscuits!

There's nothing like a warm southern biscuit. It's a staple in the traditional southern home. You can eat them for breakfast, lunch or supper! Heck you can even at them for a snack!



You've got your buttermilk biscuit, your cheddar biscuit, your chive biscuit, your ham biscuit, your sausage biscuit, your cinnamon biscuit - the list is virtually endless!



While a biscuit makes a great side to your meal, there's no reason why the biscuit can't be your meal!



For instance, serve up a country ham biscuit with a salad and a glass of tea, and oila! supper is served!



Making a good biscuit takes lots of practice. Once place I found for a good recipe is Pinch My Salt.

Here, the author goes into great detail about how to make the perfect buttermilk biscuit. With just a few simple ingredients, dedication and practice, you, too, can make the perfect buttermilk biscuit.



Now the supper part, be creative! You can put almost anything on a biscuit and it will taste good. Here's a few ideas:



Country Ham



Cajun Chicken Filet



Roast Beef



Shaved Turkey and Cheese



If you're not into baking biscuits, you could always buy them, but be picky where you buy them from. A hard dry biscuit does the whole biscuit society injustice!



One place you can buy them from is Callie's Charleston Biscuits! Callie makes her biscuits from scratch and they are delicious!



Butter up and enjoy!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Baking's one thing, packaging is another! (if you're a diva that is!)

So you think you can bake? But, can you package? As the saying goes, with real estate it's "location, location, location". With baking, it's "presentation, presentation, presentation!"


Maybe your husband and kids don't mind what your cookies and cakes look like as they devour your delicious goodies, but your diva friends have probably come to expect more!


Don't get me wrong, your keepsake Aunt Martha pound cake recipe is heaven sent, but your Aunt Marth pound cake wrapped in pink polka dot cello paper with a hot pink raffia bow is fabulous!

Over the years, I found a lot of ways to "wrap" my baked goods. For starters, I like the gourmet boxes at Nashville Wraps. They have hundreds of styles and colors to choose from and are relatively inexpensive if you buy in bulk. I also like the selection of raffia they sell, typically you can get 100 yards for $3.50!

My favorite thing to do is add a personal label to my goodies. I usually put something like "Baked with love!" or "From the Diva's Kitchen". Or if it's the holidays, I might put a seasons greeting on their as well.

Polka dots, swirls, bold or tranquil, I like to package up my baked goods to reflect the goodies inside!


Share your ideas with us.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

America's Second Harvest


Get Ready for Hunger Action Month - September 2008!


America's Second Harvest and its 205 member food banks will host events across the United States that directly benefit our hunger-relief efforts. From food drives to concerts, volunteer outings to advocacy work, there’s something everyone can do. You can check out the link below to see what events will be going on in your area!http://www.secondharvest.org/how_to_help/hungeractionmonth/index.html


~About America's Second Harvest~


Food provides the foundation for success and growth in life. America’s Second Harvest Network provides food assistance to 25 million people each year, including nearly nine million children. Through the power of our Network of emergency food providers, every dollar you donate provides 16 meals, and the hope of a brighter and more fulfilling tomorrow.


This charity gives many options for us to help. You can simply donate money that will go to buying food or donate food. There are as many different ways to volunteer, as there are individuals and communities across this country.


You can help out in your local community through activities such as:
-tutoring kids at your local Kids Cafe
-repackaging donated food for use at food pantries
-transporting food to charitable agencies
-clerical work at the National Office



Its simple - get involved today - and get your family and friends involved. Search for volunteer opportunities in your local community .


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Eco-Friendly Easy Summer Party Ideas

Planning a summer party? You don't have to spend big bucks on fancy centerpieces and place settings. Reuse what you have (and go easy on the earth!) with these environmentally friendly party ideas and simple decor projects. Here are a few projects that I thought were interesting and fun to do.
















