Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Free housecleaning services for women with cancer

October is breast cancer awareness month and I’d like to share with you a service that is available for women 19 and over who are currently being treated for this and any other cancer. I know that as a healthy woman most days my least favorite thing to do is housecleaning, I can’t even imagine it being on the priority list of women undergoing treatment for cancer. This is why I am so happy to learn about the Cleaning for a Reason non-profit organization. Since 2006, Cleaning for a Reason provided the gift of a clean home to over 14,000 women undergoing treatment for any type of cancer. The services are provided by 1,100 maid services in the United States and Canada that volunteer their time and effort to clean the homes.  Each company takes 2 patients at a time and cleans their home once a month for four consecutive months.

I am so impressed by this much needed service. I know countless women who have battled or are currently battling cancer and would love to have their home cleaned. If you know a woman who could benefit she can apply HERE (you can apply for someone else but will need to provide information from a treating physician).

This year Walmart and Swiffer have partnered with Cleaning for a Reason and each woman who has their house cleaned during the month of October will receive a Swiffer and Walmart care package. The package includes Olay Regenerist Microsculpting cream, Crest Pro Health Clinical Gum Protection toothpaste, Oral B Pro Health Clinical Pro Flex toothbrush, Swiffer Duster 360, Pantene Beautiful Lengths shampoo and conditioner and Bounty paper towels. In addition, to raise awareness about the program and encourage more maid services to partner with Cleaning for a Reason, Walmart and Swiffer have special pallets in store with pink swiffer products.

This is an exceptional program and will provide much needed help for women who need it the most!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Halloween Crafts DIY {Video} #wmtmoms

Halloween is so much fun. I can’t remember much about it from my childhood except for baking pumpkin seeds and trying to get as much candy as possible. The funny thing is I was never much of a candy person so it really was a competition among friends to see who had the most the end of the night. I’d choose a few pieces of my favorite candy and put the rest in the closet and wasn’t even tempted to eat it. As an adult, Halloween has been fun because I get to share the joy with my son. We both dress up and have a ball trick or treating with friends, eating good food and having an overall good time. This year, in addition to playing dress up (I’ll be sure to share pictures or our costumes, I’ve put together something special for myself this year) I decided to decorate our home because my son gets a big kick out of it. And quite frankly, I had a good time putting my crafty skills to work! Check out my video below for the complete look and I’ll explain how I made everything too.

I started by scouring Pinterest for ideas and with products supplied by Walmart I went to town! The first project I tackled was hanging decorations for my breakfast counter. It is a really simple craft that can add pop to any kitchen. You may have already have the supplies you need which makes it even better. 

I used ribbon($1.97), tape, and black cardstock ($3.97), for my stencils I just used colored card stock for contrast but black works too. I used three iconic Halloween images - a skull, owl and bat for my shapes. You can use whatever suits your fancy and make it really simple by printing clip art or other images you find on the internet.  I free handed my shapes, I found drawing and compiling everything therapeutic. I traced and cut out the shapes, taped them to the ribbon and hanged them from my ceiling, easy!

Next I made mummy pumpkins, another easy craft! I purchased a 3 pack of mini pumpkins for $2.87, gauze for $5.36 and used craft wiggly eyes that I already had from Walmart.  I wrapped each pumpkin in gauze, glued on fun eyes and added mouths with a Sharpie. I like to keep things simple and fun!

For my final craft my son and I made a web for my table centerpiece. For this you need school glue ($2.48), silver glitter ($2.99) and wax paper or parchment paper.  Using the glue make an asterisk, and then draw the web by playing connect the dots. My son had a ball adding the glitter to my masterpiece! 

We let it dry for two days and then I carefully removed my web.

For additional decorations, I purchased cobwebs ($1.97), mini skulls($1.27 each), and spiders ($2.27). I draped the webs all over the kitchen and encapsulated the skulls in the webs and hang them from my light fixture and one of my cabinets. I love my final results and my son is over the moon excited. He has already requested that next year I make things “scary” with blood and gore. My son is clearly my child, I can’t wait until we can visit the Haunted Houses and Zombie Apocalypse experience together! Yes, I am a big kid at heart!   

