Archive for September, 2013


Ring Master MomSeptember 30, 20132 Comments

Back to school dinner

Patrick is only attending preschool right now for 2 mornings a week and there’s no real break between him going from the 3’s classroom to the 4’s.  Since he was gone to Australia for almost a month with James, I thought his return would be a great time to host a little back to school dinner to get him excited for his new classroom and teachers.

I decided to set the table with a few classic school decorations.  Opening the box of pencils immediately gave me anxiety as it reminded me of finals at college!

Both kiddos had their own place setting with a dry erase board and crayons

And I made homemade alphabet soup

Recipe to follow!!  I thought I had a scrap paper where I wrote a few notes and measurements, but something tells me that my little clean up monster Alice has thrown it in the garbage as she does with anything she thinks looks used/done with.

And an easy dessert with graham crackers and frosting

Does your family have any back to school traditions?




Ring Master MomSeptember 29, 2013Leave a comment

Quotable kids

Both Alice and Patrick are at the age where a lot of the things that come out of their mouths crack me up.

I was lacing up Patrick’s soccer cleats a few days ago and he was leaning on me for balance.  I told him, “This is what Moms are for” while making a bow.  He replied, “No, Mom’s aren’t 4!  They’re 58!”

To make sure I don’t forget any hilarious moments like this, my Mom bought these books for both of my kids.  They sit in their bookshelves and are written in about every few days.

One helpful hint – if you’re not near your book when your kid says something funny, grab your phone and send yourself an email of the quote.  That way you’ve got it to write down whenever you’re home.

What quotable things do your kids say?


Ring Master MomSeptember 23, 20136 Comments

Garage organization

My guys were gone for almost a month and I knew it would be time to finally tackle the garage to get it organized.  When James and I got married, we lived in a one bedroom apartment (small!) and then a two bedroom condo (a little more space, but not a lot of storage) and when we bought our house last year, I was thrilled to finally get to store all of my holiday items in one spot rather than scattered throughout closets.  Problem when we bought our house – we had a major renovation – like had to replace ev-er-y-thing inside along with pulling out the overgrown juniper bushes and white rock in the yards.  Our $$ priorities were on other things, and I was happy that it was time to clean up and organize our garage.

When we moved in, we didn’t have any bookshelves in any rooms.  And as a family of readers, we acquired a lot of books.  I unpacked all of the books for Alice and Patrick, but it left an awful lot of boxes in the garage.  Along with a few odds and ends.  Extra clothes.  Holiday items.  Did you know I L O V E holidays??  As the kids get older, they get more outdoor toys, scooters, bikes, and my storage quickly turned into the black hole.

First picture: oh the shame!

Fun fact about our garage and others on the street – they don’t actually fit a normal sized car!  We can put our car into the garage and shut the garage door, but can’t actually get around the car and into the house.  Also, there’s only about 10 inches of room on either side of the garage door.  I figured since we weren’t getting a car in (and neither do our neighbors!) I might as well make the most of the space I have.

Other half of the horror:

I started off by hanging bikes on these

and Swiffer/brooms on these;


I was able to locate 7 empty growlers of Pliny, 2 lawn mowers, 2 extra long orange extension cords tangled and knotted (how does that even happen when they’re sitting in a garage?),  1 unused refrigerator I thought I’d use for booze for parties, 1 giant roll of extra carpet, 5 alan wrenches, 3 levels, 6 spiders that were taken out of the garage, and a dart board.  That loot along with a few other items and a giant purge of all the closets in my house netted a donation of 10 bags of clothes, toys, outside bikes, 1 lawn mower, 1 giant mirror, and a few holiday decorations.  Phew!

I then was able to order some shelves and a mallet for building!  I ordered 3 of these

and one of these


and got building!  I have built most of the toys/chairs/bookcases in the house and when I saw the reviews for these shelves, I thought I was in heaven!  Sturdy shelves built in no time – what a dream!  I’d like to tell you that my dream came true, but I couldn’t get it to line up and had a little boohoo about it.  I was finally able to recruit my Dad who helped me build one.  Word to the wise – it doesn’t have to line up perfectly – it will work itself out as it’s built.  Mah bad!

