Thursday, December 18, 2014

Great gift: M is for Me Personalized Book from I See Me

My friend ordered the CUTEST book for her little girl, and I was absolutely smitten. It is called M is for Me from I See Me booksIt is a personalized book just for your child that goes through the ABCs with them, highlighting the very best qualities each letter has to offer like:

A is for Active
E is for Extraordinary 
I is for Imaginative
O is for Optimistic 
U is for Understanding, and more...

New! M Is for Me Personalized Book
You will also see his or her name appear multiple times in the book. The illustrations are absolutely darling and I imagine it will be a cherished item for a very long time, no matter what the age.  

New! M Is for Me Personalized Book

Do you love it already? I know I do.

If you want to know more, you can watch the video on the I See Me site. The cost for each personalized book is $34.99. Not sure if it is too late for Christmas, but you can certainly inquire. If we are too late, order one now and save it for a birthday or give it anyway. Surely no one will mind!

For other gift lists and ideas, click HERE

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Bookworm Wednesday: Lizzy and Jane and a Giveaway!


This book just made me smile! Lizzy and Jane reminded me that clean, contemporary, well written novels can still be relevant. I enjoyed the characters and relationships and liked suspending my reality for a bit while I delved into this book. There were faults (some story lines that were not fully flushed out or themes that reached a bit), but I was excited every night to pick it up and stayed up way too late to finish it. When it ended I had a smile on my face and wished that there were still a few more pages to go.

Highly recommended to those who like Dear Mr. Knightly, contemporary Jane Austen-like books, or clean chick-lit.

The publisher is giving away one copy of Lizzy and Jane to a lucky Mom Explores Michigan reader. Just comment on my facebook post, HERE, and tell me your favorite book of all time. I will do a random drawing on Friday night for the winner! summary: Lizzy and Jane never saw eye to eye. But when illness brings them together, they discover they may be more like Austen’s famous sisters after all.

Lizzy was only a teenager when her mother died of cancer. Shortly after, Lizzy fled from her home, her family, and her cherished nickname. After working tirelessly to hone her gift of creating magic in the kitchen, Elizabeth has climbed the culinary ladder to become the head chef of her own New York restaurant, Feast. But as her magic begins to elude her, Paul, Feast’s financial backer, brings in someone to share her responsibilities and her kitchen. So Elizabeth flees again.

In a desperate attempt to reconnect with her gift, Elizabeth returns home. But her plans are derailed when she learns that her estranged sister, Jane, is battling cancer. Elizabeth surprises everyone—including herself—when she decides to stay in Seattle and work to prepare healthy, sustaining meals for Jane as she undergoes chemotherapy. She also meets Nick and his winsome son, Matt, who, like Elizabeth, are trying to heal from the wounds of the past.

As she tends to Jane's needs, Elizabeth's powers begin to return to her, along with the family she left behind so long ago. Then Paul tries to entice her back to New York, and she is faced with a hard decision: stay and become Lizzy to her sister’s Jane, or return to New York and the life she worked so hard to create?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Family Games we love!

I love games. Mike thinks they are okay, and my kids range from thinking they are mediocre to amazing. But, it is so much more fun to play games than watch movies, so I have had to be very particular about the games we play. One thing I have noticed with my boys is that they like playing games that keep moving...if we have to wait too long for anyone to decide on strategy, they are wrestling when it is not their turn or throwing a ball to each other and I get frustrated very quickly when that starts to happen. 

So, these are the games that have passed the Romney boy test. They all move quickly enough to keep us engaged, and kids and adults find them enjoyable. Many are classics, but there are a few awesome new ones out too. I would love to hear the games your family loves. Can't wait to add them to our rotation!

