Friday, December 31, 2010

The Word Of The Year

If you have spent any time on Facebook this week, you may have seen reminders to choose your 'word' for 2011; the one word that you will embody in the coming year and that you will allow, in turn, to embody you.  Given that I am not one who goes for the unrealistically high bar that making resolutions* sets, choosing a word before the stroke of midnight tonight has become my goal this week (along with sorting, cleaning, purging, organizing, and digging out from under the holidays in general and counting down the minutes until Monday morning and the return to sanity and schedule.)

I have to admit that choosing my word has been much harder than I expected, and I may or may not have turned to a dictionary at one point to help my quest (and should you need to do the same, I would advise that you steer clear of the Children's Dictionary . . . lots of nouns and pictures, but not a lot of ideas.)  One word for 365 days . . .

And then it hit me.

For a good portion of my adult life I have felt overwhelmed.  While various jobs, marriage, children, home ownership and all of the things that come with being a grown-up have been rewarding and fantastic in their own way, they have also often been a lot to take in, and more often than not, I have felt like a passive observer rather than in control of the things going on around me.  In 2010 I worked hard to take back my life, making decisions and changes that I hoped would lead to personal growth and development.  While many of these decisions and changes did foster growth and change (in both expected and very unexpected ways), as I reflect on the year as a whole, I know that I still spent much of it overwhelmed by everything going on around me.  Therefore, my word for 2011 is EMBRACE.

I had initially settled on the word ACCEPT (which means to receive willingly or to give admittance to or approval to), but just couldn't get over the passivity that it implies - I wanted something that involves taking action.  To EMBRACE something means to take up especially readily or gladly (according to Merriam-Webster, anyway), and while I already know I won't always ACCEPT things readily or gladly in the new year, there is no reason that I can't EMBRACE them for what they war - challenges, blessings in disguise, eye openers, or gifts.  There is a physicality and intended acceptance in the word EMBRACE that I need and that I can apply with purpose.

In 2011, I will EMBRACE that which is placed before me - the things that I love, the things that I don't love, the things that I can change, and the things that I can't.  I will EMBRACE life.

Now you tell me . . . what will your 'word' for 2011 be?

*I have amended my no resolutions policy this year and am resolving that on January 1st, 2011 I will stop hijacking Michelle's blog and will write in my own little corner of the Internet - though I am sure I will still contribute at Mom's Sippy Cup . . . I've just got too much to say!  Check my profile tomorrow for a live link!

Monday, December 6, 2010

On The 6th Day Of Christmas . . .

My kiddos are very lucky for a vast number of reasons, but as it relates to the holidays, they are very lucky to have two sets of grandparents who like to shop.  While this takes the burden of trolling the aisles at Toys R Us off of me, it also means that I can either indulge them with more toys or go the more practical route.  So far I have managed to avoid wrapping up socks and underwear by instead getting the things that they can use almost everyday and will continue to use for at least the next few years.

Being in kindergarten and preschool, both of my older kids already have backpacks, but my toddler is still without, so the L.L. Bean Original Junior Backpack is at the top of her list.  I am not even remotely exaggerating when I tell you that backpacks from L.L. Bean live forever - if you were to go over to my parent's house right now you would find the backpack I used throughout middle school, high school, college, and my time on the ambulance . . . and it is still in awesome shape.  She is still a couple of years from starting preschool, but the bag is perfect for packing for overnight trips to grandma's house or for afternoon outings.

Knowing how well their backpacks hold up, I also looked to L.L. Bean for lunchboxes for the kids - my oldest will start the afternoon kindergarten enrichment program after his winter break, and will need to bring his lunch.  This arrived on my front step the other day, and it will be perfect for him (and the girls as well since we often take our own lunches and snacks when we go places.)  The best part about these lunchboxes?  They hold these Bento-style reusable containers from Ziploc.  The incomparable Danifred posted about these a few months ago, and knowing how my kids enjoy a little-of-this and a little-of-that when it comes to eating, I knew they would be perfect!  (If the aforementioned doesn't quite do it for you, be sure to peruse this site as well for a similar product!)

In addition to buying for my own children, I also purchase a small gift for their two bestest friends - the little girls nextdoor who are the exact same age (and the reason I know my son will one day marry a girl with red hair.)  These little girls also have birthdays immediately before and immediately after Christmas, and while I hate being the one that combines their Christmas gift with their birthday present, doing so justifies spending a little bit more for a single item.  This year, I got them (and my own kids as well because I know they will use the every-living-crap out of them) personalized pencil cases that I plan to fill with pencils, erasers, stickers, and a couple hair ties.

My need to be considered a fun parent will undoubtedly will undoubtedly show through before Christmas and I will most likely track down a few things that I know my kids will love, but I will do so knowing that I have also been pragmatic and that they will be using their gifts long after Barbie's head has been ripped off and the Legos have been sucked up by the vacuum.

Tell me this:  what is your gift giving style when it comes to your children?  One-more-toy-can't-hurt or they-are-going-to-need-a-new-pair-of-shoes-to-get-through-winter?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

On The 5th Day Of Christmas . . .

Michelle hit the nail on the head yesterday when she wrote about the joy that is shopping on Etsy.  The Etsy site features some of the most talented and creative vendors out there, all of whom hand make their goods.  Having spent way more time than I care to admit to perusing their site, I think I can safely say that there is something for everyone!  Despite the fact that I am not a big jewelry wearer, some of my favorite vendors to check-out are those who custom make various types of jewelry, including rings, bracelets, and necklaces.  A few worth checking out:

Birth Designs:  After my last child was born my husband gifted me with this store's Branches Of My Family necklace.  Finding custom jewelry that accommodates the names of each of my children is sometimes hard, and I love the fact that this piece not only held their 4 names, but my husband's name and my name as well.

Lavender Cottage:  I adore dragonflies, and if you have a similar love, this shop is for you, carrying beautiful earrings, rings, and cuff bracelets featuring the bug.

Birdz and Beez:  I love the ties to nature and the beautiful and intricate work on these pieces, which also carry a bit of whimsy and the feel that they belong in a fairytale.

Alaiyna B. Designs:  Despite the fact that I rarely even wear my wedding ring, I can't help but drool over the rings in this shop!  Do you think if I make it the homepage on our computer my husband will take note?!  (Don't answer that.  I will keep it bookmarked for me and a rainy day.)

