The Power of the Tutorial

By: Elizabeth Webber Akre

Years ago, my sister presented me with a sushi making kit. At the time, sushi wasn’t mainstream like it is today. I’d never eaten it and really couldn’t envision myself ever eating it. Back then, all anyone (around here) knew about sushi was that it was raw fish. Of course, now we all know that raw fish is just one element of the sushi scene. But back in the day when sushi was still a mysterious unknown, my sister just bought me the kit because it contained cute little dishes.
The dishes are truly adorable and I’ve used them tons of times when serving Asian meals, but it wasn’t until recently when I was up on a step ladder, straightening up my cabinet, that I saw the rest of the set. I had totally forgotten about the fact that the dishes belonged to a sushi kit until I saw those two sushi mats, still in their packaging. I just stared at them for a few minutes, trying to understand how I could have possibly looked right past them all this time and not even realized they were there. As I snapped out of my confused reverie, I jumped on my computer to begin seeking out recipes and instruction. I became determined to learn and master rolling my own sushi.

After doing some research, watching videos and reading, I assembled the ingredients I wanted. I made the sushi rice, sliced avocados, slightly steamed and sliced carrots, julienned cucumbers and then I practiced. My first roll was a disaster…way too much rice. My next two attempts were not only much better looking and more tightly rolled, but tasty too. I felt I had reached a successful enough level to present my efforts to my family. I picked up my 8-year-old from day camp and told her about my practice runs. Instantly, she exclaimed, “Oh Mommy, I want to roll one too! I watched a tutorial!” I nodded my head and mumbled something like “Sure, you can help” as I reflected on the process and what I thought she could really do.

Big mistake. I believe the proper description of what I’d just done was to grossly underestimate my child and the power of the tutorial. Turns out, with the right teacher and the right student, a video tutorial can be quite effective. I insisted that she stand by as my assistant so I could show her how it’s done. After all, I’d been practicing all morning while she was at camp. Surely there was much she could learn from me! All the while, she kept repeating that she’d watched a tutorial. “Let me do one Mom. Let me do it myself.” So, I gave off one of my signature exasperated sighs as I stepped back, my palms up and my “Fine, you’ll see!” attitude, and let her take the reigns.

Even adding a swipe of wasabi

Even adding a swipe of wasabi

Arranging her ingredients

Arranging her ingredients

This baby-o-mine stepped up to the counter, spread the rice on top of the nori, arranged her cucumbers, carrots and avocado and began to roll. SHE ROLLED A PERFECT CALIFORNIA ROLL. I mean, it was perfect. It was tight, the ingredients were grouped together well, the rice stayed put. It was beautiful. It was way better than mine. I realized that my 8-year-old just spanked me after watching one tutorial. I was impressed.

Vivian’s California Roll

Vivian’s California Roll

My crab roll

My crab roll

The fruits of our labor

The fruits of our labor

The moral of this story is clear. I need to quit assuming that only I can teach her. I now know that she doesn’t necessarily need to watch and hear my instructions over and over and over again. And those video tutorials are certainly more valuable than I ever really gave them credit. I had watched several of them myself, but my daughter only needed one. And, she obviously has the knack for sushi rolling!

Elizabeth writes “Gastronomy (by a Wanna-be Chef)” which details her family’s adventures in eating, drinking and being merry. Follow on Facebook and on Twitter.


The Simple Life

By: Lydia Scott

I remember my daddy as if we’d just finished grits and eggs at the kitchen table this morning. If we could find a clear spot on the table, that is. My daddy was his own boss who ran a successful insurance, estate, and financial planning business here in Columbia for decades. Most of that time he worked from home, and the kitchen table was his favorite spot to bury himself in his paperwork and phone calls, much to the chagrin of my slightly neat-obsessed mama.Me and Daddy

The kitchen table was positioned in front of a large sliding glass door that led out to the six-foot-high cement patio, and overlooked our tree-riddled backyard and our 2.5 acre squarish pond. He had our pond built when I was 8 years old, and it’s now one of several on Rimer Pond Road in Blythewood. Before the pond, that space was a mucky swamp, home to many rattlesnakes. But Daddy transformed it into a beautiful watery oasis, stocked with bass, bream, catfish, and carp. Nature made sure to move in turtles, herons, bullfrogs, dragonflies, and countless woodland creatures who came to drink and socialize. Daddy loved that pond, and being able to look out at it every day gave him a lot of happiness amongst his disheveled stacks of papers and waiting problems.

