INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR CHARLAINE HARRIS

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Photo credit D. Woldan

This week I am so thrilled to share with my readers an exciting interview with New York Times bestselling author Charlaine Harris!  Charlaine is most recognized by her fans as the author of “The Southern Vampire Mysteries,” also known as “The Sookie Stackhouse Novels.”  Charlaine’s popular series ( one of my all-time favorites) is also the basis for the blockbuster HBO show “True Blood.”

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Charlaine has been writing poems, plays and novels for over thirty years.  The award-winning author is also a very experienced busy mom!  Harris is a wife, mother of three and grandmother of two.

In the interview with Dashing Elements, Charlaine talks about writing, what she likes to do when she is not working, and gives us some of her best tips for busy moms!

Dashing Elements: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? 

Charlaine Harris: When I could form words with a pencil. I always loved to read, and I thought being a writer would be so wonderful!

DE: How long does it take you to write a book? 

CH: Generally between eight and ten months.

DE: What is your favorite book you have written?

CH: I don’t have a particular favorite overall. There are pieces of each book I’ve written that I can point to with pride and say, “I did what I set out to do, there.”

DE: What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?  

CH: I have tried all different schedules, but right now, I set a goal of writing six pages a day. It’s working for me. Of course, that’s in addition to editing what I wrote the day before. I work all morning and usually part of the afternoon.

DE: What is your best advice to someone who is thinking about becoming a writer?

CH: Please don’t. More competition! Seriously, you have to love your own company, and be able to work by yourself for long stretches of time. You also have to be a self-starter. These are not common traits. Starting six books does not mean you are a writer; finishing one book means you might be.

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Photo credit D. Woldan

DE: What do you think makes a good story?

CH: Lively characters, conflict, and a believable resolution.

DE: How has being a parent influenced your writing?

CH: That’s hard to define, but I’ve learned a lot about people just from watching my children grow up. I think I’m calmer, too. You simply have to be when you’re responsible for three children. Now I have grandchildren, and to my surprise, having them is like getting a booster, creatively.

DE: What do you like to do when you’re not writing? 

CH: I read. I watch television. I play with my grandchildren and talk to my children. Usual stuff. 

DE: What is the best “mom advice” you were ever given?

CH: Pick your battles.

DE: What would be your best timesaving tip for busy moms?

CH: If you can afford it at all, hire someone to clean your house every two weeks. That will take the worst of the pressure off. At the very least, split the housework with your partner, and take no excuses. You can’t have it all: it’s impossible to give your best to your work, listen to your children as you ought, and keep a clean house with good homemade meals and clean clothes provided. Something has to give.

DE: Do you like to cook or bake?  What is your favorite go-to recipe when you are in a pinch for time?

CH: In the winter, I’ll make a big batch of chili and we’ll eat it for several meals. I make cornbread to go with it. Sometimes I make what we call “supper dip,” a recipe I put in the MWA cookbook. It’s pretty much spiced-up hamburger meat and beans, and you dip it out with tortilla chips. Pretty basic!

If you would like to learn more about Charlaine Harris and her exciting works, please visit her website at www.charlaineharris.com.

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6 Cleaning Hacks To Save You Money and Time – Contributing Post By Patricia J. Cornwell

 

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No one wants to spend lots of time cleaning!  Busy moms are always looking for quick tips!   This week, I am so excited to share a contributing article from Patricia Cornwell.  She is an experienced blogger from London, England.    Please sit back, relax, and enjoy reading these wonderful cleaning tips from Patricia!

Taking control of your duties and arrangements often seems difficult, especially with a busy working schedule. Not mentioning the cleaning tasks that are awaiting for you, no matter how tired and anxious you are.

Many people prefer to leave the basic household duties for the weekend but the truth is that the last thing you want to do when you have time for relaxation, is to provide cleaning. What is more, using the commercial cleaners on a regular basis is not a cost-effective decision and such products often cause irritations and allergies to more sensitive people. This article will supply you with valuable tips how to make your cleaning easy and less expensive. Do not hesitate to try the following things -they will help you to manage with household tasks without difficulty and to save up money.

You can keep your home neat and tidy without sacrificing a lot of your free time. Your budget won’t be affected in any way, because a great part of the ideas include cleaners that are all natural.

Here are several wonderful tips from CityCleaners to keep in mind:

Lemons for Cleaning of Stainless Steel

Are all those water stains on the tap and sink annoying you? Here is one simple and money saving decision. Use lemons to scrub the stainless steel. It works perfectly and what is more, lemons will leave pleasant scent in your kitchen.

