Monday, January 30, 2012

Teach Your Children Respect and Expect No Less!

“Luke’s been pretty bossy lately,” I said.  My girlfriends nodded, empathetically – they’ve all been there at some time in some way. “I keep trying to tell him that he can’t tell us “no” and he most certainly cannot talk back. He seriously thinks he’s running the show at home.” I took a gulp of my Azunia Fresh Lime Margarita, I knew with the first sip that I was glad I ordered that instead of my usual cerveza.  Then Sam spoke up, “Isn’t he running your house? Three-year-olds think they run the show.  It’s about respect. If you teach him that it is what is expected of him-don’t bargain with him. Be consistent and keep at it.  He will learn.” 

It was if the clouds in the sky parted and the sun was finally able to shine through.  I even heard harps playing. Respect.  Of course!  I mean, it’s not like I haven’t been raising him with respect.  I’m a very respectful mom, letting him voice his opinions and make choices in his day; even allowing him to wear his Batman shirt for the 5th day in a row. I guess it’s that I hadn’t thought he needed to be taught respect.  As he’s growing, sometimes it just seems like he’s catching on to so much automatically that I think he should just know instinctively how to be.  Don’t they know they should always be kind and giving and respectful and helpful?  That its just good to be that way?  But, they only know what they see and can only grow if someone is showing them the way.

So I started reading up on respect (10 Tips onTeaching Respect to Children: You can't get it if you don't give it! and Talking back: Why it happens andwhat to do about it) and I stopped letting things slide.  We can have such long days when we’re home with the kiddos.  Until lately, after the 7th time of “No, I don’t want to!” I’m tired of dealing with it and just throw my hands up and try to distract him without teaching him!  But I can’t give up!  I need to work on this through the 14th “No!” and then maybe tomorrow there will only be 7.  And the next day 4.  When finally one day he’s not saying it anymore.

Another friend of mine said so bluntly, “If you don’t change this behavior now, you’ll have a back-talking, sassy 15-year-old who really is running your house.” With that said, I’m on a mission.  I will have children who respect my husband and I because we treat them with respect and expect (another key word – teach expectations) no less from them.  We will be those parents who can just give them the look when we’re out in public to keep them in line.  And hopefully, they will be those kids who will enjoy our company as they get older because we have seen them and treated them as people, the amazing individuals that they are.

In the meantime, we have a lot of modeling and teaching to do.  In the course, this will make me a better person because I have to keep my own temper in check and keep calm even in a chaotic day.  I will keep reading about how to teach respect and provide positive discipline.  I will meet up with my girlfriends often (not only providing relief and relaxation – but advice that can just bring a turning point into your child-rearing world).  As Dr. Robyn Silverman wrote,

“Teaching respect takes patience, time and willingness to do as you preach. Time isn’t everything though, is it? It takes years to rear a respectful child and only moments to fill one with anger and disrespect. Which one do you choose?”

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Anti-Chicken Fingers Movement~ Healthy Chicken Parmesan

Fresh back from Mexican paradise, it's time to get back in the healthy swing of cooking.  I did enjoy eating most everything I tried in Cozumel, but I often cringed at all the grease and fat in everything.  I've trained my body to eat foods that will serve as fuel, rather than just store fat and pretty much not do a darn thing for me.  Luckily, we didn't do a ton of high intensity workouts so laying on the beach worked for the food fare we indulged in.

I stole this recipe from a friend that also loves this meal-remade from the original high-calorie dish to be lighter and just as delish.  It's my husband's favorite meal I incorporate with pasta, and usually the kids ask for two helpings.

Chicken parmesan recipe
8 ounces whole-wheat spaghetti
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon olive oil
4 large tomatoes, chopped
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Dash salt
Dash black pepper
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/3 cup whole-wheat bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon garlic
1 egg white, beaten
2 tablespoons skim milk
4 teaspoons shredded Parmesan cheese

1. Cook pasta according to package directions.

2. In a medium saucepan, saute the onion and garlic in olive oil until tender. Add 1/2 cup water, tomatoes, sugar, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and continue to simmer for another 10 minutes or until it reaches desired consistency. Stir in the fresh basil and set aside to keep warm.

3. Using the flat side of a meat mallet, flatten the chicken between two pieces of plastic wrap until they are about 1/4-inch thick. Remove plastic wrap.

4. In a shallow dish, combine the bread crumbs, dried basil, oregano and garlic. In a small bowl, beat together the egg white and milk. Dip the chicken in the egg mixture and roll in the bread crumbs.

5. Place the coated chicken pieces on a greased baking dish and bake at 350 F for 20-25 minutes or until the juices run clear. Transfer chicken to a plate.

6. In the same baking dish, layer the bottom with the cooked spaghetti and mix in half of the sauce. Top with the baked chicken and pour the rest of the sauce over the chicken and pasta.

7. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the chicken and put back in the oven for another 5-7 minutes until the cheese melts.

Happy Eating Friends! Trina

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Here We Move Again - Leah's Move #10!

"Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air..." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

My friends and family have always joked that they should write my address down in pencil.  At least, they joked about it five states ago. Now they're serious. (Though, realistically, its easier now that everyone just puts my address into their iPhones).

