Archive of ‘Just for Mom’ category

Perfect Gift Basket Resources – on a budget!



A gift isn’t is extra special when it’s unique and from the heart…but it’s even better if it is also within your budget. And to accomplish that, all you have to do is make your loved ones a basket yourself! It’s heartfelt, it’s special, and if you do it right, it won’t cost you too much at all.

The special thing about the gift basket is that it is personalized to the person you are giving it to. All you have to do is listen, and you’ll make them the perfect present.

Where do you get the supplies? Surprisingly, thrift stores like Goodwill have a huge selection of baskets for about a dollar a piece that you can use. And a lot of people don’t know this, but thrift stores actually carry a ton of unused, new, originally-packaged items that either stores with a surplus donate, or that people never ever used and donated them because that is simply the easiest thing to do. Just remember to keep in mind your theme when picking items out (I got REALLY carried away last time I went and forgot the logistics of also having my three kids with me to bring back to the car – the Goodwill attendant was very nice to help me carry the awesome brand new items I scored for really cheap). As for the filler and basket bag or shrink wrap, any dollar store should have that for you. Don’t get conned into paying too much at a craft or party supply store!

You could even make your entire super special basket out of one simple trip to the dollar store! Got a candy junkie friend? Just get 15 different candy boxes, and you’re set! Got someone who needs to relax? Go to the bath and body section and pick out a bunch of relaxing scented soaps and body washes – file0001509359493 (2)they don’t need to be from the expensive boutique at the mall! Movie junkie? Just get them a double feature DVD with popcorn bowls and popcorn, and you’ve got yourself a fantastic movie night theme. The basket is special not because of the price, but because it was truly well-thought out and customized to your beloved receiver. What about a child who is a lover of crafts? Put crayons, construction paper, pipe cleaners, glitter, glue, scissors, and stickers in a basket, and you’ve probably even saved their mother’s life as well by keeping the craft lover busy and happy.

If you have a whole group in mind, obviously Costco is your best bet. You could do an Italian-themed array of baskets by buying their bulk pasta, pasta sauce, parmesan, dried salami, pizzelles, biscotti, olives, seasoned artichokes, you name it. Most of the stuff at Costco is individually wrapped in bulk anyway. You can make a cheese lover very happy by scouting out the cheese section there, or even at any local grocery store. Or, put together a basket full of individually-wrapped healthy snacks for the whole office. Don’t forget about the wine lovers! Partner their favorite bottle with some cheese and crackers, and they are going to have one good night! Organizing a benefit and need to put together baskets? Go to Costco, and you can get some of their high-quality name-brand stuff at a great price.

You see, companies that sell gift baskets as a product either surcharge for the packaging, or they are able to do it at a reasonable price because they can buy bulk. Well, like I already said, you can do that at Costco, or even call in a favor from a friend who maybe works in a business where they are able to get even better bulk pricing for products by a supplier. Either way, the key is to make it personal, and not spend too much on your awesome personalized gift basket if you don’t have to!

Shoot tons of birds with one Stone – Thriving in Business by Simply Living Your Life

This is simply what moms already do best – multitasking. Then take the ordinary mommy multitasking, and add one of those ACME rocket backpacks, and you’ve got the formula for what I’m talking about (No coyotes were injured during the writing of this article). And you can only learn the best by watching the best, and these sweet skills are completely derived from watching fellow super mommies.

Let me start with an example I thought of while watching horrible television (And incentive I give myself to make myself fold laundry). Have you ever wondered how the heck those real housewives get their hubbies to go to every social event with them with a big smile on their face (And not kicking and screaming and pouting)? It’s not simply because their wives are gorgeous, or rich, and it’s not just to show off for television. It’s because they’re thriving in business while simply living their life. They’re spending time with their wives, and making their wives happy, while networking to meet potential clients for their businesses. They may be plastic surgeons, real estate agents, actors, musicians, accountants, whatever: by simply going on date night with their wives, they may be attending that one event where they meet that one person that kicks their career into gear (I’m feeling inspired by one of the Steve Harris Webinars my brother Michel Sauret suggested that I watch).

And that’s what I try to do every single day with this blog, my day job at Bruster’s, my start-up business, Popinvasion, and play cafe’ business venture. Bust most importantly, as moms, we strive to succeed in all of that while spending as much quality time with our family and friends and kids as possible.

