Thursday, December 30, 2010

Words of Wisdom

I love receiving handmade gifts. This year, for Christmas, I was very lucky to get some very thoughtful items. I wanted to feature one of them here. Above is a simple jar filled with colorful strips of paper. At first glance, you may think, hmmm...that's a pretty decoration, maybe.

Upon closer inspection, though, you notice it is a fancier jelly jar and the strips of paper have words on them. When Don's grandmother handed me the jar, we were in a rush to load up and leave. I'm certain she wanted to have a better and longer moment to linger over the gift, but she tucked it in my hand and I immediately went to bundle up Mari. In the background, I could hear laughter and heard a quote. I'm ashamed to admit it, but I was not fully present in the moment. Maybe this is just me, but do you ever hear what people say, lock it away and later reflect? This particular moment was such a moment.

When we got in for the night, I was tired and reflecting on the night. I had anxiety over a neighbor's phone call about a strange man inquiring about our home when we weren't home. I had anxiety over the relative telling me of their stomach virus. I had anxiety over Mari's reaction for Christmas day. I was exhausted and in the quiet of the night when I was uncomfortable and the beginnings of the sickness were happening, I remembered the jar and what she said.

"I like to collect little sayings. I've been doing it for as long as I can remember. I discovered that I had them written down all over the place. I've been doing this for years. This year, I typed up 365 different short sayings. Took it to the print shop, where they printed it for me on different colored paper. Then I took it home and cut out each saying and stuffed 365 different ones in each jar. I hope you enjoy the phrases as much as I did."

I felt guilty I didn't get the chance to hug her for that gift. I vaguely remember smiling and thanking her when she handed it to me. I remember being excited, but I also felt the pull to my daughter who was about to climb up on the glass coffee table and demonstrate her tap dancing ability.

I took the jar to work with me. I will stay with me there. Each day I will incorporate opening the jar and reading a new slip of paper. If you are my friend on Facebook, you will read the sayings in a status update. I will share the first one with you here:
Wrinkles are the service stripes of life. 




Isn't that the truth? I'd also like to add to that, so are stretch marks. :)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Traditions...in the ER

Well, let's hope this doesn't become a Christmas tradition, that's for sure! Eeesh. Also, this can be the great lengths I go to avoid cats. LOL! No, those are just jokes. Backstory...

We made a quick turnaround from our Colorado trip to head North to Kansas. Around 11PM, my MIL called us to let us know that she was pent up at home with either food poisoning or a stomach bug. We opted to not chance it and when we pulled into Salina around midnight, we checked into to The Candlewood Suites. Seriously, these guys were amazing. We spent $72, including taxes for a warm bed, free Internet, and a place that welcomed Guapo! They were so hospitable and friendly. Of course, we'd been traveling for most of the day and we were all flat out exhausted. We cuddled in and slept until she called the next morning at 9. She let us know that shortly after she last talked to us, she was fine. When she arrived at our room, I'd thrown on some clothes and headed out to run errands with her. We met up with Don and Mari, loaded up the car to go to her place. We unloaded all of our goodies, and headed out for breakfast, which was really breakfast for lunch, but I liked it fine. We had a couple of family and friends as visitors, and even made a Christmas craft. Then, we went to dinner and Don and I went out to buy the last minute Christmas gifts that still needed to be purchased. When we finally made it back, we passed out. The next day was going to be a big one!

We were up early wrapping gifts and planning out the day. I explained to Mari the importance of a good nap because we were going to have quite a long evening that night. Plus, Santa would be coming. I was kicking myself for forgetting the special Santa wrapping paper I had purchased just for the Santa gifts! Dangit! Fortunately, my MIL has loads of wrapping paper and gift tags and is equally generous with her supplies. I was tremendously grateful because I did NOT want to venture out for either. When we go to Kansas, we get to visit lots of Don's extended family. Christmas Eve, we spent time with both great-grandmothers. Here's a shot of Mari & Don with one of them:
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We'd seen great aunts & uncles, 2nd cousins, 3rd cousins, and indulged on yummy treats. Earlier that day, we had visited Santa, too. Anyway, it was then stated that one of the spouses of our cousins was at home with the stomach bug. Then, there were tales of it having gone around all through Kansas and through the immediate family. That specific family member also let us know that her son had had it twice! My heart sank and I rushed to the bathroom to wash my hands. But I knew it was too late. I'd already been exposed and it was just a matter of time for it to strike. I prayed and prayed and prayed for it to pass me by, but then I glanced over at Don and Mari and continued to pray that it would miss us all.

That night, when we were getting ready for bed, I had Mari sleep with Don and I slept on another bed. Actually, before I could even fall asleep, I headed upstairs closer to the bathroom just in case. Around 3:30, I woke up and ran over, thinking I would get sick, but instead I just had to pee. I fell back to sleep on the sofa with my stomach twisting in knots and cramping. I chalked it up to the egg nog I'd had earlier. Granted, I'd drank the egg nog at 7:30 the morning before, but 'eh, one could hope, right? An hour and a half later at 5, it began. I showered at 8, and mustered up enough strength to eat some cereal, knowing full well it wouldn't stay down. I ate two bites, handed the bowl to Don and excused myself. Afterwards, I cleaned and disinfected the bathroom as best as I could, and suggested we check out the tree. Don handed me some water to sip on and I tumbled into the living room and landed on the couch. Mari managed to open six gifts and she was done opening presents. I didn't even open one. Instead, when she took her break, I ran to the bathroom to excuse myself yet again. This was the worst of it. When I caught my breath, I broke down and lost it emotionally. I wept there in the bathroom out of embarrassment, anger, frustration, and desperation. I prayed that I wouldn't go into early labor. I willed the child inside of me to somehow cope with this illness, but I knew it was getting dangerous for me. I'd sip water, and less than 5 minutes later, it was back with some bile. We tried to finish opening gifts when I thought I was "empty." Somehow, we made it through.

And then it was time for lunch. Instead, I retreated to the bathroom and took a short nap on the floor, clutching the sick bucket and using a towel for a pillow. I got up after 30 minutes and proceeded to get sick again. Once again, I crawled into the shower and it seemed to help some, until I didn't have the strength to move. Don came in and helped me out. He swaddled me in towels and a borrowed robe and suggested we go to the ER, especially because I couldn't stand on my own. I agreed and we verified which hospital was in our network. (Isn't that sad that you have to check before hand, but man, it totally makes a big difference in final payment! Heck, I'm just glad we have insurance!!) I sipped a bit of water and managed to dress to go.

