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What I Learned This Weekend

Smiles are contagious. Bickering and grouchiness are too. The girls’ arguing was  a never-ending stream of “she called me stupid!” and “shut up!”, only to be interrupted with crying and pouting.

The constant snapping and shouting trickled down- or up, I should say- through the family. Conner yelled. Kevin snapped. I wanted a glass of wine.

I told the girls to get in the car. They had no idea where we were going, not that they noticed as they continued the circle of insults and hurt feelings.

I had no doubts that a plethora of parenting books, blogs and experts held the key to how I should have handled the situation. However, sometimes people can get caught in a temporary- and sometimes not so temporary- gray fog that even Dr. Phil couldn’t shine a beacon light on to guide them out.

As we left our gated community, I still didn’t know where we were going. I only knew that I needed to give Conner and Dad some peace and quiet. Five minutes later found me at Freddy’s Burgers drive-thru ordering ice cream sundaes. The girls looked confused.

Another five minutes found us in a nearby tranquil park eating ice cream, rolling down hills and playing.

Before anyone sends out any “bad mom” comments about my “negative reinforcement”, know this- it worked. Some might say I was rewarding bad behavior.

I might say that sometimes we just need a break.

park1 park2 park3 park4 park6 park7 park8


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Should You Start A Blog? The “Do’s” and “Dont’s”

I started my blog after writing my book, The Organized Cook.  Unlike many of my fellow bloggers, I didn’t just wake up and decide to start a blog one day.  Rather, the branding agent for my book urged me to do so.

“I’ve never even read a blog!” I protested.  But he assured me that writing a blog was the best place to start in promoting my book.  “But I wouldn’t know what to write about.”  I continued.

I guess he knew better.  Come to find out, I had lots to write about.  In fact, I had more to write about than I had time for… even now.  After I set up my website, I kept a journal close by for me to jot down blog ideas.  That journal became a magnet drawing ideas from my brain when it was close to me.  It must have had a really strong pull, because even when it wasn’t close by, I stopped what I was doing often to go running for my journal before the idea left my brain.  Sometimes I would jot down ideas on the back of receipts or torn pieces of paper to later tape into my journal.  Before long, my journal was full of thousands of ideas.  I still have that “little journal that could” and love to revisit often for inspiration.

According to Forbes Magazine, there are over 40 million bloggers in the U.S. right now, and the power of the “mommy blogger” cannot be denied.  However, I’ve witnessed some bizarre trends recently in blogging where people looking to jump on the blogosphere space shuttle forgot to stop and ask themselves if they should start a blog, instead of just asking if they could.

So here’s my advice to anyone wondering if they should start a blog.


3 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Starting A Blog


1.  Will You Write Your Own Content?

Without content, your blog doesn’t actually qualify as a blog.  I know this may sound like, “duh”, but an alarming number of “blogs” out there in blogosphere actually have no original content.

So the first thing you must figure out is what you will write about.  Is there one particular topic you want to explore and share, or are you wanting to build a relationship with your readers by sharing intimate details of your life?

For example, one blogger decided to start a small blog about school cafeteria food and wrote daily about eating in the cafeteria.  She shared details, suggestions and the irony of feeding our children unhealthy lunches while many other options are just a brain cell away.  Her blog became an internet sensation much to her surprise.

Another famous blogger is the Pioneer Woman who decided to share all aspects of her life including home schooling, cooking and parenting while living on a ranch.

2.  Will You Take Your Own Photos?

The saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” is even more true on your blog.  Photos lure and inspire your readers.  Fortunately, you don’t have to be a professional photographer to take alluring photos.

Before I began blogging, my photography skills didn’t surpass anything beyond what a “point and shoot” camera could produce.

I quickly learned that I needed to quickly learn how to be my own photographer.  Food was my main subject so I purchased a DSLR camera and macro lens.  It didn’t take long for me to begin creating photos with a lot of taste appeal.  My family soon began my next subject and photography is now one of my biggest hobbies.

3.  Will Blogging Be My Source of Revenue?

If you’re looking to make money blogging right away, prepare yourself for a disappointment.  While blogging has many perks, it takes a lot of hard work and persistence to turn your hobby into an actual business.  Believe me- I know.



A.  If You Don’t Have Anything To Write About

If you plan to copy and past content from other websites, don’t start a blog.  Again, ‘duh’.  You would be surprised at how many bloggers have copied content from my website and claimed it as their own.  Last year a blogger tweeted out, “check out my recipe for Sparkling Cranberry Punch“.  The only problem was, the recipe was not hers- it was mine.  My Sparkling Cranberry Punch was a recipe that took me days to create, write and photograph while another blogger took five seconds to hit “Ctrl+C”… “Ctrl+V” to copy and paste my photos and recipe onto her website.

