Am I a Funny Girl?

Miles apart, yet closer than ever. Thanks, HomeTeam!

Sponsored post, in partnership with HomeTeam by Panasonic. All opinions are my own.

I’m pretty lucky, that generally speaking, Jamie doesn’t travel *that much* for work. I am gone far less than I used to be, so these days, I’m the one holding down the fort here with Max while Jamie is making site visits to his team all up and down the West Coast.

At this time of year, the combination of holiday season preparations and then CES coming up in January, he is gone FAR more than usual. For three weeks, he was only home for 2 nights, basically coming home to sleep and then leaving again. It’s a rough stretch here, but it’s going a little smoother these days, thanks to HomeTeam from Panasonic.
HomeTeam logoWhen they first reached out and asked if I’d be interested in writing about the app, I figured it might be interesting, because Jamie’s been traveling so much. It’s hard on Max, going days without seeing Jamie, so I figured this might be a good solution for us.

And wow, is it ever!

It only took a few minutes for me to set up an account on my computer; I went to and set it up right there, and sent Jamie an invite to join my account.

Jamie installed the app on his tablet, and as soon as he created his account, it told him that he already had a waiting invite, and a few taps later, we were video chatting!
video chat*Billy Mays voice* But wait! There’s more!

Video chatting is cool and all, but I’ve seen it all before. The things that HomeTeam brings to the table? Next level.

MyHomeTeam Options

Curious George Animal Match gameThere are games you can play together! Drawing ones, where you draw something on the screen and the other person tries to guess what it is, or Curious George card matching. There’s tic tac toe and flashcards. Everything can be played solo or together, so you’re video chatting while you play, together, across however many miles.

The game options are easily sorted by age range, so it’s easy to find appropriate things to do based on your child’s age. There are also a couple that play well on their own, and I’ve found myself spending a bit of time playing with the Roller Coaster builder game on my own, without Max. :)

You can read books together; there’s a lovely selection for ages all the way up to 6th grade. Max’s teacher asks them to read 20 minutes every night, so this is a great way for him to get his minutes in AND spend time with his Daddy.

Book options

And of course, the fact that there’s a Niners book doesn’t hurt. 😉

Niners book

While Jamie never travels too far from us, HomeTeam works as long as the people on both ends have data access. I can just imagine how amazing this much be for families who have parents and grandparents on the other side of the world, or our servicemen and women who are deployed.

I love technology that helps bring people together, and allows us to connect in ways that we couldn’t before. Letters and phone calls are nice, but these sort of “face to face” interactions are so valuable and irreplaceable.

HomeTeam is available on your desktop or tablet; Basic membership includes unlimited video chatting, to upgrade to Premium, which gives you access to over 1600 book titles and all of the games, is just $8.99 a month (or $89.99 a year). Set up your account today and try a free 30 day trial.


Upcycled Holiday Countdown Garland

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #HolidayMoments #CollectiveBias
Upcycled Holiday Countdown Garland #HolidayMoments AD

I don’t know what it is, but there’s just something about this time of year that brings out my crafty side. I’m constantly starting projects, buying the stuff I need to make all sorts of fun messes, and there’s *always* that little corner in the back of my brain that’s seeing stuff out in the world and filing it away for inspiration.

It’s because of this, and the old Girl Scout in me, that I can’t pass up a good looking pile of toilet paper rolls. Because we buy our Charmin and other paper goods in bulk at Costco, it’s pretty easy for me to collect the empty rolls and put them to good use for fun craft projects.

This cute little countdown garland can easily be made for any special occasion you’re counting down. Swap out the colors and what you put inside, and pretty much anything can be made into a countdown-worthy party!

Countdown Garland Instructions

First things first, save those Charmin rolls! Figure out what you want to count down and how many days. This garland counts down 14 days until Christmas.

