Homemade Hope: Warm Meals & Smiles PLUS Cooking with Luby’s Restaurant.

Last week I was invited to an event with Homemade Hope, and I immediately jumped on the wagon when I knew what they do.

Homemade Hope, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit, is an organization focused on the culinary arts, which is something I am passionate about. Teach your children about the joys and benefits of healthy home cooking from an early age. But, Homemade Hope is more than that. They bring a taste of home to homeless and at-risk children living in Houston’s shelters and transitional living centers—fostering creativity, developing life skills, and nurturing every child’s belief that life has hope.

In partnership with local transitional shelters, Homemade Hope harnesses the sensory power of the kitchen to create a loving and supportive environment where children build self-esteem, develop traditions, and experience the simple pleasures of childhood.  Using food as a canvas for expression, Homemade Hope creates a space for connection while educating them about nutrition and empowering them with skills they can use outside of class.

Their programs include weekly sessions, cooking classes, tutoring, holiday celebrations, trips and educational advocacy. For detailed info about their programs visit: http://www.homemadehope.org/programs

IMG_9153

In this occasion, Homemade Hope partnered with Luby’s restaurants for a fantastic behind the scenes tour of the place. My 10-year-old son learned all about what it really is to be in a restaurant kitchen, and how hard chefs work to provide delicious meals.

IMG_9160

Kids also got to make their own combination of Mac & Cheese and spend some time with Luby’s chefs.

IMG_9155

I can’t express how important I think getting children in the kitchen is. Our next generation needs to understand where food comes from and need to have the tools and the knowledge to make informed decisions about the food they eat. It is our duty as parents to provide them with a healthy path. Let’s not leave it all to the schools. (and don’t get me started on school meals)

Also, it is important our kids learn and understand that so many other children are not as privileged as them. Many children out there are homeless or living in shelters. The circumstances they are in are not their fault, and they shouldn’t be stigmatized for it.

Get your children involved with their community, and teach the power of helping others. Compassion is not a weakness is a strength. 

IMG_9163IMG_9168

Big thanks to Luby’s restaurant in Post Oak, Houston for having us and for my blogger friend Lisa Carey for inviting me to be part of this fantastic cause. If you want to help either by becoming a volunteer for Homemade Hope or by donating please contact them here http://www.homemadehope.org/get-involved-c19nb

The Spinfords : Different is Beautiful

In a world so focused on our differences, this book makes perfect sense. Between school stress, peer pressure, family dynamics and a list of other “worries” today’s kids deal with more anxiety than ever before.

We live in a world,  in which the access to social media has given us all the power to judge, to criticize, to give our opinion, and to hide behind screens and faces. We jump into conclusions and judgments so fast and precariously, many times in front of our kids without even noticing. They notice, though.

IMG_2527.JPG

“The challenge, especially during the formative years of childhood, is teaching kids that what makes them different is exactly what they should celebrate, not hide”

Ann Marie, the author of the beautifully written children’s book The Spinfords, tells a story that in a simple yet magical way explains to both kids and parents how differences make us unique. It doesn’t matter if you are tall or short, white or black, girl or boy. It doesn’t really matter if you do things in a different way. What it matters are your pure and true intentions. What matters is who you are in essence, inside and out. We are all beings who want to be loved and accepted and appreciated. Let love conquer all.

IMG_2526.JPG

This book speaks volumes to me. Not only am I the sister of a child with disabilities, but I am also very passionate about equality. My brother has encountered a significant amount of judgemental people in this world, but he has also encountered people willing and able to treat him like any other human being regardless of his disabilities. Growing up, my mom had to take him out of “regular” school once because she was told that they didn’t have time for “kids like him” – My brother is 27 years old now. He is bilingual, he is a functional member of society. Yes, he is has some challenges being deaf and with Aspergers but that doesn’t make him less of a person.

My son is also different. I mean how many vegetarian, compassionate 10-year-old do you encounter every day? Probably not that many. I don’t think this quality is unique to him, but it does make him different when at parties he doesn’t want that hotdog or that pepperoni on his pizza.

