Category:Mom’s Little Secrets’

Make Time for Exercise: Sworkit, Free Circuit Training App Review

 - by Mama Maintenance

rush_hourThere are a lot of things I love about working out: tailored hoodies and Lycra waistbands, the stockpiling of ways to rationalize happy hour, guilt-free, budget-friendly time spent with galpals, and the feel of the sun on my face are just a few that top the list. Sadly, however, the actual activity, typically trails toward the bottom of the list for me. I don’t know why, but I’m just not made to love working out. While some love exercise for the stress release, I’d much rather find this release at the bottom of a glass of wine, playing the piano, or indulging in some some mindless reality TV, if I’m being completely honest.

Ironically, Fitness magazine arrives in my mailbox every month. I never subscribed to the publication, it just started showing up. Either it’s a hint from somebody, or a free gift from an online shoe order. While I don’t actually find pictures of a 5’11”, 120 pound model doing squats particularly motivating, I do often find myself tearing out the circuit workouts with a misguided but well-placed intention of doing them someday. I suppose the appeal might stem from the fact that the simplicity of circuit training seems to pair well with the frenetic pace of motherhood. After all, never being off the clock creates an endless list of mental excuses to choose from: “I don’t have a large enough window of time… I’d need to find a babysitter… That class doesn't fit the budget… I don’t want to be late for… I’ll do it after the kids are asleep so I won’t be interrupted… I don’t have time to take another shower and get ready all over again…” and you know, the list goes on.

While I don’t bawk (but really should) at blowing an hour on Facebook or Pinterest, carving out 40 minutes for my workout seems impossible some days. It’s odd how pinning exercises to a Board seems to go by so much faster and feel almost just as good. In truth, I actually have to block out time in an obnoxiously color-coded fashion in my Outlook calendar to get it done. A recent commitment to return from a summer ankle fracture and finish a half-marathon in January had me doing just this recently. While installing apps on my phone for interval training, I stumbled across Sworkit, a free app that provides targeted, randomized circuit training workouts. The simple app works this way:


SWORKIT SELECTIONSPick your workout time:

Sworkit creates circuits that vary from 5 minutes to 60 minutes. 5 minutes. It’s really hard to create an excuse that undermines a 5 minute workout, given that even an episode of Ninjago is 24 minutes… so I’ve been told, that is.


Pick your workout area of focus:

Choose from a variety of targeted muscle groups including Upper Body, Core Strength, Lower Body, Full Body, Back Strength, Stretching Only, Sun Salutation and Full Sequence Yoga. Up for variety and surprises? There’s also an Anything Goes category for you.


SWORKIT EXERCISE TIMERFollow the pictures and listen for the bell:

No matter how long of a workout you choose, the structure is the same: 30 second sets of randomized exercises, queued by a timer bell. Each exercise is titled and illustrated (not animated) with the option to skip or pause. Sworkit also works in a 30 second break every 2.5-3 minutes.


While most of the exercises are simple and familiar circuit training basics such as push up, plank, squat and crunch variations, I feel compelled to mention that there is no coaching on form in the free version, so you might want to skip or research unfamiliar moves if you encounter them during your circuit, as to prevent injury. See a list of some of the exercises incorporated with the app here. If you’re a compulsive logger who is interested in finding out what you burned in your Sworkit circuit, you can also get a rough estimate here.

Sworkit is available on Android and iOS devices for free, with the option to purchase an inexpensive Pro version, which offers improved audible queues and descriptions of the exercises as well as usage tracking options. Looking for a bigger screen? Try it on your home PC or laptop!


While this app may not provide you with the motivation of a whistle-wielding trainer or the upbeat buzz of a class or video, it does provide you with an option for equipment-free, targeted circuits that can be fit into any amount of time or space. Whether you're traveling on business, working your abs during a commercial break of the Bachelor, or taking your outdoor workout up a notch, Sworkit is sure to leave you all out of excuses.


How do you make time to move?


Delicious Make-Ahead Sideline Snacks for Adults

 - by Mama Maintenance

The bottom of a pack of Goldfish… the empty, sticky wrapper of a Fruit Rope… Fingers covered in Pirate Booty crumble…  Sadly, we’ve all found ourselves there.  While these things might make great, on-the-go snacks for our kids, they tend to mark some sort of self-care rock bottom for us moms.   After all, it’s not like we intend to raid the soccer bag, nor do we logically believe that a handful of Annie’s Bunnies and bag of baby carrots makes for a solid, 8 pm dinner… it just happens.

