Friday, September 28, 2012


If you knew me in real life, you would know that I have a major affinity for music, the music world, and everything connected to it. I have been writing about pop and rock music for 20-plus years.

Well, I have a new musical obsession. Meet Jake Shimabukuro. Ukelele player.

Yesterday I brought my Big Girl to her piano lesson in a local music shop. She was looking at the ukeleles and telling me how her school music teacher would be teaching her how to play one sometime this year in class. And how she wanted one of her very own.

Well, they are not that expensive, so I mentioned it to her music teacher. And her music teacher, who is a friend of mine, gave me advice on which kind to buy and showed me this video of Shimabukuro, who is considered the best of the best.

I saw that and was hooked. I think I've watched a dozen of his videos on YouTube. He is just amazing. Incredible. Who knew you could do this on a ukelele?

He is so awesome! I hope this music makes you smile today. That's what great music is supposed to do.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

My Cast Iron Skillet

I have been wanting a cast iron pan for some time now. I think I first got the bug reading Sugar Pie Farmhouse... And then re-reading Laura Ingalls Wilder... And remembering how my grandmother often cooked in cast iron...

And there I was, in Vermont, holding a pan in my hands in this upscale kitchen store and asking the resident chef on staff if I could use it on a flat glass cooktop. (Yes, I could!)

I didn't buy that particular pan, but kept my eyes out for a more affordable one. And so did my mom, who happened to find a Lodge pan in Marshall's one day and bought it for me.

And then I got afraid of it. I wasn't sure what to cook in it, how to clean it, if I would drop it on my glass cooktop, where to store it.

Eventualy, I started cooking little things in it: Frozen breakfast sausage. Potatoes. Bacon. I rinsed it off and wiped it down after I used it (although being soap fiend/germaphobe, this is still an adjustment). I am careful on my glass cooktop. And I store it in the stove.

I love cooking in my little pan -- it makes me feel like Ma Ingalls. And it's supposed to be healthier, believe it or not: Not only does it serve as a source of iron in your food, it also eliminates ingesting all the flaky junk from old non-stick pans.

Oh, and it could come in handy as a weapon:

(Heehee. We LOVE "Tangled" in this house. Even the twins love "Tangled.")

I've been trying read up on my cast iron frying pan, and thought I would share a few links with you:

I'm sure there are a million more links, but this is a good start. Consider your "skillet" an investment and preserving a bit of history!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

THINGS I LOVE: My "Fireplace"

Last year, I treated myself to my "fireplace." It's not really a fireplace, but a Duraflame heater that looks like a little stove. It has faux flames and two heat settings, and it was so inexpensive: about $80-$90 in total. I bought it from QVC (here's the link to my exact model -- it was cheaper when I bought it because it was a "today's special value").

I can't even express how much I love this little stove. I have always wanted a fireplace; our home does not have one. We have talked about getting a gas fireplace installed, but it is very expensive. I looked at electric fireplaces as well, but they can also be pricey for what you get and my husband wasn't impressed.

Then, I saw this little stove and its rather inexpensive price tag. I figured it was worth a shot, even if my husband wasn't that thrilled with electric flames. I loved the cranberry color of the metal. I loved the fact that I can move it around easily. And I loved the idea of getting my "flames" ambiance. I know some people may laugh at my faux fireplace, but I also get a few nice comments as well. As you can tell from the above picture, there is a fake log that glows in the front. There is a black screen behind it that has the "flames" on it. You can actually control the amount of flames.

The stove allows for just flames, or heat with flames. There are two levels of heat as well. Everything can be controlled by remote, or by buttons inside the doors. If the heat is on, the only part which is warm is the underneath element -- the rest of it is cool to the touch. And I must add that this little stove takes quite a beating from my toddler twins, and has held up very well to their abuse!

As I enter our second winter season with my fireplace, I am as pleased as ever. This week, I have turned the flames on nightly while I relax and watch TV after the kids have gone to bed. It is the perfect accompaniment with a cup of tea and an old movie! And on recent chilly mornings, I turn on the heat to warm up the living room for the kiddos. I haven't turned our heat on just yet, and I don't need to since this little model takes the chill off while the sun comes out.

