A little love reminder…

Do you ever catch yourself looking at somebody you see every day, a little differently? Tonight, my husband said something that was kind of funny in a dry, sarcastic manner. I looked at him without thinking and for whatever reason I found myself gazing at him finding him extremely attractive.

I think he is attractive in general but I feel like most of the time I don’t actually see him.

I go through the motions of life, busy with four kids, a business, a dog, a few gerbils, a guinea pig, writing children books, a blog/radio show, family and friends. Most days I am blinded by getting to the next activity or “to do” thing on my list.

Then there are times like last tonight where a small glance turns into a full on, full of love moment.

 

image from Shutterstock

image from Shutterstock

We got a lot of snow these past few weeks (life in New England). My husband has been out snow blowing and shoveling our businesses most of the time (small business owners). The kids and I have barely seen him. He came home last night and taught my oldest son how to play a Beatles song on the guitar.  My heart melts when I get to enjoy moments like that.

I love that my kids love the same qualities about my husband that made me fall head over heels in love with him so long ago.

He still gives me butterflies when I see him.

It was such an unexpected treat to really see the guy I fell in love with 25 years ago.

Happy Valentines Day!

Thick, creamy, dreamy, chocolatey HOT COCOA recipe!

Who doesn’t love hot chocolate? I know I do. Living in New England, hot cocoa, hot apple cider, fabulous coffee, all necessities of life.

I see first hand how many people love good hot chocolate. I have owned a coffee shop for almost 19 years and hot and frozen cocoa have been one of our most popular drinks since we opened. We add three different types of chocolate, hand steam the milk (if hot) with our espresso machine and stir it by hand. Our cocoa is so much better than the cheap kind you get out of a machine with hot chocolatey water.

Introduce my kids with food allergies and hot cocoa is no longer so simple. Chocolate is mostly off limits for my family. Our allergist told us to avoid chocolate since most of it is made on the same equipment as tree nuts.

I always feel bad that my children can’t join other children at the skating rink to gather for hot cocoa. Same thing after sledding or at the movies or wherever hot cocoa is generally served. I give them something special when we get home, of course, but I know it’s not the same.

A few years ago, I started making my own nut safe hot cocoa and it is DELICIOUS! So good, I had to share.

Whether you can have nuts or not, this recipe is a much higher quality cocoa then just opening a packet and boiling water. It is cheaper to make too. If allergies are not an issue, you can purchase any type of cocoa powder, as long as it is decent chocolate.

I usually cook by eye, but I did measure yesterday while making hot cocoa for the kids. I have been snowed in for a few days/weeks/months, who knows at this point!

You will need:
(To serve four people)
4 cups of milk (whatever kind you like)
1.5 cups of really good cocoa powder, can vary to taste (I use Vermont Nut Free cocoa powder)

Vermont Nut Free cocoa powder

Vermont Nut Free cocoa powder

1 cup of yummy chocolate chips,chunks, chocolate bars-whatever you like. (I recommend Enjoy Life because it is yummy and nut safe)

Enjoy Life mega chunks!

Enjoy Life mega chunks!

1 tablespoon of vanilla extract ( I use Neilsen-Massey)

2 tablespoons of sugar (more or less to taste) (I recommend Sugar in the Raw pictured, it is nut safe)

Sugar in the raw!

Sugar in the raw!

Whipped cream and marshmallows are optional (kind of 😉 )

Cant get any simpler.
Put all ingredients together in a sauce pan or pot and heat up. I like to use a whisk to stir because the powder can get a little clumpy.

Cocoa powder not dissolved yet

Cocoa powder not dissolved yet

I usually keep the flame on simmer because I like the milk to heat up slowly to let the actual chocolate melt and the cocoa powder dissolve.

Love my whisk!!

Love my whisk!!

The results are thick, creamy, perfectly chocolatey hot cocoa, better than what you find in the packet!

Yummy whipped cream and hidden marshmallows!

Yummy whipped cream and hidden marshmallows!

These cups have hidden marshmallows under the whipped cream, but the kids wouldn’t let me get a better picture because they needed to get their icy cold hands on them after building snow forts for the past few hours!

