Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Taking Omega 3s for Ultimate Health

Do you think, on a daily basis, about small things you can do to improve your health?  One of the supplements that I really like are Omega 3s.  They help maintain a healthy heart and circulatory system, they support joint flexibility and movement, and they maintain a healthy immune system.  They also support optimal metabolism and body composition, help balance blood sugar levels, and support the body's natural anti-inflammatory response.  These are all things that I really care about as a runner and a mom. 

Recently I received some Ultimate Omega-D3 from Nordic Naturals to review.  Their products provide all the good and essential fatty acids without the risk of toxicity that you might get from fish.  Not to mention, fish has gotten quite expensive in the supermarkets lately (we aren't eating it in my family as often as we used to as a result) and it's more economical at this point to get your Omega 3s in a pill form.  Nordic Naturals Omega 3s are 750% purer than fish.  They have a mild lemon taste (no fishiness after taking one!). 

I liked that the pills are soft gels, because I have a hard time with large pills.  These don't seem to bother my stomach.  They even sent some samples (in a cute ecofriendly reusable produce bag) - so Pierce got to try their strawberry chewables (he loved them) and our border collie, Scooter, got to try some pet Omega 3s on his food. 
Nordic Naturals is currently running a What's Essential contest, where you can share your own story about what matters most in your life, and enter to win a trip to California and other prizes.  You can check it out here.  You can also find Nordic Naturals on twitter and Facebook. 

Disclaimer: I was sent a bottle of Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega D3 for purposes of review.  All of the opinions stated above are entirely my own. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Groundhog Day Themed Muffin Tin Monday

Groundhog Day is just around the corner.  When I explained the tradition to Pierce, he was fascinated.  He gets pretty excited about the changing of seasons.
Pierce had ranch bacon chicken salad wraps (made from one of our own chickens - sooooo yummy), pasta salad, apples, and pickles (canned from last year's garden).  In addition, he had a groundhog in pudding with crushed cookies.  I have to give credit for the groundhog idea to Angela from WV Treasures.  Thanks Angela!
Pierce is torn.  He wants the snow of winter (since we still haven't actually had any snow) but he also wants it to be spring.  Can't wait to see what the groundhog says on Thursday!

For more cute lunch ideas, check out Muffin Tin Mom

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Special Dining in the Rainforest with Bertolli Roasted Chicken and Rotini Pasta Soup


Bertolli has a variety of new restaurant quality soups out. They are prepared on the stovetop in about 5 minutes.  Each one is individually flash frozen at the peak of freshness for maximum flavor.  I was excited to try the soups with my family and prepare a special meal for them - with less than one hour of prep time.  I decided to go with a rainforest theme - my boys just love animals.

First, I used my bread machine to make a dough.  I used a dough recipe for challah and added 10 drops of green food coloring.  This took about 5 minutes of prep time.  Then the bread machine took care of the rest.  Once the dough was ready, I took it out and stretched it and shaped it around some custard cups.  Then I transferred it to a greased baking sheet and let it rise an hour.  Total active prep time on this about another 5 minutes.  (If necessary, you could make the dough the day before, and place it in the fridge until ready to bring out for shaping and rising). 

I added raisins for eyes and pepperoni cut to a forked tongue shape before baking the bread at 375* for 25 minutes.  I left the custard cups nestled around the bread to help it hold shape.  I then tossed together a prepared Caesar salad and started pulling together the table.  I used blue cellophane and floral moss to create the Amazon river down the middle of our table.  I used family silver and blue laced napkins to add a little beauty.  Small, red votive candles were also a nice touch.  Then I started the soup.  Cort was impatient and got in his chair before dinner was ready.

The boys had monkey plates, bowls, and cups on bamboo placemats.  Small stuffed animals from the rainforest came to dinner too.

Paul and I had butterfly themed plates and bowls, with blue goblets for our drinks.  I had a frog eating beside me for the evening.  Can you see the slight green tinge to the snake bread?

Cort really approved of the soup!  Actually, we all did.  I'm not a huge fan of canned soups or microwave dinners, so I was a little skeptical at first.  But the soup tastes homemade.  The veggies are tender crisp with lots of flavor.  And the chicken isn't all rubbery without flavor like so many frozen meals - no, the chicken was tender and tasted as though it had just been baked fresh in the oven.  Overall, it was a delicious meal, and I think took me about 45 minutes total in prep time to pull together a fun themed meal for my family.  They loved the special settings and I think having more formal circumstances helped them to eat more enthusiastically.  Cort took his first bite and exclaimed, "YUMMY!"
For more fun and easy meal ideas, you can check out Bertolli on Facebook, twitter, and of course, the Bertolli website.  The website is very user-friendly, and I found it helpful in locating a nearby grocery store that carried their soups. 

