I Make My Own Salad Dressing... And You Can, Too

We're trying to cut out as much processed food as we can. We won't be able to cut out all processed foods, but each thing makes a difference. It's wonderful to know exactly what goes into your food. I stopped buying salad dressing a couple years ago, because I really prefer the taste of my own. And now that I've consistently made my own dressing, I just can't go back.

Here's how I do it:

The base: one part olive oil, 3 parts vinegar (we really like vinegar heavy dressings and I use different types of vinegar, depending on what else we're eating), salt, pepper, onion powder

Additions I might add (depending on what I'm pairing it with): Dijon mustard, herbs (dry or fresh), honey, garlic powder, horse radish, agave nectar, citrus, parmesan cheese

Throw it all together in a container, seal, and shake the heck out of it. Then toss with salad.

You won't go back to prepared salad dressings and it's very, very easy.


Bringing Some Green Into My February at The Chalet

This has been a really special winter, I know. The sun has been shining, the temps have been mild, and you can actually hear birds singing every now and then... But I'm still feeling that mid-winter longing for green plants and the opportunity to play with some dirt.

The Chalet (my amazing local gardening center) invited me to take part in a Terrarium Workshop earlier this month and I jumped on it. I had already planned to take the day off and it just sounded like a nice thing to do for myself (read: by myself). I love planting flowers in the summer. It's usually more of a hectic experience, but I realize it's some of the very little alone and quiet time that I get. Like planting my flowers, terrarium building was a nice, calm activity. And the terrarium I made is so cool. I love it. (You can see a little vlog that Kim made about building her terrarium at her Reluctant Renovator blog.)

I was worried that as a non-crafty person, I might zone out or get frustrated rather quickly, but I actually didn't. The women at The Chalet were informative and fun and kept the workshop moving while answering my many plant questions such as:

1. A former boss (who is quite possibly one of the most terrible people I have ever met) used to put the bottom of her Diet Pepsi in her plant everyday and would tell anyone who would listen that caffeine makes plants grow. Answer = NOT TRUE. Coffee grounds help with soil and composting, but for different reasons.

2. My grandmother used to pull the heads off of inpatients and place them in the ground next to the flower. She claimed they doubled the amount of flowers you could get. ANSWER = KIND OF. Pulling off the head helps keep the plant focused on growing. Plants are like ladies, they focus on getting all pretty, hit a peak, and then things go downhill (I kid, I kid...). And the head stuck in the dirt has the possibility of sprouting roots, which would create another flower.

3. I always thought you needed to get a little rough and pull apart the roots when removing a plant from its little plastic container and planting it. ANSWER = NO! All you have to do is "tickle" the roots a bit. Apparently one gardening guru with a lot of influence started this rumor, which horticulturists have been fighting ever since.

But, I have to share what I thought was the best takeaway (other than the terrarium)... Jennifer Brennan shared the best gardening advice I have ever received. Before you start gardening, slather your hands with lotion. Get it into all the creases, under your nails, work it into any space where dirt could worm in. The lotion forms a barrier for dirt and it keeps your hands easy to clean. It worked like a charm.

Looking for something to do this weekend or a good escape? Give the Terrarium Workshop on Feb 24th or 25th a try. It was really a nice way to spend a February day. And if you can't make it for the workshop, I highly recommend checking out all the other things The Chalet has to offer, like an amazing gift and home decor area, warm greenhouse area with gorgeous orchids, and a plant diagnostic center.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary Terrarium Workshop session, which included all of the items necessary to make the terrarium. I was under no obligation to post and all opinions are my own.

Good Deeds 2012: StreetWise

Good Deed: Purchased a copy of StreetWise.

You can't get far in the city without running into a StreetWise vendor. I buy them every now and then. I read the articles most of the time (they're actually pretty good), but I really buy them because I like the mission of StreetWise: To assist Chicago area men and women who are facing homelessness achieve personal stability by providing a combination of supportive social services and immediate access to gainful employment.

The other day I was walking out of our drug store and stopped at the StreetWise vendor. I looked at him, trying to place the face. And then I figured it out... He also works at our grocery store. I felt as if I was staring at proof that the StreetWise model works.

Learn more about StreetWise here. And consider purchasing one the next time you walk by a vendor...

What was your good deed this week? Link it up or leave a comment.

