Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

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Saturday, March 28, 2015

A Giveaway for All Downton Abbey Fans

Its a show that takes you back to tradition, manners and upper class dinner wardrobe changes, Downton Abbey has taken us by storm and pulled us in to all of its scandal.  One of my favorite characters on the show is Mr. Bates played by Brendan Coyle. Mr. Coyle is in a new movie called Noble that is giving you the chance to win big!

This giveaway is made possible by the new film, NOBLE, about Christina Noble, an Irishwoman who's saved over 700,000 orphans in Vietnam. Deirdre O'Kane and Brendan Coyle (Mr. Bates on Downtown Abbey) star in the award-winning film. For another chance to win, enter the She is Noble contest, inspired by Christina's story. Go to the website and nominate a heroic woman you know who's quietly changing the world around her. You could win a free 5-day/4-night trip to Ireland!

What does it mean to be a noble woman? It’s living fearlessly and loving recklessly. Who is that woman in your world? In your neighborhood or school or church? We want to tell her story. Take 30 seconds. Go to www.sheisnoble.com and nominate a noble woman. Include a brief description, your name and email. Done. A team of storytellers -- from writers to videographers - - will take it from there, ready to take your nomination and tell her story. That’s all, except that you could get a trip to Ireland for doing so -- and the woman you nominate could get $10,000 for her work. www.sheisnoble.com

When you enter, use my unique referral code: DIARYOFASAHM 

I am also giving away a fantastic prize pack to sweeten the deal!   If you are a fan of the show Downton Abbey you do not want to miss this giveaway! You could win the following:

• One (1) photo of Brendan Coyle, autographed by Mr. Coyle himself!
• One (1) The World of Downton Abbey hardcover book by Jessica Fellowes
• One (1) signed NOBLE movie poster

All you have to do is follow the Rafflecopter instructions below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

In accordance with FTC regulations, you will need a disclosure that you will receive the same prize pack. Example: "I will receive the same the same prize pack for posting this giveaway. All opinions are my own.

Friday, March 27, 2015

S.T.E.A.M. education: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math!

If you are looking for something fun, engaging and educational for your kids to do this summer, you don't want to miss this.

ROBOTS-4-U Summer Camps is Now Enrolling - Where Fun, Thinking & Learning comes to Life! 
Check them out at www.ROBOTS-4-U.com or on twitter @Robots4U  and facebook at Facebook.com/Robots4Usummercamp

DYNAMIC ART & DESIGN Summer Camps are also Now Enrolling - Where Technology Meets Creativity! You can visit them at www.dynamic-art-design.com @Robots4U #DynamicArt or on facebook at Facebook.com/DynamicArtClass

- Camps are 1 week (5 days) long

- Days: Monday to Friday Times: 9:00-11:30a.m. and 12:30-3:00 p.m.

- CAMPERS RATIO: 1 Instructor to 16 participants

-Register early as camps do fill up quickly!

- Robot / Science / Engineering / Day Camp / Challenges

- Camps Girls and Boys - Aged 7 to 14

- Robot Camps and Dynamic Art Camps offered during June, July and August

- Hands on Learning, Self-Paced. Beginners to Expert!

- Each Camper Individually uses a ROBOTICS or DYNAMIC ART Kit. Robot kits do not go home with campers but are available for purchase!

Campers having a BLAST, while learning and playing in a dynamic environment. Learning about Robotics and Science, in an independent and exciting way!

Visit the websites to see dates and locations for these day camps.

Coding Lets Kids Learn, Build and Create Using 21st Century Skills

Sophia, 9 years old, shows off the new game she’s working on. “You click here as fast you can to make the bullying message go away.” It’s an anti-cyberbullying game, and she’s building it in an after school coding class offered by Power Up Tech Academy in Chicago, in which she is allowed to work on any project she chooses. Elsie, in the same class, says she wants to build an app to teach her 5 year old brother math skills. The other students work on their games and other projects with remarkable persistence, coming back to the same project week after week to get it just right.