How do you make meal time special at your house?

Disclaimer: I was compensated by Bertolli to participate in the Weeknight Meal Special Challenge.  All of the opinions stated above are entirely my own (and my family's). 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A new Rural Life Themed Blog Hop - Linky - Meme Starts Thursday!

I am so excited to tell you all about the new blog hop that is starting this week - Rural Thursdays.  Finally, a place you can come to share with other bloggers your adventures in gardening and canning, breadmaking and sewing projects, egg gathering and varmint fighting.  Indeed, it's going to be a great place to meet other like-minded bloggers.  And you don't have to be living the rural life to link up - rural is all a state of mind in living the simple life. 
http://www.aruraljournal.com/p/rural-thursday-blog-hop.html/" target="_blank">Rural Thursday Blog Hophttp://farm8.staticflickr.com/7159/6767202883_a67c982368_o.jpg" />


 
Nancy from a Rural Journal was kind enough to invite me to cohost this blog hop.  I've loved Nancy's blog forever (well, it seems that way) and am so excited to be working together on this project.  She takes gorgeous photos (and has mad photo editing skills that leave me envious) and she is also witty and humorous - the type of blogger that leaves you eager to read her daily posts.  She's a committed blogger, and a wonderful commenter as well.  If you're not already following Nancy, I highly recommend you subscribe to her blog.

Now, if you haven't done a blog hop before, it's so easy.  It's one of the most productive ways to meet other bloggers and help your own blog grow.  Basically, you'll do your blog post, then grab the code from the button (you can see it on my sidebar - just copy the jibberish below the button and paste it into your blog post).  Then you can come either here or to Rural Journal on Thursday to link up your post, and visit other blogs as well.  To get the most out of doing a blog hop, I'd recommend you visit and comment on at least 5 other folks that link up (the more the better, if you have the time).  You can get more details by visiting Nancy's page here. 

Looking forward to reading your posts on Thursday!  If you have any questions or need clarification, please don't hesitate to ask.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Polishing the Silver - A Lost Art in Meditation

As a kid, when the holidays approached I would inevitably be coaxed into polishing the silver.  My mom would retrieve it from it's secret hiding place, safe from the threat of burglars where it lay nestled deeply in the hidden cubby of the antique icebox.  It was where, back in the day, the large chunks of ice were placed to keep the food cold.  The silver was in velvety deep purple-blue bags, clinking gently as it was pulled into the light.

Recently, I decided to polish the silver, for the first time as an adult.  A good twenty years have passed since I last polished silver, but my hands haven't forgotten the simple process.  Soft cloths, the acrid sweet smell of blue-gray polish, warm water and multiple dries - mustn't leave behind any spots!  In this modern day of paper towels and dishwashers, of speed and efficiency, I find that I don't mind the repetitious smoothing and cleansing of each piece.  As my hands clear the tarnish of years gone by, I can't help but imagine the weathered hands of relatives who have passed across each piece, deep in their own mental mediation, thinking perhaps of upcoming dinner guests.  I imagine the delicate foods planned and laboriously prepared, the finest meal creations available to a simple farming lifestyle.

And as I stand back and admire my handiwork, fingers dry and chalky from the polish, I think, "That'll do".

What simple chores free your mind from worries?

This post linked with:
Weekend Bloggy Reading

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Treating IBS Naturally with Dragon's Blood (Sangre de Grado)

You probably read the title of this post and wondered, briefly, if I have fallen into some sort of January winter delusion in which I believe myself to be in medieval times, storming castles and hunting dragons.  No, indeed, it's not that kind of dragon.

Dragon's blood is a resin that comes from the fruit of a tree deep in the Amazon.  It gets the name dragon's blood because the color of the resin is a dark red hue.  It can be used externally to reduce stinging, itching, and pain (so it's great for things like wounds, eczema, and insect bites) and can be used internally for treatment of candida, ulcers, fevers, infections, and IBS.   I got mine from Homeopathic and Natural Health Paradise which offers a large variety of natural supplements and homeopathic medicines.
IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) is something I've suffered for years.  I remember the first attack, when I was just 13 years old.  The unexpected pain terrified me.  After it was over, I never even told anyone - not even my parents.  Over the years I've learned that stress and dairy products are my biggest triggers.  I have a difficult time avoiding Reeses cups dairy products completely (although I do buy many substitutions).  I'm fortunate, though, as I know some people suffer from this more severely than I do.   Still, I've been to the doctor, I've been prescribed meds, and none of it works for prevention.  Plus, I don't like to take prescription medication except as a last resort.
Dragon's Blood is a natural way to treat and prevent IBS.  You put 5 drops in a glass of water to drink once a day and can stay on it for up to 3 months at a time.  And although it doesn't taste great, it also doesn't taste like blood, so that's good!  I've been taking the supplement for two weeks now, and haven't had any episodes.  This doesn't mean I'm cured, but it does seem promising.  Indeed, if I make it a month without any issues, I'm going to be a firm believer.  I've had absolutely no side effects from the dragon's blood, which is excellent.  It's really like I'm not even taking it.  That's how natural medicines should be in my book! 
What about you readers?  Would you try a more natural solution to treat a long running, frustrating health issue?

