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Parents blog

Personalized Valentine’s Day Cards

Mazie-V-Day-2 Madeline-VDAY1

I had some fun photo props laying around the house so we turned up the “Shake It Up” soundtrack, got a little silly, and took some really fun pictures!  I knew when I got out the camera that I wanted to make Valentine’s Day cards… because everything is more fun when it’s personalized!

You can do this at home easily.  You just need a camera and a computer.  I used to edit the photos and then I used Illustrator to apply text, although you can keep it really simple and do that in Pic Monkey as well.  Email the file to a local printer (I always use Office Depot) and ask them to print on sticker paper or cardstock.  If you print on sticker paper, it would be cute to apply the sticker to a box of chocolates for their friends, teachers, or grandparents.

Here is a little more inspiration:

Madeline-V-Day-2 Mazie-VDay-Card

Beautiful Girls Retreat

My Beautiful Girls: Sophia, Rebecca, Hannah, Abigail, and Kayleen.

I spent my weekend as a chaperone at the NWA Beautiful Girls Retreat.  I was blessed to be able to spend the weekend with these fun, sweet, and adorable girls with hearts for Jesus.

Our Magical Family Vacation

Disney-Super-BreakfastGrammy and Papa treated us to a over the top Disney vacation.  Our first morning might have been the most exciting.  We stayed at the beautiful Grand Floridian and had breakfast at 1900 Park Fare in the hotel.  It was full of character…literally!  As we ate, we were greeted by Mary Poppins, Winnie The Pooh, Tigger, Alice In Wonderland, and The Mad Hatter.  It was the PERFECT way to start our vacation.


Disney-CastleThe weather was beautiful.  The girls loved meeting the princesses.

5 Wonderful Years

Madeline-5-yearsEveryone knows that I love birthdays!  I think this sweet girl is the reason why.  I’m planning her 5th birthday party now.  It was just a blink ago that I was planning her first.  So thankful her.  She is such a little helper and wise beyond her years.  I always joke that she is more responsible than I am.  She is always reminding me of the rules and keeping me practical.  She is a girly girl, but also has fun playing in in the mud.  She loves nothing more than to play with her friends, to sing and dance, and to run and play outside.  I love you Madeline Giselle Cristofaro!!!  God forever changed my life when he made me your mom.

Serious as a heart attack

BikeLove-01I’m a vegetarian

I run at least once a week.  (Not as much as I should but I’m generally active.)

I’m 32 years old


I felt like I should have bought a lottery ticket the day it happened because the odds were so against me – until I did a little self reflecting and admitted that I’m a workaholic, high strung, can’t sit still, a total people pleaser, and somewhat of a perfectionist.  I can’t choose between staying at home with my children or working so I try to do both – and always – something suffers.  I’m sad to say it’s usually my parenting skills and my marriage because everything is his fault, right! Riiiight!!  My wonderful and supportive husband actually expects nothing of me except that I take care of the girls.  All of my stress is self-induced.

I’ve always struggled with anxiety at some level, but tried to manage it without medication.  If you are an anxious person, you can probably relate when I say that quite frankly, I was too scared to take the medicine.  I always want to be in control and once I put that medicine in my body – it controls me.  The funny thing is we are NEVER in control.  God is ALWAYS in control.

On Friday, May 17th (one week into my 32nd year of life), I woke up and instantly knew I was having a heart attack by the severe pain in my jaw, chest, and left arm.  My husband who pretty much thought I was crazy agreed to drive me to the ER where the doctors also thought I was crazy.  It wasn’t until after several blood tests confirming my elevated troponin levels that they discovered I had indeed suffered a heart attack.  They tested my blood three times in the hospital before sending the 4th vial to the lab because they were sure that the machine in the hospital was registering a false positive.  Once the lab results came back with troponin levels at over 4.0, it was confirmed.  To compare, the same doctor had a patient who suffered a massive heart and only had troponin levels of .6.  Mine were really elevated.

That was when the cardiologist rushed in, told me I had to have a heart cath within the hour, after the procedure I would be in ICU, gave me a valium, and explained that I was at the top of a roller coaster and I couldn’t get off.  At that moment, I asked my husband to call our friend and small group leader to have my church family pray for me.  I was in total shock.  I could not believe this was happening to ME. I had been staring at the cross above the door talking to God all morning.  I knew He was with me and I trusted that His plan for my life was best, but the thought of my girls without a mom entered my mind and just broke my heart.  Ever since Madeline’s birth, my greatest fear has been that I would for some reason leave my girls without a mother.  I never want their hearts to hurt for a minute and that would be devastating.  I’ve learned that I have to trust God completely – even with my girls. He gave them to me and he loves them more than I ever could.

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Real NWA Party: Hello Kitty…Diva Style

Hello-DivaMy friend Cheryl threw the most AMAZING birthday party for her sweet daughter, Payton.  She set the theme before guests even walked through the door with this beautiful wreath and flower balls.


Hello-Kitty-DessertShe left no detail untouched.  This beautiful dessert feature table just blows me away.  She use plastic tablecloths to create a beautiful backdrop for the dessert table and for photo ops. 

A Modern Shower For A Girl and Boy

SHower1I had the pleasure of attending a dual baby shower for 2 of my sweet friends.  It was so beautiful.  I had to Oooh! and Awe! over the details for 10 minutes before I could even say hello to anyone.  Have I ever mentioned that I have crazy talented friends?  The yellow, coral, teal, and gray color scheme was gorgeous.  It was a nice change from the typical blue and pink.  They even had perfectly pink (and teal) parfait’s.



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Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds Baby Shower

LucyI had the pleasure of hosting a small baby shower for my friend, Lesley, over the weekend.  Since the baby’s name will be Lucy, I couldn’t resist a “Lucy in the sky with diamonds” theme.  You could really have some fun with this, but I kept it pretty simple.  I just used a funky fabric from Hobby Lobby and scrapbooking paper.  A line in the song talks about rocking horse people so I made sure to include a rocking horse in the decor (also appropriate for a shower).


Lucy-2I created a custom sign that said, “Lucy in the sky with diamonds”.  I used funky patterns to represent the girl with the kaleidoscope eyes and tall flowers mentioned in the song.  Maybe a little strange for a baby shower, but I’m a sucker for non-traditional.


Lucy-3Here is a picture of the sweet mommy to be and gorgeous guests.  Love these girls!

Mazie’s World Birthday Party

Mazie's-WorldIf there is anything my daughter loves, it’s Elmo!  Despite many attempts to convince her to have any other type of party, she simply would not budge.  She wanted an “Elmo’s World” party so that’s what she got.

My favorite detail of the party was the custom pinata of Mazie wearing her birthday outfit.  They nailed every detail – adorable!


Mazie's-World-#2We often sing our “Mazie’s World” version of the Elmo’s World song, so when I found this old TV box at Retro in Rogers, I knew I had to have it for the custom pinata.  She was the star of the show (which is really appropriate because she is known for stealing the show).  2Katie designs made this awesome giant #2 and I hand painted the Elmo.

Evenflo Ladies Night Out Presented by Peekaboo Media Group

EPL-Cravings-BarI was so honored when the ladies from Peekaboo Media Group asked me to style their, “Moms Night Out” event to launch Evenflo’s new product line.  The entire room was inspired by Evenflo’s new Polka Dottie and Galaxy Collections that just hit the shelves at Wal-Mart.  We used their actual fabric to make drapery panels, table runners, and tablecloths.  It’s gorgeous.  Their product designers made my job incredibly easy.

