Friday, December 30, 2011

Five on Friday - New Year Wishes

There are only two days left in 2011 and many people are talking about making New Year Resolutions.

Will you make them? Will you keep them? The top 5 resolutions are ... and so on.

Well, after making and breaking New Year Resolutions for more years than I care to count, I have decided to do something different this year.

I'm making New Year Wishes!

Wait, that's the same thing - just a different word, but it's not. A resolution is something you vow or promise to resolve/fix. A wish is something you hope for. You can't break a wish.

So for today's Five on Friday I am going to share some of my New Year Wishes ...

  1. Spend more time reading the books and magazines I have piled up. I really want to read them, but just never seem to find the time. I wish to find the time in 2012. 
  2. Organize the 6 years worth of photos on my computer so I can find what I'm looking for. I'm thinking I will start by year and then my month or occasion. Or maybe by occasion and within that months/years. I wish to spend less than an hour finding a photo in 2012.
  3. Stop second guessing myself. I spend way too much time over-thinking and analyzing things. Yet on the other hand, I'm known to make snap decisions that I later regret. See, there I go already. I wish to think things through in a timely manner, without worrying what others will say in 2012.
  4. Finish decorating my apartment. I have been here going on 4 years and still no window coverings, my bedroom isn't finished, and now it's time to change Dylan's room. I wish to have the decorating bug bite me in 2012.
  5. Learn more. Just because I'm not in school anymore doesn't mean I have to stop learning. I don't need a classroom or a textbook to learn when I have the internet and public library. Maybe I will check out a book on Greek Mythology or U.S. History. Maybe I will learn a new craft. I wish to broaden my knowledge of everything in 2012.
What do you wish for in 2012?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - LEGO Star Wars Millennium Falcon

The gift that brought him so much excitement Christmas morning is now complete.

1,254 pieces - 2 days of building - over 12 hours of hard work

He is so excited and proud of himself - and so am I. Not sure what makes me happier - watching him open the gift Christmas morning or seeing his face when he showed me the completed Millennium Falcon.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Mommy, Is Santa Claus Real?

As the holidays approached this year I had a heavy heart. Knowing this could very well be the last year that Dylan believes in Santa Claus and wanting to make it the best Christmas ever was something that I struggled with for the past few days. Financially, I just couldn't afford the iPad we both wanted - although it would have been the perfect gift to both of us. I knew that he would be happy with whatever he got Christmas morning, but as single parent I always worry if he is getting everything he needs.

So last night when Dylan asked, "Mommy, is Santa Claus real?" I almost told him the truth.

However, after a wonderful sermon at church about believing in the spirit of Christmas and the wonderful gift that God gave to us, I had a change of heart. As Dylan lay tossing and turning in bed - unable to fall asleep because he was so excited for Santa to come - I asked him if he wanted me to tell him a story.

I read him The Night Before Christmas (our annual tradition) and then told him about believing in Christmas magic. The magic of Santa. I told him that if he believed with all his heart in the magical spirit of Santa Claus, then Santa would come. I told him that Santa was whatever he believed him to be. I told him that Santa had been watching him all year long and was very proud of him - and that I knew for a fact he was on the nice list. All of this was true. I was not lying about anything.

Santa Claus is a magical belief that brings joy to children of all ages. The spirit of giving something that is so special, it only comes once a year. A gift that will bring happiness and love to whoever receives the gift.

We cannot see God, but we believe in God and that he gave us a gift, the gift of his only son.

Nobody has ever seen Santa Claus - and I doubt they ever will. But this doesn't mean that you can't believe in him. Believing in something gives you hope. Hope that tomorrow will be better than today.

Presents - yes, Santa Claus brings presents. But is it the presents that get us excited or is it the anticipation of finding out what's inside of them? Does it matter who gives the presents to you or how much they cost? No, what matters is that someone thought of you and decided to give you something special.

I don't think this was the story that Dylan had in mind, but I do believe he enjoyed it. I ended the story with asking him the same question he had asked me ... "Dylan, is Santa Claus real?"

"Yes Mom, if you believe."

This morning after opening presents, Dylan came over to me as I sat on the couch drinking my coffee and gave me the biggest hug. I think it was hug #6 (I only gave him two presents, the others were from Santa) and he said, "Thanks Mom, I believe in you."

