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Parenting

Exchange Screen Time for Family Time with Teal Firefly

The other day I went into the kids playroom while they were at school and it dawned on me that the way I spend time with my kids has drastically changed over the last two years.  Two years ago, both started their journey in full day school which meant them spending more time out of the house than in it.  Gone were the days where every waking moment was spent trying to “pass the time” with the kids.  As I rummaged through the jumble of toys, I began to reminisce when the kids were babies. In those days, I remember looking at the clock and wondering how it was only 9 AM when it felt like I had already been up for 12 hours.  The toys and trinkets were my saving grace, and just what the kids needed to keep busy.  While those days were amazing, it didn’t require much more from me other than supervised self-play.

As I filled bags with toys that the kids no longer play with, I couldn’t fight the bittersweet feeling of having both kids gone all day.  On one end I was thrilled to have a little bit more time for myself, but on the other end, I was sad that our time together was reduced to just a few hours before bedtime.  With after school clubs and sports I’m finding that the time I spend with the kids is engrossed in “the grind.” It has become so much more important to make those short windows of time together meaningful in some way.  

Teal Firefly DIY Card Kit
Teal Firefly DIY Card Kit

My daughter, who is seven years old, loves to craft and do projects.  What I learned was that she not only has a genuine interest in doing it, but relishes in the face to face time she gets with just me when working on a project. Juggling time between making meals, picking up, going to activities, doing homework and dropping off….things get busy!  I try not to be hard on myself, but I too crave those moments… alone with each child, one-on-one.  

My husband and I are big travelers and especially love to travel with the kids.  It’s an opportunity to break from the grind and make time to do things together as a family.  We’ve had travel plans scheduled for the Thanksgiving holiday for some time.  Knowing we would have some down time, I wanted to do some fun crafty projects with my daughter, so I poked around the internet for some meaningful projects for us to do together.  

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I stumbled across Teal FireFly, whose DIY crafting kits have everything you need to make creative, embellished cards from start to finish.  And they are not overwhelming or messy.  The kit contained cards/envelopes, direction cards for 4 designs, tags, glue dots, embellishments (rhinestones, glitter confetti) and a glitter glue pen. These kits come in a small box, so are easy pack and do while at the airport.  Like most parents with little ones, we always give ourselves some extra time in case the kids walk at a snail’s pace or Chicago traffic does what it does best….take forever!

While sitting in the lounge I pulled out one of the cupcake card set and my daughter’s eyes lit up! She was excited to have a box of goodies with instructions toward a useful finished product!  I loved the simplified, full color direction cards, as the illustrations made it easy enough for Carina to follow on her own.   We made fun cupcake cards from the Celebration kit that we plan to distribute with gifts during the holiday season.  She, and I, loved the one-on-one and even shared the goodies for some quality father-son time for my husband and son.  It was such a great alternative to screen time as we had a chance to chat and be creative together!  These cards will make a thoughtful touch to holiday gifts that can seem so impersonal sometimes.  I know that family members and friends will appreciate the extra effort!

Founder, Laxmi Shah, breaks it down best, “When you make a card by hand, you pour your heart into it!! I have found that there’s immeasurable pleasure in that for both kids and adults alike.”

So even though one chapter of endless hours in a day are over, I am grateful for companies like Teal Firefly for making products that we can do ourselves while spending quality time together.  Bye Bye supervised self-play….Hello creative togetherness! 

Right now Teal Firefly is offering 10% off the entire store in honor of the shopping season!!  Check them out here: www.tealfirefly.com

Your Chick,

Sonia

Turmeric – Why Your Body Needs It (and How to Use It)!

What is turmeric and why is it so talked about these days? Turmeric benefits are comprehensive, and most are due to its active compound, curcumin. For the last 2 years, I have probably missed a handful of days where I have not consumed turmeric. Let me tell you, it is probably the best thing I have done to my diet (Never going back!).

There are seriously so many benefits of Turmeric and I would need multiple blog posts to go through them all. Here the benefits that are most important to me! Side note: Black pepper contains piperine, which has been shown to help our bodies absorb the turmeric by 2000%. Try to use black pepper with any turmeric consumption!

Turmeric goes beyond the kitchen!
Spices that go beyond the kitchen!
ANTIOXIDANTS and IMMUNITY

Curcumin is a power antioxidant. We always hear about berries having a significant number of antioxidants and how important it is for our bodies.  Antioxidants can fight molecules known as free radicals, which negatively affect cell health, and may reduce or help prevent some of the damage they cause.