Note: I am in no way affiliated with StreetWise, nor was I compensated for this post. All information was found on their website: www.streetwise.org


When School Counselors and Teachers Dash Dreams? Prove Them Wrong.

The other day my pal Kim met her son's high school counselor, which reminded her of the wonderful relationship she had with her own high school counselor. She asked if anyone on the Motherboard wanted to blog about their counselor or a teacher who was an influence... I thought about it for a moment and thought about is some more.... And then I realized I had very few memories of my high school counselor, except for one thing: She told one of my close friends that she should give up on her hopes for college and do something else.

Now, let's get something straight, I agree that the university setting is not for everyone. There are people who struggle in college and should probably be learning a trade or following a passion elsewhere. There is nothing wrong with choosing another path. But, when you want to get a degree for all of the right reasons and are willing to work hard to get there, that advice isn't exactly encouraging.

My friend is not a good test taker. Her ACT scores and grades reflected that, but she was determined to get a college education. She spent a year at community college and focused hard on getting good grades that would enable her to transfer to a university. After a year she was accepted at a university and graduated with her BA in four years, in the area of study she had wanted to focus on since high school. She was the first of my group of friends to land a job out of college and continues to be very successful. She's survived rounds of acquisitions, restructuring, lay offs, and has literally been the last woman standing. She's amazing and she's a hard worker. And she was determined to prove that counselor wrong. I'm so damn proud of her.

When Matt was in third grade he couldn't memorize the months in order. Matt had just been diagnosed with dyslexia. It wasn't that he didn't try, he tried harder than anyone else in his class, but couldn't do it. His teacher told him that he wouldn't get out of the third grade if he didn't learn the months in order. She was mean. Mean enough for Matt to still talk about it today. And he didn't memorize the months in order until high school. Imagine that... He still went to a Big Ten university for his BA and has a graduate degree from film school.

I think of what I would do if a teacher or counselor squashed my kids' dreams... When do you realize that the teacher or counselor might be correct in recommending your child consider other options - even if that means their heart will be broken? And when do you realize when they're just being mean? I think you tell them that if they want something bad enough, they have to put their head down, work hard, and prove them wrong. I know two people who did.


My February Farmer's Market Finds

Seems like I've been talking a lot about food lately, right? Well, it's not just here... I've also blogged about it over at TheChicagoMoms.com. Check out my latest post about finding a Farmer's Market in Chicago in February and how excited it made me.

I hope you'll read it... You may also notice my very outdated bio, which doesn't even include mention of sweet little B. Time to edit my bio there and on all the other sites to which I contribute. But, honestly, I might as well wait until I have another kid by the time I get around to it. And, NO, that was not a hint.

Okay, enough rambling, check out my new TheChicagoMoms.com post!


My Dream Starts With Composting

For the From Left to Write Book Club we read Animal Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, which inspired this post.

When it comes to eating healthy, we make considerable attempts... I cook our meals from whole foods (the vast majority of which are organic). If I could make almost all of our food from scratch, I would happily. I'd love to bake our bread and pasta, can jams and tomato sauce and make our own salsas and pesto. But, right now, it just doesn't seem possible. We live in a small house with a tiny kitchen and I have about three square feet of usable counter top space. We also have an odd shaped yard with old, beautiful trees that don't allow for much direct sun.

I dream of a large kitchen with space to grow herbs in the windows all year and a large island I can use for rolling out scones ad chopping vegetables for soup. I imagine I would have room to use my Kitchenaid mixer (the wedding gift that's been sitting in the box for over six years) and maybe even have a faucet over the stove top. If I'm really laying it all out there, I'd like a cozy booth in the corner for the kids to hang out while I make dinner. Outside we'd have a sunny, large space where I could have a large vegetable garden and a couple of fruit trees and bushes. I'm not opposed to keeping a few chickens for fresh eggs. I'm not asking for much, right?

When we first bought our house more than three years ago (seriously, where does the time go?) I declared that we would start composting and I would have a vegetable garden. Our composting started during our first summer and we were diligent and determined to compost everything possible. We purchased a composter, tucked it next to the house, and started filling it every day. By the end of the summer Matt and my dad had built out my vegetable garden in the only usable space on our property.

Look at all those scraps ready to compost... Better in here, than in a garbage bag.
The following summer was crazy (remember I had shingles?) and we traveled a lot, so we settled for a few tomato plants that did alright, not spectacular. I figured it was because we planted them late and weren't always on top of watering with our busy travel schedule. We weren't great at plants, but we learned a lot about composting and started to enjoy it.

