Friday, October 30, 2009

It's Friday, and A Giveaway

** Thanks to all who entered!  This giveaway is now closed!  Comment #11 was chosen using on 11/3/09, and the winner contacted.  Watch for future giveaways!! **

Back in the days when I worked a regular, corporate job -- Fridays meant the end of the work week!  Woo Hoo!!  Now?  Between parenting and freelancing -- Fridays are just another day of the week.

I'll make this Friday a little special by running another quick giveaway!  Leave a comment from now until Monday night and I'll draw a winner Tuesday morning.  What am I giving away?  Two of Marie Callender's shelf-stable meals!

I had the chance to try four of their new meals -- Traditional Stuffing & Turkey, Garlic Herb Chicken, Classic Stroganoff and Sweet Sesame Beef -- and found them to be convenient and tasty.  Of course, they're not as tasty as a home-cooked meal, but when I'm busily trying to homeschool, meet deadlines, and feed my kids, they made a filling lunch.  My favorite of the ones sent to me was the Sweet Sesame Beef.

These meals steam the starch (noodles / rice / stuffing), then you heat up the sauce and mix the 2 together. The starches were cooked perfectly and there was enough sauce to mix together nicely. The flavor was not bland (I was worried about that!)  They weren't spicy, either -- but nicely flavored.

Would you like a couple to put in your pantry for those crazy days when you want a quick, hot meal?  Marie Callender is giving away TWO to one of my readers!  Leave a comment and let me know which 2 you would like to try.  Your choices are: Traditional Stuffing & Turkey, Garlic Herb Chicken, Classic Stroganoff and Sweet Sesame Beef

For extra entries, follow my blog and/or tweet this entry.  Leave new comments for each entry.  Comments will close Monday night at midnight, and I'll post the winner to this post Tuesday morning.

If you don't win this one, come back next week for another yummy food giveaway!!

Thanks to Marie Callender for providing me with 4 meals to try, and sending my giveaway winner 2 meals!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Child care

Years ago, when I had a management position and no children, I thought I was considerate and understanding of my employees with children.  While I still believe (want to believe?) that I was, I realize I did not understand . . . because I didn't have to deal with the issue myself.

When Colin was an infant, he spent time in part-time child care while I worked a regular part-time schedule. And, then, he was a year old and spent a few months in full-time care while I worked full-time.  I stayed home for a couple years, and then hired a nanny one day/week in our home to watch Colin & Nate while I worked in an office one day/week and additional hours from home.  That lasted a few months, too, as I recall.

Child care is hard.  Part-time child care is even harder. For the last year I've been back to work on a part-time basis and have been so grateful for the 2 families that watch my kids while I teach (with pay, of course) and even happier when I found a drop-in center for those times when neither family is available.  When you don't have consistent needs, it's very difficult to find care.  Not many centers, or day care providers, want to watch kids 3 days one week, a half day the next, nothing the third week and then 2 days the fourth.  Most want a consistent schedule so they know what to expect.

Homeschooling adds another level to all of this.  Even if the boys attended school full-time, I would still need before/after school care and holiday care.  Homeschooling is another time commitment for me, but I imagine that homework and school activities would be a formidable time commitment as well.

Even with child care available, I find myself limiting opportunities.  I don't work in the west valley because it would add at least 2 hours to my commute each day.  I don't attend meetings where I won't get paid, because they cost me money. I won't attend a meeting tomorrow because it would cost me $25 in childcare to attend a one hour meeting, and I don't know that I'll receive any value from it.  I'm hoping I didn't make the wrong decision.

I balance my choices, and there are times when I do pay for childcare when I won't receive compensation.  There are times when the opportunity, or future opportunity, weigh heavy enough to make it worthwhile to spend the money.  I'm trying to weigh the opportunities right now for a fairly inexpensive training seminar, which would cost twice as much in child care (I told you it was inexpensive!)

It falls on a day that is surrounded by many other commitments and I'm trying to figure out why I'm hesitating.  Is it the cost? Is it all the surrounding commitments? Am I afraid of the potential opportunities?  If I wait much longer, the seminar will be full, and my decision will be made for me.  Which is NOT how I want to live my life.

How do you decide if something is really an issue, or if you're using it as an excuse?

Tell Me Thursday - 2006

This picture is of my 2 little knights -- they're dressed as St. George, who slayed dragons.   This shot was from 2006, and they were adorable.  They wore these costumes until they literally wore them out in the next couple years! 

