Friday, February 27, 2015

Interview with a 6-year-old big sister

On Monday afternoon, my fourth grandbaby was born into this world. Robyn Lee is a tiny little baby, weighing just 5 lbs. 5 oz. at birth. We're not quite sure how that happened, since her mommy is not a smoker and took good care of herself throughout the pregnancy (organic prenatal vitamins, lots of healthy food, etc.). Anyway, she's small but perfect. 

Robyn joins big sister, Laura, and not-so-big sister, Marley (who won't be 2 until the end of April). On Wednesday, I picked Laura up from kindergarten as her mommy and baby sister were settling in at home. The two of us went out to lunch and I asked her if I could interview her on what it's like having another baby sister. She obliged.

Unfortunately, she didn't say anything especially witty or revealing. Basically, she said she was happy about Robyn, couldn't wait for her to be able to play, and was super happy that Mommy was home from the hospital. While her daddy did an excellent job of taking care of her and getting her to school on time, dressed in coordinated outfits and all, she still missed her mom. I know how that feels. 

Only time will tell whether or not Laura will remain positive about this new addition to the family. Her mommy's going to be awfully busy taking care of the younger two, which means Laura will be on her own at times. At least the lines of communication are open between the two of us. As precious as this new little baby is, there are still two older sisters to watch out for. And you can count on Grandma to do just that.

Sharing some more of my life with you,

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Find Hylee, the tooth fairy

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. I received product and/or compensation in exchange for this post as an ambassador for Hyland's Homeopathic.

Will you be one of the 500 lucky winners 
of a bottle of Hyland's Teething Tablets? 
Click here and see if you can find Hylee!

TBT and I'm on my high horse again

It's Throwback Thursday and I came across this post from 2010. Just some tidbits to think about.

Did you know...
  • There are no government controls on the chemicals used in disposable diapers?
  • A German study on disposable diapers a decade ago revealed a link between the use of disposables with fertility issues in men as well as testicular cancer, with suppositions that the wearing of disposable diapers interfered with the proper development of a boy's reproductive system?
  • Some of the medical issues reported with direct links to disposable diapers include: chemical burns and choking (from children ripping apart their diapers and putting the plastic in their noses and mouths)?
  • There is a definite correlation between disposable diapers and the development of asthma?
Photo by Cheryl Holt
While I'm mentioning asthma, allow me to digress a bit. If you have children and you're choosing to smoke around them, I personally consider this to be child abuse. I've been very disturbed lately to see fathers walking along with a car seat in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Or mothers pushing strollers one-handed as they sucked in and exhaled smoke. What is wrong with this picture, folks? You have a child now....GROW UP!

And while I'm on this subject, driving with kids of any age in the car while smoking a cigarette is just wrong. I see it, I can't believe it, and yes, I'm judging it. Second-hand smoke is dangerous and you shouldn't be exposing your children (or non-smoking spouse) to it.

Anyway, these were just some random thoughts about the safety of babies and children. The only reason I'm bringing them up is because I care.

Keeping it healthy,

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The hottest trend of 2015 -- Accessories that pay it forward!

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. I received product and/or compensation in exchange for blogging about this organization.


For those of you who know me, you know I'm not a starstruck kind of person. I don't follow celebrity gossip and I'm not "dying to meet so-and-so..." That's just not me. However, if you're the type who does get into what the celebrities are doing and wearing, then the fact that Paris Hilton, Kristin Cavallari, Mandy Moore, Khloe Kardashian (I know, it's a Kardashian -- who cares?!), and many other fashion-conscious celebrities all love the jewelry at Bead Relief. But there's a good reason they do. Not only are the designs amazing, but Bead Relief is also on the cutting edge of the pay-it-forward accessory craze that is sweeping the country.

What does this mean exactly?

Well, Bead Relief offers gorgeous, affordable handmade bracelets and necklaces that actually do pay it forward.


Each bracelet and necklace is designed for a dedicated charity with 25% of the purchase price going to a partnered charity, such as A Place Called Home, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Autism Society, and many, many more. Click here to see a list of the 40 different charities.

Proceeds for the signature Bead Relief bracelet are divided between all of the charities in partnership with the organization.