W getting excited about opening his pet worms to eat all that food.
By our third summer I was determined to grow my own vegetables. We checked the composter after its winter break, added some early spring additions, three containers of worms, and waited. A couple of weeks later we had the compost we were hoping for - It was awesome.

Look at that awesome compost! Took a year, but worth it.
We were ready to plant the garden and a week before Baby B was due, I bought seed packs and filled our garden with strawberries, green beans, shallots, zucchini, carrots, cucumber and three types of tomatoes. I had no plan. I over packed the hell out of my little garden (did I mention it's 6 feet by 3 feet?). But, I was nesting and starting to fear that it was now or never... So, I planted as quickly as I could. Matt wrapped wire around the garden to protect it from squirrels and we waited. And waited...

Strawberries are W's favorite food... This is the only one we grew.
Needless to say our garden did not thrive. All in all, I think we got 20 green beans, 1 cucumber, 10 tomatoes, 1 strawberry, and 1 half inch carrot out of the garden. Pitiful. I realized that my little garden spot only got partial sun and vegetables need SUN to grow. And the way I stuffed the garden full of seeds didn't help, I'm sure. We again had really good compost. But, no matter how great your compost, a garden needs sun.

One day I'll have my dream kitchen and garden. Until then I'll continue to compost and grow what little produce I can, because there is something real satisfying about making your own compost. Give it a try.

Could you live an entire year eating locally or the food from your garden? Barbara Kingsolver transplanted her family from the deserts of Arizona to the mountains of Virginia for their endeavor. Join From Left to Write on February 21 as we discuss Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. As a member of From Left to Write, I received a copy of the book. All opinions are my own.


Meal Planning: Week 8

I found an Indoor Farmer's Market this weekend and am totally obsessed. And now I have lots of organic, fresh produce to use this week. Yippeee!

Here we go:

Sunday: Pan-Roasted Salmon with Ginger-Soy Glaze, celery root puree, and peas
Monday: Mushroom Barley Soup (I'm actually making this for lunch, because we're going to The Bulls game and will have beer and popcorn for dinner)
Tuesday: Spinach salad with potatoes, tuna, hard-boiled eggs, and dijon mustard dressing
Wednesday: Crock Pot pork tenderloin and roasted peppers
Thursday: Roasted chicken and root vegetables
Friday: Whitefish with Tomato Basil Sauce with arugula salad and fresh Pasta Puttana white wine linguine

What are you making this week?


Five Really Stupid Things I Did Yesterday

First, let's get something straight: I am not pregnant. None of the things I am about to share with you are on account of baby brain.

Yesterday was one of those days... I felt like I just couldn't seem to pull it together or get my brain to kick in. I have a lot on my plate right now, so it's not a huge surprise. Consider this post a little reminder that we all have bad days, brain shutdowns, and no matter how hard you try, sometimes modern motherhood makes it hard to keep it all together.

Here are the five stupid things I did yesterday:

1. I showed up at W's preschool to pick him up a half hour early. I pulled into the lot and wondered where the rest of the cars were. It's only five minutes away, so I went home to get more work done.

2. When I picked up W, his teacher handed me his Valentine's Day package, stuffed with valentines from his classmates. I was bummed W had to miss his first Valentine's Day party since he was sick, but it would have been a disaster. We were instructed to bring valentines without names on them. I read the information and thought I was supposed to bring ONE valentine without a name on it. Poor W would have gone to school with the very cute homemade valentine instead of one for each of the kids in his class. Cannot begin to figure out how I almost f'ed up his first Valentine's Day party.

3. After last week's guilt-inducing preschool pick-up, I made a lunch date with one of this little pals at a place we go to often. It's very close to home, but you have to jump on the expressway. I started to drive and took the exit we normally would when heading to Wisconsin. Luckily, those "authorized vehicle" turn-arounds came in handy.

4. After leaving the place where we had lunch, I realized I had left W's jacket at the table. Luckily it was in the lost & found in the manager's office.

5. Last night we had dinner with Brittany and Scott (a hooray you've returned kinda dinner) and then headed to a movie. I had a Groupon for the tickets and when I went to pull out my phone... Um, GONE. Well, not GONE, still sitting on the table in the restaurant. Scott, ever then gentleman, ran back and retrieved it for me.

