Saturday, January 31, 2009

January Reading List

A couple years back I tracked the books I read each month. I liked having a record like that, so I'm starting back up. While it looks like I didn't read much this month, I actually read a ton while researching a writing project I completed and doing more research for another project. This month, for fun, I read:

The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls. I read this one on Alexa's suggestion (thanks, Alexa!) It was an interesting story, and I liked the fact that it was non-fiction. The author clearly had a great love for her parents, even though they were selfish and mentally unbalanced. I did like that it showed sometimes people choose a certain way to live, but I also wondered about all the early memories she shared. She seemed to remember way too much about her toddler years, which left me with a bit of disbelief about her story.

Bread Alone: A Novel I really wanted to like this book, but I didn't. The story wasn't new in any way, and I found myself skipping ahead and skimming just to get finished with it.

Hidden Kitchens: Stories, Recipes and More from NPR's The Kitchen Sisters This was very interesting and I thoroughly enjoyed the stories I read. I never thought about how useful George Foreman's grills were for the homeless population, or how they cooked at the racetrack during NASCAR events. My complaint about this book? They printed a lot of the text in yellow . . . which was extremely difficult to read. Maybe this was an issue only with the hardcover edition, but it was distracting and disappointing to me. I struggled to read the yellow text, but my old eyes just couldn't manage much of it, so I know I missed chunks of the book. Not sure why a decision like that was made?

Friday, January 30, 2009

Stay on Testing Requirements for CPSIA

I love handmade goods and items made by small, US based companies. I have been fighting against the CPSIA since I heard about it, and am so happy to announce that there has been a one year stay on the legislation.

I want my kids to be safe, but I don't want to force companies out of business for ridiculous reasons. I hope that the next year is spent fine-tuning this legislation so that it protects our children without destroying small businesses.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

My Small Successes


Danielle Bean over at Faith and Family is hosting small successes--an opportunity for Moms to identify the little things they have accomplished in the craziness of daily life. Here are mine:

1. I completed a piece of paperwork that needed to be done!

2. I snuggled with my oldest as he was recovering from surgery. He's a snuggler, but things have been busy and I haven't snuggled him as much as I should. I'm reminded to make the time!

3. I spent time alone with my 6yo this week. It's fun to talk with him one-on-one and listen to him chatter away without being interrupted by his older brother. I love to hear how his mind works and the things he wonders about.

Kellogg's Plant a Seed Program

Sports are important in our family. Throughout the year, my boys play baseball, flag football and soccer. (In fact, N just started soccer season!) I feel very grateful that we live near a city that has affordable and fun leagues for my boys to join. They learn about playing on a team, sportsmanship, and the rules of the game.

Mom Central asked if I would write about Kellogg's "Plant a Seed" program where individuals from around the country can nominate their local outdoor fields for repair and/or renovation. This program will renovate 50 fields this year! You can visit the website to nominate a local field, vote on fields, and watch the fields get renovated.

Watch for their ad during Sunday's Superbowl and visit the site to nominate a field in your area. Kids need outdoor sports and they need decent fields to play on. Help more kids enjoy the thrill of outdoor games by nominating your field today.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Stimulate What?

In case you haven't noticed, I don't blog politics on this blog. There are plenty that do, and I believe that everyone always believes they're right when it comes to politics . . . and I am not up for confrontation on that front.

But, this new stimulus bill? Are you kidding me? 647 pages -- mostly of pet projects. I don't see anything in there that's going to help my family. or boost our economy.

I went out and opened a Chase checking account last week because they're offering $100 if you do so. I figure that's the only way I'm going to see any of the stimulus money . . . but really? That's how they're spending the previous stimulus package? Handing away $100 bills and handing their executives big fat bonuses. That $100 went towards my son's surgery.

We're struggling. What else is new, I know. I feel like a broken record. My husband and I are at each other because we're not sure how we're going to pay the mortgage anymore. I'm scrambling to find work, and I'm grateful for what I have, but it's not enough. My husband (100% commission job) is doing whatever he can as well, but it's not enough. It's just not enough.

And the government wants to give $1 billion to Amtrak . . . who hasn't turned a profit in 40 years.

It's overwhelming.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

C's bumps

If you want to see C's before and after pics, check out my picture blog dated yesterday :)

He's doing pretty good today! He's hanging out in bed, and his sister is driving him nuts, but he's doing pretty good with the pain.