On the same token, it’s absolutely okay- fabulous even- to feature content from other bloggers on your blog, so long as you have original content of your own.  For example, a blogger I met at BlogHer in San Diego writes mostly about being a new parent.  Since she’s not a recipe creator, she often shares my dinner recipes with her readers each Wednesday for her “What’s For Dinner Wednesday” feature.  I’m helping this blogger by providing recipe content for her parenting blog, while she helps me gain exposure for my food blog.  Win.  Win.

First Comes Loyalty, Then Comes Product Reviews

Writing product reviews with no other original content on your blog is a gray area for some.  There are so many blogs out there that post nothing but product reviews and giveaways.  “I like this cheese.”  “My kids love that toy.”  “Enter to win this cookbook.”  These opinions don’t mean a lot when there’s no relationship or loyalty established with your readers.  These bloggers may have a large social media following because of the giveaways, however they’re not there to read any content on the website.  And the fact is, brands and businesses are catching onto this.

So how do you establish a relationship with your readers?  Loyalty is built through the very thing that has made bloggers so successful, and that is through your writing.   Any product review you do should be set against a content-rich backdrop where you’ve established a trust with your readers by sharing something real.

A product review from a blogger who has created a loyalty and trust with her readers is far more meaningful than a review from a blogger whose relationship with their readers is based solely on giveaways.  Those readers are not really readers- they’re simply visiting the website to enter a contest and then leave.  That’s not blogging in my opinion.

B.  If You Don’t Take Your Own Photos

Pinterest is a wonderful creation.  I’ve been a Pinterest fan from the beginning and love pinning photos from my blog and other websites onto my boards.  If I pin a photo onto my Pinterest board I’m helping that blogger because anyone who clicks on the photo to find out more about it will be directed back to that blogger’s website.

Followers can click on food and craft photos to visit my blog if they want to download a recipe or find out more about the photo.  It drives me bananas when I see an image on Pinterest that I want to find out more about, but when I click on it I’m directed to someone’s “blog” where the photo has been copied (stolen) from Pinterest and pinned onto a page that has nothing to do with the photo.  It’s intentionally deceiving.

Stock photography will ruin your blog.  Your readers don’t want to see photography taken by a professional that you paid $2.99 for at Big Stock Photography.  They want to see real photos from the person they feel like they’ve come to know.

Soon, your creative tank will be overflowing with artistic imagery and you’ll find that you look at the world and your daily life differently.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in the kitchen or somewhere else doing something mundane and realized how beautiful the composition and lighting were before running for my camera.  Even smart phones can produce aesthetic imagery for your blog.  Last weekend I was making a breakfast frittata for my friends and snapped these beauties with Instagram.

C.  If Blogging Will Be Your Main Source of Revenue

Yes, it’s true.  There are many bloggers in the industry who have taken their hobby and evolved it into a successfully financial venture.  And I believe in the saying, “Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow“.  The only question is…. how long until that money follows.

It take years to truly learn how to turn blogging into a business.  Many bloggers worked a paying job and then later quit when their hobby took off as a paying venture.

If you truly stick do enjoying blogging as a hobby, the money will eventually follow, but don’t put you and your family in severe financial risk at the promise of making money right out of the gate.



A.  If You Want To Share Your Story

Everyone has a story to tell.  Before starting your blog, decide what you will share and how often.

Don’t worry about marketing your blog initially.  Rather, keep the content flowing and consistent.

Once you’ve started gathering a following and established a relationship and loyalty with your readers, set your guidelines on how you will do product reviews and how often.  Keep the trust with your readers by disclosing any free product or compensation you received from doing the product review.

If writing and sharing your story brings you personal spiritual growth, that’s even better.  It took years before I decided to start writing about my experiences with my son, Connor, and then another year before I decided to begin sharing that story.  Writing my blog, Because of Connor, has been so therapeutic for me and helped me reconcile, organize and heal a lot of those open wounds that I just covered up for years.

The reason bloggers have been able to successfully change the landscape of product marketing is because of the loyalty they bring.  So find joy and inspiration in your writing and photography because your readers will find that same joy and inspiration by reading it.

B.  If You Take Your Own Photos

The reasons your blog will be successful include that bond you share with your readers.

