Remodeling? Read this first!

hammer.jpgWe mamas LOVE a chance to remodel our homes and make them better. Last year, Americans spent more than $216 billion (yes that says BILLION) on home remodeling, according to a report from the National Association of Home Builders. That same report says that remodeling is expected to outpace new home building in about 10 years.

So if you’re one of the millions of moms who will be remodeling a home sometime soon, there are some things you need to know. And you need to base many of your decisions on whether you’re remodeling for your own benefit and enjoyment and plan to stay in the house indefinitely, or if you’re remodeling with the intention of putting the house on the market for sale. If you’re selling, you’ve got to make decisions based on what gets you the most bang for your buck.

Let’s face it. Women are responsible for 80% of all home-buying decisions. The two rooms that influence us most? Kitchen and master bath.

Start in the kitchen…

Fact: In many cases, the kitchen alone can sell a home. On average, you’ll get a much higher return on investment (ROI) by updating a kitchen with fresh cabinetry and new appliances versus making expensive changes to the other rooms in the house.

microwave.jpgTo update the kitchen, put a new coat of paint (or stain) on the cabinets and add new hardware. Appliances, on the other hand, should speak for themselves. You can replace appliances (even with some affordable options) and they’ll automatically bring value to the home. When a buyer walks into a home and sees new appliances, she assumes that everything in the home has been updated.

If you’re remodeling your home and plan on living in it for several years, then go with appliances that simplify your life. There are some great options out there for people who love to cook. But if you’re a mom who is constantly on the go, a microwave with speed cook options might be more your style. (There are also built-in microwaves available, like the one shown above.)

jenn-air.jpgThe two appliances that will impact your energy efficiency the most are the laundry machines and the refrigerator. The fridge accounts for 5% of your annual energy bill. You’ll pay about twice that amount if your fridge is more than 10 years old.

The more time the fridge door is open, the more energy it takes. If your kitchen remodeling plans include changing the placement of appliances, be sure to put your refrigerator away from any heat sources like ovens and dishwashers.

Some of the most energy efficient refrigerators use the same wattage as a single light bulb. In most households, the fridge is the single biggest energy consuming kitchen appliance. Replacing a fridge bought in 1990 with one of the new “Energy Star” qualified models would save enough energy to light the average house for more than four and a half months. If you really want to live “green,” then consider this: If one in 10 homes used “Energy Star” qualified appliances, it would be like planting 1.7 million new acres of trees.

Before we leave the kitchen, let’s talk dishwashers – those wonderful little machines that have a BIG impact on a mom’s day-to-day life. The new Electrolux dishwashers use 40% less water than they did 10 years ago. They’ve also designed their dishwasher to hold more dishes in each load so you save even more water and energy by not washing as often. (Did we mention this also cuts down on the number of times per week you have to unload and start all over?)

On to the laundry room…

springcleanwasher.jpgChanging over from top-loading laundry machines to front-loading styles will make the laundry room look more modern and will also help with energy efficiency. The savings will actually pay for the machines over the life of the product. The average family does eight loads of laundry per week, taking a minimum of one hour per load. Going from a top-loading machine to a front-loader can cut the loads in half which saves you a minimum of four hours per week! Electrolux’s newest laundry pair will wash and dry a complete load in 38 minutes. (Wow.)

When you’re choosing a washing machine, opt for a high-efficiency front-loading washer and try to use cold water to wash whenever possible. Electrolux uses an Eco-friendly option available with most Electrolux wash cylces. It reduces the water temperature using up to 53% less energy than a hot turquosewasher.pngwater wash.

Although dryers are not manufactured with an energy star rating, your savings will come with the energy efficient washer. If you can’t update your dryer, be sure to use your dryer’s moisture sensor when drying because it’s designed to turn the machine off when the clothes are dry. (When clothes tumble for an extra 20 minutes unnecessarily, they experience more wear and tear.)

Note: Our thanks to Judy Bilyeu of Metro Builders Supply for the great info on remodeling and how it relates to energy efficiency. Click here to visit the Metro Builders Supply website for more info on any of the appliances mentioned here or call them at 479-750-2200.

Drama for Mama: The Good Wife

the-good-wife-promo_557x825.jpgIf you missed the premier of The Good Wife last week, it wasn’t hard to catch up during the second episode “Stripped” last night. I wondered if the second show could live up to the pulse-pounding premier, but Julianna Margulies (a.k.a. Alicia Florrick, wife of the former state’s attorney who’s now jailed for abuse of power) delivered another excellent performance. She’s surrounded by other fabulous actors, which certainly helps.

Back to work as an attorney after 13 years at home, in this second show Alicia represents a stripper who claims she was raped. While working on the case, she’s also struggling to sort out her own feelings about what her husband has done. Although “everyone” has watched a sex tape involving her huband and a prostitute, Alicia hasn’t been able to view the whole thing.