Say Anything Jewelry:  Stephanie has a great selection of pieces ranging from dog tags to guitar picks, and uses copper in addition to the common silver.  My bestest friend in the world gifted me with this beautiful necklace last spring, and I love it so much that I got my sister a necklace for her "something blue" when she got married this past summer.

I know there are lots of other stores that deserve to be mentioned and I am betting that it is only a matter of time before I add them to my list of bookmarked sites!  While some of these vendors are able to accommodate orders placed now in time for Christmas, some are looking at delivery dates in January - if you don't want to put an I.O.U. under the tree, why not get a jump on shopping for Valentine's Day?!

**Please note that this is an unsponsored post and that none of the vendors listed above have provided any compensation for being featured here today - I just like their products, and I hope you do to!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

On the 4th day of Christmas...

Gift giving the Etsy edition!  If you remember from this post, you already know that I love trying to find unique and original gifts that the receiver will cherish and love and what better place to find unique AND handmade gifts for your loved ones than Etsy (holy run on sentence!)!.  If you've never been to Etsy, then you must head over there right now.  No joke, NOW!  Etsy is THE place to find amazing handmade and vintage goods to cater to just about any of the wonderful people in your life.  In fact, I've already purchased some amazing gifts for the ladies in my life (I'd share but I don't want to spoil it!).  The shop owners are kind and quick and always willing to please and that's what I love about this group of craftspeople.  So here you go, great ideas for all the people in your life.

For the mama's in your life.  This could be your mom, or could be a great girlfriend who just had a baby, or your amazing wife, hint... hint...

So this first gift is best given to a young mom and while it's a bit pricey, it is amazingly beautiful and will carry a tremendous amount of meaning to a mama with little kiddos.  Be prepared, she will probably weep like a child when she opens this.

And any grandma would truly enjoy these with your kiddos faces on them!  What a unique way to display your photos.
For the papa's in your life.

Ok, so when I found this one I just about fell off the couch as I absolutely fell in love.  Seriously, could this gift get anymore perfect for your babies daddy?

A keychain with your child's artwork on it?!?!  I love it.  I would take this gift in a heartbeat too! 

For the reader in your life!  
This gift would go over well with a father in law who loves to read, or a friend that has a great sense of humor, or just anyone who loves bacon! 

For the photographer in your life.

My favorites are these:

And I totally would love one of these:

And we can't forget those special little kiddos in your life.  They are the reason Christmas is fun, right?

What little girl wouldn't love this gift?  They can be just like mommy!  I know my girls would adore it!

And I just know that my son would love this gift.

And lastly, but certainly not least, for the amazing Teachers in your life.  We all know how much work and effort it takes to teach the young ones in the world.  They have a great responsibility on their hands and they certainly deal with a lot on a day to day basis, so please don't leave this group of amazing people out on your gift giving this year.  They deserve something special, even if it's small.  

This gift is so unique and interesting and you better believe that the teacher you hand this over to will be thinking about your child every day she/he opens one of the wonderful stars.

And these adorable notepads could accompany a gift certificate to Target or to Starbucks.
There are some manly ones too that would work great for that male teacher!
And these candles would make an awesome gift for that special teacher too!

And that concludes today's edition of the 12 Days of Christmas!  I hope that you enjoyed reading and it got your gears a-turnin'.  Now go shopping!

P.S. All the vendors featured here today have no idea who we are here at Mom's Sippy Cup.  I selected these items because I loved them and thought they would truly make great gifts.  In no way has anyone sponsored this post :)

Friday, December 3, 2010

On The 3rd Day Of Christmas . . .

Welcome to the fitness fanatic edition of our gift giving countdown!  Last spring, after taking a very long hiatus from exercising, I finally decided it was time to get rid of the last of the baby weight and to really work on my physical well being.  Clearly high on chocolate, I decided that I was going to accomplish this by doing the P90X program.  Someday I will write a post which I have already titled "P90-What-The-H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks-Was-I-Thinking?!" to tell you how much I seriously LOVE the program, how well it has worked for me, and how worth the cost it is (though truth-be-told, I bought it off of Craigslist for a fraction of the retail price, thank-you-overweight-man-who-lacked-the-motivation-to-open-the-package), but for today let's just focus on the 'tools' that go with exercising.

The Clothes:  Even the smallest chested woman needs a good sports bra before she hits the ground (or the treadmill or the aerobics floor or her living room floor), and while I have a few and a few different brands, my hands-down favorite is the one made by UnderArmour.  I sweat a ridiculous amount when I am working out, and I love the fact that this bra absorbs and then wicks away the moisture, keeping me from feeling like I am wearing a wet bathing suit top.  I also have a couple of their tanks and a couple months ago scored a sweet deal on a fleece jacket at their outlet store.  (This is one product where it pays to shop around . . . the prices on the website are steep, but most sporting goods stores carry their products for far less.)  I am also a big fan of Champion, which is carried by Target (among others.)  I love their shorts and their short-sleeved shirts, and they are very reasonably priced.

The Gear:  Cardiovascular training is important for losing weight, but did you know that there is just as much benefit in weight and resistance training?  Simply put, muscle cells burn more calories than fat cells do.  (And I mean VERY simply put . . . I tried to find a good link to explain all of it but ran out of time.  It seems there are small people in my house who MUST.HAVE.DINNER.NOW.)  Anyway . . . I always figured that hand weights were the way to go until my chiropractor mentioned using resistance bands instead.  At his recommendation, I ordered a set from Bodylastics.  Worth EVERY PENNY.  I can do all the same exercises that I would do with the hand weights, and I have every combination of weight possible - individual bands starting at 3 pounds and going up to 30 pounds that can be combined to provide even greater resistance.

Something For Safety:  My parents are both exercise fanatics - my Dad is a huge runner and my Mom is one of those crazy women who is out walking at 6:30 every morning.  I love that they are so active, but the daughter and former-paramedic in me worries about their safety and about what would happen if they got injured and were unable to tell the police or fire department who they were or who they should notify.  Enter RoadID!  Each of my parents is getting a RoadID for Christmas - a bracelet for my Mom and a shoe band for my Dad.  (Be sure to enter pcFB152 as a promotional code when you check-out to get 10% off your purchase!)