I’ll give you an example. Currently, I am passionate about promoting my brother, Michel Sauret. You’ll see by visiting his website that he is a successful author. Well, I thought to myself: how can I find time to do that without taking away time away from anything else. And that’s when it popped, that in conjunction with promoting Michel, I could also promote Bruster’s. Why not start contacting media, colleges, libraries, community centers and say “Hey, we’d love to host a free workshop and forum on the stigmas of self publishing. And I’ll tell you what: we’ll even bring dessert.” That way, I was able to spend my work hours promoting the Bruster’s brand, while promoting my brother’s book through organizing the book signings and workshops. And during those events, Bruster’s gets to recruit staff, advertise catering, give our free samples, and meet other successful people to help and learn from. Another example of that is a book signing we have coming up at Bruster’s for Michel. I need to organize events to bring crowds to our store anyway, so why not promote my brother at the same time.

Then that’s where the idea of Popinvasion developed. I say developed because it’s been a project of my husband’s for years, which has just been needing for the right niche. So it came that Popinvasion would not only be a media company that it originally was going to be, but why not also offer my public relations and marketing skills as services as well. So then now you see we offer media services for families and for businesses, too. An with that, I was able to start spending more quality time with my husband, promote my brother’s book (Amidst Traffic), and also promote Bruster’s. We’re able with Popinvasion take product images for Bruster’s, make videos for Bruster’s, and design ads and coupons for Bruster’s, while building our portfolio for others to see and hire us as well. And it works backwards for Popinvasion, too. While promoting my brother’s book by organizing events, I’m able to promote Popinvasion by simply putting on the ad pieces, that the events are produced by Popinvasion (And they get a direct sample of our work by simply viewing our flyer, or reading our Facebook posts, etc).

And then out comes my play cafe’ business venture that I’ve been working on for about a year. With Bruster’s, I am so blessed and so lucky to be able to bring my kids to work with me a few hours each day, and also to bring a lot of my work home. So obviously that’s connecting family time with work time. Well obviously I can’t possibly do that without caffeine. I love coffee, and most of all, I love play cafes. Well I know how to run a business; I know what kids love; And I know no matter what I do, I want and need to involve my kids. And thus, the project of opening a play cafe’ adjacent to Bruster’s. Bruster’s does well when it’s warm, play cafe’s do well when the weather is terrible outside. Put them next to each other, and bring foot traffic to both locations year-round. And obviously, it’s still a business plan that includes my kids and my husband, and my extended family (I’ve learned that employing family and working side by side with family is the best way to a successfull business. They have your best interest at heart, and you have theirs at heart. My twin brother Marco is absolutely vital in running Bruster’s, since he shares the same passion for its success. When we are short-staffed, other family members step in to help). And while I build all the graphic design and ads and business plans and budgets for the cafe’, I am also adding to the portfolio for Popinvasion, and learning more and more about business to make Bruster’s successfull as well.

But my favorite part about this, is the feet in the street local store marketing that has to be done for Bruster’s. Our captive audience seems to mostly be made up of families and the elderly. Well various times during the week, I schedule a time where my kids and I go to one fun place – whether it’s the library play space, a museum, the zoo, an indoor playground, I always, always, always bring coupons, flyers and samples that will please the staff and clientele, and usually the managers of owners of the establishment are more than happy to receive them. Even when I have to take the kids to the doctor’s office, or even at my own doctor’s office; I always bring them cake sample, coupons, and flyers about our free family events. And often times we even get treated with better customer service just for bringing those items because who doesn’t love a surprise snack or awesome coupon for some of the best ice cream around?

And heck many times, I invite friends and family to join me on these outings because then we get to spend quality time with them, have some fun play dates, and then they themselves often will want to help promote your projects. For example, my sister and I very often promote her place of work, Winchester Thurston, while promoting Bruster’s. And it was her initiative! Very often we sell ice cream at Winchester Thurston to raise funds for their events, or we host field trips for her school to educate her students on small businesses, and this summer, Winchester Thurston will be holding a summer camp at Bruster’s.

Now also take a look at this article that you are reading right now. During this article, I was able to update the blog, promote my brother, promote Popinvasion, and promote Bruster’s. And hopefully, I was able to give you some ideas of how you can connect things in your life to shoot multiple birds with one stone. Not just two birds, but multiple!

