Momma Told Me: December 2013

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Momma's Top Movie Picks From 2013: Grab Your Popcorn

Must See Movies 2013
Momma Told Me: A good movie, like a good book, is a mini escape.

For me, 2013 was a film filled with cinema. Historically, it may not be one of the biggest Blockbusters in the record books, but I feel as though I have watched a far greater portion of the released films this year, than any of the recent years preceding. Because of this, I thought I'd put together a simple glimpse at my most worthy flicks to hit the Silver Screen this year. Before we continue, though, I should share a sort of Papa Told Me; for I get my taste in films from my father, rather than Momma. Sometimes in my teens I learned that the truest way to enjoy a film was to go in with an open mind, knowing as little as possible. This seems to enable me to absorb the complete experience, from storytelling style to casting ans message, much more clearly than when a film is over-saturated in advertising. Of course, you can't avoid all advertising, but this has certainly made me an equal-opportunity viewer of sorts; I can find value in most films- these are the ones I found most well rounded for their category:
The Great Gatsby- May 10, 2013- PG 13- Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey MaGuire, Isla Fischer, Joe Edgerton

It's doubtful I'd have to tie this film to it's literature roots though, sadly, most modern high school students are no longer required to give this tale a read. For those unfamiliar with the tale, this story revolves around a Midwestern war veteran who finds himself captivated with the lavish, and extremely mysterious, lifestyle of his Millionaire neighbor (Gatsby). Consider the film an 7/10 accurate adaptation of the literature inspiration, and a very abbreviated version at that. Expect it to feel like a fairly quick paced watch full of beautifully vivid period costumes and parties, with a poignant ending familiar fans and new viewers will appreciate.
Monster's University Must See 2013
Monsters University- June 21, 2013- G - Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Helen Mirren

If you've managed not to see this film as of yet you likely don't have kids or have been living under a rock. In the case you still need some convincing, this prequel to Pixar's Monster's Inc, which took over 10 years to release is sure to captivate children of any age with it's riot of color and busy (albeit well done) computer animation. As an adult who favored the original film, I was reluctant to give this film a chance; it is truly a bit different in tone than the first, but the same in theme. Perhaps what makes this most enjoyable for everyone is the staggering amount of detail out into rendering the classic characters as their younger selves- there is always something new for your eye to catch. And, as an interesting twist, Sulley is actually the bad guy this time around; a lesson Sabrina (11) found especially meaningful.
About Time Must See Romance 2013
About Time: November 8, 2013- R- Rachel McAdams, Domhnall Gleeson, Billy Nighly

There were two things I loved about this film immediately; it was a romance film featuring Rachel McAdams (Time Traveler's Wife, The Notebook), and it was severely under-advertised. My media connections inform me this lack of big screen promotion is in part due to a Valentine's timed release of the film on DVD (date night, here we come!). In any case, the less you know about this quirky, real romance, film, the better. Yes, there is 'time travel,' which always helps us viewers connect through the reflection of our own lives as well, but it is done beautifully and with an unusually upbeat ending for a McAdams film. Fans of the actress may know that, while ultimately deeply romantic, her cinema adaptations can often be bittersweet; expect this to give you the fuzzies and still leave smiling.
Thor Sark World Must See 2013
Thor: The Dark World: November 8, 2013- PG 13- Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston

Since I gave this film a 'Must See' review here on the blog last month, many of you are likely tired of hearing about it. As someone who enjoys the Iron Man Marvel range, but could take or leave 'superhero' movies, the Thor franchise truly captured my heart with the 'human to God' romance between Natalie Portman's quirky character and easy-on-the-eyes Chris Hemsworth (as Thor). I enjoyed the first film, of 3, but the second was particularly satisfying for the stunning action sequences and special effects that successful peppered in a fast paced story with emotion and plenty of humor. Because it was so well rounded for an action/scifi flick, I found myself raving more than I wanted to admit about this 2013 Blockbuster. I saw it as an advance screening, and have since paid to see it again- it's that good.
We're The Millers Must See Comedy 2013
We're The Millers: August 7, 2013- R- Jennifer Aniston, Jason Sudeikis, Emma Roberts

