Building a dream house (spons)


For years I have been on the edge of buying Vivien a doll house.  I think they are so pretty.  They are usually pricey and that’s before you house all the miniature furnishings.  In the end, Vivien has saved me the money because when I ask her if she wants one she says no.  Okay, back to mommy’s retirement fund.

But, last spring when I was asked if I would take Viv to a Barbie Dream house event and that part of the pay for going would be a Dream house Vivien was jumping up and down.  Isn’t it a doll house? I guess not. It’s a dream house

I was in Spain that weekend, so my sister Cecily took her with Rex and my niece Lily.There were crafts. They got some good Barbie swag and Rex fell asleep on the grass.  Now, it’s months later.  Perhaps the house had been just a…a.. a dream?  But, we return from our most recent trip and what is waiting for us… wait for it… yes, the Dream House.  It’s a large box, but I easily took it upstairs to her room.

“Can we please put it together now mommy?”  She asked. Rex was equally excited.

“We just drove 7 hours, I haven’t had dinner, we’ve been gone for two weeks, I’m not touching that till I eat and sleep.”  Which I did.

It’s quite impressive. All furniture and fixtures included.    What we would call a “Santa Present”.  I noted that it’s close to her bday so she would think this was her big present from her parents. The next day when we tackled it there were some tears.  Mostly Rex’s as Vivien scolded him,  “No, it doesn’t go there.”    Stuff like that.  I took her aside.  “Viv, can you imagine for a minute if we came home and there was a big toy present waiting for Rex, just Rex.  Nothing for you.  And you only wanted to help him with his toy and when you did he yelled out you.  How would you feel?”  She got it and little brother was let back in the room. I was the general saying “we have to put it together in the sequence of the directions.”

We’ve snapped most of it together, though I will say that the elevator eludes me. There is a string / pulley thing. I so wish that my brother Jeff did not live in Australia.  He was working with pulleys before he could speak.  I’m thinking of standing on a street with a sign, “please put Barbie elevator together for me.  Will feed you.”

Note: the string in the middle, I got that far with the elevator

Even with non ADA compliancy Vivien does love her Dream house.

They are avail at Walmart (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) is $184.99) This is a sponsored post from One2One Network and Mattel. All opinions stated are my own.



where should Barbie live? (sponsored)

You might be thinking, Barbie you have a dream house in Malibu, you are unnaturally thin and curvy, big blue eyes and blonde hair without visible roots.  You never get zits, what is the wanderlust?  Well, apparently Barbie is looking for new digs. Malibu use to be more casual, now it’s full of super rich, and maybe David Geffen’s sea wall was the final straw for her.  Good for you Barbie.  My kids think you should move inland to Mid City.  I’d love to have Barbie as a neighbor.  I’d pop over while Ken is sunning.

The first stop on the Barbie tour is this Saturday, June 1 at the Grove in LA.  If you had a dream house, where would you put it?

Take Your vitamins ( spons)

Are these kids getting their daily requirement of vitamin's?

I’m probably a bit too loose with the white stuff.

I don’t punish them if they don’t finish their veggies.

I bought them Advent calendars with a piece of chocolate for every day of December. Quicker than the little drummer boy could rump-a bump- bump they cleaned it out. On the 4th day all the chocolate was gone.

I found the discarded red foil wrappers under the breakfast table.  It’s all been eaten and there is nothing I can do. Except not buy one next year. Or keep it in a safe.

I do give them vitamins. I would anyway, but during holiday times when the nutritional zero food is flying it seems extra important. Most of the time they will take them, but a few times they refused as they didn’t like the way they taste.  I found some gummie types they will swallow if I edit out out the orange ones.

So, when I was asked to review the Target “up& up” brand vitamins it was good timing.  They passed our test.  My kids took them happily. Even the orange ones. Phew.  They also sent me the adult version.  Since I’m not a paragon of healthy eating this time of year either ( or any time of year) I was happy to try them as well.  The kids are in the shape of gummie bears.  Big mama’s are gummy, but round shaped.  I figured a big girl like me didn’t need a multi vitamin in gummy form, but dang, they were tasty.   Now they do have some sugar in them. But, like Mary Poppins says sometimes you need a little to get the medicine down.  Or dance with Dick Van Dyke.  I can’t remember.

If you want to try the vitamins for your kids and or yourself you can print a coupon for them here. COUPON As well as other products.

check out all the up&up line from Target. Over 1,000 quality products.   


