Monday, August 31, 2009

Writer Mama Book Giveaway!

I received The Writer Mama as a gift a few years ago, and have been following Christina Katz online ever since. I'm currently taking her class, Publishing the Short Stuff, and am learning so much!

She asked that readers share about her giveaway, and I'm happy to do so! From her site:

For the third year in a row, The Writer Mama, Christina Katz, is giving away thirty books in thirty days. All you have to do to participate is answer the question that Christina will pose daily. One lucky winner will win each day. There is no limit to how many times you can enter. The drawing is for U.S. residents. You don’t have to be a mom, but of course, the event is created with moms in mind, so please tell all the writer mamas you know! See ya in September at http://thewritermama.wordpress.com.

So, head on over and enter her giveaways! And then come back and tell me if you win any of the books!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

How Much Fits in My Frigidaire?

One of the things I worried about when I found out that I was chosen to be a Frigidaire Test Drive Mom was that the counter-depth refrigerator wouldn't hold as much as my standard refrigerator.

After a couple months of using it, I can tell you that my worries were for nothing. I can fit plenty of food into my new refrigerator, and with a family of 5 -- that's usually a lot of food!

You can see how 2 gallons of milk fit easily into the shelf on the door. I can fit our condiments and salad dressings on the door shelves. Below the milk is space for 6 cans of soda, and below that holds water bottles perfectly.

The 3 drawers are big. I keep our cold cuts and cheeses in the top drawer, and kept finding them 1/2 frozen. Finally, I looked carefully and noticed a temperature slider near the drawer (which is called the "chiller" drawer) and was able to move it from coldest to not so cold. My cold cuts no longer freeze!

Our shelves are not as neat as they could be, but I decided to keep it real and show you what my refrigerator really looks like today! There is plenty of room for all our groceries, and I haven't even used our old refrigerator since we moved it to the garage.

Frigidaire is still running the great contest for a new washer/dryer! And, don't forget about the "More Me-Time Guarantee" if you're in the market for new appliances.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Tell Me Thursday - Fall

Another season of fall ball has started! This is Colin's 5th year playing and Nate's 4th year. Colin almost didn't play this year, but changed his mind at the last possible second. I'm glad he did, as he is actually enjoying it this year because this year's coach is the best they've had! I'm also glad he decided to play because this is the last season he'll be able to play in this league -- he'll be too old next year.

My boys are getting so tall, I almost didn't recognize them on the field. You might notice their baseball pants are a little short because I bought them a size too small . . . but they fit fine in the waist!

Lydia is not interested in watching the boys play baseball. She is interested in navigating the bleachers, trying to convince me to buy junk food, and jumping down the steps. She has 2 more years before she can play t-ball.

Over at my picture blog, I created links to all the past season shots.

Did you play Wordless Wednesday yesterday? If so, don't forget to tell your story today & link to Tell Me Thursday!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Fall



Play along at Wordless Wednesday! (And come back tomorrow for the story thanks to Tell Me Thursday!)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Review: Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of the Civilization of Love

Before moving to the Southwest, I wasn't really aware of Our Lady of Guadalupe. She is a popular Marian image here in Arizona, so I got to know her after moving here. I love the story of St. Juan Diego and his interaction with Our Lady -- his faith which had him traveling far distances for Mass, his perseverance, and then the lovely miracle of roses to convince the Church that he was telling the truth.

When The Catholic Company had Our Lady of Guadalupe- Mother of the Civilization available through their review program, I jumped at the chance to read it.

It is an extremely thorough explanation and discussion of St. Juan Diego, the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the miracles that happened, and all the research and study that went into proving the miracles. I didn't realize that St. Juan Diego didn't become a saint until Pope John Paul II canonized him in July of 2002. I thought he had been a saint for much longer than that!

There is detailed explanations of every detail of the painting on St. Juan Diego's tilma and the significance of each part. In addition to all the information about Our Lady, it also includes information about Mexico at the time and the history of the region.