With tears in my eyes, I waved at Mari, fearing to hug her lest she get what I had, and was so very upset that our Christmas was going to be spent apart. I took comfort in seeing tiny flecks of snow fall down from above. That's the final thing Mari wanted for Christmas and there it was.We arrived to the ER. After doing the basic paperwork, I called my folks. We had a bad connection and I couldn't call them back because that little sip of water I had demanded a bathroom immediately. We went through the logistics of hospital check-in, and the directed us up to labor and delivery because I was past 20 weeks. This would help them keep a better eye on Tesla. As Don wheeled me to that floor, I was overcome with emotion and feared the worst. The last time I was sick like this, we were all sick. Since I was the only one sick, I was afraid I was in premature labor. I didn't feel any contractions and my water hadn't broken, but the lower back pain, the vomiting, the everything else...it was there. The kind nurse settled me and calmed my fears. We heard Tesla on the baby monitor and her heart rate was normal. As a matter of fact, she was flipping around in there having a party. I was afraid she was like a fish with too little water and was flopping around. It sounds absurd now, but at the time, all sorts of rational was out. My heart rate was normal and so was the fever. I was however dehydrated. They started me on 1 liter of IV fluid, which she said would take about an hour. Don snapped a photo of our view. You can barely make out the lining of snow on the rooftops.
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I lamented that we didn't bring Christmas goodies for the nurses. After all, they were away from their family too. Don chuckled and told me, even now, you're worried about others. He told me to calm down and let people take care of me.

After 45 minutes of the IV, I snapped a self portrait. Sexy shot right there, let me tell you. That's the latest in hospital wear too! That hair style courtesy of no conditioner and no products. But hey, look, there's color back in my lips and you can no longer see the veins popping out of my hands, face, and neck. Yaaay!
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My spirits were then lifted by technology when my Facebook friends sent many thoughtful comments, prayers, and well wishes. But then the blood results returned and my potassium levels were too low, so after that IV liter was finished, it was replaced with another one that was fortified with potassium. I was told that this one would take about two hours. An hour into it and I finally had to pee. Hooray!

Unfortunately, my body was not responding well to the Immodium and while not vomiting, I was still not up to par. By this time, the 1st nurse's shift had ended and I was now in the company of dear Erin. After peeing, she allowed me to sip on some water, but insisted I buzz her if I got sick. I sent Don away to grab some dinner for himself and I tried to sleep. I awoke about half an hour later when one of the monitors was beeping. Apparently my blood pressure was much too low and my temperature was nearing 100. Tesla was still ok. Erin prepared me for an overnight stay, just in case. She brought me some extra warm blankets and I called Don to ask him to bring me some socks and reading material. I needed to stop crying because it didn't help the dehydration.

The shift changed again, and so did my IV. I went to the bathroom again and success, just pee! My fever was kept at bay, and my blood pressure was improving. At 9PM, the nurse informed me that the doc said I could go home. By this time, I had taken in nearly 3 liters of fluid. When I later thought about it, 3 liters is what we buy in soda for a party. I had nearly the equivalent of one of those through the IV. It totally blew my mind! I successfully walked out of the hospital, which actually took me quite a long time with my short shuffle steps.

We made it home before midnight and Mari happily greeted me with a big, warm hug! I chugged down some broth and a small gatorade and passed out. The next day my body was totally sore, the previous day's events mere remnants in my mind. Two days later and my neck and stomach muscles are still strained from the heaving and retching and everything else. I'm TOTALLY and COMPLETELY spent.

Many friends ask me if I ever sleep because I'm always on the go. When I'm sick, I get sleep. I guess that's when I get the more "normal" amounts of sleep like everyone else. Regardless, I'm glad to be able to sit upright for an hour at a time. I'm grateful to not be dizzy. I'm especially grateful that Don, Mari, and Tesla are ok. And even more humbled by all of the prayers and well wishes sent out to me on Christmas day. I never felt alone and had the wings of angels wrapped around me. The moment I reached out for help, I got it and I was so uplifted. If you are reading this, thank you for that!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Santa 2010 Photo

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We somehow managed to get her near Santa, but no, she was not going to sit on his lap. Instead, we compromised and let her sit on my lap. Yes, this is the same Santa from the first year. Yeah, I so didn't plan on being in the photo, but 'eh, you make do. So I guess this is technically the first photo of Santa with Tesla too. And we have 3 holiday outfits for Mari, none of which she wanted to wear because that meant a photo with Santa. Smart one, that little gal. Instead, this is what she wore for the day when we went to the mall right quick. Love those Santa photos!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Edible Christmas Trees...Easy Treat & Craft

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Thanks to my friend for giving me the idea, I sat down with Mari and three of her 2nd cousins to make these Christmas trees. It was so easy, a little bit of a mess, but a whole lot of fun! I may have extra photos to share later, but this one is the most readily available. Anyway, here are the instructions.

You will need:

  • Sugar cones
  • Vanilla Frosting
  • Green food coloring
  • Spatulas for spreading
  • Candy for decorating...we used easy peppermint melts, sixlets, M & M's, and snowflake sprinkles
  • You can also use pull apart red vines for garland, silver sprinkles, other sprinkles, heck, get crazy with it!
  1. Mix the green food coloring with your vanilla frosting.
  2. Invert the sugar cone
  3. Spread frosting on the cones.
  4. Add the decorations!
  5. Let dry or enjoy immediately! 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Flying with a Toddler

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Mari is now of age to where when we fly, we are required to purchase her own seat. Well, since we had to pay full price for the seat, we went ahead and took advantage of the 2 piece carry-on allowance for her, plus her car seat.

What we learned:

  • We should've used our own carry-on rolling bag and the car seat strap that attaches to the roller. This would have been infinitely easier to carry the carseat!
  • It is about time she has her own rolling bag to fill with whatever she needs/wants.
  • Carrying a large canvas tote bag filled with your needs is a great idea for toddlers because they fit perfectly under the seat and provide easy access to games, books, kleenex, snacks, and drinks. It also fit my book, water, and trail mix.
  • Packing a small juice box and a couple of easy snacks were a lifesaver.
  • So was having a fully charged iTouch.
  • Her regular blanket is small enough to be a travel blanket, so having it on hand made it easy to keep her warm, comfort her, and use as a pillow.
  • Having a strong armed husband was also awesome because he carried the carseat, camera bag, laptop bag, and his carry-on bag. I kept herd on the toddler and the canvas bag, another laptop bag, and my purse, which was inside of the canvas bag. I swear that canvas bag was like the carpet bag Mary Poppins carried around!
On our trip back, we ran into the current head football coach at Texas Tech. I still have a soft spot for Coach Leach, but Don suggested I go up to Coach Tuberville and get a photo with him and maybe that would help things. You know what, it did. I felt a little better about the current state of our football program and was really happy that he was willing to pause and snap a photo with a tired and pregnant fan.


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Hopefully, your little one is as happy about flying as ours is. She loves to fly and being on a plane was a real treat for her. See how much her face is lit up?
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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Restaurant Reviews: Foolish Craigs & The Kitchen in Boulder, CO

I should probably break this post down to two separate posts, but 'eh, I figured, why not just put them both in one. Anyway, we found ourselves in Boulder for a couple of nights for dinner and we picked Foolish Craig's & The Kitchen.

FOOLISH CRAIG'S
Listed as Trip Advisor's #15 pick in Boulder, we didn't know that going in. Actually, we were in search of Frasca, but when we walked up and noticed it was several courses, prixe fixe and we had a very hungry toddler on our hands, we opted for something else. We gambled and walked up a bit on Pearl and happened upon Foolish Craig's. We weren't really in the mood for just a burger, but the family in the window were indulging in just that. When we walked in the, place looked like someone had thrown a roof over what was once an alley. It was filled with lots of local artwork and the staff was every bit as eclectic as their art. This was definitely Boulder flair. We were warmly greeted with a heavy dose of laidbackness and unpretension. We were seated in a large booth where Mari was free to roam as she pleased.
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Then, we were handed the menus.