Monday, January 26, 2009

We're home!

Quick note to let you know that we're home from C's surgery. It turned out to be more extensive than originally anticipated, but the results look good and he's recovering in the living room.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Work Expands

Years ago, when I was teaching project management software classes, I used to talk about the principle that states that work expands to fit the time available. Which basically meant, that sometimes you could put a 1 day task into a 3 day time frame, and it would suddenly take 3 days to complete it. My life hasn't been like that lately, as I feel like I've been trying to fit 3 days of work into 1 day!

Last week, a project I was working on finished up with about 1/3 less work than I was expecting, and then a class I was expecting to teach this week was canceled. Suddenly, I had free time that I wasn't expecting!! And, then, my sister became horribly, violently ill and I had to move her next door (my parents own the house, but live there only part-time) so I could care for her. And a surgery appointment opened up for Monday for C. It's like God knew that all these things were headed my way, so he freed up some time! Too bad we didn't need that money so much! But, at least I'm able to be more present and available to care for my family.

The doctor thought my sister had appendicitis, but it turned out to be a horribly nasty kidney infection. The poor thing is struggling and feels absolutely awful still . . . after 3 days on antibiotics.

C is having surgery tomorrow to remove his branchial cleft cysts. These are something that DH & I have taken a "wait and see" attitude about since his birth, but for various reasons decided it was time to remove them. I wasn't expecting surgery until March, but there was an opening and I didn't want to turn it down. It's an outpatient procedure, but he will be under general anesthesia.

Home life has been hectic and harried and I'm not happy with my behavior in many ways. Financial stress has to be some of the most insidious stress there is, making people behave in ways that aren't fair or even nice to those around them. Speaking of which, I need to work on some assignments right now . . .

Saturday, January 24, 2009

I Need A Vacation

There's quite a bit going on in our house these days, and I could desperately use a vacation right about now. When Mom Central asked if I would help my readers learn more about Park City Mountain Resort, I had a great time searching around on their website.

One of the first things I checked out was the kids' program. They have a fantastic program called "Signature 5" and is geared for kids ages 6 to 14. They offer snowboard and ski lessons with time for plenty of individual attention and even provide lunch during the 6 hour lesson. I can just see N having an absolute ball learning how to snowboard! They also offer classes for the 3.5 to 5 year old set.

Did you know I love roller coasters? The Park City Mountain Resort has an Alpine Coaster that looks like it would be an absolute blast to ride! You climb into a toboggan style car and go whizzing down the mountain.

I've never skiied, but there are lessons for adults as well and equipment rentals available. In addition to skiing and snowboarding, you can also go snowmobiling, tubing or take a sleigh ride. There is a shuttle available to Park City where there are restaurants and shopping available.

I checked out their packages, and think I'd like the Presidential Package the most. It offers a two bedroom, luxury condo with private hot tub. Kids stay and ski free with 2 paid adults.

At this time in our life, Park City Mountain Resort is beyond our means, but it looks like something worth saving up for. I would love to go and learn how to ski, and give my kids the opportunity to learn as well. Visit their site for more information, and check out their blog for a personal look at all there is to do.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Super Bowl Giveaway Winner!

We were a little worried in the 4th quarter, but the Arizona Cardinals are headed to the Super Bowl!! WOOO HOOOO for the entire team, and especially for Kurt Warner!

This will be the Arizona Cardinals first trip to the Super Bowl and I imagine the excitement around here is going to be pretty high for the next couple weeks.

But, you all came to find out who the winner of my Pepsi Super Bowl Party is, didn't you? So, without further sports talk . . .

. . . the winner (thanks to is . . .

Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:


Timestamp: 2009-01-18 23:27:56 UTC

Commentor #19 was Kraig!! Congratulations! Your package will be shipped to you before Super Bowl Sunday! Take pictures and let me see the awesome party you throw!!

Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway! I hope you all have wonderful Super Bowl parties and I expect you all to cheer on the Cardinals!

Sticky Post: Super Bowl Party Giveaway

I've stuck this post on top until my Super Bowl Party giveaway is complete. Click HERE to enter the giveaway! Look below for new posts. Good Luck!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

new project

I started a new project over here -- Saturday Snapshots.

