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JUNE 2011

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



What’s best: is it homeschool, unschooling or public school?



Boo Mama is funny, well written and entertaining - my favorite kind of blogger.



Melanie from Sugardoodle has some great recipes to try and taste and love.



A fitness blog for the every day person. Tips, tricks, and info for people like US.


Tell your Story - 28 Lollipop Topiary - 13 BooMama - 6 Mun Fitness Blog - 23 Homeschool vs. public school - 16 Cover image courtesy of flickr creative commons: Table of contents photo courtesy of


NOTE FROM THE EDITORS: We were on hiatus. Did you notice? We took the summer off. There were moves and surgeries and SUMMER to deal with, so we thought it would be best if we just ignored the magazine for a couple months. In the time we were away, we decided to make a few changes around here. This will be the last Barrel issue. But, DON’T WORRY, it’s not the end of the magazine. It will just be changing and growing into something that is hopefully better and grander and super duper awesome (with a touch of fabulousness). Stay tuned for BIG announcements coming soon about future publications. And thanks for being such loyal Barrel lovers.

MAGAZINE CREDITS: Editorial Director: Michelle Laird Executive Editor: Melissa Bastow Photographic Supreme Genius of all Time: Marissa Vargason The Wise One of All Things that Matter: Melissa Bastow Singles Section Specialist: Barbara Managing Supreme Director of all Things Zebra Print: Michelle Laird Super Awesome Writer of Awesomeness: Annie Valentine Ultimate Quasi-Date Setup Artist: Barbara Master of the Universe: Melissa Bastow



Unique School Supplies Your kid can go back to school with one-of-a-kind style. Something from Barb - The Right Kind of Research What to really focus on in class.



Charity of the Month - St. Jude Curing and treating cancer for kids everywhere.


Photography 101 - Congrats Marissa! Marissa had a baby boy! (And he’s really super cute.)


Tips from a Real House Wife Spruce up your messy house the GREEN way.


Create That - Lollipop Topiary Need a creative back to school teacher gift? You can’t go wrong with this.


Annie Knows Best - September Pre-solutions The beginning of a new year isn’t the only time you can make goals.


Tell Your Story Telling your story through blogging is important.


Totally Legit Horoscopes I never make these up. How dare you question my psychic astrological abilities. From the Archives of... - Curvy Lady “Dear Insecurities,” a letter. Blog Designs of the Month Our favorite blog designs.




Visit our Sponsors Because they have great shoes.


Why sup p o r t S t. J u d e ?

The support of caring people like you helps ensure that St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital will continue its lifesaving mission of finding cures and saving children. St. Jude founder Danny Thomas believed that “no child should die in the dawn of life,” and your donations help bring us closer to the day when every precious life can be saved.

How do your donations help?

•Thanks to donors, St. Jude families never pay for treatment not covered by insurance, and no child is ever denied treatment because of the family’s inability to pay. •Your donations also help St. Jude cover other costs a family typically incurs while their child is being treated at the hospital, including travel, housing and food. •At St. Jude, donor dollars help fuel the groundbreaking research that leads to pioneering care and treatments for childhood cancer and other deadly diseases.

How is St. Jude making a difference for sick children?

•Every child saved at St. Jude means children saved around the world—a direct result of cutting-edge research and treatment that set the standard in treating childhood cancers. And our discoveries are shared freely with doctors and scientists all over the world. •St. Jude developed protocols that have helped push overall survival rates for childhood cancers from less than 20 percent, when the hospital opened in 1962, to 80 percent today. •St. Jude is the first and only pediatric cancer center to be designated as a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute. •St. Jude has embarked on an unprecedented effort to sequence the pediatric cancer genome and to identify the genetic changes that give rise to some of the world’s deadliest childhood cancers. Read more.

Donate now to help St. Jude save the lives of children in communities everywhere. 5

*These values and treatments are representative only as examples. Your donation will be used to support the hospital’s cost of treatment and research. Your gift is not restricted.

review by Melissa Bastow is well written, relateable & superbly funny.

BooMama is a real life blogger with a great voice. She can write about as something as simple as a banana pudding milkshake and make it entertaining (which just happens to be my favorite type of talent).

According to BooMama: I’m a wife, mama, daughter, sister and friend. I adore my family, and I love to laugh. I also love the DVR, Mississippi State sports, diet Coke over ice, pedicures, and entire seasons of television shows on DVD. And Jesus. I guess I probably should’ve listed Him first. Because He is, after all, Jesus. And I love Him most of all. I started this blog in November of 2005 because I wanted to do a better job of documenting our family’s life. Since I have never participated in any form of scrapbooking activity due to the unfortunate and chronic twitching that would be the result of having to use some form of specialty scissors, I thought I’d try the blogging thing. Much to my surprise, I’ve stuck with it. This is huge, really, because prior to blogging I had pretty much only stuck with two other hobbies: 1) sleeping and 2) eating. You may think those two things are necessities, but I find that they can also be quite recreational. I’ve been married to my best friend for thirteen years, and our little boy is seven. I’d love to have another child, but, well, I’m old. We’ll just have to see what happens. In conclusion, I do not care for unicorns, scaly textures, self-righteousness, chicken a’la orange or clowns.