Also the key is obviously accepting help. Often as moms we’re hard on ourselves and try to do it all alone, and then we’re stressed, and tired, and let’s be honest very whiny. You gotta let go, and let God – first of all. And also, let the people that God brings into your lives, help you when they offer. Be watchful of the skills others obtain and see how you can help each other by bartering skills.

The thing that I do struggle with, though, I have to admit is housework. You want to know how I shoot THAT bird? I successfully multitask avoiding the chaos of my home by constantly keeping my family busy outside of the home with family outings,  play dates and work. ; – )


Choosing between a certified nurse midwife and an OB Gyno doctor’s office for the birth of your baby



Courtesy of Onewaystreetproduction.com

For many women, the choice might be a no-brainer. They either definitely want a natural birth with a midwife, or they definitely want to give birth with the assistance of pain medicine at a hospital. But being the indecisive person that I am, when it came to the birthing process of my third child, I teetered between the two until almost literally the last minute.

For baby number one, I was determined to do it all-natural, but having to be induced with a Foley Bulb and Pitocin, I couldn’t bear it without the epidural. For baby number two, I almost didn’t think about it at all and just went in and got the epidural right away. But for whatever reason, for baby number three, it became an internal dilemma – a constant back and forth about the pros and cons of a natural birth, and a pain-free birth.

That is what brought me to visiting the local midwife center. A midwife center is a center staffed with Certified Nurse Midwife. The local midwife center where I live takes on low-risk pregnancy patients. They also serve as a women’s health and wellness center. This midwife center near me specializes in natural births, and is determined for their patients to feel like unique individuals with customized treatments, rather than a number in a filing cabinet. Like any other midwife center, they are overseen by a local Obstetrician. They also have various rooms where women can deliver their babies without the discomfort of baby monitors, hospital beds, IV’s, contraction monitors, heart-rate monitors, blood pressure monitors, etc. They are also equipped with numerous different natural ways to manage pain and induce labor, and are not equipped with means to administer Pitocin or Epidurals, which are often the most popular means to speed up labor and manage labor pains in a hospital. For example, a midwife may have your use a breast pump to bring on stronger contractions, and put you in a warm jacuzzi to manage the pain.

Although I loved the soothing vibe and warmth of the midwife center and the midwives that I met, my husband and I weren’t comfortable with the fact that the midwife center is not equipped to handle emergencies. In the case of an emergency during the labor or delivery at a midwife center, you are required to pack up, and hoof it to the nearest sister hospital. But, I also wasn’t comfortable with the treatment I was receiving at my OB Gyno by certain caretakers, which was definitely the treatment of just another patient, in a 15-minute slot. Nevertheless, we decided to stick with the OB Gyno (Also because I did like the majority of the doctors and nurses there after all), and in terms of a plan for pain-medicine, we decided we’d figure it out as we got into the labor process.


Many times you do have the option of choosing to have midwife at a hospital, but for different reasons that just didn’t seem to be an option for me…that is until the blessed day came, and it was time for me to give birth to the new baby.

Once again, my water broke as a trickle without contractions, and I was sent to the hospital to speed up the process. Right away it became obvious that the doctor on call was overwhelmed. She’d had a crazy day with multiple c-sections, and she looked exhausted. As we waited and waited and waited for my contractions to come stronger and stronger, the doctor’s and nurse’s orders were for the me to be entirely bed-ridden. Luckily, just in the nick of time, my doctor’s replacement arrived, who happened to be a midwife! She happened to walk in during a very uncomfortable and awkward attempt to pee in a bed pan. Immediately, she urged me to get up, go to the bathroom move around, brush my hair, my teeth, and do anything else possible for me to feel comfortable.She allowed me to change out of the hospital gown and into my own clothes. She was then able to check and see certain things that hadn’t been clear beforehand, and was very encouraging and helpful with different ways to handle the pain, rather than just grin and bear it in the hospital bed. And when the pain and exhaustion of a 15-hour birthing process became too much, she didn’t give me a hard time for ultimately ending up with an epidural after all. When it came time to push, she took her time and took pride in making sure the process went smoothly. She even allowed my husband to deliver our baby once she safely and securely eased his head out.

In the end, I got the best of both worlds. Although in the end I didn’t end up with a natural birth after all, it was the perfect combination to have the support and patience of a midwife with the backup of a hospital in the case that any emergencies occurred. And I don’t think my husband will ever stop talking about being the one who delivered his new baby boy.