A simple shopping bag can be recycled into a charming paper basket with just a few snips of the scissors.that I always save and pile up. Really wonder what am I going to with them. I know what your thinking, "I save those and I reuse them can be recycled into a charming paper basket with just a few snips of the scissors. Choose small, colorful paper bags and snip the left and right top corners off; leave a strip about one inch wide and the middle intact. Use double-sided tape or glue to attach the two tabs together to make a handle. Place small containers inside the bags (used plastic deli containers, for example), fill with water, and then arrange some fresh flowers in them. Choose flowers and greenery that complement the colors of the bags.
What a great way to reuse something that we all have. Plus I'm always looking for things that my children can do with me.







Many of the paper plates found in supermarkets are now made from recycled materials, including the chartreuse one (pictured) which is made from recycled yogurt cups. The large charger plate on the bottom is from Bamboo and is made from sustainable bamboo; it looks like a wooden plate, but it is actually made from a fast-growing grass that is surprisingly durable and good-looking. To dress up these plates, use hole punchers of varying sizes to create a pattern around the edge of the plates. Alternate large holes with smaller ones, going around the plate. Use other decorative hole punchers as well, to add stars, hearts and other pretty shapes to your eco-friendly dinnerware. Be creative! You can also use a hole puncher with recycled paper towels to make them into prettier napkins.





Whether the cause is a gust of wind or clumsy hands, terra-cotta pots can break, but that's no reason to throw them away. Recycle the shards into charming ID tags for your next party. They look great on a cheese plate, vegetables, or different dips. Letting guests know what all the treats are. Either use a permanent marker to write directly on the shards or get crafty with a set of alphabet stamps and a permanent-ink pad. Shards can also be used as place cards on tables.
Please let us know the environmental friendly ideas you have used to dress your table that have kept your family and friends talking about as they leave your party.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Can you "Green" your kids' Lunch?


Of course! and here are four easy ways to "Green" your kids' lunch.




1. Pack a No-Waste Lunch Box~
The idea of lunch brought to and from school in a paper or plastic bag seems so '80s, but the use of an actual lunch box or reusable sack (although they've been around for years too) is back in style, and choices in material, colors and sizes make your eco-friendly options all the easier.

Save a few trees by using cloth napkins and do your part by lessening landfill waste with reusable utensils. Both can be ported back home the same way they found their way to school — within a lunch box or reusable sack.

Steer clear of prepackaged foods, juice boxes and pouches, which create even more unnecessary hardship on our precious land.

And finally, pack your food and drink in reusable containers. Just think of all the money you'd save per child per school year if you packed just two snacks and a drink in reusable containers.

2. Lunch Box Alternatives~
So, you've gone the distance and prepared your own food. Now it's time to consider your lunch box of choice to put it in.
Laptop Lunch Boxes were created by two eco-conscious moms about seven years ago when the savvy pair realized that the best way to help parents pack wholesome, low-waste lunches was to "provide them with a lunch system that was not only convenient and economical, but also appealing to kids." Thus, the Laptop Lunch Box was born. Made of lead-free plastic, its unique design, reminiscent of a bento box, features single-serve individual containers, reusable utensils, a water or juice bottle and a handy carrying case.

If lunch sacks made from organic cotton or recycled plastic soda bottles are more your children's bag, reusablebags.org offers a cool selection too — some even come with nontoxic reusable freezer packs.

3. Include Fun, Organic Snacks ~ Just to name a few
FruitaB├╝ Fruit Leathers: A convenient, organic and fun way to enjoy fruit when you can't find the real deal out of season. We prefer Organic Fruit strips form Target

Peeled Snacks: A great find for the "grab and go" set, Peeled Snacks offers dried fruits and nuts made with no added sugars or oils.

Sweet Earth Fair Trade Certified Chocolates: Organic and vegan chocolate peanut butter cups? We venture no kids will complain about getting peanut butter in their chocolate or vice versa with these hard-to-resist candies — made with social consciousness in mind.

Annie's Bunny Grahams: These sweet treats give mainstream graham crackers a run for their money. Made with organic wheat flour and no hydrogenated oils, they're also a great choice for those with milk allergies as they're dairy-free. My kids love these and they are an alternative to graham crackers.

4. Change up the traditional sandwich~
Kids like to play with their food and eat with their hands (some of us adults still relish those activities too.) Get them involved in making the foods that they'll be taking for their lunches.