Tips from a Pro: How to Get That Coffee Shop Taste at Home!

I opened my first coffee shop (Coffee Break Cafe) at the age of 25 because I was sick of bad coffee and even worse service. I had exhausted all of the coffee chain possibilities in my area and knew there had to be something better. My husband and I (boyfriend back then) worked in the restaurant industry and had access to a lot of different coffee companies. We bought whole bean coffees and brewed at home back when people still bought instant coffee in a can (wait, maybe they still do?)

We drank a lot of coffee.

By the time we had opened our first location, we were completely hooked. Coffee is like wine or cheese- at first the cheap stuff tastes pretty good but, as your palate develops, you find that you can no longer tolerate the inferior. It happens to most people who drink a lot of coffee. Once you discover the good stuff, it is REALLY hard to go back.

I am asked, all the time, why brewing coffee at home doesn’t taste as good as it does when you buy it at the coffee shop. I think there are a lot of reasons why, but I am here to explain how SIMPLE and AFFORDABLE it can be to brew really good coffee at home.

The beans:
Starting with the best quality coffee is the most important aspect of a really good brew. You want it to be freshly roasted (within the past few days is best) and if you own a grinder, you should always buy your coffee in whole bean form. If you don’t own a grinder, buy smaller quantities of pre-ground coffee more frequently. That way it will always be fresh. You will want to ask for the beans to be ground for a french press, which is coarse.

Coffee should be purchased whole bean and roasted very recently.

Coffee should be purchased whole bean and roasted very recently.

Nice course grind for the French press.

Nice coarse grind for the French press.

 

One misconception I hear frequently is people think that darkly roasted coffee is “stronger”. Darkly roasted coffee actually has less caffiene than a bean that is roasted light or medium. It might taste “stronger” but it is not.

I am slightly biased, but we do have the best beans around!  Check them out here!

Equipment:

Let’s briefly discuss grinders.…. You always want a burr grinder. Blade grinders shred the beans with inconsistent results, while burr grinders make even particles that allow the water to steep evenly through out. You can get a decent, inexpensive burr grinder just about anywhere. Depending on how much you grind you might want to spend a little more, your choice. This is a decent inexpensive one here…   Higher end, more expensive, the one we use at home is here.

Rancilio is the one we use at home but there are many others out there.

Rancilio is the one we use at home but there are many others out there.

Our grinder with freshly roasted beans.

Our grinder with freshly roasted beans.

Our Rancilio burr grinder!

Our Rancilio burr grinder!

Up next is a French Press. You can get them for as little as $10.00 or as much as a couple of hundred dollars. The one we have at home was about $40.00 and is perfect, check it out here.

Water:
Since water is the main ingredient in coffee, it needs to be clean, and free from any foul odor or taste. A good filter goes a long way. If you are using a french press you have to get the water to a boil. If you are making iced coffee, your ice cubes should also be made with filtered water.

How to:

While waiting for the water to boil (just fill a pot, no need to measure) put the beans in the grinder. We add the grinds right to the french press. The ratio of coffee to water is typically one tablespoon of coffee to a cup of water. You can adjust to your taste of course.

I don't measure the water, just fill the pot and let it boil.

I don’t measure the water, just fill the pot and let it boil.

At home we usually don’t measure. At work, we don’t brew without measuring. (Consistency is the key to success in business!) At-home brewing can be a bit more flexible; you can brew to what you like best. Add a little more coffee beans if you like it a little stronger and a little less if you like it a little weaker.

When it’s just off the boil for a minute, pour the water right on top of the grinds in the French Press and let sit for about a minute and a half. You will see the top looks like foam. (This is called bloom.) This means the grinds are starting to release some of their aroma. The water is becoming infused with delicious flavor, and did I mention the smell? Your house will smell so good!

Coffee foam!

Coffee foam!

After about a minute and a half, agitate with a wooden stirrer. Wood is best because metal may accidentally tap the sides and break the glass. I usually use chopsticks.

Chopsticks make great stirrers!

Chopsticks make great stirrers!

stirring the coffee!

Let sit for another minute and a half or so.

