Saturday, January 28, 2012

Bummed Out About Her Birthday

I hope this post will prove to be therapeutic. I am dreading my daughter's birthday in 9 days. I love my birthday, I must admit. It is my favorite holiday. But I'm easy to please. Requirements for a successful birthday celebration for me: good company and great food. But the older my daughter gets (turning 4 soon) the more pressure I feel to give her an awesome birthday. Her first birthday involved a pink tutu and family members singing and clapping which scared the bejesus outta my kid. You can see how red her face is after she finished crying and I helped her taste her cake.

See how simple this was? So the next year, we had a little house party. Mostly family (adults) because our friends' kids aren't close to her age. Here's a fun video of dancing in the living room. She has some good moves! Yes, she got a few gifts. We put up some streamers and served some home cooked food. Simple.

When she turned three is where I think it got a little out of hand. Last year she fell in love with Disney princesses and especially Tiana from Princess and the Frog. My husband hired an Princess Tiana impersonator. (video here) We (my husband) bought Tiana themed balloons and paper goods. We ordered pizza and wings because my husband said it didn't make sense for me to make pizza and stress myself out. We had abut 10 kids and their parents plus the usual suspects (family). We set-up my brothers dj sound equipment. The one thing I am most proud of was that was a huge hit with all the kids was that I baked cupcakes and set up a decorating station. They piped their own icing and added all kinds of toppings and I even had clear to-go containers so they could take their creations home. Some of the kids really got into the decorating and made intricate designs. We gave out goodie bags (I'll get to that), broke a pinata, played Twister... Sure it was fun and memorable but I was exhausted after and I still had to clean up.

Now, brace yourself... this is where I get all grumpy. When did it become "the right thing to do" to give your party guests gift bags? I don't remember getting gift bags when I was attending other people's parties as a child. But now it seems a given. I thought the tradition is that the birthday honoree gets the gifts? So the host plans a party, provides food, and now I need to give all the little attendees and additional gift? I just don't get it. I will give your kid a gift when its their birthday. I'm assuming this 'tradition' was born out of some child attending another kid's birthday party and being upset because the birthday kid got all the presents and they felt left out? It just feels weird to leave with a goodie bag when I attend another child's party. Like our attendance was being bought or we're getting a consolation prize. Hey, the cake and ice cream was plenty. You don't have to give my daughter more candy and dollar store fodder that will end up floating around in my car or confetti on my living room floor. There's a recession going on for goodness sake. Save your money!

I'd love to maybe do an activity with our immediate family but I feel guilty because people will ask why they weren't invited. Or they will inquire what we did to celebrate and I worry they will think (well I invited you to my kid's party, the least you could do is return the favor). I have a hard enough time choosing a birthday give for my own loved ones. My daughter is very girly through no intentions on my part.I wanted to spend the day at this kiddie spa in CT with my daughter and her 2 grandmothers. It ain't cheap but I know she'd love it. But she is old enough to know what a party is and hears how excited her friends get about their parties. She's been planning her guest list for months. I don't want to deny her that and I won't but I don't like getting sucked into these "must do's" and restrictions. It's stressing me out. I'm worried I'll forget to invite someone or my party will be "lame". I hate to feel that I need to prove myself to others but isn't that what we're trying to do... out-do the last party we went to? Where can I draw the line without being labeled a birthday grinch?

Do any of you buck the system? Is this goodie bag thing just in the Northeast (I'm not from here) or is it a new generation thing? (I'm in my 30s) Is it just who I grew up around, or did we NOT get parting gifts in the 1980s when we attended someone else's birthday party?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Crazy for Cuties

Seriously, I love this company! I'm not a big citrus fruit eater. My mom told me that she ate a lot of oranges when she was pregnant with me. Maybe that's why? But my daughter loves oranges and tangerines. We began seeing tv commercials about Cuties easy to peel mandarins and my daughter would say "Mommy, let's get those". And before I could buy them myself, my mother bought some and gave them to us. They are the perfect size for little hands and really are easy to peel. So, one day I went to their website and they have these fun video contests and great prizes. I have tons of videos of my daughter on my computer. I began uploading videos that fit the different contests themes. And I've won the daily prize 3 times. You get an email if you are the daily winner to let you know a prize is on the way. (You provide your address when you sign up.) Then a few days later a package shows up. So far I've won a t-shirt which will fit my 4 yr old perfectly this summer. And I won two lunch boxes. So, I want to giveaway one of them to spread the love. Details at the bottom.

