Friday, January 31, 2014

Featured Seller: Michelle from Black Wolf Designs

This week's featured seller is Michelle from Black Wolf Designs. She has cute designs and great prices!

I'm based in New Jersey and I'm a stay-at-home mom with 3 kids, 2 in school and 1 at home with me. I make hand-stamped personalized necklaces and key chains. I have everything from couples' key chains to necklaces with birthstones for Mom or Grandma.

I started hand stamping in November 2013. I was looking for a piece of jewelry that had my kids' birthstones on them. I was on Pinterest and came across some beautiful hand stamped necklaces. I said to myself, "Wow. How do they do that?" So I started researching stamping. The more and more I read about it, the more it just seemed to fit me. I had to try it. I don't know how I never started doing this sooner. I love it!

Check out Black Wolf Designs for more stamped designs. You can also follow Michelle and her shop on Facebook and Instagram.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

10 Safety Tips for Women Traveling Alone

photo by Kolobsek

Whether you are traveling just to the next town or across the country, follow these safety tips to avoid danger when traveling alone.

  1. Don't provide too much information, such as you are traveling alone, to strangers on a plane, in a restaurant, etc.
  2. When checking into a hotel, ask for two keys and don't say, "It's just me."
  3. Before leaving your hotel room, turn the television on, hang the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door, and lock the door. If there is a sliding door in your room, lock that one as well.
  4. Make sure your phone is fully charged and has reception. 
  5. Know the number or location of the nearest police station and hospital.
  6. When driving, know where you are going so you don't have to ask strangers for directions (and thus give away you are lost and alone). Don't rely on a GPS either, as it can often be outdated. Once you arrive, remember to lock your vehicle.
  7. Always let someone know you are on the way, your estimated time of arrival, and the route you are taking. Update the person of any changes. If you are not meeting anyone, let someone from home know where you are going and call them back once you return to your room.
  8. If you are driving alone at night, pull your hair back and wear a man's hat to disguise yourself as a guy.
  9. If you think someone is following you, go to a police/fire station or a public place with lots of people.
  10. Don't walk in low-lit areas. If you have to walk through a poorly lit area to get to your car, talk to a friend on your cell phone until you get to your car safely. Before making the call, get your keys ready, and be watchful during the call. Check the backseat before getting in and immediately lock the doors once inside.
Add any tips you know. Have a safe travel!

adapted and expanded from "Ask Heloise," San Diego Union Tribune, January 20, 2005.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Cheap & Easy Birthday Party Activities

photo by Alessandro Paiva
As cute as I think all the fancy party ideas are, there is no way I would spend all that time and money. My parents didn't either, and I was okay with it because we always had fun without all the frills and expensive entertainment. Here are some tried and true simple birthday party activities all kids love!

  • Park/playground: bring balls, Frisbees, and other outdoor games 
  • Water party: play with water balloons, water guns/squirt bottles (check the dollar store!), or slip n' slides
  • Pool party
  • Scavenger hunt
  • Relay races
  • Bubbles: they make great favors too!
  • Treats: decorate cupcakes, build your own ice cream sundae, or make edible jewelry out of candy and cereal
  • Movie and popcorn
  • Games: musical chairs, pin the tail (handmade), pinata (homemade), Twister, video games, charades, Pictionary  
  • Dancing: teach classic dances like the Hokey Pokey for toddlers and the Electric Slide or Macarena for older kids
  • Balloons: use them for popping games for older kids and favors for younger ones; you can also find balloon decorating kits at some dollar stores
  • Costumes: have each child decorate their own superhero mask or cape, silly hat, or princess crown
  • Crafts: make jewelry, decorate treat bags with stickers
  • Face painting: You can find a cheap kit at Walmart

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Fun and Baubles $10 Store Credit Giveaway [CLOSED]

How many of you love vintage books, particularly Jane Austen? Then this giveaway for $10 to spend at the shop Fun and Baubles is perfect for you! First, a little about the seller:

Hello, I'm Ekatrina, a single 30-something-year-old mommy to a precious little one and currently working on a Biology PhD. In my spare time, I run a few online shops. One, Fun and Baubles, holds vintage treasures and handmade jewelry. It gives me an excuse to poke around old places and bring home unique vintage items to clean up and share, as well as a venue for my artistic jewelry design work. 

The second shop--Cards, Art, and Gifts--highlights my collection of vintage images and Photoshop abilities. It is a paradise for lovers of old books! I clean up beautiful old illustrations and print them on cards and posters. I’m also hoping to add small gift items such as bath salts, magnets, and gourmet hot chocolates to this shop soon.

