Monthly Archives: May 2013

How cooking can save you time

Cooking takes time. Fast food and take out may be more efficient and time effective. Wrong! I believe that giving in to fast food or take out may give you a temporary gain that day but in the long run it will not help you reach your goals. This is why I’ve instituted a weekly menu system at our house. This keeps me on track, organized and mainly makes sure I don’t cheat and call for pizza.

Yes, cooking takes time but you can organize that time so it works for you. For instance, you don’t have to cook around meal times. Our main meal of the day is dinner. I usually prep everything the night before by chopping vegetables and freezing them in bags. This can drastically speed up any homemade meal.

If you’re going to prep meals then do it during times of the day where you don’t work at your
best or when you need a break. I like prepping things in the evening while I’m going over work and my schedule for the following day.

Roasted potatoes and vegetables in balsamic dressing with salad

Roasted potatoes and vegetables in balsamic dressing with salad

You are what you eat and what you eat makes a difference in how you feel and work. So it only makes since to take a little extra time to eat right and then your productivity will be rewarded.

Healthy recipes don’t need to take half a day to make and they can be delicious. Below is my recently favorite. When I prep the veggies and potatoes the night before this takes less than five minutes to get going and is on the table in thirty minutes. I serve this with a salad but it could also go with baked chicken or fish. Honestly though it can be filling enough on its own.

Try planning meals and thinking ahead how you can save time in the kitchen. I promise that this is more effective than eating out or resorting to fast food.


Roasted potatoes and vegetables in balsamic dressing


Red potatoes
Red peppers
Purple onions
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil

  1. Chop the potatoes and vegetables
  2. Whisk 3 tbs. of balsamic vinegar and 2 tbs. of olive oil together and mix with potatoes and vegetables.
  3. Add the walnuts.
  4. Bake in a baking dish (uncovered) at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes.
  5. Enjoy!
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The joy of selecting a new furry baby with your toddler

Baby Markey talking to Smudges

Baby Markey talking to Smudges

The journey to our newest family member began a few weeks ago when this white cat showed up in our backyard. This was not our cat and still is not our cat. However, Baby Markey decided she liked this cat and spent hours conversing with it through our back window.

Of course, I gave it water in this ridiculous Saudi heat and posted pictures to find its owner. It turns out the cat, whose real name is Smudges, lives across the street from us. Smudges roams the neighborhood without a collar. While this is not my idea of pet ownership, this cat is not our own and will never be. Nonetheless, Baby Markey wanted a kitty of her own. I knew that if we got a cat then it would have to be a baby so it can grow up accustomed to our rabbits. Especially since Jedi is a very active member of the family and will most definitely want to play with our new furry baby.

Let me play with the new kitty!

Let me play with the new kitty!

So I began to keep my ears open for the right opportunity. It didn’t take long for me to hear about a litter with a miraculous tale. Maggie, the cat was seen badly injured with a broken leg in a dumpster behind a mutual friend’s home. This man went to go rescue Maggie and as he was taking her away out popped a little blonde kitten from the dumpster. It turns out that Maggie has three kittens. The man took them all in and sought medical attention. All of the cats are now thriving and the kittens will be ready to go to new homes in the middle of June.

As you can probably guess, we are taking one of the kittens. Remember the blonde kitty that jumped out from the dumpster? That’s our little Beast (named by Baby Markey after “Beauty and the Beast.”)

To get Baby Markey kitten ready, I’ve adapted a similar strategy to what I talk about in my upcoming book, “Dog and Child” where I give advice on preparing your dog for a baby or your baby for a dog. Really the same basic preparation can be followed in this case.

1. Introduce supplies gradually- We are buying the supplies for the kitten piece by piece. This is great for budgeting and this way our daughter and dog aren’t shocked by an onset of new items. We can introduce them to the cat supplies (litter box, food/water bowls, cat tower, toys, etc.) bit by bit.

2. Talk about the coming change- We are talking about Beast joining our family all the time. We even have been taking Baby Markey to visit the litter.

3. We’re including everyone in the process- We let Baby Markey pick out some cat toys for Beast and Oscar, our dog, stood by and assisted with the assembling of the cat tower.

