king ranch hand casserole (1)

King Ranch Hand Casserole (with beef)

The other day we were watching a rerun of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives that featured the Monument Cafe. It is a very cool restaurant in Georgetown, Texas that uses organic, locally sourced foods in their dishes. They have a garden in which they grow ingredients, and also a fresh market for buying your own supplies. In short, it sounds like an amazing place that I would really love to visit!

But until I can make my way down to Texas, I’ll have to settle with recreating one of the recipes featured on the show – the King Ranch Hand Casserole.

I made a few substitutions to this recipe because a couple of my family members have decided they have picky palates and wish to avoid chicken. So I used beef instead of chicken – which, I know, makes it not the REAL casserole, but you can switch out the beef for cubed chicken. We are also a gluten-free family because my husband has an allergy and I have a sensitivity to gluten.

One of my favorite parts of this recipe is that you can avoid using processed foods – many other recipes that I have seen for King Ranch Hand Casserole use store bought soups, dips, or even cheese products. For this one, I did open one can – diced tomatoes, but if I had been up on my canning game last year, I would’ve been able to open a jar I made myself. I did have the chicken stock previously canned, so that was nice!

While there are many ingredients that I make on my own, I have given up the dream of making corn tortillas on my own. Keep in mind that when you’re shopping for corn tortillas you have to make sure that they are gluten-free (if you need gluten free) because not all of them are automatically. So definitely check your label on that. I have found some uncooked tortillas that I love – they’re free of gluten, preservatives, saturated fats, and cholesterol. The ingredient list is very short and easy to read. Here they are in all their glory:

A photo posted by Joanna Liberty (@way2gomom) on

When I was preparing this dish, I started with browning the ground beef and adding the spices (which I don’t really measure, I just throw in), and also cooking the tortillas. So it took a bit longer prep than if you started with taco meat and already cooked tortillas. Or even leftover chicken, which is really the preferred way I think I would use leftovers! So in all, my prep time was quite a bit longer than normal, but still not too crazy.

And the best part – after it was all said and done and the casserole was baked, it received rave reviews from my family! So I’m happy to share with you my recipe for King Ranch Hand Casserole with Beef:

king ranch hand casserole (1)

King Ranch Hand Casserole (with beef)

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Yield: 6-8 servings

King Ranch Hand Casserole (with beef)

Gluten-Free King Ranch Casserole (with beef) inspired by the recipe from Monument Cafe on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives


    For the taco meat
  • 2.5 pounds ground beef
  • 2 TBSP chili powder
  • 1 TBSP cumin
  • 1 TBSP garlic powder
  • 1/2 TBSP onion powder
  • 1 TBSP oregano
  • 1 c water
  • For the casserole
  • 1/4 c vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 green peppers, chopped
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 6 white mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/4 c white wine (I used dandelion)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 TBSP cumin
  • 1 TBSP chili powder
  • 1 1/2 c diced tomatoes
  • 2 TBSP diced jalapenos (add more if you like it hot!)
  • 1/3 cup gluten free flour (I used Pamela's Pancake and Baking Mix)
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 12-14 corn tortillas (can use flour. I used 14 because that was what came in the package of uncooked tortillas that I used)
  • 4 cups Mexican style shredded cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. For the taco meat
  3. Brown ground beef in skillet
  4. Drain fat from meat and return meat to skillet
  5. Add spices to meat
  6. Add water to meat
  7. Stir
  8. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until water has reduced and spices are coating meat.
  9. Preparing the Sauce
  10. Heat vegetable oil in skillet over medium heat.
  11. Add onions, peppers, and celery.
  12. Cook until translucent, stirring occasionally.
  13. Stir in garlic and cook one minute.
  14. Stir mushrooms and cook through, about two minutes.
  15. Turn heat up to high and add white wine to deglaze. Stir with spoon to get the brown bits off the bottom of the pan as the white wine boils up. Turn the heat back down to medium.
  16. Cook until almost all the liquid has been absorbed into the vegetables.
  17. Add salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, tomatoes, and jalapenos.
  18. Cook for one minute.
  19. Slowly whisk in flour until a gravy or paste forms.
  20. Whisk in the chicken stock.
  21. When the mixture reaches a soupy consistency, whisk in the milk.
  22. Cook over medium-low heat for about 3 minutes until it reduces and thickens.
  23. Remove sauce from heat.
  24. Assembling the casserole
  25. First add a few spoonfuls of the sauce to the bottom of the casserole dish and spread it around so that the tortillas won't stick.
  26. Add a layer of tortillas on the bottom of the casserole dish
  27. Add a layer of 1/2 the meat (if you have a casserole dish with deep sides, you can do 1/3 meat and make a taller dish)
  28. Sprinkle on 2/3 cup cheese.
  29. Add spoonfuls of sauce on top of the cheese.
  30. Repeat the layers of tortilla, meat, and cheese once or twice more depending on how high the sides of your casserole dish are - you don't want to overflow.
  31. For the top, use a layer of tortillas, the remaining sauce, and the remaining cheese.
  32. Bake uncovered for 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees F