An exciting promotion, my husband has been offered a relocation assignment to run Sandestin, Florida's Tommy Bahama store and restaurant.  And this move will make the 10th state I will have the pleasure to live in (see map at bottom of post for the 10). We've got about three weeks left here in Charleston (for those of you who are a couple of states behind on where I actually live).  Beautiful, white sand beaches, golf courses galore await us on the panhandle of Florida.

As I've been striving towards reaching my dreams here in Charleston, I realize this move could bring us closer to that full picture:

Live in a nice house in a nice neighborhood with nice schools and enjoy good friends with backyard BBQs and birthday parties.

True, this  move will take me away from the great friends I've made here...and friends my boys have grown with over the last year and a half; so I am very sad to leave them behind.  I will miss my Mommies Night Outs with these girls most of all!  But I'm also not surprised to feel an excitement of the "new" that lay ahead. An old friend (from my middle school days in Hawaii) lives in the Destin area, a wonderful mom I'm genuinely excited about reconnecting with.  And she has been so helpful in helping us figure out where we want to find a home.  Throughout these days, I wonder...What will the area be like? The people? The restaurants? Who will I become friends with?  Will we be able to walk to the beach? Have a place that overlooks the bay?  How are the schools?  Will I actually see  my TN friends more now that we're in the same time zone? ;)

As all of these exciting thoughts run through my head, I know that nothing stays the same.  Life is always changing and this change is ultimately good.  Who knows, by the end of 2012, I could say GREAT!  So what will life be like on the Emerald Coast?  Does life drastically change when you have to get used to prime time television starting at 7pm rather than 8pm?  Do I get to move the kids bedtime back an hour, start relaxing an hour earlier and thus me going to bed an hour earlier???  I'm optimistic and ready to take on this new world by the horns.  Thankfully, I have all of you with me for the ride!

Bon Voyage!


Incidentally, this will be state #3 for both of my boys!

Friday, January 27, 2012

My Guilty Pleasure: The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills

I’m often asked by people; why on earth would you watch such a dumb show?  A bunch of dumb rich women who fight and drink and shop all the time, with no worries.  Oh I assure you, these are normally people who haven’t watched a full episode!  First of all, only one or two of the housewives are dumb…and actually a few of them are quite successful women on their own.  Housewives is a deceiving name for the show, because truly many of the women could survive (and some of them do) without husbands at all.
Friends also want to know why, when I work with an office full of women and drama all day, five days a week, I’d want to watch a show full of drama as well.  It’s hard to explain, but when I spend all day interpreting policy forms, reading insurance verbiage, explaining to coverage to clients…etc …why would I want to watch a murder mystery show, or anything else that would require my brain to function properly?  No thank you!    I’ll take meaningless drama and fun fashion ideas any day.  Plus, watching successful women inspires me, even if their successes aren’t necessarily ones I would wish for.
There’s one woman, Adrienne, who absolutely amazes me.  She is extremely wealthy, owning several businesses with her brothers and even owning a basketball team.  She puts her husband in his place daily; he’s a plastic surgeon and also doing very well...however this is no traditional marriage.  She has a chef because she doesn’t like to cook—and isn’t even a slight bit apologetic for it.  Hey, she can afford it!  She takes martial arts classes, and could probably beat up most guy’s I know.  Yet she’s a dainty little thing that is often wearing cocktail dresses and has her own high heel line. 
So, needless to say, I’m going to stay tuned in; even if I can’t relate to having millions of dollars sitting in the bank or having nannies raise my children.  I am still going to enjoy watching catfights in heels, knowing that the drama entailed has nothing to do with my life, and as soon as I turn the TV off, it’s over!  We all have our dumb guilty pleasures…this just happens to be one of mine.  

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Anti-Chicken Fingers Movement~Chicken breasts with Avocado, Tomato, and Cucumber Salsa

Healthy and not even trying to be!  Serve with a side of pasta, chips to go with the avocado/tomato salsa, or whatever you desire! Yummy!
Chicken Breasts with Avocado, Tomato and Cucumber Salsa

Cooking spray
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 1/4 cups coarsely chopped seeded peeled cucumber (about 1 large)
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup prechopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped peeled avocado
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped


1. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon chipotle chile powder evenly over chicken; add chicken to pan. Cook for 6 minutes on each side or until done, and remove from heat.

2. Combine remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, cucumber, tomatoes, onion, and remaining ingredients in a medium bowl, tossing well. Serve with chicken
Happy Eating Friends! Trina

Monday, January 23, 2012

A One Stop Shop, Literally.

As Trina and I have found a little comfort in sharing our opinions on great TV; I've found a website I'd like to share with all of you mamas!  

I have discovered a place where you can shop while saving time!  If you  know me, I’m not at all a shopaholic.  I’m not really one to go into stores and spend hours browsing.  I hate window shopping.  Instead, I usually have an idea about what I want to buy and then I go in and buy it.  Same with online shopping; I know what I want, now I’m just looking for the best price.

So shopaholic or not; you must check out the site  I found it when I was looking for the best priced car DVD player.  I had already searched a few individual stores, then decided to Google “car DVD players” and came up.  So I went there. 

This fabulousness of what seems to be the next level of shopping drew me in right away.  When I typed my key words into the search box, then clicked “shop” and a list of car DVD players from eBay,, Amazon and several other stores.  You can even search by store if you truly want something from one particular place, but want to compare prices.  You can even press this secret button “Research” to get instantaneous buyers guides and reviews on the product you’re searching.