Burritos, quesadillas, soft tacos and wraps are all great sandwich alternatives and travel well in a lunch box. Spend some time with them in the garden choosing vegetables, take them shopping and have them pick out different ingredients like vegetables, fruit, healthy snacks and whole grain pastas for the recipes you make together.
These are just a few suggestions but there are many more. If you do anything we would love for you to share and if you have bought something, please include a link if possible!

Monday, August 11, 2008

What's For Supper Ya'll - Tapas (Kid Style!)

Since I'm into reading Fancy Nancy with my daughter these days, I'll say "Tapas is a fancy word for appetizers!"



While that's not completely true as tapas has a rich history and background originating in Spain, for us "low-maintenance" divas, we'll just think of these little treats as gourmet snacks that when combined together make a really fun and unique meal!!



In trying to find new things to feed my toddler to keep her interested and excited, I thought it would be cute to have a "tapas party"!! She loves finger foods and anything she can pick up on her own without being fed by an adult makes her really happy!



So, here are some kid-friendly tapas ideas for you:




















Now once your menu is complete, think about your accessories (i.e. frilly toothpicks, colorful plates, fruit punch served like sangria!) Your kids will love this little party put together for no other reason than to have an exciting dinner!




You may also want to put on interesting music and light candles to complete your perfect ambience!


Tapas is fun for adults, but kids would like it even more! Try it and let us know what your kids thought!


Friday, August 8, 2008

The Perfect Dish!

There's no question that delicious foods will be a hit with your guests, but how you serve it should be equally important!

Often we spend hours planning the perfect menu, cooking, decorating and getting our home ready for our guests, but how often do we think about what we're serving our food on?

Of course, you may have considered how many plates you'll need, but have you really thought about what they'll look like??

I never really thought about it until a couple of years ago I went to a friend's wedding in upstate New York. She kept telling me the reception was going to be extremely causual, and in fact, they had cleaned out their old barn and were going to host the reception there!

An old barn? What????? I couldn't imagine that after having an elegant ceremony in the Cornell chapel, they were having everyone come back to their old barn for a reception! But they did! And what I saw when I entered that barn took my breath away (and not because of any leftover animal smells!)

She had decorated the barn with chandeliers and oriental carpets! There was silver trays and candleabras! It was exquisite!

What really caught my attention, however, was the massive (and I mean massive!) collection of shabby chic china that had been in her family for years! While they each had a different pattern, each had a delicate pattern and unique charm - and collectively, they made quite a presentation!!

She chose a shabby chic look because it fit with the theme of the barn, and it lent a simple yet sophisticated flair to her event!

Since her wedding, I have begun collecting my own set of shabby chic plates, cups and saucers. I scour antique shops and flea markets for these little gems! I have toile, floral, patterned and polka dots! I use them every chance I get!

I have also found some great sites that you may want to visit if you're looking for the perfect dish! Some are china, melamine and paper:


Royal Albert Patterns.com







Thursday, August 7, 2008

Two Hearts of Hope

This organization is just 1 example of what people can do if they put their hearts into something!




Two Hearts for Hope was started in January 2008 by two women, Kim and Stacy, who traveled to Kazakhstan in 2007 to adopt their own children. Going through the adoption process from April to June 2007 made Kim and Stacy aware of the environment that these orphans reside in. Less than perfect conditions with not enough supplies plague these orphanages and make these children’s lives very hard. After seeing these conditions first-hand and how many children are still awaiting adoption in Kazakhstan, Kim and Stacy decided to create Two Hearts for Hope. The organization intends to make Kazak orphans lives better while they wait for a caring family to adopt them. Every month Two Hearts for Hope takes donations for items ranging from shoes and socks, to hygiene products, to toys. These donations are boxed up and carried to Kazakhstan by other families looking to adopt a child. While there, the boxes are dropped off to various orphanages for the children. The supplies enrich the lives of these orphans and help to add joy and hope to them as they wait to be adopted. Kim and Stacy started this organization all on their own and it has grown immensely to help make 1,000s of Kazak orphans lives better. Two Hearts for Hope continues to accept donations for Kazak orphans and is currently planning a trip to Kazakhstan to personally deliver these presents to the orphans.