The book ends with a detailed time line, a collection of prayers, an extensive bibliography, and detailed notes.


I have told the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe many times to my children, but in a very simple form. This book filled in all the details, as well as providing excellent information about the research and study that goes into determining miracles. I found it extremely informative and very well-written. I highly recommend this book.


This review was written as part of the
Catholic book Reviewer program from The Catholic Company. In exchange for my honest review, I received a copy of the book. Visit T
he Catholic Company to find more information on Our Lady of Guadalupe- Mother of the Civilization .


General Mills Table Talk

So, have I mentioned I'm going away AGAIN this weekend? It's hard to believe that after all these years of minimal travel, I am spending 3 weekends away from my kids in one month!

Every weekend away has been different, and this weekend is no exception.

I'm headed to Minneapolis to check out the Betty Crocker kitchen! I understand we'll be eating & will even have the opportunity to cook in the kitchen! I can't wait to hear their ideas about family dinners, and to have the chance to spend time with a bunch of other bloggers.

I'll bring my camera and computer, so come back Monday or Tuesday to read about my adventure. It's my first blogger event, and I can't wait!!

Do you have any questions you'd like me to ask? I have a friend whose kids are gluten-free and she is excited about the new gluten-free mixes but hopes that they will make the mixes with a variety of flours. I'll ask about that - - and anything else you can think of! Leave a comment below!

Vegas!

My sis and I had a great time in Vegas!

I turned $1 into $18 at the penny slots when we first arrived . . . but by Sunday I had lost that $18 and another $14. Which is exactly why I don't gamble! For $15, I got a few hours of entertainment, but if I was at the dollar slots and lost $150 . . . I'd be bummed!!

We ate some delicious food and literally didn't go outside from the time we arrived until we left. We stayed at the Luxor (which was very nice) and were able to visit Mandalay Bay (where we visited the Shark Reef and the Lush store) and Excalibur without going outside. We also visited the Titanic exhibit at the Luxor, which I thought was wonderfully done!

When we left on Sunday, we stopped at the Liberace Museum and Ethel M Chocolate Factory before heading back to Arizona.

It was nice spending a weekend with my sister, eating and walking and shopping, without worry about anyone but us. I did miss my family, though, and thought often how they would have enjoyed certain things we did. I had fun, and relaxed, and think that we should make a sister's vacation an annual event!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Review: Oscar Mayer Lunchables

Have I mentioned that we're a busy family? I know most families these days are busy -- with work, schoolwork, sports and everyday life.

While I wish I could prepare meals from scratch every day, throughout the day, the truth is that I can't. Oscar Mayer has re-vamped their Lunchables with some new varieties and I jumped at the chance to try them out when Mom Central asked for bloggers to review them.

They sent me a coupon for one, and I picked up 3 of the Turkey & Cheddar Sub Lunchables. These are great for a lunch when schooling and sports and work has taken over our day.

Lydia's favorite part was the applesauce. My boys both liked pouring the powdered Kool-Aid into the bottle of water and shaking. All three ate the sub sandwich (although Lydia did her usual of taking one bite of bread, and then eating the insides. This isn't any comment on their bread - that's just how she eats sandwiches.) All three also ate the Nilla Wafers.

These are great to have in the refrigerator for those days we need the fastest lunch possible -- or those days the kids are at the sitter and I need to make their lunches at the last moment in the morning. My kids don't like American cheese, so I won't try the cracker meals, but we will buy the subs again.

Check out their site for all the varieties, as well as all nutritional information.

“I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour by Mom Central on behalf of Oscar Mayer Lunchables and received a sample to facilitate my candid review. In addition, Mom Central sent me a gift card to thank me for taking the time to participate.”

Saturday, August 22, 2009

New Dole Contest

Dole's very nice PR people contacted me recently and asked me to share a new, great contest with my readers. I love the Dole fruit bowls because they're easy to pack for lunches and are a great snack anytime for me and my kids! I especially love the parfait bowls, but my kids prefer the plain fruit bowls. At 80 calories or less, they're healthy and a great way to get more fruit into our diet.

