Friday, September 19, 2014

Planning for Fall

Believe it or not Fall starts on Monday. Those of us in Southern California are rolling on the floor laughing about that fact. It's hard to even imagine crisp leaves, sweaters and boots when we are sweating through triple digit weather. Even though the weather may not feel like Fall, it is just around the corner and it's never too early to start planning some fun Fall activities.

Here are some of our favorites...
  • Head to a football game: Dress up in your team colors, you can even go as far as cool face painting and head to a professional game and even tailgate before the game. You can also keep it simple and head to a local high school game. Rooting for the home team on a cool crisp night it just as fun as you remember it in high school. 
  • Oktoberfest: Many local cities (even the little ones!) hold their own Oktoberfest. This festival that originates in Germany celebrates with beer and sausage. Beer and sausage! I don't think I need to say anymore. 
  • Apple Picking: Now that the summer fruits and veggies are done, it's time for fall produce like apples and carrots. Now carrots are hard to pick but apple orchards are a lot of fun. You can pick your own apples to take home and most places have cute gift shops and lots of baked apple goodies. Oak Glen, CA. is a great place for apple adventures. 
  • Fall Scavenger Hunt: This is a fun way to spend a fall afternoon. Put together a list of things you only find in the fall. Your list can include dried leaves, pine cones, acorns, or even a Pumpkin Spice Latte. 
  • Outdoor Bonfire: A good old-fashion bonfire is one of my favorite things to do on a fall night. A warm blanket, and of course some s'mores. You can even roast hot dogs to make a whole evening out of it. 
  • Pumpkin Patch: This can be a family adventure or you can make it a romantic night for two. Hay rides, corn mazes and picking the perfect pumpkin are always a great way to get into the spirit of the season. 
  • Master a New Soup Recipe: If and when the weather cools down, a really great hearty soup is a great dinner idea. Get the slow cooker out and find a new recipe to try. It could become a family favorite and it will leave your house smelling delicious all day long! 
  • Wine Tasting: Grapes are also in season during the fall so it makes it a great time to visit a winery. Of course what is the point in going to a winery if you are not going to do a little wine tasting. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Simulating a Trial Separation

This might sound odd but I just "separated" from my loving husband. We literally implemented a pseudo-separation. We still live in the same home, but we're taking time away from one another. This week he's "on" while I am off. Being "on" means he's in charge of all children and household responsibilities and he cannot count on me for any of it. He's also sleeping on the couch.

I am, on the other hand, enjoying all the freedom and space this arrangement suddenly affords me. I am out of the house most of the day and we're each having to depend solely on ourselves similar to most separated couples, but actually, not the same at all. Next week should be interesting when I finally get the chance to be 100% "on" and he gets a break. 

This all may sound pretty weird and you the reader is likely thinking "why?" Truth is, why not? All relationships go through ups and downs, or worse, life gets pretty mundane. This whole experiment has been about increasing our independence while making us appreciate each other more. We're being reminded of just how much our partner does and how much we love each other, but like most couples, we can often take one another for granted regardless of all the love. 

Truth be told, this is only day 4 (of 14) and after three nights on the couch my honey is laying in bed with me tonight. It's hard to keep us apart. I believe our appreciation and understanding has increased and suddenly the distance actually creates a sense of unity. We've missed each other and I almost feel my husband is making time to court me even after he's been intensely busy manning a household full of children, chores, homework, back-to-school night, kids' schedules and work responsibilities.

This journey has opened our eyes a bit to a few breakthroughs such as the fact that I don't have to always be in control. I can be a control freak constantly thinking of everyone's schedules and our family's operations. I've had to let go a bit and trust that my husband can do it. I don't have to know and do it all and this has been just the thing to reinforce independence leading to interdependence. We don't want to be dependent on one another, but we do care to feel true interdependence. 

In our case, a trial to a trial separation wasn't meant to come from a place of negativity. Nothing has to dramatically crumble in a marriage to feel the need to rejuvenate our sense of gratitude and independence. All in all, this was our experiment to break up the monotony of our every day and I must say it appears to be working. Now, hopefully,  I'm NOT the one falling apart this time next week when I'm simulating single-motherhood and taking the reigns all alone.

Would you participate in a psuedo-separation? Why or why not?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Video Chat for Your Birth Control

Planned Parenthood is a taking birth control into the internet age by releasing an app. That's right an app for your phone or tablet.