My father was an overall-wearing, corny joke-telling, poetry-writing, Bible-teaching, problem-solving, engine-diagnosing, sales genius; a 6-foot, 2-inch, 270-pound, booming baritone-voiced, oak tree of a man. And by oak tree, I mean that he embraced people, sheltered people, stood his ground on his beliefs, and influenced people far and wide. A devoted Jehovah’s Witness minister for his entire adult life, he ran against the grain by studying all he could about all other religions, and refusing to shun his family when they didn’t do what the religion said was right. He taught me that I have to get on other people’s levels if I want to reach their hearts, and that meant I had to understand their thinking.

When my teenage stupidity took hold and led me to do something rude or senseless, he got mad, yes. But he would also calmly ask me, “What were you thinking that led to your decision to do that?” And not in the “you’re an idiot” kind of way (most of the time). He genuinely tried to understand the process that had occurred in my head just before I decided to do something dumb. And it would make me CRAZY!!! Because usually there wasn’t really a thought process, which was why I did something dumb. (Duh, Daddy!) But it made me stop and think, and helped me stay on a better path.

me and daddyMy daddy should have been a psychologist. He was a master at reading people and getting them to do things differently, and he was constantly fascinated with why people do the things they do. Which is why he was so good at sales. His downfall was that his expansive imagination meant you could sell him sand in a desert. He was always looking for the next big breakthrough and saw potential in just about everything.

Constantly brimming over with ideas and solutions, his mind was only quiet amongst the artistry of nature. He woke up before dawn every morning so he could bask in the quiet, therapeutic beauty of the little paradise he’d built at our edge-of-suburbia home. Nature often inspired him to write, as it did not long before he died on August 30, 2003:

The Simple Life

What is life?

Surely not just strife.

Can you see the smile

That will make everything worthwhile?

A child at play, having fun

A cat or dog, scampering in the sun

The cells of our brain may die

Our experiments in life may make us cry

We will not despair

About complex things, don’t care

Give me the Simple Things

My heart goes ka bump ka bump

Over a rich clammy soil clump

Soil that will make beautiful flowers grow

Among which fireflies will glow

A big bass jumps in the pond

To bait my hook I am so fond

To sit in the shade on the dam all day

To fish for fun, not something to eat, I pray

To laugh, to sing

And watch what a shower will bring

There goes a waterbug, a frog

But I’d rather sit than jog

Give me the Simple Things

I have everything I desire right here

For riches, for wealth, I won’t cheer

Give me the Simple Things

To love and care for others is best

To invite others to be our guest

Will give us renewed zest in our life

And chase away the blues and strife

Give me the Simple Life!

He used to joke that he’d be happiest going off out west and living in a cave on a mountain. I think he was only half-joking. He loved family and loved people, which meant they held power over his heart, and caused him a lot of pain. Always coming to him to fix their screw-ups, and he never turned any of them away. We often didn’t see much of Daddy because he was off helping someone right a wrong, fix an error, overcome an obstacle. He wasn’t a perfect man…sometimes his patience failed him and his words were especially harsh to an overly-sensitive, chubby little girl. Sometimes he wasn’t as approachable as he could have been, so we wrote him notes and left them on his bed pillow when we wanted something. He had a white belt nicknamed White Lightnin’ that he used on your behind if you were really out of line. I think I felt its sting only twice, being a people-pleasing below-the-radar type of kid. He had a weakness for sweets, and to this day, I get teary-eyed when I see a box of Hostess Raspberry Zingers and a six pack of Blenheim Ginger Ale.

