Aug 192014

The Punky Family Heads Back to Brick & Mortar

So many things have changed recently. When we decided to send the kids to cyber school, it was because we were quite possibly in the world’s worst school district. It wasn’t just academics, it was the whole “hey, don’t get stabbed while you’re there, huh?” vibe which permeates everything. I mean, our crime index put us at 12%. That’s you know… safer than 12% of cities in the US (which doesn’t sound too bad until you realize that also means 88% of the US is safer than Allentown - uhm, ok.)

Our particular neighborhood wasn’t bad exactly, but crime was inching out of downtown slowly and surely. My van had been shot or vandalized on more than one occasion - in fact, I still have a small bullet hole in my windshield that we brought with us to the suburbs. We had things routinely stolen when we had forgetful moments about locking them up tight. We even had a Shop Vac stolen (really, I can’t make this crap up) right before our move. It was on our back porch and to my knowledge, full of bees. I hope they had fun with that. We also had a rather delightful (no sarcasm there, he was a nice guy, unfortunately his clientele was not) drug dealer move in across the street. Yep, it was time to go.

After the kids being home for school for 5 years, we decided it was time for them to go back amongst their peers. Don’t get me wrong - I’m not a fan of the concept of common core, on any level, but it was going to end up in their cyber school curriculum anyway. I went to public school, and turned out just fine. After much searching, debate, and weighing options, we settled on the district we wanted to be in. It was the district I graduated from, and one that several of our friends already live in.  After many months of prepping, showing, selling, buying, moving, and complete insanity — they will be starting school on September 2, 2014. Yay!

I had no idea what I was getting myself into, and the year hasn’t even begun yet.

Just imagine, when your little one starts kindergarten, you start to learn the ropes of being the parent of a school-age child. You learn their school, the teachers, the rules, the schedule. One day at a time. Then maybe you have another little one who starts kindergarten a few years later. By then, you’re an old pro at that. Making lunches, bus schedules, and parents nights are easy peasy and you can handle a classroom birthday party or addressing last minute Valentines with your eyes closed. Well, I’m (we’re) being dumped into three schools unceremoniously and simultaneously. One in grade school, one in middle school, one in high school. Can you tell I’m freaking out a little bit?

School clothes? School supplies? Gym bags? School lunches? Bus stops? Snow Days? Clubs? Electives?

Hold me.

Jun 222013

Gettin' Cheesy in June for Dairy Month

Did you know June is dairy month?

Once upon a time, I decided to become a vegan. I don’t remember why, and I don’t feel like getting into any of that right now anyway - because that’s not what I’m here to discuss. My family laughed and laughed at me, and I couldn’t understand why. Finally, once they came up for air, they explained it to me — “Nicole, it’s not the meat, we know you could go forever without eating animals. It’s the cheese.” I very distinctly remembering my mouth falling open and doing the “oh my gosh” face, because I had forgotten completely about the cheese.  THE CHEESE!

I love cheese so much. I love mild cheese, stinky cheese and every cheese in between. There is always at least 3 kinds of cheese in our fridge at all times. The kids are used to freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano in a bowl on spaghetti night, and sharp provolone in their sandwiches instead of boring ol’ American.

Have I mentioned I’m a huge fan of cheese?  And if you’re as cheesy as me, it’s so easy to incorporate into your meal plan for the week!

  • Time for the big game? Take two packages of cream cheese (softened) and combine with a chopped Vidalia onion. Instant onion dip!
  • Omelet lover? Throw in some spinach and feta and top with a few sliced kalamata olives for a Mediterranean morning.
  • Salad? No problem! Add some crumbled goat cheese, walnuts and sliced strawberries with a balsamic dressing.
  • Leftover chicken? Shred it up, add some refried beans and a taco cheese blend and you have a protein packed quick lunch or light dinner.
  • Cranky kids looking for a snack? Cubed cheese goes terrific with fruit. I personally love pineapple and swiss together!
  • Craving sweets? Making an authentic New York cheesecake is easier than you might think!