This is the last one I entered in their "Holiday Cuties" contest. The voting has ended for that particular one and sadly we didn't win the grand prize (Xbox 360 + Kinect & $500 Gift Card). I know! Sweet, right? I wasn't excited for the Xbox. We already have a Wii that rarely gets played, lol. But that leads me to the folks.

When you upload an acceptable video, the Cuties people email you a code to use on DonorsChoose. You can give that $10 to any school/project you want. I searched for local schools. Most projects are posted by public school teachers who need supplies for their students. I uploaded at least 5 videos in as many recent weeks, so I've donated $50 (not out of my own pocket mind you) to local causes. That feels great!!! I even get thank you notes from teachers. I really wanted to win that $500 donation to give to some Bridgeport schools in need. I am giving away this metal lunchbox with same image on both sides.

Earn up to 11 entries by doing tasks like Liking our FB page and Twitter, etc ENTER HERE. Winner will be drawn randomly on Wednesday, Feb 8 at 12:01 pm EST and I'll contact the winner the next day to get their mailing address.Thanks for playing!

Save up to 80% on custom printed products at Vistaprint. Order today!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Best Day Ever!

My daughter told me today was "the best day ever". I admit, it warmed my heart on such a frigid day. I thought my allergies were to blame for my stuffy nose the last few days. But today my nose was dripping like a faucet and I feel "under the weather" for sure. How come no one ever says "above the weather" when they feel great? But I digress...

So the northeast got dumped with snow yesterday and since I don't live on a main road, my street doesn't get priority plowing. So I knew we'd be indoors today. I woke up and we made blueberry pancakes for breakfast. Then, I snuck back upstairs for a quick nap while my daughter (soon to be 4) watched tv with her dad. About an hour later I emerged from the bedroom and I was immediately bombarded with requests to go outside. My daughter's agenda: snow angel, snowman, snowball fight. Previous winters I was able to distract her and avoid snow activities but this year it was unavoidable. Thankfully, we have had much snow this winter. So I bundle her up. When I was zipping up her coat I thought to ask if she needed to potty. Thankfully not. But she kept falling down outside and couldn't get up without my help. She was cracking up!

Disclaimer: its been at least 20 years since I made a snowman. I'm from the Midwest. I don't remember snow being so powdery. It wouldn't stick together to make a ball so we pressed it into a hill. Can I get an A for effort?

Snow lady: we found vines with red berries so we gave her lips and hair.

We came in for hot cocoa and that's when she said this was "the best day ever" lol. I felt like an awesome mom. But now I'm using the heating pad on my back from all the bending I did earlier. It was totally worth it. Its supposed to rain tomorrow. I hope she won't take it too hard when her "snow lady" washes away.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Forecast Calls for Easy Chicken Chili

I've been cooking since I was about 10 years old. I can remember watching my parents cook and my father's mother (now 86 years old) and asking lots of questions. My mother taught me that granulated sugar takes the acidic bite out of tomato sauces. My father taught me how to make gravy from pan drippings. I learned later that I was making "rue". My grandmother taught me how to make squash casserole, okra, and fresh creamed corn along with many other southern dishes. She lives in Georgia.