The best pins about raised bed gardening

31 Best Raised Garden Bed Pins

Spring is here – even in Indiana, which means it’s time to get the garden ready. Of course, if you’re like me and ridiculously behind on all things plant this year, now is the time to research for your fall projects that will be coming up wayyyy too fast!

For many years, I was a proponent of amending the soil and using traditional beds for my garden. And then we moved into a subdivision that had the topsoil scraped when the lot was prepared for building and then again when preparing for the lawn. There is so much work to be done on the soil here, especially since before it was a housing development it was a conventional farm. And now I finally understand a reason to love raised garden beds.

It’s not to say that I didn’t love the idea of raised garden beds before, I just didn’t see any reason to go all the work and hassle of building a bed, bringing in dirt, rebuilding the health of the soil, and everything else that has to be done with raised garden beds. Sure, I love the gardening plans and the theory/science behind the raised bed such as square foot gardening, but I am laaaaazy, especially in the summer. For my husband, another reason to use these beds is because he prefers the look of raised garden beds to the mishmash that I have going on in our garden.

But where does one start when preparing to build the absolute best raised garden beds? Pinterest, of course!

The best pins about raised bed gardening

Raised Garden Bed Side Options

One of my favorite parts of my garden edging now is a piece of tree that I dragged out of a nearby woods. Of course, after I did that, my husband said it was probably not a good idea to go dragging wood around, but I still love it. Perhaps it would make a difference if I owned the land on which I found it? But growing up in the country, we never really considered stuff in the woods to be not available for wildcrafting. Let’s call it wildcrafting or foraging because taking that which is not my property just doesn’t sound as… ethical.

Speaking of trees, I really love this raised garden bed in which the sides are made of twigs and sticks. It does look like there is quite a chunk of work to go into it, especially making all those sticks the same size, but I really love the look of it.

Who could resist a pin from the Permaculture Research Institute on rehabing soil and creating raised garden beds from yard waste? This website is a great reference to begin with, but this pin just makes it extra special.

Wattle fencing design! Sure, the video says it’s about making a hurdle, but you can use wattle fencing as the sides of a raised garden bed.

These bamboo sides for a raised garden bed are really neat! Very rarely do a use a pin that links to a store, but these bamboo raised garden beds were just too cute not to link.

Raised Garden Bed Design

Ana White has amazing construction projects for pretty much any facet of living that I can think of – but maybe you can think of others? I love this design for a raised garden bed from her.

How about metal in the garden? I’m not really sure about what kind of metal would be safe to use for this application, but it is pretty! Maybe galvanized? Might be a good alternative if price point is an option? Yeah, I mostly just like it because it’s shiny.

I think this is my very favorite raised garden bed design, but you have to have the right spot of land for it to fit. Being able to have a walkway through the middle with the garden parts not being too wide means even short people can reach the garden.

What to grow in the delightful raised garden bed that you’ve toiled creating? Here’s a great plan that has a LOT of production.

Pretty raised garden bed design! These trellises are pretty awesome!

I really like this design for the tiered raised garden bed – you can put plants that don’t need as much depth in the front, and still have plenty of room to build up a higher level for plants that need more root space.

This is a cool design for raised garden beds. I don’t think it’s one that I would have room for in my yard, and the points I would definitely hurt myself on with the triangles… but that’s just because I’m a klutz! This is seriously a neat design!

