Thursday, July 31, 2008

gmail tip

My email inbox is often overflowing. I recently started doing something that has helped a great deal! I receive many advertising emails from companies that I've done business with, or requested information from in the past. Often I am interested in these emails, but I don't want them cluttering up my box for years.

I have always loved the filter and label capabilities of gmail. It's one of the reasons that I primarily use my gmail account these days.

I created a label called simply "ADS." Whenever I receive an email that is advertising, I set up a new filter so that all future emails from that address are labeled ADS. Once a week or so, I simply call up all the ADS and hit delete. If I'm going to act on a specific email (those containing coupon codes, for instance) I usually have done something within a couple days.

This has cut down on the clutter in my inbox significantly!

Health Tracker

Have you ever visited One of my goals in my 40th year is to become healthier. This site is packed with useful information for anyone and their journey to good health!

I have been poking around their site the last couple weeks and have been using their Health Tracker feature. It's completely free, and allows you to track your food intake, activity level, and even your mood!

We went to lunch today at PeiWei (one of my favorite places to dine!) and it was so simple to add the custom foods to my health tracker. I downloaded the nutritional information from PeiWei's website and input my lunch into Prevention's health tracker.

My favorite thing to eat there are the Vietnamese Chicken Salad Rolls. The salad rolls themselves are a pretty healthy choice, but I didn't realize how many calories (and how much sugar!) was in the sauces served with them! Even figuring that I ate 1/2 the sauces and a fortune cookie, my total calorie intake was about 450 calories.

The only additional thing I wish the health tracker tracked is sugar grams. I have a sneaking feeling that I'm on the verge of developing diabetes and I'd like to keep a good handle on my sugar intake.

I got the entire family up and out of the house this morning for a walk, back home for a swim, and I'm going to try and keep it up again! I let the heat chase me indoors this summer, but even though it's still hot outside, I need to get exercising again! I'll be 41 in just a few short months and I want to be in better shape than I was when I turned 40!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

$5.97 e-book sale

Crystal Paine, of Biblical Womanhood and Money Saving Mom, is having an amazing sale on her entire collection of e-books, downloads and audio. Click Here! for a full listing of what's available!

I know you can scour the web for great ideas, and find many of them for free -- but this collection is an amazing deal and gives you grocery saving tips (who can't use a few more of those?), recipes, home management ideas, and craft ideas.

The $5.97 deal is only available today! Tomorrow the price goes up by $3, then Friday another $3, and then the sale is over. Go today and start saving more money!

Look carefully and you'll be able to pay via PayPal on the checkout page. Also plan to spend a little time downloading all the books - they are all separate so you won't be downloading one huge file containing everything.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

15 months

Hard to believe that 15 months have gone by since L was born!

She is a busy bee these days! She walks very steadily and I'm sure we're close to running! LOL! The boys had a cooking class that met once/week for 4 weeks and I really noticed how her walking has improved during that time. We just waited for them at the community center during their class, so she wandered the halls and flirted with all the people visiting the community center (which is also a senior center. Those women just wanted to eat her up and she ate up all the attention!) I realized how 4 weeks ago she was still pretty wobbly and wanted to hold my hand quite a bit. Yesterday, she wanted nothing to do with holding hands and was raring to go -- up and down and up and down the long breezeway -- only stopping to wave and chat with anyone who might catch her eye.

She also loves going to the library, but she won't sit in her stroller while I look for books! She wants to walk, and take books off the shelves, and talk with anyone who crosses her path.

I mentioned a few posts back about how friendly she is, and it continues to astound me. Most other kids are completely taken aback by her - but she plows right on, trying to hug them, trying to talk to them, trying to play. She has no fear!

She eats heartily and pretty much anything. She sleeps a solid 9-10 hours a night and naps once a day (like her father, she doesn't seem to need much sleep.) She still nurses a few times a day. She's still short when I compare her to other kids, but she's solid.

She uses a few signs regularly (eat, drink, finished, more, milk, no.) She doesn't have many understandable words, but she gets her point across. She seems to have a special fondness for N, and the fondness is reciprocated. I think those two are going to get into lots of trouble together in the future!

Monday, July 28, 2008

good to know

Everyone reads those reminders "Make sure your insurance meets your needs" -- usually around the end of the year. Some people even remind you to "check what your policy actually covers!"

Well, I'm here to remind you all to do just that -- and it's the middle of the year!

B had quite a bit inside his truck when it was stolen. We knew our car insurance wouldn't cover the items, so we made a claim with our homeowner's insurance.

