Archive | January, 2013

4 Ways to Show Your Family Love on Valentine’s Day

“All You Need Is Love” -John Lennon

What exactly are we celebrating on Valentine’s Day?  Spiritual experts, artists and sages will agree that love is the universal purpose for our existence and the only thing we need to sustain us.  Lenny Kravitz is my personal guru of choice, and if he ever decides to build an ashram on his beautiful Bahama beach, I’ll be the first student…. I digress.   “…’cause it’s all just a game, we just want to be loved…”, says Kravitz; and I agree.

Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate love, and here are four ways I show that love to the people I love most.

4 Tips For Showing Your Family Love on Valentine’s Day


Tip #1- Decorate

After the mad rush of decorating for Thanksgiving and Christmas, I’m always so relieved to have my house “back” in January.  And just as I begin the new year feeling organized with decorations neatly packed away in the garage, February arrives with it’s question of, “Whatcha gonna do?”  The truth is, the last thing I want to do is decorate for another holiday.

Then I remind myself of how short a window of time with my kids this is.  When I look at the time span of my entire life, I realize these precious few years when the kids are no longer babies, and too young to kick mom and dad to the curb on Valentine’s Day for school dances and dates.  I want to make this time memorable, especially on a day when love is celebrated.  As Life Management Expert, Kimberly Friedmutter, explains, “your personal surroundings should be a true sanctuary for your family and a reflection of you.”  “Your home creates an emotional response to each person who enters”, says Kimberly,” so the question is what you want that emotional response to be.”

For Valentine’s Day and every day, I want my home to evoke and project love.  I quickly realize that it’s not too time-consuming or expensive to bring some Valentine cheer to Casa Spilsbury.  A trip to HomeGoods, Michaels or Target can give some inspiration and bring home the love for less than $50.


Silk roses are pulled from the stems to fill vases.


Simple hanging hearts welcome guests and family at the front door with an entry table full of roses and vintage Valentine’s decor.

Heart Hangers from Michaels

Heart Hangers from Michaels


The Smell of Love

Scents also elicit an emotional response from family and guests, so filling your home with “pink” auromas add to your loving Valentine’s Day decor.  My Scentsy warmer gives off sugary smells like “Love Story”, “Garden of Love”, “Lucky in Love, “Linger” and “Quiver”.  If you don’t have a Scentsy candle warmer, you’re missing out on filling your home with scents to match the seasons and holidays by simply changing out the wax.  If you don’t know what “Lucky in Love” smells like, you’ll be delightfully surprised to discover how much the smell matches the name.  I just can’t wait to smell “Quiver”.


For a more naturally seductive smell, I love these hand-crafted Aromatherapy Essential Oils from Shangri-Las Vegas.  Each scent is made by hand with organic oils and natural flowers and herbs.  Scents like sandlewood, lavender and rose create a lovely aroma.  I simply choose my oil and place in this warmer and within minutes my house is filled with a wonderful fragrant aura.  There are many diffusers and oils to choose from on Shangri-Las Vegas.

Diffuser from Shangri-Las Vegas pours all-natural scents into the room

Diffuser from Shangri-Las Vegas pours all-natural scents into the room


Love & Light Scent from Shangri-Las Vegas


 Tip #2- Cook

Recently I watched an episode of Long Island Medium.  It was entertaining to watch this gifted lady with her Long Island accent and big hair touch people with her messages from the other side.  In this particular episode, I couldn’t help but notice another story playing out as her family talked about how she never cooks for them.  It’s obvious she’s a great mom who loves her family.  So why does her daughter appear almost hurt as she says, “I can’t remember the last time my mom cooked me a meal..”.

People say that the quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach- maybe this saying is true for everyone.  Oprah calls it her “Love Sandwich” as she describes a special treat she whips up for her man.  I know that cooking for my family every day is one of the ways I show my love for them.  Cooking is a big deal in my home and my girls love to jump in and help.  Cassidy recently created her first recipe, starting at the grocery store as she picked out Portabella mushrooms, fresh green beans and shrimp to saute and toss with brown rice.  And my Brooke loves making her “special salad” as an appetizer.

For Valentine’s Day I make a heart-shaped turkey meatloaf.  I know it sounds corny, but they love it.

Heart-Shaped Turkey Meatloaf recipe here from Toni Spilsbury

Heart-Shaped Turkey Meatloaf recipe here from Toni Spilsbury


Last year we made some Man-Catchin Beignets inspired by Disney’s Princess and the Frog movie.

