Beauty Buzz: “Ask Amy” tackles dark circles

What can I do to hide my dark under-eye circles?

If a good night’s sleep and a little “me” time is not on your calendar, a great concealer is your best friend. The perfect concealer is one to two shades lighter than your foundation, will not crease under the eyes, and blends to a semi-matte finish. My two favorites are from Lancome: Effacernes Waterproof Protective Undereye Concealer and Maquicomplet Complete Coverage Concealer. Both are great under the eyes and hold up well when set with a dab of sheer loose powder.

Seriously dark circles (like mine) require an extra step. I love Bobbi Brown’s Corrector in “Light Bisque”. It’s a pink gel-like cream that neutralizes blue undereye darkness and serves as a primer for your regular concealer. Yes it’s one more step in your makeup routine, but I promise, it’s worth it!

Devotion in Motion: Attitude of Gratitude

By Shannon, a (usually) grateful mama

 It seems like every time I pop into Barnes & Noble these days, there’s a new book out about happiness. I like being happy, really I do, but as children of God, we’re not promised continual happiness. But we’re always expected to be grateful — and happiness tends to be a by-product of gratitude.

I’ve noticed that when I start to feel overwhelmed by work or marriage or mothering, my thoughts often turn to everything I don’t have. But my attitude turns around when I stop looking at what I don’t have and focus on what I do.

Then I become thankful for that barrier reef of laundry, because it means I have abundant clothes to wear. I thank God for the leaky roof because it means I have a house to live in and enough money to pay for the repairs. I may not have a new car, but I also don’t have a car payment.

It’s just a matter of perspective.

Most nights, when the lights are out and it’s time for sleep, I try to think of everything I’m grateful for and tell God how much I appreciate these gifts.

Sometimes, like last night, when I finally put my weary head down on the pillow and started to give thanks, I was so tired that all I could think to say was: “Thank you, God, for this bed.”

And then I proceed to show Him just how much I appreciated those cozy covers and that soft pillow by falling asleep before I could offer up appreciation for anything else.

In Psalm 92, the Bible says, “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; To declare Your loving kindness in the morning, and Your faithfulness every night.”

Here’s praying you’ll count your blessings today and remember to thank God for them tonight (unless you’re asleep before your head hits the pillow). Have a fabulous Sunday!

The Rockwood Files: Trading Places

By Gwen Rockwood, columnist and mama of 3

About a month ago, Tom and I experienced a role reversal. He started working out of our house, as I usually do, and my fledgling business required me to make outside sales calls and work much more often. It was a big change, and neither of us was sure we liked swimming in the new pond.

Even though I’d worked in the business world before my kids were born, diving back into it was unsettling and scary. I’d stay up until after midnight working on e-mails and sales presentations and then wake up the next morning feeling sick to my stomach at the thought of meeting strangers and presenting my business pitch. I wondered how in the world Tom, who has always worked in corporate sales, had managed the stress all these years.

Meanwhile Tom took on the job of getting our kindergartener to school. He woke him up, made his breakfast, packed his lunch and drove him to school. When I had to be out of the house for meetings, Tom floated between work and kids, trying to field business calls and e-mails between diaper changes and sibling fights. It drove him a little nuts, a condition we work-from-home moms get used to over time.

None of it was easy for either of us and tempers sometimes flared. But we kept treading water, and, over the course of a few weeks, began to find a way to navigate this new course. I thought it was just our day-to-day routine that had shifted, but, in reality, that change of routine slowly changed us. We were both given a new perspective on what it’s like to be someone else and juggle his or her responsibilities. We both figured out that things were never as easy as we’d assumed them to be for the other person.

I learned a few things about being a dad, the most important one being this: An outside job drains a lot of energy and attention out of you. As much as you want to live in the moment with your kids when you’re home, your brain can’t seem to let go of work, especially when there’s a lot riding on your success. And shifting gears from work life to family life is not nearly as simple as we moms often think it should be. I get it now.

Tom also had a few epiphanies about being the work-from-home parent. He learned that working amidst chaos is part of the job. With small kids in the house, there’s no such thing as solitude, not even for bathroom breaks. You type with a baby in your lap. You interrupt your work focus to fix the broken Jack-in-the-Box for the tenth time or make a snack for somebody or clean up the mess they made while you were trying to get something done. And it goes on that way all day until they go to sleep at night.

One day I came home from making a sales call I’d been dreading and found Tom on a cell phone talking business while picking up about 100 paper plates our toddler had gleefully unpacked while nobody was looking. When he hung up, he looked over at me exasperated and said, “I just cleaned this place up and look at it now!” I smiled and knew we had truly traded lives for a while and were getting a real appreciation for what life is like on the other side.

