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blogging reviews

g r e e n j e l l o w i t h c a r r o t s. c o m 1

February 2011 THE DATING DIVAS


You’ll never have to plan another date again - The Dating Divas have done all the planning for you!



Learn about Bento and how to make the cutest (and healthy) lunches in the world.



Showing the love has never been easier. Love Actually has ideas that are romantic, cute or fun.


The Dating Divas - 6 Blog Designs - 21 Make a Felt Crown - 36 Love Actually - 25 For the Love of Cooking - 37 Super Bowl Salsa - 5 Everyday Photography - 17 Bento - 31



With scrumptious pictures and creative recipes, you’ll be sure to find something yummy.


NOTE FROM THE EDITORS: Happy Fe br u ar y e v e r y on e ! Can you smell the romance in the air? It smells a little like Lemon Pledge, doesn’t it? A little tangy, a little out of place and a little like someone did a quick job at keeping the romantic dust at bay for another year? It’s as if a dozen roses or box of chocolates means “see, we love each other, and now we don’t have to do anything to show that love for the rest of the year, phew”. But it doesn’t have to be all Lemon Pledge-y, romance can be alive ALL YEAR LONG. Aside from some good blog spotlights and funny sections, this month’s issue has great ideas to keep the romance alive in your marriage/relationship coming from some bloggers who are experts of loooove. (If you read “experts of loooove” in a Barry White voice, it makes things sound so much neater. Try it.)

x o x o, Melissa &


MAGAZINE CREDITS: Executive Editor: Michelle Laird Editorial Director: Melissa Bastow Photographic Supreme Genius of all Time: Marissa Vargason Fashion Expert Extraordinaire: Abby Adams Singles Section Specialist: Barbara Managing Supreme Director of all Things Zebra Print: Michelle Laird Got Ankle Weights for Christmas (& wearing them right now): Melissa Bastow Ultimate Quasi-Date Setup Artist: Barbara Master of the Universe: Melissa Bastow



Great Give Aways A list of blogs you can visit to win some fab give aways. Super Singles Section - Dry Spell of Death Looking good for yourself.



Charity of the Month - Mothers Matter Women are unnecessarily dying from childbirth all over the globe - find out how to save lives.


Photography 101 - Moments that Count Capturing the moment, not just someone saying “cheeeeeese”.


Tips from a Real House Wife The Plan that will get you a day off of chores.


Sew That - Felt Crowns The most ADORABLE crowns ever. Guest host: Hippos & Dinosaurs


Abby’s Fab Five - A Holiday for Romantics We want to officially congratulate Abby on her wedding - her little family is adorable!


Totally Legit Horoscopes These are really real. I swear. It’s not like I just made them up or anything.


Blog Designs of the Month Some of our favorite blog designs by our favorite designers.


Potty Talk - That Girl The time the authorities were called due to potty training. From the Archives of... - Lawsons Did Dallas Candy Management



Visit our Sponsors Because I said so. Plus, they’re awesome.


Super Bowl Salsa A great recipe for the big game.


Are you throwing a Super Bowl party? Looking for something super scrumptious to serve? Sometimes the same ole’ salsa just won’t cut it, but this avocado and corn salsa will! It’s fresh, easy to make and will delight you (and your guest’s) taste buds. If you like this recipe, check out more from Pam and “For the Love of Cooking” blog on page 37.


Recipe found here: http://fortheloveofcooking-recipes.blogspot.com/2009/08/avocado-and-corn-salsa.html

Review by Melissa Bastow

I’ve never been big on all that lovey-dovey romance, but I gotta say, being married can get BORING. The beginning of the relationship is exciting and filled with fun, then time passes, you get comfortable, and next thing you know your friday nights are bowls of microwave popcorn and Netflix on the couch. In your pjs. Yawn. That’s where The Dating Divas come in. Their primary focus is on keeping marriages strong and exciting, but their dating ideas are great for anyone looking to do something creative on a budget. This article is filled with some of my favorite date ideas. You can check out their website to find out more about The Divas, Read articles and see the rest of their great ideas: t h e d a t i n g d i v a s . c o m

The Dat ing Diva’s Mission St atement: “We are wives, mothers, sisters, and friends who strive to enrich marriages everywhere. We want to celebrate the gift of marriage while inspiring others to do the same. It is our goal to provide creative, inexpensive, and innovative dating ideas that will bring joy, fun, and excitement back into the relationship. We encourage all married men and women to take a conscious and proactive approach to investing in their spouse. By putting our spouses first, we are taken back to the simple magic of being head over heels in love again. We desire to help make lasting marriages, which in return will create everlasting families.”


Choose Your Own Adventure Date

You remember reading Choose Your Own Advetnure books right? (Honestly, if you didn’t read those as a kid, your childhood was severely lacking, and you should go to your public library RIGHT NOW and check one out to make up for it.) The Choose Your Own Adventure Date is, by far, my favorite group date suggestion on The Dating Diva’s website. This date idea was posted by Tara and even comes with printable cards to use on the date (ie. she’s done all the work for you)! A good Dating Diva date starts with an invite. It only takes a bit of printer paper and a little effort to get the activity prepared.

Starting with the restaurant clues, everyone chooses where they’d like to eat.

During the car ride there are “tasks” which everyone has to perform. (Hilarious tasks, by the way. They totally reminded me of high school, but in a GREAT way.) There are “tasks” to perform at the restaurant as well.

There are more clues to decipher after dinner to decide on an activity. Everyone chooses the activity based on the clues and goes from there. If you’re adventurous you can add more clues & activities.

Find out more information about this date, and download the pre-designed cards on The Dating Diva’s website.

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This idea was posted by Corie with details of her recreated first date with her husband (which doesn’t even involve toilet papering, and is, therefore, much better than mine). Of course every one’s date is going to be unique. But there are some great suggestions that Corie included with her idea.