[Random thought: So glad my daughter was in bed while I was watching this. It's a little racy.]

Although the new State’s Attorney claims there’s much more he “held back”about Alicia’s husband’s wrongdoings, there’s a flicker of hope that maybe the evidence in the case has been doctored. Alicia’s kids intercepted naughty pictures of their dad and the son (apparently a computer whiz) said that judging from the way the light is bouncing off the eyes of his father and the prostitute, his dad’s face was Photoshopped in. Red herring? Maybe.

I liked how they integrated Alicia’s work and her personal life, even though I found myself more interested in the personal aspect more than the court case. I’m glad the writers are weaving the two together, though.

At one point, Alicia visits Peter (the husband) in jail and, since she’s been thrust into the world of strippers through her current case, asks him direct questions about his past unfaithfulness. He asks when she’s going to forgive him and she answers, “You answer those questions and we’ll talk about forgiveness.”

At the end of the show, Alicia loses the civil case (DNA has been contaminated), but the alleged rapist is immediately arrested for criminal charges. The new State’s Attorney gloats and you can see that they are going to be rivals for a while. Alicia blames him for releasing the sex tape.

At the bitter end, Alicia is sitting on her side of the king-sized bed listening to the audio file that was leaked to the press. Maybe she’s ready to hear.

Free Infant Massage Classes at I.M. Spa!

imspaindex_031.jpgIf you want to rub your baby the right way, I.M. Spa can show you how.

The spa, located at 25 N. Block Ave. (just above Hugo’s in downtown Fayetteville), is offering free infant massage classes every Wednesday at 10 a.m. Also, infants (under 12 months) get a free infant massage with the purchase of a one hour Thai or Swedish mama massage. Sounds like a win-win.

I.M. Spa owner Wendy Finn said infant massage helps babies sleep better, digest better and helps relieve irritability. That’s something I think we could all use.

She said massage also enhances the parent-child bond and is especially good for adoptive kids who may have attachment disorders.

“We want it to be an ongoing class so parents can get continued instruction and reinforcement of what they’ve learned,” Wendy said.

Make sure to call and save a spot since space is limited! The number is 479-251-7422.

I.M. Spa, a new nwaMotherlode.com sponsor, offers therapeutic massage, facial masks, body wraps and glows, raindrop therapy (been there, done that, can’t wait to do it again), Barefoot Spa Room services and even mobile services.

Feeling inspired? Click here to see I.M. Spa’s full menu! 

Good Gossip: A Guilt-Free Celebrity Dish

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It’s time for a little celebrity gossip! You know you love it, especially the way we serve it up here on nwaMotherlode.com because it’s always guilt-free! That means no nasty stuff, no half-truths, and nothing designed to tear down or humiliate somebody else. We think there’s enough good news out there without indulging in the trashy stuff. Enjoy!

jenna_elfman.jpgThere’s a baby on the way for actress Jenna Elfman, 38. This will be Baby No. 2 for the former star of Dharma & Greg. Her new show on CBS is called Accidentally On Purpose, and her character in the show is pregnant, too. (I watched it last week and thought it was pretty funny. Check it out on Monday nights.) (Source: People magazine, Oct. 5, 2009 edition)

And since we’re on the subject of pregnancies: Leelee Sobieski, 26, and her 30-year-old fiance Adam Kimmell announced they are expecting their first child together in December. (Source: Us Weekly, Oct. 5, 2009 edition)

Ever wonder what celebrity moms are reading to their kids? Jessica Alba reads her goodnight-moon.jpgdaughter Honor (15 months old) the go-to classic, Goodnight Moon. Ana Ortiz (the sister on Ugly Betty) reads her 3-month-old daughter the book Corduroy. Nia Long reads her 8-year-old son the Magic Tree House series, and he also loves Mad Libs. Cindy Crawford has two kids, ages 10 and 8, who both like Judy Blume’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. (Source: People magazine, Oct. 5, 2009 edition)

Ever wonder which lullabies they sing to their kids? Well, in the case of singer Sheryl Crow, not many. Sheryl, 47, says her 2-year-old son Wyatt hates it when she tunes up. She says if she starts singing he assumes she’s getting ready to work and protests greatly. (Source: Us Weekly, Oct. 5, 2009 edition)

Katherine Heigl, who plays Izzie on Grey’s Anatomy, met her daughter on September 10th — katherine-heigl.jpg10-month-old Naleigh from South Korea. Being an adoptive mother was something the actress has dreamed of for years. Katherine’s sister, Margaret Leigh, 34, was adopted from Korea. Heigl is married to musician Josh Kelley. After the couple married in 2007, they began filling out adoption forms. The process went faster than expected because the baby has special needs. Heigl has not commented on what type of special needs the baby has, but it could range from the need for minor medical attention to more serious medical or developmental disorders. The proud father has already written a song for his daughter which debuted at a concert on Sept. 18th. (Source: People magazine, Oct. 5, 2009 edition)