Homemade Beignets Recipe

Man-Catchin Beignets recipe here inspired by Disney’s “Princess and the Frog” movie

Tip #3- Help Them Show The Love

Kids have people in their lives who are special to them as well, from teachers and coaches to friends, and they’re so proud of the treats we send them.  My hope is that all those years of baking Valentine’s cupcakes and placing them in specially decorated boxes for school will be something my oldest daughter thinks about each year of her adult life.

Taking the time out to help my kids show love for people in their life, like “BFF’s” is another way I show my love for them.  Whether it’s a homemade treat like my Heart-Healthy Granola, or simple homemade cards, my home becomes “Valentine’s Central” every February 13th.  Last year, the kids and I made “I Heart Home Granola” and packaged it for heart-healthy Valentine’s gifts.

Homemade Granola

I Heart Homemade Granola recipe and tutorial here from Toni Spilsbury


There are tons of free online printables to help make your kids Valentine’s Day treats fun.  This year, my favorite printables are from Tatertots and Jello:


Tip #4- Make It From The Heart

Christmas was just 50 days ago, so there’s no need to go all out with gifts for the kids on Valentine’s Day.  Sometimes a simple homemade gesture can beat any store-bought card.  I like to incorporate photos of Valentine’s Days past in my cards.  “With a little glitter and glue, you can make magic.” – me… just now.

If your “glitter and glue” skills aren’t up to par, using online printable cards is another option.  There are also lots of free online printables that make adorable Valentine’s Day cards.   Here’s my favorite this year from Living Locurto:

My favorite this year are from Living Locurto



For More Valentine Fun

For more Valentine treats and ideas, check out some of our tutorial and recipes here from Toni Spilsbury:

Red Velvet Cupcake Recipe Skip The Frosting Marshmallow

Skip The Frosting Cupcake by Toni Spilsbury, 2011


White Chocolate Buttered Popcorn

White Chocolate Buttered Popcorn- Ooh La La! Recipe here from Toni Spilsbury



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“Rainy Day”

The recent rains in Las Vegas make me reminisce about past summer rainy days.

Living in the desert I appreciate rainy days more than others.  Raindrops pour down a new perspective on the city.  Nighttime clouds reflect Las Vegas and you can trace the city from the green illumination on clouds over MGM Grande over to the bright light shining from the Luxor looking as though heaven were shining the light down rather than the reverse.  From the Spilsbury home, just miles from the Strip, the transformation engulfs us in a peaceful warmth indoors.  Outside the kids explore the grounds and experience a new aspect to their backyard oasis.  We know this feeling will only last a day before the bright Nevada sun brings back the dry Sierra warmth.


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Rainy Day Rainy Day1

Rainy Day

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Slow Cooker Jambalaya

Slow Cooker Jambalaya with Brown Rice

Slow Cooker Jambalaya with Brown Rice


  • 1. boneless skinless chicken breast- 1 lb, diced
  • 2. andouille sausage- 1 lb, diced
  • 3. onion, white- 1 peeled and minced
  • 4. green bell pepper- 1, deseeded and diced fine
  • 5. celery- 4 leafy stalks, diced fine including leaves
  • 6. diced tomatoes- 1 14oz. can
  • 7. chicken broth- 1 14oz. can
  • 8. brown rice- 1½ cups
  • 9. Tabasco or Louisiana hot sauce- 2 tbspns
  • 10. oregano, basil, thyme- 1 tspn each
  • 11. garlic & onion powder- 1 tspn each
  • 12. chili powder & paprika- 1 tspn each
  • 13. Worcestershire sauce- 2 tbspns


    Tip: Take about a third of the diced onion, bell pepper and celery and store in an airtight container to use later on in the week for Red Beans & Rice
  1. Place all remaining ingredients in slow cooker
  2. Add three cups of water
  3. Cook on High for at least six hours


Mardi Gras Recipes

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Four-Car Pile Up at Starbucks or “Mayhem in the Starbucks Drive-Thru

The worst car accident I’ve ever been in happened in s Starbucks drive-thru.  And it was all because of a bee.  Or, at least that’s the story I’m sticking to.

Each morning before opening my eyes my mind searches for the same answers:  Where am I? Where is Connor?  Are we home today?  After waking up next to Connor’s hospital bed more than half of my mornings, these are my typical first questions of the day.