Winter Immunity Shot:

Juice fresh turmeric, lemon, ginger, and gooseberries. Add a teaspoon of wheatgrass powder. Every morning through the winter months to keep the viruses away!


Easy smoothie recipe:

Blend 1 cup of coconut milk with 1/2 cup frozen pineapple, the juice of one lemon and/or one orange, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, a tiny pinch of black pepper, and about a teaspoon of grated fresh ginger root. I don’t add any sweeteners but if you need it you can use agave nectar or stevia.

Being mindful of what goes into your body can go a long way, it can even help you have healthier hair.

SKIN BENEFITS

MY FAVORITE BENEFIT (Obviously.) Research suggests turmeric’s anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties make turmeric effective in treating skin conditions. It can help speed wound healing, calm the pores, and help control psoriasis flares.

Turmeric - Natural Face Mask
Natural Face Mask

My weekly Turmeric Face Mask Recipe:

Mix 2 tablespoons of unsweetened yogurt (I use homemade yogurt) with 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric and 1 teaspoon of honey for a soothing and cooling face mask. I leave it on for about 5 minutes and wash off. (I’ve never had problems with it staining skin, but use an old towel just in case.)

Acne Spot Treatment:

I make a paste of honey and turmeric (2 parts honey to 1 part turmeric) and dab on to spot treat.

BRAIN

This benefit is important to me for my toddler! Curcumin has been shown to have positive effects on brain function and memory by increasing levels of the brain hormone that boosts neuron growth (and fights decay in old folks).

Ever since my toddler has been on whole milk I have added a pinch of turmeric to her milk servings every day. She is 2 and still drinks her milk with a pinch of turmeric! You can also give it to them in a smoothie!

TEETH WHITENING:

I have not tried this yet, but it is next on my list!  We are all busy and sometimes it’s hard to get around to doing some of these things that are beneficial for our bodies. To make life easy: There are Turmeric Supplements (which also include the black pepper) that you can take daily!

Let me know what works for you, comment below!

Love,

Neema

Mom’s You Can Only Do So Much…

Pack kids’ lunches.  Grade class spelling tests.  Make sure N’s book report is started.  Plan for the next Language Arts unit.  Make sure kids’ laundry is washed before Friday.  Make copies for Social Studies project.  Oh crap, I have to send out the minutes for the PTA board meeting.  Wait — did I really sign that field trip mission slip?  When is the next girls’ outing…is it this week or next?  Did I call my mom?  When do I need to have report cards done by?

Always Multi-Tasking
Always Multi-Tasking

These are my current thoughts.  I am now up at 3 AM on a Monday morning thinking of all the things I wish I would have had time to complete over the weekend.  Why am I up right now?  Why can’t I just get this noise out of my head?  Oh right — because I don’t just wear one hat, I wear like 20.  I’m (and in no particular order) a mom, wife, daughter, sister, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, teacher, neighbor, friend, best friend, coworker, peer, subordinate…and so on and so forth.

Constantly…working moms around the nation are on overdrive.  Moms are always on the go and always “on.”  I know I’m always “on” — mainly because I’m an elementary school teacher…looking out for children is a constant in my life.  I don’t think it really matters if you’re a teacher or not — the constant to-do list runs through our minds day and night (see my earlier post about achieving balance).


When I took a year off last year, I noticed that I was relieved from that element of my life — which was work.  I didn’t have a boss to report up to because I was my own boss.  I didn’t feel this constant feeling of having to “report” anywhere by a certain time or fulfill my own set of work obligations.  Now — even when I love what I do and wouldn’t imagine another career for myself, I do feel a constant loyalty to my students day in and day out…even on my evenings and weekends.  Would I trade what I do to stay home?  Never.

All at once, I take turns wearing all the other hats — and try to juggle it all at once.  Sometimes I wonder why I even try to juggle it all because it seems humanly impossible to be everywhere all at once…but I try anyways because that’s what I am.  I am the type of person, like many other amazingly strong women out there that try to do everything all at once.  I am the type that will put too much on my plate because I know that I work best under pressure and can’t stand not giving any aspect of my life my 110% all the time.  Is it healthy?  Probably not, but that hasn’t stopped me once.