They have everything from clothing to electronics to health & beauty.  So whether a little Estee Lauder Pleasures gift set would make your day, or you're a fitness junkie researching that gps tracking watch with bluetooth pedometer or why not send your mom here to surprise your daugther a special granddaughter neclace. Please let me know if you visit this site and how you like it...especially the mad deals you find!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Anti-Chicken Fingers Movement - Chicken with Lemon-Caper Sauce

I love chicken with lemon!  Love it!  Add a little white wine (in the recipe and a glass for you) and you've got yourself a delightful meal!  Ready in 30 minutes! Original Recipe

Chicken with Lemon-Caper Sauce

1 pinch salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 (6 ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons capers, drained
2 lemon wedges


  1. Mix together salt and flour in a small dish or plastic bag, then coat chicken and shake off excess. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Shake excess flour from chicken, then brown in hot oil until both sides are golden-brown, and the inside has turned white and firm, 3 to 4 minutes per side.
  2. Remove the chicken, and set aside in a warm place. Pour white wine into the skillet, and allow to boil as you dissolve the cooked bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the lemon juice, and allow to come to a boil, cook for a few minutes until reduced by half.
  3. Sprinkle the cubed butter into the boiling sauce. Swirl and shake the pan vigorously to dissolve the butter, thus thickening the sauce. The butter must never come to rest, or the sauce will separate and become oily. Once the butter has completely incorporated, remove from heat and stir in capers.
  4. To serve, pour lemon-caper sauce over the chicken, and serve with a wedge of lemon.
Buon Appetito!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Happy Birthday Callie Jo!


My precious Callie Jo was born 1/21/2007 at 5:33 am, 8pds, 21 inches long.  I remember being that mother; thinking I had the prettiest little girl, fawning all over her and always having her dressed in the prettiest outfits with matching bows.  As she grew older, she could do no wrong!  She was perfect…and I was so proud.
It wasn’t until I had my son I realized the love I felt for Callie had to be multiplied by two.  I had to make time now for two amazing little human beings, to nurture and teach them how to be the best they can be, to assure that I had done everything to prepare them for this wondrous yet difficult life.  It got much harder to give my daughter the attention she needed as I had to divide my already limited time.
This is where Callie has amazed me.  She loves her brother like he is her own.  If another child so much as speaks cross to him, she is in their face.  She nearly breaks down crying if we punish him for something that he has done—she has went as far as to hit her father when he’s swatted Clayton’s hand.  She will love and protect him for all time, this is for sure.
I’ve learned so much from my daughter in these past five amazing years, but one thing is certain—she’s replaced a longing I’ve always had.  A little girl to join me for pedicures and manicures, a small little princess to revel in the excitement of new cute outfits and fancy knee high boots.  While I must be her mother and the disciplinarian, I will struggle with separating this relationship from a friendship as we connect on such a deep level.  She’s my best friend, my daughter, my everything.
I look at you Callie, and in you I see an amazing little girl; a giving and loving human being.  In you, I see a large part of me.  I am so lucky to be your mother and look forward to the many fun years we have ahead of us.  I love you and hope you have the most amazing fifth birthday ever!    LOVE MOM!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Anti-Chicken Fingers Movement - Chicken Korma

My friend Emily Bennington introduced this dish to my husband (bf at the time) and I at a dinner party at her home about 8 years ago.  It's a northern Indian dish and the blend of spices and the creaminess from the yogurt make this such an enjoyable meal!  And if you've seen most of my recipes, you'll know that this dish wouldn't be complete without mango chutney!  There are many ingredients, but once you buy most of them, you'll be able to make this recipe at your leisure later on.  Serve with brown rice and fresh baked naan.

Chicken Korma 

1/4 cup cashew halves
1/4 cup boiling water
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 (1/2 inch) piece fresh ginger
root, peeled and chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1 large onion, minced
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon garam masala 1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon chili powder
3 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - diced
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon cornstarch, mixed with equal parts water
2 T mango chutney  (ha ha ha!  I'd use more!)
1 t cayenne
½ t red pepper flakes
1 t cinnamon

1. Place cashews in a small bowl, and pour the boiling water over nuts. Set aside for 15 to 20 minutes. Place garlic and ginger in food processor and blend until smooth; set aside.
2. Heat oil in wok over medium heat. Cook the bay leaves in hot oil for 30 seconds. Stir in onion, and cook until soft, about 3 to 5 minutes. Mix in garlic/ginger paste, and season with coriander, garam masala, cumin, turmeric, and chili powder. Stir in chicken, and cook for about 5 minutes. Pour in tomato sauce and chicken broth. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Meanwhile, place the cashews, along with the water in which they were soaked, and the cream and yogurt into food processor. Process until smooth.
4. Stir the cashew mixture into the chicken and onions. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the cornstarch mixture, and continue cooking for 1 to 2 minutes.

Buon Appetito!

Original recipe.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Best Birthday Cake Ever!

Four out of five moms* recommend this cake!  THIS is the best birthday cake recipe ever!  If you're tired of just using the box mix...looking for a moist and delicious cake that is so heavenly; then you found it in this recipe!  AMAZING.  I first used this recipe for my husband's birthday a few weeks ago, and I had to make it again for my 2-year-old's birthday yesterday.  Seriously, try'll LOVE it! 

Best Birthday Cake Ever!

