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What Melanie’s Cooking

The Pioneer Woman CookbookWhenever I post recipes here or on A Beautiful Bite, they are usually my own. But I do have some cookbooks that I’m pretty fond of that I cook from regularly. So today I thought I’d share one of my favorites with you.

While I have a vast collection of cookbooks, only about a dozen reside on my kitchen countertop. Because let’s face it, that countertop real estate is valuable. Only the good stuff gets to hang out there. And three of those twelve happen to be authored by Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman.

She has written three cookbooks. Food from My Frontier, The Pioneer Woman Cooks and The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays.

I’ve cooked many recipes from all three books. And all have been a success which is rather rare because I don’t often find a book that’s so consistent. Not to mention three. So clearly Ree is good about testing her recipes before they go to print.

But of all three, the one I keep reaching for on a regular basis is Food from My Frontier.

The Pioneer Woman Pulled Pork RecipeAs I was thumbing through that cookbook the other day, I scanned through the pages looking for something that I hadn’t yet tried. That particular day was wet and chilly, so when I saw the Spicy Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork, I knew that was going to be supper.

I had been flirting with that recipe for a good long while. I love pulled pork, but I’m not at all a fan of Dr. Pepper. I was also reluctant because the idea of cooking meat in pop just sounded odd. But I was feeling a little adventurous that morning and figured what the heck, let’s try something new.

It was a darn good thing that I decided on that early in the morning as it takes at least six hours to cook! A good thing to make on a rainy day for certain.

This recipe is also posted on her website, so I went over to read the reviews before I went shopping. Reading other people’s comments on a recipe is super helpful. Often times people will make suggestions on modifications or give feedback on their results.

Most of the comments mentioned that this was beyond spicy which shouldn’t be all that surprising because Ree states in the recipe that this is a sinus clearer. And some other people mentioned that while the flavor was good, they wished that the sauce had more body.

So I took both of those comments onboard and got to work.

pulled porkWhile my kids are used to spicy food, I knew that anything labeled as a sinus clearer might be too much for my littlest cubs. So I cut the called for 11 ounces of chipotle peppers down to 5.

The end result yielded a slightly spicy pulled pork. Next time I will up the ante to 8 ounces. If it weren’t for my littles I would’ve stuck with Ree’s suggestion of 11 ounces. I’m not sure why there were so many people complaining about the heat in the comments of her recipe. My tongue must be fireproof or something.

And even though it was cooked in Dr. Pepper, I couldn’t taste the Dr. Pepper flavor. All of the flavors just melded together and turned into something quite wonderful. The meat itself? It literally fell apart as I removed it from my dutch oven. So very tender.

dr pepper barbecue sauceI do agree with the commenters that the cooking sauce needed more body. So I went ahead and made Elizabeth Karmel’s barbecue sauce which was out of this fruit loopin’ world good.

Once again, you can’t really taste the Dr. Pepper in the recipe, but it does go well with the other ingredients and the result is a tangy thick sauce that goes just perfectly with Ree’s recipe.

Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork

nachosOf course there were leftovers which was a good thing because we used those leftovers the next day to make the best nachos I’ve ever made. Pulled pork, fresh grated cheddar, avocados and cilantro. Perfection.

Pioneer Woman Italian Cream CakeAnd what would dinner be without dessert? Incomplete. So I made another recipe from that same cookbook. Billie’s Italian Cream Cake. Actually, this is a recipe that Michael picked out. As I was cooking the pork, he was on the hunt for a dessert that he could whip up.

I had suggested an easy looking brownie recipe. He chose this recipe that requires multiple steps including beating egg whites until stiff peaks form. Way beyond his open the brownie box, dump mixture in bowl and and add three ingredients capabilities.

He showed me the picture and said do you think you could make this? I think it might be more than I can handle. And what’s a mom supposed to say to that? Pass me the eggs.

