Hidden Gems for Fall and Holiday Shopping in Chautauqua County, NY

Holiday shopping can sometimes feel more like a chore than an experience in giving. But, thanks to the slow, rural pace of western New York and some smart local business owners, this holiday shopping season can be fun. Forget hours hunched over a computer screen ordering online or planning several trips to traffic packed areas with overwhelming selections. This fall, pack up the family, take a shopping adventure to Chautauqua County, and find gifts for everyone on your list. Read more…


Food and Wine Festivals

The United States are bustling with festivals showcasing everything from local produce to international cuisine. Food and wine festivals offer the unique opportunity for small town chefs and celebrity chefs to rub elbows. You can participate in a class run by a James Beard Award winning chef or taste every wine in that region. Whatever your purpose, food and wine festivals take place across the country and offer a wide variety of experiences for guests. Read more…

Best Cloth Diapers

Today’s cloth diapers provide an environmentally friendly diapering option for many parents. However, some parents use disposables because they fear cloth diapers are too hard to use. Fortunately, many advancements have made cloth diapers accessible and easy to use for even the most novice cloth diapering parent. Read more…

Top 5 Superbowl Appetizers

As a mom and football fan, the last place I want to be on Super Bowl Sunday is in the kitchen.  Whether you are a die-hard fan or just in it for the party, food is an integral part of the Super Bowl experience. My Top 5 Super Bowl Appetizers fit four requirements:  quick and easy to make, appeal to a wide variety of tastes, keep well on the table for hours, and replace dinner in an acceptable way.  While I believe events like the Super Bowl call for a little indulgence, I still want to feel good about what I’m feeding my family and friends.  So, let’s count down my Top 5 Super Bowl Appetizers.

  1.  Fruit Tray                                                                                                                                                  I know this may not seem like a Super Bowl staple, but trust me I have my reasons.  A fruit tray will appeal to the vegetarians, the children, and everyone else in those moments when the more indulgent foods leave them feeling heavy.  Choose fruits that will keep well on the table for a successful fruit tray.  I suggest a variety of berries, grapes, and clementines or orange slices.
  2.  Pigs in a Blanket                                                                                                                                  These are incredibly easy to make and offer a quick, one-bite option.

                           Ingredients:  1 package Litl’ Smokies Cocktail Links, 1 package Crescent                                      Rolls

                          Directions:  Preheat oven to temperature listed on Crescent Roll package.                               Unroll Crescent Rolls and cut each triangle into 4 smaller triangles.  Roll                                   one cocktail link in each of the small triangles and place, seam down, on                                   baking tray.  Cook for time designated on Crescent Roll package.

                          *Serve with a variety of dips such as; ketchup, mustard, or barbecue sauce.

  1.  Chips and Dip                                                                                                                                       This appetizer provides a small snack for those holding back on overindulging and require little to no preparation.  Serve a variety of chips and dips such as Tortilla Chips and Salsa or Guacamole and Regular potato chips with French Onion Dip.
  2.  Cheese and Pepperoni Tray                                                                                                        Pizza is probably one of the most served Super Bowl foods, but this tray can replace that option.  Choose a variety of crackers and 2-3 cheeses to serve with pre-sliced pepperoni for minimal prep work.
  3.  Chicken Wing Dip                                                                                                                             Pizza and wings are practically synonymous with the Super Bowl in my household so some form is necessary.  Chicken wing dip can be served with carrots and celery, crackers, bread, and/or chips.  You can make the dip and keep it warm in a small-serving crockpot.

                           Ingredients:  1 8 oz. package softened cream cheese, ½ cup hot sauce, ½ cup                            blue cheese dressing, 2 cups shredded, cooked chicken, ½ cup shredded                                    cheddar cheese

                           Directions:  combine all ingredients in small slow cooker and heat on High 1                            ½ hours.


Parenting As A Partnership With Your Teen

As parents, it is our job to raise confident, competent individuals who are capable of navigating the real world in a productive and successful way.  Each stage of development requires different goals and tactics from parents.  While there is no universal answer to the best way to achieve these goals, I have found the following strategies to be effective in my own personal life as well as my professional life.

Know Your Own Beliefs and Expectations:

Take the time to really think about all the things you believe in, value, and what you expect from your teen.  If you don’t know yourself and what you wish for your teen, how can they know?  Once you have a solid idea of your values and expectations, share them with your partner and ask they do the same.  You will find much more success in parenting teens if both parents are on the same page.