I was asked to review some of the bracelets and I chose two of the bracelet stacks, based on the charities I wanted to support. These are the ones I chose:

CDK provides service dogs that help children in a variety of ways: psychiatric disabilities, guide, hearing, medical and seizure alert, social, therapy, traditional service, and walker balance dogs. They seek to create child-canine service teams to promote independence and social awareness.

EARTH stands for Environmental Awareness of Resources and Threatened Habitats. A 501 (C) (3) nonprofit organization based in Mendon, MA, their focus is on environmental education with a goal of teaching their community about a variety of topics, including ecology, endangered species, and sustainability. Their home base is locate in Southwick's Zoo at the Earth Discovery Center.

The bracelet stack can be worn to raise awareness for their cause, with a hope that donations will follow.

The bracelets I received were inspired by these organizations and are handmade to represent them. Bead Relief uses their own signature unique beads and elastic bands and each bracelet is adorned with their signature copper Bead Relief tags.

I really like the bracelets, but wish I'd ordered a larger size. Since I have relatively thin wrists, I ordered mediums (7"), assuming the elastic would be a bit more stretchy than it actually is. The bracelets fit my wrists, but I have a little bit of a problem stretching them over my hand. 

They are well-crafted and true to the photos on the website. 

You can buy single bracelets for $6; the stacks are $25. If you're more interested in metals, they're available as well, starting at $40. The sterling silver one shown here sells for $45. 

They also sell bracelets made with natural stones from the earth, like this Burmese Jade bracelet:

I really hope you will be moved to check out the Bead Relief website and consider making a purchase or two. Buying accessories that help pay it forward is the hottest fashion trend of 2015. This is a bandwagon I invite you to jump on. Not only will you end up with some fabulous new jewelry, but you can feel good knowing you're helping a cause that matters to you. Everyone who wears Bead Relief bracelets and necklaces wears them with pride. As they should.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Is your home suited for entertaining?

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. 

Designing your home to fit your needs is an important part of ownership. If you are a social butterfly that loves to entertain in your home, the design elements you include in your home should focus on your guests. There are a number of design elements that you can incorporate into your home to make it fun and easy to entertain any time of the year.

Maintain an Open Floor Plan

No one wants to be crowded in a small room with little seating. An open floor plan is the best way to accommodate parties and gatherings of all sizes, whether you are having an intimate dinner with close friends or a child's birthday party. An open floor plan is easily achieved with the proper placement of your furniture which should guide people to the center of the action.

Provide Easy Access to Entertaining Areas

Homeowners who have a great backyard or a pool will want their inside entertainment area to naturally flow into their outside entertainment area. This can be achieved by keeping the entertainment area of the inside close to the door leading to your outdoor entertaining space. If this isn't possible with your home's layout, you can always create a clear pathway from one area to another with the use of area rugs and furniture placement.

Choose Flooring and Furniture Meant for High Traffic

The one thing you do not want to do after every event is spend a lot of time cleaning, and you don't want to worry about your floors and furniture during the event. To help prevent stains and damage from your parties, choose furniture and flooring meant for high traffic areas. Wood flooring is sturdy and durable. You can also protect it from scuffing with a range of beautiful area rugs. If your rugs need the occasional pick-me-up, you can find plenty of great area rug cleaning Washington DC experts that will help you clean and remove stains from the rugs that are protecting your hardwood floors. Of course, you always want to use green options when it comes to cleaning your carpeting and rugs.

These are just a few ways that you can turn your home into an entertainment hub for your family and friends without doing a lot of demolition and remodeling. Turning your home into a place where everyone feels comfortable hanging out and having fun is a great way to take care of the ones you love.

Friday, February 20, 2015

A Sticky Problem -- Is chewing gum harmful to the environment?

I have a confession to make: it doesn't seem that many years ago that I thought nothing of tossing a piece of chewed gum out of the window of my car, careful only to throw it somewhere where someone might not step on it. The environmental impact didn't even enter my mind.

The following is an article and infographic from CustomMade. I thought it was worth sharing.

Whether it's being used as a mid-day breath refresher or on the playground to see who can blow the biggest bubble -- chewing gum is a daily habit for many people. But what happens when you're done chewing it? Eighty to ninety percent of chewing gum is not disposed of properly and it's the second most common form of litter after cigarette butts.