It may seem a bit, ummm . . . suggestive to give the ones you love things that they could use when they workout, so these gifts may be best for people who already have an exercise routine or who need a little push to get off the couch.  Unless, of course, you want to spend the next year being chastised for indirectly calling your sister-in-law fat.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

On the 2nd day of Christmas...

For as long as I can remember my family has celebrated St. Nick's Day.  St. Nick was a saint who was thought to have brought gifts and money to people in the night who needed his help.  He would leave these gifts in the shoes or boots that were left out at night. 

The tradition is not extremely wide-spread in the US like it is in European Countries but many German and Scandinavian families in the US will continue to celebrate St. Nick.  

Here is a snippet from Wikipedia, it's a brief sample of how it is celebrated.

Celebration in the United States (from Wikipedia)

While feasts of Saint Nicholas are not observed nationally, cities
with strong German influences like Milwaukee, Cincinnati, and St. Louis
celebrate St. Nick’s Day on a scale similar to the German custom.[5] On the previous night, children put one empty shoe (or sock) outside, and, on the following morning of December 6,
the children awake to find that St. Nick has filled their previously
empty footwear with candy and small presents (if the children have been
"good") or ostensibly, coal (if not). For these children, the
relationship between St. Nick and Santa Claus is not clearly defined,
although St. Nick is usually explained to be a helper of Santa. The
tradition of St. Nick’s Day is firmly established in the Milwaukee and
St. Louis communities, with parents often continuing to observe the day
with even their adult children.

Growing up, I assumed everyone celebrated St. Nick's Day.  I would wake up on December 6th to small goodies in my stocking.  I always looked forward to this precursor to Christmas and while the gifts were small, they were often more meaningful than the rest.  My mom put a lot of thought into the small gift and we were very thankful.  My husband's family got stockings filled with candy and while I'm sure it was fabulous, no way am I giving my kids a stocking filled with candy just a month after Halloween.  

So the tradition continues with my kiddos.  This year they are receiving a classic Christmas story from Little Golden Books, some comfy jammies and slippers.  I started this trend last year of jammies, slippers and a book.  They are things that aren't too frivolous, yet they really excite my children.  I have fond memories of them putting on their new jammies and slippers early in the morning and sitting by the fire reading their new stories.  Plus, it gives me a chance to tell the story of St. Nick and his incredibly giving nature.  It helps reiterate that while it's fun to get gifts, it's more important to be thoughtful and give as well.  If you don't follow this tradition, I highly recommend it.  It's never too late to start either! 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

On The 1st Day Of Christmas . . .

My true love gave to me . . . a whole lot of ideas for stocking stuffers!  (I won't even tell you how long I sat here trying to come up with a witty rhyme to start this off . . . I may or may not have had to go get the power cord to the laptop.  Ahem.)

Growing up, digging into my stocking on Christmas morning was my most favorite part of the day.  I know my mom spent a lot of time and put a lot of thought into everything that she and my dad put under the tree for my sister and I, but it always felt like she spent a little more time and put a little more thought into what went in our stockings - special little trinkets and gifts that would have been lost beneath the shadow of the tree and the mounds of wrapping paper that littered the floor.  As my children get older and I start to establish the traditions that I hope we carry on each year, I find myself devoting a little more time to their stockings, hoping to give them the same memories that I now have.

Among my most favorite stocking tradition is the Hallmark ornament that my mom gave to us each year.  She has always had a knack for finding the perfect ornament - the one that represents what we were interested in that year or what character we enjoyed the most.  The best part about having gotten a new ornament each year?  When I moved out of my parent's house, my mom boxed up all of the ornaments that I had amassed over the years and gifted them to me to use on my very first grown-up Christmas tree.  This past weekend we decorated our tree and I was filled with smiles and memories looking at each one of those ornaments as they went on the branches.

Other stocking staples at our house?  Lottery scratch tickets, gift cards, a bag of our favorite candy (Peanut Butter M & Ms, just in case you were wondering), mixed nuts, inexpensive earrings, hair ties and barrettes for my girls, and a Matchbox car or two for my son.

My husband's family has an entirely different take on stockings, opting instead to do what they call Socks.  Contrary to the name, Socks are actually a pair of pantyhose that have an orange in each toe and that are STUFFED with just about everything under the sun - literally.

Shortly after the start of each year, my mother-in-law sets up a grocery sack for each member of the family, and as the year goes on, she adds little things that she finds as she goes about her day-to-day business, as well as all of the toiletries that we each use on a daily basis.  To put it simple:  opening you Sock is like going to the drug store on Christmas morning.  Soap, deodorant, razor blades, shaving cream, toothpaste, nail files, magnetic tablets of paper for the refrigerator, sunscreen, small kitchen gadgets . . . you name it, it has a very good chance of being in there!

I have to admit that I initially thought that Socks were ridiculous, but over time they have grown on me, and my own family has now added elements of the Socks to our traditional stockings.  Topping this list of my Sock hopefuls this year?  Nivea Skin Firming Moisturizer, Bath and Body Works foot cream (which seems pricey, but is usually paired in a buy 2, get 1 free deal and is TOTALLY work it), Dove Winter Care Beauty Bar (because holy H-E-double-hockey-sticks is it dry in Colorado in December), John Frieda Frizz-Ease Hair Serum (which I just started using but which I LOVE and which has eliminated my fear that I am one day going to have to cut the hairbrush out of my hair because I have gotten it lodge in there), a bottle of my favorite nail polish in some flaming shade of red, and socks.  Actual socks.  No one should have to do laundry because they are out of socks.  Underwear?  Yes.  Socks?  No.

Now you tell me!  Are stockings a big deal at your house?  What would you like to see in your stocking this year?  What sort of stocking or other Christmas-gift-related traditions do you have?