The only scarcity at comes in the form of author pictures. What does BooMama look like? I’m not really sure. But I can imagine that she is quite glamorous with (probably) a sparkling white smile to match her (probably) equally sparkling eyes. She has, however, recently posted some amazing pictures taken with her cell phone. These photos will astound and amaze you, giving you an inside look to the intricate workings of the BooMama household. Such as: I have never seen such a lovely pile of grated cheese. It’s elegance and beauty are simple yet provacative. The chunks of ungrated cheese at the side provide a metaphor for the unexpected “life lumps” we all encounter when we realize our fingers are endangered by the closeness of the ultimate cheese grater of life. (I totally made that up, BooMama actually included the cheese picture because “IT’S SO PRETTY.” But I feel a moral obligation to draw parallels to life lessons for our readers so we can refer to this as the “educational issue”.) BooMama is also a great mother and a lover of cracked pepper skinless almonds. Not only that, she is intelligent, talented, charitable, and have I mentioned that I find her to be really really funny? And when you wrap up all of those things into a warm little human burrito you have yourself one amazing blogger (but we’re talking about a metaphorical burrito here, not one you would top with a pile of grated cheese). 7

photos courtesy of

Because all of the funny stuff comes straight from BooMama (and I can’t naturally include the use of a good “ya’ll” quite like she can) I’m going to share a few of my favorite posts: For the last couple of days I’ve been seeing stuff all over the interweb about people being deeply, unabashedly, completely captivated by the banana pudding milkshake at Chick-fil-A. And honestly, at first I didn’t pay the recommendations much mind because I am not typically a fan of banana-flavored frozen treats. I chalk up my aversion to lingering disappointments from the fake-tasting banana popsicles and bananas Icees I tried as a child, not to mention an unfortunate banana Laffy Taffy incident that we need not mention ever again. But tonight, around 8:30, I read a Facebook update about the banana pudding milkshake that considerably upped the curiosity ante for me, so I closed the computer and marched in the den and asked my husband if he’d heard anything about this whole banana pudding milkshake craze. He considered my question for a second and then said, “It’s a banana pudding milkshake? Not just banana?” “Yes. Banana pudding.” “But how would that be? What would make it more like banana pudding?” “I have no idea,” I said. “BUT FOR SOME REASON I’M STARTING TO THINK THAT IT SOUNDS DELICIOUS.” “Well, let’s try one!” he answered. “But let’s get a chocolate milkshake, too – because we may need a back-up if we don’t like the banana pudding one.” “Roger that,” I replied. And really, is it any wonder that two people who think of things like BACK-UP DESSERT OPTIONS found each other and decided to spend their lives together? It explains so much, doesn’t it? So I threw on some shoes and grabbed my purse and hopped in the car and headed to Chick-fil-A. I called Melanie before I pulled out of my driveway to see if she had any thoughts about what might make it different than a plain ole banana milkshake, and she speculated that there might be some vanilla wafers incorporated into the shake. Quite frankly the possibility of vanilla wafers had not occurred to me, but if there were in fact vanilla wafers mixed in? Well, clearly that would change everything. THAT WOULD JUST CHANGE EVERYTHING. I pulled up to the drive-thru menu a few minutes later and scrutinized the picture of the banana pudding milkshake while I waited for someone to take my order. Sure enough, Mel was right. The vanilla wafers were mixed into the shake. It was a hopeful sign. But still, I wondered: would the banana flavor taste too fake? Would I have banana Laffy Taffy flashbacks? Was I prepared for the possibility that it could turn out like that time I tried a peppermint milkshake and had to throw it away because it was so sweet that it made my toes curl? After I placed my order, I drove up to the window, paid for the shakes and had a frighteningly close call when the top came off the banana pudding milkshake and I almost spilled the whole thing into the console between the front seats. I think you can agree that that would have LITERALLY BEEN A TRAGEDY. When I got home D met me in the kitchen, and we settled in for a taste test. Despite the fact that I was prepared for the worst, I have to say: MY WORD Y’ALL THAT IS A TASTY SHAKE RIGHT THERE. It does taste slightly more banana-y than regular banana pudding, but it totally works. The vanilla wafers are critical to the shake’s success, I think, because they change the texture in a host of wonderful ways. And by the third or fourth bite – once you’ve adjusted to the fact that it tastes like banana pudding but it’s way colder than banana pudding and how can I be enjoying this delicious banana pudding through a straw? – you will be a believer. Provided that you like bananas. Because if you don’t like bananas, I’m gonna wager a guess that this particular shake isn’t for you. So there you have it. Another Monday night of LIVING ON THE EDGE in our house.


At least once a week Melanie and I have a very enthusiastic discussion about our love for the assymmetrical cardigan and/or jacket and/or tunic. In fact, I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced a weakness for an item of clothing like I’ve had for Anything Assymmetrical, and that is saying something given my considerable affection for stirrup pants in the early 90s. In addition to being super-cute, the assymmetrical cardigan / jacket / top is flattering and comfortable, and it’s sort of revolutionized the way I dress (if such a thing could be considered revolutionary, which, come to think of it, NO). But because the assymmetrical stuff comes in so many great, lightweight options, I layer a lot more than I used to. And a few weeks after I started adding the assymmetrical cardigan / jacket / top into my wardrobe, I realized that I was getting ready a whole lot quicker in the mornings – because instead of looking at my closet and seeing “outfits,” I saw stuff that could be mixed and matched and switched around. Oh, you laugh. But as somebody who has always been dependent on “the outfit,” I’ve needed to make this shift for awhile. It’s totally changed the way I shop – because now I understand that it makes a whole lot more sense for me to have a few things that I can mix and match like crazy than it does to have 40 things that can only be worn one way. So. Here’s what I do. Not that anybody, you know, cares. But it’s really early and our power was out last night and I have a cold and TALKING ABOUT CLOTHES MIGHT JUST MAKE ME FEEL BETTER, THANK YOU.