Here’s the completed unit:

The bottom shelf has our emergency backpack/first aid kit along with water (don’t worry, I have a lot more I hadn’t placed on the bottom shelf yet!) and hand turbine/solar radio and smartphone charger along with extras from Costco that don’t fit in our pantry.

My nearby friend Katelyn offered her husband’s help after hearing my sob story, and built the other two:

Tools, gardening items, and all outdoor toys are now easy to locate!

Since so many holiday items had never been properly stored together before, I bought these storage bins

and made an assembly line of my holiday items sorted by holiday finally!

And to be extra organized, I used some extra chalkboard paint to label the storage bins:

While I did have almost a month to complete this project, I didn’t start right away with some last minute hot summer days keeping me out of the even hotter garage, then letting my broken toe heal properly, trying to dislodge a huge splinter/piece of glass from my heel for a day or two.  Also, Alice has been very clingy with her favorite boys gone so I didn’t tackle it as hardcore as I wanted.  But it looks better than I thought, and now I have lots of room for a secret surprise for the boys when they arrive.

James told me that Patrick was really enjoying table tennis and since we aren’t using our garage to store cars, I thought it would be a fun surprise to have this inside when they return:


What do you love/hate about storage in your garage?  Share your organizing tips or garage/storage horror stories here!


Ring Master MomSeptember 17, 20134 Comments

Flying with babies & toddlers

My first experience flying with a baby was when Patrick was 4 months old, and we flew from San Francisco to Sydney. I was a little nervous thinking about how he would do on the flight since it is a 14 hours long, but he was such a happy baby overall that it was a pleasant experience for everyone. I’ve broken this post into flying with babies and toddlers with two lists.

Flying with babies

If you’re a nursing Mama, wear a cute and lightweight scarf. Even if you have to plop it in a tray while going through security, it’s handy to have if your baby gets fussy during takeoff and you have to shove em on your boob to get him to start swallowing to save his ears. It’s perfect so you don’t have to go searching through a bag for a cover and you can use it to play peek-a-boo later!

I would take everything you’d normally carry in your diaper bag for a regular trip out (diapers, wipes, scented plastic bags, bottle, onesie, etc) plus:
Extra shirt for you (this was not needed for any of my trips), but I figured on a long flight, I might want to change when I landed. You never know what sort of fun stains you’ll have after a long flight.
Pacifier for ears – yes I said ears. If you don’t use one, be prepared to nurse during takeoff/landing to help your little one’s ears adjust without tears.
Banana or soft snack (if baby is old enough) and be prepared to ditch it if not eaten before entering another country.
Rattle/chewing toys to distract (rattle toy from amazon, sophie)
Their favorite plush toy and blanket for cuddles.

I bought two new chewing toys for our trip to Australia because they were super cheap and something fun for a little baby. I think that the mixture of a new toy plus their favorite snuggle/bedtime toys is a great way to keep a baby entertained on a flight of any duration.

I kid you not – this is patrick after his first flight. We had been at the airport two hours early for our international flight, flew over to another hemisphere, went through customs, immigration, grabbed luggage, and this is him still at the airport, meeting his Nanna and Grandad for the first time:


Flying with toddlers

My Mommy advice for flying with toddlers who have recently been potty trained – for a big flight, you may want to keep a diaper on for the flight. I know it goes against any training you’ve done with your child, but it worked for me and here’s why I did it. I know that sometimes there’s turbulence and the fasten seatbelt sign stays on for a while. You don’t have any control of when that will be turned off, and rather than a big accident on the plane, you can prevent this. I told my son who was potty trained a few months prior to a 14 hour flight that he was going to wear a diaper, but to tell me when he needed to go potty. He needed to go twice, once when it was okay to use the bathroom, and once when we had a huuuge stretch of turbulence. This was a lifesaver for me.

I pack the following for our flights with 2 toddlers, whether it’s a “quick” 5 hour flight, or our long one down unda.

Magna Doodle for endless drawing, shape creations, number or letter practice. The possibilites with this toy are endless. And, I love that there’s no markers to draw on other items like the tray table, seat, window, etc, and that the “pen” is attached so there’s nothing to accidentally drop and search for under your seat.
Sippy cup (if your child has recently graduated from a bottle) Stewardesses love happy kids, and will always stop to ask if you need any more water or milk for your child.
iPad/DVD player with favorite games or movies. We haven’t gotten to the point of having to use this yet, but we’ve got it on backup just in case.