Vacation distractions (spons)

My mantra during school breaks, “they will not watch TV all day.”  No reason they should, they got a mountain of toys from a man in a red suit. Right now Rex is running around naked wrapping his arm in scotch tape.  That’s better than a 2nd showing of “My Little Pony.”

Yesterday I went to the chiropractor, the gym and got my car washed.  My car gets SO filthy it takes them 40 minutes.  10 of those minutes were spent hearing about the cashiers father’s oxygen levels.  I kept nodding and saying reassuring things as my inner voice spoke, “Why is she telling me this?  It’s slow today, she needs someone to talk to, be nice. Lady, please let me walk away. Oh, I just remembered I don’t care.”

Before I left I told Mark, turn off the TV when this cartoon is done.  I called from the car wash “I can hear the TV, turn it off”  Yes, he said, with the same tone I had for the cashier with the father with C. O. P.

I picked up some lunch for us.  I was back at 12. Still the TV was on.  “Enough.  TV is off.  TV break.”

“TV vacation?” Rex chirped.  Yes, TV Vacation.

C’mon let’s go assemble some hunks of plastic that you were given.

In my idealized alternate universe Kia Sorento self I come up with a fun staycation activity for the kids.  It would help to have a brand new car, however it could be done after a trip to the car wash.


Saving for college (sponsored)

As frequent coolmom readers may know my family had our savings stolen from us thanks to Madoff, Stanley Chais and other cronies.  My entire retirement, forced to sell our home and Vivien’s and my step kids college fund vanished.  Nothing like having your future put in jeopardy to focus the mind.  After that disaster I have become far more active and alert to the issue of building a nest egg.  As we all know, in the economy that might mean putting change in your kids piggy bank. And as you may have heard college costs are akin to the space program, so some planning is in order

Recently, a bunch of So. Cal bloggers converged in my favorite restaurant, Campanile, natch, to discuss saving for college.  As the wine flowed ( wine, it should be the official drink of motherhood) we discovered that the mom bloggers went from “What is a 529?” to a the super savvy “why is California one of only 13 states in the union that doesn’t give a tax incentive for 529’s?”

MY POV at dinner, lady on the right is the smarty pants who runs Scholarshare, far left always fun Sarah from MomsLA, and my new fave Kristen from Rage against the mini van. My wine glass at bottom of frame.  Dry, white, with minerality.

The dinner was sponsored by Scholarshare.  This is the State of California’s 529.  Each state has them, but only one per state.  If you are in the “what’s a 529” camp think of it as a 401k for children.  The money grows tax free until your child goes to college, or a trade school, not for a motor cycle.  Anyone can contribute at anytime… so if you would rather grandma not buy another Barbie for your daughter, ask her to put that money in the fund.  The reason Scholarshare took us out to dinner so we ( the various bloggers) would write about it is this:

1) they just started with a new fund. , TIAA-CREF which they are fired up about.

2) they have lowered their limit for entry.  To start get into their fund one only has to start with $25.

3) Contest!  Scholarshare is having a contest on Facebook till Sept 26th.  They want people to “tell their story” about saving for college.  Winners are chosen at random so if you don’t have a super sad sack story, it’s cool, you still have a chance. Two winners will get $1,529 ( get it, 529, get it?) for their kids, you guessed it, 529.

4) They have lowered their fees.  Since we have been rebuilding our financial selves Mark and I have been automatically deducting money from our account for our little kids into a 529 from a different state.  Thumbs up for that plan as I don’t count that money in my monthly budget, so I don’t miss it.  However, after this dinner I did think …hmmm I need to check my fees on our 529. (according to Scholarshare The annual asset based management fees now range from 0.18 percent to 0.62 percent, vs. 0.25 percent to 1.06 percent with old plan).   A child can have more than one 529 so theoretically I could open one with Scholarshare with the State of California and even keep the one in the other state.  I won’t say which one it is, but it rhymes with Ball Sacka.

Here is when I put the wine glass down and really started paying attention: I asked the well spoken rep from Sacramento what is in it for the State of California to get the word out about a fund that they don’t make money on? She said… wait for it… because they know that if people have 529’s they will cost the State less money. If people don’t save they are shelling out for more grants and loans.  Now, we know how bankrupt frugal this and other states are, and if their pencil pushers have crunched the numbers and figured 529’s offset their load they are probably right ( then I picked up the glass again)

Here I am listening, being interested and calculating in my head.

