Presents for the furry members of our family

Christmas is a time of giving. We give gifts to family, friends, strangers and…of course, our pets. Most of us after all consider our furry (or not so furry) pets part of our family.

Numerous surveys show that people love to go over board buying snacks, toys and beds for their fur babies. Survey results in the U.S. show up to 89 percent of dog and cat owners buy their pets gifts. In fact, one survey showed 56% spend more on their pets than their own family members. And just because I found it interesting, people spend more on dogs than cats. Poor kitties.

The pet industry of course knows our love for our pets and offer a plethora of gifts to choose from whether it is toys, clothing, collars, beds, chew toys, treats, scratching posts, blankets, bowls, grooming kits, carriers, GPS trackers or even pet heating pads.

And it isn’t just dogs and cats that get gifts. People buy for their fish, bunnies, mini pigs, snakes, hamsters, ferrets, horses, goats and any other animal they consider part of their family.

My family is no different. We love our pets as members of our family, and of course, buy them presents.


We have 2 Cocker Spaniels – Sadie Rose and Gypsy.

Now Sadie Rose is all about food but we don’t buy her treats as she could stand to lose about 5 lbs. But that doesn’t stop us from buying her a new chew toy or bone.

Gypsy is still so much a puppy as she turns 2 this coming February. She loves anything that anything soft that squeaks.

Typically, I buy one of those stockings full of toys from the pet store and then some sort of rawhide or bone for Christmas evening. They also get gifts from both my parents and the in-laws.


We have 3 cats – Nikki, Tails and Spooky.

The kitties are all older so not as spry as kittens. And with the dogs always stealing and destroying their toys, we have to be careful where and when the cats have their toys. Being cats, they love things that are soft and full of catnip.

And yes, they get presents from my parents and in-laws too.


We have one hamster – Poptart.

Last year was her first Christmas so my daughter wanted to get her something. We ended up getting her a treat (hamster frosted donuts) and then a chew toy (pizza shaped). Poptart liked the treats but not sure the chew toy was worth it as she hasn’t really gone after any of the chew items we have purchased for her.

Sadly, only our family bought Poptart a gift last year.

Now, I don’t spend large amounts on our pets (and certainly not more on them than the humans in my life.) On one survey, 48% of people spent $10-$25 on their pets while 26% spent $26-$50. Only 3% spent over $100.

I don’t think it matters how much you spend, just as I don’t think it matters whether our pets understand what all the fuss is about. It is about showering our pets with a little extra attention. And who doesn’t enjoy a new toy or a treat.

Counting down to Christmas with Advent calendars

As a child, it is hard to wait for Christmas. To help my kids countdown to the big day, I introduced them to Advent calendars.

Now when I was a child, we had advent calendars but they were much simpler. We opened a small door to reveal a picture or maybe a piece of chocolate. My brother and I shared a calendar, each opening a door on alternating days.

When I first started the kids on Advent calendars, I bought them ones filled with their favorite toys. They make one for those that like matchbox cars, Playdough, Legos (Friends, City or Star Wars), Barbie, Tsum Tsums and more. They also have ones with chocolate, nail polish, makeup, or even alcohol (for adult, obviously). Prizes range from $6 for picture/cheap chocolate to $20-$35 for ones with toys.

Every year, Jase chose a Lego one. Most often it was the Star Wars version but sometimes it was the Lego City one. In the beginning, he would immediately open the daily bag and build the miniature Lego creation. But now that he is a teenager, the thrill seems gone (though he still likes Legos as that is the majority of his Christmas list.)

Lexie is the opposite of Jase. Every year, she picked something new – Playdough, Tsum Tsums, Lego Friends, Hatchimals, and Littlest Pet Shop. But as she gets older (she is 11 now), she isn’t as interested in toys.

I looked for other options, thinking maybe one with candy would be better. The choices were limited. I didn’t want the same chocolate every day. Lexie is allergic to nuts so that also limited my choices.

There are several advent calendars where you fill the drawers, pouches or boxes with your own gifts. These run about $20-45 each. I would need two. And the boxes usually are tiny so I would have to find really small things to stick in them. Then I got the idea to buy little boxes ($10 for 50 on Amazon). I can fill them with little gifts or candy.

The kids were game to give it a try. And I figured it would cost me about the same as buying a toy advent calendar. Well, I was close. Last year, I spent $55 on 2 advent calendars (Star Wars Legos and Hatchimals). This year it was about $64 in addition to the boxes. But, they will (hopefully) get 24 days of things they like and enjoy. With the toys ones, there were always disappointing days where you got “accessories” instead of something to build or play with.