I always know that summer and I have had enough of each other when I decide that 68 degrees is a perfectly reasonable indoor temperature (my husband prefers a balmier 74, so the Thermostat Wars, they are alive and well in our house). This shift in indoor temperature preference almost always coincides with a constant certainty that the air in my car must be broken. The air in the car is fine, of course, but I’m frustrated by the fact that it doesn’t cool as quickly or as sub-Arctic-ish as I would prefer. That is understandable since it’s approximately 115 degrees on the pavement at any given point in time, but there’s just something about August that makes me impatient and demanding with the climate control. Clearly I am a delight and also a blessing to others. Yesterday morning we were running a little late for church and by the time I walked in the sanctuary I realized that the area where we normally sit was pretty full. I made the decision to break out of our routine and go up to the very top row (CRAZY, SEAT-CHANGING CHRISTIANS! WACKY!). I tried to pick a section where it would be easy for D to walk in and find me, and then I settled in for the service. Well. It only took about three minutes for me to realize that I had unknowingly stationed us underneath The World’s Most Powerful Air Vent. Seriously. It was STRONG. And it was CHILLY. And I was so happy, y’all. In fact, there were several moments during the sermon when I could actually feel my hair blowing in the air vent-induced breeze, and at one point during communion I leaned over to my shivering husband and whisper-screamed, “THESE ARE THE BEST SEATS EVER!” “I-I-I’m v-v-very c-c-cold,” he replied. And then he sneezed. Twice. Bless his heart. It can’t be easy living with a woman whose hormones seem to have been driven into BLAZING HOT REBELLION by the August heat. But listen. That air vent in church was some sweet relief. So maybe next Sunday we’ll pack him a Snuggie or something. Hallelujah and amen.

It’s good to see a strong represantive for assymetical cardigans and the love of an effiicient cooling air vent. And it’s good to know that if I ever have the honor of meeting BooMama in real life we can set the thermostat to a decent temperature and enjoy a delicious banana pudding milkshake together. if you’d like to read more check out the blog:

All quoted text is from, Blog review by Melissa Bastow who can be found at:




I used to love back to school time. I loved getting ready, buying new clothes and notebooks, figuring out if I had classes with my friends, wondering when I’d see my crush…all that fun stuff. Then school actually started. And I remembered that it was lame. Homework was always getting in the way of me having fun. Now that I’ve finished school forever and ever, (and yes, I do like to rub that fact in peoples’ faces on occasion) I’ve started my own kind of research. The kind of research that would’ve made school a lot more interesting. It all started with a game my cousin and I play when we’re having fun, er---paying close attention, in Sunday School. “Either/ Or” You pick between two guys. Sometimes it’s between good and good, sometimes bad and bad, but you must pick. From there, I created a bracket which you can find here: h t t p : / / b a r b a l o o t s u i t . b l o g s p o t . c o m / 2 0 1 1 / 0 7 / s o m e - r e a l l y- i m p o r t a n t - s t u f f . h t m l I listed some of my most favorite TV stars, movie characters and singers and have pitted them all against each other. It requires hard work. Figuring out which guy can hold up against Mr. Knightly, or is anyone as good as Hugh Jackman in real life? Even harder, who do you pick between Zack Morris and Kevin Arnold? When considering, I must weigh everything the guys bring to the table for my own vote, and then factor in the votes of all the women who participate. If you think you have something to say, feel free to head over to my blog,, where we’re currently undergoing Round II. It’s getting pretty close---but I’m calling out an early win for Gilbert Blythe. In the mean time, have fun shopping for No.2 pencils, Lisa Frank folders and Trapper Keepers so your kids can be organized for at least the first two days of school. 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


create THAT

Lollipop Topiary Yo u ’ l l N e e d :

• foam piece s• 15” wooden rod • bucket • ribbon • suckers • decorative pebbles

So, you want to impress your kids’s new teachers with a gift that is better than a regular old apple or a pack of pencils? Give them sucker topiaries! It’s a gift the whole class will like. Idea and instructions found on this amazingly fun blog:

w w w. f a m i l y e m b e l l i s h m e n t s . c o m Gather your supplies then cut the wooden rod to the appropriate length (15” is a good size). Cover the rod with tape, stain, paint or glue a ribbon to it. Then push the wooden dowel rod into the center of a piece of styrofoam that is in place at the bottom of your bucket. Then center the ball of styrofoam and push it onto the top of the dowel.

Now it’s time to start adding the lollipops. (Dum Dums are great lollipops to use because of their size and bright colored wrappers.) You will want to add the lollipops in a stair stepping arrangement in order to hide as much styrofoam as possible. Fill the entire foam ball with lollipops (the kids can help with this part, because you know they’re going to want to). Lastly, tie some ribbon on the wooden dowel rod and put the glass pebbles in the bucket (this helps the bucket to not fall over, seeing as now the top of your topiary is probably heavier than the bottom). You can include a card for the teacher or a note from your child. You can also embellish as much as you’d like with stuff like ribbon. (And maybe glitter...) I f o u n d t h i s i d e a e x a c t l y h e r e: y- july-20th-is-national.html


Capricorn (12/22-1/19)- An army of slugs are on their way to decimate you. And you’re out of salt. Aquarius (1/20-2/18)- It’s true, I did steal your boyfriend in 7th grade. But his headgear matched my acne, so it was pretty much fate. Pisces (2/19-3/20)- Sometimes you just need to give yourself a hug. It’s also fun to cross your arms and bite your own ear. In public. Or maybe at the office. Aries (3/21-4/19)- A handful of women covet your voluminous claw bangs. Taurus (4/20-5/20)- Good news - Fabio has a younger brother who has his eye on YOU. Gemini (5/21-6/21)- Eeeew, you’ll want to vacuum that up. Like, now. Cancer (6/22-7/22)- Aliens were going to abduct you, but they found you to be un-probe-able. (Don’t worry, it’s a GOOD thing.) Leo (7/23-8/22)- If you count to 3,592 (179 times) that’s how much I like you. Virgo (8/23-9/22)- Has anyone ever told you that your big toe kind of looks like a shaved poodle? (Except toe-ier, of course.) Libra (9/23-10/22)- There are important subliminal messages left in your voicemail. You just need to listen more carefully to hear them. Scorpio (10/23-11/21)- Was your father a baker? Because you have excellent buns. Your bagels aren’t too bad either. Sagittarius (11/22-12/21)- I wouldn’t call this your “lucky” week. Something more along the lines of “if you could find a deep inconspicuous hole to crawl into, I would totally recommend it” week.