Wackee Six Card Game
This is a new game to our family. Similar to the card game Nertz, Wackee Six makes everything a bit more simple so the younger ones can play too. It is best for 3-6 players (You can play in teams and have up to 12 playing. Teams are a good option if younger ones want to play, but not for adults). The game is simple, super quick, competitive and lots of fun for kids and adults. ($25)

This is a dice game that even the 3 year olds can participate in. You just roll the dice until you get all of a certain number. It is fast moving and everyone is engaged at the same time. A great option for a family game night. One Tenzi tube is for 4 players but Tenzi is fun for 2 players on up. I think the more the merrier with this one. ($14)

Ruckus - Family
Ruckus is a card matching and stealing game that moves super fast. We all love it. Great for 3-6 players. ($12)

If you have a family that likes math or a bit of a spacial challenge, this game is so much fun. It can get a little intense on the strategy side, so if you want things to keep moving, you may want to time each turn. It teaches such great concepts while you are having fun together. The only downside is that you really need to play it with 4 players, no more, no less. ($20)

This is the greatest game for the little ones in your family! It is BINGOesque but so much more fun. Our 3 year old loves it, but our 11 year old is happy to play too. I also love this game because 2 people can have fun playing or more are welcome, perfect for when I am home with my toddler. ($19)

This is a new marble strategy game that can be super quick, or you can keep score and turn it into a longer game. It is a little luck and a little strategy, so it puts everyone on equal footing. It is a fun way to mix up your play. ($18)

I loved this game as a kid and I am so excited to introduce it to my boys. There is a little strategy, but not so much that it ruins the fun for younger players. It also teaches great sequencing skills. ($13)

There is something about this classic game that keeps us all happy to wait for our turn. It is simple, but requires a little thought and lots of good counting practice. To keep people engaged from the beginning, let everyone start with one player on the board. ($8)

If you have kids 6 and under, this is an awesome counting game. We played it for hours when my older ones were little. It's about time to get it out again! ($9)

This game came out when I was a kid; I loved it then and my kids love it now. It is so nice to have a game that is fun to play with only 2 players. ($24)

Another game that only needs 2 players and is perfect for a little older audience. ($13)

This is the card game that really can't be beat. It is a family classic. Best for 3 or more players. ($6)

This word finding game is great once kids start to read...challenging and fun all at the same time. Can be played with 2 or more players. ($15)

We love getting the dice out for a quick game of Yahtzee. My 3 older ones really understand the concept now, so it's pretty fun. Love that this one can be played with only 2 players. ($15)

All 3 of my boys always want to play Life. I enjoy how it helps them understand the concept of money/sacrifice/luck/education in their pretend world. We have found it goes the best if I am just the banker...keeps things moving. ($22)

This is a one person game where you race against the clock. It is great fun! ($11)

Party Games 
(these games are better with 4 or more players and are great with a crowd)

Probably our overall favorite family game. This is timed charades and we have been playing it since the kids were little and love to bring it out when we have company. It brings out the goofy and competitive side in everyone! ($38)

Apples to Apples Junior - The Game of Crazy Combinations!
This can be a super funny game when it is played right. Best with at least 6 players and the most fun when someone keeps the game moving. ($33)

The old version (non-electronic) is easy enough for a younger crowd. This is a great one for a large group! ($40)

Making up the definitions to crazy words is a lot of fun, and this game keeps everyone thinking the whole time. A great way to mix things up. ($33)

This one has been around forever, but it is still a ton of fun. Works best with at least 6 people and is great for a crowd. ($20)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

P.F. Chang's Opening in Ann Arbor!

I have had a love affair with P.F. Chang's since I was a little girl and got to go on my first "adult dinner" in San Diego with the grown ups. They always dined at P.F. Chang's and they always ordered Chicken Lettuce Wraps, Mongolian Beef, Orange Peel shrimp, and Brown Sticky rice. I had never eaten anything so good! I remember savoring every single bite and stuffing my belly until it couldn't hold one more morsel. As years and careers took us to D.C. and Arizona, we continued celebrating special occasions and regular date nights at my favorite Asian spot.

When we moved to Michigan, I was hoping for a P.F. Chang's in my neck of the woods, but no such luck...until now.