We both learned it isn’t easy. We both learned it wasn’t ever going to be completely fair or 50-50, as far as workload goes. It’s going to fluctuate and change. Sometimes I’m going to cover for him and sometimes he’s going to cover for me. Sometimes we’re both going to feel like we’re the one doing way too much and we’ll probably both be right. Such is life with kids, work and a household to run. But we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Mom Recommendation: SafetyTat

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Haley Villines of Rogers recently sent us a message about a new product that she can’t wait to use on her 2-year-old son, Caleb, this summer. It’s called SafetyTat (www.safetytat.com), temporary waterproof tattoos that can be customized with your cell phone number or other important information like allergies, etc., on them. They won’t put your kid’s name on the tats as a safety precaution (so strangers won’t be able to call out their name and confuse the child into thinking they know each other).

In addition to being a mom, Haley is a speech-language pathologist and makes some very good points.

“I work with lots of families who have a child who can’t clearly and effectively communicate his/her name, phone number, or parents’ names if lost,” she said. “When I share this concern with them, many have never even thought of it. After all, we never dream that it will be our children who are lost at a theme park or separated from us in the mall.”

Haley said for years she’s suggested that parents use a wearable ID (dog tags, wristbands, etc.) for their children when they’re in public places.

“These tattoos are so much more kid-friendly!” she said.

Haley shared the SafetyTat link with a friend who previously worked at Disney World and the friend said she’d seen a lot of children who could speak normally in any other situation, but when they were lost and scared, just couldn’t remember their information or were crying too hard to get the words out.

So Haley wants all the moms out there to be aware of these tats!

“I hope that my child’s tattoo never has to be used, but if it does, it will be worth infinitely more than the $20 that I spent,” she said.

Drama for Mama: So You Think You Can Dance

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By Gwen

During Thursday night’s elimination, Chelsea T. and Chris had to pack up their dancing shoes and head home. It was the first elimination so far this season in which a couple has been broken up and re-paired with new partners. Chris’ former partner, Comfort, will now dance with Chelsea’s former partner, Thayne. As far as the best solo of the night, it was a toss up between Kourtni and her partner Matt. It was nice to see Matt finally get a decent review from the judges. I was a little surprised to see Chelsea T. go home this early in the season. She seemed like a strong contender for a spot in the final four. But the judges felt her personality had dropped off a bit during recent weeks. Though Chris is certainly a talented dancer, he was bound to drop out before some of the other extremely strong male dancers in the group like Will, Twitch and Joshua.

Waiting for Shlomo: Tag, you’re it!

From Wikepdia — A meme (pronounced /miːm/)[1] consists of any unit of cultural information, such as a practice or idea, that gets transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another. Examples include thoughts, ideas, theories, practices, habits, songs, dances and moods and terms such as race, culture, and ethnicity. Memes propagate themselves and can move through a “culture” in a manner similar to the behavior of a virus.

Kind of like a chain letter – these are the things you answer on email or read on blogs, to help you “learn” more about your friends. Here are two fun memes to help you know me better.

NWA Mother Lode bloggers – it’s YOUR turn next!


Four Things

Four jobs I have held:
– Florist delivery

– Day care teacher
– Retail sales associate – Eddie Bauer, Casual Corner
– Academic Advisor

Four movies I could watch over and over:
– The American President
- Dirty Dancing
- Breakfast Club
- The Color Purple

Four places I have lived:
- Ozark, AR (super yuck)
- Austin, TX
- Denver, CO (my favorite place)
- Fayetteville, AR

Four TV shows I like:
- Lost
- How I Met Your Mother
- Bones
- Anthony Bourdaine: No Reservations

Four favorite foods:
- Pizza
- anything Mexican

- any kind of fried potatoes – chips, fries, etc.
- big, ripe, juicy, home grown tomatoes with lots of salt!

Four places I would rather be:
- -anywhere with cool nights and low humidity

– Denver, visiting my sister and family
- – at the pool with a drink in hand, not home with a sick kid!
– in San Antonio, meeting our new baby (not yet)

A, B, C, D, E, F …

A – Age: 33.

B – Band listening to right now: no band, I am listening to “Dora the Explorer” in the background – great, huh?

C – Career future: gosh, I wish I knew – lottery winner?

D – Dad’s name: Carl

E – Easiest person to talk to: My sister – I love talking to my husband, but my sister “gets it” more easily than he does

F – Favorite song: The first one that comes to mind is, “Into the Mystic” by Van Morrison

G – Gummy Bears or Gummy Worms: Gummy Bears – the texture is much better

H – Hometown: Ozark, but I don’t like to admit it. I say, Fayetteville.

I – Instruments: piano for 5 years as a child, but no longer, clarinet for one year in middle school, guitar for a few weeks as a child

J – Job: university recruiter

K – Kids: 1 and 1 on the way – our adoption could happen at any time – let’s hope for sooner rather than later – come on, Shlomo!