1 (18.25 ounce) package devil's food cake mix

1 (3.9 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix

4 eggs

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup water

1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour two 9-inch round pans. Have all ingredients at room temperature.

In a large bowl, stir together cake mix and pudding mix. Make a well in the center and pour in eggs, sour cream, oil and water. Beat on low speed until blended. Scrape bowl, and beat 4 minutes on medium speed. Pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over the top of the batter in both filled pans.

Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool.

*Actually, all five moms at the birthday party agreed it was the best birthday cake ever...or at least very delicious!  

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Anti-Chicken Fingers Movement - Homemade Chicken & Veggie Soup

This soup was a huge hit at my house, even the hubby liked it and said I could have made it with the veggies only and it would have been great.  It's the perfect meal to sneak in several different veggies to deliver to your kiddos.   Both my kids love soup, and this was a favorite.  It's low fat, and low carb- but it doesn't matter how healthy it is, it tastes great!  The flavors of this combination of vegetables is amazing!

8-Cups of Water
8-Teaspoons of Chicken Bouillon
4-Medium Tomatoes Diced
8-Celery Sticks Chopped
2-3 Carrots, Chopped
2- Squash, Diced
1- Large Onion, Diced
1- Sweet Red Pepper, Diced/Seeded
3-Cooked Chicken Breasts, Cut Into Small Pieces

Boil all ingredients 10 minutes in large pan, then lower heat to medium, cook 20 minutes or so more or until veggies are all tender.  Add pepper to taste.

This makes a gallon so be prepared for either having leftovers or freezing!!  Happy Eating Friends ~ Trina

Saturday, January 14, 2012

In The Eyes Of My Zealand - Happy 2nd Birthday, Baby!

If you've ever met my little Zealand, you know that this little guy lets very few things upset him.  He is almost always wearing a smile.  From the moment he was born, he has always seemed so happy.  Even under those bili lights, he seemed to chill under the light with his groovy shades on.  Even lately when his big brother throws a good blow to his back or on top of his thigh; he shrugs it off.  Maybe this is what it's like for all second-born children since they have a little less attention from their parents than the first born?  Maybe they just adapt to life with an older sibling always up in their business, after all, that's all they know.  But there is something about Zealand.  An aura.  A calm.  A true sense of wanting to learn from him.

I have had the thought so many times; he seems so wise.  He obviously knows the true secret to a fulfilling life.  While I can get so caught up and stressed about the little things in life.  I dream ahead and I see my Zealand being the kind of successful man who takes life as it comes and turns lemons into lemonades - all with only the best attitude!  He makes me want to be a better person.  On those tougher days, just to see him smile lets me know that things are actually really terrific!

My baby is turning two tomorrow.  He's talking more.  He pooped on the potty willingly - and so proud - twice this week.  His passion is in all things ball; football, basketball, soccerball.  "Ball?  Yeah?" he'll say. He gives the biggest hugs and says he loves me in an adorable and fleeting, "I la la" and gives me his heart.  He'll say hello to anyone and everyone, flashing his pearly whites!  He loves to listen to his dad play guitar.  He loves to try and play his brother's guitar.  He loves music.  He loves to play.  He just loves to be.  I love it all; and all of him.

Happy Birthday, my dear baby boy - Zealand Gabriel Beck Speer <3!

(The song I sing to him almost every night since he was about a month old.)
Zealand, oh, Zealand. 
I love my green-eyed baby.  
Zealand, oh, Zealand. 
I love you forever. 
Zealand, my baby, forever.

...I never said I was a songwriter ;)

:) Leah

Friday, January 13, 2012

Autism Pirate

PHOTO-From Left to Right: Amber, Tara, Mandy, Sara, Janet, Trina

My friend Amber has been talking for years about her good friend, Tara, who lives in Missouri now.  I have always missed her whenever she’s come to visit Amber, but a week ago I attended Amber’s pre-New Year’s party for Tara’s family, the Shades…and finally got to meet the famous Tara!
Immediately, I loved her.  Now, I’m definitely a lover anyway as most my friends will tell you, but I have to say she’s one of a kind.  I watched in awe as she whipped around Amber’s house and kitchen, running the show.  Now anybody who knows Amber knows that Amber runs the show at her house, and often times, at everyone else’s house too!  Plus, she’s normally the loudest one of the party.  Not with Miss Tara!  Between the two of them, there would be no word in edgewise.  I stayed a silent bystander as the two became the life of the party…wondering who could get the loudest of the two.
Almost immediately, Tara mentioned she read our blog, and enjoyed it….and said that she had a blog, autism pirate inspired by her son Rye, an autistic child, and her work with children with autism.  I was immediately tuned in…she worked with autistic children before she had Rye.  She had a full scope of knowledge and will power to raise a young child with diagnosed with it—and she has.  Now I’d never say it was fate that anyone had a child with autism…but I will say this: who better to handle it than someone that works with autistic children?
I watched as a very cute eight-year-old boy came upstairs, seemingly completely developmentally fine to me!  He talked with the other children, and ran around the living room as though he was enjoying himself.  “Just watch.” Tara said.  “You’ll see the signs.”  Soon enough Rye was ready to go back downstairs, not wanting to socialize any further with such a large group of people.
I watched as Tara patiently asked him a few times to go around the room and say hello to everyone prior to him being able to retreat back to his solitude.  And, he did!  He seemed relieved to head back downstairs, but the key was, he listened.  Tara didn’t yell or holler when he didn’t respond the first or second time, she asked him; she simply asked again.
“I ignore bad behavior and reward good behavior.” She told me matter of factly.  “We have a system going at home for both of our children, including or normal-developing child, Wyatt, where they get rewarded for good behavior.”  I toyed with this idea with glee.  You see, there’s lots of bad behavior in my household!  I wondered how some type of new system where the kids could see improvement & the rewards for such and how that would affect some of our current issues.
Then Tara gave the opportunity to view her blog.  I was amazed…I honestly was opened up to a new world.  Who would have known so much about such a widely known issue in children?  And watching her son Rye, and reading about him makes me wonder…he’s very apparently a very intelligent child.  And although I don’t know him well enough to observe, I’d bet there’s subjects where he’s more intelligent and will excel farther than you or I will…
I just had to jump on the chance to share such an amazing subject with all of our followers, and an amazing family…along with a fabulous blog.  Any set of parents with that much patience…with that much knowledge are something to be marveled all in itself.  Take a look at her blog here:
Also, stay tuned!  Tara has agreed to do a guest blog post in April for Autism awareness month!  