Disclaimer:  I received Dragon's Blood from H&N Health Paradise in exchange for a review.  The opinions stated above are entirely my own. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Some of My Favorites of YOUR Blog Posts!

I've been blogging for over two years.  I've read a ton of blog posts during that time.  Thousands, no doubt.  And sometimes I come across a blog post that not only sticks in my head, but in some way defines the author.  I thought I would showcase a few of those today.  I'm only going to pick five, because anymore than that gets kind of overwhelming for the reader (in my opinion) but if you didn't get picked this time, don't worry!  I will certainly do this again in a few weeks, because there are so many great posts I could pick from!

1.  Do you know TexWisGirl from Run A Round Ranch?  She stands out through her animal photos, birds in particular.  But last summer she went through a stretch of blogging about the wily squirrels in her yard.  She caught some truly fantastic photos of squirrels hanging off her feeders.  But above all, my favorite squirrel post is this.  Take heed - if you don't want R rated squirrel pics, don't scroll past the point where she tells you to stop!  I think the post really captures both TexWisGirl's skill behind the camera, her love of nature, and her sense of humor.

2. JDaniel4sMom has long been a blogging friend of mine, and she has a wonderful blog full of exciting activities for children.  There is one post, though, that will forever stand out in my mind when I think of her.  It's about a playdate that went wrong once.  I think her response to what happened is so beautiful, and such a true display of her kind heart.  You can read about it here.

3. Helene from I'm Living Proof that God Has a Sense of Humor won my heart when she emailed me with concern and sympathy back in the early days of my having twins.  She's been through it, having two sets of twins herself.  Through ups and downs, she blogs with her heart, and with her humor.  Plus, she makes the coolest cakes on earth.  Her guest blog post from her disgruntled cat was so funny that it will always be in my mind as one of my favorite humorous blog posts.  Go check it out here!

4.  Ordinary Life Magic is one of the first blogs I started following.  I really loved reading of the daily activities of her extremely creative kids, and I also loved this sense of serenity (from her breezy yet poignant style of writing) I got whenever I visited her blog.  Plus, as I've mentioned before, she creates such beautiful headers.  Almost two years ago, she did a post where she allowed her children to paint their footprints all down the hallway....on her hardwood floors.  Wow!  Talk about cool mom of the year award!  You can read about it and check out the awesomely fun pictures here.

5.  Chillin' with Jill hasn't been blogging as long as the others, but she is a devoted commenter and has a sweetness to her that I love.  She wrote a post last August about her two children, who she adopted, and who both have special needs.  It's a simple, tender post that captures the unbiased love of a mother.  Read about it here.

I hope you'll take the time to swing by a couple of these blogs and read their posts - posts that I loved so much that I still remember fondly years later!  Tell them I sent you, and stick around some - no doubt if you explore these blogs you'll find that you enjoy them as much as I have.  And I will try to do this again in the near future, so if you didn't get picked this time, you very well may be soon!

What's a blog post that you've read that really stood out in your mind?  Do you have posts you've encountered that stay with you too?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

$25 Gift Card to Maggiano's Little Italy Giveaway - 2 Winners!

I am so excited to be doing another giveaway to Maggiano's Little Italy.  I heard back from two of the winners of my last giveaway there, and they raved about how awesome the food was and how much they enjoyed being treated to a night out with their hubby's.  So up for grabs today are two $25 gift cards to Maggiano's Little Italy.

Google Image

I still haven't had a chance to try the food at Maggiano's, but in googling pictures of it - well, it looks amazing doesn't it?  This giveaway is sponsored by Logallot, a website devoted to blog marketing.  I hope you will check it out (and if you leave a comment on the site, that will count as one of your entries!  
This is a rafflecopter giveaway, so just click on the "read more" under my signature.

Disclaimer - I did not receive anything in exchange for hosting this giveaway, but felt it would be of interest and benefit to my readers! 


