Sunday, July 29, 2012

Fun in the Sun!

If you've been reading the blog since the beginning, you know that I've blogged about a less than stellar outing with my son.  It's like the tales of two Cristians because I am now blogging about a picture perfect outing with my picture perfect boy.

Friday night, the Autism Society of Southeastern Wisconsin (ASSEW) held a member's event at Cool Waters - an outdoor family aquatic park in West Allis.  The park was closed to everyone except families with autistic children and the whole night was just such a wonderful experience.  I knew it was going to be a memorable night when I didn't even have to worry about checking in because the event coordinators recognized me from another event I attended.

We were differently prepared for this outing.  Cristian took a nap, which is very odd for him.  We kept using the outing as an incentive for being a good boy.  As my husband told me, we're still working on a learning curve.  Each and every time we go out with him we are learning and growing as parents as much as he is growing and learning.

We learned that going down slides, much like life, can be so much fun...

...or it might surprise you a little...

...or it could be a total wipeout!

We learned that trying new things isn't that bad after all!  (Next step is the shower!)

Lastly, we learned that no matter how bad the bad is that the good makes you forget all about it!

The weather was a bit chilly and that was the only thing that cut our outing short.  There were so many smiles and laughs and such a sense of understanding that it was overwhelming.  Instead of dirty looks, pointing and snickers there were empathetic nods and words of encouragement.  The environment was so positive and so welcoming that we were truly excited to hear about two other events coming up at places we frequent - Betty Brinn Children's Museum and Kids in Motion.

As we were leaving, I had a wonderful chat with one of the ASSEW coordinators who also recognized my past attempts at a support group and my appearance on a local morning show.

It was nice to know that even though the support group didn't work out that there are plenty of opportunities for me to work with this wonderful organization in the future.  Without organizations like ASSEW, things would be a lot more difficult for parents like Blake and I.

Friday became one of those days that as a parent you will never forget.  You take all of the mental snapshots you can of those moments you can only pray your children remember as well.  Lucky for me, I have a husband who takes pictures like they are going out of style and is apparently training our son to do the same.

Friday was also CJ's first trip to the zoo!
Now I know that not every trip will be sunshine and daisies from here, but I will definitely remember this face for the hard times...

Until the next mani, stay puzzled and polished!


Monday, July 23, 2012

Happy Birthdays!

Saturday was my brother's birthday and today is my mother's birthday, so this weekend has been filled with love, presents and lots of cake!  Ah, cake.  It's definitely one of my downfalls.  Who doesn't love a piece of sweet cake with gooey frosting?

We celebrate the birthdays separately, so that means two cakes.  Kyle requested a Vanilla Cake and Mom wanted "nothing" so I prepared one of her favorites - an Upside-Down Pineapple Cake.  With the help of a trusty Google search, I found a way to make both of them happy while not ruining all of my hard work.

You will need:
  • Box of cake mix
  • 2 egg whites
  • 10 ounces of diet soda
Mix together, bake for the time allotted on the box and...THE END!'s that easy!  For Kyle, I used vanilla cake mix and vanilla creme soda.  For Mom, I used pineapple cake mix and lemon-lime soda.  I know my husband would love a chocolate and cherry cola cake or a vanilla and root beer cake.  The possibilities, just like with my Strawberry Pie, are endless.

For Kyle's, I also whipped up a super decadent and creamy vanilla frosting that beats any canned frosting I've ever had.  Here's a BONUS recipe for you!

You will need:
  • 1 tub of fat-free Cool Whip
  • 1 cup of skim milk
  • 1 box of fat-free sugar-free vanilla pudding mix
Mix together, let sit until frosting consistency, spread on and ENJOY!

For Mom, I sprinkled brown sugar and pecans on the bottom of a sprayed pan.  I then decorated with lots of pineapple and maraschino cherries and poured the batter over - just like with any other Upside-Down Pineapple Cake.  Who says that low-calorie means more work?

There you have it, yet another easy recipe from my kitchen to yours!  Not indulging in full fat cakes and eating Lean Cuisine pizzas instead of Sam's Club pizza were definitely two non-scale victories for me!
Before I leave you, let me wish two very important people very happy birthdays!

KYLE - I am so proud to call you not only my brother, but my friend as well.  It has been a pure blessing to see you grow into the man you are and I cannot wait to see what your future holds.

MOMMA - You have grown into one of my closest friends and I thank God for you each and every day.  Without you, I would be nothing.


Until the next mani, stay puzzled and polished!