Since the crowd mainly consisted of new and expectant mothers, I designed a “Cravings Bar” to satisfy their sweet or salty pregnancy cravings.  My friend Katie from Wall Junque made a BEAUTIFUL silver glittery frame for the artwork.  We served cupcakes and Evenflo branded cookies from Rick’s Bakery, cheesecake bites, cinnamon knots, popcorn from Dale & Thomas, and cocoa roast almonds from Diamond Foods.


EPL-Mocktail-BarA moms mocktail party wouldn’t be complete without a bar.  Moms had their choice of 3 sweet and swanky drink options: Raspberry Fizzler, Mock Champagne, or Tom Collins.


EPL-DecorThe event was all about showcasing the product so we kept the same sleek and modern vibe with the decor.  Purple, white, and silver were the primary colors of the evening.  We had beaded candelabras, modern furniture, textured pillows, and giant 3′ balloons.  I wish I could have taken the chair pictured home with me because I loved it.

With Sugar On Top

OSU-CookieI’ve recently helped throw baby showers for 2 of my friends.  Everyone always wants to know where the cookies came from.  I used, With Sugar On Top, this time and she did an amazing job.  Her attention to detail is incredible.  Just look at this OSU logo sugar cookie.  You can meet her in person at the NWA Birthday Party Expo where she will have a  booth.  In  the meantime, LIKE her on Facebook to stay up to date with her edible art creations.



More cookies for the sports themed sip and see.


Cupcakes for a ‘Rock-A-Bye-Baby’ themed sip and see.

Fashion Barbie Party

Barbie-Birthday-GirlMy sweet Madeline turned 5 on April 4th and she is into everything Barbie.  So, you know what that means – I got to plan a Barbie Birthday Party!  It’s no secret that I enjoy planning her parties as much, if not more, than she enjoys attending them!  My dad built this fun Barbie box for the party!  The kids had a blast posing for pictures during the party and even after we got home.


Madeline requested “Fashion Barbie” so I wanted the party to have an elegant and stylish vibe.  With my husband’s meticulous taping skills, I painted the gold glitter chevron canvas for the background.  I made the tissue tassle garlands using this tutorial. We kept the food simple and kid friendly: pizza, pink chocolate popcorn, pink cotton candy, gold glitter marshmallows with pink striped straws, pink pretzels, cupcakes, and of course – a beautiful Barbie cake.

I am lucky enough to call Tammy at Meridienne Dessert Salonmy friend and she made this exquisite Barbie cake to match Madeline’s dress.  Flawless perfection does not even begin to describe it’s beauty.  She also made the chocolate raspberry cupcakes that people were still talking about the next day.  I heard the words wonderful, moist, and delicious on several occasions.

The dress was a custom design by Fairytale Jubilee.  Her work is another one of my obsessions.   The details were truly amazing.  I wish that she could make one in my size and I lived in a world where I could wear it everyday!


Barbie-Kids-TableI love the kids table.  It was perfect for a fashionista birthday Barbie princess!  I made placemats out of scrapbooking and crepe paper, jazzed up juice bottles with ribbon and glitter paper, and used favors and photo props to add interest to the table.  I put princess dresses on the back of each girls chair.  In my opinion, you can never have enough ruffles, tulle, or glitter!  It’s a good thing I have girls!


Barbie-SweetsOne of my favorite details of the party was the vintage Barbie cupcake toppers.  The crazy cute fashion cookies from With Sugar On Top were almost too pretty to eat!


Barbie-Party-GoodiesI purchased a paper doll graphic online and made custom paper doll magnets for the kids to take home.  They also received their choice of a fashion party hat or a princess dress.  We had dress favor boxes for the girls and prince suit favor boxes for the boys.  The girls also got their choice of make-up from Barbie’s swag bag.


Baribe-Little-GigglesWe had the party at Little Giggles and that is exactly what they did…giggled, smiled, and laughed!  It was hit.  They had a blast on the indoor playground and bounce house.  They also got to use their imagination in the play market and little house filled with creative toys.  They also have toy cars, train tables, and huge stuffed animals for kids to play with as well.  It’s very exciting to have this business model in NWA!  Sophisticated for the adults and fun for the kids!  Check it out.

Almond Joy Truffles

TrufflesStep it up a notch this year and make your own Valentine’s Day candy.  Try these Almond Joy Truffles.  They sound delicious. 

Thrice The Spice: Chocolate Pudding

thrice-puddingChocolate Pudding (made from Avocados!)
I just love a good dessert.  Lately as we’ve been trying to eat more “clean” I’ve been rather stumped about what kind of desserts to make.  And I LOVE making desserts!  I just enjoy something that doesn’t make me feel yucky afterwards, chocolate taste preferred!  I decided to use my $.19 avocados that I price-matched at Aldi’s and make this pudding.  I changed it up a bit from the original recipe to suit my tastes.  It is deliciously creamy and doesn’t taste like avocado!  It is very rich-chocolate tasting. I hope you’ll give it a try!
Chocolate Pudding
3 avocados
6 tablespoons natural, UNSWEETEND cocoa powder
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp. vanilla
1 TB sugar
Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth and creamy!  Chill in the refrigerator afterwards.
Happy Eating!

Thrice The Spice: Lemon Bars

Lemon-BarsBecca from Thrice The Spice here with a recipe that I’ve been more than thrilled with & think you’ll love too. It has a perfect taste for the coming spring and summer months, and my husband didn’t even realize that it was a ‘healthier’ dessert until after he’d eaten his whole serving.  Then he promptly returned for seconds after hearing about what was in them, ha! I saw the original recipe in Clean Eating Magazine, though I did make several adaptions, including adding an extra egg to the topping to make sure it was nice and thick & creamy. The recipe calls for organic spelt flour, which is higher in protein & more nutrient dense, as lower in gluten than traditional wheat flour, but you could use whole wheat flour if that’s all you had.   I hope you’ll try this one, it makes such a great tasting, refreshing dessert!

Lemon Bars

1 cup & 2 Tablespoons organic spelt flour, divided
4 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter
7 Tablespoons organic pure cane sugar
2 large organic lemons (you’ll be using the zest from both of them, so I’d go organic if at all possible)
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
tiny pinch sea salt

Preheat oven to 350. Spray an 8″ square baking dish with cooking spray. (I use a mister I fill with olive oil).

Either in a food processor, or with a pastry blender (like this) combine 1 cup spelt flour, butter, and 4 Tablespoons cane sugar until the butter is ‘cut’ into the flour, and it looks like cornmeal. Spoon this into your oiled baking dish, and firmly press into the bottom evenly. Bake approximately 12 minutes, or until edges begin to brown & fine cracks begin to appear on the surface.

Meanwhile, zest both lemons (yielding about 2 teaspoons) and juice them (yielding about 1/2 cup) into a large bowl. Add eggs, remaining 2 Tablespoons of spelt flour and 2 Tablespoons of cane sugar, baking powder, and salt. Whisk until well combined, and a nice golden yellow color, about 1 minute.

When crust is finished, remove from the oven and evenly pour lemon mixture over the top. Bake 12-14 minutes, or until top is set. Let cool completely before cutting into bars. Enjoy!!

Thrice The Spice: Fresh Strawberry Pie

DSC_0200-2Jana here with a classic recipe for a delicious spring and summer pie!  We are blessed to have a pick-your-own strawberry patch a few miles from our house.  We recently went and picked 6 quarts of fresh strawberries.  Although I plan to slice and freeze any that we are not able to eat within the week, I also wanted to try out some new recipes using the berries!  I have had strawberry pie many times, but never made it myself.  I found a recipe to start from, and made some changes according to the comments others had made.  This pie is quick, easy, and very tasty!