Constantly, I am reminded to take a moment for myself to unwind and take a “time-out.”  A moment to just be with my own thoughts and be myself, a moment to find my zen.  To shed away all those hats for a moment to gather my own ideas and to just be.  As I get older, I do find that listening to my inner self is getting more and more important.  When I feel that anxious, robotic, out of body experience.  When I feel that I’m slipping away from myself…

Mama Challenge - Time Out Card
Mama Challenge – Time Out Card

I have found a few ways that help me gather myself and recharge.  Whether it be making a Target run to just roam around aimlessly with a Starbucks in hand.  Or to get on that treadmill and run away the feels.  Or by meeting up with some girlfriends for some “wine and whine” time.  Or even by taking the long way home from work to just sit and listen to the radio in silence.    

I have found the importance of finding your “time-outs.”  What makes you feel like you the most?  What makes you feel so content that it feels like you’re recharging your “battery?”  What could possibly help you strip away all your hats for just one moment?  

So ladies, take a moment.  Not because I’m urging you to do so, but because you feel that it’s about time!  Take that moment for yourself — just for you.  You can only give and give so much…

You’re in “time out!”

Your Brainy Chick,

Komi

Disclaimer:  No way do I feel that moms staying home to take care of their household and family don’t deserve a time out either — get out there ladies…you need that break!

Chick Picks:

Top Ten Ways To Find Your Zen

With the school year underway and relaxed summer routines becoming not-so-distant memories, many of us have to try harder to carve out time for ourselves and search deeper to block out the buzzings around us.  The grind of drop-offs, work, pick-ups, activities, specials, dinner, homework…wash, rinse, repeat…gets to even the most pain-tolerant of us. 

Meditation is the discovery that the point of life is always arrived at in the immediate moment. – Alan Watts

Below is a list of the top ten ways to find your zen.

Create a playlist- find the songs that put you in your element.  I listen to a variety of music so mine contains anything from classical to hip hop.  I use my headphones and tend to multi-task at home.  I also play it in the car after the kids have been dropped off.  Have you checked out Chick Radio yet? Subscribe to our channel, we update our list often.

Take a walk – I find my zen walking through the aisles of Target or Home Goods…alone.  I may not purchase anything but I enjoy the solitude and without being beholden to a shopping list and a tight time frame.  The same can be achieved walking outside, snow-shoeing (for the more adventurous), and biking.

Devour a book- Nothing takes you away and warms the soul like a good book; one that makes you lose track of time and makes you look forward to the next chunk of free time in your calendar.  This month, my book club is reading a thriller set aboard a luxury cruise line called The Woman In Cabin 10, nothing like a thriller to create an alternate reality in your mind.

Drink to it-  Not alcohol, I’m talking about a nice relaxing cup of hot tea or hot chocolate.  Perhaps milk with tumeric or cinnamon.  I have a spice blend I’ve created that I add to either black tea or warmed milk and it puts me in my zen state.  Try the chicks favorite, Frontier Organic Fair-Trade Chai!

 

Get organized!- Spend five minutes every night organizing your thoughts for the next day, crossing things off your list for the day and double checking your calendar.  Nothing takes you out of your flow than a disorganized rush in the morning.

Create a mantra- Create an affirmation that motivates and inspires you and repeat it when you wake up, right before bed and any other time you need it!  Check out our Affirmations Board on Pinterest for ways to stay calm and  stay positive.

Learn to say “yes” – Say yes to dinner with your friends, or to your child when he asks to play hide-and-seek  Those events allow you to be present and break up the routine. Also, connecting with others simply feels good.

No guilt – You know the phrase “Life’s too short…” The cliche is actually rather profound.  There’s no room for guilt.  And with that, I’ll leave you with another one of my favorite quotes “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”

Disconnect! – Make it a habit to set a time every day to disconnect from all electronics.  Start with five minutes and don’t be surprised if you find yourself increasing that time 🙂  You’ll cherish it.  See our post about what you are missing when you are on your phone.

Laugh!!- What better way to feel relaxed than by feeling happy?  Try something silly, learn a new dance, tell a joke.  Get in touch with your unabashed-ness of your youth when you laughed more than you worried!  If you have not already read The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*$k, do yourself a favor, and pick it up!

Cheers,

Serene

Your Brainy Chick


Work-Life Balance and Motherhood

Summer 2016 — I found myself at the cusp of making a life-altering decision.  Should I take a step back from my teaching career or should I keep marching onwards?  Should I take this year off?  Should I take that time off that I always dreamt of taking?  Should I sacrifice a year of providing the second (and minimal) income for my family?  So many ifs, but no guarantees.  What if I intend on taking only a year off and it turns into ten years off?  What if I fail at staying home and running this already busy house-hold?  Again, so many ifs and no answers.  I needed that magic 8 ball more than ever!