I'd be willing to bet this was one of the biggest 'under the radar' films of 2013. With box office success in second run theaters, this film was sadly a victim of poor marketing. I recall watching the initial previews (maybe twice in theaters) and thinking it was a quirky offbeat film I'd catch on TV. I have never been quite so wrong in my judgement of a film. Make no mistake, We're The Millers is a jarring offbeat comedy of quirky content. However, 90% of my extended family, even 90 year-old Grandma Bea have seen this film and proclaimed it the 'Best Comedy of 2013'. I drug Jay to this on a whim and we spend an hour and a half grabbing the seat in front of us doubled in laughter, and the following months mentioning one-liners from the script. I've seen it 3 times in theaters (each time to a more packed audience), and praise this film for "Did they really just do that" writing and impeccable casting.
Clous Atlas Must See Rental 2013
Cloud Atlas: October 26, 2012- R - Halle Berry, Tom Hanks, Hugh Grant, Xun Zhou

When I began this list of 2013 films, one film in particular still haunted me from late 2012. Only familiar, briefly, with the literature it is based off of, Jay and I went into Cloud Atlas on Christmas of 2012. While this 172 minute film weaves the unique tales of 4 very different stories, across 4 very different reality planes, in a Tarantino fashion, the cinematography is stunning and the actors are captivating. If you are at all a fan of Crash (2004), you will appreciate the delicate way in which the characters tales are woven together to showcase the vulnerability and fluidity of the human spirit and an eerily pointed revolution that parallels modern day themes. Watch this movie on rental today, and own it for a lifetime.

What Daughter Says: Escape with one of the best films of 2013.

The Wired Piggy Dark Roast Bacon Burger Coffee Recipe #Shop

Cooking With Coffee #ChooseSmart #cbias #shop
Momma Told Me: Smarties know how to shop, but they also know how to cook with any ingredient.

I like to refer to Momma as a whiz in the kitchen. Raising a family on a shoestring budget, you have to get creative, or else it'll be boxed meals and frozen dinners. Not only did Momma know how to shop Smart & Final to take advantage of bulk pricing on her everyday ingredients, but she also knew how to prepare these dishes for 'freeze ahead' meals. And, in the unspeakable event that a second package of something was opened before the prior was finished, Momma knew how to coax the leftovers into an entirely new dish. However, cooking with coffee is something I first became familiar with through my German heritage, though, today, I use Momma's ingredient ingenuity to forge my own coffee recipes. Long before me, my European ancestors where using day old coffee as a substitute for water to infuse baked goods with extra moisture and flavor. Today, I #ChooseSmart ingredients, like coffee, our family can use for multiple dishes and drinks throughout the week.
In 2013 one of my most popular recipes infused freshly brewed coffee with molasses, vinegar, and mustard for an elevated Pork Chop dish many of my readers have since hailed as their favorite. Today I revisit the coffee and pork pairing to create another unique twist on a classic American favorite, the Steakhouse Hamburger. While we have 2 Keurig single cup brewers in our home now (thank you 2013 holidays), I never pass down the hot beverage aisle without picking up a package of ground coffee as well. Brands such as Ambiance, found at Smart & Final, offer a wide range of formatting, from single serve K-Cups to instant crystals and coffee grounds. They also offer a generous range of product sizing to help me save money on the roasts I use most. While we usually drink and cook with (liquid) coffee that is a darker roast, such as Ambiance French Roast, I prefer to use raw coffee grounds no higher than a medium blend. My reasoning for this, is that raw grounds will inherently be stronger in aroma and flavor than the liquid that is consequently brewed from them.
Coffee Glazed Bacon Ingredients #ChooseSmart #cbias #shop
Ambiance Coffee Smart & Final #ChooseSmart #cbias #shop
The secret to my Coffee Glazed Bacon Burger, now affectionately known as the The Wired Piggy, is all in the delightfully simple glazed bacon and quick fix roasted garlic aioli sauce.The Bacon craze has swept the nation, and our family is no exception; I served my father a handcrafted Bacon Rose Bouquet for his Father's Day this year, and I regularly make candies bacon for an especially sweet treat worth squealing over. One you know how to candy bacon in the oven, the rest is just piglet play! For this Dark Roast Candies Bacon recipe you only need a Medium Roast Ground Coffee such as Ambiance Ground French Vanilla, Molasses, Brown Sugar, a dash of Chipotle and Water. The secret is in the sticky, mud like, concoction you rub over your rack of bacon the night before baking it.
Dark Roast Coffee Glazed Bacon #ChooseSmart #cbias #shop
Coffee Glazed Bacon #ChooseSmart #cbias #shop
Worried about using raw coffee grounds on your food? Don't be! Cooking with fresh coffee grounds had been done in coffee recipes for centuries, and many people pay a pretty penny to enjoy chocolate dipped coffee and espresso beans raw- it's the same thing; we are simply using the flavor to highlight our food. Your Dark Roast Coffee Bacon paste will only be spread on the fat up, edges of your packaged bacon, as to create a thick crust; and you can always gently wipe off any extra, unwanted, coffee ground mixture. The molasses and brown sugar will act as a marinade and candying conduit when you put your separated bacon strips on a baking sheet and into an oven. Then it's just 10-12 minutes until smokey flavored coffee goodness! Just remember you're making this bacon to go with a burger, and try not to eat it all before it has a chance to hit the patty.
Garlic Fries #ChooseSmart #cbias #shop
Dark Roast Bacon Burger Ingredients #ChooseSmart #cbias #shop
To compliment my Dark Roast Glazed Bacon I made a simple Roasted Garlic Aioli consisting of olive oil mayonnaise, lightly roasted diced garlic, and lemon juice. This acted as my wet ingredient to cohesively hold the burger together and interact with the pepper-jack cheese. As a side I tossed some First Street 1/4" Shoestring Fries (frozen) in a garlic reduced olive oil and baked them in the oven for 15 minutes. When they came out I was sure to sprinkle a little garlic salt, and the spared garlic from my oil reduction for Fair Quality garlic fries. As with most dishes, when cooking with coffee, so not expect coffee to be the overwhelming flavor, but to act as an extraordinary spice that enhances flavor and brings new tastes together harmoniously.