Cooking sure came in handy as a broke college student! I cooked a lot for friends and roommates. A male friend of mine mentioned in passing one day that he was in the mood for a "good steak". "I can cook a steak" I replied matter-of-factly. He didn't believe me. So, I told him if he bought the steak (one for me too, of course) I would cook for him. This became a weekly thing. He began inviting his roommates in on the feast. They bought the groceries and I prepared a big meal. I thought all women cooked. Who knew it would make me such a hot commodity as a friend and later a wife? My (now) husband and I were somewhat penpals/phone friends for a long time before we began dating. He reacted with elation when I told him I could cook. His parents are from SC and he grew up with a mom that could cook. He said most of the women he'd dated didn't cook. Really? Maybe its a southern thing (read: "old fashioned" or "traditional") that women cook and bake?

I enjoy it. Its a skill that has come in handy time and time again. I pride myself most for being about to take whatever is in the house at the time and create a great-tasting meal. I rarely follow a recipe unless I am experimenting in cuisine I am unfamiliar with. But once I make the dish I will edit and adjust as I see fit or apply what I learned to "spice up" (pun intended) an old recipe.

So, tonight, I made chicken chili. Sure, I've made chili many times. My husband says my typical chili is too red. He describes it as spaghetti sauce with beans. Its not that it doesn't taste good, he just prefers a smoother, beanless chili which I would describe as hot dog chilli and more of a condiment than a meal. Everyone once in a while I like chili. Today is really frigid and seemed like the perfect day for a hearty warm bowl. I've been trying variations to get to a happy medium from the kind of chilli my husband likes and what I'm used to making. Tonight I think I hit the jackpot with this simple recipe. I'm not one for exact measurements and chilli is one of those forgiving dishes so use similar products if you can't find the exact brands I used. I'm sure it will be fine! It has a nice consistency. Serves 8-10 generous portions. Use leftovers as a dip or for chili dogs.

  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (I used prepared garlic in a jar) 
  • 1 package of ground chicken (about 1 lb?) 
  • 1 package of McCormick chili seasoning, 
  • 1 can of Goya Pink Beans in Sauce, 
  • 1 cup of water, 
  • 1 can on crushed tomatoes, 
  • 1 jar of spaghetti sauce (I used Victoria Vodka Sauce), 
  • 1 can Glory Red Beans and Rice, 
  • about 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
  1.  Heat pot to med-hot, add garlic and defrosted ground chicken (Substitute ground turkey or beef)
  2. Stir in 1 package of McCormick chili seasoning, 
  3. Add jar of spaghetti sauce (I used Victoria Vodka Sauce) before meat browns
  4. Add cup of water and stir (this helps break down the meat to a blended consistency)
  5. Let begin to boil, turn heat down to med
  6. Add Pink Beans, crushed tomatoes and can of Red Beans and Rice
  7. Stir and sprinkle in smoked paprika
  8. Cover and cook for about 10 min at med heat to make sure meat is cooked thoroughly
  9. Turn heat to low and simmer for another 5 min with lid OFF to thicken
I served with a dollop of sour cream. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Kids in the kitchen: Stuffed Biscuit Cups

Stuffed Biscuits Cups? I couldn't come up with a better name for this dish. I'm open to suggestions. This is a really easy recipe. And my budding chef (soon to be 4yo daughter) wants to help me cook every night. So I gave her the tasks of making the dough cups.

What you need:
  • a muffin tin
  • non-stick cooking spray
  • a canister of biscuit dough (or home made biscuit dough if you prefer)
  • ground turkey (optional) 
  • blend of veggies fresh or frozen, I used a microwaveable pouch of corn and black blean blend from Target
  • BBQ sauce (Hunt's Honey BBQ)
  • shredded cheddar cheese (feel free to substitute for any cheese that melts)
*** the inside of the cups can be filled with your preferred ingredients for "stuffing" the cups. Try different combos like pepperoni, marinara sauce and veggies for a "pizza" inspired version for example.