Part of my problem is that I love snacking.  It’s a vice, and totally embarrassing.  Suffice it to say that I’m familiar with the shame of secretly bringing a bag of noms to the front seat with me for the drive home after loading the rest of the groceries in the trunk.  As an expert snacker, I feel like I’ve arrived at two basic truths: 1) If you have to snack, snack well and enjoy it.  Really enjoy it.   2) The easiest way to make a good snack taste fabulous, is to share it with great company.

So rewind back to the sidelines with your “magic” coffee tumbler in-hand…  What types of share-worthy snacks can one quickly make ahead of time, drag to the field without a mess, and fit your grocery budget?

Here are a few that I’m fond of… Mangia!

Savory Palmiers

This Gourmet recipe is hard to beat considering it has only 2 ingredients.

It can also be made ahead, frozen, and it travels well.


  • Puffed Pastry Sheets, Thawed but Chilled
  • 2 Cups Parmigiano-Reggiano, Finely Grated
  • Silpat or Parchment Paper


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line baking sheets with Silpat or parchment.
  2. Sprinkle some cheese on a work surface and cover it with a puff pastry sheet. Then sprinkle more cheese evenly over pastry sheet and roll it out into a 10-inch square with a rolling pin. Fold in two opposite sides of the square so that the sides meet in the center. Fold in same sides of the pastry again to meet in center.
  3. Fold one half of the pastry over the other. Cut pastry crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Dip cut sides of each piece in cheese and arrange, a cut side down, on lined baking sheet. Repeat with three remaining pastry sheets.
  4. Bake palmiers in batches in middle of oven until golden on bottom, about 12 minutes. Turn over and bake until golden on bottom, 5 to 7 minutes more, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.


Rocky Road Bars

This Chow Recipe delivers a balance of sweet, salty, and nutty.

  • 1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips (about 7 1/2 ounces)
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cups packed mini marshmallows
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped roasted, salted almonds


  1. Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with butter; set aside.
  2. Combine 3/4 cup of the chocolate chips and all the butter in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until melted, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
  3. Whisk sugar, eggs, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl until eggs are broken up and smooth. Add chocolate mixture and stir to combine. Add flour and baking powder and stir until just incorporated. Add 3/4 cup of the marshmallows and 3/4 cup of the almonds and stir to combine.
  4. Transfer batter to the prepared dish and spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven.
  5. Move the rack to the top of the oven. Sprinkle remaining chocolate chips, marshmallows, and nuts over the surface of the batter. Return to the oven and continue baking until marshmallows are puffed and golden brown, about 10 minutes more. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack before cutting.


Crazy Delish Cheesy Garlic Bread

This recipe reminds me just how delicious simplicity can be. Imagine this warm, salty snack paired with your sweet cocktail.

Inexpensive, filling, perfect for sharing, and easy to transport. Bread can be prepped ahead and put in the oven prior to leaving the house.


  • 1 loaf French bread, unsliced
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 2 garlic cloves, halved (or more!)
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Foil


  1. Preheat oven to 375F degrees.
  2. Cut slices down the length of bread loaf at 1 inch intervals, without cutting all the way through.
  3. Rub slices and top of loaf with cut sides of garlic.
  4. Mince garlic.
  5. Combine butter, garlic, parsley and Parmesan.
  6. Spread butter mixture between bread slices and on top of loaf.
  7. Wrap bread in foil leaving top partially uncovered.
  8. Bake until heated through, about 15 minutes.
  9. Wrap and transport warm


Savory Parmesan Shortbread Rounds

This Bon Apetit recipe makes simple, savory cookies that are as easy to gobble up on the field as they are to pair with charcuterie at your next dinner party. Play with the recipe, too… Try making a batch with fresh cracked pepper, rosemary, or smoked paprika.

Easy and pantry-friendly, these shortbreads can be made 1 week ahead, stored at room temperature, or frozen for up to 1 month.

  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 1/2 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1/2 small garlic clove, minced
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Mix flour, 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, salt, garlic, and cayenne pepper in processor.
  3. Add butter and, using on/off turns, process until dough begins to come together.
  4. Gather dough into ball. Divide dough in half. Roll each half into 12-inch log, and cut each log into 1-inch pieces. Roll each piece into ball.
  5. Arrange dough balls on prepared baking sheet, spacing about 1 1/2 inches apart. Press each ball into 2-inch-diameter round.
  6. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese over.
  7. Bake shortbread rounds until tops are dry and bottoms are golden brown, about 20 minutes.
  8. Transfer shortbread rounds to rack and cool completely.