The Wired Piggy Dark Roast Bacon Burger with garlic aioli and coffee glazed bacon is a delightfully refined steakhouse burger with a wonderful smokey flavor that has light citrus highlights and is very clean to eat. All the indulgence of an afternoon cup, without any of the caffeine! Best of all, you can stock up on your favorite blend of Ambiance coffee and be entered to win one of 10 Keurig Single Serve machines or 10 $100 SmartCash cards, beginning January 2nd! And be sure to follow the Smart & Final Facebook page where you'll also have the chance to win daily giveaways through January 15, 2014.

What Daughter Says: Work your favorite flavors into new cuisine to create surprising results with minimal skill.

The Wired Piggy Dark Roast Bacon Burger #ChooseSmart #shop #cbias
The Wired Piggy, Dark Roast Bacon Burger
****Click here for complete printable Coffee Bacon Burger recipe.


Coffee Glazed Bacon:

* 6 Slices Uncooked Packaged Bacon
* 1/4 C Ambiance Ground Coffee (Medium Roast)
* 1/2 TBS Chipotle Powder, or Chili Substitute IfI Heat Okay)
* 2TBS Packed Brown Sugar
* 2TBS Molasses
* 1 TBS Water

Roasted Garlic Aoili

* 1/3 C Olive Oil Mayonnaise 
* 3 TBS Minced Garlic Cloves
* 2 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
* 2 TBS Fresh Lemon Juice


*4 1/3lb Fresh Ground Beef Patties
* 4 Whole Wheat Buns
* Roasted Garlic Aioli (Recipe Below)
* 6 Strips Coffee Glazed Bacon (Recipe Below)
* 1 Head Butter Lettuce
* 4 Slices Pepper-Jack Cheese
* Salt and Pepper To Season Patty


1.) Remove strips of bacon from package without separating strips from one another. Cut down middle of bacon wedge to create two even portion. Combine Coffee Glazed Bacon Ingredients in a medium mixing bowl until a dark, sticky, paste is formed. Spread past generously in a thick layer across the (fat side up) edges of bacon. Wrap in parchment paper and place in a ziploc baggy, refrigerate 2 hours or overnight.

2.) While bacon is marinating, prepare Roasted Garlic Aioli. Place Olive Oil and Minced Garlic in a small saucepan and simmer over med-high heat for 3-4 minutes, until aromatic. Remove from heat and stir in mayonnaise and lemon juice. Add a pinch of pepper if desired. Refrigerate until burger is ready to be assembled.

