Wednesday, April 29, 2009

An early gift for me

Tracey Eve

It's Tracey Eve.

That's what we call the day before our birthdays. Actually, only Matty does because his joy for all things birthday-related is not limited to his own. He is sweet that way.

I've worked my tail off the last few days, and so this afternoon I'm going out to lunch with the girls. Tonight is dinner out at Vincenzo's because I love it and I'm gearing up for the pizza party in a week. (Have you sent in your toppings entry??) But other than that, my birthday wishes are simple and few.

1.) I really wish Amy would play soccer at her game tomorrow. Sitting on my lap in her cleats from the sidelines is no fun for either of us.

2.) Intern solves foot issue.

3.) Husband solves unrelated foot issue.

4.) The prolific and talented writing fairy completes my next assignment by deadline brilliantly.

5.) Ditto on arrival of grocery store fairy.

6.) A long, solid night's sleep.

7.) A good hair day.

8.) Lots of laughter, but not the awkward kind.

9.) Book report fairy, please join your pixie brethren.

10.) Sangrias have no calories.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Picnic with A Purpose

A home for runaway girls in Virginia Beach. An abused women’s shelter in Atlanta. A soup kitchen in Detroit. A resort for terminally ill children in Orlando.

A boy’s home in Safety Harbor.

These are just some of the small charitable organizations around the country that are benefiting from Hebrew National’s “Picnics with a Purpose” this summer.

Actually, our Picnic with a Purpose actually had a dual one. To kick off the summer with a family BBQ with our friends, but also to benefit Attention Home--a local group home for disabled boys and young men. For almost 30 years, they have taken in some of the victims of Florida’s worst cases of child abuse, giving them not just shelter, but a home.

My family and I have worked with Attention Home for almost ten years now. Once we heard their stories and met the boys, turning away wasn’t an option. We have helped organize toy drives every year since, but their need truly knows no season. On Sunday, we gathered with our friends for family food, fun and games, but instead of asking our guests to bring the potato salad, we asked them to bring a new summer toy instead. Nothing expensive--a pack of sidewalk chalk or a new playground ball. We also got a park bench that we decorated, and invited some of the boys over to enjoy the day with us--playing games and making crafts.

It wasn’t a benefit gala or a silent auction raising millions, but supporting a charity doesn’t have to be on that scale in order to be hugely effective. On the contrary, small local community events like a simple outdoor picnic can be the most meaningful way to support a charity that is important to you and your family. We’ve compiled a kit of all of our party instructions, games and recipes to host your own “Picnic with a Purpose” on, but you could certainly get creative with your own. Couple a Sunday BBQ with a summer toy drive or Memorial Day with a canned food drive. And the next Girl’s Night Out could be an opportunity to collect toiletries for your local homeless shelter.

The gestures don’t have to be large to make a huge impact, especially now.

We had a really wonderful day together enjoying the simplest of summer’s pleasures. 2009 will not be defined as what we give up, but rather what we give back.

Monday, April 27, 2009

No words, but pictures!

I am still searching for the right words to adequately describe this weekend. All of the ones that I thought would apply--wonderful, awesome, fun-filled--seem inadequate now. Our Hebrew National "Picnic with a Purpose" to benefit Attention Home was indeed all of those things, but so much more.

So while I look for more awe-inspiring appropriate superlatives, I'll give you pictures.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Who took the 25th hour I needed today?

Good Saturday morning to you.

The first batch of cupcakes are in the oven (it's only 8:15 for the love of God) and I'm sitting here waiting for the coffee and Internet distraction to kick in.

It's going to be a busy day with picnic preparations, but we also have 2 birthday parties and a dinner engagement as well. And I really, really, really need for the this cold to vanish is a puff of a vitamin C cloud.

And if one of the side effects of Sudafed could be curing a case of general grouchiness that has descended upon this house last night, that would be appreciated, too.


Friday, April 24, 2009

Suze Orman's Financial Advice for Mothers

I really hate to start out anything by saying, “These are really tough economic times we’re in.” That’s like saying Bruce Springsteen plays leads vocals for the E Street band. Duh. Now let’s just hear a rousing rendition of “Born in the USA” and move on please.

But because we are living in the times That Shall Not Be Named, there is a need to be extra vigilant with our personal finances. Enter Suze Orman.