Italian Cream CakeAnd just like every other recipe I’ve made from that book, this one was also a winner. Light and fluffy coconut cake layers with a rich cream cheese frosting topped with toasted coconut and pecans. What’s not to love?

Never mind that I will be eating carrot sticks for the next two weeks to make up for the calorie carnage, it was so worth it.

Those are just two of the many excellent recipes from Food from My Frontier. My favorite of Ree’s three cookbooks. How about you? Do you have this cookbook? Have you tried either of these recipes? Have any other Pioneer Woman recipes that you love to cook? Let’s chat food.

This is not a sponsored post. I purchased all of the cookbooks mentioned. There are affiliate links in this post.

Shopping Made Easier with the Walmart App and a Giveaway!

Walmart.comLife with four kids is never boring. Especially right about now. We are two weeks away from starting school and we are in full-on back to school shopping mode. Clothes, shoes, school supplies. The list seems to go on and on. Matter of fact, I’m sort of getting shopped out. Shopping for four kids from a college student down to an elementary  schooler can takes its toll on a parent.

Walmart App

So when I was given the opportunity to try out the Walmart app to purchase some P&G items that I use on a daily basis, I was excited to give it a whirl. I’ve never shopped from my smartphone before. But heck, how hard could it be?

Walmart App P&GAs it turns out, not hard at all. After downloading the app, I was shopping within minutes. And the coolest part? Free shipping right to your home if your order totals $50 or more. Now that’s convenient. You can also pick up your order at your local Walmart if you’d rather.

Some people get anxious at the idea of using their credit card to purchase something through a smartphone. Walmart has a solution for that. Just choose the “pay with cash” option and you can pay for your order when you pick it up. Still a great time saver.

I like the idea that I can shop via the Walmart app wherever I am. I spend so much of my time waiting on my kids while they are involved with their extracurricular activities. Being able to shop for necessities while waiting on my kids is a real time saver. Taking advantage of that free shipping on top of the everyday savings that Walmart offers makes it all the sweeter.

How would you like to enter to win a $25 gift card to Walmart so that you too can try out the app? To enter, comment on this post by leaving your first name, last initial and the state you are from. That’s it! Entries must be received by Wednesday, August 20th 11:59pm ET. Good luck!

This is not a sponsored post. However, I received a Walmart gift card from P&G so that I could try out the app. 

 

The Year of the Co-Pay

LeelaI had some fun plans for this post. It was going to start off with a shot of the girls bouncing on some nifty trampolines at this awesome indoor trampoline park that I went to with the kids yesterday. Seriously, the place was SO MUCH FUN! Trampolines, a rock climbing wall, even basketball courts with a trampoline floor. How cool is that?

Sure, I had to sign a waiver that was as long as War and Peace, but that’s just for the minuscule chance that someone (not my kids) would get hurt. How often could that possibly happen? I mean, the place couldn’t stay in business if people got hurt all the time, right?

So of course I signed the waiver. And things were going just a-ok for the first one hour and twenty-five minutes of our one and a half hour playtime that we purchased. But in the last five minutes of our playtime, Leela landed the wrong way on her ankle which necessitated a trip to the emergency room. Again.

It’s like this kid’s sole purpose in life right now is to test the limitations of our health insurance. I jest, sort of.

Leela at LaheyNot to worry. She’s going to be fine. It’s just going to take a bit of time to heal. As you can see from the picture above, she’s already back to her giggling self. Kids are resilient little buggers, aren’t they?

So I think I’m going to skip that review because I’m pretty sure no trampoline park will appreciate a review with a picture of a child in a wheelchair in the post. But it was fun until it wasn’t.

 

Bridgestone DriveGuard Event, BlogHer ’14

Bridgestone BlogHerAs I mentioned in a previous post, I was chosen as a Bridgestone Ambassador for this year’s BlogHer ’14. Now, I’m not particularly car care savvy, so I was really looking forward to what Bridgestone had in store for me.

