Archive | May, 2014

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Tiffany’s Care Package

28 May
I had the opportunity to meet Tiffany and her mom last week at Tiffany's graduation ceremony.

I had the opportunity to meet Tiffany and her mom last week at Tiffany’s early graduation ceremony at Home & Hospice Care of Rhode Island.

UPDATE: At about 11:30 am today, June 6, I posted this update on the Tiffany’s Care Package GoFundMe page:

Although I knew that at some point I’d have to share this message with you all, I am sorry that this time has come.

I’d like you all to please keep Tiffany and her family in your prayers as I received the news this morning from Cranston West that Bernadette has passed away.

Please know that all of you who have donated to Tiffany’s Care Package and who have been keeping Tiffany in your prayers without even knowing her, have made a huge difference in her life.

As always,
Thank you.


UPDATE: As of 1:oo pm on June 4, one week since beginning our fundraiser, the GoFundMe account is up to $4,235.00. We have also delivered additional cash and checks to the school for Tiffany’s Care Package. Thanks for all your support, we are almost 85% of the way there!

UPDATE: As of 6:30 am on May 30, 2014, we have surpassed our goal of $3000! I am so proud of how hard everyone is working to spread the word about this amazing girl. Thanks to everyone!

UPDATE: As of 11:00 pm on May 29, we are 96.8% of the way to our goal! We have raised $2904. If you haven’t read Tiffany’s story yet, please do. If you haven’t checked out our fundraising site for her on, please do!



If you’re a longtime reader of my blog, you know that today is Wednesday and on Wednesdays I usually post a recipe for dinner; a little inspiration to kick-start your day.

Not today.

Today I’m still hoping to give you some inspiration for your day, but it’s way more inspiring than a recipe.

Here’s my story. It’s not really my story actually, it’s Tiffany’s story and I hope you’ll be as moved by her story as I was.

Last week, I received an email from my editor, Dan at the paper. He had a “story opportunity” for me. A high school senior at one of our city high schools, the one my daughter will attend next fall, was about to lose her mom to cancer. With graduation just a few weeks away, it seemed that the occasion would come too late for Tiffany’s mom, Bernadette to see her receive her diploma. The high school, Cranston High School West, was going to be teaming up with the Hospice center where Bernadette was now being cared for, Home & Hospice Care of Rhode Island, and throwing her an early graduation ceremony the very next afternoon.

My editor’s question: Would I cover the ceremony?

I knew that of course I would cover the story, my concern was whether or not I could cover the story. Could I be strong enough to be there to witness this moment in Tiffany and Bernadette’s life and take pictures and notes, and could I then be able to even do them justice by writing them not a news article, but a true story; a keepsake for them to have which would document these final, special moments in Bernadette’s life, the end of one chapter in Tiffany’s life but yet the beginning of another?

One of my favorite photos of Bernadette as Tiffany was receiving her diploma

One of my favorite photos of Bernadette as Tiffany was receiving her diploma

I knew that ultimately my desire to be there for this girl who was just a few years older than my own oldest daughter, to be there for this mother who will miss all of the things I hope to be there to see with my own daughters, would outweigh my fear of not being good enough or strong enough to cover the story.

I said yes, and then I braced myself mentally, as much as I could in the next 24 hours for the graduation ceremony. It was as wonderful as such an event could be. I was so proud to be a part of the day, and to be a part of the group of people who pulled together to make it happen. My proudest moment of all though, was when I spoke to Bernadette before I left, kneeling down beside her and placing my hand on her arm as I spoke to her to say who I was, letting her know that their story would be in the newspaper, something her daughter would treasure and something which would memorialize the event forever.

Writing the story was hard, very hard, almost as hard as covering it had been, but my biggest concern was whether or not it was good enough for them. Had I done it as perfectly and beautifully as I could, had I captured every moment I could for them?

It seems I had. The article ran on our Beacon Communication websites early, days before it printed in the paper, so that Tiffany could share it with her family. Within hours it had a couple thousand hits, and within two days’ time it had almost 4000. You can read it here and see for yourself.