Next, gather up your other supplies:

  • Toilet Paper Rolls
  • Acrylic Craft Paint (I recommend at least 2 colors)
  • Bakers twine (but thinner ribbon would work!)
  • Foil Tassels
  • Miniature Ornaments
  • Goodies for inside (Shhh! I stole a couple handfuls of Max’s Halloween candy)
  • Decorative masking tape
  • Hole punch
  • Scissors
  • Stapler
  • Foam paintbrushes (one per paint color)
  • Number stickers for your countdown days

Decorating supplies #HolidayMoments AD

You’ll want to peel every little bit of leftover toilet paper off the rolls, so you get a smooth paint finish. It’s annoying, but necessary. :) Once you’ve got your clean rolls, paint them with 2 coats of craft paint, letting them dry for a few minutes in between coats. (I actually recommend letting them sit for quite a while to dry completely after the second coat; the tape will stick better in future steps if the paint is really dry)

Painting #HolidayMoments AD

Once all of your rolls are painted, they’re ready to attach a pull string. Basically, you’re going to staple the string inside the tube, so that when you tape it to come out the opposite side, it will also pull through and tear the tape, opening the package to release the goodies inside. I cut my pieces to about 5″ long.
Stapling #HolidayMoments AD
Staple closeup #HolidayMoments AD
Keep the staple near the edge, but not too close, or it won’t be able to hold onto the string and pull the tube open! Once you’ve stapled the string, press the tube flat, making two creases. Be sure to keep the staple close to the crease, so the string will go all the way across the finished container.

Stapled and folded #HolidayMoments AD

Carefully pull the string all the way across to the opposite crease, and use the decorative masking tape to seal the tube shut, leaving the string hanging out the corner.

Taped with string #HolidayMoments AD

Repeat for as many tubes as you’re using, then fill them all with the treats of your choice.

Ready for candy #HolidayMoments AD
Putting candy in #HolidayMoments AD

Once you’ve filled all of the tubes, it’s time to close them the rest of the way. You’ll crease the top just like you did for the bottom, but make sure it’s perpendicular to the bottom, so it makes more space inside the closed tube. Seal the top closed with decorative tape.

Taped both ends #HolidayMoments AD

Use a hole punch to put a hole in the middle of the top edge.

Punched hole #HolidayMoments AD

Cut a length of baker’s twine for the whole garland; I spaced mine about 4″ apart, but you can put yours closer or further as desired. The main thing is to loop the twine through the hole to hold the container in place. You can also loop the decorations onto the main twine, depending on what you’ve got. :)

Looped twine #HolidayMoments AD

Decoration closeup #HolidayMoments AD

Continue until all of your countdown containers are attached to the garland; you can hang the finished product either horizontal or vertically, depending on what kind of space you have. I kind of love it hanging from a ceiling hook!

Straight Garland Hanging #HolidayMoments AD

Garland with pulling #HolidayMoments AD

Max pulling string #HolidayMoments AD

Crafting is fun, and making messes is fun, but when it’s all done, it’s time to clean up. Thankfully, the Procter & Gamble family of products is there to help you clean up from all those messes, which always seem to multiply themselves around this time of year, when there are people and parties and entertaining and gifts and decorations and! and! and!

Cleaning up #HolidayMoments AD

Thanks to Costco, we always have lots of the important basics on hand; things like Bounty, Charmin, Mr Clean Magic Erasers, and Dawn dish soap. I love that I can go ahead and make those fun messes, because I know I have all the tools on hand to clean up when I’m done.

Mr Clean and Dawn #HolidayMoments AD

I don’t have to worry about running out of dish soap because I have lots of baking to do and end up washing things several times in a day (Hello, giant metal mixer bowl!) and other spills and messes are a non-issue when I’ve got a whole stash of Mr. Clean Magic Erasers on hand to come to the rescue. Costco makes it easy to stock up, because they have basically everything I need in one place, and in packages that allow me to keep a good back-up supply so I don’t get caught unprepared.

What are your favorite things to stock up on at Costco?

Instore #HolidayMoments AD

Bacon Cheeseburger Meatball Appetizer

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone.
#NaturallyCheesy #CollectiveBias
Bacon Cheeseburger Meatball Appetizer #NaturallyCheesy AD

Yay it’s party season! I love fall and winter, and all the holiday celebrations that come with this time of year. I love attending and hosting parties, and I looove the food. Specifically, I love miniature food. It just tastes better. Candy, savories, snacks and burgers. Make it tiny, where I get the full experience in a single bite and I’m happy. Take one of my favorite things in the world, a bacon cheeseburger, and miniaturize it and decorate it with bacon and Kraft Natural Shredded cheese? I am SO in.

I wanted to flip a cheeseburger on its head, so here I’m using a sharp cheddar cheese crisp as the base; these crisps are SO easy to make, and Kraft Natural Shredded is the perfect texture to make them. Pick some up next time you’re at Walmart!

