Monday, October 17, 2011

Chicken with Tomatoes and Marjoram

Mini-Monster Cupcake

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Strategies to Make Anytime With Your Child Quality Time

Working and raising children is the great balancing act that an increasing number of parents perform.

As a mother of two grown children, I know first hand what a challenge it is to raise kids and work simultaneously.

Parents who work outside the home face many dilemmas and oftentimes deal with a significant amount of guilt. Am I a good parent if I opt to return to work? Will my children suffer if I put them in daycare? How can I work and still raise healthy and well-adjusted kids?

According to researchers in a wide range of fields, the time young children spend with their parents is essential for their healthy development. As such, parents should not feel guilty about working outside the home, but they should enjoy and make the most of the time they do spend with their children. In other words, make it "quality time."

Quality time is defined by development experts as meaningful time parents spend nurturing and teaching their children, and is not just reserved for stay-at-home moms or dads. Time-crunched working parents take note: You too can have quality time with your kids. It's what you make of the time you spend with your children that makes it quality time.

There are many moments throughout the day that busy parents spend with their kids -- standing in line, waiting for the doctor, driving the kids to school, getting ready for bed -- that can easily be turned into quality time. All it takes is some imagination and creativity.

I've collected over 200 stimulating activities (in my new book "Quality Time Anytime") that parents can use during daily rituals to strengthen the parent-child relationship and teach skills and values that will benefit kids long into the future. Here are a few of my favorites:
Bath time: Give your child a toy boat to float in the bath tub and ask her to guess how many pennies (or paper clips) she has to put in the boat to sink it. Then, ask her to test her guess.

Bedtime: Read a story to your child, and have her try to guess the ending before you finish the book to build creativity and imagination.

Car time: Play rhyming games, make up rap songs, and play the alphabet game, by spotting letters A through Z on passing signs.

Dinner-making time: As you prepare dinner in the evening, let your child help you cook or create a kitchen concoction while you cook. For example, fill a bowl with soapy water and let her beat with an eggbeater. Then add food coloring and have her continue to beat. See what happens! Meal time: While the family is gathered, play word games, such as I'm thinking of a word in the kitchen that begins with "J," or tell jokes and share funny stories to emphasize the importance of family "togetherness."

Shopping time: Have your child play "find the food" to become more aware of what the family eats or "check the change" to become more aware of how much things cost.
All things considered, it just takes a little imagination plus love for busy, working parents to create activities that will help them raise happy, confident responsible children. By making anytime quality time, children will learn fundamental skills that will serve them well for a lifetime. Strategies to Make Anytime With Your Child Quality Time

Facing Your 40s and 50s Fearlessly!

New age teacher Marianne Williamson challenges the concept that personal transformation can be achieved through a to-do list.

The deepest level of change can only take place when there is a change in your beliefs, she says. And while there are actions and new ways of thinking that will improve our inner life, lasting change is a miracle.

"A miracle is a shift in perception from fear to love," says Marianne.

Here are three ways Marianne suggests we learn to love, and not fear, our age – to truly enjoy the next chapter in our lives.

Shift from Body to Spirit

"[I]f we can speak about the miracles of aging, the first shift is when we begin to move from body identification to spirit identification," says Marianne. Perhaps one miracle of aging is when we realize midlife is a second chance to find meaning, a chance to fix things we may have gotten wrong when we were younger.

"Looking at ourselves is not navel gazing. I'm at a point in my life where I'm cool with being in the second half of my fifties, but I had to allow myself the grief of losing what is no longer there. Menopause is a second puberty."

Slow Down

Generally an energetic ball of fire, Marianne found herself one afternoon wanting to "rest her bones" when her daughter called to her to come play in the garden. Uncharacteristically, she declined, and as she sat in the wood paneled library, surrounded by books, she realized that resting allowed her to enjoy other aspects of life.

Instead of jumping out of bed, throwing down a cup of coffee and running head-long into life, she suggests, "Stop and slow down. Meditation in the morning can be a strong anti-depressant. It is an adjustment of the soul, so you don't behave out of your internal chaos.

"We need to create more wisdom on this planet or our children will not survive," says Marianne. "I don't want to dance the night away, and I no longer have that adrenaline-based urge to be doing." Slowing down supports the cultivation of reflection and wisdom.

Reframe Your Beliefs

Infinite ideas and scenarios are available to each of us, but we have to know how to rewrite the script. Take a look at every thought and cast out the negative.

"I'm too old if I think 'I'm too old'. That thought [can be] reframed to 'it's my time now'," says Marianne. "I pray to consider the possibility that there might be another way. When we turn the other cheek, we're moving our head to look at life from another perspective."