(P.S.  I suppose I should take a minute to introduce myself since Michelle has been so gracious as to let me post on Mom's Sippy Cup . . . my name is Nicole, and I am a blog-a-holic - without a blog.  I am currently on hiatus from my own blogging adventures, and am hoping that contributing a little to this space will help me get back into to the swing of things.  I am a married stay-at-home-mom to a 5-year-old, 3-year-old, and 1-year-old.  Michelle and I 'met' via the Internet when we were both members of an online pregnancy and parenting forum 3+ years ago, and MET in real-life 2+ years ago when she and her husband came out to Denver for a wedding.)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Lessons From The Mixing Bowl

Several years ago I got the idea in my head that I wanted to start making my own bread and rolls.  With a toddler underfoot and another baby due at any moment, I knew my future would include a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and it seemed that one way to keep our budget on track would be for me to make the loaf of bread that we would surely be going through on a weekly basis.  I had given it a try a few years prior, making a loaf of ciabatta bread for my husband (then boyfriend) and I to go with our Italian dinner.
The next logical part of this story would read that I started baking like a mad woman, buying yeast in bulk and crafting artisan loaves that have become the envy of all the other mothers at kindergarten drop-off.  Instead, I have amassed a small shoebox (okay, a ladies size-9 shoebox) full of recipes that I wanted desperately to try and that I stared longingly at every week when I was meal planning.  It would be easy to blame my hesitation to dip into these recipes on simply not having time; with a 5-year-old, a 3-year-old, and a 1-year-old finding time to prep the dough, proof it, let it rise, mess with it some more, let it rise again, and then finally bake it would be hard.  The reality, however, is that on Mondays and Wednesdays my oldest children are both at school for a couple hours, and while I try to spend as much of that time giving the baby the one-on-one attention that she deserves, she is very independent and would rather I just sit back and watch her play with all the toys that her brother and sister normal forbid her from touching.
The real truth to my hesitation was that I was scared.  Beyond the fact that some of the recipes seemed a bit complicated, the thought of somehow messing it all up kept me from trying.  Getting the water temperature right, adding the right amount of flour to form the right consistency, kneading the dough, getting it to rise the correct amount . . . you get the picture.  In other words, I was talking myself out of it before I even gave it a chance!  And then something changed.
Last spring I embarked on a mission to get my life back (or at least as much as a life as one can have with a husband who works beyond fulltime and 3 children under the age of 6.)  This quest included changing a lot of things in my life and making some decisions that forced me to really consider what was important and valuable to me, and somewhere along the line I came to a (looking back on it now) silly realization:  IT IS JUST BREAD!  SERIOUSLY!  It is just flour and water and yeast and salt and sometimes a little extra, but IT IS JUST BREAD.  It seems like such a ridiculous conclusion to come to and it is so basic in theory, but making that discovery and reminding myself of that basic fact was the most empowering moment I had had in a very, very long time.
Guess what?  It is all JUST BREAD.  Somewhere along the line of learning how to make a killer pizza crust and baking homemade whole wheat rolls for Thanksgiving, I discovered that baking bread was a bit of a metaphor for life and how we live it.  I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say that there is a large number of us who have a list of things that we want to try but that we talk ourselves out of because it seems like too much work or because we don’t think we have enough time or because we just don’t think we can, and the reality is, there is absolutely no reason that we can’t give whatever IT is, a try.  Can I let you in on a little secret?
You can do whatever you want to do!  There is no reason you can’t give it a try, and if you fail, there is no reason you can’t get up and try again!
Among the things in my life that I consider when I call myself lucky and blessed are the woman around me who have found the courage and the empowerment to take a risk and accept a challenge and do what they really, really wanted to do in life . . . the stay-at-home-mom who started her own photography business, the working mom who ran her first 5K, the entrepreneurial mom who saw a need and decided to fill it, and the mom who risked it all and moved across the country to start a new life for her and her children.  They did it, and you know what?  SO CAN YOU!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A whole lot of yumminess!

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On Sunday I played the role of baker.  I had 3 slowly rotting bananas sitting out, 2 pie pumpkins waiting to get baked and I had a major craving for some sugar cookies.  See, I have the best banana bread recipe in the world and it always turns out amazing, and I have the best sugar cookie recipe that can't be beat.  I wasn't sure what I would do with the pumpkins until I saw this over at She Said. She Said.  I knew I had to make it.  So I made my pumpkin whoopie pies, banana bread and sugar cookies.  And, since I can't share my goodies over cyber space, I can at least share the love: recipe style!

First up, Banana Bread.  This recipe came from my mother in law and it makes the most moist scrumptious breakfast treat ever.  I promise! 

Preheat oven to 350. Add 1 tbsp of white vinegar to 1 cup of milk and let stand. Mash 3 very ripe bananas and set aside.

Combine in bowl the following ingredients:
1/2 c vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 c sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 c brown sugar
3 eggs
1/2 tsp cinnamon
mashed bananas

Mix until blended.

Add thickened milk and 2 tsp of baking soda and mix until blended. Add 2 1/2 c flour and mix only until lightly mixed in (very important).

Pour into well greased pans- 6 small loaf pans, or 2 regular sized loaf pans. Bake small loaves 20-26 minutes and regular sized 45-55 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

Next up is my infamous sugar cookies.  These are truly amazing and super duper easy to make.  I suggest doubling this recipe as you will go through this entire batch in a day or two, especially if you share!

2 C sugar
1 brick of butter flavored Crisco (this makes it really good, I promise)
1 egg, well beaten
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp of baking soda
1/2 tsp cream of tarter
2 C flour
2 tsp vanilla

Cream sugar and shortening.  Add beaten egg.  Mix well.  Add vanilla and then the dry ingredients.  Roll into balls.  Press down with glass that has been greased and dipped in sugar.  Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes. 

I wouldn't bake these the full 12 minutes.  I usually stop at 10 minutes when they are "just" done.  If they get too done they get crisp and you want these nice and soft.  You can frost these cookies if you'd like, they taste divine with frosting too!

And last, the Pumpkin Whoopie Pies.  The recipe is fairly involved and long so just go check it out over at Martha Stewart's Website.  I used real pumpkin and all I did was cut 2 pie pumpkins in half, scooped out the seeds, baked for 1 hour at 400 then pureed the innards.  These turned out super rich and super delicious.  I think next time though I will add a bit less ground ginger so the pumpkin comes out in the flavors a bit more.  

There you have it, a whole lot of yumminess!

Monday, November 15, 2010

And the winner is!Kristi! Annika drew the lucky winner this morning and it happens to be her Auntie! Congrats Kristi, hopefully you will pass it along when you are done too! I will get that book to you next time I see you.