You'll have to come back next week to see what they decided to be for Halloween this year :)

Did you play Wordless Wednesday?  Tell your story on Tell Me Thursday :)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Listerine Oral Care Challenge

Mom Central, Listerine and Reach sent my family a box full of products to participate in the "October Oral Care Challenge!"  The assortment was to help us all brush, floss and rinse our teeth twice a day.  While we have always tried to make it a habit, there are days when it is a struggle to keep the kids brushing. 

My kids were excited about receiving new toothbrushes and flossers -- and were especially excited to try the Listerine Agent Cool Blue.  They laughed at the blue on their teeth and brushed longer than usual to make sure that the blue all went away.  We were also sent teeth stickers and a chart to help keep track of brushings, which helped cement the habit more than before.  We filled each day with stickers for all 3 kids, and they had fun putting their stickers on each square.

Dr. Lott, a pediatric dentist working with Listerine, encourages parents to show, and not just tell kids what to do.  We don't share a bathroom with the boys, so I tried to talk about brushing my teeth more often than in the past, since we didn't stand in the bathroom brushing together. I also took the time to visit them in their bathroom while they brushed their teeth to make sure they brushed long enough -- and to help them learn to clean their mess up right away!  If nothing else, the 2 week challenge helped them learn not to spit toothpaste all over the counter, and also to rinse the sink when they were done!  You can read more of Dr. Lott's tips at the Listerine Kids website.

This is a great time to encourage good oral health habits. Halloween is Saturday, which starts a season full of treats and candy.  It's important to foster good habits in kids while they're young, so the habits are ingrained as they grow.  We had fun with this challenge, and encourage you to start your own!

Mom Central sent me a box of products from Listerine and Reach to prepare for this blog post.  In exchange for participating in this blog tour, I received oral care products from Listerine and Reach, a gift certificate to and a donation was made on my behalf to the National Children's Oral Health Foundation (, an organization committed to delivering comprehensive oral healthcare to economically disadvantaged children.

Wordless Wednesday - 2006

Play along at Wordless Wednesday!  Come back tomorrow for the story on Tell Me Thursday :)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Money Saving Monday #30 - Energy!

Saving energy is good for your pocketbook, as well as the environment.  It's never a good idea to waste energy, but most people choose to conserve energy in order to save money.  That's okay -- because those efforts that save money also help conserve energy being used.
We all have chargers around the house for our various portable devices.  How often do you unplug those chargers?  I make a conscious effort to unplug ours, but I'm the only one in the house that does so.  Some people think that it is such a small amount of energy that it can't make much difference, but all those small amounts can add up to a large amount over time -- especially when considering multiple chargers!

Did you know that in the US alone, $10 billion is wasted by power being wasted by devices on standby?

Chargers are not the only culprits of standby power -- computers, televisions, stereo equipment, home entertainment equipment, kitchen appliances -- even though they are turned off they can still pull a little power from the outlet. The best way to stop that is to unplug the device from the wall when not in use, or use power strips and be sure to turn the power strip off when the devices are not being used.

The website, Vampire Power Sucks, has lots of information and a calculator to help determine how much energy you may be wasting.  As an added bonus of visiting the site, you can enter their Augmented Reality page and enter a chance to win a year's worth of electricity for your home!  (That would be a money-saving tactic, now wouldn't it?)

If you have kids, the Department of Energy has a great site to help you share information with your kids about saving energy and different ways they can help. While parents have to be good role models, sites like this can provide great information in simple ways to help them get on board with saving energy.  Lydia especially likes Tinkerbell on that site!

I ordered a Kill A Watt Electricity Usage Monitor so that we can see exactly how much energy plugged in devices in our home use, even when turned off.  As soon as it arrives, I'll be updating you with what I've found out!  I'm hoping that my family will be more willing to unplug things once they see actual numbers of how much power is being wasted. I am also looking into using chargers that actually stop pulling power when they've charged the device, and can't wait to see how they compare to traditional chargers.

There is much we can do to conserve energy, but I believe in making many small changes over time, which will add up to one large difference.  Our first step is to reduce vampire power drainage from our home!  What are you doing to conserve energy?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Perfect Weekends

Last weekend was a weekend full of work around the house, getting Lydia's bedroom ready for her to move in. It felt great to work together as a family towards a family goal, and she has enjoyed spending time in there all week!

This weekend was a weekend full of family fun, and it felt great!  On Saturday, we had the opportunity to attend the PGA Golf Tournament in Scottsdale. None of us had ever been to a golf tournament before, but Bo had watched plenty on television.  We visited some of the sponsored booths, and settled in near the 18th hole to watch professional golfers hit their balls.  It was fun -- the day was beautiful and we found a great spot to watch the play. Everyone laughed as balls landed in the water, and then another golfer hit his ball out of a sand trap, only to land in the sand trap on the other side!

