Sharing recipes, crafts and frugal living, the challenges and triumphs of parenting a neurotypical child and a child on the Autism Spectrum. Yoga Instructor said goodbye to her nightly glass of Chardonnay to give up habits that were not serving her purpose in life! The CocktailMom name remains, however with a new focus on healthy and authentic living.


An Everyday Hobo Bag

Just like you I am swimming in free grocery shopping bags. But when I recently received a bag of fabric from a local friend who was clearing out her fabric stash and discovered this hobo bag precut in the fabric pieces it inspired me to make an everyday bag as a gift for my best friend in Pittsburgh.

I paired the precut bag with other fabric I had in my stash to create the lining and front pocket. The size is perfect for picking up a bottle of wine and a baguette for an impromptu picnic or running errands around the city while still being fashionable.

To "Mom-friend Lauren": whenever you want to purge your fabric, let me know. It helps me cross gifts off my list. Thanks!


Dollar Days at Baltimore Museums Dec 8-9th, 2012

Mark your calendar! December 8th and 9th, 2012 are the dollar days at many Baltimore museums and attractions!
My children love the Children's Museum (picture above in the water room), the science center and the aquarium. All three are listed as participating again this year.

Pack a lunch and make a day of it, visit as many destinations as you can. For a buck it's worth it!!!


Logan is 9! Thank You Cards

If you've been reading the CocktailMom Blog for a while you know that I'm a huge fan of thank you cards. I think sitting and writing a handwritten thank you note is such an important lesson for parents to teach their children. Not only does it develop their handwriting and letter writing abilities but it also teaches them to acknowledge thanks and to be mindful of living life with compassion to others.

Here are a few of Logan's previous thank you cards over the years; Age 7, Age 6Age 5.

This year Logan had a New York themed birthday party and we made party hats out of MTA subway maps that I printed onto card stock. Using the leftover scraps of paper from the party hats I made small party hats to adhere to white card stock and decorated with a black sharpie. All of the birthday party thank you cards includes a current photo of the child. And Logan wrote on the back of each card thanking the person for his gift and coming to his party.

If you don't already send out thank you notes, have your children start this holiday season. It's never too late to begin a new tradition.


POPular Teacher Appreciation Gift

At my children's school we have a PTA Hospitality Committee, volunteer parents who every month surprise the teachers with a little goodie in their mailbox. Our goal is to extend Teacher Appreciation for the entire school year. We live in a county where the teachers have not seen a raise in many years and as parents we want them to know how much we appreciate their hard work for our children.

September was my month and when I saw this recipe all over Pinterest I knew I had to try it. I actually loathe popcorn and I realize that I am a small percentage of the population who feels this way about popcorn.

I followed Nest of Posies' recipe; I did batches of 3 microwave bags of popcorn to 1 bag of candy melts and simply eyeballed the amount of m&ms in each batch. I will warn you- the best way to get the popcorn coated without breaking the puffed kernels into tiny specks is to get dirty and mix it with your hands.

 I divided the treats into small plastic bags and tied with ribbon and a tag, I used the wonderful free printable over at Domesticated Lady. Surprise your children's teachers with a quick, easy and affordable treat.
Click on the image to enlarge to print.


Halloween Lunch Box Fun Printable

My boys LOVE Halloween. They also love jokes. We have several joke books laying around the house just in case the moment calls for a good knock-knock-joke.
When I saw this free printable on Today's Creative Blog, I knew I'd have to share them with you.
Click on the image above and print out, place one joke in your child's lunchbox to count down the days till Halloween.



"No object is mysterious.  The mystery is your eye."  
   ~Elizabeth Bowen, The House in Paris, 1935


Mommy's Time Out

Do you feel like you never have time for yourself? You give and give...

  • to your spouse 
  • your kids
  • your kids' school
  • your job
  • your kids' sports team
  • your extended family
  • the dog...and the list goes on and on.

Where are you on that list?

If you are like many moms you are at the bottom of that list, typically after the dog. This has got to change- TODAY!

I know many women who give until they have nothing left, exhausted physically, emotionally and mentally. Finally her spouse notices and rewards her with a day at the spa, friends ooh-and-ahh at how lucky she is to spend the day relaxing only concerning herself with what type of massage to get. But then the day after the spa visit life resumes back to "normal", she is back to giving until her well runs dry yet again.
I use to be one of those moms, putting myself at the bottom of the list of needs. And then I woke up; unhappy in my marriage, unhappy with myself and my life's purpose. So I overhauled my life. I got a divorce, started my own business and began putting myself at the top of the list.