This is not a special group of kids, even though they are great kids. This is what happens when kids get their hands on tools to build the technology that they have been using since they were toddlers. They have great ideas coming out of years of experience as a game player and app user, they see ways to improve their world because they interact with that world through so many different apps, and they are motivated to learn and create because the end result is meaningful and real to them.

Coding classes for kids are wonderful for many reasons. The skills learned are very practical - logical thinking, problem solving, understanding technology. But the real magic comes from the kids themselves. They are able to use coding to explore and express the ideas that are interesting and important to them. They are making and building their own learning, and it comes out in very real ways.

In another Power Up Tech Academy class, kindergarteners play a board game called Robot Turtles. There is lots of giggling and fun, but when each kid’s turn comes they think and concentrate very hard to figure out where their turtle needs to go. They have to select 2 commands at a time, which teaches them to think in sequences, a key skill for programming and broadly applicable in other areas as well. After Robot Turtles, the kids work for a while in ScratchJr, an iPad app. Although they can’t read and write well enough to write stories yet, they can create digital stories with multiple characters and scenes, and use the recording feature to add sounds and dialogue. Today, Andrew has a dragon flying around the library and the librarian running away screaming.

Coding for kids is exploding on the education landscape. It is the "new literacy”, a critical 21st century skill that most of our schools still don’t teach. Some countries, though, are starting to bring it inside the educational system. Coding is being taught to all children in Britain, Estonia and Finland from the earliest grades, and strongly advocated in Canada, Australia and here in the United States. But with limited time in the school day and limited specialist teachers, it may be quite a while before our kids have access to year-round, quality coding instruction at the elementary level.

Unfortunately, for parents of kids who are ready to learn to code now, there are very few options available. One-time introductory events are starting to become more common, but the availability of multi-week coding classes to build these complex skills over time is extremely spotty.

The lack of such options in Chicago is why Power Up Tech Academy was started. Their vision is to make coding available to all kids in grades K-8 in Chicago. They are currently offering classes through partners such as Alphonsus Academy and Pickle's Playroom, and in April they will open Chicago's first year-round Kids Coding Center.

If your child is ready to start learning to code, check out Power Up Tech Academy’s Chicago classes and summer camps, with offerings for kids from grades K-8. Spring 2015 classes start mid-April in Lincoln Square, Clybourn & Diversey, and Hyde Park. Summer camps are available at Clybourn & Diversey. Visit http://powerupta.com for more info and to register, or email  at tamasin@powerupta.com with your questions about kids coding! 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

American Girl Giveaway from the Chicago White Sox!

If you are a Chicago White Sox fan, and you have a little girl crazy about American Girl Dolls, you do not want to miss this giveaway!  On August 2nd, the first 5,000 girls ages 12 and under attending the game will receive a special White Sox t-shirt for their doll!  Not only that, they will also receive a matching applique for their own t-shirt.  This applique can be brought into the American Girl store to be put on a girl sized t-shirt.

Please be aware that the final product might look slightly different than the picture shown.  To purchase tickets to upcoming White Sox games you can visit their website HERE.
#Chicago #WhiteSox

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Hearty Winter #Paleo Soup

Winter months seem to drag when it is mid February and the temps are in the negatives.  When I am stuck in the house I tend to eat and eat some more.  Staying sane and eating well this time of year prove to be a real challenge for me, so I have to create foods that mimic the filling unhealthy recipes that I love.

My favorite part about cooking is being able to be creative with what I have at home.  Soups are one of those recipes that are easy and versatile.  This Paleo soup is also nicknamed garbage soup because you literally just dump what you have in a pot and cook it, there is also no science to how much of each item goes in, it is all a matter of your taste. Root vegetables always work great in soups, and this one includes radishes which lose their bitterness when cooked. Here are the ingredients that I used for this version.  Please keep in mind that I make a very large pot so feel free to cut this recipe in half. Also, everything on the ingredient list besides the coconut oil was purchased at Aldi for a fraction of what you would pay anywhere else.