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Introducing the W.A.V.E. Scale!

Since I've written a pieces post, it's only fair that I give you my few readers a polished post!

As I mentioned eariler, I will be working with many lovely ladies for the Lacquer Clones project.  I will be contributing some swatch sticks for some comparison posts, and I'm also planning on some posts of my own.

Each polish will be rated on the W.A.V.E. scale.  What is that you ask?  I have to give a shout-out to one of my TV boyfriends, Adam Richman for the idea via his B.I.T.E scale.
  • W - Wear (Most polishes can chip very easily or have massive tip wear.  How does the polish wear?)
  • A - Application (Depending on the polish, application can be a dream or a nightmare.  Will putting on this polish make you want to rip your nails off?)
  • V - Value (Polishes can cost anywhere from $1.99 to $30.00 or more based on how easy they are to find.  Do you have to give up a limb or a paycheck to get the polish?)
  • E - Exuberance (Some polishes can show up like rainbows in the shade and others need a little sunshine to help.  Does this polish give you the WOW factor?)
To test it out, here's my newest mani:

It's Jade Violetta (I'm loving the Jades I have so far) with an accent nail of Wet n Wild It's All in the Cut.  It's a mani that I'm really loving and getting a lot of comments on.  It's not the cleanest mani, but I'm getting better.

Jade Violetta
W - This polish wears like iron!  It can last 4-5 days with no chipping which is unheard of for holos!
A - Application was a dream.  Two coats wih no color underwear needed.
V- Depending on where you get the polish from, it can run you anywhere from $7.50 to $10.00.  This is mid-range for a holo but it's well worth it!
E - In the shade, in the sun, in the dark (well, that might be a stretch) this polish glows rainbows!

Wet n Wild It's All in the Cut
W - This polish, like a lot of chunky glitters, peeled right off after about 24 hours.
A - Application was not as bad as some glitters I've tried, but it wasn't super smooth.  It took about a coat and a half.
V - Wet n Wild is one of the most affordable polishes out there.  This one was discontinued, but there are other ways to get it (that's a whole 'nother post).
E - It's a gorgeous color with lavender and pink and holographic giltter.  Doesn't take much for it to shine.

Until the next mani, stay puzzled and polished!


Monday, July 16, 2012

Strawberry Pie!

In a household of seven people with rather different tastes, I am constantly searching for recipes that are good for us and taste just as good.  I experimented this weekend with Cannoli Cones, Tater Tot Casserole and Reuben Casserole, but the one dish that everyone kept talking about was my Strawberry Pie.

Now, I didn't invent the wheel but I really think I was able to perfect it.  This dessert was sweet but tart, creamy but fresh and made me wish I had made more for such a low calorie count!  On top of all of that, it was easy as...well, pie!  Would you like to find out how to make this recipe in your own kitchen?  I thought you'd never ask!

  • 1/2 pound of fresh strawberries, sliced except for 6 whole to be used as garnish
  • 1 box of sugar-free strawberry gelatin
  • 1 box of sugar-free fat-free vanilla instant pudding mix
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1 cup water
  • reduced-fat graham cracker pie crust
  • fat free whipped topping

Mix the vanilla instant pudding mix with the milk and water in a pot and heat until boiling.  Take off the heat, mix in the strawberry gelatin powder and let cool.  While letting the pudding/gelatin mix cool, slice the strawberries and line the bottom of the pie crust with the strawberry slices.  When cooled, pour the pudding/gelatin mix over the strawberries.  Put in the refrigerator and let sit for at least one hour to solidify.  When ready to eat, cut into 6 slices and garnish with whipped topping and a whole strawberry.  Enjoy!

There are so many modifications you can make to this dessert, like removing the pie crust.  Strawberries not in season or not your favorite?  Use bananas with strawberry banana jello or canned peaches with raspberry jello.

A huge part of my weight loss journey is learning that food isn't your enemy and you can have anything in moderation.  Another part is realizing how delicious foods that can be good for you are!  Enjoy this great summer dessert with great summer company!

Until the next mani, stay puzzled and polished!


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Rolling the Dice!

As a parent, you want to give your child the world.   I want give Cristian the best of everything.  I want him to have the best experiences.  I don't want him to miss out on anything - especially memories.

Any parent can tell you that taking a child on an excursion is a crapshoot.  There are a lot of factors that go into a successful trip - a full tummy, plenty of distractions and a well-rested child.  For a special needs parent, there are even more things that need to be taken into consideration.  For instance, Cristian's senses can become overloaded faster than a Kardashian divorce.  He is also very set in his routine and the slightest diversion can become disasterous.