But after I sent in the story and after it ran online, I couldn’t get Tiffany and her mom off my mind. I know that I’d done a lot by writing this story for them, but I wanted to do more. I worried about Tiffany, an only child raised by a single mom, finishing high school alone, having to manage going off to college out of state alone. I worried about her. Who would take her shopping for extra long sheets for her bed in her dorm? Who would buy her towels or a college-sized fridge or send her care packages while she was away? As a mom, it was these things that weighed on my mind, in addition to the overall sadness of the situation. I knew that Tiffany was her mom’s primary caretaker all these years prior to Hospice, but who would take care of Tiffany? I know that friends and neighbors were pulling together, sometimes bringing her dinner these past few weeks, but I wondered and I worried.

Today, I decided to do more. In collaboration with Tiffany and her guidance counselor at Cranston West, where a fundraiser is currently taking place for her, I have decided to set up a GoFundMe fundraising page for Tiffany. When prompted by GoFundMe to choose a color for the page accents, I chose red, in honor of Tiffany’s Cranston West Falcon graduation cap and gown. When I was asked to choose a title for the page, I chose the name, “Tiffany’s Care Package,” because it is my hope that we can all show we care and help Tiffany over the next weeks and months as she is faced with saying goodbye to the mother who raised her alone, and tries to look ahead to her college days on her own. I want this to be a giant care package for Tiffany.

When asked to choose a goal amount to raise, I wasn’t sure what to put, and then I thought of 1:25 pm today when my article received its 3000th hit, when the 3000th person read Tiffany’s story. I took a picture of my computer screen with my phone to preserve the moment. So when asked to choose my goal amount to raise, I thought to myself, “If each of those 3000 people had even donated $1.00, that’d be a tremendous help to Tiffany.”

And so, although I’d love to surpass that goal, that’s the goal I’ve set for Tiffany’s Care Package.

I hope that you’ll consider donating to Tiffany through my Go Fund Me account. I purposely did not have anyone sending me money or writing checks out to me personally, so that everyone would know that this was a legitimate fundraiser. Although I know many of my readers do not know me, I hope that you will consider sending Tiffany a care package when you read her story, and donate to her page.

Tossing her graduation cap in the private function room at Home & Hospice Care of Rhode Island while her mom looked on.

Tossing her graduation cap in the private function room at Home & Hospice Care of Rhode Island while her mom looked on.

Memorial Day

26 May
Remembering those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

Remembering those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

Fun Friday: Wear Your Music bracelet review and giveaway

23 May
Do you have a musician in your life? This is a perfect gift for them!

Do you have a musician in your life? This is a perfect gift for them, and you can win these very bracelets!

I love innovation and creativity. When I saw these unique bracelets by Wear Your Music, I thought to myself, “How cool is that?!”

Alex is sporting a gold bracelet made out of guitar strings.

Alex is sporting a gold bracelet made out of guitar strings.

The bracelets are perfect for musicians and music lovers of all kinds. They are trendy, fashionable, and durable and I love that they come in several styles and colors. You can stack them or wear them separately and because the colors are gender-neutral, they’re great for males or females. They come in different thicknesses, so younger kids can wear the thinner, lighter-weight bracelets while older kids and adults might prefer the thicker ones. I also love the affordability of these bracelets as gifts for myself or for others! They have a great shopping guide on their website that lists the perfect gifts for all budgets and all types of musicians. Their jewelry line also includes more than just bracelets, featuring items such as guitar picks, charms and earrings too.

An especially great offering from Wear Your Music are the custom, one-of-a-kind Famous Artist Bracelets, created on-site from donated guitar strings from all kinds of famous artists!

It wasn’t until I really did more research on Wear Your Music and their products that I realized what a great local company they truly are, and how diverse their products were. This is definitely a company I’d be happy to do business with!

Caroline chose a Bass string bracelet in silver, perfect for her outfit that day, but perfect for any day!

Caroline chose a Bass string bracelet in silver, perfect for her outfit that day, but perfect for any day!