Before I talk about the homeowner's insurance, though -- let me make a comment about our car insurance. We had an after-factory item installed on the truck after we purchased it. We had a solid, folding, locking cover put across the bed, which cost about $700. This was important to keep DH's samples and work items safe. Did you know that unless you specifically tell your insurance company about items like that they're not covered? Even if you have the original receipt from the purchase? No, we didn't either! In the future, we'll be sure to add endorsements, but as it stands now we won't be replacing that cover for a long time -- if ever!

When we spoke to our homeowner's insurance agent, we were told to compile a list of the items in the truck, the date of purchase, and the replacement value. We knew that we had purchased replacement value insurance vs. original cost of item insurance -- so we thought we would be in pretty good shape.

The first surprise came when we were told that anything DH used for work wouldn't be covered, except for $250! Our homeowner's insurance would cover personal items in the truck that were stolen, but would only cover $250 of work-related items because they weren't at home. We had NO idea that this was part of the policy.

Then, they wanted proof of the items we had in the truck. Thankfully, DH keeps boxes. I am always trying to throw out boxes, but he likes to keep them, and because we had the boxes we shouldn't have any problem being reimbursed for those items. I guess I never thought much about how to prove what we actually owned before. There are some items that were a bit pricey, but since we don't have a receipt or the box, we won't receive compensation.

Looking around our home, I realize that if something catastrophic happened, I don't know how I'd be able to prove what we had! We've been working on creating an inventory (something that has been on a myriad of to-do lists over the years but never actually done!) and I plan to leave a copy with my sister as well as upload it online (probably in my gmail account.) The tricky part will be updating it as we purchase new things . . . but I doubt there will be many purchases in this house for a while! LOL!

We're grateful we had insurance, because our loss would have been much greater without it. We've just learned that we need to be a little more aware about the details of our coverage, as well as creating a detailed home inventory! Hopefully our loss will help you without any loss of your own!

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Hey, remember those children's books I've been talking about for over a year? And how I needed to get them organized?

WELL, I'm about 75% done with that project. Wooo Hoooo!!!!!

I emptied the kid bookshelves (3 of them) and did a pretty good job of sorting them into categories again and removing books that I really didn't want to ever read again. I ended up with a large box of books to get rid of.

Then, I went through 4 more bookshelves of miscellaneous books and got rid of 2 more big boxes of books so I could free up some room on those shelves. B had a short day yesterday, so we lugged the boxes to Bookmans (where they only purchased SIX books for a whopping total of $16.00 in TRADE . . . ugh, much worse than last time one box garnered me $65.00 in trade. I think they were too busy yesterday.) We then lugged the remaining books over to Half-Price Books and they took them all for $24.00 in cash. At least we didn't have to bring any books home! They even kept the boxes. At a rough guess, we got rid of about 120 books.

I still have books stashed in various places around the house, so I need to gather them all together and put them on shelves. I also have to reorganize the other shelves so my categories are together again.

I was so gung-ho when I got started, but now that I can clearly see the end, I'm suddenly not interested in finishing. What's up with that?

Well, DH is home, so he can wrangle the toddler, and I really should finish this project. Do you organize your bookshelves by categories? Or am I just kooky? With the very large number of books in our home, it makes it easier to find books, though.

Friday, July 25, 2008

for my cloth diapering friends

I love blogs that help me save money! One of my favorites lately is Baby Cheapskate. They are currently running a contest giving away 12 BumGenius 3.0 diapers (retail value $200!) I've used lots of different cloth diapers in my diapering days, and these look like great diapers to add to the rotation!

Click on over and enter for your chance to win! The contest ends August 6!


"Snacktivate!" sounds like something a cartoon character would yell before changing into a superhero! LOL! It's actually Kellogg's program to help families create healthy snacks.

Through Mom Central, Kellogg's sent us 2 boxes of frosted mini-wheat cereal and a really neat to-go cereal cup. The idea was that we would use the cereal to try out some of the fun recipes they have posted on their site. To my surprise, my boys decided they LOVED frosted mini-wheats (who knew? not me, since I had never purchased it before!) and ate them up greedily for breakfast and after-pool snacks.

I loved the ideas they presented about snacking well, especially since it dovetails well with my thoughts about snacking. Snacking is a great way to ensure you have steady energy throughout the day and get all the necessary nutrients. We try to have healthy snack options, and limit sugary treats to special times. We clearly define snacks vs. treats and they are NOT the same thing in our house. Check out their site for other fun ideas and great recipes.

Even though the kids ate up the 2 boxes we received in the mail, I will buy it again to try out the sunflower cookie recipe. I had already purchased the cookie/lollipop sticks!

Thanks to Mom Central and Kelloggs for including us in this blog tour!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

birthday parties

Last year was the first year my oldest had a birthday party with friends. It was a small affair at our home, with a couple of his closest friends. It was simple and they all had fun.