On this particular morning I gain my bearings and through my mental fog establish that we are once again home from the hospital and “improving”.  Life in the hospital holds its own set of challenges and urgency, while at home our life is no less critical.  Once home, we are back on the rehabilitation track with therapy appointments (speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy), doctor visits, CT scans, blood tests, medication refills and home health supply ordering.  There are two roles for me these days, critical care nurse and rehabilitation case manager, and only when I’m not playing mom-advocate or disgruntled “managed care member”.  In a matter of seconds I realize that it’s time to hit the ground running with today’s therapy appointment, which is particularly important because his early childhood case manager will be attending.

On our way to the appointment, I feel that tiredness that has taken over my days so much that I forget how it feels to be fully awake.  Because of Connor, my exhaustion goes so deep that not even 14 hours of sleep could shake it.

What I later find out is that what I’m experiencing is called “adrenal fatigue”.  The trauma of Connor’s now four near-death experiences combined with dozens of high-risk surgeries, emergency room visits and insurance company brawls have left my adrenals so tired they can’t produce enough cortisol to get me through a typical day.  My doctor later explains that it’s like someone held a gun to my head repeatedly, causing me to pump extra adrenaline  over a prolonged period of time before eventually causing the gland to give out.

Unknowing of the cortisol deficiency, I pull into the Starbucks drive-thru like I always do when I feel tired.  Even though my caffeine pit-stop will put me about five minutes late to Connor’s appointment, I figure a Venti Hot Mocha with an extra shot of espresso will wake me up and therefore be worth the tardiness.  I would later learn that caffeine only makes adrenal fatigue worse as it stresses the overtired glands to produce more cortisol leading to even more fatigue.

As I roll down my car window to place my order, I notice a slight sprinkling of rain.  I pull forward to hear a boy’s voice, “Welcome to Starbucks, may I take your”….and just then a bee flew in my window.

“Just remain calm”, I tell myself.  “Shoo.  Shoo”, I say out loud to the bee.

Each time I shoo the bee, it comes closer to me.

Feeling something else is wrong, I glance up to realize that my Ford Expedition is slowly creeping forward and about to bump into the small truck in front of me.  The panic I’m suppressing from dealing with the bee is instantaneously combined with the acute alarm of potentially hitting the vehicle in front of me.   I slam hard on my break, or at least what I think is my break.  As I push down on the accelerator with all my strength, my 4,200-pound SUV peels out, and while burning rubber, slams into the truck.

I still can’t figure out why my vehicle isn’t stopping.  The lack of cortisol from my adrenals is preventing my brain from realizing that I’m still flooring the gas pedal.  The more I push on the gas pedal without being able to stop my vehicle, the more I panic… and the harder I push.

As my tires screech and shoot clouds of rubber in the air, I slowly push the small truck in front of me into the car in front of him, and finally pushed that car into the vehicle in front of her.  Connor, unharmed and shielded in our ton of steel, sits strapped in his car seat and unaware of the chaos occurring outside his window.

While I’m pushing with all my strength on the gas pedal, I look up and catch a glimpse of the driver of the small truck in front of me in his rear-view mirror as he distinctively mouths the word, “STOP”.  All the while the sound of screeching tires combined with colliding metal can be heard throughout the parking lot.

After what seems like way too much time, my brain finally catches up with the situation and I’m able to remove my foot from the accelerator and transfer it calmly to the break.  Once I put my SUV into “P”, I sit quietly to take in the mayhem that lay before me.  The truck in front of me had both rear and front-end damage along with the car in front of him.  And now, people are emerging from cars and vehicles to confront me.

The man in the truck is surprisingly kind to me and we began to talk.  “There was this bee…” I start to explain.  The woman from the car in front of him interrupts us, “How in the hell fast were you going!?”, she yells.  With her “up-do” and business suit I remember wondering what career would allow such inexcusable grammar.  My apologetic demeanor is instantaneously gone as I respond to her harsh enough to send her back to her car without another word.

The boy from Starbucks emerges from the back door and begins to recount the event from his perspective, “First I heard ‘shoo’….”, he recounts as he hands the man and me complimentary cups of coffee. Another woman approaches from the parking lot, “I saw the whole thing…” she went on.  Everyone was talking at the same time.  I’m dazed but thankful for how kind and understanding everyone is, sans the cranky businesswoman.

As for the bee?  Well, the bee is nowhere to be found.

Because of Connor,  and a bee, I realize this is the worst car accident I’ve ever been in.

Read more about Adrenal Fatigue and my treatment here.

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