IMG_8036.jpg

The Spinfords teaches:

  • Different is beautiful
  • People can surprise you
  • Moms and dads aren’t perfect
  • Anything is possible
  • Never be afraid to be 100% yourself

“Each spiderweb is uniquely woven, each individual does things in their own time and way” Ann Marie Martin

The book is also beautifully illustrated by Steve Hannigan . Hannigan a freelance graphic designer has volunteered for The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ+ youth suicide prevention organization, and seen from a very close distance how difficult it can be for our youth to deal and accept being different.

BE different. BE you. BE unique.

Xoxo

Jihane

DIY Family Craft : Sharpie Bowls

Summer is here! Oh, summer… It is the time of the year during in which moms worldwide have to find more ways to keep the kids busy and entertained! I was looking for something easy and mess free to do with two boys, aged 10 and 11. I wanted something useful they could also “take away” with them and remember the moment, so I started my research and I found Sharpie Mugs.

The idea is simple! Use oil based sharpie markers (available at craft stores, I got mine at Michaels) and $1 mugs or bowls from the dollar store.  I went looking for mugs, but I didn’t find any plain white mugs so instead I did bowls and it turned out better because that way they can use their bowls for cereal or snacks.

NOTE: It won’t work with regular Sharpies, so make sure you get the oil based ones.

img_2482

Then set your ideas free! Allow the kids to use their imagination and work on their design. You can also use stencils, for more intricate designs.

img_2508img_2509img_2510

Be careful not to smudge the colored area, the drawings can’t be erased. For the boys, putting the bowl upside down was easier to handle and move around. Make sure you cover your table because the markers will stain surfaces.

After your designs are done, put the mugs or bowls in a cold oven (don’t preheat) and set the temperature to 320F for 20mins. After 20 mins turn off and leave the bowls in the oven until they cool down. Remove carefully and boom! done! Your very own custom designed cereal bowls!

NOTE: Bowls/Mugs wont be dishwasther safe. You can wash by hand and they should stand the test of time, however they wont stand the dishwasher test.

img_2518

On my Wedding Day: A Promise to my Sons

Anyone that knows me knows that my son is the center of my universe. My son and I are a solid team, a team built out of love and adversity. Back in 2008, at age 26 and with a 3-year-old son I was left in a situation that every woman fears. My (then) husband left me for someone else. I was left homeless, husbandless, scared, and with a toddler to look after. It was a hard period in my life, a period I wouldn’t have been able to get out with without the help of my son, family, and friends. On my darkest moments, my little boy not only gave me the drive and motivation I needed, but he also gave me hope as he wiped my tears away and showered me with hugs. It was then I knew I needed to be strong for both of us.

IMG_5752

Sean (my son) and I have been inseparable. We are, as he calls us “mom and Sean, teamwork” we fight, we argue, we love, we bake, we play, we fight again, we make up … because that is what families do. When in 2010 we moved from the UK to Texas to be closer to my parents my son’s dad had plans to remain – from afar – part of his life. Three months after we moved to the States, he decided he had other plans. He hasn’t been part of my son’s life ever since. My son was 5 years old then.

Since then, I have been my son’s mom and his dad. I have done my best to fill the gap his dad left. I played with legos and football (soccer) I painted cars and soldiers with ray guns, I created a world for both of us. It took me 4 years after moving over to the States to ever even consider dating. I was just not into it, my priorities were my son, my degree and my career. I had my kid, friends, my family and my studies to keep me going and the last thing in my mind was to date anyone. I needed the time to heal and to reconnect with myself. I needed time to know that I don’t need another half to complete me, I am complete, I am whole and I am the only one responsible  for my own happiness. And so I went on.

IMG_3635

Many people worried I would never fall in love again, and many pushed me into trying to meet someone out there. I took my time and I am glad I did. I read somewhere once that “you have to kiss a few frogs before you meet your prince charming” and now I strongly believe that is true. I kissed a few frogs, and as a more mature and centered woman, I knew what I wanted and what I deserved because after all they also say “we accept the love we think we deserve.”

So then, I meet him. I meet my prince charming in disguise. I meet someone with a pure heart, and with the patience of a saint. Someone who can put up with my stubbornness, someone who can soften the edges of my strong personality, someone who lets me be me. I found someone who understands who I am, and who makes me a better person. Someone like that you can’t find every day, someone like that some spend a lifetime look for. Someone like that I thought not possible for me. He is not perfect, I am not perfect but then again perfection is boring and utterly overrated. It is when we can see the flaws and love them anyway that we know we can be with someone.