Lydia's highlight was the chance to ride a bus twice!  (A shuttle took us from the parking lot to the course) and also a club car (which she called a go-cart.)  The boys enjoyed it as well, and we have great memories -- but no pictures because cameras and cell phones were not allowed.

Today we visited the Desert Botanical Garden for the annual Pumpkin Festival.  We've been going for years, and always have a wonderful time.  Included in our annual membership is entrance to the Pumpkin Festival, which includes a hay ride to a pumpkin patch and the chance for kids to choose a pumpkin.  This year, they also had some carnival-type games for the kids as we waited in line. Every year it seems to get a little bit better, and it is one of the best parts of having an annual membership to the Gardens.

Lydia chose her pumpkin right away, with little consideration for the others.  Most years, we've waited and waited for Colin to choose, but this year he chose rather quickly.  He chose a medium sized pumpkin -- explaining it wasn't too small to make a good jack-o-lantern, but it wasn't too large for him to carry by himself.  Nate took the longest this year, and finally chose a rather large pumpkin.  In fact, it was too big for him to carry, so he rolled it around for a while before his father took pity on him and carried it for him.  We'll take some time this week to carve them -- just in time for Halloween.

The boys have been under the weather all week with a crappy cold, but were well enough this weekend to enjoy our outings.   Sometimes too many weeks go by when we haven't done much as a family, and then we have weekends like the last 2 which remind me how much I enjoy doing things as a family (beyond the normal day-to-day living)  I'm glad we carved out the time, and can't wait until the weather cools a bit more so we can enjoy more outdoor activities!

Saturday, October 24, 2009


If you've met Nate, you know he stutters. He started around the age of 3, and never stopped.  We thought he would outgrow it over time, but instead it got suddenly worse about 6 months ago. (He turned 7 in May)  We had discussed it with his pediatricians over the years, and they agreed that he would likely out grow the stutter, and we should watch it.  

Last spring, he suddenly began stuttering more often and added a physical lunge of his head while stuttering. At this point, we knew we needed to find outside help. When the school year started this fall, I called over to our local neighborhood school and inquired about the process.  It took me a few tries to get to the right people, but once I did the process moved along -- as quickly as it can in a bureaucracy.

The speech pathologist we've been meeting with is a very sweet, kind woman who has done everything to make Nate feel comfortable and understand more about his stuttering. We're still in an evaluation period, so we don't have a plan yet, but that should happen in the next couple months.  I was worried that we would be treated differently because we home school, or they would accuse us of delaying treatment because he wasn't in a traditional school setting.  Instead, everyone we've worked with has been wonderful. We haven't encountered any negative home schooling vibe, but instead we've been praised for the efforts we have put forth and the different ways we've handled his stuttering up to this point. That has been a relief, as I had beat myself up enough.

Scientists don't know why people stutter, and that can be frustrating for people who stutter.  There are plenty of myths out there, but none are true - - the fact is that something happens and there is no specific trigger or reason that some people stutter.  Telling kids to slow down doesn't help -- being patient and allowing them to finish their statement does. They know they're stuttering, and don't need to be reminded of the fact.

Nate's a kind-hearted, intelligent boy with the need to touch and feel everything around him. He's not afraid to speak in public, and I'm always grateful for those strangers that are patient with him and let him finish speaking.  Sometimes he does struggle too much, but I won't step in unless he indicates he'd like me to intervene.  In fact, there are plenty of times when he is more willing to converse than his older brother, who has no speech problem!

He gets a kick out of the fact that James Earl Jones stuttered -- I mean, how much cooler can you get than Darth Vader?  There are plenty of famous people who stutter, but the most easily recognized for Nate was Darth Vader.

We found that information at the Stuttering Foundation's website, and while the website was a little difficult to navigate -- the information provided was wonderful. I ordered a handful of pamphlets and books that were extremely informative and not expensive.  Nate especially appreciated the book written by a young girl about a child that was made fun of because of her stutter.  I really appreciated that some of the books (including the one Nate enjoyed) are available for download at no cost. 

I haven't ever really talked about Nate's stutter -- other than with him, his dad and our pediatrician.  It's always just been part of him, and we haven't felt the need for much discussion. As we move into speech therapy, I'm sure that I will write about it sometimes.  We're discussing it more at home now, and paying more attention to the different kinds of stutters he has.  We're learning more about it, and I'm eager to learn new techniques to help him lessen his stutter. The team I'm working with right now is committed to teaching me all I need to know in order to help him, and I'm grateful for them.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Review, A Giveaway and A Day Turned Around

Contest is now CLOSED!  Thanks to all who entered!  I used to determine the winning comment and it was Therese's comment.  She has been contacted via email.  Watch for more giveaways in the future :)

Have you ever had one of those days that was full of minor annoyances and inconveniences that seemed to mount with every step you took?  Yea . . . that was my Tuesday this week.  It seemed that every way I turned, something else happened to darken my mood and I was having a hard time shaking it.