Does this mean he knows who Santa is? I'm not sure and I didn't bother asking.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Five on Friday - Favorite Blog Posts

I spent last night looking through old pictures and reading some old blog posts. Never before is it more true that my thoughts, put into words, are telling a story. People say that whatever you put on the internet will be around for years to come. I sure hope so. I want my son to be able to read this blog years from now and remember everything we did together - and even read the posts that had nothing to do with visiting the zoo, but that were my way of sharing my thoughts and feelings.

So this week's Five on Friday is a listing of some of my favorite blog posts.

A New Chapter - my very first blog post, where it all began.

Wii Love Christmas Morning - the year Santa brought Dylan to tears.

He Doesn't Need "Mommy" Anymore - the day I cried

Another Milestone in Life - one of the proudest days in my life.

  Is the American Dream Still Alive? - a turning point in my life.

As much as I enjoy reading friends current postings, it's always fun to randomly select an old blog post and read it again - or maybe read it for the first time.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Gingerbread Inspirations

Most of us think of a gingerbread house as a simple house with four walls that is decorated with candy and frosting. Until recently, this is what I always aspired to create when making my gingerbread house.

But why stop at just ordinary - when you can make extraordinary!

Think outside the box and use sugar cubes to make an igloo, use candy corn to make a hauntingly cute house - Jack Skellington style, or maybe you like fairies - make Tink's house ... the possibilities are endless.

After visiting the Science of Gingerbread Exhibit at Discovery Science Center, I have been inspired to go beyond the ordinary. Who knows, maybe I will make a gingerbread house for Valentines Day and Easter next year. With enough practice and creativity, I may even attempt to make one like the penguins and igloo theme I saw at the exhibit next Christmas.

Forget the kits and start using your imagination. Anyone can build their own gingerbread house with a little help from the gingerbread men and these simple step-by-step instructions.

What will your next gingerbread house look like?

Wordless Wednesday - LEGO Santa

Even though Snow Days was a bit of a disappointment, this LEGO Santa was awesome!
The first real smile from Dylan with a Santa.

And the LEGO creations were pretty awesome too.

I only wish the entire park could have been decorated for the holidays instead of just the small area in Fun Town.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Gingerbread Houses are a Fun Holiday Tradition

The smell of ginger and molasses filling the kitchen is something I look forward to every year.  Ever since I was a child and read the story of Hansel and Gretel, I have wanted to make my own gingerbread house.

These edible houses are quite popular at classroom parties (usually made from graham crackers) and endless amounts of frosting. Many families will buy a kit from the local craft store and attempt making a gingerbread house of their own.

We used a kit one year because I was short on time, but it just wasn't the same. Last year, Dylan decided he wanted to make a big house, but just a flat one, so we we got creative.

This year, we went back to the family tradition of making the house from scratch - and it was so much fun. Friends are always asking me, "How did you do that?" It's not hard, really it's not. And you don't need to use a glue gun - royal icing works great!

So, with the help of the graphics department, I have created step-by-step instructions for you and your family to build your very own gingerbread house over at OC Moms. Check it out and let me know if you decide to make a gingerbread house of your own this year.

Be sure to take a look at the printable version of the instructions too.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Holiday Travel Done Right

Nothing says the holidays like traveling through the busy airports. Families fumbling through the security lines and hoping that no major meltdowns happen on the plane.

After a recent trip to visit family, I took the opportunity to make a list of all the situations I encountered and share my tips with the OC Moms.

Delayed flights, crying babies on the plane, and long security lines.

This year, make sure you are one step ahead with some useful mom tips for traveling with the kids.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Five on Friday - Ornaments

I use to have a beautiful Christmas tree decorated in snowflakes, glass balls in shades of blue and green, silver icicles, and seashells. That all changed when I became a mom 8 years ago. I still have the beautiful ornaments - packed away in a plastic bin - and someday I will hang them on the tree again.

Until that day, my tree will be decorated with childhood favorites from Disney to Star Wars and whatever else my son wants to hang on the tree. Don't worry, I still manage to sneak a few of my favorites on the tree too.

My families five favorite ornaments. (well, six, there was a tie)

Can you guess which ones are my favorite?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Take a ride to the North Pole at Irvine Park Railroad

Anyone can visit Santa at the mall - Why not visit the jolly man at the North Pole this year?

Irvine Park Railroad has been transformed into a winter wonderland. Start in Santa's Village with some cookie decorating and stories with Mrs. Claus - then board the train for a magical ride directly to the North Pole.