Blogging is sharing.  So taking and sharing your own photos is in itself a form of blogging.  In fact, there are many fabulous photo blogs out there like my favorite New York Through The Lens.

It may seem intimidating at first.  When my Canon T2i showed up, I didn’t even know how to change the lens.  Of course you could take a photography class, but I’ve found that YouTube is a wonderful creation for learning how to do just about anything.  Simply search for “how to change Canon lens” and you’ll be amazed at how many fabulous visual tutorials you will find.

Ignite your creative side by becoming your own photographer.  Join Clickin Moms to connect with other bloggers who’ve turned photography into a career by visually inspiring others.

You don’t have to drop a thousand dollars on camera equipment initially, just work with what you’ve got.  This photo came from Instagram through my iPhone and graces my blog now:

C.  If You’re Not Taking A Large Financial Risk

Stick to enjoying blogging as a hobby.  Share your inspiration with others and the money will indeed eventually follow.


Ready to start a blog, but don’t know where to start?

RECESS and the ladies of Sandbox Revolution and our Many Moms Money Club can help.  Download our “The ABC’s of Blogging” E-Book here as a free gift!


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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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A Story of Sisters

In the past, I’ve described the character differences in my daughters, Cassidy and Brooke, in many ways, like Cass is my “rule follower” and Brooke is my “rule breaker” (but in a good way).

Today’s photo shoot gave me a better analogy.  Cassidy reminds me of “Sandy” in the movie Grease while Brooke is ringer for “Stephanie Zinone” in Grease 2.  Both girls are fabulous, smart and beautiful… but in very different ways.


Sandy played the innocent high school student from Australia who was thrown into culture shock in 1950’s-California when she befriended the bad-girl girls of the Pink Ladies and fell in love with Danny Zucko, a boy gang member from the wrong side of the tracks.


Stephanie Zinone in Grease 2 was the rough-edged, gum-smacking beautiful member of the Pink Lady gang who pumped gas after school and fell in love with Michael Carrington, the pretty-boy foreign exchange student from England.


While both have kind hearts, Cassidy loves to follow the rules, while Brooke likes to find ways over and around them without fully breaking them (plausible deniability, I always say).


Brooke loves to antagonize Cassidy as an easy target but is the first to jump to her defense when anyone else gives her a hard time.  I’ve seen Ms. Brooke in action and she is nobody you’d want to mess with- her quick wit and tongue is combined with a finger point and hip action that would make any member of the Scorpions shake with fear (rival gang in the movie Grease).


At the age of eight, Cassidy is already talking about plans for her million dollar Beverly Hills wedding, while Brooke- on the other hand- I worry may one day elope to Thailand with her fiance and get matching tattoos in place of wedding bands.


Cassidy loves to smile and pose for photos, while Brooke is like a moving target who considers you lucky if she decides to stop just long enough for you to snap a photo or two… all the while Cassidy is holding the same pose.


While both have amazingly tender hearts, Brooke speaks from a place of wisdom far beyond her years.  When Brooke likes to make references to her previous lives, Cassidy gets frustrated and yells, “Brooke!  You were born in Henderson, Nevada!”


One day, not too long ago I was dealing with a difficult decision and felt very down-hearted.  Although I didn’t let on to the kids that anything was wrong, I was tying Brooke’s shoe when she reached down and grabbed my face, and while looking deep into my eyes said, “You’re not going to give up, are you.”  She was four at the time and had no idea what challenges I was facing.  But deep down, she always knows.


Cassidy loves to eat healthy food and is always super conscious about avoiding anything deemed unhealthy.  Brooke is still trying to convince me that fries are a vegetable.


Cassidy is protective of her “things” and keeps treasures meticulously stored in piggy banks, boxes and dresser drawers under strict orders for nobody to touch.  Brooke, on the other hand, has the “give you the shirt off her back” mentality and cares very little for keeping possessions and will give Cassidy anything she asked for.


One time after a heated argument, Kevin and I sat like two school children in front of their teacher while Brooke lectured us about “not forgetting about love“, and  how “love is the most important thing“…. yes, these were her exact words.


And I still carry around this note from Brooke that she left in my bag that says, “Listen With Your Heart”.

For Halloween this year, Cassidy is excited to be Hermione Granger from the movie Harry Potter.  Brooke is even more excited to be dressing up as Lord Voldemort, Harry’s evil arch nemesis.

Much like the fact my sister and I are so different- without one being better than the other- my wish for Cassidy and Brooke is that they always appreciate and accept what makes them so individually special.

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