Now I'm not suggesting you get a divorce or change careers; unless you are headed in that direction. What I am suggesting is that you make yourself a priority EVERY DAY!
Take five minutes and sit on a pillow or in a chair, close your eyes and breathe.
Just breathe.
Turn off your Facebook and email alerts, silence your phone. Inform your spouse and children that when you are sitting on the pillow with your eyes closed you are NOT to be disturbed. This will be hard for them, so it's best to choose a time of day when there is not a lot of activity going on. That doesn't mean when no one is home, they can be there too. Just inform them of the new rule and that you expect them to be respectful of your time.

Allow yourself five minutes to clear your mind and fill your well. The world will not come to an end because Mommy sat down and breathed for 5 minutes.
You deserve this- make yourself a priority TODAY!


Organize that Junk Drawer!

We all have that kitchen drawer that holds the odds and ends of our life. Some refer to it as the "junk drawer", housing such items as take out menus, rubber bands and watch batteries. In my house we have a vitamin drawer, which also holds other bits of randomness.... box tops for education, essential oils, chore magnets etc.
Using berry baskets and the Styrofoam containers that mushrooms are sold in is a great way to organize your kitchen drawers that catch the randomness of your life.
Sure you could go to Target and buy cute, hot pink plastic organizing baskets....but why?
Who is coming to your house to check out your junk drawer? No one is seeing it but you, save your money for family vacation!

Instead of recycling those mushroom Styrofoam containers- give them another lease on life.
Tackle that junk drawer- once and for all!


College Park Patch: Walking Children Through a Death in the Family

                                                                                                   This article was originally published on the College Park Patch.

We are coming up on the one-year anniversary of the death of a dear friend of mine.
I met Monte in college. He was flamboyant and loud and, as a freshman away from home, I was both terrified and fascinated by him.
He had a voice like a gospel angel and wasn’t afraid of conducting a public performance, wherever that might be: Walgreens, a bar or restaurant or randomly in the middle of the sidewalk in New York City where we both went to live after college. When his spirit was moved to song… he sang!
Monte struggled with cancer and died too young at 39 years old. I've been thinking about Monte a lot lately, I’ve been having dreams about him and I know it’s because the anniversary of him dying is only days away. Randomly, when I see someone that reminds me of him or hear a song that I know he’d like, my eyes begin to tear up and I’m instantly reminded that he isn’t here to pick up the phone and call to tell unimportant details of my day to.
“Oh my word Monte, you’ll never believe what this woman at the DMV is wearing!”
My children have noticed my moments of sadness. The other day, out of the blue, my youngest son said, “Mommy can we watch that video of your friend singing to L in your belly?”
I have a video of Monte singing to my belly at my baby shower when I was pregnant with L. If the house were on fire, I’d grab my children and that VHS tape and run. 
We watched it and halfway through my older son appeared in the room, realizing what were watching and said, “I want to see it from the beginning!” So we watched it again and again, never tiring of hearing his beloved voice.



College Park Patch: Heroes Right in My Neighborhood

This article was originally published on the Greenbelt Patch.
Almost weekly my oldest son, L, who is on the Autism Spectrum has a new career that he wants to be when he grows up. His career dreams used to last much longer.
We had an entire year of him wanting to be an engineer, then he dreamed of being a scientist. His longest running dream career yet has been an astronaut, but it was recently was overthrown by being a soldier.
It's hard to explain his desire to be a soldier. We aren’t a military family, and we don’t know anyone currently in the military. He doesn’t even have a cool uncle in uniform that he looks up to, who comes to family functions. But when asked the “what do you want to be when you grow up?” question, the first thing out of his mouth is—soldier.
As school was starting, he met a soldier in person, during the onslaught of extracurricular activities that comes with a new school year. Here's what happened:
I am at the Greenbelt Community Center signing up both of my children for classes when a man in army fatigues enters the office. One of the employees offers to help me at another desk so that both of us can be serviced at the same time. While I stand a few feet away, the boys stay by the door. L’s gaze immediately hooks on this man.
As I look over my shoulder, to keep an eye on my children, I notice the man has a large scar running down the side of his head. L approaches him with his arm stiffly erected in front of him, his hand out to shake the soldier’s hand. The man takes my son’s hands in his and shakes it ever so gently.
I notice that I’m holding my breath for fear that L is going to ask an obtrusive question. Children on the Autism Spectrum don’t have filters and L will speak exactly what is on his mind. Often it’s not the most polite thing to say, but instead it is brutally honest. I'm, of course, worried that L is going to ask him about his scar or worse.
L looks the man in the eye and with a furrowed brow says, “Thank you for the work you did in the war.”
I inhale, biting down on my lip, hoping that holds back the tears that are instantly beginning to well up in my eyes.
The man is obviously surprised by this nine-year-old's respect and thanks him. L says, “Can I ask you something?”