Next, press the top plunger stick down, using just the weight of your hand. You don’t want to press too hard or fast, or the grinds will escape into the coffee you are about to drink. You want to push all of the grinds to the bottom.

pressing down, coffee french press

You are ready to drink. OMG, nothing better than freshly brewed, high quality coffee.

Hot, freshly brewed coffee!

Hot, freshly brewed coffee!

I almost always drink my coffee iced. So, I let my coffee sit until it reaches room temperature and then pour over ice…. YUM.

Feel free to post questions in the comments below- I love talking coffee, business and mommy business.

**Affiliate links are included in this post. The products are actual products that I use and recommend. Amazon is an easy, reliable place to order them. If you choose to purchase through these links, Mommy Business will receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you.

My Daughter Asks Why ‘American Idol’ Contestants Are Judged on Their Looks

It is Saturday night, so I let the kids stay up a little later. We were all kind of lazy and didn’t feel like playing a game so we thought we might watch a movie. It was past 8:30 and too late to start a movie, so I decided to check out the DVR to see what we had waiting for us.

We had a few American Idol shows recorded and none watched. Although American Idol is a great family friendly show, it is rated PG and makes me cringe…a lot. Not sure why most shows have to go over the line with swearing and topics (spoke of virginity with one of the guests on the show we watched tonight) and lots of bleeps and hell, and “fricken” (hate that word). I don’t need my 7 year old walking into school Monday saying this “fricken sucks” because he heard it on tv!

Back to our night- we have a nice fire in the fireplace, snuggled in our pjs and warm blankets watching the audition shows of American Idol. I keep hearing my 9 year old daughter saying something under her breath. I didn’t know what she was saying and kind of ignored her because it is nearly impossible to watch anything with four kids, two dogs, two loud gerbils running on wheels and my guinea pig squealing for attention. Everyone talks, or jokes, or laughs and I CAN’T HEAR the show. So I ignored her. A few times.

Microphone American Idol post

Finally I hear her crystal clear saying “why do the judges keep mentioning what they look like?”. I pause the show and ask her what she is talking about. She is seriously angry that the judges keep talking about contestants’ smiles, hair, legs, body, booties, total package and looks over all. “Why does it matter what these people look like when this is a singing competition?”

Oh, how I love to hear this. I must be doing something right. I have worked SO HARD to not mention how unhappy I am with my looks. I have been overweight since the sperm hit the egg with kid number one and that was 13 years ago. I got bigger with each one and now cannot lose it. I want to complain all of the time. But I don’t- Ever. We don’t say the word fat. We don’t say ugly, I don’t discuss size or weight. I never speak badly about myself or anybody else. When the conversation starts to head in that direction with others, I try and steer it in a healthier direction.

We do speak of eating healthy, bathing, brushing and flossing, why I wear makeup, why women shave and men don’t in the United States. We do speak of strong, healthy, talented people. We speak of following your dreams and not being afraid to try new things. We focus on the positive and eliminate negativity where ever possible.

I did hear her speak negatively about herself once. With a friend, she said something about not liking her hair. After the friend left I asked her about it. She told me she really does like her hair but all of the girls say negative things about themselves so she tried to think of something she could say and her hair was all she could think of. We spoke about lying, being negative and not being true to yourself. I haven’t heard anything like that again.

Who knows what the future holds, but her strong opinion tonight made me feel so good about how she feels now. She was disgusted that these judges were paying attention to the way people looked instead of just focusing on how they sound. She really understands that judging people based on looks doesn’t make any sense. It is such a simple concept, isn’t it? A singing contest should have fabulous singers. Now, how do we tell the judges?!

*Image used is from Shutterstock.com

A good habit that has stuck! NaBloPoMo challenge day 5

Today’s challenge question…. Do you have any good habits that were hard to start but you’re happy you worked to build them?

My family went GMO free about a year and a half ago. Reading about what this country does to our food system makes my blood boil. For a few years, I would read about GMO’s and get mad. Read and get mad, read and get mad. I was walking around mad which wasn’t helping anybody, especially myself.