Dylan and I went last week and had so much fun. He loved decorating sugar cookies.

The train ride is my favorite part. The park is so beautiful at night with all the lights. You forget you are in a park and feel like you really are traveling to the North Pole.

And before you know it, Santa is welcoming you with open arms.

Make sure you bring your wish list with you ... but in all the excitement you forget ... don't worry because Santa knows everything. He even knew that Dylan wanted Legos for Christmas!

All the details, including pricing and hours can be found here.

While at the park, don't forget to visit the Orange County Zoo and wish the animals a Merry Christmas too! The zoo is decorated in holiday cheer and has this great picture spot by the waterfall at the entrance.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Shopping Plan of Attack

Christmas shopping can seem like a difficult task for many people, but for a single parent - sometimes impossible. Finding the time to go shopping without the child takes some serious planning. Strategy is key.

I knew what I needed to get. His list was simple.
  1. LEGO
  2. Star Wars LEGO
  3. Star Wars
How hard can that be? Well, considering he already has every Star Wars LEGO under $40 I had some planning and budgeting to do. Imagine my excitement when I saw this ad in Sunday's paper.

A plan of attack was needed - and fast. At this price the shelves will be empty in no time.

Beautiful You Mondays - Sugar Scrub

Beauty isn't just what you put on your face. Beauty is much more than that and it starts with how you feel inside, how your whole body feels. Nothing makes the skin quite as soft as a sugar scrub. So this week I decided to share an article I wrote for OC Moms about how to make your own sugar body scrub.

Not everyone can afford a day at the spa - and even the busiest of moms can whip up a batch of this in no time at all. Customize your sugar scrub anyway you like. Make some for yourself or give a few to your friends. (They make wonderful gifts)

Whether you choose to revive your body and senses in the morning or relax and unwind at night, a sugar body scrub is the perfect way to kick start your Beautiful You Monday.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Welcome to My World

Those of you know me, know that I'm 100% girl. Not a tomboy - never have been. I grew up playing with Barbie and was one of those girls who put my makeup on after leaving the house. I quickly became an expert at applying eyeliner on the bumpy bus ride to middle school. I grew into a woman who loved makeup so much that I became a licensed esthetician and branded my own line of cosmetics for heaven sake.

Then I gave birth to a little boy and my world forever changed. I was introduced to Matchbox cars, snakes and bugs, little shoes covered in mud, and the almighty building block. From the time Dylan was 16 months old he was playing with these large plastic things, Mega Blocks, that seemed to entertain him.

December 2004

It didn't take long until he was playing with LEGO Duplo and then it happened. I bought him a LEGO set when he was 4 years old and shortly after took him to LEGOLAND. I made my first exceedingly large purchase to the LEGO store when he was 6 years old. Not realizing what I had started - until I saw the excitement on my child's face - and our world has never been the same.

December 2009

Wooden blocks? Yeah, he played with them at preschool but never really asked for them at home. Rather than build something with the blocks, he would sort them by shape. He had Lincoln Logs and those seemed good - for a little while anyway. He made fences for his animals and would build the log cabin.

Nothing held his attention longer than 30 minutes - that is until LEGO came into his life. I don't even want to know how much I have spent on all the LEGO creations in his room, but how can I put a price on his happiness? (or the hours of silence I get when he is building)

I recently wrote an article for OC Moms about why building blocks are great gifts for kids and after doing some research I learned a lot about the different types of blocks that are available for children.

And over the years I have learned that the world of LEGO isn't so bad - I actually like building with them - but don't tell my son that. It might tarnish my reputation of being a girly-girl. I really hope that Santa brings him what he wants this year because I want to help build the Millennium Falcon!

2011 Christmas Wish List LEGO

What kind of building blocks do your kids play with?
Do they have a special LEGO set on their Christmas list?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Five on Friday - Starbucks Love

It's no secret that I am head over heels in love with Starbucks coffee.

Any time of day. Any time of year.

Today a friend posted on Twitter "Honestly don't know what I'd do without coffee" (of course I was drinking my morning Starbucks when I read this and without even thinking I replied "Me either. It's like oxygen - I need it to survive"

Now we know this isn't true, I can survive without coffee. I just choose not to. 

Today's Five on Friday is dedicated to coffee and why I love my Starbucks.

