Monday, July 30, 2012

Atlanta Book Drive


To read well, a child first needs to see well, as 80 percent of what we learn is through our eyes. However, an astonishing one in four children has an undetected vision problem—many of which are due to lack of vision care. My boys have both had several eye exams at various stages in his life through their pediatrician (love her), so it really surprised me to hear that it has been reported that more than 76% of American children under the age of five have never received a comprehensive eye exam!

To shed light on the critical role healthy vision plays in helping to develop a child’s passion for reading and learning, VSP Vision Care, Transitions Optical and Bess the Book Bus have launched the national “Eyecare About Reading” Book Drive competition. The Book Drive will provide free books, eye exams and glasses (when needed), totaling more than two million dollars, to Atlanta's children in need.

Three well-known bloggers from across the country, including Atlanta's own Meghan Cooper, will compete to collect the most books before August 22. The Atlanta books will be donated to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta as well as to Bess the Book Bus, a mobile literacy outreach program that travels across the country providing free books to underprivileged children in schools, shelters and community organizations.
“Reading opens worlds of opportunities for children throughout their academic and personal lives. I am thrilled to be a part of this campaign, which will help to spread the love of reading to kids, many of whom have never had a book of their own or access to proper eye care, potentially hindering their reading skills.” ~Jennifer Frances, founder of Bess the Book Bus.
How the Book Drive works:
For every three books donated in the competition (either through the bloggers or online), VSP will donate one free eye exam (and, if needed, glasses fitted with Transitions lenses) to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta for children without access to these services. VSP will provide up to 5,500 free eye exams in total for the campaign, a value of more than $2,000,000.
If Atlanta collects the most books Children's Healthcare of Atlanta will receive an additional 100 free eye exams (and glasses with Transitions lenses), as well as a special visit from Bess the Book Bus and the VSP/Transitions Optical Mobile Eyes clinic nicknamed Eyenstein.
“Increasing access to quality eyecare is a priority for VSP,” said Connie Vavricek, director of industry outreach at VSP Vision Care. “To partner with organizations such as Transitions Optical and Bess the Book Bus, who share our passion to give back, increases the collective reach to make a positive impact on the life of a child.”
Ready to participate? Heres how: 
The book drive will be from July 17-August 22.
Metro Atlanta residents will be able to donate their new (for the safety of patients) books at the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Urgent Care Centers listed below. Hours of operation for the centers are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and 9a.m. to 9p.m. on weekends.
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Urgent Care Centers
Children's at Mount Zion (through Friday 27th and Hudson Bridge location opens August 1)
Attn: Lisa Gaither
2201 Mount Zion Pkwy
Morrow, GA 30260-3312
404-785-8660

Children's at North Point
Attn: Rose Weber
3795 Mansell Road
Alpharetta, GA 30022-8247
404-785-8540

  
Children's at Satellite Boulevard
Attn: Katina Artis
2660 Satellite Boulevard
Duluth, GA 30096-5803
404-785-8330
Children's at Town Center
Attn: Dana Hunter Tatum
2985 George Busbee Parkway
Kennesaw, GA 30144-6812
404-785-8010
Children's at Forsyth
Attn: Roshonda Gideon
410 Peachtree Parkway, Suite 300
Cumming, GA 30041-7407
404-785-3100
If you live outside of these areas, visit HYPERLINK "http://www.Facebook.com/VSPVisionCare" www.Facebook.com/VSPVisionCare, select the Book Drive Tab and make a “promise” to protect your eyes. For every promise received, Transitions Optical will donate one free book to Bess the Book Bus.
To donate a book, visit the Book Drive Tab at www.Facebook.com/VSPVisionCare.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Its Olympic Time!

Its that time again! The Olympics are here! One to favor the Summer Olympics in general, I have been anxiously awaiting the start of this year's in particular so that I could share them with the boys. Its always just been a lot more thrilling to me than its Winter counterpart. Something about all the action with the running and the jumping and the throwing of heavy things that probably shouldn't be thrown. Whats that called again? We'll just go with "the throwing of heavy things that probably shouldn't be thrown" for now. Savvy? Oh and the oversized lawn darts. Yeah, we may skip that particular event...