I had been searching for a solution to the GMO problem but it just seemed so overwhelming that I would just kind of give up. Three out of four of my children have food allergies so I felt like I had to make a choice, purchase products from the big companies who are excellent at labeling ingredients but use all GMO’s, or go with the smaller companies that are organic/GMO free and risk cross contamination and not so great labeling. (Legally companies only need to list ingredients that are IN the food you are eating. They do NOT have to label what else is made in the facility or on the equipment. When dealing with nut allergies and anaphylaxis, this is not optional.) I felt I had to make my purchases through the big companies and just eat the GMO’s. I did this for a long time.

About a year and a half ago I decided that I would choose one product at a time and do my research on it. I chose products that we use the most of first, like cereal and bread, figuring I could make the biggest impact there.

anti gmo

I spent a lot of time on the phone and on the internet and found out that eliminating GMO’s wasn’t going to be as difficult as I originally thought. I started with Kashi’s “non Gmo certified project verified cereals”. More info on that here. There are a few that are nut safe and non GMO that we use.

Bread was trickier. There aren’t a lot of bakeries that are nut safe. I did manage to find two that are organic (GMO free), nut safe, and most importantly, that my kids like.

Organic and GMO free is more expensive for sure! I have had to cut other expenses to make sure we can afford non GMO food and it is worth it.

Instead of walking around angry, I know that each and every purchase I make is making a statement. I am creating a demand for non GMO products and not providing funding towards the companies that use GMO’s and don’t label them. I have also dug a little deeper and have created a list (in my head) of companies that not only use GMO’s but also fund the campaign against GMO’s being listed on products. I will not buy anything from them either. You can find a good list here.

I am so happy I turned my anger into something positive. My youngest son who just turned 7 had the most positive allergy appointment he has ever had, just last month. I think there is a direct link to the choices we have made these past two years and his allergies. That is a different story for another day but I am so very grateful for working hard to build this good habit of ours :-).

We are far from perfect, nor are we 100% GMO free.  My kids still eat pizza and they have snacks that are not all GMO free.  I would say we are closer to 85% GMO free and that is SO much better than we were two years ago.  I hope more people will consider joining us with building this good habit and really cut out GMO’s and having your dollar matter.  🙂

 

*Image from shutterstock.com

That little negative voice in my head…. NaBloPoMo day 4

Daily challenge question: Have you ever tried to break a habit and failed? What made it so difficult to break?

This was a tough question to answer. It stumped me for a few days. I am usually pretty good about breaking habits. I have had some bad ones but have dumped them along the way. How is it that I can’t think of one bad habit I have had but failed? I am so far from perfect, why is this so difficult?

Then it struck me. I am far from perfect, that is what I said to myself over and over again. Then I started to listen to that little voice speaking to me. It never has anything good to say. NEVER. I consider myself a pretty self confident person. I am not all that thrilled with my appearance at the moment but over all I am happy and optimistic.

Then there is that voice. Right now it is telling me this blog post is stupid and makes no sense. It is also saying that I should be cleaning (my house is a mess). It is also telling me I have too much work to catch up on then to sit here and write. It also just reminded me of my laundry, and how I didn’t call my mom back, or visit my mother in law today like I planned. I also didn’t eat healthy enough today. According to this voice, I am a major failure.

Unfortunately I think this little voice begins for a lot of girls when they are relatively young. We are taught to hate ourselves, not sure how it happens but it does. I hear young girls all of the time stating how much they hate their hair, ears, nose, eye color, thighs, belly, height, weight, etc…. It is so wrong but so prevalent. I felt that way about myself for a very long time. Obviously that voice is still there so it is a hard habit to break.

Thank goodness I don’t listen to this voice very much. Or maybe I do listen too much and it is this voice that pushes me to constantly try and better myself.

I think this negative voice is the habit I can’t break. I am trying to incorporate meditation daily in my life. I am trying to quiet that voice and replace it with the positive. This past September I had the honor of attending a Hayhouse weekend seminar called “I Can Do It”, with Wayne Dyer as one of the headliners. It was amazing! Over and over I heard stories about being positive and attracting better things into your life. I have incorporated a lot of what I learned that weekend into my life and have a very long list of books to read that were recommended.