BlogSpark sent me 2 coupons, a $10 gift card, and the El Tacador! game to enjoy a Taco Night in our home.  Before my day had gone downhill, I had decided that Tuesday would be Taco Night.  My lousy day wasn't going to stop that -- especially since Nate LOVES tacos.

With my coupons, I purchased the "Stand 'n Stuff Taco Dinner Kit"  The kit comes with 10 yellow corn taco shells (with wide bottoms that stand by themselves), mild taco sauce and seasoning mix.  With my gift card, I bought shredded lettuce (yes, I know I could shred it myself . . . but did you see how I talked about my lousy day up there?  I wasn't taking any chances!), cottage cheese (what?  you don't eat cottage cheese on  your tacos?  You don't know what you're missing!) and refried beans.  I had ground beef and shredded cheese in the refrigerator, and salsa in the pantry. (another aside -- apparently I'm full of them today -- but thanks to an amazing coupon, I purchased 5 lbs of ground beef for 99 cents!!!  And a couple months ago I stocked up on 10 lbs of shredded cheese when the packages were 99 cents.  I love a bargain!)

My dear, darling, wonderful husband made the taco meat and prepared our dinners.  I had intended to have rice, but somehow I forgot until the last minute -- so we just had tacos.  The shells in this kit were great, although Lydia did have a hard time getting her mouth around the shell because it was so wide.  I broke it apart for her and she ate it like a tostada instead.  The seasoning was perfect -- not too spicy, but not bland either.

The real hit of the dinner, though?  And the thing that got me OUT of my bad mood?  The game "El TacoDor!"  When I was at Table Talk at General Mills in August we played a version of this game during lunch and it was funny.  It looks like they've refined it a bit since then, and while I admit to being a bit skeptical about playing it during dinner -- this silly game made dinner time fun and had us all laughing!

There are different categories and different funny things to try, act out, or talk about.  There is a score sheet, but we didn't play with scores.  The game I enjoyed the most was taking the word SPICY and naming words that started with each letter to describe the people at the table.  We each took a letter, and then came up with a word to describe each person.  It was fun to hear the words my kids came up with, and had us all laughing.

You can visit the official El TacoDor website and print off your own game sheet. There are different game sheets available, score cards, and even certificates! Keep watching for pictures and videos from families enjoying Taco Night.  There are even some coupons available to print.

We had so much fun at Taco Night, that I want to share the fun with one of my readers! Thanks to BlogSpark, I have a Taco Night kit to send to one of you!  It includes 2 coupons for Old El Paso Products, a $10 gift card, and your very own laminated El TacoDor game sheet!  For your chance to win, leave a comment & tell me what you like to top your tacos with! 

Comments will be open until Monday, October 26th at midnight -- so enter now!  Don't delay! Giveaway open to US residents only. 

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tell Me Thursday - purple

My purple photo for Wordless Wednesday was of Lydia's room!  We finally (!) emptied the room of the old office stuff and got it ready for our princess to move in. Bo finished turning our back patio into an office months ago, but I was stuck for some reason on emptying out the rest of the stuff that was piled in that room.  Once I stopped calling it the "old office" and started calling it "Lydia's room" something shifted and I was able to empty it out.

We let her choose the color. She went back and forth between pink and purple, so we headed over to Lowe's and pulled out pink and purple paint chips.  I fanned a few out at a time and let her choose, and we finally narrowed it down to this one -- I believe it was called "Vinca"  It's a beautiful lavender, and I like it quite a bit!

Bo painted her room, and then spray painted the toddler bed pink, and steam cleaned the carpet. We moved in her Hasbro Playskool Dream Town Rose Petal Cottage

Moved in her old changing table (with the extended top taken off) and my old dresser (from when I was a little girl -- which needs painting, but that will have to come later)

And our little girl has her own room! She's still not sure about sleeping in it, but we know that will come with time.  Our routine for most of her life had her falling asleep in our bed, then being moved, that we're still following that. We read books and snuggle till she falls asleep, and then we move her to her bed.  The early morning hours find her in our bed again, but we know that with time she'll spend full nights in her purple room.
She's very proud of her room, and will invite her brothers in about as often as she orders them back out. She likes to tell everyone she meets that her daddy painted her room purple ;)

Did you play Wordless Wednesday?  Don't forget to follow it up today with Tell Me Thursday!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - purple

 Play along at Wordless Wednesday!  Come back tomorrow for Tell Me Thursday

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pajamas Winner

Thanks to, comment #16 is the lucky recipient of a pair of KN pink pajamas, in support of Breast Cancer Research.  Jennifer said:
I have a pink ribbon magnet on my car and have purchased silver bracelets with pink ribbon charms for the women in my immediate family. Thanks for hosting this giveaway and raising awareness to for this cause :)
  She's been contacted via email.
Thanks to all who commented and shared the link!  Please consider financially supporting the Breast Cancer Research Foundation -- whether with a purchase of pajamas or a direct donation.