We were at the local community center recently, and I noticed they offered climbing wall parties. I asked him if he would like to do that this year and he looked at me like I was an alien. I pressed him a bit and he said "Noooo. What if anyone is afraid of heights? Or they couldn't find the place? Or they just didn't like climbing?" I said I thought it would be fun and he disagreed again.

A couple days later I noticed they offer birthday parties at the local children's museum. Again, I was told that wouldn't be a good idea. I asked if he wanted a party, and he replied that he did - but it should be at our home.

A few days later, the boys were playing with Legos and I said "Hey! How about a Lego-themed birthday party?" He was VERY enthusiastic about that idea and told me that I could make a Lego person cake! I said that I thought I'd make a Lego-block cake (remembering that I've seen them around the 'net) and he said "Naw, that's too easy for you. I want a Lego-person cake!" I guess that's what happens when you've made volcanoes, swimming pools and bulldozers in the past for birthdays! LOL!

I think it's so sweet that he would prefer to have a party at home. He attended 3 birthday parties last year, and none of them were at anyone's home -- 2 were at bounce places and the third was at a laser tag place. He had a lot of fun at all those parties. Even so, his first (and only) preference is to have a party at home.

Part of the reason I'm blogging this is because when I told my parents, they responded with "Yea, wait until he's 15! Then he'll be saying how he always wanted a birthday party at a special place, but you always made him have them at home!" I responded with "Well, I'll blog this and then I can go back and show him!"

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Review: Schlage Keyless Lock

When Mom Central asked if I wanted to be part of a blog tour for Schlage's Keyless Locks, I couldn't respond fast enough! I confess, I already have a keyless lock on my front door. When I lost DH's keys a couple years ago, we replaced our house lock with a keyless lock, and it has been the best thing ever! The kids are able to lock the door easily and also open the door. I don't have to fumble for keys ever! We can change the codes easily and have multiple codes in case someone is feeding the fish, for example. And, perhaps most importantly, I CAN'T LOSE THE KEYS!

So, why was I excited about trying out another one? Because my parents own the house next door to mine and I am always in and out of their house. They live here part of the year, but we often go into their home (um, we use it for storage!) and my sister usually does her laundry there (keeps the water flowing!) I'm pretty good about putting the key back in the same place, but I can't say the same for other people in the family.

I wanted to put one on their door to make everyone's life easier. My parents are currently living next door, and just last week my dad walked out of the house, locked his door, and realized all of his keys (truck and house) were IN his house. I wasn't home, but he was able to call my cell phone. I was able to tell him the code for MY door and he was able to go into my home and get the spare keys for his house. It saved him waiting 30 minutes for me to come home in the 110 degree Arizona summer heat.

My parents are thrilled to have one on their door, now. It was very easy to install and my dad only needed a single screwdriver and about 30 minutes. The keypad lights up so you don't have to fumble if you forgot to leave the light on after dark. The lock requires a single 9volt battery, which comes included in the package!

I can't recommend this type of lock enough! I tell everyone I know to change their lock to a keyless lock and make their life easier!

You can check out more information on the Schlage website. If you have been thinking about ways to make your life easier, and your home more secure, I would consider a new keyless lock!

Many many thanks to both Mom Central and Schlage for sending me this fabulous new lock!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Cookbook Giveaway Winner!

Thanks to's integer generator, I have a winner for Jessica Seinfeld's cookbook!

Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:


Timestamp: 2008-07-21 19:59:14 UTC

Kelly! Please email me and I'll get your cookbook out to you!

Everyone -- thanks for playing! I have another giveaway coming soon! This time for music ;)

Simple Woman's Daybook - July 21

Visit The Simple Woman's blog for more entries!


Outside my Window...bright blue skies with whispers of clouds

I am thinking...I hope DH sells the call he's on right now

I am thankful for...the health of my family

From the kitchen...chunks of watermelon

I am creating...routines and schedules to carry us into the fall

I am the Apple Store to see if my battery can be fixed, and also to the new Lego store that recently opened.

I am wearing...dark grey skirt, flowered top, bare feet and my glasses because my contacts were bugging my eyes.

I am reading...Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Ellen

I am hoping...for a peaceful evening with DH and my kids

I am hearing...C reading St. George and the Dragon to N

Around the house...I still have to go through our books. UGH

One of my favorite things...floating in the pool (by myself)

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The on schooling plans, do the usual chores, have a quiet week after last week's business

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you...

Sunday, July 20, 2008


I've suffered from migraines for years. My mom still has a picture that I drew when I was 2 or 3 of my head during a headache. There's a very small body, a large head filled with strong markings and squiggles and lines, and tears pouring out my eyes.

I have gone years without them, though, and then suddenly -- BANG! The last time I had them regularly was when I was pregnant with N, so I've had a long reprieve. Yesterday, though, I was hit hard. It started Friday and I was hoping that I would wake up Saturday without pain. Unfortunately, it woke me dozens of times Friday night and Saturday I was much worse.