My first job was to stop off at their BlogHer booth and check out their display. I expected tires and car care info, but what I found were manicurists and massage therapists. We were off to a good start! Bridgestone Amber

After getting a little pampering, I boarded a bus that took me to an offsite test course which had vehicles fitted with Bridgestone DriveGuard tires. But before we took them out for a spin, we learned a bit about car care from Amber, a car and service expert with Firestone Complete Auto Care.
She gave us all kinds of good info about how important it is to keep tires properly inflated  and also showed us which cables go where when you jump a battery. I don’t know about you, but jumper cables scare the heck out of me.

Bridgestone Drive Guard Tires with a FlatAfter a bit of education, we got into our vehicles. Each car was fitted with three properly inflated DriveGuard tires and one flat. The point was to show us how the car handled at 50mph with a DriveGuard tire flat. I fully expected it to be a bumpy ride.

I mean, have you ever driven with a flat? Holy moly is it a ruckus. But let me tell you this, at 50mph I felt nothing other than a smooth ride. It was the craziest thing. These DriveGuard tires from Bridgestone are something else. They really do keep you going  up to 50 miles at up to 50 mph as they claim, giving you the opportunity to get to safe and convenient place to get your tire repaired or replaced I was impressed.

Bridgestone Drive Gaurd Course

After our spin with a flat tire, we took a ride on their course to see how the tires (properly inflated) handled in not so great weather conditions. They actually sprayed down the track to make it slick.

Bridgestone Driver Cole

Our driver Cole, who is a race car driver, took us out for a spin to show us what the DriveGuard tires are capable of. And when I say he took us out for a spin, I really mean it. He floored that gas pedal and we zoomed around the course, taking turns super sharp but never losing control of the vehicle. I really thought that was going to happen too. Cole can drive really really fast.

Melanie with Bridgestone Tires While Cole was making me feel like I was in a salad spinner, he gave us all kinds of tips on how to drive in bad weather conditions. One of my takeaways is to look straight ahead when you feel like you are losing control of your car. Cole emphasized how important it is to keep your eyes up and looking at what’s to come. Not towards the hood of your car where your eyes naturally look when you feel like you are sliding.

He gave us many opportunities to practice that point. I felt like jell-o when I got out of the car. All in all it was a very educational experience. They certainly proved their point. The tires are a good investment. Right now DriveGuard tires are available for sedans, coupes or wagons equipped with tire pressure monitoring systems.

And after experiencing what it feels like to drive on a flat tire with DriveGuard, I’m highly considering Bridgestone DriveGuard tires for our sedan the next time we need to buy tires. You can find Bridgestone DriveGuard tires at Firestone Complete Auto Care and other leading Bridgestone tire retailers. For more info on Bridgestone and Firestone Complete Auto Care, you can follow them on Twitter @Bridgestone @FirestoneAuto and also on Facebook at Bridgestone Tires and Firestone Complete Auto.

This is a sponsored post on behalf of Bridgestone Tires. All opinions are my own.

Repairability of DriveGuard tires depends on the tire damage, amount of pressure loss, and vehicle operating conditions. Contact a Bridgestone retailer for details.

When Labels Don’t Fit

Melanie NaturalAs I was sorting through images from my trip to California, I kept flipping past the image of myself that you see above. What could’ve been a great picture to share is marred by dark circles under my eyes and a lack of makeup because I was feeling rather zen  (read lazy) that day. I guess California can have that effect on a girl.

But as I was eliminating images off my phone tonight, I kept coming back to this image. I think it’s because this picture really looks like me. Like the Melanie that I see in the mirror. Even with the circles. Despite the fine lines. This is a good representation of what I look like when I’m just kicking back. But why did I hesitate to share this with you originally? I guess the truth of the matter is that no image will ever completely satisfy me. I see the worst of myself in every single image ever taken. And I recognize that this is a problem.

I’ve written about this extensively before. I recognize that I have a disorder. But this disorder is not something that I’ve been able to clinically define. Sure, we know that there are bulimics and people who suffer from anorexia nervosa. but what about those of us who just see ourselves in such a critical way that we want to shatter the mirror?