Seriously, this place made me immediately think of someone that our Primo would own. The look and feel is COMPLETELY laid back. The food is not to be messed with. It isn't just a burger joint. No way! This is some good food. To start, smoked tomato soup, warm brie with caramelized pears and apples. Both were served with baguettes.
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For entrees, I had the beef medallions with mashed potatoes, asparagus, and a mushroom sauce. The beef pieces were cooked to order, but were unfortunately a bit too chewy. The mashed potatoes, while fresh, were garlic-y, but that's it. Too dry. I did like the asparagus and the sauce, though.
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Don had the Reuben with sweet potato fries. The rye bread is made in house. So is the corned beef, thousand island dressing, and sauerkraut. The bread was over toasted, and the sandwich didn't have any pop. Of course, when Don makes these at home, he uses the Texas Twisted thousand island dressing which I think has a hint of pepper. He also adds mustard to the sandwich too. I prefer his, but this was pretty good. The fries, oh wow...those fries were heavenly! Perfectly crisp on the outside, and proper fry texture on the inside.
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We ordered simple Kraft mac and cheese with steamed broccoli, but all she wanted was the soup. ha ha!
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This is a great family restaurant with really great food and I didn't get a photo of it, but I ordered chocolate mousse that had been fresh made and it was divine! If you are in Boulder and want a night out with good food and don't have a sitter, well definitely try out Foolish Craig's. Hopefully we'll get to go back to Boulder some day and this will still be there.

THE KITCHEN
Listed as Trip Advisor's #5 spot, I found this spot based on a recommendation from a colleague that was from the area and she was in the training class I was attending. Side note, we parked a bit away from it so we could walk through the pedestrian mall specifically to check out two shops that we found intriguing. Unfortunately, those two shops closed early, well, early for me, and we didn't get to see them. Seriously, one closed at 4 and the other closed at 7. It was 7:05 when we walked by. Bummer.

Anyway, on to the shop. We sat at the table on the website. We didn't partake in the community dinner. The decoration was spare and clean. It was very simple and classic cafe dining. The hostess was friendly, the server professional, the busboy/bread guy was professional, and in the dining shop, it was filled with all walks of life from Boulder, but Mari was the only toddler.
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The server brought out some crayons and a bad print out of their menu for her to color. She happily scribbled along while we chose what to eat. Since this was our final night, Don and I wanted to make it a special date night. Well, as special as we could. The ambiance was very romantic, and so we indulged in drinks.

This fizzy drink had orange juice, grenadine, pineapple juice, and some other stuff that I don't remember. It was good, though. Don enjoyed a nice wine.
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To start, I ordered the marrow. Holy moly, to have marrow on the menu is heaven to me. To have it served and be delicious is a special treat! I realize marrow is a specific taste for people, and if you are totally destroyed by the thought of eating it, well, more for me.
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Mari had to go to the bathroom and on our way, we passed the kitchen. I was happy to see that it was like an open kitchen, so I asked for permission if I could grab their photo and they happily smiled and encouraged me to. By the way, the bathroom was immaculate and they had fresh hand towels to dry our hands.
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Also, here is a sign on the wall that touts the green-liness of the place. (yeah, I totally just made that word up.)
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Once again, we ordered the soup for Mari because she had enjoyed it so much the night before. She ate this entire bowl of soup by herself. We later learned that it is sold at Whole Foods. Personally, when I tasted it, I liked it, but I thought the flavor at Foolish Craig's had more punch. Mari, clearly liked it, though, so now we're adding tomato soup to her list of growing favorites.
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Colorado lamb sirloin oven roasted with braised cannelini beans, sauteed lacinato kale and anchoyade...the lamb, much too tough and dry. The kale and anchoyade was phenomenal. The beans...meh.
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House Tagliatelle alla Bolognese, beef, pork, lamb, tomatoes, and cream...this dish is more up my alley, except I desperately wanted more tomatoes. It was good, but just a tad bit too dry.
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All in all, this was a nice place and definitely some place to go on a date, but maybe not on a family date with a toddler. The food was good, but just not as satisfying as Foolish Craig's. I could see why it made the top 5 list of Boulder, but I just wasn't feeling it after the appetizer. By that point, I didn't even want to eat dessert (I know, right!). 

I would still recommend it to couples, though!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Chera25 Photography
And a very Merry Christmas to you!

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season from us! Cheers!

With love, blessings, and happiness,
Don, Bianca, Marisabelle, & Guapo

The Santa Innocence

I've been mulling over writing this post for quite a while now (as in the past 3 years, actually) and in my sleep deprived state, I have ultimately decided, 'eh, why not.

Growing up, Santa Claus was a big deal in our household. There were many things that we celebrated throughout the year, but few paled into comparison as the way we would celebrate Easter, Christmas, and our birthdays. Each of those days was very special to us: our birthdays because it was one single day where the focus was solely on us; Easter because of our risen Lord, Christmas because of the birth of our Lord. Like many Americans, we adopted the cultural norms surrounding each holiday and it wasn't until I was older that I discovered the rich history behind the traditions...and the not-so-rich history behind them. I digress...

We believed in Santa. I don't know where it came about or how it came about, but I believed in Santa Claus. Or maybe the idea of him. Because I honestly believed that Santa Claus came to visit us, even though we didn't have a fireplace, he somehow made it through the central heating unit and flooded our tree with extravagant gifts. I also believed that there was a Pancho Claus and a Black Santa who would sub in and out for him, all of whom were traveling the world at a break neck pace to deliver the toys to the good children. Mom...well, mom made it very special for us. Looking back, it wasn't like she made it unobvious. I remember going to K-Mart and putting our toys on layaway. I also remember going there in the summer to shop for school clothes and late summer to stow away our jackets. Oh the wonders of layaway. I remember going to the back of the store to wait in line with my mom while she made the layaway payment. And less than a handful of times, I was there when she made the final payment and loaded up on the giant bags that were stashed away. I remember when the first Toys R Us opened in our town and the first time we were given the catalog to circle what we wanted for Christmas. I remember begging my father to take us there so we could oogle over the shiny new toys. He begrudgingly took us one afternoon and after that visit, I was completely turned off by the store all together. Until I saw Big, and then I couldn't wait to visit F.A.O. Schwartz. I remember getting my hands on one of their catalogs one time and again, drooling over the shiny new toys. And then I saw the price tag of them and quickly realized that those types of toys were not for a gal like me. They were reserved for the rich kids whose neighborhoods we would visit during the holidays and stare in amazement of the twinkling shimmering lights from the comfort of our station wagon while we sipped on cocoa from the thermos lid cup. Those kids lived like Richie Rich and that boy from The Toy. I remember thumbing through the Best catalog in the toy section and circling toys that I wanted. Every year, I circled the trampoline and ant farm. Neither of which I ever got. After my friend's ants had escaped from his ant farm one time, I was quite content with staring at the ant farm from at distance at my school. I still wanted the trampoline. One year, I knew I had been extra good and asked for a bicycle from Santa. I wasn't at all surprised when it was sitting there for me. I was very happy about it, and smiled and tried to give it to my sister. I knew she had wanted a bike and in my opinion, she hadn't been very good, so I was going to give the bike I knew I'd get to her. It didn't end well. To this day, I don't like to ride bikes and I seem to crash them. One year I really, really wanted a Cabbage Patch doll and a Care Bears sleeping bag. That year, I received both from Santa.