Hugelkultur – the NO irrigation raised garden bed

This section of pins really could be a completely separate post, but I started with the idea of creating this great one-stop shop for the stuff I want to remember about raised garden beds. Hugelkultur is a practice that has been around for centuries, particularly in Eastern Europe and Germany. It is a way of mimicking the way soil is improved in nature when wood and debris falls to the forest floor. You’re building a mounded hill that needs little or no irrigation, has very fertile soil, and also uses up debris that might otherwise not have a place in your yard. Who loses here?! Seriously, I love this technique, and so now we have a bunch of pins about it.

This one isn’t technically hugelkultur, but it’s close enough! This keyhole garden uses hugelkultur techniques and also includes what appears to be a worm tower. However, the keyhole garden is a technique that has been developed in South Africa, not Eastern Europe.

Inside the Raised Garden Bed – Soil and More

One of the parts of raised garden beds that irked me before I saw the good in them was bringing in a bunch of soil. I just couldn’t justify how that made sense! But the good news is that you don’t have to bring it in. Using a layering method and carefully planning what you put in the raised garden bed as you are preparing it makes a world of difference.

More secrets to success with the raised garden bed – by filling it the right way, you’ll have a better harvest. This article from LifeHacker takes you through the nitty gritty of the entire process to build raised garden beds, but my favorite part is filling it.

Maintain the health of the soil in your raised garden beds by using techniques that you would use in a traditional garden bed as well! Planting a winter cover crop in your raised garden bed helps it have the best start possible for the next season.

Improve the soil, improve the harvest! Here is another pin on how to improve the soil in your raised garden bed.

Another look at the layering method for creating the perfect soil inside a raised garden bed.

Irrigating Raised Garden Beds

Here we have a self-watering raised garden bed that featured a sub-irrigation system. Don’t let limited water keep you from having delicious vegetables, just plan how to best water them.

Wicking beds are not something that I would have considered (ok, let’s be honest, I would have never even though of it!), but after I saw this pin, it seems like a really interesting idea! Unfortunately for me the downfalls really outweigh the positives right now, but it might help one of you readers!

Running soaker hoses through raised garden beds is genius! Attach the end of this string to a rain barrel and you are in business! This is something I’m planning to do with my beds, but it will be connected to a rain barrel that collects water from the roof of my shed.

Raised Garden Bed Tips and Accessories

This deceptively easy looking project allows you to build a seat for your raised garden bed. While this is beyond my woodworking skills, I’m pretty sure I can find someone who has the tools and know-how to put this together without slicing off a thumb, which is probably what I would do.

Have a problem with slugs in your yard? This tip claims that affixing pennies to the sides of your raised garden bed will keep the slugs out. Does it work? I have no idea – but if you have a problem with slugs, it might be worth a try!

I just love vermicomposting, and I think this idea for a worm tower and worm box would be PERFECT for a raised garden bed!

Do you have a raised garden bed or are you planning to build one? Do you have any tips I missed?

how to prevent or avoid morning sickness with pink stork solutions

How to Prevent or Avoid Morning Sickness

One of my least favorite parts of pregnancy, and there are plenty, is morning sickness. I haven’t met anyone who was delighted to be nauseated, but hey – maybe they’re out there somewhere. For me, at least, it was a good indicator that I was still pregnant, so it was a relief in a way to feel terrible. But still, I would have enjoyed a break from the sick feeling.

With my first son, I lost about 35 pounds in the first trimester because hurling and I were good friends. It was awful. I felt terrible all day, every day. But right when I thought it would never end, it finally did ease up. I also had plenty to lose, so it wasn’t a big medical concern.

With my second son, I didn’t vomit. To me, it was worse though, because I was on the verge of nausea – where you’re not quite sure if you’re going to call some dinosaurs or not – all day, every day. For all three trimesters. It did come and go in waves toward the end of the pregnancy, but it was not my favorite. In fact, in the third trimester I ended up having gallbladder attacks on top of the nausea and it was like a trifecta of “please make it staaaaahhhhhp!”.

Between the two pregnancies, I did find several ways to help ease the morning sickness symptoms. But I recently discovered some products that I wish I had known about back then – the Morning Sickness Solutions from Pink Stork Solutions.

Some of my favorite bloggers have written posts about how to prevent or ease morning sickness without using medications, such as:

how to prevent or avoid morning sickness with pink stork solutions

There ARE ways for you to find relief from morning sickness, and home remedies that aren’t too wild to be practical for busy moms.

