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Hello, WebstUR!: Introducing my first book

Hello, WebstUR!The other week, in the MMB Holiday Gift Guide, I shared a bit of news…that I had written a children’s book. Well, the book is printed, and is available for purchase! The book  “Hello, WebstUR!” allows readers to follow WebstUR, the University of Richmond’s mascot, on his walk through the University’s Campus. He visits with students and sees many landmarks before ending at the Robins Center to cheer on the Richmond Spiders Basketball team for their first game of the season. I am truly thrilled about this book, because even though I am quite a drive from UR, my children have the opportunity to learn about the school, and read about a place that positively influenced my life.

This is all so overwhelming, as this is truly a dream come true for me.  Ever since I was a little girl, I have written “books.”  When my parents moved last year, they passed on several boxes of my childhood treasures to me. Within those boxes, were some old-school marble notebooks which were filled with stories that I had written. Some were fanciful stories (“The girl who had every American Girl” or one about when the chinchilla from the zoo was found in my coat pocket), some may have been a little closer to home (“The girl who always talked in class”).  I have always wanted to write and share stories.

So how did my dream turn into a reality???  This past year, I connected with Mascot Books, and we thought they would be a great partner for doing a giveaway on the blog.  I had some great communications with them, and not only did I love their products, but I found them to be a great company.  I loved that they introduced children to the mascots of colleges and professional sports teams, but I also found their entire collection of books to be incredibly unique.   I was speaking with one of their employees as we were working out the details…and he said, “you know, the University of Richmond does not have a book. What do you think?” Hmm…what did I think???  I was nervous about doing a project this big on top of everything else in my life – what if I wrote the book and it was a flop? What would Richmond think about it?  Before signing a contract with Mascot Books, I spoke to the University and was incredibly pleased to hear their excitement about the book as well.

I was off on the path of writing the story, working together with the illustrator, and seeking the University’s feedback throughout the process. We received final sign off on “Hello, WebstUR!”, and it was off to the printer…wow! I am excited about the finished product…I have been reading the book with my kids over the last couple weeks, and they are big fans (they especially love the picture of themselves in the book!). I was thrilled this past weekend to share it with friends (well, my husband read the book because I was too embarrassed!)…and our friend’s 6-year-old son kept asking to read it again and again. I mean, maybe he knew that I was also in charge of dishing out desserts, but either way, it was exciting!

If you would like to purchase “Hello, WebstUR!”, please feel free to buy it from Mascot Books or shoot me an email at It will be available at Amazon and other retailers later this month (don’t worry, I will let you know!).  I would truly appreciate it if you would share this book with any University of Richmond graduates that you know!

If you are interested in learning more about writing with Mascot Books, please contact them, and send your own book idea. I can honestly tell you that their staff is amazing at guiding and advising new writers, and makes the process as possible.


Disclaimer: I received a discounted price to self-publish “Hello, WebstUR!” with Mascot Books in exchange for a review of their process.  All views and information shared above is my honest feedback on the process.  

Alison Baker - December 4, 2012 - 7:10 pm

Congrats. on your book! Yes Mascot Books is awesome to work with as a publisher. I’ve been nothing but happy working with them also on my book New England A to Z.

Bonnie - December 4, 2012 - 8:00 pm

How exciting! Yes, this would make a great gift for any UR alums! Congratulations1

Anne - December 4, 2012 - 9:21 pm

Congratulations on this major accomplishment! Your Dad and I are so proud of you. I remember your first grade teacher being in awe with your determination and creativity with writing. Our weekly trips to the library where you loaded up your “bag” with books that you loved to devour added to your love of literature.
A strong message is revealed in this post: “Follow your dream and you can succeed.” Again, congrats from the bottom of our hearts! Can’t wait for that autographed copy!

Ellie {Musing Momma} - December 4, 2012 - 9:46 pm

This is so exciting!!! Congratulations!!! I think I need to check out the Mascot Books collection now…maybe a holiday gift for my oldest…

Nikki - December 4, 2012 - 10:24 pm

How awesome!!! Congrats!!