Recreate Your First Date

Every one has a great “first date” story. Well, everyone except my husband and me - we never really “dated”. We just hung out. So unless we want to recreate the time that we took my little sister and her friends toilet papering, we really can’t officially follow the rules for this date. But it’s still a fun idea, you know, for all those non-lame people out there who actually went on real dates.

MUSIC. What songs were big the year you had your first date together? Chumbawumba? The Macarena? Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon? Whatever it was, load up that iPod, or create a mixed CD with all the greatest (and most annoyingly memorable - I did say The Macarena afterall) songs to listen to while you’re on the date. FOOD. Most dates involve some kind of food, even if it’s popcorn or Big League Bubble Gum Chew. Revisit the restaurant, or type of restaurant, you had dinner in all those years ago.

MOVIES. Did you see a movie on your first date? But it’s been like 5 billion years and it’s not like you can find that movie in a theater anywhere on the planet, right? Find something similar. Corie and her husband saw “Romeo & Juliet” on their first date (think Leonardo DiCaprio) so they decided to see “Letters to Juliet” on their recreated first date. See? It totally works.

DETAILS. Seriously - this is the most important part of the recreation. What little things made your first date together memorable? Did you find out you were allergic to the ranch dip and instantaneously get runs and have to go home early? Well, load up on laxatives, girl. Details make the date! (Ok, you have my permission to skip the laxatives. In fact, if that was your first date, KUDOS to your husband, and just recreate your second date, ok?)

Find out more information about this date, and read about Corie’s date on The Dating Diva’s website:

http://www.thedatingdivas.com/just-the-two-of-us/recreate-your-first-date/ 8

Scoff if you will, but I have some major memories of prom. I have memories of all the dances I attended, really. And not all of those memories involve how completely awkward I looked while trying to dance (coordination and me don’t hang out). Dances are just fun. And I never got to go to one with my husband. So I think that pretty much requires we have a patio prom. (You’re all invited to watch me attempt to dance. It’ll be great. I promise big laughs.) This date idea was posted by Kari. She included lots of fun pictures and ideas so you can make your Patio Prom as magical as hers. First things first, you must ask your date to go to the prom with you. And think high school. Seriously. Balloons, shaving cream, a diaper with melted candy bars in it, whatever. You have to ask. (And I also think you should make him answer in a like manner, but that’s just a personal preference.) Decorate. Judging from Kari’s pictures, some shiny stars and white Christmas lights can do wonders to a patio. Kari also decorated some plates, bowls and goblets with vinyl which is a cheap way to make things memorable. Plan dinner. Make it affordable, but fun. Dinner on the patio is a perfect idea since, you know, you’ll be there anyway. Plus you can get the kids in bed before the date and not even have to pay for a babysitter. Setup a tripod or get a friend to come take official prom pictures for you. And when the sun goes down, flip on the magical Christmas, I mean Prom, lights and turn on your favorite music. You may even want to slip into something a little more “comfortable” for this part, if you know what I’m saying. Hey - Kari did.

Find out more information about this date on The Dating Diva’s website.

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I’m pretty sure it’s common knowledge among all women, but men really love it when you focus on them and what they like. I mean, really, how many conversations have you had with him about sports? Or politics? Or the politics involved in sports? Yeah. So this date is PERFECTO. It’s all about him and his favorite things. This idea is also from Corie. She has included lots of pictures and ideas to get you going. But I think once you start writing a list of your hubby’s faves, it won’t be too hard to come up with something great. You’ll need to purchase five of your husband’s favorite things. Little things. Little affordable things. (Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup type things.) You will also need to make some note cards to go with the items. Start on a monday, and throughout the week leave one notecard and one favorite item somewhere he’ll see it. Be creative and leave it somewhere different each day. It will make it more fun for you and him. You can create the notecards however you’d like. Corie’s cards started with phrases like “Remember When...” and “Why I Love You...” On friday of that week, have your date planned around your Husband’s favorite things. Eat at his favorite restaurant, window shop at his favorite store, let him tell you all about the teams he’d like to see play during March Madness. Just remember, it’s all about him - fake enthusiasm if you have to. After Corie was done with her date she took all the notecards from the week and put them together in a fun keepsake book for her husband. (She included the instructions for the book online.) All kidding aside, there is no better way to show someone you care than by focusing completely on them. This date is perfect to show your husband how much you love him. And who knows - maybe he’ll reciprocate? Find out more information and get great details from Corie on The Dating Diva’s website:

http://www.thedatingdivas.com/just-the-two-of-us/a-few-of-his-favorite-things/ 10

“We began this lil’ venture of dating our spouses, just like anyone else…..waaay back before we said, “I Do”! Back when dates were the most important element of our life and held a high status over all else. {WINK} Being at the top of our lists, the focus on dating helped us fall MADLY in love with the men we now call our DEAR husbands. Since those dating years some of us have had children, finished school, started careers, and quite simply have embarked on what we know now as, “The Married Life”. We all know that marriage can become TOO comfortable {a.k.a. routine} and dating your amazing spouse – the way you did when first falling in love… is the sure-fire way to keep that SPARK in marriage! We are sharing with you the SECRETS to our success! We hope that you will find ideas that keep your marriage healthy, happy, and full of love!”

~The Divas

There are so many more great date ideas on The Dating Divas website. They also include product reviews and other, non-date, ways you can show your spouse some love. It’s lots of fun to browse through their posts, read their ideas, and make some great date plans.

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organically growing your online neighborhood h t t p : / / w w w. a f r u g a l f r i e n d . n e t

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e thCasual Blogger



Would you like to have your blog listed in next month’s Give Away section? Email: melissabastow@hotmail.com for details.


Co oki n g, la und r y, carpet shampooing, di s h e s, wi n do ws, s c r u bbi n g be h i n d yo u r t o i le ts with a n old rat t y t oot hbrush - - s o m e t i m e s i t al l j u s t s e e m s l i ke TO O TOO M UCH.