L – Longest car ride ever: I think the 18 hour drive to Aspen with a toddler in the back seat!

M – Mom’s name: Sharon

N – Number of jobs you’ve had: about 15 since I was a teenager

P – Phobia[s]: tumbling down a flight of stairs and knocking out my teeth – shudder . . .

Q – Quote: You must be the change you wish to see in the world.

—Gandhi

R – Reason to smile: a hot cup of coffee, and an adorable three year old playing by himself while I type this

S – Song you sang last: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” at bedtime for Isaac last night

T – Time you wake up: sometime between 6:30 and 7:30, unless I can finagle it to sleep late!

U – Unknown fact about me: I was a tiny preemie – I weighed 2 pounds and 3 ounces at birth in 1974

V – Vegetable you hate: cauliflower – yuck!

W – Worst habit: biting my fingernails and picking at my split ends

X – X-rays you’ve had: back, to check for inherited scoliosis

Y – Yummy food: ripe, homegrown tomatoes, COFFEE, anything fattening (boo)

Z – Zodiac sign: Scorpio

OK, so I am hedging on writing about adoption. I don’t have any thing to tell. We don’t have any news. After the big disappointment a couple of weeks ago, I have been anxious, but realistic. These things take time. We have been officially “on the list” for only a month.

I did decide to start getting some things ready for a baby, though. When I thought we were about to jump in the car and drive to San Antonio, I started panicking about getting it all together in time. How do I pack for Michael, Isaac, a baby, and myself for an undetermined amount of time in a hotel room? Yikes! I decided the easiest thing to do is to get a bag ready for the baby. So, after things settled down, I had fun going through all the baby clothes and gear. We will most likely know the sex of the baby before we head to San Antonio, but I decided to pack only the most gender neutral stuff we had. So, I have about a dozen side-snap shirts, a bunch of sleepers and gowns, some hats, a couple of cuter outfits, bottles, diapers, a couple of blankets, the miracle blanket, the car seat, and a few other things ready to go. This way, when we DO get the call, I don’t have to go crazy with the baby stuff. I can just look through it again and work on packing the rest of us!

I never had a “true” newborn at home. Isaac was in the hospital for 99 days before he came home, and even though he was tiny (6 pounds 4 ounces when he came home), and very newborn like, we did not have to deal with the umbilical stump, or some of the other newborn things. Plus, we brought him home at the end of December. I expect (I could be wrong) to bring this baby home sometime in summer or fall. We will be in San Antonio, the first two weeks or so, and it will be warm. What do you dress a summer/fall baby in? Also, why the heck do I need all those side-snap shirts? (we did not use them for Isaac, these are hand-me-downs). Give me a list of your newborn essentials and/or your can’t live without baby item. I’ll go first – my essential baby item is the Miracle Blanket – it is awesome for babies that need to be swaddled – amazing. How about you? Click on the word “comment” below to post your suggestions.

Hair: “Help Me Rhonda”

bigstockphoto_pink_hair_dryer_2850538.jpgDear Rhonda,

What do you think is the absolute best hair dryer? I recently bought the $300 T3 Tourmaline one and was underwhelmed. Are the so-called ionic dryers really better for your hair?

Dear Dryer Dilemma,

This is a great question and one I’m asked practically every day at the salon. We all know there will be a new, latest and greatest gadget that gets a lot of buzz and comes on the market right after you’ve sold the farm to buy today’s “latest and greatest.” Beauty tools can often be SO complicated. Sure, it’s great to have choices but having too many of them can sometimes cause an overwhelming urge to run down the street naked! Know what I mean? AAAAAHHHHH!

Now back to your question. I’m really sorry your new, turbo-powered hair dryer wasn’t all you expected it would be. Here’s my take on it. The not-so-glamorous truth about hair dryers is this: They all blow hot and cold air and have an on/off switch. That being said, some do have features such as a motor that cools itself off as it heats itself up. (These are the kind your stylist uses because he or she is using it all day long and therefore needs this feature. These dryers also tend to be a lot hotter than average because stylists need to get the job done fast so clients can get back to work, kids ,etc.)

As for the ionic dryer, these dryers use positive and negative charges to suck the water from the hair. Sounds crazy, and it’s even harder to explain, but that’s how they work. For home use, I tell my clients to let their personal preferences combined with their pocketbook make this decision. If your hair is very thick and wavy and you need to dry and go fast, an ionic, hotter hair dryer will be best. If, on the other hand, you have fine, thin hair, a dryer that doesn’t get quite as hot would be the safe choice.The wattage, in my opinion, should be at least 1850 and price varies by brand. There’s no way to say one dryer is “the best”. If you find one you like, hang on to it.

