NIAW 2015 and Giuliana Rancic

Clockwise from Top: The note I wrote to the Rancics, Priceless Life's silver double sided hangtag pendant by Good Charma Inc, my photo op with Giuliana.

Clockwise from Top:
The note I wrote to the Rancics;  Priceless Life Fund Inc.’s silver double sided hangtag pendant by Good Charma Inc. ;my photo op with Giuliana.

By Tara Cushing (@TheBravoBlonde)

Sunday kicked off National Infertility Awareness week, a cause that is extremely close to my heart. After struggling to conceive my sons I swore that I would do something to help others in the same situation and so I partnered with Good Charma to design an infertility awareness pendant. In October 2013 I launched Priceless Life Fund Inc. with Lindsey, Jack, and Lisa, all people I met during my IF journey. It’s been our mission to get people to Tag themselves with our hangtag silver pendant in the name of Infertility awareness. Recently one wearer, who just had twins, told me she felt her necklace brought her luck. It was a real feel good moment for me.

Priceless Life Fund Inc. is a 501(c)3 organization that takes the money collected from both our necklace sales and direct donations and puts it in a fund that will grow for us to help somebody pay for IVF  treatment that is not covered by their health insurance. Right now we are working on what we call a Million Penny Miracle, you can check it out here.Launching a charity is probably the toughest thing I’ve ever done, it’s not easy to get people on board, and so we’ve tried to get some celebrities to tag themselves. Our latest was somebody who has been very instrumental in spreading the word about infertility.

When I found out Giuliana Rancic was going to be signing copies of her new book Going Off Script at one of my favorite local bookstores, I knew my chance had finally come to thank her for being outspoken about her infertility experience, and to let her know that Priceless Life Fund Inc. is here and anxious to help others. I have to say she exceeded my expectations. I’ve been to many celeb meet and greets and some are so happy to see their fans and others, umm well, are there simply because their literary agent made them. The line for Giuliana didn’t move as fast as most, but that’s because she really took the time to talk to every person on it. She really is a lovely woman and my goodness is she tall! With such a small frame one expects her to be petite, but she has major height even on 5’7″ me as you can see from the photo. (For all you skinny shamers, she’s skinny, but she doesn’t look unhealthy in person. She really just has a very delicate bone structure.)

When it was my turn I gave Giuliana one of PLF’s very special sterling silver necklaces and thanked her for being outspoken about her struggle to conceive her son Duke. She thanked me not only for the necklace, but for fighting for those who desperately want to be parents but can’t afford the treatments. “It is SO expensive,” she said. This goes to show just how costly this can be. Not that I know what Giuliana Rancic has in her bank account, but my guess is it’s more than the average person. Now if she thinks it’s expensive, imagine how it seems to somebody with a more modest income. That’s why we started Priceless Life Fund Inc.

For more information about Priceless Life Fund Inc. you can follow us on twitter @pricelesslife1 and hook up with us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pricelesslifefund.

To order our exclusive sterling silver necklace (all proceeds to charity) or make a direct donation visit our website priceless life.org.

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Build That House

Mobwives' Renee Graziano, Jennifer Dalton, and Jennifer Aydin at the Jennifer by Delice launch party.

Mobwives’ Renee Graziano, Jennifer Dalton, and Jennifer Aydin at the Jennifer by Delice launch party.

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of spending the evening with Jennifer Dalton, who you may remember from The Real Housewives of New Jersey season 5 and Pregnant In Heels season 2. Jennifer was celebrating the launch of her new fragrance and face and body bar line called Jennifer by Delice. Having attended several events together and sharing a close mutual friend, I’ve gotten to know Jennifer and was part of the group she arrived and left with.

Jennifer Dalton and I at the party.

Jennifer Dalton and I at the party.

Jennifer, like so many people I have met through my TBB blogging experience, is chasing her dreams. Like me, she is following a path, one that isn’t always easy or paved with definitive destinations. She’s on a journey, and though that journey may not be clear cut, the final destination is one of success, and self reliance, and she will get there. How do I know this? Because she’s not a quitter and she’s not one to just stand still and let the grass grow under her. She’s on the move, she’s setting goals, she’s leaving no stone unturned. As we close out 2014 and move into 2015, I want us all to embody those qualities that I see in Jennifer.

I’d like to share a little story with you. When I was a senior in high school I signed up to take a cooking class, I think it was a cooking class, though I don’t remember doing much cooking. The one thing I do remember, however, was our final project, which did indeed involve cooking. It was actually the main reason I signed up for the class. The fall semester students of this course got to design and create, from scratch, gingerbread houses for their final project. The houses then had the chance of being chosen for the holiday display at a popular inn north of New York City.

I had seen a Mexican Adobe Villa with sugar wafered patios and Twizzler Spanish tile roofing in a magazine and immediately knew this was the house my group had to make. My gut told me that choosing such a unique design that wasn’t typical for gingerbread houses would give us a leg up when it came to winning a spot in the display. If memory serves I got the the 3 other people in my group to agree to this. I can be pretty annoying  convincing when I have an agenda.

Making a gingerbread house from scratch is not easy, in fact I remember it being a complete and total pain in the ass. The gingerbread has to be cooked precisely, cooled to a certain hardness, angled a certain way. Any missteps and it literally all falls apart. There are strategically placed cans involved in getting walls to stand up and long drawn out minutes of holding the roof “just-so” until the icing sets enough so that you can let go.

