Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving Recap

Thanksgiving has always been a simple affair in our house since we moved to Arizona.  The first year we lived here, we drove to Rocky Point, Mexico, camped on the beach and ate a wonderful seafood meal at a local restaurant.  It was my absolute favorite Thanksgiving ever.

Yesterday, we enjoyed Thanksgiving at home.  Bo brined, and then grilled a 13 lb turkey for our feast. He also roasted the fresh beets we purchased from Whole Foods last week.  While the texture is definitely different than canned beets, I have to say that the flavor is the same.  We won't be having them again, but I will say that the red beet definitely has a stronger flavor than the yellow beet.  It's a flavor that nobody in the house appreciates.

I made mashed potatoes following Bethany's recipe.  They were very rich, and tasted great.  I left the skins on, but will return to peeling the potatoes as most of us didn't like the texture with the peels.

I cooked up the Whole Foods organic cranberry stuffing and those who like stuffing enjoyed it and said the flavor was good.  It was a little wet for their taste, so in the future, I would cut the water a little bit.  It was ridiculously easy to make -- bring water & butter to a boil ( I used about 1/2 the butter suggested), add stuffing mix, remove from heat, stir and let sit for 5 minutes.

I made gravy from the drippings -- that nobody ate but me. 

I baked fresh rolls, which were soft and good -- but I think they would have been softer if I hand-mixed them instead of using the mixer.  I will make them again (for a crowd next time - the recipe I chose made almost 3 dozen) but without the mixer to see if they are softer.   Colin, who usually loves bread, refused to even try them.

I baked a pumpkin pie -- using Whole Foods pumpkin and that was delicious.  I made a crust I found in my Betty Crocker iPhone app that used flour, oil and water and did not require any rolling.  I pressed the dough into the pan before pouring in the filling.  It was an okay crust -- definitely faster than my traditional crust -- and worked with the pumpkin pie filling.  My traditional crust is much flakier, but I was surprised to note that this crust did have some flake.  My kids love pumpkin pie and this pie was inhaled last night.  Good thing I have more pumpkin and evaporated milk in the cupboard!

I made chocolate bourbon pecan pie -- using my traditional shortening, flour & water crust.  (I figured the only way to truly compare was to have both available)  The pie was delicious!

My sister joined us and we had a nice dinner.  Looking back, I realize that mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie are the only things that everyone enjoys.  Maybe next year we'll try a totally different kind of meal and make foods that everyone likes?  A meal of Thanksgiving of our favorite foods and dump tradition? I'm liking the idea -- come back next year to see if I follow through!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Tell Me Thursday - Visit

My Wordless Wednesday photo yesterday was of my 3 children, along with my Aunt Tess and her youngest daughter, Emma!  They were in town so that my Uncle could compete in the IronMan (which he completed -- and had a pretty good time considering it was his first effort and he had never competed in a triathlon before!)

My aunt and cousin stayed with us, and my boys were gracious enough to give up their rooms and bunk with their sister during their stay.  It was wonderful having them here as it's been far too long since I've seen them last (12 years!)  They live on the other side of the country, though, and travel with families is always difficult.

As much as we love living in Arizona, it is hard to live so far away from family.

If you played Wordless Wednesday, don't forget to tell your story with Tell Me Thursday!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Visit

I like playing Wordless Wednesday, but I always tell the story behind my pictures on Tell Me Thursday!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

To Do Lists

Do you make to-do lists?  I know I accomplish more when I write to-do lists, but sometimes the thought of writing down everything I need (or want) to accomplish is so overwhelming that I skip the list and blunder on through.

I am on a list-making kick at the moment, though, and have broken my list out into different categories in the hope I wouldn't feel as overwhelmed. There are those things that have to happen no matter what in our home -- like laundry, and grocery shopping.  Then there are those things that have to happen for work -- like preparing for a new class, or reviewing the books for upcoming classes.  

That list with the things I should do, or want to do is the list I really need to pay attention to the most.  I will make sure I go to the grocery store and prepare for new classes, but I tend to let the "finish media kit", or "write query for that great article idea" linger too long on the list -- and sometimes they never get done.  I realize that ignoring those types of items won't help me move forward at all, and I have mentioned many times how I'm not content with staying still.

