Ring Master MomNovember 4, 2015Leave a comment

My Mom’s Celebration of Life

Thank you all for your calls, texts, emails, cards, hugs, and comfort sent to me and my family. My most fabulous Mommy passed away on October 20th after a 2 year battle with aplastic anemia. I wanted to share a few memories from her celebration of life we had a few days ago.

My cousins and their children


My family


I was lucky enough to have the best Mother in the entire world. There’s no way I could have said everything I wanted to on Sunday, but here’s what I did share.

I don’t think that one would describe me as a person of very few words. Like my Mother, I am blessed with the gift of the gab. My Mom and I were best friends – something she made clear that would happen after my childhood. “Jeannette,” she said, “I’m a Mother first, friend next.” I could be up here for days thinking about all of the memories of my favorite lady. I thought I’d share a few stories that really define Mary Ann.

First off, a totally incomplete list of my Mother. She was a lifeguard, swim instructor, teacher, coach, avid reader, synchronized swimmer, painter, dark chocolate consumer, french language attempter-er, sassy housewife, baker, volunteer extraordinaire, voted most athletic in high school, cal grad and sports fanatic, president of the local alumni group, Hostess with the Mostess, most fabulous witch at Halloween, team mom, room mom, Grandma, Auntie Mimi, and as Erik and I called her as toddler, “the best mommy in the world of London”

As the nursery rhyme goes, “Mary Mary, quite contrary!” She wore red in her wedding dress, which was definitely “not done” in those days and she claimed that since she was part Russian and Russian brides wore red, it was totally appropriate. My Mother also sported Cal beads and wore her “Beat Stanford” shirt any time she could at Stanford Hospital.

My Mother had a heart of gold. A self proclaimed “dog person” who on more than one occasion was attacked by a cat. A stray came in her backyard and the lady fed it and named it! To this day, I don’t know where this cat lady side came from.

She wanted to push people to their full potential by showing them how to do the work themselves. She completely prepared me for motherhood with this next story. When I went into labor with Patrick, he was about 2 weeks early. She rushed over to my apartment with my Dad to build the crib and changing table, but she told me when we came home that she wasn’t there to do my laundry, dishes, or shopping. She was there to teach me how to rock him to sleep, bathe him, take us out for walks and enjoy being a Grandma. This helped me tremendously when I had Alice. I checked myself out of the hospital early and went home and cooked french toast while nursing Alice. She wanted me to enjoy motherhood with all its crazy moments and not expect her to be the maid. And that made for a great attitude and expectations I have with my own children.

Mary Ann was a true kid at heart. At our last Disneyland vacation, Alice and Patrick wanted to go on the teacups over and over with James and my Dad. My Mom and I bailed (delicate tummies don’t enjoy that ride over and over) and we had the park to ourselves! We could have picked any ride, but we ran to the carousel and giggled and waved at everyone and shouted, “Woohoo!” as we went around and around.

This lady was always ready for an adventure – taking Erik and I camping as infants. Going back each year even though there were horror stories from the previous year when Erik had to get stitches in his finger or we had to locate the ER when I thought I broke a bone in my foot. When she was about to go in the hospital for the first time, we sort of snuck in a trip to Pinecrest for the week with my Dad and Alice and Patrick. Her doctors said, “Weeeeell, we’re not exactly saying no, but we’d like it if you weren’t around dirt.” She of course took that as a heck yes! She was about making memories as we went for walks every day, learned about nature, and then painted while enjoying a wine and cheese plate.

She also planted the travel bug at a young age. When I was 12 and Erik was 10, my Mom and Dad were thinking about a trip to Europe for the Olympics in Barcelona. We were there for 5 weeks and then she sent us on our own when I was 17 and Erik was 15. This summer we took Patrick and Alice to France and England. Not once did she say, “Oh heavens, that’s too young – they won’t remember a thing!” She knew it would plant seeds in them to become more aware of the larger world. After our trip, I took Alice to visit my Mom at the hospital. There was a large picture of the Mona Lisa near the front door and Alice was pleased as punch that she remembered seeing that at the Louvre and told my Mom immediately when we walked in. My Mom winked at me and said, “See, she gets it!”