3.) Preheat oven to 425F. Remove bacon from fridge and spread single strips about 2" apart on a lightly greased sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Place baking sheet in oven for 12-14 MINS until edges are crisped and bacon is desired texture. For candied bacon, bacon will continue to set once removed from oven- allow to cool entirely before serving.

4.) While bacon is cooling season burger patties and cook on grill to desired temperature. Lightly toast buns on grill prior to serving. Spread garlic aioli on top and bottom buns. Build burger from bottom up; bottom bun, aioli, fresh butter lettuce leaves, burger patty, pepper-jack cheese, coffee glazed bacon, aioli, top bun. Serve immediately and enjoy with a savory side such as garlic fries.

Nora Discovers Sasquatch! Pet Beds by @UniqueBeast- Unusually Versatile

Sasquatch! II Pet Bed
Momma Told Me: Function before face.

Nobody would dare argue that Nora isn't spoiled. She has a wardrobe to rival my own, complete with Winter wear and fashionable accessories, is sent far more treats than she could ever consume (the amount of treats I donate each month exceed her body weight), and could easily play with a different toy every day for a month. She is one of our two furbabies and we take care of our furry children just as well as we do the humans. That being said, not every pet purchase is a win, especially when dealing with small and medium breed dogs. Manufacturers seem committed to winning your money through novel design (patterns, fabrics, styling) or practical execution, but rarely both. We live in a 2BR condo and Nora had 5 pet beds; 1 for traveling and the car, 1 for the hot Summer months, 1 for 'in between baths', 1 for cold Winter weather, and 1 for luxury and photoshoots. Why can't we have one bed that seamlessly transitions through all of these activities?
Sasquatch! II Pet Bed
At first glance Sasquatch! pet beds are simply another cute novelty product for small breed dogs; modeled after kitschy 'Croc' style shoes, this 2'+ long giant shoe/sandal certainly is unique in appearance. And, with a variety of vibrant prints and interchangeable liners, they're easily attractive to the pet owner who likes to style their pets belongings to match their own. After all, it's hard to top the cute factor of a small dog sleeping in a giant shoe, right? But Sasquatch! is more than just another pretty face in the pet bed industry, they're Yeti and Sasquatch! beds are backed by a lifetime warranty that guarantees the shoe 'base' of this bed will never slide or scuff flooring. That's because it's made from a lightweight, and very durable, odor free, non-toxic, material that resembles the shoes they take after. And, with an entirely removable faux wool lining, the Sasquatch! pet bed can easily be torn down for cleaning or Summer use.
Sasquatch! II Pet Bed
Sasquatch! II Pet Bed
When we first got our Sasquatch! pet bed, for Nora, I was in love with the quirky appeal of a giant shoe bed, but soon found there were many reasons to favor this accessory over others. While having a cream lining is not my preference with pets, it is entirely removable for spot cleaning. Alternate patterns and materials of linings have been produced from time to time but are not sold online at this time. Unfortunately, this lining, which Sasquatch! calls the sock, seems to have shrunk just the smallest bit after removing it and soaking it entirely. Be sure to always air dry this material and only spot treat stains. While the sock easily reattaches to the bed, the top, embroidered, portion occasionally peels down as Nora shuffles about. I've since found myself wondering if/when the company will make replacement liners availible for sale, or in additional colors once again.
Sasquatch! II Pet Bed

As I mentioned, the Sasquatch! pet bed is very versatile; we have had a wild weather stretch this Winter ranging from 'Toss all the blankets on the bed' to 'Sleep on top of the blankets,' and I have been glad for it's transformation. Not only is the bed, without the liner, great for cooling down during warmer Summer months, but the shoe itself makes a great outdoor bed, and can easily be hosed down when needed. When it is cooler, Nora loves to curl up in the toe of the 'shoe' where she is surrounded by the warm sock material and can easily recycle her own heat. I've also noticed this is a particularly favorite spot for her to 'hide' her favorite toys and treats. While Nora can't type for herself, I assure you this is a favorite aspect of hers! Sasquatch! also offers customization options in the form of 'Poppers' that act as little foam tabs with letters, one can easily pop in and out of the holes on the front of these unique shoe beds.
Sasquatch! II Pet Bed
Nora is exactly 6lbs, and a little long for her breed, about 20" nose to tail, but still looks dwarfed by this giant shoe when she is curled up in the toe. She also enjoys the ample space to stretch out and uses the Sasquatch! designed 'rolled' heel as a ledge to rest her head when sleeping. Sasquatch! beds currently come in two sizes/styles the Sasquatch! II and Yeti, and can accommodate most breeds of dogs up to 18lbs, including Yorkies, Dachshunds, Jack Russels, and more. Cats are also particularly fond of curling up in the private toe of this unique bed, so be sure to buy one for each of your pets in a multi-pet home!