All in all, no major damage or losses. I got lucky. But, seriously... I couldn't catch a break yesterday. My brain is clearly overstuffed.


Meal MacGyver: Whitefish With Tomato Basil Sauce and Arugula Salad

I made a meal plan this week and placed an order with Artizone, but totally went off schedule and left work tonight without a plan. I was supposed to go to a food fun event and planned for a crock pot meal for Matt and W, but I skipped the event with the sick kiddos and skipped the crock pot, too. I started to think it would be a mac & cheese kind of night.

Instead I spent my train ride home from work considering what I could make for dinner. I envisioned my kitchen cabinets and actually threw together a really awesome meal.

First, I chopped an onion and sauteed it in a good amount of olive oil. I added a few cloves of finely chopped garlic and let it cook down for a while to get golden and soft. I added two cans of diced tomatoes, a really heavy pour of wine (1+ cup), salt & pepper, and let it cook on high, stirring often. I turned it down once it started to thicken and let it simmer.

While the tomatoes cooked, I rinsed and dried the whitefish, seasoned it with salt & pepper, and added to a hot pan with olive oil and a bit of butter and cooked for a few minutes on each side. Before flipping over the fish I squeezed half of a lemon over it.

I chopped up a handful of fresh basil and stirred into the tomato mixture, which was very thick by this time. I plated the whitefish and spooned the tomato sauce over it.

For the arugula salad, I simply tossed it with the juice of the other half of the lemon, olive oil, and salt. Then I drizzled over some 30-year aged balsamic vinegar, which makes everything heavenly.

This was an unexpected awesome meal. The highlight by far was the tomato sauce. I think I could use the sauce for anything... pizza, pasta, bruschetta...

Ever the critic, W and I discussed:

W: "Sometimes I don't like it when you make me try everything."

Me: "Do you not like this?"

W: "No, this is good."

Me: "What's your favorite part?"

W: "The tomatoes. It reminds me of salsa!"

And there you have it. Another reminder that forcing myself to take a moment to put together a homemade, fresh meal is worth the time -- Even when you're throwing something together and working without a recipe.

Have you pulled a Meal MacGyver lately?


Good Deeds 2012: The Glass Slipper Project

Good Deed: Donated dresses and accessories to The Glass Slipper Project.

This bridesmaid dress from my sister's wedding was beautiful, but hopefully will not fit me again.
I have been honored to stand up in weddings for my sisters and some of my closest friends. These weddings have been some of my favorite memories. I've had lots of fun fun, a great excuse to get my hair and makeup done, and wore some beautiful dresses.The thing is... most bridesmaid dresses are not necessarily re-wearable (though I have a few that actually are). So, what to do with these pretty dresses?

Donate them, of course! The Glass Slipper Project takes donated dresses and makes prom dreams come true for thousands of Chicagoland high school Juniors and Seniors who are unable to purchase their own prom attire. Doesn't that just make perfect sense?

I've donated a number dresses to this organization in the last five years. This week I dropped off a dress, a few pieces of jewelry, and a purse and left feeling hopeful that a girl would treasure them and feel like a lady. This dress in particular was from my sister's wedding over Labor Day weekend. It's a stunning dress, but I was a few months postpartum and it's not something I hope to fit into again... Plus, I don't have any plans in the near future to attend a black tie event. So, rather than holding onto it, I donated it.

According to their website, The Glass Slipper Project has helped more than 16,000 girls attend their proms. It is a 100% volunteer-driven organization that accepts donations of dresses, shoes, jewelry, makeup, and purses. Boutiques are available the last three weekends of April and volunteers help girls choose their prom attire. (A friend of mine actually volunteered last year and had great things to say about the experience.)

Donating is easy! You can ship the items or use one of their drop-off locations. If you live in the North Shore area, Zengler Cleaners accepts items and dry cleans the dresses for the organization. (Check drop-off location and mailing information here.)

What was your good deed this week? Link it up here or leave a comment!

Note: I am in no way affiliated with The Glass Slipper Project,nor was I compensated for this post. All information was found on their website: www.glassslipperproject.org.


No Name Premium Meats: Review and Give Away

I really try to make sure we all sit down and eat together each night. I know that W is only 3 and B is 8 months, but I feel like I'm building our family dinner foundation now. There are all sorts of studies about communication, brains, healthy eating habits, yada, yada, yada that encourage doing this.