One of her favorite sayings was about character. She defined it as, “What you do when nobody is looking.” She taught this to me near the end of high school and always reminded it to me in college. I think this truly defined my Mother; as most of the wonderful stories I’ve heard from others seem to have a theme of her giving soooo much while nobody was looking.

My Mom loved coaching the IHS tennis team. She did this not because she enjoyed the sport, but out of necessity. Erik didn’t have a coach one year, and the team couldn’t play without one. As an ex-physical education teacher, she knew she could get by and help keep the boys playing. She did this for several years after Erik graduated also. I will never forget one day when she was talking to my Grandma and I about the team. Kids weren’t turning in forms on time, lots may not play because of their grades, and there were a few pre season matches that may not take place because of scheduling problems. My Grandmother and I both asked her why she was still coaching. She said there was still nobody to coach and that she wanted to be there for her boys. Her kindness and thoughtfulness towards others is always a gift I will treasure.

Speaking of the tennis team, my Mother of course had to show those boys who was boss. One day when the athletic director drove over and shouted at her from his car while she was on the court to come over to talk, she replied with, “I ain’t no holla back girrrl!” My Mother, the feminist who wants you to speak to her like a real person!

She once told me that her biggest fear was dying while her children were young. She said she always wanted us to have memories together. Not only is her fear something that didn’t happen, but as you know, her kind and giving spirit lives on with my family, and all of you. When you see a rainbow, think of my colorful Mom. When you are at a Cal game, shout, “Go Bears!” When you see some chocolate, do what Mary Ann would do. Enjoy it all at once!

I wanted to end with a sunny memory because my Dad always called her his sunshine. My Mom believed in God. She knew His teachings would bring her peace and understanding in her toughest times. She joined Pinterest several years ago and didn’t have many things pinned, but loved finding new holiday ideas and commenting on what I found. This is a quote from her inspirational board from C.S. Lewis “I believe in Christ like I believe in the sun – not because I can see it, but by it I can see everything else.” Thank you for letting me share my sunshine with you.

My brother wrote a great poem for her to the tune of Green Eggs & Ham.

That son-I am.
That son-I am.
I am a happy son-I am.
I have a mom named Mary Ann.
I am the luckiest son-I am.
I always felt comfy in the house.
And watched the cartoons, Mickey Mouse.
So many amazing books to read.
That mom of mine she’s great indeed.
I will play outside today.
Any sport, my mom will play.
Let’s go swimming, learn to float
Or on the lake out in a boat.
What’s that amazing smell?
I think I just heard the dinner bell.
Wow, mom, this is amazing food.
The food the food…puts me in a good mood.
Have a Fenton’s sundae or two.
It’s huge! It’s huge! We’ll make it through!
Would you come to the Cal game?
If you don’t, it’s a shame.
You may like them, you will see.
You may like them, but not the tree.
Say, on the courts!
On the courts.
Would you, could you win your match on the courts?
Yes, coach, I will persevere.
You taught me so much, I have no fear.
Looks like you like the watch, my treat.
You’ll need shoes to match, don’t miss a beat.
Zip Line! Zip Line!
Could you, would you do a zip line!
I know your fear of heights.
But would you give it a try?
Grandkids come here and come and play.
Remember the game we played yesterday?
We play and play and play all day.
We jump in the pool and have some fun.
We never ever want to say we’re done!
Blood disease..Blood disease?
I’ll get over it, you’ll see.
Let’s try this, and let’s try that.
Chemotherapy and transplant.
I am strong. Bryant’s never quit.
I’ll get through this, won’t hurt a bit.
I like these things that I was taught.
Caring, sharing, giving a lot.
Read to children, show them art.
Raise them with a Mary Ann heart.
Thank you!
Thank you, son-I am.

We had so many fantastic people come up and share what Mary Ann meant to them. My Dad hired the Cal women’s octet as a surprise for the end. Here is a link to the entire service:

One memory of camping trips is listening to wonderful music in the car like John Denver. My Dad always called my Mom his sunshine, and this song is for her:

Big thanks to my brother for recording and to my Auntie for these pictures. She also spent a tremendous amount of time collecting all of the pictures for the video of my Mother’s life. I truly have the best family.


