Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Longview World of Wonders :: A Dandelion Moms Article

I'm thrilled to share my newest post with Dandelion Moms and Texas Homemaking readers about my project I'm currently working on - Longview World of Wonders, a children's hands-on discovery center in the making.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Dandelion Moms Project Kindness :: May 2013


As you all know, I contribute monthly articles to Dandelion Moms, a place for beautiful, strong and resilient moms to gather online. Recently, the Head Dandelion herself, Melissa Northway, started Project Kindness - a simple idea with great potential. Melissa writes, "Much like a dandelion seed that blows in the wind landing at different places – acts of kindness can also be far-reaching. We don’t always know how much a simple act could affect someone’s life."
The best part about Project Kindness is the ease of partaking in the list of activities Dandelion Moms provides and the gratification of knowing you have had an impact on someone's life.

Last month, my youngest son and I completed one of the smaller Dandelion Moms challenges. We planted flowers. I know it doesn't seem like a lot, but sometimes, it is the littlest of things that matter the most. To my son, you couldn't have asked for a better project. He enjoyed picking out the flowers together, laying out where they would be planted, then planting and watering them, and making sure they were still healthy every day afterwards.
Here are a list of projects for you to work on the rest of May. There's still time, I promise!

  • One World Running helps to promote health in the United States and in developing countries by sending new or nearly new athletic shoes to American shelters as well as Africa, Central America, and Haiti. If the shoes aren’t “nearly new” then they will recycle them into material for tracks and playgrounds. Sounds like a great organization and we figured most people have some shoes that just didn’t get worn for different reasons. And if you have some older ones go ahead and send those in as well as they will help build playgrounds for kids!

       This could be a great Girl-Scout or Church activity to help get your    
       community involved in!

       If mailing shoes, please send to:

      One World Running
      c/o Boulder Storage
      6439 Arapahoe Rd.
      Boulder, Colo. 80303

      They also offer Drop-Off centers in most states. For more
      information go to www.oneworldrunning.com
  • Next time you are in a fast-food drive-through, pay for the person behind you in line. They just might pass this along next time they are in line and do the same!

  • In honor of Teacher Appreciation Month – bring some handpicked flowers to your child’s teacher.

If you complete any of these Project Kindness tasks, Melissa asks you share them with Dandelion Moms on their Facebook Page as well as Twitter and Instagram (make sure to use #dmprojectkindness). You are also more than welcome to post your kind acts (and photos) on Texas Homemaking's Facebook (@TexasHomemaking) page.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Story Time :: All About Cats!

Recently, I began a story telling program at my local toy store Knowledge Nook ~ The Toy Place. At first, we had a handful of children attending my program and then by the fourth week I had more than quadrupled our participants. It was fantastic! And, we knew immediately, the seating area would have to expand.

Initially, I had set out to help my friend establish some great programs in her store and discovered how large the need truly was in our community for *free* early educational programming. I'm joyful to be able to assist her and to also stimulate all those little minds through stories, crafts, songs and activities.

All About Cats

For this story time, I opened with the If you're ready for a story song as follows:
If you're ready for a story take a seat. 
If you're ready for a story take a seat.
Clap your hands and stomp your feet.
Make your hands all nice and neat.
If you're ready for a story take a seat.
This song is sung to the rhythm of If you're happy and you know it.
I then read Splat the Cat by Rob Scotton; a cute story about a cat named Splat who has his first day at cat school. He takes his best friend Seymour, a mouse, with him and taught his fellow classmates a thing or two about being a cat.
This story is followed by Have you seen my cat? by Eric Carle. Carle creates a fun and easy to follow storyline for even the youngest of participants.
For our story time activity, I asked the children to make a small fist and pretend it was a sweet kitty. They were then suppose to pet their kitty as we sang the following song:
Soft kitty, warm kitty
Little ball of fur.
Happy kitty, sleepy kitty
Purr, purr, purr.
We sang the song twice while I used the hand puppet as my kitty. The children really seemed to enjoy this simple activity.
After our kitty song, I read the last book - Red Cat Blue Cat by Jenni Desmond about a pair of jealous cats. Each cat would prefer to be the other and they work hard trying to figure out that in the end they are who they are.
I didn't get a chance to read another book I had selected (The Amazing Hamweenie by Patty Bowman) as by now the group had an extreme case of the wiggles. It's a silly book!
We made thumb print cats for our craft. It was an extremely simple craft involving ink pads, paper, markers and wet wipes for clean-up.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Experimental Recipes :: Southwest Summer Salad