I know I already have a picture blog, but my idea with this one is that I would blog ONE picture from every Saturday of 2009 and then print them out as an album next January. I have been terrible about printing pictures and making albums, so I thought I'd give this a try.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Review: Recycled Cutting Board

Back in July, I reviewed Preserve's toothbrushes. I appreciated the company's philosophy and promised to be on the lookout for more products made by them. So, I was excited when they recently sent me a cutting board to try out. A cutting board made of 100% recycled plastics. Not 10%, but 100%.

In January, Preserve rolled out a new set of kitchen products that are BPA-free, MADE IN THE USA and dishwasher-safe. All of their products are made from 100% recycled #5 plastic or 100% post-consumer recycled paper.

Their new product line includes the cutting board I was able to try out (and is pictured over there), a colander, and a set of 3 mixing bowls. What amazes me is that the prices are completely reasonable! The large colander retails for $11.99, the set of 3 mixing bowls for $21.99, the small cutting board for $8.99 and the large cutting board for $12.99.

I don't use recycled products because they are less expensive (because, let's face it, they rarely are), but because they're good for our environment. Too often, though, recycled items are priced out of my budget. The items from Preserve are extremely reasonable, and I have to say again that they are made in the USA. I wonder if more companies shouldn't take a look at their business model and figure out what they're doing right!?

The cutting board I received is colorful and sturdy. One edge has a slight curve which makes it easy to hold. It washes easily and doesn't hold odors (those were onions that I was chopping!) I plan to buy one of their colanders from Target and throw out the one that I've been using for 20 years (and burning myself with for 20 years . . . it is a bad design.)

If you use any of their products and they wear out (like toothbrushes), you just send it back to them and they will recycle it into another new product. Read more about how the recycling efforts of companies and individuals helps power their company.

Preserve's tagline is "Nothing wasted. Everything gained." They have a growing selection of products to choose from, and seem like a thoughtful, committed and responsible company. If you're in the market for kitchen goods, please check out their stuff and see how it'll work for you. I know you'll be pleased!

Review: Special K Crackers

Kelloggs teamed up with Mom Central and sent me a box of these yummy Special K crackers. Did I mention they were yummy? I received a box of Italian Tomato and Herb crackers and thoroughly enjoyed every one I was able to eat (the kids loved them, too!)

I was afraid the crackers might be bland, but they had a nice burst of flavor in every bite. Each serving of 17 crackers is only 90 calories, which makes this a healthy, crunchy snack.

They also come in a multi-grain option, which I'm sure are good. If you see these in the store, I suggest you pick up a box. I know I'll be buying them in the future.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Hmmm, apparently I title many posts with the word "busy." It's not a bad thing, it just is these days.

I have truly jumped back into working and it is invigorating and exhausting all at the same time. I haven't had a training class in a few weeks now, but I have had numerous writing opportunities and I am excited about the growth in that area. I do love to teach, and plan to continue, but I am also getting a kick out of writing.

I have so much on my writing plate that it's become impossible to fit it in around the kids and I have started lining up childcare for them so I can focus for hours at time, instead of catching 15 minutes here and there during the day, and then working late into the night. While I wish I could survive on 5-6 hours a night, the harsh truth is that I need a minimum of 8 on a regular basis.

I had prayed for something that would allow me to continue to be the prime caretaker of my children, while also providing a 2nd revenue stream for my family. It's been a lot of hard work, but it's happening just as I prayed. While I do use occasional child care, it's just a few hours/week. And while my income doesn't come close to DH's, it is very welcome these days.

On the home front, C is getting ready for his First Reconciliation next month. His Religious Ed teacher told him that he didn't need to learn the Act of Contrition . . . something he & I both found odd. I'm so glad that we're able to do most of his formation at home. I guess she told him that it was more important to know Our Father and Hail Mary . . . prayers he's known since he was 4.

Both boys are in a good spot right now which is such a relief. They're both helpful and kind and just a joy to be with. I'm a little worried about N's reading skills, but I've got a few ideas up my sleeves to deal with that.

L is a very typical toddler who is almost 2. Is it terrible to say that I really don't like this age much? I never understood people who said they didn't like the infant stage . . . but those people might not understand how I feel now. This defiant, argumentative, temper tantrum stage is draining. She's still a sweet, lovable child . . . but very strong-willed. (like her mama, is what my DH says) She also has every single boy/man in the house wrapped around her finger. It's quite astonishing to watch all 3 of them at her beck and call.