P.F Chang's opens its doors at the Briarwood Mall in Ann Arbor on Monday, December 15th so...get there! During the holiday season, the new Ann Arbor location will d├ębut a four-course, prix fixe “Holiday Menu for Two” which will allow guests the opportunity to explore contemporary, Asian-style dining at its best for a fixed price of $60.00. It is the perfect spot for a holiday date night or girl's gift exchange (I love eating there family style, with a crowd), so grab your reservation now. 

If you've never been, it will certainly be a love at first bite experience. If you have enjoyed P.F. Chang's for as long as I have, there is nothing like having your favorite restaurant right around the corner!  

For more P.F. Chang’s news, promotions and store openings, or to make reservations, visit, or follow on Facebook and Twitter @PFChangs.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Have a Heart: One Way Heart Assist Valve Indigogo

I think crowd funding is the most amazing invention. I love that consumers can have a voice in what they think is worthy of their dollars and support. A new campaign on Indiegogo is close to my heart and incredibly revolutionary for those who suffer from heart disease. Take a minute to watch the video on the One Way Heart Assist Valve , donate, share itand see if it can save someone you love!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

My Favorite Christmas Traditions

Christmas is my very favorite holiday, so we have quite a few traditions we enjoy. I thought I would round them up here for you!

Christmas Advent Chain: This list includes all of our favorite "little" traditions including a Christmas Carol dance party, hot chocolate with candy cane, treats to firemen, and wrapping up a gift for Jesus.

Scripture Advent Calendar: This has been such a blessing this year. I love that if we are busy, we can do it on the go.

Candy Bar White Elephant Game: We have played this on Christmas Eve and it is a great alternative to the White Elephant game.

Dollar Store Sibling Gift Exchange: The boys love being able to pick out and gift their own presents!

Marshmallow Snowball Fight: Hands down, our favorite family tradition. We use this as our neighbor gift each year!

Do you have a favorite Christmas tradition? Please share!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Why Santa only brings ONE gift

This is a post from last year, but it is an important one for me to remember every year. 
image via Wikipedia 

When I was writing for an Arizona newspaper, my paths crossed with a family life coach named Keri Maughan for a few articles, and I was always amazed by her wisdom and techniques. However, one thing she said floored me..."My children only get ONE gift from Santa at Christmas time." I was shocked! Was she the Grinch? Who has every heard of Santa only bringing ONE gift?

Then I sat back and listened to her reasoning:

  • Santa brought what was most wanted. It could have been big, small, expensive or cheap but he brought the item the child was most hoping for. No worries about "fairness" or the money spent per child. If you get the item you are most hoping for, all is fair.
  • This cut down on all the filler gifts that were immediately discarded once the "real" gift was opened.
  • It allowed the child to stop and take in the gift and then spend time playing with and enjoying it instead of wondering what else was under the tree.
  • When other gifts were given, the child was able to show gratitude for the gift and realize that someone sacrificed to give them something nice. Much less entitlement on Christmas morning.
  • It allowed for Christmas magic regardless of the families' financial situation.
It all sounded really great to me. So, for the past few years Santa has (mostly) brought our kids one big gift and then a book, a DVD, and some simple stocking stuffers. The rest of the items carry tags "From: Mom and Dad" or "Love: Grandma and Grandpa."

We still get all the Christmas magic we are hoping for and our kids don't set unrealistic or incredibly greedy expectations or create mile long lists for the jolly man in the big red suit. They understand that with mom and dad there is a finite amount of money to spent each year...some years are fatter and some years are leaner, but we always have incredible Christmases. 

I cannot tell you how grateful I was that we had started this tradition when we went back to grad school at U of M with 3 kids. I knew Christmas would be slim and we were an entire country away from extended family. However, both Christmases were still wonderful occasions and Santa came through with one great gift while the rest of the items were second hand, from grandparents, or found at incredible deals. Even still, our little apartment was warm and cozy with plenty of love and still too many gifts to even wrap our minds around. It's astounding that it still always seemed like too much.

At this time of year, I am especially grateful to be able to provide Christmas for our family. I know it is a luxury many don't have, so reach out and make sure each child has at least ONE present from Santa this year by visiting your local Angel Tree or contacting your church or city about families in need.