Daddy was a simple man with a complicated life who was loved deeply by a ridiculous number of people. He died the way he had expressed would be worst for him: trapped inside a body unable to express anything in his mind or move anything on his own, even his eyelids. Life’s cruelest irony for him. Not one to be beaten down by anything, my sister, who was dozing in his room early on his last morning, says she heard him humming one of his many nameless tunes in the wee hours before dawn, his favorite time. Doctors said it had to have been a reflex, since he could not have done it willfully. But we all knew better. Just like I knew, a few days before when I told him the doctors’ prognosis that he could live in that state for years. I told him we knew he was the one in control and he could decide to stay or go, and the tears rolled down his cheeks. It was not a reflex. He was in control, like always.

And that last morning, he hummed an unknown tune in the dark before dawn, and took his last breath…his choice, his time…just the way he’d lived.

The Power of a Blender

By: Leah Prescott

BlenderMy favorite kitchen item by far is my Vitamix blender. If you know me at all, you know that I am thrifty (sometimes to a fault). So spending over $300 on a blender was a huge investment, but one that I don’t regret for a second. The Vitamix is a strong machine (blends ice with ease), quick to clean (water, a couple drops of soap and turn it on), and should last for years to come (it’s held up to nearly daily use for over two years without any issues for us). There are tons of reviews of the Vitamix online so instead of describing the quality and features of the machine, I want to detail how my family uses the Vitamix to make our kitchen routine healthier, easier and faster! It’s truly revolutionized my kid-friendly daily menu and has taken a lot of the stress out of meal planning for me, which is why it’s a family must-have in my book.*


Of course, smoothies are our main use for the blender, although it has many more functions. We have smoothies nearly every day during the warm weather.

If there is any left over, I pour them into reusable popsicle molds and we have treats at theready for tomorrow. Fortunately, my kids are not picky eaters, but smoothies are still a quick, delicious and healthy way of packing in fruits, veggies, and even protein. Besides being a classic picky eater solution, smoothies are a great way to use up leftovers or over-ripe fruit, make an easy breakfast on the go, or provide a way to boost the health quotient of a meal. As an example, on a day I am trying to throw together a quick dinner, I often serve something easy like ham and eggs or omelettes. Adding a smoothie makes it fun for the kids and I feel better that the meal is more rounded. On a day that dinner will be running a bit late, I can hand them a smoothie to tide them over while I am doing last minute prep. If we are having leftovers or a meal that is not a favorite, I will add a smoothie and, as if by magic, the meal is greeted with sudden enthusiasm! Seriously, the kids never get tired of them! A few times we have had children over with dietary restrictions or texture issues and having smoothies in my arsenal has been a life-saver.


We also use our blender to make hummus, soup, pesto, apple sauce, mixed adult drinks, and iced coffees. I have a list of additional recipes I would love to try but just haven’t gotten around to it. Once the colder weather creeps in again, I will experiment more with soups.

So for our family, yes, a Vitamix has been money well-spent! Here are a couple of our favorite recipes, tweaked to make them dairy-fee for our family.


Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie

  • 2-3 bananas
  • 1-1.5 cups Chocolate Almond Milk
  • ¼ cup Peanut Butter
  • Squirt of honey, or sprinkle of raw sugar (optional)
  • Ice as needed

Add ingredients in order listed, using enough ice to nearly fill the canister. Blend until smooth, using the tamper to push ingredients into blades.

Tropical Delight

  • 2-3 bananas
  • 1 can pineapple with juice
  • ½ cup water
  • Handful of frozen mixed fruit
  • Squirt of honey or raw sugar (optional)
  • Handful of fresh spinach (optional)
  • Ice as needed

Add ingredients in order listed, using enough ice to nearly fill the canister. Blend until smooth, using the tamper to push ingredients into blades.

* When researching blenders, I was also very impressed with the Blendtec blender. I think it is comparable to the Vitamix. For a budget-friendly blender, I would consider the Ninja if a Vitamix or Blendtec is completely out of the question.