Use Cola for Toilet Cleaning

It is worth trying this wonderful cleaner. It is great for cleaning toilets and all you need to do is pour the cola along the toilet bowl. Cost-effective and easy solution to for toilet cleaning. You have probably heard a lot about the effect of cola and now it’s time to test it – it will definitely make your toilet sparkling clean.

Baking Soda For Removing of Unpleasant Smells

Unpleasant smells can be quickly removed, as long as you have some baking soda at your disposal. In case you want to remove the unpleasant odour, coming from the bin, sprinkle some baking soda on to the bottom of the bin. You can also put a clean newspaper that will absorb the leftover moisture.

Clean the Shower Head With Baking Soda And Vinegar

In case you search for easy and cost-effective way in which to deep clean your shower head here is one great tip. Take a sandwich bag and fill it with baking soda and vinegar. Tie it around the shower head with an elastic band and leave it that way for one night. After that, you will find it very easy to clean the debris and the dirt by using an old toothbrush.

Disinfecting Of Sponges

You can quickly disinfect all of your sponges by putting them in your microwave oven for up to 2 minutes. Before doing this, however, check out whether the sponge does not contain any metal particles.

Use Dishwasher To Clean The Toys

Instead of wasting your time cleaning each toy separately, you can put all of them into the dishwasher. One quick cycle will save you up a lot of time and the toys will be ideally cleaned.

This is the ultimate guide for time saving and cost-effective cleaning tips. They will help you make your schedule less tight and to save up a lot of money that you would otherwise invest in buying commercial cleaning products. Keep in mind these hacks – they will help you to manage with the chores quickly and effectively without spending a fortune on preparing an appropriate cleaning kit.

For more information about Patricia and her company, please check out her website at http://www.citycleaners.org.uk.

 

RUNNING TIPS FROM A BUSY MOM

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The warm weather is finally here. If you haven’t already, how about stepping out and enjoying the great outdoors. The fresh air and lively scenery are sure to put anyone in the mood to get moving! One of the ways I have started to fit more exercise into my life is through running. Inspired by others, last year I decided to give it a try. I will be the first to admit that it is not easy. I may not be the fastest, but I always try. Ever heard the saying, “I’m slower than a heard of turtles stampeding through peanut butter…” That’s me.

As a busy mom, running is something I learned I could fit into my schedule at any time. I can run early in the morning. I can run on my lunch hour. I can run in the evening. You don’t need to run for a long time, especially when first starting out. So, going for a short run whenever you can fit it in, is perfect for busy moms.10646900_10206055986064828_4085504371902494028_n

I have found that running is good for clearing the mind. It can be an independent sport. This is my half hour all to myself. I am not working, cleaning, cooking, keeping up on a little one, and no one is talking to me. Just me, my running app, and my music. No matter what type of day I am having, a run always seems to calm me down. It takes my mind off of everything else going on around me. I focus on my breathing, my pace, and getting the most out of my exercise. This is me time.

For this short period, I am also burning lots of calories very quickly, and for me, time is of the essence. The more benefits I can get out of that thirty minutes the better. I know if I worked up a good sweat that I did something good for my body today.

I know what you might be thinking – running is too hard. I will admit that I could never run for a long period of time. Even as a child, I just couldn’t do it. I gave in to the realization that I will always be a walker. And walk I have – for hours and hours, miles and miles throughout my life. Then one day last year, I thought I would give it a try again. My goal was to make it around the block without stopping. I did not care how fast I was going, but as long as I kept moving I knew I might be able to do it. So out I went, one Saturday morning. My five-year-old road slowly on her bike next to me. I made it around the first turn, and I was doing ok. Kept on going. Made it around the second turn. I felt like Forest Gump now.   If I ran this far, I might as well keep going – so I kept going. Sure enough, I made it all the way around the block without stopping. That is one of the biggest accomplishments I have felt in a very long time! I finally realized what my problem has been all these years. I start out too fast and burn myself out before even getting any type of distance behind me. If I take my time, then my body adjusts, my breathing regulates, and I do not feel the need to stop! Oh my! I think I might be able to do this after all!

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“Slow and steady wins the race.” So I started running. Every other day, a little further each time. Two months later, I found myself running my first 5k race. I didn’t finish first, and I didn’t finish last. But, I did not stop and I did not walk. I made it the entire way running my slow and steady pace. I can’t even explain how empowering this made me feel! I was so proud of myself. So, I went home and signed up for the next race. Over the next six months, I ended up running a total of five 5k races, and am getting ready to run my next one on the fourth of July. I am not concerned with competing against the other athletes. I am competing against myself. How fast am I going? Did I beat my last time? Are my legs getting tired or do I feel like I could run for days?