As for your $300 dilemma, return that joker and get your money back.

Rhonda Moulder is a Northwest Arkansas stylist and mama to 2 fabulous girls. To send her a question or ask about a consultation, e-mail her at mamas@nwamotherlode.com.

Life With Ladybug: Sensational Sleepover

By Shannon, Ladybug’s mom

Play dates for 6-year-olds are all kinds of awesome. And I mean that from my perspective. I just offer the occasional snack (they prefer baked cookies, but could care less whether they’re homemade, so why should I?), the occasional called-from-the-other room instruction, and just now, a bit of Caladryl for a bug bite. Really not too taxing.

Previously, with the under-age-6 play date, it was all kinds of taxing. They wanted to paint, they wanted to cry, they wanted to break my house like so many matchsticks.

Two and a half hours into this one, I’m hearing their cheerful chatter in Ladybug’s bedroom while I catch up on some blog reading and a little work. Of course, it depends on the child you’ve invited over. Some are more easygoing than others, of course. And some are more polite. Polite is very important to me. Impoliteness can result in one invitation only. We’re sticklers for the polite (it’s really my husband). (And NO, I’m not saying my daughter is the Queen of Polite. But if we’re in hearing distance, we require it from her).

On this day it’s not only a play date, but a full-blown SLEEPOVER, Ladybug’s first (cousins excepted). And this guest is very polite. Case in point: I just asked the girls if they’d like frozen pepperoni pizza for dinner (as in, not from a pizza parlor) and the sleepover friend nicely inquired, “Could I have mine warm, please?”

I think it helps that she has an English accent and nearly everything she says sounds nice. Everything went swimmingly, until that evening. Ladybug wouldn’t – couldn’t — go to sleep. The play date friend apparently has a 7 p.m. bedtime at home, which I absolutely can’t imagine.

My daughter’s internal clock is tuned to eternal night owl. She prefers to stay up late and sleep late the next morning. I thought kindergarten would cure that. Just before she started “big school” last fall, my mom friends with older kids told me in a knowing voice: “She’ll be falling asleep on the way home” and “You won’t have to ask her to go to bed. Mine was asleep by 7 o’clock – kindergarten is tiring!” (Shush with the 7 o’clock, people. It’s disheartening).

They were wrong, wrong, wrong. Yes, she went to sleep a little earlier, but she wasn’t dropping off on the way home from school — or even by 7. I know that much of the sleep situation is my fault. I get Ladybug into bed at a decent hour, but she often derails the early bedtime by something as simple as a thought-provoking question. She’s learned I can hardly resist answering those, which is what my savvy 6-year-old is banking on.

Take the other night: She tells me she has to ask me one thing. Against my better judgment, I walk to the door of her room. “Yes?” I say. She asks: “Which one: lion or hyena?” (We’ve played this many times. What she means is: in a face-off, which animal would win?) Nothing like talk of slaughter to lull you to sleep.

I pick lion. I turn to leave so she quickly calls out “duck or chicken?” A tough one. “I’d have to vote for the chicken. Their beaks are sharper,” I reply. As I reach the living room, she raises her voice and asks one more: “Orca or blue whale?” Knowing I should refuse to be reeled in, I walk back to her door and say, “Hmmm. Orcas are toothed whales, but the blue whale is the biggest whale in the sea. I’ll have to choose the orca.” I call out to my husband for a second opinion: “Orca or blue whale?” He replies without a beat, “Orca. They have teeth and they usually don’t travel alone.”

The night of the sleepover, Ladybug’s friend got to answer the never-ending list of questions. She even asked a few of her own. I finally sent Ladybug to sleep on the couch so her friend could close her eyes already. Then they both went to sleep, mercifully. The next morning they asked in unison: “When can we have another sleepover?!” I told them soon.  Soon.

Frozen pizza: $3.50

Movie rental: $4

Someone else to listen to endless questions before bed: priceless

Click here to read more Life with Ladybug posts.

Drama for Mama: So You Think You Can Dance

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By Gwen, dance-lovin’ mama of 3

Okay, if you’re not watching this show by now, you are seriously, seriously missing out on phenomenal television. Wednesday night’s show was SO good. I don’t even know where to start. I’ve watched the show through four seasons now, and I always have a favorite couple. But this season there are about four favorite couples, and it’s going to be really tough to see any of them go home.

Kherington and Twitch kicked off the night with a hip-hop routine that re-enacted a prison break. It was cool, funny and showed off the fact that this couple is personality plus. The audience and the judges love them.

Courtney and Gev followed with a very hot rumba, in which Gev was ordered by the choreographers to grab his partner’s bootie. He obeyed his teachers with the biggest grin on his face you’ve ever seen. He’s got a cute personality, and I think all of America is rooting for him to win the heart of his partner who he obviously adores.