My Favorite Word

By: Lara Winburn

I don’t know about you but there are a lot of words that are off limits in my world these days. No, not those kinds of words that get bleeped out on a reality show. Some words I have eliminated are fairly harmless, but to keep my sanity I have tapered the use of them. Words like C-A-N-D-Y. One mention of that sugary goodness and it is all I will hear about for the next 47 minutes. I also have had to eliminate words that may not be that bad but you don’t really want to hear parroted back at you from that precious three-year-old mouth. You know, words that your mom may not want to hear you say, even though you are allegedly grown. Phrases like, like “this sucks” or “well, that’s stupid” are perfectly legitimate and not “really” profane, but are less than lovely all the same.

So I have come to embrace words that I can freely use in my house – words that serve many purposes but will not cause embarrassment when used by my child at daycare. There are many words I like to use. Obviously, if you read what I write, you have discovered I can be quite wordy. But I wanted to share with you my favorite word in all of its versatile glory and good news. It only has three clean letters. Ladies and gentlemen, (okay, gentleman as my husband is probably my one male reader) my favorite word is: W-O-W.


Wow! Wow. Wow. (Which sometimes may be pronounced more like wow-a.)

Now at first you might think that there is only one use of this word.

Wow: An exclamation of surprise, wonder, pleasure, or the like. Example: Giant hot air balloon sails over your house. “Wow! Did you see the size of that balloon?” Yes, that is your run of the mill everyday use of this little word but you are missing out if you have not considered other ways this word may serve you with a little tone adaptation.

Wow: A realization of what your life has become. Example: You look down and realize that is not chocolate smeared on your hand after a big diaper change. “Oh wow, how long has that been there?” Now it is pronounced with a little more desperation and defeat – wow.

Wow: Exasperation. In other words, you have got to be kidding me. When used in this form and tone, it can pack a mighty punch. Example: Someone in front of you at the grocery store has 7,310 items in the 10 items or less lane. “Wow, you have quite a few groceries.” They may misinterpret you at first but with proper delivery they will definitely get your meaning. This is also a good use of the word when the words in your head are not daycare approved.

Wow: Expresses true disbelief. Example: A good friend gets a really drastic haircut or you are walking the beach and you realize just about anybody can wear a bikini. ”Wow.” No more words needed. Just wow. As mentioned before, in Off the Hook, this can be a good wow or a bad wow. Sometimes it just needs clarifying.

I hope this little word can serve you as well as it has served me. (And if you hear me say it in your presence, I am sure it is just an exclamation of surprise…. unless you have had a drastic hair cut.)

What words do you use in this tiny-ears-hear-and-repeat–every-word world some of us live in?

A Heartwarming Serenade on Aisle 7

By: Shannon Shull 

SerenadeI’ve discovered that I have a tendency to attract older men. And when I say older men, I’m talking Grandpa “older.” I’ve had random marriage proposals, excessive hand kissing, and yes, even serenades.

Now let me clarify – I’m no model. Like most women, I require a lot of extra effort to look what I would call “presentable,” or even anywhere near the “hot” category. As I always say…”to each his own.” What one person would consider incredibly attractive, another person could have zero interest in. That’s one of the joys of human nature!

But I’m wondering if maybe that whole pheromones thing isn’t true. And if it is, then apparently I put off pheromones when I’m certainly not trying, when I’m around older fellas, and when I (quite honestly) look my worst! Frankly, I don’t get it!

Most recently when I was surprised by the flirtations of a couple of older gents, I literally had on NO make-up, had done zero hair maintenance, and was wearing a t-shirt, leggings and sneakers. No lie.

I’m wondering if it’s not a case of the universe and God bringing me a smile when I most need it… some sincere compliments from a trusting, older, more mature soul that will leave me with a warm heart instead of making me feel like an object.

My Aunt tells me that older men are not too shy to do sweet things for what they consider truly beautiful women inside and out. Well, whatever it is, whether there’s a real explanation for it or not, I will take it! Some friends may say it’s creepy, nothing but dirty old men. But I choose to differ – at least when it comes to my encounters thus far. I personally like to think better of people. Yes, I tend to be naïve – I have all my life. But daggomit, I’d rather think the best of someone instead of jumping to the worst.

