Monday, December 31, 2012

The Best Gifts We Gave This Year

It's getting tricky to find good gifts for family nowadays. It seems we all have everything we could ever want and need, and although we realize this is a tremendous blessing, it makes holiday shopping a little frustrating. 

This year, my hubby's amazing family had the BEST idea EVER for Christmas shopping. 

They handed us a list and asked for donations to the United Methodist Home for Children. Wow. Absolutely yes.

So my husband went through the list and picked out the items that reminded him of experiences he's shared with his family (camping, fishing, cooking, creating art). And then it was time to shop!
With all sorts of fantastic goodies gathered, we divvied up the gifts into two boxes to give to our family to donate. 

Because my husband connects fishing with Grandpa and cooking with Grandma, we gave them the box that contained the fishing rod and beautiful new dutch oven. 

And, triggered by memories of my husband's childhood, Mom and Dad got the sporty and artistic donation, with knee pads, a sleeping bag and a notebook for sketching. 
Both donation boxes included some of the essentials we know all children need- toothbrushes, Band-Aids, rubbing alcohol, socks and undies. 

I don't think I've ever felt more excited to give a gift in my life, because isn't this what Christmas should really be about anyway? 

GIVING to those who truly have need-
GIVING without the selfish satisfaction of seeing the receiver's joy-
GIVING to share love and kindness with children who need to know that there is goodness in the world, despite the difficult hands they've been dealt-

Handing over the boxes for our family to donate was the truest part of Christmas for me this year. Something in my heart changed. Something about the holiday changed. THIS is a part of what Christmas should be, to me. We're gonna make this a habit.

If you're down to make a donation, check out the children's Wish List here. Every little bit counts.

Here's to a wonderful new year!
May our glasses be full, our hearts open and our spirits willing to share the love!

Where do you donate throughout the year? Tell us about the people and causes you support. 

P.S. "Like" From My Hearth to Yours on Facebook here for news, updates and reader tips

Friday, December 28, 2012

Where in the World?-Teaching Geography

"Where in the world did your kid learn THAT?" 

We get asked this question frequently when our 4-year-old starts pointing out Kazakhstan and Algeria on world maps. 

The truth is- well yeah, I taught her, but although I made teaching geography into a game around here, memory retained the knowledge way better than mine has. Girlfriend corrects ME when I mix up the order of Norway, Sweden and Finland. For real. Kids remember this stuff. 

So here's how I fostered a geography buff... 

It all started with this old placemat I'd had lying around the house since the beginning of time. As soon as our daughter moved out of her highchair, at about 2-years-old, I used this mat to serve her meals. 

Because kiddo gets a lil' whiny when she's waiting for Chef Ma to serve up the goods, I always give her Cheerios to tide her over while I'm cooking. 
Place Cheerios on various countries and watch your kid EAT geography up!
For fun, I began placing the Cheerios on different locations on the placemat world map. As she'd eat each Cheerio, I'd tell her the name of the "place" she'd just eaten. 

This kid LOVED the game! After I'd pronounce each location, I'd ask her to repeat it and point to the spot where she'd eaten the Cheerio to establish a second connection with recall. I couldn't believe how quickly she soaked up the information.

To seal the deal, I'd tell her a bit of information about each place to help her retain knowledge. The stories definitely helped with recall. She could find Australia easily, for example, because she enjoyed the tale of the Great Barrier Reef- where all the Great White sharks live and where Nemo was released into the ocean. 

But more truth? There are a whole lotta countries I don't know much about at all! We began choosing one country each day and looked up Youtube videos to get a sample of what each place was really like. This was so interesting for BOTH of us, and we found ourselves getting really intrigued by new places.
Rand McNally US Wall Map
Soon, I brought out an old world map from my classroom and hung it on her playroom wall. Now we could practice locating countries away from her placemat. Again, I was stunned at how good recall was. By the time she was three, she could correctly locate over 40 countries around the world. 