All that to say, this was the tradition. We'd get the toy catalogs in the mail. We would take out the pen and circle what we wanted. Occasionally, I'd tear a page out of the very special toys I wanted most. We'd watch Miracle on 34th Street and be amazed that the little girl didn't believe in Santa. We'd also watch A Christmas Story and part of Charlie Brown. We would string garland from popcorn, make Christmas tree crafts, and make colorful construction paper chains. We would put up our Nativity Scene first, then the tree and stockings, which were stapled to the wall. We'd visit Santa in the mall, and I knew that all of those were fake Santas, not the real deal, but I still posed for the photo. We'd write our letters to Santa and light our candles on the Advent wreath. Then Christmas Eve would roll around and mom would always feign illness and have to lay in bed for the night. We would have to be very, very quiet and go to sleep early. If we had a nap, maybe Mom would feel better and we'd head to Midnight mass with her, which always seemed to be earlier than midnight. Always, when we got home, mom wouldn't feel up to par and have to go lay down again in the dark.

We'd leave out the homemade sugar cookies and a glass of eggnog or milk for Santa with a thank you note for him. I remember looking to the sky, not for his sleigh, but for the star that was leading the way for the wise men to Jesus. I would go to sleep a thousand kinds of anxious. And when we'd awake, my sister would always tell me how she heard bells and hoofsteps on the roof and how I must've missed it because I was such a heavy sleeper. She and I would sit together in our room in our Christmas pajamas, eager to run to the tree to check to see what Santa had brought. I don't remember it being tremendously early, but we'd fly into my parents room and get them up. We'd race to the room with the tree, and every square inch was covered in gifts. Beautifully wrapped gifts with shiny bows and fancy tags. Then, in the back, there were the quilted patchwork of wrapping paper gifts, some with a sliver of wrap covering the name of the item. But the Santa gifts!! They were fancy wrapped in thick paper, pristine corners, fabulous bows, with our names in a fancy script...a handwriting we had never before seen. Santa was real. He just had to be! The night before there were only ever one or two gifts under the tree and nothing in the stockings.

I guess I never stopped believing in Santa. Heck, at times, I even became Santa, Santa Bianca. Flitting around here and there performing random acts of kindness for strangers wishing them a Merry Christmas along the way. Because, yes, Jesus is the reason for the season, but it is in the generosity of St. Nick where we learn that giving is a wonderful gift in and of itself. It is for that reason alone that we have tried to pass on the tradition of Santa to Mari. I hope that we can be as patient and creative as my parents were, taking the time to ask friends with great handwriting to write out our names so that we don't have a clue. Sacrificing sleep to wrap the gifts perfectly. It's all a part of that childhood innocence that somehow goes hand-in-hand with the tooth fairy...belief in something magical, wondrous, and beautiful. It was believing in the unseen and unknown back then that would reinforce and strengthen my faith. She won't lose sight of the real reason for the season and we won't fall complete victims to the commercialism. But I think there is a happy medium that can be found there some how.

Unfortunately, I think I have just a few years to celebrate in this innocence, as my cherished friend put it, because so many of her peers' parents aren't "doing" Santa. Here's to hoping she'll understand the spirit of what Santa represents and have that generosity in her heart all year long. I think she already does because she is a giving child and very eager to share the gifts she has received and give them too...just like Santa.

Friday, December 17, 2010

GiveBack - It's Your Foundation


GiveBack.org is a new web-based philanthropic arm that is founded by Stephen Paletta, the winner of Oprah's Big Give. Basically, it is a one stop shop for you to be able to donate your money, follow charities, and at the end of the year you get one statement for tax purposes. Any charity registered with the IRS is listed to the site. 100% of all donations will go towards the charities.

I opened an account with GiveBack and I was given $5 to start. I still had two charities to give to this year, so I took the opportunity to use GiveBack to donate. There are 3 ways to add funds. You can add money directly. You can shop for your foundation, while visiting sponsors they have partnered with and a percentage of your purchase goes towards your foundation. Finally, you can be gifted funds through their sponsors who are interested in helping to give back. I added funds to the account and gave the full amount in my foundation, including the $5 that I was given to start. It was so fast, so easy, and so very simple.

When I decided to participate in this campaign, I was initially perplexed to have to sign up for another thing. But, if you have a Facebook account, then you can use those credentials to login. The site seems a bit slow when searching for a charity, but I think it that may have had more to do with the type of browser I was using.

In any case, here's my final thoughts. GiveBack is a great idea and a one stop spot to donate money. My biggest issues with it are the speed of the site and also, the limits on the detail of the foundation. You give the money to the organization, but let's say you have a specific program reference, well, there is no place to put that information. This is limiting for those charitable 5Ks, marathons, and 3-Days that I support. So there you go. If you donate money frequently to multiple charities that don't have a specific program reference, then this is for you! Especially if you frequently do online shopping not affiliated with Amazon. It is like having your very own philanthropic foundation.



Click here to learn more about GiveBack.org.



**I participated in the GiveBack blog posting through the One2OneNetwork. For completing this post, I am eligible to receive full registration for the BlissDom '11 conference plus 3 nights at Opryland Hotel and $500 towards travel costs or a $350 Visa Gift Card. The opinions of this post are my own and the opportunity to win a prize did not influence me in any way.**

Holidays for Less: Dollar Tree

Not so long ago, I had the privilege of celebrating Christmas with one of my best friends. Her family had a very interesting tradition. The day after Thanksgiving they would go to the dollar store and "register" a wish list of wants/needs and that is the list that everyone went off of. No one was allowed to spend more than $5 a person and because they are a big family, this was very helpful to keep the costs down.

Fast forward many years and this year, I decided to take Mari to Dollar Tree so she could pick out her gifts for her loved ones. She's been very helpful around the house and doing her chores without being reminded that I thought this would be a good treat. In we walked and I had the list of people to give gifts to. I would walk to a section and say a couple of names and then she would walk around and select gifts for each person. I only discouraged her one time for her choice of 6 pack of crayons for her cousin who already has plenty of crayons, let alone a 6 pack of 3 crayons.