Big Girl LOVES our little stove. She is the first to want to grab the remote and click on the flames. She wants one for her room. Yesterday, QVC had a new Duraflame stove for a Today's Special Value and Big Girl was begging for a cobalt blue stove for her room. I must admit that I was very tempted to just get a second one because I am hooked! The new one featured on QVC yesterday was very pretty: It's bigger than the one I have, has double doors, and instead of the "Duraflame" label on the front, it has a little etching detail. It's also more expensive -- $135 before shipping -- but it does have an electronic thermostat to monitor the heat level in a room and a timer.

If you need a space heater, or just would like ambiance, or would love both, consider checking out Durflame's portable stove heaters. They are definitely a good price for what you get. You don't have to clean up ashes, or pay a gas bill, or keep a "fireplace" in one spot. (I like to move furniture around sometimes!) The only improvement I would suggest to Duraflame is adding some crackling sound -- that would be just perfect!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Twins Tuesdays: A Little Humor

I'm a Pinterest fan, and I keep coming across those little ecards/memes or whatever you call them and they make me laugh! I thought I'd share the humor today for all the twin moms out there in blogland.

Let's start with my motto:

Two at the same time and same age! There's nothing like it, even if well-meaning people try to relate!

And this one:

And how I feel lately! Yesterday was a hard day:

I hope you got a good chuckle out of these. My twins were crazy on Monday -- must be a weekend hangover from all the fun they had! Sometimes we just need a laugh to take the edge off.

I'm looking for some books on discipline for toddlers -- if you have a recommendation, please leave it in the comments!

Monday, September 24, 2012

It's Fall, Y'all!

Fall arrived Saturday and I was more than ready for the seasonal change! The first day of fall is also my wedding anniversary, and Hubby and I celebrated a dozen years of married life on Saturday with a trip to a not-close mall and dinner at P.F. Changs. It was a change of pace for us, as we usually go to a small local Italian restaurant on our anniversary. This year, we decided to switch it up. Life for my husband is crazy right now; he has extra projects at work and has been/will be very busy. It was nice to at least get a moment together and a break.

Now back to fall, y'all! (Yes, I can't help myself from saying that. I so-very-much wish I was Southern at times...) During the day on Saturday, I felt the urge to get some mums and a new scarecrow for the garden. Last week, with major help from my mom, I was able to clean out my front gardens, cut back bushes and trees, and make my house look neater than it has been. I am very happy now that this chore is accomplished. It is so hard to work in the yard with the little ones; it's hard to keep on eye on them while wielding giant, sharp landscaping tools! But with my mom, we were able to keep them in check and both work and clean up, clean up!

My Saturday mum/scarecrow shopping trip brought me to Walmart, since I knew they would have both items -- mums and scarecrows. I didn't want to spend a ton on a scarecrow since the weather destroys it -- my hope is that I can get two years from a scarecrow. Big Girl picked out the scarecrow, and funny thing -- it looks like her! We decided on purplish-colored mums this year, and picked up one for each urn by our front door.

And speaking of the front door, I needed a little something to hang on it. We have a storm door on the front, so we can't have anything puffy, and it gets rather hot between the doors, so things often fall apart. I found the little wooden pumpkin wreath shown at the top of this post while browsing in the Walmart seasonal aisle, so I decided to splurge and get it. It's thing, it's not floral (which means if won't fall apart) and it's plain pumpkin-ness will last until Thanksgiving without looking like a leftover Halloween decoration.

I do have a window box that is currently empty, and I am unsure if I will put anything in it. It costs a lot of money to just put flowers in for a month or so. I wish there was something fake that wouldn't look fake to jazz it up.

Now that the gardens are cleaned out and the bushes and trees are trimmed, I'm happy pulling in my driveway again. It's amazing how snips of the garden shears and a few passes of the rake can just clean up the place!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Checking In

I've been busy, busy, without time to write some blog posts but I promise I have lots of things to write about in the near future!