As our child's knowledge grew, I realized that she was having trouble conceptualizing the roundness of the world. Since her maps were flat, she began asking why I'd say China was on the opposite side of the world. I knew I needed a round globe to help her see what I meant.

I hopped on and ordered a Hugg-A-Planet pillow that is awesome! Now, she had an incredible, portable and snuggly visual aid that she could keep in her bedroom to play with and to learn more about geography. We love this pillow! Great score. 
World map pillow
Hugg-A-Planet pillow
Next I realized that, although this brainiac could point out Peru and Saudi Arabia with no problem, our next step was to learn about the ol' U.S of A! 

I started out by ordering a Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wooden USA Map Puzzle from Amazon and then set up a United States placemat next to her world mat. We'd play the Cheerio game on the placemat and put the puzzle together every day, talking about key features of the states as we learned. 

Again, we'd watch Youtube videos about places we found fascinating, observing Old Faithful erupt when Wyoming was discussed, checking out the Grand Canyon's aerial view when we learned about Arizona. You get the idea.

Next, I ordered a Rand McNally US Wall Map from Amazon and added it to the playroom wall. I'd ask her to find California, where some of her aunties live- find Florida, where the alligators hang out- find Louisiana, where The Princess and the Frog takes place. Our geographer would hop back and forth pointing out the locations as we'd play. Freakin' AWESOME!

My husband also brought home a large map so our kids can check out our home state as well. Soon, I stopped verbally asking her to, "Find Arkansas. Find Indonesia." Instead, I tried pointing to each location myself and asked her to say the name of the country or state. This requires a deeper level of thinking and recall, and again, I was floored by how easily she correctly responded. 
Adding a wall decal helps kids locate US states in their own space. 
Hearing about the geography craze in our house, a friend of mine gave our daughter a U.S.A. wall map. The decal is removable when you wish, so there's no need to worry about ruining the paint on your walls. Super cool!

Teaching geography has been a wonderful learning experience for everyone in our house! The way our daughter has picked up this information has really shown me what an incredible capacity a kiddo's brain has for learning when you make fun activities out of the lessons. 

But now, we all really want to go on a vacation around the world...

What's that about? I wonder. 

Know any cool tools or tricks for enriching learning geography? We're always down to learn more! Send us ideas!

What a wonderful world! Let's learn all about it!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Holiday Eye Candy

So how was it, friends? Was your Christmas merry and bright? This year, while we were visiting our family in Jers, I noticed how hard my family works to create the most amazing holiday ambiance. 
Coming up the front walkway. So purdy!
In order to celebrate all the hard work my folks put into their decorations, my Mama and I took a walk around her house to select some of our favorite scenes. Check it out! These two really know how to put it ON for Christmas. 
Holiday mantle
The mantle is decorated with more Santas than you can count! And lemme tell ya, there are some unique designs up there. A FIG Santa? Yeah, weird...but kind of cute. Maybe?
You could make a game out of counting all the Santas, for sure.
And the "main" tree is lovely as ever...loaded with ornaments that trigger countless memories. Oh, the nostalgia!
I'm crazy about the glow of a Christmas tree.
Because one tree is just never enough in Jersey, here's the "Santa Tree" (Yes. MORE Santas!) right next to the stained glass Nativity scene my grandmother made. All aglow...
My grandmother's stained glass looks gorgeous with the Christmas lights.
Speaking of grandma- she didn't mess around when it came to Christmas either. I always marvel at the dozens of ornaments she made by hand. Using a styrofoam ball, beads, pins and trimmings, she made a new regal decorative ball each year. My mom now hangs some from the dining room chandelier. They're stunning!
My favorite is the white one in the back, with the diamonds in the middle. Grandma called this one "The Crown Jewels" so I'd always seek it out at Christmas.
And lastly, my most favorite decoration of all is always my grandmother's handmade, stained glass village. She created all these cute little houses, and placed small lightbulbs inside each one. I used to spend hours playing with the little figures that lived in this winter wonderland. Coolest decoration EVER! Way to go, grandma!
Is it weird that I STILL want to play with this village? Rhetorical. No. 
Sound of Music style- these are a few of my favorite things!