That's my update if you've been wondering what I'm up to. And, did you enter the Super Bowl giveaway? Please do! I'm super-excited to have such a great prize to give to one of my readers!

Review: Game Stop

Although I was a bit reluctant to move my kids past their Leapsters, we have moved past them. (Although L loves to play with them these days, and C still plays a math game.) A couple years ago B got the kids Nintendo DS's and last year when his PSP was stolen he bought a DS for himself, and for Christmas I got my own as well (all used . . . at a great price!) Last Christmas brought a Wii (purchased new) and this Christmas found us with an XBOX (used again).

So, as you can see, we have quite a few gaming systems in our home these days. Game Stop is one of our FAVORITE places to purchase games. You can purchase new or used (we almost always purchase used) and the best part is that you can sell back games you are done with. If you purchase a used game that you don't like, you can exchange it easily.

My kids love that they can go to the store and try out a variety of games before they buy. The clerks have always been very helpful, and provided some great tips for game play.

Game Stop is currently running a promotion "Sharpen the Mind, Shape the Body!' that they want everyone to know about. We have a Wii Fit, and Dance Dance Revolution, but I've been looking at adding My Fitness Coach for Wii and I love the brain games for my DS (like Brain Age and Ocean Zenses.)

One of the reasons I agreed to the Wii was because I liked the active nature of many of the games. I also really like the fact that many of the games are multi-player and that we can play as a family and everyone has fun.

If you have a system, (or are considering one), stop by your local Game Stop or visit their website to find active games to go along with it. As a special incentive, all shoppers who spend $35 or more on designated products will receive a free 12-month trial subscription to their choice of Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Redbook, Good Housekeeping or Esquire.

Above all, HAVE FUN!! Now, if you'll excuse me . . . my hubby and I have a Rock Band Tour to get back to :)

Thanks to Mom Central and Game Stop for telling me about their new promotion & letting me share it with you! I will receive a Game Stop gift certificate in exchange for this post.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Super Bowl Giveaway! Big Prize!

I am so excited that the Arizona Cardinals won yesterday and are moving forward in the NFL playoffs. Kurt Warner is one of my favorite quarterbacks -- heck, he's one of my favorite sports figures period! He has humility and generosity and he plays because he LOVES to play. I hope that another Super Bowl ring is in his future this year.

But, this post isn't about Kurt Warner. (maybe I'll do another post about him. He really is a great guy!) This post is about football parties!

Pepsi contacted me and asked if I'd like to host a giveaway to help one of my readers throw an awesome Super Bowl party. How could I say no?? I have the following to give away:
  • 1 football
  • 1 beverage pail
  • 1 snack helmet
  • 2 key chains
  • 2 hats
  • 2 t-shirts
  • 5 Pepsi 24-pack coupons
  • 5 Frito-Lay coupons
The entire package is worth $250 and will be shipped to you in plenty of time for your Super Bowl party.

I'm going to give you three ways to have an entry in this giveaway: (You only have to enter once, but this gives you two extra chances if you want them.)
  1. Leave a comment below telling me who you're rooting for in next week's games! Or your favorite snack food! Or, just say 'hello! I want to win!'
  2. Blog about this giveaway, link to my blog and leave a comment below with your link.
  3. Head over to Twitter and tweet about this giveaway, then come back and tell me you tweeted.
I will draw a winner using next Sunday night (January 18, 2009). Winner must then contact me within 24 hours with their address.

Giveaway open to U.S. residents only.

*** Comments are closed! Kraig was the winner! Go Cardinals!!! ***

Friday, January 09, 2009

Review: Truvia Sweetener

When I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, I knew that I had to either drink my tea unsweetened, or choose an artificial sweetener. I never liked the taste of artificial sweeteners, but someone mentioned stevia to me. It is a natural sweetener derived from the stevia plant, and available at a local health store. I tried it, and liked the flavor much better than artificial sweeteners!

Truvia is a natural sweetener made from rebiana, the sweetest part of the stevia leaf. I was fortunate enough to receive a box of Truvia to try out thanks to Mom Central and Cargill (the company that has brought Truvia to the mass market.) The first thing I noticed is that the sweetener looks just like sugar granules. (The packets I had used before were more like a powder that had a hard time dissolving in iced tea.) I immediately poured some into my iced tea and the Truvia dissolved easily -- a little quicker than plain sugar.