My mom is in town and thankfully she took all 3 kids for a few hours in the morning so I was able to lie in bed with cold packs and tears. I retrieved the kids around lunch time and nursed L down for her nap and was able to sleep a bit while the boys watched hours of TV.

DH was on calls about 2 1/2 hours from home, so I knew I wouldn't see him until after 10PM. The pain started to ease around 5PM and I was able prepare a simple dinner and bathe the kids. My head was quiet enough that I was able to read aloud (Redwall . . . which the boys are loving and I'm still unsure about.)

I really hope that this migraine was a result of being tired (I've been trying to follow a new schedule which has me sleeping about 7 hours a night) and stress (myriad places.) I really don't want to start another cycle -- as having 3 kids to care for and coping with this sort of pain will be extremely difficult.

I don't think my new schedule is going to work. I know that people survive on less sleep -- but they're not me. I'm not lazy just because I need 8-9 hours of sleep a night. It's just what I need.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Cookbook Giveaway Reminder

Scroll down a few posts and enter a comment if you'd like a chance to win Jessica Seinfeld's cookbook! I'll be choosing a winner first thing Monday morning!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

friendly girl

L is the friendliest child! I've known she was friendly, and had little "stranger danger," but it's been driven home this week. While the boys attend cartooning class, we hang out in the youth museum. There are lots of kids and moms and she absolutely delights in all the people!

One area of the museum has a bunch of small play rooms set up. My boys would always choose to play in an empty room, and would rarely interact with other kids if they entered the room later. L avoids the empty rooms, and seeks out the rooms with other kids!

Yesterday she followed this little boy around, who was about 4 months older than she. He kept trying to get away from her, but she was determined to play with him. She is also free with hugs and loves it when she finds other kids close in size to her.

She totally ignores me in favor of other moms, which makes me sigh a bit. I know it means she's well attached, and feeling safe -- but it also makes me feel a bit funny when she keeps going over to other moms to hand them toys, etc. I guess she doesn't totally ignore me -- she does come back to me quite often to check in, but to me it still feels a bit funny.

Interacting with other people is often exhausting for me, but I can see that I'm going to make an extreme effort for her. I had already decided we were taking a mommy & me music class in the fall, but this week convinced me I made the right decision!

In the past, I always was amazed (ok, and a little put off) by young children who were very friendly. And, now I have one! She is definitely her daddy's girl! He is the social one in our relationship, but I am going to have to make most of the efforts to fill her social needs.

20 / 20

I took N for his well-child-visit today (just a couple months late!) He weighed 46 3/4 lbs and is 46 3/4 inches tall. How funny is that? His vision and hearing both tested as perfect, which upset C since he felt that he shouldn't be the only kid in the family wearing glasses. LOL!

No other issues, so it'll probably be a year until he visits again!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

busy week

This week is shaping up to be a very busy week! On top of normal household things, we've had many outside commitments:

Monday - same old thing
Tuesday - boys had cooking class in the AM, cartooning class in the PM
Wednesday - I'm tutoring in the AM, cartooning class in the PM, have to pick up the truck and drop off the rental sometime in there
Thursday - N's well-child-visit in the AM, cartooning class in the PM
Friday - I'm tutoring in the AM, cartooning class in the PM

Between distance and price of gas, when the boys are in class, L and I just hang out where the class is being held. We're not home long enough for her to nap at home, and she won't nap in her stroller (heck, she will barely sit in her stroller these days!)

In between all of the running, I still need to do laundry, cooking, cleaning and all the rest that goes into a household of 5 people. I realize I've been a bit spoiled the last few months being a homebody!

On the plus side, the boys LOVE the cartooning class so far and it's held in the children's museum which has a great play area for babies/toddlers. The tutoring gives me a little extra money which is very welcome, and I enjoy the young girl I'm helping. I've been working on routines and that has helped keep things moving along this week without falling apart.

It's also helping me get ready for the fall -- when we'll be pretty darn busy all the time again. Between sports, classes and various other commitments, I imagine days at home will be few and far between. It just reinforces that I need to get our routines manageable in the next few weeks before the full frenzy of fall kicks in.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Cookbook Giveaway

A while back, I reviewed this cookbook and realize it's just been gathering dust on my shelf. I don't have the time to create purees, and I prefer my kids just enjoy vegetables looking like vegetables.

That doesn't mean somebody else wouldn't use and love it! So, I decided to give it away! I have an almost-new copy of Jessica Seinfeld's cookbook, Deceptively Delicious to give away to one of my readers!

Leave a comment to this post by next Sunday and tell me about your favorite vegetable! (At the moment, mine is grilled asparagus. Yum! N loves it as much as I do, while C won't touch it.)

