Archive for the Tips Category
The Torreses start a project

We demoed our fireplace today. It sounds way more fun than it actually was.

For seven and a half years we have lived with and cursed its poopy brown tile and unproportionately high mantle. Every house in our neighborhood has the exact same fireplace with the exact same mantle and exact same tile. Maybe poop brown was the thing in 1982? Maybe it was soooo 1981 and they got it at a steal from the homebuilder’s clearance bin? Either way, there’s no good reason it should still be around 31 years later.

Also I started thinking about how I was only like four when some sweaty dudes were in my future house laying this horrible ugly tile. I think even at that tender age I would have made a better choice. Probably rainbows or something because I was all about rainbows when I was four.

ANYWAY. Fireplace. Here’s the before, plus or minus a few tiles:

fireplace remodel

Don’t be jealous of our mantle decorations that include Minnie Mouse Bingo, beads, a spool of ribbon, a rubber lizard, a jar of leaves (don’t even ask. I stopped asking a long time ago), and a plastic flower.

The plan was to work on it most of Saturday, but life gets in the way, as usual. Here’s how it went:

  • Saturday was Christian’s sleep in day, and I accidentally let him sleep later than he wanted (read: the kids were watching cartoons and I was enjoying some quiet coffee and writing time. Not sorry.).
  • Then he had to finish the yard work that he started the night  before.
  • Then it was lunch time.
  • Then he offered to blow up the kiddie pool since the kids were restless and it’s already hot as balls here.
  • Then I got sleepy.
  • Then I took an hour long nap in Rachel’s bed.
  • THEN we finally left the house to price out and pick up some of the supplies. By this time it was about 3:30, and once we left the home improvement store, it was dinner time.

This is how we roll, people.

I should tell you here that projects aren’t really our strong suit. We want to do them, but it’s in the actual doing that we falter. Before we had kids, we decided to build a circular patio in a shaded corner of our yard where nothing really grew anyway. Thanks to a stupid rainy summer in 2007, followed by a twin pregnancy, twin babies, and a good dose of laziness, we finally finished the patio in time for the girls’ first birthday party nearly two years later. Thus it was dubbed “The Two Year Patio.”

Then there was the sandbox that we built next to our back porch. My husband…he is a bit impulsive and just started digging a hole one day when I was out. Thanks to his sister coming to visit, we had the sandbox ready in time for the twins’ second birthday. But had she not helped, we’d likely still be digging the hole.

Finally, there was the door Christian busted down after Rachel locked herself in her room and was too young to realize she had to unlock it (and what special kind of genius put locks on the bedroom doors anyway?). Why we didn’t think to take a screwdriver and to some shimmy magic to pop it open like we did the 800 following times they did the exact same thing in Zoe’s room, I have no idea. But a door hanging on one gangly hinge isn’t really safe so we had to replace it, and since this is an older house, the door didn’t really fit. No biggie, just a little sanding, which we eventually got to. A year or so later. Then things expanded when it got warm again and now we need to sand some more. Or just wait until it gets cold and the door can close again.

So after dinner we finally bust out the chisels and start whacking out some tiles. I have some tips for those of you who may do a similar project:

  • Wear goggles, unless you want tinier than tiny shards of poopy brown porcelain tile embedded in your cornea.
  • Wear shoes, unless you want tinier than tiny shards of poopy brown porcelain tile embedded in your foot. Some people may even opt for close toed shoes. (We call them professionals.)
  • Try to stay out of the direct chiseling of your DIY partner unless you want tinier than tiny shards of poopy brown porcelain tile embedded in your forehead, cheeks, or cleavage.
  • You know what? It’s probably best you just stay out of the way and go check Facebook or something.

So after maybe an hour or more of chiseling and hammering and sweeping and scraping, this is what we are left with. Not bad for “Day 1 that didn’t really even start until 6:30 pm.” It already looks a million times better.

fireplace remodel

That’s a towel wadded up where the tile ripped a hole in the sheet rock, not a blood stain. Either they didn’t use cement board back in the 80s, or they took some serious shortcuts in this house. Which again explains the discount poopy brown tile. It smells really old and musty in there, and my favorite quote from today was, “I really hope that’s insulation and not fur.”

Here’s what we’re going for:

fireplace remodel

Despite my amazing DIY photo skills and awkwardly chubby wrist I think it’s going to look awesome when (if) we are done.

Also, this happened in the middle of all the hammering and chiseling and cursing and Netflix Pingu episodes. She got up a few hours later and we discovered she had a fever of 102. Way to get out of helping with the home improvements.

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The eyes have it

People who don’t wear glasses or contacts freak me out. My sister just got glasses this year. My sister in law only has to wear them for night driving. My father didn’t get glasses until he was well into his 40s, and that was mainly for reading. My husband’s prescription is so weak that I can put his glasses on over my contacts and there is almost no change. He rarely even wears his contacts.