But, that's not what makes me want to make family dinners a priority. We both grew up with family dinners and I think it's a very important part of family life. It allows us all to take some time together before bedtime. Our week nights are crazy hectic. I get home at 5:00. Matt doesn't get home until close to 6:30 and B goes to bed at 7:00, so dinner has to be ready when he gets home.

Meal planning and having some reliable standbys make dinner possible each week. I don't like to rely on pre-made, packaged meals. But, that being said, I'm not opposed to using packaged items during busy weeks. They're great for the base of a meal with fresh sides.

Last week was one of those weeks... We were gone over the weekend. I didn't have time to pull my meal plan together. And I had a few No Name Premium Meats in the freezer for this kind of week. So, No Name became our meal plan.

On Monday I made the Original No Name Steaks:

Photo courtesy of my sweet skills with my iPhone. I wish I had a better picture.
I don't cook red meat often. Once a month tops, so I'm not very confident when I do cook red meat. I seasoned this with salt and pepper and followed the exact directions to cook it on the stove top in a pan. And, I have to say, it was awesome. Really, really good. They were tender and there wasn't a trace of fat on them. W and I split one and I think we both would have had more.

True story: Matt and I went out for my birthday dinner two nights before I made this and Matt thought this steak was better than the $42 steak he had when we were out. True story.

I made a quick chopped salad to go with this and it was a very nice dinner. This was probably more labor intensive than I would usually do on a weeknight, though. On a stressful, hectic night I would opt to bake these in the oven.

On Tuesday night I made the No Name Superb & Simple Parmesan Crusted Chicken Breasts:

The color of this meal is freaking me out. It looked much prettier on the plate. Trust me.
I'm a fan of just about anything parmesan, let's just get that straight. As far as flavor and tenderness, these chicken breasts were great. I also followed the directions specifically and they baked perfectly.

These are not something that I would normally use, because we don't usually eat chicken with breading. But, this was good chicken and went really well with fresh handmade Mushroom Pasta from Pasta Puttana and peas.

This was the easiest meal by far.

On Wednesday I made No Name Original Salmon Fillets:

Don't judge based on this sad picture. Seriously, I need photo lessons.
I thought the salmon itself had good flavor and I liked the pop-up timer indicator (see them in the photo?). Of the three meals, I enjoyed the salmon the least. I found it to be over seasoned and needed more time to bake than the directions indicated. Matt really liked it, he is easy to please and loves salmon.

I served the salmon with sauteed cabbage, which was not my original plan, but I had an entire head of cabbage (which I purchased to stuff my bra to bring down the awful engorgement from laying off the nursing). I hate to see a whole cabbage go to waste, so I used it and it was pretty good.

My favorite product by far were the steaks. I would absolutely cook them again. I like to know what is going into our food and I felt these steaks really allowed me to control the flavor and seasoning level. It's only fair to mention that eating these products on a regular basis doesn't fit in my goal for 80% of our meals to be organic, but leaves room for them. All the meals were easy and pretty healthy and I would eat them again.

Did all this meat talk make you hungry? Well, here is your chance to try out some No Name Premium Meats yourself. I'm giving away a package that will give you coupons for free steaks and chicken, as well as an additional $5 off coupon. That's a $45 value!

Here's how to enter:

1. Comment on this post about which No Name Premium Meats product you'd like the most. Be sure to include an email address if it doesn't connect back to your blog. (You must comment to be entered!)

2. Follow Hannemaniacs. (Look on the right side bar to follow.) Click on the "Join this Site" button.

3. Like the Hannemaniacs Facebook page.

4. Follow Hannemaniacs on Twitter.

5. Mention this giveaway to your network on Facebook and/or Twitter (one entry for each) by pasting this in your status: Enter to win free No Name meats at www.hannemaniacs.com. 

Please let me know which of the above actions you have done to be counted.

So, that's SIX possible entries per person. Contest ends at 9 am Friday, February 24th. Enter now!

THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED! The winner was chosen by using RANDOM.ORG: Nicki from What Others Dream, Dreamers Do! I'll contact you for addresses and the meat will be sent to you!

Thanks for everyone for participating!
Disclosure: I received the above mentioned No Name Premium Meats complimentary for review, as well as a prize package to give away. All opinions are my own.