Kristi!  Annika drew the lucky winner this morning and it happens to be her Auntie!  Congrats Kristi, hopefully you will pass it along when you are done too!  I will get that book to you next time I see you. 

I will be posting some delicious recipes later, so stay tuned!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Take it, it's yours!

This summer I joined a book swapping club called Paperback Swap.  It's been great, I've gotten several books for free and I've gotten to send out my books to other readers to enjoy.  Because let's face it, I will never read a book twice and why not share the love?  Before I left for Hawaii, I ordered several books to enjoy by the pool.  I'm a huge Jodi Picoult fan so I snatched up 2 of hers, both of which were both very good.  I've since traded one of them, but the one I just finished is a little too "loved" to list on PBS.  Rather than just letting it collect dust here at my house, I thought I'd pass it along to one of my lovely readers.

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You can read about it here.  Although I really do enjoy her books, this one definitely wasn't one of my favorites.  It was a quick and easy read though and did manage to entertained me.  It was a sad story of course, which of hers aren't?  It did have a happy ending though.  

See, it's been loved by many readers!

If you are wanting a good read for free, leave me a comment here and I will draw a name on Saturday for one lucky reader to enjoy this book! 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Recipe Review

Last night I got a bug up my butt and wanted to make something new.  I am so sick of the same ole for dinner so I began to peruse The Pioneer Woman's site looking for a new dinner recipe.  I decided to search chicken because we have a lot of it.  I don't particularly like chicken, but my family does so I ever so lovingly cook it for them. 

I came upon the Cajun Chicken Pasta recipe and passed it right by.  Then went "hold on there lady".  I remember having a Cajun chicken pasta at a restaurant at one point and really enjoyed it, so I backed that arse up and read the recipe over.  Fortunately for me, I had all but one ingredient (red bell peppers) so I went for it. 

The recipe said it should take 10 minutes of prep and 15 minutes to cook, it took more like 15 minutes prep and 30 minutes to cook.  But, I'm also tending to the needs of 3 little ones whilst cooking, so it may be more accurate for those of you who don't have 3 hungry kids hanging on your legs! 

Overall, the recipe was pretty easy.  It was involved though, it's not something you can start and just walk away, you have to tend to it the whole time. 

I decided to halve the recipe since I don't need to serve 6, it worked out just fine to do that and we had *just* enough for the 5 of us.  I probably could have used the whole amount of chicken though. 

I was sort of hesitant to let the kids have it because I thought it would be spicier than it was.  I think for Brian and myself, we would have liked it a bit spicier, but this was just right for the kids.  This pasta was a huge hit, it was different and the kids (not the picky one though) scarfed it down and asked for 2nd's and 3rd's!  I served it with a nice toasted and buttered Parmesan garlic french loaf and a glass of Cabernet (for myself).  Brian described it as a fajita pasta and that seems pretty accurate.  Very tasty, pretty easy and a huge hit with the crowd! 

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photo courtesy of Pioneer Woman

I didn't take pictures because I was too busy stuffing my face! 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Photo Editing Fun!

A long time ago, I discovered the fun of Picnik, this was before I figured out photoshop and all the joys that come along with that.  Picnik is a great resource for those of you who can't afford, or don't have time for learning the actual photoshop.  I haven't used it in years, but was playing around and found you can create really quick and easy collages on it.  Now, I can do this on photoshop but this actually took much less time and was more fun then opening up photoshop, cropping my pictures, aligning them just so, adding a background color, yada, yada, yada.  It takes a lot of effort is what I'm trying to get at and this took less than a minute.  Really, it was easy and simple and now I can blog my lovely photos with ease! 

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Go check it out and have some fun.  Put them up on Mom's Sippy Cup FB Page, I'd love to see them.  Oh, and you can have so much fun editing pictures too!  I added a polaroid frame on this one, but you can do all sorts of things like convert to black and white, or do some basic editing of your pictures.  Go play!

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Winner, winner, winner!

Da da da da! Using I drew Leslie's name!  Congrats Leslie on winning the $35 for CSN stores!  You'll just have to take my word for it because for the life of me I could not figure out how to screen capture the random number generator, slightly technologically challenged over here! 

Leslie said:
"Hey Michelle,

I would definitely use it for a piece of wall art. I have a bare wall in my living room and it needs something.

I clicked "like", left a comment, linked on my facebook & blogged about it! :)"

Leslie, I will email you shortly about your prize!  Enjoy.

And, don't forget about this contest, over here.  It is something I'm totally pumped about but I'm not budging on the rules.  I will however take followers over at my FB page, so whichever hits 50 first will bring on the sippy cups!  So spread the love ladies, and leave a comment saying you did so and you'll be entered!  Just be sure to do it on the original contest post.  

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Unique Gifts

I've always believed that gift giving was an art and took a certain talent that a lot of people don't have.  I for one don't consider myself to be the best gift giver.  I actually get stressed out because I want so badly to give a unique gift that the receiver will cherish.  It's very difficult to know a person well enough to find a gift that only they can truly appreciate. 

My dear friend Kristin is an amazing gift giver.  She loves giving gifts and always seems to find things that the receiver knows was meant just for them. 

For her wedding, she gave each of her bridesmaid a unique piece of jewelry as a gift.  I know what you are thinking, doesn't every bride do that?  Well, sort of.  Except this item was not meant to be worn with our dresses on her wedding day.  It was meant to be something that reflected our personal styles, something that we would cherish and wear often.  I can honestly say that Kristin hit the nail on the head with each and every girl.  We were all floored that she could gauge our personalities so well and put that into a piece of jewelry.  At the same time, none of us were all that surprised that she pulled it off.  She's always been a thoughtful gift giver. 

Throughout each of my pregnancies, Kristin would surprise me with clothes she had stockpiled from Kohl's or wherever she had been shopping.  See, she would be in a store, see something and know I would love it.  She's done that for birthdays and Christmas and sometimes for no apparent reason.  One year for my birthday she gave me a luggage tag that read something along the lines of "I don't camp" and several tubes of Natural Ice chapstick.  She knows I hate camping, she saw that and knew I should have it.  As for the chapstick, well I love that particular brand and I can't find it anywhere, so she stockpiled it for me!  It may see random to most, but it meant something to me! 