Looking for more recipes and inspiration? Head over to the Dish Diary at

National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association
You can definitely make cheese (and other dairy products) part of your healthy balanced diet. The National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association (NFRA) is passionate about promoting delicious products of all kinds found in the refrigerated foods section of your local grocer — even vegan ones like almond milk! The NFRA has even joined forces with celebrity chef Aida Mollenkamp to showcase using refrigerated products in new ways. For more information, check out the NFRA on Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook.

Join @ResourcefulMom and chef Aida Mollenkamp to talk recipes AND prizes  in the NFRA Twitter party on Thursday, June 27 at 8 PM EST -  RSVP here.

Easy Home Meals

Jun 212013


Hi! This is Barb from A Life in Balance. I’ll be sharing one of my favorite activities to do with my 5 kids during our way-too-quick summer vacations - nature walks.

When the weather starts to warm up, I love taking my 4 younger kids on nature walks around the area. We have several arboretums, a college campus, nature preserves, and a wildlife refuge all within 20 minutes of our home. The walks are a continuation of a weekly nature walk I used to organize when I was homeschooling my oldest son. Then, we just walked around the local wildlife refuge which was perfect for families bringing younger kids since it is relatively flat.

While you don’t need much to do a nature walk, having a few resources on hand for answering questions adds an educational element to the walk. The Peterson Guides are small enough to fit in a backpack and thorough enough to answer most questions budding naturalists have. The One Small Square series is a more basic series geared towards early elementary students with lots of pictures to help with identifying plants, animals, and birds.

I have two favorite resources that I keep on my shelf at home. The first is Anna Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study. Written in 1911, it is a wonderfully thick reference for those taking nature walks on the East Coast. The second is Keeping a Nature Journal by Claire Walker Leslie. Not only does it give a nice overview of how to draw, it gives ideas of what to look for in each season. I would love for my own nature journals to be as full of life as Leslie’s!

A newer resource that I came across a few years ago is the animal series written by Thornton W. Burgess. They’re not the kind of books to bring along on a walk, but by reading the delightful stories ahead of time, one has much to think about and look for when out on a walk. I almost started using Burgess’ narrative style when my children and I encountered a squirrel on one of our walks and one of my sons asked questions about what the squirrel was doing. It seemed to easy to spin a narrative about a squirrel collecting nuts and preparing for winter!

I hope you’re inspired to take some nature walks with your kids this summer. Because of our walks, I find my kids notice so much more about the environment around them. Hopefully this interest will lead them into being stewards of the environment as they get older.

Barb is a mom of 5 kids who spends her day keeping track of socks, stuffed animals, library books, and a 4 year old when she isn’t writing about all the frugality, gardening, cooking, and reading she manages to fit in between the chaotic moments. She can be found at A Life in Balance or Frugal Local Kitchen.

May 292013

Tastykake® Kandy Bar Kakes

I recently received a Tastykake Kandy Bar Kake in the S’mores variety via the Influenster Spring Fever Vox Box program.

Being an east coast girl, I am firmly in the Tastykake camp, and have been since I was a kid. It blows my mind when I meet people from other parts of the country that have no idea what a Krimpet is. I mean, come ON. They think Twinkies are good (uhm, no offense there, Twinkie lovers) but they’ve never even HAD a Krimpet because they’re geographically displaced.

If you don’t know about Tastykake:

The Tasty Baking Company, founded in 1914 and located in Philadelphia, Pa., is one of the country’s leading bakers of snack cakes, pies, cookies, and donuts. As a subsidiary of Flowers Foods, the company has bakery facilities in Philadelphia and Oxford, Pa. that offer more than 100 products under the Tastykake brand name. Celebrated for their freshness and quality ingredients, the Tastykake line includes such classics as Krimpets, Kandy Kakes, Juniors, and Kreamies.