If you would like to learn more about Two Hearts For Hope visit http://www.twoheartsforhope.blogspot.com/.

Not only have they created a fantastic organization to help these children, they are nominated by Michelle Reed, a fellow Kaz mom and board member for an Adoption Award handed out by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI). Each year, Members of Congress are given the opportunity to select individuals, families or organizations from their home state, who have demonstrated a commitment to improving the lives of children in need of permanent, loving homes. Each Congressperson chooses one individual or organization to honor. Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri has chosen to honor US because of our dedication to adoption and positive child welfare practices. We will be traveling to Washington DC in September to received our award on the White House lawn and to attend the tenth annual Angels in Adoption gala. This event boasts more Congressional participation than any child welfare event in the nation, with 193 members of Congress participating and more than 850 guests in attendance at the gala last year.

I hope by reading this, I have inspired just 1 person to go do something that will make a difference in someone's life.


Together we can make a difference!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Hostess with the mostess!








Parties are intended for relaxation and pleasure for the guests as well as the hostess, but when things go wrong, everyone suffers.


In order to ensure that everyone has a great time, the hostess is required to flit from one guest to another like some social butterfly. “How’s everything here? Good? That’s great!” Then on to the next guest. This routine is inevitable, and I assure you the hostess loves it, but that’s only because she’s already sure the majority of her work has been completed.


Parties are anything but easy. Ask any hostess. First of all, she must decide who to invite–without offending anyone. In other words, if she can’t invite all of her clients from work, it’s best not to invite any. That way no feelings will be hurt when Client Number One runs into Client Number Two and mentions the great party you threw. The result: immediate hurt on Client Number Two’s part, and hard-feelings for life. Avoid this scene by grouping. Office people, clients, family, friends. But, remember no one will be upset if you cross list a good friend or family member.


Secondly, send invites or schedule evites, but remember to call everyone on the list at least one week prior to the actual party and personally invite them, again. This is the single best way to eliminate hurt feelings when an invitation is lost in the mail.

Food choices are optional, but food is a necessity. Choose wisely. If you have a guest who is allergic to shellfish try not to use any seafood. Don’t be the party everyone remembers because of the ambulance that crashed through the gates in the wee hours of the morning. The same goes for other allergies. Of course, no one can catch everything. For example, a food dye allergy is more complicated than it sounds. Many items have dye in them. In that case, ask the guest what types of dishes he/she can consume and make sure at least two dishes are present.
It’s generally not acceptable to ask guests to bring a dish–except close friends and relatives–but most guests will volunteer. If they volunteer, never say no. It’s rude. They want to help, let them. If they have a dish in mind, don’t say no unless someone else is already bringing that particular dish. If it’s something you wanted to make, bow out and let your guest bring a dish to pass. It’ll make them feel special.



If alcohol is to be a included, remember to let the guests know what type will be served. That way if they prefer a different type of alcohol, they have the option to bring their own. Remember to have caffeine-free coffee and soft drinks, as well as water. The Hostess with the Mostest would NEVER allow her guests to drink and drive. Safety is her number one issue.
If you do not want children in attendance, don’t give the go ahead to anyone. Sally and Joe will be taken aback if they show up childless and find that Susie and Stanley brought theirs. Don’t play favorites. Again, there is always an exception to the rule. Your sister is from out of town, staying with you, and her child becomes ill. Naturally she would bring the child home from the sitters, any parent would do the same.


Keep pets locked up. If kitty is an indoor cat, don’t give him the opportunity to wander out when a guest doesn’t shut the door quickly enough. Put kitty in a kennel or back bedroom until after the party. It could save a lot of worry in the long run. The same with Fido. Not everyone loves dogs. If Fido is running from one guest to the next, jumping up on their lap and barking like a burglar has just entered your home, lock him in the basement, tie him up by a dog house, or secure him in the kennel. Admiring him from a distance is the best policy. Also, you never know when Fido might become too excited and bite someone accidentally...keep your guests safety in mind.
Decorate with candles and white lights and music that matches your crowd. If you’re using a jukebox for music, play music from the Nifty-Fifties through the 70s. If it’s a stereo and an older crowd you might opt for slower waltzes and easy listening music. If it’s a band, go for whatever they can play. If you hire a DJ, order all kinds of music and let your guests set the mood.
Dress should be at your discretion. If you want black tie only, don’t be afraid to say so. If it’s casual, tell them. It’s your party.