Monday, January 23, 2012

Frogs and Toadstools on Muffin Tin Monday

I used up so much creativity last week doing that Toy Story 3 bento that I decided to sit back this week and be lazy.  I used our kiddie frog theme, and added our toadstool (or mushroom) muffin cups.  Because obviously toadstools go with frogs, right?!
The boys had caesar salad, homemade classic white bread, and beef stew made in the crockpot.  A perfect meal for a wintry day, in my opinion.  And while Pierce whined about the salad, I was happy and stunned when the twins ate every last bite of theirs and asked for seconds!  Hooray!  At least my 2 year olds will eat salad, even if my 5 year old still won't!
For more creative kid lunch ideas, check out Muffin Tin Mom

Friday, January 20, 2012

Country Living - Varmints 101

In addition to being infested by stinkbugs, in addition to having a mouse deconstruct part of my minivan, in addition to having raccoons in the chicken coop....well....the drama just never ends.  It's varmint central here!  Where should I start?

I'm on my fourth - that's right fourth - mouse caught in the minivan since this past fall.  I get rid of one and another moves on in.  I catch them in glue traps, and then feel guilty all day since I can't bear to put them out of their misery myself.  My husband has to do the duty when he gets home.   They're soooo cute (sob).

We have a possum stealing our chicken food.  He's still on the loose.

Our rooster Gilbert continues to play the part of a varmint by crowing on our deck every morning long before daylight has arrived.

And we set out a trap, for that possum.  Well look what we caught instead:
 This was one angry cat, folks.  My husband said, "Maybe you should go let it out, you're better with cats." So I started to head downstairs and heard him yell after me, "Don't get bit!"  That's when I knew I had been suckered.  The cat was very feral and growling and hissing.  I aimed him downhill as I opened the cage, hoping he'd make a mad dash and not into me!  Luck was with me that day, and we haven't seen him around since.

Have you had any varmints wreaking havoc this winter?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Treating My Insomnia Naturally

I've always been a very light sleeper, but since having kids I've struggled a lot more with insomnia.  My boys were all sleeping through the night by the age of 5 months, but me?  I haven't slept through the night since a week into pregnancy with my firstborn.  I do all the right things - I exercise, I limit caffeine after lunchtime, I never take naps, and I go to bed at the same time every night.  And still I struggle.  I seem to have a mixed bag of insomnia - some nights I struggle to fall asleep, some nights I wake up over and over again, some night I wake up at 3 am and can't get back to sleep.  Such a shame too, because I absolutely adore sleeping.  I miss the sleep of youth.

I've tried various sleeping pills, but some of the over the counter types leave me feeling all twitchy instead of sleepy, and the others leave me feeling groggy in the mornings.  I don't want to take prescription meds, because they would put me to sleep so deeply that if the boys woke up sick in the night, I wouldn't be rational enough to tend to them.  So I decided to try a more natural approach.
 

H & N Health Paradise  offers a natural sleep treatment program for those who struggle with insomnia (they also carry a variety of other homeopathic and natural medicines and supplements).  You use a combination of valerian root (which is commonly known to assist in sleep), St. John's Wort (a very mild antidepressant - used in this case to take the edge off in case the reason you're not sleeping is because you're tossing and turning from worry), calcium & magnesium (deficiencies in either of these can lead to stress and sleep disturbances), and melatonin (a hormone already in the human body that regulates the sleep and wake cycle). Currently their insomnia treatment program is on sale, if you want to check it out.

I've taken all of these before, but most of them were taken ages ago (ages as in way back in college!) and I've never taken them in combination before.  I started them last week, and it's going well.  They don't make me groggy, and I don't sleep so deeply that I wouldn't wake up if the boys were crying during the night.  In the past, when I took melatonin I would wake up with headaches, but the H&N Health Paradise version of melatonin doesn't do this, thankfully.  I'm still having a lot of wake ups, but when I do I am able to go right back to sleep, which is a nice change.  I am only taking half the recommended dosage of valerian, because it tends to cause really vivid dreams, and I have always been very sensitive to it.  But other than that I'm following the dosages as recommended.  I'll be interested to see if the program helps more with time - as if there are deficiencies it may take a few weeks to build my system back up.

I don't take any other medications, and having taken all these supplements before felt good about safely taking them in combination.  But as with all medications or supplements, please discuss with your doctor before starting anything new!  

How about you, reader?  Have you had any great successes using natural remedies?

Disclaimer:  I received the supplements for the insomnia treatment program in exchange for a review.  The opinions stated above are my own.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My Memories Scrapbooking Software Giveaway

Do you like making art on your computer?  Creating fun things with family photographs?  Then you will love the Digital Scrapbooking Software at My Memories Suite.

Now I had every intention of creating some wonderful creations for you using the software.  I waited until the new laptop I'd ordered came in (my old one has been given 2 days to 6 months to live by my computer "doctor") and promptly downloaded the software on the new computer.  And that's when I realized the new computer wasn't charging the battery.  After spending a morning putting it through tests with HP, it turned out I had to return the computer.  So while I did get a chance to play with the software some, I didn't get to make any creations for you before returning the computer.  And my new laptop hasn't come in yet.  My apologies folks!  I will say, that from what I saw as I navigated the program, it has a lot of potential for fun!  In particular, I was crazy for a set a Christmas themed scrapbooking pages - so cute with its wintry themes and reindeer.  There were themes for holidays, birthdays, seasons and more all included in the software. You could even use it to make your own blog designs!  And how fun would it be to use this to make birthday cards for family and friends?