... and when nobody else would, Starbucks gave me a Gold Card. Now that's Love.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ah, to be a child at Christmas

As much as I love being a Mom at Christmas, there is that little part of me that still wishes I was a child for the month of December.

Writing a letter to Santa. The excitement and anticipation of sitting on Santa's lap. Baking holiday cookies with my Mom and sneaking a cookie from the tray. Opening the little doors on an advent calendar to see what the elves had left for me.

Hanging the stockings and trying so hard to fall asleep on Christmas Eve - but the excitement of Christmas morning would take over my body and keep me tossing and turning in my bed. Hearing "if you don't close your eyes and go to sleep Santa won't come" only made me want to stay awake and see him for myself.

The sheer joy on a child's face Christmas morning is something I wish I could bottle and save forever.

Sure, being a Mom I still get to participate in the excitement and anticipation - but it's not the same. Especially this year. Dylan is now 8 years old and I fear it will be his last year believing.
Will Christmas still be as much fun and allow me to relive my childhood next year if he knows my personal relationship with Santa?

Will he be mad at me for not being 100% truthful?

For now I will enjoy the magic and the time I have. Because I still believe. Do you?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Beautiful You Mondays - Eye Cream Myth

Welcome to the newest weekly post on my blog. I wanted to find a way to incorporate my background in skincare and cosmetics and decided to start a weekly post on Mondays. Named after the tag line from my previous company, Shel Cosmetics, Beautiful You Mondays will offer tips, product reviews and advice on how you can bring out the most beautiful you.

Let's talk about eye creams and the myths associated with them.

Myth - Eye creams will fight bags and wrinkles under your eyes.

I'm sorry to say, this is just not true. The bags that develop under your eyes are most likely caused by tissue damage and the breakdown of collagen deep under the layers of skin. No matter what an eye cream promises, the cream simply can't penetrate that far beneath the surface.

So what can eye creams do? Why should you even bother using an eye cream?

Although the formulation of an eye cream is not much different than a moisturizer, there are some benefits to using an eye cream. Eye creams can target specific areas around the eye and help diminish fine lines and wrinkles. This is done by targeting the eye area with ingredients that will give extra nourishment to the thin layers of skin that surround the eye.

Many eye creams have a silicone-like formulation and work best if absorbed into the skin rather than rubbed in as with a regular face moisturizer. When applying an eye cream, you should use your ring finger and dab around the eye area. Do not try to rub in the eye cream. Let the cream absorb into your skin - it usually takes only a few minutes. This also avoids unnecessary rubbing and tugging on the delicate skin around your eyes.

Do you use an eye cream? What is your favorite eye cream and why?

I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Step Back in Time with Heritage Hill Holidays

Dylan and I recently had the pleasure of attending a special holiday media preview at Heritage Hill Historical Park and we had such a great time. The entire park is lit up and decorated with holiday decor. Not just any decorations, but holiday decorations authentic to the 1800's. It gave us both the opportunity to see how our parents and grandparents lived and celebrated the holidays.

Heritage Hill Historical Park is tucked away behind a shopping center in Lake Forest, so if you don't know about you just might miss it ... and that would a terrible thing because a visit here is like a history lesson, only much more fun!

Ever wonder what it was like to go to school in the 1800's? You can visit the El Toro Grammar School (1890) and find out.

Dylan got a first hand look and even got to ring the school bell. Each blackboard has a different grade level written on it and and Dylan thought it was strange that all the desks were different sizes. I told him that all the kids were in the same classroom. He said, "what?"

One of my favorite buildings was St. George's Episcopal Mission (1891). Just walking up the steps gave me a feeling of peace and when I walked through the doors it was surreal.

Something about this building struck me and I felt so connected. I could have sat in here for hours looking at the details of the handcrafted pews and wooden floors. The tree is decorated with candles and handmade crocheted snowflakes.

The beauty resonates from every corner of the mission.

Next stop was the Serrano Adobe (circa 1863) - this is the original building as it was built here. (The other buildings were brought here to save them from destruction) The Saddleback Valley and El Toro was once a thriving Mexican Ranch area.

The Harvey Bennett Ranch House (1903) takes you through the early citrus farming days. This is where I really felt at home because so many of the decorations and furnishings reminded me of my grandparents.

Now, what would a media event be without some special treats? Taco Maria and The Tailgate Truck were there with delicious food to fill our tummies and then it was time for dessert ... Yum!