What Daughter Says: Sasquatch! is more than an unusual pet bed, it's a versatile accessory you and your pet are sure to love.

Undercooked Chicken And Undercooked Management- The Franchise Disconnect

Momma Told Me: If you put your name on it, it's your responsibility.

I suppose I should begin by saying, I don't always blog about negative customer service experiences because I generally believe that no one, especially a company who is represented by so many different faces, is perfect. In nearly every situation I think a brand or product should have a chance to redeem themselves, provided the customer offers criticism in a helpful manner. This being said, I have had two cases of raw poultry served to the public over the holiday season, one being on Thanksgiving Day (but that is a tale for another time). If you are a restaurant, ensuring proper food handling should be, at all times, your number one priority; whether you are the cook, or the manager, and even the server. There is nothing, I repeat, nothing more important than safe food handling, especially when your establishment deals with raw poultry. And, should an instance of undercooked poultry be brought to your establishment's attention, the information should be, in my opinion, handled with the highest of concern and immediate action.
undercooked chicken
Now, I suppose, I should share this particular tale of undercooked customer service- At the end of November, heading out to do some holiday shopping, Jay and I passed a restaurant building that had been abandoned for several years. There was a construction crew buzzing about and a freshly posted sign mentioning that a beloved restaurant chain would be arriving here soon. We only have one other competing restaurant nearby us, and have quite honestly given up on dining there altogether, so we were quite abuzz about this discovery. For weeks we drove by, hoping to see an opening date announcement, until, on December 21, we happened to notice the front doors were at last open. As it turns out, this was their second day in business, and we promptly made a beeline to enjoy the new restaurant.

The lack of opening announcement or advertising clearly impacted the turnout of customers, we were one of three tables seated in this over 50 booth restaurant, at dinnertime. While the staff far outnumbered the customers, an indication we should expect a flawless meal, we waited near an hour for our meals to be delivered. Not only were our pre-meal ad-ons (salads, etc) delivered with our hot entrees, but the breakfast item I had ordered was blackened and hard as a rock. Ironically the only other seated table was across from us, and had arrived after; they were almost done enjoying the very same item that was grossly late and blackened on my plate. We quickly discovered that our orders were also incorrect, and noted how the same specialty beverage had been refilled 3 times, and each been sent to the table looking indistinguishable from the last. We informed the manager of our experience and received a 15% discount off our check, very underwhelming.
A week later, on December 23, Jay and I returned, hoping some of the initial opening kinks had been ironed out and we could at last enjoy this chain we had so eagerly waited to open. Once again, there was far more staff on hand then customers, during what should have been a busy shift. The staff was friendly, but we were about to walk into one of the strangest situations I've encountered in my restaurant-going history. Our meals arrived in about 16 minutes; Jay's a simple breakfast plate, mine the healthiest item I could find on the menu- grilled balsamic chicken breast with veggies. The plate looked nothing like the pristine images in the menu, the glaze was a watery mess that spread beneath my side, along the plate bottom. The chopped onions and sliced mushrooms atop my chicken were as raw as they'd come off the truck. This was the first indication of trouble. Jay, jokingly, remarked "If the vegetables are that undercooked, I hope the chicken's not raw!"