The best part about taking the pics for this post was simply walking around my childhood home, arm in arm with my mama, gabbing about Christmases past and remembering those we have loved and shared time with through the years. 

And then to watch my daughters following along, dancing in the lights, taking it all in and making new memories of their own? Icing on the cake. 

We hope your Christmas was bright and are sending you extra love for an amazing new year!

What holiday decoration triggers the best memories in your childhood home? Don't you love getting taken back?

Friday, December 21, 2012

LOVE to you and yours...

There has been a lot of intensity in the air over the past week, huh?

As affected as I've been by the bombardment of news in the past seven days, a beautiful friend of mine reminded me to never let my heart harden, to be open to forgiveness and the love that is everywhere.

And I've held onto that sentiment with every bit of my being over the past few days. I hope you have too. As difficult as "news" can be sometimes, there is love, light and goodness all around us. 

This holiday, we're letting go of stress. We'll hug a little tighter, snuggle a little longer, smile a little sweeter, love with all we've got. 
Let's celebrate the goodness in the hearts of our brothers and sisters this year, the beauty in the spirit of kindness, bravery, selflessness and love. 

We're sending all the love we can muster up, and then some, to the families up north, and to all of you. Cherish every beautiful moment, my friends, and have yourselves the most love love loving holiday together with your friends and families!

The world certainly didn't end. It's only just beginning. Let's fill 2013 with more love and goodness than ever before, because the good guys always win in the end. We've got this.

Happy holidays!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Toilet Talk

Toilet talk, anyone?

I debated whether or not I was going to actually write about this, if I was really going to go there. But if we always skirt around icky conversations because we're afraid of taboo topics, how will we ever make positive progress? Progress in regards to toilets?!? Yup. I'm getting there.
So today we'll be discussing poo, and when we're done here, I'll have given you the info you need to get yourself or someone you love the cleanest arse in town. Get ready to deal with it, friends! Or to stop dealing with it. Your arse, that is.

The low down (expect puns galore in this post) here is that, unfortunately, many members of my family have "issues" when it's time to hit up the bathroom. It seems like many people I know and love simply dread dumpin'- but now, in this house, everything has changed!
Check out the spraying device, located in the back of the seat. This is where the magic happens.
A family member, who had decided to take action against miserable pooping, advised us to take the plunge and get a Bio Bidet Supreme BB-1000, a "smart" toilet seat, designed to make your bathroom experience...more leisurely. And you know what? Ever since we've installed this queen of clean, my family members are seriously psyched for toilet time.

*Please note that this is NOT a sponsored post. As always, I'm simply writing about something that our family digs.

We ordered our system from, because they had the best package deal, a travel bidet and 2 free carbon water filters included as a bonus. The package arrived in one week, and my husband had the entire seat installed, connected and ready to use within an hour. The only requirement is that you must have an outlet near your toilet, as the system plugs in for potty power. 

So what does this crazy toilet seat actually DO, you ask? What DOESN'T it do would be a more fitting question.

Just getting warmed up- with your handy remote control, if you wish, you can opt to activate an internal heater so the toilet seat will be warm when you're ready for biz in the colder seasons. If you frequently hit up the bathroom at night, no more frosty seats.

The grind of it is simple- you do your thang in there, and once you're done, you use your trusty remote to do the dirty work. You can choose a "posterior" or "feminine" wash- where a stream of water (you control the temperature and pressure from the remote- and you can even set it to massage or pulsate if you wish) hoses down your nethers till you're clean as can be. And for those who are hurtin'- the "vortex" feature is intended to literally clean you out if you're having trouble in there or feeling backed up.
The remote is very easy to use. My 4-year-old thinks it's the coolest thing ever. 
Once you're all spiffed up, hit the fan button for a warm drying blast from below. It's like sticking your hands under one of those dryers in a public restroom...only a lot more interesting. 