When I sipped my tea, I was pleased with the sweetness. It seemed to me that the Truvia tasted a bit sweeter than what I had been using before, which may be true because they have distilled the sweetest part of the leaf to create this sweetener. When I tried the two in a taste test, I did find the Truvia was sweeter.

Cargill has done a number of studies and the FDA has recently approved their product to be sold as an artificial sweetener. Coca-Cola is already using it in a couple of their Odwalla juices, and you should be looking for it in more beverages and foods in the next few years.

You can read more information, as well as see some great recipes at their website.

Would you like to try some Truvia? I'll send a few packets to 3 of my readers that leave a comment below. Just be sure to leave an email address so I can reach you and get your address!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Review: Cozi Organizer

For years I used a spiral-bound weekly calendar to keep track of my life. Then, I upgraded to a Day Runner. And then I switched to Outlook. When I went to a Mac a few years back, I ended up using the Google Calendar more often. Since leaving Outlook, one of my big complaints has been that I can't print a calendar for the refrigerator that has the coming weeks -- I was limited to an entire month, when often I wanted to see the current week and then the next few weeks.

When MomCentral asked if I would take a look at and share my thoughts, I was eager to try it out. One of the first things I checked was the printing options for calendars and I CAN print the current week and a few weeks forward.

Cozi is an online organizer which includes a calendar, lists and a journaling space. It can be customized with a picture of your family, and your family member's names. I easily input the information for my family for the next few weeks, and loved how I could color-code each of our different activities.

One of the neat features is the ability to text information to our phones. DH uses text messages quite often. I can quickly send a grocery list to his phone with just a couple clicks. I can also set up other lists (like house purchases, or upcoming gift needs).

I also liked the journaling portion. I have this blog to keep track of things that happen in our life, but I used the journal section of Cozi to list all the words L says at the moment. Pretty boring stuff, except for me and her pediatrician. I can also keep a journal of C's asthma attacks so I know if we need to modify his medications.

You can even call a number and have Çozi read your appointments or your calendar to you over the phone! How handy would that be if you were in the middle of the grocery store and completely forgot what you needed?

And, best of all? The service is free! (Text messaging costs whatever your plan is through your phone provider -- DH texts so much that he has unlimited text messages as part of his plan.)

Try it out! Sign up before February 4, 2009 and you might win an in-home organization makeover by Laura Leist of Eliminate Chaos!

One is easier

On Wednesdays, my boys attend an all-day enrichment program, so it's just me and L. Yesterday, we ran some errands during the day, including a visit to the library. As I was re-directing her and encouraging her to stay with me I realized how much simpler it is to follow certain parenting techniques when you have just one child to look after.

When it's just L, I have time to patiently re-direct her to another activity or distract her from removing all the books from a shelf. When I'm there with the boys, I have to keep them all within eyesight (or the librarians yell at me. Yes, truly, they do.) so I'm either snapping at the boys to stay close to us, or hurrying her along which makes her mad.

Now, I love all my kids and I'm grateful that they have each other -- but it just made me remember those days of having just one to keep track of and how idealistic I could be about my parenting style in those days!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Money Saving Monday #10

DH & I got to go out (without kids!!) twice in December. We attended a party and a wedding reception -- and I realized how LONG it had been since we were able to just enjoy some time together, and more importantly how much I missed it! One of my goals for 2009 was to take time each month to spend time alone with my dear darling.

Unfortunately, nobody else we know is getting married soon and there are no parties we've been invited to coming up. My sister is kind enough to watch the kids without payment, so I had to find something inexpensive to do with our free afternoon yesterday.

When we were dating, we used to go to the movies at least once a week. We haven't been to a movie (that wasn't in our living room) as a couple in a long time, so I thought that would be a good way to spend our afternoon. Did you know that even at matinee prices, it would have cost us $14.50 to see a first-run movie??

In the end, we decided to see a movie at the $2 theater, and split a sandwich and drink for lunch. Even with buying a small popcorn at the theater, total cost was $16! That's an amount I could easily fit into our budget AND I got to spend a few hours alone with my husband.

I'm committed to making dates happen monthly this year. We're already thinking of taking a hike next month (no cost), and a visit to the university's art museum (donation requested). I'd like to keep our dates under $20 if at all possible, and I think I can do it!

Share your inexpensive date ideas in the comments! I'd love to have more ideas to pencil into the calendar.
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