Their company “is a music merchandise company that strives to hit all the right notes: Music, Sustainability, Fashion & Charity.” Their headquarters is local, and I love to support a local business whenever I can. Their business is “comprised of women and provides flexible work hours and child-friendly space.”

Okay, really and truly, what’s not to love??

And yet it gets better: “We take recycling and giving back to heart in both our personal and professional lives. Our vision is always both philanthropic and environment-friendly.”

I’m sold.

When my package of bracelets arrived, my girls were immediately enthralled. There was something for each of them and their unique personalities and styles. I tried to guess which bracelet each would choose from the pile, and I was right on with my guesses. Caroline chose one of the One Size Fits All Bass String Bracelets. She chose a silver one and it was an exact match for her outfit that day. It matches everything! My sparkle and bling girl, my youngest daughter Alex, chose a gold One Size Fits All Guitar String Bracelet, and my firecracker, my almost-Fourth of July baby, Liz, chose a red, white and blue One Size Fits All Guitar String Bracelet as well.

A perfect choice for my July baby, a red, white and blue bracelet!

A perfect choice for my July baby, a red, white and blue bracelet!

I have several of these bracelets to give away!

I will be hosting a giveaway from today, Friday, May 23 through Sunday, June 1.

Three names will be announced on Monday, June 2.

One winner will receive a set of three stackable guitar string bracelets in unisex colors (colors: Simply Silver, Backstage Black, and Gangsta Graphite). Another winner will receive one bass string bracelet in Backstage Black, and a third winner will receive a teal guitar string bracelet. All bracelets are one-size-fits all and are unisex colors. All of the bracelets are shown in the top photo in this post.

How do you win?

To enter the drawing, leave me a comment right here on this blog post telling me who you’d like to see wearing these awesome bracelets! I will compile the names and pick three, announcing them on Monday June 2.



I was compensated for this post. However, the opinions expressed here are my own.

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Taco Stuffed Shells from She Knows and Gina

21 May
This Mexican/Italian meal was yummy!

This Mexican/Italian meal was yummy!


I am never afraid to admit it: I love Facebook. I really do. I love connecting with people and I really love re-connecting with people. I also love food. I love seeing all the neat things that people are cooking and eating. Recently, a friend of Don’s from high school, Gina, posted the link to a recipe that he thought looked amazing. He posted it on my wall to see what I thought, and I thought it looked good too!

The recipe was from the site She Knows, and it certainly looked delicious! It was a recipe that combined jumbo Italian pasta shells with a Mexican filling. It sounded like something everyone would like and I actually had all but two of the ingredients to make it, we were only missing the taco seasoning and the cream cheese, both easy enough to pick up. This was also something we could make to fit our dietary restrictions just by using fat free cheese and low fat cream cheese. We also used ground turkey instead of ground beef, a leaner option.

This past weekend Don gave it at try. Using Gina’s recommendations, he also picked up a couple of side items: lettuce, tomato and avocado, which we served on the side. Everyone loved them! Everyone had second helpings also. This is a recipe I’d definitely make again.

Thank you for sharing, Gina!!

Stuffed Mexican shells recipe as seen on the “She Knows” website

Yields 16 stuffed shells


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 16 large pasta shells
  • 1 cup medium-spiced salsa, divided (more if desired) **we used mild, not medium
  • 1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese


  1. Brown ground beef, drain and add in package of taco seasoning. Prepare meat according to taco seasoning packet directions.
  2. Once cooked down, add in cream cheese and stir until it’s completely combined. Set aside.
  3. Add water to a large pot and put on stove to boil. Once boiling, add in 1 tablespoon kosher salt and large pasta shells. Boil till al dente.
  4. Once shells are cooked, drain, lay out in a single row and cool till they are cool enough to touch. Fill each shell with taco/cream cheese mixture. Start off by adding 1 tablespoon per shell and then adding more if there is leftover filling.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  6. Add 1/2 cup salsa to the bottom of an 8 x 8-inch pan and put stuffed shells into the pan so they are snug. Top shells with remaining 1/2 cup salsa.
  7. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes until everything is warm.
  8. Take off foil and sprinkle with cheese and bake for another 15 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbling.