Now there are even more steps to follow when introducing a pet to a newborn baby but these steps are easily adapted to preparing your family (both human and furry) for the arrival of a new kitten.

We welcome Beast to our home on June 15. Here is the little guy below. I’m looking forward to having a new furry baby to assist me in my work.

Meet Beast!

Meet Beast!

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Do you actually use your fine china?

When we were in Dubai recently I bought an Arabic coffee china set to add to my china cabinet. I love it and rearranging my china cabinet only reminded me how much I love my fine china, which I never use. It’s really sad to let such pretty things sit dormant. So, I’ve now instituted a weekly fine china night.

I’ve stated before that I’m a firm believer in little rewards. No matter what you do I’m sure you work hard at it. I’m juggling writing, chasing a very active toddler and keeping up with our furry babies (who think they are real children.) Making use of anything you love is a great reward. For me, I feel special when I use my Old Country Roses pattern. It’s great to sit down after a long days work and enjoy a nice meal off of my china.

A reward doesn’t have to be a costly thing. Think of something that makes you happy and make it happen. Such rewards recharge your mind and soul preparing you to continue tackling your goals and dreams.

How have you rewarded yourself lately?


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Parenting plus: Learning something new

I’ve always been creative with movements and words but never art. I did win a coloring contest in early grade school only to feel pretty pathetic when the judges complimented my extraordinary sense of abstract art. The truth was that I totally tried to color in the lines! So, IOur little artist’m no artist. I respect it but can’t do it. As a mother I want my daughter to find something that she is passionate about and talented at. I remember the feeling that dance gave me and I want that for her. So guess what she’s latched onto? Art.

It all started with a coloring book and now I’ve spent everyday for the last two weeks tackling a new art project each day. Yesterday we painted a turtle shaped rock for the garden. Today we’re painting birdhouses. I use to avoid crafts and now I’m searching for craft ideas online.

However much I dislike paint anywhere near my Italian leather sofa or the fact that I am neither talented at or enjoy art; this all goes away at the look of concentration and excitement on my daughter’s face. In my opinion, the best part of being a parent is to be able to see the world again through fresh eyes. With this I am being pulled into the world of arts and crafts, something I never would have done if it wasn’t for my daughter. Yesterday she got so excited over the realization that blue and yellow paint makes green! Just seeing her love for something is enough to make me enjoy it as well.

Taking time to learn something new with your child is another great way to strengthen your creativity. Currently I’m on deadline but I find myself more creative and productive after our art sessions. Just another parenting plus! I love how our children can inadvertently help our productiveness.

What new something has your child taught you?

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Personalizing the ‘Flat Stanley’ concept for your kids

Do you remember “Flat Stanley?” It is a children’s book by Jeff Brown. It
actually has a very tragic story where a young boy is flattened by a bulletin board.
However, Stanley makes the most of the situation to travel the world in an envelope.
Talk about cheap air rates! To the point; when I was in grade school I remember
coloring and cutting out my own Flat Stanley paper doll to take pictures with when I
traveled or someone in my family traveled. My daughter is not familiar with this
character but we recently found a fun new way to incorporate this concept into her


My husband and I went to Dubai this last weekend to see a ballet and take
explore the city a little before our longer trip in September, when we will travel
there with our then three-year-old daughter. We had a wonderful time and like all
traveling parents, we promised a souvenir to our daughter. I got creative though.
Instead of just a souvenir, I made a “Flat Stanley” like production with the pink
camel we bought.
The camel was photographed in front of Dubai’s Burg Khalifa, the world’s
tallest manmade structure among other sights. I even danced with this camel in
front of the dancing fountains.
We showed our daughter the images and videos as we gave her the toy and
she loved it! This was a great way to celebrate our weekend return and to see her
lovely smile.
There are many ways to take the concepts behind children literature classics
and turn them in to some personal and creative for your child. Have you done this

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On “mommy moments” and those experiences we dream of

When I first learned I was expecting there were many things that went through my mind. My favorite thoughts were those about what I call, “mommy moments.” These are moments that I’ve dreamed about, where I get to share something special with my child. Some of these moments include taking my daughter to Walt Disney World, which I am doing this Christmas and experiencing her first dance recital. A mommy moment I’ve been looking forward to occurred this weekend.Narnia

I’ve always loved reading and the journeys the pages take me on. Growing up my first favorite story was “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.” This weekend, Baby Markey and I curled up on the couch to have some movie time. I chose to venture away from Tinker Bell and try something new with Narnia. My heart melted when my daughter excitedly said, “wow” when Lucy first discovered Narnia. She was glued to the entire film, happily offering her own and priceless commentary.