Darlynne - December 5, 2012 - 12:41 pm

So happy for you in thus new endeavor.

admin - January 3, 2013 - 4:16 pm

Thank you so much all for your kind words :)

[…] This weekend, I read through the posts on the site from the last year (kind of weird…but why not, right?).  I have definitely realized that 1) I make a ton of grammatical and spelling errors (thank you for your patience – ha!), 2) Picture taking has improved over time, and 3) I have made so many awesome connections with moms who have been sponsors, participated with their own real mom stories, and love all of the information sharing within the MMB Community. Oh, and 4) I have finally learned what Twitter is, and 5) my love for Pinterest has diminished a bit (really – does anyone DO anything that they have “pinned”???). One of the more exciting things to come from the creation of the site was meeting a publisher and writing my first book – Hello, WebstUR! […]

A lesson learned from the Jovan Belcher Tragedy

This morning, my husband sent over a story from the great sports writer, Peter King, at Sports Illustrated. I am not sure how many of you follow football, but this past weekend, the Kansas City Chiefs player, Jovan Belcher, shot his girlfriend (and mother of his child) and then committed suicide himself. This story was overwhelming and so incredibly tragic…

The quote that hit home from this article most of all was the following:

Brady Quinn, drafted by the Browns in 2007, hasn’t had a lot of great moments in the NFL. In fact, he hasn’t had a lot of good ones. But yesterday was a great day for Quinn, and for his Chiefs. He was the most mature adult in the room — the room being the entire NFL — in Week 13 when he eloquently used his post-game platform to address the larger society and how it may have failed Jovan Belcher. “When you ask someone how they are doing, do you really mean it? When you answer someone back how you are doing, are you really telling the truth? We live in a society of social networks, with Twitter pages and Facebook, and that’s fine, but we have contact with our work associates, our family, our friends, and it seems like half the time we are more preoccupied with our phone and other things going on instead of the actual relationships that we have right in front of us. Hopefully, people can learn from this and try to actually help if someone is battling something deeper on the inside than what they are revealing on a day-to-day basis.


I was so grateful to my husband for sending the article over to me…you see, Monday’s on this site are “Manic Mondays” – because our mom lives are manic, right?  We get incredibly caught up with all that is going on with our kids, family, work, school obligations, appointments, and everything else that comes our way.


We get SO busy…and we are so caught up on ALL of the information out there.  But, I have to say, I was pretty mad at myself after reading this because am I busy? Yes. Do I have time to check out FaceBook, Twitter, shop online, watch The Voice, and um…the Jersey Shore? Yes. Moms deserve down time…but when did it become ok to “like” a picture of a friend’s new baby and not reach out to check in to see how the new mom was doing? When did we start having to know more about what happened with JWoww and Roger’s relationship than that of a good friends? Don’t even get me started on what I know about my FaceBook friends (who may be considered more acquaintances more than anything else)….heck, I could tell you what one random person has had for breakfast most days in the last month, but haven’t talked to my bestie in almost that long (seriously…I know, I am being a really crappy friend…sorry A:()

So…my lesson learned today is that while I know that I try to be a good friend most of the time, sometimes I am in my own world…I am preoccupied thinking about my to-do lists, or ensuring I am “responsive” to people on email or text for work or personal things…I am going to be a better friend. I am going to be present, ask the questions, listen to the answers.


What do you think? Am I the only one who has failed at this? If you have avoided this problem, how do you step away from the mom manic times, and get the time needed to focus on your personal relationships? Do you think people are so addicted to social networks and extended networks that they miss what is right in front of them?

Cindy Penkoff - December 3, 2012 - 6:57 pm

In a word no; you are not the only one. When I think some days what “busy” is in my life, and what I may put off because of it or even worse miss, I am ashamed. A year ago in November, my sister in laws step son committed suicide. Something well thought out and yet none of us saw anything. Could we have had we not been so busy or pre-occupied? Had we looked past the smiles and really listened.

There is no way to know. Because once the deed is done, there is no going back.

So no, you are not the only one. All we can do is hope, try and commit to do better. Not only vow to be a better friend, but really be one. Not just say we are going to be a better listener, but actually listen with purpose and intent; not only ask the questions but listen to the answers. At least that is what I hope I am doing more of these days.

Ellie {Musing Momma} - December 4, 2012 - 4:24 pm

What a GREAT post!!! I often struggle with this too. Facebook, twitter, texting, etc. is all so convenient, but not only does it distract us from being there for others, it keeps us from benefiting from “real” connections. This really hit home for me this fall as I realized I need to be reaching out to really talk and see friends, because depending on technology just isn’t fulfilling in the same way! Sometimes I wonder how this is affecting our mental health and happiness as a whole culture!

Neighborhood Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge

For those of you who caught the Bake Sale/Auction over at A Half Baked Life and saw “my goods”…Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge…get excited…I am about to share the recipe for it!

37 Weeks

When I first moved into my neighborhood…I looked like this…nope, that is not a beached whale, that is me. Massively pregnant with my first child. The perfect time to move in to a brand new home in a town where you knew no one, and were at least an hour+ ride from family, right?

