Stop Your Junk Mail Headaches!

If you’re anything like me you absolutely hate junk mail.  It’s nothing that you’re actually interested in and it gets thrown immediately into the recycling bin.  Yet it seems to be a never ending flow of incoming paper.

Junk Mail photoWell, there are brilliant people out there who feel the same way and have done something about it!  Here are a couple of companies that I have found that help you stop the junk.  I have used 41 pounds, personally, and the others are some more options for you to look into.  There are even more companies out there so now that you know what to look for you can do some searching of your own to find the one that meets your needs.

41 Pounds – they claim to “stop 80-95% of unwanted catalogs and junk mail
for you. We’ll contact dozens of companies on your behalf to
STOP YOUR JUNK MAIL and PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT.”  I have used their service and was very happy with them.  It takes some time but the great thing about them is that you can notify them if you continue to get mail from a certain company and they’ll take care of it for you.  The service costs $41 for 5 years of service AND they donate $15 of your payment to the non-profit of your choice.  Pretty cool if you ask me.

Tonic’s Precycle – they offer cheaper plans – $10 and $20 flat rates, however they do not cover elimination of catalogs, non-profit nor political mailings.  The higher $20 gives you the same service as the $10 plan but you also get a reusable shopping bag and a couple CFL lightbulbs thrown in.  They also have a giveback where they will plant 5 trees on your behalf.

DoNotMail.org – this company is put out there by Forest Ethics.  It is a free service but you’re doing all the work.  They provide you with the templates that you need to send in, but hey, it’s free.

Good luck and tell us what you did to get rid of your junk mail!!

If you would like to contribute a tip for our Green Tip Tuesdays segment please email me at info@teaganandmack.com.  You will of course get credit for your tip!

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Velvet Chicken with Mushroom Wine Sauce

You’ve got a lot going on and the last thing you want to be doing is spending an hour or more making dinner at night!  Quick Meal Mondays is all about quick and easy recipes that can be put together in 30 minutes or less, but they are still crowd pleasers!!  Some will be healthy, some will be decadent but all of them will be quick, easy and delicious!

If you want to submit a quick & delish recipe to share please email me at info@teaganandmack.com.  You will, of course, get credit on my blog for your meal!

This week’s submission is a crock pot “find” of mine from the internet and it is delicious!  I used fat free cream of mushroom soup, skim milk and brown rice and it was perfect!

Ingredients:

30 minute meals photo2 10 3/4-oz cans cream of mushroom soup
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup white wine
1 cup uncooked converted rice
1 package onion soup mix
6 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
6 Tbs butter
salt and pepper to taste
grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

In a large bowl, mix the cream of mushroom soup, milk, wine, rice and onion soup mix. Place the chicken breasts in the bottom of the stoneware. Place one tablespoon of butter on each chicken breast. Pour the soup mixture over the chicken and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Cook on Low for 8 to 10 hours or on High for 4 to 6 hours.

quick and easy recipes photo

Let me know if you made it and what you thought in the comments.

Have a 30 min or under tasty recipe you want to share?  Email me at info@teaganandmack.com!

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A Little Organization Gives A Lot of Inspiration!

I did a really fun thing yesterday, well, ok the actual work part was not so much fun but the end result was great.  I completely reorganized the kid’s room!!  I know, I know, there’s nothing earth shattering about that but what it produced was really cool and worth sharing.

Mackenzie and Teagan share a room, so it’s always a challenge to keep the toys organized and having it look like a bedroom instead of an explosion of pink, purple and primary colors.  Since Mackenzie is in the 3rd grade she has regular homework everyday and her room was not a place where she could go to concentrate.  So she was relegated to the kitchen table, which is fine, except that I have a daughter that is extremely prone to getting distracted and having the family milling about in her work area certainly didn’t help.