New desperate housewife Angie Bolen (Emmy-winning ex-Sopranos star Drea de Matteo) dishes about the show in the Oct. 5 Us Weekly. Drea is the mother of 22-month-old daughter Alabama in real life and says she has the baby on the set often. The new housewife says she recently got engaged to Alabama’s father, musician Shooter Jennings. As for the show, she says the Bolens move from NYC to Fairview because they’re “gypsies, in a way.” She said this is their first time in the suburbs and are trying to play the part of a normal family so they don’t have to leave town. Note: To see Gwen’s review of the Desperate Housewives premier, click here. (Source: Us Weekly, Oct. 5, 2009 edition)

bill_melinda_gates.jpgBill and Melinda Gates have spent $4 billion to fix the U.S. education system and they plan to spend another several billion. In a recent interview with People magazine, the parents of three kids said they go on date nights once a week. Bill said their kids understand that most of the wealth is not coming to them. “We want our kids to grow up in a normal way,” he said. Bill also said that he had to give up Facebook a few years ago because he had about 20,000 friend requests! But he may be back soon on Twitter and Facebook to share some of his experiences. (Source: People magazine, Oct. 5, 2009 edition)

the_little_mermaid_1.jpgJennifer Garner says the movie The Little Mermaid still makes her cry, especially when Ariel leaves her dad at the end of the movie. “I watch the movie with my daughter, and she’s like ‘Mommy, are you okay?’” (Source: People magazine, Oct. 5, 2009 edition)

Know someone looking for a job?

square1smaller.jpgSo here’s the deal, mamas. We need another pair of hands around here. Thankfully, the site has grown faster than even we expected so we’re hiring another part-time ad salesperson to help us handle the growth. And we know that when you really need something done, you ask a mama. So we’re asking… do you know someone who has experience with sales and is looking for a job opportunity?

This is a part-time position with flexible scheduling and will be home-based. The person we’re looking for should have a car, some kid-free time to go to sales appointments, and the kind of personality that allows her to meet people easily, talk to anybody and get excited about what she is selling.

We’ve got some cool things planned for the website so we need somebody who is able to communicate all the good stuff to potential business sponsors. There are so many businesses out there that want to advertise to local moms, and we think nwaMotherlode has become a great place to get in front of lots of smart mamas.

Yep, it is a commission-only job. But trust us, good salespeople do just fine on commission-only jobs.

So we’re officially on the hunt, and we’ll be setting up interviews soon. If you’re interested or you know someone who is, have that person e-mail a resume to us at mamas@nwaMotherlode.com. Thanks in advance for helping us find our next Motherlode mama!

Drama for Mama: The Good Wife

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On Tuesday night, Gwen and I were glued to our television sets. We had hopefully started watching the CBS premier of The Good Wife, not sure what to expect. Yeah, it looked good in previews, but had they used up all the good parts in the 30-seconds of promo?

Not by a long shot.

Julianna Margulies (remember her from ER?) was wonderfully believable as Alicia Florrick, wife of a high-profile politician who’s in the slammer after being accused of corruption and the release of a sex tape. It begins with the husband (Chris Noth, a.k.a. Mr. Big from Sex and the City) apologizing at a podium while his wife stands like a Popsicle on his right.

She stands by her man in theory, but she’s no pushover, telling him during a jail visit: “Nothing will ever be normal again.”

the-good-wife-promo_557x825.jpgSix months later, with two kids to support and legal bills no doubt, Alicia goes back to work as an attorney — after 13 years away from work. It’s not an easy transition, but by the end of the show she finds proof of an accused mother’s innocence while handling a pro bono case that had been considered all sewn up. This helps secure her position at the firm.

Alicia’s mother-in-law helps out with the kids when she has to work late and she’s equal parts grateful and resentful. I love the ring tone on Alicia’s phone which signals a call from her MIL — it’s the scary music from the shower scene in Psycho.

The show ends with Alicia listening to a voice mail from her husband saying that the court will hear his appeal and that he’s confident he’ll be released from jail.

Great, right? Judging from her conflicted expression, Alicia is clearly not so sure.

We can’t wait to see the second episode, which airs tomorrow night at 9 p.m. CST. To see the premier of The Good Wife, click here.

Mealtime Mama: Unique cooking website

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We’ve all looked into the vast, frozen wastelands of our fridges and groaned, “I have no idea what I’m making for dinner.”

Then we spend money eating out or have cereal for dinner.