Marianne Williamson's most recent book is titled The Age of Miracles: Embracing the New Midlife. She is once again is lecturing weekly in Los Angeles, helping us see that we are what we think.
Facing Your 40s and 50s Fearlessly!
Photo Credit: Rich Cooper
Adele Slaughter is a poet currently finishing her first novel, Jealousy. "I know that my dharma is to teach, because I love working with people. It's an unusual trait for a writer, which means I end up producing movies, teaching creative writing and writing for print—all in all a great life."

Creating a Sleeping Sanctuary for Your Baby

Fundamental to our sense of well-being and our ability to parent is a good night's rest and yet, that is just what many new parents lack. When parents look for support, their home is usually not the first thing that comes to mind, but how you choose to arrange your baby's nursery, and what you place in the nursery, can influence how well your baby, and therefore you, sleep.

Below are simple suggestions for creating a nursery that will encourage a peaceful sleep- ensuring your baby's well-being, as well as your own.

One challenge when creating a nursery is designing a room that accommodates two very different activities, sleeping and playing. At night you will want to make sure the room can be easily transitioned into a "sleep" room. Make sure the room has proper shelves, cabinets, bins and baskets so you can "quiet down" the room at night by storing your child's playthings. Also, pay particular attention to design elements that are not easily changed, such as a mural. A large, very active mural may be overwhelming for a baby. Children have no problem livening up the room at playtime with colorful toys- but at nighttime, the mural will be hard to change. Similarly, avoid too many moving, flying objects such as a toy airplane flying toward the crib or train tracks overhead. Even a mobile is best placed over the changing table versus the crib. Also avoid crib linens with very busy, action-themed patterns.
You will of course want the nursery to be safe. In addition to essential cautions such as securing cords, covering outlets, installing smoke detectors -to name a few- also consider "perceived dangers". Perceived danger is anything that cannot actually harm us, but that makes us feel uneasy each time we look at it, such as a crib placed in front of a low window or a heavy chandelier hanging over the crib. Even though we know a newborn cannot jump out of the crib and a heavy chandelier that is secured will not fall- these things still make us uncomfortable. Sharp angles or corners near the crib are also examples of perceived dangers. Choose furniture with rounded edges and soften any sharp angles caused by protruding walls with fabric, curtains, mobiles or crystals. Balance the extreme energy of ceiling beams by painting the beams white, or softening the beams with fabric and placing the crib so it is not directly beneath a beam.
In many ways our homes are an extension of our bodies and therefore part of the mind/ body connection. Choose healthy materials to furnish your nursery. Low VOC paint, solid wood furniture, natural area rugs, organic linens, air filters and an organic mattress are all things to consider. In addition open windows daily to allow chemicals to exit and fresh air to enter. Use natural products to clean the nursery.
Place the crib in "Command Position." In Feng Shui it is believed that we are most comfortable when we have a view of the door so we can relax fully knowing we will not be startled from someone approaching us from behind. Locate the crib so that your baby has a view of the door, but is not in the direct path of the door. Also make sure the crib is positioned with at least one side (preferably two) against a solid wall(s). This will help your baby feel more secure and protected.
Color contributes to the energy in the room and affects our emotions. Paint the walls soothing colors such as blue, lavender or other pastels for a restful relaxed atmosphere- save the vibrant colors for accents.
ake sure you can block out the light with heavy curtains or shades. Ideally you will want a variety of lighting options so that you can block out direct sun when the baby is awake, (newborns are sensitive to light), but keep the room very dark for naps and in the early morning.
Cleanse the energy in the room periodically. One sleepless night tends to lead to another sleepless night if the energy is not shifted. Open windows, let in fresh air or lightly spray some water with a few drops of lavender essential oil (after the baby is six weeks old- check for sensitivities or allergies) to freshen the room setting the intention that you are clearing the air and restoring peace.
Keep the room simple by clearing clutter (which stagnates energy) and avoid electronic equipment, which can also interfere with good sleep.
If you live in a noisy area, consider installing double pane windows or heavy curtains to block out street noise. You can also purchase a white noise machine to mask household sounds, like creaking floors or other children playing.
Create a pleasing view from the crib. Especially as your baby gets older what she sees when she first wakes up in the morning and what she sees last before going to sleep will influence her "view" on life. Uplifting artwork, or a view of a tree outside a window are both examples of positive views.
Create a nighttime ritual. Putting toys away, dimming lights, closing curtains and taking a bath can all become part of the nighttime routine. Talk to you baby and explain what is happening and what is expected. For example, you might say "Now we are preparing your room for bedtime, we are going to take a bath and put on your night clothes, then it will be time to sleep for 12 hours." Your baby will not only be comforted by your voice and knowing what to expect next, but also setting the intention for a good night always help!
Remember, your baby is transitioning from a womb into the world. The more nurturing, soft, warm and comfortable your baby's surroundings the better. And above all- enjoy the process! Your baby will feel all the love, positive energy and mindfulness you bring to the process of creating this very special room.