Writing this post has let me procrastinate on my current list . . . which I really need to get back to working on!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Review: Power Ranger Racing Cycle

Last week, we reviewed the MegaZord!  Another fun toy we received from Bandai America was the Power Ranger RPM Racing Performance Cycle!  Nate (7yo) has had a wonderful time playing with this toy.  The Green Power Ranger has been part of many secret missions and exciting adventures in our home during the last few weeks.

Nate offered to record a video review, so here it is!

We think the Power Ranger RPM Racing Performance Cycle would make a great gift!

Disclosure: We received this toy from Bandai America in exchange for our honest review.  No additional compensation was provided.

Review: Whole Foods Market - Thanksgiving Ideas!

Last week, Bo, Lydia and I had the opportunity to visit a local Whole Foods Market in Tempe, AZ and enjoyed a tour with one of their chefs, Bethany and Theresa from Marketing. I don't usually shop at Whole Foods, but I've read about them and was very interested to learn more.

The first thing I noticed when walking in the store was how beautiful the produce section was!  The fresh vegetables and fruits were displayed in a way that made the color stand out and the store was bright and welcoming. We talked about Thanksgiving and Bethany offered to make some suggestions for our meal this week.

We started in the produce section and Bethany talked about her preference for organic foods. Whole Foods has a wide selection of organic produce and provides samples for many of their goods.  Bo & Lydia sampled some of the organic Gala apples and both declared them delicious.

Bethany asked if we have beets for Thanksgiving, and Bo & I looked at each other with a funny look.  When I think of beets, I think of canned beets -- which I have never enjoyed.

These were fresh beets, however, and Bethany assured us that they were delicious when roasted. They had both yellow and red beets and I purchased a few of each to roast on Thursday.  The recommended serving is about 1/4 lb raw beets per person -- less if you have a bunch of sides. The recipe she gave us for roasted beets is very simple!
  • Roasted Beets
  1. Wash and slightly scrub beets.  Peel with a grater and dice the beets
  2. Toss lightly with olive oil, salt, pepper.  Top with chopped fresh herb (she suggested tarragon or ginger or basil)
  3. Bake on cookie sheet for 45 minutes to an hour.
  4. If roasting both red and yellow beets, use separate cookie sheets since the red color will bleed, but the flavor is the same.
Bethany suggested a very simple green bean almondine by sauteing green beans, then topping with toasted almonds.

Our next stop was potatoes.  I thought that Yukon Golds were best for mashed, and Bethany agreed.  I asked about adding cold milk vs. warm milk to the potatoes and she said that you always want to add hot to hot.
  • Cheesy Mashed Potatoes
  1. Boil potatoes until fork tender.  Bethany likes to leave the skin on, we usually peel most of the skin off, but may leave it on this year!
  2. Drain the potatoes in a colander and let them steam in the colander for about 15 minutes to remove extra moisture.  Return to pan and mash.
  3. Add warm cream and butter.  She suggested melting the butter and adding it to the cream to mix into the potatoes.
  4. Grate a white cheddar (about 2 cups for 10lbs of potatoes) and mix in, along with salt, pepper and a sprinkle of fresh chopped chives on top.  Using a white cheddar keeps the potatoes creamy-white.
When we stopped at the wine and cheese department, a very helpful associate named Dave helped us choose a sharp white cheddar (Kerry Gold Kilaree).  We were able to sample it before purchasing, and it's been a struggle not to nibble on it before Thursday!

I will share how these recipes were received by the family after we enjoy them on Thanksgiving!  I have another post in the works about Whole Foods and my experience there, but I wanted to throw up those food tips before Thursday!  I had a great tour with Bethany and am eager to share more insights about that tour soon.

Before I close, I want to mention that Whole Foods has a wonderful selection of prepared foods that could either be your Thanksgiving meal, or round it out with additional sides.  We sampled the turkey, as well as some vegetables, and thought it all tasted delicious.  Here's a picture of Bethany (in the middle) with her team!  If you visit the Whole Foods in Tempe, be sure to say hello!

Disclosure:  I received a selection of Whole Foods brand foods to help round out our Thanksgiving meal, as well as a gift card to help me purchase some of the items mentioned in this post.