So….yes, I was literally serenaded on aisle 7 in Walmart the other day. With my hair in a wind-blown, messy pony tail, sneakers, and an outfit that looked like I’d just finished a sweaty aerobics class (sadly I had not!). I was there to dash in, take advantage of the deals, do my grocery shopping, and dash out. And did I mention, I had ZERO make-up on!?! In fact, I was also totally munching on a Chick-fil-A sandwich as I was grocery shopping too! I was not what I would call sight worthy of being serenaded. But to my surprise, this old, precious fella – I’m guessing in his 70-80s or even older – was suddenly right at my cart, holding on to steady himself, and softly speaking words of stunning sweetness. At first, I honestly thought that maybe he had some form of dementia and wasn’t sure where he was, who he was and/or who he was talking to. But he continued with his sweet words and then low and behold, he literally started singing to me. Softly, but loud enough that when other folks walked by, they just smiled. (I’d love to know what they wondered was going on!) And he had a lovely voice – singing classics by Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. I was very proud that I actually knew most of the songs he was singing, which of course, prompted him to sing more.

Was it awkward? Well, sure. But was there a total loveliness about the sweet moment? Heck yes. He continued to sing as he adjusted the hearing aids in both his ears. He sang on, in close proximity, a little too close for comfort, but I instilled a level of forgiveness for that. There was a moment when I thought, “oh my, how am I going to continue my shopping and get this endearing old dude away from me?”

I was saved by a phone call from his cell phone. It was his wife asking where he was. Naturally he talked very loudly into the phone and she reciprocated the loudness because I could hear their entire conversation. She questioned his whereabouts and declared she was at the check out and he better come on. He replied, telling her that he was busy serenading a beautiful woman on the aisle with the hot sauces. Her response was, “well, invite her home and tell her we’ve got an extra bed!” I thought I would croak! I just stood there giggling like an idiot. As he continued jabbering with her on the phone, I realized this was my moment of escape, so I patted his shoulder, said “Bless you,” and thanked him for making my day.

The very next day, I was in the gas station grabbing an early morning cup of coffee, looking pretty much the same as I did the day before, just with a different t-shirt and this time with my hair clipped into a sloppy low bun. I got in line to pay for my coffee behind an older gentleman who looked like he was about to embark on a long, hard day of work and the fella told the clerk that he insisted on paying for the lady’s coffee too. I was shocked and quickly reciprocated with a “Bless you! Thank you so much!” His response was “I like to make it a habit to pay for a beautiful lady’s coffee.” …..O….K…. well, I’ll take that. Not sure what he meant by that but hey, I still took it as a compliment. Why not, right? I again said thank you and that he had made my day. It totally made my day.

Between that experience and the serenade experience the day before, it was, quite honestly, just nice to be noticed and complimented. And I like to believe that an older man can have a better appreciation for a good woman. Not true in every case, of course! But, as a lady having a really hard time with the fact that she will be turning 40 all too soon, I’m sorry, but I’m not gonna turn down compliments or moments like these with older gents who bring a smile to my face and warm my heart.

Now if they start getting frisky, don’t worry, I’ll jack-slap them and be the tough Southern woman that won’t take no garbage! But as long as the old gents keep putting on sincere air of genuine kindness, I will gladly welcome and take the sweet moments that boost my self-confidence. 🙂

Plum Crisp

By: Brady Evans

I did a weird thing the other day.  I was given a bunch of plums and instead of immediately stalking my favorite blogs for recipes, I whipped out a cookbook.  Plum CrispSpecifically, I started browsing Betty Crocker’s “New Cookbook” which is far from new and up to date.  It had not one recipe for plums or crisps, but I adapted a recipe written for peach cobbler to make this delicious dessert.

Not only did I change the fruits and types of fats out (peaches and plums are similar enough, right?) but I also added oats in place of extra flour in the topping. Brief research indicates that this difference makes the pivotal change that causes the dessert to be a crisp and not a cobbler.

The result, regardless of the name, was mighty delicious.  The deep purple plums made for quite a striking dessert to look at as well.