Seriously, if you have never had the joy of a Tastykake product - you’re missing out. It’s one of the few commercial treats we enjoy because it’s not full of artificial coloring.

You can find out about all the awesome Tastykake products at their website,  Facebook or Twitter.

Have you had Tastykake? What is your favorite product?

May 212013

Stella & Dot is looking for stylists…

Are you crazy for accessories? Have a flair for fashion? Love picking out outfits for your friends, complete to the last pair of earrings and bangle bracelet? This might be the opportunity for you!

Now is the perfect time to launch your own business and join Stella & Dot’s growing team of Stylists! Stella & Dot creates flexible, work from home business opportunities for entrepreneurial women. Create the success you deserve. To find out more information visit Get started today!

Apr 222013

I’m sorry, I can’t hop on the Dove bandwagon.

I’m just not buyin’ it.

It turns out, Dove is owned by Unilever. Unilever, a large corporation, owns a LOT of brands including but not limited to:

- Axe (men’s products)
- Ben & Jerry’s
- Fair & Lovely (a skin lightening cream sold in India)
- Noxema
- Slim Fast
- TRESemmé

Hmmm. Interesting.

So, it looks like they have all their bases covered there.

If all else fails, and I have eaten myself into an ice-cream coma, I can watch TV commercials of gorgeous women swishing their perfect hair around and hanging on perfect guys with six-pack abs. I can feel so terrible about myself, I can start chugging the Slim Fast. When I can’t stand the hunger anymore, and revert to my bowl of ice cream, at least Dove will still think I’m pretty.

No sir, I don’t like it.

If you’re going to create a campaign of that magnitude, at least make an EFFORT to not look like a two-faced profit hungry money machine. Wait, what’s the word? Oh, right - hypocrite.

Also, when did women cease being beautiful because of their brains, their wit, or their other abilities? If I use the right deodorant, will my potential mate be able to smell my ability to do complex arithmetic or speak 6 languages fluently? Will my shiny hair reflect the fact that I can make a perfect cheesecake that never cracks on top?

Why should I be teaching my daughter that she’s “still beautiful despite…”? She’s a beautiful unique person, period. It doesn’t mean she’s beautiful “despite” ANYTHING.

And even my sons… why should they watch Axe commercials and think that the only kind of woman you want to be with is a gorgeous anorexic gazelle. You should want to be with someone because they’re a rock star DESPITE the fact that they look like a Greek goddess. Not the other way around.

Yes, I am a pale freckled chubby chick, but that doesn’t define who I am inside. Whether I’m happy with my body type or my eye color, I can still rock a crossword puzzle in record time. I can also kick your ass at 80′s Trivial Pursuit.

And THAT is what makes ME beautiful.

Dec 102012

Well, here I am again. A blogger. AGAIN. I could almost hear my husband rolling his eyes up in his brain when I told him what I was up to. He shouldn’t be surprised, he knows how much I love to talk. It just seemed to make sense, considering how much time I spend on all the social media sites to put it all together and let someone besides my immediate social circle benefit from it.

Previously, I wrote a personal blog called “The Daily Heroic: Parenting Without Epix” (ten points for anyone who gets the reference without looking up the blog - it’s nerdcore!) However, most of that was my struggles with my middle son’s ADHD diagnosis - during a deployment. Yeah, nobody wants to read the oodles of whining over there.

Anyway — where was I? Oh, introducing myself. I am… outwardly not so punky anymore. Now, I go in Hot Topic and have a one-sided conversation in my head about how I was punker than that kid before he was even born. My vinyl dresses and bondage pants are gathering dust somewhere in the back of my closet. My spikes are safely out of reach of little boys who like to get into everything. So, I might look like your run of the mill stay at home mom, in her New Balance (pink, of course) sneakers and messy ponytail — but I’m still pretty damn awesome. My kids will attest to that.


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