Living with stinkers? No problem. As soon as the seat detects pressure, it activates a built-in air deodorizer with a carbon filter, so the Bio Bidet is fighting funk at all costs. Down with stankin'!

All in all, this thing is completely awesome. Who'd ever think it would be FUN to go to the bathroom?

This fully loaded toilet (ok- now that's taking puns a little too far) is great for days when you have to skip a full body shower and still want to feel de-funk-ified. It's really just what you need if you're looking to add some luxury to "go time" at home.

Gettin' duty done in style, three cheers for the Bio Bidet!

If you know someone who'd be down to smarten up their commode before Christmas, Amazon Prime offers two day shipping on the BB-1000. You can grab one here for a last minute "blow your mind" gift. Make sure you know if the toilet is round or elongated and prepare to give up time with the recipient, since he/she will be giggling in the bathroom all day.

Have a happy go time!
XOXO From My Hearth to Yours

Found any amazing new inventions that make your life a lil' easier? Tell us about them!

P.S. "Like" From My Hearth to Yours on Facebook here for news, updates and reader tips

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Dog Days- Canine TPLO Surgery

For the parents of pooches who have received the kick in the gut news about a torn ACL, we've been there and back- THREE times! We hope this post helps you get through this miserable experience with assurance that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You can do this!

A few years ago, our Rottweiler/Black Lab mix, Kaine, was out playing in the yard when I heard a freakish yelp. I was sure something serious had happened, and when our usually strong and agile dog limped into the house with his tail curled in, my fear was confirmed.
Dog torn ACL
Kaine's torn ACL would continue to cause problems if left uncorrected. Read more about canine ACL injuries here.
After a visit to our vet, we learned that Kaine had torn his ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and that excruciatingly expensive orthopedic surgery was strongly recommended. The four month intensive recovery would be arduous at best.
Dog torn ACL
Kaine's stitches after his first surgery
Because of Kaine's large size, our doctors recommended TPLO (tibial-plateau-leveling-osteotomy) surgery, but they were straight with us. There was a good chance that the other ACL could tear now that our dog had ripped through one. Without this corrective operation, Kaine would likely live in chronic pain with crippling arthritis in his later years.

Was there really a choice? Oh, the news was painful, but we love our beastly mongrel to bits and knew we 'd have to go ahead with the surgery.
Dog torn ACL
Strict confinement is mandatory for the first 4 months after surgery. This was Kaine's "home" while he recovered.
So we stormed through the difficult process...and proving Murphy's Law does, in fact, exist- exactly one year after his first operation, deja vu poo poo. Kaine blew out his other ACL. Ugh!

We repeated the entire miserable experience again with the other leg, thinking this HAD to be it. He had no more ACLs to tear! But alas...
Dog torn ACL
Just when we thought the nightmare had ended...
Another year passed after Kaine's 2nd surgery when the limping and whining began again. We learned that the angle cut in the bone during the 2nd operation (we took Kaine to a different surgeon the second time...BAD idea) was at an improper angle. The surgery would need to be repeated to be corrected. We could barely stomach the news. 
Dog torn ACL
Actual titanium parts from inside Kaine's leg. After his botched surgery, my husband asked to keep the "parts" from the failed operation. The circle is a quarter- used only to show scale. 
Three surgeries, 4 months of recovery each, over $10,000 in orthopedic surgical bills, seemed almost too much to fathom. But what was our alternative? Put our guy to sleep? Watch him suffer every day of his life? We had to do it. One. Last. Time. 
Dog torn ACL
Stitches after third surgery
While Kaine was in surgery, we spent time preparing our home for the recovery period. For four months, he had to stay STRICTLY confined to a very small space so that he could not jump up on anything, attempt any stairs, run, slip or jostle his recovering leg in any way. Crating is strongly recommended for the first few weeks. We used the side of an old baby crib and tied it to his crate to create a fenced-in area where he would have enough room to stretch out but could not break any of the "rules" for recovery. 
Dog torn ACL
Side of old baby crib tied to Kaine's crate"
Next, we added lots of padding for Kaine's comfort. When the dog initially comes home after surgery, compresses are needed, and the wound tends to get a bit weepy. We added old sheets to the top of his area so that we could easily remove and wash them frequently.
Dog torn ACL
Kaine's "Zen" space. His food and water were elevated next to the fireplace so he wouldn't knock them over with his cone. An Elizabethan collar (cone) was required for the first two weeks until the stitches were removed. 
For the first few weeks, a sling is required to support the dog and to prevent slipping on the bad leg. Because he could not attempt any stairs as part of the recovery, we set up a ramp to get him in and out of the house for bathroom trips.
Dog torn ACL