Money Saving Monday #34 - Bakery Outlets

In our family of five, we can go through an entire loaf of bread during one lunch, especially if the boys have more than one sandwich.  I know it would be less expensive to make our bread from scratch, but my kids prefer store-bought bread for sandwiches.  (And I don't have the time to bake bread regularly.)

We have a bakery outlet near us, where we can purchase loaves of bread for around $1/loaf most days. They are the same breads in the grocery stores that cost $3 - 5/loaf, but they usually are close to their stale-date.  In my house, that's okay because it doesn't last long anyway!!

I like when my husband stops to pick up the bread, because I rarely make the time to shop at a store where I can only purchase one thing -- especially when I have the kids with me. I like to multi-task a bit more while shopping, but I do like the savings!!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Review: iGo Chargers

I have a new favorite gadget and if you use anything that needs charging, I think it will become your new favorite gadget as well!  iGo is a company based in Scottsdale, AZ (close to me!) and I had the chance to meet some of their staff recently.  They gave me an iGo Charge Anywhere charger and a few different tips to try out so I could share my thoughts with my readers.

iGo chargers have multiple tips that connect to the charger, so you can use only one charger instead of an entire drawer-full of chargers when you need to charge various devices.  It's much simpler to have a small pouch of tips for your gadgets and only one charger to use.

The Charge Anywhere has the added advantage of holding a charge in an internal battery when it's unplugged.  It can be used as a traditional charger, plugged in the wall, charging 2 different items at the same time.   Then, you can unplug it and carry it with you because the charger holds a charge!  You don't need to plug it in to an electrical outlet when your iPhone needs a charge after you've used it to surf the Internet all day at a conference!  Just plug in the cable and you can fully charge something without plugging it into the wall!

I attended an all-day conference and can't believe I forgot to bring this handy charger along because my iPhone was completely dead by the time I drove home.  That was the last time I forgot to bring it, though!  On my recent trip, I carried it and used it on the plane to charge my iPhone after Lydia drained it playing toddler games.  Then I used it to charge both my iPhone and iPod that night and during our visit.  Nate and Colin have used it to charge their Nintendos and their Zunes in the car. I've also used it to charge my Kindle.

The Charge Anywhere charges Apple, BlackBerry, Creative, Garmin, HP, HTC, Jabra, Jawbone, Kodak, Kyocera, LG, Magellan, Microsoft, Mio, Motorola, Navigon, Nikon, Nintendo, Nokia, Palm, Plantronics, Rio, Samsung, Sanyo, Siemens, Sony, Sony Ericsson, TomTom devices and MORE!

Tips are sold separately, but if you don't have the appropriate tip, you can always use the USB cable that came with your device to use the charger. They do sell a simple wallet to store your tips to keep them organized.

iGo has a wide variety of chargers available, for laptops and mobile devices.   They currently offer free shipping for orders over $25 and chargers can be ordered online, over the phone, and at some retail establishments. Visit the iGo site for more information.

If you're looking for a gift for anyone who uses mobile devices, I highly recommend the Charge Anywhere!

Disclosure: I received a Charge Anywhere charger, selection of tips and tip wallet from iGo to facilitate my complete and honest review.

Travel with a Toddler

Last week, my sister, daughter & I hopped a plane to visit my parents for a couple days.  My parents often head west in November, but since they weren't able to do so this year, I decided to go to them.  We flew in Sunday to celebrate my mom's birthday, then headed back to Arizona on Tuesday.