Not sure if I'll be back posting this week, but I wanted to share that my article on loving Laura Ingalls Wilder on Yahoo! Voices was just featured on the front of  their History page. This piece is very special to me, so I'm thrilled that it's the first thing I've written that Yahoo! Voices felt compelled to "highlight" on their site.

(And I wondered why suddenly the hits to that article started spiking up?)

If you haven't read it yet, check it out!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tractor Mac

When Big Girl was a little girl, we found a series of books about a character named Tractor Mac. The author lives right in here in CT, which made it special to us. And Big Girl loved country things and farm things, so Tractor Mac was right up her alley. We ended up buying a bunch of the books, here and there, and when the author made an appearance out our local library, we made sure to meet the author, Billy Steers! He gave a great program where he talked about how he came up with the ideas for his books and demonstrated how he draws the characters. It was very interesting.

Now I have a little boy who loves all vehicles, so the Tractor Mac picture books are being pulled out here and there. I like that the books focus on solving a problem and helping others, two things which are always good to teach your little ones.

When we stopped at The Big E last weekend, we were so excited to see that Billy Steers had a booth in the Connecticut building! (In the photo at the top, that's Big Girl watching Mr. Steers sign books. She's still a Tractor Mac lover at 10 years old!)

We quickly picked up a book we didn't have -- one that was perfect for my twin toddlers since it is a board book:

We are so thrilled that Tractor Mac is now available in a toddler version! The book is called "Farm Days" and it has simple text and bright illustrations which are so sweet and charming. And Mr. Steers personalized it for my kids and signed it with a little pig illustration.

And Mr. Steers had the "real" Tractor Mac with him in the building:

If you have a little one in your life who loves tractors and farms, go find some Tractor Mac for your own storytimes. Our favorite was always the book "Harvest Time," which is appropriate this time of year since it involves a pumpkin picking festival.

You can even get an app for your iPhone or iPad now! Check out the web page at for more information on the books, as well as free printables.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

TWINS TUESDAYS: Thinking about Potty Training!

Potty training is looming on the horizon in our house. Buddy Twin is definitely ready; he acknowledges his bodily functions, has peed on the potty before a bath and other times, and frankly, if I get my butt in gear I think he could be trained.

Bunny Twin, on the other hand, wants NOTHING to do with the potty. Except wear Pull-Ups. She saw me try one on her brother and wanted one too.

So, we are ready to start the journey with my boy twin. We have potties, potty seats, a portable potty seat, Pull-Ups. We just need Mommy to start setting a timer to get the routine in check. And then, perhaps, Bunny Twin will see her brother and want to follow suit.

I've been doing some research here and there about potty training twins, and I thought I would share some links with you (and as a result, bookmark them for myself :)
OK, that's enough links for now. I'm sure I will report back in the future when we have accomplished something major. In the meantime, if you have twins to train, Godspeed! Keep me in your prayers.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Busy "Big" Weekend

I can't believe it's Monday again! We had a busy weekend. On Saturday I took to the kids to our town's fall festival.

We only spent the morning there, which was just enough. A little shopping, a little browsing, a little visiting with the locals and a little something to eat.

On Sunday, we headed north to The Big E! New Englanders know that The Big E is our biggest fair. It's in Massachusetts, and celebrates all the New England States. It's your typical large fair -- many vendors, agricultural and crafts exhibits, animals, amusements, rides, shows and, of course, lots of food!

When my husband mentioned that he wanted the family to go on Sunday, I did what I always do: I headed to the Internet for some quick research! I know they have special "days" where they honor organizations, states, etc. And it turned out that Sunday just so happened to be Girl Scout Day! All scouts in uniform would be admitted free of charge. So Big Girl got her vest, and I put on my GS leader pins, and they let both of us through the gates for free -- saving my family $25. (The twins were free because they are little; my husband was the only person who had to pay admission.)

At The Big E, they have special buildings dedicated to the New England states; they are all lined up in the photo below...