Thanks to KN for donating the pajamas and their PR firm for helping coordinate this giveaway!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Money Saving Monday #29 - Libraries!

How often do you go to the library?  We go at least once a week, sometimes twice!  Our library has limited hours, which means we have to plan well in order to make it there when it's open, but I love the library and always have!

I read many, many books throughout the year.  For a while, I was tracking the books on this blog, and I would often read 15 - 25 books a month. I think that's probably still true, maybe a bit higher when I consider books that I use for prepping a class.  Definitely higher when I count in children's books!

The library allows me to read a wide variety of books without investing a penny. I rarely buy fiction but borrow it from the library instead. I borrow cookbooks from the library before deciding to purchase them.  I borrow tons of non-fiction and research books from the library.

Colin loves to read series, and I encourage him to borrow them from the library whenever possible. Nate loves non-fiction books, and will often come home with books about robots, volcanoes, and how-to-draw. Bo likes to read mysteries and downloads books from the library to read on his Sony e-Reader.

Now, this doesn't mean I don't also buy books.  I receive Amazon gift certificates for some of the reviews I do on this blog, and they all go to buying books.  We currently have 30 shelves full of books in our home.  If I had to purchase ALL the books we read, however, we wouldn't be as well-read (or we'd be bankrupt!) 

In addition to books, we also borrow audiobooks and dvds from the library.  Our library has a page on their site giving an idea of how much money is saved by using the library.  When I filled it in (conservatively) we saved over $10,000 last year by using the library.  I knew it saved money using the library, but I didn't guess more than $10,000!

Libraries often have classes and events that are free, have a wide variety of magazines and newspapers available, and have computers available for use. They are a wonderful resource in communities, and a fantastic money saving place to visit!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Clearing Out

I have been teaching (out of the house) less these days, which isn't great for my wallet, but has been good for the house.  After realizing we've lived here for eight years (EIGHT! I still find that hard to believe, since I've never lived anywhere for eight years in my life before.) I decided I needed to do some purging.

I'm very lucky that we have a large kitchen, with many cupboards and drawers.  Unfortunately, that also means that we've allowed them to fill up. I had 6 "junk" drawers in my kitchen!  I emptied them one at a time this last week and threw out tons!  Then, I emptied 4 cupboards and re-arranged the items.  I still need to re-arrange a few more, but the ones that are done look great!  I emptied my towel drawer and got rid of all the bibs (nobody wears them around here anymore!) and sets of 4 napkins and placemats (we're firmly a family of 5!)

This purge also helped motivate me to empty Lydia's room.  That room had been our office since we moved into this house, and it had become a catch-all.  Over the summer, Bo worked diligently closing in our back patio to make an extra room so that we could give Lydia her own room. He finished a couple months ago, and we moved into the "new" office, but that left a mountain of crap in the "old" office. I finally stopped calling it the "old" office and began calling it "Lydia's room" which seemed to switch something in my head and I was able to clear it out (well, except for the closet.  That still has to be done . . . )

Bo patched all the holes this past week and we let Lydia choose her paint color.  It was a toss-up between pink and purple -- but a very pale lavendar won out in the end.  Today is painting day -- tomorrow is carpet cleaning day -- and if all goes well she'll be in her own room by the middle of the week!

We have a toddler bed that we picked up years ago for free that was white iron.  It's simple, but cute.  Bo spray-painted it a pale pink this week, so she'll also be moving out of her crib and into a bed.  It's time, but it's also a little bittersweet.

For the first time in 9 years, we won't have a baby's bed in our room. Even when the boys had their own room, we had toddler beds in our room so they had someplace to sleep when they came in during the night. It worked for us as a family, but I confess that I rarely admitted it back then.   A couple months before Lydia was born, we got rid of the toddler beds, but moved in her bassinet and changing table.  When she grew out of her bassinet, we built her crib in there.

There's so much more de-cluttering I need to do around the house, but what I've done feels good. If only I can keep up the momentum!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Tell Me Thursday - An Office

Did you try to guess where the picture was taken for my Wordless Wednesday post?  It is a shot of Carl Sandburg's office, from his home in Flat Rock, NC.  We had the chance to tour his home while we were in NC in mid-2008. 