Plum Crisp (inspired by Betty Crocker’s Fresh Peach Cobbler)


  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 T cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 4 cups sliced plums
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 3 T butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup milk


  1. Heat over to 400 degrees F.
  2. Mix 1/2 cup sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon in a 2 quart saucepan and stir in plums and lemon juice.
  3. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Once boiling, cook and stir 1 minute.
  4. Pour plum mixture into an ungreased 2 quart oven safe dish.
  5. Combine flour, oats, salt, sugar, and baking powder in a medium bowl.
  6. Cut butter into flour mixture using a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.
  7. Stir in milk.
  8. Drop by spoonfuls onto hot plum mixture.
  9. Bake 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.

Learning Lovely Letters at First Thursday on Main!

By: Sydney Yarbrough

When I heard about the opportunity to take a calligraphy class with Stefanie Stroman, I was ecstatic. I remember back in elementary school when my friends and I would compete to see who could write their name the prettiest. Flash forward to today and calligraphy is everywhere from envelopes to business logos! I’ve always wanted to learn the art of calligraphy, so I was excited that there is now a chance to learn here in Columbia.

Learning calligraphy

The class took place at First Citizen’s Café during their monthly First Thursday event. Our class was small, which was great because it allowed us to all chat and help each other. It also allowed our instructor, Stefanie, to walk around and give each of us individual instruction. She was extremely helpful in teaching us technique and answering all of our questions.

Learning calligraphy

I have to talk about her decorations, because the details were fabulous! There was lots of gold and glitter, which was consistent throughout the entire class. We also had some patriotic themed cupcakes for an early 4th of July celebration!

Learning calligraphy

She equipped us with everything we needed to get started- a practice notepad, as well as calligraphy writing supplies (pen staff, nibs, and ink). I loved that even though we were learning modern calligraphy, we were still using the traditional technique of dipping the pens into the ink. She also gave us an easy to follow instruction booklet that took us through the entire alphabet!

Learning calligraphyThe class was two hours long and was so relaxing. I was amazed to find how meditative the art of calligraphy actually is! And, to my surprise, I wasn’t terrible at it! Stefanie also supplied us with some recommended reading and resources to further research advanced calligraphy. I can’t wait to learn more about it!

Learning calligraphy


I highly recommend taking this class. It would be a great activity for a Girls’ Night Out or even if you’re just looking to try something new!

Learning calligraphy

Interested in taking Calligraphy 101? The next class is August 7th at First Citizens Café! You can visit the Stroman Studios Etsy Shop for more information and to sign up for your class! 

Credit: All of the amazing photos in this blog courtesy of Sarah Christmus Photography! (Thanks, Sarah!) 


Christmas in July

By: Leah Prescott

Christmas in JulyI am not sure who started the “Christmas in July” trend. I assume it was some kind of retailer just looking to boost their summer sales, but I’d like to go on record by formerly endorsing Christmas in July as a fantastic idea. By mid-summer things are really heating up here in South Carolina; kids are getting bored, mamas are getting cranky. December is a season that many of us look forward to all year long, but the holidays can also be a remarkably stressful time for many families. Using July as a time to plan ahead for the holidays is a great way to keep the angst down and enjoy the Peace & Joy once December actually rolls around. Here are some ways I am hoping to make this happen for my family:

  1. Organize Gift Lists. Many of you true planners started doing this in January and I commend you (and sort of hate you). For the rest of us, there is still time to get great deals on thoughtful gifts without wandering the aisles of Target in a panic on December 23rd. (Not that I’ve ever done that.) Check out The Christmas Gift List (free in the App Store) if you want a countdown to December 25th while also keeping track of what you have or have not purchased. If you have a gift in mind and want to find a deal, try setting up a free account at where you can set deal alerts for keywords such as “Tickle Me Elmo” or “Cabbage Patch Doll.” The website will email you when these words appear in posts compiled from contributors across the web. No excuses for throwing together last minute baskets of bath and body products or handing someone a gift card with a bow on it. Unless that’s what you really want to buy them, in which case, by all means go ahead.
  2. Budget your time, ahead of time. If your goal for the holidays is to run around like a chicken with its head cut off, then full speed ahead. I can give you home videos of me circa 2008 for tips. But if you’d prefer to have a softer, slower holiday, there are steps you can take to keep things a little more laid back. Start by making a list of goals for the holidays. Rather than focus on tasks to be accomplished, think about the overall picture you want to create. My list includes things like: more quality time with family, less focus on “stuff,” sharing meals with neighbors, visiting friends, giving to those in need. When creating your list, you may realize there are things that should be dropped from your yearly agenda. Holiday cards are fun, but if making and sending them is cutting into family time, this might be the year to share a Facebook greeting and let the snail mail slide. No one will judge you. Or at least they shouldn’t.
  3.  It’s always Christmas on Pinterest. My point is, if you want to make everyone on your list a Mason Jar Snow globe, or create elaborate holiday decorations from coffee filters, or finally bake the perfect carrot cake from scratch (this is the one you want- AMAZING) now is the time start pinning those recipes and tutorials. It’s such a bummer when the ideal project idea pops up on Instagram on December 26th and you realize that you should have made it. I am just trying to spare you this pain! This past year we made a lot of crafts for friends and family members and it was so much fun. The fact that we started early kept it stress-free. I tell myself, if I start pinning ideas now, it will give me time to shop for supplies, conduct a trial run, and accommodate all the mistakes and miscalculations I will undoubtedly encounter. If you’d like projects that the kids can help create, take a look at
  4. Pre-post-holiday Dieting. That’s right, I mean eat healthy now. Rather than facing the holidays with pounds to lose, why not get ahead of the game by changing up your eating habits or adding a new exercise class to beat the January blues before they happen? There is plenty of time to make progress towards improving your health, and you’ll have yet another reason to celebrate once the party season starts. Once you have made progress it will be easier to moderate over the holidays. I started a new diet a few months ago and I am determined not to let things slide, so that I can have control going into November. I have used and the My Fitness Pal App. It combines calorie counting with social media to help you meet diet and fitness goals. I have had great luck with it in the past and you can get your friends to join you, making it fun like Facebook (well, sort of).

In December 2013 I made a radical (and fairly spontaneous) decision NOT TO SHOP over the holiday season. I realized that my hobby of recreational shopping was cutting into time with my kids, putting stress on my relationship with my husband and jeopardizing our budget as well. December seemed like the perfect time to put all that aside and really focus on the true meaning of this special season. It was hard for me to stop shopping and there were some tricky logistical issues (did I forget my sister’s wedding was in January? Hello, shoes, gifts, accessories?). But I definitely achieved my goal of having less stress, less spending, and less focus on STUFF, and the results were much better than I imagined. The bottom line is, for our family, a December without shopping was a great choice. I’m not suggesting that everyone quit shopping in December. Instead I am saying that you can take control of the holidays by changing the game plan. You can write the story you want to tell next year and now is the time to start.

Only 162 days to go!

LMC Celebrates 20th Anniversary of Doula Program

Lexington Medical Center has a history of innovative firsts for women’s services. It was the first hospital in the Midlands to allow husbands in the delivery room, give epidurals
and offer Doulas to women in labor. In fact, Lexington Medical Center is celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Doula program this year!

A doula is a birth coach who offers mothers comfort and reassurance during labor and delivery. In 1994, Lexington Medical Center began an innovative Doula program that was the first-of-its-kind in the Southeast. The program has received national recognition and serves as a benchmark for programs around the country. Thanks to support from the Lexington Medical Center Foundation and its donors, Doulas are a free service for any woman having a baby at Lexington Medical Center.

“Lexington Medical Center’s Doulas have been invaluable to the women of the Midlands,” said Nydia Harter, MSN, RN, NEA, BC, director of Nursing at Lexington Medical Center. “Over the past 20 years, they have supported thousands of women and families during one of the most important times of their lives – the birth of their babies.”