IMG_6198The moral of this story is that if I can do it, you can do it! If you ever thought about running, I encourage you to give it a try. Start out slow. Even begin a walk/run training schedule. Your endurance will increase with every session.

Running is a great way for a busy mom to fit in exercise. It is motivating and energizing. You might even meet other busy moms that you could go running with! There are lots of groups, magazines and websites dedicated to running. Here are links to some of my favorite running websites!

http://www.runningintheusa.com/Default.aspx

http://www.runnersworld.com/

http://www.active.com/

http://womensrunning.competitor.com/

Take a look around the web or check out your local library for more tips and ideas for beginning a running program. Also, be sure to check with your doctor if you have any health concerns when starting a new exercise routine.

I wish you the best of luck in starting a running program. I would love to hear your stories and tips. Please send me your great ideas, and I will share them with your fellow readers!

Stay happy. Stay healthy. Stay busy!

“Don’t limit yourself. Many people limit themselves to what they think they can do. You can go as far as your mind lets you. What you believe, remember you can achieve.” – Mary Kay Ash

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DANCE CONVENTIONS: THE TRUE BENEFITS FROM A BUSY MOM PERSPECTIVE

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It is not uncommon for coworkers, students, friends, and anyone else who wants to listen to hear my dance stories. Being a dance mom is a lot of responsibility. We are first and foremost mothers, but we also play the role of makeup artist, hair dresser, costume seamstress, shoe polisher, cheerleader, and motivator. When you have a child that is in competitive dance, it is good to know all that comes with the sport. Yes, it is a sport along with being a form of creative expression. One of the parts of being a dance mom is taking your dancer to conventions.  I absolutely love them. I think their value goes beyond the entry fees and team participation. Dance  conventions are an excellent way for busy dance moms to fit in a dance experience like no other, in just a weekend.

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Conventions are a great way for your kids to get extra practice and be taught by industry professionals that they would normally not have the opportunity to learn from. It is also wonderful to meet new dancers, young and old, from the dance world. I really like these conventions because I feel the kids learn from watching their peers. All too often, during their regular practice they can get caught up with their friends and may not be giving 100 percent. This open forum lets them see all kinds of talent from many different backgrounds. Different styles, learning techniques, expression, and approach are things they may not see during their normal practice. In my opinion, I think it can be a real eye opener for students, as well as very inspiring.

Here are some things that are important when selecting a convention:

  • Where is it located
  • What are the costs
  • Who is teaching the classes
  • What affiliations does the company running the convention have
  • How do you register
  • What are the days/times of the classes
  • Is there also a competition
  • Can you register as an independent or does it need to be through a studio
  • Can the parents attend
  • Are there any fees for the parents to watch
  • Are there classes for teachers/studio owners to attend
  • Can you take pictures
  • Cancellation policies

We have attended several conventions over the last few years. This past year, we attended Wild Dance Convention and Dance Makers Dance Convention, both held in Metro Detroit. They were both great learning opportunities.

During the Wild Convention, my daughter was recovering from a broken foot. She kept up as best she could with her boot, and still had a great time. One of her favorite teachers was Mollee Gray. She is best known for her role as “Giggles” from Teen Beach Movie. In Mollee’s class, the students were taught a fun, energetic jazz routine.10982473_10205857661106828_1012543162727878818_n

Most recently, we attend Dance Makers convention and competition. I can sum this experience up in one word: inspiring. What a positive message they deliver with their program! All the teachers were magnificent. I found tears coming down my own cheeks as Kathryn McCormick delivered her heart-felt message to the students to be themselves and not be afraid to show expression and originality.

In addition to the dance instruction, the kids and parents also made friends from around the country that they still keep in touch with today.

In closing, my overall message when it comes to dance conventions is to try to make it to at least one per year. The content of the classes and the message they deliver will leave a lasting impression on the students, as they continue their dance education. The one-day or weekend experience is convenient to fit into a busy family’s schedule, and the benefits may go above and beyond your greatest expectations.

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BUSY MOM TOP 10 FAVORITE CALCIUM FINDS

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Calcium to the rescue!  My daughter broke her foot on the playground a few weeks ago.  As a result, it really got me thinking if our family was getting enough daily calcium.  In my recent trip to the grocery store, I did a lot of research on what types of foods are good sources of calcium.  Being that my daughters and myself are lactose intolerant, this can sometimes present a challenge.