Meal Planning: Week 7 And I'm Still At It

Monday: Grilled cheese with baked sweet potato fries and salad
Tuesday: Valentine's Day... ordering in sushi or going the cheese and cracker and wine route
Wednesday: Baked salmon and arugula salad
Thursday: Pork tenderloin in the crock pot
Friday: Something with fresh whitefish

I have an Artizone delivery coming on Wednesday and was in love with the fish I ordered last time... Can you tell?

There you have it. What are you making this week?


My Kid Deserves A Lunch Date - And So Do I

Oh, the life of a full-time working mom. Each day has you questioning your situation, doesn't it?

As I have said many, many times: I love my job. I work with smart people for an excellent cause and my job allows me to do things I really enjoy for the most part. I work from home two days a week to avoid the two hours I spend commuting and am encouraged to have a good work/life balance by my boss. I have a pretty great situation for a working mom, right?

One of the bonuses of working from home a couple of days a week is that if I'm able to get away and need a little fresh air I get to pick W up from preschool during my lunch hour. I have loved this, because it allows me to know the other moms, his teachers, and the kids in his class. (Surprisingly, just because I'm a "Room Parent" doesn't mean I have much interaction with any of them.)

For the last couple of weeks some of W's little pals have been getting together after school on Fridays to have lunch. When they ask if I want to come along, I instantly think of all the things I have to get done and thank them for the offer before heading home. (This mentality, my friends, is also why I take a lunch about three times each month.)

Yesterday I noticed that three of the moms I enjoy were gathered together, wearing make up and real clothes... Which meant another lunch date. They asked and I declined. They nicely offered to take W with them, but I thought it would be best to bring him home since my nanny is the only person who can get him to nap. (See, they're nice!) I chatted with another mom and in that time W's little friend asked him if he was going to play at a specific food court/play area shaped like a tree house... Up until this time I've been able to keep him from hearing the conversations where I refuse to let him lunch with his pals.

"Mom, can we go to the tree house?" he asked doing his little "gonna-wet-my-pants" excitement dance.

Shit. Now I have to break his heart. And instead of answering I just pretended that I didn't hear him. (Reason #1 that I am MOM OF THE YEAR.)

"I really want to go play at that tree house." Pulling on my jacket.

"Mom? Mommy? Mommmmmmm!!!!"

"No, I'm sorry, we can't go. It's just not going to work today, buddy." I try not to mention "work" as a reason why we can't do things (even though it tends to be the #1 reason).

"WE CAN! Come on! Let's go!"

"Maybe next time, OK?" Pitiful, right? He looked sad. He knew that three of his favorite little buddies were off to have lunch together and he had the mean mom who said no.

"OK, tell you what, I'll stop and get you a California roll for lunch instead. Sound good?"

So, yup, I bribed him... with sushi. And it worked.

As we exited the school he started running back and forth along the front walkway, I could tell he was playful and had plenty more energy to work out, so I let him run for a few minutes until he fell... hard. He usually pops right back up after a call, but this time he just laid face down on the cold, wet pavement and cried while I walked over to him. Talk about adding injury to insult. I'm the worst mom.

I pulled out my go-to parenting method that I refer to as "if they cry, make them laugh" (trademark pending) and dazzled him with my offer to lick his tongue (whatever works, people).

I hurried to get his California roll, grabbing freshly baked cookies for the fall and once I got home I holed up in my office in the basement, nestled behind the furnace. And then I felt bad. I felt terrible.

That kid deserved to have lunch with his friends. And I deserved to have lunch with these cool moms who seem to want to be friends. I could have spared an hour, but my brain just doesn't work that way. I think about work first and how much I can get done in that time. So, next time, I will take them up on it. And I will probably put on some mascara and do something about the bags under my eyes, too.


Be Bold Go Red Girl’s Night Out: Ticket Giveaway

I don't get out much these days. Most moms don't, which is usually just fine with me. Between work and trying to get some quality time in with the boys, I'm usually pretty fried by the end of the night and just want to relax or cross things off my mounting to-do list. So, I've become a lot more picky about the things that I commit to these days.

But, we do live in an amazing city for people looking for a social life. With so many great things to do I often get a little bummed when I pass on some of the fun stuff going on. I mean, Top Chef is great and all, but isn't that what DVR is for? And, seriously, skipping a bedtime routine is just fine with me, especially when your 8 month old insists on screaming hysterically through each change of diaper or clothing. (But, that's a story for another day, right?)