So I took the plunge.  In early August, I firmly announced that I have finally made the decision to stay home — to take care of the house, kids, and myself.  “Finally…this will be awesome for you and all of us,” my husband replied.  Of course, I knew that we would have to knock a few things off of our list of expenses…cleaning services, take-out nights, and of course my own spending (yikes).  Running on one income wouldn’t be easy at all, but it’s now or almost never.  My kids are young and it would be nice to just be around.  I had that notion that you only live once…so why not?

Staying at home meant I could finally fulfill the one thing I always wondered…how does it feel dropping the kids off at school and brunching with my friends, running errands, working out, and even tidying up the house in peace?  Throughout my 10 years in the workforce, I always wondered how it felt to just be at home.  To have my OWN time to do my OWN things.  Things that no one would even know about!  I was giving myself a year and I needed to make it count!

So I fulfilled my wonder…I stayed home.  I was that mom — I volunteered at school and made sure breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner were all mostly home-made and prepared with ease.  I made sure that permission slips were signed on time and activities were scheduled.  I made sure that homework was done and both kids were content at drop-off and pick-up.  I was a homemaker…probably not the best, but I tried.  I worked hard to keep up with the daily chores while juggling sick kids, doctor appointments, and opposite schedules.  Did I always succeed?  NO!  But really, it was on my clock.  No one was the boss of me…and that felt amazing.

So then comes May and a possible teaching position is presented to me.  Do I go for it or do I stay home for another year?  What if I stay at home and regret not even trying for it?  Well you only live once, right?  Why not?  After all — this was the job of my dreams.  I went to graduate school knowing I wanted to be as innovative in my teaching methods as possible and this private institution allowed for that.  After a few weeks of complete uncertainty, I got the call — I got the offer!  My first reaction was disbelief…did I just accomplish this huge life-long goal of mine?  WOW.  



Then of course, came the mourning period — flashbacks of my year off would pop up out of the blue.  The times I was easily able to stay home with a sick child.  The times I was able to single-handedly run the household while my husband was out of town.  The times I was the boss of me and no one to really answer to!  Were these flashbacks strong enough to keep me back from fulfilling my dream of accepting this teaching position?  NO.  In fact, I look back and realize that while it was a great break, I was always secretly yearning to get back into the classroom.  I missed the teaching world.  I have this opportunity and the time is NOW.

So now comes the balance.  How do I maintain the juggling act of keeping up with all the duties I enjoyed fulfilling when I was home all while achieving my career goals?  With every step forward, I would have to let go of some of them.  It’s all about trying to attain that balance and learning from what works and what doesn’t.  We will be entering a new set of routines — early morning lunch preps (for the kids AND me), school drop offs and pickups, after-school activities, homework, dinner along with my own work now — all while trying squeezing in some ME time.  

All I can do now is to hope for the best and keep the momentum up.  I’m in my late thirties and finally achieved my lifelong career goal.  I spent the last year setting up the foundation and routines of running this household somewhat efficiently…now I just need to keep it up.  Now is the time to make it all count and all I can do is to take it one day at a time.  I have to keep in mind that you only live once.

Here’s to keeping it real,

Your Brainy Chick,

Komi

Chick Picks:

Off The Runway

The Chicks were invited to preview Nordstrom’s Off The Runway event and we were in fashion heaven! Maybe it was the delicious hors d’oeuvre’s, or the beautiful ambiance created by live jazz music and live models — that made this event so unique and fun.  Our stylist had invited us to check out the latest trends that will be hitting the website in the fall, straight off the runway, and we wouldn’t have missed this chance!  We definitely noticed a few things that may be trending this fall:

Pop Of Color is Still A Thing

Look at these rust hue pants — they are stunning and with the loose long fit, they are the most comfortable pants we tried on all night!  Our model, lawyer, polo player and horse whisperer Pamela Flannigan went home with these stunning Victoria Beckham pants!

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 Black Remains the Chicks Uniform of Choice

This Gucci dress is why we wear black ALL THE TIME, and how can you not?   Our Party Chicks shows us how this fit made her feel like a million dollars.

Gucci Dress with details that are worthy of the season.

The Holidays are Around the Corner

I know, I know, its only August, but we could not help but feel like Christmas is coming with the beautiful emeralds and shimmer which were on so many pieces.   So its not to soon to start thinking ahead to family get together’s and office parties.