Fun Friday: In honor of National Chocolate Chip Day…Chocolate Chip Fruit Pizza

16 May
fruit pizza

This was such a great recipe, it got all thumbs up, all the way around!

This week I received an email message from a fellow cast member from last week’s Listen To Your Mother. The message was letting me know that today was going to be National Chocolate Chip Day!

I do believe that every day should be National Chocolate Chip Day and at my house, I celebrate on almost a daily basis.

Conveniently enough, I’d just tried out a new recipe from Skinnytaste, one of my favorite blogs for lowfat recipes. I’d received it in my inbox earlier this week and knew it was a “must try” recipe for sure.

The recipe was for a fruit pizza, and it looked so refreshing. We had some unusually hot weather on Sunday and Monday and I knew that Monday afternoon the kids would be looking for a nice cool snack when they came home Monday afternoon.

When I looked at the recipe for the fruit pizza, I had everything for it except for white chocolate chips. I decided that instead, I would use my semisweet chocolate chips, making the crust a chocolate chip cookie crust. It was perfect! I had a good mix of fruit, although slightly different options than she used on hers: I used blackberries, strawberries, blueberries and kiwi. I actually had more than enough, so that I ended up doing a side dish of all the extra fruit and they ate that as much as they ate the fruit pizza. I love seeing my kids eating so much fresh fruit, especially this time of year when the weather is warm and the delicious fruits are plentiful.

I am posting the recipe here just as it appears on the Skinnytaste blog. I do hope you’ll visit the blog however, I always find great things there. In fact, just last night I made one of her chicken recipes, and my daughter said, “I just love when you make this chicken!” So do check the Skinnytaste blog out!

Here’s the Skinnytaste Fruit Pizza recipe. I have just two minor modifications other than the semisweet chocolate chips vs. white chocolate chips: I bake with I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, and I used nonfat plain yogurt instead of applesauce. Other than that, I followed her recipe as is. Everyone loved it, and it made a great after school snack recipe. I had enough that it lasted us for two days. I’d definitely make this again!

Fruit Pizza
Servings: 30 • Size: 1 bar  • Old Points: 3 pts • Points+: 4 pts
Calories: 140 • Fat: 5 g • Carb: 24 g • Fiber: 1 g • Protein: 2 g • Sugar: 17 g
Sodium: 72 mg • Cholesterol: 10 mg


  • 2 cups all purpose unbleached flour (Gold Medal)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar, unpacked
  • 1/4 cup melted unsalted butter
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup white chocolate chips or chopped white chocolate

For the Frosting:

  • 8 oz 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

To Assemble:

  • 1 large mango, diced
  • 3 diced kiwis
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup raspberries


Preheat oven to 350°F.  Lightly spray a 9 x 13 x 1.375 inch non-stick baking pan (quarter sheet pan) with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon and stir to blend.

In another bowl, whisk the sugars with the butter, egg whites, applesauce and vanilla until light and fluffy.

Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients with a spatula in two additions until the batter is very well blended. If the batter looks more “crumbly” than smooth, add just a drop of water at a time (ONLY if needed) until it smooths out. Fold in the white chocolate chips.

Spread the batter onto the baking pan using the back of a measuring cup to smooth evenly.

Bake 14 to 16 minutes, until the edges are golden and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Don’t over-bake or your bars will be dry. Let it cool completely on wire rack.

Meanwhile, prepare the frosting; in a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla until well-blended.

Cut the bars into 15 large squares (5 cuts by 3 cuts with the knife). Then cut each square in half diagonally to create triangles. Spread the frosting in a thin, even layer over the surface of the cookie, leaving a small margin around the edges. Layer the fresh fruit over the frosting. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.


What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Garlic Roasted Kale

14 May
This made a nice change for us as a side dish with dinner.

This made a nice change for us as a side dish with dinner.