Review by Melissa Bastow

ABC photos courtesy of

Like most parents, I’ve been thinking about school. And while I am secretly counting down the seconds that I can shuttle my kids off to class, I am also worrying....a lot (because I am that kind of parent). Will my kids be bullied? Will they like their new teachers? Will they learn? What if they hate it? What if I hate it? What about lunch? Will they be safe at recess? SO MUCH TO WORRY ABOUT. Which make my thoughts turn to something I contemplate often:

What’s the best way to school children? Is it public school? Private school? Homeschool? Unschool? So many options, with the future of our children at stake, how’s a parent to decide? If you’ve been thinking about schooling options, here are a few opinions to consider. 16



Homeschooling Written by Shannon at The Homeschool Post • We began homeschooling when our oldest was five. Shortly after he was born, we were introduced to homeschooling through some families in our church. Being a former public school teacher, I was intrigued with the idea, so I filed it away for later. When our son turned three we were adopting our baby girl and were about to bring her home from China. Quite honestly I was ready for a break and wanted some one-on-one time to bond with our new daughter, so we enrolled our son in a 3-year old preschool that met twice a week. It was a wonderful experience for him, and all thoughts of homeschooling flew from my mind. The following year he attended 4-year preschool three days a week. In a nutshell, it was not a fun year for my son. We had assumed (incorrectly) that 4-yr. preschool would mainly be filled with play, story-time, arts, and crafts. Instead there was a huge push for the kids to learn to write all of their letters and numbers neatly and to be ahead of the game when they entered kindergarten. My son was not ready for this, and our usually happy little man began to cry every school morning. God used that year to give my heart the little nudge it needed and help me realize that I wanted to teach my children at home. That spring my husband and I made the decision to homeschool, and we haven’t looked back since. The homeschooling lifestyle has been a blessing for us in so many ways: • Our children get excited about things like a new bird visiting our backyard feeder or stargazing on a clear night. In other words, they love to learn. • We have made some wonderful memories reading, playing, and exploring together. • With my husband’s crazy work schedule, he would see our kids very little if they were in traditional school, so homeschooling insures plenty of time with Dad. • We are able to pick up and travel whenever we want to see out-of-state grandparents. This proved to be especially important as my mother-in-law entered the advanced stage of Parkinson’s disease. For the last three years of her life we were able to visit her in Florida about every three months, and the kids have some precious memories of spending time with their Grammy. • Most importantly, having our kids at home gives us more time with them in which we can teach them how much God loves them and also lead them in their relationship with Him. The extra time helps us to help them discover the gifts, passions, and plans that God has for them. Even though we have our good days and our bad, I enjoy our lifestyle and like having my kids at home. It’s hard for me to imagine it any other way. (Well, maybe on the hardest of days I can almost imagine it some other way!) 18

Unschooling Written by Stephanie Waldron • Living and learning is a natural state of being. We live, we learn, it really is that simple. It is complicated by schooling – school interferes with learning. My family has been unschooling for 10 years now, since our oldest was 6. We live our lives without school, we don’t separate life into subjects. Everything is connected, one thing leads to another, and connections are constantly being made in our brains. We are learning beings, it is inherent in us to keep on learning. Our kids wake up each day and decide what they want to do, I’m not sure if it’s really a decision or just following a natural flow of things. We have lots of choices since our lives are not tightly scheduled. Some advantages of unschooling are: •Freedom to learn what, how and when you want. •Freedom to eat when hungry, sleep when tired, use the bathroom as needed without permission. •Freedom from being graded and tested. •Freedom to be who you are, to figure out who you are, your likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses, interests, style, hobbies etc. without being forced to conform. •Having control over your own mind and body. •Real, natural learning. •Not having to conform to school standards. •Have a close-knit family. •Freedom from school schedules and constraints. •Living and learning in the real world, real life, not an artificial environment such as school. One of the important things to remember is that each child has their own unique timetable and their own way of learning. I believe that unschooling fosters and encourages the individual and does away with averages and milestones and timeframes that someone else has set as a standard of achievement. I am their mother, I nurture them, I love them, I listen to them, I observe them, I talk to them, I spend time with them, I play with them, I respect them, I give them time, space and freedom. I also facilitate, and by that I mean answer questions, look things up, provide resources, take them places, offer suggestions, ideas and pretty much just help them figure out their world. I love being with my kids and sharing their lives with them. We learn so much from each other. They are interesting, curious, inquisitive people. We talk about everything. We all have different personalities and bring something unique to the table and generally have a good time with each other. We take each new day as it comes, learning is happening all of the time, and it’s inevitable. The unschooling life is a wonderful way to live with our children. We are our children’s partners in life. We have been building the foundation of trust and respect for 16 years. We learn about the world by living in it. We follow our interests wherever they may lead. We are happy, whole people just living our lives as if school didn’t exist. “There is no difference between living and learning… it is impossible and misleading and harmful to think of them as being separate.” ~ John Holt




Public Schooling Written by me, Melissa Bastow • I haven’t always been happy with how the public school system is run. I am not blind to it’s problems and inadequacies. But this is why, at this point in my family’s life, I choose to take my kids to a public school. I am not a teacher. Teaching, I feel, is a God given talent. And not everyone posesses it. Sure there are moments when teaching happens here, but I cannot provide the education that my children need in a way they’ll best understand. And I don’t feel like I am less of a parent because I don’t possess a talent to teach. The public school system is full of gifted, special people who can provide that education. Granted not all teachers are created equal, but the ones we’ve had so far have done a much better job than I could have. My kids need friends. We hang out and play at home. We hang out and play with church friends. We even hang out and play with invisible friends. But without public school my kids wouldn’t have the friendship opportunities that can be provided by a classroom of peers. And nothing can compare to having a friend who keeps pet crayons in her desk with you. Structure: it’s good for young people. I can’t stick to a schedule. I just can’t repeat my days/ weeks/months in the same way without feeling tortured. So I don’t provide that at home. But my kids have shown great success in learning when they have that structure. And I’m glad a public school can offer that for them. I like to support the public school system. There are problems sometimes, yes. But if every caring parent were to abandon the school system, how would it ever get any better? I’m involved and I pay attention to my kids’ lives, and I hope that in some way (however small it may be) we’ve helped improve the public school system. My kids are creative and spontaneous and inquisitive and I don’t think public school squashes their excitement. (Of course we haven’t done high school yet, but I almost wonder if that’s a teenager thing more than a public school thing?) I can still show my kids that learning can happen in all settings by reading and learning and growing as an adult. That wouldn’t change no matter how they are schooled. My goal as a parent is to have happy children. School makes them happy. Having them in school also makes me happy. When they get home from school we’re all very happy to be together. Sometimes I think the time apart makes us appreciate one another more.

