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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Mama Em's Review of Dream Dinners of Carson City

I cannot even express how much I wish I had wandered into Dream Dinners sooner. I have been driving by the Carson City location for around five years now, and I always assumed it was one of those places where you pay to take a class on cooking a few key meals. I could not have been more wrong. Bonnie Betts is the owner of the Carson City franchise, and I had the pleasure of meeting her during a vendor event being put on in the shopping center where her store resides. About halfway through the event, I was starving, and I was told that Dream Dinners was selling sample plates, so I decided to check it out. Bonnie and her family run the store together, alongside some of the friendliest staff around. The store is clean and orderly, no crumb left behind! The sample plate I purchased was full of unbelievably tasty food. A little of each of their dinners of the month, from chicken pasta to pork ribs, to onion rings, and topped off with a warm and gooey chocolate chip cookie. My super picky kids attacked my plate and devoured nearly everything on it. I wound up having to go back for a second plate! Come to find out, Dream Dinners is an amazing spot where you can go over a menu that changes monthly, pick out the meals and portion sizes of your choice, and then put them together with easy to follow instructions to take home and cook at a later date. The best part is that everything is ready to put into the freezer when you leave the store, and can stay there for around 3-4 months if you don't get to it right away! I signed up for a three meal package deal that Bonnie was offering, and a few reschedulings later due to my own busy schedule, I finally got to go in and and make my dinners. I chose my three meals in advance, and when I got there for my appointment, Bonnie and her staff had everything ready and waiting for me. I put on an apron, and Bonnie and I got to work. There's a huge island in the center of the store, where several meal prep stations are set up. Each station has a recipe, and an easy-to-follow instruction sheet. All of the ingredients you need are there for you to use, including containers to take everything home in. I was able to prep my three meal choices in about 30 minutes. At checkout, there are side dishes and desserts that you can add on as well. Cooking my Dream Dinners was even easier than preparing them. You just take a meal out of the freezer in the morning, let it defrost in the fridge all day, then follow the instruction card to put everything together and cook it that evening. The best part of Dream Dinners is that you get to make gourmet meals for your family without having to buy all of the ingredients individually. The deal I got in on was $25 for three meals to feed 3-4 people, and there's no way I could've spent less than that on the ingredients alone. My family raved over the meatloaf and mashed potatoes, inhaled the parmesan chicken with almond green beans, and there were no leftovers of the chicken and spinach tortellini! The overall experience of Dream Dinners has got me hooked. I plan to make this happen at least once a month! Bravo to Bonnie and her staff for what they do! For more information about Dream Dinners of Carson City, click here: http://dreamdinners.com/main.php?page=store&id=139

Mama Em's review of Thirty One by Linda Davis

Gone are the days of wishing you had better organization skills, looking for the chapstick that just rolled under the car seat, and throwing everything into your black hole of a purse - once you find Thirty-One Gifts! Thirty-One is a home-party based company, where independent consultants sign up and then take to the streets to sell personalized items that truly make your life more efficent. The basic once-over of any Thirty-One website or catalog will lead you to believe that they sell embroidered bags. But it's SO much more than that. As a mom of two young kids, I struggle daily to keep the house clean and organized, be prepared for any and every possible scenario on the road, and to make part of my life portable so that I can have it with me at all times. Thirty-One has helped me to do all of that. I own several of their items now. My main two are carried with me every time I get into the car to leave home for more than an hour or two. My carry-all tote is a gorgeous seafoam green color, with hot pink stitched letters that say "Mama Em" on one side. This one technically has become the kid's bag. It has a nice flat bottom that fits perfectly between the kids' carseats in the back seat of my car, and there are compartments for their leapfrog tablets, coloring books and crayons, extra batteries, and game cartridges. The second bag is a drawstring pouch style, white with big black polka-dots. The kids refer to this one as "mom's black and white bag", and it's got the essentials in it. A bottle of water or two, some snacks, medicines just in case, band-aids, a small sewing kit... if we should need it, it's in there. I get so much use out of my Thirty-One bags, that I have a full wishlist of other pieces I'd like to get. And with all of the consultants signing on with this company on a daily basis, there are plenty of competitors for my business. So why do I choose to shop with Linda? Linda Davis is an amazing person. When you meet her, you feel like you're reconnecting with an old friend. She's got a warm, bubbly personality and she's always smiling and laughing. Linda is passionate about the products she's selling. She owns them, she uses them, and she's willing to give you the best deal possible. I can approach Linda with an idea of what I need, and she lights up at the chance to find me the perfect piece to solve my problem. I need something to take to Disneyland that's not too big but can still be carried easily and fit the basics in it - no problem. I need something to organize the smaller toys in the kids' room, all those little pieces that get lost easily - no problem. Linda is so easy to work with, and probably the least pushy sales person I have ever met. That's why I keep going back to her. If you get the chance to come by a local event where Linda has a vendor booth set up, make sure you stop by. She's always finding new ways to make her booth space more adorable, and keeps on top of all of the latest and greatest that Thirty-One has to offer. Being able to see the pieces in person makes it a lot easier to say yes to your favorites! For more information about Thirty-One Gifts and to contact the lovely Linda Davis, click here: https://www.mythirtyone.com/lindadavisnv/