The grounds were beautiful, and it was fascinating to learn more about him and his wife (who was quite the champion goat breeder!)  One of the fun facts I remember is that every room had a bucket of walking sticks, because people would often bring him one as a gift.  The land around his home was very hilly, but he actually never used a walking stick!  Another fun fact was that he was good friends with the president of a television manufacturing company, and so had a TV in almost every room -- even though he didn't watch.

Did you play Wordless Wednesday?  Don't forget to link up your Tell Me Thursday story!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Review: Come & See: Catholic Bible Study: Wisdom

Catholics sometimes take their faith for granted, and it's often true that as a group, we don't study the Bible as much as other denominations.  I like the opportunity to delve into something and understand the history surrounding the work, and I remember truly enjoying the New Testament classes I took while attending a Jesuit college.

I have not spent as much time in the intervening years studying the Bible. I was eager for the opportunity to review a copy of Come & See: Catholic Bible Study: Wisdom, thanks to The Catholic Company's review program. This book is an extremely thorough and comprehensive study of the Wisdom books of the Old Testament.

The introduction of the book provides ideas of how to gather a group together for study, materials needed, and practical considerations. If you've never formed a study group, or even if you have, the book gives straight-forward and helpful information.

Each of the 22 chapters provides a suggested social activity, steps through the reading with additional insights and relevant quotes, and finishes up with a series of study questions -- complete with space for answers directly in the book.

While I would love to create a small study group around this book, I realize that the time isn't right for the commitment.  I am working through the book on my own,and have learned more than I knew before and am enjoying the opportunity to study and think about the Wisdom books critically.  Anyone who knows me well knows that I love to learn, so this book is a welcome addition to our home library.

I would recommend this book for anyone desiring to know more about the Wisdom books of the Bible (Books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Wisdom and Sirach.)

This review was written as part of the Catholic book Reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Come and See - Wisdom - Catholic Bible Study for Adults .  In exchange for a copy of the book reviewed, I have shared my honest opinion.

Review: The Sound of Sleigh Bells (and Giveaway!)

The Sound of Sleigh Bells, by Cindy Woodsmall, was a sweet, romantic story set in an Amish community. I hadn't read anything by Cindy Woodsmall before, so I wasn't sure what to expect from the book.

The story is of a young Amish woman, her meddling (but well-meaning) aunt, and a young man who may be able to heal old wounds. 

I found characters that were kind and gentle-hearted, and the situations seemed real and believable. I know I already used the adjective "sweet", but this story was sweet. I enjoyed reading it very much.  It wasn't predictable, but it was definitely enjoyable.

I have a copy of this book to give to one of my readers! Please leave a comment below letting me know you'd be interested in reading this sweet (there's that word again!) Christian romance and you'll be entered in the giveaway!  The giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents.  The comments will close on October 21, 2009. Winner will be chosen via and notified via email.  Good Luck!

Waterbrook Press is a Christian publishing division of Random House. In exchange for my honest review of this book, I received a review copy of my own and a book to giveaway.  No other compensation was provided. If you would like to join their "Blog for Books" program, click here!

**Comments are closed! Giveaway has ended & winner contacted.  Thanks for your interest, and watch for more giveaways! **

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month (and a Giveaway)

You're probably aware that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Self-examination, regular doctor exams, and regular mammograms after 40 are things that women can do to hopefully catch breast cancer in its' early stages -- but even if it's caught early, there is still a fight!  Breast Cancer Awareness Month not only wants to make people more aware of the importance of self-care, but also raises awareness for the need of money to fund breast cancer research.

When I was contacted recently by a PR firm asking if I'd like to give away a pair of pajamas for Breast Cancer Awareness, I was a little intrigued.   I found out that KN Karen Neuburger and Dillards department stores teamed up to raise funds for breast cancer research.  They are sponsoring "Pink Parties" and will donate 30 minutes of research to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation for every pair of pink pajamas sold at Dillards during this parties in October. You can also purchase pajamas directly from KN Karen Neuburger. The goal is to fund a month of cancer research through this program -- with the ultimate goal of developing lifesaving treatments and an eventual cure.

I didn't realize how important each minute of research is, until I read the following statistics:
  • One hour of research allows a breast cancer biopsy to be performed
  • One day of research allows a clinician to conduct genetic counseling for one woman
  • One week allows researchers to compare ten tumor samples
I always want to know more about the charities and organizations I am considering sending a donation, so I found out a little bit more about the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.  I found that they support scientists at top universities and academic medical centers around the world. A minimum of 85 cents of every dollar donated goes directly to breast cancer research and awareness programs.  To give you an idea of the breadth of their program -- in October 2008, 166 scientists from the United States, Australia, Canada, Latin America and the Middle East were awarded $34.5 million.  They also received the Charity Navigator's highest rating of four stars, which puts them above 99% of the evaluated charities.