Fresh Strawberry Pie

1 9 inch pie crust, baked
1 quart fresh strawberries
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons corn starch

1. Cook the pie crust according to the package directions.

2. Remove the stems from the strawberries, and slice in half.

3. Set aside 3/4 of the berries.  Mash the remaining 1/4 of the berries.  In a medium-sized pot, add the mashed berries and sugar.

4. In a separate bowl, slowly add the corn starch to the water, whisking to mix well.  Pour this into the pot with the berries and sugar.

5. Turn the stove on to medium-high heat, stirring constantly.  When the mixture reaches boiling, let it boil for 2-3 minutes, stirring to make sure it doesn’t stick.

6. Place the 3/4 of berries into the bottom of the baked pie crust. Pour the cooked berry mixture on top, making sure it is spread evenly.  Let the pie chill in the refridgerator for at least an hour before serving.


Thrice The Spice: Homemade Refried Beans

BeansBecca from Thrice the Spice here with one of my family’s favorite recipes. Some recipes that I post here are new favorites that I’ve seen online, or made up, and I’ve made once or twice, while others are good old ‘standby’ recipes that I know I can count on for a good, healthy, quick meal that everyone will eat. These refried beans (affectionately referred to by my children as “smashed” beans) are definitely in the latter category. They literally are easier to throw into the slow cooker to get started cooking than it is to try and get the refried beans out of the cans they cram them into! The first time I made these, a couple of years ago now, my daughter noticed that they were a bit different than the typical canned ones I used to serve, and kept going on and on about how good they were, and said that we ought to go to the place that packs them into cans and teach them how to make REALLY good refried beans! Pretty good endorsement from a 5 year old! Even though they are super simple to make, I always make enough for more than one meal because they do freeze and reheat so well, and all you need are a few tortillas or some chips and a veggie to make a super quick meal. My kids love eating the beans just like this, in a bowl with cheese on top. Sometimes I serve them with my favorite guacamole and tortillas for a super economical and tasty meal, not to mention healthy! I order dry organic pinto beans in bulk for $1.28 a pound, and you can get ‘conventional’ (aka pesticides used, non-organic) for under a dollar; either way it’s still a bargain! My original inspiration was here. As a bonus, no soaking is required, as traditionally is with dried beans, so you can start this at breakfast and be eating them for dinner!

Refried Beans
{slow cooker, freezer friendly}

1 large or 2 small onions, outer layer removed, cut into half (your favorite onion, any kind is fine) OR 1/4 cup dehydrated onion pieces
4 cups pinto beans
2 Tablespoons minced garlic (or 1 Tablespoon dry granulated garlic)
2 teaspoons salt (I use Real Salt)
1 teaspoons black pepper
1 Tablespoon chili powder

Add all ingredients (onion, pinto beans, garlic, salt, black pepper, and chili powder) to a large slow cooker (at least 6 quart) with enough water to cover. Cook on high for about 8 hours. Just before serving, remove large chunks of onion, drain off excess water, and smash with a potato masher.

To freeze: Cool to room temperature and place into airtight container (I like to use quart freezer bags for this, they lay nice & flat in the freezer to store). Defrost in the fridge overnight, and heat in small saucepan over low heat (or microwave if that’s your preferred method). Serve as a bean dip, in tortillas as a burrito or quesadilla with cheese, in tacos, nachos, etc. Enjoy!

Thrice The Spice

Brussel-SproutsBecca from Thrice The Spice here with a recipe that I was inspired to try after watching ‘The Pioneer Woman’ on Food Network online make a similar dish. One of the first recipes I posted on this blog was what my children affectionately refer to as “turtle shells” aka roasted Brussels Sprouts, and they’re a family favorite. In fact, last time I bought a bag at Sam’s Club my 5 year old son was hugging it and saying how excited he was. While I wouldn’t say that the kids are picky eaters anyway, roasted Brussels sprouts really are THAT good, and are one of the few vegetables actually in season right now.

The addition of raspberry balsamic sauce and dried cranberries make an already yummy dish a bit fancier even, and can add a nice bit of color, making them a great addition to your Easter Dinner!  The sauce is super easy, and the way I modified the recipe takes the same amount of cooking time as the Brussels Sprouts, so it’s really not even any more difficult.  I hope you’ll give this recipe a try! My recipe listed below is per pound of Brussels Sprouts, so you can do some simple, quick math, and easily make as many Brussels Sprouts as you need to feed your family or guests. Enjoy!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Raspberry Balsamic and Cranberries

1 pound fresh Brussels Sprouts, cut into halves length ways (like ‘turtle shells’)
olive oil, preferably in a mister
salt & pepper

1/2 cup raspberry balsamic vinegar (plain balsamic would be fine, but I’d highly recommend trying the raspberry!)
1/4 cup sugar (I use organic Demerara Sugar)
1/2 cup dried cranberries (like craisins)

Preheat oven to 450.
Place cut Brussels Sprouts onto large baking pan, and either spray generously or drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Bake for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine rasberry balsamic vinegar and sugar in small saucepan. Heat to boiling, reduce heat, and let simmer and reduce until brussel sprouts are finished baking, stirring occasionally.
Remove brussel sprouts from oven and use a wide spatula to turn them over. Return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes, or until they are nicely roasted, beginning to have dark brown spots & edges, as seen above. The total time should be 20 minutes or less, but will depend on the size of your brussels sprouts, amount of moisture in them, and type of baking pan you’re using. Just keep an eye on them, you’ll know when they’re done. Then, add brussels sprouts to serving dish; drizzle with raspberry balsamic reduction and top with dried cranberries. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Thrice The Spice: Honey Roasted Turnips

turnipsHoney-Roasted Turnips
1 lb. turnips, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
3 TB honey
3 TB unsalted butter, melted
1/4 tsp. salt or sea salt

1.) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Preheat an ungreased cookie sheet for five minutes in the oven after it has reached 400 degrees.
2.) Spread turnips in hot pan and drizzle with 3 TB honey and melted butter. Sprinkle with salt.
3.) Bake uncovered for 35-40 minutes, stirring once halfway through the cooking time.
4.) If desired, drizzle more honey on turnips after roasting.

Thrice The Spice: Kale Fruit Salad

Kale-Fruit-SaladBecca from Thrice the Spice here with another recipe using kale, commonly regarded as the healthiest vegetable of them all! Kale Chips have been one of my family’s favorites for quite a while now, as well as several soups and smoothies using kale, but it was just recently that we tried it in salad form, and it was a hit! I know it sounds a bit strange to ‘massage’ your food before eating it, but don’t skip that step! It’s a great one for kids to help with, and really helps not only spread the marinade throughout, but also to tenderize the kale quite a bit. I actually enjoy the salad a bit more the second day, so feel free to make it ahead of time. My inspiration recipe was from Parents magazine. I hope you’ll give this recipe a try, you can’t beat the nutritional benefits, and it would make a great side dish for grilling this spring & summer! Enjoy!

Kale Fruit Salad

1 bunch of kale (about 8 oz. if you’re buying it pre-chopped)
1/4 cup chopped red onion
3 small or 2 large lemons (organic preferably, since you will be using the peel for zest also)
4 teaspoons dijon mustard
2 Tablespoons honey
1/3 cup olive oil
2 cans, 15 oz. each, mandarin oranges
1 pound strawberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Wash kale and cut into bite-sized pieces (about 1/2″), removing the tough center stalk. Dry, and place into large mixing bowl.