Of course, we had to stop in Vermont for some flatbread! It's one of our favorite things on our Vermont vacations so it was a treat to stop here and have some for lunch.

The Connecticut building had our favorite family toy:

Of course he's hold a famous Frankie's hot dog (at least I think he is)... We love our Frankie's here in CT!

Did you know that the American LEGO headquarters are in Enfield, Conn.? I wish they had a visitor's center or even a LEGO store. Believe it or not, there is not one LEGO shop in CT. Such a shame. I would shop there!

We walked around to try and see everything, but it's basically impossible. There is so much to see, and since it was a Sunday, it was very crowded. But we managed, and the twins -- despite waking up at 5:30 a.m. that morning! -- held out. Buddy Twin actually fell asleep in the stroller for a long time; Bunny Twin just zoned out and watched the action. My hubby and Big Girl tried a few rides; we looked at some displays and had some fair treats.

By mid-afternoon, we were ready to go home, but not after checking out this:

Well, let's just call Paula Deen and have a party! It's a butter sculpture! And in case you were wondering:

That's a lot of butter :)

I'm all faired out now. We've been to three fairs in two weeks. So today, it's back to the grind. I have mountains of laundry, work assignments to do and an overgrown yard that needs some sprucing up for fall. Over the weekend I took out some fall decorations; I am totally ready to go pumpkin and apple picking! Enjoy your day!

Friday, September 14, 2012

This MoM Can't Live Without: My K-Cup


I love my coffee. I look forward to my first cup of coffee every morning, and with the cooler months coming, I look forward to it even more. I probably drink too much of the caffeinated stuff; I try to stick to no more than three mugs of my favorite drink daily. We have a Keurig, and my three cups, plus my husband's occassional brewings, can cost a lot when you are using K-cups.

For a long time now I have been using My K-Cup, a reusuable coffee filter/K-cup that you can fill with any ground coffee. The accessory came with my first Keurig and I have found that it definitely saves me a lot of money. I am really the one person who uses it: My husband likes the convenience of the regular pre-packaged K-cups, which I also keep on hand for visitors. But if it's just me, home alone, I'm refilling My K-Cup! (Or if I make coffee for my husband, I use it too -- every little cent counts!)

My K-Cup is basically three pieces: a tiny resuable coffee filter where you put the ground coffee, a grey plastic cone which you put the filter in, and a round top that screws on and holds it all together. It obviously require more effort to use: You must put coffee in it, and therefore you must empty the used grounds out. But the few seconds that it takes to use this is a big money saver for a MoM on a budget like me. And clearly it must be better for the environment since you are not throwing out all the plastic cups every time you make coffee.

Before you use the K-Cup, you need to pop out the piece with the triangle in the photo below:

Now your brewer will look like this:

Fill up your K-cup filter:

Put the filter in the grey cylinder, add the top and set it in the hole in your brewer:

Now, just close the coffee maker and brew away:

See the coffee above? I love it! I'm sure many of you out there in Internet land like Pumpkin Spice flavored coffee too, otherwise it would not be hyped at every coffee shop from Starbucks to Dunkin Donuts. I was in Target the other day, and I had the box of Green Mountain Pumpkin Spice K-cups in my hand ($10.50-ish for 18 cups) when I spotted the bag of coffee for only $6-ish. The bag of coffee will last much longer than 18 K-cups.

I've been using my Pumpkin Spice coffee with this creamer:

It's the Aldi version of liquid coffee creamer like Coffeemate or International Delight. It's a giant bottle and it costs under $2. I add a little of this to my black coffee (no sugar) and it tastes as good as any Starbucks fancy coffee drink.

See? Even you are at home, on a major budget like me, you can still have a little treat.

To find other products which have saved my sanity
as a MoM (mom of multiples),
check out my MoM Reviews here!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Holiday Reminder!

Christmas is coming!

I know, it's hard to imagine, but it is. Christmas lights are up in my local Target already -- even though they are still putting out the Halloween stuff. I don't know about you, but I'm still trying to get adjusted to school. (Although I have a confession: I do have several Christmas gifts already purchased!)