My husband worked then (and now) 2 hours each way from our home. When I wasn’t trucking myself back and forth to work, I was home quite a bit by myself. I started to get pretty freaked about what I would do if I went into labor, and had to drive myself to the hospital and hang out on my own for a couple of hours until my husband could get there. So…I did what any Italian girl would do…I got cooking…well, since it was Christmas time, I got baking. I was going to make sure that I knew my neighbors. I made up about 15 bags of holiday cookies and treats, and delivered them to the houses in yelling/screaming distance. Included in those bags were today’s recipe – the Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge.

The next day, I received a few phone calls – a couple of them were thanking me, and one was a neighbor asking for more fudge (no joke). And she continued to call over the next couple months, to ask if I was making fudge, or if she could pay me to make fudge. I finally learned that you need to learn to teach a man to fish…or in this case, teach a woman to make fudge. I passed on the recipe to her, and even picked up her first round of ingredients. Even though I now know all of my neighbors, I still continue to make them Christmas treats….although it is pared back now to just the Chocolate Peanut Butter fudge. It is SO easy to make and I love that you can freeze it in advance, but don’t tell any of my other neighbors….I don’t want them to think I am too easily replaced!


Neighborhood Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge

1 cup Peanut Butter Chips
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk, divided
1 tsp vanilla extract, divided
1 cup Hershey’s semi-sweet chocolate chips

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge1. Line an 8 inch square tin with foil

2. Place Peanut Butter Chips and 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk in a small, microwaveable bowl. Microwave for 1 – 1 1/2 minutes stirring after 1 minute, until the chips are melted and the mixture is smooth when stirred. Stir in 1/2 tsp vanilla; spread evenly into the pan.

3. Place remaining sweetened condensed milk and chocolate chips in another small microwave-safe bowl; microwave as above. Spread evenly over peanut butter.

4. Cover and refrigerate until firm. Remove from pan; place on cutting board, peel off foil and cut into squares. Store tightly covered in refrigerator.  If you choose to freeze this, do not cut it first. Wrap the entire batch in plastic wrap, and then place in a freezer bag. When you would like to eat it, thaw within the refrigerator.

One of the funniest things to come out of all our first year holiday deliveries…I did not deliver to one of my (now) dear neighbors, Bill and Cindy. Cindy received a call from one of the other neighbors asking about the treats, and looked all around the exterior of the house, and came up with no treats. We were friends for about a year until one night after enjoying some wine, I was asked the big question…”Why didn’t I get any of your Christmas Cookies?” um what, it was pent-up for a year?!?!? Let me tell you….Cindy will never be left off the holiday treat list again:)
Cindy - November 30, 2012 - 1:18 pm

Love this story!

Elizabeth - November 30, 2012 - 1:59 pm

Thanks for being a great neighbor , in anticipation…..

Deirdre - November 30, 2012 - 8:35 pm

Can’t wait to try this…one of my favorite combos: chocolate & peanut butter!!!

Mellisa Rock - December 1, 2012 - 8:34 am

Coming over from SITS – and just pinned, fb and tweeted this recipe. It looks delicious. We are going to be blessing our friends, neighbors and family this year with homemade treats. This will have to be a part of that! :) Have a great day!

Beth - December 1, 2012 - 11:57 am

What a great idea for having something handy at the last minute. Will be great for potlucks to just take it out of the freezer and go.

Kathy Balassone - December 1, 2012 - 2:28 pm

Well Dana, you are the prettiest “beached whale” I’ve ever seen…Thank you for sharing this recipe! I am going to run out tonight and buy these ingredients….It may not even make it to the holidays – it looks so delicious….

Lauren Martin - December 2, 2012 - 7:41 pm

This sounds awesome and so easy to make for someone like me who is not a baker. I think I’ll try to make this as my husband loves Peanut Butter & Chocolate mixed.

admin - December 3, 2012 - 7:51 am

Can’t wait to hear what you guys think of this recipe, if you make it!!! It is a delicious one :)

Ellie {Musing Momma} - December 30, 2012 - 6:52 pm

I’ve been wanting to try this recipe since you posted it. #1: It looks so easy (in spite of my inability to microwave chocolate without burning it) and #2: I can’t resist a pnut butter-chocolate combos! I’m making it to bring to a New Years Eve party tomorrow night. Can’t wait to try it!

Hope you and your family are having a relaxing & joyous holiday season! btw, love the pregnant picture. Too cute!

Cookie Martini Time…Cheers!