Have any recipes to add?

Post a link in the comments below!

10 Hot Cocktails to Keep You Toasty On the Sidelines

 - by Mama Maintenance

I used to think that being called a Soccer Mom referred more to the specific set of snack-schlepping, carpooling, equipment-cleaning duties. With my first season of outdoor soccer now in full swing, however, I'm starting to learn that the term seems to refer more to the sisterhood of shivering, sideline cheerleaders who tirelessly celebrate a great save, missed kick, or game-winning goal all the same. This fall, I was lucky enough to meet a fabulous group of said soccer moms who also believe in extending the fun on the field to the sidelines. After all, it is logical to argue that the only thing missing from Friday nights and girlfriends, are cocktails!


So whether you're cheering on the sidelines, huddled under a blanket in the bleachers, or trick-or-treating in the rain, check out this page from the Bad Soccer Mommy Playbook… Enjoy!



Nutty Irishman

  • 1 oz Bailey's
  • 1 oz Frangelico
  • Fill with Coffee
  • Garnish with whipped cream and nutmeg


All Warm & Fuzzy

  • 1 oz Kahlua
  • 1 oz Bailey's
  • 1 oz Butterscotch Schnapps
  • 1 oz Grand Marnier
  • Fill with Hot Chocolate
  • Garnish with whipped cream


Almond Kiss

  • 2 oz Amaretto
  • Fill with Hot Chocolate
  • Garnish with whipped cream and slivered almonds


Mommy's Magic Cocoa

  • 3 oz Whipped Cream or Marshmallow Flavored Vodka
  • Fill with Hot Chocolate
  • Garnish with whipped cream or marshmallows


Butter Baby

  • 1 oz Butterscotch Schnapps
  • Fill with Hot Chocolate
  • Garnish with whipped cream



  • 1 oz Peppermint Schnapps
  • 1 tsp Sugar
  • Fill with Hot Chocolate
  • Garnish with whipped cream & crushed mints or chocolate shavings


Broken Leg

  • 1 oz Spiced Rum
  • Fill with Hot Apple Cider
  • Garnish with a cinnamon stick


Brandy Almond Mocha

  • 1 oz Amaretto
  • 1 oz Brandy
  • Fill with equal parts Coffee & Hot Chocolate
  • Garnish with whipped cream, chocolate shavings, and slivered almonds


Midnight Storm

  • 2 oz White Creme de Menthe
  • Fill with Hot Chocolate
  • Garnish with whipped cream and drizzle with Green Creme de Menthe


Hot Apple Toddy

  • 2 oz Whiskey or AppleBrandy
  • 1 tsp Honey
  • Fill with Hot Apple Cider
  • Garnish with a cinnamon stick and whole cloves

How do you bring fun to the sidelines?


Next post: Tasty Pairing Treats for the Sidelines



Bumble and Bumble Creme de Coco Hair Masque Review

 - by Mama Maintenance

Summer in Seattle is fabulous-but-short-lived, so I dive into the deep end when it finally arrives. Pedicures get moved to the top of priority list, groceries share trunk real estate with bikes and scooters, and hats become standard garb as a renewed paranoia of the sun’s anti-aging effect on my ever-so-aging face resurfaces. I’m also reminded of just how much I love the smell of coconut this time of year, as I catch myself complementing a girlfriend on a new perfume, only to find out it was sunblock (now that’s just embarrassing), or find myself gravitating toward drinks at come adorned with umbrellas and plastic monkeys hanging off the glass. The perfect addition to your occasional pamper routine is Bumble and Bumble’s Creme de Coco Hair Masque

For just $26, this hair masque makes me all sorts of happy… In addition to smelling absolutely divine, the infusion of tropical butters leave your hair reflectively shiny and smooth. Color-safe and moisturizing, you’ll find that your hair will be thanking you for the break from the sun, salt, and chlorine that comes with summer fun. In a hurry? Leave it in for seven minutes while you scrub off the most recent self-tanner mistake and shave your legs in the shower… Have more time? Wrap your hair in a towel and sit in the sun with a book as you transport yourself to your own imaginary spa in the tropics while your hair soaks up the masque’s goodness. That’s right… close your eyes and relax… Until the shriek from the basement reminds you that school’s out, and nobody’s watching your children.