Here's an article I wrote to kickstart your holiday shopping: Saving Money on Christmas Gifts. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

FREE FUN: Let's Go To The Mall!

The reason for our trip to the mall:
Big Girl wanted a Girl Scout uniform for her bear!
Last Monday was the last day of summer vacation. Hubby was busy and I had three kids to keep in check. Big Girl had been bugging me for weeks to go to Build-A-Bear, and I finally relented under one condition: She had to use her own money.

She agreed, and so off we went to a mall that isn't the closest one -- we need a bigger shopping mall with a Build-A-Bear. I knew it would be crazy on Labor Day, but I figured it was a way to get out of the house and get a change of scenery. We packed some snacks and planned to browse a little beyond the dreaded stuffed animal store.

As I was walking around the mall, I decided that even though the funds are tight, the mall is actually a great place to go for FREE! If you can get past the temptations of all the wares around you, it's actually not a bad place to spend an afternoon with little ones who will still sit in a stroller. They look at people, Mom gets some exercise walking around, and there are a few attractions for the tots.

So let's go to the mall!

(I just had to post this video. If you are "How I Met Your Mother" fans you will will hopefully get a laugh!)

OK, back to our purpose of this post -- free fun at malls! Most malls have things like fountains, or trees, or elevators; some have free play spaces; and during the holidays there are plenty of decorations to see. The sights and sounds can be stimulating to little ones. And although my twins are not elevator fans just yet, this mall had two clear glass elevators that could seem fun to the right tots.

There are plenty of kid-friendly stores to enjoy at certain malls. My favorite?

The Disney Store, of course! Who doesn't smile when they see giant Mickey? Although I rarely buy much in The Disney Store (we don't NEED much there), being in this shop makes me happy and reminds me of happy memories at Disney World. The music, the film clips playing, and all the characters bring joy to all ages. Some stores even have things like storytime on certain days and times, or offer spots where kids can color a Disney picture.

We also took time to enjoy the front part of The Rainforest Cafe -- ours has a little gift shop, and you can see a talking tree, enjoy the rainforest sounds, see an faux alligator in a shallow lagoon.

And then there are the fish aquariums at the cafe entrance:

The twins loved these and probably could have watched them for hours. It was free entertainment without paying a lunch tab. And if your mall has a food court, you can sit down with a lunch packed from home for a meal outside of your own home.

Malls often have events for children during the day, or storytimes, etc. Look up your local mall's website to see if there is anything going on that is free for your little ones.

Now that Big Girl is in school, we might take a trip or two to the mall to just get out of the house, enjoy the sights and hopefully come home without shopping bags!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

TWINS TUESDAYS: Twin Mom Support Groups

Twins can be cute, but any mom of multiples needs support!
Last Wednesday night I went to my first Mothers of Multiples meeting. It took me nearly 3 years to get there, but I'm glad I went.

I had wanted to join this group for some time, but so much keep me from getting around to it. Originally it was just a bad night, as my older daughter's PTO meetings were the same night of the month. And Wednesdays are hard, as my husband golfs in the warmer months and bowls in the cool months. And we have our religion instruction on Wednesdays too, so it's just a busy day in general.

But now my current PTO meets a different Wednesday. And the Mothers of Multiples local chapter for our region now meets in my town! It was time to get involved. I have been having many issues with the little ones lately, from their non-stop energy level, discipline, sibling fighting, etc., and I really needed to find out if it was me, or a "twin thing."

This was the first meeting of their new year, and there were several new MoMs there. The group usually tries  to have a speaker come, but this meeting did not, so we just chatted about our kids and issues we were having. It was wonderful! The stories many were sharing could have come out of my own mouth. For the first time in a long time, I truly felt that I was not a completely bad parent.

One MoM even said so many things that I felt -- that it's just hard to do anything with a second adult... That she dreads parties and family events... That she sometimes feels trapped in her house... It was everything I feel, and often everything that non-twin moms don't understand.