What about those of us who can’t see anything positive in our reflection? I’ll fess up here. I did go to counseling for this when I was younger. And after awhile my doctor pretty much gave up on helping me because I couldn’t see reality. I could only see defects no matter how hard the doctor tried to point out reality. And even to this day I don’t know what that reality is because I can’t SEE it.

Back then this issue was just a me thing. But now I have children and now more than ever I have to be extra careful not to pass this crazy onto my own kids. Because I don’t want them to be stuck in this prison of mirrors that reflects failure from every angle. I can’t have that for my children. I won’t allow my kids to be caged in that low self esteem prison.

So I hide my crazy in my head. But it still seeps out in very subtle ways.

Let me see the pic, I’ll say to my friend. Quickly making her delete any image she takes of me because I hate them all. Even after she points out all of the good attributes of the image.

No, please don’t take a picture today, I say to another friend because it’s my “feeling fat day”. A day when I feel obese when I clearly am not.

Get in the picture, Mommy! That’s ok, I say. Mommy just wants to get your picture today. But the truth of the matter is that mommy isn’t allowed to like herself today because the scale said so. By one quarter of a pound weight gain.

I have a disorder. I don’t know what it is. No one seems to know what it is. And because I’m normal in every other way, the world says I’m fine. But I sure don’t feel like it.

BlogHer ’14, A Few Thoughts

BlogHer 14This year was BlogHer’s 10th anniversary. And I’m proud to say that I’ve been to a majority of those ten conferences. Even the year I wasn’t in attendance when I got hit by the car, my friends brought a picture of me mounted on a stick. And I did have a conference ticket, so I guess I was there at least on paper.

BlogHer has had a huge impact on my blogging career. If you can call it a career, really. It’s not like I make a lot of money from blogging. I don’t. My income comes from the companies that want to work with bloggers and the work that I do for them. Not from my writing which would be really nice, but I am not Hemingway.

Even still, being part of the BlogHer community has offered me many benefits. Support from my community, education and inspiration are just a few benefits that come to mind. When I feel like I’ve hit a writing stumbling block, the BlogHer community is always quick to help. Or when I’m down, there’s always an encouraging word. I love the feeling of camaraderie I receive from this community.

So when I was asked to speak at BlogHer ’14, I was deeply honored. BlogHer was looking for people to speak who had experience with changing their blog from one niche to another. Or to no niche at all. Something that I did not that long ago. And even though I had pushback from some, for the most part my readers (you) allowed me to make this blog a place where I felt comfortable writing on whatever moved me. Not just shopping. Thanks again for that.

BlogHer 14 PanelMy co-panelists also had experience in that area and it was a real nice mix of thoughts and advice on how to change your blog with as little damage as possible. I was very worried that we wouldn’t use up the full hour and fifteen minutes allotted to our panel, but we went straight through with only eight minutes to spare.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. It’s different to speak in front of your peers than to a group of strangers who don’t know your craft. But before the panel started, two of the other panelists shared that they were nervous too which oddly calmed me down quite a bit. I think we did rather well once we got rolling as we fed off each other, with lots of back and forth which made it interesting. I hope.

Melanie BlogHer 14Besides my panel, I visited others and particularly enjoyed a monetization panel. My friend Jenny was on that panel and I can’t believe all I learned from her while sitting in the audience. You think you know your friends and then you hear them speak and it’s like WHO ARE YOU? Seriously, I need to shut up and let my friends do all of the talking when I see them because good gracious are they smart.

Speaking of friends, there I am above with the gang I hung out with at BlogHer. None of them are bloggers. All pr peeps, but lovely just the same.  The gal in the yellow shirt is Kristin. She is one of the best pieces of conference swag I’ve ever received. Some people like to win free iPads and laptops at conferences like this. I’ll take the friendships over electronics any day of the week.