Home Depot Kids Workshop

If you are looking for a free and fun thing to do with your kids this weekend head over to your local Home Depot for the Kids' Workshop
On the first Saturday of each month the children can participate, along side of their parents, in a building project. 
My boys love to bang nails and build so this project was perfect for them, their very own cork boards for their bedroom. Each month there is a different project and you do not have to show up right at 9am; you can come anytime during the hours of the workshop. Check with your local store to find out the exact hours. Please note you have to be present with your child to build the project, this is NOT a drop off program. 
And the best part -it's FREE!


College Park Patch: Accepting Your Special Needs Child

                                                                                              This article was originally published on the College Park Patch.

Children on the autism spectrum can have unique interests. My son, who is on that spectrum, has gone though many phases. Some have lasted longer than others, and not every one has been socially acceptable for a boy.
The train and superhero phase was pretty easy to accommodate, but when he decided he wanted a butterfly birthday party one year, it was not exactly easy to pull off for a boy. I’m not proud to admit that I convinced him to go a different direction and recycled some of the leftover superhero decorations from the year before.
Accepting your special needs child doesn’t happen overnight. It happens over time. It doesn't come naturally for any parent to accept all of their quirks and interests.
It’s hard in the beginning to navigate the course, learning special diets, possibly medications, and scheduling the various therapy appointments. Eventually, though, it becomes second nature to you.
You learn how to help your child avoid meltdowns by not subjecting him or her to environments that cause breakdowns. You learn what lingo to use when talking to the specialists in your child’s Individualized Education Plan meeting. And you finally embrace who your child is.
My son is making leaps and bounds in his development, and right along with him I’m learning the lesson of acceptance.
This year my son wanted a New York City-themed birthday party. In school he had to do a report on the state of New York. It just so happened that he was born in New York City. While sharing his report with the class, he felt such pride that he was born somewhere that many of the children had never been to. And let’s be honest: NYC is a pretty cool place to be born!
Finding NYC decorations for a party was not easy. But that didn't stop this crafty-loving-mama!


College Park Patch: Five Free Things To Do With Your Children

                                                                                           This article was originally published on the College Park Patch.
Many of my friends are having babies, and it’s a reminder for me that our children really do grow up fast. In ten years I doubt my son will say, “I wish mom sat on the sidelines more while I played baseball.”
I want my children to remember the time we spent together. I want them to look back on their childhood summers with a smile on their lips.
I spent the beginning of summer rushing from one summer camp to another trying to coordinate pick-ups and drop-offs at the same time in opposite parts of town. I was exhausted, and I caught myself snapping at the children every morning as I stressed about getting each child to camp on time.
To amplify that one of my children is on the Autism Spectrum, and if he is late for something that he knows starts at a particular time it will screw up his entire day. It’s as if he can’t let it go, he’ll continue to worry and think about it.  And needless to say he won’t be fun to be around.
As August approached I felt like we didn’t have much to show for our summer. Sure we went on vacation and the boys went to camp, but I didn’t feel like I had any quality time with my children. I know that once school starts, we will be overwhelmed with activities, PTA and homework.
Whether you are a stay-at-home parent or a working parent; I know you can sympathize with me. Maybe your summer has looked a lot like mine? Tonight change the course of your summer and do the five things listed below.
If your children whine or complain about doing them, say, “Instead we can do chores together? Would you rather wash the baseboards?”    
1. Give each member of your family a small memo pad and one marker, including the adults, and walk around your neighborhood drawing what you see. If you can text and walk, you can draw and walk.


College Park Patch: Think Twice Before Posting Pictures Online

                                                                                                  This article was originally published on the College Park Patch.