In a separate medium mixing bowl, combine red onion, zest from lemons (about 2 teaspoons), juice from lemons, dijon mustard, honey, and olive oil. Use a wire whisk to combine well. (If you or your children have a strong aversion to raw onions, you may do this step in the blender instead!)

Pour dressing over kale and use our hands to ‘massage’ the kale for a couple of minutes, until it is coated evenly in marinade, and kale has begun to wilt. (Remember, don’t skip this step, it tenderizes the kale!!)

Add drained mandarin oranges, strawberries cut into quarters, and walnuts and toss to combine. Enjoy!

Stroganoff Meatballs from Thrice The Spice

MeatballsBecca from Thrice The Spice here with a really tasty meal that my family loves served over noodles. The made-from-scratch white sauce is so rich and creamy, it’s a real treat. If you’ve never made a white sauce, or a cream sauce, don’t be intimidated, this is a great place to start. It’s really quite simple, and both the taste and nutrition compared to a canned “cream of” soup is markedly better. For some reason this meal seems to go with peas to me, so we usually have it with frozen peas and some sort of fruit for ‘dessert’. Don’t let the butter and half & half scare you off, remember that you’re making at least 30 good-sized servings with this dish! You could substitute milk for the half & half, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. The meal would be great for serving to company too!  The recipe is from Fix, Freeze, Feast. I hope you’ll try this recipe, I think it will become one of your family’s favorites too.

6 pounds lean ground beef
3 cups dry bread crumbs (whole wheat homemade preferred, I buy them if I don’t have any made though)
2/3 cup milk
4 large eggs
1 medium/large minced onion
2 Tablespoons minced garlic
1 Tablespoon salt
1 Tablespoon black pepper

1 cup (2 sticks) butter
24 ounces white mushrooms, sliced (wipe with a damp paper towel first to clean, I like to leave them in large slices)
1 cup flour (I use whole wheat)
8 cups water
4 cups (1 quart) half & half (or light cream)
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 Tablespoons beef bouillon (look for a brand without MSG, and with ingredient names you recognize!)
2 teaspoons black pepper

Preheat oven to 500.

In a large bowl (really large, the largest one you have) combine all meatball ingredients (beef, bread crumbs, milk, eggs, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper). Start stirring to combine. I usually start with a large wooden spoon, and then use my hands to make sure everything is thoroughly blended.

Form into meatballs approximately 1 – 1 1/2 inches in size, and place onto large rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 500 for 15 minutes, or until no longer pink inside (a meat thermometer inserted into the center should read 160). Allow meatballs to cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a large pot. Add sliced mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft (about 7 minutes).

Stir in flour. The mixture will be pasty and lumpy, don’t panic, it’s supposed to be at this point! Stir continuously for 1-2 minutes.

Gradually stir in water and half & half, stirring occasionally until sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. Add remaining ingredients (Worcestershire sauce, bouillon, and black pepper) and stir well to combine. Cool sauce to room temperature.

Divide meatballs & sauce evenly among freezer bags (I do 6 ziploc bags, each with about 20 meatballs).

When ready to use: Defrost in the refrigerator overnight. Heat meatballs and sauce on stovetop until heated through, stirring occasionally, or bake at 350 for about 30 minutes until heated through. Do not boil. We enjoy them served over noodles!

*Note – I have added cooked noodles to the freezer bag first, topping with the meatballs and then sauce, and then heated and served with success, adding 1/2 cup of milk since the noodles soak up more of the sauce while heating. If you do it this way, just be sure not to heat too high or long, or the noodles will dry out.

Thrice The Spice: Spinach And Mushroom Frittata

SpinachThrice The Spice

Jana here with one of my favorite recipes that I’ve made in a long time! I had some ricotta that I needed to use, and I wanted a recipe that was different from an Italian pasta dish. I went to All Recipes, where you can do a specific search. I told the website that I wanted to include ricotta in my recipe, and didn’t want pasta. (this search is great to use up ingredients you have on hand, especially since you can have it exclude things you don’t want!) Frittata recipes started showing up, and they looked delicious! I chose one, and made modifications to it. This is a definite 10 on our rating scale! (Does any one else rate their food?) My two kids who are old enough to eat the same thing we do (ages 2 and 4) don’t always get excited about cooked spinach in recipes. After the first bite of this frittata, they both started raving about how much they loved it!

Spinach & Mushroom Frittata

2 teaspoons olive oil
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 small onion, chopped (or 1 teaspoon minced onion)
1-2 teaspoons minced garlic
8-10 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and all liquid squeezed out
5 eggs
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (optional…the original recipe was meatless. I also think ham or chicken would be a good addition)
1 cup part skim ricotta (or cottage cheese)
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (or romano)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon rosemary
1/4 teaspoon thyme
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat the olive oil in a medium sized skillet, and add mushrooms, onion, garlic, and spinach. Saute for 5 minutes.

2. Combine the eggs, bacon, ricotta, parmesan, and spices. Add the sauteed mixture, and stir to combine everything.

3. Lightly grease a 9 inch pie pan, and pour mixture in. Cook for 30-35 minutes, or until it appears to be set up. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Thrice The Spice: Fish Tacos

Fish-TacosBecca from Thrice the Spice here with one of my favorite foods ever, Fish Tacos.  I think this is a great recipe for these nearly spring days when you’re wanting to eat something a big lighter & fresher tasting, but it’s still too cool and rainy to count on using the grill.  If you’ve never tried them, I’d encourage you to give them a try; they’re nothing like the spicy traditional Mexican tacos you’re used to eating; they’re a whole genre of their own, and my family loves them. I first started using a variation of this recipe in 2007 according to my scrawled notes on the paper I first printed the recipe out on. Unfortunately, I can’t find the original source, but I’ve changed it pretty drastically over the years anyway. I usually use ‘good’ fish sticks, ones that are the fillets and not minced fish, but feel free to use your favorite fish. Just add more a bit extra seasoning to the fish, as needed. These are so super yummy, and I’ve added a few shortcuts so you can get them on the table quickly.

Fish Tacos

1/4 cup green onions, chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup Greek Yogurt (I use Fage Total 0%)
1/4 cup mayonnaise (I use the olive oil kind)
1 Tablespoon lime juice (from the green bottle or fresh)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 pound fish sticks from whole fillets (or your favorite kind of white fish)
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder

8 corn tortillas
2 cups shredded cabbage (feel free to use the pre-chopped in the bagged salad aisle)

Gently mix all ingredients for sauce, and set aside until ready for use.

Spray a large piece of foil with olive oil; stack corn tortillas onto it, spraying each one with olive oil first so they don’t stick together. Wrap the foil around to seal, and place it in the oven while your fish is cooking.

Prepare fish as directed on package, adding seasonings before cooking.

To serve, top each corn tortilla with fish, then cabbage, and top with sauce. Enjoy!

Thrice The Spice: Cheesy Quinoa Bake

QuinoaJana, from Thrice The Spice, here with a super yummy quinoa recipe! If you haven’t tried quinoa yet, I really urge you to! I think it is so delicious, and you can’t beat the health benefits! It is a complete protein, and tastes good so many different ways. When I saw this recipe for quinoa that tasted similar to macaroni and cheese, I knew I had to try it! I will definitely be making this over and over! It was very filling, flavorful, and easy to make!

Cheesy Quinoa Bake

1 cup quinoa (uncooked)
2 cups chicken broth
4 ounces cream cheese (I used the kind with less fat)
1 cup grated Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a medium saucepan, combine the quinoa and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for approximately 15 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir in the rest of the ingredients, with the exception of some grated cheddar cheese to sprinkle on top.