Ring Master MomOctober 18, 2015Leave a comment

Healthy Halloween Food

I’m all about celebrating holidays in my house, and Halloween is no exception!  I’ve put together a few of my favorite healthy snacks and meals we love in our home!

First up is a spooky ghost face parfait.  Add a generous scoop or two of greek yogurt, fruit, more yogurt and top with three blackberries to create a ghost face!


Ghost pancakes are a fun way to start the day!  I always add a small amount of oil to my cookie cutters before pouring in the pancake batter so nothing sticks when you remove the cookie cutter.


A great snack idea for little ones is cutting a banana into slices, and adding peanut butter and sprinkles.  I have to say that the cyclops eyes are my fave!


Another wonderful snack idea is pumpkin pretzels (found at Target) with golden raisins and skull cucumbers!


Color coordinated juices and ghost chips are a fun snack idea for Halloween.  You can find these chips at Whole Foods.


For dinner, we roast our favorite veggies in season and add them to scary pasta!  You can find the pasta with natural dyes (yay!) at World Market.  Then we top with a splash or two of our favorite vinaigrette.


My kiddos love creepy dinner ideas, and this one is so easy and fun!  I slice hot dogs and then boil for a few minutes.  The curl up into worm shapes – ew!  Add berries and cubed cheese for a colorful meal!


This has to be my children’s favorite Halloween dinner probably because it’s the grossest looking idea!  I cooked chili and hot dogs separately.  Then I sliced hot dogs and used a straw to poke out two perfect circles.  They call this one pig snout chili and always want more.



Every year we make pizza with different Halloween shapes.  This time we slices olives to create bats, and used a tulip cookie cutter to create a ghost.


Below are affiliate links to items I used to make the above food.  Thanks for your support and Happy halloween!



Ring Master MomOctober 14, 2015Leave a comment

Halloween treats

My children still only want to trick or treat at a few houses on Halloween so I don’t mind making a few treats with them during October for some special fun!  Here are a few of my favorites.

Nothing screams fall treat like a caramel apple.  I love to slice up apples first and then set aside caramel sauce and toppings.


For a silly breakfast treat, take powdered donut holes and add eye sprinkles!


Brownies cut with cookie cutters and Reese’s pieces make for a great looking dessert.


We also played a Halloween touch and feel game.  (Don’t worry, we didn’t have this food to go waste!  It was immediately snacked upon after finishing!)  We had some family over for this game and I blindfolded everyone and told them I had just come back from the cemetery.  Tortilla pieces were handed to everyone and I described that as pieces of skin, banana chips were witches’ fingernails, baby carrots were fingers I had sliced off, pretzels were petrified rat tails, and room temperature olives were eyeballs.  It’s great to see how people (even grown ups!) squirm and make hilarious faces when they’re holding these items.


And finally, we love to “Boo” our neighbors.  We’ve been doing it for years, and this is what we included in our bags this year.


Below are affiliate links to a few items pictured above.  Thanks for your support, and Happy Halloween!


Ring Master MomMarch 15, 2015Leave a comment

Healthy St. Patrick’s Day snack ideas

Horray for St. Patrick’s day – my chance to make everything in my house look like a rainbow! We do cook authentic food on St. Patrick’s Day, but I thought I’d take a moment to share the yummy & healthy snacks and meals I like to create for my family.

Yogurt parfaits are a staple in this house so it’s just a slight adjustment to make a granola rainbow and kiwi shamrock.


What I love most about making rainbows with fruit and vegetables for my kids is that it gets them excited to eat their colors and it’s less of a chore to repeat over and over again to “eat those veggies!” As a parent, you know that you can’t always win at getting your little ones to eat all of their veggies every night. My kids have changing tastes and having a nice variety keeps them talking about favorites and how they like to help prepare them.

Pro tip – I love setting out plates of vegetables as I cook because they seem to be eaten up very quickly by little ones who are hungry from running around all day!


Don’t forget to eat your fruit, too!