I decided it was time to make a change so I got on the internet and went on the hunt for the perfect desk.  Something that was fun, reasonably priced, well made and that she wouldn’t outgrow anytime soon.  It arrived a couple of days ago so yesterday I went to work.  I moved everything around so that it made more sense and thus giving her a dedicated area for her desk.  She got involved in the project with me, which gave her ownership, and Teagan ran around and did her best to make a mess in each area we had just finished organizing!!  Gotta love a two year old.

In the end Mackenzie was over the moon about her “new” room and sat down promptly to start her homework.  She was actually able to finish it without any meltdowns (yay!) and was beaming until she collapsed in bed.  Now, I don’t expect her to jump for joy everyday hereafter when it’s time to sit down for homework, but what it does give her is a special place that is her own where she can concentrate and stay focused because she likes being there, it’s organized and it’s away from the rest of the family.  Very important when you have a high energy child that gets easily distracted.

desk photodesk photoplay area photo

So in short, create a space for your child if you can that is just for them.  It could be for school work or it might be a little space carved out for play.  I believe it fosters creativity and I’m always for that!

Tell me how you’ve carved out spaces for your kids and how they respond to it in the comments!

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Mommy Competition and Other Such Nonsense!

You know what really irks me?  This age old issue of “mommy competition!!”  You know what I’m talking about, when you’re at a “mommy and me” thing or a birthday party and you meet someone for the first time and immediately they are comparing how they do things or they start handing out advice and you immediately get the impression that they’re not doing it to be helpful…  Why do moms do this?  What would it be like to live in a world where all moms supported each other?

I read a forum post a little while ago where a mom was reaching out because she was at her wits end with how to handle her son not wanting to go to bed.  She posted that she locked him in the room with the lights out because she just didn’t know what else to do and was looking for suggestions from the group.  Now granted, there are better ways to get your child to go to bed and stay in bed, but do you know what happened?  She got reamed by all the mothers in the forum for being cruel and scaring her child.  I was so upset by this because here was an exasperated mom who was actually ASKING FOR HELP and she was met with judgment from her mom community.  Can you imagine how powerful that forum could have been if every one of those moms had stood next to her (in a virtual kind of way!) and offered words of encouragement and helpful suggestions that would actually work for her?  WOW, she might have actually been able to help her son and learn some great parenting skills, but instead she probably won’t post for help again.  Would you?

So I just want to put it out there – I know I’m not going to change the tide with one blog post, but you’ve got to start somewhere!  Let’s pull together and support our fellow moms.  Not just our close mom friends, but those that we see around us that really need a helping hand.  You never know, it just may come back to you when you really need it!

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5 Ways to Make Your Kids Feel Special…Even Though Mama’s Gotta Work!

My 8 yr old daughter Mackenzie has been complaining lately that “all I do is work”.  Now, let me give you the back story on this. I was a single mom when I had Mackenzie.  I was doing it all on my own so from the time she was five months old she was in daycare.  I would drop her off at 8:30 am and pick her up at 6 pm.  We would have two and a half hours together at night and then she was off to bed and we would start all over the next day.  The weekends were our time since I worked Monday through Friday only.  Mackenzie and I have always been incredibly close.  Even with all that time apart we created a bond that is airtight.  In Feb 2007 I got married and my husband has now adopted Mackenzie and we had a second child together, named Teagan in Aug 2008.

Ok, now let’s fast forward to June 2009 when Glenn and I quit our corporate jobs, moved the family to Colorado and I started my own business.  Now we’re both home all day, as we both are self-employed and working from home.  We share the childcare by switching off halfway through the day, we have no daycare, we just make it work by being flexible when each of us has meetings, etc.  I pick up Mackenzie from school almost everyday at 2:30 and we spend the afternoons together.

I then pick up work again a few evenings a week, after the girls go to bed, to get in a few extra hours.  Working from home gives you a lot of time with the family but you have to get creative on when and where you work!