Anyway, this is the first Summer Olympics that either of my kids have been alive for and its even better that D will be able to really get into it (hence the missing of the lawn darts). He is so into sports of all kind and I am really hoping he will enjoy watching the gymnastics set most of all. D is to tall to be a future gymnast but I really think he would enjoy it. He is all lean muscle anyway so this would be his kind of thing for reals. Kid can dead lift his body up onto the top of anything overhead using only his hands. You try it.


On Friday, we started the festivities off by watching the opening ceremonies. Guys.. can I just say how weird the Mary Poppins/ Voldemort puppet thing was? I mean. I get it. I do. Seriously though? Together? Just weird.



Otherwise, we had a grand time watching together. The boys were completely mesmerized and I spent a lot of the time giggling to myself at all the British ins. Except the Volde-Poppins thing. At which we all left the room for a few. Still, lets face it, we all squee'd a little when we saw Mr. Bean, right? And the iron rings? Can't beat that kind of theatrics.

The boys were also super excited to see the Queen herself. Then she jumped out of a helicopter with James Bond. So you have to admit, she is pretty cool.

They got a little restless when all the teams were streaming in and waving their hellos to the world around but I think it is always one of my favorites. The athletes always look so excited. Why shouldn't they? This is huge for them. Its something they have likely aspired to much of their whole lives. Win or lose, this is still something that most people will never accomplish. Not too shabby if you ask me. Let them have their moment.

Of course then there was the torch lighting. I was particularly touched by the fact they had the construction workers there to line the path of the torch coming into the stadium. Lets face it, same thing as the athletes, this is a once in a lifetime accomplishment. How many of you have "built Olympic stadium" on your resume? Thats what I thought.

The weird leafy, flowery torch thing is cool too. I have to admit though, I kind of miss the old stand by torches of days past. Atlanta had a really cool torch.

After that athlete parade, we all went to bed and both boys were mad excited to get up and watch some of the events the next morning.

Which we will.

In fact, we will probably spend the whole weekend going back and forth between the T.V., the dinner table, and outside to practice the moves we saw on the last event. We already know that D is a faster sprinter than K but also that K is a cheater and still wins half the time by using various ploys. Which is the exact same thing I used to do to my big sister. What can I say, he gets it honest.

Looks like this year's Olympics, my boys' first, is set to be an exciting one. Hopefully we will build enough memories that the next time they come around, we can all be as excited as we were this time.

Did you watch the opening ceremonies? Did the Volde-Poppins creep you out too? What is your favorite sport to watch?

Friday, July 27, 2012

On the Move. Again.

Again. You would think that after all the shenanigans revolving around the last two moves we have made, that we would have learned to stay put. What with all the hospital stays and mini- van moving. Well, I guess technically I have but this time I have no choice. It's a move or be moved type of situation that is beyond my control. For those keeping track, this will be our seventh move since D was born and he is only 4 years old. Fun, right?

When we moved into this apartment, I thought it would be a forever place. It's a great neighborhood, close to family and friends.  There is a pool for my little swimmy fish and plenty to do close to home unlike the last place we lived. The apartment itself is bigger than most of the houses in our price range were at the time too. We were lucky to even get this place as quickly as we did. Now we have to find a new little piece of heaven with little time and even littler money.

Moving is never ideal. Especially with young children. Beyond all the things that go along with young kids like toys and endless tiny socks, you have all the memories that go along with the place you are leaving behind. This place has been the bearer of a lot of fun for all of us. We lived in the same complex as my mother, which has been wonderful for the boys. They love their Nana. We have had adventures and enjoyed countless long evenings watching the rain or the stars from the playroom windows. We have shared snuggles that have healed wounds. Its these things that make it hard to leave.

Its also been a harbor of unspeakable grief. The loss of a child and of love happened here. These walls have seen more tears and hurt than they deserve. Than any of us deserve.They have seen me cry and hurt and scream out in emotional pain. They have seen the physical pain of D's broken arm of of my miscarriage. In these ways, its easy for me to walk away. To distance myself from the memories but not the lessons at least.

At any rate, we are headed out again. Packing up the good times and doing our best at weeding out the heart hardening memories. Trying to hold on to our sanity while we face the unknown path before us. Just my boys and me this time. Oh, and of course Bob- dog.