Needless to say, we saw some stellar pieces.   Now for the savvy part.  I love unique designer pieces and accessories, however being savvy is what makes the whole experience much more exciting.  Anyone that knows me understands my love for Nordstrom.  It’s the many sides of the brand that I have loved for years.  Listed below is how you can enjoy great finds and perks without the guilt and still look like a million bucks.

Get more out of your Nordstrom card; maximize your points by signing up for rewards even if you DO NOT have a Nordstrom CC (yep, you read that right, you don’t have to have the credit card to collect rewards).

By owning a CC, you collected rewards twice as fast and can take advantage of the many perks once you attain certain levels.  Now that Trunk club, HauteLook and The Rack are under the Nordstrom umbrella, it’s easier than ever to reach higher levels with the card, thus making it closer to your perks in the form of what Nordstrom calls ‘notes’ which are $20, $50, $100 credits toward future purchases.  For me it’s the complimentary alterations of my purchases via HauteLook.  I have purchased some amazing dresses from boutique brands such as Oliviasous, TOV,  and  Tea⋓ at amazing deals to have them altered to perfection is a huge benefit for when I attend balls, fundraiser, or events.

Being a busy mom of two, an entrepreneur, and running a household leaves me little time to go shopping for upcoming events.  SO the idea of having a stylist, who not only knows my budget, and my style by having a glass of champagne or coffee and outfits awaiting me after a hectic afternoon without having to spend hours at the store.  Trunk club is also another great option that makes me feel efficient.  There are secrets that Nordstrom have that I wasn’t aware of — like the fact they sell Chanel and can overnight what you like and want (Chanel AND triple points, what’s not to love?!?)  Even if it’s not out yet, chances are your beloved stylist will get it for you.

Lastly, the customer service I receive is priceless.  As a mother of two very active minions, it’s nice to be looked at with a warm smile and “ready to help” attitude no matter how you look or feel at that moment.  I’ve had awful experiences where top stores look at you up and down before deciding whether or not it’s worth helping you.  (Let’s not judge based of appearances). Long story short my loyalty does go to Nordstrom for creating the best environment for everyone and anyone and whether or I have my swag on or sweatpants I know that customer service at Nordstrom makes me feel like a million bucks.

Your Savvy Chick,

Avani

For a free stylish sesh with us and our Trunk Club stylist (and free champagne!) email Sonia@chicksandsalsablog.com

Chick Picks:

Steve Madden Mules
Dries Van Noten Block Heel

 

 

How To Get #HairGoals

3 months postpartum and I was losing hair in ridiculous amounts. When I say ridiculous amounts I mean constant never-ending shedding all day long. 4 months postpartum and I could tell the thickness of my hair was not what it use to be – my ponytail was skinnier, I could see bits of receding in places around my hairline. I CRIED.

After doing some research, I found out that postpartum hair loss is completely normal, and happens to most women but in different severities. It has to do with all the crazy hormones trying to go back to normal in your body (Like we don’t go through enough, right?)

Even after reading that it was normal – I was devastated and seriously thought my hair would never be the same. Fast forward to 8 months after delivering – and I saw fly always all around my head. IT WAS GROWING!! (Insert happy dance!!)

 

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I started taking things into my own hands to help my hair grow faster and better. No chemicals, no expensive medications, just a few nourishing techniques I learned while obsessing over how to get my hair back.

Please hear me — this is just what I did to grow my hair quickly. Don’t feel pressured to have to try all these things all at once. It’s like a buffet — pick a few that work for you!

No-poo

Sigh. Yeah, you heard me. For years now I had heard about no-poo, and thought it was nuts. But I was desperate and tried it. Why not? Buy a little bit of high-quality baking soda, and use a little vinegar, add my favorite essential oil (lavender oil), clean all the buildup off my hair and scalp. RESULTS: LOVE! My hair had never looked as good, ever. I did the no-poo for about 4 months, before I went back to a natural shampoo.

The Inversion Method (Major game changer!)

What’s the Inversion Method? For one week per month, once a day, you wet your fingertips with some hair-appropriate oil (I did a mix of almond oil and castor oil), flip your head over and give your scalp a good 5-minute massage with your fingertips. Like, a really good massage. The massage paired with your head being upside down MAJORLY increases blood flow to the scalp and triggers an increase in hair growth. You should only do this once a week per month (one week on, three weeks off). Your scalp quickly gets accustomed to it if you do it too often. I’ve read that this method can grow hair 4 inches in one week – I’m not sure I saw that kind of growth but I DEFINITELY saw a difference.