On that last shoot I did with my kids ( previous post) I tried to buck my kids up by telling them they were putting money towards college.  That does help Vivien hit her mark, but Rex countered in a sing song voice, “mommy, I’m not going to college.”  As he shoved red vines in his mouth taken from the craft services table (craft service is Hollywood for junk food) I’m going to chalk up his negative attitude about college to him missing Oliver.  However, if my 3 and half year old still feels like that in 14 and 1/2 years  ( oh, that is going to go fast) he can take the dough and go to junior college, carpenter school or I can give it to Vivien for her education.  No buying tattoos with this money.

No, not a motorcycle.

So, check out the plan, the contest also HERE.. sidebar… Scholarshare is sponsoring a talk October 17th that I am very interested in.  UCLA’s Dr. Dan Siegel will speak on “12 strategies to nurture your child’s developing mind”. I’ve read one of his books and got a lot out of it.

Learning to Handwrite (sponsored)

Back to school time!  Gotta get the school mojo back now!

I really try to keep Vivien’s sharp brain sharp over the summer. Sure she gets to watch more cartoons, but I always have a workbook that we do a bit of math and spelling and such throughout the hot summer. There is so much data about how kids forget over the summer and it takes teachers 6 weeks of instruction to get the kiddos back on track.
Since I am raising a 21st century kid I’m on her. As she enters 2nd grade I know the homework is going to be more and she will probably need to bone up on some handwriting. Though I plan for her to be a rocket scientist she is still a little girl and bright shiny objects are a great carrot to get her to work. So, when Papermate asked me to partner with them in a video I said, Oh, yeah, let’s write it up.



Look at me ma! No wires. (sponsored)

I’ve been waiting for TIVO for radio. I need the rewind button when I space out listening to NPR  (something about the middle east, what was that?).  Plus, I missed my shows and wish I could listen to my favorite political radio show while I make dinner.  Well, now I can.  Sonos sent me their Wireless Hi Fi system to review and I  now have one of their speaker (they call it Play:3 $299.00, Bridge is $49.99)) in my kitchen so I can listen to shows on the internet while I cut my carrots.  Oh, but that’s only one of the uses.  See I did think this would be a gift..

I remember it as if it were yesterday…. ( cue dream sequence)

Target has an in-store promotion for the free wireless bridge with purchase of a Play:3 or Play:5 happening from May 27-June 9 


( I have been paid to write to a review of this, but I really did like it)



Resolutions anyone? Give – a – way!

(prizes provided by Slim- Fast)
Remember way back ( about 6 days ago) I ran the video “Wow, you look amazing.”  Well, I had plum forgot that the Slim Fast folks sent me that button with a package of their new drink to try.(tried to get more buttons, no dice folks)
Despite being married to Mr Top Chef judge I have a soft spot in my heart for Slim Fast.  When I graduated from college and went home to live with my mom I also brought back with me
1) a Grateful Dead poster
2) a broken foam chair covered with an Indian muslin blanket
3) 20 extra pounds.
I always thought my parents did too good of a job on my self esteem because I thought I looked fantastic.  One day I was in my mom’s kitchen and it suddenly hit me, “oh my god, I’m fat.”
I thought of Tommy Lasorda ( I was raised a Dodger fan…um, now not so much) and at the time he was the Slim Fast spokesperson.  I thought, If Tommy can do it so can I!
So I drove down to Vons and bought a canister of the stuff.  Back in the dark ages  you had to mix the powder with non fat milk.  I followed the plan , dutifully mixing my lunch in a plastic shaker at Pasadena City College where I was taking classes in broadcasting.  I drank while I interned at stations.  When I took a break from my part time job at a big department store, it rhymes with Sordntroms. I lost 10 pounds.  Then I lost another ten pounds as I no longer had a keg hermitically sealed to my mouth.
This is not a sponsored post, because I’m not getting any cash for it.  But, I thought I might not be the only one working a resolution to lose some L-B’s.
So here is the deal…
1) Slim Fast asked me to try their new drink. They are ditching the can and have moved to the bottle. Looks like the yogurt drinks my kids gobble up.  I will and tell you what I think
2) tell me your resolutions for the year and Slim Fast has given me some Sephora gift cards to give some lucky winners. Two people will get $50 Sephora gift cards
Don’t ask me why they aren’t giving their product away, I asked, they aren’t.  But, maybe your resolution is to make more of an effort with your face, so this could work with you.
Okay, got it?
Leave your resolutions and good luck!
I will randomly pick a couple of winners by Monday the 9th.
Some of you will win Sephora gift cards to spruce yourself up
I will email the winners, who will give me their address and said winners will come back and write something like “Yeah, I’m so glad I won.”