Pink Stork Solutions provided me products to review on morning sickness – now, I’m not currently pregnant, but I extremely dislike trying new products on my kids without trying them on myself first, so this was a great way for me to be able to test it out.

The products that I received were the Mild Morning Sickness package, which includes Cocolaurin – Ultra Purified Monolaurin from Coconut Oil, Pro – 4 Billion Potency 6 Probiotic Strands, and Mist – Highly Concentrated Topical Magnesium.

I already knew that the majority of people these days have a magnesium deficiency – I take magnesium daily, especially to help with sore muscles, avoiding menstrual cramps, and getting a solid night’s sleep. (If you follow me on social media, you know I don’t sleep much…), but this spray is an even more awesome way to increase my magnesium. I was not aware that topical magnesium can help with pregnancy nausea – boy, do I wish I had this during pregnancy number 2!

I also currently take probiotics, so I was excited to see a probiotic included in the package. I was also excited to see that it has no sugar, salt, yeast, wheat, gluten, corn, soy, egg, shellfish, or preservatives – this is big for me! This is a product that anyone can take, even if you’re not pregnant and trying to battle morning sickness. But the benefit of taking it during pregnancy is that it can help support healthy intestines – and I haven’t met a single mother who didn’t understand the trials of constipation during pregnancy. Luckily, a probiotic such as this one can help with that particularly unpleasant part of pregnancy.

Finally we come to the Cocolaurin. This was a product that I wasn’t even aware could help with morning sickness at all – and that’s always surprising for me to find something completely new! It is distilled from coconut oil to produce Monolaurin beads, which are a form of lauric acid. The germ-killing properties of Monolaurin are what we’re looking for here – it helps to reduce pregnancy nausea from bacteria in the GI tract.

Based on my research into the quality of the ingredients and me using the samples provided myself (although I’m not pregnant), I do believe that these are an excellent product to use to ease or prevent morning sickness symptoms. Depending on the severity of your morning sickness, there are different packages that you can order, as well.

I also really like the folate that they carry – it’s a liquid, so easier to take than pills, and it’s also folate, not a lab-produced folic acid. They also have an awesome vinegar! The thought and care that has gone into the selection of the ingredients and their products is exquisite – and one that I feel comfortable recommending to women who are trying to conceive or are pregnant, that very crucial point in our lives.

Disclosure: I received products to facilitate this review, but did not guarantee a positive review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

7 Best Soil Preparation Pins

7 Best Soil Preparation Pins for the Garden

Spring is just around the corner!

If you live anywhere in the northern United States, that might seem like wishful thinking this year – here at my house, it’s the third of March and we’re having an icestorm with school canceled.

But despite the seemingly endless winter (which is actually completely explainable and on schedule, it just always feels this way at the end of winter), it’s true that Spring is quickly approaching. In fact, daylight savings time begins on Sunday!

As we’re approaching Spring, the flurry of gardening catalogs and magazines hitting my mailbox has been so exciting. It’s one of my very favorite times of year – if I were pressed to pick just one time that it is my favorite, it would be a warm, sunny, spring day. Not hot like in summer, not rainy and muddy, just a perfectly warm, sunny day with puffy little white clouds slowly moving across the bright blue sky. What a dreamer I am, right?

But the reason I love this time of year is because it is the perfect time to prepare for the garden. Growing plants are such a thrill, and preparing their beds will make a difference for the entire growing season – and improve the quality and taste of the food they produce!

So what is the most important part of preparing for the spring garden? Why, preparing the soil, of course! As such, I’ve curated a list of my top 10 pins on Pinterest with soil preparation pins for the garden.

7 Best Soil Preparation Pins

7 Best Soil Preparation Pins

This pin includes a link to an article on The Herbangardener on Spring Soil Preparation for the Organic Vegetable Garden. Different soil amendments are discussed, but my favorite part is the recipe for the organic fertilizer – I can never remember the ratios quite right, so this is an awesome resource!

This pin includes a link to an article on Weed Em and Reap on How to Get Superpowered Garden Soil. I love that the article starts out with an image from Homesteady that describes how to test your soil – with the mason jar and 24 hours method. Once you know your soil type, the article walks you through what you can use to prepare your soil. It’s very helpful!