Homemade ramp with old carpet on top to prevent slipping
We had to make a calendar to help us keep track of Kaine's medication schedule. The prescribed tranquilizers made our dog very wacky, so we gave him only the smallest doses when absolutely necessary.
Dog torn ACL
The tranquilizers made Kaine way too loopy for our comfort. In this photo, he wasn't even aware that his FACE was smushed against the crate. We didn't like giving him this medication. 
Dog torn ACL
After only HALF the recommended dose of tranquilizers, look at Kaine's EYES! We refused to give him these pills again after this experience. He could barely stand up to eat or go to the bathroom. Not fun. 
After Kaine's follow up appointment, about two weeks after the procedure, compresses could be stopped, the stitches were removed and the uncomfortable cone was finally removed from his poor head. Through all three surgeries, we were strict about keeping it on (only removing it so that he could eat and drink) so that Kaine couldn't gnaw at his stitches and irritate the wound. Ditching the cone is relieving. 
Dog torn ACL
And from there, we took it one day at a time. In Kaine's third month of recovery, although still confined indoors, he was allowed and encouraged to exercise outdoors on a leash. He went out for two walks a day, increasing in length and speed, so that he could begin to build up muscle in the wounded leg. We started taking him on hikes with steeper inclines, as our surgeon recommended, to get him using all the different muscles that had deteriorated from the injury. 
Dog torn ACL
Gradually increase activity on leash
The muscle in the recovering leg was severely atrophied, so it was imperative that we continued exercising him to build muscle mass in order to prevent future injuries. Physical therapy was strongly recommended. 

Kaine now takes a glucosamine with chondroitin supplement and a prescribed doxycycline antibiotic daily, both used to slow the progression of severe arthritis. He does get a little stiff every now and then, so we're sure to keep up with his daily supplements.

After ALL this...Kaine is one happy dog, I tell ya. He's back to his crazy, barkin' sprintin' pouncin' stinkin' self, that's for sure. He has no problem hightailing it after a squirrel or clearing the deck stairs in one giant leap in an attempt to check out who has pulled into the driveway. Should he be doing that? But try to stop a stubborn old man from doing his will.

Kaine is still always down for an adventure, leaping into the car as soon as any door opens. He's an active dude, and we are confident that we made the right choices in going ahead with these surgeries every time we see his face while he's on the go.
Smilin' in the back seat- heading out for a hike.
It was a rough ride for all of us, but it was worth it. Every day that we watch him frolic and play, we know we made the right moves. We've given Kaine a much better quality of life. Yup, I'd say that, after forking out college tuition costs on this dude, he's definitely spoiled. 
King Kaine, in all his glory
Three cheers for happy mongrels! If you have any questions about TPLO surgery and or recovery, please feel free to ask. We're happy to help. Again, after three runs, we've got this down to a science. Remember that you can and will get through it, and that your pooch will love you for it. Hang in there through the dog days- there's sunshine on the other side!

Has your pet ever undergone surgery? What was the experience like, and what tricks did you learn to get through the recovery?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Real People Feature: Joel Finsel

Who are you?
a student, a teacher, a writer, a husband, and professional stirrer of cocktails. I started bartending in order to pay the bills while I wrote a novel, expecting to go back into teaching at some point down the line (which I still intend to do someday). 