What is your favorite summer beauty product?

Regal Cinemas Summer Movie Express–$1 Kids Movies!

 - by Mama Maintenance

kid movies 3d glassesEverybody knows that summer brings with it longer sunshine-filled days, but most parents can attest to just how much “longer” the days feel without the break of scheduled activities like sports and school.  When looking for a quiet (from the kids, that is…) break on a summer day in the comfort of air conditioning, movies simply can’t be beat.  I’m not sure what it is about those big, cushy seats and the massive screen, but they seem to dwarf the kids into awe and encourage good behavior, which is always a refreshing change.  Although I often find this golden silence to be worth every penny of the $11 movie ticket, it does pack quite the punch to the activity budget.  This summer, however, Regal Cinemas has launched its Summer Movie Express program that features $1 admission to G and PG rated movies at 10 am on Tuesdays and Wednesdays! 

In addition to the blissfully quiet and air conditioned 2 hours you’ll get with entertained kids, a portion of your dollar will also go to the Will Rogers Institute, which dedicates itself to research of cardiopulmonary diseases and the promotion of health and fitness education.

Some of the titles that they’ll be showing this summer are:

  • Kit Kittredge
  • Legend of the Guardians
  • How to Train Your Dragon
  • Marmaduke
  • Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything
  • Despicable Me
  • Nanny McPhee Returns
  • Ramona & Beezus
  • Yogi Bear
  • Tale of Despereaux
  • Cats and Dogs: Revenge
  • Megamind
  • Alpha and Omega
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid
  • Charlotte’s Web
  • Chronicles of Narnia
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians
  • Furry Vengence
  • Shrek Forever and After

Check for your closest participating Regal Cinemas theatre here

So the next time you see the thermometer mercury rising in an inverse proportional relationship to your patience level as the “What-are-we-doing-today?” chorus starts up, snag yourself a little break and help a charity for a buck!

Which of these movies are you most excited to bring your kids to?

Kid-Proof the Web – Review

 - by Mama Maintenance


Technology has completely redefined how our children play and learn. While there will always be good entertainment value to digging in the dirt and kicking a ball, most kids these days also know how to swipe their way around a touch screen, use a Wii controller, and navigate the internet with a mouse in search of fun. I’m certainly not above promoting these activites, either, as I’ve been known to stream Disney videos via You Tube in dressing rooms and use Angry Birds screen time as valuable errand-running negotiating currency.

As much as I marvel at the convenient entertainment and the educational value modern technology can provide, I don’t think I stand alone when I say that I think there can be too much of a good thing when it comes to accessing these resources. While keeping track of which sites are age appropriate for your kids and steering clear of unwanted content is important and difficult, listening to the incessant pleas of a game-obsessed child or dealing with a phone that is suddenly missing all its icons is just plain annoying. Enter: Zoodles. In a non-so-technical nutshell, Zoodles allows you to set customized limits on your children’s web access and activities while protecting the settings on your computer, phone, or tablet. By creating child-specific profiles, you enable Zoodles to pull age-appropriate content and activities from multiple sites that fit your parameters and create an online environment that you actually want your kids to be in.

In the past, I would bookmark various sites on my kids’ laptop… Starfall, PBS Kids, Disney, Nick Jr, etc. While I appreciated how these sites provided educational games and activities with the help from familiar characters, I often found that there were aspects of the websites that I found less desirable. I’ll never forget setting my daughter up on with a Super Why reading game, only to return and find her playing some ridiculous Boobah game with little characters that sounded like they farted every time you clicked your mouse on them. I was not amused. This was a far cry from my intended purpose of her screen time and was yet, just a click away, on the same website. Zoodles allows parents to quickly block specific characters by checking boxes in an alphabetical listing (goodbye Boobah and Sponge Bob!), control content (for example, no videos), and even give parents the ability to set limits to violence exposure.