I went on the site and picked out a few themes that I thought were really cute.  These are add ons to the software and are inexpensive to purchase.
 Four Seasons Spring

 A Boy and His Dog

Camping Guy

If you are interested in purchasing the software, Two Bears Farm readers can get $10 off the software plus an additional $10 off any packages by going here and entering the code STMMMS32813 upon checkout.

To enter to win the My Memories Scrapbooking Software (a $39.97 value) just click on the "Read More" underneath my signature.  Good luck! 

Disclaimer: I received My Memories Scrapbooking Software for free for the purpose of writing a review.  The opinions above are my own.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

How Much Longer Before...

How long do I have before Pierce starts saying:

Mom, can't you wear real shoes to get me from the bus?  Slippers?  It's so embarrassing!  

Mom please!  No more yoga pants!  Don't you own any jeans?

Please tell me you're not walking out to get the mail in that.  Again.

I can't wait until I can LEAVE FOR COLLEGE! 


At least I haven't gone to Walmart in them.  Yet. 

Check out my giveaway - $10 Starbucks gift cards w/ 3 winners - here.  

Monday, January 16, 2012

Toy Story 3 Bento Muffin Tin Monday

Toy Story 3 has been Pierce's favorite movie for ages now.  There are so many great character choices to use for a cute lunch.
I did star muffin cups (since Woody wears a star as sheriff) filled with grapes (wait, is that an alien in there?!?) and carrots.  The dog, Buster, filled with Ham (the pig) sprinkles (I found Toy Story 3 sprinkles at AC Moore a while back).  Then the sandwich Woody is a cheese sandwich I cut and shaped with food scissors.  The cowboy hat is the sandwich crusts, the smile and eyebrows are pepperoni, the eyes are sliced string cheese.  Pierce also had a side of strawberry yogurt.

Let me tell you - he was so excited for this lunch.  I showed it to him ahead of time at his request, and he couldn't wait to take it to school to show his teachers.  Maybe next time I'll try to do Buzz and Big Baby ;-)

For more fun lunch ideas, check out Muffin Tin Mom.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Don't Hate Me Because I'm Introverted

I've known that I am an introvert for probably twenty years, having been interested in psychology as a teenager. I can sit by myself, nose in a good book, for hours and be perfectly happy.  I can go out for a solo run in the woods and feel completely at ease alone on the trails.  The world, however, is run by extroverts, who make up 75% of the population.  Indeed, being outgoing and gregarious is highly touted as a desirable characteristic, and may leave the other 25% of us feeling misunderstood.  Recently, when I was repeatedly called 'unfriendly' by someone, I started thinking about what it means to be an introvert. 

Introverts actually process information differently from extroverts.  With recent brain developments, we now know that the way information comes in and the way dopamine plays a role is very different.  Introverts tend to be highly sensitive to the neurotransmitter dopamine, and as a result can feel overstimulated in situations where we are surrounded by people.  I know that I can be very sensitive to not just people, but even the noise of people - I can't tolerate having multiple electronics on at once - say the radio plus the kids playing the Nintendo DS.  Multi-layers of noise leave me feeling unsettled and unable to focus. 

People sometimes think introverts are antisocial, but we're not.  We like being around people, in small and controlled doses.  But we find extended exposures draining, and need time to decompress.  I often have to bolster myself up to do something as simple as inviting another family over for dinner - it's very mentally draining.  It's not that I don't like other people or want to be around them - it's just that I find it exhausting on many different levels.  On the other side, extroverts are highly energized by other people and dislike being alone.  They can't understand why an introvert wouldn't want their company at all times, which they may assume is always desired. 

There are many misconceptions about introverts.  We may be considered shy, but in fact many of us are not afraid of people.  I'm certainly not.  Extroverts may mistake our lack of small talk for rudeness or snobbery.  For me, I just don't talk unless I have something to say.  It has nothing to do with what I think of you.  Extroverts may assume introverts don't like people.  That's also untrue.  In fact, we highly value the few friendships that we do have, often proving to be extremely loyal.  I've always thought of myself as having an inner circle, a la Meet the Parents.  It may take me a while to warm up to a person, but once someone reaches my inner circle, they are there for life, and can always know that I will be supportive and there for them.  Introverts do make most excellent listeners.