We feel your pain, w e k n o w yo u r wo e s, we s h ar e yo u r

ho u se ke e ping frus t rat ions. So t ake it easy f o r a m i n u t e an d t ake s o m e advi c e, o n u s. He re y o u hav e it :

TIPS FROM A REAL HOUSE WIFE by, Michelle from mylifeasarealhousewife.blogspot.com

• If your car is stinky and you don’t want one of those over powering air fresheners, Try this out: Put fabric softener sheets under your seat in the car and switch it every 3-4 weeks. It will make it smell fresh and clean. • You know how re-arranging your furniture leaves those ugly dents in the rug/carpet that seem to take forever to fluff back up? Apply a damp towel to the dent. Hold an iron 4-5 inches over the towel for 1 minute. Remove the towel and the dent should have disappeared because of the heat and steam. • Ever have rude guests that forgot to use a coaster and now you have white rings on your table? Dab non-gel toothpaste on a damp cloth and gently massage the area until you see it disappear. Then just use water to wipe off the toothpaste residue. So ladies, sometimes you just need a day off from your daily chores but it’s not like you can tell your husband because then he’ll want his own day off as well, right? Don’t worry, we got it covered. Go ahead and lay around the house all day watching Ellen and The Real Housewife’s. Then about an hour before your hubby gets home do the following: 1. Get ready, but just a little so it looks like you’ve been working hard all day. 2. Make cookies that come out of a package. Hide the package so it looks like you made them from scratch. Get a little flour on your hands or shirt. (The face is a little too obvious.) 3. Make a premade frozen skillet dinner and time it to be ready for your hubby when he gets home. Again, hide the package so he thinks you cut the veggies and cooked it all separate and made it up. (Now you have a reason for dirty dishes, you know, since you made cookies “from scratch” and a dinner with “a lot of preparation”.) 4. Kick all the baby toys to one side of the room - a pile of baby toys looks so much cleaner than scattered toys. 5. Relax until your hard working husband comes home. When you hear him pull into the driveway, throw your baby on your hip and start the vacuum. There are lots of variations to THE PLAN, feel free to get creative. And trust me, it works every time. 13



Capricorn (12/22-1/19)- This information is vital to your existence: it’s time to flip your mattress. Aquarius (1/20-2/18)- You’ll embarrass yourself irrevocably with an incident involving insideout socks and a hangnail. Pisces (2/19-3/20)- He said, “It’s not just about dust mites, you know?” And you BELIEVED him. Sucker. Aries (3/21-4/19)- You’re totally lucky this month, so be daring...If the odds are less than 4:1, that is. Taurus (4/20-5/20)- This is your month of love, which is handy seeing as this month also contains Valentine’s Day. Gemini (5/21-6/21)- I’m only saying this one more time - QUIT PICKING YOUR NOSE. Cancer (6/22-7/22)- It’s written in the stars you will have a good hair day....eventually. Leo (7/23-8/22)- Sometimes you shouldn’t listen to the talking broccoli. Virgo (8/23-9/22)- You should only wear green eye shadow this month. Don’t ask me why! How rude. Just do it because I said so. Libra (9/23-10/22)- Forget the Hawaii plans vacation in Wisconsin instead. Scorpio (10/23-11/21)- You will develop an unrational fear of finger puppets (and their menacing older cousin, the paper bag puppet). Sagittarius (11/22-12/21)- I like you. You have pretty shoes. And you smell like cookies.


Low Advertising Rates Advertising with The Barrel is easy & inexpensive, and we offer design services if you need them. Email us for details:


POTTY TALK embarrassment served in a porcelain bowl

We can’t have a Potty Talk section without a good potty training s t o r y e v e r y o n c e i n a w h i l e ( a n d t r u s t m e, t h i s i s a g o o d o n e ) . F r o m :

themisplacedamericans.blogspot.com My neighbors think I abuse my children. No. Seriously. It’s true. First let me begin by saying that IN GENERAL Brazilians tend to be on the permissive side of the parenting gap. (Don’t get all huffy, Brazilians Who Read This, you know it’s true.) I don’t know how many times I’ve been told I’m a bad mother because my kids have nap times. And rules. And I do things like limit sugar intake. Bad, bad mother. It also helps that my neighbor has only one son, while I have three. And her son is thirty-five years old, while mine are 4 1/2, 2 1/2, and nine months. So let’s go back a few years to when I was potty-training Little Prince. My first. We had talked up the Big Potty, gotten out our sticker charts, bought incentives (read: treats), and we were down to the last diaper. It was time. The first two days were surprisingly simple. LP was thoroughly excited about being a big boy, and though we had some accidents, he was enthusiastic about the New Deal. Enter third day. That morning, he simply didn’t want to wear underwear. I told him in a chipper, saleslady voice that UNDERWEAR was awesome. SO awesome. Diapers are Zero Fun, Sir. He didn’t buy it. His voice started to rise and the feet started to tap and I knew we were gearing up for a full on temper tantrum. And .... he blew. Above his screams, I informed him that he had two choices: 1) wear underwear or 2) go naked. I left him to think about his life while I went to get myself and Ouro Branco ready for the day. Ten minutes go by (all of which were spent screaming - him, not me. Yet.) and I offered him his choices again. Ya know, just in case he forgot. He was disinclined to acquiesce my request. And let me know at the top of his lungs. Another ten minutes. I offered the choices. Another ten minutes. Choices again. Another ten minutes. After the fourth negotiation session, I walked out of LP’s bedroom to find a man standing in my kitchen. Understandably, I screamed. Which scared this man half to death. He was one of the condominium guards, sent there by our neighbor. She had called to report that I was either abusing my son or had left him home alone. “No abuse here! Just potty training ....” (*sheepish, watery grin*) And I still can’t look my neighbor in the eye.