I have voracious little readers in my home… While I seldom have to encourage them to pick up a book, I’ve noticed that they have a way of squirming out of anything that remotely speaks to the tune of math. Sadly, they must get this from me, since their father is a human calculator. What my kids don’t know, however, is that with the help of Zoodles, sneaky mommy is able to selectively promote specific subjects. That’s right, I can rig the selection of games offered to my kids… Brilliant, isn’t it? Using a simple click-and-slide user interface, Zoodles allows parents to easily adjust which specific subjects are promoted. Zoodles will apply this filter to it’s search criteria when selecting games and activities for your child and voila! It’s math time, without them even knowing,

Setting time limits on activities can also sometimes prove to be challenge for parents. Although our pint sized subjects eagerly agree to a 1-show contract when we turn on the TV, the expression of game-show shock and the explosion of whinegotiation (delightful package of whining and negotiation…) when we turn off the television is often inevitable. During these moments, the maddening dialogue in my mind rolls through, “We talked about this… You agreed to… You made your choice…”, but to no avail, I still end up looking like the mean, withholding mommy. Sigh. Through Zoodles, you can set customized daily play time limits for individual children, even providing the option to differentiate weekdays from weekends. When the time limit has been reached, Zoodles simply states the fact, automatically logs off, and tells the child to come back the next day. From my experience, the computer receives considerably less back-talk.

Beyond playing the role of digital media watch dog, Zoodles provides additional tools that encourage fun ways for your kids to stay connected to people. By giving the option to invite friends and family to join your profile, Zoodles gives your child the ability to easily send and receive video mail messages, proudly share masterpieces using Zoodles Art Studio, and experience having a story book read to them by a loved one from across the miles.

Best of all, Zoodles makes it simple for us parents. Using the quick and intuitive child-specific tabs on the parent login page, monitoring your child’s progress is a snap! If you’re the less proactive type (read: busy and forgetful, which is many of us…), activity summaries sent to you by email show exactly how much play time your child logged that week, broken down by subject.

One item of note is the requirement of your device’s ability to run Adobe Flash applications in order to run Zoodles games. Although this isn’t a problem for most devices, strained business relations between Apple and Adobe have left iOS devices without the ability to support Flash. iOS devices will, however, still support other Zoodles features, such as Zoodles Art Studio. Most Android devices give you the option to download an Adobe Flash application if it isn’t already factory installed. Check here to see if your device is Adobe Flash compatible.

Zoodles provides their basic application for free, but the Premium Membership gives you the added perks and levels of parental control for the reasonable price of $7.95/month, $39.95 for 6 months, or $59.95 for a year. Create and account today, and get a 14-day trial of the Premium Membership for free!

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Click Here to “Like” the Facebook Page Earn Cash Back for Online Transactions – Gimmick & Spam Free

 - by Mama Maintenance

When my daughter was only a week old, I remember emphatically telling my husband how I thought every store should offer a drive through or delivery option. Although I no longer have to pack like I’m going away for the weekend when running errands, I now have the services of two, opinionated “helpers” at virtually all times. Did I also mention that these helpers have short legs, lots of questions, take frequent bathroom breaks, and act like they’ve never seen a toy or a snack before when we walk into a store? For these reasons, along with the $4.20/gallon gas I spend driving to enjoy this extreme-shopping experience, I buy as much as I can online nowadays. The ability to comparison shop in relative peace from the comfort of bed or while waiting at preschool pick up just can’t be beat, in my opinion. Where was your last online purchase? Was it at Target, Best Buy, Home Depot, Nordstroms, Snapfish, Gap, Crate and Barrel, Bloomingdales, REI, Staples, Cost Plus, Ann Taylor, Athleta, Sur la Table, Disney,, Barnes & Noble, The Container Store, Victoria’s Secret, Red Envelope, Saks, or Sears? And when was the last time you bought a Groupon, booked a trip using Travelocity or Hotwire, or hosted a site using GoDaddy? If you found that little part of your brain screaming, “No Way!”, as it recognized a familiar vendor that recently had the pleasure of taking your money, tune in… You’re about to get paid back. is a referral site that partners with over 400 e-tailers (and counting!) to give you 1-20% cash back on your online transactions. When my friend told me about Ebates a few years back, it simply seemed too good to be true. I like to think of myself a rather proficient shopper, so skepticism immediately flooded my head… Will I end up with a bunch of credits or rewards, instead of cash, that can only be redeemed at some overpriced vendor? Will some vicious spyware track my every move on the web and then spam me and sell my email address? Will I need to sign up for “free” trial subscriptions to marketing partners in order to get paid? Will going through the portal prevent me from using promotional codes and rewards? The surprising answer to all of these questions is a resounding NO. No gimmicks or tricks, just cash.

How does this actually work without drifting into the sketchy area of “there’s-no-free-money”? E-tailers pay Ebates a referral fee, in hopes of increasing site traffic, as they would with an advertising campaign. The more traffic Ebates can direct, the more it can charge the e-tailers, which results in a windfall of cash that Ebates portions back to you. After all, you were the one who helped “earn” it.