As the seasons change and the sun stays a little longer in the sky, I begin to yearn for fresh fruits, cool salads and flavored waters. This week, I concocted my very own Southwest Summer Salad using items I had on hand.


1 can black beans, drained
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
6 grape tomatoes, sliced
1 sweet red bell pepper, diced
1 sweet yellow bell pepper, diced
1/2 medium white onion, diced
1 tablespoon cilantro (I prefer the Gourmet Garden's cilantro paste)
salt and pepper, to taste

Prepare all ingredients. Combine in a medium size bowl. Chill & serve with a side of mashed avocado.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Blackfish Children’s Books Facebook Party :: Tonight (5/21)


Join me and other panelists for Blackfish Children's Books Facebook Party hosted by Penelope the Purple Pirate and Dandelion Moms tonight!

We'll have goodies to giveaway and also talk about their new app which allows you and your children to create your own story (or eCard, eBook, storyboard, presentation, vacation scrapbook, etc.) easily and quickly using their library of professionally created images (see above for examples) and distribute it digitally everywhere. The illustrators that are part of this project are some of the best in the industry and have worked at Disney and others are up and coming illustrators.

The party starts at 7pm - 9pm CST! You don't want to miss it!!! https://www.facebook.com/events/263670367112601/

To Learn More About The Great Illustrators Project check out the Kickstarter Video here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1081951836/the-great-illustrator-project

Some goodies we will be handing out include:

Blackfish Children’s Books:
  • codes for some of their popular apps. To read more about Blackfish Children’s Books go here: http://www.customizabooks.com/cb-products/blackfish
  • Signed Illustrations from the soon-to-be released The Great Illustrators Project.
  • Gift Cards from participating sponsors!
Geek Club Books (www.geekclubbooks.com) will provide 5 GCB bags at the Blackfish party, One side is of JMan and Mr. Redge and the other has the GCB logo.

Disney: Will be providing codes for this fun Disney Junior Magazine app which gives you the first issue for FREE! https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/disney-junior-magazine/id635144007?mt=8

Oceanhouse Media: Codes for: http://www.oceanhousemedia.com/products/elmersspecialday/ and http://www.oceanhousemedia.com/products/leothelightningbug/

See you this evening!!!

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Review is In :: Sambazon Juices Plus a Giveaway!

Do the words antioxidant, energy, protein or organic grab your attention? If so, you might like to try Sambazon's fresh and exotic juices, smoothies and frozen products. Don't worry, you won't have to travel to South America to taste these superfoods; they are available at most big box retailers.

I recently had the opportunity to sample Sambazon juices (Acai and Energy) through Moms Meet (#momsmeet). This happened to be my first experience trying Sambazon and I was pleasantly pleased with the exotic flavor combinations. Having never tasted Acai berries, I found their juice blends to be a unique combination of sweet yet neutral. The juice (Energy) had a pleasant fragrance reminding me of plums. I can't wait to try other varieties of Sambazon.

Acai, Acerola and Yerba Mate are the main ingredients in many of the Sambazon juice blends and are considered to be some of the finest Amazon Superfoods.  

In addition to Sambazon products being USDA organic, they are also NON-GMO, vegan, gluten free, and provide whole food nutrition. My boys loved the Acai with Blueberry and Pomegranate juice, which makes a Mom happy! What parent wouldn't love for their children to enjoy a healthy snack!

Sambazon juices are available in a range of flavors, each providing a variety of health benefits.

• Açaí/Antioxidant: This Original Amazon superfood juice is bursting with powerful antioxidants and healthy omegas. It’s a delicious way to combat free radicals and comes in two flavors: Original or Açaí+Blueberry+Pomegranate.