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Do You Lie To Your Kids?

"If you don't eat all your broccoli, you won't grow big like your daddy."  Are there good lies?  Or, rather, are little white lies okay?  On The Today Show yesterday, Ann Curry talked to two parenting experts about just this.  When is it alright to lie to these future adults?  Rachel Fishman Feddersen, editorial director at says 85% of moms in a recent survey have told these little white lies to their children to get out of social obligations.

I am very upfront and truthful with my children.  When we passed an ambulance at the scene of a messy car crash last summer, my son asked what was going on.  I explained to him that two cars crashed and someone maybe got hurt and they were going to go to the hospital where a doctor was sure to make the person feel better.  This was my way of being very direct with him, rather than saying, "Oh everything is just dandy...everyone is fine and life is a bed of roses.  Aren't those lights pretty!"  Though my directness probably led to his obsession and fascination with ambulances and hospital over the next several months.

But I admit to stretching the truth, too.  "Because it's getting dark soon and everyone is going to go home and eat dinner and go to bed."  That's how I explain we're leaving the park.  That's kind of a lie, isn't it?  Not everyone is going home to eat dinner and go to bed.  Some kids may stay longer.  Some kids may get to go out for ice cream.  Or how about a lie versus a probability.  "Get down from there!  If you climb on that you WILL fall and hurt your head and HAVE to go to the emergency room!"  When sure, there is a chance the child will fall and a chance he will hurt his head and yet another chance he might end up in the ER...but it's not a fact.

How about with Santa Claus?  The Easter Bunny?  The Milk Fairy?  The Milk Fairy? Yes, that's a lie I told. It's a fairy I made up.  The milk fairy comes in the middle of the night to take away your sippy of milk and leaves you a really groovy big boy cup of water.  Then every night after that, you drink water from your cup.  No more sippies at night.  Or how about the endless begging and pleading to watch their favorite cartoon which you have grown to despise.  "Oh no, sweetheart, doesn't look like Dora is on right now.  Doesn't look like it's on again until tomorrow.  Let's go paint!"  When secretly it's on now and for the next two hours on every damn cartoon channel and you're willing to go to many lengths to make sure it is not to be seen.

I believe we should be raising our kids to understand honesty and be a good person.  To tell the truth because it feels good and they know they are doing the right thing.  After all, we don't want to teach them to lie which will turn into stealing which will turn into them doing drugs and probably worse.  We don't want them to end up behind bars.  But sometimes the truth is stretched to bring magic into our kids lives or to make ours a little easier in the face of an imminent tantrum.  Of course, we can't forget that these little kids are actually very smart and intuitive too and can often see through our fibs.  What are the little white lies you tell your kids to get through your day?

**If you are a mom-or a person- who has gone through life without telling even a little white lie to help you along, we'd love to hear from you.  Please show us the way!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Anti-Chicken Fingers Movement ~ Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

Why not start the new year off healthier.  Not necessarily to just be fit and in shape, but to be healthier!  People make fun of my style of eating...but my family is healthy and I had an awesome health rating come back from work on some tests we did on how healthy we were in regards to eating style, working out, lifestyle, and blood work.  This doesn't just equal being thin.  It means I'll live longer, I have less risk for cancer and other diseases...and I'm passing these same healthy habits along to my kids...who will also be less at risk for the common diseases now in America.  So...make fun of me all you want!  I'll be running, swimming, camping and fishing while the crappy eaters are either dead or in the hospital!  Join me on the journey! Just sayin! This recipe is awesome!  Great for winter, and it freezes well!


2 1/2 pounds Roma tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper, to taste, for seasoning tomatoes
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
Dash of red pepper flakes
1 cup freshly chopped basil
1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes
4 cups vegetable broth (you can use chicken broth)
Salt and pepper, to taste


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spread the tomatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and roast for about 45 minutes.
2. In a large stockpot, heat the other 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add the canned tomatoes, fresh basil, and vegetable broth. Stir in the oven roasted tomatoes. Cook for about 30 minutes over medium-low heat.
3. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup in the stockpot, or transfer soup to a food processor or blender to blend. The soup should be smooth, with a few tomato chunks. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and serve warm.