Mama Em's review of Yogurt Beach in Gardnerville, NV

My six-year-old's teacher this year is using a program called "Class Dojo" to track my child's behavior on a weekly basis. The kids get points added or subtracted based on basic classroom behavior daily, and the points are calculated weekly. The first few weeks of school didn't go so well. Understandably so, since she and the rest of her classmates were still fresh off of summer vacation and adjusting to a new teacher and new surroundings. As a family, we decided that a little bribery was just what we needed to coax little Hope into staying in the "green" points area all week long. If she keeps her points circle full all week, she gets to pick a reward on the weekend. This past week, she jumped up and down and yelled "Let's go for ice cream!" when we reviewed her progress. I had been hearing about Yogurt Beach's new location in Gardnerville, so we decided to switch things up a little and go for some fro-yo instead. From the outside, the building looks average and the dark tinted windows make you second guess whether the place is open - which I'll admit, nearly caused a meltdown before we even got out of the car. Luckily, we were still within business hours, and the employees greated us with hearty welcomes when we walked through the door. The entire place is decked out like a tiki bar - surfboard tabletops, grass skirts around the islands, and pictures of palm trees and other standard beach-isms decorate the walls to match. The topping bar caught the eye of my kids and they both let out a "ooooh" under their breath. A friendly employee came over to ask if we'd been in the store before, and when we all shook our heads, she took us on a tour of the shop and explained how things work. Another employee behind the counter offered up smaller portion sized cups for the kids. We were offered samples of the yogurt before we made our decisions, and then we were on our own. Hope chose a cake batter yogurt and then piled on gummy bears, cherries, and m & m candies. My three-year-old, Raylan, picked strawberry banana yogurt and topped it with cherries, m & m candies, and pineapple slices. The hubby went for the cake batter as well, hid his toppings from me (lol)and then stumbled upon the bar that the kids had luckily missed, where you can top it all off with gooey caramel or hot fudge. He was grinning wider than the kids were. I opted for a half cake batter, half salted caramel yogurt combo, then tossed in some waffle cone pieces, raspberry filled chocolate candies, and some mini chocolate chips. It was divine. Of course, knowing I would be writing a review, I insisted that I taste everyone else's concoctions as well. All of the yogurt flavors were amazing. My favorite was the salted caramel. It was absolutely perfect. The pricing for everything is based on weight. It comes down to about 44 cents per ounce, and with the four of us going overboard on everything, the total came to about $13 - which is not bad. The atmosphere of the store was great, the employees were super friendly and helpful, and the experience was top-notch. We will definitely be back. I'll forever be a fan of Baskin Robbins, don't get me wrong. But when it comes to a fun family outing that ends with a sweet treat, take shopping small in mind and hit up this local family owned franchise. You won't be disappointed! For more info about Yogurt Beach's Gardnerville Nevada location, click here: http://yogurtbeach.com/grnv/location/