Finally, as we mentioned before, a hostess would never allow her guests to drink and then drive. If your guests have had too much to drink, take their car keys and put them up for the night. You’ll all sleep more soundly knowing everyone’s safe.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

How to "Go Green" for school

With the new school year approaching, supply lists appearing at stores, its time to shop and get ready! But wait do you buy your traditional school supplies or do you use this as an opportunity to do a little "green" shopping!



Here are a few changes you can make~



School Bag~ Avoid backpacks made of nylon or new plastics, especially PVC (vinyl), and look instead for bags made from recycled materials or natural materials. Check out http://www.ebags.com/ and http://www.bratscacks.com/index.html for some great styles!




Notebooks~ Kids can help reduce the burden on trees by using recycled paper made from post-consumer waste, the market for which prevents used paper from going into the landfill. The higher the recycled content the better. And encourage kiddies to use up an entire notebook before moving on to the next one!
OfficeMax, Office Depot, and Staples all offer notebooks made from recycled paper. The Green Office is another source for notebooks made from 100 percent post-consumer waste. EcoJot creates stylin' notebooks from 100 percent post-consumer waste and vegetable-based dyes.


Printer Paper~ Unless your student is turning in her resume, kids should use printer and copy paper made with recycled content. The big office stores have various recycled content options from different brands. Green Earth Office Supply offers a Tree Friendly Recycled Paper sampler, which includes "tree-free" paper, made out of materials such as hemp and recycled maps.



Refillable Pens~ are a great choice since only the ink needs to be replaced, but you can find disposable pens made of recycled materials.
These Wheely pens and Woody ballpoint pens do double duty - they're made from recycled rubber, plastic, and wood, and they're refillable. The Green Office also offers nontoxic disposable pens, or you might go for straight recycled plastic disposables from Green Earth Office Supply. Big brand Pilot has gotten in on the act with their BeGreen line of pens, made from recycled materials. Mechanical pencils are a good choice as well, since they can be reused, but tree-free pencils are an eco-friendly option.



Odd and Ends~ When filling a desk with various supplies, remember that there is probably a greener option. Does your little genius like to stick reminders and study aids around the computer screen? Make 'em recycled Post-Its! You can easily find recycled scissors and push pins, biodegradable corn rulers, and paper clips made from recycled steel.



Just remember that there are alternatives to most everything you will buy and more earth friendly. Take look around and you will see. :)



Stay tuned....Next week will help with packing your kids lunches!



Please share your ideas if you've changed some of your school products! Let us know where you bought it too

Monday, August 4, 2008

What's For Supper Ya'll? Pleasing Picky Eaters


I found this great article on The Food Network to help solve the common dilemma of how to feed

picky eaters. According to my mom, I was a picky eater, so I find this not only extremely helpful for my toddler (but a little amusing given my history of eating!)


This is a reprint from the article:


Eight ways to expand their culinary horizons:


Ever feel as if your daughter rejects more food than she actually eats? Tired of watching your son move food around his plate in an intricate vegetable shuffle? If your children suffer from picky-eater syndrome, here are eight ways to help broaden their culinary horizons.

1. Ask your child to try just one bite. The threat of having to eat an entire portion of any food is daunting. Promise your child that all you require is a single taste. If, after trying a new food, she still insists that it’s not going to be on her menu, you should accept that statement with a nod.

2. Reintroduce foods on a periodic basis. Many kids have to try a food several times before developing a taste for it. Continue to offer those quesadillas without forcing your child to eat it. Eventually, she might just acquire a taste for Mexican cuisine.