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Roasted apple and butternut squash soup

The recent cool mornings are making me re-evaluate summer as my favorite season, fall is quickly gaining momentum and I am loving it. In addition to cooler weather and beautiful foliage, fall also brings apple season. Apples happen to be one of my favorite fruits to cook with, in the past I’ve featured apple crisp and my first apple pie on the blog. Walmart is featuring all different types of apples now and I have my choice of varieties ranging from lady, to honey crisp (love them) and of course granny smith and delicious. 

I decided to try a new recipe with apples and found the perfect one - roasted apple and winter squash soup. Nothing makes me happier than a nice warm bowl of soup on a cool day. It makes a great meal and the recipe I chose is non-dairy so I don’t have to worry about my lactose intolerance. The thing I really like about this soup is that it only has a few vegetables. The most labor intensive aspect is the peeling and chopping with took about an hour.

A few simple ingredients make one incredible soup! 

For this recipe I decided to use two types of apples, lady and granny smith. They are great for baking and I thought they’d  be great in a savory yet sweet soup. I paired the apples with butternut squash (you can make this recipe with choice of squash) it is my favorite and pretty easy to peel which is a consideration for me when cooking.  I also like acorn squash but they generally are harder to peel and you need more than one. I personally didn’t want the headache!

To peel the squash I cut it into quarters, cleaned out the seeds and then peeled it. I used an oxo peeler and it was simple to do, just like peeling an apple! I then cut it into 1 inch pieces. I then cut the apples, peeled the garlic, cut the onion into fourths,  minced the fresh rosemary and gathered the thyme. 

Pause. I absolutely LOVE rosemary and thyme. These herbs remind of the holidays, I always use them to season turkey and this year I will be eating my Thanksgiving for the very first time! Although I cook turkey almost annually, I have never tasted my bird because I stopped eating poultry as a teenager before I started cooking. But this year, I am looking forward to tasting my turkey. Okay, back to the recipe.

I placed all of the fruit and veggies in a bowl, topped with olive oil and added the fresh herbs, allspice and salt. Next, I baked everything on parchment paper at 400 degrees for 40 minutes.
I removed it from the oven and placed it directly in my blender with unsalted vegetable broth and pureed. I don’t have a food processor but the blender worked just fine. I think my next purchase will be an immersion blender because I’ll be able to puree my soups right in the pan.

I placed the soup in a large pan and warmed it up just a little, it is thick which I personally like but if  you want a thinner soup you can add more broth or water. Now the most important part, how does it taste? Absolutely DELICIOUS! Unlike my usual recipe making, this time I pretty much totally followed the recipe. However, I did add an extra half apple because my squash was over the 3 pounds that was called for in the recipe. This soup caused a taste explosion in my mouth. The herbs, vegetables, squash and of course the apples came together perfectly! This is one soup I will be making over and over again. I might even make it for Thanksgiving.

Roasted apple and winter squash soup

3 pounds winter squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch piece
2 medium sweet-tart apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered
2 large cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
4 cups unsalted vegetable broth
1 medium sweet-tart apple
Preheat oven to 400°F.
In a large bowl, combine the squash, apples, onion, garlic, olive oil, salt, rosemary, thyme, and allspice. Spread the vegetables/fruit on two parchment-lined baking sheets. Roast, turning once, until tender, about 40 minutes.
Puree the roasted vegetables/fruit with the vegetable broth. If using an immersion blender, this may be done in a large pot. If using a food processor, this may be done in batches, transferring the puree to a large pot as you go along.
Place the pot over medium heat and simmer until warmed through. If a thinner consistency is desired, add water or more broth. Taste and adjust seasonings.
To serve, garnish with thinly sliced or diced apples. (Sliced apples may be pan-fried in a little butter or olive oil until golden.)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

My experience with Domestic Violence and Hope

My smiling face belied being a victim of domestic violence

The recent release of the video of Ray Rice and Jenay Palmer in the elevator has increased discussion about domestic violence in popular culture. It was difficult to watch and many question how his girlfriend, now wife stayed and married Ray after the assault. As a survivor of domestic violence, I know firsthand how complex this type of relationship can be. I’ve written about my experience here but I think this line from my post can provide some insight.