If you have a funny (G-Rated) bathroom story you would like to share, email me: melissabastow@hotmail.com



Ever wondered how to take your photos from snapshots to AHmazing? Today we are going to talk about putting the wow factor into your photos. You don’t need to setup a studio in your home to be able to capture your family’s memories. There are a few things you want to focus on when taking pictures. First and foremost, focus on the moment at hand. I can’t say this enough! Focus on the emotion, the moment, the situation. When you can feel what is going on by looking at an image, you know you have captured that moment. With the availability of video cameras these days its easier for people to capture moments on their flip hd’s or other devices, but the quality to print those out for your home is really not what its made for. It is a bit more of a challenge trying to capture a moment by freezing that moment in time. Really capturing emotion is what you should be after. The couple that has been married for years, the grandparents and grandchildren capturing their legacy, the child’s first birthday cake, kids when they pout, laugh or even cry. These are moments that you have to capture. The funny faces your kids make that remind you of mom or dad, those are the moments.

Where to start? Clutter. Remember when taking these pictures and trying to capture the moment try to have

a lot of the clutter out of the image if it doesn’t help depict the moment or emotion. If it doesn’t help set the stage we should probably either move it, or crop the photo so that it focuses more on the subject.

“CHEESE!” The biggest thing with kids is for whatever reason, they are trained early on to

say “cheese” this is the BIGGEST mistake to teach your children because from then on out, when they see a camera, automatically little Joey instantly stops what he is doing “the moment” and stares at you while giving the biggest grin saying cheese. That is good for a few pictures but we would love to capture other emotions. 17

A P HwithYMarissa1 Varg 0ason1 A few tips to remember: • Grab your camera at an unexpected moment (capture Timmy when he least expects it playing fighter guys). • Take a ton of pictures! Don’t stop when Sally cries and says she is done, some of the most precious pictures are taken then. • Crop close in! Get down on their level, and then get close! Capture their face, the toys they are playing with, them painting with there little hands. • Remember emotion. The grandkids are all around grandma and grandpa on their laps, getting loves from the people that matter most! Capture it! • Don’t forget to get in some of the pictures yourself! Mom and dad need to be in pictures together, pictures with their kids, we all know someone is behind the camera, make sure to hand that camera off and get pictures of you and the kiddos. • Go outside in a fun environment! Take the kids to the park and capture the fun there. Get some ice cream. Head out and have a good time! Take bubbles and have your kids run and pop them! All in all just practice practice practice! Next month we are going to start talking about display options for our homes, places that are great priced but amazing quality to print and some fun ways to use our memories to decorate our homes. Then we will start into a series discussing shooting in manual yay! Marissa will be teaching a class on February 12th in Layton, Utah for anyone interested in attending. For more information and to register visit her blog: http://marissavargasonphotography.com/blog/index.php/register-now/

Marissa Vargaon is an award-winning photographer with a pure and simple photographic style.

A studio and on-location photographer, Marissa specializes

in modern custom portraiture for all ages, including maternity/birth, newborns/ babies/children, families and teens/high school seniors. Her company, Marissa Vargason Photography, is located in Syracuse, Utah, and serves the Salt Lake City and surrounding areas.

You can see more of her amazing work on her blog:

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Dr y Spell of D EA TH I’m going through a dry spell right now. In other words, there are no guys on my radar that are capturing my interest. Not the cute, water delivery guy. Not the boys in the ward. Definitely no one at work. Nothing. It’s getting old. It’s getting boring. It’s getting bland. Basically, I’m tired of it. It’s never good to have zero crushes. My subconscious knows there’s nothing and no one that I’m looking forward to seeing, so it tells my brain we don’t have to try that hard to get ready. I do the obligatory mascara and lip gloss daily…but I’m hard pressed to do more than that. Heaven forbid I take 20 more seconds to put on blush or eye shadow. So what if I wear the same shirt two days in a row? And isn’t watching Reality TV a better pastime than going to the gym, anyway? In an effort to get myself back to normal, and to become a presentable human being once more, my mind decides to fall back on past crushes. Crushes that never went anywhere cuz the guy was lame (translation: he wasn’t interested), or I realized his view on politics was enough to turn me off, or even though I haven’t seen him for 3 years things could still work out, right? The past comes back to haunt me. So what if he was a jerk to me? Or that he lives in another State? Or that he has a serious girlfriend? So many crushes, so many failed attempts, so many embarrassments, and I’m willing to relive them all just to create something interesting and to give myself something to anticipate. The trick is to feel that way whether there is a guy or not. Life is good. The unexpected can be fun and it never hurts to actually take the time to look pretty. Why do I have to have a guy to impress to have those things in my life? I don’t. But I do occasionally need a kick in the pants to remind myself of that. This does not mean, however, that I won’t park myself in front of the TV with some Chex Mix, Reese’s and jerky on February 14th with a few good chick-flicks. Barbara is a native of Provo, Utah aka The Hurry-Up-And-Get-Married-BeforeYou’re-Branded-An-Old-Maid capitol of the world. She has over 8 years professional experience as a “young” single adult and has lived through all the exciting, horrendous, embarrassing, unusual, and cliché things a relationship has to offer. When she’s not busy being 100% single, she enjoys dealing with mentally unstable roommates, vainly avoiding chocolate, and sending her nieces and nephews back to their parents when they get tired and cranky. You can read Barbara’s blog at: b a r b a l o o t s u i t . b l o g s p o t . c o m


esigns Blog D OF THE MONTH

These are just a few of our favorite blog designs from some of our favorite blog designers.

The Platinum Girl Celebrity Blog Blogger: Vanessa Blog Design by: www.leeloublogs.blogspot.com

w w w. p l a t i n u m g i r l c e l e b r i t y b l o g . c o m

Gardening with Miss Daisy Blogger: Jen Blog Design by: www.leeloublogs.blogspot.com

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Blogger: Jana Mathews • Blog Design by: www. l e e l o ubl o gs. bl ogspot.com

t a l e s o f l i t t l e b i t t y. b l o g s p o t. c o m

Blogger: Tracey Reese • Blog Design by: littlebittyblogs.blogspot.com 22

Abby’s Fab Five a




Trick-or-treaters and turkey eaters have had their day. Holly jolly Christmas lovers and New Years partiers have done their celebrating. Now it is our turn. By “our” I refer to the romantics among us: the chocolate-loving, Notebook-watching, love-sick fools who claim St. Valentine’s Day as their favorite holiday. I love chocolate, I love lingerie, and I love delivering delightful treats to my friends and family. What I appreciate most about Valentine’s Day, however, are the colors: red, violet, and pink (oh! the shades of pink: light, dark, sparkly… I love them all!). I’ve got some colorful treasures on my Valentine’s wish list this year. Don’t have a Valentine? That’s ok. Be your own Valentine and spoil yourself. I’m sure that is what I’ll be doing since my husband doesn’t have a romantic bone in his body (this is not a complaint, I promise. Trust me. Edward Cullen makes me want to puke). Anyway, without further rambling, here are the Valentine delights that I’m hoping for.