Happy Eating Friends!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Anti-Chicken Fingers Movement - Carrabba's Chicken Bryan

Oh, yes I did!  Carrabba's Chicken Bryan...the only thing I ever get when I have the splendid opportunity to dine at Carrabba's.  I remember the good ol' days of Carrabbaritas with my vintage girl Sue.  Many glasses of wine with my husband.  And I even survived three years with not a single Carrabba's within an hours drive from where we lived. Ironically, there is a Carrabba's less than a 1/4 mile from our home now...but I'd rather make this recipe in the comfort of my home rather than take two wild boys out into what I used to know as a relaxing restaurant.  My memories shall remain intact!  This recipe is pretty darn close to the real thing, so grab a margarita and give it a whirl!

Carrabba's Chicken Bryan

1 (5 ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breast
Grill seasoning
Oil and vinegar grill baste
1/2 ounce goat cheese
Lemon Butter (recipe in Step 4)
Pinch basil leaves (medium chop)
6 sun-dried tomato pieces (julienned 1/4 inch)

Lemon Butter Sauce:
8 tablespoons butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 tablespoon onion, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons white wine
2 lemons, juiced
White pepper to taste
Kosher salt to taste

Shape the goat cheese into a flat disc so it will cover a large amount of the chicken; set aside at room temperature. Season and baste all sides of the chicken and place on a hot grill. Cook on the grill, basting several times. When chicken is almost finished (internal temperature of 165 degrees F), place the goat cheese on top of the chicken and let it soften as the chicken finishes cooking.

While chicken is finishing, place warm lemon butter, sun dried tomatoes, and chopped basil in a saute pan and heat over low heat. Do not let the sauce get too hot or the butter will separate. Just heat enough to meld flavors (approx 30-45 seconds).

Place chicken on a plate and spoon the lemon butter, sundried tomatoes, and basil sauce on top of the chicken. Be sure to cover the goat cheese. The best way to do this is to make the lemon butter sauce first and hold it on low heat (120 degrees F) while cooking the rest of the recipe.

Lemon Butter Sauce: 
In a saute pan place 1 Tbsp. butter, saute onions and garlic until softened. Add white wine and lemon juice; simmer approximately 2-3 minutes on medium-low heat to reduce by 90%. Let cool slightly. A little at a time, add remaining butter, stirring constantly, until butter melts and mixture emulsifies. Do not let the butter get too hot or it will separate. Season to taste.

Buon Appetito!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

What Is It You Fiending For?

I just had to share a bit of exciting news with everyone.  I was up late in front of this same computer last night…and this morning like a complete crackhead.  Leah and I were joking last night that if she could just get some meth, she would be able to whip out the remainder of our chapter pages she’s been working so diligently on.  It’s completely amazing working on something you are so passionate about, and then watching it unfold before your very eyes.
Remember, Leah and myself are two very busy ladies.  I know, I remind you of this frequently in my posts but bear with me!  We both have jobs, plus two kids, plus husbands and a pretty busy social life.  I tease Leah because every time I’m talking to her on the phone she’s heading to a different play date!  However, we squeeze in time; in the early morning hours or after everyone is fast asleep, trying to get that much needed silent time to work to make our dream actually happen.
I have two points to this post.  (1) I want everyone to know the final stages of our book are in motion and it’s going back out to agents in February.  We’ve been blessed with so much wonderful feedback from the agents we’ve sent it to, that I’m still amazed.  Not a single negative comment; only honest and helpful suggestions by people trying to help us succeed.  The main suggestion?  A new slant…a great book isn’t enough.  Fabulous writing these days?  Not enough.  We have to have something new, something that hasn’t been done before. Period.  After a few months in motion - Check!  We are proud to say that we are nearly there.  Just weeks away!  And, we know that this journey and morphing into what we’ve become is only part of the process and getting us to the final trek.
Okay, finally I’m to point (2) If you are someone that is completely happy with your life the way it is, cheers to you!  There’s a level of happiness and satisfaction for everyone in life, and if you are at yours; I both envy and revel you.  However; if you aren’t 100% satisfied…if you wonder if there’s something better, if you know there’s more to you and your future- go out there and get it and don’t stop until you do!  There’s nothing like being a crackhead writer, sitting in front of this computer at all odd hours, fiending for the next keystroke.  And when true success happens, the best part of it all will still be those moments; the journey over the mountain to get there.
Because we could never have done it without all our friends and our family (Carole, Leah’s mom, has been a Godsend) and our followers…thank you so much!  I have friends who email me weekly with quotes, ideas, and just to cheer me on.  I have friends who call for status reports because they are as excited as I am to see this book published.  Or people I have lost touch with, writing me on facebook to say how much they enjoy the blog! Even complete strangers saying thank you for sharing.  We love and thank you all!
Stay tuned…a great week ahead of new posts (a surprise post coming, don’t miss!) and recipes, of course!   ~Trina

*And, since the word fiending isn’t used across the country like it is in the western states –I’ll explain: it’s a slang word used similar to “jonesing” for something.  Like being a crack fiend….

Friday, January 6, 2012

A Life of Purpose – Inspiring Guest Post from Cancer Survivor and Real Mom, Heather Von St. James

Written by Guest Blogger Heather Von St. James

When you learn you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, everything changes. Most people never expect to receive such a diagnosis, especially at the age of 36 and having just given birth 3 ½ months prior of your first child.