3. Spread into a baking dish. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.


Thrice The Spice: Red Beans and Rice

red-beans-and-riceJana from Thrice The Spice here with a homemade version of Red Beans and Rice!  In the past, I have either made the boxed variety, or had this as a side dish at Popeye’s. I like their version, so I wanted to try to recreate my own! This didn’t taste exactly like that, but it was SO good!  I mixed the rice (I used brown) in with the bean mixture for the leftovers, and it was even better.  This recipe used dried beans. If you don’t remember to soak them overnight, you can do the quick soaking method listed on the back of the bag. This is what I ended up doing, and it worked well.  I found this recipe on All Recipes.

Red Beans and Rice

2 cups dried red beans
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon dried minced onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1 pound smoked sausage, smoked
1 cup diced ham
4 cups cooked rice

1. Soak the beans in water overnight.

2. Drain the beans, and add them to a slow cooker. Cover with water, and stir in the garlic, onion, salt, sugar, cayenne pepper, and cumin.  Add the diced ham, and cook on low heat for 4-5 hours.  Stir in the smoke sausage for the last 30 minutes.

3. Using a potato masher or a fork, mash the beans as much as you would like. I mashed about half, leaving some whole beans.

4. Stir in the rice, and serve!


Ever popular Oriental Coleslaw

Oriental Coleslaw

Oriental Coleslaw Recipe

I have been served this recipe for many years at different functions. I made it a few times too. But I will have to say that recently my family and I went to a friend’s house for a BBQ and she served this salad but added a secret ingredient! Endamme!! Yes and they were delish.  She said she bought them frozen and thaw then added to salad. It was a nice new addition, tasty, and healthy. I will be adding this to mine from now on too.


1/2 cup slivered almonds

2 tablespoons sunflower seeds

3 ounces package of Ramen noodles (chicken flavored)

16 ounces package of coleslaw mix

4 green onions – diced


1/2 cup canola oil

2 tablespoons white sugar

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 packet of seasoning from Ramen noodles



Preheat oven to 350ºF.

On a large baking sheet with edges, combine almonds, sunflower seeds, crushed Ramen noodles. Lightly spritz with vegetable oil spray. Roast for 10 minutes. Let cool.

In a large bowl, combine coleslaw and green onions. Add almond mixture and combine.

In a jar or small bowl, combine oil, sugar, vinegar, black pepper, soy sauce and seasoning packet from the ramen noodle mix. Whisk until thoroughly blended.

Just before serving, pour dressing over salad; toss to coat evenly. Serve immediately.

Roasted Red Potato Salad

red potato salad

It is the July 4th block party count down for me. I always start looking for great recipes to bring to our annual party.  This recipe I have been making for the last four years. Can anyone say “bacon makes everything taste yummy..”  If you are looking for a potato salad with a great taste then here it is!!


  • 2      pounds red potatoes, cut in 1-inch cubes
  • 1      medium onion, chopped
  • 4      hard-cooked eggs, sliced
  • 6      bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
  • 1      cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4      teaspoon pepper
  • Paprika


  1. Place the potatoes in a greased 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan. Bake, uncovered, at 400 degrees F for 25-30 minutes or until tender and golden brown, stirring occasionally. Cool for 15 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl; add onion, eggs, bacon, mayonnaise, salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Sprinkle with paprika if desired.

Thrice The Spice: Honey Red Wine Viniagrette

Starred-Photos3461Becca here with one of my very favorite recipes.  It can be hard to make a good salad in the middle of the winter, but this one tastes fresh and uses ingredients that you can easily get anytime.  This salad dressing that I’ve adapted for our family, is my all-time favorite of any kind, store-bought, restaurant, or homemade. It’s the perfect blend of sweet & tangy, and uses pantry staples, so it’s easy to mix up a batch anytime. I love it with organic spring mix as the base, blue cheese, and then a fruit & a nut. Here I’ve just used the pantry staples of craisins & roasted almonds, that are available even in Arkansas in the winter, but I love peaches & pecans, pears & walnuts, and apples with any kind of nut. The possibilities are endless, and this is a salad that even my non-salad-loving husband enjoys! A great refreshing quick meal. If blue cheese isn’t your favorite, you could use mozzarella instead, although I very highly recommend the blue cheese! You can store the dressing in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks, if it lasts that long before being eaten (it never does at my house)! It will separate & the olive oil will solidify some, so removing it 30 minutes or so before serving will ensure that it shakes and mixes together well again before serving.

Honey Red Wine Viniagrette Salad Dressing
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup honey (I use local honey)
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon salt (I use Real Salt)
1/2 cup olive oil

Combine all in a jar with a tight fitting lid (a canning jar works great!). Shake well to combine. Serve immediately, or refrigerate until ready to serve, removing to the counter 30 minutes before serving for best results.

Thrice The Spice: Slow-Cookier Sweet Potato & Lentil Soup

lentil-soupThrice The Spice

Hi everyone!  I’m excited to share another soup recipe with you today.  I know there’s a popular tagline of “Meatless Mondays” or other catchy titles floating around the web for meat-free recipes.  While I don’t cook meatless on certain days we do go without meat once or twice a week, as I’ve stated on the blog before.  Mostly for cost reasons, and it also benefits our health too! Plus, we really like the meatless meals we’ve had so far, furthering our interest in continuing!
Keep in mind that I always serve other things on the side, such as cheese and crackers, olives, baby carrots, or celery with peanut butter.

Slow-Cooker Sweet Potato and Lentil Soup
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 and 1/2 cup baby carrots, cut in half
3 stalks celery, diced
1 small white onion, diced
3/4 cups lentils (I used what was available at Wal-Mart)
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. curry powder
1 TB unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic

*Lemon juice
*Parsley or cilantro

1.) Combine the sweet potato, carrots, celery, onion, lentils, ginger, curry powder, and 1 teaspoon salt in a 4-6 quart slow cooker.  Add 6 cups water and stir, then cover and cook on low for around 8 hours. You don’t need to stir the soup during this time!

2.) After the 8 hours (or close to it), stir the soup quickly with a whisk to make a rough puree.

3.) Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic and cook about 1 minute.  Stir the mixture into the soup and add your desired amount of lemon juice, parsley, or cilantro.

*I made several modifications to a recipe I originally found in a Food Network magazine.  The original recipe called for cilantro, but I used parsley instead.  Also, I just squirted some lemon juice in the soup, stirred and then tasted.  The soup was delicious with some additional lemon juice added on top in each individual bowl before serving!

Thrice The Spice: Cannellini Beans Snack

Bean-SnackCannellini Beans: Snack!
Welcome to the wonderful world of beans. I have been learning more and more lately about how great beans are and how to prepare them in a tasty way! Recently I bought two cans of cannellini beans, which are white kidney beans.  I looked up a recipe for roasted cannellini beans and was so pleasantly surprised by this salty snack. If you’re like me and love a good chip, but don’t love the calories-you must try this! These roasted beans were the easiest, tastiest, and most crunchy snack I’ve tried yet that wasn’t junk food or processed. My dear husband even loved them!

Roasted Cannellini Beans:
1 can cannellini beans, drained (14.5 oz)
2-3 tsp olive oil
Seasonings of your choice (I sprinkled on garlic powder and Tony C’s, which is an all-purpose seasoning)
*Season according to taste! I probably put about 1 teaspoon garlic powder and 1-2 Tony C’s.

Toss all ingredients together and roast in 425 degree oven for 10 minutes. Then turn the temp. down to 400 degrees and leave for another 25-30 minutes.
*These came out quite crunchy and were still a bit crunchy the next day. They were so popular around here I’d make more than one can though! The best part? These beans have no fat, and are high in protein and fiber! Also-they are low calorie!