I'll randomly choose a comment and send the book on its way to you! That's all there is to it!

ETA: Kelly was the winner of this giveaway! Comments on this post are now closed!

Something we don't really talk about

I'm going to admit something here that I haven't even admitted to my own husband. Since L's birth, I've had problems with incontinence. It usually strikes when I have to go, but am trying to hold it for as long as possible -- like when I'm out with all 3 kids and trying to figure out how to use the restroom and keep everyone safe is too overwhelming -- so I try to make it all the way home. Something that I could do in years past, but not every time these days!

I didn't realize that 1 out of 4 women experience some trouble with incontinence throughout their life! Even though it's common, 80% of women don't talk about it. Kimberly-Clark's Poise brand joined together with the Women's Health Foundation (WHF) to raise awareness about pelvic health and wellness.

They recently awarded their first-ever Poise Award to Linda Michaels of Portage, Indiana because her story of personal triumph over pelvic pain and bladder control issues - and her willingness to tell it - has inspired women and doctors alike to share their stories. Click here for Linda's story.

When Mom Central asked if I would be willing to blog about this topic, I admit my first thought was "umm, do I really want to do that?" But, the more I thought about it, and the more I learned by viewing the Poise website, I realized that I did want to blog about it! I read some good tips, and convinced myself to bring it up at my next ob-gyn appointment. If I can help another woman learn more about the issue, then all the better!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

How to Draw an Eagle

C recently created this great tutorial on how to draw an eagle!

Friday, July 11, 2008

spaghetti sauce

We eat spaghetti often here. C likes it with butter and cheddar cheese (yes, I know, weird, huh?) but the rest of us like it with tomato sauce. I usually stock up on the jarred sauce when it's on sale, but our pantry recently was empty of spaghetti sauce. It was $4.19/jar and I refused to pay that much! The next time I went shopping, it was $3.99/jar. Still too much!

Then I saw they had cans of tomato sauce discounted to .34! I recently saw a crockpot recipe for meat sauce and decided to try it. I bought a bunch of the cans, plus a few cans of diced tomatoes. I had 2lbs of ground beef in the freezer, and plenty of spices in the spice cabinet.

I ended up making 2 crockpots full of sauce yesterday, and thankfully they were delicious! After we ate dinner (with company), I had 16 cups of sauce to package and freeze! I'm good for spaghetti dinners for a long while now!

I packaged the extra in 2 cup portions in gallon size freezer bags. I froze them flat, so they are stacked conveniently in the freezer for our next spaghetti meal.

It was easy and the house smelled great while it was cooking all day. Want to try it for yourself? I'll cut my recipe down to make one crockpot worth!

1 medium onion
3 T minced garlic (we like garlic!)
32 oz canned tomato sauce
2 cans diced tomatoes
2 small cans tomato paste (because we like our sauce a bit thick)
1 lb lean ground beef, or ground turkey (You do not have to cook it before adding it, it'll cook perfectly in the sauce all day. But, since you're cooking it in the sauce, you want lean meat so your sauce isn't greasy/fatty.)
1 T sweet basil
1 T oregano
1 tsp salt

Dice the onion and saute in a pan with the minced garlic until the onion is golden. Place in crockpot. Add tomatoes. Add beef (or turkey) using a spoon to break up the meat through the sauce. Add the spices (adjusted for your family's taste if necessary). Turn crockpot on low and leave for 8 - 10 hours.

That's it!

Maybe you always make your own sauce and this seems simple. Well, I never made my own sauce before and it IS simple! I can't believe I always bought jarred sauce! I doubt I ever will again.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Amazon Tips

I shop on Amazon for quite a few things. The convenience is wonderful, and I find many great deals by watching the site almost daily. I do have a few tricks to help make it easier.

One thing I do is have multiple wish lists. Some of them are public -- one for the boys, another for L, another for DH & me, and a fourth for homeschooling books I'd like. Then, I keep a few private -- items I'd like to send as a gift for someone I know, items I'm watching and am interested in, but don't want on a public list, items I want to remember to look for at our library, items that are good for their 4 for 3 promotion so they're all in one place.

By keeping so many wish lists, I am able to quickly check prices to see if the price has dropped. It also allows me to make notes by each item. One of the most important notes for me is the price note. I type in the price and date so I know if it's dropped or risen. This allowed me to purchase L's Madame Alexander doll for less than $14, when it was over $40 for months. Another note I make is who the item is for on my gifts wish list, or whether it's an item that N or C would like on the boys' wish list. (You can see what I mean if you click on the wish lists over on the right.) Sometimes I kick myself for not jumping on a deal soon enough -- like the wagon on L's wishlist that was $50 for a couple days before her birthday, then jumped back to $79.99 where it has stayed since then.