1. A RED BAG- Pink, lavender, green, blue, yellow, black, brown: these are the

colors of the purse in my closet. What is missing? A beautiful red bag like this one from Aldo ($51 from Zappos).

2. PRETTY SHOES- Spring is right around the corner and I’ve got pretty shoes

on the brain, especially ballet flats. Check out this lovely pair from Born ($95 from Zappos). This shade of pink is nearly nude, which means you can sport these with nearly anything.

3. SPRING TOPS- Each year, I get hit with a terrible case of spring fever. It arrives in February and

doesn’t cease until the sun arrives and the snow melts. It may still be too cold for bare legs or tank tops but why not start stocking up on spring tops? Pretty pink and lavender are in for spring and there is no reason to avoid wearing your new tees or tanks. Stay warm by throwing a cute cardigan over them.

4. PRETTY UNMENTIONABLES- One of my friends has been single for the last several Valentine’s days. That hasn’t stopped her from going out and treating herself to new lingerie each year. Good for her. I think you should do the same. Go for a new bra/panty set and don’t go neutral. Be festive and choose pink or red (check the Valentines Crushes section at Gapbody.com). Not the underwear type? Ask Cupid for new pajamas. 5. PERFUME- Valentine or no Valentine, there is no excuse to not smell pretty. If

you want your perfume to look as lovely as it smells, try Viva La Juicy (from Juicy Couture) or Bright Crystal (from Versace). Both are $67 for 1.7 oz. from Sephora.

Abby Adams is a happy and hopeful mom to one cute daughter and two furry babies. She likes to read, write, exercise, and shop. She is a personal style fanatic and loves to try new looks and products. Get to know her better at her blogs: Diligent Joy m i s s a b b y a . b l o g s p o t. c o m and Confessions of a Beauty Aisle Addict b e a u t y a i s l e a d d i c t. b l o g s p o t. c o m


Get your copy of “Miss Delacourt Has Her Day”, the latest novel from Heidi Ashworth.





Review by Melissa Bastow. All pictures and information from the Love Actually Blog

Looking for the perfect gift to show someone you love them? Well, look no further! Ok, maybe you might want to click around on Love Actually for awhile, but THEN look no further! Love Actaully has it all - date ideas, love-ly decorations and gift ideas a plenty. And it ’ s all about LOVE. A ct ua lly.


This is my favorite project on Love Actually. I made one of these photo Rubiks Cubes for my husband, and it was worth all the work. The step by step instructions provided by Cher, from Love Actually, are easy to follow but if you need more information, you can find it on her blog.

http://loveactually-blog.blogspot.com/2009/09/romantic-rubiks-cube.html 26

Candy Carvings 1. Buy a package of a treat he likes. 2. Open it carefully. 3. With a toothpick, carve your sentiments. 4. Glue the package shut. When he gets it, I’m sure he’ll think, “Oh. Peanut Butter Cups. Nice.” But when he decides to eat them, he’ll have a surprise waiting for him! Sometimes, its the little things that hold a relationship together--so don’t discount these simple midweek romance tips!


http://loveactually-blog.blogspot.com/2009/04/hidden-candy-message.html 27

Cher’s suggestions for cereal prizes: • A love note or coupon • A small item that fits in the box • Movie tickets • A favorite candy bar • A Lotto Card • An invitation for a romantic evening • Gift Card to his favorite store • Gift certificate to a restaurant

Cereal Box Prize So, I bought a box of his favorite cereal (I know what you’re thinking...”Rice Squares?”...yup, he’s adventurous, that husband of mine) and carefully opened it so no proof of tampering would be evident when he opened it for the first time. I put his “prize” inside (he’d wanted this

My suggestions for cereal prizes:

DVD for a while) and sealed it back up. I let him pour

• A “Honey Do” list • 2 tickets to be in Ellen’s guest audience • A hundred dollar bill • The car keys with a note that says “WASH ME” • Rock Band (oh wait, does that fit in a cereal box?) • Cereal

his cereal before me that day. He saw the label on the

(I’m totally romantic, I know.)

box and asked, “Did this come on the box?” I said, “Ya.. weird, huh?” He opened it to find his movie and looked at me in disbelief. He still wasn’t sure if it came that way from the store or not! (He’s not usually this gullible...)


h t t p: / / l o v e a c t u a l l y- b l o g. b l o g s p o t. c o m / 2 0 0 9 / 0 7 / c e r e a l - b o x- p r i z e. h t m l 28

Double Your Pleasure Love Actually has ideas that cater to the “quick and easy” crowd (me). With just 39 cents and some adhesive you can show your love...twice.

1. Buy some Doublemint gum. 2. Glue it to a note that says:

“Today you get to pick your favorite pleasure for me to double. Just let me know what you want and it’s yours....twice!” You can find more information about this and/or other easy ideas on the Love Actually blog:

http://loveactually-blog.blogspot.com/2009/09/double-your-pleasure.html Cher is the brilliant author of Love Actually, sharing her ideas, and the ideas of others, to give you fun, easy and cheap ideas to keep the romance alive. With a range of gift and date ideas, it’s worth browsing through Cher’s archives.