It was a very quick trip, but we all had a great time and Lydia (2 1/2) enjoyed herself completely. She was an angel on the trip, but I thought I'd share a few tips that made our trip with a toddler easier (and a couple things I should have done!)
  • Pack light, but bring extra outfits.  I packed one extra outfit, which we needed before we got off the plane on Sunday (she spilled ginger ale all over herself!)  I should have packed 2 extra outfits, but thankfully we finished the trip without needing another extra outfit.
  • Pack snacks.  I always always always do this . . . but I didn't this time.  I'm not sure why, but I left without my usual stash of snacks in my purse and figured I would buy the snack boxes. On our flight out, by the time the flight attendants reached row 12, they were out of food to purchase.  US Airways doesn't even give out pretzels with their drinks, but at least we did get a drink.  We were all pretty hungry by the time we reached Grandma's house, but she had plenty of food to fill us up.
  • Bring an empty, re-usable water bottle.  Security doesn't allow you to bring liquids through, so I carry a re-usable bottle.  Vendors charge $2-4 for a single bottle of water, so this way I can fill up the bottle and use powdered drink packets to flavor it.  
  • Take advantage of opportunities.  At some airports, travelers with small children are able to go through a shorter security line.  The Milwaukee airport had a children's play area, which Lydia enjoyed playing in while we waited for our flight home.  Some airlines allow you to pre-board if you have small children. Pre-boarding allows you a little more room to get settled, and there's room in the overhead bins for your carry-ons to be above your seat. 
  • Bring an iPhone or iPod or other entertaining device. My iPhone is loaded with toddler games (99% of which were free) and my sister had an entire season of Animaniacs on her iPod. I brought a pair of headphones that fit Lydia and she spent a good portion of the trip playing games or watching videos.
  • Fill a row (if possible.) The three of us filled one row, which made travel easier as Lydia sat between us and had the freedom to move a bit more than if a stranger were next to us. If you are traveling by yourself with a toddler, I suggest sitting your toddler next to a window so they can look out the window during the flight.
  • Plan for frequent bathroom breaks.  Even though the bathrooms on planes are ridiculously small, walking the aisle and having a break from the seat is worth squeezing into the small room. For a recently toilet-trained toddler, it's also absolutely necessary! I think we averaged about one trip an hour during our 4 hour flight. 
  • Enjoy yourself!  I realized that traveling with one child is much simpler than traveling with 2 or 3, but no matter how many children you may travel with do your best to leave stress behind and enjoy the experience. 
Lydia had a great time, but isn't ready to hop on another plane just yet.  On Wednesday, we headed to the airport to pick up family that is visiting, and she yelled "I don't want to get on an airplane!!!!" as we pulled up to the airport.  I'm sure she'll be ready the next time an opportunity comes up!

    Friday, November 20, 2009

    Review: Ultimate Cloth

    On Monday, I talked about our efforts to decrease the amount of paper towels we use.  A couple weeks ago, I received an Ultimate Cloth to try out and review from Ultimate Cloth America.

    This cloth is great!  It is sturdy and thick, and cleans up messes like a dream! I simply wet it, wring it out tightly, then use it to wipe down my stainless steel (no streaks!), the mirrors (no streaks!) and big messes on the counter top!  I was amazed at how sturdy it was, and how well it cleaned.

    A week ago, Bo thought Lydia was with me, and I thought she was with him. I heard Bo yell out, and went into my bedroom to find her perched on our bathroom sink COVERED in toothpaste.  Not only was she covered in toothpaste, but she had liberally painted the sink, counter top and mirror with toothpaste.  Bo whisked her into the tub to clean her up, and I started scrubbing at the toothpaste.  I was constantly washing out the rag, and scrubbing hard to get the toothpaste up when I remembered the Ultimate Cloth.

    I wet the cloth, rang it out, then started to scrub.  The toothpaste came up with one swipe! I did rinse it out once or twice, but it quickly cleaned the mess -- including the mirror -- with nothing more than water.  My mirror was not streaked at all!

    When I first tried it on my stainless steel refrigerator, it left streaks.  I read a tip on the website that the cloth has to be well-wrung before use, and when I made sure to squeeze out the extra water I stopped having the streaking problem.

    The Ultimate Cloth is the first cloth to receive a patent in over 25 years!  It helps clean without harsh chemicals and without the waste of paper towels. 

    The cloths are only $6 each, but would you like a free ultimate cloth of your own?  If you follow them on Twitter or Facebook, you'll have the opportunity to get one of your very own!  They'll release the details through those two sites. I think you'll be as pleased as I am.

    Disclosure: I received a free cloth in exchange for my honest review.  This tour was arranged for Ultimate Cloth America by MamaBuzz

    Thursday, November 19, 2009

    Tell Me Thursday - No Fear

    My Wordless Wednesday photo was of my sweet baby girl flying down an inflatable slide.  For Colin's 9th birthday, we went to BounceU.  She had an absolute blast and was climbing and sliding and bouncing like kids three times her age!