I may, some day, change my mind about how I school my children. I see amazing merit in homeschooling, private schools and unschooling. I think the most important thing to consider when worrying about a child’s education is what’s best for that particular child, that particular family and that particular situation, and keeping ALL the options open. 21


22 by Michelle Laird

Mun Fitness Blog is all about working out, losing weight, and eating healthy. What makes this blog great is that she doesn’t use boring technical terms (that you aren’t going to understand anyway). Also, her exercises and suggestions aren’t going to turn anyone into a huge body builder. It’s a fitness blog for regular people wanting to learn how to lose weight, eat right and be healthy - like me! Mun has been writing her fitness blog since 2005 and has grown as a blogger and fitness expert. She has written great posts on a range of topics such as: “How to get a body like Jessica Biel” (and who doesn’t want to have a body like that, right?) Or how to gain weight healthily. The most important, and misunderstood, thing about healthy living for most people is diet. Never forget your diet! Mun Fitness Blog has answers to a lot of common questions. I really liked her post about “Are you having too much dressing for your salad?” Because it reminded me of my little sister who has been working on getting a 6-pack. She has been counting calories but puts ranch on everything. The other day she just learned how many calories it had in it and how it has been making all her healthy food UNhealthy. If you are having these same kind of salad dressing realizations here are some suggestions from Mun: • At a restaurant have the dressing on the side instead of already mixed in the salad. • Instead of dressing you can add flavor by squeezing lemon juice onto the greens (it actually doesn’t taste too bad this way). • Do not be fooled by the lowfat dressing label. They may be low in fat, but they most often are loaded with sugar. Check out the Mun’s article of “The Truth Behind Fat Free or Low Fat Food Which No One Has Ever Told You”.


Want to work your stomach muscles, glutes, and lower back muscles at the same time? Here is Mun’s Fitness advice: 1. Lie down in a plank position, with both forearms on the floor. 2. Now, raise one leg slowly while not allowing your hips to shift side to side. Keep your hips slightly elevated throughout the entire movement. Pull your abdominal muscle towards your spine and squeeze your butt muscles while keeping your body in alignment (you are in a straight line from the top of your head through your shoulders, hips and feet.). Your forearms are still in contact with the floor. 3. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds. 4. Repeat with the other leg. Lunges are great ways to work your legs, but if you don’t do them correctly you can hurt yourself. Here are great tips and pictures to make sure you don’t look dumb (or get hurt) while doing them: 1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Put your hand on your waist or hips for balancing purpose if needed. 2. Look ahead. Slowly lunge back with your right leg as far as you can until its knee is almost in contact with floor. Bend your left knee about 90 degrees so it looks like you are walking backwards. Make sure your front knee does not pass over your toes (on your left feet). 3. As soon as you lower into the lunge position, contract your gluteous muscles. Your chest is still up. Pause for a moment. 4. Then, use your forward leg to lift your your body. Do not use the leg you stepped back with to push you up. Hold for a count or two. 5. Return that leg to the starting position and repeat using your other leg. Remember: • A long lunge emphasizes the Gluteus Maximus (butt) whereas a short lunge emphasizes Quadriceps. In other words, the further your back leg is, the harder your butt muscles are working. • Always try to keep your torso as upright as possible during any lunge exercise to minimize the stress on the back. • Some people push on with their hands to help themselves up (from the bottom position) but that is cheating. So, don’t do it. (Using your back leg to move you up is cheating too.) • If you do reverse lunge hard enough, you may experience soreness, especially when you try to sit down. No worries, that is normal.

If you are tired of fitness blogs that only have facts and jargon then go to Mun’s, she includes information as well as interesting tips, questions, and humor. This blog review is written by Michelle Laird. All information and photos subject to copyright and courtesy of


Annie Valentine

is a humor

columnist and blogger. She lives in a house with her husband, and four small children who call her “Mother”, “Mommy Dearest” and on special occasions “Your Royal Highness”. Catch up with her at, or you can send her an email at

Photograph found here:


by Annie Valentine

We all love the fall. The weather cools off, the kids go back to school, and even though the world outside is starting to die and whither it feels like a time for new beginnings. Who needs New Year’s resolutions when you’ve got September pre-solutions? This is a great time to get a jump on all the things that shouldn’t wait until January. It doesn’t matter where you are with home and family, there are a few categories that most of us love to avoid talking about. But getting back to basics is a great way to get grounded before the holidays. Here are five areas in my life that could use a base level tune-up. Language. Maybe we don’t think about this on a conscious level, but the language we use when describing our life/happiness/concerns/relationships actually matters. Whether we’re monologuing while doing the dishes or simply unloading to a friend, negative self-talk in any area can bring you down faster than a week without Diet Coke. This is a habit that has to be changed gradually, so start with the mirror. Think of five nice things to say about your life every morning and practice them out loud, in the mirror. Yes, you will feel stupid. No, it’s not a waste of time. Change the way you talk about your life and your life will follow suit. Time wasters. There has never been a time in the history of womankind where so many of us are temped by daily clock suckers. Whether it’s happening online or on the television, the day is filled with tempting opportunities to wile away the hours. Yesterday I was at a park waiting for my husband. The kids wanted me to push them on the swings. I wanted to play on my iPhone. Most of us are faced with similar choices on an hourly basis; we have to consciously dial in or we’ll find that in the end, all we’ve got to show for our life is a high score on Angry Birds and 9,642 friends on facebook. Good old fashioned service. I have recently realized that I am a self-involved jerk. Honestly, I’ve caught myself avoiding things that might put me out of my comfort zone or cause me additional work. When did I forget the importance of looking out for others? As a parent, I need to show my kids how to give back to those around them, but service is more than that. I need to branch out and offer myself to others for me. The best way for me to avoid being self-involved is to stop being so self-involved. Taking care of my body. I would love to exercise right now, but in my world there aren’t many attractive choices. Not only do I live in a teensy village in the German countryside, but I have no television or local gym. My list of excuses is at least a 5K and every time I think about physical exertion I want to take a nap. Still, I know the benefits to my body and soul that come from exercise, so I’ve made a very simple plan. Ten minutes of yoga every morning in front of my windows (preferably not the ones the neighbors can look in). Whether you need to exercise a little more or a little less, finding balance in your body is important to your overall well-being. My bathrooms. For some women, keeping house is a therapeutic breeze. For me it’s more like a tsunami. I have four small children who routinely need clean underwear. Today while cleaning out the car I realized that I could honestly spend every moment of every day cooking and cleaning and there would still be urine on the toilet seat when I went to bed. So this fall my goal is simple: keep the bathrooms clean. I have three bathrooms, and this season I am determined to stay on top of them. The dishes might pile up and the fridge might need a box of baking soda, but gosh darnit I’m going to have sanitary bathrooms. Your list might be different from mine, but the fact remains that we’ve all got things to work on. Pick something that feels doable and go for it. Everyone will benefit from your successes, especially you.



by Melissa Bastow

A lot of us put blogging on hold for the summer while we hang out at the pool, go on vacation and ingest a multitude of smoothies. But now that summer is ending and the days of schedules and taxi-ing children around are back it’s also a chance to get back to the blog. And we’re faced with the questions: What do I blog about? Do I try to recap the summer? Should I skip the summer and talk about what’s happening right now? Why can’t I think of what to write?! And then frustration creeps in, blogs stay neglected and an outlet for creativity, family news, and journaling are lost. (Then probably there will be more eating of potato chips, and watching Days of Our Lives, and maybe some homemade bomb making - because if you’re not blogging what is there to do with your free time?) We don’t want you making bombs. We want you to blog!


When a topic to blog about has eluded you, or you don’t know what to say, it’s never because of a lack in story. Because you have stories. In fact, you may have so many stories, they’re practically oozing out of your ears. But the process of brain to blog isn’t always so easy. 28

What’s the point? Really. Why do we even have blogs? Most of us already have good reasons to blog, but just in case you need to bring up a few infallibly logical points next time you’re discussing the importance of blogging with an obnoxious unbeliever, here is why I think blogging is crucial: It ’s All About Histor y. We know that kids grow at the speed of light, that marriages and relationships change, that our own life experiences are always on a path to something else. Nothing ever stays the same. A blog is a way to document those changes, those cross roads, even those everyday moments that feel constant and regular. Because someday you’ll want to look back and remember what your life was like now. Because Your Mom Said So. Not all moms read blogs (and sometimes you may not want her to). But how often would your mom like to see pictures of your kids? Or of your pets? Or of your life? Plus there are grandparents, aunts, half-cousins, old school friends and the jealous wife of your ex-boyfriend (who secretly stalks you through the internet hoping you get really fat or grow a giant wart on your face) who REALLY want to see what you’re up to. You could live on the other side of the globe and keep an entire entourage informed on your life, and your entourage will thank you for it. You Have a Voice. You don’t have to be a professional writer to run a blog. Every person has a voice. Every person has something to say. But not every person has a place to speak up. I have little kids; my adult interaction levels have been sitting in the red zone for years. Who do I have to talk to? My 6 year old? No thank you (the subject of Bakugan gets old pretty fast). So when I have something I absolutely must say, I put it on my blog. Of course, not every blog is full of insightful ponderings and deep thoughts. Have you read my blog? I write about imaginary psychotic killers hiding behind my shower curtain. But it’s MY voice, and I’m a more well-rounded human being for being able to use it. Let ’s Be Friends. The definition of “real life friends” has changed for me. My real life friends aren’t my neighbors. Or co-workers. Or the other moms in the weekly play group. I met my friends through blogging. One of them lives in Poland. One of them is across the country. A lot of them I’ve never seen face to face. But they are better friends than a girl could ask for, and I wouldn’t have them if it weren’t for blogs. (I feel like this paragraph should just have a big AMEN at the end of it.) Creativity. Just because other people fear for their life when you’re wielding a glue gun doesn’t mean you’re not creative. There are lots of crafty blogs, author blogs, hair-doing blogs and even “I covered every inch of my house in modge podge” blogs. But what if you don’t fit into any of those categories? To that I say, SO WHAT? Everyone is creative in their own way. And if you don’t get that creativity out...well, you’ve heard of spontaneous combustion, right? Let your blog be your creative outlet. Unless you’d rather burst into flame. 29


This, I think, is the hardest part about blogging. Where to start, what to include, should there be pictures? Not to mention the times you sit down to blog and your brain empties of all topics (sadly, this is obnoxious and happens frequently). This is where story prompts come in. What ’s a Stor y Prompt? Ideas. That’s what it’s all about. You can use them to cure writers block. Or to help you see the important details to include in the moments you’re trying to capture. A good prompt can help you turn an otherwise mundane moment into a memory that can last through generations. How Do I Use a Stor y Prompt? Well, that all depends on what you’re doing, doesn’t it? The purpose of a story prompt isn’t to limit what you MUST write about. They shouldn’t be limiting at all. (If you’re using them that way, you’re using them wrong.) A good prompt will inspire you to tell your story in your own voice, with as much guidance as you need. Are Stor y Prompts JUST for Blogs? Absolutely not. They can be used for scrapbooking, family newsletters, a personal journal or because you haven’t updated your facebook status for 3 months and you really need something to say. So, Where Do I Get Stor y Prompts? I’m glad you asked! I’m sure there are lots of places to get story prompts, but one of my favorites is Cherish Bound. You can sign up for their Story Club and every month they’ll send you amazing story tools IN THE MAIL. (I love getting good ole’ fashioned mail...that aren’t bills.) You can customize your account so that you get just the story tools you want, for any type of story telling, and you can include the 365 Days of Blogging that will give you a topic idea to blog about for EVERY SINGLE DAY OF THE YEAR. And it’s all really inexpensive, like $17 a month (that’s less than we spend on one round of Happy Meals). You can sign up for their Story Club here:

When it really comes down to it, it doesn’t matter what your story is, or how it’s told. It doesn’t matter if you have 500 blog readers, or a private blog that’s just for you. It doesn’t matter if there are pictures, or if you use proper punctuation, or if anyone ever reads it.



C o o k i n g, laundr y, carpet shampooing, d i s h e s, w i n d o w s, s c r u b b i n g b e h i n d y o u r t o i lets with an old ratty toothbrush - - s o m e t i m e s i t a l l j u s t s e e m s l i ke TOO TO O MUCH.

We feel your pain, w e k n o w y o u r w o e s, w e s h a r e y o u r

h o u s e keeping frust rations. So take it easy f o r a m i n u t e a n d t a ke s o m e a d v i c e, o n u s. Here you have it:


You’ve probably been busy with summer vacations, or maybe you just took the last few months off and watched all 3 seasons of the Jersey Shore on Netflix. Either way your house is ready for a little sprucing up! And while you’re being sprucey, why not also be green? • If you can get your kids to stop licking the glass for a second here is how to make your own glass cleaner. Mix 2 teaspoons of white vinegar and 1 quart warm water in a bowl and stir. Then use a crumpled newspaper to wipe your windows and mirrors clean. • If you are wanting to polish your wooden statue of Elvis (circa 1956) then mix 1 cup of olive oil and ¼ cup white vinegar. Then pour it into a spray bottle. Spray onto your cotton cloth and polish The King of Rock n’ Roll until he sparkles. • Make your toilet bowl sanitary enough you won’t even care that the dog drinks out of it. Mix ¼ cup baking soda and 1 cup of vinegar together. Pour it into the toilet bowl and let it sit for a few minutes. Then just scrub and rinse. • I don’t know about you, but I want to be known as having the house you can eat off the floor (because it’s so clean). I doubt I will ever reach that status, but maybe this will help you with your clean floor quest: Sprinkling baking soda on damp grout and scrub it with a stiff toothbrush. Let it sit for around 5 minutes while you go and do a few push ups or save a baby sea lion or whatever. Then boil a pot of water and use it to wipe away the baking soda. (You may want to wear gloves for this, because, you know, it’s BOILING hot water.) • I know you would never have mold or mildew because no one decent ever has something so gross happen in their own homes. Sure. But just in case you have a friend of your third cousin who you don’t know very well, but who has mold or mildew, here is an easy way to fix it: Use white vinegar or lemon juice with a sponge and scrub your little heart out....or I mean, they need to scrub their heart out. Not you. Since you don’t have mildew. • For your every day surface cleaner in the fight against grime mix 2 teaspoons of borax, 4 tablespoons of vinegar and 3 cups of hot water in a bowl. Use it in a spray bottle or apply it with a damp cloth. • Did your 1972 El Camino let you down by dripping oil all over your driveway, again? No worries, just sprinkle baking soda onto the oil spot and scrub with a wet brush. This will work with all grease stains. There can be great benefits to being a green housewife. Not only are you helping out the planet, it can make your wallet a little fuller when you aren’t buying so many cleaning products. Which, as we all know, means more money for shoes! 32



Emil Jace Vargason

8 pounds 6 ounces & 21 inches long

Marissa is taking a break, because guess what!? She had a baby! A cute one. You can catch his birth story on Marissa’s blog (coming soon) or see the amazing photography that captured the birth by visiting:

Our congratulations go out to Marissa, her family and her cute little bundle of baby boy. 33

A P HwithYMarissa1 Varg 0ason1

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:

h t t p : / / m a r i s s a v a r g a s o n p h o t o g r a p h y. c o m / b l o g 34

The new book from fabulous blogger (and now published author) Melanie Jacobson . 35

by Michelle Laird Melanie loves spending time with her family and not in the kitchen (I know how she feels). Her blog has a collection of easy and tasty recipes with desserts, beverages, holiday recipes and more. With school beginning and autumn coming, the season of warm dinners and pumpkin pie spices are on their way. Add some of Mel’s recipes to your meal planners and give your family a treat.


p h oto courtesy of tastykitc h e n. c o m / r e c i p e s / m a i n - c o u r s e s / t a c o - s o u p - 8 /

I was first introduced to Taco soup from my mother in law. If you haven’t tried it yet Melanie has a great recipe for first timers! It is so easy to make. Throw it in the crock pot before you pick the kids up from school and it will be ready by dinner time. (It is also great with chicken.)

h t t p : / / w w w. s u g a r d o o d l e . n e t / m e l s r e c i p e s / a r c h i v e s / 2 0 INGREDIENTS: 1 (16 oz.) can pinto beans 1 (16 oz.) can kidney beans 1 (11 oz.) can corn 1 lb ground beef 1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes 1 (4 oz.) can diced green chilies 1 envelope taco seasoning mix 1 envelope hidden valley ranch dressing mix 37

INSTRUCTIONS: Cook meat and drain. Add all ingredients to the crock pot. DO NOT DRAIN CANS. Stir it all together and cook on high for a couple hours. Keep on low until serving to keep hot. You can garnish it with sour cream, shredded cheese, chopped green onions and/or tortilla chips. It’s a little spicy, but very tasty.