Thrice The Spice: Mini Mexican Pizzas

Mini-Mexica-PizzasThis week’s recipe is perfect for a snack, a party finger food, or even a main dish! My family ate them as a main dish at dinner, and they were very filling! I added sour cream and salsa for toppings, but the possibilities are endless! If you were serving these at a party, you could add guacamole, queso, black olives, etc! The recipe makes 12 mini mexican pizzas, using a mini muffin tin.

Mini Mexican Pizzas

3-4 tortillas (whole wheat or white)
1/2 pound ground turkey or beef, cooked
1/2 cup salsa or Rotel
2 teaspoons dry taco seasoning.
1/2 cup refried beans
1/2 cup shredded cheese (we used mexican blend)
any additional toppings you choose

1. Preheat oven to 425 degees. Prepare a 12 count mini muffin tin by greasing it with non-stick spray or butter.

2. Lay each tortilla out separately on a cutting board, and use a round object (cup, lid, etc) to cut 3-4 medium circles from each.

3. Press each tortilla circle into the bottom of each muffin cup.

4. In a small bowl, mix the ground meat, salsa, taco seasoning, and beans.

5. Scoop the mixture into each muffin tin, evenly. Sprinkle with shredded cheese.

6. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

7. Allow pizzas to cool for a few minutes, and remove from muffin tin with a knife or fork.

Top with desired toppings, and enjoy!

Tastfully Simple


Check this out! It’s a Tastefully Simple February EXCLUSIVE ~ Not one, but TWO Very Cherry Cheese Balls plus a snack size bag of our Limited Edition CHOCOLATE Twisty Grahams, all for less than $10! Make one into a cheese ball and prepare the other into a no-bake cheesecake.

Thrice The Spice: Hummus

DSC_0948This week’s recipe is an original hummus recipe! We really like hummus, as it’s a great healthy snack option. If you were to buy pre-made hummus at the grocery store, it would likely cost $3 – $4. The estimated cost for this recipe is 75 cents! What a great cost savings! There are many different hummus recipes available. After making several different kinds, I experimented with this recipe the other day. I like it better than any other I’d made before! A lot of hummus recipes have an ingredient called ‘tahini’. (a ground sesame seed paste that is similar to peanut butter) This recipe saves you from buying tahini, and even though it uses a small amount of peanut butter, you can not taste it at all in the flavoring. (it just helps with the texture)

McCraine Hummus
1 can garbanzo beans (chick peas), with liquid reserved
1/8 cup natural creamy peanut butter
3 cloves minced garlic
4 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 small pinch red pepper flakes (less than 1/8 teaspoon – more if you like a spicy flavor)
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 cup water
1/4 cup liquid from beans

1. Add all ingredients to blender or food processor, and blend well.

2. Refrigerate and serve as a dip for vegetables, crackers, or chips. You can also use hummus as a spread on a sandwich, such as turkey or chicken.

Do you know how far the flu virus can travel…or how to really prevent it?


Do you really know how to prevent colds/flu?

Handwashing greatly reduces your risk of viral infections like cold and flu.  If you can’t get to soap and water, a hand sanitizer may be used. Foam-based hand sanitizers that leave a film seem to work better than alcohol gel. But old-fashioned hand-washing is best, and regular soap is as good as antibacterial soap. Just remember to wash your hands correctly—at least 20 seconds, scrubbing all surfaces (don’t forget the backs of your hands), then drying thoroughly.

Get your Flu vaccine!  Flu season runs from October to May, so if you haven’t gotten your vaccine, it’s not too late. The vaccine takes 2-4 weeks to be effective but lasts for at least six months. If you get your vaccine now, you’ll be fully protected for the peak flu season in January or February.

Wipe down frequently touched surfaces such as keyboards, phones, etc. Try to stay at least 10 feet away (if possible) from those with cough, body aches, fever. That’s because the flu virus is spread via tiny respiratory droplets that can travel up to 6 feet or more from an infected person.  Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, especially if you haven’t had a chance to wash your hands.

Take care of yourself, get plenty of sleep, eat nutritious foods, stay hydrated, and get regular exercise.

Is there anything else I can do?

Here are a few things proven to help reduce the number of colds in children:

–Probiotics (lactobacillus acidophilus alone or combined with bifidobacterium ) daily for several months

–Vitamin C 1 gram daily for up to several weeks

–Zinc sulfate syrup (ages 1-10) one teaspoon daily up to several months

Skip The Dermotologist Office – Send A Photo Instead

doctor-with-phoneOnlineDermClinic is an Arkansas based technology company whose goal is to improve timely and affordable access to dermatologic expertise. The ODC smart phone app allows patients to send secure photo consults to their dermatologist. The website provides dermatologist created videos and articles for patient education. Download the app and see just how easy and convenient it really is!

Dr. Bazler’s Tips For A Better Nights Sleep (and ways you can sabatoge it)


Do you know how much sleep you really need? Or that lack of sleep causes weight gain? How about the proper temperature for optimal sleep? Find out here…

Sleep: who needs it? We all do. Those who sleep well have stronger immune systems, less inflammation, tend to weigh less, and have better memories, attention spans, and stamina.

Chronic lack of sleep leaves you prone to depression, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and weight gain.

But how much sleep is really enough? Though the exact amount varies somewhat person to person, adults need anywhere from 7-9 hours of sleep. Children and adolescents need more: 9-11 hours.

6 tips for a better night’s sleep:
1.  Make a sleep routine. Bedtime and most importantly wake-up time should be the same, even on the weekends and days off.
2.  Get comfy. Your mattress should be comfortable, and the room dark, cool and quiet. How cool? How about 65 degrees? Brr!
3.  Watch the food and drink. No alcohol two hours before bed. For caffeine it’s a lot longer: best to avoid caffeine after 4 pm or even earlier. Also avoid large meals before bedtime.
4.  Exercise! Daily exercise is beneficial to sleep, but remember it’s best to avoid exercise during the four hours before bedtime.
5.  Limit the naps. It’s best to avoid naps if possible. If you choose to nap during day, make it a power-nap: 10-30 minutes during early-mid afternoon.
6.  Set aside time to relax before bed. Create a bedtime ritual such as gentle stretching or reading with lights dimmed. Be careful not to make TV, computer, or your phone part of the bedtime ritual.

Some ways you might be sabotaging your sleep:

 How old is your mattress?
• Older mattresses lose their support and become less comfortable. Do you wake up with aches and pains? Consider getting a new mattress that’s comfortable to you.

What temp is your thermostat set on at night?
• Remember the optimal temperature for sleep is a chilly 65 degrees. A warm bedroom is not conducive to sleep.

Do you keep tablets, computers or phones plugged in somewhere in your bedroom?
•  Lose the electronics! Even the small amount of light emitted from these devices while charging can be disruptive to sleep. Not to mention vibrations/tones from your phone at night, especially if you’re cued to listen for them. Consider getting a real alarm clock so you don’t depend on your phone for an alarm in the morning.

Does your partner snore? Family pet sleep in the bed?
•  This can be obviously disruptive to sleep. Encourage your partner to see a doctor about snoring as it can be a sign of a more serious sleep disorder. Consider ear plugs, a fan, or other white noise machine. And make sure pets have a comfortable place to sleep outside the bed.

Ask Dr. Bazler: Common Myths About Colds And Flu

Dr.-BazlerDr. Amber C. Bazler, MD

How do you know if it’s a cold or something else? Common myths about colds and flu.