The 4 for 3 wishlist helps me make the best choices for that offer. If you're not familiar with it, there are hundreds of books, cds, dvds, and even household items that are part of this program. When you purchase 4 items in the program, you receive one free. The free item is the least expensive item, so I try to purchase 4 things that cost the same, or very close to the same. Sometimes, I'll have three $3.99 books I want to purchase, but I'll wait until I find a fourth $3.99 book before ordering that set. The same holds true for $8.99 books -- I prefer to receive a free $8.99 book instead of ordering three at that price, and one at $3.99.

Another thing I use is their Prime shipping membership. While their $25/free shipping offer is great, it takes a while to receive your items and you have to spend a minimum of $25. I split the cost of the membership with my sister and we receive free 2 day shipping on thousands of items. This allows me to spend less than $25 and also send gifts anyplace in the country. Often, I will pay for giftwrap since I don't have to pay for shipping when sending gifts. Last year, the membership was around $80 (so $40 for me) and I most definitely order more than enough. The prime membership allows me to purchase things like the $5.95 inflatable globe I ordered today without having to spend an extra $20 to get free shipping, or pay more than the globe cost for shipping. I'm sure if Amazon was losing money on the program, they would discontinue it, so I don't feel bad about using it.

And, finally, I signed up as an Amazon associate. This was very simple to do through the Amazon website. After I was set up and approved, I put specially coded links to Amazon on my blogs and whenever someone purchases something after clicking through my link, I receive a small commission. Mainly my family and friends try to remember to click through my links and I've earned a little bit towards our book purchases.

I may sound like an ad for Amazon after this post, but they didn't pay me for it! I just realized that it's one of the tools I use to maximize the use of our money and thought I'd share!

U.S. Citizenship Test

Well, I'm a few days late for the Fourth of July, but could you pass the latest U.S. Citizenship Test? I did with a 95%! (and I shouldn't have missed the one I did -- but I didn't think it through enough and couldn't remember the exact date.)

Monday, July 07, 2008

Strawberry Bread

Another way we love to enjoy strawberries is in Strawberry Bread. The recipe is one I found in a Penzey's catalog a few years ago. It is light and yummy as a breakfast bread, or even a snack.

Penzey's spices are wonderful, and their catalog always includes at least one (and usually more) great recipes to try. If you've never visited one of their stores, or received a catalog, I suggest you should!

Christmas Shopping

Yes, I've been Christmas shopping. Actually, I bought my first gift 3 months ago (an amazing deal on a Madame Alexander doll for L), but in the last week I added to our stash.

I watch for clearance items and try to gather things so that we're not hit for gifts all at once. Some years I've been almost done by October, other years find me searching for gifts in December. I'd like this to be one of my early years!

At Target, I found a few stocking stuffers in their dollar section marked 75% off, though! I picked up some things for all 3 kids as well as my sister (I fill her stocking each year) and DH! Also at Target, I picked up a pink & white soccer ball for less than $4 and 2 Air Hog planes for under $5. I picked up a couple Playmobil people for less than $2.

Every year, I use a spreadsheet to keep track of our holiday spending. I set up a sheet with gifts for my immediate family, and another sheet with gifts for extended family and friends. On my gift sheets, I track items, whether or not they've been purchased, wrapped, shipped and the cost. I also keep track of the number of gifts because I like for there to be some sort of balance between the boys.

I keep another sheet with extra-holiday purchases. Things like tickets to special events, new ornaments, extra lights, etc. Our Christmas card list is kept updated with new addresses and family member names. One more sheet keeps track of gifts we've received and when the thank you notes were sent.

I just realized that I bought a gift for my mom back in August when I was entering my recent purchases. The spreadsheet prevents me from losing things that I purchase early, and also ensures that I keep good control of our budget.

I don't buy things just because they're a good deal. I do try to keep wants and needs in mind when making purchases, and it's a good feeling to know I'm prepared. There have been years that we wouldn't have been able to give any gifts if I hadn't purchased some well in advance.

Years ago, I thought people who shopped for Christmas during the summer were crazy! Nowadays, I think it makes good sense. It definitely makes my holiday season less stressful and gives me more time to focus on family and activities.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

movie meme

I'm not a big dvd owner. The kids have a bunch of movies, but DH & I don't. Well, DH did at one time but I de-cluttered them once and he never missed them. I do love netflix, but haven't been to a movie theater in a long time. I love watching movies on the big screen, but the cost of tickets and babysitters make it prohibitive :(

I also wonder how EW came up with this list? What was the criteria? I saw the meme on a few blogs, but nobody seemed to know.

Here's Entertainment Weekly's list of the top movies of the last 25 years. Go through their list and BOLD the ones you have seen, underline the ones you own on video or DVD, and
italicize those you'd like to see someday.