We were doomed from there, as I made that fateful cut into the center of my chicken breast to reveal a semi-translucent pink. I waited for the server, who took much longer than she should have for us being her only table, to return and check on us. I explained the situation and sent the food back, refusing to have a replacement meal made. When the general manager arrived I told him about our previous experience, and mentioned that my dinner salad on this date had been browning and primarily the butt of the lettuce head (yuck!). Then I mentioned the undercooked chicken. He was a young gentlemen and seemed to be a bit jovial about the situation. There were a few casual remarks about checking to ensure the kitchen is preparing food properly, and another offer to replace my dish.
Then the doozy of a comment arrived, "Well, it seems like we've failed you twice, so, maybe you shouldn't come here anymore." My mouth hung slightly agape, what had I just heard? Had the representative of this location, neigh, the chain itself, just told me to take my business elsewhere after they'd failed twice in a row?

I'm sorry, but I worked several years in restaurant management for a very large family chain, and in no case is it ever a reasonable response to tell the customer to simply 'go somewhere else' on the heels of your own failure. Where is the, "We're sorry, we will do everything possible to make sure these issues are fixed immediately"? Where is the concern for the fact that, while I may be the first to notice, your chef is sending out undercooked food, including chicken? Where is the concern that this goes beyond incorrect orders and poorly plated food, to a serious health risk? And what on Earth could posses this new business to turn away it's, very minimal, customer base over actually trying to improve it's operations?

I have since contacted the company who puts their brand on this restaurant, and learned, not surprisingly, it is a franchise location. As is typical, when I learn these things, the parent company lends its name, images, and recipes, but washes their hands of the actual locations actions. I have been told by the parent company that they cannot assist my concerns and I must wait to speak with the general manager/owner, who I already spoke with on my first visit. I find it absurd that these big name companies can lend their image to people so willy-nilly and claim no responsibility for the outcome. As of this post I was told I should wait up to 4 business days for contact from the establishment, this is day 4 in accordance to a 24/7 operation, but I'm told to sit tight a week and maybe get a response. Franchise operations should be a wonderful opportunity for entrepreneurs who otherwise couldn't start their own business, but examples such as this spoil it for everyone. What a shame!

What Daughter Says: I think Corporate America needs to take a lesson from Momma!

Our Holidays, Puppy Pajama Cuddles, + Gift Exchanges

Momma Told Me: Do the holiday hustle.

This year our holidays were very quiet. Most of our friends and family were scheduled to be out of state for Christmas, so we had made alternative plans, and even held our great Omaha Steaks feast of 2013 in November to compensate. As it turns out, life is often unpredictable, and everyone ended up right at home this week. Of course all of the gifts had been exchanged and unwrapped, and the tidings given, so Jay and I hunkered down for a simple holiday. The days leading up to Christmas we had chilling mid 70F degree weather with torrential, warm, Santa Ana winds. I got up early, as Jay left for work and began putting my house back together from 2013- there is much cleaning to be done. This resulted in a rather large donation of a new scooter, dozens of coats and blankets, and several large boxes of shelf stable food (couponer, remember) to the local church outreach program. In between I took turns napping with Truffles and Nora, and got my fair share of 'Winter' snuggles.
On Christmas Eve we trekked over to my father's house where the three of us opened gifts from family on the other side of the coast, and enjoyed a nice 'traditional' meal of Ribeye and Baby Back Ribs. We retired early so Jay could get enough sleep for his morning shift on Christmas Day. I woke up and completed my work, clean, cycle again. That evening we went across the street to enjoy a home cooked meal with Sabrina and her family, which involved watching the entire first 3 Disney 'Pirates' movies on cable television. All and all, fairly routine.

Of course, this year I was part of the Social Fabric, Collective Bias, blogger community (this month marking my year anniversary), so I also had the chance to participate in a few unique holiday events. The first, the Virtual Gift Exchange, allowed me to take a closer look at Cristi of Motherhood Unadorned. In my virtual gift post I explored the person behind the blog, and the causes that motivate Cristi to curate such a uniquely candid forum of acceptance and support, her blog. Needless to say, I've since become a reader, and highly suggest you check her out too!
I also participated in an Ornament Exchange through Social Fabric, in which I was paired up with fellow blogger Kim, of Mommie...Again and tasked with sending her a secret ornament. I was told her tree would be decorated in a burlap theme, with lots of black, beige, and white hues. I also learned, with a quick visit to her blog, that she lived in Texas and was very much into nature and crafting. After much deliberation I decided to send her a Snow Doe ornament I had found at Cost Plus World Market; it seemed to match a 'burlap' theme perfectly, while keeping with the rustic, handmade style Kim loved. I hope I did good!