In a recent interview sponsored by Avon, Suze talked specifically about women--mothers--taking control and empowering themselves financially. She says that as mothers, one of our many jobs is to serve as responsible examples financially to our children. “There is nothing wrong with making money,” and we must teach them to take care of themselves by first taking care of ourselves.

Is now the time to start your own business? Maybe, Suze says. “If it’s a service of needs versus wants,” it may be viable now. She advises to do your research, and make sure that you have the funds to not only start the company, but keep it going.

But don’t use up all of your savings as initial capital, she warns. Nor loans on 401(k)’s, home equity, or severance packages if you don’t already have an 8 month cushion of savings in the bank. Instead, she says to try to get a small business loan or a government subsidized funding if available.

The biggest startup mistakes women make are underestimating the ongoing costs of business and paying everyone but themselves. Be sure to determine if you need additional liability insurance as well.

What can you do now? After you get your eight month cushion, pay off the IRS and any outstanding student loans. These are two dangerous debts because the government can legally seize your assets at any time, and most students loans compound and can’t be absolved even through bankruptcy. Suze still thinks 529 are the best way to save for college.

She doesn’t see this unsteady market calming completely until 2015. She estimates that there will be some rebounds and slides in the interim because “the economy is like a football field, and the players are on financial steroids.” Once those steroids wear off or the players (like banks and corporations) become injured again, we’ll be right back where we started.

So she says to play “Risk” by planning for the worst while things are still okay. Don’t underestimate your power to control your spending and savings, and she’s offering some tools to get there.

In addition to a “Save Yourself” no fee, high return account which she offers on her website, she is also offering another powerful tool that all women (and men and families) should have. For the next 24 hours, you can download for free the legal documents you need for a “Will and Trust Kit” that is valid in all fifty states. She estimates it is about a $2500 value, but could be priceless toward protecting your family’s financial future. Just go to and click the "Will & Trust Kit" link in the blue bar on the left-hand side of the home page. Click the orange "Gift Code" button and enter "Moms Rule" into the gift code field. This gift code will be valid until 12:00PM EST on Saturday, April 25th.

But the most important lesson of the day?

“Remember, you are a powerful woman because of who you are rather than what you have.”

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Stick another case in my Bad Mommy file...

...because I actually bribed Amy to play her soccer game with this:

If you play in your game, you can have candy for dinner.

She must really hate soccer or particularly craved broccoli tonight.


Midweek Update:

Picnic: I have secured all of the craft materials, and might I say, I am pretty proud of my efforts. I’m not much by the way of non-edible crafts, but I’m going to have a house full of room Moms, and so the bar has been raised. The kids will be making summer scrapbook pages and decorating aprons.

As far as the menu, I’ve perfected my cupcake prototype. Here’s a sneak peak.

I swearz if cupcakes were an Olympic sport, I’d medal in it. Since Hebrew National is providing us with plenty of their 100% beef no artificial anything hot dogs and veggie dogs, I’m keeping my sides simple as well. A red, white and blue potato salad which has received rave reviews in the past, and a pasta salad made with orzo, pine nuts and a simple lemon olive oil vinaigrette. After some fruit skewers and lemonade, I think we should be good.

Sean’s foot: Still broken, but at least he has a walking cast as of this morning and has lost the walking aids. He is traveling today, so at least he won’t have to check his crutches through security.

Date night:
has officially changed to Wednesdays for the next 8 weeks as soccer for Matty and Amy now occupy our Tuesdays. So last night we did our errands until a dinner of Nyquil croquettes and Sudafed risotto because I’ve got a killer of a cold starting and I am screaming to the Vitamin C gods, “Please, please, please, not this week!”

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I'm chatting with Suze tomorrow

Do you have a money question for the gura of greenbacks, Suze Orman? I'll be asking her your questions tomorrow during an interview, so if you have a question you'd like answered, please leave a comment or divamail me!

A little Earth Day fun with the kiddos

Looking for a great way to help celebrate and educate Earth Day with your little ones? PBS’s Sid the Science Kid will air its Earth Day-themed episode, “The Dirt on Dirt,” on April 22.

We just recently discovered Sid in our house, and I have to tell you, my kids and I really like this program. It’s produced by The Jim Henson Company, so you know you are getting quality content in your kids’ entertainment. This episode in particular was particularly informative and entertaining.