As my kids get older, I’m sure the list will expand to include chewing gum for takeoff, chapter books, and audio books/new games for the iPad.

When we fly to Australia, the flight leaves around 11 pm and there are almost no other international flights at that time at SFO. This is great because you can get through security quickly, and have lots of time to roam around a few stores. I take this opportunity to let my kids pick out a snack of fruit/crackers and grab a new small book. This gets this kids moving around for a nice walk to help pass the time, especially since the international part of the airport is quiet at this time of night.

And I’m adding a “keeping it real” pic:

This is what I look like after a 12 hour delay on a 14 hour flight. They turned off the lights for the flight and my poor brain was confused as to what time it was. Note that Alice is in her jammies. I always have my kids in jammies for long flights as I think it’s the comfiest thing for them to be in and I don’t have to change them if they fall asleep on me at any point.

My last helpful hint is to pack some sort of sweet treat for your flight for others. I picked up several Toblerone once we were through security and handed them out once we were seated on the plane the nearest 6 people around us letting them know we were flying with a baby for the first time. It was a great ice breaker and people even offered to hold Patrick if I needed a little time off. Bribery works at any age!!

What are your favorite things to pack and play with on a flight when you travel with your children?


Ring Master MomSeptember 12, 20135 Comments

Making felt garlands

I have found the coolest craft for my kids’ rooms. Heck, I’m so in love with making felt garlands that I’ve got one on my mantle for Fall!!

I bought a felt garland kit from for Patrick’s room. He’s got a green dinosaur theme going on, and I was thrilled when the colors in the kit matched his bedding perfectly. His kit came in a mason jar complete with a needle and colored bakers twine.

If you live in the Bay Area, I urge you to check out The Makery. It’s in downtown Los Altos and it’s like Pinterest and your favorite craft store had a baby. It’s difficult to leave with ONLY a few items. If you don’t live nearby, you can purchase the kits here. For scale, Patrick’s kit was a small jar. I’d recommend ordering the larger one cause these garlands are more fun the longer they are!

Here is the finished product:

I really wanted to take home the rainbow kit, but felt (ha, pun intended) that it was missing a few colors – like her favorite, pink!! No worries, you can buy any amount of felt you’d like and there’s seriously every color of the rainbow. That’s right – giant apothecary jars full of felt balls. Creative juices are a’flowin!!

I was thinking about doing a giant rainbow but with the light and dark colors along with white, it didn’t look quite right. I did a random pattern and I. AM. IN. LOVE.

The final garland I made was just something I thought of in my head for Fall and I have 3 other ideas for great color combinations for the same season! I chose brown, red, bright orange, orange, and yellow for a great Fall “rainbow” if you will. This one’s going up on my mantle.

I also think it would be fun for Fall to do a garland in just candy corn colors, or purple/teal/black, or different shades of browns/oranges. Endless possibilities – and I love my holidays and celebrations!!

Felt garland tutorial

I feel like I’m cheating you out of a real “how-to” since I didn’t make the felt balls myself. Also, I’ve never knitted or sewed before so I’m not sure I’m even doing anything correctly. I’ll give you the run down of what I’ve done for these garlands.

I used bakers twine (Fall garland used divine twine) for backbone of this craft. Plus and minus for this. Plus is you can pick any color to accent the felt balls (I had orange and black for my Fall one!!) but a minus is that the twine was 4 different strings which once in a while moved a bit while pushing the felt on. Nothing horrible here, but you may have to tweak it a bit if you’re a perfectionist. I may try nylon next time, who knows.

Lay out your balls (ha!) in the pattern that you want.

Thread your needle through the twine and start stringing the balls through one at a time. I made sure to go directly through the middle, and push all the way to the end of the string. I did not knot the string after each ball, but did knot the ends once I was done. There were one or two that I didn’t push the needle through and had to use my back teeth but I should have used pliers to get the needle out.

As I threaded each ball, I tried to keep the spacing about even. Once I was done, I made some adjustments to make sure the spacing looked perfect. They’ll move wherever you want, but won’t slide on the twine.

Have you worked with felt before? Any pro-tips to share with this first timer?