By now, you probably know I am a huge fan of pastas in silly shapes and colors! My favorites are from World Market since they have natural dyes and almost every holiday.


I love serving pasta with roasted rainbow vegetables because it adds in a ton of great flavor. Depending on how thinly you’ve sliced your veggies, you’ll want to cook it at 425 for about 15 minutes. I sometimes coat them lightly with olive oil, salt, and Italian seasonings.


Cutting out small shamrocks from spinach is an easy way to add some vitamins to pizza. That’s what I tell myself anyway.


Hope this provides some colorful inspiration to your St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Erin go Bragh!


Ring Master MomFebruary 12, 20151 Comment

Valentine’s Day food for toddlers

We love holidays in our house, and Valentine’s Day is no exception. My kiddos have loved heart shapes since they were very small and I’ve always had fun creating meals for them in February. Below are a few ideas for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner. I wanted to share with you that we’ve created in our house over the past few years. Apologies for some of the photos – they are a few years old and from phones older than that.

I love homemade donuts, and these turned out so well! I don’t have an original recipe – I use the instructions they send with the pan.


My kids are obsessed – seriously obsessed – with yogurt parfaits. This is another great breakfast idea that you can switch up with different types of greek yogurt, fruit, and granola. The hearts make it extra yummy!


This next idea for breakfast is the classic egg in a hole idea, but made with a heart shaped cookie cutter. I fry on one side since I like my yolk on the runny side, but it’s up to you! Bacon hearts are simple – cut one slice of bacon in half and shape! I always cook mine in the oven at 400 for 15-17 minutes.


Kashi’s Heart to Heart cereal has changed shape over the years, but it always a hit in our house – no matter the holiday. Talk about a fast breakfast idea!


Oatmeal is a great breakfast idea in February. The warm oats warm up any cool morning and “writing” love notes on top really puts a smile on anyone’s face. Once I have prepared the oatmeal, I scoop a few spoonfuls of red raspberry preserves into a small sandwich plastic bag. I cut an extremely small slit in the bottom corner and used it as a pastry bag to decorate!


Nothing says love like red and hearts. Combine that with one of my favorite flavors – red velvet – and you’ve got yourself a yummy breakfast! I use a red velvet pancake mix from World Market with a heart egg ring set. Make sure to use extra oil or spray so nothing sticks!


My kiddos love snacks as most young ones do! Heart shaped anything ensures nothing is left behind!



This special treat sandwich with Nutella and sprinkles is made by cutting a heart shaped cookie cutter through one side of bread. Too easy!


We change up this snack every month or so in our house. It doesn’t always include sprinkles, but it’s a fun treat (especially ones with natural dyes!) and my little ones always want more.


I have tried for a few years to perfect the heart shaped ice cubes and I think this year I’ve done it! I’ve always used water and natural dye and it VERY quickly melts as soon as I place the ice in the milk for my kiddos. This is fine because pink milk is fun on Valentine’s day, but I’m looking for something slightly more stable. I decided to smash up raspberries and place them in the tray. They froze perfectly and stayed in a heart shape for a long time.



Homemade heart marshmallows are a sweet surprise to any cup of hot chocolate!


Not much could be easier for dinner than pizza! Heart shaped pepperonis are made with my smallest cookie cutter and you could substitute veggies or even create your own heart shaped pizza dough!


My husband James is a huge fan of beets, and son Patrick loves goat cheese. These two salads combine both which is a hit in my book! I bought pre-sliced beets and cut them in heart shapes with a cookie cutter. For the goat cheese, I mixed it with some of the beet juice from the can and spread it on parchment paper and froze it for about 30 minutes. After, you can use a small cookie cutter to cut out heart shapes!



Cost Plus World Market always has a different pasta for every holiday! They are my favorite for little ones for their creative shapes and natural dyes. I roast seasonal veggies and splash on shitake seasame dressing for a dinner that’s always gobbled up.


I received a great non-stick heart shaped cake pan from my Auntie a few years ago and I don’t believe they sell the one I have anymore. They make lots of great ones I’ve included in links below. Funfetti makes this cake even sweeter.