Of course, no gardening list of tips would be complete without a link to Mother Earth News – this publication has been and remains my very favorite resource for all things growing. And who doesn’t love the price of FREE? Organic fertilizers are really hot right now – and really overpriced. There’s no reason to spend all that money on organic fertilizers when there are plenty of free options available. Will one of these work for you? Might as well check for ideas before you assume they won’t! This article was reviewed and updated in January 2015 too – so don’t worry about it being outdated.

Planning to use raised vegetable gardens this year? Great! Just don’t forget that you can achieve better results when you prepare the soil beneath the raised bed and plan for the right soil height for the plants you’ll be growing. This article from will point you in the right direction. Don’t be overwhelmed by the amount of information covered – just pin or bookmark so you can refer to it later, it will be useful for quite a bit of your garden planning!

EarthEasy received the distinguished honor of being recognized twice on this list – they also have an excellent article on how to build rich soil for your raised garden beds, including the one amendment that most gardeners forget – adding a source of phosphorus. Great instructions on how to maintain the soil of your raised garden bed too, if you already have them built.

While we’re all excited to get out into the garden, it’s important to note that there IS such a thing as TOO SOON to go out and work the soil. If you work the soil too soon, you could run into difficulties. This article from Organic Gardening lays out some great information about when to work the soil to make sure that you’re not starting too early.

Have you used cover corps before? If not, you’re missing an excellent way to replenish your soil. I recently read an article about using white radishes as a cover crop – especially with clay soil – because the tap roots are so deep and can really help to break up the soil and bring the needed nutrients up a higher level. If you’ve not worked with cover crops before, Old World Garden Farms makes it easy with their article on breathing new life into your tired garden through the use of cover crops.

That’s my roundup for today – the 7 Best Soil Preparation Pins to help you get your spring garden off to a fantastic start!

Do you use any of these tips already? Which is your favorite? What will you be trying new this year? Did I miss a wonderful soil preparation pin? If so, let me know!

Stream workouts from Beachbody On Demand

Beachbody On Demand – Streaming Beachbody Workout Programs

One of my first serious workout programs that I’ve tried to lose weight and gain muscle was ChaLEAN Extreme – I absolutely adore that program. In fact, I love it so much that I’ve purchased another workout program by Chalene – her PiYo workout to help strengthen my core and get me back on track with running since my hip has been not behaving.

Even with the workouts I have selected, there have always been a list of other Beachbody programs that I wanted to try – like TurboFire, Brazil Butt Lift, and Hip Hop Abs. We’ve purchased P90X and Body Beast for my husband, but he might also have more programs he would like to try. I’ve also really loved having my workouts on DVD, but when you’re away from home it can be difficult to bring the workouts with you. I used to do ChaLEAN Extreme at the gym at work, but it was just not the same. There is an exciting new part of Beachbody that just launched yesterday that is the perfect solution – Beachbody On Demand!

Beachbody On Demand

Beachbody On Demand is a new feature of the Team Beachbody Club membership that allows you to stream workouts – wherever you are!

Starting March 25, 2015, they will also be adding on the Beachbody packages that you’ve already purchased to streaming, so you’ll be able to stream the programs that you already have on DVD. This is so exciting!

The programs now available on Beachbody On Demand include:

– P90X Base and Deluxe Kits
– P90X2® Base and Deluxe Kits
– P90X3® Base and Deluxe Kits© 2015 Beachbody, LLC. All rights reserved.
Team Beachbody Club Talking Points 3
– P90X ONE on ONE® Volume 1
– INSANITY Base and Deluxe Kits
– TurboFire®
– Brazil Butt Lift® Base and Deluxe Kits
– ChaLEAN Extreme®
– 10-Minute Trainer®
– Hip Hop Abs®

That means you can stream EVERY WORKOUT from those programs with your Team Beachbody Club membership.

You also will have access to these individual workouts as a sneak peek on other programs – so you can try before you buy –

– 21 Day Fix® ”Total Body Cardio Fix”
– 21 Day Fix EXTREME® ”Plyo Fix Extreme”
– PiYo® ”Sweat”
– FOCUS T25® ”ALPHA Cardio”
– INSANITY MAX:30TM ”Sweat Intervals”
– Body Beast® ”Build: Chest & Tris”
– P90® ”Sculpt A”

The very best part though is the price – it is VERY reasonable! Club membership costs $2.99 a week, billed $38.87 quarterly in advance to the credit card you use at sign-up. That’s only 44¢ per day!