3 Chicken breast (Other meats that work are turkey, ham, pork....basically anything)
A bag of carrots (not baby carrots)
1 Lb of radishes
1 Head of cauliflower
1 Sweet onion
Handful of green onion
32 oz. (or slightly more if you like a less chunky soup) of organic free range chicken broth.
1 Tablespoon coconut oil
Salt, pepper, seasonings of your own choosing (I used Turmeric)

Usually when I cook soup I try to use up meats that I have cooked before and have left over, however this time I bought chicken specifically for this soup.  My preferred method of cooking the chicken is in a small crock pot for 6 hours on low so that it is easy to shred or pull apart.  You can always boil the chicken then cut into cubes, or pan fry it and chop it up if you need it faster.  I just feel like the shredded chicken goes really well with all the thick veggies and is worth the extra time.

I use an organic chicken broth as the base of my soup but this recipe can easily be changed into a vegetarian version by omitting the meat and using a veggie broth instead.

This soup is so easy to make, you will literally be making a big pot every Sunday to have something quick to warm up for the rest of the week.  I like to take it for lunch because it is really filling and super healthy.  

I chop up the carrots, cauliflower and radishes and bring them to a  boil in the chicken broth.  If you have never tried cooked radishes, you must!  The bitter flavor goes away and they change color to a very pale pink.  In the soup they take the place of potatoes because frankly, who needs those extra carbs!  

Once they come to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and add seasoning.  I use salt, pepper, and turmeric.  I also add a tablespoon of coconut oil.  While the veggies are cooking, chop up a sweet onion and saute it in a pan, then add to the soup.  I also like to add some green onion, for the color and the extra flavor.  Now you can add your shredded chicken and let the whole thing cook until the veggies are tender.  You do not want to over cook them so they turn to mush, so check your soup once in a while.

Once the soup is done you can serve it with some shredded Parmesan cheese on top, it is absolutely delicious!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Save Money, Rent Your Textbooks

College is not cheap, matter of fact it's down right expensive.  After you pay tuition costs, lab fees and so on, the last thing you want is to fork out MORE money for textbooks.  Even used books can run you hundreds of dollars.  Some people may not know that there is a pretty awesome alternative to buying textbooks...renting them.  There are so many perks to renting books and CampusBookRentals.com is your one stop shop for all your college textbook needs.  They offer 40 to 90% off of bookstore prices, you can highlight in their books, they have flexible renting periods and shipping is always free both ways.

CampusBookRentals.com also gives back.  For every book you rent from them a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Operation Smile.  Operation smile is a medical charity that helps children all over the world born with facial deformities by performing safe and effective cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries.  Not only that, they also deliver post operative and ongoing medical therapies to children in low and middle income countries. 


Still not convinced renting textbooks is for you? Well how about having all your books delivered without having to leave your dorm room, or living room. You can get all the books you need for next semester with just a few clicks of the mouse. Additionally, you will not have to search the bookstore aimlessly trying to find what you need, since CampusBookRentals.com has the largest selection of textbooks in the country. Once you have ordered your books they will be shipped to your doorstep for free. 

So join the many college students that have already started renting their textbooks, and also help a charitable organization. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

New and Exciting Chicago-Made TV show for kids: Moochie Kalala Detectives Club

Do beluga whales really sing? Do dinosaurs and people live together? According to the grandpa (played by Tim Kazurinsky) on Chicagoland’s new show, “Moochie Kalala Detectives Club,” they sure do. The new TV show, which first airs 11 a.m. on Jan. 18, on WTTW Kids, Channel 11, sends kids on a fact-finding mission at Chicago’s top museums and cultural attractions to uncover the truth from real scientists.