The next hottest couple of the night was Chelsea and Mark, who danced a hip-hop routine to the song “Bleeding Love.” The dance told the story of a workaholic leaving his wife over and over again to head to the office. The dancers really made it believable, and the choreography was so cool that I kept backing up my DVR so I could see it again.

Perhaps the best couple of the night, however, was the one who closed the show – Katee and Joshua, who danced a very sultry samba. Wow. These guys just nail it every time. And it’s always surprising when a break dancer like Joshua comes out looking like a classically trained Latin dancer. He is so amazing to watch, and he and Katee have great chemistry on the dance floor. Can’t wait to see what they do next.

The rest of the contestants didn’t shine the way these stand-out performances did even though they, too, were great. Kourtni and Matt did an outstanding job with a quirky contemporary routine. If I had to pick a bottom three, it would be Chelsea and Thayne, Jessica and Will and Chris and Comfort. We’ll see if that turns out to be right on Thursday night, when the bottom three couples will each dance solos to “save their lives” on the show. If you love dance as well as great entertainment, do not miss another episode of this show. It’s the best thing on all summer. Set your Tivo or DVR box for Fox at 7 p.m. central.

Advice: “Mind Your Mama”

Dear Jennifer,

I’ve always loved kids and when I got married last year for the first time at 41, I felt like my dreams of motherhood would come true! But life threw me a curve ball, and now it looks like my husband and I won’t be having children after all. But lucky for me, I have an 11-year-old step-daughter and she lives with us half the time. “M” is an amazing kid: she’s in gifted and talented classes at school, in all sorts of sports and activities and can be loads of fun around people she likes.

The problem is “M” hasn’t really warmed up to me yet, and I worry it might never happen. Unless I’m engaging her in something she’s interested in, or spending money on her, or planning some fun event or outing, she acts like I’m not alive.With her Dad and Mom (and even her new step-dad!) she’ll hug them or occasionally say “I love you.” But she’s never said those words to me, and I wonder if she ever will.

I’ve tried really hard to be involved and interested in M’s life without being in-her-face or infringing on her alone time with Dad. I cook nice meals for her, I talk to her about her day, I try to support and encourage her. But just the other night, she completely ignored me when I spoke to her at soccer practice. In front of her mother no less! I was mortified! It’s not like M is misbehaving or being disrespectful to me, so technically she’s not doing anything wrong. I mean, what is her dad supposed to say, “You must love your stepmom!” I’ve wanted to be a mother for so long, but now I feel like I’m going to spend the rest of my life pouring my time, energy and love into a kid who’ll never reciprocate.

Dear Lukewarm Love,

There are three very separate issues here. First issue: M may be a great kid in some ways, but she’s not being great to you. You write, “She can be loads of fun around people she likes” Why only around people she likes? You admit she acts like you’re not alive unless you’re doing something for her or spending money on her. Then you say, “It’s not like M is misbehaving or being disrespectful to me, so technically she’s not doing anything wrong.”

Whoa! Are you kidding me? Treating someone well when they’re buying things for you or doing things for you and then acting like that person isn’t alive when the buying stops is incredibly disrespectful. At 11, she should know better. Address this issue with honesty and high expectations about personal behavior. M doesn’t have the right to be rude to you, period.

The next time she ignores you or treats you like you don’t exist, bring up the behavior at dinner in front of her and her dad. Say, “M, something interesting happened today. While we were at the ballfield, every time I spoke to you, you ignored me. I want to make sure you know that it’s rude to ignore people. If you didn’t know that ignoring people is rude, now you do know, and I don’t ever want you to do that again – not to me or anyone else.”

Stay calm and detached. You’re not angry, you’re laying down ground rules that somehow she didn’t understand before. By speaking the truth, you’re establishing a new paradigm and you’re removing yourself from the position of desperate doormat and putting yourself in the position of independent, strong stepmom. You’re announcing that in your home, people are honest with each other, and no matter what, they treat each other with respect.

Second issue: Where’s the Dad? You write, “…what is her dad supposed to say, “You must love your stepmom!” No, that’s not what he’s supposed to say. He’s supposed to say, “Be polite and considerate to your stepmom because you are my daughter, you live with us half the time, and that’s what I expect of you.” Got that? In other words, he’s supposed to BE A DAD and teach his daughter manners and how to use them.

You and your husband married about a year ago. Well, one year is not much time when you’re talking about step-parenting, so be patient. It doesn’t surprise me that she’s more affectionate to her stepdad than to you. Either her mother has insisted M respect her new husband, or M doesn’t feel the new husband threatens the relationship between her and her mom. In addition, her new stepdad may not have the incredibly high expectations of the parenting relationship that you have. In other words, he may not care so much.