• Energy: This potent blend of Açaí berries, Yerba Mate, and Guarana delivers a whole food experience that boosts the body and mind the way nature intended. Energy is available in two flavors: A rich berry superfood juice blend with 50mg of organic caffeine per bottle, and a new Mocha Java superfood smoothie with 80mgof organic caffeine from fair trade coffee beans, plus a hint of chocolate.

• Protein: These indulgent smoothies are packed with 10g of organic vegan whole food protein per bottle (which helps to build lean muscle) and healthy omegas to keep you full longer. It comes in three yummy flavors: Açaí berry + Vanilla; Açaí berry + Chocolate; Chocolate + Almond + Coconut milk

• Supergreens with Kale + Ginger: This is a potent blend of Açaí berries, a powerful new blend of six varieties, plus a hint of ginger. It delivers around two servings of whole fruits and veggies, without added sugar.

• Blended Breakfast: This is the first beverage to combine whole fruit with ancient grains (like quinoa and amaranth), chia, and Organic/Non-GMO verified soymilk for a smoothie that sustains and nourishes. This delicious strawberry-banana blend is also a good source of fiber (7g per bottle).

Sambazon is a company dedicated to bringing the next level of nutrition to the world while supporting the environmental and social well-being of the Brazilian Amazon and its people.
Founded by surfer Ryan Black after a trip to South America and the discovery of the Acai berry, Sambazon was a way to share these superfoods with the world.
Ryan states, “We make healthy products with full integrity that promote a better you – the kind of you that lives better, works better, feels better and inspires the world to be a better place. That’s why we are organic, we believe in non-GMO and we support fair trade. It’s the reason we craft our recipes with superfood ingredients that provide epic flavors and amazing health benefits."

 Sambazon offers great recipes on their website using their juices and smoothies. I can’t wait to start creating summer recipes using these juices. The Acai, Blueberry and Jalapeno jam topping on cream cheese looks amazing for my next get together.

Sambazon juices retail for approximately $2.99 and can be located using this link. Check out Sambazon's Facebook page, Twitter page, Pinterest page and Instagram.

To get my readers interested in Sambazon, I’m hosting a giveaway on my blog through Saturday (May 25th). You definitely want to enter! One winner will receive three free product vouchers plus a wooden bowl and spoon valued at $45. This giveaway is limited to U.S. residents only. Please see the Rafflecoptor below for your chance to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
{Disclaimer: I received this product for free from the sponsor of the Moms MeetSM program, May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms MeetSM blogger, I agreed to use this product and post my opinion on my blog. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of May Media Group LLC or the manufacturer of the product.}

Monthly Goals :: April Recap & May's Plans (Well, 1/2 of May's Plans!)

I hope you can all forgive me! I've taken most of the month of May off. In fact, what happened to April? The past month and a half have been a whirlwind for me. With all my volunteer work with LongviewWOW!, story telling at our local toy store, finishing up our school year and keeping the ship smoothly sailing, I just haven't had as much time  to work on Texas Homemaking posts. But, I think I'm back on track and in the saddle again...at least I hope so! Come on May, let's swing into June - I'm ready!

With each new year, I try to change and grow in positive ways to enhance my life and make the most of my time. I usually blog about my weekly goals each Monday, but this year I think I'm going to take away the small goals and work on reaching my larger goals on a monthly basis. We will see how it goes!

April 2013 Goals


1. Complete Spring Cleaning - we are almost finished! Just a handful of chores to complete.
2. Design out our landscaped vision for the newly acquired property and maybe give it a name. Any suggestions? For now, we're calling it the Property. Original, hunh? Here's to hoping something else will come along : )


1. Date night with Jake - I don't care what we do as long as we have a good time doing it!
2. Finish up our testing for this term and begin Term 3 in our homeschool year!
3. Plan a couple of weekend trips for the rest of the Spring and early Summer.