While working in Philadelphia at The Astral Plane, my boss asked me to create a drink for the city's Cocktail Classic, mainly because he felt it was easier to take his bartender than his chef and all the necessary equipment. By some obscene stroke of luck, I won, beating out thirty or so other restaurants. Things snowballed and I felt drawn to continue making drinks, eventually having recipes published in Cosmopolitan, The Inquirer and getting write-ups on and Bartender magazine. 
I also wrote the novel, tried to sell it, realized it sucked, and started another one. It's been a fun ride, and I still tend bar a few times a week for the cash, but continue to transition out as more writing opportunities present themselves.

I did have some luck with Cocktails & Conversations from the Astral Plane, my memoir of bartending in Philly told through the characters I encountered, along with essays on all the different spirits (rum, gin, absinthe, etc.) and some recipes.

Since moving to Wilmington, North Carolina in 2005, I've been writing two biographies, both about artists. One is available online in blog format here. The other is to be published next year. 

I'm also in the final editing stages of a second novel, which I think might actually be good enough to sell so figures crossed. Most recently I signed on for a year long post as research assistant to John Jeremiah Sullivan as he pens his fifteen years of research about an early 18th century Saxon utopianist who tries to form history's first Republic deep in Native American territory.

My wife, Jess James, is a fashion journalist/stylist who writes weekly Fashion Fix newsletter that started off as a newspaper column. 
What is the best advice you've ever given or received and why?
To "follow your bliss," from Joseph Campbell who, after a career studying myths and folklore from around the world, concluded that this was the true path in all our lives.  

Also, I've found that 'to listen more than to talk' is important. This little nugget opens up the world to one's senses in mysterious ways. 

What has been the greatest challenge in your life and why?
Figuring out who I really was and how I wanted my world to be. I used to think that Truth was something I would find by getting drunk or high while reading the depressing classical works of those lionized in literature before me.  

Then, at one point, I learned how important humor was to the equation, and it changed everything. I realized I didn't need to take life so seriously, that humor was the place where good and evil met and dispelled each other. 

What has been the greatest joy in your life and why?
After years of contemplation, one day I just decided that I wasn't going to be afraid of anything anymore. It was the most liberating experience in my life. 

I owe a great deal of that to Jess, my wife, who keeps me out of the occasional brooding funk I still find myself in from time to time like when contemplating climate change or overpopulation.
What is one thing you have not done that you really want to do and why?  
I really would like to hike the Appalachian Trail and just spend more time hiking and camping in general.

As a kid, Boy Scout camping was a big part of my life and I was always building lean-to's and campfires at every opportunity. Seems so romantic now, but the reality of it is a lot of hard work, but it's also satisfying on many levels. 

I've always had this urge to vagabond travel around the world, though it fades as I grow older. Maybe when I'm ready to retire, I'll start in Ireland to see a few old friends before heading west, stopping throughout Europe, then Russia, China, India and Japan, Cambodia, Laos, and just keep going as long as I could manage before some strange disease or wild animal claims me.
What a cool cat, huh? 

And speaking of cool...not being afraid? That's what I'm talking about, people. So many of us are held back from positive change because we are afraid- afraid of failure, of rejection, of the "What Ifs" that knock us off our game. It's high time we start pushing ourselves to rise above the fear that tries to tie us down. Good one, Joel!

Oooooh- aren't camping/hiking adventures just the greatest? Joel's vagabond travels sound like a dream to me. Send us pictures, brutha! 

We're sending Joel lots of love and thanks for sharing his scene with us, and we can't wait to hear more about the upcoming biography. Stay tuned at to keep up with our author extraordinaire! I'll take an autographed copy...

 If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go? Egypt is calling my name...

P.S. If you'd like to participate in a Real People Feature, send me a message at or comment below. We'd love to hear from you.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Kickin' Back with Docs

Another shout out for the ole' shopping season? Let's kick it, peeps!