Sometimes we’re low on creativity or just plain low on ingredients. We like a new site that takes the ingredients you already have at home and spits out recipes you can use immediately — without a trip to the grocery store. It helps use up items you already have so they don’t go to waste, plus you’re not wasting your time rushing out to the store. Or the pizza parlor.

supercooklogo.gifIt’s called Supercook.com and it was recently featured in Time magazine’s 50 Best Websites 2009.

You can just type in potatoes and salt and still get some recipes, but the site will then ask if you have other specific ingredients. That’s cool, because it jogs your memory about what you actually could use and then gives you more ideas based on whether you can add butter or olive oil to those potatoes. It also breaks the recipes down by starters, entrees and desserts.

When you type in your ingredients, you’ll have a few recipes that say “You have everything needed for this recipe!” while others say “You will also need” and lists additional ingredients.

We decided to type in a few ingredients that we had on hand to see what kinds of recipes the Super Cook came up with. When we entered chicken, salsa, black beans and Velveeta, we got two recipes: “Idiot Chicken” and “Chicken and Black Bean Nachos”. Yum!

Idiot Chicken

3-4 fresh or thawed boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 (18 oz) jar mild salsa

Directions: Place chicken in the bottom of the crock pot. Pour salsa over chicken to cover. Cover and cook on low for eight hours or high for four hours.

Well, that’s simple!

Chicken and Black Bean Nachos

1 cup canned black beans

1 cup Velveeta cheese

8 ounces boneless chicken breast (chopped)

1 cup salsa

Directions: Place cheese and salsa in a bowl, microwave until melted. Fry chicken in a skillet over medium heat, turning until both sides are golden brown. Chop chicken; add to cheese and salsa mixture. Cook black beans in a small pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5-10 minutes. Pour chicken, cheese and salsa into the pot with the black beans. Stir. Serve over tortilla chips or serve as a dip.

If you’ve got absolutely NO ingredients or no time to cook, remember you can pick up a take-home dinner from Cuisines Gourmet to Go, which offers gourmet catering and meal solutions. They’ve got different meals each day, and they are wonderful! Click here to visit the Cuisines website and get more info! 

Drama for Mama: Desperate Housewives Premiere!

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So did you watch the premiere of Desperate Housewives last night? I have to hand it to the show’s writers. They did not disappoint. If you missed it or forgot to set your TiVo or DVR, let me fill you in on what happened on Wisteria Lane.

A brand new housewife moved to town! She has a husband and a son and is mysterious right from the get-go. The wife has a huge burn scar on her back and her accent sounds a little like “Jenny from the block.” It seems like they had to move to a new town because her college-age son got into trouble. She said they need to seem like “a normal family.” (Slim chance of that happening on this street.) The son immediately got goo-goo eyes for Julie, who is home again and living with Susan. But then the dad also made what seemed like a pretty obvious pass at Julie, too. Very weird.

Lynette just found out she is pregnant with another set of twins — as in kids No. 5 and 6. Tom is excited about it but Lynette? Not so much. In fact, after the ultrasound she seems to be sinking into a depression and admits to Tom that she doesn’t love these babies like she did when she was pregnant with their other children. He assures her that she will love them when she holds them. She doesn’t seem convinced. This should be an interesting story line, since we’ve all known of people who have had those later-in-life “ooops” babies they weren’t planning for.

Gabi is still trying to deal with a new addition at her house — Carlos’ teenage niece who needed a place to live. The teenager is trying to get away with just about everything, and Gabi is shutting her down at every turn, just the way she should. Gabi is not sure she wants to be her legal guardian because of the girl’s bad behavior. But when the girl practically begs to be thrown out and says that she knows Gabi is “keeping her options open” by not signing on as her guardian, Gabi proves her commitment to the girl by signing the paperwork in front of her. She says she wishes someone had done the same for her when she was a teenager. There may be hope for these two yet.

Bree is flirting with the idea of an affair with Carl, Susan’s ex-husband who has made the rounds of desp-housewives-apple.gifwomen on Wisteria Lane. She wants to do it, but she doesn’t want to be a bad girl, either. Carl finally gives up on her, saying that she would rather “be good than be happy.” But later, in a conversation with Orson, he admits that he feels guilty that he is blackmailing her to stay in the marriage but adds that “sometimes being happy is worth a little guilt.” Bree takes the sentiment to heart and later meets Carl at a cheap hotel for their first official fling. (In true Bree fashion, she scrubbed the bathroom and changed the cheap sheets to Egyptian cotton ones before she did the deed.)

I hardly know where to start when it comes to Susan. It started with wedding bells for Susan and Mike and then flashed back to show us the 8 weeks preceding the wedding. Mike told Catherine that he was leaving her to go back to Susan and marry her. Catherine seemed to take it well. Susan never found the guts to go over and talk to her, see how she was doing, apologize for whatever pain it caused her. That was not a smart move.