“There was less danger in the possibility of his wrath than the guarantee”

You see, I knew if I tried to leave, he would stalk me fervently, he’d threaten me, he’d beat me and eventually he may have killed me. When he told me he’d go to prison “for me” but before he left, he’d kill me I believed him. Did you know that 75% of women who are killed by their batterers are murdered when they attempt to leave or after they have left the relationship? When I made up my mind to leave and he saw me with another man, my batterer attempted to murder him and he was incarcerated.

At the time I was only 17 years old. I tried to leave numerous times and returned to him. I can only image the difficulty associated with leaving as an adult woman reliant on an abusive partner financially, emotionally and perhaps the father of her children.  Unless you live it, this is difficult to understand but I was happy the conversation about domestic violence was taking place nationally after the Ray Rice controversy. It has died down but domestic violence continues to be a reality for so many in this country even when it isn’t being talked about. According to the National Coalition against Domestic Violence, 1 in 4 women, 1 in seven men and 3 million children will experience domestic violence during their lifetime. Annually 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner and most cases are not reported to the police. That is why I have always been committed to fight against domestic violence. By sharing my story here, participating on a speakers bureau, being a member of the board for Violence Unsilenced I hope I can make a small difference in the lives of others.

As a Verizon life ambassador I want to share a way that you too can make a difference. I first heard of Verizon’s Hope Line at BlogHer 2012, long before I had any association with the company. Hope Line collects no longer used phones and accessories and turns them into support for Domestic violence agencies nationwide. When a victim/survivor receives a refurbished phone from Hope Line it has 3,000 anytime minutes and free text messaging. Since 2001,  Hope Line has collected 10.8 Million phones, provided $21.4 million in cash grants to domestic violence organizations and 180,000 phones have been donated to victims and survivors.

How can you help?
  • You can turn in your unused phone in store or by mail - they will even pay your postage!
  • Purchase a Verizon purple Hope Line accessory in September and October and $3.00 will be donated to Hope Line.

This month with the frenzy about the new iPhone and a special that Verizon was running I was able to make out like a bandit and support HopeLine. I traded in my old iPhone 5s for my new Samsung s5. As luck would have it, because of promotions, I received a giftcard for $395! I got my Samsung and purchased accessories- including my purple Hope Line Otterbox and even paid part of my bill. I am beyond thrilled. As an ambassador this month I received the purple LG Tone Pro an around the neck handsfree device for my phone. I am still learning how to use it but so far I like it.

October is Domestic violence awareness month and if you are in the market for new phone accessories, I suggest looking at the HopeLine merchandise. And remember, at any time during the year you can donate your old unused cell phones and make a difference with Hope Line!

If you are a victim of Domestic Violence call the National Domestic Violence Hotline for help:
1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

Disclosure: I am a Verizon Life ambassador and occasionally receive Verizon products to share my experience with you. No other compensation is received.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Unique Style with Motions

If you know me, you know that my health and fitness are very important to me. One of the things that has not been a hinderance to staying healthy is my hair. I know it can be a concern for many women of color with relaxers or other styles that they fear "messing up" by sweating but I know that where there is a will there is a way and hair should not stand between you and getting (or staying) healthy! I fortunately have worn my hair natural for just about all of my life and it has never hindered my workouts (although I will admit to having a curly perm aka jerry curl at one point! Ha!). One of the things that is important with natural hair is finding the right products. I was introduced to Motions when I attended a Black Girls Run conference and samples were distributed. I was a little skeptical because I thought Motions was geared toward women wearing relaxed or straightened hair but I was more than pleasantly surprised when I learned that not only were the products great but my hair was moisturized like nobodies business! No matter if you have relaxed or natural hair, Motions has a product for you.

I highly recommend Motions and if you'd like to try the products you are in luck because Walgreen's is currently having a special offering 25% off of kits and select products are only $3.49. If you are a naturalista like me, check out this how to video by celebrity stylist Ursula. She is demonstrating a twist out upsweep, utilizing Motions products. I really like my hair in a twist out and once I tire of my current braids, I will be sure to try this style too!

This is a sponsored post for Motions through The bLink Marketing Network and Lunchbox, all opinions are 100% my own.

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