Ring Master MomSeptember 11, 20136 Comments

Every Mom is a Super Mom

I have been writing this post for a month. Every time I come back to it, it somehow feels incomplete. After taking a moment to reflect on the events that happened 12 years ago, I’ve decided today is the day to share. As I pray for peace, I also pray that we stop tearing each other down, and can lift each other up.

I am tired of seeing articles written about Pinterest and “Super Moms” that bash and judge. So what if someone wants to make homemade sprinkles with no artificial colors for their kids. Maybe they’re allergic. Maybe they enjoy baking. The author claims to be “too busy” yet are whining about other people’s lives. How about focusing on yourself!!

I just read another article written by a woman about “bitchy” Moms who do it all – with the response: fuck them!! What the does this even mean?? Because someone chose to write a note in their kids’ lunch, you call them a bitch…really? Where then does one draw the line between being a Mom and a bitch? And why again and we calling each other names?

Everyone is given 24 hours in a day. What you chose to do with it is your business. I love making fun lunches for my kids to get them excited about different veggies but that doesn’t mean I do that crap in the middle of the night. I’m relaxing with James watching re-watching 30 Rock for the hundredth time.

I am amazed at my friends who are starting their own businesses or climbing the corporate ladder. I am in awe of the things they can do (or remember to do!!) after having kids. Some have killer gardens or bake perfect macarons. Because I can’t do these things, should I feel guilty and start name calling?

Most of my days are spent with play-doh in my hair or rinsing chicken poop from the backyard steps. It’s not glamorous, but it’s fun for me and I love being creative with my kids. That is my choice; what I choose to do with my 24 hours. I don’t train for marathons or wear makeup. I look like a hot mess some days because I don’t have a cleaner or landscaper or babysitter for my kids. And that’s what I do with my time. It’s not better than yours or worse. It’s what I do for my family.

I really wish that women would stop hating on Pinterest as if their husbands demand a clean and organized house like tons of the pins there. If you don’t want to use it, don’t use it! It’s not designed to put any pressure on you. It’s designed to share and exchange ideas. Women – we need to come together and celebrate all the wonderful and crazy things in life together. Like how every dirty sock somehow needs my help to make it to the hamper. Let’s sit back, share a bottle of wine and enjoy life rather than bring each other down. We’re ALL supermoms with different talents and gifts. I hope we can share information and ideas to make life easier and more fun. We are all good enough and deserve better than name calling. I’m hoping we can come together to see that we really have much more in common than we think.



Ring Master MomSeptember 9, 20132 Comments

Storage ideas

As I mentioned in a previous post, James is gone for 22 days with Patrick and that has inspired me to do a deep cleaning of the entire house, garage, and give the front and backyard a makeover and possibly build a chicken run.  Phew!!

Today I added 2 more organizational tools to my bathroom and closet.

I’m not a girly girl by any stretch of the imagination and rarely use a hair dryer.  I didn’t have a special drawer built with an outlet for plugs when we remodeled only because I don’t use it that often.  The fact remains that it still gets some use, but the cord and shape make storage a nightmare.  Pinterest to the rescue!!

I used a magazine holder and 2 command strips – links below.

Next, I added a 3-tier file rack to the inside of my closet for clutches, wallets, and sunglasses.  Since this is on the heavy side, I used 2 command hooks.

These were super easy to install and up in no time.  I imagine you could use the file rack for jewelry or scarves too!!


Ring Master MomSeptember 7, 2013Leave a comment

Homemade popsicles

Recipe for homemade popsicles

Favorite fruit/s
Greek yogurt

How detailed and scientific am I? Just grab your favorite stuff and let’s get started!

This is a crowd pleasing recipe because it’s just whatever you love, fast to make, and everyone loves a popsicle. I never add sugar or yogurt that contains fruit/sugar just because whatever fruit that you want to use that’s in season will be sweet enough. Combing through your local farmers’ market is a great place to get great deals for homemade popsicles.

For the frozen rainbow below, I used a fork to squish blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries in a bowl. I had a small amount of orange peach juice in my fridge so I added that to the mix for fun. I couldn’t even wait to eat this one and munched a few bites before I remembered to snap a pic.

These popsicles were perfect for the 4th of July for their colors. I used strawberries, raspberries, greek yogurt, and blackberries.

Here’s a link to the popsicle mold I use. It’s super easy to clean which is always a plus.

Enjoy these on a hot summer day with your friends and family!