Meanwhile, over at Catherine‘s house, the wheels were starting to come off the bus. She signed for a package for Susan which turned out to be the wedding gown. She put it on and answered the door wearing it when Susan came to retrieve the package. Then she nearly splattered it with tomato sauce she had simmering on the stove. She definitely had the old “crazy eyes” in this episode.

Later, right before Susan was about to march down the aisle, she showed up and demanded that Susan make a public apology. Susan refused and locked her in a closet for the ceremony. But Catherine busted out and barged into the church just after the “kiss the bride” part. She made a big scene but backed down when Mike told her to leave. Susan felt bad and made the public apology to Catherine. Catherine hugged her and pretended to leave satisfied but not before she whispered to Susan that the apology didn’t help. I have a feeling some big revenge is coming Susan’s way.

Speaking of crazy, Julie was taking out the trash in the last scene of the show and was grabbed from behind by a man we couldn’t see who was wearing gloves. He choked her, picking her up off her feet, until she stopped moving. Then he dropped her in the yard and ran away. She is still alive but the preview of next week’s episode shows that she is in a coma in the hospital. We’re assuming the creepy new teenage kid did it, but who knows? Maybe it was the creepy dad instead. Stay tuned.

Devotion in Motion: Using the Good Dishes

15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise,

16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

Ephesians 5:4,5  (NKJV)

By Bro. John L. Cash, “Country Preacher Dad”

Several years ago, our family hosted an exchange student in our home for a school year.  When Christmas came, Susan had a get-together at our house for all the exchange students from surrounding towns. She set a beautiful buffet table with her good china and put out her best goldflatware.jpgsilverware—a set that our sons’ German grandmother had given her on a special occasion. (I don’t know enough about flatware to tell you what it is, but it looks like it has silver-plated handles and gold-plated tips.)

Our exchange-student guests were young ladies, each one from a different country –  places like Japan and Germany, Brazil and Thailand. When Susan told them to line up for the buffet, we were amazed that none of them moved a muscle. In their murmuring to one another, I soon discerned the reason. None of them wanted to be the first to touch the good dishes.

I then realized a universal fact of human life: It doesn’t matter where in the world you come from. Your mom has taught you not to mess up the good dishes. They are to be saved for special people. They are not for you. They are for when company comes to visit.

I ran into a good friend at the grocery store the other day. She told me that, since I had last seen her, she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She told me she had completed chemotherapy and radiation, and that the doctors now believe she is in remission.

She told me she’d made a lot of changes in her life since then. When the doctor made his first diagnosis of her malignancy, the first thing she did was go home and take her best china out of its cabinet and put it in the dishwasher—so she could use it every day. She then took her best silverware out of its display box and dumped it in the kitchen drawer with her stainless.

She told me her cancer diagnosis was a wake-up call. She realized that no matter what happens, we all only have a limited time to live on the earth—and that if she plans to do anything important, she had better get on it.

Dear mamas, the Scriptures teach us that never a day passes without trials and temptations. But life is still very much worth the living, and the best “company” that you’re ever going to have in this world is probably sitting around your table at breakfast and for Sunday dinner.

whitechina.jpgDon’t put off doing your deeds of kindness and love for a more convenient time.

Don’t wait until you have visitors to do the things that make a day special.

Each day that the Lord gives us is a special one—special enough for the “good dishes”.

Dr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad” * He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and is beginning his 25th year of being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. He and his lovely wife, Susan, and his sons, Spencer (age 18) and Seth (age 15) live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where we, like everyone else, are about as happy as we make up our minds to be). You should write him at extramailbox@juno.com.

The Rockwood Files: Hanging Out with the Girls

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

A few weeks ago I went home and spent part of the weekend hanging out with my “Stuttgart girls,” named for the town in southeastern Arkansas where the four of us grew up. It was the first time we’ve all been in a room together in more than four years.

Of course, friends of all kinds are good, but the old friends – the ones that go way, way back – live in a old-friends.pngspecial place in the heart. The bond there goes deep enough to bridge the miles and state lines that separate us. And despite all the endless ways we have of staying in touch these days, the truth is we still go way too long without calling, texting or even “tweeting” to each other. We get caught up in the everyday things that keep us all running in too many directions and pretty soon months have gone by since our last phone call.

But the great thing about old friends is that even time gaps melt away almost instantly. Each new conversation picks up where the last one left off, and we always forgive each other for the time it took to return the phone call.

Back in our hometown for the weekend, we all went to Christy’s house to hang out by the pool – the way we spent so many afternoons in high school. Sitting there on the pool steps with Christy, Alaina and Jennifer, everything suddenly felt so surreal. I could easily remember those days we spent lounging by the pool talking about boys, clothes and college applications. Back then we could eat our weight in cheese dip while our young metabolisms burned away all the calories, and we never gave it a second thought.