How to Meet Dr. Oz (sponsored)

o you

1) Enter a contest on sponsored by Clorox Toilet Wand to go to O You!, O Magazine’s annual premiere event where the Oprah stars gather to share their wisdom about life improvement. (Clorox Toilet Wand was one of the sponsors of the event, too.)

2) Win the contest.

3) Have the sweetest, most open personality so that when you buy the said stars’ books or run into them they want to talk to you.

That’s the story of Lori in a nutshell, the sweet gal who won the O You contest. A much belated post here to share with you including Lori’s post about her time at O You! and a video I shot while I was there.  While the kind people at Clorox edited it for me, I didn’t do the best camera work here, but hey I was in the room with Suze Orman, and Oprah!

It was a fun event.  I would say they need to have less lines for some of the booths and more food and bathrooms, but the talks were worth the ride…and meeting Lori!


Lori’s post:

My name is Lori and I am a single mom and full-time student. With two teenagers and two kids age ten and under, being a Health Professions major trying to learn chemistry and human genetics can be very difficult to say the least.  I have been without a job for over a year now and adding the financial struggle on top of all the responsibilities I have, can sometimes seem overwhelming.  About three weeks prior to the conference I went through a very difficult situation, I thought I was going to loose my place to live.  It was a very hard time and I was terrified.  A lot of prayers, hundreds of phone calls and some amazing people,  I was able to stay in my home and it all worked out. Although relieved and extremely grateful, I felt exhausted from the fight.  Not even a full week from surviving that struggle I got an email from Daphne telling me I had won the trip to O You!  First I was in disbelief but as it all came together, I was so exhilarated to know I was going to be able to be a part of the event I had heard about and wanted so desperately to attend but knew there was no way I could afford it.  A dream come true, a gift from above and the most welcome break I think I could have ever asked for.

O You! in Atlanta, Georgia was the most energizing, uplifting and empowering event I have ever experienced.  From the arrival, going through the line to get into the convention center, until the last moments in exiting the conference, the excitement was constant.  The women I had the opportunity to encounter throughout the day from different states and parts of the world, were one of the biggest highlights for me.  To connect with women that are searching for enlightenment, women who have found truth, women in triumph, women in struggle ….. to realize you are not alone in the journey was such a revelation come real.  Seeing it up close and personal was a dream come true.

o you
Gayle King spoke giving me goose bumps in the opening ceremony,
Martha Beck and Suze Orman bringing mental and financial forecast as Lisa Ling rounded out the morning with her keynote speech that gave my goose bumps chills. After such a powerful start to the day, it was off to check out some of the sponsor tables before the first class.  Samples of Truvia, small gifts from Crest, healthy snacks from Actifry and boy o boy the free pair of Spanx!!!!!  That was a happy moment 🙂  Almost as happy as the moment of meeting the Clorox girls and getting a ToiletWand to take home!!!  Just when I thought I was in heaven with my free pair of Spanx,  I was standing next to Dr. Oz taking a photo with him!!!!  One of my best life experiences, he is one of my all time favorites.  From Dr. Oz to Bob Greene who was also kind enough to take a photo with me!!

o you

It was a day filled with meeting and being able to appreciate my favorite O Magazine contributors up close and personal.  Peter Walsh, Lisa Ling, Nate Berkus, Donna Brazile and Gayle King all in the span of a few hours.  Love, love, love Gayle!!!!  I did not know Eva LaRue was going to be there, with her beautiful Crest smile, she was so kind and took lots of photos with fans while signing many autographs.

Floating on a cloud of  ‘WOW’, the first session of “Finding Your Passion” was just what I needed.  The session was lead by Suze Orman, Martha Beck and Donna Brazile.  It was an hour and a half of soul nourishing information and essential inspiration in moving forward in life with whatever and wherever you are in your life.  Suze Orman brought out Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx to hit home the idea of believing and persistence and being ready.  A trio that was just what the doctor ordered.  Just when I thought the day could not get any better it was on to the second session of ‘Feeling Good, Looking Better’.  A session that offered steps and advice from industry leaders Dr. Mehmet Oz and Bob Greene. Living longer, looking younger, with life changing tips easily incorporated into any lifestyle accompanied by real makeovers and beauty trends of now and later.