What exactly is a cold?
A cold is an umbrella term for any infection of the upper respiratory tract. The respiratory tract includes the sinuses, nose, throat, voicebox, and upper airway. With few exceptions, such as middle ear infections, or streptococcal pharyngitis (strep throat), infections of the upper respiratory tract are caused by viruses. And with 200 different virus types that can cause these symptoms, it’s easy to see why almost everyone around you seems to be sick. Or why we’re able to breeze through some colds while others have us knocked down for a while.  Your symptoms will depend on what part of the upper respiratory tract is affected.
Symptoms can include any of the following: sinus pressure, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, hoarseness (laryngitis), cough (wet or dry), fever, headache, fatigue, and body aches.

Cold or flu?
The flu is also considered an upper respiratory infection (cold). So it will have the same symptoms as above but fever tends to be higher and symptoms such as body aches, headache, and fatigue are more pronounced. Healthy adults and children will usually do fine without any special treatment, but those at increased risk for complications (older than 65, pregnant women, those with diabetes or asthma) may want to take tamiflu or similar antiviral medication.

Could it be something else?
Cough and fever can also be a sign of a lower respiratory infection such as pneumonia or bronchitis. Pneumonia can be caused by bacteria and is treated with antibiotics. Bronchitis in healthy children and adults is caused by viruses and in most cases is not treated with antibiotics. Your doctor can tell the difference by examining you and asking about your symptoms. See your doctor if you have persistent fever (longer than 3-4 days) or difficulty breathing.

Myth vs. Fact
Myth #1: You can catch a cold from going outside without a coat (or wet hair).
Fact:  Being cold doesn’t make you more likely to get a cold. You catch colds or flu by being exposed to the virus. This happens when an infected person coughs or sneezes around you, or you touch an object the germ is on (doorknob, pen, someone’s hand) and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth.

Myth #2: Antibiotics help
Fact: Colds and flu are caused by viruses. And viruses don’t respond to antibiotics, so they don’t help you get over the illness faster or make you less likely to spread it to others.  (Next time I’ll talk about what does work against viruses and helps you feel better faster).

Myth #3: If you get the flu shot too early, it won’t last all season
Fact: The flu vaccine (either flu shot or the nasal spray) is designed to last all season. So the best time to get the vaccine is as soon as it’s available! Even if that’s as early as August.

Myth #4: You’re more likely catch a cold on an airplane
Fact: Though we all think of the air being circulated on an airplane as full of viruses and bacteria, studies have shown recirculated air in the cabin led to no more colds than 100% fresh air. Cabins also use HEPA filters which are 99% efficient at removing viruses and bacteria from the air. You are; however, in close quarters with others who may be sick, and this can increase your risk of catching a cold. But no more so than being on a bus or any other public area around lots of people.

Myth #5:  You can get the flu from the flu shot
Fact: Flu shots contain an inactivated virus, so it’s not possible to get the flu from the flu shot. The nasal spray form of the vaccine (FluMist for example) contains a weakened live virus. Though you also cannot get flu illness from FluMist, you may be more likely to get stuffy or runny nose than with the flu shot.
It’s possible to get the flu before or shortly after the flu vaccine (before the vaccine has had time to be effective) and people tend to think it was the vaccine that caused their illness.

Free Virtual Skin Cancer Screening


There is a free vitual skin cancer screening May 1-May 6.  The Arkansas Dermatological Society and OnlineDermClinic are partnering up to hold this first-of -its-kind smartphone screening. This is free to any AR resident who has access to a smartphone.

Text Neck: There’s An App For That!

textneckCould you have “text neck”?

Do you suffer from neck pain, shoulder pain, upper back pain, or headaches? You may have text neck! Read on to find out if you or even your children suffer from this ever-growing phenomenon.

Does this look familiar?

If so, then you too may be at risk or already suffering from text neck.

Almost all of us use some form of electronic device: computer, phone, tablet, e-reader, or gaming device. Chances are, you’re reading this article on one right now. And more than likely, you’re looking down at the device, rather than reading it at eye level. Americans are now spending a great deal of time with their heads bent down, thanks to our love of high-tech toys.

All that time spent looking down with our heads pushed forward is leading to a huge increase in pain related complaints, including from our children. This type of head position is causing an overuse syndrome that leads to headaches, neck pain, shoulder and arm pain, and much more. And recently it has earned a new name: Text Neck (or Tech Neck).

This is not a new syndrome. In fact, doctors have known about it for years. The medical term is forward head posture, and it can result when anyone spends a great deal of time with their head pushed forward and down (so even good old-fashioned book-reading can be to blame). The human head weighs between 10 and 12 pounds, so leaning over constantly takes a toll. And if the poor posture continues, it can lead to changes in the spine that aren’t reversible and lead to chronic pain.

Text neck is a problem being seen more and more in teenagers (and even younger). Hours spent texting, gaming, or browsing on hand-held devices is leading to neck pain, headache, and loads of other problems.

What to do about it?

Proper posture is the key. You should focus on keeping your head and shoulders back (think about pulling your shoulder blades back and down), keeping your phone or device at eye level, maintaining good posture and avoid looking down.

Learning to hold your arms out and look straight ahead may seem awkward at first, but it can really save your neck and spine.

For kids, teach them to sit with their back against the wall, with knees drawn up so that they can rest their hands on their knees, thus keeping their gaming device or phone at eye level. The idea is to keep the device right in front of their face, instead of using it hunched over.

Other tips:

·         Neck extensions: Lie face down with arms at your side. Slowly look up at the ceiling, lifting your head and shoulders off the floor. Hold for four to 10 seconds and repeat.
·         Shoulder retraction: Move shoulder blades back and down, holding for a few seconds and repeat.
·         Abdominal hallowing: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Your arms should be flat on the floor with your palms up. Suck in your stomach as if you’re pulling your belly button down to your spine and hold for four to 10 seconds and repeat
·         Take frequent breaks every 15 minutes and hold your head back
·         Tilt your head to one side (ear to shoulder) then to the other side, back to neutral. Then turn to look all the way to the right, then left, back to neutral.  Then lean head back and back to neutral.
·          Use a tablet holder: There are many on the market, but all have the common goal of securing the tablet at a height that is designed to reduce your need to keep your head bent down and forward

What else? You guessed it…there’s an app for that. An app called Text Neck (available for Android, not yet for iPhones) indicates users when they are demonstrating proper posture. The application can also send reports to parents to help monitor their children’s posture while using their phones.

Local Baker: The Green Apron

One of the best things about working at Parents Playground NWA is meeting all of the talented entreprenuers in NWA.  I love pretty food so when I came across "The Green Apron" I got really excited.  I just happen to have 2 good friends planning circus parties right now so I thought this was perfect inspiration for them.  Check out The Green Apron’s album of work on Facebook and you can also follow their blog.



Love the mustache cookies on a stick!

This cake works for several party themes: rainbows, art, carnival….

Thrice The Spice: DIY Silverware Holders


Thrice The Spice: DIY Silverware Holders

Hi everyone!  Today’s idea is so simple and easy to make as creative as you’d like.  I’m hosting a brunch soon and want every detail of the table to look crafty and inviting.  So, I knew I wanted something special to place the silverware in but wasn’t sure what to make.

I searched through my craft room, determined to use what I already had on hand.  This is what I came up with!  These packets are so easy to make.  I simply laid my silverware out flat on a piece of brown kraft paper and cut a rectangle out around the silverware.  Then I folded the sides of the rectangle in together, and folded the bottom of the paper up too, to create a type of envelope.

I secured the packets with hot glue and them embellished the front of them with washi tape and paint samples.

These would look fantastic for a wedding, birthday, or even just a special night at home.