**SPOILER ALERT...FAMILY MEMBERS, DO NOT READ**

This is what she selected:
  • Purple kaleidoscope, girl cousin age 9
  • Checkers, boy cousin age 13
  • Dollar Tree Sham-wow, uncle
  • Dish Towel, grandmother
  • Potholder, grandmother
  • Wrist rest for mouse pad, grandfather
  • Ball of Twine, grandfather
  • Paula Deen cake mix, cousin the chef
  • Paula Deen cake mix, cousin married to the chef
  • Paula Deen cake mix, cousin who is sister of the chef
  • Terry Microfiber towel wrap, aunt
  • Terry Microfiber towel wrap, someday-aunt
  • Lighter light stick, daddy
And then she was tired and we were unable to finish the rest of our shopping list (which wasn't much), but this was the majority of the gifts. When we got home, I opened the gift bags (2 for $1) and she "wrapped" each one and told me the names of the people she had chosen to give the gifts. I wrote their names on the bag and then she lined them up at the base of our Christmas tree. Oh and she also insisted that everyone get a travel Kleenex pack as well.

Here are the gifts:
We got out of there for less than $20 including the purchase of the bags. She seemed really excited to be able to buy gifts for loved ones and she is TOTALLY eager to hand them out. She took great care in putting each gift in the bag. It was so sweet because after the gift was in the bag, she held up the bag, inspected it, then sealed it with a kiss. I don't know where she gets this stuff from, but it is too, too adorable! Anyway, I think she did pretty good with her selections and I hope everyone likes their gifts from her, especially after they find out she picked them. Then again, who wouldn't love a gift from Mari? :D

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Adventures in Canning

This was definitely a new adventure. I've never canned anything before, well, unless you count the canned cakes I made for my 30th, but other foods that require a water bath or a pressure canning system...yeah, no. A good place to start canning is either with jams or salsa. We opted the salsa route. Sorry to ruin the surprise for a few of you, but part of the Christmas present will be a jar of Don's salsa. This is where I'll talk about how we did it. First of all, I need to tell you that we were inspired by Jacki's salsa advice. The pictures are quite details and I very nearly followed the steps exactly, including making oatmeal for William. LOL!

First up, here are the roma tomatoes and the jalapeno peppers. I bought 3 dozen tomatoes to make 12. We ended up only getting 9 out of the bunch, so note to self for next time. I can't include the rest of the recipe because well, I know it is Don's secret and heck, I don't even know it. I do know he uses salt because I saw that much. Anyway, make your salsa and put it on the stove to be hot for when you fill your jars. Here's Don making the salsa.


See how efficient things are? He has the bowl full of ingredients next to the Ninja blender. Awesome!
Next, sterilize all your stuff. Above is our dishwasher where we have washed the jars and left them in there in the "hot" to dry. We added the lids and rings to a pot of water to boil as well.
Also, have your canning pot boiling with water during this process.
Now fill your jars. EVERYTHING IS HOT!! No, don't take this warning lightly. That is (*&(%$@ HOT! We used tongs and towels. Plus, Don's fingers aren't as much of a sissy as mine are. Also, we used Jacki's tip for putting down an old dish cloth to help with clean up. This was an awesome idea!
Put on the lids and screw on the rings. (They are hot too!) Add them to your boiling pot of water to get them to "seal." We allotted 35 minutes, starting with a 15 minute time to check the water level. After the first 15 minutes, a couple of eager jars were already popping. It was really exciting!!

After they dry, we will add the labels that I purchased from Paper Source. But first, we must come up with a name for the salsa!

Estimated cost:

  • 36 tomatoes - $5, I think
  • 12 jalapenos - $1
  • Dozen 1/2 pint jars - $9
  • Labels - $5


For $20 we will easily have 9 gifts. Had we known, we could've bought a few extra tomatoes and gotten the full dozen. But not too shabby, 'eh? Off to go and buy some more jars and ingredients for salsa!! Soon, you will see a post about Apple Pie in a Jar. I'm so giddy, I feel a thousand kinds of domesticated and fancy! I want to run and can everything now!

Those of you following along, yes, there is a theme for our gift: Sugar and Spice. I even bought these spoons to go with the apple pie! :) There you have it. Canning so simple that I'm beyond thrilled to can some goods for Tesla. If you want some of your own supplies to try canning, check out ABC Distributing. I'm thinking of getting that set just for fun because I like having tools that make life easier. Take out your apron, get some fresh ingredients and go nuts with canning!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Review: Community Christmas Special



Hello friends! Remember when I told you yesterday that I was gonna have the chance to review* the Christmas special for Community? Well, I'm gonna review it. But first, a bit of Bianca prose...

I like the holiday season. I wish my friends Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, Merry Festivus, and a whole slew of other good tidings. Everyone around me is in a better, more giving and gracious mood. Doesn't matter the race, color, creed, gender, or sexual orientation, we all feel something special and wonderful. Don't get me wrong, I know a few people who would rather push the fast forward button starting in mid-October and would like to emerge sometime after Easter.Sometimes the holidays can be frustrating (hello angry mob at the mall and over eager sales lady). Sometimes they can be sad (I miss my friends and family that are no longer with us to celebrate.). Sometimes they can be confusing (What should I get so-and-so as a gift? And how much should I spend? Is it ok if I don't because I can't afford it?). Sometimes they can be hectic (visiting at least four different homes, seeing forty different faces, in 48 hours). Mostly though, they are wonderful and nice. They are filled with hope, faith, and a sprinkle of magic. More on that magic in a later post. Anyway, around this time of year, I turn off the TV because the shows I do watch are re-runs OR they are flooded with all of this unnecessary advertising (which, unfortunately for me, began back in October). This year, however, some of the Christmas-themed television shows have actually be pretty good!

You can imagine my delight when I was asked to review the Community Christmas Special. Duh, yeah! Don and I really enjoy this show! And then they told me it was stop motion animation. I know some people that go gang busters for this type of animation. You should know it. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was stop motion animation. So were the Wallace and Gromit shows. As a kid, that stop motion animation creeped me out. As an adult, I'm a bit better with it, especially after watching Chicken Run. Now for the review...


Abed is on a quest to find the true meaning of Christmas.
Sidenote: I like the Abed character and who ever was responsible for animating him had him spot on. Heck, they had everyone spot on except for Britta (especially Chevy Chase!) 
The story line is imaginative, the characters stayed true to themselves, and best of all, at the end of the show, I truly felt some of those holiday pangs that some how always tweak the heartstrings during this time of year. The whole stop motion animation was filled with the wackiness that I have grown to love about this show. Unfortunately, Snow Chang wasn't nearly as snarky as I wanted him to be and I certainly wanted more face time with him. Professor Duncan, the Wizard, reminded me of a castaway of Hogwarts. And I really wished that Baby Shirley would have been in a pram instead of walking around. Granted, this wasn't as epic as last year's episode "Comparative Religion." That single episode was one of the biggest reasons we decided to keep Community on the roster of shows to watch. I digress. If you have a chance to watch the episode, I would highly recommend it, but I would also recommend that maybe you watch the Halloween special before if you've never seen this show. It is a bit more reflective of what this show is about, since this one didn't have nearly as much comedy and smart wit as we are accustomed to. Regardless, check it out and let me know what you think! Here's another snipped for your enjoyment:


What are some of your favorite Christmas shows and/or episodes this season?