Cheddar Cheese Crisps

Ingredients: Kraft Natural Shredded cheese. That’s it. You can use any of the varieties, but we’re using sharp cheddar here to go with the burger theme.

Supplies: Cookie sheet, mini muffin tin, large flat spatula (like a pancake flipper), parchment paper. Don’t try to use foil, it doesn’t work. (Trust me)

  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Lay a sheet of parchment to fit your cookie sheet.
  • Create small piles of Kraft Natural Shredded; I use a tablespoon to get similarly-sized piles.

Tablespoon shredded #NaturallyCheesy AD

  • Leave quite a bit of room in between the piles, because they WILL spread.
    Packaging cheese #NaturallyCheesy AD
    Cookie sheet #NaturallyCheesy AD
  • Place cookie sheet in heated oven, bake for 7 minutes
  • While crisps are cooking, get mini muffin tin and invert it on the counter.
    Crisps in oven #NaturallyCheesy AD
  • Remove crisps from oven, wait about 30 seconds then immediately transfer them to the upside-down mini muffin tin, using flat spatula. (If you don’t have a mini muffin tin, other shapes will work; a rolling pin will make little taco-shaped shells, or a small condiment bowl may also work to shape them into little dishes, which is the look we’re going for here.
    Crisps being shaped #NaturallyCheesy AD
  • Let sit until cool, then remove crisps to paper towel to absorb oil.

Set aside until meatballs are ready.
Shaped Crisps #NaturallyCheesy AD

These cheese crisps are so versatile, and you can use any of the available Kraft Natural varieties; the Mexican blend would be great with fajita toppings, or do an italian caprese version on a parmesan crisp! We make these all the time for snacks and for meals, they’re so fast and easy.

Burger Meatballs

Ingredients: 1 lb. ground turkey, 1 lb. ground beef, 1 egg, ketchup, yellow mustard, pickle relish, steak sauce

  • Preheat oven to 400
  • Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. I use a very scientific system of about 3 squeezes each of the sauces, and a generous soup spoon of relish. It’s all very precise, clearly. :)
  • Portion the meatballs into approx. 1″ balls. I use our ice cream scoop to help me keep them close to the same size.
    Shaping Meatballs #NaturallyCheesy ADPlace meatballs onto a foil-lined cookie sheet, leaving a bit of space in between each ball.
    Meatballs #NaturallyCheesy AD
  • Bake at 400 for 18 minutes
  • When done, remove from oven and finish in a frying pan to brown the outside.

To serve, add your preferred burger garnish. We used pickle slices, bacon, and a teeny tiny tomato on a skewer. Place onto a Kraft Natural cheese crisp, serve and enjoy.

Bacon Cheeseburger Meatballs #NaturallyCheesy AD

Close up meatball stack #NaturallyCheesy AD

All the goodness of a bacon cheeseburger favorite, without having to leave it for a meal! What’s your favorite cheesy appetizer?

#NaturallyCheesy In-store

#NaBloPoMo 10: The Q Word

Jamie and I have a long game parenting joke going on, and I think it’s working.

Here’s the gist of it: We don’t believe in “bad” words. There’s awareness of your audience and using the right words for who you’re talking to or who might hear you, but generally speaking, we don’t have “bad” words. The workaround for this with Max has been to assign ages to words.

It isn’t that he isn’t allowed to say certain words, it’s just that he isn’t old enough.

“Fart” is an 8 year old word.

“Crap” is for 12 year olds.

“The F bomb” is like a 16 year old word,

and the list goes on.

Walking home from school one day, as Max recounted a classmate saying “the S word” on the playground, we had yet another conversation about words and acceptable ages.

And then, about a month ago, we invented “The Q Word”

Worse than the F bomb, it’s the worst word in the world, so terrible that even Jamie and I don’t say it. Because it’s The Q Word and we wouldn’t dare.

Fast forward to today. If you haven’t heard, Shia LaBeouf is doing a performance art piece, #AllMyMovies. It is literally him, sitting in a theater in NYC, watching all of his own movies, in reverse chronological order, over 72 hours. And live streaming a feed of himself. Watching his own movies.


As I recounted this to Jamie, his response was “That’s terrible. So douchey. OMG, he’s totally a Q word.”