1. Finalize all last minute details and host the Secret Garden program at the end of the month. This was a complete success! The children all had such a delightful time!
2. Replant the Junior Master Gardener garden!
3. Prep for homeschool field trips

1. Continue working on 13 Things to Learn in 2013. Orchids are everywhere this time of year and I think I can master this interesting form of botany - or at least have a fun time trying.
2. Continue writing new posts, finishing blog update, and join Dandelion
Moms Project Kindness.
3. Let's try that bike ride again!
4. Plan out my new toddler story time for the month of May.

May 2013 Goals

I was thinking since May was already more than half way over I would have less goals, but now I'm not too sure...

1. Redo back patio layout
2. Go through school books for donation or sale
3. Finish backyard vegetable garden
4. Fertilize roses

1. Family Game Night on Fridays
2. Plan summer activities
3. Homeschool Show & Tell

1. Meet with possible LongviewWOW! donors
2. Continue with our JMG Classes on insects
3. Meet with exhibit designers and fabricators

 1. Continue working on 13 Things to Learn in 2013. This month, I'm working on learning how to dance the Rumba!
2. Start my new workout training
3. Select my summer reading

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Texas Travel :: The Jefferson General Store

Recently, I entered the Texas Forrest Trail Region's We Pine for East Texas photography contest. With over 300 beautiful entries, I was pretty sure my amateur photography skills didn't stand a chance. I was utterly surprised when I opened an email last week stating I had actually won a spot as honorable mention with my photo Way Back When taken in Jefferson, Texas at the Jefferson General Store.

The Jefferson General Store is a delightful step back into yester-year, featuring a fantastic old-fashioned soda fountain, a well-stocked candy bar, shelves filled with preserves, jams, snacks, salsa, honey and more. In addition, the General Store also sells clothing, toys, books and Texas souvenirs.
Located at 113 E. Austin Street, the Jefferson General Store is opened Sunday through Thursday from 9am until 6pm and Friday through Saturday from 9am until 10pm.

Friday, May 3, 2013

A Mother's Perspective :: Modesty

Mod-es-ty: propriety in dress, speech or conduct.

On Monday, the boys and I joined our fellow homeschoolers at our local Splash Pad for an afternoon of delight. Our group ranged from about 4 years old to 14. We had a mix of boys and girls throughout the age range and all were dressed modestly and appropriately for the outing. Boys wore swim trunks and rash guards while the girls wore something equally modest. None of our children were in bathing suits without proper coverage or cover-ups. Call me old fashioned…

However, I cannot say the same for the plethora of young mothers with toddlers and preschoolers. Most were in rather tight swimwear with sheer cover-ups and we even spied one pregnant young mom in what appeared to be an itsy bitsy teeny tiny hot pink bikini prancing around the water spouts with her toddler.

While I have no problem with women or mothers wearing swimsuits, please do so in an appropriate fashion, especially at a children’s play area. I know I’m not the fashion police, and I apologize if I offend anyone in this post, but please look at this issue from a mother with rapidly approaching teenage boys. I don’t want my sons to gawk at grown women’s cleavage. In fact, they don’t now, but why tempt them? Why be that women who feels the need to show-off everything she has. If you are the mother of daughters, how do you think the way you portray yourself will impact them as they get older?

I’m not conveying we should all don swimming suits from the 1920’s, although some of them are quite adorable;but rather, that as women, we take a step back and look at how we portray ourselves to children around us. Do we want a society of girls who feels it is necessary to dress inappropriately or boys who feel their eyes can linger over a girl's un-modest appearance?

Personally, I would rather side with modesty.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Texas Made :: Cindy's Cozy Kitchen

Cookies are made of butter and love.  – Norwegian proverb

 If you haven’t heard about Cindy’s Cozy Kitchen, nestled in East Texas, then you are missing out. Former educator, Cindy Best creates a variety of delicately detailed cookies for all occasions. Ranging from children’s story book characters to tartan plaid, her cookies are not only unique, but also deliciously buttery with a slight lemon zing.