Let Me Help You Reach Your Fitness Goals

If you do not already have a Beachbody Coach, I would LOVE to help you reach your workout goals! Even if you’re not a Beachbody customer, you can join my general health and fitness group Team McSlim on Facebook here.

Ready to try Beachbody on Demand? Join Team Beachbody Club with me as your coach here!

YouTube Kids

YouTube Kids App Launch

YouTube Kids

My kids and I love to have dance parties – and we generally find our songs to dance to from YouTube. But I never let them do any of the navigating – I’m always worried that they might stumble on a video that is not safe for children. To be fair, my paranoia isn’t completely unfounded.

Back when my oldest son was around 2, my husband was watching SpongeBob videos with him on YouTube. If you’ve been around the Internet much, you know that SpongeBob is a favorite show of children and adults alike. Unfortunately, some of the humor in it is more geared toward the adults – which inspires people to make adult-humor video compilations or clips. Actually, it doesn’t really matter if the humor is geared toward adults, there are people on the internet who will make adult-humor videos out of ANYTHING. And that’s fine – I totally don’t mind if that’s what they’re into, I just don’t want my son to be exposed to that at a young age.

So while I will watch YouTube with my kids every now and then, I don’t really give them freedom to find videos that they like. I do let them watch videos in the PBS Kids app, which I know has their favorite shows and is made from PBS Kids shows – they’re safe to watch, and I’m fairly confident that nothing raunchy will pop up.

But today I received an email that might just change my ideas about letting my kids surf YouTube – the YouTube Kids App is launching today on the Google Play store and Apple App Store.

YouTube Kids

After I saw the email, I installed the YouTube Kids app on my phone to check it out. When I opened it, the recommended channels included Sesame Street, Thomas & Friends, Pocoyo – English (we seriously LOVE this show!), The Official Peppa Pig (my 3-year old loves Peppa!) and more. So far so good!

In addition to shows, there is also a button for music so you can flip through music channels like Mother Goose Club, KIDZ BOP Kids, Super Simple Songs, and ThePianoGuys – we’ve listened to several of these channels on our own, but having them readily available is really neat!

The next button is the Learning button, which shows us channels like PBS Kids, TED-Ed, WhizKidScience, and IncredibleScience – love these! I do some simple preschool lessons at home with my 3-year old, and more in-depth lessons with my 6-year old who has interested that just aren’t covered in public school. We often turn to YouTube channels for this information, so I know the learning button will be well-used with us!

The fourth option is the Explore button which shows channels like LEGO, twentytrucks, simplekidscrafts, and Cosmic Kids Yoga. We adore Cosmic Kids Yoga – actually, we found out about it because it is one of the indoor recess activities that the kids do at school in my son’s Kindergarten class. It’s a great movement activity that doesn’t leave the kids bouncing off the walls and it is super fun!

But that’s not all – you are also able to change Parental Settings on the app. To access the settings section, you will need to enter the numbers shown as written words on the screen. For an older child who is able to read, this won’t really be a barrier, but for a little one, it works. In the Parental Controls, you’re able to set up a time limit so that your kid isn’t watching too long. You can turn on or off background music, sound effects, and even the ability to search – which is handy if you’re not sure you want your kid exploring too far. It will limit the app to just the channels on the homescreen.

SciShow KidsOverall, I really love the app! I am so excited to see it! I’m also excited because there are some new shows like SciShowKids that are launching with the launch of the app. This show will have science experiments to help answer those never-ending “why” questions every child seems to be innately able to come up with incessantly. Their curiosity is awesome, and this show helps the adults who are guiding them answer those questions!

And I’m not the only one! Common Sense Media reviewed the app prior to launch and said this:

“An exceptionally fun way for kids to browse online videos and for adults to guide their viewing.”
“A serious contender as a family’s go-to way for kids to watch videos online.”
“There’s something for everyone on YouTube Kids. Toddlers to big kids will be able to find a show, some music, or some educational content that fits their
— Common Sense Media

Check out the video with the introduction to the app here:

Tip the Hat Award Voting

Make-A-Wish Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana – Finalist for “Tip the Hat Award” 2015

Make A Wish Foundation

Make-A-Wish Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana

One of the organizations that I have held in high esteem is Make-A-Wish. If you’re not familiar with Make-A-Wish, the organization grants wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions. My area is covered by the Make-A-Wish Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana chapter, which also happens to be the largest chapter in the country. The chapter was started in 1983, and since then has granted over 13,000 wishes to children in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. In fact, 823 wishes were granted in the last fiscal year alone.