So anyway, this is the bracelet she picked for me.

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Bracelets are my favorite jewelry to wear and I just love this one.  I literally wear it everyday.  I have earrings that just happened to match perfectly.  You can see that this bracelet was crafted with love and is one of a kind.  It reflects my personal style and that is why I love it.  

So thank you Kristin, I appreciate your thoughtfulness and of course, you were an amazingly beautiful bride.  I am lucky to have a friend like you.  

You can see all of Kristin's beautiful wedding photos over here at the wonderfully talented Sally Gruman Photography Blog.

Friday, November 5, 2010

A fabulous giveaway!

I have been given a great opportunity to giveaway a $35 gift certificate to any CSN Store!  CSN Stores have over 200 online stores where you can find everything from children's luggage to beautiful houseward to outdoor furniture.  

After checking out just a fraction of what CSN Stores have to offer I've decided I simply have to have this sleek bottle stop;

And I seriously adore these mocha and saucer sets (although I can't afford them!):

And I just know Bennett would love to have this backpack:

I could literally go on all day about what I 'should' have, the possibilities are endless with over 200 stores to choose from!  

You can enter 4 ways to win this fabulous gift certificate.  

1. Leave a comment on my blog about what you would use the gift certificate for, I'd love to know what you think you 'should' have.

2. Write a blog post about this giveaway and direct readers to this post.  Please leave the permalink in a comment here.

3. Put this link up on your Facebook status guiding your friends to this post, they can enter too!

4. Follow my blog, just hit the "follow" button and voila, you are done.

You can be entered into the contest up to 4 times.  Just be sure to leave a comment for EACH entry to ensure you will be counted each time.  The contest will end by Friday at 11:59 pm when I will draw a random number using  FYI: The order in which you comment will be your number.  Please, only US and Canada residents.  

And even better, any new followers will be entered into this contest too!  

Product Review {Keratin Complex Treatment}

I'm sure many of you have heard of the Brazilian Blowout.  Well when I first heard of it, I knew I had to have it.  You see, my hair is dry, frizzy, dull, curly and overall just a pain in the you know what.  I have never LOVED my hair and most of the time I just downright hate it.  So when my stylist, Ashley, decided to start offering the service I jumped right on board.  After a while, Ashley was doing some reading on the treatment and found out that it was being recalled due to containing formaldehyde so she opted against this particular treatment.  She stumbled upon the Keratin Complex treatment, it is basically the same procedure but without the harsh chemicals that the blowout had.  The only difference is that I couldn't wash my hair for 72 hours but it was worth it. 

When I got to Ashley's, she washed my hair with a special Keratin Shampoo, it basically stripped my hair of all the bad things that were in it.  Then she blow dried it.  She then applied the Keratin Complex painstakingly, little by little to each strand of hair, brushing it through with a comb.  We let it set for 20 minutes then she blow dried it again.  Once it was dry, she once again took tiny bits of hair and straightened it using a special straightener.  The results were unbelievable. 

Before.  As you can see, my hair is frizzy with horrible curl.  Sadly, this is how I wore it that morning :(

After the treatment.  Amazing, right?

After 72 hours, I could finally wash it!  YES!  First of all, I was just excited to wash my hair.  Second of all, I could not wait to see how my hair would really react to it.  I wasn't sure if I would have some curl left or not. 

So, I washed my hair with the special shampoo Ashley gave me.  It's important to use the proper shampoo and conditioner to maintain the treatment (supposed to last up to 5 months).  I brushed my hair and began to blow dry it.  Blow drying my hair usually takes10  minutes at a minimum.  I have thick and coarse hair and it dries out really frizzy and crazy!  I had my Chi all warmed up to straighten it out afterward too.  After just 4 minutes, yes 4 minutes my hair was dry and it looked like this!

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You better believe I turned my straightener off!  I actually pulled out my curling iron to flip my ends up for a little something.  Never in my life has my hair even straightened this straight.  It's literally life changing to be able to wash and dry and go.  My life has never been that simple.  At least my hair can be simple now.  

I am a walking billboard for this and while it may seem vain to call this life changing, it really is true.  If you've ever experienced hair like me, then go ahead and do something for yourself.  While this treatment can spendy, in my opinion, it was worth every penny.  

If you are in MN and want this done, call Ashley at Dahlia Street Salon, she is by far the cheapest around and will do a fabulous job!

Ashley at Dahlia Street Salon

Become a fan of Dahlia Street Salon too for updates and deals!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

What I wanted to be when I was grew up...

Today I'm participating in a fun activity hosted by Mama Kat over at Mama's Losing It.  I've been slacking on this blog and what better way to revive it by letting someone else tell me what to blog about!  It's so easy!  Go check out her post today and join in on the fun!

When I was 10 years old I wanted to be a marine biologist.  In my mind, that meant snorkeling the coral reef in Austrailia and swimming with dolphins in Hawaii.  What 10 year old kid wouldn't want to be a marine biologist, right?  Well, according to Wikipedia, a marine biologist studies: organisms in the ocean or other marine or brackish bodies of water. Given that in biology many phyla, families and genera have some species that live in the sea and others that live on land, marine biology classifies species based on the environment rather than on taxonomy. Marine biology differs from marine ecology as marine ecology is focused on how organisms interact with each other and the environment, and biology is the study of the organisms themselves.

Ahhh, say what?  If I would have read that when I was 10, I would have said "no thank you" and went outside to ride my bike.  
I had visions of Jacques Cousteau and his underwater adventures, little did I know that it took many years of studying science and biology and doing field research and writing articles.  Sounds horrible when you look at it that way! 

So, I grew up to be a mom and a photographer.  2 professions in which I am glad to have fallen into.  Looking back, I think I've always had those to things in me.  I played dolls until I was probably too old to be doing so and I would line my dolls and stuffed animals up on a daily basis and take their pictures, just like they did at JC Penny.  If I could have predicted my future when I was 10, I would never have envisioned being who I am today.  I feel very lucky to do what I do and even luckier that I get to go on vacations where I can snorkel the coral reef and swim with gigantic sea turtles, just not as a job!

Tell me, what did you want to be when you grew up?  Leave a comment, then go write about it! 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

POTD: Picture of the Day

Fall is here!