    She is a fearless child, who charges ahead and rarely looks back. She is the most independent of my three, and has a take charge attitude that will likely take her far in life. It's an inspiration to watch her fearlessly face life every day.

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

    Wednesday, November 18, 2009

    Wordless Wednesday - No Fear

    Monday, November 16, 2009

    Money Saving Monday #33 - Reducing Paper

    How expensive are paper towels in your area?  A lower-cost paper towel roll in my area costs around $1.50 a roll.  And, if I buy the lower-cost rolls, they fall apart and I have to use twice as many to complete the job, so they aren't really cheaper to use.

    A couple months ago I decided to stop buying paper towels.  At Target, I saw a pack of washclothes that were $3.50 for eight. I bought two packs and put them in the kitchen drawer with my kitchen towels.  Then, I spent $1 and bought a small bucket to keep in the cupboard behind the trash can.

    Instead of reaching for a paper towel, I reach for a cloth rag. When the rag is dirty, I throw it in the bucket, and then throw the bucket of rags in the washing machine every few days with another load.

    I wish I could say that I completely stopped using paper towels, but we still do use them for things like bacon grease.  I have, however, significantly reduced the amount of paper towels we use!  Instead of going through 2 - 4 / month, we now go through 1 every couple months.

    The next step for us is getting rid of paper napkins.  I have cloth napkins -- we just have to get in the habit of using them!

    Sunday, November 15, 2009

    Review: Megazord

    Nate was reading over my shoulder one day when I received an email asking me if I'd like to share some information about Power Ranger toys.  He was excited, and became even more excited when they offered to send me toys for the boys to review!

    The first toy we opened was the Power Ranger RPM Deluxe Formula Megazord High Octane Megazord.  This toy looks like a robot, but breaks down into 3 fun cars (or Zords) for the kids to play with.  It was a big hit in our house -- not only with my boys (ages 7 & 9) but also with their friends.

    Colin volunteered to record a review of the toy, so here is his vlog entry and review of Power Ranger RPM Deluxe Formula Megazord High Octane Megazord!

    Disclosure: We received this toy from Bandai America in exchange for our honest review.  No additional compensation was provided.

    Saturday, November 14, 2009

    Happy Birthday, Eldest Son!

    Like every other parent, at numerous milestones, I find myself incredulous that my son turned 9 today.  WHERE did the time go? Didn't I just see him on an ultrasound?  Wasn't he just nestled in my arms while I fought the nurses to sleep with him in my hospital bed (instead of the bassinet?) Wasn't he just taking his first steps in our brand new home?

    Well, if 9 years ago could be "just" then I guess it was just a moment ago.  Last weekend, we threw him a big party at BounceU, where he had a blast with his friends.   They loaded him up with Legos and other fun things, which he was very grateful for.  For his birthday from us, he asked for books and that's what he received today.  The long awaited latest Secrets Of Droon book.  The first book in another series by Erin Hunter.  Return to the Hundred Acre Wood (yes, my sweet, darling boy still loves Winnie the Pooh and has been eagerly waiting for the chance to read this one since he heard it was being published.) His aunt gave him a book that looks like fun - The Candy Shop War - and the Snuggie he's been wishing for.  And his uncle sent him more books as well as an audio book and a DS game!

    We usually give gifts first thing in the morning, but I had the opportunity to teach today so gifts had to wait. After class, we all met up at the Desert Botanical Garden for the Chiles & Chocolate Festival and then we had a late lunch / early dinner at Pei Wei's.  Home for gifts (finally!) and cake.

    My son is growing into a wonderful young man. He is kind, considerate, intelligent and loving.  He takes his role as a big brother very seriously and watches out for his younger siblings at all times.   He loves to read and learn new things.  His interests lately are Legos, dinosaurs (again), dragons and drawing.

    I'm thrilled to be his momma, and can't wait to watch him continue to grow into an even more amazing person.

    Friday, November 13, 2009

    Training Conference

    A few weeks ago I wrote about making excuses, and pursuing options. Today was the training conference that I was trying to decide if I should attend, and I'm glad that I realized I was making excuses.

    Today, I attended the Phoenix Word Camp where a number of Word Press and blogging gurus were gathered together to share their wisdom with a crowd of people.  The conference was held at a nearby resort -- but under a very large tent rather than inside the resort.  I'm sure this helped keep the cost down, and it actually worked well to fit in the almost 500 attendees.