Seeing the wonder in her face from one of my favorite fiction to film adaptations thrilled me. It was a wonderful “mommy moment” and one that I will always cherish.

Do you have “mommy moments” or “daddy moments?” Experiencing them is the best!

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How writers can make the most of sick days

It happens even when you work from home. We all get sick days and punching out of life is hard and most of the time impossible. I suffer from horrible migraines. Lately the treatment I’m on has been working. I’ll still get them but when I do they are manageable. This past weekend however I experienced a really bad one. You know, that kind of sickness where you are stuck in bed and curse any sound, light or movement. That was my weekend. Thankfully it was a weekend and my husband was home. At least I could rest easier knowing that my daughter was taken care of. Yet, in the back of my suffering mind I couldn’t stop thinking of work.

Sick days can also be a little easier to weather when you have a loyal companion.

Sick days can also be a little easier to weather when you have a loyal companion.

I had several news articles for my “Mortal Instruments Examiner” column to publish along with edits on my second dog book, and two fiction projects. Now was no time for me to be ill. Yet that didn’t help my migraine any, if anything thinking of all this made it worse. Then it hit me and I’m not referring to my daughter’s play stethoscope from one of her check-ups on me. Writers can benefit from a sick day.

What better time for us to meditate on an idea or an area of our story that has us stuck? That’s what I did and not only did I solve a problem in my story but I also felt a little better for getting something done.

Meditation is always a great resource in writing. It often beats staring at the computer screen waiting for inspiration to strike. This is something that we can do when sick and stuck in bed. Being sick is rough but sometimes we can still make the most of it creatively speaking.

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Making homemade dog food = happy dog + happy owner

Lately finding dog food in Saudi Arabia has been a challenge. When I do find it, the brands vary. It got to where our dog, Oscar was eating a different brand with each new bag. He hated this and resorted to more persistent begging when we ate. Something had to change. I started making his own dog food and the results were so amazing that I had to share this with as many people as I could. This is an easy task for any family, no matter where you live.

1. Healthy
2. Saves money
3. Happy dog, happy owner

These are the top benefits I’ve found when making our own dog food. Obviously anything homemade and approved by your vet is healthier than prepackaged and preservative-filled dog food. This is especially true for Oscar, who is on medication for his epilepsy. He has to be careful not to put on weight and with the new homemade food I can make him happy with less food.

This is not expensive, in fact we are saving money now that we are making his dog food. Dog food is expensive, this recipe photo-3includes easy to find ingredients that won’t hurt your wallet.

And Oscar is so HAPPY. He sits in the kitchen when I make his food each week and he’s cut back with the begging. Meal time is like treat time now for Oscar. As always, a happy dog makes a happy owner.

So here’s the recipe:

2 cups rice with 4 cups water
Cook the rice separately
Cook 6 minced meat rolls (chicken, beef, lamb or mix) in a large pot.
When meat is nearly cooked add large bag of frozen vegetables (peas and carrots.)
When rice is almost ready to add mix in 1/2 tsp. ginger, 1/2 tsp. cumin powder, 1/2 tsp. turmeric powder to meat mixture.
Add rice to meat mixture when it’s plenty fluffy but still has a little water.
Add one cup of plain oats.
Mix everything together.

The original recipe of this included a cup of fresh parsley but then I learned that Oscar hated parsley. Like most recipes you can tweak it to make it your own and the best recipe for your dog.

This makes food for Oscar for an entire week. It only takes me 45 minutes to make and then I divide each meal into a container and freeze it. Only you can know what’s best for your dog and always get new diets approved by the vet. This is working very well for our family and I’m happy to be doing this for Oscar.

Happy cooking!

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