My third and newest shop is hosted on Zibbet. It contains almost all the items found in my two Etsy shops (except the posters) and is the most likely to feature random sales just because I feel like it.

As if a child, school, and three online shops weren’t enough, I’ve started a blog! You can expect to find recipe reviews, helpful suggestions, DIY projects, and my favorite books, as well as excellent products from around the internet.

Ekatrina sent me a pretty card to review. It is an illustration from Jane Austen's Mansfield Park.

*Lovely selection of illustrations.
*Comes with a self-sealing envelope.
*Shipped in a protective sheet.
*Perfect for many occasions: thank you, bridal shower, anniversary, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, thinking of you, just because, etc. (plus other cards in the shop work for baby showers)
*Great customer service. She sent me that particular card because she read on my blog that I love dancing! How considerate is that?

*Sturdier card stock would make the cards feel more professional.

One of you will win $10 to her Zibbet store. If you already see something you like, use the coupon MOTHERHOOD for 12% off your purchase from the Zibbet shop!

1 entry: Visit Fun and Baubles on Zibbet and tell me what you would get with the $10.

1 entry: Subscribe to Ekatrina's mailing list to be notified of sales.

1 entry each (2 total possible): Heart Fun and Baubles or Cards, Art, and Gifts on Etsy. Leave your username.

1 entry: Pin any item to Pinterest.

1 entry: Follow this blog on Google Friend Connect.

1 entry: Like The Hand That Rocks the Cradle on Facebook. Leave your username.

1 entry each (4 total possible): Post this giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or your blog.

  • Please leave a separate comment for each entry. 
  • Please leave your email address in one of your comments so I can contact you if you win.
  • All entries must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. PST on Saturday, February 1. 
  • This giveaway is open worldwide.

Thursday, January 16, 2014


So far my wish for Caden and Gabe has come true: they are loving brothers who get in trouble together. For example, a couple weeks ago, the boys were supposed to be napping. Instead, I heard a rattling noise and laughing and squealing. When I went in to see what was going on, I saw Gabe kicking against the crib slats, Caden laughing hysterically, and Gabe squealing in reply.

Funny sleeping face.

Sunday night we put Caden's tent back into his room. The next day I was babysitting a baby two months younger than Gabe and was feeding her in the rocking chair while the boys were in their room. It was suddenly quiet, so I checked them. They were both in the tent!

"Caden," I asked, "did you pick up Gabe?" He had tried a few days before and I told him he couldn't.

"No," he answered.

I thought for a second, "Did you roll him in there?"


Finally rolling to his tummy.

Gabe was content, so I knew he wasn't hurt. He started rolling December 30. Before that, he could only roll from his tummy to his back, but now he rolls around everywhere and gets mad when he hits something and can't roll any further. He screeches when he's frustrated (or ignored). But he easily smiles and laughs.

Now that he can roll, he gets stuck in the crib often.

When he gets tired of holding his head up he just lies there sucking his thumb.

He recently discovered his hand. He just stares at it. He also knows it can do stuff, but doesn't realize when he's using it. He can reach for and grab toys and put them in his mouth; he waves his arm up and down violently to sign milk, potty, and sleep. Although he started signing early, as soon as I introduced more signs, he made them all the same.

Gabe tarted sucking other fingers besides his thumb. Last night I saw him sucking his two middle fingers backwards, just the way Caden used to! They are definitely brothers.

Caden at about the same age.

Caden loves giving Gabe hugs and kisses and says "good morning" to him in a high voice every time Gabe wakes up. Caden still loves helping me with Gabe; he even washed Gabe's hair and tummy during his bath last night. (Gabe loves bath time, but hates being washed.) Caden thinks everything Gabe does is funny; everything, that is, except roll onto his toys. Just wait until he starts crawling! Then the fights will begin. But for now, the brothers are best friends.

Caden has been doing crazy things of his own too. He is still my cute little monkey!

Whenver Caden wears pjs with an animal on it, he pretends to be that animal. But one he gets dressed in the morning, he says, "I'm not a [insert animal] anymore!"

He got more trains tracks for Three Kings Day.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Featured Seller: Liga & Guntis of Klik Klak Blocks

This week's featured sellers are Liga and Guntis of Klik Klak Blocks.

We are a young family from Latvia with two lovely kids, Valters (3 years) and Paula (6 months).  Our family business is making handmade natural wooden toy building blocks for children. We first thought about producing wooden blocks when Valters was about 2 years old. We wanted him to have the best-quality toy blocks made from natural wood: organic, non-toxic, and completely safe. Watching him playing with the blocks, we understood it's worth trying to make the same joy for other children. So we founded a small company, bought all the necessary equipment, and started making blocks. The name of the blocks was given after hearing their sound while our son was playing with them: klik klak klik klak.