Home and life design experts, sisters, and co-founders of The Art of Everyday Living Laura Forbes Carlin and Alison Forbes have created the ultimate guide for expectant parents in their new book The Peaceful Nursery: Preparing a Home for Your Baby with Feng Shui, to be published as a Delta Trade Paperback Original on February 28, 2006. In this fully-illustrated, colorful guide, filled with gorgeous photos and quick reference charts, the authors show parents-to-be how to unite the basic principles of Feng Shui with healthy living to create a warm and nurturing nursery.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Family room Focus

Your family room or living room is the one place your whole clan comes together to hang out. And, as such, it's probably the default dumping ground for everyone's stuff. If your family is like most families, that means clutter and disorganization.

But you can transform this room from the messiest area in your home to the organized, relaxing family haven you desire. Here's how:

1. Get rid of what doesn't belong.

Think about the function of the room, says Lorie Marrero, author of The Clutter Diet and founder of the Web. How do you use the space? Most people use family rooms to watch TV and movies, listen to music, read, talk, play games and play with toys.

Start by going through each item with that in mind. Keep what fits and move out what doesn't. That means board games, magazines and DVDs are in; backpacks, a briefcase, mail, keys, cold medicine and other miscellaneous items are out.

2. Sort your stuff.

Focusing on the stuff that you decided to keep, sort everything by how often you use each item, advises Marrero.

Things your family uses daily or almost every day (magazines, remotes, toys, etc.) should be easily accessible. Items you use a few times a month (playing cards, scrapbooks) can go out of the way in a cabinet or drawer. Gather anything you rarely need (holiday decorations, your grandmother's tablecloth, old report cards) into storage bins and send them off to the garage, closet, attic or basement.

3. Ditch DVD and CD cases.

One of the quickest ways for a room to look and feel neater is to transfer discs to CD wallets or binders and get rid of the cases by either recycling them or donating them to charity. This way, you convert many shelves of storage or display space to just a few inches, and your CDs remain accessible. In fact, it's even easier to find the CD you need. "Because you flip through binders like a book, it's easier to find specific discs," says Marrero.

4. Clear the coffee table.

Because of its prominent spot in the room, the coffee table can amass clutter and make an otherwise tidy room feel disorganized. Here are some ideas on how to deal with the messy inhabitants:

* Move magazines. Magazines and catalogs can easily pile up. Place them in a basket in a corner, instead. It serves as a natural "limiting container," says Marrero. "When the basket is full, it's a visual reminder to clean it out."

* Rein in remote controls. A universal remote is an extra expense, but what you spend to turn four remotes into one, you'll earn back in sanity. Also, give it a designated home: Attach the soft side of Velcro to the back of the remote and stick the rough piece to the side of the sofa or another easy-to-reach, hidden spot.

5. Tidy up toys.

Some people think that all toys can be thrown into one place, but if you want to stay organized, that might not be the best strategy. "One big toy box encourages kids to dump the whole thing out," warns Marrero. And then what do you have? Clutter city! Instead, store toys in small containers by type -- one bin for dolls, one for blocks, one for games, and so on. And skip lids if possible. "Using open bins means that kids can just throw things in, making cleanup easier for everyone," says Marrero.

6. Corral your cords.

A mess of exposed electrical cords is just that -- a mess. Fish cords through the back of furniture and use Velcro cable ties or even garbage-bag twist ties to bundle them. "That way, they don't become a giant octopus," says Marrero. Attach label stickers on the ends so you can unplug one electronic without the guessing game.

7. Stay clutter-free.

Once the room is organized, keep it that way!

* Stop collecting stuff. "Try to prevent things from coming into the room in the first place," says Marrero. Unsubscribe from magazines you rarely read, and buy music or movies online instead of getting them in discs. And, before you buy anything new, ask yourself, "Where am I going to store this?"

* Think beyond the family room. If items like backpacks and mail keep showing up, give them a permanent home elsewhere. Create what Marrero calls a "destination station." Hang hooks by the door for keys, put a basket in the hall for mail and give purses, backpacks and shoes space in your mud room or hall closet.

* Straighten up on the spot. "Organizing is about decision making," says Marrero. It's easy to put an item somewhere "just for now." But doing so instantly creates clutter. The rule: Put items away as soon as you finish with them, and find suitable homes for new things right away.
Chicken Recipes
* Enlist your family's help. Talk about maintaining the order, then post a checklist reminding your kids that they have to put away toys, homework and other stuff before they can watch TV. Or set a policy that everyone spends five minutes before bed to get organized -- folding blankets, putting back the remote, picking up socks and so on.