About Cher: Currently hailing from Boston, Cher has always enjoyed creative dating and romance. What began as an occasional hobby to impress her husband, now a full-time dental student, has been transformed into an endless ambition to create romance on a budget....resulting in Love, Actually.

loveactually-blog.blogspot.com 29

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Contact Michelle for prices & details: mylifeasarealhousewife@gmail.com We even offer our ad designing services if you need them. I mean, just look at T H I S ad!

Clearly there’s no lack in our designing skills.


Review by Melissa Bastow All photos provided by bentoluch.net

What’s for lunch at our house? Most days I feel pretty good about slapping some Gogurt and a pb&j in a sack and sending my daughter off to school. Getting “creative” with lunch usually means something like, “Yikes, I have literally 30 seconds to make a lunch and get the kids in the car!” (Those are the days my daughter shows up with slices of processed cheese and some Wheat Thins in a baggy.) Even on good food days, I’ve always felt that my lunches were a little lacking. But when I stumbled upon “What’s for Lunch at Our House” I realized the full lunch-y LAMENESS that I’ve been thinking is perfectly acceptable. It’s time to leave the pudding cups and plastic baggies behind. It’s time to put an end to boring mediocre lunches.


It’s time to say hello to Bento!


What is Bento? According to Wikipedia bento is a single-portion takeout or home-packed meal common in Japanese cuisine. It can be very elaborately arranged in a style called kyaraben or “character bento”. Kyaraben is typically decorated to look like popular Japanese cartoon characters, characters from comic books or video game characters. Another popular bento style is “oekakiben” or “picture bento”, which is decorated to look like people, animals, buildings and monuments, or items such as flowers and plants. (Information found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bento) According to Shannon bento is a specific style of lunches, originating in Japan and noted for their compact presentation in a box of sorts. Traditional bento have a very specific ratio and combos of food. Bento, in my world, refers more to the box and cute presentation, a good balance of healthy foods, but not a specific system. Most American style bento tend to be more on the lines of what I’m describing and a little less of the traditional Japanese elements. “What’s for Lunch at Our House” focuses mainly on kyaraben or oekakiben arrangements. And yeah, using the real terms is all fancy and good, but I like to sum up the blog by saying it has pretty much the most adorable lunch arrangements I’ve ever seen, and if my daughter took these to school with her every day she’d probably skyrocket to “Most Popular 2nd Grader” and I’d be known as her “AWESOME MOM!” (See, I have it all planned out in my daydream.....I guess it’s time to start following through with the actual lunches.)

Shannon Carino, the author and creator of “What’s for Lunch at Our House”, was born and raised in Southern Ontario. She graduated with her BA in Canada and relocated to Dallas, Texas to pursue her Master’s degree. Upon earning her MA, she received teaching certification and taught middle school social studies. She currently resides in Frisco, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, with her “island boy” husband and their two children (ages 8 and 5). “What’s for Lunch at Our House” is a 3+ year running food blog, featuring bento lunches prepared by, Shannon for her two children. Previously featured in the Dallas Morning News, AOL’s Parent Dish and Dallas Child among others, Shannon blogs about healthy, creative ways to feed young children, with a focus on balance and presentation. You can find out more about Shannon on her blog: http://www.bentolunch.net/p/profile-media.html



Now that I know I want to start making lunches like these, I’m not really sure where to start. Luckily “What’s for Lunch at Our House” has some great suggestions. Not even Shannon started with a cupboard devoted to Bento containers - she acquired it one piece at a time.

Bento Supplies: • Bento Containers. Some are collapsible, some come with straps, some with snap lids. A good Bento container has pull outs inside. Shannon talks of Japanese dollar stores or other Japanese supply stores. Honestly I don’t know if there is one near me or not, since I’ve never really thought about it before now. But she has also found little containers with snap lids and pull outs at places like Target or regular dollar stores so basically I’ll just be keeping an eye out for them. • Food Picks. These can be purchased or made with toothpicks glued to toppers made out of beads, paper designs, etc. • Rice molds (not always used for rice). • Cookie Cutters - in all sizes and shapes. • Egg Molds, for hard-boiled eggs (I had no idea these even existed). • Silicone Cups. Great for when you don’t have a container with dividers or pull outs. • Miniature Side Containers. These can hold dips, yogurt, soup, etc. and usually have cartoon characters on them, so they add cuteness. • Bento Bag - to hold the container, utensils and napkin. • Sugar Eyes. Or other small things you can use for details. • IMAGINATION (kids can help with this part).

If you still have questions, Shannon wrote an excellent Q&A post that might help: h t t p : / / w w w. b e n t o l u n c h . n e t / s e a r c h / l a b e l / q u e s t i o n s % 2 0 a n d % 2 0 a n s w e r s


Aside from the adorable Bento, Shannon has some great suggestions on getting your kids to eat healthy foods. I know it’s a constant battle at our house ending in either bribery, screaming or early bedtimes. Good eating habits develop over time, and following Shannon’s advice might even make my combative kids willingly eat a green vegetable.