This weekend, I am excited to be hosting a “Thanks-mas” dinner at my house. What is Thanks-mas?? Well, it is a little holiday we cooked up with some of our friends. We celebrate the holidays with our family, but we wanted to do something special with our friends who are like family to us. I have been busy prepping the meal (we are going with Thanksgiving food, as we all travelled for the holidays and did not get to enjoy leftovers…boo!), and we have all been coming up with fun Christmas activities.  So besides getting ready over 34 pounds of Turkey (19 pounder and a 15 pounder), I have been super focused on the Christmas-y drinks to be included, and have tested them out all week (it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it!). I have 4 to make that night, but my absolute favorite was this Cookie Martini.

While Thursdays are typically our “Celebrating Moms” day, I thought this drink recipe would be perfect to share because, well…Mrs. Clauses always needs a bit of cheer!

Cookie Martini

Cookie Martini Drizzle chocolate sauce on a chilled martini glass (these super cute festive ones came from Pier One last year).

Add 2 ounces White Godiva Vodka, 2 ounces Bailey’s Irish Cream, 1/2 ounce Peppermint Schnapps, and 1/2 ounce milk. Garnish with a miniature candy cane or chocolate shavings (optional – as you can see, I went straight for enjoying, and was not focused on dressing this up too much!).


I hope you enjoy this little cocktail and if you try the Cookie Martini, let me know what you think – I would love to hear your thoughts!

So I mentioned that I had a couple of these – do you want to see more drink recipes this season?:)



Sandi - November 30, 2012 - 2:06 am

This sounds soooo yummy! I am at work right now and drooling…and after the night I am having it would be really good to have. Keep these recipes coming!!

Mel K - December 1, 2012 - 5:06 pm

Yes! More fun drink recipes, please!

admin - December 3, 2012 - 7:53 am

I hope you guys love this one!!! Get excited for next Thursday…. :)

[…] who looks at my site is a lush, because my biggest post for this month, by multiples, is this Cookie martini post)…and then I had some emails from readers asking if things were ok. Everything is ok (ok in […]

When is enough really enough around the holidays?

When is enough enoughLast year, was the first year that my son really “got” Christmas. By that, I mean he was standing next to my bed at 4:00 in the morning asking if we could go and see Santa delivered what he asked for (it was a modest request of bath toys and cars, which Santa did fulfill).
As it was the first year…I would also like to admit, we went overboard. My husband and I both come from extremely modest backgrounds, and our parents are very practical and reasonable people. We were talking last year in preparation for Christmas, and I don’t know which one of us said it…but we decided that we should “blow our son’s mind” for Christmas, and try to find a ton of things that he would like. We went bonkers (a bounce house set up outside may or may not have been included in this process)…we kept saying to each other that we could not WAIT to see his reaction. We did not have a Christmas like that which we could remember, so we seriously could not wait.
Christmas morning came, and he opened up one present…the bath toys, and was thrilled. He opened up the next present…cars, and was ecstatic, and got right to playing. We kept telling him about the rest of the presents, we would encourage him to look at them, and he finally said to us, at the wise age of 3…”but I didn’t ask for anything else, why would Santa bring me all of that?”  As the credit card bills appeared in January, and some of the toys sat collecting dust, my husband and I wondered, just why exactly DID Santa do that? This was not a mommy brain moment, but more of a mommy/daddy lapse in judgement.
All over, we see people buying, buying, and buying. Pictures of Black Friday Shopping Mobs, people filling up their shopping carts to the is a great feeling to give someone a gift they love, but, when is enough really enough?  With last year’s big lesson learned for us, we are scaling back big time this year. My son’s list for Santa was limited again this year…Rex from Toy Story and superhero toys…he also made up a list for his sister…a cradle for her dolls and superhero toys. (yes, I find the second one a bit suspicious as well).  They will receive a couple of extras including a picture book that I am pulling together with millions of pictures that I take for my son,  a baby doll blanket that I am crocheting for my daughter, and tickets to a local event that we will go to as a family.
We are fortunate to have the choice whether we should go a little overboard or not, we know that this is not the same for everyone. We are incorporating “doing good for others” into our mantra every day. The toy that may bring my son a couple of minutes of joy would bring another child endless hours of fun and entertainment. We are focusing on the fun that Christmas brings – driving around to see all the beautiful lights, going to the town tree lighting, reading the cards that come in the mail (and no, my card is still not done yet), and visiting with family and friends. Not to sound hokey – but we are trying to focus on the “Reason for the Season” and not getting too caught up in the commercial aspects. We are going to do our best to remember others and focus more on the intangibles.
This year my family is saying, we are enough for the Holidays, and enjoying all that we can…while remaining reasonable and practical parents.
What do you think about Christmas with kids? Do you tend to go overboard, or are you good at restraining yourselves? How do you bring forward the “reason for the season” in your house?
Trina - November 28, 2012 - 9:03 pm

That was a beautiful lesson learned. I know I may do the same thing when our daughter first gets what Xmas is. But hopefully we can teach her about giving part of the holidays as well.