I suppose one of the most disturbing assumptions is that often extroverts think that introverts should just fix themselves and become "normal".  Ah yes, discrimination comes in many forms.  Introverts need to be appreciated for what is their natural personality type.  I could no more change myself to be extroverted than I could rob a bank - it's just not who I am.  I don't think it should be up to introverts to change.  It should be up to the extroverts to accept and respect us for who we are.

I suspect that there are many other happily blogging introverts out there.  It seems an easy way for us to connect with other people safely.  We can be social, but shut down whenever we feel like it to recharge.  If we don't feel like interacting at any given time, we don't have to.  Yet we can bond with others and have stimulating conversations and unite in friendship should we so choose.  And if we do meet face to face, it's a little easier, because we already know each other in some sense and have common ground.  Are we unfriendly?  Nope!  Just introverted. I'm so thankful for the friendships I have made with other bloggers who have not only been supportive, but also accept me - and my blog - as I am.  Thank you. 

I love the way this article sums up how to care for the introvert in your life.

I have a giveaway for 3 $10 Starbucks gift cards going on - you can enter here.  

This post will be linked to Pour Your Heart Out at Things I Can't Say.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

$10 Starbucks Gift Cards - 3 Winners - Giveaway

You know what's funny?  I don't drink coffee.  Not at home anyhow.  But I adore the lattes at Starbucks.  Each year, my aunt Pam and uncle George treat me to a Starbucks gift card for Christmas, because they know that I wouldn't splurge on the lattes on my own.  And each year I cherish this gift card - treating myself every so often and thinking of my aunt and uncle when I do.  It's such a meaningful gift - you wouldn't think that about a gift card - but it really is when the gift card allows you to feel like you're receiving something extra decadent each time you use it.  If someone got me a gift card to somewhere like Target, I'd love it, but I'd end up spending it all on the kids.  With a Starbucks gift card, it's just for me. 


Today, I've got 3 gift cards - worth $10 each - to Starbucks to give away!  The giveaway is sponsored by Sonia at Logallot - check out her website as it offers such helpful marketing information to bloggers and she's very interactive with her readers.

Disclaimer: I did not receive anything in exchange for hosting this giveaway, but I thought it would be something my readers would enjoy.

This is a Rafflecopter giveaway, so to enter just click on "Read More" under my signature and bear paw.  Good luck!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

January Can Be Boring

January can be boring.  It's dreary and cold.  The days are short.  But you know what's fun, even in January?  Making a mess!
 At first, Reid and Cort weren't too sure about finger painting with the new Melissa and Doug paints that they received for Christmas.  Pierce had no hold backs, though, he dived right in.

 Blue and green and a bit of red and yellow make a lovely teal.

Once the twins realized that if they got the paint completely on their hands they could make hand stamps, they were much more eager to get messy.

Indeed, even gleeful.

And Pierce hand stamped his way across the table.
What are you doing, reader, to keep the dullness of January away, and bring some color into your life?  Do share!

Thanks to all who entered to win a copy of Dr. Nina Shapiro's book Take a Deep Breath.  Random.org picked lucky #19, Grumpy Grateful Mom.  Congrats to her!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Fitryo Total Bar - A Review

I love fitness gadgets.  It's always fun to try something new, to work out muscles in different ways, and to shake things up to prevent boredom and burnout.  I was really interested to try the new Total Bar by Fitryo - I'd never seen anything quite like it before.  It stands for Fitness, Training, Yoga. It's a long, very slender pole that is slightly weighted on the ends.  All together it weights about a pound and a half.  The weights on the ends allow you to vibrate the pole as you work different muscles, giving more frequent reps than you would get from using standard weight lifting equipment.  It arrived with a carrying case, a nutritional guide, a workout poster and a training brochure.  
 I tried the different poses by following the brochure and the poster.  In particular, I liked working the core.  I often get vertigo from doing crunches, but I had no problems from using the Fitryo Total Bar.  It works the entire core by forcing you to use stabilizing muscles, so it's a more gentle workout than crunches would be as well.
 This position works the triceps, as well as the quads from doing the lunge.

This one works the back.
You hold each pose for 30-60 seconds, while doing the small repetitions.

You can watch a video to get an idea of how it works:

I think this is a wonderful product for people who are looking to just get started with weights.  It may take some time to get used to how to perform the movements.  I had to mess with it a bit and watch the videos before I felt like I was using it correctly.
For those who already have an established weight routine, it offers a fun alternative.  I came up with a few exercises not in the book to offer a bigger challenge - such as doing the yoga boat pose while using the Total Bar.  After having three kids, I can use all the intense core work I can get! 