It's really easy to be lulled into a false sense of security.  Cristian's birthday party went off without a hitch.  We went to a family reading night at his daycare and had no issues.  Therefore, we didn't think twice about taking him to a friend's house for a pick-up baseball game with some of our favorite church people.  It's also really easy to forget that the proverbial rug can be pulled leaving us on our butts in tears.

The night started off wonderfully.  A little catnap seemed to refresh him enough to play nice with our friends.  There was a little horseplay but nothing too much.  He ate well and listened when we told him that we'd come back for dessert.  Little did we know that we'd be missing dessert when we all headed off for the field.  The four boys held hands in a precious moment that needed to be recreated about five times so everyone could get their pictures in.  We picked teams and headed into our spots.  That's when it started to go south...

Cristian's knowledge of baseball starts and ends with knowing to hit the ball.  While playing catch in the backyard, he knows the ball can always come back to him.  When we started to play at the field and he realized the ball didn't come back to him, it started an epic meltdown that did not end.  There was screaming and throwing and hitting and pinching - oh my. 

My heart broke to see my little man so upset and I had no real idea why or how to help him.  My heart broke for his friends who were upset because they were hurt - I wanted them to know that he really does love them.  My heart broke because we rolled the dice one too many times and finally missed the mark.  My heart broke because instead of enjoying snocones and an Oreo-filled donut, we ended up leaving with him kicking and screaming and me crying and apologizing. 

After Cristian's diagnosis, we struggled with issues with friends as well as family.  For many, it was easiest to push us to the wayside instead of dealing with us.  Since then, I automatically assume the worst.  I await people to end friendships and was sure as we left Friday night that we'd be back to square one.  I thought we'd need to find a new church, new friends, worst case scenario.  Blake had to head back to pick up something we'd forgotten, and the support that he experienced and relayed back to me was mindboggling.

Between the support from my parents and brother that night and the reassurance from the other families there, I felt better.  They even discussed doing it again!  It was a learning experience for us all - for Cristian, for Blake and I, for the families we spent time with.  I can only hope that things like this get easier.  It was past his bedtime.  It was against his routine.  The odds were stacked against us, but we have the control to change the outcome for the next game.

That night, it felt like the world was ending.

Now, I realize that this is just the beginning.

Until the next mani, stay puzzled and polished!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Hello World!

Welcome to my little slice of cyberspace.  If you're not familiar with me, my name is Mandy.  I'm a 27-year-old born and raised in Milwaukee, WI.  I've been married to my Jersey boy at heart, Blake for almost 6 and a half years.  Together, we have a 4-year-old handsome handful named Cristian.

I've tried this blogging thing several times before, but nothing has ever stuck.  Yet, each time I stop I get the itch to blog again.  I've never really had any real motivation or direction before.  I really had to look into what makes me tick.  Thus, Polished Pieces was born.

Here is what you'll be reading from me:

Lacquer Lovin'

The polished part.  If you know me, you know I'm obsessed with nail polish.  My nails are almost always painted and it's a joke in my house that I single-handedly keep the USPS in business.  I've met some wonderful ladies who I am blessed to call my friends because of nail polish communities on Facebook who even helped name this blog!

You will be seeing dupe posts to help Lacquer Clones with their awesome project that will change the nail polish world!  You will be seeing my successes and fails with nail art.  You will see my love for holographic polishes and glitter, along with my favorite manicures.


Gift of AWE-tism

The pieces part.  The symbol for Autism, if you're not aware, is the puzzle piece.  My son was diagnosed with PDD-NOS on July 11, 2011.  My world has been turned upside down and I mean that in the most positive and loving way.  I'm not an expert, but I am learning each and every day.  Just like my nail polish girls and I stick together, and my loved ones supporting me on my weight loss journey, a good support system is key for any family dealing with the gift of Autism.

You will read about Cristian's good days and bad, as well as my parenting successes and fails.  You will read about what I've learned and what I am learning as a Special Needs parent.  You will read about what resources have helped us and what resources are available because this road can be a very lonely one if you don't have the right tools.

There will be a few miscellaneous posts about family, love, friends and my journey to find healthy curves, but the bulk will be about my puzzled and polished life.  Why?  This is my world right now.  It's all I know and I'm excited to have you along for the ride!

Until the next mani, stay puzzled and polished!