On Nov. 21, 2005, I was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma

There is nothing worse than hearing “You Have Cancer” during what it is perhaps supposed to be one of the best times of your life. 

Following my diagnosis, I basically felt as though I had two options: give up or curse God and wallow in self-pity screaming “Why Me God!?”

I also had another option: Face the cancer head on.

And that’s what I did. 

So, I decided to toss on those rose-colored glasses and do what any new mother would do: Fight with everything she had so she can watch her little girl grow up. Unfortunately, cancer is like a double-edged sword and anyone else who has been through it will say the same thing. 

While it can be the most devastating news you’ve ever heard, there are still some positives that come out of it as well. My life has now changed for the better because of having gone through cancer. This is simply because I decided I wasn’t going to be one of the victims. Instead, I chose to look at a terrible situation in a different light. It helped take the fear away and I vowed I would help others who were diagnosed with it as well. For whatever the reason, I decided to find the positives of the situation and was sent to see the world’s leading specialist for the disease. The doctor gave me hope.

I learned I was going to have my tumor removed on Groundhogs Day 2006. With that said, I decided to name my tumor Punxatawny Phil and renamed Groundhogs Day, Lungleavin Day. 

Today, we have a party every February and celebrate Lungleavin Day. 

Had it not been for my cancer diagnosis, I would’ve never gotten to know some of the amazing people I’ve met. They are among the strongest and toughest I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. These people are committed to raising awareness about the disease, which affects so many. From wives to husbands to sons and daughters; all of us know someone who has been affected by cancer is some way, shape or form.

Now my life is filled with more purpose than it has ever been and with that, I want to continue to do what I can to bring the same hope I felt to others.

Heather Von St. James is a guest blogger for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A NEW New Years Resolution

I’ve decided I’m going to look at new year’s resolutions in a new longer with the same, shallow intensity as previous years.  My resolution every year is usually to lose weight.  I don’t smoke, I’m not an alcoholic (maybe a wino…does that count?), don’t have a drug addiction…and since I’m really not considered overweight (unsatisfied and mentally warped doesn’t count as overweight does it?) I’m not making my new year’s resolutions about me this year.  Which actually feels quite strange.  Selling our book isn’t really a resolution because it’s simply going to happen…it’s all in God’s master plan; I’m sure of that.  I don’t want a better house, I don’t need to get promoted…I really don’t want any more toys so to speak. So why do I not feel more satisfied?  Why do I not feel my life is already perfect, nothing needs to change?  Well…because life and happiness aren't about material things.  It isn’t about being thinner, or hotter, or more successful.  If you noticed, all the things I named above are based solely on materialistic views.
So, what do I want for 2012?  What do I need for my soul to feel complete?
I want more quality time with my family.  I want more time to write, to pour my soul out on paper and transform into the magic it does when I’m alone and have the time to do it.  I want more valuable time with my children. I need more time
Since having Clayton, our schedule is more jam packed, and crazier than ever.  I feel like we rush from home in the morning to daycare, work, then rush home again to simply cook dinner, bath time…reading and bed.   And like Kenny Chesney says (and no, I'm not really a Chesney fan)…don’t blink.  Before you know it, it will be all gone.
How do I provide more quality family time, when we simply don’t have the time?  What do I cut out?  What do I shave from to get the time?  What is less important?  Or, here’s a thought I ponder: Is it about making more time, or simply enjoying & savoring the time  I already have…more?
My dad recently told me being a grandfather is so great because he finally can sit down, and enjoy spending time with the kids.  He doesn’t have to rush to work…and he knows how sacred those moments are because they are gone in a flash.  How do I get that grandparent mentality?
Whatever the answer is…I’m determined to end 2012 knowing that I at least savored those special times with my children…that first real sentence from Clayton.  Baking with Callie…watching them put together a puzzle or coloring a picture.  It may be only a few moments…but I want to treasure those special memories for eternity.  Look back and know that while I may not have had the time of most mothers…I equally enjoyed the time I did have. ~Trina

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Anti-Chicken Fingers Movement - Slow Cooker Ham and Bean New Year's Meal

Sure, you missed out on this recipe this New Year's Day...but I think you can still reap the luck within the first ten days of January!  It's so tasty-the leftovers are even better!  The black-eyed peas will bring prosperity to your new year; pork for wealth; and cayenne and oregano because it tastes good.  Click here for other lucky foods for the New Year.  This is the first year I've played into this "lucky meal" on New Year's Day tradition, but watch me in 2012 and you'll see what a fab year I have!!  We even took it a step further and did up some collard greens (I have never ever had them in my life, much less cooked them, but because I live in the south, I chose this as my symbolic "cooked greens" fortune.  Serve on top of brown rice with corn bread.  Y'all got that?

Slow Cooker Ham and Bean New Year's Meal

1 (20 ounce) can black-eyed peas (soaked overnight)
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, undrained
1 (15 ounce) can light kidney beans, drained
1 (15 ounce) can dark kidney beans, drained
1 (16 ounce) tomato puree
1 large onion, chopped
1 pound cooked ham, cubed
1 clove garlic, minced, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 tablespoon sour cream


Stir the black-eyed peas, beans, onion, ham, and garlic together in a slow cooker. Stir cayenne and oregano into tomato puree.  Add puree mixture to slow cooker. Cook on High for 30 minutes, Low for 5-6 hours. Top with sour cream to serve.