This was our first time tasting the delicious cupcakes and pushcakes from Meringue Bake Shop and Kristin did not disappoint. I will not lie, I had two cupcakes and a bite of Dylan's puchcake.

Come celebrate the holidays at Heritage Hill Historical Park with your family at one of their annual events.

30th Annual Victorian Christmas - Dec. 3 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Enjoy holiday traditions with musical performers, local craft vendors, and food for purchase. Families will be able to churn butter, make hand-dipped candles, and decorate cookies with Mrs. Claus.

Candlelight Tour - Dec. 10 & 11 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. 
Over 1,000 luminaries will light the buildings and pathways of the park. Holiday carolers, local musicians, storytellers, and other seasonal entertainment will make this an evening to remember. Santa will be here for the kids along with warm apple cider, hot cocoa, and homemade sweets.

The cost for each event is $4 for adults and $3 for kids (ages 3-12) Parking is free.

Heritage Hill Historical Park is located at 25151 Serrano Road, Lake Forest 92630
For more information visit or call 949-923-2230

Friday, December 2, 2011

Five on Friday - Christmas Wish List

It's December and in my house that means it's time to start making out that Christmas Wish List. The one time of year that you can ask for anything you want, no limitations, with the hopes that Jolly Old St. Nicholas will bring you what you asked for. The hopes that you have been good all year and stayed off the naught list fill your mind as you write out that letter to Santa.

As a single parent, I not only get to write my own Christmas Wish List, but I get to buy my own presents and wrap them too! How lucky am I?

You may be wondering why I do this. Well, Santa is big in my house and one year I didn't have any presents under the tree from Santa. Dylan was about 3 years old and asked me if I was on the naughty list. I couldn't have my child thinking I was bad, so every year after that I got presents under the tree and a stocking from Santa. This may be his last year "believing" ... so I'm writing my best Christmas Wish List ever. Of course, I won't be getting these things, but that's why it's called a wish list.

Dear Santa,

I have been a good girl all year long. I have made my bed and brushed my teeth every night. I took Dylan to LEGOLAND and the zoo. We even took three vacations this year - San Diego, Monterey, and we just got back from visiting my Dad in Lakeport. I work hard and don't ask for much throughout the year. Please look over my list and bring me something special.

  1. Blue iPad 2 with iOS 5 and iCloud
  2. Citizen Eco-Drive watch with mother of pearl face and diamonds
  3. Frye "Jane" Tall Leather Boots - size 7 please
  4. Anything you can fit in your sack from Sur la Table
  5. A house with a washer and dryer and a backyard so Dylan can have a dog

That's my Five on Friday (no limitations) Christmas Wish List - What's would you ask Santa for this year if you could have anything you wanted?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Great Weight Debate

One week into the holiday season and I already feel like I have gained 5 lbs. after the Thanksgiving leftovers. The older I get, the harder it is to work of the weight gain and I still have Christmas and New Years to get through.

I try to resist, really, I do. I read all the articles in magazines about healthy eating, you know the ones right next to the amazing recipe for a holiday dessert you just have to make. I scan the blog posts about eating healthier and how it's soooo easy to keep the weight off. Yeah, right ... what world do you live in and how fast is your metabolism?

It's not that I eat that bad either. French fries - sure, but only 1-2 times a month. That's not that much. I happen to love cooking, I'm Italian for heaven sake, we cook and we eat! And I bake - double whammy!

So I am left with what I like to call the great weight debate. It wasn't too long ago that I lost 30 lbs. and felt awesome. I kept the weight off for about a year and then it slowly crept back up on me. A few pounds here, another 5 lbs. there - and before I knew it, I had gained 20 lbs back.

Do I exercise? No, not really.
Would that make a difference? Probably.
Do I have the time? No, not really.
Could I make the time? Probably.

So, as I enter the month of December, I will not deprive myself of my Peppermint Lattes or the occasional Cranberry Bliss Bar. Seriously people - these only come around once a year and I love my Starbucks.

Instead, I will once and for all accept that this is the weight I should be. No matter how much dieting or changing of eating habits I do, I always come back to this weight. My son will love me regardless of the number on the scale. My family will do the same. As for my friends, my true friends, the will love me and accept me too. For those people that look down on me because I'm not a size 4 anymore ... well, I don't need people like that in my life and neither do you.

Do you struggle with the great weight debate? Why do we, as women, put such an emphasis on the size of our clothes and that damn number on the scale?