How do you accrue cash back? Prior to making an online purchase, go to the Ebates website. Search for your e-tailer either by category or name. You’ll be surprised to see how many large, familiar vendors are part of the Ebates e-tailer family. Once you find the site you want to surf, click on the name and Ebates will create a “ticket” that links your Ebates account with your purchase. The e-tailer’s site will open up in a new browser, and look exactly the same as it always does. Sometimes, there will be an Ebates icon in the upper right hand corner of the screen, but this varies by site, in my experience. Shop online as you would normally, as even promotional discounts, codes, and rewards remain valid! When and if you end up making a purchase, Ebates will post the cash-back amount in your account approximately 48 hrs after your order ships. So whether you need to send a Harry and David fruit basket, order a case of diapers from, or brighten up your wardrobe with a Trina Turk tunic, you’re covered. No pun intended. For a complete list of participating stores, click here.

When do you actually have the cash in-hand? If you’ve accrued more than $5.01 at the end of each quarter, Ebates automatically pays out via PayPal direct deposit (they pay sender’s fees) or by mailed check. If your balance is less than $5.01, the amount simply rolls over to the next quarter and continues to accrue until it reaches $5.01. I must admit that I nearly fell over with shock when I received my first Ebates check. At the risk of sounding like a bad infomercial, I couldn’t believe that I was getting money back for doing… Well, what I do. I know that there is no such thing as free money, but this felt pretty close to it.

What if you don’t care about the money? If you have more altruistic intentions, Ebates graciously offers the option of sending your check to a charity, organization, or family member of your choice. Simply complete the recipient info in your profile, and you’re done!

It really is that simple. The hardest part is remembering to go to Ebates, first… But after the first couple checks, it does get easier to remember!

Click HERE to sign up today and they’ll even add $5 to your account to get you started!




How to Pair Wine with Junk Food – Forget the Cheese

 - by Mama Maintenance

mommy's sippy cupAs a mom of two-within-two-years, I’ve had many learning opportunities to refine my coping skills.  While this category of behavior includes healthy activities like working out or meditation, I tend to defer to other ones such as wine, junk food, and mindless television.  The truth of the matter is that I have more friends who pour a nice glass of red, grab a brownie, and curl up with the Bachelor at 9 o’clock, than friends who put on running shoes or try to clear a spot of carpet in the toy room to find Zen after the kids are down for the night.

In recent years, it feels like wine has become more casual.  I’m not saying that it’s better this way, I’m just saying that it seems like wine has lost some of the snootiness that used to come tethered to it.  I’m sure this statement makes wine enthusiasts cringe, so I now add the disclaimer that I’m common folk when it comes to wine.  I can tell when a wine is really bad, and I can tell when a wine is really fabulous, but I tend to not complain much about the bottles in between, despite having preferences and favorites.

Where as “rules” like red with steak, and white with fish, used to limit pairing in the generation of Chardonnay and Merlot drinkers, I think our generation is a little more adventurous.  If we were playing Family Feud and the category was, “Things that you pair with wine”, I think many of us would shout, “Chocolate!” and “Cupcakes!” before “Cheese!”  And why not?!  It may sound less classy to admit that you want junk food with your wine, but even junk food has flavors that are dying to be paired with.  And unlike cheese, junk food is just plain fun…  Crunchy, salty, gooey, sweet, and unmistakably comforting (albeit temporary).   There – I said it.  I know, you can’t believe I’d admit this…

Although I’d never say to a girlfriend, “I’ve got a chilled Rose, why don’t you bring a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos with you when you come over…”, I certainly admit that I’d unapologetically snarf down both things at a single sitting.  Much to my surprise, I learned that I wasn’t alone when I recently came across a magazine snippet about how to pair wine with junk food.  Intrigued, I did a little more research, and get this… it’s actually trendy.  Really!!  I suppose there’s something to be said about a fun, new challenge.  As crazy as it sounds, it is really more of the same.  After all, isn’t pairing and enjoying wine all about playing off the flavors?  These flavors just happen to be out of a foil bag, rather than off of bone china.