“What is this?” my 7-year-old son asks, pointing at the computer screen, which has my Facebook news feed displayed.
“Oh that’s Facebook,” I reply nonchalantly as I come over to help him log on to a math computer game.
“But why am I on it?”
The look in his eye stopped me in my tracks and I am instantly reminded of a NPR story I heard recently about keeping kids safe online.
The story featured James Steyer, founder ofCommon Sense, an organization that helps parents decide which kinds of technology, movies, television shows, and apps are age-appropriate for their kids. The entire story was enlightening—but the part about posting pictures of your children online has stayed with me.
"I think you can be concerned about that because you never know why they're being used. You're creating a digital footprint. And some of the leading technology executives that I know never put up any pictures of their own children." Steyer warns.
"Once the photo or video is up, it's up there permanently. Even if you delete it, someone else may have already downloaded it or shared it online. So it's a record that's trackable and public and permanent. And your child will have to live with that and sometimes they don't want to. If you do opt to share baby pictures online, make sure your privacy settings are very carefully restricted," Steyer continues.
Our children are growing up in a digital age that is very different than when I was younger. I often joke with friends that I am so thankful that phones didn’t have cameras when I was in college!
I feel “old” when I lecture my twenty-something nieces about posting pictures of themselves doing shots with friends at nightclubs—they aren’t thinking about their job or a future promotion.
Since hearing the story on NPR, I’ve become increasingly aware of the type pictures of my children that I post on social media sites. I don’t want to mistakenly post embarrassing pictures that could later create problems for their careers.
If my son decides to run for President of the United States, will his opponent use pictures that were posted online, years ago, to run negative campaign ad campaigns against him?



Take a moment right now to just sit and breathe. Push yourself away from the computer, roll your shoulders back, close your eyes.
And breathe for 5 minutes.
Concentrate on breathing in and out through your nose, feeling the rise and fall of your belly.
This is all you have to do for 5 minutes.
Ignore the emails.
Tune out the noise.


When Your Child in on the Autism Spectrum, Your Wishes are Different

A new school year means many things for different families. New backpacks line the entryway, parents are getting up earlier to make lunches and lazy summer evenings have been replaced by homework.

Another school year means educating the new staff at Logan's school on how to interact with him. Logan is a bit of a celebrity amongst the returning staff at his elementary school. The school doesn't have a plethora of children on the Autism Spectrum and I think because Logan is high functioning without any behavior issues he's viewed as the "golden child of Autism". He's affectionate, doesn't disturb classes with meltdowns and his stimming behaviors go unnoticed because he doesn't flap, or turn in circles. That doesn't mean that he doesn't do stimming behaviors, its just not a disturbance.

Every year I make a simple print out with a picture of Logan and a few tips to help them understand Autism, I place it in each staff members mailbox in the school.
This is the what I created last year.  I used most of the same wording for this year's card but added what they call in the fundraising world as the "ASK".

Logan's best friend moved to North Carolina this summer and he doesn't really have any other friends at school. He doesn't understand social cues like other children do and he has a very hard time making friends. So my "ASK" this year: Can you help me make new friends?

If only a teacher took a bit more time to introduce him to another child in his class, suggesting a game they might play together. 
If only a parent talked to their child about reaching out to Logan and asking him to play during recess because Logan doesn't understand to do it himself. 

If I could have one wish for this school year. I don't care about Logan making straight A's. I don't care if he doesn't play sports. I wish with all my heart that he makes a friend.



(picture by Wendi Putzke)
All you need in the world is love and laughter. That's all anybody needs. To have love in one hand and laughter in the other.

-August Wilson


Cheesy Tomato Sauce

Previously I posted a recipe for a One Skillet Meal using potatoes with a cheese sauce. Once you make the potato recipe you'll have leftover cheese sauce...what should you do now? Well here is dinner number two that will make your life easier!

In a skillet add the cheese sauce and one can of tomato sauce, I used Hunt's because it was recently on sale at my grocery store for only a dollar. Add tomatoes sliced from your garden, season with salt and pepper, throw in some Morningstar vegetarian crumbles and serve over pasta.

If you'd like to start from the beginning this is the original cheese sauce recipe:

8 ounces of cream cheese, cubed
1/4 cup mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
3/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
Place all the ingredients in a microwave safe dish and microwave for three minutes. Remove and stir and continue to microwave in 1 minute increments until it is melted.



Something opens our wings. Something
makes boredom and hurt disappear.
Someone fills the cup in front of us.
We taste only sacredness.


One Skillet Dinner with Potatoes

I love to cook but I hate the clean up, so I often try and create recipes that don't involve a lot of pots and pans. Most of this recipe can be made in one skillet, the cheese sauce is prepared in a microwave safe dish. This recipe will serve 4 people. Enjoy!

1 onion, chopped
3 russet potatoes, thinly sliced
2 cups of frozen chopped spinach
1 pepper, chopped. Or half of a red and yellow pepper for color

Begin by putting the onions and potatoes in a covered skillet with the oil of your choice, I use sesame oil. Once the potatoes are halfway done add the remaining ingredients and continue to cook covered, stirring frequently. If you notice the potatoes stickily to your skillet add more oil.

Cheese Sauce:
8 ounces of cream cheese, cubed
1/4 cup mozzerella cheese
1/4 cup parmasean cheese
3/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
Place all the ingredients in a microwave safe dish and microwave for three minutes. Remove and stir and continue to microwave in 1 minute increments until it is melted.
Serve on top of the potatoes.