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Share in the fun, go upload your favorite fall shots on my Flickr Page!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Product Review

For the past year or so, I've been dealing with the worst coffee maker ever made.  I don't remember the name of it but it was my true nemesis.  I couldn't pour a cup of coffee without it spilling all over the counter.  It irritated the heck out of me.  My dear and loving husband knew this and kept urging me to just go get a new one, but I'm not one to spend a lot of money on a coffee maker.  So, he surprised me with this baby for my birthday:

This thing is wonderful.  It's clean, it's quick and it makes one helluva cup of coffee!  My favorite accessory is the K-Cup Coffee Filter.  This way, I can use my own coffee rather than buying loads of K-Cups.  I will say however that the K-Cups offer fantastic variety and are incredibly convenient.  

I really am loving this coffee brewer.  I'm having fun trying out new kinds of coffee and I look forward to brewing that first cup in the morning.  The Keurig brewer makes coffee making fun!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Product Review

It's no secret to people who know me well that I love the sun.  I am truly a sun-worshiper and have always revered it and the golden glow it brings to my skin.  That being said, the dangers associated with worshiping the sun are no secret to me and frankly they terrify me.  While outdoors, I try to always wear an SPF on my face and body.   I still manage to get an awesome tan in the summer, or while on vacation in Hawaii.  However, fall is bringing cooler weather so I thought I would give a new product a try.

In the past years, I've used the Jergen's Natural Glow self tanning lotion but I hated the smell and it still managed to give streaks and an orange tint to my skin.  I've been airbrushed before at a salon but at $30 plus a treatment I just couldn't justify it.  So I snatched this product up last week.  I followed the directions by exfoliating in the shower (I shaved too) before I applied it.  I sprayed it on my entire body in less than a minute and simply waited for results.  It says to apply daily until desired results then 1-2 times a week for upkeep.  The first application gave results and to my extreme surprise I haven't noticed a single streak or spot on my entire body.  Seriously, not a single one.  Now that is amazing.  Not even on my feet, or my hands, or my wrists, or my ankles (ok so you get it).  My skin looks naturally tan and it doesn't smell like crackers (I always think self tanner smells like crackers).  

I did 2 applications in a row then called it quits for a few days.  I got great results with 2 applications in a row and then I re-applied 3 days later for upkeep.  

I can honestly say that this is by far the best self-tanning product I've ever come across and has given me results that have rivaled a professional airbrush application at a fraction of the cost.  So if you are dying to get your summer glow back, head on over to your local Target and pick this product up.  I'd love to hear your opinions on how you liked it! 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Faking it

I'll be the first to tell you that I am no Martha Stewart, and while a part of me wishes I could be crafty and creative in the home, it's not really a priority.  But, I do love baked goods and nice decor, so sometimes faking it is just as good for me. 

Creating memories with the family doesn't have to involve multiple ingredients, or a gourmet cook book.  It can be as easy as running to Super Target and grabbing a box.  Seriously, it's that simple. 

The result:

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Ok, so they don't look as beautiful as some of those amazing gourmet cupcakes out there.  But we here in small town MN could care less.  They tasted fabulous and made us smile.  Sometimes keeping it simple makes it even better.  

This little lady didn't care if we made it from scratch or from the box.  And hey, I could have told you they were made from scratch and you have never known :)

So go out and make some family memories.  Grab your kids, or grab your honey and don't forget to snap some pictures!  I'd love to see them, just upload them to your Flickr account and add them to my Flickr Group

Upping the Ante

Since I announced this contest almost a month ago, my readership has gone up.  Well, not a lot, but it's gone up.  Since I have yet to reach 50 followers I wanted to up the ante so that I can make the leap and buy those cups!  You see, I want another one, but I thought I'd wait until the contest to order one for myself as well. 

So here is what I am going to do.  I'm going to up the ante and add another winner to the contest!  Yep, you read that right, one more winner.  But this winner won't be drawn from a random number, this winner will have to work for her (or his) cup.  If you are so inclined, please refer Mom's Sippy Cup to all your friends.  If your friends leave a comment and include who sent them (your name must be mentioned to be counted) then you will be in the running for your very own Sippy Cup!  The person with the most referrals will automatically win one cup.  The winner of the referral contest will still be eligible to win a second one as well (these make great gifts, remember).  So get referring.  As soon as I hit 50 followers I will close the contest and announce the winners!  

Please note, to be counted as a referral, the friend must leave a comment on this post leaving their name, email and who sent them.  They can also refer to my contest post to be eligible to win their very own cup.  And, the best part is, your friends can refer other people too so the ways to win are almost endless!  Now go start sharing the love!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Slow down!

I'll be the first to admit that my life goes at a superfast pace.  I feel like I'm always rushing, pushing the kids out the door to head every which way.  I'm always plugged into email, FB, Photoshop, my camera, my Blackberry, the tv.  In fact, I hate being bored.  I always have something on my list of things to do, there is always something weighing on my mind and there is always a task that needs to be accomplished.  I know I'm not alone in this either.  We live in a face paced world nowadays.

On my recent visit to Hawaii, I unplugged.  I relaxed.  I was lazy.  And you know what?  I wasn't bored, not for one millisecond.  I enjoyed the quiet, I read a book, I slept by the pool, I enjoyed a mai tai at noon.  I caught up with good friends and spent quality time with my husband without once being distracted by a nagging email or a screaming child.  It was a special trip in which I have come to realize some important life lessons.

It all began with these picture texts I received from home:

First this one:
 Then this one:
 Then this one:
Can you tell who decided to do the coloring?

In real life, this would have really made me mad.  But I was separated from it and was able to step back and realize that it was really quite funny.  It made me realize that I should shrug more things off instead of letting it upset me and boil my blood.  Kids will be kids and they will do things like color on each other.  

I've decided to extend this into other areas of my life.  I want to slow down, unplug more often and appreciate the small things in life.  Cleaning my house, or getting my work down isn't nearly as important as listening to my kids sing me songs with their ukelele's, or reading a story with my family.  I want to take the time to chat with my sister, or call a friend.  I want home made dinners rather than fast food and I want to take an hour walk with my pup Sarge and take a detour to the park so he and Bennett can play together.  
It's the little things like this that make life memorable.  Not how much money you made, or how many hours you put in at the computer.  