Because of all that, is that I am (against many odds) marrying this person. This person who on our 3rd date (overly confident and cocky lol) had the courage to tell me, then and there, that he knew he would marry me someday.

IMG_6860

Perhaps is too soon, perhaps is too fast, but so is life. I am a firm believer that if we sit and wait until we think we are ready for something, then we sit and wait until its too late. That and I am also one of the most impatience person on earth. I have waited enough.

So to my son I say today as my wedding day approaches: Never give up on love. It is there, it is attainable and it is the force that moves us forward –  like you did. Today let it be known that you are and forever will be the force that drives me forward, you are and forever will be my number one, my biggest achievement, my rock, my sun… my sunny Sean. To you my son if there is anything I can pass on, let it be the tenacious search for knowledge and the unstoppable pursuit of happiness. Never give up, life will get hard, and I won’t always be able to protect you. Life will get cruel and some people will break you. But be strong in your softness and stand your ground. Know that forever and always I am here for you. Forever and always I will lift your spirit and do my best to bring you happiness.

That is my promise, from the day you were born to the day I die.

If there is anything you remember me by, let it be a happy childhood with nights under the covers, surrounded by teddies, hot chocolate, and Star Wars marathons. Be you, always be you. Be true, always be true. And remember being afraid is ok, letting fear stop you, isn’t.

To my stepson (the one I gain with this marriage) I promise always to try my best. I promise always to keep you in mind because you are too part of our family. I promise always to make you feel wanted, cared for, and loved. I promise Star War marathons and cups of hot chocolate under the stars.

If there is anything I want you to know is that “Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten”

IMG_7512

Xoxo

Jihane

Ten Years of Being His Mum

Wow! time flies! although it certainly goes slower when you do this motherhood business on your own. I wasn’t always on my own tho, I was married when my son was born and got divorced when he was 4 years old.

I don’t really want to make this post about divorce.I want to make this post about my son and the man I hope he becomes.

FullSizeRender 5

My son’s name is Sean. Sean is turning TEN years old this weekend. When people ask me “can you believe he is turning 10?” I say oh yes I can. I have been there every single day!  Motherhood doesn’t come with a manual, and many things can and will be trial an error as we go through the journey of life. I was 23 years old when he was born. I was so ready and willing and I took the motherhood thing on board from day one like a pro! That is not to say that I didn’t struggle at times. But guess what new momma out there? It is ok to cry, it is ok to fail and it is ok to get right back up and try again! You can do this because you and only you know whats best for your child.

IMG_4079

My Sean is the sweetest boy I know. His compassion has transformed him in a vegetarian-ish all his life. His compassion has transformed me in a vegetarian-ish over the last 5 years or so.You see one day when he was 5 he told me “but mommy, if you eat that pig and it was a mommy pig then her baby pigs will be alone, sad and crying – and I don’t want that, I dont want to kill animals to eat them”

… how could I argue with that?

94B1DC6A-48E6-47E3-B865-F9D1FB2AD70B

His softness is his strength, and I wouldn’t change that for the world. He loves to play with Legos, and everything Math. He says, he wants to be an architect. He says he wants to design houses for the poor, and make cool slides for stairs for those who can’t walk. He is fascinatated by WWI and WWII, the history of it all, the uniforms, the struggles. And he worries about a WWIII happening in his lifetime.

He is like any other 9-year-old who loves to play video games; and I do let him play somewhat violent video games like Call of Duty, because guess what? that kid can’t even think about killing and eating a cow so who are you to question his playing options? who is more violent now? yeah, you there munching on that fillet mignon. 

He is messy, and he hates wearing pants (sorry Sean) and I still have to struggle every morning with “find your shoes” regardless of how many times I have said to put them in one place the day before.

This kid has made me a stronger person. He has made me flourish and grow. I own who I am today not only to my parents but to my son. My gift to him will love, knowledge and compassion. It is my mission to make him a well rounded individual who knows about world history, wines, food, politics and art. It is my mission to make him a responsable man, a man with high morals and integrity. It is my mission to love him and care for him, yet to give him enough room to fly and let him be independant. 

It is my mission to teach him that lying is not allowed. Lying is not punished neither is permited in this house. Open communication is constanly promoted, because you see, when you are open and honest lies become uncecessary and quite franly just plain yuck!.