Chewing gum is made from polymers, which are synthetic plastics that do not biodegrade. When it's tossed on the sidewalk, there it sits until it's removed, which can be a costly, time-consuming process. Littered gum can also make its way into the food chain. It has been found in fish, where it can accumulate toxins over time. 

Sustainable chewing gums have been produced. These gums are natural, biodegradable substances. Cities are also implementing gum receptacles to cut down on waste. In a six month period, these trash cans cut down on littered gum by 72%.

Next time you get ready to toss your gum, consider aiming for a trash can instead of the sidewalk.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

TBT -- It's about those pesky plastic bags

Americans use approximately 100 billion plastic bags per year

For today's Throwback Thursday, we're revisiting a post from January 2013. This one is all about another passion of mine -- reusable bags. I see absolutely NO reason for anyone not to be using reusable bags on a regular basis. Even if you need an occasional plastic bag for trash, etc., most likely you don't need an endless stack of them. Why not try cutting your plastic bag usage in half at least? Just a thought.

Remember when the question was, "Paper or plastic?" Perhaps you're still asked the question. I want to challenge you to make that question completely unnecessary. How? By saying, "No bag, please," as soon as you're greeted at the check out line.

It took me awhile to get used to carrying bags with me into stores. But consistency led to habit and habit led to my feeling rather naked if I didn't have my reusable totes with me when I checked out in a store.

It started with grocery shopping. Like I said, it took me awhile to get used to this. Several times, as I was getting into a line at the grocery store, I realized I'd left my bags in the car. So I parked my cart off to the side and I went out to retrieve them. A couple of times, this was in the rain. Soon, I made sure not to leave them behind anymore. Now, the thought of being seen carrying a plastic bag from the store puts me in a cold sweat! It's like a minister being seen coming out of a porn shop. Green Grandma better have her reusable bags with her!

After I purchased some wonderful fold-up-and-snap cloth bags from Target and Kohls, I started stashing them in my purse. Always available.

PA State Store bags

I was thrilled when the Pennsylvania State Stores (where we buy our wine) started carrying reusable wine bags. I have 3 and use them all the time. They are perfect at the grocery store for keeping glass jars from clinking up against each other in the bag!

Then I discovered Envirosax bags. Oh my. These handy, dandy reusable sacks roll up to the size of a small fist. Super duper easy, and lightweight, to keep in a purse or coat pocket at all times.

Envirosax Wild Kingdom

A little while after the carry-your-own-bags trend started to catch on, the issue of bacteria and germs raised its ugly, but valid, head. You see, the standard reusable grocery bags do not hold up well to the washing machine. So buying fresh meat and produce creates a problem. Not even thinking, I was placing packages of chicken and pork into my bags. Of course, little bits of the meat juices were seeping out, and bacteria was having a party in the bottom of my bags. Or I was filling my bags with non-organic apples, laden with pesticides that was wearing off onto the sides of the bags. All-in-all, this was not a good situation. And it seems to be the battle cry of all those opposed to using reusable totes.

So, here are my solutions:

  • After you are done shopping, liberally spray the inside of your cloth shopping bags with a 50:50 solution of distilled white vinegar and water. This will kill the bacteria.
  • Slip meat into the thin plastic meat bags (yes, I'm advocating the use of a small amount of plastic if necessary).
  • Use washable produce bags.
  • Buy a supply of machine washable totes, like the ones I use from Envirosax, and throw them in the wash after each trip to the grocery store. This is my favorite tip. It's safe, easy and practical.
If you're like me, it might take some time to get into the habit of keeping bags on hand. But isn't it better to start now, before it becomes necessary to pass more laws regarding this issue? We don't have the laws here in Pennsylvania. And I'm hoping we never have to. 

Do your part and skip the single-use plastic bags. Do it for the earth, the wildlife and your fellow human beings. Or just do it because you're cool like that, right?


By the way, since I first posted this, I discovered my new FAVORITE reusable bag -- it's called the flip & tumble. I purchased mine from a wonderful little store in Lititz, PA called Heavenly Soaps and Scents, but you can buy them online here

Quite simply, they go from this:

to this:

Brillant! They are lightweight and small enough to stash a couple of them in your purse at one time. No more "I forgot my bag" excuses!