I did not inherit the good eye genes. In my world of terrible vision (that apparently gets better with each pregnancy, but that is not enough reason for me to have another child, thank you), I find it hard to believe that people have made it clean to adulthood before they ever needed any type of vision correction. I’m the person who has to locate her glasses before taking out her contacts. I was 10 when I got my first pair of huge, 80s plastic frames — blue on blue speckles because I was awesomely cool back then, and it wasn’t long before I realized that glasses weren’t as cool as I had made them out to be in my head. Then at 16 my mom finally let me get contacts, and I felt the way lasik patients must feel today. I can see! And there are no ugly, crooked frames on my face! And hooray peripheral vision! Continue Reading

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Stop saying no without giving in!

She’s back! The marvelous, wonderful (and should I say forgiving, since I was supposed to post this on Monday?) Deborah Gilboa of Ask Doctor G is back with more advice for the weary parents.

Sometimes I feel like I’m not built with parenting instincts, but other times I feel like I’m just falling into this deep pit of negativity and bad attitudes and need a little refresher to help me get my parenting game face on. That’s why I love Dr. G.

Today’s question (yes, another one of my own):


How to move away from saying no without giving in: I’ve read articles about how to stop saying no all the time, but sometimes I just don’t see how that works. I have days when that’s all I feel like I am saying — “No, don’t do that, don’t do this, don’t hit, don’t throw……” The list is endless, and those are the days when I feel like a terrible mom.



There are nights I have laid in bed and be sure I had said “No!” more often than every other word I uttered that day all added up. It can be so disheartening!


So what’s the problem? Well, Leigh Ann, you know as well as I do what the problem is. It’s that saying yes to preschoolers all day is dangerous! Your question is a great one. I have a few suggestions.


1. You can be silly. “Mommy can I have pudding for breakfast?” “On the moon you can! At our house though it’s cereal.” As long as you can put up with 15 minutes of “We live on the moon Mommy! Look at me I’m the girl in the moon!” this can be a fun way to avoid a “No.”


2. You can keep an “I wish” list in the kitchen. “I’m coloring on the floor Mommy?” Try “Oh! That goes on the ‘I wish I could’ list! Now go get some paper please.”


3. You can make a “Oooh I don’t think so” face. This can be cartoony and hilarious as long as the kids get it.


4. You can poll your other children, like this. “Mommy, can I play in the snow in just my beautiful tutu?” “Hey, you guys, what do you think I’m going to answer sister?” Don’t ask your other children their opinion or you’ll be explaining to the ER doctor how your daughter got frostbite within sight of your home.


5. You can use my husband’s favorite. “Yes, but not until you…” …take a bath, finish dinner, turn 18 and get a job.



But the best way to avoid saying no all the time is what you’re probably already doing. Look ahead for the trouble spots – those points of conflict that come up most days – and offer choices within limits. Does your precious daughter throw huge wardrobe fits when it is time to get dressed? Then lay out the outfit the night before – she has to choose from the two or three you offer before she gets a bedtime story.


You know how to do this.


But remember! Good parents say no a fair amount. Which is good, because the world says no a fair amount, and kids have to be able to cope when that happens. Otherwise, classroom rules and traffic laws and job contracts would all be shocking to our little boundary-pushers!


So what do you guys think? Do you sometimes find yourself swirling in a downward spiral of “No no no?” I can say from experience that giving choices is a HUGE help in avoiding a lot of battles. Especially because it’s so cute to watch Zoe put a thoughtful finger to her lips, examine each choice carefully, and say, “Ummmm…..ummmmmm….”

Thanks so much for stopping by again, Dr. G. Sometimes it just takes a third party to help us take a step back and see better ways to handle situations.

Go visit Dr. G at Ask Doctor G, and tell her I sent you! You can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter at @AskDocG.

Have a great weekend, everyone!


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Easy Christmas yarn trees with button ornaments

 yarn tree christmas decorations

I’ve said it before: this is not a craft blog. But once in a while I come across something that I am so happy with, I have to share with you guys.

I love to make things. Unfortunately all the cooking, cleaning, writing, and “mothering” I have to do leaves me little time to do so. But thanks to the crack-like Pinterest, I’m up to my eyeballs in adorable things I just HAVE to make.

This year I really wanted to beef up our Christmas decorations and increase the cozy holiday feeling in our home, and these projects are an easy way to create instant holiday cheer.

Yarn spun trees with button ornaments

These adorable trees are the merging of two things I saw on Pinterest: This…

pinterest yarn spun trees

Click for source. I have followed this image all over the internet and can't find the original post. Luckily they're easy enough to figure out.

…and this…

button tree christmas decoration

How gorgeous is this? But holy moly that's a lot of buttons and glue gunning! Again, clicking through on Pinterest did not take me to the original source, unfortunately.Click for source.

So since I wanted something a little more than the yarn trees, but the button trees were a little involved for me, I decided to combine the two and make yarn trees with button “ornaments!” And the best part was that I had everything on hand but the styrofoam cones, thanks to last year’s craft projects that I never completed. Yay for laziness!

