Saturday, December 24, 2011

Fa la la la la

How 4 year old children keep secrets:

MiniMac: Daddy! We did NOT get any presents for you when we were shopping today!
Daddy: Ok.
MiniMac: Ha ha ha, Daddy! We did NOT go to the golf shop and buy you any surprises!

How do 4 year old children keep secrets? Answer: Not well.

But the level of sheer belief in Santa and enthusiasm for the holiday at this age in endearing. Two weeks ago, I took MiniMac with me to pick out toys for a corporate toy drive being held at my office. Not only did he do a great job selecting, he went with me to work the next morning to deliver. My corporate office is high intensity so the likelihood of seeing a child there is about zero on a normal day. So he garnered quite a bit of attention in the elevator with his giant tote of toys. One woman asked him if he was on his way to his "job" that morning. He said, "I am too little for a job. I am just here with the toys." She asked if the toys were his toys and he said, "No. We went and picked them out last night for kids who do not have toys this holiday." A man in the elevator turned to him and said, "How nice!" MiniMac replied, "Well, if you have more than someone else, you should share."

It really is that simple and always will be. And my heart did swell that he is listening to our messages and absorbing them as his own.

But because he is 4, he can go either way. Last night, MiniMac told me he cannot wait until Christmas morning to open all his gifts. (And let's be honest, he is the only grandchild on both sides of the family. The kid makes out like a bandit.) I reminded him of the reason for the season AND that we should be most thankful for being together as a family.

He responded, "I can be thankful and think about Jesus WHILE I am opening presents, Mom."

Well played, young man, well played.

Whatever you are celebrating, I hope it is merry and bright. Wishing you an amazing 2012 ahead. I will be back January 3.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Take A Bite Of: MarciaGarcia's Candy Cane Swirl Cookies

Yesterday I was the surprise story teller for MiniMac's class. Instead of reading a book, I told an interactive story that included all of the kids in class on a trip to the North Pole. They were in search of a missing bag that fell off Santa's sleigh.  "Legend has it" the bag contained special Christmas ornaments and if your name was on an ornament, Santa knew you were on the nice list. The bag also contained magical Candy Cane Swirl cookies and if you ate one, you could give a wish to anyone. There is no better audience for this kind of story than a group of 4 - 5 year olds. The beauty was when the kids found this giant red bag full of yes, special Christmas ornaments (each one with a name) and the magical cookies. Listen, at this age, you are a believer. And it was the highlight of my day.

Now, you can have your own magical cookies too. My BFF shared her favorite holiday cookie and they are AMAZING. So thanks for the idea, MG, which started as cookies and turned into what my son defined as "one of my favorite stories!"  We made these the other night and they are soft, delicious, and SUPER easy. From my kitchen (and MarciaGarcia's) to yours, enjoy every bite.

MarciaGarcia's Candy Cane Swirl Cookies

1/2 c shortening
1/2 c buttter
3 c flour
1 c sugar
1 egg
2 T milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp peppermint extract
1/2 tsp red food color

1.  Beat room temp shortening and butter for 30 seconds.
2.  Add 2 cups flour, sugar, egg, milk vanilla baking soda, and salt to beaten mixture.  Beat until thoroughly combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally.  Then beat in remaining flour.
3.  Divide dough in half.  Set 1/2 aside.  Add peppermint extract & red color to remaining half and beat just until red color is thoroughly mixed.
4.  To shape dough, roll out each portion of dough between 2 sheets of wax paper to form a 12X11 inch rectangle.  (Not sure what size mine was...but shoot for similar size rectangles.  if you get an oval, just rip off extra with fingers and put it where you want it and roll flat.  it doesn't have to be perfect.)
5.  Remove top sheet of waxed paper from each rectangle.  Invert plain dough on top of pink dough.  Peel off top sheet of paper.  From the long side, roll up, jellyroll style, removing bottom sheet of paper as you roll.  Press sides in to make them flat.   Cut roll in half, crosswise.  Wrap and chill the two rolls for 4 to 24 hours.
6.  Cut dough into 1/4 inch slices.  Bake on ungreased cookie sheet (or I used parchment paper) at 375 degrees for 7 minutes.  Cool on wire rack. Give some away or you will end up eating about 10 by yourself.

MiniMac helped me roll out the dough. We went heavier on the pink dough per his request. And he seems to really love the sampling part of the process the best.

Have a fantastic weekend.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Pour some sugar on me...

On a playdate at a park, I watched a two year old happily sipping on soda. Mountain Dew to be exact. YIKES. And YIKES for about 100 reasons. Here is an awesome beverage for a laden with caffeine AND sugar. YUM. I heard another Mom say, "that is crazy." And the Dad responded, "True. But I am sure we used to drink worse when we were kids." Right. You know what else we did when we were kids? We wore colored sweat pants with our name down in the side in iron-on letters and braces large enough to land a cargo plane. Doesn't mean these are great ideas for today or values by which we should shape our current choices. The good news is I only have one child to worry own. The bigger issue is Holy Cheezus, why are we all so addicted to sugar. I read this blog that listed the top sugar drinks. Did you know a 20 oz bottle of Sunkist has 85.8 grams of sugar? EGADS. Did you teeth just snap? One more reason I am glad I don't drink soda. On the contrary, most red wine has little to no sugar. One more reason I am glad I LOVE red wine.