This particular MoM group has activities beyond their meetings: outings at play areas, holiday parties, and more. I don't know if I can fit everything in, but I'm at least glad to know that once a month I can be with other MoMs who might give me some guidance or at least lend an sympathetic ear.

And I am looking for forward to the speakers they have lined up for this year. The schedule includes a yoga instructor, a personal organizer, and a pediatrician to answer questions about development.

If you are looking for a local chapter, visit the National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs website. You can also find numerous resources on multiples at the site.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Fair Days

We went to our local country fair this weekend, and guess what? I won a ribbon! And so did Big Girl! And so did Hubby! Ribbons all around for everyone!

My husband has entered his photography for years, and won several ribbons. Big Girl has entered the youth photography contest for a few years now, and also has a few ribbons, including a Best of Show ribbon. This year, I decided to throw a few of my snapshots in the "fair" category, where you enter pictures of last year's fair. The entry fee is $8, which also gives you admission to the fair for the entire weekend. We always go anyway, so I figured it would just be fun to enter. I entered a few, but it was the shot below with all the clouds that landed a prize.

And guess what? In addition to my second-place red ribbon, I won $8! I thought that was kind of funny.

Hubby got several ribbons, including a first-place blue ribbon:

Big Girl got a second-place ribbon and a fourth-place one. Here she is, posing with her second place winner in the Still Life category:

We are proud of Big Girl for her ribbons, particularly since her fourth-place was in the black-and-white snapshots category, which is for all ages, including adults.

Hubby has a zillion ribbons now, and I am never sure how to display them. I have them in my office hanging on the side of a wire organizer. I should find some crafty way to display them, but I'm never sure. I'd like to do something on the wall next to the stairs going down to the basement and the family room. Another project to tackle!

We went to the fair early Saturday morning, which has now become our annual routine. It's much less crowded early in the morning, which is what I love. I am not a crowd person, and neither is my husband. At 8:45 a.m., it was fairly quiet and mostly empty. Rain was expected midday, so I'm sure that contributed to people staying away until the weather cleared.

We walked around and looked at all the displays and entries. Pretty flowers:

Gigantic pumpkins!

Ma Ingalls' stove! :)

And dozens and dozens of tractors:

Don't you just love fairs? To me, this fair always signals the start of fall. I love looking at all the agricultural displays, the canned goods, the pies, the produce. It's lovely to celebrate old-fashioned talents that are showcased at the fair when most people just seemed to be connected to technology all day, every day.

We didn't leave with any "souvenirs" -- so much of the fair shopping was disappointingly junky. (However, I was totally in love with these shirts. I mean really in love! They are so cute. May have to order some for Christmas!) Of course, I couldn't leave without a bag of my absolute favorite kind of kettle corn:

I think this is my favorite booth at the fair. It's so adorable I want to live in it. And I love, love, love their kettle corn! Now I am not really a kettle corn fan. I like my popcorn buttery and salty. But there is just something about this particular stand's corn -- it's not TOO sweet, just right. And it has that homemade popped in oil taste. It's delicious. And kind of pricey. But it's my favorite fair treat.

Big Girl had a pretzel:

And the rest of us tried out the fried dough:

The twins enjoyed their time at the fair too, particularly seeing all the animals. We saw cows and chickens, ducks and rabbits, goats and sheep and horses and turkeys and so many other creatures.

By noon, the rain came -- and a tornado watch! -- but we were back home and munching on kettle corn!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Happy Weekend

School started on Tuesday -- that's Big Girl on her first day of fifth grade! -- and it has been a crazy week. I'm still trying to adjust to how to manage the little ones and get back into the school routine. I was out two nights this week with meetings, so I'm a little "off" and don't have a post prepared for today. Usually I'm ahead -- now I'm caught up!

I hope you all have a lovely weekend. We are planning to go to a local country fair this weekend... Big Girl has a bedroom to tidy up from the busy week... I need to make several to-do lists and schedules mapped out... And plan the meals for the upcoming week.

And I need to figure out how to keep the two tiny siblings busy when their beloved sister is in school all day!

Have a great weekend!