So, where are you in the Bring Your Own Bag journey?


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

TOMS shoe sale! Shoes supporting a cause!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. Of course, I won't mind it if you do!

Did you know that TOMS gives back to children in need every time you make a purchase? With its Giving Partners and customers like you, TOMS has transformed everyday purchases into a force for good. Each purchase improves the health, education and well-being of children in over 60 countries. With every product you purchase, TOMS will help a person in need. 

So far, TOMS has given away over 35 million pairs of shoes! Help them do more by making a purchase for yourself or your children. Slipping into a pair of shoes feels so much better when you know that you're helping a child in need, don't you think?

One for One.®TOMS Sale at zulily - Save up to 40%! 

Stock up on shoes for the entire family with the TOMS sale at! Starting 2/17, you can get TOMS up to 40% off, including shoes for kids, women and men. Click the shop link below to find the perfect pair (or two or three)! 

Shop the TOMS sale here >> Up to 40% off TOMS - Sale starts 2/17 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Spit it out! Pesticides on our food.

Pesticides on our produce should be a cause for concern for every one of us. Even if you feed your own kids all organic foods, if they go to school, they're bound to be exposed to the very pesticides you're trying to protect them from. I believe that if we all start spreading the word about how harmful these chemicals really are, change can take place. Armed with facts, parents can approach school boards, day care centers, church groups, etc. and ask them to protect our kids!

Of course, there are certain foods we should avoid because of the genetic modifications, like corn and soy. But that's a tough one because corn and soy byproducts are in so much of our processed foods. Even the oils used in baking and frying tend to be made from genetically engineered foods. 

And sugar is another problem altogether. Because much of the sugar we consume is derived from GM beets, even that is an issue.

But what about conventional produce that is not genetically modified? Well, there's still an issue with much of it due to the heavy use of pesticides here in the U.S. Sometimes, it's simply safer to buy imported produce from countries that do not grow GM crops and do not use the pesticides allowed here in this country. 

Photo by Lucy Toner
The Center for Food Safety released a top 5 list for the foods affected most by pesticides. Of course, topping the list are apples. I will only buy organic apples because of this. After all, what good is the old adage, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away," when the truth is that eating American-grown conventional apples just might be the very reason you or your children are sick to begin with. In 2010, the residue from over 47 pesticides were found in these apples. Due to the diphenylamine (DPA) found in over 80% of the conventional apples grown here, most American apples have been banned in Europe. Banned! Yet we keep feeding them to our kids in school cafeterias, fast food restaurants, etc., thinking they are the 'healthy' choice. Yikes!

Photo by Peter Griffin
Even worse than the apples, grapes are coated with 56 pesticides, according to the USDA Pesticide Data Program (PDP). And 8 of these are known carcinogens; 4 are developmental or reproductive toxins. Why are we feeding these to our kids?? Maybe it's simply because we are uninformed. Some of the pesticides used on grape crops are linked to problems with fertility and with miscarriages. No. No. No.

Photo by Peter Griffin
Peaches top grapes with a whopping 62 pesticide residues found in a study by PDP in 2008. I suspect it's only gotten worse since then. Twelve of the pesticides are neurotoxins, which negatively affect the brain and nervous system. As with grapes, eight are known carcinogens.

Photo by Penny Ferguson
The final fruit in the top 5 is the beloved strawberry. You know, the fruit, when added to a spinach salad, is both delicious and healthy. Or is it? Based on the 2009 study by the PDP, conventional strawberries contain residue from 45 various pesticides, 6 of them as known carcinogens and 7 neurotoxins. Not so healthy after all, huh?

Photo by Peter Griffin

One vegetable made its way onto the list: celery. I love celery. Especially the celery I buy in Lancaster County at Hodecker's Farm. Nothing like it. Now, I'm not sure if the Hodeckers use pesticides, but I guarantee you I'll be checking into it. When my mom was still alive, one of the reasons I looked forward to her visits was that I knew she would come bearing big bags of celery. Delicious. Now my cousin, Kelly, has adopted her tradition. But maybe not for long. I have to check out how safe it is first. After all, conventional celery tops the list here with the most pesticide residue of all -- 64! That includes 12 different neurotoxins and 10 known carcinogens. Crap.