So why is Mackenzie complaining NOW that “all I do is work”?  Well, I’m sure there are a bunch of possible reasons, but MY belief is that now she sees me so much more that on the occasions where I do need to work a little while she is home she is acutely aware of it.  This got me thinking, how can I get her to see that we actually spend multiple more hours a day together than we did just a year and a half ago?  I came up with five ways that I could make both my kids feel really special while I’m with them, so that when I do have to work it’s not even an issue for them.

working mom photo

  1. When you are with them…be WITH them.  This is all about being present.  I’m the first to admit it’s really hard sometimes to turn off your business head and get into kid mode.  Have you ever had those moments where you are playing with your kids but you’re a thousand miles away?  This can be true for any mom, working or SAHM – we can all get lost in our thoughts.  So if you make a concerted effort to really be with your kids, mentally and physically, it’s game changing for your relationship.
  2. Tell your kids the truth – that the reason you are working is so that you (and your spouse if applicable) can provide for your family and share with them (in an age appropriate way) what being an adult is like.  Now, I’m not saying give them a guilt trip that you’ve got to work so they can have nice things!!  No, no, no!!  What I am saying is that kids can start to develop a healthy respect for the work you do and how it benefits them and the family as a whole.
  3. Tell them you love them a hundred times a day!  You can’t say it too many times.  Remind them, every chance you get, of how important they are to you.
  4. Tell them little stories about how you thought about them during the day.  Maybe it was something that happened at work that reminded you of them, or maybe they just popped into your mind and made you smile.  They will love to hear it!
  5. Ask them lots of questions about how their day was!  Whether they were at school or daycare or with your partner, show them you are interested in what they were up to while you were working.  Not just a “how was your day?” but loads of questions about what they did and who they were with and what they loved about the day and what they didn’t like so much.  Showing a genuine interest in their lives will show them how much you care.

Just a couple of days ago I decided to do a quick test with Mackenzie.  I wanted to check in and see how well I was doing with my girls so I asked the question “What do YOU think is the most important thing in the world to ME?”  Without hesitation she answered “Me and Teagan!”

Phew, I’m doing a-ok!  :)

What has worked for you??  Share with us in the comments below:

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Pesto Gnocchi with Artichokes and Sun Dried Tomatoes

You’ve got a lot going on and the last thing you want to be doing is spending an hour or more making dinner at night!  Quick Meal Mondays is all about quick and easy recipes that can be put together in 30 minutes or less, but they are still crowd pleasers!!  Some will be healthy, some will be decadent but all of them will be quick, easy and delicious!

If you want to submit a quick & delish recipe to share please email me at info@teaganandmack.com.  You will, of course, get credit on my blog for your meal!

This week’s submission is an easy and quick meal, created by…me!  One of my favorites!

under 30 minute mealsIngredients

  • 1 pkg of gnocchi (can substitute pasta if desired)
  • 1/4 cup of pesto sauce
  • 1/2 cup of julienne cut sun dried tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup of sliced calamata olives (more if you love them!)
  • 1 (14oz) can of quartered artichoke hearts
  • 1 chicken breast (optional)

Directions

Boil a large pot of water to cook your gnocchi (or pasta).  While water is heating up do any necessary chopping.  You can buy everything pre-chopped to save time, but even if you have to chop yourself, you’ll do it in under 30 minutes for sure.

quick and easy meals

Boil gnocchi until cooked, typically takes about 4 minutes!  You’ll know they are done because they float to the top of the water.

30 minute meals

Once gnocchi is cooked use a big bowl to mix together gnocchi, pesto, sun dried tomatoes, olives and artichoke hearts.  Stir until the pesto sauce covers all ingredients.

That’s it!  If you want to add chicken as well: while the water is heating up, cut up one breast of chicken into bite size pieces.  (Two breasts if they are small) Pan fry in olive oil (I use the oil from the sun dried tomatoes jar, yum!), add salt and pepper to taste, then add chicken to the mix when you combine all ingredients together.