On Christmas Eve day, I received a curious parcel in the mail from a holiday website; and quickly knew my ornament had arrived. It didn't take much sleuth work to determine this parcel was from Janet Krugel of Going Crazy!! Wanna Go??!!, her name was on the return address label. I think I'd told the 'form' when signing up for this swap that I loved animal prints, bright colors, and things that sparkled. Janet managed to find a set of ornaments that fulfilled all three, with these beautiful, slightly loud, Zebra Print, Hot Pink, Sparkle Globes. I also love the antiquing detail put into the top of these!

So, there you have it. All the wrapping paper is on the curb in the bin, and the thank you notes about to be written. 2014 is almost here and I have a lot to do to start the year off right. With BlogHer on my agenda, my first blogging conference, I'm certain the new year will mean big things for me. What are you looking forward to in 2014?

What Daughter Says: This morning, while laying in bed I thought, "I should start preparing for Valentine's." Is there, really, such thing as a holiday 'season'?

Encourage Protection With The Flavored Mouthguard From @MoGoSport #Giveaway

Disclosure: I got this product as part of an advertorial.
MoGo Flavored Mouthguard
Momma Told Me: Safety isn't about fun.

I can't even begin to recollect all of the times I went outside to jump on a scooter or strap on skates and Momma and I had to have our traditional chats about outdoor safety. Because I was Momma's first, and only, child (and because, well, hospital fees are expensive, right?) it seemed like I was destined to be the kid on the block with the most protective padding. Heading into my teens I was forced to wear complete knee and arm pads, along with an oh-so-trendy helmet every time I took to skates. It was humiliating, but the one time I took a serious dive and landed on my elbow, shattering the growing plate, I was thankful the accident hadn't been much worse. Safety isn't about being cool, or fun, but it's always an extra piece of mind for parents when their children actually want to gear up. Few activities illustrate this like contact sports.
MoGo Flavored Mouthguard
MoGo Flavored Mouthguard
Whether your son's entering Pee-Wee football, your daughter's starting soccer, or your hubby just joined a pickup hockey league; protecting one's mouth and jaw seems to be low on the 'cool' spectrum. When it comes to youth, most players complain that mouth-guards are unsightly, uncomfortable and boring. But even a helmet can't protect from the shock of a core blow, or the jerk of an unexpected play. Mouthguards are not just meant to help absorb direct blows to the face, but also keep your tongue and mouth free of uncontrolled reactions during the game. And, let's not forget about preserving all that expensive dental work to keep those pearly whites clean and un-chipped! MoGoSport is all about making mouth protection fun, okay, at least appealing; with their innovative flavored mouthguard technology that imbeds the flavor within the BPA free poly-resin. The flavor is not sprayed on the guard, but built into it, which means a lasting flavor effect through months of use.
MoGo Flavored Mouthguard
MoGo Flavored Mouthguard
The MoGo M1 Flavored Mouthguard comes in two sizes, Child (Ages 11-) and Adult (Ages 12+), and have a special fitting process that involves warming the guard in water then fitting the guard to match the user's jaw. This particular guard model is not designed for wearers with braces, but do not fret, MoGo has a special braces friendly guard! There are also six great flavors to fit every taste; Orange, Mint, Lemon, Fruit Punch, Blue Raspberry, and Bubble Gum. My Adult M1 Mouthguard came in Blue Raspberry, though I was also sent flavor strips to sample the other flavors. I was surprised just how much flavor was released over gradual use, and favored the Bubble Gum, personally, the most. The M1 Mouthguard also has a special flavor section located at the back of the guard meant to trigger salivary glands for safe performance.
MoGo Flavored Mouthguard
The MoGo Performance Series Mouthguard includes an easy quick attach tether for helmets, and is backed by a $10k dental warranty; which is pretty reassuring. As someone looking into joining a Roller Derby team in mid-2014, I'm very glad to have discovered these unique flavored mouth guards that once again make action sports protection just a little cool again. Even after fitting I find my MoGo to be a little snug- and couldn't determine the size based on the package I received, though I was told I was sent an adult. This snugness doesn't detour from the purpose, and the fit, it is simply a little more intense to the guards I am used to. Be sure to follow the fitting instructions provided on the website and pay special attention to fit, making a second fitting attempt if you are not 100% satisfied; however you should never trim your guard. Free Shipping is currently offered on orders of 4 or more and the MoGo is currently stocked primarily online.

