Valentine’s Day, Elementary School Style

valentines day cards gifts elementary schoolValentine’s Day in elementary school means class parties and card exchanges. So today I took the girls shopping for cards, and it brought back all of the stress I felt in elementary school, trying to pick the right card for the right classmate. It was easy enough to make sure my friends got the cards with the best candy, but what if there were rumors of an unreciprocated crush?!

I couldn’t give the unreciprocated crush a card that was too nice. I mean, it would be cruel to offer hope when there was none. But, it was very important to be cordial, because I didn’t want to make them feel bad either.

Or what about the person that I did have a crush on, but didn’t want them to know?! I couldn’t give them a card too nice because I didn’t want them to figure out the crush.

And what would happen if I mistakenly gave the wrong card to a person?

See how confusing that sounds? Imagine how it felt.

There were so many variables and my kid-mind was just not ready for it. So every year I reluctantly filled out cards, passed them out to my classmates, and prayed none of my choices would backfire.

Because in grade school, making a social faux pas could ruin your life, for about a week, and that seemed like forever, :-).

By the time the day was over, I was just happy I survived, with candy and cards as a decent consolation prize.

Luckily, my girls didn’t seem stressed about it. They were excited tonight, happily choosing cards for their classmates and teachers.

On another note, if you’re looking for free Valentine’s Day cards that you can print at home, check these out. Using a printable is a great way to avoid the chaotic row of cards and candy at the store.

If you’re looking for a game for your party, family night or classroom, here’s a Valentine’s Day board game I created over on my other blog.

Enjoy Valentine’s Day!

California Pizza Kitchen’s New Menu

californiapizzakitchenfoodreviewYesterday I tried California Pizza Kitchen’s new menu (and some old favorites) with my #BlogCharlotte crew. I was really looking forward to trying the updated dishes, and thankfully I was not disappointed.

Even better, I was pleasantly surprised. For starters, I expected it to be mostly pizza, but there’s so much to choose from… who knew?!

We started with drinks, and I went with the strawberry mango cooler. It was the perfect non-alcoholic drink, and a good choice if you want to save your calories for food. MyFitnessPal has it listed at 90 calories.

After drinks we were served appetizers and salad. Everything was tasty, but this harvest kale salad spoke to me.

harvest kale salad california pizza kitchen review

Just look at all of the tastiness in it.

Next up was pizza. I tried the barbecue chicken pizza and mushroom pizza.

californiapizzakitchenbarbecuechickenmushroomreviewBoth were great, though I found myself reaching for seconds and thirds of the chicken option, :-). However, when I’m looking for vegetarian options I’d definitely order the mushroom.

After pizza we moved on to the ribeye and halibut dishes.

ribeye and halibut from california pizza kitchen reviewBoth are good options, but the ribeye was my favorite. See that creamy blue cheese butter? How can that not be good?

After the main dish I was full, and expected to pass on dessert.

Until they brought the salted caramel pudding and butter cake to the table.

salted caramel pudding review from california pizza kitchen

Salted Caramel Pudding

Then amazingly, I had room for a little more.

As a proud chocoholic, I totally expected the caramel pudding to win my heart, because there are chocolate cookie crumbs in the bottom. However, the butter cake not only won first place, I asked for one to take home.

butter cake from California Pizza Kitchen review

Yes, it’s THAT. GOOD!

Overall, I really enjoyed everything and I’ll be going back. There’s an asaparagus + spinach spaghettini I want to try, and the butter cake must happen again. It’s only right, :-).

 

A couple of other notes:

  • If you’re looking for gluten free options, they have a great system in place to make sure the food is not cross-contaminated. My friend ordered the gluten-free barbecue chicken pizza and she said it was “really good and the crust was not like cardboard.” She added pineapple to hers, just in case you’re wondering. Gluten-free options are hand-delivered by the manager and they’re marked with these cute toothpicks.

gluten free pizza california pizza kitchen

 

  • The kids’ meal options include pizzas, salads and pastas, along with desserts. So, you should be able to find something for them, no matter what they like, :-).

Enjoy your visit!

 

Disclaimer: Our meal was complimentary, but that has no bearing on my opinions expressed here. I value your readership, and would not jeopardize that for a free meal. It goes against the Towanda code, :-).

Fruit Sangria Tea! Yes, Please…

fruit sangria tea loose leafThis fruit sangria tea by Adagio is officially on my “life’s simple pleasures” list. I picked it up during a stroll through Fresh Market one evening, when all I thought I needed was trail mix, gelato and grapes.

But isn’t that how it works? You walk in with a short list and before you know it your cart is full of needs, wants and stuff that looks just too good to pass up. Fruit sangria tea definitely falls under wants and “stuff too good to pass.”

Just think about this. It’s a loose leaf tea mix with rose hips, apples, hibiscus, orange peels and more. How can that mix not be a happy potion?!

I sweeten mine a little with honey, but if you don’t have a wicked sweet tooth, skip it. Either way, if you love sangria and good tea, try this.

Now, I’m off to enjoy my tea, :-).

Our Opera Date Night – Romeo & Juliet

Opera carolina first timer tips and reviewTonight I spent date night being mesmerized by the beauty of opera. We saw Romeo & Juliet, and everything, from the set, to the lighting, to the costumes and music was gorgeous!

As a first timer, I wasn’t sure what to expect. After all it’s not in English, so you’re dependent on subtitles and visual clues. And while I have an appreciation for classical music, it’s not in my everyday playlist.