After several days of fiddling with the gingerbread, repairing cracking pieces, scrapping parts to have to bake new ones again, our house was finally standing. We were excited to begin the decorating process, with just a couple of days left until the deadline. The morning of decorating day we walked in to find our house in ruins, the victim of some imaginary candied natural disaster. There sat our house in a heap of creamy frosting coated crumbly chaos. Our teacher could see the devastation in our eyes. “It’s ok,” she said, “I know how hard you all worked. You’ll get the A.”

That A, however, wasn’t good enough, at least not for me. “Can we start again?” I blurted out, while the eyes of the others, happy to be off the hook, shot imaginary daggers at my skull. “Well, there’s not much time, and it’s really not necessary. If you all want to then I suppose so, but you won’t be ready in time for the contest. Discuss it.”

There was no discussion, I was outnumbered. Nobody else in my group wanted to start again. They were satisfied to have tried, they were content with never touching gingerbread dough ever again. I went to my teacher and told her my dilemma. “It’s ok,”she said, “you don’t have to do this. Like I said, your grade is fine.” I explained to her it had nothing to do with a grade, it ran deeper. I had signed up for her course to make a gingerbread house and even if I had to sleep in the classroom I was going to make one. She tried to talk me out of it, she pointed out that if as a group it was a challenge, then surely on my own it would be a ridiculously daunting task. “Let me try,” I asked, “I want to be part of that contest.”

And so I persevered, working all alone with molasses and sugar while everybody else in that studio worked in groups of 3 or 4. For the last couple of days whenever I could get to that classroom I worked on that Mexican Adobe Villa like my life depended on it. Not only did I finish in time for the contest, I won!

Unfortunately I think I lost the only photo I had of that house, or maybe it’s buried in a box at my mom’s somewhere. However, I keep a mental picture of that house, and anytime a task feels too daunting, a dream too impossible, or somebody tells me “you can’t”, I flip to that mental picture and tell myself I can.

As we move into the new year I want each and every one of you to decide what your “gingerbread house” is and go for it. Never let anybody tell you, you can’t. If you want something so bad that you can taste it, you can make it happen.

Have a blessed holiday! We will be back with more TBB in January! See you next year!

 

Regards and Hugs,

Tara (The Bravo Blonde)

It All Starts in the Kitchen-An Evening With Kristie Finnan RDN

Kristie Finnan RDN Source: Twitter

Kristie Finnan RDN
Source: Twitter

By Tara Cushing

We say that the kitchen is the heart of the home so how fitting it was that Habit Bergen, the Bergen County, NJ, branch of Habitat for Humanity, held a recent fundraising event literally in the kitchen. On November 19th, a crowd that included Real Housewives of New Jersey’s Jacqueline and Chris Laurita, and singer/songwriter philanthropist Lori Michaels, gathered at Modiani Kitchen Design in Englewood to hear the expert advice of Kristie Finnan, RDN. Finnan is a registered dietician who specializes in celiac disease, food allergies, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). She also helps busy moms, like yours truly, tackle such challenges as meal planning, weight management, understanding the dietary habits of children, and picky eaters.

  Finnan understands the challenges busy parents face when it comes to food. She is a former pharmaceuticals sales rep and mother of three, who took her passion for the gastronomical to the next level. In 2008 she self-published a children’s book titled Mommy’s High Heeled Shoes, which celebrates working mothers and teaches young readers about all the different “shoes” their working mommies wear. It was her own challenges with food allergies in her family that lead her to the road she currently walks down.

“A good dietician will tell you what to eat, not just what not to eat,” Finnan says. She aims to do just that by teaching her clients their endless options, as opposed to just lists of avoid this, avoid that. Her son follows a gluten free diet due to severe asthma. Finnan is cautionary when it comes to gluten free. “A lot of people aren’t doing (the diet) correctly. There is so much hidden gluten in products you’d never suspect.” She also warns that, although gluten-free seems to be the fad diet du jour, that it really isn’t for everybody. If you don’t have a gluten allergy, or sensitivity due to another condition, there really is no reason for people to avoid gluten.

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Finnan knows that it’s not only parents of children with food restrictions that are challenged. “It takes 19 times for a child to accept a new food,” she explains when broached with the topic of picky eaters. Her belief is to keep on trying. “Introduce new foods when your kids are hungry,” she advises. She also encourages adults to lead by example, “Parents’ attitudes towards their food can influence what their children eat. If you don’t eat vegetables, or make a face when tasting a string bean, children pick up on that. Contrary, if they see that mom loves string beans they too will be more inclined to eat them.” Lori Michaels, who runs a fitness and dance studio called Vibe, agrees with this and extends it to fitness as well. She talked to the group about encouraging kids to be active, the other piece to good nutrition and healthy attitudes towards eating.

Me with Lori Michaels

Me with Lori Michaels

So what should we do when our children are refusing dinner? Finnan quotes her favorite family practitioner, “We should all eat like toddlers. Kids are tired (by dinner time), we don’t need this big expectation that they have a giant dinner. Just make sure they eat something, and you can do that by having at least one thing they do like on their plate with everything else.” She also recommends calendar rewards charts for encouraging good eating habits, as well as making food “cute” by getting creative with the ways you serve healthy snacks. Cute little fruit constructed critters anyone?

For more from Kristie follow her @KristieFinnan

To learn more about Bergen County’s Habitat For Humanity Chapter follow @HabitatBergen