Let me know if you made it and what you thought in the comments.

Have a 30 min or under tasty recipe you want to share?  Email me at info@teaganandmack.com!

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Video Killed the Radio Star… and my children’s creativity too.

Remember that song?  Ok, I’m dating myself but I was only 2 when it came out!  Ok, I was 7 but who’s keeping track?  Anyway, the song is about the good old days of radio and goes on to tell the story of  a singer and how television killed their career.  Well, not much has changed since the late 70′s.

Television PhotoNow before I begin, I’m not going to start preaching the evils of tv and how you should all chuck your set out a window or anything crazy like that.  I happen to like watching a show here and there.  Even if watching The Bachelor does lower my IQ temporarily, it’s still kind of fun… and don’t get me started on my girl Oprah.  Love her.  Here’s what I know about tv and my kids though.  When my husband and I start to get lax and don’t monitor the amount being watched for our girls – we pay the price.  Oh do we pay the price.

So here’s what happened.  Life gets busy, right?  I’m not going to try to justify it, we got distracted.  We’re both working hard and the t.v. started becoming a bit of a babysitter.  We’re not talking crazy amounts of hours, but still, I’m not proud.  So what happens, at least with my kids, is that their creativity gets sucked right out of their bodies.  I mean it’s just gone.  All of a sudden my 8 year old believes there is nothing fun to do in the world but watch tv or play on the computer and all her toys are lame and everything is boring.  It’s like a crazy vortex that she gets pulled into where nothing matters but the almighty video.

So we hit the wall.  My husband and I knew we only had ourselves to blame, but who wants to sit around and play that game – it was time to set it straight.  We pulled the plug.  I mean everything.  No tv, no video games, no computer time…nothing.  For three weeks.  Can you guess what happened?  I mean after all the complaining and whining…

Yup, life returned to normal.  The kids were playing together, thinking up new games, playing with old toys, creativity was everywhere!  The best part was their joy came back.  No more grouchiness and back talk, just happy kids goofing around.

We’ve got two weeks left in the unplugged world and then my plan is to bring it back in moderation.  Maybe a half hour a day.  I’m not opposed to letting them watch a movie and play some video games on the weekends, but I’m not going back to the land of apathy and sass talk.  No thanks.

Was this all stuff I knew before?  Yes.  Did I let it happen anyway?  Yes.  It’s just one of life’s gentle little reminders that tells us to stay alert and that when life goes a little out of balance you’ve got to stop and reset.

A mini clip just for nostalgia’s sake – Video Killed the Radio Star by The Buggles

What do you do about TV in your house?  Share in the comments!

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Why We Hate Vulnerability…but Have to Have It

I am most certainly not an expert on this topic, but I saw the most powerful video yesterday and felt compelled to share it.  Vulnerability happens to be one of my least favorite emotions!

What Brene Brown is saying is that without vulnerability we don’t live a “whole hearted” life.  We start to feel disconnected with the people around us and shame, fear and unworthiness start to creep in.  We’re unable to feel true gratitude and joy.  What is so great about this video is that she is a hard core analytical researcher and through six years of research she came up with her conclusions.  Conclusions that absolutely rocked her world.

She’s also very funny!  I hope you get as much out of this as I did.  I love to share things that could make us all better parents and happier people in general.

Tell me what you think of the video in the comments!!

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Flying by the seat of your pants is exhilarating…unless you’ve got two kids, a husband, two cats and a company to run…

I’m a planner, always have been.  I like to create plans, make lists and then check them off. So a year and 1/2 ago when my husband and I quit our jobs, packed up the family and moved across states, then both started new businesses… well, it might have seemed a little out of character for me.

I’m not sure what’s in the air, the water, or whatever…but lately I’ve had a lot of people randomly tell me that they could never do what I did, that it was so brave or such a risk, etc.  They wished they could have the courage to break out and do it themselves.  To be honest, I never thought we were being brave or courageous at the time, but now that I look back on it, I guess we did flip our lives sideways and take a lot of risks!