**Being a reviewer, I have the opportunity to receive the entire first Season of Community on DVD and the Bloggie Touch camera by Sony or a $50 gift card.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

COMING SOON: Community Christmas Special Review

I was selected to be a reviewer* of the upcoming Community Christmas Episode  airing this Thursday 8PM EST/7PM CST on NBC through the One2One Network. Hopefully I will get a chance to watch it tonight or tomorrow and let you know what I think.

But Bianca, I don't watch Community. Well, that sucks for you because I think it is hilarious!! Seriously, the core cast as a collection is wonderful, but I get extra giddy when Ken Jeong makes appearances! Here's a brief summary of the show (not in my words):  
Community" is a smart comedy series about a band of misfits who attend Greendale Community College starring Joel McHale, Chevy Chase, John Oliver, Alison Brie and Yvette Nicole Brown

If you have OnDemand on your television or access to HULU (which you must have Internets if you are reading my blog), then you can catch some of the past episodes.

Hmmm...this sounds interesting. What is the episode synopsis? Well you are in luck, because I have a short preview and here's another bit that I didn't write:
ABED'S UNCONTROLLABLE CHRISTMAS
IN THIS SPECIAL STOP MOTION ANIMATION EPISODE, THE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS IS LOST AND ABED’S INTENSE FIXATION ON CHRISTMAS CONCERNS THE GROUP

When Abed (Danny Pudi) wakes up in stop-motion animation, he takes it as a sign that he and the group must re-discover the meaning of Christmas. Meanwhile, Jeff (Joel McHale) and Britta (Gillian Jacobs) become growingly concerned about Abed's mental health and enlist the help of Professor Duncan (John Oliver). The group undergoes hypnosis to explore Abed's winter wonderland and soon unravel the truth behind Abed’s madness. Chevy Chase, Yvette Nicole Brown, Donald Glover, and Ken Jeong also star.
If you need to break free from the normal Thursday routine, here's a show that you may enjoy.

*Being a reviewer, I have the opportunity to receive the entire first Season of Community on DVD and the Bloggie Touch camera by Sony or a $50 gift card.

THE Zack Arias


THE Zack Arias, originally uploaded by Bianca Sias.
Unless you are a photographer, a professional singer, or someone living in Atlanta, you may not know who this autograph belongs to. For me, this is akin to starting classes that actually apply towards my major...the first steps to graduating from college. Zack Arias is a GENIUS when it comes to light. My husband and I could only dream of attending one of his workshops. Scheduling for us right now just isn't possible. However, he created the OneLight DVD for people like us and for that, we are both eternally grateful!

I purchased the Field Guide as a surprise happy gift for my beloved from our 2nd one in utero. The Sugarbean had given daddy gifts for each trimester. I had yet to come up with anything for the 2nd trimester until I saw the Field Guide. I feared that it would be too complex w/o attending the workshop, but since I have a smart husband, I figured he could make sense of it. Sure enough, he dove right on in and this field guide is hands down one of the best education investments for our little business venture.

Well, he had to one up me and bought the Workshop on DVD to give me as a Christmas gift. When it arrived, I was a thousand kinds of excited. When I flipped it over and saw his autograph, I nearly squealed like a little girl. Yes, pregnant hormones took over and all of a sudden I was teary-eyed at the thought of increasing my knowledge a thousand-fold. It's like I was going to be able to be there at the workshop, only, I could hit rewind when I missed something because let's face it, I always miss something.

It won't be the same because I wouldn't have actually gotten to meet Zack, but this just leaves the door open to someday! :)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Indoor Heating During Winter

borrowed from http://laughlikeadork.blogspot.com/


This post was inspired by a question that I recently posted. Well, first of all, I want to say thank you to everyone who responded with both tips and commiseration. It is good to know that we aren't alone and also, that maybe there's hope.

Backstory: For as long as I can remember, I have dreaded cold weather because of the way I feel every morning. Invariably, I haven't had a restful night. I'm up before the alarm clock because I can feel my sinuses "waking up" and the yuck-factory gearing up. I awake with a fit of sneezing. I'm a massive fountain of endless snot. My skin is so dry, it is screaming for any kind of moisture. My nose is raw from the constant blowing. I shock pretty much anything I touch (static electricity much?). I just have this general blech feeling all over. Not to mention all morning is filled with stopped-up dialogue where my head feels like an over inflated balloon. Don't even get me started on the actual puffiness of it all.

I dread turning on the heater. I like a warm house, but I don't like what a warm house does to me. Never had. Doesn't matter the house or even a hotel for that matter. I just don't like it and I don't like what it does to me. With that said, here are some things that have worked for me and I wanted to share:
  • Don't turn on the heater. Are you crazy? Do you know what the temperature is outside? Ok, yes. We turn on the heater during awake hours, but I'm all about lowering the temp to 50 degrees while we sleep. That cool air keeps the sinuses happy.
  • Use a humidifier. The extra moisture in the air helps with the static electricity. It also helps to keep the skin somewhat moisturized.
  • Invest in a space heater. When the central heat is off, the space heaters kick on. Close the door and keep them going. Of course, make sure they are in a safe place and if they are knocked over, you have the kind that will turn themselves off to prevent fire. SAFETY FIRST folks!
  • Vaseline, more than just some petroleum goop. I apply a bit of this stuff to the insides of my nostrils, even when I'm not pregnant. When I need an extra bump in softness of my feet, I'll rub some on and wear some uber-comfy squishy socks to bed. Of course, the socks are never on my feet in the morning, but my feet are definitely softer.
  • Drink Water. Like they say in the running and workout world...hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. This is essential and I'm made all to aware of how little water I've had when my hands are feeling especially dry and my lips look like the Crypt Keeper.
  • Use a Saline Solution. Sinucleanse, Neti Pot, Sinus Rinse, they all do similar things, which is clean out the sinuses. I do this before bed and in the morning, although, the extra stuffy days I can say that it actually burns a bit. Not from the solution, but maybe the pain associated with all of that mess being swollen? Who knows.
  • Have plenty of tissues. I think nearly every room in our house has a box of Kleenex. I need to get more of those travel Kleenex packets. I can't use a handkerchief. I go through it too quickly.
Those are some of the tidbits that have helped me. I hate that my poor husband has to suffer being cold to keep me comfortable. Although, this year, I have discovered that the Sugarbean has inherited my respiratory tendencies, so she too benefits from these tips. Looks like Guapo (the living heater) will be joining Don in bed soon. Plus, I may have to buy some XL footie pajamas for him too!

Here are some tips from friends that I hope to try out:
  • Clean your air ducts. Usually, you can take advantage of the $99 special that can be found in mailers.
  • Baby Oil in the Bath. Add about a teaspoon of baby oil to the bath and your skin will be renewed and refreshed with the added moisturizer.
  • More moisturizer for your hair. My hair is plenty of moisturized (about the only thing on my body that is.) and the added oil my scalp produces helps to lock in moisture. However, I do apply a dab of conditioner before styling to keep the flyaways and frizzies at bay.
  • Ayr Saline Gel. I gather this will work similar to the nasal rinse and other saline drops and other ointment. I detest any drops in my nose. I'd rather having a gushing fountain of saline instead of a mist or even a spray. Mari, on the other hand, loves her saline drops. Can't get enough of em. This gel sounds intriguing, though, so I'm going to be in search of it for the next time around.
So what about you guys? Do you have any more tips you'd like to share? Do you suffer from this as well?