That being said, I really enjoyed it! I will definitely go again, and this time I’ll even be open to an unfamiliar story. It was just that pretty and an awesome choice for date night, :-).

If you’re interested in seeing an opera in the Charlotte area, check out Opera Carolina. A few things to note:

  • Most men wear suits and women dresses/skirts/slacks (in that order). The dresses and skirts range from business attire to cocktail dresses. There were a few evening gowns, but not many. There were also a few people in Saturday night casual wear (jeans, sweaters, etc.) and it was fine. You could wear any of the above.
  • Eat before you get there, because you can get snacks during intermission, but it’s not going to make up for not eating dinner.
  • Opera lengths vary, but plan to be there 2-3 hours. Romeo & Juliet was about three hours.
  • Go with an open mind and enjoy everything! It’s a beautiful experience.

Enjoy, Towanda

 

Tickets to the show were complimentary, but that has no bearing on my opinions and experiences in this post. I value each of you and will not post something I don’t believe. It’s against the Towanda code, :-).

Remembering to be Kind, Compassionate and Forgiving

KindnessCompassion

Yogi’s green chai tea with almond cashew milk

 

For my spiritual time this morning I randomly opened my bible to Ephesians 4. It talks about living as children of light, and one verse stood out to me…

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

After reading this I smiled, took it as my goal for the day and went on with the rest of my morning routine. About an hour later as I was driving to work, a car cut in front of me, barely missing my bumper. Before I realized it, my compassion and kindness had taken a backseat to anger.

Well, so much for goals. I took a deep breath, actually a few deep breaths, and decided to start over.

Later in the morning I prepared a cup of tea, and look at the message on the tag! It totally reiterated my goal.

I love when these types of “coincidences” happen. It reminds me that it is not a coincidence at all; it is God speaking to me, :-).

My Latest Project: Mom of Girls!

Mom of Girls logoI am so excited about my latest site, Mom of Girls!

Here’s a brief excerpt from the about page to give you a glimpse into the awesomeness that will be here, :-)

“As a mom of three girls my goal is to raise awesome daughters that are smart, confident, happy, socially-conscious, spiritually-aware, healthy and beautiful. I want them to know they are loved, worth the best, and have endless options. They are not defined by a society that will try to stereotype them, limit them and make them feel that they are never enough.

On this site I will share resources that I find to help with this mission. You’ll find helpful tips and, in the near future, interviews with various experts like pediatricians, psychologists, health professionals and other moms. I’ll also share some of the things we do to encourage mommy-daughter bonding, fun projects and more.”

What this means is that towandalong.com will be more about work/life balance, travel and generally things that I enjoy. Most of my parenting-related content will live on Mom of Girls.

Thanks so much for your support so far, and I hope you continue to find value in both sites.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

6 Things Working Moms Can Do To Start The School Year Right

workingmomadvicebacktoschoolplanningBack-to-school season is in full swing, and parents are busy buying supplies and clothes, while mentally preparing for the demands of the year.

Here are six things parents can do during back-to-school season to get a good start for the school year.

Meet the teacher and return your parent homework quickly. Open house is an ideal time to meet the teacher. Also, be diligent about checking your child’s backpack each evening and return any forms to school immediately. As a working parent, your availability to volunteer in class may be limited, but responding quickly to teacher’s requests can go a long way, too. Just think, does the teacher really want to follow-up with over 20 parents when things aren’t returned?

Make a friend. One of the best ways to get through the year is to have another parent ally. This parent is a great resource if you forget something, accidentally delete an email, or just need to bounce an idea for a different perspective.

Create your child’s bio for the teacher. Trust me, the teacher will be happy to have a cheat sheet on your child’s personality, needs and more. Yes, you probably have something similar in your parent homework, but creating a bio gives you an opportunity to make a good impression, you can print it on color paper to help it stand out, and you’re not stuck to one format.

Monitor what goes right and wrong the first week, then tweak your system accordingly. The first week is for learning. What time will the bus really come? Are lunches working out?

Spend at least 10 minutes each evening with your child chatting about the day. It’s a great time to start this ritual. You’ll be setting a baseline for behavior and have a better point of reference if things change throughout the year.

Open a line of communication. Emails are great for this. Did your child come home happy the first few days? Tell the teacher. Say something nice about the teacher? Share that, too. Opening a line of pleasant communication can come in handy later in the year.

Happy School Year!

Moroccan Travel: Goats Can Climb Trees

moroccogoatsintree_argannearEssaouiraWhen we traveled to Morocco in June, I had no idea it was the perfect month to see goats climbing trees. But yes, those are goats… chillin’… in a tree.

This is an argan tree (yep, like the oil) and goats like the fruit and leaves of the tree. So, in true animal fashion, they climb the tree to get it! I must say, I love their ability to go after what they want.

If you look closely you’ll see a farmer near the tree. Argan fruit ripens in June and July and goats eat the fruit, but they can’t digest the nut in the middle, and the nut is used to make oil. So, once the nut has passed through their digestive system, the shell is easier to crack and farmers collect the nuts to produce argan oil.

Don’t worry, this is one way to get the nut, but there are other ways, too. Women cooperatives in the region also harvest the nut and produce the oils. I visited one of these coops and will post more on my experience there soon.

As for my goat surprise, two things have happened. One, I now think about the goats any time I use a beauty or haircare product with argan oil and two, I love that I saw this in person, :-).