The three of us plus Bob, the musketeers, will be better off. That light at the end of the tunnel is only getting brighter. It's time to start our own adventure only this time we get to choose our own path. Our own adventure. For better or worse. Together, though, we have it all. No matter where we end up.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Baseball Boys

This weekend, we took a break from the frustration surrounding our situation right now and went to the park. D has been showing a lot of interest in baseball lately and I have been promising to teach him how to play. So, as we started to leave D packed up his baseball bat, balls, and Braves hat saying he wanted to play base ball. We went straight down to the baseball field and D went right up to home plate like he has always played.

First swing, he missed. Second swing, he hit it. Third, hit it again. Guys, he hit almost every ball I threw for him! I was so excited I couldn't help but jump in excitement for him. Gradually we progressed to learning the right way to stand in regards to the plate and running the bases. He still needs a little practice holding the bat the "right" way but I say as long as he is hitting it, he is doing okay by me.

Ready to watch? The excitement and joy on his face when he hits it is electric, no??




Of course, K couldn't help but want to take a swing at it and what do you know, he hit it! Kind of! Backwards.. Still! Not bad for a two year old!



Not bad, right? Especially considering just how non- sports like their mama is! Of course K's thing is more soccer than this. He can kick a ball through better than any little kid I have ever seen. The two of them are going to keep me running for reals.  Ces't Ce Bon Vie!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Medieval Times Launches New Atlanta Show #MTAtlanta

Right now in my house, role play is huge. HUGE. the boys are constantly dressing up as this or that and acting out their respective roles with eerie detail. D makes a particularly good Spiderman for a kid who has never even seen the cartoon. The most popular lately has been the pirate and the knight costumes and they have had some epic battles over the dog's valor. Which is a little strange considering Bob is both male and, well, a dog.

Anyway, so when we had the opportunity to head out to Lawrenceville, Georgia and check out the premier of the newest show at Medieval Times, I was stoked. So stoked I talked about it non stop for a few days prior. My friends love it when I do that. I have been meaning to take the boys to a Medieval Times show here in Atlanta for a very long time but I was always held back by either finances or being afraid it would be too intense for them.

When we arrived at the location, situated as a cornerstone of the very exciting Discover Mills mall, the boys were immediately impressed by the huge castle fa├žade. D kept saying he wanted to go through the drawbridge door but, alas, its just art. When we got inside though, we were greeted with another, just as impressive, entry to the castle. We were given our crowns and our knight color that would be our personal heros for the evening and headed inside. We even got to get our picture taken with the king!

Once inside, we checked out all of the awesome decor and enjoyed a few pre- entertainment drinks and rubbed elbows with some other fabulous Atlanta area bloggers*. While we were waiting to be directed to our seats, D and K even got knighted in a very special ceremony by the king. They were quite impressed and D has decided he will answer to nothing less than "Knight D" which of course means K insists on the same royal treatment. I tend to think they are more princes but knights will work.

When were lead to our tables, we stated to get excited. The room is built like a large arena, complete with elevated seats and a sanded area for the action to take place. The seating was seperated into the same colors we were sepreated into for our knights so the seating process was very quick and organized.

Once the show got started and the food started coming, we were all completely mesmerized. I don't think my boys moved or even really took a deep breath the whole time. The story line was intriguing and captivating and kept us all on the edge of our seats cheering and vying for our beloved knights to win the medieval games and the favor of the princess. Starting out with a show of horsemanship that would rival any other through the "catching of the rings" and the Mideastern horse dance, the final hoorah was definitively the jousting and sword fighting competition to determine which knight would be competing against the dark and dangerous visitor from afar to defend the princess' honor.

It was intense you guys!

In my adult mind, I knew they were acting but with sparks flying off their weapons and the crowd yelling and cheering, it was quite an experience! We were all personally vested in our knights at this point and everyone in the arena was yelling and cheering and having an amazing time. To the point I may, or may not, have woken up unable to talk this morning (totally did).

Thing is, not only was the show and the experience a whole world of excitement, the food was mouthwatering. We started off with tomato basil soup and toast then half of a roasted chicken, roasted potato and a spare rib that were all incredible. Not at all what you would expect from a typical dinner theater experience. This was good food. I also may or may not have woken up and ate K's left overs for breakfast after having craved it all night (Yep, did this too).