With every story comes a new adventure. The first episode will follow the “science detective” kids as they head off to the Adler Planetarium to investigate the truth behind grandpa’s story about a water-guarding dragon on Mars. The kids learn grandpa was off his rocker on some facts – but right about others - with help from the Adler’s Astrophysicist & Planetary Scientist Mark Hammergren. Each of the six episodes stars one of Chicago’s most famous museums and attractions, and its scientist, zoologist or architect.

Not only does “Moochie Kalala Detectives Club” encourage kids to discover science with help from Chicago’s top museums and scientists, it also inspires exploration through partnerships with local schools. The show’s producer, Chicago’s own Dreaming Tree Films, selected six local teachers and their students to appear during the last few minutes of the show leading kids through fun, hands-on experiments! Dreaming Tree Films will also host “Moochie Kalala Detectives Club”-themed, in-school science events at numerous schools across Chicagoland this spring, and is delivering 1,000 complimentary DVDs to local public schools.

In each episode, the kids meet Chicagoland’s real celebrities, the brilliant scientists of the city’s nationally applauded cultural institutions.
  • Episode 1 features the Adler Planetarium with Astrophysicist Mark Hammergren, PhD
  • Episode 2 features Museum of Science and Industry with Physicist Dr. Olivia Castellini, PhD 
  • Episode 3 features Lincoln Park Zoo with Primatologist Dr. Steve Ross, PhD
  • Episode 4 features The Field Museum with Paleontologist Bill Simpson 
  • Episode 5 features Frank Lloyd Wright Robie House with Historical Architect Royce Yeater
  • Episode 6 features Shedd Aquarium with Marine Mammals Trainer Elizabeth Davis
Chicagoland families can also continue the adventure and scientific discoveries following each show by visiting MoochieKalala.com for easy, at-home science experiments and downloadable content, detective badges and resources for parents, teachers and schools.  
Teachers can request to receive complimentary “Moochie Kalala Detectives Club” DVDs and science activities for use in their classrooms.  To request a copy, go to MoochieKalala.com/educators.  

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Calling Lego Fans ages 5 to 10 in Chicago Area!

Every LEGO® Master Model Builder needs a space to create, and LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Chicago is asking LEGO fans to design an extra special workshop for Chicago’s Master Model Builder. The Center has launched the Creative Crew contest, inviting children ages 5 to 10 to show or tell what their ideal LEGO workshop would look like and have a chance to serve on the Creative Crew for one year. The crew will be comprised of 15 lucky winners and offers perks such as invitations to meetings with Master Model Builder, David Howard, VIP access to LEGOLAND Discover Center Chicago events and a family pass to the Center.

15 lucky winners will be selected to serve on the Creative Crew for one year. Each winner will receive:

Invitations to exclusive quarterly meetings with Master Model Builder, David Howard

VIP access to special LEGOLAND Discovery Center Chicago events

A family Annual Pass to LEGOLAND Discovery Center Chicago

Creative Crew T-shirt and prize pack

The contest is open to children ages 5 to 10. To enter, show or tell us what your ideal LEGO® workshop would look like. Entries will be accepted in the form of drawings or creative writing (200 words or less). Winners will be judged on creativity and will be chosen by LEGOLAND Discovery Center Chicago’s Master Model Builder, David Howard.

Entries can be emailed to contest@legolanddiscoverycenter.com or mailed to Creative Crew, LEGOLAND Discovery Center, 601 N Martingale Rd, Schaumburg, IL 60173. Entries must be submitted no later than 11:59 p.m. on Feb. 8, 2015.

The winning entries will be displayed at the Grand Opening of the new Master Model Builder Workshop at LEGOLAND Discovery Center Chicago this spring.

For more details or to enter the contest, visit www.LEGOLANDDiscoveryCenter.com/Chicago

Friday, January 2, 2015

Recycled Candles

After Christmas I always feel like I have to purge my home.  I start cleaning out closets and cabinets so frantically that I usually just make a bigger mess then when I started.  I cleaned some closets out that we don't use often and I found tons of almost used up candles...you know the ones in jars that are too far gone to use but you just can't bring yourself to throw them away. 