Cindy began her journey into the cookie unknown a little over a year ago. She needed something to help overcome sorrow in her professional calling when resigning a ministry job. Cookies became her outlet. Cindy admits, “I was looking for something that I could be fruitful doing. In February of 2012, I saw a Valentine cookie which had been brush embossed. I thought, I should do that.” In addition, a former student had posted on Facebook how he missed the frosted cookies of his youth. Unsure of what he meant, Cindy began looking into the mysterious frosted cookies and soon embarked upon becoming a cookier.

I recently had the opportunity to visit Cindy in her Cozy Kitchen for an interview and a quick lesson in cookie decorating.

Texas Homemaking: Cindy, you’ve got all these great tools in the kitchen, but what are your “I can’t live without them” tools?

Cindy Best: Parchment, a heavy rolling pin, a spray bottle and my freezer are the best tools I have. You wouldn’t think such simple things would be useful, but they are. I love my rolling pin because I can adjust the width when I’m rolling dough. The spray bottle is great for mixing colors and keeping the icing from crusting. The freezer is helpful in keeping the dough from puffing up too much and losing its shape.

Texas Homemaking: I’ve seen many of your great cookie designs on your Facebook page, but what are your favorites?

Cindy Best: The Woodland Fairies; they hold a special place in my heart. I was inspired by a children’s pop-up book and created them. I also like the Some Bunnies I did not too long ago.

Texas Homemaking: The fairies are definitely my favorites! So, you inspire all of us with your cookies, but who inspires Cindy Best?

Cindy Best: Well, obviously Sugar Belle! She’s amazing. Also, my former student, Kim; she found me on Facebook and has shared all sorts of techniques, recipes and blogs. I’ve really benefitted from her expertise. Kim was in my 5th grade class when I taught and now she is my teacher. She is a really gracious lady and has encouraged me when I needed it most.

Texas Homemaking: Sugar Bell is amazing! But, I think you do amazing work yourself. If you had advice for an up and coming cookier, what would it be?

Cindy Best: I think my biggest lesson when starting out was to take the time to make cookies correctly. If I was rushed or didn’t take the time, my icing consistency would be incorrect. The consistency of icing will make or break a deadline. Talking to your cookies helps, too {insert Cindy’s giggles}. It is also good to be competitive with yourself, but not with others. What I love the most about the cookie world is that everyone is so kind and supportive.
Texas Homemaking: Do you have any cookier tips to help save newbies heartache when they first start out?
Cindy Best: Well, living in East Texas, we have lots of humidity which can impact your icing, especially color transfer. If you’re filling lots of different colors, you definitely want to wait overnight before filling light and bold colors next to each other. I also use Julia Usher’s technique for stabilizing icing by using pasteurized egg whites, lemon juice and cream of tartar. A lot of people use meringue powder as a stabilizer but it can make icing take longer to dry and I don’t care for the taste. If you do use the meringue powder, I prefer Americolor; it also causes fewer bubbles in the icing.

In addition to our interview, Cindy gave me a tour of her cookie production line and a little insight into her newest creations. Her current cookies were headed to a former student whom lives in Baltimore. These cookies, a gift, were intended for an adorable one-year-old’s birthday party.

Cindy’s cookie process begins with design. She draws out her cookies, planning the icing colors and sets her deadline details. She rolled and baked this particular batch of cookies last Wednesday, outlined and flooded sections on Thursday, detailed on Friday, added finishing bling on Saturday and shipped this Monday. Before shipping, Cindy wrapped each cookie individually in bubble wrap to ensure they would arrive in perfect condition. Cookies properly sealed can be kept up to 3 weeks.
Along Cindy’s production line, I spied a dehydrator. It was being used to help give each cookie the initial crust over on the icing to prevent smudges or smears. Cindy will typically produce 2 orders of her charming cookies per week.

I’ve already got one order in with Cindy. My niece will be turning one in October and what better way to celebrate this occasion than with Cindy’s Cozy Kitchen. To place your cookie order with the sweetest lady I know, please email Cindy at cindyscozykitchen@gmail.com For information on pricing, delivery, shipping and more please visit her FacebookPage.