Let’s just say this is REALLY good! My husband almost ate all of it on one ice cream sundae. We went all out and made homemade ice cream to go with it. It was divine! Melanie’s caramel recipe hits the spot (especially for a late night snack)! Plus, it’s really easy to make. INGREDIENTS: 4 tablespoons butter 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed pinch salt 1/2 cup heavy cream

INSTRUCTIONS: In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add sugar and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add salt and cream; bring to a boil over medium heat. Continue cooking, stirring, for 2 minutes. Cool for 15 to 20 minutes then drizzle it over a cake or use as a sauce for gingerbread or bread pudding or, you know, ice cream. (This recipe makes about a cup.)


I’m a huge fan of pasta salads so I had to try this! But I do have a confession to make: I do not like coleslaw or cashews; so I had to compromise. (I actually thought coleslaw was “cold slaw” until I was 19 and working at a restaurant and everyone started making fun of me. But come on, doesn’t “cold slaw” make a lot more sense?) Even though I didn’t use coleslaw the salad turned out super tasty!

h t t p : / / w w w. s u g a r d o o d l e . n e t / m e l s r e c i p e s / a r c h i v e s / 2 1 0 INGREDIENTS: 1 package of bowtie pasta (cooked) 1 c. celery (chopped) 3-4 green onions (chopped) chicken breasts, cooked & cubed 1 bottle coleslaw salad dressing 1 c. mayo 1 can pineapple tidbits (drained) 39

1/2 lb. red grapes cut in half 1/2 lb. unsalted cashews 1 c. raisins or craisins INSTRUCTIONS: Make as much chicken as you desire. Mix the coleslaw salad dressing with the mayo. Then mix all the ingredients together in a big bowl and enjoy!

It’ll be autumn in no time and the weather is going to get a little chilly. Don’t worry though, this is perfect to warm you back up! There’s nothing better than keeping warm with something so tasty.

h t t p : / / w w w. s u g a r d o o d l e . n e t / m e l s r e c i p e s / a r c h i v e s / 2 5 5 INGREDIENTS: 10 jalapenos 1 package of cream cheese (8 oz) 1 c. shredded cheese 1/2 tsp. Cajun seasoning 1 lb. bacon (uncooked) or crumbled bacon

INSTRUCTIONS: Cut the jalapenos in half and remove all the seeds. (TIP – Be sure not to touch or rub eyes while working and wash hands well when done.) Mix cream cheese, shredded cheese and Cajun seasoning in a bowl (if you’re using crumbled bacon just throw it in now) and fill the jalapeno halves with the mixture. Top with bacon and bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes. (Makes 20 stuffed jalapenos.)


a r t i c l e written by, Melissa Bastow

you can buy this print at

When I was a kid, getting ready for school didn’t mean hitting the mall - we went to the fabric store. My mom was a master seamstress and I never had to worry about showing up to class in the same outfit as anyone else. These days it’s not so frugal to buy fabric and other supplies, but it’s still fun to have one of a kind school supplies. And it’s no secret that I love Etsy: the fount of handmade uniqueness. Here are just a few things I’ve put on my kids’ back to school must-have lists: Backpacks are essential, but who wants something BORING? I might even go back to school if it means I get to use an octopus tentacle backpack.

Cute Quilt Backpack: Tentacles Backpack: 41

Personlized adorable lunch boxes? YES, PLEASE. I’m pretty sure you’d be the coolest kid in the cafeteria with one of these. (You can even get a matching aluminum water bottle.)

Personlized Tin Lunch Box:

Who’s book is this? Oh wait, it has a label...GENIUS. And cute. And really useful. And did I mention cute?

School Bus Book Labels:

Accessories aren’t completely essential, just mostly essential. (And they’re not just for girls, either.)

Beaded Girls Bracelet: Slap Bracelets for Boys:

This is a cute take on the pencil case, and I think it probably takes up less desk space than the traditional plastic kind.

Fabric Pencil Roll:


A child can never have too many pencil toppers. Come to think of it, adults can never have too many pencil toppers either. Think of all the forms you’ll be filling out for school (not to mention those school checks you’ll be endlessly writing), pencil toppers make it all so much easier.

Blue Creature Pencil Topper: Fizz Witt Pencil Lady: Riding Stickman Pencil Topper:

It seems like kids need about 57 notebooks a year. Why not save a few trees and get a few upcycled ones? Plus, they’re fun and different...and tasty looking.

Upcycled Notebooks:

It’s always crucial to brown nose the teacher at the start of a new year. But think of how much time you’ll save if you don’t have to think up something more impressive than an apple or a box of crayons. And I’m fairly certain your kid will get all sorts of special treatment if they show up with this bouquet on the first day of school.

School Supply Paper Flower Bouquet: 43

from the archives of. . •

June 2 1 , 2 0 1 0

Dear Inse c u r i t i e s , Our relationship has come to an end. I am not really good at breakups so I think it would be best if I kept it frank with you. We have been acquainted for quite a while now so I know it is going to take a bit of effort and time on my part to eliminate you completely from my life or at least minimize your existence, but I am willing to work at it. This was not a sudden decision by the way. For the past few years I have lost a great deal of my joy and missed out on so many great experiences because of our relationship... and I’m tired of it. It has to end. I know there are some great things out there that I want to be a part of and I can’t do any of it with you constantly making me feel ugly and timid. When you’re not around I feel like a beautiful, bright woman who has so many other wonderful qualities to offer the world. But as soon as you enter the room all of those wonderful feelings start going away and I refuse to let that happen anymore. So yes, this is my goodbye letter to you. Sincerely,

p.s. All the rumors you’ve heard about me seeing Confidence are true.


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

Bloggers: Tawna Perkins • Blog Design by:


k r i s t a l e e p h o t o g r a p h y. b l o g s p o t . c o m

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The Barrel of Blogs Aug Sept 2011  
The Barrel of Blogs Aug Sept 2011  

An online magazine about bloggers, blogging and blogs. Articles written by bloggers and interesting tidbits of info. Plus totally bogus horo...