Here’s what you need:

  • styrofoam cones, varied sizes {I found a 12 inch and an 8 inch in the floral section, and 6 inch ones in the craft section of Hobby Lobby}
  • yarn {I used Christmas homespun in green and white, but any yarn will do. I think multicolored yarn might look especially cool!}
  • buttons in varied colors and sizes
  • glue gun & glue

The most tedious part of the project is glueing the first round of yard around the bottom of the cone.

yarn tree christmas craft decoration

After you’ve glued a line of yarn around the bottom of the cone, just start winding! You can wind super methodically, one row at a time, or you can do more random, like I did, to create variation and interest. Since my cone was green and my yarn was white, I had to keep looking at my tree from all angles to make sure I was getting good coverage. But wind away!

yarn tree christmas craft decoration

Secure the yarn at the top with more hot glue.

Now it’s time to glue on your “ornaments.” I used buttons of variable sizes and red & greens. You could also use sequins, little pom poms, circles punched from scrapbook paper…the possibilities are endless. I happened to have the buttons on hand, and they made perfect ornaments.

yarn tree christmas craft decoration

Yeah...I leave my cabinet doors open for your viewing pleasure.

Glue them on randomly or in a distinct pattern…whatever you feel like. Then before you know it, you have beautiful hand made Christmas decorations to give your home that cozy holiday feel. They make perfect centerpieces or accessories to your mantle or side table.

yarn tree christmas craft decoration


Happy crafting!

Have you decked your halls yet?

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Julie Anne Rhodes membership giveaway!

Julie Anne Rhodes

We just put our Christmas tree up, so it’s officially the holiday season at the Torres house. Cue the shopping, the card sending, the baking, the wrapping, the traveling, and most of all, the meal planning.

Whether or not you’re hosting a huge holiday meal this season, chances are you’re feeling a little stressed about getting everything done in time for Santa to slide down that chimney and your in laws to march through that front door. And the last thing on your mind is making dinner.

This is exactly what Julie Anne Rhodes had in mind when she developed her recipe and lifestyle site, With The Personal Chef Approach, Julie Anne strives to save you time and money by providing weekly meal plans and accompanying grocery lists, along with how to videos and helpful forums. With just a few hours on the weekend, premium members of her site can cook up a week’s worth of meals, then have the rest of the week to relax with her provided heat and eat instructions.

I love discovering new recipe sites, and boy did I find some delicious ones from Julie Anne.

The first one that caught my eye was the Stewed Herb Chicken. I’m not a huge fan of cooking whole chicken breasts on the skillet {I’m weird about chicken in general}, but the photo made me drool, and in the end, in did not disappoint. I also had one happy husband after dinner.

Herb-Chicken-Stew-Julie Anne Rhodes

Next I tried the Beef Stew, which was kind of a cross between an actual stew and a roast, and I liked that I could just throw in the ingredients and a hunk of meat into my dutch oven and be done. Plus, I was anxious to see how it measured up to Christian’s famous roasts that he loves to make. The verdict? Two thumbs up from each of us.

Julie Anne Rhodes beef stew

My absolute favorite meal from Julie Anne that is now a permanent fixture on the Torres menu has to be the Turkey Cheddar Burgers. Who would have thought that a burger filled with grated zucchini could be so freaking good? As Christian put it, “It taste’s like a real burger!” {That’s a compliment, Julie Anne!} Seriously my favorite thing.

Turkey-Cheddar-Burger Julie Anne Rhode

Is your mouth watering yet? Wipe that drool from your keyboard and listen up now! Julie Anne Rhodes is offering one reader a 3 month premium membership, with access to all of her recipes, how to videos, helpful forums, and weekly meal plans and grocery lists–a $30 value! This offer is extended to all readers, not just in the US, and there is no purchase necessary.

For mandatory entry into the giveaway, head on over to Julie Anne Rhodes, and sign up for a FREE membership, which allows you access to a partial selection of Julie Anne’s recipes, the Inside Dish newsletter, and Dear Jewels, a Dear Abby of sorts for kitchen advice. That’s all you have to do! Well, that and leave me a comment telling me you signed up. I’m not psychic, people!

For additional entries (please leave me a separate comment for each entry):

Follow Julie Anne Rhodes on Twitter

Follow Leigh Ann (that’s me!) on Twitter

Tweet this: I want to win a premium membership to @JulieAnneRhodes from @latorres!

OR hit the “tweet” button at the bottom of this post.

Winner will be announced Monday, December 12. Happy holidays!

I was chosen for this opportunity by Theta Mom Media, and I was provided with a complimentary 3 month premium membership to in order to write this review. All opinions are 100% my own. 

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Tips for Baby Feeding Magic

Thanks to Plum Organics for sponsoring my post about tips for baby feeding magic. What if you let baby choose what’s for dinner? Check out their cute “Quest for Yum!” video and see what happens!


I never wanted to be the mom who dealt with the mealtime struggles. Surely my kids would all be the picture of healthy perfection, happily chowing down on all of their multicolored vegetables. Broccoli! Cauliflower! Squash! Asparagus!

Now as I struggle to get something in 20 month old Zoe that isn’t milk, cheese, or something derived from milk or cheese, I reflect back on the past, when the twins were her age.

Continue Reading

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