Lasting Impressions


Lasting Impressions Baby Bronzing helps families capture those precious moments that can slip away in the blink of an eye. Karla Haught, an Independent Patty Cakes Consultant, has been helping many families make memories in the River Valley and NWA areas.

Patty Cakes are 3 dimensional bronzings of a child’s hand and/or foot.  Various versions of Patty Cakes include traditional, paperweights, shadowboxes and wooden plaques.  Patty Cakes have become a tradition for many families over the years and are loved and cherished for many years to come.

PJ Party At The Crafty Cottage

mayPainting_PJ_PIZZAWhat an awesome idea…everyone wins at the Crafty Cottage PJ Pottery Party!  For less than the price of a babysitter, your kids get to have a pajama party complete with pottery, pizza, and a movie while you get a much needed date night.  Sweet!

Trust me, I know…a night out with the peace of mind that your children are safe and having fun is a gift in itself, but they’ve got more…

Have your child paint a memorable piece that you will enjoy for years to come, and don’t forget about Grandma.  You can never go wrong with a personalized work of art.  Make sure to go in before May 7th to ensure your piece is ready on time.

Rozie’s Pearls


Rozie’s Pearls is a local handmade vendor who specializes in beautiful bracelets for newborns.  They offer a wide selection of pearl and beaded bracelets on their Etsy shop.  Make sure to check them out before your next baby shower or christening.  

Imagine Art Studios: Mommy & Grandma Gifts, May Calendar, & Summer Camps

There really isn’t anything more precious to a mom or grandma than a custom piece of art from the children who hold their hearts.  If you can imagine it, your child can paint it at Imagine Art Studio.  They can paint a family portrait, flower pot, capture their sweet little hand print or foot print, etc….  Hurry in because Saturday is the last day to paint Mother’s Day gifts to have them ready by next weekend.  They are open today from 12-5, Friday from 10-6, and Saturday from 10-3.

While you are there, thank them for sponsoring the NWA Birthday Party Expo.  It is only because of their support, we can make it happen for you…and it’s going to be fun!

Can’t make it in before Mother’s Day…they have plenty to keep you busy in the month of May.  Have fun creating!!

Keep the kids busy this summer at Imagine Studio’s art camps.  Melanie has a fun activity for every child.  Don’t miss out.  Reserve your spot now before they fill up.

Two Chic: Going Out Of Business Sale


In case you haven’t heard the sad news, Two Chic Maternity is going out of business.  Everything in the store is now 75% off!  I was in there last weekend and stocked up on adorable baby outfits and accessories for showers I have coming up. They still have good stuff left so check it out before it’s gone!


Velata: Fun Fondue


A Velata fondue party, anyone?  Count me in!  Everything is better with chocolate and I am already dreaming up the ‘fondue bar’  that will be at my next party.  Fondue is fun for everyone.  I don’t know about you, but I love debating what my next sweet or salty chocolate combination will be as I shove a marshmallow drenched in warm creamy chocolate into my mouth.  It’s an amazing experience.  It’s not mindless eating.  It’s like chess – you plan your next move carefully.  Mmm….

I discovered this brilliant company because they have signed on to participate in the NWA Birthday Party Expo.  I could not be more excited to meet them and introduce them to all of you.  It’s the perfect answer to so many questions…

I’m looking for: a fun party idea, a unique date night, something fun to do with kids, the perfect gift?  —-  Ooh, Ooh pick me, I know the answer!


Marriage & Parenting Advice From the Professionals

Marriage is not easy, throw in kids and it gets even harder.  We are all trying to figure out how to be the best parent/spouse/friend we can be.  In life, we go through different seasons and sometimes we need help understanding and relating to each other.  It’s great to have a professionals guidance and perspective on tough situations we encounter.

We are extremely excited to announce that we are partnering with Fresh Roots Family Counseling to provide you advice and answers to your hard questions.

Fresh Roots provides the following services:

  • Marital/couples counseling
  • Pre-marital counseling
  • Depression
  • Anxiety and Panic attacks
  • Family counseling (intact and blended)
  • Divorce recovery
  • Trauma and Loss
  • Grief
  • Work and Career issues
  • Parenting skills
  • Co-Parent training (Parenting after divorce)
  • Stress Management
  • Addiction & Recovery
  • Play Therapy
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Step-family issues
  • Sexual abuse

Ask Dr. Mary


Article for NWA Playground:

Fresh Roots Counseling is located in Rogers, Arkansas. We are a group of seven counselors who care about families and who are trained to help families deal with the issues that they face daily. We have two Play Therapists on staff who love children and who use play and play things to aid little ones to process the challenges that they face. Whether the child has a behavior issue (such as hyperactivity or anxiety), an adjustment issue (such as going to school for the first time, or adjusting to a new home or new parent), or a relational issue (such as getting along with a parent, a friend or a sibling), our therapists are trained to help. When working with a child we consider the whole family and we never place blame because we believe that both parents and children are trying their best and sometimes they just need someone to encourage and guide.
Fresh Roots counselors also help with adult problems such as anxiety and depression, divorce recovery, premarital and marital issues, addiction issues, grief, unresolved family conflict, and self-esteem. We are licensed professional Counselors and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists.
In the future we will post an article bi-weekly on the Parents Playground NWA website dealing with issues common to families with children. We welcome any questions or comments.

Ask Mary: Help! I Need Balance In My Life Before I Get Burnt Out.


Balance and Burnout

It’s back to school time! The children are finally out the door for at least a few hours, or if you home school like I did, they are on a pretty regular schedule. Moms have time in the Fall. Or at least we think we do! It seems like the holidays and school activities quickly begin to wend their way into out seemingly empty calendars and all of a sudden we are running like crazy.

So, how do we recognize that we are getting burned out? And how do we maintain balance in our lives. There are so many demands on Moms and families. How do we prioritize and maintain some peace? Hard questions.

Stress, which is often caused by having too much to do and too little time, is destructive. Some signs that we are under stress are fatigue (in body and mind), lowered immunity (more frequent colds and flu), Headaches, sleep problems (the constant list that runs through our head), anxiety (excessive worry), and fuzzy thinking. Physically and emotionally stress takes its toll on all of us. And we live in a stress driven society. We , and our children, are pushed to achieve and push to the top.

The bulk of my client load for ages 8 through 14 are children with high anxiety. I believe that in many cases they are the product of a high stress school and home environment. Children pick up on our moods very easily. When we are stressed they will eventually become stressed.

So, how do we maintain balance and minimize our stressors?

First: Recognize that we are human and will never get it all done. Learn to live with the unfinished, and shift attention to relationships rather than projects. My husband and I have a saying that we use often . “People are more important than projects!” In any given stressful situation, if I turn my attention to the people involved, it is always more helpful.

Read more ...

About this site

A disease is a particular abnormal condition, a disorder of a structure or function, that affects part or all of an organism. The causal study of disease is called pathology. Disease is often construed as a medical condition associated with specific symptoms and signs. It may be caused by factors originally from an external source, such as infectious disease, or it may be caused by internal dysfunctions, such as autoimmune diseases. In humans, "disease" is often used more broadly to refer to any condition that causes pain, dysfunction, distress, social problems, or death to the person afflicted, or similar problems for those in contact with the person. In this broader sense, it sometimes includes injuries, disabilities, disorders, syndromes, infections, isolated symptoms, deviant behaviors, and atypical variations of structure and function, while in other contexts and for other purposes these may be considered distinguishable categories. Diseases usually affect people not only physically, but also emotionally, as contracting and living with a disease can alter one's perspective on life, and one's personality.

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