With all this talk of going out, you're looking for a girls night, right? Me too. So, I've marked my calendar for the February 29th Girls Night Out Benefiting Go Red for Women. I went last year and can honestly tell you it was a really fun event, supports an important cause, and allows for some pampering.

Hosted by Sassy Moms in the City along with WBBM Newsradio, K-HITS and B96 the “Girls Night Out Benefiting Go Red for Women!"

Date: February 29th
Time: 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm
Place: Alhambra Place
Cost: $30 VIP ticket includes red carpet treatment, cocktails, hors d'oeuvres, swag bag filled with goodies, mini spa services, fashion show and more!

I would include a photo of me from last year looking all sassy and like I'm a mom out for a rocking good time. But, in reality, I was six months pregnant and didn't have anything red and didn't really feel like I needed to jump in front of the step and repeat for a photo. I wish I had, though. That would be a really fun photo to have on hand. And compare to this year's photo where I will for sure have a cocktail (or three) in my hand.

Anyway, this event is really, really fun. Even better, it supports a great cause that is close to our heart as I mentioned last year. All ticket sale proceeds will benefit the American Heart Association's "Go Red for Women" campaign. Guests are encouraged to bring gently used handbags and professional shoes to help support Dress for Success. (Donations with be accepted from 6 pm – 10 pm at Alhambra Palace.)  

Fun + Philanthropy = WIN. And now you can WIN tickets!

Here's how you can enter my giveaway for TWO TICKETS:

1. Comment on this post about why you need a fun night out. Be sure to include an email address if it doesn't connect back to your blog. (You must comment to be entered!)

2. Follow Hannemaniacs. (Look on the right side bar to follow.) Click on the "Join this Site" button.

3. Like the Hannemaniacs Facebook page.

4. Follow Hannemaniacs on Twitter.

5. Mention this giveaway to your network on Facebook and/or Twitter (one entry for each) by pasting this in your status: Enter to win 2 tickets to an awesome Girls Night Out out at www.hannemaniacs.com. 

Please let me know which of the above actions you have done to be counted.

So, that's SIX possible entries per person. Contest ends at 9 am Friday, February 17th. Enter now!

UPDATE: THIS GIVE AWAY IS NOW CLOSED. The winner (chosen by Random.org) is Tricia @Nightowlmama.

Thanks for participating! 

Disclaimer: Join Sassy Moms in the City along with WBBM Newsradio, K-HITS and B96 for a fun and charitable event on Wednesday, February 29th, at the “Girls Night Out Benefiting Go Red for Women” at Alhambra Palace Restaurant. I was selected to host this giveaway by Sassy Moms in the City and provided two complimentary tickets to the event. All opinions are my own.


Good Deeds 2012 Week 6: Donated Blood

Good Deed: Donated blood.

I try to donate blood every other month (when I'm not pregnant). It's pretty easy since I can walk to a LifeSource donation center a few blocks from my office during lunch. And, honestly, I rarely leave the office during the day, so it's a good excuse to get out.

I'm not a huge fan of needles or being poked, but it passes quickly and you get to sit in a comfy chair, watch some bad tv, and read. And then you get pretzels and cookies and fun stickers to make people think you're a good person. Woo hoo!

Blood donation is a way you can LITERALLY help save a life. Here are a couple of things to consider (according to LifeSource):
  • Children being treated for cancer, premature infants and children having heart surgery need blood and platelets from donors of all types. 
  • Severe burn victims can need about 20 units of platelets during their treatment.
  • Every three seconds someone needs blood
  • 4.5 million Americans would die each year without life saving blood transfusions

When is the last time you donated blood?
  • 60% of the population is medically eligible to give blood, yet only 5% of the national population donates blood.
  • If all blood donors gave 2 to 4 times a year, it would help prevent blood shortages.
  • About three gallons of blood supports the entire nation’s blood needs for one minute.
  • Every day more than 38,000 blood donations are required to meet the needs of hospitals and emergency treatment facilities.

And if the whole saving lives thing doesn't make you want to schedule an appointment, LifeSource has a rewards program with points that can get you gifts cards and other fun stuff. Consider making an appointment at a donor center near you.

Side Note: Seriously, how did I get through this post without a vampire joke?!?!

What was your good deed this week? Link it up or leave a comment!