 


A Simple Stuffing Recipe for the Simple Cook


Thanksgiving is back again, and so is the best part of it: the stuffing. At least that’s my opinion! Which is why I have put myself in charge of making it for both my family and my husband’s family. And I intend to make a TON! The thing is, I’m not known for being the best cook.

So who best to consult for a simple stuffing recipe that I could actually manage, than the almighty Martha Stewart. Check out my version of her stuffing recipe, except I changed it around for the really really simple stuffing lovers. For you gluten-free and dairy-free lovers, check out the side note at the bottom of this post to convert this recipe into a gluten free recipe.

Ingredients

    1. Two loaves of Italian bread
    2. 1 Tablespoon of salt
    3. 1 Tablespoon of pepper
    4. 4 Tablespoons of butter
    5. 4 Stocks of celery, diced into small pieces
    6. 2 Garlic cloves
    7. 1 Medium yellow onion, minced
    8. 2 Large Eggs
    9. 14 Ounces of chicken stock



Directions

  1. Cut or break bread into bite-sized pieces. This can also be a fun activity for you to do with your kids. You’ll end up with a giant mess, but at least it’ll keep the mess in the kitchen.
  2. Then, spread them over a cookie sheet to dry for about 24 hours.
  3. Once the bread pieces are nearly completely dry, put them in the preheated 400 degree oven for about 5 minutes.
  4. In the meantime, take 4 tablespoons of butter and melt them in a large sauce pan.
  5. Then sautee 4 stocks of celery that I cut into small pieces with the minced garlic.
  6. Once the vegetables are softened, after about 5-7 minutes, thrpw in the breadcrumbs that were crisped to a golden brown, and the eggs.
  7. Mix it all together very well, as you add chicken stock.
  8. When the stuffing is nice and lightly moistened, put the stuffing in a buttered, square casserole dish, cover it with aluminum foil, and put it in the oven for ten minutes for just the perfect texture.
  9. Then, after you take it out of the oven, let it sit for about ten minutes, and then have at it!
  10. Check out the picture of the stuffing I made last year, taken with a camera phone

stuffing

Side Note!

If you are dealing with a Celiac family member (A person who has an intolerance to wheat and dairy products) such as myself, you can cut the recipe in half and substitute the regular bread for gluten-free bread (The most economic and delicious options can be found at Whole Foods). Also, substitute the butter for Smart Balance Omega buttery spread. And don’t forget to look at the ingredients in your chicken stock, as that can contain gluten as well.

Why do maternity photos? And how the heck do you do pregnancy shots?



When my brother,  One Way Street Production photographer approached me about doing a maternity shoot, I was excited, but a little clueless. We’d always done family photo shoots with him and had focused on the kids, but I had no idea what to expect or what to do about the fact that these photos were going to be centered around the pregnant belly.

“What’s the point?” Asked my husband. “We have a camera. We can take pictures of your belly.” But the thing was, I was eight months pregnant, and there still wasn’t a single photo of baby number 3 in the belly.

So I wanted to do this. And to be honest, I was excited about doing some unique maternity photos of how big the belly had gotten, and to be able to show the new little baby boy just how loved he was from the get-go, and how huge he was in my stomach!



Although I was still clueless, so of course I started Googling sample photos. And everybody was naked! Naked mommies, naked daddies, naked bellies, naked babies…not exactly the family dynamic I wanted to focus on. And I especially couldn’t picture my husband being in on such intimate photos being modeled out in front of my brother behind a camera.

 

So I decided to do something that was going to make everybody happy. I really wanted to focus on the relationship between baby boy’s older siblings and him, and maybe get some frames of my husband handling the belly (Which he loves to do day and night…even when I’m trying to sleep).

But as child photography should go, the kids who usually are all about the belly, would not pose for the camera, but we still got some pretty good shots with them and the baby in the belly! We were dealing with One Way Street Production after all.

One Way Street Production

One Way Street Production

One Way Street Production

One Way Street Production

But what do you do if you want to do shots, and you don’t have baby’s older siblings to help you out with that? You can pin down whatever hobby you and your partner may have, or include your pets, too! That’s what my brother did when he had a fellow photography friends, Michael Will Photography, document his own wife’s pregnant belly.  Check them out at http://michaelwillblog.com/2011/10/heather-michel-pittsburgh-maternity-photos/!


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