And now suddenly here we were back in the same spot (with slightly older metabolisms) – looking out at a pool full of husbands and splashing kids – OUR husbands and kids. It was weird and wonderful at the same time. This time we were talking about class reunions and jobs and, yes, occasionally we discussed our kids’ bowel movements. What can I say? It’s what mamas do.

It was all so easy, so comfortable – like slipping back into the favorite jeans that fit you best. Friendships that span so many decades turn you into people who are more like family. These are the people who “get” you. There is no need to influence their perception of you because they knew you when you were a dorky kid or an angst-ridden teenager. They’ve seen all your insecurities, faults and quirks and they stuck around anyway. They are the keepers.

After pool time, we left the kids with husbands and grandparents and went on a girls’ night out where we ate far too much pizza and re-told far too many old stories. Boy, it was fun. Christy had stumbled across a few pictures of the four of us together in high school when she opened a drawer in her old room. We passed them around the table and laughed out loud at our 1980s big hair and our tragic, oversized patterned sweaters. I chewed all three of them out for not having pulled me aside in our teen years to perform some sort of “blue eye shadow intervention.” I looked like I’d smeared pale blue frosting on my eyelids. Clearly they should have stopped me. But I digress.

The important point is that we all looked better than we did in high school. And we’ve all been blessed with good health and happy families and sweet kids. Though the years have certainly shaped us, we are still very much the same at the core.

Christy is still our impossibly smart class valedictorian who went on to become an eye surgeon. (She removed a deep splinter from my kid’s toe during our reunion weekend, and the kid didn’t even flinch. It pays to have friends who aced medical school.)

Alaina is still the gifted artist among us and easily the most likeable person in any room.

Jennifer is still the one who is never afraid to tell it like it is and still thinks gas is funny. (So do I. Hilarious, in fact.)

And me? I’m still the girl with the notebook jotting down things that happened on the way to somewhere. And I marvel at my good fortune – that I’m blessed to go through life with old friends who stand with me in bad times and good.

The four of us agreed that during the year we all turn 40, we’re going to go on a big trip together – maybe the beach, maybe New York City. It will be wonderful. And, suddenly, 40 looks a lot more fun.

Want to read previous installments of The Rockwood Files? Click HERE. 

See who won the $1,000 room makeover!

Judging from the comments on this giveaway, there are lots of rooms in Northwest Arkansas that need some serious TLC!

nest.jpgIn fact, your feedback got us thinking about other giveaway possibilities to help help feather your nests. Stay tuned for those. In the meantime, let’s give it up for the winner of this incredibly generous giveaway from Beverly Odom of Modoa Interiors.

And the winner of the $1,000 Fall Overhaul is  …. Diane Shastid!

Diane is a mother of four, grandmother of five and has been the planning secretary for the City of Bentonville for the past 18 years.

Diane commented about a problem with her living room that many of us have — furniture pushed up against the walls like criminals in a police line-up. When we spoke on Thursday, Diane said she’s ready to update the room. She’s lived in the same house since moving there from California with her children 19 years ago and hasn’t made many changes since then.

She moved to NWA to be near her parents who had retired to the area. Diane’s father has been in the hospital for two weeks with heart problems (he’s getting a pacemaker today), so she really appreciates this pick-me-up.

featherimages2.jpgDiane first heard about Motherlode after seeing our information in a Business Women’s Conference packet. Then a co-worker sent an email alert to her last week about the room makeover. She typed her comment, but never dreamed she’d win.

“I just don’t win things!” she said with complete shock when I first called her at work with the news.

modoa.jpgWhen I asked what her decorating “style” is, Diane paused for a moment, then said, “Terrible”. HA! That’s a makeover waiting to happen if we’ve ever heard one! Diane says she’s so happy to be getting this right now because she always hosts both sides of the family for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Diane’s room will be stylin’ by then!

We’ll be sure to share the before and after pictures of Diane’s living room. Modoa always does a fantastic job and we can’t wait to see the results! Congratulations, Diane.

And many thanks to Modoa Interiors for this amazing giveaway.

Fashion Mama: Check out these mamas!

By Stephna Masters of Closet Consulting with Stephna

While walking around the Promenade shopping center in Rogers recently, I saw lots of women shopping for fall – looking for fun accessories and shoes to updates outfits already in their closets. Ironically, some of the hottest new fashion items out there today are repeats from decades past and some are even returning from just last year.

Knit wear is big this season. Leggings come in all shapes and sizes, including silver metallic, zippers, buttons, gathers and more. I’m seeing lots of long blouses with a belt, too. Some of the belts are elasticized for comfort and come in lots of colors.