Photo by Seth Clifton

Another thing to note about celery crops -- one of the pesticides contains Spinosad, which was found on 100% of the samples. The problem with this one? It's toxic to honeybees. Wonderful.

If you want to read more about the above studies and why they present reasons for concern, please visit The Center for Food Safety and read their report.

Caring about you and your kids,

Sunday, February 15, 2015

And the winner is...

Congratulations to Juliana Rezaiezadeh
the winner of the Valentine's Day 
book and chocolate giveaway!

Juliana, please email your mailing address 

Thanks to everyone who participated!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

TBT -- Thicker than Blood, a true love story

Throwback Thursday from December 2013. Bill and my love story... appropriate reading for Valentine's Day. 

Bill and I started dating on December 20, 1989. Here is our story, as seen in CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL: THE DATING GAME. I hope it inspires you during this season of love.

Thicker than Blood

“He’s ten years older than me!” I said to my friend, Kathy, as she tried talking me into meeting her husband’s best friend.

       “You don’t have to marry him; just go out with him. I hate seeing two of my closest friends hurting the way you are and thought you’d be good company for each other.”

Recently widowed at the age of thirty-two, I was anxious to be married again. Bill, on the other hand, was separated, with no plans to ever have another wife. Yet, once I agreed to meet him, we clicked and started spending all our available time together.

With four daughters between us, alone time was a precious commodity. We spent hours on the phone, talking late into the night. With each passing month, we grew closer and closer. Yet, we still had opposite marriage goals for our lives.

        It wasn’t long before I was, as they say, head over heels in love with Bill. He’d walk into a room and take my breath away. However, my feelings made him uncomfortable. After all, he was still in love with his wife, and wanted nothing more than to work things out with her. While I agreed that would be the best thing for him and for their two daughters, it was apparent the family was not going to reunite.

He admitted his struggle one night as we sat listening to The Moody Blues. “I don’t know what to do,” he said. “I have strong feelings for you and can’t imagine my life without you, but I still love her.”

“Of course, you do,” I empathized. “I’m not asking you to stop loving her. Loving me doesn’t preclude how you feel about her.”

“I don’t understand. How could I possibly love both of you? It just isn’t right.”

“Who says it isn’t? Don’t you think I still love Jim?”

“That’s different. Your husband is dead.”

I paused, trying to put my thoughts into words. “Do you remember how you felt about April when she was born?”

“I loved her with everything in me. What does that have to do with anything?”

      “Well, when you found out you were going to have another baby, didn’t you wonder how you could possibly love a second child the way you loved the first?”

Still confused, he answered me. “I guess so.”

“So, when Mindy was born, did you have to take some of your love away from April in order to love her?”

“Of course not. I just loved her... as much as I loved her sister.”

“Exactly,” I said, confident my point was made, “you didn’t have to split that love in two to share it. Your heart simply grew.”

“That’s a good way of putting it. But I still don’t understand what that has to do with us,” questioned Bill.

“Well, I’m not asking you to stop loving your first wife. She’s the mother of your children and you were with her for over twenty years. Love like that doesn’t go away. But that doesn’t mean you can’t love me, too. You just have to give your heart permission to grow.”

Over the next few days, he thought about what I said. And then, it happened. Not only did he allow his heart to grow, but he also gave himself permission to say the words I desperately wanted to hear.

“I love you, Hana,” he said gently, tears filling his eyes. “I really love you.”

A few months later, sitting across the table from me at the restaurant where we’d had our first date, he asked me to marry him. Naturally, I said yes.

We’ve been married for over twenty years now. My children, who were only nine and seven when we wed, were blessed with the best daddy they could have hoped for. Now, with children of their own, Grandpap is the heart of the family.

“You’ll never find anyone who will love Bethany and Jessica as much as Jim did,” a relative told me the week after my husband’s death.

She was wrong. Bill loves my girls, our girls, as much as he ever loved his own two daughters. Blood is thicker than water? Maybe. But love is much thicker than blood.

~Hana Haatainen-Caye



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