Biotin

This one’s an easy one, peeps. I started taking Biotin. Pairing this with all the other crazy hair things I was doing makes it hard to for me to say how effective it is, but since taking it my nails have become rock hard. So I know it’s doing something!

Eat Healthy!

This is usually a no brainer, but there are certain foods that provide the exact vitamins that your body needs. I’m a vegetarian so I did the plant version of everything but I will list the beneficial non-vegetarian options as well

Fatty acids: Avocados, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts were my go-to. Non-vegetarian: Salmon

Antioxidant, beta-carotene, vitamin A: Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Cantaloupe

Protein & Iron: Eggs for me! Non-Vegetarian: chicken, pork, and beef.

Vitamin C & Folate: Spinach, kale, broccoli, and leafy greens. I would make a smoothie!

Zinc & Biotin: Lentils, soybeans, kidney beans

Vitamin B5 & D: Greek Yogurt

Vitamin C: Blueberries, strawberries, and kiwi – Also added this to my smoothie!

Chlorine, UV, and Wind Protection:  This ones pretty obvious — Throw on a hat if you can! If you’re in the pool a lot, wet your hair before going into the pool and if possible add a conditioner to help prevent it from stripping in the chlorine.  Also check out my previous post on physical sunscreen to learn more about my recommendations on UV protection.

These are just somethings that really helped my hair! My hair if feeling the same as before and even a bit thicker than before having my baby girl. I just cut off 7-inches of my hair just to try something new so it is the perfect time for me to do a before and after in a few months to show you guys how much my hair has grown!

Think hair-growing thoughts! #hairgoals

Love,

Neema

Chick Picks:

Teaching Children Compassion

If my children grow up to be compassionate, my job as a mother will have been a success.

Confidence is important too, but without compassion, it might not have the catalyst to be channeled in the best way.  Yes, if I had to choose one trait I’d wish to instill in my children, it would be compassion.

Sadly, it’s easy to normalize the violence and craziness that has become our new normal.  It’s scarily easy to be desensitized to the tragedy-filled headlines we’ve become accustomed to reading.  In our hyper-connectivity, we can’t shut out the bad.

Sometimes leading by example doesn’t cut the mustard and we can use the help of visual aids.  To that end, I did some research on children’s books that help drive home the message of compassion.  We all want a safe and beautiful world in which to raise our children but we only have the power to control our own environment, and that starts at home.

Enemy Pie (Inclusion)

First impressions may not be what they seem.  When a new boy moves into the neighborhood, a father devises a plan to facilitate an unlikely friendship by using a recipe called “Enemy Pie”.  As he instructs his son, one of the steps is to spend a whole day playing with the enemy.   The book endearingly examples the struggles and benefits of making new friends, and the surprise outcomes that arise from preconceived notions.

 

 

Pete the Cat: Rock on Mom and Dad (Gratitude)

I love love love the message of this book!  How many times do moms and dads go un-thanked and seemingly unappreciated?  Pete is determined to show his gratitude to his parents, whom he recognizes do so much for him, and ultimately learns it’s not the size or type of gift, but the gratitude that comes from deep within that matters.

 

 

Maddi’s Fridge (Poverty/Hunger)

Two friends enjoy each other’s company.  They go to school together and play together, yet one has a very different home life.  She doesn’t always have the energy to keep up with her friend because she doesn’t have enough food to eat.  This book so artfully and beautifully raises awareness about poverty and child hunger.  Maddi’s friend is thoughtful enough to pack extra food in her lunch to feed her friend but they sometimes spoil before lunchtime.  So she and her mother brainstorm ways in which to help Maddi and her family.  This is a thought-provoking book to help you and your child form a discussion on possible ways to help curb hunger in your community.

The Earth Book (Environment)

What better way to teach compassion than by empowering your little one with the tools they need to keep the planet green and clean? This book cleverly showcases different ways and tips with which even the youngest member in your family can help.  Caring for the planet teaches compassion that can be transferred to other aspects of life

 

 

It’s Okay to Be Different (Diversity)

Geared towards the younger child, this book creatively    showcases a myriad of differences, from missing teeth, to facial features, to skin color, that make us uniquely us.  More importantly, the book emphasizes that those differences are okay!  We’re not all made to look alike or like the same things.  Part of the learning process is in accepting those differences in us and in other.