3. Serve as a role model. Let your children see you enjoy a wide variety of foods. Even if you don’t push them to try it, they will see that sauteed broccoli or sweet potato fries can be delicious. Scheduling family meals helps kids watch the adults in their family enjoying lots of different types of foods.


4. Try foods in different forms. Your daughter turns her nose up at potassium-rich bananas? Try a chilled fruit soup or a smoothie milkshake with bananas and yogurt. Often, foods that aren’t so appealing in their natural state can take on a whole new appeal when "repackaged" to suit kids’ tastes.


5. Don’t allow kids to eat snacks right before meals. If you want your picky eater to eat the dinner you’ve prepared, don’t give in to requests for graham crackers and milk late in the afternoon. If kids are hungry, there’s a far better chance that they will eat the baked chicken or hamburgers you place in front of them.


6. Use dinner as a special family-focus time. Think of dinner as an opportunity for quality time rather than a chance to focus on the food your selective son eats. This way, there is less pressure on him to please you and more on sharing the details of his day.

7. Give your child a role in mealtime preparations. Allow your daughter to help prepare dinner and your son to set the table – and let her help to choose the menu. If children have buy-in for the meal, there’s a greater chance that they will eat it.

8. Become familiar with the amount of food your child really needs. Often, we think our children require more than they truly do – and when they say that they’re finished, they really are. Kids don’t need to eat as much as adults – often, we should take our cues from them and stop eating when we feel full. Being aware of nutritional guidelines can help curb the need to push second helpings.


Friday, August 1, 2008

What to Serve When Guests Pop In

When I sit down to read one of my favorite Dorthea Benton Frank's novels (typically a tale of the southern lowcountry), the author always seems to describe two women sitting in a cozy kitchen, sharing a cup of coffee, delicious sweets and a meaningful conversation. I love that image and I often reflect upon it when I have friends and family come over.

I'd love to create an atmosphere in my home (and of course, my kitchen since I am a Diva In the Kitchen!) of warmth and welcome! In our busy lives, it would be nice to have a place where you can slow things down a bit and share quality time with the people you care about.

So how do you do that?

For me, one of the things I like to do is have coffee and cakes available at a moment's notice! Nothing kicks off a more welcoming atmosphere than the smell of coffee brewing and cake warming in the oven. I usually stock up on petit fours at the grocery store and put them in the freezer. When a friend stops over, I get the coffee pot going, turn the oven on and pop the little teacakes in! Easy, yet rich in hospitality.

Another thing I like to do is serve sweet tea and sausage balls (especially on the porch!) As many people in the south would say, sitting on the porch is a way of life. It represents sharing conversation and once again, slowing down just a bit to keep in touch with neighbors.

I have found that making little "goodies" ahead of time and freezing them, really goes a long way when faced with entertaining unexpectedly! The key is to make it look simple and without thought!

You don't want to make your guests feel they have put you out in any way, so having something prepared for their visit will make them feel right at home!

Easy Chicken Pasta

Easy Chicken Pasta

What's For Supper Ya'll?

White Beans, Pasta and Chicken
8 ounces dried cavatappi, fusilli, rotini, ditaloni, or other short pasta tubes
1 15- to 19-ounce can cannellini (white kidney) beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup chicken broth
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)
12 ounces cooked chicken, shredded
1/4 cup snipped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
Fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley sprigs (optional - I usually skip it)
Olive oil (optional - but I recommend at least a little for moisture)
Directions
1. In a large saucepan, cook pasta according to package directions; drain well and set aside.
2. In a blender or food processor, combine 3/4 cup of the beans and the chicken broth. Cover and blend or process until smooth. Place bean puree in pan used for cooking the pasta; bring to boiling. Return pasta to pan.
3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook garlic in 1 tablespoon hot olive oil for 1 minute. Add tomatoes; cook for 1 minute. Add the remaining beans, shredded chicken, snipped parsley, pepper and salt. Heat through.
4. Add the tomato mixture to hot pasta; toss to cost. Top with parsley sprigs and additional olive oil. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.
Posted by Stacy Nelson, Easy Dinner Recipes.blogspot.com

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