A while back I posted the recipe from our visit to the White House for the 2012 Kid’s State Dinner for Kale Chips. That visit was our first experience with kale chips, but it was not our last. My kids love them and it makes a great after school snack for sure.

Recently, however, I received an email for a variation of kale chips. This recipe was for Garlic Roasted Kale from the site My, and I thought I’d give it a try. The things that attracted me to this recipe were the fact that it included garlic, which I love, and it also included kosher salt, which I enjoy the flavor of as well.

I gave it a try one afternoon and the kids absolutely loved it. I decided to try it again most recently as a side dish for our dinner, instead of our usual broccoli or green beans or salad. As my kids were walking through the kitchen, they each asked what I was making and each time they were so excited when I said kale. I had to just shake my head in amazement. I don’t think I ever imagined I’d get three cheers for kale. Ever.

Below is the recipe from My for Garlic Roasted Kale. The only thing I skipped in this recipe was the vinegar at the end because I did not think the kids would like it, although I was pretty sure I would. The rest I did as was called for.


  • 3 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil$
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 10 ounces kale, stems removed and chopped$
  • 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
    1. Arrange oven racks in center and lower third of oven. Preheat oven to 425°. Place a large jelly-roll pan in oven for 5 minutes.
    2. Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl; toss to coat. Place kale mixture on hot pan, spreading with a silicone spatula to separate leaves. Bake at 425° for 7 minutes. Stir kale. Bake an additional 5 minutes or until edges of leaves are crisp and kale is tender.
    3. Place kale in a large bowl. Drizzle with vinegar; toss to combine. Serve immediately.



Monday Musings: It’s a wrap!

12 May
Photo courtesy of Stephanie Bernaba

The cast of Providence’s Listen To Your Mother 2014 (minus two), out on the town the week before the 2014 show.  Photo courtesy of Stephanie Bernaba.

Listen To Your Mother has wrapped up its 2014 Providence show.

Being a part of its fabulous cast was an amazing, unique, very special experience and quite the Mother’s Day gift for me.

It’s hard to describe, really, one of those experiences that to understand, you kind of had to be there.

To meet as a group of people mostly unknown to each other just three weeks ago, and come away on Saturday night as a solid cast and now as friends, is in itself an experience. Seeing a show come together from individual stories into one complete  story now made up of many chapters is amazing to think about. Presenting a story about motherhood that is near and dear to your heart, on stage, to an audience of many unfamiliar faces, is the other half of that experience.


The entire cast just before the show. Photo courtesy of producer Carla Molina.

It felt almost like a wedding: a whirlwind of preparation, anticipation and excitement, an exciting big event, and then it was over.

For now.

Who knows where this amazing, talented group of women will go next, where this experience and these new-found friendships will lead.

We are stronger and better for knowing each other and for having experienced this amazing event together. We’ll never be the same as we were before we met that first night in April.

I was touched by each and every story shared this year, and I can only imagine the untold stories about mothers and motherhood that are out there waiting to be shared with the world. I have always believed that motherhood is the hardest job you’ll ever love and that there are so many aspects of it that go unnoticed. I love that Listen To Your Mother is giving motherhood a microphone, as its tagline states.

To read more about Providence’s Listen To Your Mother, check out my article here.

I am sharing my story, “Twins” below. It’s a post I’d originally written on this blog just over a year ago, so you may have read the longer version of it then. For those who joined me on Saturday night, thank you. I was very blessed to have such a large fan club out there in the audience. For those who could not be there, you can read my story below, or watch it in the YouTube video here.

Sharing my story aloud on Saturday night. Photo courtesy of Don Cowart

Sharing my story aloud on Saturday night. Photo courtesy of Don Cowart

By Jennifer Cowart

Last April, my mom retired.
For 32 years she had worked for the same corporation. She was one of the only original members of the staff, and they had to create a “Thirty-Two Years of Service” award for her, since no one else had ever been with the company as long as she had.

Before she left, they held a party for her, and my husband and I were invited. My dad would be there too, and I couldn’t wait to attend and be able to help her celebrate.