 

 

The Name Jar (Acceptance, Inclusion)

When Unhei moves to the States from Korea, she understandably has some anxiety.  Will the other kids like her? Will she fit in?  Rather than introduce herself by her Korean name, she tells the students that she’ll have a western name picked out by the following week.  So, her classmates help by contributing their suggested names into a name jar for Unhei to pick from.  In a turn of events, one classmate comes to visit her neighborhood and overhears Unhei using her real name.  He then hides the name jar to encourage Unhei to use her Korean name and share it’s special meaning with the class, which she ultimately does.  This book celebrates diversity, multiculturalism,  and accepting our own uniqueness.

Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun (Bullying)

Kids can say mean things and it’s hard to be the object of teasing.  Lucy is confident and proud of her differences (she likes spaghetti and ketchup in a hot dog bun!), despite Ralph’s comments.  The tables are turned when one day, Ralph needs help and Lucy is there to the rescue.  It’s a wonderful book to launch pad discussions about modeling kind behavior and staying true to ones values even in the face of opposition.

 

 

I hope you love this list as much as my family did!

Your Brainy Chick,

Serene

 

Ancestry.com D.N.A. “Do Not Assume” Test

Have you always wanted to find out your true heritage?  Do you think you know?  I thought I knew until I went to Ancestry.com and took their test.  The results were quite a surprise!

My Heritage…

With a last name like Svenson, blond hair and blue eyes, I have always been proud of my Swedish heritage.  When someone called me “the Swedish Bombshell”, it was my favorite nickname ever!  My father’s side of the family was Swedish.  His personality was charming, kind, and graceful.  He was like tennis player Matts Wilander, the quiet, dignified Grand Slam Champion you probably only sort of remember. 

Conversely, my mom’s side was the Irish side.  You know the loud type with a good story to tell?  Think more like John McEnroe: funny, hot tempered, the poster child for misbehavior and poor decorum on the court.  I’m not saying that was my Mom, but her family, well, I could see the feisty ancestral resemblance.

I told myself, I’m more Swedish than Irish.  I’m more Wilander than McEnroe.  I mean, I’m not a loud hothead (despite what my husband says).    I’m like a Swede – always under control – the cool-headed assassin you never hear coming.  Those of you who know me agree with me, right?  Right?! 

On good days I like to think that I look a little like my idol, Christy Brinkley, who’s was surely a Swede like me (she’s not).   Sure I have freckles, but so does Pippy Longstocking.  That impulsive anger that bubbles up and pops out with such ease, that’s not the Irish McEnroe in me, that’s the justified, rational meting out of fair and true Scandinavian justice!  And, ok, maybe I color my hair even lighter than it was when I was a baby.  That’s just a style choice.  There are dishwater blondes in Sweden, right? Right?!  Of course there are.  Phew, dissonance gone.  I’m Swedish again. 

With Matts Wilander
With John McEnroe

Embracing my heritage…

My sister in law (who’s half Swedish) and I took Swedish language classes in Andersonville’s Swedish Village. Oh, what fun we had! Since we saw ourselves as the America’s poster children for Sweden, we just knew we’d find the language easy.  Heck, it’s our mother tongue!  Who cares if the Swedish language has nine vowels with seventeen different sounds and a pitch accent?  It should be instinctive for us.  Right?  Right?! 

Immersing into my culture…       

I shopped at the Hannah Andersson store and drank glug on the holidays.  I embraced smorgasbords and added marzipan to my homemade pastries. I even started to eat herring.  And when I had the opportunity to play tennis with Mats Wilander, I jumped at the chance!  Of course he’d fall in love with me. (He only didn’t because he’s married).  

Rocking Hannah Anderson

The DNA test…a.k.a. the “Do Not Assume” test…  

With my parents still alive, I wanted us all to enter the Ancestry.com DNA test spit marathon (yes, they test your saliva).  Tip, don’t do the test right after you have coffee like I did.  Sorry, gross!  https://www.ancestry.com/dna/.   

I wanted to see just how Swedish I really was.  I was guessing somewhere between 30-60%.  My Dad is Swedish.  My mom is Irish, Scottish, and Belgian, and since the Vikings conquered vast swathes of Britain and the Normans conquered northern France, before also invading Britain, her side would probably contribute some Scandinavian as well.  My bragging to my husband about my Swedish ancestry (he thought I acted Irish) would finally be vindicated.  The possibility that this silly little test was a risk to my entire self-identity did not cross my pretty little Swedish mind.  

The results are in…. 