Talk to Your Teen About His/Her Beliefs and Expectations:

Teenagers are caught in the epic struggle between childhood and adulthood.  Involving them in creating goals, expectations, and consequences can help them feel in control of their own life.  I have always found that I learn best from my own mistakes and take ownership in my own successes rather than learning by seeing others experiences.

Create a Tangible Plan Together:

Creating a family manual will help to put all of the rules and goals of the family into writing so as not to be misconstrued.  Having a tangible plan to look back on can be a worthwhile reference.  As your teen grows and matures you can revisit the manual together and make changes where appropriate.

Be Consistent:

Teens tend to think on a moment-by-moment basis and often have trouble seeing the big picture or imagining the possible future consequences of any action.  If you are consistent with your expectations and in rewards/punishments you can help your teen reshape his/her thinking.  Consistency is extremely important but there should always be a little room for flexibility as situations warrant it.

Be Open to Listening:

Give your teen permission to discuss anything with you without overreacting or shutting down their feelings.  As a teenager my biggest fear as far as my parents were concerned was disappointing them.  We had developed a close relationship where they trusted in me.  I had earned that trust and appreciated it so I didn’t want to do anything to ruin that.

The teenage years are meant as a precursor to adulthood so parenting in partnership with your teen will help him/her gain confidence in his/her own abilities and develop the skills to be successful in the real adult world.


No Running In The House and Other Rules To Break

Somewhere, long ago, a parent created the list of family life rules we all so naturally follow today.  These unwritten rules have withstood the test of time, passing down through countless generations.  No one knows for sure who this pioneer was, daring to share the lessons they had clearly learned on their own.  But, these rules make sense, keep order, and protect our families so we follow them.  We’ve all heard the saying ‘rules were made to be broken’.  I don’t know if I can fully agree with that, I’d adjust a few words into ‘rules can’t help but be broken’.

You might be starting to sweat a little here, thinking I might say we should abolish rules and throw caution to the wind, but then you wouldn’t know me well enough.  Rules have a great place in life, especially family life with young children.  We use rules to help our children stay safe during times they aren’t capable of making responsible choices on their own and to teach children appropriate ways to treat others.  But, every once in a while it might be okay to break some small rules.  I find with my toddler that structure works for us, but every now and then a little shake up of the routine really helps curb crabby attitudes.  So, these are my Top 5 Family Rules to Break (sometimes).

  1. No Running in the House:  Living in rural Western New York, we don’t always have the option to take little ones out of the house for some good physical activity.  So I say, why can’t there be running in the house sometimes?  Sure, it might be a little dangerous, but so are many other things.  If you take some precautions and set ground rules, safety can still be achieved.  Indoor obstacle courses, chase games, and races to the potty are pretty commonplace.  So clear some space, don appropriate footwear for your flooring surface, and Go!
  2. No Playing in the Rain:  Those older generations in our families may tell us that playing in the rain causes colds, but we know from science that is not the case.  Sure, being cold and wet might not always be the best option, but it’s not the worst thing you could ever do.  When those rare, warm, rainy days appear, why not go out and play?  Throw on some rain boots and splash down the sidewalk.  Open up that umbrella and twirl it in the rain.
  3. No Food in the Living Room:  Unfortunately for me, I have yet to even master this rule with my 2-year-old as far as snacks are concerned.  We do, however, always eat meals at the dining room table as a family.  In the summer it’s easy to move dinner to the table on the porch or set up a picnic in the backyard.  But, those long winter months and rainy days can literally put a damper on things.  We’ve started the tradition of once monthly T.V. dinner nights.  I plan ahead for a relatively clean meal, pop in a movie my son chooses, and we dine together in a fun new way.
  4. Dolls are for Girls, Blue is for Boys:  I hope this one isn’t too controversial, let me make it clear I cast no judgements or shame here.  My son loves babies, he’s begged for a baby brother and when he was 1 picked out a baby doll at the store.  Bubba, as the baby doll came to be named, slept with my son and travelled with us everywhere we went.  In the back of my mind was a slight fear of what others would say, but what exactly is so bad about a boy with a baby doll?  It teaches him to care for someone else and gives him a place to express love, Bubba is a friend.  If we want our children to be accepted and accepting of others, wouldn’t it be okay for them not to have to worry about gender specific choices?
  5. Dessert Comes After the Meal:   I noticed early on that my son would eat his dessert and then go back to finishing his meal he already said he was done with.  That was my light bulb moment in terms of breaking this rule.  Every now and then, it’s okay to have dessert before dinner as long as dinner gets eaten too.  I set the ground rules, and if they are broken we  stick to this rule for a while before trying again.