Head over to Dole Challenge and enter for the various giveaways they have running, as well as download coupons! You have 2 ways to win:
  • Share how you enjoy Dole Fruit Bowls and earn a chance to win $300!
  • Share the site with your friends and earn a chance to win $1,000!
New winners every week until early October, 2009!

Friday, August 21, 2009

It's Friday, Woo Hoo!

It's Friday . . . and my to-do list is a mile long . . . but I don't care!!

In a few short hours (as soon as my sister gets off work and my hubby gets home) I'm headed off to Vegas! Just me & my sis -- the kids and hubby are staying home -- and I can't wait!

It's been so long since I went off and did anything for myself, and then this month it worked out that I'm off without the kids for 3 weekends (anniversary 2 weeks ago, this weekend, and then Table Talk with General Mills in 2 weeks) I'm debating about bringing my laptop to do some work, but I think I will leave it at home so I don't have the ability to do any work.

I'm not a gambler, but I'm looking forward to meals I don't have to share, sitting in a restaurant as long as I want, and leisurely walking around without constantly counting heads.

I have a few reviews to post next week, and some fun information about another Dole contest, and an update about schooling. But, that all has to wait, because I have to log off and pack for Vegas!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Still Loving My Refrigerator

I am still amazed some days when I walk into my kitchen and see my Frigidaire stainless steel refrigerator. If you've been reading this summer, you know that thanks to Mom Central and Frigidaire, I've been a test drive mom for Frigidaire's new appliance line. They had a new refrigerator delivered and installed in our kitchen last June and we've been testing it out ever since!

One of my favorite features of this refrigerator is the water and ice dispenser on the door. It's at a convenient height so my boys can easily get their own ice and water (tip: make sure cups are also at a kid-friendly height!) My 2yo can get her own if she moves the step stool over (which she does!) If I want to turn off the ice and water, I can do that by simply pushing a button to lock those features out! I admit I thought I'd be doing that more often, but Lydia actually does a great job of filling her cups only half-full so I don't have a lot of water being poured out on the kitchen floor.

Another thing I like about the water and ice dispenser is that the opening is deep. The cup shown in the picture is the tallest cup I own and did not fit in our old water dispenser. You can see that it fits just fine into this one. I can also fit my 3 quart iced tea pitcher easily - so I can fill it up with water, and then ice.

I like that I can choose crushed or cubed ice. I prefer crushed ice in my drinks, and I don't have to pull out a separate ice crusher to enjoy crushed ice.

The water dispenser has a PureSource filter attached to it, so the water doesn't have as funny a taste as when it comes straight from the tap.

Overall, we've been very happy with this refrigerator. And, I'm excited to remind you that Frigidaire is still running a contest to give *you* a chance to win free appliances! Head over to My MotherLoad and enter for a chance to win a new washer/dryer. While you're there, check out all the new time-saving appliances.

Tell Me Thursday - Angel


This angel is part of a Marian shrine in the Milwaukee archdiocese. It's nestled in a residential area, and was close to the first apartment Bo & I shared. There are statues representing Fatima, stations of the cross, and a few other statues. It's a very restful place, and I would visit often when we lived close. When we make our infrequent trips back to WI, I always try to find the time to visit at least briefly.

Did you play Wordless Wednesday yesterday? Be sure to tell your story today and link to Tell Me Thursday!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What Should I Read Next?

I have a short stack of books to choose from at the moment . . . so I thought I'd ask what you think I should read next! I do have a book review to post later this week, but these are books that I haven't yet delved into. Which ones are you curious about and would like my review? Leave a comment and let me know.