And you won’t see any swag pictures from this conference. There just wasn’t much offered this year. I have mixed feelings about this. I really don’t need another freebie from any conference ever again because after all of these years of blogging, it just becomes clutter. Free stuff sounds like a ton of fun until it overtakes your home and makes you feel like you should be featured on the show Hoarders.

That said, when there is good swag on the expo floor, it creates a kind of energy. People get excited about free stuff. Bloggers especially like to get samples to write about. So at previous conferences when the swag was of higher quality (not cups, chapstick or pens), the mood was buzzy and jovial. I just didn’t feel that on the floor this year. It was rather subdued.

Actually, the whole conference was subdued which made me miss the BlogHer of years ago when we all stayed in the same hotel and hung out in the lobby into the wee hours of the morning. Those were the days. I learned more during those late night lobby cocktailing sessions than I did from the actual panels themselves.

That’s not to say that it wasn’t a good conference this year. It was. There was just a different vibe. It actually felt like a professional conference which might be what BlogHer intended to begin with. Not a party-like free for all and swag fest that was becoming its reputation.

McDonald's at BlogHer 14But let’s face it, bloggers love a good party (don’t we all?). And our closing party did not disappoint. McDonald’s was the sponsor of the closing party and they certainly wowed us. From the truck that was placed in the middle of the party passing out Happy Meals, salads and smoothies to the headliner of the event…

Rev Run BlogHer 14Rev Run of Run-D.M.C. fame. The energy that man brought to the party was electric. Holy heck. The place went wild. So much fun. McDonald’s has been sponsoring events at BlogHer for years, but this was their very best event yet. Oh, and check this out…

McDonald's Beanie Boos BlogHer 14The heart is full of Beanie Boos from the last Happy Meal promo. What my girls wouldn’t do to have that in their room. They are kind of Beanie Boo crazy.

The closing party was when it really started to feel like BlogHer. Matter of fact, that’s where I bumped into most of my blogging friends. On the very last day. Better late than never.

All things considered, I feel like this conference is still the most important blogging conference to attend. At least that’s true for myself. You see, I don’t go to BlogHer to connect with brands while many others have that as their primary goal.

I go to refuel and reconnect with others in my trade. Sure, it’s awesome to get a great tip or learn something new to make my blog better, but I really go to spend time with my community. While I do connect with them online on a daily basis, there’s nothing like talking with them face to face. My life feels more virtual than it should. Seeing these people face to face makes those relationships more real life.

Now if I could just get a mini conference with my readers. How much fun would that be?

In closing here are some pictures from the McD’s party. It was worth the trip to San Jose for just that night!

Melanie and Elisa BlogHer 14

Lisa Stone BlogHer

Terri BlogHer McDonald's Closing Party

RW

Melanie McDonald's BlogHer

Rev Run BlogHer

Goodbye Farmers’ Market, You’re Drunk

Summer Produce

In the heart of winter when I feel like my soul is freezing over, I start dreaming about summer produce. After months of seemingly never ending kale, the thought of tender bright green bibb lettuce and juicy ripe tomatoes gets me more excited than a bottle of KY Intense paired with a bottle of Rodney Strong. Ripe produce can have that effect on a New Englander.

And it’s during those brutally cold months, when the grocery stores only have anemic looking fruits and veggies for sale, that I start to dream about the farmers’ markets and the bursting with color produce that they offer.

I grew up in the Midwest. My memories are full of roadside produce stands and farmers’ markets. Matter of fact, almost all of my neighbors had vegetable gardens. Fresh produce was available everywhere you looked. It didn’t matter if you were rich or poor, produce was affordable and everyone could enjoy it.

One of my favorite summertime memories as a child was one of a neighbor taking me out to her garden to pick what was ripe. One of her hands grasped my own while the other hand held a salt shaker. She rustled around through the plants which seemed as tall as myself, and pulled out a softball sized tomato that she sprinkled with salt and promptly bit into. And then she passed it to me and I did the same.