Here are a some fun pairings that you might just try next time…

(Don’t worry, we won’t tell)


The bubbles clean your palate of extra starch and extra sugary sweet filling

  • French Fries, Chex Mix, Kettle Chips, Nachos, Pop Tarts, Fig Newtons


The vanilla & oaky flavors complement the butter flavors and the nougat

  • Butterfinger, Milky Way, Buttered Popcorn

Madeiraice cream

15-30 Year old Madiera because ice cream pairs better with wines with lower alcohol levels

  • Ice cream (warm the Madiera), Heath Bar, Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Almonds

Pinot Grigiodoritos

Light and refreshing, chilled

  • Tortilla Chips (Especially the ones with lime), Fritos, Potato chips, Nacho cheese Doritos

Australian Reds

The lighter, spicy flavors balance spicy, salty foods

  • Beef Jerky, Hot Dogs (Shiraz)

Rose or German Riesling

The fruity notes cut the garlic & herbs while the acidity can hold up to the strong cheese flavors

  • Cool Ranch Doritos, Red (Strawberry) Skittles

Verdicchio Di Metallica or Grenache Blanc

Acidic enough to handle the intense cheddar

  • Cheetos




  • Gingerbread and Snickerdoodle Cookies, Snickers, Cheesecake, Green, Yellow, & Orange Skittles




  • Hamburgers, Pizza



  • Pretzels & Mustard, Chips Ahoy, Oreo, and Milano cookies (cookies also pair well with Malbecs)


  • Slim Jim (If you’re not too embarrassed to buy one, that is…)


  • Tapenade, Pizza, Chocolate Mint Cookies (Did somebody say “Thin Mints”?!)



  • Whoppers



  • Trail mix


Pinot Noirguac

  • Guac & Chips, Sausage Pizza, Mexican food, Chocolate (which really deserves its own blog post… to be continued)

Do you have a favorite junk food & wine pairing?

Perfumes for Winter – Jo Malone English Pear & Wild Freesia Cologne Review

 - by Mama Maintenance

I confess, I’m guilty of being a polygamist when it comes to perfume.  With so many amazing options out there, how can a gal be married to just one signature scent?   My perfume changes with my mood, outfit, and occasion – sticking with the same scent is just plain boring, in my book.  I’m all about variety in my perfume cabinet.  I love a sweet spritz of Fresh Sugar Blossom as much as I enjoy an evening date with the spicy notes of Michael Kors’ Kors.  And while I’ve been known to sport a fun, fruity scent like DKNY’s Be Delicious, I’m just as likely to be found in the delicate, girly floral scent of Dolce & Gabbana’s Light Blue.  In fact, my only true requirement for a perfume is that it must have dimension and balance.  A couple of years ago, a girlfriend got me hooked on Jo Malone colognes, and I’ve been addicted ever since.

english pear wild freesia cologneWith her latest release, English Pear & Wild Freesia, Jo manages to create a scent that is unmistakably feminine and floral, without packing the potpourri-punch.  I think the juicy notes of pear and citrus give this perfume a more youthful twist, while still delivering the delicate, romantic notes of rose and lily.  English Pear & Wild Freesia also surprises you as it unfolds over time, revealing a “warm” balance that makes it the perfect scent for cold weather.  Subtle woodsy notes of amber and musk transform this floral perfume from a standing-in-a-field-of-wildflowers experience to a walk-through-an-orchard-on-a-crisp-fall-day experience.   Although perfume wear varies with differently body chemistry, I can assure you that this is not your grandma-ma’s perfume.

Perhaps the best part of the Jo Malone cologne line is its flexibility.  By combining any of her 20 colognes, you can truly customize your scent this fall.  When looking for a fresh but feminine scent, I pair English Pear & Wild Freesia with with Orange Blossom.  If I’m headed out and looking to spice it up for evening, adding a light mist of the woody, juicy notes of Pomegranate Noir or the musky, citrus notes of Grapefruit does the trick.  And when I’m looking for a sweet, comforting scent that feels like a cozy, warm blanket by the fire with a cup of tea, my go-to scent is Jo’s Vanilla & Anise (alone, although it is fabulous with just about anything!).

This season, Jo Malone has released a fabulous Cologne Holiday Sampler gift set for $95, if you’re interested in trying out her line.   The 2010 set has been updated to include a small Vanilla & Anise and Orange Blossom, which is an huge bonus over last year’s set and gives you six fabulous colognes to play with.  So go ahead and experiment… there’s no need to commit to just one.

What is your favorite winter scent?

Hot Gifts for Under $30

 - by Mama Maintenance

Despite the dozens of times I exclaim “what a great gift idea!” when shopping throughout the year, I struggle to remember a single one of these ideas when I actually need them.  Here are a some of my fave finds under $30 that I think deserve an honorable mention this holiday season.