Apparently, your husband hasn’t insisted M respect you, and she probably does see you as someone who comes between her and her dad, no matter how hard you try not to. Talk to your husband and establish what you feel is appropriate respect and consideration from her. Be compassionate toward an 11-year-old who probably liked having her dad all to herself and now has to share him, but don’t tolerate blatant disrespect.

Third Issue: You can’t win someone’s love, so stop trying so hard. In your mind, this child is your only shot at being a mom. You have a WHOLE LOT invested in a relationship with an 11-year-old and on some level, she probably senses and resents that. You’re asking her to make up for something life has denied you, and that’s too much to ask.

You’ll have a lot more leverage with her if you stop trying to win her favor and start acting like an interesting adult with a full life who may or may not want to do special things with her. Once you relax, you’ll open the door to her respecting you.

You sound like a caring, respectful and even intuitive step-mom, so since you may not hear this from anyone else, hear it from me: This girl is lucky to have you. Even so, she may never love you the way you want. Therefore, you may never get to be the kind of mom you wanted to be.

This is your step-daughter, not the baby you wanted so much. You don’t say what the issues are between you and your husband regarding a child or adoption, but the sense of loss and disappointment you feel at not having a child of your own is something that cannot be fully assuaged by step-parenting an 11-year-old with an attitude. Take some time to examine whether or not you’ve fully grieved the loss of your dream. If not, find someone to talk to and get started. Good luck.

Jennifer Hansen is a syndicated columnist, mom of 2 and one of those insightful friends who will tell you what you need to hear regardless of whether or not it’s what you want to hear. She is not a psychologist or licensed counselor, but she is one smart mama. Send questions to Jennifer at mamas@nwamotherlode.com. (Your name can and will be kept private.)

July 4th Menu: Entree and Dessert

Yesterday we posted the first half of a July 4th menu. Today we feature the entree and decadent dessert! Thanks to menu-mama Jen Lewis.

flag-waving.gifGrilled Chicken with Apricot-Balsamic Glaze

This is a new recipe for me and came out in this month’s issue of Fine Cooking. It goes well with the Arugula Salad and the Potato Salad with having the sweetness of the Apricot glaze and a little crushed red pepper for a kick.
Look in your butcher’s display case for bone-in parts that are about the same size—legs about 5 oz. each, thighs about 6 oz., and breast halves a little more than a pound each. I really like Richard’s Meat Market and they will prep your meat any way you want.
Serves six to eight.

Ingredients

2 Tbs. unsalted butter
1/2 cup apricot preserves
3 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
Kosher salt
Vegetable oil for the grill
Two 4-lb. chickens, each cut into 8 pieces, or 5 to 6 lb. good-quality bone-in skin-on chicken thighs, drumsticks, and breasts, each breast half cut into two pieces
Freshly ground black pepper

How to make: In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the preserves, vinegar, red pepper flakes, rosemary, and a large pinch of salt; stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. (If making ahead, store covered in the refrigerator. Before using, warm over low heat to loosen the consistency.)

Prepare a medium gas or charcoal grill fire. Using a stiff wire brush, scrub the cooking grate thoroughly. Dip a folded paper towel into vegetable oil and, using tongs, rub it over the grill grate.

Season the chicken lightly with salt and pepper. Set the parts skin side down on the grill. Cook, covered, until the skin is golden brown, about 10 minutes. Stay near the grill, especially during the first 10 minutes, to manage any flare-ups, by moving pieces out of the way. If the chicken is browning too quickly, turn the heat down slightly or close the vents partially. Flip the chicken and cook until an instant-read thermometer reads 165°F in the thickest part of each piece, 5 to 10 minutes more. The thighs, legs, and thinner breast pieces are apt to cook a little faster than the thicker breast pieces. Transfer each piece to a platter when done and tent with foil.

When all the chicken is done, brush it with the glaze on all sides. Return the chicken to the grill and cook for another minute or so on each side to caramelize the glaze. Brush the chicken with any remaining glaze and serve.

Make Ahead Tips

The apricot glaze can be made up to a day ahead and stored covered in the refrigerator. Before using, warm over low heat to loosen the consistency.

The Grand Finale!

Sour Cream Pound Cake with Strawberry and Blueberry Compote (serves 10 to 12)

This recipe came from Southern Living Magazine a couple years ago and it said to serve it with peaches. I’m sure peaches would be wonderful with it , but I make it for the 4th of July with the strawberries and blueberries because I love the colors and it wouldn’t be the 4th without some fresh juicy strawberries.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups butter, softened
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 (8-oz.) container sour cream
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Blueberry/Strawberry Compote

1 pint of Blueberries
1 pint of Strawberries
1 T sugar
Orange Liquor (optional)
Whipped cream
Mint

Preparation:

1. Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until the yolk disappears.