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day to Me

Happy mother's day! Whether your kids walk on two legs or four, may your day be filled with happiness, and far less poop than mine has encountered already today. I woke up around 1am sneezing and congested. My allergies were in full-blown beast mode. I couldn't breathe, my nose was leaking like a sive, and my throat and inner ears were itching like crazy. Nothing like trying to blow your nose quietly in the middle of the night, while praying nobody else wakes up. After I managed to at least halfway clear my sinuses, I went back to bed. Hope came bounding into the room at precisely 5:56am, requesting breakfast and asking when I would hold true to the promise I made yesterday to curl her hair. I did everything I could to convince her to go back to bed, but if you know Hope, you know once she's up, so is the rest of the world. So I reluctantly dragged myself out of bed and handed her a bag of mini-muffins and a cup of milk, then settled into my recliner to try to catch a few more z's before the rest of the house woke up. Just as I started to pass out, my phone started buzzing with "Happy Mother's Day" texts from my friends and family on the east coast. I love you guys, but HELLO, time difference. LOL So at that point I figured trying for more sleep was useless. I convinced Tim to run out to get me some coffee, but had to ask him at least a half a dozen times until he finally put pants on and then wound up convincing his sister (who is currently living with us) to drive him there. Hope hitched a ride and I got excited for a second thinking I could maybe actually grab half an hour of precious sleep while they were gone... until on her way out, Hope yelled, "MOM! Ray's awake!" And once again, my dreams were shattered. I got Raylan out of bed, brought him downstairs, and he started asking for ice cream for breakfast. Yeah, right. But once the rest of the members of the household had left, I caved in and let him have three little bites. Instantly, his mouth turned blue from the stain of the ice cream, and I knew once Hope got home, we'd be busted. I tried to get him to promise to keep this our little secret, but at 2, you never know what he's going to say. So I wasn't going to hold my breath. Tim, Kristian, and Hope got home with coffee and McDonald's breakfast, so I passed out McMuffins and then cleaned up and started a load of laundry. Tim went out back to work in the shop, and Raylan announced panicked that he had to go potty. So I jumped up and ran to the bathroom with him. We've been potty training for a while, and it's still hit or miss with him, so I hurredly yanked his sleep boxers and pull-up down and situated him onto his potty chair. That's when I smelled it. Poop. I got excited! Finally! Poop in the potty was huge progress! Except.. it wasn't IN the potty. It was on the floor. And on his leg... and the wall, and the potty chair... as well as in his pants, stuck to the bottom of his foot, and as he realized what was happening and reached down, also on his hand. It was poopocalypse 2013. I yelled for help, and Kristian and Hope did run-bys, throwing wipes and diapers and extra clothes into the bathroom for me. I spent the better part of half an hour scrubbing poop off of every bathroom service as well as my son, and then disinfecting everything in sight. Happy mother's day. Nothing says "I love you" like poop everywhere.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Death Is Death, Regardless of Circumstance