    I met some very nice people (including one of the presenters -- John Hawkins) and listened to interesting presentations.  I found it amusing that some of the presenters completely contradicted the advice given by the others and it made me realize (again) that there is no single way to achieve anything -- including success.

    Each of these presenters is very successful in what they do, and I'm sure that some of those that follow their advice closely achieve success as well.  But, there are so many possible ways to achieve the same results.  What I noticed most about all the presenters was their confidence in themselves and what they had to say. 

    I picked up some good tips, and got some ideas for future articles, presentations and classes.  It was well worth the attendance fee!  I am grateful for my friend who took my 3 and her 5 kids to the zoo and wore them all out while I was off learning.

    You can see my possible future blogger up there sleeping in the shirt I received today.  I don't think he'll be a 16yo protege like another of the speakers (Dave Moyer) but I know he'll rock the world in his own special way.

    Review: Lakeshore Christmas

    Thanks to Mother Talk, I had the opportunity to read Lakeshore Christmas (The Lakeshore Chronicles) during the last couple weeks. It is a very sweet romance set during Christmas in a small town.  Susan Wiggs has a wonderful way of writing descriptive paragraphs, so that you feel there are pictures in the book (although there are none.)  There's the requisite Christmas pageant, and cold weather, and characters who don't like each other but find themselves falling in love. 

    I thoroughly enjoyed the story and found it sweet without being cloying.  The story kept me turning the page, and I tucked into my bag more than once so I could read while waiting in line or before a meeting.

    The book is part of a series of books, but the story and characters stood on their own quite nicely.  I did like them enough to seek out the other books in the series, though, so I could get to know them more! This would make a nice gift for someone who enjoys gentle romances, maybe along with a nice mug and a canister of hot cocoa!

    Disclosure: I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by MotherTalk on behalf of Lakeshore Christmas and received a copy of the book to facilitate my candid review. In addition, Mom Central sent me a gift card to thank me for taking the time to participate.

    Thursday, November 12, 2009

    Tell Me Thursday - Football

    You can see Colin ready to leap off the line during a recent football game. They lucked out again with an awesome coach, who is supportive yet challenging at the same time.

    You often read about horrible parents and mean coaches -- but in the 5 years we've been involved in sports in this area, we've run into none of that. Baseball, Football and Soccer have all been great experiences that have allowed my boys to stretch their skills and learn more about individual sports and teamwork. Parents are encouraging and quick to cheer any good play, regardless of the team.

    Local high school coaches always come out for the clinics and bring along some of their players to help the younger kids improve their skills. They have only kind words for the kids, and tell them how much they look forward to seeing them play for the high school teams in a few years.

    Seeing the attitude of the high school coaches, I imagine we'll continue seeing good sportsmanship throughout the years. If you would have asked me 6 years ago if I saw myself spending 3 days/week, 8 months/year on a sports field, I would have laughed! Now? I cant wait to suit up Lydia and watch her play, too!

    Did you play Wordless Wednesday? Then tell your story on Tell Me Thursday!

    Wednesday, November 11, 2009

    Wonderful Birthday and my new Kindle!!

    Hmmmm.  Yea.  So I wrote that post about my birthday not being that big a deal . . . and then proceeded to have a wonderfully sweet birthday.  I went into work and my lovely co-worker had written the Happy Birthday song on my whiteboard in multiple colors!  Then, I came home and my family sang Happy Birthday to me and gave me some nice gifts.  My Facebook wall was chock full of wishes, including a video song!   Then, my husband grilled t-bones on the grill, cooked up my favorite potatoes and even made me a birthday cake from scratch!

    And, yesterday, I somehow managed to forget to mention that my dear, wonderful, generous husband gave me the most fantastic gift early for my birthday this year.

    I now have a Kindle of my very own.  I love it.  I didn't want to love it, but I do.  (A bit like my iPhone, which I resisted for so long but now can't live without.)  I kept insisting I didn't need one -- I was perfectly happy reading traditional books.  But I confess I was intrigued and read the reviews and the specs.

    I've had it for a couple weeks now and have become a convert. My first favorite thing?  The ability to increase the text size with the push of a button. I'm getting older, and my eyesight has always been poor.  I struggle reading many books, but I have no problem with the Kindle.