So what can this app do? Well if you live in Minnesota or Washington State you can meet with a doctor over video chat and get a prescription for birth control mailed to your house. That's right, you can video chat from anywhere with an internet signal with a doctor. The whole process takes about 15 minutes and will cost you $45 plus the cost of your birth control of choice.

Not sure if this will be available in other states soon. But I have to admit that this sounds like a real time saver. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Cheapskate 101: How this mom penny pinches with the best of them!

I was raised by a frugal father and a conservative mother. I once figured I'd leave the nest and go crazy spending my own money. I soon learned I was NOT a big spender after all. I could very well spend our hard earned money, I just don't!

I am a cheapskate at heart. I'm one of those people that loves thrift shops, buying half-off meat items that will expire the next day for that night's dinner and I wait until all major retailers are having their best annual sales before I spend a dollar there.

I'm not a coupon-clipper, but I do love Walmart prices hence my need to do all grocery shopping in their new neighborhood markets. I'm all about two-for-one deals and I don't mind a great hand-me-down. In fact, my children and I are usually wearing hand-me-downs. 

I'm cheap. Doesn't mean I'm not generous or that I don't enjoy nice things and the sporadic indulgence. It means I'm cheap.

Some tricks to my cheapskate trade...
  • Shop at discount stores: Big Lots, Marshalls, and TJ Maxx are pretty standard. It's hard to spend a dollar at Nordstorms when there's a Nordstrom's Rack with an amazing red tag sale. This is where being cheap doesn't mean compromising on quality. I enjoy designer brands, just not the prices that go along with them, hence, I love thrift shops. I often find slightly used designer gems for my kiddos in secondhand stores or I scour the discount stores to get to the same result.
  • Buy what's on sale. That means cooking veggies and fruits that are in season. That also means basing the week's dinner options on the best deals in the grocery aisle. I tend to buy clothing that's not in season. So I stockpile sweaters in the summer and bathing suits in the winter. Sure we can't quite wear our new buys yet, but we are getting a bargain.
  • Shop around. This can get tricky, because it isn't always convenient. For instance, I browsed back-to-school sections at countless stories, but didn't buy until well after the school year was underway. The added plus here is that if you shop a little late you often find items additionally discounted. But be careful, I tried holding out on those typical back-to-school shoe sales thinking there'd be better deals after the back-to-school craze tapered down. Turns out most sales went away, the inventory was dismal and I didn't get the best deals by waiting. 
  • Be a Groupon junkie. I know I've said this before.  But these group deals really can be the best. In fact, I've found some amazing hotel/getaway deals that can usually be replicated without a Groupon. There's a simple, but nice resort in Palm Desert I once found on Groupon that continues to offer reasonable deals without a Groupon through Make sure to earmark those great Groupon finds and check back in on hotels, restaurants and retailers even if Groupons aren't available.
  • Ask for a discount. All thrifty folks know to ask for discounts. What's the worse that can happen? Ask any and every where. Often folks are open to at least giving a 10% discount or throwing in a coupon you didn't have to begin with. Don't be afraid to ASK. I learned this tip from my hubby who just last night asked for a discount while buying an already discounted book at Barnes and Noble. This happened after a shopping spree by him for ME at Marshall's! Needless today, I went bonkers in their clearance racks.

Are you also a cheapskate at heart, too? 
Share your money saving tips with other readers!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Blessing of the Skinned Knee

A Mom is at the park with her small child. The child is playing with a shovel and another kid comes up and takes it away. The Mom immediately gets up and gets the shovel back for her child. How about a child who is away at summer camp and feeling homesick. They call their parents and they immediately get in the car to pick up their child.  Or how about the parent who sends the teacher an angry email because their child got a bad grade. We see and hear of these things happening all the time. Like me you may even be guilty of a few. Parents are going out of their way to ensure that their child does not feel upset, hurt, disappointed, or uncomfortable. Even though parents who are guilty of this have their hearts in the right place, what happens to these kids when they grow up and realize that feeling hurt, disappointed, or uncomfortable are a part of life? This type of parenting can lead to self-absorbed, self-entitled kids who cannot cope with the real world. A bit dramatic? Maybe? Maybe not? 