1. Pulp Fiction (1994)
2. The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-03)
3. Titanic (1997)
4. Blue Velvet (1986)
5. Toy Story (1995)
6. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
7. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
8. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
9. Die Hard (1988)
10. Moulin Rouge (2001)
11. This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
12. The Matrix (1999)
13. GoodFellas (1990)
14. Crumb (1995)
15. Edward Scissorhands (1990
16. Boogie Nights (1997)
17. Jerry Maguire (1996)
18. Do the Right Thing (1989)
19. Casino Royale (2006)
20. The Lion King (1994)
21. Schindler's List (1993)
22. Rushmore (1998)
23. Memento (2001)
24. A Room With a View (1986)
25. Shrek (2001)

26. Hoop Dreams (1994)
27. Aliens (1986)
28. Wings of Desire (1988)
29. The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
30. When Harry Met Sally... (1989)
31. Brokeback Mountain (2005)
32. Fight Club (1999)
33. The Breakfast Club (1985)
34. Fargo (1996)
35. The Incredibles (2004)
36. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
37. Pretty Woman (1990)

38. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
39. The Sixth Sense (1999)
40. Speed (1994)
41. Dazed and Confused (1993)
42. Clueless (1995)
43. Gladiator (2000)
44. The Player (1992)
45. Rain Man (1988)
46. Children of Men (2006)
47. Men in Black (1997)
48. Scarface (1983)
49. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
50. The Piano (1993)
51. There Will Be Blood (2007)
52. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad (1988)
53. The Truman Show (1998)
54. Fatal Attraction (1987)
55. Risky Business (1983)
56. The Lives of Others (2006)
57. There’s Something About Mary (1998)
58. Ghostbusters (1984)

59. L.A. Confidential (1997)
60. Scream (1996)
61. Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
62. sex, lies and videotape (1989)
63. Big (1988)

64. No Country For Old Men (2007)
65. Dirty Dancing (1987)
66. Natural Born Killers (1994)
67. Donnie Brasco (1997)
68. Witness (1985)
69. All About My Mother (1999)
70. Broadcast News (1987)
71. Unforgiven (1992)
72. Thelma & Louise (1991)
73. Office Space (1999)
74. Drugstore Cowboy (1989)
75. Out of Africa (1985)
76. The Departed (2006)
77. Sid and Nancy (1986)
78. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
79. Waiting for Guffman (1996)
80. Michael Clayton (2007)
81. Moonstruck (1987)
82. Lost in Translation (2003)
83. Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1987)
84. Sideways (2004)
85. The 40 Year-Old Virgin (2005)
86. Y Tu Mamá También (2002)
87. Swingers (1996)
88. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
89. Breaking the Waves (1996)
90. Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
91. Back to the Future (1985)
92. Menace II Society (1993)
93. Ed Wood (1994)
94. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
95. In the Mood for Love (2001)
96. Far From Heaven (2002)
97. Glory (1989)
98. The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
99. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
100. South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut (1999)

Saturday, July 05, 2008


DH slow-cooked these beef ribs over apple wood chips for about 5 hours. He then basted them with his homemade barbecue sauce and cooked them a while longer. They were absolutely scrumptious!! N took a bite and said "Mmmmm, now THIS is how meat should taste!" LOL!

We also made fresh yeast rolls with a recipe we hadn't tried before. They turned out perfect! The recipe was in a Cuisine at Home magazine, which is a great magazine if you like to cook! I don't think we've ever been disappointed by any recipe we've tried.

To round out the meal, we had broccoli, baked beans (cooked with a jar of salsa. Everyone said it tasted great!), DH's grilled potatoes and onions (he chops up potatoes and onions, seasons with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder. Then he makes little packets of aluminum foil and grills until the potatoes are tender.), and a very sweet watermelon (which you can see L enjoying below.) It was a wonderful meal!

I didn't get any of the paperwork or office cleaning done after all. Instead I took a nap from 11 - 2 and then hung out by the pool. Maybe tomorrow!

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy 4th of July!

What are your plans for today?

DH is at home today, so I want to catch up on some household things I have a hard time taking care of when he's gone so much. I need to finish up some paperwork, start cleaning out the office, and try to do some school year planning.

We are planning on having ribs, baked potatoes and a vegetable (always hard to find one that everyone will eat -- I will probably prepare 2 different ones) for dinner. If I can get some more strawberries, we'll have strawberry shortcake for dessert. I'll have to make something different for my sister, though, since she's allergic to strawberries.

I've been up since 4AM which means I'll be dragging later. L woke around then and I nursed her back to sleep, but couldn't fall back asleep myself. I decided to get up and do some chores around the house before anyone else woke up. I've got a load of laundry going, finished cleaning off a shelving unit that I started yesterday, swept and mopped the kitchen floor. I'd like to vacuum, but that's kinda noisy and I'm enjoying the quiet right now.