    My next favorite thing?  The fact that I don't have to physically turn pages.  I didn't think this would be such a big deal, until I read a chapter of a book on the Kindle.  I can hold it comfortably in one hand, and push the "next page" button with ease.  Lydia loves to be held just so when she's falling asleep, which made turning pages difficult with traditional books, but it's no longer an issue.  It's light and easy to hold in one hand.

    I also resisted for a long time because I borrow many books from the library and don't purchase very many books new.  I found after a few searches on Amazon that there are tons of free books available for my Kindle. Some are classics and in the free domain, but others are newer books that are offered free for a short time. 

    The per-issue cost of magazines is less than the paper version, and makes no clutter!  For those magazines that I may have purchased off the stand, I will probably purchase on my Kindle.

    I like that I can carry multiple books with me in the slim case.  I have about 20 books currently loaded, and 3 magazines. I plan to add a few more technical books in the next few months, and really look forward to not carrying the heavy books with me in my bag.

    The one thing that I have to get used to is the ability to quickly skim books.  Sometimes books bore me and I like to skim ahead quickly to get to the meaty parts.  I can press the "next page" button over and over, but it doesn't have the same appeal as flipping the pages.

    I found out last night that anything I downloaded to my Kindle I can also access on my iPhone through a Kindle app. That was handy during a recent football practice!

    It made me nervous just carrying it around, so I bought a purple Leather Kindle Jacket to protect it. A book light attaches easily to the cover allowing me to read late at night.

    I received an amazing birthday gift this year.  Something that I didn't think I wanted, but my husband sometimes knows me better than I know myself. Thanks again, sweetheart!!

    Full FTC Disclosure: The Kindle reviewed in this post was not provided by anyone except my dear, sweet husband who very generously used an unexpected bonus to buy his wife this awesome birthday gift.  This is not a sponsored post. Nobody provided any compensation or product to me for this review.  I'm just thrilled with my new gift and wanted to share!

    Wordless Wednesday - Football

    I love Wordless Wednesday, but I like to tell me story on Tell Me Thursdays!

    Tuesday, November 10, 2009

    Happy Birthday to Me!

    Colin is horrified that I have to work on my birthday today, but was appeased a bit when I told him it was only a half-day class.  At this time of year, I'm happy to have all the classes possible and I don't mind working on my birthday.

    I've never been one to bemoan my birthdays, or be overly emotional or giddy about them either. Of course, I'm happy to be here to celebrate another birthday, but it's just another day. Some years I use my birthday as the time of year to set new goals, but not this year.  It's a day to celebrate the blessing that is my life, and I'm not going to press for more than that.

    I'll celebrate tonight with my sweet family, and then continue on with a busy week.  My sweet boy's birthday is Saturday, and I'm looking forward to making his day extra-special.

    I'd love if you left a comment today for my birthday, though!  I know I have plenty of lurkers out there who never comment, so come out of lurkdom today and wish me a Happy Birthday!

    And then click over to the right there for my Progresso Soup giveaway and leave a comment there, too!  You know you need some new soup mugs!

    Monday, November 09, 2009

    Money Saving Monday #32 - Making Lists

    As Christmas gets closer and closer, my gift closet begins to fill up. In order to stay on budget, I depend on my lists.  I usually start my Christmas list in January, but rarely touch it until now.

    My Christmas list is a spreadsheet that holds individual sheets for Christmas cards, gifts, gifts received, and schedules.  The Christmas card list includes all the addresses of people we send cards to each year.  The gift list includes everyone who we will purchase a gift for, gift ideas, gifts purchased, if they've been wrapped, sent, or given.  The gifts received records gifts we have received and when thank you notes were sent.  Finally, the schedule includes things like ordering Christmas cards, dates and cost of holiday events, cookie baking days and more.

    Tracking the gifts is very important.  It allows me to keep track of ideas in one spot, and it allows me to record when I've purchased something early and put it away. I keep a running total at all times, so I can see how much is left in my budget.  The list makes sure that I don't go overboard, and that I don't forget anything either.  It also helps me stay on track with wrapping and shipping gifts.