I wasn’t a tomato lover until that point. But when I bit into that fruit, it felt like I bit into summer. Liquid sunshine dripped down my face and the scent of the tomato was heavy in the air. Intoxicating. It was that very moment when I became a foodie.

And here I am today, a mother of four who wants her kids to enjoy and appreciate the bounty of summer. But I have to tell you, times have changed. Or at the very least, things are different here in New England. Actually, after a trip out to California where I saw gorgeous produce at ridiculously fair prices, I can assure you that this is a problem in my region.

Farmers’ markets have become the Louis Vuitton of the produce world. What used to be an enjoyable educational, not to mention healthy, outing with my kids to pick up some fixin’s for that night’s salad has now become a lesson in vanity produce consumerism.

Farmers’ market offerings used to consist of  stuff that grew out of the ground. That and maybe vendors selling jars full of stuff that grew out of the ground. Hence the term farmers’ markets. Sure, sometimes you could find eggs. But even that makes sense. Chicken, farms, yes that makes sense to me.

But today? Things have gotten a little crazy.

Artistically labeled bottles of high end condiments for your grass fed $15+/lb hamburger patties. Organic duck eggs. Cheeses that rival French pricing (after the euro to dollar conversion).  Freshly made sandwiches and soups that cost more than a rather nice sit-down restaurant (I’m looking at you $11 sandwich). And of course produce that makes Whole Foods look like a bargain.

Farmers' Market Vanity PricingWhat you see above is what I purchased at my final trip ever to my local farmers’ market. I paid $8.00 for two tomatoes, a sad bunch of cilantro and a cucumber. This was hardly enough produce for a single meal that I was making that evening. Considering that experts recommend five servings of fresh fruits and vegetables per day, my budget for a family of six would be decimated if I purchased all of my produce from my farmers’ market.

Now, what if you are poor? Can you shop at the farmers’ market? Sure thing! They accept EBT cards. You too can have duck eggs cooked in farm fresh butter along with your wild boar bacon. Equal opportunity vanity food for all! But know that you are going to put a serious dent into that EBT card balance.

But here’s the craziest part of all, this vanity farmers’ market thing is working. People are actually willing to fork over their hard earned cash for the right to fill their trendy specially made farmers’ market baskets (not made by Louis Vuitton although I think Louis is missing out on market share here) with products that only the truly rich can afford.

And as much as I want to be a locavore and support my local farmers, I can’t do it at the expense of my good sense.

Lambert's Market Marshfield MAAs I was running errands the other day, I came across a little market in Marshfield called Lambert’s. I hadn’t noticed it before as it was tucked into a little strip mall and sort of didn’t look too impressive. No fancy signs advertising organic duck eggs and no loaves of fresh baguettes stacked up in the windows beckoning people in. Just a sign that said produce.

And I did need tomatoes because two will never do for a family of six, so I went in to check it out. A very no frills place, Lambert’s isn’t much to the eye, but let me tell you, they make up for it in produce pricing.

Heirloom tomatoes for .99/lb. Are they local? No, they sure aren’t. Actually, they’re from Canada (eh?). But they were gorgeous, ripe and smelled heavenly. And last I checked, Canada is a pretty safe bet. It’s not like we are talking China. Canada is practically another state, albeit a rather large one. I like Canadians. Into the bag they went.

BasilThen I saw the basil. Large bushy bundles for only $2.99 each. This same bundle would’ve cost three times as much at my local market. I have no idea where this was grown. I imagine it would have to be somewhat local considering how fast basil deteriorates after picking.

And then I continued to purchase other reasonably priced produce that I’m pretty sure wasn’t locally grown.

Lambert's Produce Marshfield MA

The purchase you see above came to $10 at Lambert’s, the no frills non local (for the most part) produce shop. I estimate that if I had purchased that same produce locally at my farmers’ market, it would’ve been in the ballpark of $30.