I decided to turn those old candles into brand new candles.  It's a super easy project, all you need is old candles, empty jars, a can from canned veggies or fruit and wicks.  You can either purchase wicks at a craft store for super cheap or you can do what I did, melt down one of those tall tapered candles and use the wick from that.

To melt the candles you have two options.  If the candles are in a jar, set the jar into a medium sauce pan with some water.  Bring the water to a boil and within minutes the wax will be melting.  If the candles are small or not in a glass jar, place them inside a clean can (veggie or fruit can) and set in a pot of boiling water.  This is called the double boiler method.  

Like I mentioned earlier, I used the wick from an old tapered candle.  You can wrap the end around a popsicle stick or pencil and suspend it into a clean glass jar.

Pour the melted wax into the jar.  If you are layering colors, let each layer cool completely before pouring the next one. 

And that's it.  Super easy project that allows you to recycle those candle left overs into brand new, beautiful candles.

#Candle #DIY #Crafts #Recycle

My Trip to Poland {Part 1}

I can't believe it is already January and I am just now posting about my amazing trip back in October. I will blame it on the fact that I work two jobs (no longer stay at home) an with the Holiday season it just got too crazy.  So, wow, where to begin...it was a whirlwind, two week trip back to the country I moved from exactly 25 years to the day.  Yes, the day we landed in Poland was the 25th anniversary of our departure back in 1989.  Most of my family still lives in Poland and I have seen a few uncles and my grandparents a couple of times over the years when they came to visit us here, but this was the first time back for any of us (and first time period for my 11 year old daughter).  Aside from a birthday flight in a little private plane a few years back, my daughter has never flown anywhere so this was an adventure for her in itself.  It is a 9 hour flight which did not seem too bad on the way there since we were flying through the night,

She was pretty nervous, and I have to admit I was a bit too, but the flight went smoothly and we landed in Warsaw (Warszawa) early afternoon the next day.  My mom's brother and his wife greeted us at the airport and our adventure began.  It had been so long since we had been there, none of us really knew what to expect.  We had a lot of family to visit in the two weeks that we were there so we were on a pretty tight schedule but we did include some time to sight see.  

We stayed with my uncle just until the next afternoon (we were coming back to his house at the end of the trip) and we really enjoyed his house with his own private woods where we went mushroom picking.

After the mushroom hunt, we went in to town to do some walking around.  Mlawa is my mother's hometown but honestly I didn't remember it well.  My grandmother lived in a little village near Mlawa, and I have many memories of that area, but not much of the bigger town.

My memories were that of an 8 year old, silly things like buying children's magazines and notebooks in these little kiosks.  I was really excited that they still exist.  

It was also really fun to see an old Fiat like the ones that were around when I was little.  Most of the cars there are pretty modern but once in a while you would run across one of these little (and I mean LITTLE) gems!  We had to exchange our money while there because at the airport you don't get as much for your dollars.  In Poland they use Zloty.  It was a bit confusing trying to figure out how much I was spending on things but how the money worked was that it was almost three Zloty for one dollar.

We walked around the town for quite a while, attempted to get our cell phones to work (to no avail) and got some ice cream.  We then visited my grandmother's grave.  She passed about two years after we moved to the U.S. 

I also got to see the church where my parents got married.  The town of Mlawa was small but charming and my daughter really hit it off with her cousin who, even though 11 years older than her, was about the same size and looked quite a bit like her.

I think they both favor my mom a little, maybe its the chin?  I don't know but I can totally see the resemblance.  It was really nice to see my aunt and uncle, and my cousin...it had been 13 years since I saw them last.  When you grow up so far from your entire extended family you think that when you see them it will be like seeing strangers but this was quite the opposite, everywhere we went we were greeted warmly and it felt like the years just melted away.  

We left that afternoon and drove north to my hometown Pieniezno.  I really could not wait to see it, I dreamed of the day when I could go back and it was finally happening.....  {to be continued }

#Poland #Travel #Europe