We don’t usually exchange big gifts with the kids, but little books like this always show lots of love which is what this holiday is all about.


I hope you enjoyed this Valentine’s food round-up for little ones! Below are affiliate links to all of the products I used mentioned above.


Ring Master MomJanuary 20, 2015Leave a comment

Healthy road trip snacks & entertainment ideas for toddlers

About once a year (okay okay, our average is really two!) we drive together as a family to Disneyland. It’s about 800 miles round trip and I have lots of ways to make the trip enjoyable for toddlers. Healthy snacks are key in my book, and so is creative entertainment.

When I was pregnant with Patrick and wandering the streets of downtown Sydney one morning with James, I was obsessed with finding fresh fruit. The only cafes for blocks had fried and heavy pastries, and I felt out of luck. I remember passing a 7-11 and remembering they had fresh fruit! I was in heaven as I scored a delicious pear and I’m here to let you know that you can find lots of great food on the road.

I know it’s easy to pack pre-cut veggies and other healthy snacks, but this post is all about what you can find at most gas stations or convenience stores. My criteria for finding healthy snacks are as follows:

*They cannot be messy. Alice is 3 and Patrick is 5 and there’s no way I’m buying them their favorite juice – Odwalla Green Machine. No I do not want them covered in green from head to toe the moment we hit a bump thankyouverymuch.

*No artificial colors. This rules out so many treats that are bad for you anyway.

*No sugary or salty snacks. There are sugar and salt added to a few items below, but it’s not in excess. No Big Gulps or Cheetos here!


There are lots of fruit options now with fruit cups becoming popular, but a lot of them include sugar in the syrup, so that didn’t make my cut. Apples, raisins, and bananas are nature’s perfect snack! Speaking of sugar, the yogurt does contain some, but much less than the others making it the less of two evils. And, it’s greek where most others are not, and sugar is an ingredient after fruit. It really defeats the purpose of eating yogurt with fruit if sugar is an ingredient before! I also found boiled eggs which my kids scarf down. Nothing added there! An item with salt are the nuts. Every bag of nuts I found had salt added, and this had the least amount and most variety. Last on my list is hummus. This came with pretzels which is a crunchy and creamy creation.

As a general rule, we don’t use the DVD player unless the trip is more than 4 hours. Our favorite things to do on road trips is listen to cds, books on tape, and color. I’ve included affiliate links below to items we use for the kiddos. Oh, who are we kidding – the Roald Dahl book on CD is a guilty pleasure of mine as well! I hope you enjoyed these ideas and safe travels.


Ring Master MomNovember 26, 2014Leave a comment

Healthy Thanksgiving snack

With lots of special treats around the holidays, I thought I’d share one of my favorite healthy Thanksgiving snacks for little ones!


The best part is that you can use any fruit your kids enjoy or whatever’s in season. Enjoy & Happy Thanksgiving!


Ring Master MomOctober 24, 2014Leave a comment

Halloween crafts for kids

We have been crafting it up this week in the Ring household and I’d like to share a few of what we created! Both crafts are easy to do with little ones and can be done at your own speed.

First up are tissue paper jack-o-lanterns. What I love about this craft is that kids can personalize their pumpkin! My 3 year old Alice wanted to do only an orange outline as it took her longer to grasp the square tissue to glue on her page. My 5 year old Patrick wanted a spooky face and added a long vine to the top.

I started prepping by cutting a few tissue sheets into small squares. These do not have to be perfect as they will get scrunched up by little fingers, so don’t stress about even edges. Each kiddo drew a face onto paper as I cut. Take the square tissue and place it at the bottom of the pencil. Scrunch up the tissue as much or little as you like, and add a dab of glue before attaching it to your jack-o-lantern.

IMG_20141022_125519 (1)

Little fingers can take a bit of time creating each piece because they are using those fine motor skills!


And here are the finished products


Next up is a washi tape pumpkin garland. I gathered halloween washi tape, paper, pen, scissors, and halloween twine. First, I drew two large pumpkin shapes on each paper. The kids grabbed tape and cut in lines larger than what I drew. That way when you cut the pumpkin shape, there’s not a lot of white on your garland.