To help increase awareness of this program, I was generously given a pair of pajamas and pink socks to give away to one of my readers!  Please help spread the word about this worthwhile cause, and maybe you'll be the lucky winner of a cozy pair of pajamas!

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below telling me what you've done this month to help raise awareness of breast cancer, or to raise funds.  For up to 3 additional entries, please:
  • Tweet a link to this post, and leave a comment letting me know you tweeted.  You can even copy this tweet:  Check out @AZMelly pink pajama giveaway for Breast Cancer Awareness Month!
  • Post a link on Facebook, and leave a comment letting me know.
  • Blog about this post, and leave a comment letting me know.
I will use to choose a winner Monday, October 19, 2009.  Winner will be notified via email, and the pajamas will be sent directly to their home from the PR firm.

Thanks for helping to spread the word!

For more information, visit Karen Neuburger's site. You can also donate directly to the Foundation by visiting the Time For Research website. 

(Disclosure:  The pajamas were generously provided by the PR firm, for KN and Dillards, for this giveaway.  I also received a pair of pajamas for myself.  I was not compensated in any other way for this post.)

** This giveaway is over and the winner contacted **

Wordless Wednesday - An Office

(Can you guess who worked in this office?)
 Play along at Wordless Wednesday!  Come back tomorrow for Tell Me Thursday

Monday, October 12, 2009

Apple Cake

I know it's fall, because the Rome apples are in the store and it's time for my yummmmy apple cake!

I posted the recipe over at Prevention last year, and even though they shut down that program, all the posts are still there.  It truly is a delicious cake and I have one in the oven right now!

If you're looking for a nice autumn dessert (or breakfast), check it out!  Let me know if you try it and what you think.

Money Saving Monday #28 - Homemade Beef Jerky

My 7yo loves beef jerky.  He would ask for it at the store, but I always told him no, because I thought it was gross.  Bo would buy it for him, though, and we found out that he loved it.  I still said no in the store, though, because it seemed expensive.

Last year, my husband and Nate decided to use our dehydrator to make their own beef jerky.  It was delicious (I never thought I liked beef jerky, until I tried theirs!) Nate has recently been asking about it again, so when I saw that London Broil was $1.77 / lb this week, I picked some up so they could make more.

It is an easy recipe, and the taste is amazing. Plus, it is so much cheaper than buying it from the checkout lane. My husband removes as much fat as possible from the meat, then slices it into beef jerky-sized slices. They make a simple marinade (2/3 cup soy sauce, 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce, 1/3 cup brown sugar, few dashes of liquid smoke, some pepper, and a couple crushed garlic cloves) and let the beef marinade for 3 - 4 hours.  They put the beef onto the dehydrator and let it go for 6-10 hours.  We then package it up and enjoy!

If you don't have a dehydrator, you can also use your oven on low, with the door cracked just a bit. I'm not sure how long it would take, but I'm guessing 4-6 hours.

We gave it as gifts last year, and it was a hit!  I think it cost us about $10 this time to turn 3 lbs of London Broil into jerky -- which to me is quite the money saving venture!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

168 Hours

A couple weeks ago I taught a seminar about time management.  One of the topics was 168 Hours, during which we talked about the fact that there are 168 hours in each week and everyone decides what to do with those 168 hours.  While I was familiar with the number, the seminar material encouraged participants to figure out how many hours they spent doing various things.

Being a bit of an Excel geek, I created a spreadsheet that broke out 168 hours.  The days of the week were across the top, and each hour of the day went along the side. For each hour, I filled in the necessary tasks -- whether it was sleep (56 hours in a good week), spending time with friends (3 hours set aside the week of the seminar), writing, preparing for classes, teaching classes, homeschooling, etc. etc. etc. 

It was eye-opening and I realized why I've been struggling so hard to get everything done!  There really aren't enough hours in a day (or a week) to complete all that I put on my plate. It made me look more carefully at what I can do to free up some time for different pursuits.

One thing I did was resurrect chore charts.  We've tried them in the past, with varying success, but I decided that the boys' ages were well-suited to take on more responsibility.  In the past, I would have them share chores (thinking that it would be easier to complete certain things with help) but these new chore charts are all about individual tasks.  I thought about the things that we often ask them to help with, and simply filled in the week with necessary chores.