    Dear Tesla...(nearly 6 months)

    Chera25 Photography
    I wanted to take some time to write a letter to you that maybe you'll read someday when you are older. I want you to know how very much you are loved even before you make your arrival into our world. Often, I find myself in awe with just how very different you are from your sister. While I don't like the idea of comparing the two of you (because let's face it, I know what it is like to be the 2nd in line), I find myself doing it without thought. Yes, I feel guilty for it, but I'm not comparing to be mean or malicious, it just goes to show how very different you are from your sister. If I never say it, then let me tell you now, it is a delightful thing to know that already you are your very own person, different from your sister indeed, and just as special! And maybe the two of you will be like my own sister and I, we share some physical traits, but our personalities definitely make us the individuals that we are today. Albeit, we are EXTREMELY competitive, but growing up in that household laid the foundation for who we are today: ambitious with a generous helping of never-give-up attitude and everlasting endurance and perseverance. I don't ever want you to feel like you have to fill your sister's shoes. For all I know, she'll be prancing around in a pair of Barbie pink Louboutins and you'll desire a snazzy pair of Vibram Five Fingers or vice versa. Regardless of the choice, I want you to know that we loved you and prayed for you long, long, long before you got here.Because of you, I have a completely renewed sense of hope. And your Daddy, well he is completely and totally over the moon for you! He talks to you every morning, gives you hand hugs throughout the day, and tells you some of the most random things before bed. He can't feel it yet, but every time you hear his voice, you're doing some sort of gymnastics in there letting me know that you are just as eager to meet him too. :)

    You must also know that when you come into the world, you already have a bajillion loved ones who have prayed for you too! They are eager to meet you and get to know you as well. You've already received some amazing gifts too, just because you are THAT loved.

    With that, I want you to keep on keepin' on. Feel free to keep up your kicking parties at 3AM. I know you are doing it just to let me know you are still there, so thank you for that. Keep doing that amazing rollover in my belly thing every time your sister sneaks to my belly to whisper secrets to you about a place called Chuck E. Cheese and how Nana and Grandfather will take you there with your cousins Zeni and Cristian. It's ok that you like to rest against my back. It hurts, but soon enough, I know things will be too confined in there that you'll be changing up the position. If you could keep it to a minimum, that would be fine by me too.

    We love you so much!

    Saturday, December 4, 2010

    New Happies

    For three years I've been a loyal customer to Dior's Dior Show mascara. I love it. It is awesome stuff, but I was in the mood to try something new. When I was at Sephora, on the endcap of Sephora's favorites, there was my Dior Show at the top, but not too far from it was this little gem. Three things that struck my fancy:

    1. It was $5 cheaper than Dior Show. 
    2. It had a curling quality built-in. 
    3. It is in this amazing purple croc-like packaging. SASSY! 

    After I got home, I discovered that it was dermatologist tested, safe for a contact wearer like me, paraben free (score!), and free from a bunch of other nasty chemicals that aren't great for you. Yes, this is important to me. Dior Show is not free from all of those things. For being $5 less, I do like it. For me, it works. Yes, it clumps a tad bit more, but wow, it does curl! I'm excited to continue using this and this has now opened my world to the possibility of make-up out of my comfort zone. Thanks Mandi for broadening my horizons! You are opening my world to new and colorful possibilities.

    Next up is this uber-cute Sailor Striped top from American Apparel. The cuteness factor is further amped up because the Sugarbean exudes cuteness. I'd bought an awesome Groupon for American Apparel, so this was my motivation for the splurge. You can't really tell much, but on the left is the navy baby thermal shirt, which I snagged for Don. Both items are amazingly comfortable and have the traditional craftsmanship of American Apparel. Yes it is more expensive than other places, but I like buying American made products and I have never had issue with their quality. Their pieces are staples in our household and we love them for it!

    Finally, remember when I blogged about the catastrophe that was maternity jeans shopping? Well, after seeing Conan rockin' the jeggings, I figured, this guy is working his look (good or bad), so I shouldn't throw in the towel just yet. Enter the 1969 Full panel long and lean jeans:


    They were on sale too! These fit, they don't ride or aren't too snug. They stay where they are supposed to and I can actually use the pockets! Thank you Gap for making jeans for me!

    Friday, December 3, 2010

    It's here, it's here!

    Now if in only our bedding arrived today, it would be perfect!! Until then, here's a "naked" view of our new bed:

    I resisted all desire to throw myself on it and jump a few times. If I do that, I'll wait until the rest of the family gets home first. :)

    By the way, I'm more than impressed with the delivery team from Sears! They were professional, friendly, and super fast. I opened the door, showed them the room. Next thing I know, one guy came in (Juan), set up the bed frame while the other had brought in the box springs. Juan finished the frame set up and was situating the box springs when the other guy carried off the box to the frame and the plastic wrap from the box springs. Then, he alone brought in the king sized mattress to the house, inside to the back where our room is, and ripped off most of the plastic. And he and Juan, in a very familiar dance, gently placed the mattress on top, like a royal on coronation day. That plastic disappeared, I signed the paper and just like that, they were gone. Amazing! WTG Sears!

    Cheers to a fabulous night's sleep! I'll let you know how it goes. On a sidenote, I totally want to paint our room another color and redesign it. I've been getting inspiration from La Maison Boheme. You should totally check the blog out if you need some inspiration.

    Thursday, December 2, 2010

    Dude, Sweet Chocolate Review


    This afternoon, I headed out to this amazing little gem in the Bishop Arts District. I had heard positive things about this place and just needed an excuse to go. Away I went and immediately, I was greeted by a friendly and creative soul. She was tatted up, had a pair of the kindest eyes I'd ever seen on a person, and ever so creatively eccentric I wanted to spend the rest of my afternoon snapping photos, writing, and doing as many creative things as possible. Katherine Clapner is a joy and a genius. I hope I get the chance to go another time with my camera to snap some photos and see if maybe I can interview her for this blog. This lady knows chocolate!

    The smell of the chocolate wafting in the air had me floating. But the shop, while bustling with business (chocolate making, merchandise selling, merchandise packing/shipping), was oozing chaos. For an OCD type like myself, immediately, I wanted to reorganize the space. But I pushed all of that aside as soon as I was introduced to the absolute best port truffle I've ever tasted. Something else that struck my fancy, every employee was working. Not standing around talking or entertaining customers. They were working and maintaining composure. Every.Single.One. That's some good business right there.

    I browsed through the selections and Tesla was flipping like crazy. We were in for a very special treat indeed! Here is what I sampled and then later purchased:
    Chubby Nuts - These were an assorted of nuts with a small dusting of chocolate & powdered sugar on them. I could totally see myself absent-mindedly munching on these tiny yummies as an afternoon snack.