Once the tape is on, cut into your desired pumpkin shape and add two small holes to string the twine through.


Happy Halloween!


Below are affiliate links to some of the craft supplies I used. Have fun creating!


Ring Master MomSeptember 4, 20142 Comments

The future of food

Do you dream about the future? Will we have flying cars in our lifetime? Ever wonder about what our food will look like?

A little background on me – I love food. I enjoy cooking, baking, and dining out with my family. I love food so much that the vocal point in both labors of my children changed from a calm and serene Hawaii to the meals I ate while there. I guess you could call eating an experience and my happy place.

Please note that there are many more of what I think of as disturbing things going on with our food. I don’t have time to list all of my grievances here. Any bold phrases are links to articles and more information.

What we eat has changed dramatically in the last 50 years. Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. Let those numbers sink in. Every wonder why they’ve raised so much? There are more additives and fillers to keep “food” cheap and you coming back for more. Why is there a need to add sugar to everyday items such as bread or soup? Because it’s cheaper than using real food and your brain will be tricked into craving more.

For some reason, ultra-bad trans fat is still lurking in many foods. Here’s a hint when you’re buying – if it says zero grams of trans fat, there’s trans fat inside! Zero grams is not the same as none unfortunately.

With daily news articles discussing GMO/Monsanto vs organic crops, last year the UN completed a study saying that small scale farming is the only way to feed the world. Should we eat what nature’s given us? How far should we go to feed ourselves?

It’s hard enough being parents and worrying about every tiny decision in your child’s life. Companies make it incredibly difficult for you to go to the grocery store and make healthy decisions. They are there to sell you their product, and will do whatever it takes to grab your child’s attention. How would snack time change if our produce aisle looked different?

Misleading labels make it easy to bring home crap. I cannot believe we live in a world where it’s okay to label a yogurt container as “strawberry” when it contains no actual strawberries.

I still don’t get artificial colors in foods. There are natural dyes, but of course they’re not as bright and more expensive. With links to ADHD in fake colors and pesticides, wouldn’t you want to subtract this from your diet?

Natural doesn’t always mean healthy, but if this is what the sun does to real vs chemical ice cream, sign me up for real every day of the week.

I am not perfect in the quest to feed my children ONLY locally sourced, organic, dye-free food, but I try very hard to find real food to feed my family. Friends often ask how my kids eat such a wide variety of foods from different cultures and the answer is as easy as they eat what I cook. If possible, I’d eat jelly donuts for the rest of my life, but it really wouldn’t last that long. It’s hard to make sacrifices to eat well, but it’s worth it. This article reinforces the need to start out as early as possible to set a good example for our children and instill great eating habits.


Another great tip for getting little ones to eat and snack healthy can be found on my Instagram page or searching through #eatyourrainbow. I am surprised at how taking a minute or two to arrange colorful food in a beautiful way gets them to explore things they’ve never tried. Even my husband munches on things he normally wouldn’t grab from the fridge.


I’m hopeful that in 50 years, my family is eating actual food with no fillers, additives, or chemicals. What a concept!

What are your thoughts? Do you and your family have guidelines before going grocery shopping? How do you feed your family?


Ring Master MomAugust 15, 2014Leave a comment

Making the switch to greek yogurt

With of few of my Mommy friends asking me how I got my kids eat greek yogurt, I thought I’d share a few pro tips!

It doesn’t matter if your kids are eating sugary crap with candy on top (yuck – I long for the day when there will be fresh fruit to add in instead of M&Ms!) or plain and want to make the switch to greek. It just takes a few days to get your tastebuds adjusted and you can feel good about eating healthy. Just be sure to still read labels when it comes to sugar and fat content.

If you think it may take a few days, I would suggest buying vanilla greek yogurt first and adding in fresh fruit and granola. My kids tend to scarf down every bit if they are served like this:


After this, you can start using plain greek and adding in a small amount of honey or fruit if you’d like until tastes adjust.

It’s also great start using as you cook to make a thick and delicious ranch sauce for dipping fresh veggies or a healthy substitute for ice cream when making popsicles.


I hope these tips help your family make the switch!