This is something that as a parent that I think about all the time. My biggest concern is raising 2 self-entitled spoiled brats who can't function in the real world. I am conscious of this and even though I do not want to be over-protective and over-indulge my kids, I find myself doing it all the time. As a parent I want to give my kids the world. Like literally, if I could give then the world and moon and stars I would. I am, at times, guilty of what Wendy Mogel calls "over-devotion". 

Wendy Mogel is a Los Angeles based clinical psychologist who is also the author of the best selling parenting book "The Blessing of the Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children". In her book she battles the issues head on saying that parents are overprotecting, overindulging and at the same time expecting our kids to be the best at everything and not teaching them to respect adults. We are pushing our kids to ace exams and make soccer goals but not teaching them life skills. From her book...

"If the pressure to be special gets too intense, children end up in the therapist’s office suffering from sleep and eating disorders, chronic stomachaches, hair-pulling, depression, and other ailments. They are casualties of their parents’ drive for perfection. It was children such as these who spurred me to look outside standard therapeutic practices for ways to help. In Judaism I found an approach that respects children’s uniqueness while accepting them in all their ordinary glory."

You can read an excerpt from the book HERE 

Mogel suggests that we embrace our children's individual talents and not expect perfection. We need to be okay with our kids being "good enough". We also need to stop pressuring ourselves as parents to be an extraordinary parents. We need to get back to making parenting a joy and not a competition. By adopting this "good enough" attitude and loving our children for their own sake and not for their achievements, you can have a more relaxed family and make everyone's life richer. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A New Latino Family Comedy is Coming to Prime Time

This fall ABC will be attempting to bring the Latino Family Comedy back to primetime television. You may recognize the lead of the show as the stand-up comedian Cristela Alonzo. Following in the footsteps of Latino stand-up comedian George Lopez she is getting the chance to bring her comedy to the masses with a sitcom.

I must admit that I had never heard of Cristela Alonzo before. As "research" for this post I googled her name and watched a bunch of her stand-up comedy. She is hilarious! She is now the co-creator, writer, executive producer, co-director and star of the show "Cristela", a semi-autobiographical story about a women working to become a lawyer, living with her sister and her sisters family and her mother. In interviews Cristela talks a lot about how this show is just a show about a family who love each other who happen to be latino. I am not sure about that because from the clips I have seen the show seems to really focus on and tackle Latino issues.

When it comes to shows that depict Latino families I tend to love them and criticize them at the same time. I find myself cracking up because I can relate to the funny cultural specific situation, and on the other hand, I become critical about how this could be perpetuating stereotypes.

Cristela Alonzo is a smart and funny Latina and I am really looking forward to her new show! 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Adventures in Low Carb Dieting

I wouldn't say I'm a pro at low-carb dieting because I'm not, but my husband, now he's a different story. For years he's kept himself in shape with moderate exercise and reducing many of the carbs everyday folks consume all day long. I recently decided to try out this dieting regimen, and though tough, it's totally doable and here's why....

1. Breakfast is a "low-carbers" paradise. Just think bacon and eggs and who doesn't love that classic dish? Plus there's so much more to breakfast than just bacon and eggs. Breakfast is always a great dinner alternative! There's plenty to choose from such as yummy omelettes with all the fixings. Fill your omelettes with deli meats or turkey sasuage, cheese, egg whites and all the veggies your heart desires. Breakfast is hearty, delicious and easily low-carb!

2. Low-carb meal options are becoming more and more common. Back in the day it wasn't always easy to find low-carb menu options at restaurants, but in recent years so much has changed. Recently I was at a small hole in the wall Mexican restaurant that served delicious fajita lettuce wraps. There was no need to feel deprived over Mexican dinner while others enjoyed an abundance of tortillas and rice. Low-carb dishes are available and with some planning ahead you're actually able to enjoy great meals. I especially love Mediterranean restaurants serving yummy meat skewer combinations, with salads and hummus (garbanzo-based).

3. Textures can be immitated! I love mashed potatoes for the flavor and texture. A delicious cauliflower mash with pepper and butter as an alternative leaves me feeling totally satisfied. For a little crunch I love sliced cucumber or radishes in place of chips. And there's really no reason to not wrap anything in firm lettuce leafs... tacos, burgers, seafood! Simply get creative with your alternatives and you won't have to compromise on flavor or texture cravings!

Ever tried and succeeded at low-carb dieting? Share your tips with HerMamas' readers by commenting below!