Flashback to my high school years- when my partners and crime and I would hop the train into NYC for a day of shopping and teeny-bopping. Twas then when I made one of my best purchases to date. 

Ah 15-years-old, I used the dough I'd earned from lifeguarding to buy me some maroon Dr. Martens boots.

And people, I am STILL wearing these suckas today. The very same pair. Holy bagonzos!
*This is NOT a sponsored post. The opinions expressed here are my own. Just writing about something that I think is rad!
I'm still kind of in disbelief. I mean, really. These boots have lasted almost HALF MY LIFETIME! And they just keep on trucking.
I didn't even clean them up for these shots. After all this time, there is mild scuffing on the leather on the toes and the mildest wear on the soles. The only major drag has been the ripping of the Dr. Martens tab (which helps pull the boot onto your foot) on the back of one boot. That's IT. There's nothing else to complain about after years and years and years of wear. Pretty dang impressive!
At 16, I hopped that train to head back in for my Dr. Martens mary janes- and yup...I'm still rockin' these, too! These are a bit more banged up inside- the inner lining ripped out of one shoe- but I just added a new insert and now they're good to go.

Three cheers for Dr. Martens!

Sometimes it seems like companies are scammin' hard, selling low quality products for high prices just to make a buck.

Dr. Martens ain't messing around with that sneaky biz. They're still making durable, high quality shoes with fine craftsmanship. And these babies are built to last.

If my kids' feet weren't growing so crazy fast, they'd both be stompin' in Docs this season. With all the cool new designs, maybe I'll be treating myself to a new pair soon. Hmmm...

The nineties might be over, but the Docs- the Docs last forever.

Have you ever made a purchase that turned out to be a complete score- that withstood the tests of time? Tell us about it! 

XOXO From My Hearth to Yours

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Real People Feature: Shachar G. Scott

Carambola, Venezuela
Who are you?

I am a mom to the most adorable twins in the world, Morgan and Riley (fondly known as "RiMo"). I am a wife to the best husband. I am a sister and daughter. And I'd like to think I am also an awesome aunt to 10 nieces and nephews! 

I love to travel and am super hard working and ambitious (I have two full-time jobs). I co-founded The Taco Truck and also work for Apple. I am a passionate photographer. And, I am a Sabra (a Hebrew term used to describe a native-born Israeli and also the prickly pear cactus where the word is derived, which is appropriate considering my sweet and mushy inside and my stubborn and bold outside).
Shachar Scott
Carnitas Taco from The Taco Truck
What is the best advice you've ever given or received and why?

During a recent conversation with a colleague who also juggles it all -- working at Apple, two kids, small business owner, etc. -- she recently said, "You can't be amazing at everything all at once." 

If you are a shitty wife one day, make sure you are not shitty the next day, too. If you're a shitty employee the next day, make up for it by going above and beyond the day after. Find balance. Give yourself the grace to not be perfect. I thought it was the best advice I was ever given. 

I, too often, overload myself with more than any human should juggle, and I wonder how to keep the balls up in the air. Now, if I let one fall, I am ok with it. I just pick it right back up the next day and try not to drop it again. ;)
What has been the greatest challenge in your life and why?

I stutter. For as long as I can remember I have stuttered. 

As a child, I underwent a decade of speech therapy. I learned so many tricks to being able to articulate myself without getting stuck on consonants. I used to carry a clicker (like the ones they use at concerts to count how many concert-goers have entered the arena) to speak: for every word I would click or tap my foot. I would lay on the ground with a book on my tummy and try and breathe from my diaphragm, getting one word out at a time without getting "stuck". I tried it all just to be able to speak without a stutter. 
Waimea Canyon National Park- Kauai
I have definitely improved over time and can have a conversation- sometimes without stuttering at all, and other times I still can't get a word or two out. But I have learned to embrace the challenge and not give up trying. It is a part of me. 
Los Roques, Venezuela
What has been the greatest joy in your life and why?