I loved sugar when I was a kid. That lasted for a long, long time. The reality is, I would take sweet over salty most of the time but I simply had to break up with sugar. Everytime we eat sugar, our body floods itself with insulin. Your blood sugar spikes and then your body tries to turn that sugar into fat. That's why the Twinkie doesnt build your bicep! But this is information many of us already know.

And back in the day I used to thoroughly enjoy boxes and boxes of cereal. Bright pink berry Cap'N Crunch and rainbow colored Trix. My mom did not allow sugar cereals when we kids. But I totally confess to gobbling this crap up when I was in college AND graduate school. More Yikes. Sugar laden cereal is so bad for you, you would be better off nibbling a diaper. And then I saw this today:

One more reason I am glad I broke up with cereal.

But here and there I could still go for a nibbly sweet. Maybe a small handful of m&ms, or a few bites of the baked goods I so lovingly prepare in this house. But I wanted to get off sugar as much as possible.  But I needed a plan.

If you really want to break up with sugar for good, I read a book called Body Confidence by Mark MacDonald. I made the slightest modifications to what I was eating and frequency. Even being what I consider a very healthy eater to start, I could tell a significant difference in about a week. Oh, and he is also Chelsea Handler's nutritionist. That girl is a serious vodka-loving party-pants. And she looks incredible.

With the access to crap food and seeing a baby actually drinking a soda (and that day was not the first time) it is sad but not surprising that childhood obesity is a crazy epidemic. 

Pour some sugar on me? Only if its Def Leppard style.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

31 days of Goodness: Version 3.0

For the past two years on December 1, I have written a post called 31 Days of Goodness. Each time, the post has a record number of views as well as some great sharing on FB and Twitter.  All because of you. Thank YOU for being great and interested and willing to do great things for other people.

It was initially prompted by a service project I got involved with and reinforced by a service project my son's class participated in.  My son's class has adopted a family for the holidays again this year. This family consists of a single mother with five children. The list of needs from this family does not include Xbox, iPad or Cars 2 on BluRay. The list does include coats, underwear and socks. It is a reminder many of us are lucky to take many things for granted. And it is also a reminder we have the power to do so much for other people.

This December 1st finds an abundance of opportunities for every person to contribute from around the globe to your own community. It’s the 31 days of Goodness Version 3.0 a list of free or small donation opportunities.

Consider it a way to put a little jingle in your bells, a good karmic investment, and a way to lean over that blade of grass and whisper: grow, grow.


1. A charity I am very close to is Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. Even if you live as far away from here as possible, you can agree no one would want their child/grandchild/sibling or any child they loved to be hospitalized especially at the holiday time. Children's expects over a thousand kids to be with them over the holiday time but you can send a short note to help them meet their goal of providing a note to every child in their care during this time. Visit Share With Children's to send your message.

2. Sign up at Volunteer Match to make an impact in your own zip code. This service provides a number of options to get involved. Its good for your heart, your soul, and one less reason to sit on the couch eating holiday snack mix. 

3. One of the best thing I personally did last year: I lopped off eleven inches of hair to Locks of Love. They make wigs for children with terminal cancer. And I did it honor of an amazing family friend who faced cancer, turned it on its heel,  and kicked it in the ass.

4. You know those many frocks you have harbored in your closet? Some since that holiday party in 2005? Give your closet some breathing room while doing something wonderful for a high school student. You can donate any gowns/special occasion dress (and accessories) to Princess Project which will coordinate and prep your gear for a young lady to wear to her high school prom.

5. Manly friends and friends with access to a manly closet, you are not excluded. Any gently used office attire for men can be used by Career Gear which helps men down on their luck on job-hunting, interview skills and loans them clothes to do their best at the interview. 

6. Get involved. To start, visit Do Something which is a fantastic website. Their motto: Powering Offline Action.  Find service projects in your zip code. They also encourage you to engage your teenage family members to get involved in philanthropy. Their aim is to inspire the next generation of “doers”. You can also find local events/charities/nonprofits to support at Do Good ChannelYou can also visit All For Good which helps you find AND share opportunities to do good. I typed in our zip code and found almost 1000 opportunities. AMAZING. 

7. For those with little time but big interest, visit this new site I found Sparked. Its a microvolunteering network that matches you with interests and some of these volunteering needs take only minutes (take a pic of a local park safe for kids to play.)
8. Mentor/coach/tutor a future Jeffrey Eugenides, Clive Cussler or Tina Fey at 826 National   which now has 8 nonprofit writing centers which helped over 29,000 students last year! Many of you are writers so let your talent shine as you encourage and help guide creative writing talents in students age 16-18.

9. While you are cleaning out your closet, hit your office and bookshelves too. You can also join Books For Soldiers for free and send used books to troops. You can also send DVDs, games and relief supplies. 