The choices are:

Spot of Grace: Remarkable Stories of How You DO Make a Difference by Dawna Markova

Playtime in Phoenix: The Ultimate Guide to Learning & Having Fun With Kids! by Shawnna Bolick

Handmade Home: Simple Ways to Repurpose Old Materials into New Family Treasures by Amanda Blake Soule

Stitched in Time: Memory-Keeping Projects to Sew and Share from the Creator of Posie Gets Cozy by Alicia Paulson

No prize -- but I promise to read the most popular book next and write a review ;)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Money Saving Monday #23 - Selling Books

We did a bit of cleaning yesterday, and I filled a plastic tote with books that we've either outgrown, or were no longer interested in. I tend to do this every few months, and it seems I can always fill a bin (or 2 or 3). What can I tell you? We love to read in this family!

Even though we use the library quite a bit, there are still books that we pick up when out, or that we purchase because our library doesn't carry them (anything published after 2002, for instance -- ok, it's not that bad, but budget cuts have definitely affected library shelves.)

I do like to purchase reference books -- and of course, I purchase tons of books for the kids to help encourage their reading. Today, though, I filled a bin with books we don't need to keep in our home any longer.

This week, I'll take them over to Bookman's and whatever they don't take, I'll take to Half Price Books. I've found that Bookman's will give me a better price, but they are much more picky than Half Price. Half Price, however, will take pretty much anything -- so I won't have to lug them home again.

I like Bookman's and Half Price Books because I can have cash in hand and the books out of my house in one short afternoon. Bookman's will offer me store credit for a larger amount than the cash offer -- which I do take when there are specific books that I need to purchase.

Another way to turn your books into cash is to sell them via ebay, half.com or Amazon. I would probably earn larger returns doing that, but it would mean listing all the books, selling them separately, storing them during the sale, packaging them for mailing, going to the post office . . . and then I'd be at Bookman's or Half Price in a month with whatever didn't sell. At this point in my life, it's more important that the books are out of my home (and I make a little cash.)

Friday, August 14, 2009

long week!!

It's been quite the week around here, and it's kept me from blogging! It's been mostly good, however!
  • I went away with DH overnight last weekend. It was wonderful -- and the first time we've done so since Colin was born. I want to write a longer post about this soon -- but let's just say we plan to do this again!
  • One of my external hard drives crashed 2 weeks ago and I upgraded my main hard drive and I've been STRUGGLING with restoring my data from mozy.com. I have another post drafted about that service, but quickly -- let me just say that my opinion is to avoid them. My experience has been awful, and their customer service are snarky and not helpful. I'm no closer to having my data back than I was over 2 weeks ago. I'm hoping that I can finally resolve the issue this weekend, but in the meantime, based on my lousy experience, don't give your hard-earned money to mozy.com. Apparently, backing up is an easy process -- but restoring is a nightmare. (And don't we use a backup service so we can RESTORE our data in case it gets lost??)
  • The boys started back to the enrichment program this week, and took their pre-assessment tests for the online program. They're squared away, and I was able to pick up their books today. Schooling officially starts on Monday . . . so wish us all luck!
  • I taught, but only briefly this week. I taught a short seminar about creating forms in Word, and my 1/2 day class on Excel Pivot Tables -- both on the same day.
I'm leaving things out -- but that's the big look at this past week. I'm off to the movies in a few minutes with my sister. We're going to see Julie & Julia. My sister isn't all that excited, but she'll come along with me anyway ;) When she was a toddler, she used to imitate Julia Childs' voice after my mom would watch her shows. It always cracked us up, but of course she doesn't remember that. I hope it's a good movie!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Money Saving Monday #22 - Links That Help Save

Today, I thought I'd do a bit of linky-love to my favorite blogs / sites that help me save money throughout the year. These blogs / sites devote themselves to sharing great deals and scoping out new offers all day, every day! I'm indebted to them for helping me save time and money.