Original Recipe

Monday, January 2, 2012

Couponing, Really? You Don't Have To Be An Extreme Couponer To Save Money

That's me, top right, with my NYC besties.  This was our
Christmas dinner at Serendipity 3 - home of the famous
$8.95 frozen hot chocolate (who needs coupons!).
Couponing, really?  For those of you who really know me, I’m sure you’re thinking this can’t be true.  Yes, I am the same woman who used to tell my friendset when I lived in New York City, “C’mon, we can afford to eat there and go see a show…let's pretend we're on vacation!”  My credit cards seemed like my best friend back then, or at least a boyfriend who paid for everything and didn’t pressure me to put out.  There was no way I could live in New York City and not go out and do all of the exciting things there were to do…shopping, great restaurants, Broadway!  I was in heaven but didn’t have the cash to support my habits.  So when I tell you now that my new hobby is couponing, trying to save my family hundreds when it comes to grocery shopping; you just have to take my word on it.

My mom couponed.  Even when I left the house and started grocery shopping, she tried to teach me about coupons and how much she saved.  All I saw were coupons for thirty-five cents off Hershey bars, ten cents off of Cocoa Puffs and twenty-five cents off Prell shampoo…not only did I not buy those products regularly, I could care less about taking the time to clip coupons just to save seventy cents at the end of it all.  It just didn’t seem like something that was for me. 

Once I had my children, I still didn’t think much about it.  Even going from two incomes to one in our new life in South Carolina.  It wasn’t until I spoke with a real life do-it-all mom of four little girls that I realized not only could I find the time to do it; it really, truly saves you money if you’re organized enough.  Then just two weeks ago, a co-worker who admitted to being addicted pulled me into a CVS, showed me the sales paper and the handy dandy machine where you scan your card to get instantaneous coupons and had me sign up for a CVS ExtraCare Rewards card.  Five minutes later, I bought a Visa gift card I was planning on buying at Walmart later that day and walked out of the store with a store credit for $10 (CVS CashCard, I think).  The next day, using that credit and a $2.00 off Huggies manufacturer coupon, I spent $4.77 on a box of pull-ups and a gallon of milk.    

I was hooked.  I decided I wanted to give it a shot just in case it could make an impact on our lives.  So over the holidays, I started really researching this couponing business and talking in depth with all my girlfriends who actively play this game….it is a game after all, why do you think so many of these playahs carry around these baseball card binders all the time?    

So here it is ladies, I am a beginner couponer.  Or couponess.  Or couponista.  I’m secretly excited.  I'm not trying to achieve extreme couponer status.  I have no desire to start a stockpile of Dial soap or cereal that tastes stale to me after a few weeks.  I just want to save a little money and share what I learn with you as I am in my apprenticeship.  If you have advice for me or anyone reading this, please leave a comment!  I want to learn!  If you want to learn, leave a comment and let me know I’m not alone in my new obsession.

***My first tips for other newbies…my friends have directed me to and and they’ve been great, but I have found to be very informative and easy to use.   

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Anti-Chicken Fingers Movement ~ Chicken Chimichangas w/Guacamole

First of all....YUMMY!  That's all I have to say.  Delicious all the way around.  I made this the night before all my family came up to celebrate for Christmas, and we had enough for dinner and for everyone for lunch the next day...score!  You can wrap the extras in tinfoil, pop them in the oven...and voila!  I have to say...the guac makes the meal so if you aren't an avocado person, this dish isn't for you.  Also, another warning...plan some extra time for this meal, and a few extra dirty dishes...but it's worth it!

1 ½ cups chicken broth
1 cup uncooked long grain white rice (I used brown...just sayin!)
½ cup red enchilada sauce (make enchiladas that week too with leftovers!
1 ½ onion (diced, divided)
6 (12 inch) flour tortillas  (I did break down & use flour...I bet wheat would be good too!)
4 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
1 pound Monterey jack cheese (shredded)
1 (6 ounce) can sliced black olives
4 cups refried beans (I used lowfat)
¼ cup vegetable oil (I suggest using 1/2 olive oil & 1/2 smart balance oil- it was perfect!)
Avocado topping-
3 avocados (peeled and pitted)
½ cup cilantro (finely chopped)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 green onions (diced)
¼ cup jalapeno chile peppers
1 tomato (diced)
2 cups shredded lettuce
1 cup sour cream (I used light)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Step 1: In a medium saucepan combine chicken broth, rice, enchilada sauce, and diced onion. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to low and let it simmer for about 20 minutes or until the rice is tender. Stir in shredded cooked chicken and mix well.
Step 2: Heat refried beans in a saucepan over low heat until they stir easily. Heat tortillas in a large skillet or in the microwave so that they fold easily.
Step 3: Spoon equal amounts of refried beans onto each tortillas followed by equal amounts of the chicken/rice mixture, Monterey jack cheese, and black olives. Roll up the tortillas¸while tucking in the sides. Secure the wrapped tortillas with a toothpick.

Step 4: Heat oil in a large skillet and fry the filled tortillas, turning once, until browned on both sides. Drain on paper towels.
Step 5: To make guacamole- in a medium bowl mash together avocados and lemon juice. Stir in cilantro, green onions, jalapeño peppers, and tomatoes. Top chimichangas with cheddar cheese, guacamole and sour cream.
(Makes 6 Servings)

Happy Eating Friends! *Trina