Each day starts with the basics -- brush teeth, get dressed, make bed.  The day begins with schooling, then each day's chores are listed.  For example, on Mondays, Colin is responsible for trash pickup, setting the table, picking up the hall (for some reason they tend to strew things in the hall outside their bedroom), kitchen floor and "as needed chores." Nate is responsible for picking up the living room, feeding the dog, kitchen duty (which means helping keep the kitchen clean throughout the day) and "as needed chores."  The chores are balanced throughout the week between the 2 boys, so they are responsible for different areas each day, but the entire house throughout the week.

The day finishes up for them with picking up their rooms (ok, this is the ONE area that we still need more work on -- but I'm taking baby steps), getting ready for bed, brushing teeth, and going to bed.

I printed the charts and posted them on the refrigerator.  There have been plenty of reminders, but they have each stepped up to their responsibilities and are doing well! They like being able to see what they are each responsible for doing, and I have been heavy on the praise as they act independently and complete their jobs well.

I need to make some other shifts throughout the week to free up some time for myself and some things I'd like to pursue, but this was a good first step.  I'm going to keep reviewing the schedule and fine-tuning it to make sure I'm getting as much as possible from each 168 hours!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Tell Me Thursday - Shovels & Dirt

While I can see why some would think this was a beach shot -- it is not. This is a picture of Colin sitting in the middle of the plot which became our home. 8 years ago this week we signed the papers to move into the home we had built.

You can see the outline of our house better in this picture:

In fact, you can visit this site and take a look at a bunch of pictures from when we had the house built!  (I can't believe that site is still sitting there -- but I'm glad it is so I could pull these photos!) I think we signed the papers to start building around Memorial Day, and we moved in the first week of October 2001.  Bo wanted Colin to take his first steps in a house we owned -- and he waited until that week to take his first steps!

I've never lived in the same house for 8 years before in my life!  We talked a couple years ago about selling and moving, but looking at these old pictures make me glad we didn't.  Bo put a lot of work into building this home for his family, and I like the fact that all of our kids are growing up here.

Did you play Wordless Wednesday?  If so, tell your story today through Tell Me Thursday!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Shovels and Dirt

Play along at Wordless Wednesday.  Come back tomorrow for the story when I post Tell Me Thursday!

Monday, October 05, 2009

Money Saving Monday #27 - Holidays and Gift Cards

Christmas is less than 3 months away.

I'll let that sink in for a second.

We always approach the holidays as a cash-only endeavor, and I have no plans to change that.  I plan carefully and spread out the spending during the months leading up to Christmas.

One thing that I have already started doing is picking up gift cards when I'm shopping.  At most grocery stores these days, you can buy a gift card for pretty much anyplace, but the smallest denomination is often $25.  Sometimes I want a card worth $25 or more, and it's so easy to add it to my grocery bill that day.  It's especially nice when I've managed to save that amount (or more) with coupons!

Gift cards in the $5 - $10 range are great to have on hand to give as tips, include in cards, or stuff stockings.  By picking them up during a regular shopping trip in the months leading up to Christmas, it helps spread out my holiday budget. Who doesn't like a $5 gift card to Starbucks?  Even though I don't drink coffee -- I do drink tea!

Have you started your Christmas / holiday shopping yet?  Some years I'm almost done by now, but I haven't really started yet this year.  I have just a few gift cards tucked away in my closet, but will start looking for deals and specials in the coming weeks!

Friday, October 02, 2009

Wendy's Gift Card Giveaway Winner!

Can you see the randomly generated number on this screen shot? It's comment #10 -- which was left by Bunny!  I'll send off an email and she'll have 48 hours to respond so I can get the gift card to her!  If she doesn't respond within 48 hours, I'll draw another random winner.

Thanks to all who left comments!  I'll have more giveaways in the future, so please keep reading!

Thanks again to Mom Central & Wendy's for making this giveaway possible.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

One Thousand Posts

In 2003 when I started this blog, I don't think I could have envisioned what life would look like 6+ years and 1,000 posts later, but here I am!

I have scraps of notes of things I want to write about in October, so I thought I'd just throw them out here as bullets and hopefully hit them all before November rolls around!
  • 168 hours
  • stuttering
  • book reviews - I have 3 on my desk, and a 4th in the mail on the way to me that I need to do this month.
  • day in the life post (mainly because I always love reading those posts when others do them!)
  • cookie recipes
  • child care issues
  • homeschooling
  • holidays
I'm sure there is more I'll write about, but those are the things rolling around at the moment.  I didn't realize this would be my 1,000th posts until I logged in tonight - so I don't have anything exciting prepared.  I will announce the Wendy's gift card winner tomorrow though!
Related Posts with Thumbnails

Design by Linda of Berries and Cream Blog Design