I do not put myself down in front of my children, never have. I am constantly explaining how believing in yourself is how to live. One of my favorite quotes is by Henry Ford, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”
Whether-you-think-you
Now that I have really thought about this and put it in writing, I have a feeling that little negative voice will soon be a thing of my past.

My Worst Habit…..NaBloPoMo Challenge day 3

I am challenging myself to blog daily with NaBloPoMo’s prompts. Today’s prompt…

Tell us about your worst habit?

This is a question I have grappled with. At the moment I don’t feel I have any bad habits worth writing about. Which is kind of shocking and good.

From a very young age I dealt with lots and lots of abuse. Whether it be sexual, drugs, alcohol, verbal and violence I have had my fair share of them all. By the time I was in middle school I was so miserable with my life I wanted to end it. And I tried.

The good news is I got my act together by my junior/senior year of high school. Although I still enjoyed boozing it up with my buddies the rest of the stuff was a thing of the past. I don’t even like being in the same room with people who do drugs. I am one of the lucky ones.

By far my worst habit in all of my 44 years on this planet was smoking cigarettes. Man oh man I loved them for a very very long time. I started smoking as a teen and continued until the age of 29. I “practiced” quitting for at least a year before I actually did it. My boyfriend (now my husband) and I took the red eye home from Vegas and by the time I got home I had been awake for 24 hours. I was hung over and exhausted. The next two days were a sleepy, hazy blur. By the time I was actually feeling awake, I realized I had gone 72 hours without smoking. I went with it and never picked it up again.

butts

I am grateful every day that I got butts and so many other bad habits out of my life.

*Image credit from shutterstock.com

Keeping up with resolutions…..NaBloPoMo day 2

Today’s prompt:  Do you usually keep your resolutions? Tell us about a time when you were particularly successful.

 

In thinking about resolutions, it isn’t a once a year kind of thing for me.

Being a parent of school aged children, I feel like we are given the opportunity to have a few “new starts”. When school starts in September I always feel like I am starting new and fresh. Having the kids at school gives me a chance to think straight a little bit and get organized. I think a lot of parents start new fitness routines in September and kind of kick start their resolutions on a smaller scale. I do anyway.

It was a year ago this past September that I decided to make our family GMO free. I had also decided to take up taekwondo two years ago this past September.

Spring is another time where I feel like I check in with myself and see where I am at. In the spring we get a few more hours of daylight and the warmth makes me want to get outside and walk, ride my bike or take a hike.

Last year I made a fabulous resolution that I have kept to, and will make it my life rule.  I tend to have a bad book habit.  I purchase more books than I can read.  They pile up and become dust collectors. (embarrassed that I am attaching a real picture of my bedside table with those dust collectors) I love to read, but with four children, a small business to run, and a gazillion other things on my plate, I find that I only have 15-30 minutes to read each day before I drop off to sleep so I tend to take a long time to get through a book.  My resolution was: to not buy any new books until I had read the ones I own.  Once I had finished a book, I promised to either lend it somebody or donate it to the library.  I really stuck to that all of last year and have continued.

 

books!

 

From that picture it doesn’t look like I have given away many but I really made a dent in the pile this past year.  🙂

Keeping resolutions simple and true helps me to stick to them.  Checking in frequently also helps.

Happy New Year!

New Year’s Resolutions…. NaBloPoMo day 1

I have decided to take the NaBloPoMO blogging challenge of blogging daily for a month!  Feeling a little nervous!

Today’s prompt:  What are you New Year’s Resolutions for the new year?  Tell us how you chose them.

I have been on a path of change for a long time now.  I feel like life is like an onion and I just keep peeling back the layers.  Some make me cry and others I am fine with.

I am pretty aware of making better choices for myself year round but I love starting a new year fresh!  I love creating vision boards and fun little resolution crafts with the kids on New Years Eve.  This year we made little people (see image below) and put whatever resolutions came to mind on the shirt.  These little resolution people will hang in our living room all year and we (four kids and my husband) will check in with each other to make sure we are all on the right path.

resolution pic

My personal resolutions are to focus on being more present, meditate daily, play more games with my children, get back to juicing weekly, reduce clutter, cut out processed foods, get out of debt, blog more frequently and learn more about investing.