Ring Master MomSeptember 4, 20135 Comments

It takes a village

Most of us know the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child” and those words seem to ring true once you’re a parent!

James has been working later than usual the past month or so and just left for NYC for work last week and is off for 22 days with Patrick in Australia.  On those late nights, I’ve been doing what I’ve been dreading – making two dinners.  I hated the thought of this when my kids were little because I didn’t want them to eat different food than what I ate.  The only reason I’m doing this is to enjoy a nice warm meal with my hubby rather than eating an earlier dinner with the kids.  It’s so much better sharing a bottle of wine with someone!!

I also want to acknowledge that I’m not complaining at any point.  I always wanted to be a Mom when I grew up and there’s nothing more I love than staying at home with my kids.  We’re not from a military family so I have no idea what other parents actually go through with having to deal with their loved one far away for so long.  This is not a whine post – but an actual question about time management.

Sometimes as I’m picking weeds or mowing the lawn I wonder if I should have someone come and do this.  Or scrub my tubs.  Or even cook a meal or two now and then.  I have friends who have landscapers, maids, chefs, and often wonder when is the time to pass the torch to someone else.  Do I need to since I’m a stay at home Mom?  Also, maybe I should get a babysitter more often so James and I can enjoy a night out and about.  Or maybe just time to recharge for myself.

What do you pay someone to do that you’re just done with?  Or what do you dream of paying someone to do?  Does your significant other give you a special window of time to enjoy yourself – like a Sunday morning coffee/walk through the park with no kids?  I’m curious as to what other families do with their time/money.  It takes a village to raise a child, and I’m thinking someone else from my village needs to give Mama a quick break!  What works best with your family?


Ring Master MomSeptember 3, 2013Leave a comment

22 days of getting things done

I broke my toe 2 days before my kids’ joint birthday party.  Of course I was supposed to be resting and keeping it elevated but Mama’s got things to do!!  Not everything was done before the big day but sometimes I go a little cray-cray with my plans.  Even though my toe is still broken, the bruise is still there but stopped growing finally.  That means it’s healing, right??  😉

In addition to finishing up a few more things around the house, my two boys are gone for 22 days.  This gives me a bit more freedom to get things done I wouldn’t normally like a big fridge and pantry clean.  I know – the fun I have.

The first thing on my list was to go to our local nursery to stock up on all the flowers/bushes/herbs/trees I’ve had my eye on.  I had to get this done ASAP as they’re closing up for the season soon and we are borrowing a friend’s truck.  Also, this truck is stick which I never learned so James had to drive it while I took the kiddies in our other car.  We got to the nursery with my list and changed it up a bit while Alice and Patrick played hide and go seek for an hour.  This was the first of two hauls:

Oh, and we also HAD to do this right away since James and Patrick were leaving for Australia that night.  And James had been gone previously in NYC so I had a little laundry and packing to do.

I figured we’d get the big stuff planted together and I could work in the back with the veggies/fruit/herbs later.  My front yard had other plans.  Apparently there is so much clay mixed in with the dirt that I was ready to install wheels and build a kiln.  It. Was. So. Hard. To. Dig.  James and I took shifts with picks/shovels/watering and got a good chunk done.  We were able to plant 5 rose bushes, 6 small shrubs, 1 hydrangea bush, and a lime, fig, and cherry tree – with 3 varieties!!

I have no idea how I’m going to do the rest without him.  My body’s not in pain, but my hands are so raw from the pick that I had to take a day off.  Luckily the front is seeing progress in the former dirt patch!

Despite the clay soil in the front, I feel like the land around us is very fertile which is what gets me so darn excited to plant in every square inch of our property.  Our neighbors have apricot, apple, every type of citrus tree, tons of berries, squash, etc.  I’m amazed at how often they share their harvest with us, and I do what I can when we had fresh plums.  It’s like our own little farmers’ market sometimes as we trade produce.

Right now we’ve got pumpkins going nuts and lots of sweet corn!

Hopefully I get my second wind back to finish planting the hydrangea bushes, meyer lemon, nectarine, and apple tree (with 6 different varieties!!), artichokes, raspberry bushes, and herbs.  I still have tons on my list, and hopefully I can get lots of cleaning/organizing/work done with the boys away.  More updates on that soon!!