So watch the show and learn what makes dirt so dirty and then go online with your kids for more Earth Day related activities on

You won’t have to look much farther for good clean fun.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Picnic with a Purpose

I refuse to define the summer of 2009 as what I give up, but rather what I give back.

That’s why I am honored to partner with Hebrew National to host a "Picnic with a Purpose," this Sunday.

Actually, it’s a picnic with dual purposes. One is to kick of the summer with good friends as we focus on quality time together--getting the kids together to play some games, make crafts, and of course feast on the quintessential quality summer classic--Hebrew National hot dogs.

But we’re also going to give back some summer love. You’ll remember from my annual pleas for Christmas toy donations, that Attention Home, a group home here in Pinellas County for disabled boys and young men, is a special place very near and dear to our family. We began working with Attention Home almost ten years ago when we first moved here after we heard about the wonderful work they do to care for some of the worst child abuse victims in the state.

Every Christmas since, we’ve helped to organize a toy drive for the boys, but their needs are truly year round. So as our guests gather this Sunday for some summer fun, each will be bringing a new summer toy to donate to the home. I’ve also invited Attention Home residents K. and B. to join us, and we will also be able to present them with a new park bench that they can use at their new lake property. They have been working every weekend for a couple of years to get the place ready for the big move.

I’ll be talking about the picnic plans all week, but the very best part of this whole project will be that all of the activities, recipes, and ideas (including hot dog cupcakes!) will be available to download from so you can host your own Picnic with a Purpose this summer. Choose a charity that means something to you and your family, and then share the joy with your friends.

Together, we can make this summer one about giving back instead of giving up.

Monday, April 20, 2009

I won a Pulitzer!*

*Well, not yet, exactly.

But the fine newspaper, The St. Petersburg Times, in which I regularly contribute non-Pulitzer writing did win 2 this year, so I figure perhaps that means that I can vicariously celebrate in a non-contractual, contributing freelancing sort of way.

Congratulations to the real writers out there.

Monday again

I dropped half of them at school. J is still sleeping off Easter vacation and Stevie is home sick after scoring the tying goal in his last hockey game of the season. I hope anyway--please stomach gods, let it be something he ate...

It feels as though we've been out of our routine for about six years. It's really been 2 weeks, but I'm fumbling around this morning trying to recall which uniform they are supposed to wear on Monday and why I didn't buy more watermelon for Amy's snack. But we did manage to squeeze in a whole lot of fun during this vacay, including 2 birthdays--Matty's 9th rounding out the week last night.

I don't know if there has ever been a child that loved birthdays more than this one. I hope he never grows out of that.

There's no easing into this week--we're hitting Monday running. At least I am because Sean can't run anywhere with his foot in a cast. He's traveling so I don't exactly know how that's going to work, but what can you do? I personally think he's secretly enjoying getting out of all of my ridiculous tasks I have set up for him during Week o' Crazy.

The Intern is going to be busy.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A funny thing happened on the way to the volleyball courts

Well, hello. Looking for a post-holiday wrap-up, are you? Well, okie dokie.
Settle back, this one might take a while.

When last we left my pre-vacation self, I was standing in line at Fresh Market waiting for my butterflied leg of lamb with the rest of central Florida. That Easter Eve, I managed to get the house cleaned, food prepared, (including homemade bread, mind you) get to the wine store and fill some baskets in time for our Easter feast. But these four looked so tasty that I could have gobbled them up.

After church on Sunday, we shared our meal with some great friends and most of the wine I purchased the day before. We played Kingers, and Danny somehow ended up winning even though I do not remember him coloring any of the eggs...I think this one might end up with an asterisk in the record books.

After vacuuming up the eggshells on Monday morning, we high-tailed it over to Orlando to spend some quality time with one of my all-time favorite hotels, the J.W. Marriott. Oh, how I love this hotel.

We spent Monday afternoon becoming reacquainted with its lazy river and poolside lounge chairs. Which ended up to be a good thing, because Tropical Storm Fun-Killer rolled in on Tuesday and we were quarantined to our high thread-count beds watching movies in between wandering the hotel. At one point, I was staring at the typhoon coming down and noticed it had even started to hail.

Not missing a beat, Amy exclaimed, "That means we're in hail??"

Yes, actually. Orlando in the rain can be described as exactly that.