In a perfect world, I would like to consume only locally grown produce. I believe in supporting local businesses. I also wish that I could feed my family all organic produce because I do believe that organic is better. But I just can’t afford to shop that way on a regular basis.

My wish for farmers’ markets is that they would offer quality produce at reasonable prices for all. Instead, I feel like the ones in my area are more like weekly food festivals for the wealthy. Complete with live music and other entertainment, why don’t we call it what it is? A luxury foodie boutique. At least that way people are prepared to be price gouged.

Traveling Smart with Bridgestone Tires

Melanie and Kids in CarYou know, as a mom of four, I have to come up with some pretty creative ways to keep the kids entertained over the summertime. During the early weeks of summer it was easy enough. All of the kids were thankful for those first days home from school once summer vacation started.But after the novelty wore off, the “I’m bored” complaints set in. That’s when I started to make plans that included day trips to area attractions that would captivate the kids’ minds and silence the “I’m bored” comments that were driving me mad.

Luckily for me, my family is rather portable. The kids love an adventure and I’m happy to give them one. But even though I was more than ready for a summer adventure, my car was not. I blush to admit it, but car care is not my strong suit. I know precious little about tire pressure or tire maintenance which is rather crucial for safe summer travel.

So when Bridgestone asked if I would be an ambassador at this year’s BlogHer conference, it was a no brainer. Of course I want to learn more about keeping my family safe while on the road. Isn’t that what I’m here for?

And when I heard that they wanted me to take part in their DriveGuard No Pressure Zone that they are hosting at BlogHer this year, I was excited to learn more about the fuss-free care tips from the team at Firestone Complete Auto Care.

Not to mention that they invited me to take part in a drive and learn opportunity that will have me driving around a cones course in a car with a flat tire to learn how the DriveGuard tire line from Bridgestone can protect my family. Did you know that DriveGuard tires allow you to travel up to 50 miles at up to 50 mph if a puncture or loss a pressure were to occur*? I didn’t either. I’m going to learn all about that at BlogHer this week!

Cape CodWith all of the travel that I write about here on this blog, it makes sense that I learn more about tire safety. So I’m pretty excited that I will have the opportunity next week to learn more about tire care and safety which of course I will share with all of you!

Shannon on BeachEven though I still have a lot to learn, I have learned a few things over the years. Here are some tips that have helped me make traveling with kids safe and less stressful:

  • Snacks! Be sure to pack foods and drinks that will not destroy the interior of your vehicle. Trail mix, real fruit leathers, granola and clear juices/water are a few examples of foods I pack for road trips that almost guarantee that I won’t spend too much of my time cleaning my car after the fact. Have you ever given your kids yogurt in the backseat? I wouldn’t advise it.
  • Pack a first aid kit. I can’t tell you how many times my kids have gotten blisters while traveling. A first aid kit goes a long way in making a day trip more enjoyable. A fresh stock of bandages and antiseptic sure beats stuffing tissues into your kid’s shoes. Been there. Done that. It doesn’t work.
  • Have baby wipes on hand. Even if your kids are teens or tweens, baby wipes in the back of your car can be a lifesaver. I always keep a tub handy because you never can tell when you might have a llama or goat licking kibble off of your kid’s hands. No joke. We’ve left a farm only to search for the nearest restroom to wash off llama spit. I wish I was kidding.
  • Keep a bag of change handy. I can’t tell you how many tickets I’ve gotten nailed for not paying parking meters when I should’ve. Now I always keep a baggie of change in my vehicle. Sure beats paying a $25 fine.
  • Toilet paper. Keep a roll in the trunk. I know this sounds crazy, but sometimes kids just have to go. And when kids have got to go, they mean they had to go ten minutes ago. Keeping a roll handy means that you are prepared no matter when nature calls. Just keep it legal.

Traveling with littles is never dull. The most important part is keeping it safe. I’ll be reporting more about my experiences at BlogHer with Bridgestone, but until then you can feel free to follow them on Twitter @BridgestoneTires and @FirestoneAuto. And you can visit them on their Facebook page for more info and tips!