    Especially when money is tight, this approach allows me to spread out the spending and keep it under control.  I'm sure that more people than ever are heading into this holiday season worried about how much they'll spend. We will continue to spend only cash, and our budget will be lean this year.  Careful planning will make our holidays as special as ever!

    Sunday, November 08, 2009

    Review: Young People's Book of Saints

    As part of religious education, we study the Catholic saints of history on a weekly basis. When given the opportunity to review Young People's Book of Saints by The Catholic Company, I was looking forward to adding another book to our library that was at a child's level.

    Since the book was written for elementary-aged children, I gave it to my 3rd grader (almost 9yo) to read a few chapters and get his opinion. He was disappointed, and told me we had other books that were better. He felt the biographies for each saint were too short, and did not contain enough information.   After reading a few more, he mentioned that he preferred books that provided all the basics (like birthplace, dates, patron saint information) consistently for each saint in one section, and then provided biographical information.

    Young People's Book of Saints provides 2-5 page biographies of 63 saints. If you don't have a basic saint book, this would fill that gap. The reading level is appropriate for elementary-aged children.
    This review was written as part of the Catholic book Reviewer program from The Catholic Company.  I received a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion in this review. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on The Young People’s Book of Saints .

    Giveaway! Progresso Soup & Bowls

    ** Comments closed! Winner has been chosen using

    Here are your random numbers:
    Timestamp: 2009-11-14 04:22:50 UTC

    Comment #8 was Maria, and she has been contacted.  Please keep reading for more fun giveaways! **

    When I was at General Mills in August for Table Talk, I had the opportunity to try Progresso High Fiber Soups. I really enjoyed the Tomato Basil and the Chicken Tuscany flavors, so I jumped at the chance to give away a can of Progresso Chicken Tuscany soup, 2 huge soup bowls and 2 spoons!

    The high fiber soups have no MSG, no artificial flavors, and 7g of fiber per serving! They taste great as well as being good for you. The Chicken Tuscany soup is well-seasoned, and has a little kick. Nate declared it "good, spicy, but good!!"

    To enter this giveaway (prize pictured below), leave a comment sharing your favorite soup!  Isn't this a perfect set to usher in fall? Can you imagine yourself heating up a nice warm bowl of soup, and enjoying it in these great soup mugs with new spoons?

    For additional entries, follow this blog (and leave a comment letting me know), share this giveaway via tweet, blog, or facebook (and leave a comment letting me know).

    Comments will be open until Friday, November 13, 2009 at 6PM. Winner will be chosen using to choose a random comment. Winner will be notified via email and must contact me with their address within 24 hours.  If your comment profile does not include an email address, please leave an email address in your comment.

    Disclosure: I received a prize pack as pictured above for use in this review and was given the opportunity to award a prize pack to one of my readers via My Blog Spark. I received no additional compensation. The prize pack will be shipped from the PR firm.

    Saturday, November 07, 2009


    Yesterday was a beautiful, warm, overcast day.  The boys were ahead in their schooling, I had no pressing deadlines and Bo had no calls to run.  We decided to pack a picnic and visit the zoo.

    My parents give us a zoo membership each year for Christmas and it is one of the best gifts!  We don't visit often during the hot summer months (ok, probably not at all . . . ) but during fall, winter & spring we enjoy frequent visits.  The temps are starting to cool off, so for us it's the beginning of outdoor fun.

    One of the nicest things about having a membership is that there is no need to visit the entire zoo during a visit.  We can take our time and visit different areas each time, or visit the same animals over and over again.  Here you can see Lydia having fun with the goats. She would walk carefully over to a goat, give them one quick brush, then dart away.

    The boys have grown up visiting the zoo, and they were a bit frustrated with some of the changes being instituted.  I think we're fortunate that the zoo is working on improvements, and adding new exhibits -- but the boys are at a place where they want everything to stay the same.  I can  understand that, as I'm in disbelief that my oldest will be 9 next week, and have fleeting moments of wishing they could all just stay as they are right now.

    We've spent years just enjoying the zoo, but I can see that the next few years will find us studying more diligently and having more focus during our visits for the boys.  They've enjoyed visiting over the years, but they're ready for deeper understanding of the animals, habitats and continents of those in our zoo.

    At least I still have Lydia to run, play and be in awe of the spider monkeys.
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