Fancyleo Christmas 12 Pcs Mini gift box Christmas tree New Year decoration decoration Christmas ornaments

This year’s boxes are filled with their favorite candies (and gum for Lexie). I also bought small toys though it was hard to find things I thought they would like. Ok, it was harder for Jase than Lexie. It is always easy to find small, inexpensive things for girls like nail polish, tinted lip balm, bath bombs, hair accessories or earrings. The items cost between 50 cents and $3, except for the Holiday earrings set of 5 earrings that cost $8. (I know, way over what I wanted to pay but she has no holiday earrings. and these were so cute.)

So, I guess we will see how this goes this year and if they want to do the same thing next year or do something else. Or perhaps they won’t want an advent calendar at all. (Who am I kidding. Of course, Lexie will want one and then Jase won’t want to be left out.)


Navigating makeup and my tween

Last Friday, my daughter attended her first middle school dance. This was just a casual dance, not a boy-ask-girl type thing. She was very excited to be meeting up with her friends and picked out a simple black dress.

This is somewhat of a surprise because Lexie isn’t a girly-girl. She doesn’t wear dresses, fuss with her hair or care about fashion or typically her looks. But I know the day is coming when she might want to do some of these things. She is after all 11 years old.

And we got just a hint of what is to come last Friday evening. She got dressed and fussed over her hair, combing, styling and worrying about fly away hairs. We got that under control, and then she mentioned makeup.

She wore just a touch at Halloween as part of her costume and, yes, she played with my makeup when she was younger, but she proudly will tell you she isn’t a girly-girl, so I was a tad surprised she wanted a hint of lipstick and to use some concealer.

We picked out one of my lightest lipsticks. She still thought it looked too dark. So, after wiping some of it off and adding a light layer of powder, she was satisfied. She used my concealer on the darker skin under her eyes and whatever blemish that she could see (that I couldn’t).

Now, I know she doesn’t want to wear makeup all the time. (She said as much.) But I wondered when she would be ready. I recall being just about her age when I started wearing makeup. Of course, that was in the 80s and big makeup was popular. I just remember buying purple eye shadow (still one of my favorite colors though way subtler now.)

I recently volunteered during lunch time at her school. Most of the 6th graders weren’t wearing makeup, or if they were, it was subtle. Some of the seventh graders had makeup on, but it was the eighth graders whom I really noted the makeup use.

Looking online, it seems that many girls start between 13 and 15 years old. But 11% of 10 and 12-year-olds are wearing makeup. As with many things, it is a personal choice between tweens/teens and their parents.

I have no problem with her using concealer (as pimples and blemishes are certainly coming) and tinted lip balm. I don’t think she needs mascara and anything beyond light eye shadow. I certainly don’t want her to go crazy with makeup (at this age or really any age). I don’t think she needs it.

But I am also a realist. It is coming. And I don’t want her sneaking around and putting on different clothes and makeup when she gets to school. And she needs to use her own makeup. I know it isn’t good for her to share my makeup, and her skin is paler than mine so what works for me won’t work for her.

With this in mind, for her Christmas stocking this year, I have picked up a light concealer, translucent powder and two different tinted lip balms. I don’t expect her to use this daily, but she will have it for those occasions she wants to use it. And when she is ready to advance to different makeups, I’ll take her to the store and help her select some that will compliment her skin and age. And that day will be here before I know it!

Weight Loss update & the upcoming holidays

Back in August, I wrote about using Noom, a health app designed by behavioral psychologists to help you lose weight for the long run. By the end of August, I had lost 15 lbs and reached my goal weight. But at the time, my subscription was not up.

Now, I would have liked the app to change your calorie count to help you go from cutting calories to your normal calorie intake. So, I was aiming for 1200 calories on the app (not taking into account any exercise done). This was 600 calories a day less than normal. It would have been nice to see what normal eating should be.

I kept up with the app through the first week of September and then sent in my notice that I was cancelling my subscription which actually ran through third week of September. I really didn’t miss counting calories or reading their daily messages.

Image result for maintaining weight loss

This week will mark 2 months of me resorting back to normal (or better yet a modified version of normal) eating. I can see that I have slipped back into a few “bad” habits such as eating more ice cream than I did when I was dieting. But overall, my weight has pretty much maintained at my goal weight of 125 lbs. I no longer weigh myself daily but do step on the scale a few times a week.