And the look on Max’s face told us all we need to know.

The Q Word is worse than Voldemort, worse than the F bomb. It’s the worst thing you can say.

We can’t wait to tell Max the truth, some day faaaar in the future.

“That Would Be Me” a new album from Harry Connick, Jr.

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 4.32.29 PMIn 1989, my dad bought our family’s first CD player. We each got to choose ONE CD; and they came in a big long cardboard package that you had to tear open to get to the jewel case.
I don’t even want to think about how much that first CD player cost, for real. I can’t tell you much about it, except that it was probably right around this time of year, because one of the albums Katie and I chose was the New Kids on the Block Christmas album. (The other was Milli Vanilli. Shut up.)

My parents each chose something too; I don’t remember whose was whose, but I know both albums well, in the very fabric of my being. Bonnie Raitt’s Nick of Time and the When Harry Met Sally soundtrack.

I remember falling madly in crush with one Mr. Harry Connick jr, that crooner that my mom and Grammy compared to Frank Sinatra. We listened to the album over and over, talking about the amounts of pepper on our paprikash, and pretending that he was singing to each of us.

It’s been an embarrassingly long time since that album, and Harry Connick’s new album, That Would Be Me, is a different sound for sure, but still has the soul that makes you swoon.

I can’t choose a favorite from the album; they’re all great, but after watching the video below, you’ll want a tissue for “Do You Really Need Her,” but then you can dance it out during “(I Like it When You) Smile” because that’s a catchy little tune that will definitely be on our next dance party playlist.

Pick it up today on iTunes or Amazon

I participated in the That Would Be Me album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided an album to review but all opinions are my own.

#NaBloPoMo 8: Brussels Sprouts

Max is a pretty easy going guy in a lot of ways, but of all the ways, the thing I’m most thankful for is his adventurous eating. There are very few things he doesn’t eat, and every time he tries something new, I’m grateful.

I grew up a picky eater, and it was a struggle and embarrassment for many years.

I didn’t like lettuce, or tomatoes. Or seafood of any kind, or onions in any form. I wouldn’t touch mustard or hot sauce of any kind. I hated cabbage and spinach. In short, I didn’t eat a whole lot of things, and it always caused problems.

I constantly had to customize food orders, or pick things off my burger. It was a pain in the butt, but just something I accepted about myself.

When Jamie and I started dating in 2003, I was more than a little concerned to learn that the restaurant of choice for his family was The Fish Market; concerned about what I’d eat for family gatherings, I made a decision.

I had to start eating seafood. Clearly.

I was so timid at first; breaded and fried shrimp or fish and chips, then I moved on to pan-fried tilapia. From there, it wasn’t a far leap to grilled mahi mahi, and I have since tried snapper, scallops, lobster and halibut. I still can’t do salmon though.

Adding in seafood opened me up to a whole world of options: I now eat lettuce and onions, and mustard and hot sauce. It was a conscious decision though, and something that I’ve had to make an effort to do.

There are still some things I don’t eat. I don’t care for avocado, and mushrooms squick me out. I’m making progress though; I made a shepherd’s pie and included mushrooms in the filling and ate them then. So baby steps, I’ll get there eventually.

We had tri-tip and brussels sprouts for dinner, and hearing Max exclaim “YAY! Brussels sprouts are my favorite!” made me realize also just how far *I* have come in my eating.

#NaBloPoMo 7: Lazy Saturdays

lazy saturday

I’m on my third cup of coffee, and am still in my jammies.

Jamie’s home from three weeks of traveling for work, and is making bacon and eggs in the kitchen.

Max is sitting on the other end of the sofa, reading his new LEGO Club magazine and brainstorming what he wants for Christmas. (Spoiler alert: It’s basically all LEGO Star Wars)

One of my favorite Spotify playlists, a 70s, 80s, 90s “Classic Rock” collection, is playing.

And I realize… this is how I pictured my grown up Saturday mornings.

When I was a kid, like we all did, I had visions of what it was like to be a grown-up, and basically none of those things have come true, except maybe the awesome husband/kid thing. It still blows my mind to think that when I was growing up, my parents didn’t have all the answers like I thought they did, and that maybe, just maybe, they were finding their way just like I am now.

But this morning? With no TV on, breakfast sizzling in the kitchen, and a cat curled up at my side? This is just how I pictured it.