All in all, Medieval Times was not only an adventure, it was an experience that I know that my boys and I will not soon forget. If you have never had the pleasure of attending a Medieval Times show, in Atlanta or even one of their many other locations, I would highly suggest you take the time to check it out.










For more information on the Atlanta show, including show times, prices and information, check out the website HERE. You won't regret it.

For all of the other Medieval Times locations check HERE.

* Want to check out some more reviews of the show from other Atlanta Bloggers? Check it out!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Seasoning Cast Iron Skillets (Not As Hard As You Think)

So, I posted the other day about how we have switched from using non- stick cookware to cast iron and why. Something that apparently a lot of people are curious about. What you seem to be even more curious about is the part where I mentioned "seasoning" the cast iron. I got at least 4 messages about that. I guess its a term that I grew up with, so I didn't think anything of it.

(Image via Amazon.com)
Seasoning a cast iron skillet is what makes it naturally non- stick. Think about cast iron and the texture, do you think food is going to stick to it? It totally is. A lot. So, you have to apply a layer of something slick to make your food not stick. Some manufacturers sell pre- seasoned cookware. I am not a huge fan of their seasoning. Its generally okay for the first use or so but then you are going to want to season it yourself to make the surface more durable.

What do you season with? Odds are your grandparents used lard but you can use any kind of natural oil like vegetable or coconut. Overall, Crisco makes for the best taste but something more like coconut oil will be much more healthy. Once you have picked out your oil of choice, just follow these simple steps:

  1. Coat the inside of the skillet or pan with the oil. You can do the outside of the skillet as well if you want a uniform look or are a messy cook. It will also prevent the outside of your cookware from rusting over time but it isn't necessary for use. Obviously. It doesn't need to be a particularly thick, heavy coating either. I use a paper towel dipped in oil and then gently wipe the entire surface.
  2. Place the skillet or pan upside down in a preheated 350 degree oven. I would highly recommend putting a piece of foil or something on the rack underneath you cast iron. This will keep your oven from getting all oily and possibly catching fire. Major plus.
  3. Let cast iron "cook" in the oven for about an hour and then turn the oven off and let the cast iron cool in the oven*.
Voila! Your cast iron is ready to use! Personally, I would recommend repeating the above steps once or twice for the most even coverage and durable surface for cooking. You will also have to occasionally reseason your cast iron if you don't keep it clean or cook a lot of acidic type foods in them. Basically, if your foods start to stick, its time to reseason.

A few other helpful hints about cast iron:
  • All that is needed to clean a properly seasoned cast iron skillet is hot water. Seriously. Using harsh cleaners will strip your surface and the dishwasher is a definite no- go as it will rust your cookware quickly. If something is stuck, you can use a heavy duty scrubber or a special cast iron scraper but if things are sticking that badly, its time to reseason.
  • Don't ever leave standing water in your cast iron. Just like an old bumper, water is not any kind of metal surface's friend.
  • You should never use your cast iron to store food. Remove food from the cast iron cookware as soon as it is cooked to prevent any damage to the pan or your seasoning.
  • You can get cast iron to replace any of your cooking utensils. They make them in all shapes and sizes from skillets to bread pans. (My favorite by far is the bread pan!)
So, there you have it! The basic ins and outs of cast iron cook ware. If you haven't made the switch yet, but are considering it or have quesions, just let me know either in the comments or through my contact tab and I will try to answer as best I can. I am knowledgable but far from an expert.

*- Please, please, please, don't ever just grab a heated cast iron skillet and be sure your kids know not to touch too. Test it with a drop of water or finger before you try to pick it up. Cast iron stays hot for a while after its been heated which is good for cooking but bad for your sensitive hands. Pot holders are a necessity.


Friday, July 13, 2012

Making the Switch to Cast Iron

Longer than I would like to admit to ago, I started hearing the ill effects of non stick cookware. About all of the health problems like birth defects from the children of the workers in the plant where its is manufactured and causing testicular, pancreatic, mammary and liver tumors in rats that the chemicals used to make the nonstick cookware can create. I mostly ignored it for a long time because lets face it, non stick is easy. You just simply stick it in the dishwasher and forget about it. 