It was a day so packed with great learning moments and it all came to a peak when all the experts came together on one stage and expressed what they know for sure.  It was such a beautiful bow on such a gift of that day.  The ultimate prize in that gift were the closing remarks, spoken so eloquently and power-filled by the O of O magazine, Oprah.  The words and the message in those words were so overwhelmingly joyous bringing the end of the conference to a spectacular close. Oprah is one of the best speakers I have ever had the pleasure to hear speak.  She delivered such a life-changing message that I will never forget.  Oprah even answered questions from some lucky O You! attendees!!!

Ride the wave of life, I owe it to my creator and the universe to accept life’s opportunities and do the best I can with them.  I pledge to follow my heart and live the passion that I have growing in my soul.  I will remember to do my part in the world because it only takes one to make a difference and inspire change and that is why we are all here to learn and teach and give to one another the love and the knowledge we all are capable of sharing.

I want to thank the wonderful people at Clorox for the incredible trip and the outstanding stay at the W Hotel Midtown.  It was an absolutely fabulous weekend.  A huge thank-you to you, Daphne for your wonderful website and banging blog and your awesome personality!!!  I appreciate the experience you gave me from the bottom of my heart.

P.S.  Meeting Dr. Oz was an amazing highlight because he was part of a great inspiration for me.  I weighed 220 lbs and had gotten so tired of myself.  I had become such a great minded spiritually grounded person but was miserable being so out of shape.  I began to try to loose weight and had gotten down to 180 but it was so hard and I was so overwhelmed by the process.  I love sweets and fried anything 🙂  It is so easy to eat… put it in your mouth and chew and it feels so good going down.  I saw a show Dr. Oz did with a cadaver showcasing the areas in the human body that are affected by fat… I knew about the belly fat and all the troubles it can cause and the various other areas that being overweight adversely affect.  Dr. Oz had a human brain and explained how fat deposits in the brain cells…. it was something that blew my mind and scared me to the point where I was able to get down to 135lbs and become the smallest I have ever been in my adult life, even part of my teens.  Thanks to Daphne and Clorox I was able to thank Dr. Oz personally and he even invited me to send in my story and come on the show… stay tuned to see if it becomes a reality 🙂

O You! Recap (sponsored)

My trip to Atlanta to O You! put some spring in my step, which was it’s objective. I would never even have known about this O Magazine event had the Toilet Wand gang at Clorox not asked me to go to it and give a trip away for it.

Here is what it was: A convention of Oprah fans who wanted to be inspired to improve their lives or get over a hurdle.

Pros: it was well produced, heard some good talkers: Suze Orman, Martha Beck, Donna Brazile — who knew she was so fired up? She always seems a little bored on the political shows. Dr. Oz told us all we needed sleep. I could have told him that and my face isn’t on the back of a bus. Meeting the winner of the Cool Mom contest and hearing Oprah speak live, she almost made me cry.
suze orman on stage o you 11

Cons: It was crowded. The lines for the bathroom in the morning were insanely long (fortunately I knew to beat up to the Ode to Commode where there was no line. Apparently, so did Nate Berkus because I saw him going into the men’s room there as well. By the time my seminars were done (one could pick 2 out of 3) there was no food left. The irony was not lost on me as I stood under the lunch pavillion at the empty baskets where salads and sandwiches use to be, glassy eyed attendees shoving potato chips in their mouth, as that was all that remained, save the bad cookies, while Bob Greene talked on a nearby stage to a woman who had lost over 90lbs.

“Yes, eating right is the most important part of weight loss.”  Um, Bob, yo, Bob, can we get an egg white wrap over here?

I have some choppy footage I’m going to get edited, but the uploading part is … problematic.  Also, Lori, the CM winner, is going to do a guest post.  She was the sweetest, most unjaded gal. So glad she won the trip.

I loved being in Atlanta. Great to see my long lost cousin Sue Ellen and eat Southern chow. The other night I had a great meal with my dear friends from Nashville who came down to see me. Their bourbon drinking put me under the table, but well worth it.

The overall message from Oprah in a nutshell: the past can’t hold you unless you let it. Your life needs to be about service. Your life matters. Everyone’s story matters.