I also saw lots of argyle patterned sweaters layered over blouses in deep colors like teal, gold, brown, gray and purple. There are also a few fun prints out there like floral, geometric and even animal prints.

This fall’s favorite layering piece is the classic cardigan. It can be short or long or part of a twin set. A cardigan is a great finishing piece and goes with even the most casual jeans.

Speaking of jeans, several national stores have revamped their denim line this year. Gap, New York and Company and Banana Republic have updated some of their denim styles to have better fits for a wider range of figures. Express has also added a curvy jean for women like me with a body that’s less than perfect. I tried on jeans recently and was happy to find jeans that fit in more than one store! (You’ve got to try on lots of different styles, but it’s worth the effort to find the right pair!)

While I was out and about, I found some fun moms who looked great in their outfits. Each one of these three ladies had on a color that’s great for fall and they look really pulled together. Check out these hot mamas:

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Mama No. 1

Melissa Holman of Centerton

Mother of 2

Works at Salon 1203 in Bentonville

Where she got it:

  • Her jeans and jewelry are from Wal-Mart.
  • Her black and white printed top and her cardigan came from Belk.
  • The shoes are from TJ Maxx.

You look awesome, Melissa!

Mama No. 2

Lynne Kaviker of Bentonvillesept09pic2.JPG

Mother of 1 son

Works part-time for Jitter Bugs Performing Arts in Rogers

Where she got it:

  • Jewelry from Silpada
  • Jeans from Eddie Bauer
  • Purple top is from Kohls
  • Cardigan sweater is from Wal-Mart

Mama No. 3

Amber Olvey of Fayetteville

Mother of 1 daughter

Works as a therapy assistant

Where she got it:

  • sept09pic3.jpgJewelry and teal dress from Forever 21
  • (Notice that the solid color helps elongate her petite torso and the heels she is wearing give her some added height.)

Thanks to all the ladies who let me photograph them and share the tips!

If you want some hands-on help getting the most use out of your closet or finding new pieces for your fall wardrobe that work best for you, I’d be happy to help. Visit me online by clicking here or call me at 479-841-2360 or 479-751-1531. You can also e-mail me at findfashioninyourcloset@hotmail.com.

Drama for Mama: Grey’s Anatomy Season Premiere!

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By Gwen Rockwood, mama of 3

Oh, it’s been a long summer for fans of Grey’s Anatomy. Last night, all the waiting ended and the two-hour season premiere of Grey’s began with D-Day. That’s a “D” as in “DEAD.” George is dead. On Day 1 of this episode, George died in surgery.

I wasn’t shocked because I’d read a few of the spoilers circulating online this summer, but it was still incredibly sad. There was a moment at the beginning of the show where it seemed that maybe, just maybe, Meredith had made a mistake and it wasn’t really George on that table – unrecognizable after having been dragged under a bus in the process of saving a stranger’s life.

Hopeful for the mistake, Callie remembered a freckle on George’s hand that was shaped like the state of Texas. She went in the room to check for it. With anguish, she found it and collapsed into tears beside the bed where George laid brain dead.

George’s mother was unable to make the decision about whether or not to donate his organs, and no one could find his wallet to check his driver’s license. She asked Callie to make the call, but Callie couldn’t decide either. Then she realized that the person who George had loved the most should decide about organ donation, and that person was Izzie.

But there was one little problem… Izzie had been busy dying herself.

That’s right, people – we had two deaths in one season premiere! But thankfully Izzie got shocked back to life and remembered a vivid dream of seeing George in a military uniform. Alex didn’t want anyone to tell Izzie what that dream really meant because he was afraid she wasn’t physically strong enough to handle it. The news might literally kill her. But Callie convinced him that Izzie would never forgive him if she was denied the chance to say goodbye to George before they pulled the plug.

After suffering the shocking news, Izzie said that “George would give everything,” so all his usable organs were donated to waiting patients all over the country.

The rest of the premiere followed the 40 days after George died. If you forgot to watch or set remote.jpgyour DVR to record it (Gasp!), here’s how the 40 days went:

Day 7: At George’s funeral, Izzie had to step away from the graveside service. Alex, Meredith and Cristina followed her, assuming she was overcome with grief. But when she stopped running, they realized she was laughing – hysterically. The absurdity of the moment was more than she could take. She had cancer. The girl George saved was crying the most at the funeral and she was the one person who didn’t even know him. Meredith got married on a Post-It note. George had been hit by a bus. They all burst into laughter, which was soon followed by a heavy, sad silence.

In other news, Derek was offered Chief Weber’s job because the board of directors was trying to force him out. Derek gave Chief Weber a heads-up about the news so he could make a plan.

Day 10: Callie didn’t get a promotion she deserved from the Chief. She quit and took a job at another hospital in town, Mercy West.