First we made an e-shop in Latvia*. People loved our wooden blocks and suggested we sell internationally. We opened online shops on Etsy and ArtFire. It’s just the very beginning now and we are extremely happy about every sale we get. It’s such a special moment for us! Our values are personal attitude and high quality.

Our wooden toy building blocks are made just like the ones we had in our own childhood: big enough for playing, smooth for little fingers, and no sharp edges. All the blocks are made of the highest quality pine and are treated with natural linseed oil. Why pine? Not only because of its great look and texture, but also because of its great qualities. Pine energetically is a "giving" kind of wood. You can feel it yourself: take the toy in your hands and you will feel the warmth. Pine also increases immunity, gives positive energy, and takes stress away.

We sometimes are asked why wooden blocks are better than plastic ones. We always answer that the main difference between plastic and wooden blocks is the wooden ones are alive! They really are! They give you the positive energy of wood while playing with them. You could never get that from plastic toys.

Although we are new online sellers, there is one thing we can advise: love what you do and make it as personal as possible. We love sharing personal stories and many customers have written us that they love it. For example, our 50 Christmas wooden blocks are much more popular than the others because there’s a very personal story behind them and we shared it online: 
Our son, Valters, is 3.5 years old and loves playing with the building blocks made by his Dad. Every day after coming home from preschool we hear different kind of sounds while he is playing with the blocks - he imagines them to be cars, trains, bikes, telephones, TVs, etc. - and he builds houses, castles, and towers. Valters has a very special friend at his preschool, a cute girl called Jenny. One evening we asked Valters about his wishes on Christmas presents. He answered that he would like to receive new books from Santa Claus. Then we asked, "And what about your girlfriend Jenny? What would she want to receive on Christmas?" He answered, "I will give her a part of my wooden blocks." We asked,"Why?" And he seriously answered, "Then we both will be able to build a bridge to each other's house."

*Latvia is one of the European Union countries. It’s a small country – just a little bit more than 2 million inhabitants – so our main value is people. We have amazing talents living in Latvia. We are proud of our first Olympic Champion in BMX, Maris Strombergs; we are proud of our Maestro, Raimonds Pauls, who creates great compositions; we are proud of our most popular band, BrainStorm; we are proud of so many great people who have done big things to make our small country known worldwide. Latvia is also a very green country with lots of woods, parks, and green territories. We love that! Our capital city, Riga, is a well-known city worldwide and popular destination. Our family lives in Valmiera, which is eighth largest city in Latvia, about 100 km away from Riga.

Check out Klik Klak Blocks for more amazing block sets and other wooden trinkets. You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter.

Friday, January 10, 2014

3 Easy Ways to Cook Brussels Sprouts

Italian style

The first time I had Brussels sprouts I was 10 years old. I like vegetables and I'm pretty open to trying new things, but I did not like the sprouts and I never ate them again. Until recently. I learned in The Costco Connection that the probable reason people don't like Brussels sprouts is most people serve them boiled, which makes them mushy and bland. I then read how to prepare and cook them. The next time I went to Costco, I bought a large bag of Brussels sprouts and tried out the 2 recipes from the magazine. We loved them, especially the second one. The last recipe is how I cook asparagus to eat with Italian meals, and it worked for Brussels sprouts too. I hope you give them a try and like them!

"Cut the sprouts from the stalk, if applicable. Then rinse them thoroughly and cut off the white stems on the base of each sprout, taking care not to cut through all of the leaves. Peel off a few outer leaves, especially if any have brown spots."1

Roasted Brussels Sprouts2
  • 1 lb. Brussels sprouts
  • 2 tbs. olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Chop sprouts in half lengthwise and place, halved sides up, on a baking sheet.
  2. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Roast for 15-20 minutes, or until tender.
Soy-Glazed Brussels Sprouts3
  • 6 cups thinly sliced Brussels sprouts
  • 1 cup thinly sliced onion
  • 2 tbs. soy sauce
  • 2 tbs. sesame oil
  • 1 tbs. balsamic vinegar
  1. Preheat oven to 450 F. Toss Brussels sprouts, onion, soy sauce, and sesame oil together in a large bowl until well coated.
  2. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (I didn't use it and it came out fine; it was just harder to clean the sheet).
  3. Bake for 15 minutes or until tender. Sprinkle balsamic vinegar on top (you can also try adding the vinegar to the mixture instead).
Italian-Style Brussels Sprouts
  • 1 lb. Brussels sprouts
  • 2 tbs. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs (or use plain and add Italian seasoning)
  • 1/8 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Chop sprouts in half lengthwise.
  2. Toss Brussels sprouts, olive oil, bread crumbs, and Parmesan cheese together in a large bowl until well coated.
  3. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until tender
1. Medina, Hana, "Sprout shout-out," The Costco Connection, October 2013, p. 37.
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Unique Baby Names