It's going to be another scorcher today, so I don't think we'll eat outside. We will probably swim sometime today, and maybe take a morning trip to IKEA if everyone else wakes up soon.

Gosh, this probably sounds boring! Oh, well, a few boring days can't be bad!

Enjoy your day!

Thursday, July 03, 2008


We LOVE strawberries in this house! California had a bumper crop this year, so you should be able to find them easily, and at a great price in the stores!

Did you know that 88% of the nation's strawberries come from California's 35,000 acres of strawberry fields? That means that nearly 6 million crates of strawberries will fill stores this summer!

Some other fun facts about strawberries:
  • If you lined up all of the strawberries grown in California in one straight line, they would wrap around the entire Earth 15 times.
  • There are about 200 seeds on the outside of each strawberry.
  • California harvests over a billion pounds of strawberries annually.
  • One acre of land (about the size of one football field) grows about 50,000 pounds of strawberries - that's the same weight as 4 elephants!
And, even more important -- some great health information about strawberries:
  • Strawberries contain powerful antioxidants and rank second among the top ten fruits in antioxidant capacity: one serving of strawberries contains more Vitamin C than an orange.
  • Strawberries may help reduce the risk of heart disease, fight some types of cancer and lower blood pressure. Not bad for a little red berry!
  • The antioxidants in strawberries also aid in memory performance and may help prevent Alzheimer's disease by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, two key factors that can cause age-related diminished brain function.
Other than eating them straight out of the refrigerator, my family loves it when I make strawberry shortcakes. I don't actually make a shortcake, it's a sweet buttermilk drop biscuit, but it is yummy and we all love to eat them!
  • 3 T dry buttermilk (I use SACO blend, but you could use actual buttermilk and decrease the liquid a little)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3 Tbs sugar
  • 1/3 cup shortening (sometimes I use butter, sometimes I use CRISCO. If you use butter, make sure it's cold)
  • 2/3 cup water
Mix well, drop on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 450 for 10 - 12 minutes. Makes 6.

Wash, cull and slice strawberries. I usually just cut the berries in half, or sometimes quarters. I like to prepare the berries first and let them get cold in the refrigerator before preparing the shortcakes. I slice the biscuit in half, pile strawberries on, put the top back on, pile more strawberries on, put on some whipped cream, and another few strawberries. The juices melt into the biscuit and the whole thing is scrumptious!!

Hundreds more recipes using strawberries can be found here. The California Strawberry Commission also has a fun kids site named Strawberryville, where you'll find interactive games, activities, information and kid-friendly recipes using strawberries.

Summertime means enjoying two of my favorite fruits -- strawberries and watermelon! I hope you enjoy your favorite fruits this summer, and try a few new recipes!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

mac & cheese, again

I tried the crockpot mac & cheese I posted about yesterday and it was good! I threw in an entire bag of small shells, which was twice what the recipe called for. I worried that it wouldn't have enough liquid, so I added another 1/2 cup of milk. I probably didn't need any more milk -- it came out creamy and yummy!

Most importantly, the boys declared it delicious! It was also super-easy to put together!

This recipe will definitely be added to our collection of recipes.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Recycled Toothbrushes? Yep!

I buy new toothbrushes all the time! I think dentists recommend replacing toothbrushes every 3 months, and I follow that schedule. I really don't like using a toothbrush when the bristles start to bend and fray, and my boys seem to mangle theirs even more quickly than I do. Did you know that in the U.S. about 1 billion toothbrushes are thrown away each year?

When Mom Central and Preserve asked if I would like to try out a new toothbrush, I jumped at the chance. I was even more excited when I learned that they were made of recycled Stonyfield yogurt cups AND when I was finished with them, I could send them back (free postage!) and they'd be recycled again into decking material. What a great idea!

I worried about the cost of such a brush, but was pleased to find out that they retail for $2.04 at Target! If you click here, you can print out a coupon for $1/off the purchase of 2.

The toothbrush is comfortable to hold, and does a nice job cleaning my teeth. The bristles aren't too soft, and aren't too hard. The toothbrush did the job it was made to do!

For more information about Preserve and their products, check out their website and watch this video. I know I'll buy more of these toothbrushes, and also keep an eye out for more of their products.

Slow Cooker Mac & Cheese

I came across a new (to me) blog recently, and was excited to see she posted a recipe for Crock Pot Macaroni & Cheese. My boys love mac & cheese from the deli, and I was searching for a recipe that came close to the taste/consistency. I think this one will do it!

I was going to try it today, but didn't have enough cheese. Now, if only I can convince my boys that crumbled pretzels are the best topping for mac & cheese!!
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