2. Sift together flour, salt, and baking soda. Add to butter mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat batter at low speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in extracts. Pour into a greased and floured 12-cup tube pan.

3. Bake at 325° for 1 hour and 20 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan, and cool completely on wire rack.

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Put blueberries, strawberries, sugar and liquor in a small pan and heat on medium heat until sugar melts and berries are heated. Try not to let the blueberries burst. Remove from heat and spoon over slices of pound cake and serve with whipped cream and garnish with a mint sprig.

Just-right July 4th Menu

sparklers3.gifWith the 4th of July coming up soon, the mamas thought it might be nice for someone else to come up with the menu. Jen Lewis of Fayetteville, mom to Ella and Ian, agreed to do the honors! Jen is a fabulous entertainer and cook. We’re breaking up the menu ideas into two parts. Appetizer and sides today and entree/dessert on Tuesday. See Jen’s personal notes along with each recipe.

Bruschetta Romano, appetizer (Serves 12)

Tomatoes are a must in the summer and especially for the 4th of July. This Bruschetta can be made early in the day and will be ready to go when your guests arrive. I love the Farmer’s Market in Fayetteville and you will be able to find most of the vegetables for your dish there.

Ingredients

2 pounds plum tomatoes, chopped
1 small red onion
1 cup packed chopped fresh basil
4 gloves of garlic
11/4 T salt
1T white pepper
1t oregano
1 1/4 C extra-virgin olive oil
2 loaves of French bread/sliced
1/2 C of grated Romano cheese

Combine the tomatoes, onion, basil, garlic, salt, white pepper, oregano and olive oil in a large bowl. Chill, covered in the refrigerator for 4 hours, stirring occasionally.

Let the bruschetta topping stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

Place bread slices on baking sheets.

Bake at 250 degrees for 5 to 10 minutes or until light brown. Sprinkle with cheese over warn toast. Put Bruschetta topping in a serving bowl and place bread pieces around the bowl. Use extra basil as garnish for the Bruschetta topping.

Roasted Potato Salad with Bell Peppers, Roasted Corn & Tomatoes (Serves 6)

I love this potato salad recipe! I got it out of Fine Cooking magazine two years ago and it has been one of my summer staple salads. It can go with any kind of meat and I love that it can be mostly made ahead of time. Using fresh roasted corn on the cob is a must to bring out the flavor in the corn. Please read through both recipes. One is for making the roasted potatoes and then everything gets mixed together.

Ingredients

2 lb. small red-skinned potatoes or small Yukon Gold potatoes, washed and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

How to make: Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 450ºF. Spread the potatoes on a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle with 1 tsp. kosher salt and several grinds of pepper, and roll them around to evenly coat them with the oil. Spread the potatoes in a single layer, preferably with a cut side down. Roast them until they’re tender when pierced with a fork, 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the potatoes. The potatoes should be browned on the sides touching the pan.

Loosen the potatoes from the pan with a thin spatula and transfer them to a large serving bowl to be tossed with the salad ingredients and dressing. They can be tossed while still warm or at room temperature.

Ingredients

1 ear fresh corn, in the husk
1/4 cup plus 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups red, yellow, or orange cherry tomatoes (or a combination), halved
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 green bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 small red onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
2 small cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 Tbs. red-wine vinegar

(Tip: roast the corn while you roast the potatoes.)

How to make: Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 450°F. Remove the husk and put the corn on a small baking sheet. Drizzle 1 tsp. of the oil onto the corn and rub it over all the kernels. Sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. Roast, turning the cob occasionally, until the corn kernels are light brown in a few spots, about 20 minutes. Let the corn cool. Cut the kernels from the cob. Mix together only if you are ready to eat. You can make the potatoes, corn and cut all ingredients, but wait until the last minutes before putting everything together.

Add the corn, tomatoes, red, green, and yellow peppers, onion, basil, and garlic to the potatoes. Toss gently. Whisk the remaining 1/4 cup oil and the vinegar together and add to the salad. Toss again. Season with kosher salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.


Arugula Blueberry Salad with Orange Dressing

This salad is truly a seasonal favorite and I think it is perfect for the 4th of July. You have your red, white and blue and it is absolutely delicious. I really love Arugula and use it as much as I can when it is in season. You should be able to find it at the Farmer’s Market, Ozark Natural Foods or Marvin’s (IGA).