What Daughter Says: Experience the flavor of protection with MoGo Flavored Mouthguards.

 One Momma Told Me reader will win a MoGo Flavored Mouthguard in Youth or Adult!

#LuvSoFab Virtual Gift Exchange: Motherhood Unadorned Blogger Highlight
Momma Told Me: Live everyday with your heart open.

One of the reasons I got into blogging, aside from it being free therapy, was to connect with women, okay individuals, around the world that had an interest in what I wanted to say. Whether they completely disagreed, or they were wholly on board with my point of view, connection with and discovering these new people always seemed to enrich myself as a whole. But this post isn't about me, it's about Cristi Comes, philanthropist, real life woman, and author of Motherhood Unadorned.

As a #SoFab member, I had the chance to participate in a unique gift 'exchange' of content and thoughts. This virtual exchange paired participants with a random blogger, throwing them into their virtual, ans sometimes very real, world through a river of social media handles, and their physical blog. Before I was a blogger, I was a reader, so reading blogs regularly is something I make sure to reciprocate daily, myself. That being said, it can often be hard to get a feel for the genuine person behind the social media facade. With Cristi Comes this is absolutely the furthest from the case. What you see is what you get, a real, honest, woman who has stripped back all the virtual makeup to provide an authentic sounding board for women worldwide. Her blog, Motherhood Unadorned, is a label free zone where noone is judged for the brand of binky they use, or especially for the days where they simply feel like a failure.

Cristi wants her readers to know that their differences make them beautiful, and so do their faults. In fact, those very faults aren't faults at all, but the building blocks to strength we all can learn to use as gifts and inspiration. There is no Wonderwoman, but the closest thing to her is a woman who embraces them-self, even in the darkest of light.
It's easy to see where Cristi draws her tremendous courage, and enthusiasm for life, from; her beautiful family. But even her family has been a challenge that lead to her blog's inspiration. The Motherhood Unadorned author has suffered with mental illness for the majority of her life, including a battle with PPD after the birth of her second child Ellie. Then, in 2010, a close friend, and mother, took their own life; a suicide loss that weighed as heavy as the thousands claimed each year, for Cristi. She vowed she would use her voice on and offline to help empower those who felt overwhelmed to find the light in the coming days, and rise to overcome suicide, and live with mental illness. Her unaltered accounts of her own personal journey through life and motherhood undoubtedly inspire her readers and friends, and stand a vivid example of inspiration through digital media.
While Motherhood Unadorned has plenty of valuable content for building mental health and coping with mental illness, it's also a treasure trove of Parenting advice, insightful reviews, and thought-provoking content. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Cristi's two children, Ellie and Ronin are hopelessly adorable, and well worth subscribing to her Instagram feed. One of my personal favorite recent posts, Little Girl and Doll Style: American Girl Twinkle Party Dress, even touches on style for less life-like family members. It's hard not to smile, I dare you to try, as you peruse the playful pictures of precocious Ellie, who even insisted on wearing her new party dress to school for picture day, priceless! It's great to see such a well rounded blog full of parenting information, charming family photos, and real world discussions.
While I don't know Cristi personally, her biography, and personal journey has certainly touched my heart in just a few short hours virtually bonding through her social media outlets online. After the loss of her friend in 2011, Cristi put together a #StopSuicide #BlueBloggers movement, where she empowered several bloggers to challenge their readers to raise funds for the Foundation of Suicide Prevention. These bloggers committed to dye their locks blue in the name of the cause, should their donation goals be reached. This story personally touches my heart, as it reminds me so very much of something I would do, myself. What a fun way to shed light, and spark discussion about such a serious topic! Cristi is yet again fundraising for this great cause, with her upcoming SFSP 2014 Seatttle Suicide Prevention Overnight walk participation. Swing on by the blog to learn more about this important cause and help her raise funds to stop suicide.

What Daughter Says: Open your heart to a new blog and reap the rewards with Motherhood Unadorned.

Check out the other bloggers, and posts, participating in the 2013 #SoFab Virtual Exchange, below.