Yesterday I got a new cell phone. My old one has been on it's last leg for a while, and I have made it last as long as I could, but it doesn't even want to let me answer messages or shut off alarms anymore, so it was time. As I was transferring all of my information from the old phone to the new one, I realized that there was one thing I could not transfer over that I was also not ready to part with. It's a text message from Desi. The last few conversations we'd had and her final goodbye to me before she took her life this past August. I read that message every so often, as morbid as it seems. I go back and look at it and I miss her. She was my very best friend, the one person who never judged me for anything, was always there when I needed her (despite the distance), and who I believe with all my heart was my soulmate. So I did what anyone in this day in age would do, I reached out to my friends on Facebook for ideas on how to hold onto that text message. Unfortunately, none of the ideas worked and the best thing I could come up with was to take pictures of the message thread on the old phone with the new phone. I suppose that will have to do. Many of my friends and family members left nice comments and heartfelt virtual hugs on my post, which felt very supportive and understanding. It's an unfortunate truth that many of the people showing their support for MY loss have experienced very similar losses through suicide in the past year as well. Just as I was about to fall asleep for the night, I got one more comment to my Facebook post. This one was anything but supportive and encouraging - it was downright rude and uncalled for. Someone I've known for many years, who I've shown constant support to throughout his recently troubled past, was going on and on about how suicide was selfish and that Desi had no respect or regard for the feelings of those she left behind. He went on to ask how any of the other commenters could possibly feel grief over her death or be supportive and understanding of my grief, and then went into a full rant on all of the things he'd been through in the past few years and look at him, he was still standing. Truth be told, he's been through a lot. But what he said was downright disrespectful and hurtful, so I deleted the comment and sent him a private message telling him that while each person has a right to their opinions, I did not appreciate his inappropriate post. He came unglued. I tried a few more ways to politely explain to him that while it's easy to judge from the outside of a situation, he didn't know Desi, he didn't know any of the facts, and that while even with the pile of tragedy she'd faced in her life, suicide was not the answer, what's done is done and her death doesn't make those left behind hurt any less than those left after any other kind of death. He was not having it. He went on the attack and once he had me spewing profanities, I knew it was better to stop and just delete/block him altogether. That's what brings me to this blog. What do people think gives them the right to diminish death by suicide as something less tragic and painful for the friends and family left behind in comparison to any other type of death? Do you think people hurt more if thier loved one is murdered on the street in cold blood as opposed to dying peacefully of old age, safe and warm in their bed? Death is inevitable. We know it's coming, we just usually don't know when. Life is about establishing relationships with other people, and when those people's lives end, the living ache and yearn for more time with the ones they lost. It doesn't matter how the death occured, or who was responsible. The end result is that one life is gone and the lives of the people connected to that person are forever changed. Sure, suicide is a choice. People choose it every day. They feel trapped, backed into a corner, left with no other options. Of course I don't condone it, and like most people, I agree that it's just not the answer. But as someone who has been suicidal myself at least once in my life, I get it. And I can tell you, that the belief that suicidal people only think about themselves and don't have any regard for the people who will grieve for them when they are gone is the furthest thing from the truth. It's ALL they think about. And then that adds to the pain they're already in and the deed is done. We, the survivors, don't have to agree with it, we don't have to accept it as a good enough reason for a life to have ended. But we still hurt. We still grieve. We still have a big empty hole in our lives that cannot be filled by anyone or anything else. So before you pop off your opinion that suicide is selfish, take a minute and think about how you would feel if the tables were turned. If someone told you that you needed to quit whining about your poor dead grandmother because she was old, so you should've seen it coming, how would you feel? If I just took your grief and tried to make you feel like you didn't have a right to feel that way, you'd be pissed. So don't judge what you don't understand. Don't add to the pile of crap that someone is already going through by spewing your opinions on how thier pain is unjustified. You don't get a trophy or medal that says, "Congratulations, you did better at life than these other people". Everyone has their problems and they are all handled in different ways. The only life you're responsible for the actions of, is your own. Period. You can judge yourself as fairly or as harshly as you like. But owning the same pair of shoes as someone else is not the same as walking a mile in thiers. Be considerate of the feelings and the grieving process of those affected by suicide. Regardless of what you may think of the act itself, the life lost still has a profound affect on others and belittling the way in which death took someone is not going to score you any points with anyone. 'Judge not, lest ye be judged' so say the Christians. Time to practice what you preach, folks. So what SHOULD you say when someone you know loses a friend via suicide? The standard "I'm sorry for your loss", "let me know if you need anything", and "I'm here if you need to talk" will suffice. Keep your opinions on the matter out of the conversation. Don't compare your long list of struggles to the reasons the deceasaed may or may not have given for why they took matters into their own hands. Don't judge. Because you don't know. That's the cold hard truth about it. You DON'T know.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Riding The Political Fence