Image result for holiday weight gainWhile I am happy to be maintaining this weight, I do worry about the holidays as this is a time when so many good foods and treats are available. I am already eating more candy as we have some left over from Halloween.

The key to watching your weight over the holidays is not to deprive yourself of those tasty treats but to be mindful of how much you are eating. There is nothing wrong with a splurge here or there but it can’t be a daily thing.

Here are some holiday tips in order to avoid weight gain:

  • Be active – The cooler months keep many people indoors so even a family walk or trip to a winter festival can help you stay active.
  • Snack wisely – Keeping snacks out of sight (in the pantry or office break room rather than at your desk) can stop you from mindless grazing. Opt for healthier snacks and consider putting the snack on a plate rather than just grabbing a handful as you pass by.
  • Watch portion size – Use a smaller plate or try smaller portions of the goodies you want to try.
  • Practice mindful eating – Don’t eat in front of the TV/electronics or while working. Give full attention when eating so you will know when your body is saying you have had enough.
  • Control your stress level – The holidays can be a stressful time and many people eat when they are stressed. Take a walk, mediate or do something else to relieve your stress rather than turn to food.
  • Limit desserts and sweets – Instead of trying every sweet thing out there, focus on your favorites and eat them in moderation.
  • Limit liquid calories – Hot chocolate, after dinner coffees, sodas and alcohol all are just empty calories that often people don’t even consider when watching what they eat.
  • Weigh yourself regularly – Stepping on the scale can remind you of your weight goals and let you take action before significant weight gain occurs.
  • Plan ahead – If you have parties on the calendar, you can watch your food intake on the day and make a plan for eating that night – perhaps even bringing a healthy (or semi-healthy) dish if it is a potluck.
  • Skip seconds – Many parties have food out buffet-style which leads people to serve themselves seconds or thirds. Resist the urge to go back for more.

Hopefully, I will be able to avoid that dreaded holiday weight gain and will be able to keep the weight off.



Making Comic Con or Halloween costumes

If you have been following my blog, you know that typically we go to our local Comic Con and when we do, we dress up. And of course, the kids dress up at Halloween. Some of these times – for either occasion – we buy a costume online, but many times, we make our own. Sometimes that means finding all the different pieces and putting them together or it might mean just buying a costume and creating props.

Now, I don’t sew and don’t really consider myself a crafty person. Luckily for my family, we have my husband who is much better at costume making. It started with making his own Jedi costume.

Jedi Costume

Store bought robe and boots and scrubs for the pants

Made tunic belt and light saber






Han Solo Costume

Store bought pants and shirt (and boots from last year)

Made vest, gun, holster and pouch, added red stripe to pants




Night Wing Costume 

Store bought boots and black jumpsuit

Made weapon (which had magnets to allow the 2 pieces to become a staff), mask, armor and added blue logo and trim to jumpsuit



Harley Quinn

Store bought boots, shorts, tattoos, wig and fishnet hose

Made the bat, dyed the wig myself, gun, holster, bracelets, choker and bag

(Find out more about making this costume here.)




Store bought shoes, pants and shirt

Made armor, mask, gun






Rebel Pilot

Store bought orange jump suit, gloves, belt and boots

Made helmet, white vest, grey air supply accessory




Lara Croft

Store bought tank, shorts, boots and wig

Made guns, holster and bags


Indiana Jones

Store bought pants, boots, shirt, hat, gun and whip

Made holster and scuffed up/tore shirt



Canary (left)

Store bought jacket, corset, boots and wig

Made mask, eskrima (staff – which could break into 2 and slide into the leg holsters)

Dragon Hunter (middle)

Store bought leggings and boots

Made tunic, armor, bow, & sword

Imperial Tie Fighter (right)

Store bought costume, gloves and boots

Made helmet. breast-plate panel and gun

Fleet Trooper (from Star Wars)

Store bought boots, pants and shirt

Made vest, helmet, 2 guns and holster





So as you can see, we have made quite a few costumes which is more fun than buying one but it does take a lot of work.


Dropping one of my volunteering jobs


It is the one thing I always wish I had more of. There never seems to be enough time to get everything – writing, work, volunteering, parenting, housekeeping – done. So, I finally decided to give up one of my volunteer jobs – Activities Committee Chair for our neighborhood.

I am not sure how much time this will free up, and honestly, I am not dropping it because I don’t have time. I am dropping it as my children are getting older and I am tired of not having help with our 3 activities we do each year.