Ellie {Musing Momma} - November 28, 2012 - 9:41 pm

I love this post and I love your son’s reaction! I think we went really overboard when my oldest was little, too. It is just so easy to do (if, financially, you can). My husband and I weren’t very coordinated with our shopping so between the two of us we’d end up with so many gifts for him.

Now with 2 kids and with the boys getting a little older, I’ve had that same desire to scale back. We’ll get the boys a couple of Santa gifts and maybe 3 gifts from momma/daddy. That should be plenty! Last year we set a 3 gift limit when they made Christmas lists and we’re doing that again this year – that way they focus on what they would like most and we have some leeway to pick out things they didn’t request but would enjoy. Like you, we’ll be focusing on fun activities and helping others between now and Christmas. I hope your son gets his superhero toys! :)

Justine - November 28, 2012 - 9:59 pm

Another great post! We usually get one or two things for the kids … one from “Santa” and one from us. We are lucky that our son doesn’t ask for more … he’s in first grade, and surrounded by other children who are much more materialistic. I like to believe that we laid a good foundation early, and we try to nurture his generous nature!

Mel K. - November 28, 2012 - 10:06 pm

Excellent topic! We are also looking to find the right balance for our 5yo, especially when we factor in gifts from grandparents, aunts/uncles, etc., as well as what we give our nieces and nephews. In the past, we’ve definitely bought things just for the sake of giving more “stuff.” Really trying to move away from that for a variety of reasons. Thanks for another encouraging post!

Mel K. - November 28, 2012 - 10:12 pm

Also – a little tradition that we’ve carried on from my parents that might help with the 4am excitement. Santa left a small stocking on our bedroom door, with a couple Hershey’s Kisses and a small toy or game. We could open that whenever we woke up but we couldn’t go into the living room until my parents have the OK. The toy/game was always something that they hoped would keep us occupied for a little while to buy them a few more minutes of precious sleep after hours spent assembling toys on Christmas Eve!

admin - November 29, 2012 - 7:05 am

Oh Mel, I LOVE that!!! How fun! This past year, we were all napping at 10 am, we were passed out from the excitement :) That might help at least my husband and I!!

Jeanne - November 29, 2012 - 9:00 am

Love this post! My husband also went overboard with the kids when they were small. In fact, he still does and they are in their 20s. They use to quickly tear open each gift and toss it aside without even knowing who gave it to them. One year I made them take their time, know who it was from and enjoy it for a few minutes before opening the next. I’m happy to say they still do that to this day!

Capri + 3--Theresa - November 29, 2012 - 10:33 am

That was a great post. I love the story of going overboard and your son being underwhelmed. Ours are too little to really get it and since we have four, we do not go way overboard. It will be interesting to see what kind of lists they come up with when they understand that they can ask for things.

jamie@[kreyv] - December 1, 2012 - 8:19 am

Great post! I completely agree with you. It is so easy to go overboard, because it is so much fun to buy for our children…but it’s so not necessary! My now three year old did the same thing last year–opening a couple of toys and was a little overwhelmed by the rest. I got all of my Christmas done in October, and then I just delete every email that comes to me. At some point, I just had to say, “I am done.” Something we do to remember the reason for the season is let our daughter play with her own Nativity. (The Fisher Price Little People Nativity is adorable!) She can then learn the story and the characters, and we can talk about it. We also skip buying gifts for our extended family and instead choose a family in need to make an anonymous donation to.

Sorry for the long comment! Thanks for sharing! Visiting from SITS.

admin - December 3, 2012 - 7:54 am

I am so so glad to hear we are not the only ones who have made this parenting faux pas….it is SO hard to not get caught up around the holidays. It sounds like so many of us have “made it right” though :)

Deb - December 11, 2012 - 2:26 am

Love this post. It’s just as I imagine it would happen.

My own family goes completely overboard; it’s even worse now that there are grandchildren in the mix. My parents came from modest backgrounds and I think they had the same idea/feeling as you and your husband.

Me? I’m planning to wrap my son’s favorite toys and books up and let him get excited when he sees them again!