Sign up to volunteer with Kids Enjoy Exercise Now  and become a one on one volunteer to teach kids or young adults with physical and developmental disabilities about noncompetitive sports.

Give blood. It doesn't hurt. Or it you do think it hurts, it only hurts for 2 seconds. And then you get a cookie and some juice, you baby. To find a local blood bank: Visit Give Life

12. Donate your old cell phones to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Go to the site and click under Take Action and then Donate.

13. Donate shoes (you know you have more than you can ever wear!) to Share Your Soles
You can also pony up a buck to provide laundry soap to wash 30 pairs of shoes.

14. You can donate baby blankets, stuffed animals, and children’s books to Project Night Night  which helps homeless children. They donated over 25, 000 Night Night packages last year. 
15. Play Free Rice and every correct vocab word you identify, 10 grains of rice are donated to the UN World Food Program. You can also play Free Kibble and for every correct answer, they add 10 pieces of dog food for an animal shelter in need. You need a break from playing Angry Birds, don't you?

For a minimum of one hour a week for one year, you could mentor an at-risk teen online at I Could Be. You can give guidance and help a teenager reformat their life, goals, and self-confidence.


17. This could almost count as free goodness, but for $2 (yes, you read that correctly, TWO dollars) you can buy a set of drumsticks for a low-income public school student learning to play the drums at Little Kids Rock. If not because you have a little rock and roll in your own heart, do it because that is one awesome name for a charity. 

18. $4 can to Cell Phones for Soldiers will provide two hours of prepaid phone service for a soldier overseas to call home. This charity was actually started by teenage siblings. Good on you kids, and because of generous donations, they helped over half a million servicemen and women in 2011 alone.  If you are feeling more generous, Operation Homefront provides emergency $ assistance to service members/military families across the country who have encountered financial hardship, death, injury or physical or mental detriment as a result of having served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Assistance can come in the form of checks paid directly to mortgage lenders, auto mechanics, contractors, hospitals and doctors as well as food, home repairs and baby formula, among other things.

19. Visit World of Good this holiday season and let your shopping shape the world. This is a global marketplace by eBay in which every purchase, from a scarf to a work of art, makes a positive impact. And eBay vets every source to make sure it is ethical and eco-friendly. 

20. Meals on Wheels has been doing great service for seniors in the US since 1954. $14 will provide two nutritious meals delivered by volunteers to a housebound senior. You can also learn more about them if you want to volunteer. They have the largest volunteer base in the world and they still need help. 

21. For $25 to Why Hunger you can not only get a salad on the table of an at-risk teen, you can get that teen on a healthy path. Why Hunger focuses on helping needy kids not only grow produce for their own dinner table, but take that produce to farmer's market and help them foster independence, work acumen and a means of supporting their families. 

22.  Visit  and register to skip something you normally spend money on.
You register on the site to skip something, like a daily latte, a mani/pedi or that DVD you won't watch twice and instead, you donate that money to the organization. 100% of your donation goes to the acquisition and distribution of food and water projects worldwide.

23. With the alarming increase of bullying in schools, send $25 to Stand for the Silent  run by Laura and Kirk Smalley, who lost their son Tyler due to incessant bullying. Your donation will help support Kirk's many speaking engagements and seminars to end bulling and promote anti-bullying training for youth and schools.

24. Give a loan that will change a life. For as little as $25 at you can help men and woman all over the world start businesses. You can choose your cause and donate through this peer-to-peer program. You can also watch the progress of your recipient. You will be paid back as well but that is the least important aspect.
25. $38 donated to will save half a mile of ocean from overfishing and pollution.

26. A $10.00 donation to Noah’s Ark helps abused children rehabilitate abused animals. I know someone very involved in this program and it is amazing.
27. Visit the  Jonathan Collins Memorial website. In partnership with Build a Bear, a $25.00 dollar donation will send a Comfort Bear to a little one whose parent is deployed. The bear includes a message recorded in the parent's voice as a reminder to that child he is loved and missed.

28. Help the teachers who are educating our children and the future leaders of the world! At Donors Choose, you will be connected online to classrooms in need. You can search by projects and view long lists provided by teachers regarding classroom needs. Everything from writing utensils, science equipment and musical instruments. It doesn't even need to be said how sad it is that teachers are paying out of their own pockets in many school districts for necessary supplies.

29. Donate a minimum of $10.00 to Pajama Program  which provides new jammies and books for kids in orphanages, group homes, and shelters who are waiting to be (or hoping to be) adopted. To date, they have given almost ONE MILLION books and pjs to kids who need them. 
30. Go to Best Friends and make a small donation to help this organization dealing with thousands of displaced pets. Your money can help set up shelters, prepare furry friends for adoption, or have microchips put into the animals.

31. And since you know our son has a little rock and roll in his heart, I will also include that $50 donated to Fender Music Foundation will turn into a guitar for a struggling music program, giving approximately 20 kids a guitar to play throughout the year.   

As I wrote last year, just think of the impact if everyone who read this simply picked one of these options? Talk about the benevolent impact! Lets act. Let it be the minimum we do this year.  

Cheers to a gorgeous holiday season, JennyMac