While it seems most Pagans take a very Democratic stance when it comes to politics, I do not feel I fit entirely in either party. I have morals, values and strong beliefs that are on both sides of the political fence. I support Gay marriage and am 100% against gun control. I believe this country is a big fat mess right now. I do NOT like Obama but I don't think Romney was cut out for the presidency either. In all honesty, I think our only hope of getting America back to being the best country in the world is to change our laws to elect TWO presidents into office simultaneously. No more VPs, just two equally powered co-presidents, one from either of the two major parties, who must agree on everything that comes across their desks or it cannot be processed. It sounds like a lot of work, and a lot of delay, I know. But in all fairness, how long are we up to now with trying to solve the national budget? Giving one party supreme power over the other doesn't work for anyone. One more big enough government change and we're about to watch this country tear itself apart with another "civil" war. The only way to solve the problems we're facing is to stop making the same mistakes. The other day I got a message from a friend of mine asking me if I had meant to re-post a political comment on facebook, because she didn't agree with it. It turned out I hadn't meant to share it at all, I had clicked it on accident while scrolling through my page in the waiting room at the doctor's office. But it brought a whole new issue into light for me. Being a Republican doesn't mean you HAVE TO oppose Gay marriage. Being a Democrat doesn't mean you HAVE TO support gun control. Just because the party you identify youself as part of favors one side of the spectrum doesn't mean you need to blindly follow suit. Each sector of political figures has valid points about certain areas and there's nothing wrong with agreeing what they have to say even if they're from a party that you don't agree with one single other item on. Forcing two people in power to come to a compromise and agreement over those big issues will help the American public to learn to do the same. Then we really could become the FREE country we have been claiming to be forever. That's just my opinion.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Paypal Doesn't Care

I have been using Paypal to buy and sell stuff on Ebay since... practically forever. I believe my sign-up date was in 2001. So let's say 12 years, for good measure. During that time, I have had zero complaints. Zero. No returns, no requested refunds, no negative feedback on Ebay. I have, however, credited money back to clients with a note that shipping cost less than anticipated. You know what all that means to Paypal? Nothing. Not a darn thing. 2 years ago, due to a loan modification gone awry, I lost my house and had to file bankruptcy to protect myself. My perfect credit went right down the drain. I have been struggling to claw my way back into a decent looking score ever since. Paypal doesn't care that I have never had a single problem with transactions through them. They don't care that although my credit score is below the national average, I make all of my bill payments on time. All they care about is the word: Bankruptcy. When I opened my webstore this year, I had to upgrade from a simple Paypal account to a merchant account - so that I could accept credit card payments securely as a business. I have to PAY Paypal a monthly fee to use this service. They took it upon themselves to check my credit report and decided that since I had a bankruptcy, TWO YEARS AGO, I was a liability to their other clients. They assumed that a bankruptcy in my past made me a common criminal, out to steal money from unsuspecting internet shoppers. And because of that, they placed what's called a "Rolling Reserve" on my account. They hold 20% of every transaction in an account I can't touch, for 90 days. EVERY. SINGLE. TRANSACTION. Let's recap. They're charging me $15 a month to use their merchant services. They charge 3.5% of all transactions to keep for themselves. And they're holding 20% of each of MY sales in their account, gathering interest THAT THEY KEEP, for 90 days at a time. I have called and raised holy hell several times. Once, I even got a rep to release half of the money they were holding. They still have over $200 locked up that I can't use, even in an emergency situation. I just got off the phone with one of the top-line supervisors at Paypal. I told him (in some not-very-nice words) exactly how I felt about the entire situation. I expressed to him that I have had over 300 transactions through Paypal since January 1 of this year - all of which resulted in positive feedback and happy customers. He agreed that I had performed above the average seller, and agreed to see if there was anything he could do to eliminate the rolling reserve hold. After 30 minutes on hold, he returned to the line and told me that he was 'very sorry, but Paypal will not stop holding 20% of my funds until at least June'. In June, he claims my account will be re-evaluated, at which time they will check my credit score again and determine whether or not I am still a 'liability to their clients'. I am stuck at this point, but I can tell you that if they don't knock this crap off by the time I am re-evaluated, I will get in the car and drive to Paypal headquarters and refuse to leave until they either give me all of the funds they're holding, plus interest, or take me to jail. Frustrated doesn't begin to describe my feelings right now.