* Repairability of DriveGuard tires depends on the tire damage, amount of pressure loss and vehicle operating conditions. Contact a Bridgestone retailer for details.

This is a sponsored post on behalf of Bridgestone DriveGuard tires. All opinions are my own.

A Pair of Jeans

Melanie JeansI have a pair of jeans. Actually, I’ve been in possession of  them for a decade. These jeans are tattered. Eased over hips that have born four children but the denim does not acknowledge that. It does what fabric is required to do. It covers. It conceals what I command it to hide. My imperfections. My fears. But at the same time it accentuates what I require it to.

The jagged edges of my hip bones. The bones that brought forth five children although only four survived. Those bones are solid . They speak of strength. Of fortitude. They jut out in defiance.  Challenging fate to bring what it will. But at the same time they swing softly to the music. Acknowledging that they too can be seduced in moments of weakness.

The denim also hides the scars of child abuse. The wounds etched deeply into the undercarriage of my youth. Scars that only the closest to me understand.

Fabric is forgiving that way, is it not? What is the purpose of fabric, exactly? Is it not to accentuate? To conceal our weaknesses?

And then there is strength. My legs. I recognize that my legs have been an asset. While some women have been gifted with long flowing locks, slim cinched waists and petite upper bodies, I have been given the power to stand tall. On slender but strong limbs that hold me steady. To weather whatever is laid before me. Maybe that is why I rarely cover them?

The strength to forge forward through hard times. A living testimony to others that they too can navigate through this perilous journey called life.

Melanie Jeans

Over the years these jeans have witnessed more than they should’ve. The death of a baby. The total annihilation of its owners bones. A broken heart. A shattered spirit.

But yet the the fabric still fits. Worn in places, but still whole. Soft to the touch but still strong enough to resist harm.

A garment that not only clothes, but protects. Fabric that not only conceals, but magnifies the strength of a woman. And even though there are holes, places where the fabric has worn perilously thin, the woman still prevails.

When this pair of jeans was purchased, they were stiff. Creased at the knees and dyed a deep indigo blue. Completely unaware of what was to come. But with time they were weathered. Softened by stress, heat and water. Washed away to a soft baby blue.

But today as I pack things away, as I contemplate what stays and what should go, I can’t help but hold onto these jeans. Even though they are threadbare. Even though the hems are frayed and unraveling…

These jeans are as much a part of me as my beating heart. A testimony to the journey I have traveled. A testament to the fact that even though life can be harsh, I am softened by the pounding waves that crash upon the rocks of my foundation.

So as I decide what to keep or what to giveaway of the garments of my life, these stay. If nothing more than as a reminder of how far I’ve come. And to remind me that I am no better than a piece of cotton. Woven the same as a garment of denim. And that I should be as lucky to be worn away to a soft baby blue while I protect and cover those I am here to serve for as long as they will have me.

Sailfest New London, CT

New London CT SailfestThe past week has been a whirlwind of activity. I won’t even bore you with the details because I’m certain that it’s no different than your own life. Busy.

But amidst the chaos that is my life, I did have a bit of a respite this week. My dear friend Linda invited me to her home in Connecticut to attend Sailfest. Held in Southeastern Connecticut, Sailfest is a three day festival with all kinds of fun activities. My kids enjoyed seeing the Tall Ships, eating their weight in kettle corn and lobster rolls, watching spectacular fireworks and swimming until their fingers and toes pruned up.

Way too much fun in seventy-two hours. So much fun that I have precious little energy to do anything other than post pictures. Here’s my lazy girl recap of our time. I’ll write a meatier post when I recover…
Linda and Girls

Girls and Bulldog

Melanie's Wine Glass

Linda and Shannon

Skipper's Restaurant CT

Sailfest New London CT

Sailfest The Virginia

Sailfest CT

Moonlight New London