Tune in Wednesday to find out what to do with your leftover sauce!


Summer Salad for Lunch

Remember that summer salad recipe I posted a week or so ago? Well I just wanted to share how delicious it is for lunch. Served with feta cheese, tomatoes from your garden and sliced hard boiled eggs. Don't tell your kids or spouse but it's really healthy too!



Share only POSITIVE Buzz today. 
Let go of gossip and negative talk- choose to spread positive affirmations.


Chocolate Pretzels

This is so easy, you'll find yourself stocking up on the essentials so that you always have them on hand in case a craving hits.
Using a cookie tray place Hershey’s kisses onto tiny pretzels; I've used squares, circles and twists- they all work!
275 degrees for 3 minutes. 
Remove, and immediately press a single m&m; on each. 
Refrigerate until they are solid, I also store leftovers in the refrigerator.



"One regret, dear world,
That I am determined not to have
When I am lying on my deathbed
Is that
I did not kiss you enough."



Elephant Softie

With a new baby in our family I had to create something special for him. I found this tutorial from Jessica Christian and fell in love with the simple design. The directions are extremely clear and easy to follow even for a beginner. Take the plunge and try making this cute elephant. 
To save time I used felt for the eyes and I also added bells to the inside of the elephant since it was for a baby. And babies like things that make noise. (So do their parents. HA!)


Jitterbugs Weekend!

I've gushed about these women many, many times on this blog. These ladies are my Jitterbug Gals, the friendship we have is like no other in my life. We live far apart now (MD, Seattle and Michigan) so all three of us are meeting up in Chicago this weekend! I am so excited!! I know that I will come back from this weekend renewed in my spirit.
Mark your calendar to spend time with your best girlfriends, though life can be hectic- make it a priority.


Scrapbooking in a Frame- I Love Us

Sometimes I like to add more than just a picture to a frame. My wife needed a little bit of crafty goodness at the office so I whipped this together for her. I downloaded the free "I Love Us" card from eighteen25, comes in four great colors. I used scrapbook paper that I had in my stash and picked up the funky frame at Target for less than 5 bucks.

Try scrapbooking in a frame and enhance the ambiance of someone's cubicle, link a picture in the comments.



Open your eyes to the possibility of FUN right in front of you!


Magnifying Glass Valentine's Cards

I prefer to do a non-candy Valentine's card for my children's classrooms. When I saw this idea on Pinterest from Dandee Designs I knew I had to do it. Logan and Zane love magnifying glasses, such a simple thing can keep them occupied for hours.

I purchased magnifying glasses from Oriental Trading Company, it ended up being cheaper than purchasing candy. Click here to go to Dandee to download the free printable card.

Do you have a summer birthday party to plan? Have magnifying glasses as the take away gift in lieu of candy or other party trinkets. Encourage children to explore the world around them.


College Park Patch: When Claiming Personal Space Goes Too Far

This article was originally published on the College Park Patch.

My parenting journey began in New York City when I was living in a predominately Haitian neighborhood in Brooklyn. Every day I traveled to work on the 2/3 trains, my belly increasing in size and the rising summer temperatures of New York becoming unbearable (especially on the trains that did not have air conditioning). 
When I would get on the train in the evening in Union Square, the Haitian women would already be well adjusted in their seats, traveling from the Upper East Side, likewise tired from taking care of upper class Caucasian children and their high-maintenance parents. The Haitian women would see my extremely large belly, smile, and typically pat it as I walked by them searching for a seat to no avail. Never was I offered a seat—pats on the belly and gender predictions, but never a seat.
Once my son was born, I was exhausted from the daily fight of living in NYC. I loved this city—I loved the fast pace, the diversity, and the arts—but I was exhausted from having to fight for every square inch of personal space. I was tired of carrying my overpriced Maclaren stroller up four flights of steps to our apartment, tired of being crammed next to strangers in trains with a baby strapped to my chest. I was ready to go. I needed more space!
Ironically I now reside in a small GHI (Greenbelt Homes Inc.) townhouse with my wife and two sons. I actually prefer small spaces, because I believe they keep us from acquiring more than we need. I adore living simply: everything in our space is used, and we value the items we have acquired.
This past week, we went on vacation to Myrtle Beach, SC. It was the first time there for our family, and I was taken aback by the aggressive beach tent culture. Each morning around 6 a.m., other vacationers would be on the beach claiming their ideal oceanfront space with giant 10' x 10' foot tents. What happened to beach umbrellas?


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