Heres the thing though, did you know though that non-stick cookware can actually cause some deadly risks to your health? PFOA is a synthetic chemical that is used in the manufacturing of traditional nonstick cookware coatings. The coating itself is called polytetrafluorethylene (PTFE) is commonly known by its trademark name Teflon manufactured by DuPont. Although PFOA isn’t found in the finished Teflon product, it is released as a gas when the coating is heated and begins to break down. Even hot tap water can break down teflon so the odds that the vapors are released when you actually cook on it are inevitable. The associated health risks are so even so undeniable that DuPont has voluntarily committed to eliminate the sources of exposure to PFOA from their manufacturing operations and products by 2015. Three years from now.

So, I made the switch. I pulled out my grandmother's cast iron, re-seasoned it and tossed the old nonstick stuff. Do the cast iron pans take a little more work than the non- stick? Yes, yes they do. At least at first. Once they are properly seasoned though, they perform even better than the non- stick pans. They heat more evenly and are way more durable. It didn't take long before I had replaced all of the cheap non- stick cookware in my house with cast iron and I have not looked back.

(Picture via Amazon.com)
Another benefit of switching to cast iron is that it can help ensure that eaters in your house get enough iron which the body needs to produce red blood cells as it seeps off the cookware into food in small amounts. Neat, no? As rarely as we eat iron rich foods, I know this is something we will benefit from. 

Best part though: cast iron carries no known health risks as long as they are properly seasoned and cared for. 

#Winning

It may seem weird to say but I can honestly say I can tell a difference in our health since we started using the cast iron. Maybe its because of the health factor, maybe its because cooking in the cast iron requires less oil and therefore less calories. I do know that things taste better. They taste more like I imagine they are supposed to taste. Bacon for one tastes so much better cooked in the iron skillets than it ever has before. To the point I can't eat it out anymore because it just doesn't taste "right". 

At any rate, there is no going back now. I have officially been bitten and I can honestly say I will never go back. How could I? No health risks, better tasting food, healthier cooking? Why would anyone?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Cookie Monster Wants You To "Share It Maybe"

This has been stuck in my head all day. How could you resist?



The Dinosaur Show presented by Paul Mesner Puppets @ CTRPuppetryArts


Two daring paleontologists set out to recover bones deep in a desert canyon. Watch as they turn back the clock to the Precambrian era to discover how dinosaurs came to rule the earth. Paul Mesner Puppets, of Kansas City, MO, digs into the past to bring the dinosaurs to life, using hand, rod, shadow and body puppets in this high-energy prehistoric tale. The play explains scientific facts of how dinosaurs became extinct and includes a few whimsical and improbable theories. No bones about it – The Dinosaur Show will tickle your funny-fossil and stimulate your imagination!

Paul Mesner Puppets has previously presented such popular shows as Martha Speaks, True Story of the 3 Little Pigs by A. Wolf, and The Stinky Cheese Man. For more information about the company, visit www.paulmesnerpuppets.org.



WHEN: July 17-29, 2012

Tuesday – Friday: 10 a.m. & 12 p.m.

Saturday: 11 a.m., 1 p.m. & 3p.m.

Sunday: 1 p.m. & 3 p.m.


WHERE: Center for Puppetry Arts

1404 Spring Street NW
Atlanta, GA 30309

HOW: Tickets for patrons ages two and older are $9.25 for Members and $16.50 for Nonmembers and include admission to the performance, Create-A-Puppet Workshop (or Create-A-Puppet To-Go Kit), and all museum exhibits. Membership and group rates are available. ORDER TICKETS ONLINE AT WWW.PUPPET.ORG OR BY CALLING THE TICKET SALES OFFICE AT 404-873-3391.

For more information, please call 404-873-3391 or visit www.puppet.org/perform/dinosaurshow.shtml.

CREATE-A-PUPPET WORKSHOP
Included in the ticket cost is admission to the Create-A-Puppet Workshop, where visitors can experience the thrill of puppetry by creating their own Brachiosaurus Shadow Puppet or pick up a Create-A-Puppet To-Go Kit to continue the fun at home!

MUSEUM
Investigate all kinds of puppets in the Center’s permanent museum PUPPETS: The Power of Wonder and Passports: New Arrivals from the World of Puppetry, as well as our exclusive Jim Henson exhibits. Visit www.puppet.org for more information on the Museum and Special Exhibits.

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