 

IMG_1334

I won’t however bespow religion upon him in any way or form. I will give him the tools to decide what is what, and for him to make a decision on what to believe in. Because I believe we as indivduals have the right to decide what works for us, and I rather give him the knowledge than make him repeat like a parrot whatever religion I decide to follow. Morals and values can be given without the ties to a religion.

It is my gift to you, son. Not today, not just for your birthday but every single day. Learn, Live, Smile. Be proud!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BOO! MUM LOVES YOU TO THE MOON AND BACK 93844293802 TIMES!

xoxo

Jihane

Safe Little Monsters :: Halloween Safety ::

Halloween!!! time for scary masks, little superheroes, vampires, green witches and well candy! Please, parents, grandparents and carers  let’s be extra careful this Halloween season with our little ones (and no so little) safety is important!

That is why I have decided to share some safety tips kindly provided by the Houston Police Department in my community. Thank you HPD!

IMG_2997

Halloween Safety Tips

 Preplanning 
• Parents should accompany their children while the children are Trick or Treating. At least be close enough to see your child at all times.
• Take a cell phone if possible.
• Children should travel in a group. Although older children may travel in pairs, they should still be in contact with their parents or a guardian.
• If the neighborhood is participating in a Trick or Treat Trail program, stick to the trail.
• Pre-plan the route children will be taking and consider the approximate time they will be gone.
• Work out a plan in case your child gets separated from the group. Supply each child with a telephone contact number and an alternate place to meet; If necessary attach the telephone number to the child’s costume.
Costume Design 
• Each child should be equipped with a flashlight. This flashlight, whether carried on a string or in a pocket, should be considered a part of the costume making it important to the child
• Incorporate reflective tape into the costume for maximum visibility in the dark. • Avoid costumes made with large amounts of plastic. Be extremely cautious of materials which could come in contact with flame (candles, etc.)

Trick or Treat 
• Children should not go to homes which are off the established path or the path agreed upon with parents. 
Don’t go to homes which are either poorly lit or not lit at all. 
• Be wary of older individuals who are not known to the group, but begins walking with and associating with them.
• Accept no rides from strangers.
• Children should not ride by themselves, in a car, with anyone except a parent, brother or sister.
• If you observe something unusual happen; children should notify their parents. A parent may need to notify the police.

 Treats 
• Parents, do not allow your children to eat their treats until they return home and you are able to inspect it.
Inspect all wrappers for tears, holes and/or unusual characteristics.
• Pay particular attention to soft candies and soft chocolate bars.
• If a wrapper is torn or exhibits a hole in it, open it and inspect the candy further. If you feel uncomfortable about the candy or suspect it in any way, throw the candy away. Give the child candy from your own stock. Inspect fruits also for cuts, punctures, or marks which may look unsanitary or the results of tampering.
Safety first! I am sure that all of my readers already know these tips but just in case, let’s be extra careful especially with the little ones. Halloween can be a confusing concept for kids as we constantly tell them not to accept candy from strangers, yet during Halloween…. yeah, we contradict ourselves, lol parenting.
Enjoy!
HAPPY HALLOWEEN!
BOOO!
Trick or Treat?
Trick or Treat?

Easter Eggs Fun!

Wether you celebrate Easter or Ostara, if you are like me and LOVE all things Spring then Easter Egg decorating is a must! I am an easter baby, and every few years my birthday coincides with Easter, perhaps that is why Spring is one of my favourite seasons (who am I kidding I like them all for different reasons, I fall in love with nature on each and everyone of “her” magical stages)

A little history about this date: “Ostara is essentially the pagan incarnation of the traditional Christian Easter. The Christian tradition itself draws the name from the pagan god “Oestre” or “Eastre.” This word has Germanic roots and refers to the eastern direction from which the sun rises. Oestre is the Teutonic goddess of spring and dawn who is very closely associated with the Vernal Equinox.According to myth, pagan children would present eggs as a gift to the goddess in return for the coming of the spring. Oestre traditionally carried an egg to symbolize birth and new life.  Christian traditions incorporating eggs have not strayed very far from this practice.”

Anyway this year I got a little more crafty and decided to make some delicate Easter Egg decorations for my love nest.  I found these very cool blank decoration eggs at Michael’s for $3.99 a pack of 12. I used the traditional method of food coloring and I added a little touch of spring with this very cool papillons.