I checked my email often, and after eight weeks the results finally arrived. When I opened them up….I couldn’t believe my eyes!  My first thought was, how can I hide these results from my husband?  He’ll never let me forget this.  Turns out, I am just 1% Scandinavian! Along with Western Europe, I’m mostly Irish!  Say what???    I’m Swedish dammit!  I’m the Swedish Bombshell.  Aren’t I?  Apparently not.  

 

 

 

This is not a disaster…

This was, well, not a disaster, but a mind-bending change for me. I immediately looked up Christy Brinkley on Wikipedia and, to my great relief, she’s part Irish as well!  Phew.  I knew there was a strong resemblance between us!   We’re probably cousins.   

I always knew…

However, I think, in the back of my mind, I always knew.  I just didn’t want to admit it. I mean, I kind of fit the stereotype.  I’m like my Mom’s family.  I’m a dreamer.  I love to tell exaggerated stories, laugh, sing and be merry.  Maybe I’m even a little loud and opinionated.  Sure I’ve been known to drink a pint or two of Guinness on occasion.

Coming to terms with the news…

So I was embracing the wrong heritage all along.   Come to think of it, I do love watching John McEnroe get into fights with the umpires, and he was a hell of a lot better player than Wilander ever was.  I don’t like marzipan, herring is gross, Hanna Andersson is overpriced and kitschy, glug gives me a nasty hangover, and Swedish sounds like the Muppet meatball chef.   

I now have a story to tell…  

Now, I truly know what was always in my heart.  I love corned beef and cabbage.  I am in great company with Oscar Wilde, C.S. Lewis, Edmund Burke, Michael Flatley, U2, W.B. Yeats, and St. Patrick.  I think I’ll start taking Irish dancing lessons.

I’ve started writing limericks:  

“There once was a girl from Sweden,

Turns out she’s in the Irish legion.  

So she drank lots of Glug

Right out of the Jug

To drive away all of her demons”  

I’m going over to McGonagall’s to start learning more about my heritage.  Slainte forever baby!  

By Johanna Svenson Croll, Savvy Chic

Why I went to Physical Sunscreen

Go to a dermatologist or any beauty expert and you won’t be walking out without them hysterically telling you how important sun protection is. I’m no expert, but I’m not any different either: Use it daily! Apply it EVERYWHERE. No, your make up is not enough.

I used to apply sunscreen (chemical, broad spectrum) on clean skin before applying any other skin/make up products. *I DO NOT DO THIS ANYMORE* Not because it was ineffective by any means, but I now use a physical sunscreen. My face routine is now: serum/face cream, physical sunscreen, and then bb cream. What is physical sunscreen? Well, there’s no real definition for it. It essentially means that the zinc oxide and titanium dioxide physically block the UV rays from getting to the skin. Chemical, on the other hand, uses chemicals to either absorb or scatter the UV rays.

Why the change? After doing a lot of research that came after talking to my intelligent esthetician (who sadly moved to Texas) I have enlisted to prevent any pigmentation. Hence, I now use physical sunscreen on my face/neck/chest every single day! To prevent burning. To stop sun damage. Premature ageing. And halt that mean, pigmentation, in its tracks. Physical sunscreen also allows me to forget about constantly reapplying it (unless I wet my face or sweat profusely) which is the tricky part with chemical sunscreens and make up! I will often use a BB cream or foundation with chemical sunscreens on top of this, that is to say, I am not making a stand against them, but for my primary sun protection on the face and chest? Physical sunscreen.

Let’s get one thing straight though, no matter what you are using or decide to use it is SO important to use that sunscreen on a daily basis – especially since we live in the kind of ridiculous country that insists on having extreme UV. Also because without it we burn, and get skin cancer, and our immune system suffers and our beautiful skin becomes lined and spotted. Yes, we should get about 15 minutes (depending on the time of year/UV strength/your skin) of sun exposure per day for Vitamin D and general happiness, as many miserable Chicagoans will attest to in the winter. The best way to get it and not soil your lovely skin is to expose the arms, in my opinion.

~Your Beauty Chick ~ Neema

Chick Picks:

Great on-the-go sunscreen for your pursue – AND KID FRIENDLY! (This goes directly on my 18 month old daughter when we play out in the sun)
Doubles as a moisturizer – Lightweight and lovely.
Quite the superstar in the physical sunscreen world, being one of, if not the only spray versions.
My all time favorite, go-to sunscreen. Have been using it daily for 6 months now!