What I did not expect however, was for that night to be such an eye-opener for me, such a look into my mom’s life as a young mother back in the early 1970′s 80′s.

As a mother, I am continually amazed by the perspective I gain into my parents’ years as young parents themselves. But that night, my perspective was a new one, as I put myself into my mom’s place as a young mother and I realized what hadn’t hit me until that moment: just how similar our stories were.

My mother graduated from a secretarial school after high school, prior to having children. She worked for two of the mayors of the city I now live in. When she had me, she left her job to become a stay-at-home mother, as many moms did then, and as many moms do today. At some point when we were little, she became “The Avon Lady,” a home-based business owner, circulating catalogs, taking orders, meeting with customers and delivering orders. I remember being a runner with my brother, jumping out of the car, running up to doors and leaving the catalogs in bags hanging on the door handles, as she drove from house to house.

Although I finished up a four year college program after high school, I too, left my job and took on a home-based business when my kids were born, my path mirroring my mother’s. Although slightly different along the way, we ultimately ended up in the same place. I had gone back to work teaching when my oldest was just nine weeks old and stayed there for two years, starting the new business when she was a year old. I kept my home-based business for eleven years through two more pregnancies. I had three children, rather than two, but I worked hard in between having babies and caring for toddlers and preschoolers. I took orders, filled orders, wrote newsletters, hosted meetings, taught classes, spoke at regional events and more, all while raising my children. It was very difficult, but it was very worthwhile and very much like what my mom had done with the two of us in tow, all those years ago.
One day my mother received a phone call. We were in elementary school. I was nine, my brother was seven. A friend asked her to cover her job for a number of months while she went out on maternity leave. As I listened to my mother tell the story during her retirement party, she relayed how surprised she was to get the call, and how she had not been looking to return to work.

“I set out conditions. I couldn’t leave before they were on the bus and I had to be home when they were getting off the bus. I needed school vacations and summers off and if they were sick, I couldn’t work,” she told a colleague that night.
No problem, they’d told her.

As I listened, I realized with amazement yet again, how similar our journeys as mothers were. When my third daughter was just three, and my middle was in preschool, I was volunteering at a school event for my oldest daughter, a third grader. At that event I was “discovered” taking photos by the editor of our local paper. She asked to see my photos, loved them, asked me if I could write (to which I said I could), and offered me a job as the education reporter, right there on the spot. I had not been out looking for a job and I had three very young children, two of whom were not even in school all day yet.

I laid out conditions: I would not work full time. I needed summers and vacations off and if they were sick, I couldn’t work. I had to be able to put them on the bus and take them off the bus, drop them off at preschool and pick them up at preschool. I also needed to be able to take them all with me any time I had to cover a story when they weren’t at school and there was no one home to take care of them.
No problem, the editor told me.

My mom never left her temporary job. As the years went on, she worked longer days, taking less time off, because we were older. As my children have gotten older I too, have taken on a bigger work load, working longer, fuller days and weeks when I can.

My mother proved to be a valuable asset to the company because of her strong work ethic, her honesty and her Type A personality. She moved up. She went to college for twelve years, earning an associate’s degree and then a bachelor’s degree, ranking first in her class at Providence College when I was pregnant with my first daughter in 1999.
I’ll never forget watching her carry the flag into the graduation ceremony, leaning over the railing to see her better. I was 28 and she was 52. I was so proud of her. A woman next to me asked if we were twins.
“No,” I answered. “That’s my mother!”

But I realize now, that although we are not twins, our stories and journeys as mothers are similar. They’ll obviously never be exactly the same, but our core values are the same, our goals as mothers, career women and our work ethic are the same. I can only hope that our paths will continue to be similar as I have learned so much about the type of mother that I insist on being, from her. I know now more than ever, that so many reasons I am the way I am both at home and at work are because of the way she was as a mother and an employee, and because of the things she held dear to her heart.


Playing in Providence with the cast of Listen to Your Mother 2014

Playing in Providence with the cast of Listen to Your Mother 2014. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Bernaba.

A special cake to celebrate a successful show.

A special cake to celebrate a successful show.