  1. Preheat oven to temperature per your biscuit container instructions (350 degrees)
  2. cook your ingredients (brown the meat if you're using a protein, saute your veggies, then add about 1/3 cup of sauce) not too soupy
  3. simmer for about 3 min
  4. let mixture cool for a few min and absorb some sauce
  5. spray your muffin tin with non-stick spray
  6. KID JOB: mold each biscuit circle into the muffin cup, pressing the middle out to fill up the sides (see photo)
  7. spoon mixture into biscuit "cups"
  8. KID JOB: top with shredded cheese
  9. bake for 8-10 min or until the biscuit edges puff and turn golden brown and cheese is melted
  10. let cool for a few minutes before serving.
These were so good that I forgot to photograph the finished version before we devoured them :-)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

New Year, New Website

I've been working on this for a few months off and on. I'm running a business 6 days a week, so I do what I can when I can. I liked my old site so I wasn't in a hurry to replace it. But I wanted a fresh look and easier navigation. Over the last two years, I have gotten better at explaining Gumdrop Swap's unique service and place in the children's resale industry. I believe the new site conveys that. I tried to sprinkle in some of my humor (sarcasm). Please let me know what you think!

The home page features a video from youtube produced by AVP (American View Productions) to promote businesses in Bridgeport, CT. But it's meant to be subtle instead of a commercial. You get to meet the real small business owners in an organic way and its not blatant advertising. Other businesses featured were: Magnolia Cafe (formerly Flour & Flower), Rainy Faye Bookstore, Metric (Grill & Bar), and Amici Miei. The crew was professional and we recorded everything in about six hours in one day. We hope to make a series of these videos as we start a merchant association.


I'm excited about what 2012 holds. There are a few secret projects I can't reveal yet. I have taken on some graphic design jobs when I've had the time. I'm doing the layouts for an independent magazine that features music, artists and fashion called ZWEI (pronounced "zw-eye" it means 2 in German). I have some time to take on a few graphic design projects if anyone needs a logo or website please contact me. I even created a Facebook fan page for my Graphic Design work. I'm going to redesign next. That site is about 6 years old. Who needs sleep?

Please pray for me and my endeavors. I support small businesses whenever I can. I really believe the key to rebuilding the American economy is entrepreneurship and strong local communities. I hope you all have a prosperous new year as well!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

2011 Wrap Up!

2011 was my 1st complete calendar year in the retail location. I met many new people, swappers, and learned lessons. We acquired a lot more merchandise last year which required some redecorating and buying of new fixtures to display merchandise. I scored a nice acrylic shelf and pose-able mannequin from the closing of Filene's/SYMS in Fairfield, CT. And created an arch with 3 vertical shelves from Bed, Bath & Beyond when they had their Back to School Sale in September. People are surprised to find out how many NEW items and clothing we have. They are great to give as gifts for baby showers! We even offer free gift bag/box with your purchase of $10 or more.

We also began selling handmade bears by Ruth Broder. A lovely grandma who lives in the area and found the store when she was downtown for the Art Trail. She makes custom keepsake bears from fabric and can even use your child's old blanket they've outgrown. They are so adorable! They are priced according to size, $20-$30. You can contact her to order your own.

Then, right before the holiay season we began selling NEW Baby Star luxury, plush accessories: blanketc, burp cloths, bibs (matching sets available in certain patterns). They range from $10-$30. This is a great deal for this expensive brand's normal retail prices. Any recipient will think you spent twice as much!

December was very busy for us. We hosted Santa Portraits again this year. But we set aside two Saturdays this year to accommodate more of your schedules. We partnered with CT Photography Plus. You had the choice of your child or whole family posing with or without Santa in front of a beautiful winter wonderland backdrop. Many avoided the long lines at the big malls and took advantage of the wonderful natural light the Arcade Mall offers.  CT Photography Plus specializes in photo shoots with daycare students and are superb with getting the young ones to feel comfortable in front of the camera! But she is a complete mobile business which can be hired for any special event like birthday parties, professional events, etc. She prints everything on site! Here are a few of my favorite shots.