Doulas are experienced professionals who undergo training specific to assisting pregnant women and newborns. In addition to understanding the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of women in labor, Doulas also facilitate communication between parents-to-be, help prepare birth plans and provide information about birth and delivery options. Postpartum Doulas offer education, support and assistance to the new family. A Doula brings much-needed confidence to a new mother through breastfeeding support and advice, newborn care and assistance with household duties.

The Lexington Medical Center Foundation sponsors the hospital’s Doula program. LMC’s Doula program is based on the highest standards of care set by Doulas of North America (DONA), the largest doula association in the world.

Lexington Medical Center’s innovative Doula program has earned the prestigious Annie Kennedy Award from DONA. The award recognizes LMC Doulas for excellence and dedication to their community as well as growth and teamwork in their program.



Lexington Medical Center has 16 Doulas on staff and almost half of the Doulas have been with LMC for ten years or more. Since the LMC Doula program began, it has assisted more than 8,400 families.

Lexington Medical Center will recognize Lexington Medical Center’s past and present Doulas at a special reception on July 29th on the hospital campus. Former Doulas can contact the Lexington Medical Center Foundation at 791-2540 for more information on the event.


To learn more about LMC’s Doula program, visit this link on the hospital’s website,, or Lexington Medical Center’s Facebook page.

For information on training to become a doula, visit

Better At The Beach

By: Lara Winburn

I recently read a satirical article from The Onion about how a vacation for a mom Beach vacationis really just the same old chores in a new locale. I have also heard many moms say “it is not a vacation, it is just a trip.” Though I agree with some of these observations, last week I was pleasantly surprised by the benefits of a beach vacation/trip that are often overlooked.

There was a definitely a time when my trip to the beach entailed multiple books, the latest celebrity gossip magazine, and not a care in the world. With children, as many of you know, that has all changed. However, I am not going to wax on about the tan, napping beach bum I once was. This year, I discovered something new. I noticed a few differences from our regular routine that I was particularly thankful for. We might be getting better at doing the beach.

  1. On the beach, there is nothing to climb. There are no ladders, slides, straight back chairs, or (even in the case of my one-year-old) coffee tables that one can venture on top of and proceed to fall off of. Except for maybe a low-riding beach chair, there was nothing for my adventurous toddler to climb. On the glorious sandy beach, I was not constantly “at the ready” to catch someone falling. I got a break from being full time “spotter.”
  2. After a trip to the beach, hosing your children off outside is not only accepted, it is expected.  An outdoor shower at our beach house was the only cleaning our kids got the entire time. There have been many times when I have looked at the kids after an afternoon in the backyard and wished I could avoid dragging their little dirty selves inside. You know, I wanted to “hose them off in the yard.”  But here, in Columbia, outdoor showers are rare and hosing them off seems a little pet- like (and may be against a city ordinance for all I know.)  At the beach, there may be sand, sunscreen and saltwater, but there is also outdoor showers. Suds up in the great outdoors and track nothing in for mom to clean up later.
  3. Beach play often equals very heavy sleeping. (Steady-breathing, possible-slobber kind of sleep.) We didn’t have a strict schedule at the beach, but when it was time to sleep it was some serious REM. Those little legs had carried the kids back and forth to the ocean to the sand castle back to the ocean again all day long. My husband said he thought our three-year-old walked miles on the same stretch of sand back and forth, but at the end of the day, her tired and clean (from the outdoor shower) self SLEPT.

So, I may not be the tan, well read or well rested beach girl I once was. Kids or not, my beach days were changing.  I have become more worried about sunscreen than tan lines. I worry more about what imperfections a bathing suit covers than the any assets it might have accentuated. But there are the things that I have and still embrace about being on the coast. On a beach trip, I still love salt air, no make-up, freckles popping up, and food tasting better than it does at home – whether it is a PBJ or fried shrimp. I maintain that the beach brings out the kid in most of us. I am happy to daydream and stare at the water, dig my feet in the sand, and even dig holes and build castles that I know will be washed away. With the discovery of these new beach perks and the constants of the beach I will ALWAYS enjoy, I think you will find me with my toes in the sand, watching kids play, and maybe even flipping through a gossip magazine before heading to the house to hose off and nap all together.