Day 11: Amanda, the girl who George saved from the bus, comes to the ER because she can’t sleep. She sees George’s face everywhere. By the way, Meredith and Cristina still haven’t shed a tear.

post-it-note2.jpgDay 13: Derek and Meredith get caught by roommates consummating their Post-It note marriage in various places all over the house. Alex and Izzie move to Derek’s trailer so the newlyweds will have some space.

Day 23: In a therapy session, Colin’s psychiatrist explains to Cristina that not talking about his trauma is what causes Colin’s post-traumatic stress disorder and that they should not have sex and further complicate his life until he has begun to deal with it.

Day 30: Izzie reaches out to Alex but is shut down. Alex has retreated to “jerk mode.” Izzie walks away angry.

Day 36: Izzie gets good news. She still has cancer but it has stopped growing. Her doctor tells her that they will “watch it, wait and hope it doesn’t start to grow again.”

Day 39: Meredith tells Izzie that Amanda (bus girl) sits on a bench outside the hospital every day. Izzie yells at Amanda and tells her to “go live your freakin’ life.” (Because George died for her to have one.) She even threatens to kick the girl’s butt if she catches her hiding out on the bench again. Halfway through her tirade, she realizes that the bus girl isn’t the only one with “survivor guilt.” That night, Izzie forces Alex to talk to her and he finally admits how scared he is and was when his new wife momentarily died in his arms nearly 40 days earlier. This is the moment of their emotional break-through.

In another therapy session, Cristina makes a dark joke about the choking incident between her and Colin. The joke triggers the serious talk they’d been avoiding for so long, and the therapist congratulates him on “making a start.” After sleeping with Colin, the shock of George’s death finally settles on Cristina and she begins to truly feel the pain of the loss for the first time.

Meredith’s moment came in the resident’s dressing room, when the janitor came to clear out George’s locker. The empty locker space triggered an avalanche of tears for Meredith, and Derek was there to hold her.

Day 40: Chief Weber announces to the staff that Seattle Grace is merging with a competing hospital, Mercy West. Not all of the doctors will be able to keep their jobs. Derek is furious. And the doctors are nervous. Very nervous.

It was a great season premiere, and lots of other things happened that I would tell you about if this post wasn’t already WAY too long.

Buckle up, Grey’s fans. It’s going to be a bumpy season.

What did you guys think of the premiere? Click the word “comment” below and throw some opinions our way.

Hair: Help Me Rhonda on hair envy

Dear Rhonda,

I saw a haircut on another mom yesterday, and I really love it and would like to get something similar for myself. But she has naturally straight hair and I have thick, wavy hair.

Will the same haircut automatically look different on people with different hair types or can I achieve that same type of look?

Dear Hair Envy,

I always love to check out hair cuts in the mall or even the grocery store. I seem to always find the one that I just love that is either much longer, straighter, curlier, darker, lighter, etc., than my own hair. You get the picture. We always seem to want what we don’t have — always! To answer your question, yes — a cut will always look different on different hair types. I’d suggest you talk to your stylist and point out those things you liked about the cut you saw. He or she should be able to adapt your hair type to at least a similar cut. If the cut is longer than your present one, as much as I know you don’t want to hear this, your hair simply has to grow and that means you have to wait. Time and patience, remember that.

Here’s another suggestion: Get a picture of that “perfect cut” you want and let your stylist keep it in your file. That will help him or her keep an idea of the hair goal you’re both trying to achieve. Other woman love to be asked where they got their hair cut or what the cut is called. If you have a camera on your cell rhondapic4.jpgphone, snap a picture! You’ll always have it to look at and to show your stylist.

Rhonda Moulder, pictured right, is a mama to two beautiful daughters and is also a stylist at Blue Door & Co. in downtown Bentonville. E-mail her a hair question at mamas@nwaMotherlode.com or call for an appointment at the salon at 479-273-9944. Have a happy hair day.

BirthNetwork NWA: Share your experience, win cool prizes

pampered-mama.jpgIf you’ve had a baby in the last three years, BirthNetwork of Northwest Arkansas wants your input! If you take The Birth Survey by Wednesday, Sept. 30, you can win some wonderful prizes like massage, entertainment tickets — even carpet cleaning!

There are three ways to win:

  • If you have given birth in the last three years, complete The Birth Survey and save your confirmation code to enter at www.BirthNetworkNWA.org.
  • Join BirthNetwork of NWA as a consumer member.
  • Renew your BirthNetwork of NWA consumer membership.

Co-leader Beth Day said two women will win — one from Washington County and one from Benton County. The Birth Survey was created to help women share their maternity care experiences and learn from other women’s experiences.

The Birth Survey essentially allows other women in NW Arkansas to know about the care you received with the doctor or midwife you chose.

Visit www.birthnetworknwa.org for more details!

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