Salad
Serves 6
1 head Boston Lettuce
2 bunches of Arugula
2 Avocados-cubed
4 plum tomatoes
1 pint blueberries
1 can heart of palm cut in rounds

Dressing

1/2 c of Fresh OJ
2 T of lime Juice
1/2 t orange zest
1/2 t sugar
1/4 t salt
1/3 c olive oil

Mix the salad stuff together and pour dressing over right before serving. I add Sea Salt and pepper as well.
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Drama for Mama: Nashville Star

By Gwen

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I don’t like it when show producers force contestants to participate in “theme night.” It so often ends up being musically tragic. On Monday night’s Nashville Star, the theme was “Pop Goes Country.” I don’t know if the contestants have never heard pop songs or what, but some of them made very odd song choices. Alyson Gilbert, for example, picked one of the worst songs in pop history – “I Think We’re Alone Now” by Tiffany. Yikes. It was not good. And I was rooting for her because she did so well last week and she has that Reba look.

Shawn Mayer picked a boy band song that was overplayed on the radio – “Bye, Bye, Bye” by N’Sync. Tommy Stanley, who was in this week’s bottom two, chose “Maniac,” the theme song from Flashdance. He’s got a great voice, but the song wasn’t the least bit country, and the judges nailed him for it.

But there were some good choices. Ashlee Hewitt gets my vote for the best arrangement of the night. She managed to take a well-known Britney Spears song – “You Drive Me Crazy” – and make it an enjoyable country tune. Melissa Lawson also knocked it out of the park with a country version of Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors.” The mama of 5 has the best female voice in the competition. (And she has lost 67 pounds. Wow!)

Coffey was entertaining but Jewel said he’s a bit too gimmicky, and I agree. He’d do well to chill out just a tad. Pearl Heart did better this week and looked more comfortable standing in a cluster. Gabe Garcia sang “La Vida Loca” with a gaggle of back-up dancers. He did well, but remember that the first singer of the night typically struggles to get votes at the end of the 2-hour show. Lastly, best friends Laura and Sophie did a really interesting country version of Michael Jackson’s PYT (Pretty Young Thing). These girls weren’t even alive when that song hit the charts, but I loved it and was afraid they’d butcher it. But they came through and the arrangement was actually pretty cool. But who dressed these poor girls? Their awful, lacey dresses looked like they’d been ripped off some really cheap yard sale dolls. Not a good look. But I think they’ll be safe for next week’s show.

The singer who wasn’t safe Monday night was Mr. Eye Candy, Justin Gaston. But at least the guy went out on a high note. His performance of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” was a vast improvement over last week and earned him praise from the judges. Don’t worry about Justin. Even if he doesn’t make it in country music, he’s bound to have a profitable career as a J. Crew model.

Red, White and Baby Blue event set for Friday

Jackson L. Graves, the firstborn son of James and Angie Graves of Fayetteville, spent his entirely too short, yet inspirational life in the Arkansas Children’s Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit. Since his death more than three years ago, his parents have partnered with Children’s Hospital and are doing all they can to improve care for children who have extended stays in intensive care and to improve the experience for the families of those children.

rwbblogo.jpgOne of the largest fund-raisers for the Jackson L. Graves Foundation is an event called Red, White and Baby Blue. You just go and hang out, eat, participate in an auction if you’d like and listen to live music. There will also be speakers from Children’s Hospital and Jackson’s foundation. It’s free, but donations are accepted for the foundation. The event is at the Waterford Estates Clubhouse off Highway 45 in Fayetteville (5.5 miles east of the Hwy 45/Hwy 265 intersection). It’s from 6:30 to 9 p.m. and it’s dressy casual. The goal is to raise $15,000 and every little bit helps! An RSVP is not required, but you can e-mail info@jacksongraves.org or call 479-466-6103.

“We’re excited about the upcoming event. It’s a great way to spend your date night or you can just stop by before hitting the town,” Angie said. “In the past, this Foundation has funded items such as a family resource center for the NICU waiting room, privacy screens, digital camera supplies, and our largest project to date was the funding of new Vocera communication devices to eliminate noisy intercoms throughout the NICU. After this year’s event, we’ll work with the hospital to ensure that money raised will go directly toward funding the highest priority needs for these critically ill babies and their families.”

If you want to read more about little Jackson’s life and to find out more about the foundation, click here. James and Angie have become the parents of two more sons since Jackson was born. To read about Charlie and Henry, go to Angie’s personal blog, Charlie’s and Henry’s World.

Beauty Buzz: “Ask Amy”

Dear Amy,

Can you recommend a powder for setting my foundation? All of the ones I’ve tried seem so thick and “cakey.”

On my last trip to Sephora, I discovered a loose powder that I just love – Make Up For Ever’s High Definition Microfinish Powder. It is pure white in the jar, but it applies translucent and makes skin look airbrushed, not dry and powdery. It really does keep my t-zone shine free almost all day (not an easy feat!). It’s a new product, so hopefully they will offer it in a pressed-powder version soon. I hope you like it!

Have a beauty question for Amy? E-mail us at mamas@nwamotherlode.com, and Amy will tackle your question in the coming weeks.

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