  • Freebies for Mom (Heather seems relentless in finding and sharing great deals. She seems like a real sweetie, too!)
  • Baby Cheapskates (this site is especially good for helping find diaper deals. Now that we're done with diapers, I still read to find great deals on other products and for ideas I can pass along to friends with smaller kids)
  • Money Saving Methods (Not only does she share great tips and deals, but she also shares her personal savings / earnings each month utilizing the tips/tricks she shares. Very enlighening!)
  • Mommy Savers (This was one of the first sites I stumbled across years ago when I started staying home and trying to save more money. It's a site with discussion forums and lots of great info.)
  • Suddenly Frugal (This site has moved a few times in the last few months and I finally found it again and remembered to bookmark it. She has great ideas and I'm glad that I found her again!)
  • Moms Love Shopping (Ok, I'm a contributor there, so I'm a bit biased. But I think I add some great deals over there, and I offer honest reviews of products my family uses. Chele and her sister Kacie also offer great reviews and bargains, plus Chele has a funny and informative weekly podcast.)
I know there are many, many other money-saving blogs out there, but these are the ones I have in my reader and that I have found to be consistent and helpful. If you have a favorite, feel free to add it in the comments!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Tell Me Thursday - almost 12 years ago!

Yes, that was a photo from my wedding day that I posted yesterday. It is one of my favorite pictures of the day, and the only one we had blown up to a larger size.

Yes, he's wearing work boots. We met online 14 years ago. (I placed an ad in the Romance section of AOL. He answered.) When we first talked on the phone to set a date, he mentioned that he was a contractor and I assumed that all contractors wore work boots. I had a thing for a guy in work boots, so this was a good thing!

Well, I was smitten on that first date, but I also found out that he didn't even OWN a pair of work boots! I think I bought him a pair for our first Christmas, or maybe his birthday. He didn't wear them for work, but they were a bit of an inside joke for us.

On our wedding day (8/8/97), he wore those work boots down the aisle! Dear Fr. Kevin was not impressed and very concerned about my reaction when I would see them. Bo assured him that I knew, and I was okay with it.

So, that's the story! If you played Wordless Wednesday, be sure to follow it up today with Tell Me Thursday!

Schooling This Year

I haven't blogged about our schooling plans, because they have been up in the air for months. We considered:
  • Homeschooling like we did last year (which was mostly CHC, with a weekly enrichment program)
  • Enrolling the boys in the public school a few blocks away
  • Changing curriculum (maybe Seton, or MODG, or Calvert) and continuing to homeschool and attend the weekly enrichment program
  • Enrolling the boys completely in an online program, continuing with weekly enrichment program. This limited us to one online program, because the rest wouldn't allow us to use the enrichment program.
  • Enrolling the boys partially in an online program, supplement with CHC or Seton, and continue with enrichment program
  • Enrolling the boys in a local charter school
Believe me when I say it made my head swim some days!

Working has been a consideration. My sitter needs to cut back on her hours this fall, and so I started looking for back-ups / alternatives. If I haven't mentioned it already, it's difficult to find sporadic care for 3 children -- ages 2, 7 & 8. Most caregivers want a set schedule and guaranteed income -- but I have neither. As an example, last week I worked 1.5 days, this week it'll be 2.5 days, next week it's only .5 day. While I understand the caregiver's dilemma, I can't pay more than I earn, or pay if I'm not earning anything!

But, even if I put the boys in school, I still need sporadic care for Lydia and I would need to find sporadic after-school care for the boys. Child care is definitely one of the biggest hurdles to employment.

Putting the boys in school would mean that if we chose the public school, they would have to get themselves to the bus on their own some days. (Not impossible, and I do think Colin is old enough to do so.) If we chose charter schools, there's no bus, and well, we wouldn't be able to get them there some days, so that wasn't a choice. (Well, it would be a choice if I stopped working. But if I stopped working, there would be no question about homeschooling.)

The boys have attended the enrichment program since Kindergarten, and Colin has some very good friends in the class. Neither DH nor I wanted to remove him from that unless absolutely necessary.

The online program appears to be challenging, and it lays everything out for me as far as planning and prep. It also has the advantage of being part of the school system, so we won't have to purchase books or supplies. Saving that money (especially this year) factored heavily in our decision.

SO? What did we decide?

We'll be homeschooling again this year. The boys are enrolled in the online program, and will attend the enrichment program. We will supplement with handwriting, religion, art and cooking lessons. The online program offers language arts, science, social studies and math.