Disclaimer: I was provided with the Fitryo Total Bar to try out and write a review on my blog.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, January 9, 2012

A Beary Special Lunch - Muffin Tin Monday

It made me blush just a little to title this lunch 'beary special' but I couldn't resist, even if it is cheesy (literally). 
Pierce had a bear shaped cheese sandwich with mustard (his fav), a few teddy grahams, cherry tomatoes, grapes, a few m+ms and he also had some yogurt as well.
For more ideas to use muffin cups for lunches, visit Muffin Tin Mom

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Family Game Night - Zoopanic by Endless Games - A Review

Do you like to have game nights with your family?  Our twins are still a little young, but lately Pierce has been an avid gamer - board games, that is.  Recently we tried out the board game Zoopanic, which is recommended for ages 3-4+.  It doesn't involve any reading, so it's great for kids who haven't reached that stage yet.
 The box and the game board are vibrant in color.  The theme of the game is that the animals have escaped from their cages, and you have to return them.  All sorts of animals are scattered across the game board, and each zookeeper tries to return as many to their correct cages as possible.  Each time an animal is returned, a trophy is awarded, and the person with the most trophies at the end of the game wins.
The game took us just over 30 minutes to play.  I had started off the evening in a bit of a bad mood, but playing this game with my family cheered me up.  Paul won.  When I asked Pierce what he liked best about the game, he said, "I liked winning."  Paul and I were confused, because he didn't technically win. But Pierce explained that he won every time he got a trophy, and he got six trophies total.  So in the end, he felt like he'd won many, many times.  How great is that?  He also declared the panda to be his favorite animal in the zoo. 

Endless Games carries Zoopanic for $21.99 in addition to many other board games, puzzles, and a seriously cute collection of animals.  You can also like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter

Disclaimer - I received the board game Zoopanic for review purposes.  All of the opinions written above are entirely my own.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Take A Deep Breath by Nina Shapiro - Book Review w/ Giveaway

After Cort's asthma attack last month, I was excited to hear about the book Take a Deep Breath: Clear the Air for the Health of Your Child by Nina Shapiro, MD.  TLC Book Tours contacted me about doing a review and giveaway, and I felt like the timing was perfect.

The book is broken up into the ages of newborn - 3 months, 3 months - 1 year, and 1-5 years.  I found the book to be informative without being preachy, reassuring without being dismissive, and down-to-earth for the topic.  In general, I think this is because Dr. Shapiro is a mom herself, which lends her an authenticity for the parents out there reading the book.  She knows what it's like to worry about a child, to put practicality first sometimes in the face of recommendations.  She knows when to say, okay, maybe you don't have to be a total stickler with this - versus, hey, I know it's hard but this is something you've got to stand firm on.  I like that philosophy. 

Even though there is medical terminology, the book is not heavy with it, and everything is well explained.  I think there are pieces that will appeal to all parents - like what can you do when your infant has his first cold?  What if there is a rattling in the chest at some point (oh yeah, I've totally called the nurse hotline at my pedi's office over this one before!)?  What about things like RSV and pneumonia?  Are air filters necessary for newborns?  And what are the signs that my baby has stuck something up his nose?  You'll also learn in depth about all those icky childhood viruses, and what you can do to try to minimize them (you may have the urge, like me, to wash your hands about 5 times when reading this chapter). 

I was fascinated by some of the statistics in the book.  In general, the book isn't laden with statistics, but the ones it does contain are intriguing.  Did you know that over 50% of babies have an incident of wheezing in their first year (but only 1/3rd of those end up developing asthma)?  15% of kids have croup at least once before age five.  And 1 in 5 SIDS deaths occur when a nonparent is caring for a child (so make sure those caregivers know that back for sleep is best).

In light of Cort's recent illness, I was most interested in the information on asthma.  Dr. Shapiro covers some of the risk factors that can predispose a child to asthma, what a nebulizer is and how to best introduce it to your child, and the medications typically prescribed (and are they safe).  Although we know that Cort has risk factors against him, my understanding after reading the book is that his wheezing attack could have been in relation to the cold he had, and he may not actually go on to develop asthma.  So that is promising news.

The other part of the book that was near and dear to my heart was the section on the environment.  Dr. Shapiro writes of the toxins, the air quality, and understanding how EPA regulations have changed things (for the better).  I love that she has ideas for how to teach your children good environmental habits that will help them grow up to be eco-friendly adults!

My only critique of the book would be that if you are reading it cover to cover, you may find parts of it repetitive, as symptoms, assessments, and techniques are recovered with each age group.  However, you can easily just skim over it if you've already read it once, and I do see that it is necessary for those readers who might skip over one age group and go directly to the relevant one.

If you want to learn more, you can check out Dr. Nina Shapiro's Website  or follow her on twitter.

TLC Books and Dr. Shapiro are generously offering one copy of  Take a Deep Breath to Two Bears Farm readers.  To enter, just leave a comment, and be sure to include a valid email if it is not visible in your profile.  Open to US Residents only.  Winner to be chosen on 1/10/12 at noon by Random.org.

Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of Take a Deep Breath: Clear the Air for Your Child to read and review.  All of the opinions above are my own.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Fitness Summary for 2011 and New Goals for 2012

Well, 2011 didn't start off so hot.  An injury to my right IT band sidelined me for months.  Several doctor visits later I finally found someone who could do ART (active release therapy) which helped me to recover and allowed me to start running again.  But when June rolled around and I only had 222 miles for the year, I realized that I would have to let go of some of my running goals, including the one where I'd hoped to run my 9th marathon.

Fortunately, June is where things came together for me and I started getting back to normal running mileage.  With normal running mileage, I was able to pick back up on my goals to salvage what I could.  Here are the stats from the year broken down:

Yoga: 23 times
Ab work:  44 times
Weights:  31 times
DVD workouts (Shred, etc.) 21 times
Running workouts at the track (this was one of my goals - to be consistent with this): 21 times
Running mileage:  1004 miles

In addition, I ran two 5Ks, a 10K, and a half marathon this year.  I was able to (just barely) set a PR (personal record) at the half marathon, which had been one of my goals for the year.

Considering that I only had 222 miles at the beginning of June, I think I finished off the year strong.  I know that I have improved my speed (which was one of my goals for the year), although I am not the fastest I've ever been.  And although I'm disappointed that 2011 didn't have a marathon in it, the running year wasn't a total letdown.  In fact, I think I had some good moments.

So what am I looking for in 2012?  I'm still leery of setting goals much, still scared my IT band will go out again.  So I'm going to set 'light' goals that I feel like should be easy to achieve as long as I stay uninjured, and with a little luck maybe I'll exceed them.
1.  1000 miles
2.  Consistent and continued track workouts - more than last year
3.  PR in the half marathon again

I'm looking at a few winter/spring races, and in particular there is a 10 miler in February and a half marathon in March that I will likely run.  Beyond that, I'm reluctant to plan.

We did start off the year with a run up Mill Mountain with the local running group, the Star City Striders.  It was humbling to try to get up the mountain pushing a 5 year old in a jogging stroller.  I confess I had to walk some sections.  But it was a fun way to start the year.

What about you, reader?  Do you have any regrets from 2011?  Any goals for 2012?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Dear Obnoxious Rooster With No Name

Dear Obnoxious Rooster with No Name,

I do realize it's your job to crow.  And I admire your devotion and tenacity in doing your job.  However, just a few things. 

 Sunrise currently starts at 7:00 am.  Not at 3 am.  Not at 4 am.  Definitely not at 5 am.  Also, I know you like to get up high to crow.  But jumping on the porch railing just outside the twins' bedroom to crow at 5 am is NOT in the list of your job description.  Trust me on this.  And don't flap your wings at me young man!

I can still see you, even hiding behind that post!  You need to move on and find a new place to crow.

Showing your backside is bad manners you know.

That's right, move on.  Note the ineffective chicken wire put up on the porch in an attempt to curtail his ambitious porch crowing sessions....

Kinda reminds me of someone else that has a loud mouth and is very annoying....
Thinking that henceforth rooster with no name may be called Gilbert....

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

December Fitness Recap 2011

I know what you probably really want is my year end summary, but be patient, it's coming.  For now, I've got my December fitness summary for you.

This month saw short days, and I struggled to keep as many runs as I could outside.  I still blame the treadmill slightly for my injury last winter.  My goal is no more than one treadmill run a week, but it isn't always easy and sometimes I have no choice.  It's either sit on my butt or treadmill, and in the end, the treadmill is still the better option.

I incorporated some crosstraining back in this month, since I let my mileage drop down some.  It was nice to break the weights back out.

Circuits w/ weights x 7
Ab workout x 1
Yoga x 2
Running mileage = 99
Track workouts x 4
Races x 0

This is the first time I've continued to hit the track during the winter.  Let's hope I can keep it up.  I'd love to head into the spring racing season faster than I was last year.  Oh wait, last year I was injured and missed all the spring races.  Okay, maybe I should just say I'd love to head into the spring racing season uninjured ;-)  That alone would be an improvement!

Bundle up and head outdoors folks!  Once you get moving, it's really not that bad.  I promise :-)

Monday, January 2, 2012

First Muffin Tin of 2012

I hope you all had a very happy New Year's!  We still haven't  seen any snow here, but I did make a muffin tin for Pierce using our snowflake tin.
Cherry tomatoes, southwestern salad, parmesan crusted fish, roasted potatoes, clementine orange slices, and ketchup for dipping.  I keep trying with the salads, but still all no-gos so far.

For more fun ideas for cooking for kids, check out Muffin Tin Mom.