I wanted to share some of my favorite finds that are great sources of calcium.  Some of them may surprise you, as they definitely did me!  I am undeniably excited about having more variety in our diets, while still getting the vital nutrients my family needs.  They will surly please any child, as getting in enough calcium does not mean only drinking milk anymore!

BUSY MOM TOP 10 FAVORITE FINDS FOR CALCIUM

#1 – MILK

Speaking of milk, who wins the calcium battle?  Milk has always been the number one source of calcium!  Believe it or not, but by providing 45% daily recommended calcium, Meijer Brand Almond Milk tops Lactaid Reduced Fat Milk, which contains 30%.  This high percentage is one of the many reasons almond milk has been gaining so much popularity!  There is a unique taste to almond milk, so it might not be for everyone.  Either way, my family loves both products!

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#2 – Minute Maid Kids Orange Juice Plus Calcium = 35%

Thank you Minute Maid for making this great tasting orange juice that not only contains calcium, but is also packed full of lots of important vitamins!  Pass me another glass please!

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#3 – Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate = 30%

Swiss Miss you really surprised me!  My daughter was begging me to put your hot chocolate in our shopping cart.  When I read now much calcium you included per serving, I was happy to grab several more!

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#4 – LaTortilla Factory 100 Calorie Tortillas = 20% 

In my best attempt to reduce my carb intake, I have been purchasing these tortillas for quite a while.  I admit that I had only previously paid attention to the carbs and calories of this product, but I am so excited that it is providing additional calcium to my diet, as well!

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#5 – Yoplait Yogurt For Kids = 10%

Yogurt is a staple in our home.  I make sure everyone in my family has one serving per day.  Not only for the added calcium, but also for the probiotic properties.  A healthy family is a happy family!

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#6 – Velvetta Cheese Slices = 10%

For being such a small food item, this slice of cheese is another “good source of calcium.”  Grilled cheese, added to dishes, making quesadillas, topping burgers, stuffing chicken – unlimited possibilities!

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#7 – Whole Almonds = 8%

Almonds are another added source of calcium.  Take them as an anytime snack or crush them and add to a breading or top your favorite salad, yogurt, or ice cream.

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#8 – Kraft Mac & Cheese = 8%

I think mac and cheese has been a part of every child’s favorite list since I was a kid! Knowing there is calcium in this product makes me happy!

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#9 – Sesame Sticks = 6%

This was another big surprise to me!  I had no idea there was calcium in sesame sticks.  My family loves these.  Eat them alone or mix them with almonds and a few other favorites to make a healthy trail mix.

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#10 – Cream Cheese = 2%

Cream cheese, you made me a little sad.  I was honestly hoping you had a little more calcium in you, as I enjoyed you every day of both of my pregnancies.  I still love you though!  This product might not have as much calcium as the others, however, every little bit helps!

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The percentages above are per serving, and based on a 2,000 calorie diet. I hope you enjoy these products as much as we do! Like all good things, please remember to experience in moderation.

Stay Happy. Stay Healthy. Stay Busy!

FALL THREE-BEAN CHILI

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Chili
2 lbs ground round
2 packages chili seasoning
1 – 28 oz can stewed tomatoes
1 – 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 – 15.5 oz can light red kidney beans
1 – 15.5 oz can white beans
1 – 15.5 oz can chili beans
1 sweet onion – sliced
4 stalks celery – chopped

Toppings
Shredded cheese
Sour cream
Crushed crackers

Preparation

Start by browning the ground round. Once fully cooked, drain out the grease. Add all other chili ingredients. Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for a minimum of two hours. Remember – the longer it cooks, the more the ingredients will blend together, and the better it will taste!

Serving

Scoop the chili into individual bowls. Top with sour cream, and your choice of shredded cheese and crackers!

This is a great meal to make on the weekend! This could really be called “empty the cabinets” chili. When we made this delectable meal, we actually looked at what we had in our cabinets, bought a few extras and went from there. So, in conclusion, have fun! Use this recipe as a guide, and customize with your own imagination!

QUICK SNACK ROLL UPS & FRUIT KABOBS

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Hello, and welcome to another segment of Dashing Elements: Simple In Seconds – Cooking With Kids!  Today, we are going to be making quick snack roll ups and fruit kabobs that are so simple to make!