Being a mom is by far the most amazing joy I have ever felt (after meeting and marrying my hubby!). We tried to have kids for a long time, so when we finally found out we were pregnant with twins, it was the best news I had ever heard. 
And from the moment they were born, it has been one incredible joy after another. All of the firsts that feel like they happen everyday, their tiny yet HUGE personalities, their ridiculous smiles and laughs, even when they cry at night or have explosive poops -- it is all a part of the fun and adventure that is being a mom to twins. 

I also love what motherhood has done to me professionally. I have a totally different outlook on my career. I am more appreciative for my successes but also feel even more accomplished at home when my children reach their own milestones. I, too often, find myself not grasping that they "are mine" because they are just so amazing; it is hard to fathom. I am blessed beyond belief. 
What is one thing you have not done that you really want to do and why?

I want to live abroad with my family. I did when I was in college, in Italy, and it was the best experience ever. 
Secret Beach, Kauai
Also as an immigrant to this country from Israel, I have a deep appreciation for new cultures that I find to be extremely important. When RiMo are older (and maybe other kids too!), I would love to move with my husband and kids to another country for a year, learn a new language, immerse ourselves in the food, the people, the land- the ultimate adventure! 
Man...if that's not the most picture perfect family I ever did see! There's just so much beauty in every photo, in every word of Shachar's heartfelt story. And those twin-zies! I just can't even. 

I'm gaga over the advice section of this feature; I hear that so very loud and clear. Oh, how we may try, but none of us are really wearing a cape under our clothes, are we? It's okay to be off our game every once in awhile, but I'm all for learning from every bummer and striving to make tomorrow a better day. 

So much love and thanks to Shachar for sharing her story with us. What a role-model to her breathtaking lil' darlings! Here's a woman who truly goin' for it, a do-er, a mama who is going to give her fam all the love and opportunity one heart could hold. It's a beautiful thing, my friends.

Send us some pics from wherever the road takes you, lovely Shachar. Your love, strength and determination are so inspiring! And suddenly, strangely- I find myself craving tacos. What's that about?

Food for thought: If you wanted to start your own business, what would it be? I SO want The Taco Truck in our town!

P.S. If you'd like to participate in a Real People Feature, send me a message at or comment below. We'd love to hear from you.

Monday, December 3, 2012

For the Rockers and Escapists

For those about to rock...

Since the holidays are right around the corner, I thought I'd post a few shout outs for some of the bodacious lil' treasures I have that make my life a little more jammin'. 

*This is NOT a sponsored post. The opinions expressed here are my own. Just writing about something that I think is rad!
noise blocking headphones
My husband got me these Sync Noise-Blocking headphones after I'd gone gaga over the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones one of my besties brought on a visit. 
noise blocking headphones why didn't he get the Bose headphones that were freakin' amazing, you ask? Take a guess, friends.

I use headphones when I'm mowing the lawn, working in the garden, vacuuming and writing. The Bose headphones cost three hundred dollars! I'd rather not mow over or dirt-ify $300, ya know? These Sync bad boys were an incredible steal at $25, and I'm tellin' you, people...they work so well!

For every day use, these headphones comfortably and effectively block out external noise and provide great sound quality. I use them with my old iPod and my iPhone 4 with ease. And, most importantly, if something happens to them- should they accidentally get left outside or get run over by a tricycle, ain't no thang! They're $25 bucks to replace! 

Now, obviously, you're not going to get the WOW factor that Bose headphones provide (and the truth is that those Bose babies are totally incredible) but you're not going to get that jaw-dropping retail cost either. These Sync headphones perform admirably well for 1/12 of the cost of Bose technology, and you can really USE them, let your kids use them, get em' sweaty and dirty or toss them on the counter without worry. 

Sending you, shoppers, the sign of the horns this season. Fa-la-la-la-la...
XOXO From My Hearth to Yours