Note: I am in no way affiliated with LifeSource, nor was I compensated for this post. All information was found on their website: www.lifesource.org


Two Working Parents and Three Childcare Providers

These are not my kids, but might as well be.
 Our house is a circus these days. I know, you're thinking, "As if it's not always a circus." But, seriously, things are getting a little out of hand. We currently have three different childcare providers for the boys. THREE. (And NO I am not Camille from RHOBH, though I would take her divorce settlement and seemingly endless amounts of free time, but I digress...)

I hired Nanny K (who I am pretty much obsessed with) before the end of my maternity leave with B. As you might remember, my mom watched W five days a week prior to B being born, which was amazing and kind and one of the best gifts she could have given us. We agreed that when B was born, I would seek a part-time nanny so that my mom could still spend a few days with the boys and have some much-needed time for herself. And Nanny K was like our Mary Poppins.

Once we were settled with Nanny K (again, I LOVE her) my sister had her baby and as she was getting set to go back to work, she learned that her three days back would be on the days my mom watched my boys. Clearly, my mom could not watch all three boys, so I decided I would remove our family from the equation and find nanny care for them on those days. Not willing to give up Nanny K and not able to hire her on full-time (she works with another family, too), I had to hire another nanny. Enter Nanny O (who has been with us for three weeks). So, now I have my mom for one day a week, Nanny K for two days each week, and Nanny O for two days each week (plus my mom who is sticking close to my house on those days to get her settled). Confused yet? Me too...

Now the logical thing would be for me to find a new full-time nanny and do away with the two part-time nannies, right? Wrong. You see, Nanny K is done with school in May and the other mom she works with works at a school, so most likely will not need her services over the summer and beyond (as Nanny K will be looking for a new job and could stop nannying at any time). So, I am holding out for getting Nanny K either four days a week or full time starting in May. (Seriously, she is so worth the wait and gamble.)

I've gone back and forth over what our best solution would be... And I decided that right now this is what is best for us. I figured it wouldn't be that big of a deal, that we could roll with the punches and the kids would be fine. And they are. But, things are just getting crazy. Every day W asks who is coming over. He's hot and cold about me going to work. He's hot and cold about who is coming to play with him. He misses his one-on-one time my mom. He will only nap for Nanny K and it's become a game for him. It's just a lot of change and the revolving door means that I'm scrambling to keep everything organized and keep the days straight.

But, I have learned that my kids are really good with new people and take to them rather quickly. I've learned that they don't have attachment issues, but just enough to show that they love me. I've learned that nannies are expensive, so we're suddenly bleeding money in addition to feeling all over the place. And I've learned that this is not an ideal situation, but I'm determined to make it work. I'm not sure what will make it better, but this revolving door needs some greasing.


Meal Planning: Week 6 No Name Premium Meats Makes It Easy

I am not excited about meal planning this week. Period. I'm feeling tired and overwhelmed for some reason. We went out of town over the weekend and after too many meals out celebrating my birthday (woot!) and battling some sort of bug, I'm just not in the mood to deal with food.

A while back No Name Premium Meats contacted me about reviewing their products. I figured I would hang onto them for a week that this working mom needed a little help. And here it is! This is what we're eating this week, thanks to No Name Meat Products...

Monday: Original No Name Steaks with chopped salad
Tuesday: No Name Parmesan Crusted Chicken Breast with Pasta Puttana fresh wild mushroom pasta
Wednesday: No Name Salmon Fillets with brown rice and peas

Matt won't be home for dinner on Thursday and we're celebrating my dad's birthday on Friday night, so no plans!

Easy week, huh? Look for a review on the No Name products later this week!

Disclaimer: I received all No Name Premium Meats mentioned in this post complimentary. All opinions are my own.


Good Deeds 2012 Week 5: Helped "Stamp Out" Breast Cancer

Good Deed: Purchased Breast Cancer Awareness stamps from US Postal Service.

This is an easy one. The Breast Cancer Awareness stamps are priced at 55 cents and the extra 10 cents benefits breast cancer research. It might not sound like much, but according to an October 2011 interview with Dr. Bodai, who created the stamp, more than $79 million has been raised and more than 950 million stamps have been sold in the US since it was introduced in 1998. This also translates to billions of impressions to educate people and further awareness.

This stamp was the first semi-postal stamp sold and is now available in 20 countries to support research in their country. Everyone is affected by cancer and, like research in most diseases, some discoveries made with breast cancer translate to other cancers.

Think about it next time you're getting stamps.

What was your good deed this week? Link it up or leave a comment!