I joined the Activities committee back in 2007 – I think. I am not totally sure how long I have been a member. I do know that I was on the newsletter committee from 2005 to 2015. That is probably how I joined the Activities committee. At the time, I was just one of the members. But as those other members’ children grew older, those members moved on to other things and I took over.

I never really minded. As I always say with groups like this or the PTA, if you have good people there to support you, running these things is no problem. And for many years, I had that group, and the work isn’t hard.

Our most popular pool party game – kids must find the gummy worm hidden in the pile of whip cream with only their mouths.

We currently have just three activities each year – 2 pool parties and a Fall Festival. The pool parties are easy since we use the same formula. We serve popcorn and ice cream sundaes. Sometimes we add in dinner of pizza or hot dogs or even chili dogs. We play at least one game – usually the same one each time. Sometimes we add another game but usually enjoying the pool is enough. And then we give away prizes to the kids – pool/summer toys in June and school related items in August.


Then there is the biggest event (in cost, volunteers, and time) – our Fall Festival. I held my last one yesterday.

Fall Festival 2013

For this event we have 8 games, face painting, prizes, candy, food and for a number of years even balloon animals. We have served dinner (pizza or chili dogs). We have done cotton candy, and yesterday we did snow cones in addition to popcorn. (Popcorn is at all our events as our neighborhood association has a popcorn popper machine.)

While the pool parties are super simple and I could do them probably by myself, the Fall Festival is more work. There are more prizes to buy, cleaning up the games from last year, organizing the door prize drawing, figuring out food, and securing volunteers. That last one is a big one. Volunteers are my biggest problem whether it is for the neighborhood or the PTA. People want events but they don’t want to do the work behind them.

In this case, I am usually looking for teens who need service hours to volunteer. And it is always a scramble to get people to sign up and then actually show up. Every year, I worry about having enough help. Some how it comes together but I sure won’t miss the stress of finding volunteers.

But now that my kids are older (11 and 14), I know it is time to turn over the reins to another mom with kids the age that these events are geared toward. And while I don’t know how much time this will free up, I am definitely looking forward to not being stressed about the Fall Festival next October.

Letting the kids pick their own Halloween Costumes

When the kids were babies and toddlers, we picked out their Halloween costumes for them. Of course, they couldn’t decide or even understand why they were dressing up. So parents get the opportunity to decide what cute or interesting costume they will dress their little one up in. But once kids reach about 3 years old, they start having their own ideas. And this was the time that we let them take the lead in deciding what they wanted to be (within reason, of course).

Now I know that some parents like controlling their kids Halloween costume. Maybe it is to get them out of being the popular character of that year or maybe it is because they want to create costumes that fit a family theme. I’ve known parents in both these categories. Sometimes their kids are all for these choices, but I know mine – at least now at the ages for 11 and 14 – would not want me to pick their costumes. Heck, I think I might have been able to do it until about 5 but that would have been the final age.

So, starting at the age of 3, we let the kids pick their own costumes. The first year, Jase picked out a pirate costume. The next year, he didn’t want a new costume. He wanted to be a pirate and wore the same costume from the previous year. The following year he outgrew it and went as a handyman. But as soon as he found the cartoon Star Wars Clone Wars (and later the Star Wars movies) most of his costumes have been Star Wars related with the exception of 3 DC characters (Deadshot, Batman and Nightwing).

Lexie has been more varied in her choices. She has been Batgirl (in pink), Wonder Woman, Cinderella, Elsa, the pink Power Ranger, Pikachu and a dragon hunter.

Sometimes – especially in the beginning – we simply bought the kids costumes online or from the store. Of the pictures displayed on this page, this would be all of costumes except the fighter pilot (orange costume) which my husband made. Actually, for the past four years, all of Jase’s costumes have been custom jobs. Lexie’s dragon hunter was also a custom one.

Image result for hatsune mikuThis year, Lexie will be Hatsune Miku. I always just say it is an Anime character though really it is a the characterization of a singing software creation. Yeah, like that helps anyone. Needless to say, we bought her costume off e-bay this year include the aqua wig.

Jase is going to be a fleet trooper – yep, you guessed it. That is from Star Wars. This one was a custom design on the gun, vest, and helmet. I bought the pants, shirt and boots at Wal-mart. Once we get the kids costumes finishing touches done, I’ll post pictures.

Image result for fleet troopers

All I can say about this year is that you can definitely tell that I let the kids pick their own costumes.