I’ve come up with a few favorite ideas to get kids to open up to better foods: • Bento, of course! Those are *always* my number one idea for feeding your kids. Cute food is always much better than not cute food. Remember those studies earlier in the year, how carrots with, say, Princesses on the packet were apparently yummier than the identical carrots with the plain packet? It’s the same theory—smiling sandwiches, cute fruits and shaped veggie? All tastier than a plain sandwich, carrots and an apple. My own not-so-scientific research with F&B has proved that one time & time again. • Dipping sauces help a ton. Both of mine love yogurt dip for fruit, hummus for veggies and bread, ranch for almost anything. Cream cheese can make wonderful dips or spreads too, combined with avocado or a bit of tomato sauce and roasted red peppers are especially good. Carrot-ginger dip is pretty yummy too. • Cook with your kids! The sense of accomplishment often means they’ll try what they cook. My two have been in the kitchen with me since they were toddlers. A butter knife and soft foods is a great starting point for a little souschef, same with measuring cups and spoons, pouring, stirring, etc. (As a bonus, lots of great counting and math skills happen in the kitchen.) At 8, Faith can follow almost any recipe and loves to bake. She recently made muffins all by herself, other than lifting the tray up into our double oven! • Bake with fruits and veggies. Personally, I am not a fan of hiding fruits and veggies in so-called kid foods and pretending they aren’t there. To me, it teaches more of “good foods tastes icky, we’ll hide them in more tasty/less healthy items.” You aren’t going to find brownies with spinach puree or macaroni and cheese with hidden squash around here. You will, however, find fun things like chocolate-zucchini muffins with Ben grating the zucchini first or sweet potato cupcakes made by Faith. We try to label everything as what it is. In the process, we’ve discovered that zucchini does not really have much of a flavor on its own, so our zucchini muffins are usually very moist and taste like whatever else is in them. Sweet potato leaves a very similar flavor to pumpkin. And we all love anything with fruit, even making our own dried fruits for granola bars and our own pure fruit roll-ups and popsicles. • Let them help choose foods. It might be a little more expensive at times, but I’ll let both kids pick produce they want to try or a new kind of cheese or a fresh loaf of bread. They also help with meal planning. I give them guidelines and they’ll pick what they might like to have. Pizza doesn’t count as a choice either, that’s a Mom-break night! Faith’s favorite choice is her favorite pork chop dish with rice and maple glazed carrots. Ben is on a steak-kick lately, along with potatoes and peas most likely. They both love Italian food, so pasta is another go-to meal.



sew THAT

Felt Crowns This month’s “Sew That” comes from Katie at Hippos & Dinosaurs. I plan on making my kids crowns for a Valentine’s Day gift (hidden in cereal boxes as seen on Love Actually). You can get the pattern and more details on Katie’s blog: hipposanddinosaurs.blogspot.com/2011/01/felt-crown-tutorial-with-template.html

You’ll Need: • 2- 9.5”x 4” pieces of felt • 12 inches elastic (this fits a 4 year old’s head, so adjust accordingly) • Crown template ( found online) Decorations Optional: • 10 inches ribbon • felt scraps • buttons • ric rac

Cut out all your pieces and lay everything on top of crown front so that it looks the way you want. Carefully sew all decorations down. (You can make the crown reversible if you decorate both sides.) Now put the two crown pieces together, sewing the elastic into one end first. (I inserted the elastic about 3/4”.) Sew along the bottom of the crown and then when you reach the other end, insert the other end of the elastic about 3/4”, being sure that it is not twisted and sew it in. Then finish sewing around top of the crown and trim anyedges that are uneven.


by Michelle Laird


While looking for something to cook one night I stumbled onto “For the Love of Cooking.” I instantly fell in love with all her dishes because of the great photography! It makes every dish look so appealing. Also it shows the ingredients and step by step instructions. If you are a beginner cook, like myself, things like great pictures and step by step instructions are very helpful! Meet the woman behind this fabulous blog! Her name is Pam. She is a mother of two very cute children that you will see in her pictures on her blog when they are helping her cook. They are her inspiration to be a yummy and healthy chef. In her recipes she tries to coordinate fresh, and organic when possible, ingredients for the healthiest result. Her Passions are Cooking, Photography, and Blogging - her blog showcases all three. She always has a fun story about why she chose to make a dish. This makes it much more than just a cooking blog! She has been featured in numerous cookbooks, magazines, and articles. I love that she was in the Taste of Homes Magazine, Healthy Cooking, October/November 2009. I’m a huge fan of that magazine! I tried all the recipes we are featuring in this month’s issue. They were all easy to easy/medium recipes to make, for a beginner like myself. My favorite was the Greek Salad with the Mozzarella bread. I accidentally put a can of zesty tomato’s in my stew which made it extremely spicy!! So I would suggest checking the can first and not making my mistake. Oops! The Smoothie was the best breakfast I have had in a very long time! Knowing that it was all healthy ingredients I put in helped too! I hope you like the foods I chose, and you can always find more great recipes on Pam’s blog!

fortheloveofcooking-recipes.blogspot.com All recipes and photographs courtesy of fortheloveofcooking-recipes.blogspot.com


photographs courtesy of fortheloveofcooking-recipes.blogspot.com

Greek Salad with Lemon Garlic Dressing



•Romaine lettuce, chopped •Kalamata olives •Grape tomatoes •Cucumber, seeded and chopped •Feta cheese •Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste

Whisk all dressing ingredients together until thoroughly combined. Taste and re-season if needed. Toss the salad with the dressing and serve. Enjoy. The salad was simple, crisp, salty, garlic, a bit tart and tasty. Simple ingredients sometimes make the tastiest dishes.

Lemon Garlic Dressing:

•6 tablespoons olive oil •Juice of 1/2 of a lemon •1-2 garlic cloves, minced •2 tsp red wine vinegar •Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste •1/4 tsp dried oregano


photographs courtesy of fortheloveofcooking.net

Citrus Berry Smoothie

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Ingredients: •3/4 cup of low fat vanilla yogurt •1/2 cup of orange juice •5-6 strawberries, stems removed •1 cup of blueberries •1 cup of frozen raspberries •1 banana, sliced •1-2 tsp of honey, to taste •5-6 ice cubes 39

Combine all the ingredients in a blender, then blend until mixed thoroughly. Taste and add more honey if necessary, then remix. Pour the smoothie into two tall glasses, garnish with a strawberry and serve. I loved trying this recipe! It was very delicous and healthy... I think.

photographs courtesy of fortheloveofcooking-recipes.blogspot.com

Beef Stew

h t t p: / / f o r t h e l o v e o f c o o k i n g - r e c i p e s. b l o g s p o t. c o m / 2 0 0 8 / 0 9 / b e e f- s t e w. h t m l