The point I want to make though, is that while, on the outside, it seemed like we were flying by the seat of our pants, it was only due to two years of careful planning that we were actually able to jump off the cliff!

My hope is that by telling my story it will encourage others to follow their dreams and maybe, just maybe, do a little cliff jumping of their own.

My husband Glenn and I and our two daughters, Teagan and Mackenzie, were living in Los Angeles.  Glenn and I were growing tired of the crowds, overpriced homes and poor school systems.  We knew we had to make a change so we had two options 1) jump ship and move to another state that is more affordable and “family friendly” or 2) move a little further outside of the city and we could stretch to afford a house (we were currently living in a VERY small condo by the beach) and the school systems were better further out.  Either option was going to uproot our family and both were going to require some cashola!!

We went back and forth a lot, not knowing which option to do.  Lots of pros and cons on both sides, but what we knew for sure was that we had better start saving our pennies.  If we moved outside of L.A. we could keep our jobs, but we were going to be putting down some bucks for a house, if we left the state we were going to be job hunting…in the middle of a recession….

Well, we saved and saved for 2 years!  Yup, that’s how long it took us to be able to feel comfortable to make a move.  The only problem was…where?  Long story short, about two months before we actually made the move we decided “let’s blow this popsicle stand!”  We turned in our notices and two months later were packed up with the two of us, two kids and two cats driving to Colorado!

family life

My family in Colorado!

The reason why we could make such a “quick” decision was because we had be researching and working on it for so long.  When it came time to make the decision of staying local or jumping ship we were ready and we never looked back.  It was awesome.  I can’t tell you how exciting that dreadful 16 hour drive was!  It was so much fun.  We had no place to live, no jobs and no prospects but we weren’t worried because we had a plan…and savings!!

We found a little house to rent within a week and I started job hunting.  My husband is a photographer (http://www.glenncratty.com, if you’re curious) so we knew he would be rebuilding his business.  I was supposed to get the job…  Well, I got to thinking, when am I ever going to have this opportunity again where I don’t HAVE to work for a while?  We knew it would be tough to find a job during the recession so I planned for it to take about 8 months in our budget.  It hit me, I’ve always wanted to start my own business, why spend this precious time looking for a job that I don’t care about when I can build a business that I love.  So that’s just what I did.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not without it’s challenges.  Building a business is a slow process and we have had to make big sacrifices to follow our dream, for example we’ve kissed buying a house goodbye….for now…  EVERYTHING we do, eat and drink is checked against the budget, gone are the days of buying good wine, we drink the cheap stuff now!!

Is it worth it though?  You bet.  I’m in love with my business, I get to be with my kids SO much more and I wake up feeling thankful for the lives we live – Ok, truth be told, I need a cup of coffee to function first, and THEN I’m so thankful for the lives we live…  It doesn’t get much better than that.

So if you’ve ever had a dream or a passion that you wish you could pursue, whether it’s on a small or large scale – don’t feel stuck.  Start planning.  It may take several years before you can actually act on it and it may take several more years before it can sustain you solely, but with careful planning and a belief in yourself you can take that jump and be glad that you did!

Teagan and Mack Ribbon Cutting

Teagan and Mack's Ribbon Cutting & Launch Party!

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Green Power! How to get it.

We all use energy, there’s no way around it, but did you know that you can reduce your carbon footprint by purchasing green power?  Many utility companies are allowing their customers to purchase clean wind-generated electricity for a small additional monthly charge.

clean energy photoTo research whether or not you can purchase green power in your state check out the U.S. Department of Energy’s Green Power Network.

While this is a great option, remember that the cleanest energy is the energy you save!  Turn off lights when you leave the room, keep the thermostat turned down (especially when you’re sleeping) and unplug appliances that are not in use.  Every little bit helps!

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