I have been taking baby steps towards bigger goals for about 10 years.  For example I cut out g.m.o.’s last year, switched to raw milk, and began juicing two years ago.  I cut out gluten in September and am prepared to cut out processed foods now.  I haven’t quite  yet defined what processed food is to me but am working on it.

Baby steps have always worked for me.  I like to practice giving something up just before I go cold turkey.  It’s funny because I feel like I am SO FAR away from my goals but when I actually stop and look how far I have come, I can see real progress.

It is only one day into 2015 and I am loving it already.  It is going to be my best year yet, I can feel it.

 

How I stopped the screen time madness… 4 tips that saved my family!

I don’t think any of us start off with the goal of allowing electronic devices to rule our lives. None of us intended to be texting when our son or daughter hit a home run or shot the winning basket.

We all got here somehow. Now even the young kids are on board, too.

I see kids playing with their electronic devices everywhere I go… I see parents and caregivers playing/checking/reading too.

My house and my life were controlled by electronic devices for a while, too. It all started about 6 years ago on my first son’s 7th birthday. I ran out a half an hour before his party and bought him the D.S. that he wanted so badly. I had decided he was too young for video games but, at the last minute, felt severe mommy guilt and bought the stupid thing. He was SO happy when he opened it. He was the only kid in his class who didn’t have one until then.

I didn’t feel right about it, though.

Fast forward a few years and playing video games is all that he, his younger brother, and their friends want to do. It blew my mind that a huge group of boys just want to sit in a room and stare at screens.

What happened to kickball, dodge ball, hide and go seek, tag, red rover, and the other outdoor games we used to play? What happened to Lincoln Logs, Legos, train sets, and board games?

In my house they all seemed to be replaced by either playing video games or “the want” to play video games.

By the time my son’s fourth grade parent teacher conferences rolled around, I learned that he was flunking most of his classes. This was SO unlike him. He is/was such a sweet, kind, SMART young boy, I couldn’t understand what was going wrong. I did some investigating and realized he was flunking 4th grade because he was playing video games AT SCHOOL!! (While he was supposed to be doing work on the computer) He was also playing video games at home when we thought he was doing his homework. I could see we had a problem, and it was a big one.

We banned all screen time at that point. No TV, no video games- nothing. Indefinitely.

use this phone for post

That was when we got our lives back. My children (four of them, by then) woke up on Saturday and Sunday mornings and pulled out legos or put together race track sets and played with them. Coloring books and crayons were used and books were read. They spent hours outside playing, running and having fun. My house was filled with laughter and talking, not the silence that comes with having a screen in your hand.

Does the story end here? Absolutely not. I did not learn my lesson there. (It got worse but that is a story for next time.) This is when I discovered that our family needed balance and I had to provide that. We had to completely eliminate screens in order to see that.

I have since become a “go to” person for helping other parents with screen time problems. Here are some tips I often give when asked for advice:

1. Go cold turkey for a week or two or more. Zero screen time really brings back imaginative play and will allow everyone involved some time to figure out what the screen time rules should be.

2. Have serious, sit down conversations with your kids (regardless of age) when you are not upset. Really listen to their opinions about what they think is fair when it comes to screen time. Be SUPER clear with your ideas and expectations. You might be surprised just how easy it is to be on the same page rather quickly.

3. Parents should keep the electronics out of sight and out of reach from day one. “Out of site, out of mind” really comes into play with electronics. If the child has to ask for screen time, it’s easier for you both to track how much time is spent on it.

4. Check their history often. I don’t care how old they are. All it takes is an accidental tap on the side bar and your child can be taken on an electronic porn ride that would horrify both of you.

Yes, it rocks for the parent when your child is playing on that device- it gives you time to clean, work, or whatever you need to do, with some peace and quiet. I understand that completely and I don’t judge. I am sharing what I learned the hard way and what has worked for our family. We need balance, time restrictions, and to check in to see what our kids are doing and how often.

Good luck!

Jenn- A non judgmental, concerned mom who just asked her 7 year old to leave the room so she could have some screen time to write this. 🙁

 

 

*image credit from shutterstock.com