So tell me, what have you done lately to slow down?  Do you take the time to make good memories?  You know, the ones that define you?  It's amazing how life changing a little vacation can be, but I already feel more calm and appreciative of what I have and you can bet that I will be revisiting this post when I feel the stress creep up again!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

POTD: Picture of the Day {Maui Edition}

I just returned from Hawaii and a major blogging hiatus.  I have a ton to blog about still but wanted to share some of my favorite pictures from my trip first.  

First up, our good friends posing on the beach.  Hawaii is an amazing place to create silhouette pictures.  I just love this one.  So dramatic!

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And I'm pretty sure this may end up on canvas.  I love it.  It really brings me back to the moment.  

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And don't forget, I'm still having a giveaway of 2 fabulous wine glasses!  Pass along to your friends, I am several followers away from the giveaway!

Happy hump day everyone!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Pleated Messenger Bag

Exactly one week ago I contacted LeeAnn over at Froggylegs to inquire about making a pleated messenger bag for my upcoming trip to Hawaii.  I knew it was a long shot since I leave on the 5th and that would give her approximately 1 week to make the bag and ship it to me and get it here on time but I had to ask anyway.  I could have bought one on Etsy and had it in time, but I support the creative ladies I know and knew that LeeAnn would do a fabulous job.

Later that day I got an email back from LeeAnn telling me should could do it!  I was beyond excited so we started collaborating.  I told her I wasn't picky, but it turns out I was!  I had very specific needs as I need to fit my laptop, my 7D body and 2 lenses in this bag.  Plus whatever else I want to bring on the plane with me.  She rolled with the punches though and created the most amazing pleated messenger bag.  I love the functionality of messenger bags but they are pretty boring and dull, but this bag brings a whole new dimension to the world of messenger bags!  Check it out!

The bag arrived on Friday (5 days from when I contacted LeeAnn!) and came all wrapped up so nicely.

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Isn't the fabric amazing?  We had issues finding something I liked on such short notice.  But, LeeAnn was armed with what I wanted in mind and found this fabulous print.  It is so stunning.

The pleat just might be my favorite part!

The inner lining.  LeeAnn made this bag durable and strong, I will be carrying precious commodities in there afterall!

She added a divider to separate the camera and the laptop (brilliant) and 2 large pockets on either side for my chapstick, wallet and other small items.  It closes nicely with magnetic snaps so it stays closed.

I used this bag yesterday on my shoot with a nine month old and it worked awesomely.  It was comfortable, didn't get in my way and my stuff was easily accessible.  I got my very first compliment too within minutes of arriving on site.  This bag is clearly an awesome piece and LeeAnn did a great job.  If you are in the need for a custom bag, or baby bedding go check LeeAnn out.  She's quick and does a quality job.  I would recommend her to everyone!


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Me Likey

For as long as I can remember, I've been wearing pink on my toes.  For some reason, I always gravitate toward the color for nail polish.  Of course I've strayed here and there getting the occasional teal, green or orange.  But if you look in my nail polish stash you will find a varieties of pinks.  Most recently I have found a Sally Hansen product that I love, it's called Quick Color and it's a fast dry nail color pen.  Yes, I said pen.  It goes on quickly, super easily and dries really, really fast.  If a nail polish dries fast then it gets an A+ in my book.  I have no time in my life to watch paint dry.  The flaw with this stuff though is it doesn't last long.  If you paint your nails, it literally lasts up to 2 days in my world.  It probably goes about 2 weeks on the toes.  I don't know about you, but I can't manage a home pedi every 2 weeks.  It's just not in the cards.  But, considering how quickly it goes on and how quickly it dries, it's definitely worth the $7 it costs to pick up a pen.  

A couple weeks ago I was pampered with a pedi at a salon with my girlies.  Now, I strayed from pink because I was in a wedding that had reds, so I decided to go with a rich red.  I was a bit nervous, but I loved it.  I did both my toes and my fingers and it looked fab!  I just loved it.  The polish they used was OPI which generally goes for about $7 a bottle as well.  The only difference is, it lasts sooooo much longer.  But, you definitely have to make time to paint your nails and toes because this stuff takes FOREVER to dry.  But, it's worth it if it doesn't chip after 2 days!  

This particular color is Keys to my Karma.  I love it.  Go out and try something new today.  You just might be surprised!

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Monday, September 20, 2010

{Mom's Sippy Cup} no more :(

Don't worry I'm not going anywhere.  But, my beloved wine glass is gonzo.  I got that wine glass from my mother in law for Christmas.  She picked it up in a small shop in Arizona and just knew I had to have it.  I haven't even had it for a year, but it was definitely loved and used quite frequently.  Then, on Wednesday night of last week, in true Bennett fashion, he hit it with his gigantic noggin and knocked it on the floor.  Not only did it create a giant red wine mess all over my cabinets and floor, it broke my sippy cup.  I was devastated.  I thought there was no replacing such an irreplaceable gift.  And then it hit me.  I googled "mom's sippy cup wine glass".  Sure enough, there were plenty out there to be found. 

Because I love my glass, and because I'm feeling generous today, I would love to give to one, no TWO of my readers one of these glasses.  Now, I know not everyone is a mama and I don't want to discriminate here so you can have your choice of either a mom's sippy cup, or a personalized wine glass from the Etsy shop of my choice.  I will even have it shipped directly to you so you don't need to live near me to get one of these bad boys!  My only requirement is that you live in the US. 

You can enter 1 of 3 ways, or all ways if you would like (each way is worth 1 entry!).  You can follow me on this blog (just press follow and voila), you can leave a comment on this post telling what kind of wine glass you would like (be sure to be leave a valid email address for me so I can contact you) or you can follow me on Twitter, I'm @momssippycup and I can be found here.   Please leave me a message on Twitter with a valid email address as well so I can contact you! 

Now, here's the catch.  I will only give away 2 glasses once I reach 50 followers on this blog, so it pays to pass along my URL and click the follow button!  It shouldn't take long my well connected readers!  I will draw 2 names at random once we hit the 50 mark!  Now get clickin' and you might be the new recipient of one of these babies:

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Disclaimer: The winners will receive a comparable wine glass as these are all one of a kind. It will not resemble this glass, as that one is now in the trash.