Wednesday was much better. The sun appeared early and so did we. Camped out on the lazy river, we spent the day swimming, laughing, and playing.

We waded. We floated.

We racked up a mean tab from the waiter because who wants to leave this?

Amy declared that we should "stay here forever" as she gobbled up the chocolate on her pillow, and I really, really, really agreed.

And perhaps we would have if Sean hadn't got all jiggy on the volleyball court and broke two toes and three bones in his foot.

But it was an amazing shot, and that girl who he kicked going down was 10, not 8, thank you very much.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

It occurs to me that I left the blogosphere with nary a word of explanation.

It is our spring break so for the next few days, if it van be handled from an iPhone on a loungechair near the Tiki bar, I will attend to it. If not, I'll check back with you on Friday.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Happy Birthday Jessie!

Our little messo Jesso turned two today.

Two. I'll admit to having trouble grasping this one. It doesn't seem possible that this baby isn't much of a baby anymore. She's a little girl with likes (Yo Gabba Gabba) and dislikes (mornings). She wants to do everything by herself now--she has to climb up in her car seat by herself which literally adds 25 minutes to every outing. She needs to be with her brothers and sister if they aren't at school, and she's starting to shun her highchair.

Sigh. At least I can still hang on to her betwixt request she still makes several times a day. When she wants to be held because sometimes being big isn't all it's cracked up to be, she'll toddle up to me with arms outstretched and say, "Ma, I carry you."

You absolutely do, little one. You absolutely do.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Day One

Spring Break Day 1 Report:

We woke up after the sun came up.

What happened after that is basically irrelevant.

Let's repeat this schedule tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

At long last

The last bell has rung for a while at school, and now I have home field advantage.

Bring it on, Spring Break. I am sooooo ready.

Monday, April 06, 2009

I wish I would have gone just to see his face

Although it was only Matty and Sean who attended Wrestlemania this weekend, we all lived vicariously through them by seeing pictures, watching the $55 pay-per-view event here and choke-slamming each other at every opportunity.

They are scheduled to arrive back home any minute, but I think this was pretty much the highlight of his eight year existence.

And that's about as good as it gets.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Suburban Diva pizza?

I've got the coolest contest for April. If you are local, or even if you plan on visiting the Tampa/St. Pete area in your lifetime, then we want to give you dinner at Vincenzo's restaurant--my personal favorite.

Simply come up with the toppings for the "Suburban Diva" pizza, and you'll win 1 of 2 $50 gift certificates to one of the best restaurants in town.

We'll play like this: submit your topping ideas to me at and at the end of the month we'll have a big tasting party at Vincenzo's with the top topping recipes. Winners will receive the gift cards, a book, a great dinner and any other prizes I can come up with. (If you are not local, play along anyway and I'll make sure you win a tasty treat as well.)

Keep in mind that I am a pretty adventurous eater and love all things food related except broccoli. The winning pizza could end up on the menu, so start emailing those ideas! I will pass along more details on the big party as we move closer.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

No April Fool's

So I suppose I should post some miscellaneous miscellaney while I am waiting for the perfect ending to my current article to appear magically on the document whilst we chat. It seems as though I've left some few loose ends over the last few weeks that I should tie up or something. So in no particular order except the randomness of my thoughts:

~Sleepover/Campout went well. Half of them made it in the tent until about 2 a.m. when it started raining, then everyone stayed awake until 5 giggling. Except Sean who was pretty tired after sleeping on the lanaii waiting for the rain. I made cupcakes which officially qualifies me for anti-psychotic drugs and 42 cats.

~A couple of weeks ago I signed up for one of those fancy wind inspections that Florida insurance companies are offering. I waited until the last minute because frankly, I thought this was just another scam to bilk me for the $150 inspection, and then sign up for $25,000 worth of wind shutters in order to save .47 cents on our homeowners insurance. Um, hello, was I wrong. Our annual premium dropped by over $2000 dollars. Hello, bonus. That's some serious fat stacks we just saved.

~Matty and Sean are off to Houston this weekend for a little Wrestlemania action. You have never seen such a happy child. It is so sweet to see how excited a ladder match can make an 8 year old.

~We've all got a lot of things in the hopper right now. New projects, new opportunities and general newness. And it's really exciting. I don't know what will be there after the sorting process, but I think it will be an adventure. And that can't be bad.