Ingredients

  • Your choice of thin-sliced lunchmeat
  • Your choice of thin-sliced cheese
  • Your choice of soft fruit
  • Small pretzel rods

This quick snack or meal is really limitless as to what kind of ingredients you use.  Because you are going to use pretzel rods instead of toothpicks, they are very safe for children of all ages!  Simply roll up your choice of thinly sliced lunch meat and/or cheese. Insert one small pretzel rod through the center and you are done!  You could also add some variety by skewering fruit!  This is easy with grapes, strawberries, sliced bananas, raspberries, or any other type of soft fruit.


I hope you enjoyed this quick and simple recipe!  It is an easy snack that your children will love to help you make!  For more recipes and quick tips for busy moms, please visit the Dashing Elements website at www.dashingelements.com.  Have a great day!

“A PLACE IN PURPOSE” – BUSY MOM BOOK REVIEW

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As part of the CWA Review Crew, I was sent a copy of “A Place in Purpose” by Kathryn C. Lang to read and present an honest review.  This book offers tips and suggestions that will help you uncover why we are here and what are we meant to do with our lives.

 

“I need to know why I am here – in this place, at this moment. There has to be more than what I see before me.”

Kathryn’s book is a self-help style book designed to help the reader answer the following questions:

Do you know why you are here?

Do you know what to do with that idea?

Do you understand how to put legs to that what?

Do you have a plan for when you will do it all?

A “Place in Purpose” offers advice for finding the answers to these questions and discovering your path in life.  This publication is meant to help the audience find their purpose and prepare them to live life “outside the box.”  Through her book, Kathryn asks the question, “Do you know why you are here on this earth?  What will you do with your gifts once you realize what they are?”kcl

I liked this book because it is another guide that got me thinking about what I wanted to do with my life.  The author has valid points that break down how to assess where you are and where you would like to be.  She also makes the reader feel good about themselves stating, “You are unique in all the world – designed for such a time as this.”

You can read more about the author here:

http://www.kathrynlang.com/

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book/Ebook/Product to review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations. I am part of The CWA Review Crew.

QUICK & EASY OVEN ROASTED VEGETABLES

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It is becoming that time of year again when fresh produce is bountiful and in season!  A quick and easy way to prepare them is by roasting the vegetables in your oven!

Almost any vegetable can be oven roasted!  Pick your favorite fresh produce from your home garden or stop by the local farmer’s market.  Clean and cut up the veggies.  Then, spread them out onto a nonstick backing sheet.  Drizzle olive oil over the tops.  Mix the vegetables around so that everything has been evenly coated.  For a variation, you can also sprinkle sesame seeds and/or parmesan cheese on top.

Before we begin cooking, I have one quick safety tip for this method.  Please make sure to not oversaturate the vegetables.  You do not want the oil to splatter as it heats up.  Along with that, make sure to use a large baking sheet or dish with sides, so that everything will stay in place and not cause any type of fire hazard.

Now that we are ready, pop them in the oven at 425 degrees.  As far as cooking time goes, it depends on what you are roasting.  Thin, stringier veggies like asparagus or any julienned produce will cook quicker than if you chose to cube your selections.  My rule of thumb is to check and turn them every 5 minutes or so.  Once they start to crisp up and you can easily poke a fork into them, then they are done!

In no time flat, you have prepared a healthy and flavorful dish that your entire family is sure to love!  You will be amazed at how mouthwatering the vegetables taste when they are freshly roasted!

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RECYCLED YOGURT CONTAINER BALLERINA

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This recycled yogurt container ballerina will inspire any little girl to dance!  Not only is it a cute addition to a room, but the tutu also serves as a fun accessory for your child’s hair!  You can find most of the products to make this craft around your house.  All you will need to make this pretty ballerina is a drinkable yogurt container, ponytail holder, tulle, paint, markers, foam, and pipe cleaners.

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This is a great craft for a birthday party, and has minimal cost!  You can also make the project with your children any time!

Wash a drinkable yogurt container.  Paint the container with pink paint.  Use the top of the yogurt container as a template.  Cut out a small circle of foam.   Place the foam into the top of the yogurt container.  Be careful not to push it in too far.  It will also need to be a tight fit, so that when you put the pipe cleaners in, you will not push it all the way into the bottle.  Cut strips of tulle.  Tie the tulle onto the ponytail holder to make the tutu.  Slide the tutu onto the yogurt container.  Cut the pipe cleaners into four-inch strips.  Push them into the foam to make hair.  Draw on the face, and your ballerina is complete!

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