Ingredients: •1 lb stew meat (I use lean round cut into small chunks) •1 sweet yellow onion chopped into large pieces •6 cloves of garlic chopped •1 tbsp olive oil •1 can diced tomatoes •1-2 tsp dried thyme •Salt and pepper to taste •2 bay leaves •6 cups of beef stock •1 cup diced carrots •1 cup diced celery •2 cups diced baby red potatoes (skin on)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees (you can also use stove top or crock-pot). Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add stew meat and onion then cook for about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds before adding tomatoes, seasonings and stock. Cover and cook in the oven for at least 4 hours. Remove pot from oven, place on stove top over medium low heat. Add vegetables to the stew and add more beef broth if it’s low. Taste and re-season if needed. Cover and cook for 1 - 1 1/ 2 hours. If you want the stew to be thick, add a slurry of cornstarch and cold beef broth (mixing thoroughly) then pour into stew while it’s boiling, stir then reduce heat to low. Very Yummy! But don’t add a spicy can of tomatos; let’s just say I learned the hard way (on accident).


photographs courtesy of fortheloveofcooking.net

Mozzarella Bruschetta

h t t p : / / f o r t h e l o v e o f c o o k i n g - r e c i p e s. b l o g s p o t. c o m / 2 0 1 0 / 0 8 / m o z z a r e l l a - b r u s c h e t t a . h t m l

Ingredients: •1/4 cup of olive oil • 6 oz grape tomatoes, quartered • Handful of basil leaves, chopped •2 cloves of garlic, minced •1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar •1 ball of fresh mozzarella •1 loaf of ciabatta bread •Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice the ciabatta bread down the center into two halves then slice each half into four pieces. In a bowl mix the oil, tomatoes, basil, garlic, vinegar, sea salt, and freshly cracked pepper to taste, then toss until evenly coated. Place the slices of bread onto a baking sheet then spoon the tomato mixture onto each piece evenly. Top with slices of the mozzarella cheese. Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the bread is crisp. Serve immediately. This is very easy and fast to make! You won’t regret making it, it’s so good!

photographs courtesy of fortheloveofcooking.net

Raspberry Oatmeal Crumb Pie


Ingredients: •1 cup of flour •1 cup of quick cook oats •2/3 cup of brown sugar •1/4 tsp baking soda •1/2 cup of butter, diced •21 oz can of raspberry pie filling •Whipped cream (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a pie dish with cooking spray. Combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, and baking soda together in a bowl. Use a pastry cutter to cut in the butter until it resembles a course crumbly mixture. Measure 1 cup and set aside. Add the remaining mixture to the pie pan and press firmly to the bottom and sides. Add the raspberry pie filling and smooth out evenly. Sprinkle the remaining oat mixture on top of the raspberry pie filling, then spread evenly. Place into the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the crumb topping is golden brown. Let the pie cool for 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving.


photographs courtesy of fortheloveofcooking.net

Mushroom and Ham Quiche with a Potato Crust



•1-2 russet potatoes, sliced very thin •1 tsp olive oil •1/2 sweet yellow onion, diced •4 oz button mushrooms, sliced •7-8 grape tomatoes, halved •1 cup of ham, diced •5-6 asparagus spears, ends removed, cut into thirds •1/4 cup of Swiss cheese, shredded (more if desired) •8 eggs, beaten •1/4 cup of milk •Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat a pie dish with cooking spray. Layer thin slices of potato all over the edges and bottom of pan, making sure to overlap them. Spray with cooking spray and bake in the oven for 7-10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat add the onions and mushrooms, then season with sea salt. Saute the onions and mushrooms for 5-7 minutes or until golden brown and tender. Sprinkle the caramelized onions, mushrooms, asparagus, diced tomato, and Swiss cheese on top of the potatoes. Beat the eggs with the milk and season with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste. Pour the egg mixture on top of the veggies and ham. Place in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center of the quiche comes out clean - don’t overcook. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before slicing.

from the archives of. . Candy Management

• http://granolasdodallas.blogspot.com

February 6, 2009 Every now and again I experience the overwhelming and urgent need to spend an hour’s worth of my income on candy. Nothing fancy or grown up about--I just want candy. Like yesterday for example--in the morning I bought a bag of carmels with the white powdered sugar dot in the middle, at lunch time I bought a giant bag of Peanut M&Ms from the grocery store, when I stopped at the gas station on my way home I picked up some swedish fish, and then last night, on my way to art class I got myself two packages of Starburst and one Reese’s Big Cup. Disgusting, isn’t it? Now just to clear things up, I didn’t eat all of the candy in one sitting. Sure I ate some of it, but for the most part I’ve been hauling my ten pounds of happiness all around town in my purse thinking, “I’m an adult, damn it. I can have as much of this stuff as I want.” It’s also fun to sit across the table from the Superintendent of Schools, dig through my bag for an important contract, look up, smile, and say, “Swedish fish?” Just so you know, the Superintendent of Schools loves swedish fish. Peanut M&Ms? Not so much--and I can’t say I blame him, it was a poorly executed spur-of-the-moment choice on my part. Very embarrassing. But not as embarrassing as, let’s say, dribbling a pool of red candy coated spit all over the middle of the very important contract. The Superintendent, bless his heart, got a little overzealous with the fish. And really now, who can blame him? And my three-year-old son? He’s not on to me in the slightest. Yesterday afternoon, as we were zipping along in the car, James clearly watched as I slipped a carmel into my mouth. “Mommy,” he asked, “what was dat?” “It was a giant broccoli vegetable vitamin, buddy. Do you want one.” “Uh, no sanks.” I didn’t think so.



http://www.care.org/campaigns/mothersmatter/index.asp All information provided by www.care.org Copyright ©2008 by Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere, Inc. (CARE). All rights reserved. Front photo: Evelyn Hockstein/CARE. Back photo: Josh Estey/CARE.

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Profile for Melissa Bastow

The Barrel: Blogging Reviews Feb 2011  

A magazine for bloggers about blogging with blogs. We also talk about a few other things. Like thi s month we have Valentine stuff. But m...

The Barrel: Blogging Reviews Feb 2011  

A magazine for bloggers about blogging with blogs. We also talk about a few other things. Like thi s month we have Valentine stuff. But m...