A Rather Novel Fragrance Pencil, $10 – Anthropologie


These fabulous solid perfume pencils come in six different tea-inspired scents.  Be your taste spicy, fruity, or fresh, there is sure to be a pencil that suits your fancy.   Perfect to stash in the console of your car for last minute “freshening up” or in your DOB case for a TSA-approved on-the-go perfume, these sticks make a great little pick-me-up gift and stocking stuffer!


12 Noon to Midnight Festive Beverages, $8-10  & Whole Foods (and other gourmet grocery stores)

12 bevAlthough I’ve never met a bottle of wine I’d turn away, sometimes it can feel a little tricky to give as a gift.  12 Noon to Midnight has created two unique and festive “culinary beverages” made up of blends of organic teas, herbs, spices, and exotic fruit juices that are guaranteed to make your taste buds party.  Serve it as-is as a classy and unique refreshment, or sass it up by using 12 Noon to Midnight as a mixer for your cocktails.  Yum!!


Personalized Notebook Trio, $15 –

PERSONALIZED NOTEBOOKSI love notebooks and journals.  Mind you, I don’t actually “journal”, but I’m a list-making, note-taking, information-exchanging fiend.  This beautiful trio of notebooks is as lovely, as it is both thoughtful and useful.  For a mere $15, you can personalize all three notebooks with names, subjects, and more with vintage flair.

Stay On Wine Glass Coasters, $24 –


Although a quick look at our coffee table will tell you that we don’t use these, I still love them.  Adorable and useful at the same time, these felt coasters fit over the bottom of your wine glass to guarantee that your surfaces are protected while adding a cheerful burst of color.  Available in a huge palette of colors and sold in sets of 4, these coasters also double as wine tags.



Upside Down Kitchen Apron, $30 –

There’s nothing more annoying than having to stop to think about how many ounces there are in a fluid cup or how much pasta to toss into the pot, mid-recipe.  And with this handy apron, you won’t have to anymore.  UPDWN APRON1A fun and helpful gift for cooks at all levels, the Upside Down Kitchen Apron lists common conversions, abbreviations, and helpful tips like cook times for vegetables, roasting guidelines for chicken and turkey, how long to boil eggs, instructions on how to check a steak for doneness, and more.




DIY Photo Gift Tags, $15 –

photo tag

I’m a total sucker for personalized paper products.  There’s just something so fun about giving (and receiving) a gift that has a personal touch to it.  For $15, you can make a set of photo gift cards that are personalized with text.  Think about how darling your child’s art, a family photo, or a silly snapshot could make your next gift! 



Custom Sigg Water Bottles, $24-28 –

Everybody can use water bottles.  Available in .6 L and 1 L sizes, Sigg stainless steel bottles are BPA free, reusable, and fully recyclable.  This is just a screaming deal, in my opinion.  I think I paid over $20 for my daughter’s Hello Kitty Sigg bottle.  I would have much rather created her a custom one for about the same price!  The Café Press bottle-designing interface makes creating a custom bottle both easy and fun.  The flexibility is amazing.  You can upload graphics, add text, adjust size, rotate, drag and drop position, add shapes, borders, fill, and adjust colors.


Keychain Kisses Trio, $15 – or B.E. Stores

BE KEYCHAIN KISSESHonestly, one can never have too many lip glosses.  Especially since half the time, your favorite shade is in your other purse.  Why not make sure that you always have one on-hand by snagging this adorable trio of keychain glosses?   The neutral palette is complimentary to any complexion, and made up of 100% natural ingredients. 





Silicone Trivet/Bowl, $20 – 

trivet bowlWith my kitchen drawers brimming full of doodads and gadgets, I love finding a new kitchen tenant that can both store flat, and serve double duty.  Enter: this Swedish-designed trivet with silicone-covered metal edges that actually fold up to make a bowl when not in hot-pot-handling use – brilliant!





Grape Wood Tillandsia Garden, Starting at $15 –

GRAPE WOOD TILLANDSIAI have a virtual black thumb.  Despite my best efforts, plants don’t stand much of a chance in my house.  My latest fascination has been with these air plants, however…  Believe it or not, these plants don’t require a speck of soil to grow, which allows you to grow these tiny, funky plants on virtually anything!   Simply mist with water a couple of times a week to maintain… they’re pretty amazing.  These unique grapevine arrangements are sure to spark conversation whether they’re hanging on a wall or dressing up your coffee table.





Do you have a great idea under $30?