    Crack in a Box - I was most excited to try this one out, but when I tasted it, I was disappointed. I expected to want to keep eating it and be addicted to it. Instead, I appreciated it, but realized that this wasn't my favorite. The dark chocolate was prevalent and if you are fan of it (and nuts), then you may like this.
    Marzipan Dates - This was like a full on YUMWOW in my mouth. The date was perfect, the marzipan delightful. If I hadn't told myself to keep it in check, I would have bought this and eaten the whole thing before I left the store. Instead, I stayed far away because I knew I wouldn't have the will power.
    Port Truffles - I mentioned this before, but seriously, I love truffles. I'm a fan of port. Port Truffles...seriously, freaking genius! I bought some of these for Don and he was a fan. He described them as "very complex, and not blastingly sweet."
    C3PO - This is their marshmallow with nuts, coconut, and a bit of chocolate. Again, I nearly bought a bag of these yummies, but I needed a reason to come back, and between this and the the dates, I'll come back.
    Albatross - This is fudge with blue cheese and sea salt, so many inspiring flavors that I knew I would have fireworks in my mouth. As I slowly chewed and tasted, I knew, just KNEW that this is something that Primo would love. I hope he does!
    Cocoa & Kefirs - I didn't actually try the hot chocolate. But in the next two weeks we will venture out and check out Christmas lights and we'll need some hot chocolate to sip to continue the tradition long ago started by my family. I can't wait to indulge in the hot chocolate with their fresh made marshmallows!
    Vincotto - This is by far my absolute most favorite chocolate. I bought a bag of this and it took everything in me to not eat the ENTIRE bag. Do I love figs? Yes. Do I love chocolate? HECK YES! Do I love tiny hints of salty-like caramel? OMG, yes! Seriously, I may have to beg for another trip there soon just to pick up a few more bags. Totally unfair for this pregnant woman. I have found my Kryptonite and I will probably need to go into Vincotto rehab soon. 

    Also, I forgot the name, but I tried popcorn infused with Indian curry and something else. It was surprisingly very interesting mix and I was impressed. It wasn't something I would have picked out to eat, but I totally wanted to add some Tabasco drops to it, for whatever reason. Random. Anyway, if you find yourself in that neck of the woods, please, please, please go check them out. You will NOT be disappointed!

    **I was not paid or compensated in anyway to write this post. This is merely my opinion and I like sharing yummy goodness when I can. However, if you feel generous and are shopping, I am not opposed to being gifted some free Dude, Sweet Chocolate. :) I hope you enjoy!**

    Lenses for My Phone

    Yes, you read that title correctly. I bought some lenses for my phone.

    BACKSTORY: I came [-------] <---that close to getting the ever elusive Canon 5D Mark II. (just throwing it out there in the universe...I wouldn't be opposed to receiving it for free as a gift or to be sponsored by a fairy Godperson who would so generously bestow it upon me) I've been lusting and dreaming about this camera body for the better part of two years. I do know that in addition to that camera body, I will need a couple of lenses to pair with it, but a gal can dream. I'm nearly halfway there to my savings goal, and hopefully, I will be just as blessed this next year with our photography business to get me there. Someday indeed!

    Anyway, yes, I didn't buy the camera, but I did buy some tiny new glass for my phone. Yes, my phone takes some pretty fantastic photos and has some wickedly sick hi-res awesomeness. Slapping these little babies on it to turn it into an even more fantastic machine, well...yeah. Fisheye, Macro/Wide Angle Lens for my Camera phone

    I'm a gearhead. No really I am. Next to shoes and bags, I would collect gadgets with the best geeks out there. However, I have kept all of my purchases at bay, well, mostly since becoming a mom and/or being married. But, every once in a bit, I will surprise even myself and *WHAM* impulse buy.  I came across this little goody on the photojojo site and I couldn't order it fast enough. Guapo, Mari, & Tesla had yet to purchase their Christmas gift for Mommy, so I indulged!!! I'm so excited. For you camer- phone-picture-takers, I will post a review as soon as they come in. Seriously, be prepared to be overwhelmed by all of the new uploads to that Facebook mobile album!


    Buy the Fisheye, Macro, and Wide Angle Camera Phone Lenses at the Photojojo Store!

    Ch-ch-ch-change....

    We're nearing the end of another year and just like that *snap* my life as I know it has changed. Next year, we'll have another baby (yaaay, I'm so crafty I make people!), Guapo will be 10, Mari will be 3, my parents will be celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary, and hopefully we'll attend a few more weddings and celebrate some other births! It is gonna be so very awesome!

    Anyway, all that to introduce you to a change in progress. What you see is our empty bedroom where our bed once was. Don wondered if I was at all melancholy about it. Not really because it is going to be my nephew's "new" bed. We will replace it with a much larger comfort spot that will hopefully give us 10 great years like its predecessor.

    In the meantime, we moved the mattresses to the den/playroom. it actually doesn't look so bad. Hopefully, this room will transform itself into a full-fledged bedroom for the Sugarbean.
    Finally, Tesla received yet another gift from her future Godmother Danika. This is a Petunia Pickle Bottom Stroller blanket in Frolicking in Fez. Isn't it absolutely gorgeous? Mari has this very plush and luxurious pink blanket that she received from our dear friends and she ADORES it! I hope Tesla loves this blanket just as much. I know I do! Heck the colors are absolutely perfect! It will perfectly match the Kate Spade diaper bag I received earlier this year!

    Are you guys going through any changes?

    Wednesday, December 1, 2010

    Gifts for Ourselves

    2 TB External Hard Drive

    Funny story about this. We knew we needed to purchase one for Don since he didn't have a dedicated backup hard drive. Also, I'm running dangerously close to maxing mine out, but we figured we could use whichever one we got for my purposes as well. When I saw the ad for Black Friday and that is baby was on sale, I wrote it on "the list" of things to get. When we got to Target, I was rush waddling to the electronics section because, they were already open for an hour, and they very well could be out of them!!! From what it looked like, we were probably the 2nd or 3 person who even picked one up. They still had like 60 more waiting to be bought. Nice.

    New Bed!
    I think I may have mentioned this before, but wow! No seriously, wow, what a difference this is going to make for us. You have no idea. It isn't like we didn't have a good night's sleep, but I know we are going to have great nights sleep! We got this for a steal. This was a bit before Black Friday and they were having a special sale on mattresses, box springs, and frames. In addition to the sale, we were awarded even more of a discount for some reason or another. AND I found a whopping $5 off coupon that I just know pushed us over the edge in discounts. ha ha!  Even then, I confirmed with the worker that if we found it for less a few days later, they would refund us the difference. We could totally justify the cost of the bed and I can't tell you how giddily excited I am to have it! I hope it is as good as I want it to be too! Once they deliver it (free delivery too!) and we have slept on it for a week, I will review it.

    New Bedding
    I must say I bought this Thanksgiving night from the Kohl's website. It was on MONSTER sale! Additionally, I scored free shipping and an additional 20% off. High five!!!

    That's it. That's what we got ourselves for Christmas. Not too shabby, 'eh? We didn't go gangbusters crazy and I'm legitimately happy with our purchases. Are any of you indulging this Christmas? What were some of the must-have items that were on your list? Oh, and was it just me, but the Black Friday - Cyber Monday sales weren't up to par like they have been in years past. Hmmmm...maybe just me.

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