My little dude helped me which meant a lovely arty/crafty activity out in the sun and little fingers stained with colors and confetti, it was fun!

IMG_2234
finished product ❤

Next we tried another method using Papier-mâché or paper mache, also found at Michael’s for $3.99 a pack of 6. We then used left over confetti to cover the eggs up making very colorful eggs, and placing them on a little nest ($2.99 at Michael’s)

We covered each egg with glue, and then dipped it into the confetti bag (very fun and messy) until they were all covered. Pat with your hands to make sure all the confetti sticks to the egg and then simply let dry.

Finished results!

IMG_2233

Last but not least, we simply added some papillon to naked paper mache eggs.

IMG_2232And there you have it! Easter Eggs to decorate the house NON EDIBLE.

xoxo

OnixJ… and little dude

Courage and Kindness

So this week we have been on Spring Break (my son and I). We have been spending lots of time together which I love. We took a road trip to central Texas and we have had many adventures. Today however we took it slow and decided to go to the cinema. At first, we went with the idea of watching Sponge Bob’s new movie but when we got there the waiting time for the next screening was just too much to bear so we had to sit and decide what else to watch.

IMG_2013And then he said “Mami lets just watch Cinderella, I’m sure you will like it” – the kindness in this boy never ceases to amaze me. And so after some consideration, I thought sure why not? Who says boys shouldn’t watch a princess movie (yes, half the world, many important male figures in my life will probably say so too, but so what)

In we went, we sat among many little girls and we watched the newest version of Cinderella. He wasn’t familiar with the story, neither did he know the characters as I did. He struggled with all the deaths in the film. He little eyes watered and he held my hand tightly when Cinderella’s mom died and he was almost angry about her bad faith when her dad also died. He did not believe me at first when I said the step mom was evil (I’m glad he didn’t because that means he hasn’t created any stereotypes around the idea) nor did he understand why the step sisters were so vile.

My boy is kind just like Cinderella, and that doesn’t make him less of a boy. He is into all boyish stuff, obsessed with WWI and WWII. He likes legos and cars, and he is a die-hard Star Wars fan. Yet my boy is so kind he won’t “Kill animals” just to eat them. His compassion is infinite, making him vegetarian by choice. He is kind,  opens the door for me, he is kind and worries when he sees me upset for something he knows he didn’t do. My boy is kind and I love him.

After watching the movie my sense of fairness in this world has replenish, and my son’s idea of kindness and courage was pumped up. (also his idea of true love, which we might have to revisit in the future lol)

IMG_1413We believe (him and I) in fairness, and kindness, and in the good in people. We believe in kind words, in affection, and in the power of loving words. We don’t believe in lies, nor in being mean when we are upset… words can hurt more than anything else. And yes we do fight with each other but we never stop caring, as he said the other day “I love you so much that even when we fight I love you” … that my friend is true love.

I can only hope life doesn’t change him, and even if it does I have this version of him now which will be forever my own.

Xoxo

The Chores Jar

So my son is nearly 9 years old and although he helps around the house now and then I think its time to put some more action into this. He has reward charts that grant him video game time and that works really well, but with the new puppy (we adopted a lovely 9 week old Lab/Hound mix from the shelter last week)  its a perfect opportunity to inject some more responsibility into his life. But as a mother of a boy I know that whenever possible things have to be “fun”.

So I decided to make a Chores Jar instead of a chart since we already have a reward chart in place. The jar makes it a little more fun and random as he has to pick a chore daily, but without looking.

I wanted to make something colorful so I made the “chores” by printing them in different colors and fonts. Play with it and have fun, you can even use a theme as superhero or cars or whatever and put little pictures into the cards too. I was going for a “vintage” look so I kept it simple.

IMG_7414-0

What do you need:

1 mason jar or any other glass/clear plastic jar

1 set of printed chores

Glue

1 label (I made mine using Canva.com, printed and glued)

A pair of scissors

I printed my own customized label and placed on the jar with some glue. You can also print straight into label paper and its probably easier that way.

You can download mine if you like and use with your own jar.

I printed at 75% of the size to make it fit into the Mason Jar.
I printed at 75% of the size to make it fit into the Mason Jar.

The rest is pretty self explanatory.

IMG_7424-1

IMG_7418