823 wishes for children with life-threatening medical conditions granted in 1 year by Make-A-Wish Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana!

Whenever discussing charitable organizations, it is always important – as with any other investment – that you fully research the group that you are or are considering supporting. In addition to granting wishes for children, I also like Make-A-Wish Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana because a very high percentage (reported at 74%) of the donations received by the organization are used for wish-granting activities.

When considering a charitable organization, how they use the donations is very important! 

In addition to fully disclosing how their funds are used and using a very high percentage for wish-granting activities, I also like another financial aspect of Make-A-Wish Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana – they do not ask for any donations through telemarketing. Everyone has received those phone calls that come at the most inopportune times, and I’ve even worked as a telemarketer (for a day when I was a teenager!), but it is very difficult to trust that someone on the phone is really who they say they are anymore.

If any telemarketer calls you seeking donations for Make-A-Wish, report the call to 1-877-574-WISH (9474).

What wishes are granted?

To say that an organization grants wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions is easy – but to actually put it into practice is much harder. Make-A-Wish has had 32 years of practice with it, however, and they have a very easy to understand process:

  1. Referral: Children with a life-threatening medical condition from 2.5 to 17 years of age may be eligible for a wish. Make-A-Wish accepts referrals from children themselves, parents, and medical professionals to start the wish process.
  2. Eligibility: The child’s eligibility of a life-threatening medical condition is evaluated, and the child’s physician is involved in this process.
  3. The Wish: Once the child’s eligibility is confirmed after being referred to Make-A-Wish, the organization sends out a “Wish Team” of volunteers who will help the child to “envision an experience with the power to change lives” (Make-A-Wish OKI).
  4. Wish Granted: Make-A-Wish grants a wish for the child, based on what the child imagined as a life-changing experience.

Why grant wishes?

The experiences that are granted for children with life-threatening medical conditions are more than just something nice that people came together to do. Starting back in 1980 with a 7-year old named Chris Greicius who was diagnosed with leukemia, the Make-A-Wish Foundation has brought together people who can help children have a dream fulfilled – these children who are fighting for their lives with a bravery that is beyond their years. It benefits the community of people who come together to fulfill the dream of the child, boosting the morale of the parents who are watching their child suffer, with the knowledge that they will likely have to face every parent’s worst nightmare of burying a child.

whatever the odds

These children are so strong, so courageous – not because they want to be, but because that is the path their life has taken. To grant a single wish, to fulfill a simple dream, we all learn so much from the smiles of the children whose wishes are granted. As the Make-A-Wish Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana website says, “Whatever the odds, whatever the obstacles… wishes find a way to make the world better.”  (Make-A-Wish Mission)

Recent wish granted in Indiana

Recently, Make-A-Wish Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana granted a wish for a 6-year old boy in Indiana. Levi has a best friend who has offered him support and encouragement through his illness with a rare genetic disorder. He is too sick to travel, but his wish was for his friend Emma to travel. She took a “Flat Levi” around with her on her trip to Florida and snapped pictures for him to see. Read more about Levi and his wish.

You Can Help – Vote Now

Now that I’ve told you what an awesome organization Make-A-Wish Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana is, how they grant wishes, and shown you an example of one of the wishes granted by this chapter, I want to strongly urge you to vote for this chapter in a contest that is happening now through February 15, 2015.

Tip the Hat Award Voting

The LIDS Foundation has an annual “Tip the Hat Award” in which $300,000 is awarded to the top 5 finalists in a search for charitable organizations that support healthy and active youth programs. The first place winner is awarded $125,000, second place winner is awarded $75,000, third place winner is awarded $50,000, and the fourth and fifth place winners are each awarded $25,000.

The LIDS Foundation Board of Directors have narrowed down the list of organizations to the top 5 finalists – and Make-A-Wish Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana is one of those finalists! From here, the organizations are rallying supporters to cast a vote on to decide the “Tip the Hat Award” grand prize winner, and I would LOVE for it to be my local chapter of Make-A-Wish!

To see more about the award, watch this video:

And don’t forget to vote at!