No, I'm not pregnant again, but it's always good to be on the lookout for cute names. I came across most of these in an Etsy forum discussion. I seem to like Greek names. And you can tell I'm hoping for a girl next!

  • Orion: Justin likes this one. It sounds strong, just like the hunter in the constellation.
  • Atlas : I like this one better. Remember, it was a name before it meant a collection of maps!
  • Penelope: Penny is a cute nickname too.
  • Athena: My favorite! The goddess of wisdom.
  • Athea: A variation of the above.
  • Avaline: I like it pronounced "lean" not "line."
  • Alouette: Cute in theory, but this is one I wouldn't use, because the way I pronounce it (silent e at the end) makes it sound like an Italian guy saying "all wet."
  • Wren: I first came across this one years ago in the comic strip Baby Blues. I didn't like it then, but now I think it's cute.
  • Red: In the TV show Once Upon a Time, Little Red Riding Hood simply goes by Red and I love it!
  • Felicity: Yes, like the American Girl doll. Justin doesn't care for it, but his mom does!
Other names I like that aren't unique
  • Lucy: Justin thinks it's too old fashioned.
  • Delilah: Lovely, but unusable because she was a bad girl in the Bible.
  • Sophia: Everyone and their dog are named Sophia, so I wouldn't use it, but it's still a pretty name.
Which do you like? What other unique baby names are your favorites?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Featured Seller: Jessica from Buns and Bows

This week's featured seller is Jessica from Buns and Bows. She is a very talented artist!

Hello! My name is Jessica and I am the proud owner of three beautiful bunnies. I have always enjoyed painting digitally (using a pen tablet and Photoshop); however, it was my rabbits that inspired me to paint their portraits.

I have really come to know my bunnies' individual personalities. One particular bun seems to think she is the queen of our apartment! This gave me the idea to paint on accessories which help show off the characteristics of each pet. It is great having the power to turn a cute little bun in to a gangster with gold bling!

Check out Buns and Bows for more adorable portraits and gift ideas for your pet owner friend. You can also find Buns and Bows on Twitter and check out Jessica's site for cute photos of her bunnies and guinea pig.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014 Goals

I cannot believe it is 2014! Last year's milestone was our family of 3 becoming a family of 4. Because of my horrendous morning sickness, I did not do goals for 2013 and therefore have nothing to recap. However, we did improve on one thing the past couple weeks: limiting Caden's TV time (Netflix, really). He is now only allowed to watch 1 thing before nap and 1 thing after, totaling 1-4 hours daily depending on what he chooses. That is a massive improvement from the shameful 6-8 hours he would spend, which was the result of my spending all day lying on the couch and puking in the toilet the first half of my pregnancy and trying to nap the second half. But no more excuses now.

The only goal I have for Caden this year is to engage him in educational activities: hands-on learning, ASL, more outdoor time and field trips, purposeful play, and educational books from the library.

Gabe is already further along than Caden was at that age, so the only area we need to work on is sleeping longer stretches at night. I need to go to bed earlier and try to get him back to sleep before resorting to nursing.

As for me, I have so many goals that it would be impossible to keep them, forcing me to narrow them down to the 3 most important (and detailed):
  1. Have a healthy lifestyle for the whole family
    • Cook dinner daily: plan meals, shop smart
    • Exercise 3 times a week: once in the gym, once out running, once at home
    • Play Just Dance on the Kinect and take the boys outside the other 3 days (Sunday is rest day)
    • Support Justin's weight loss goals: prepare him snacks, cook dinner, encourage him to work out, stop late-night snacking
    • Get everyone to bed earlier
  2. Write
    • Submit 6 manuscripts by the end of the year
    • Write more articles on this blog
    • Post weekly again on my Mormon Light blog
    • Write by hand to improve my handwriting (it used to be really nice!)
    • Read current children's books and magazines as research and inspiration
  3. Stick to a budget
    • Create a monthly budget
    • Cook dinner daily and travel with snacks to limit eating out
    • Plan more free family activities
What are your goals for the year?
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