It helped my decision when I saw Colin's standardized test scores and he scored above-average in all areas for his grade level. Although some may believe that I've done my boys a disservice by homeschooling, I'm feeling more confident that I've done the right thing by them.

I will continue to work, and trust that child care will resolve itself somehow.

We will still have the flexibility to visit the zoo and museums during less-busy times (did you know that was a major reason I began homeschooling?) I'm confident that this school year will be a challenge and that both my boys (and myself) are up for that challenge. I can't wait to see what we'll all learn this year!

Wordless Wednesday - almost 12 years ago



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

Monday, August 03, 2009

Money Saving Monday #21

As a freelancer, I often have dribs and drabs of money coming in. When I'm paid via PayPal, the money is easy to keep track of, but when I receive checks, I sometimes misplace them.

I *try* to put all checks received in the same place when they arrive, but I confess that I fell down on that a couple weeks ago and misplaced a medium-sized check and one tiny check. I knew that the clients had paid me, but I couldn't find the checks to deposit!

Losing a check is definitely NOT a money saving tactic, especially when you need that check to pay the electric bill. Thankfully, I did find both checks (in two different places!) this morning.

My tip for this week is to always put checks and other funds in the same place as soon as you receive them! This will save you money (you can deposit the funds and pay bills without late fees!) and save face (how embarrassing if I had to contact my clients and let them know I misplaced their checks?)


PUR Filter Giveaway Winner!

Thanks to everyone who commented! Thanks to random.org -- the winning comment was:

Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:

5

Timestamp: 2009-08-03 06:38:39 UTC

Congratulations, Kelly! I'll send you an email for your contact information, and the wonderful PUR PR person will ship your PUR water filter pitcher directly to your home.



Sunday, August 02, 2009

General Mills Table Talk


I am very excited to share that I was invited to a General Mills Table Talk at the end of August! I'll be heading to Minneapolis and visiting the BETTY CROCKER KITCHEN to talk about family dinners, nutrition, new recipes and twists on old favorites.

They must have known that one of my goals this fall was to get much better about planning ahead and ensuring great meals were on our table!

So far, my experience with the PR firm has been wonderful. I can't wait to share more about this trip. We got netbooks for the boys' schooling this year, but I'll bring one along to make blogging from the road easier.

Do you have any questions for the Betty Crocker Kitchen? Let me know and I'll take them all with me.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

First Week of August

This week is going to be nice & busy!
  • I'm teaching 2 1/2 days this week. One class I've taught multiple times and am very comfortable with, a 1/2 day class for the first time and need to finish prepping, and another class I'm teaching for only the 2nd time and need to spend more time prepping.
  • I have writing to do for clients.
  • Boys have a "meet the teacher" event for their enrichment program.
  • Laundry. Grocery Shopping.
  • Someone is coming to clean house for me and I am hoping hoping hoping that it's a good fit (because I hate cleaning house, and I'm not very good at it.)
  • Boys have 2 Tae Kwon Do classes.
  • Sign up Nate for coach-pitch. Colin doesn't want to play this fall, and since he's played the last 4 falls, I guess he's earned the right to say he doesn't like playing baseball. He still may change his mind, though. (He did last year.)
  • Wrapping up the week by celebrating our 12th anniversary at a local resort (where I scored a great deal for a room.) My dear, darling sister is staying with our kids. We have NEVER both been away overnight from our kids, so we are looking forward to it! I'm trying to decide if it's worth ordering the chocolate-covered strawberries to be waiting for us in our room at check-in or not . . .
What does your week look like? As I look ahead in August, each week gets busier & busier -- and I'm traveling twice!

World Breastfeeding Week

This week marks World Breastfeeding Week. Lydia recently weaned, but she still remembers and will still sometimes ask to nurse. Just this morning, we snuggled in bed in the early morning, and she looked up at me with her big eyes and said "Nurse? Nurse Please?" I explained that I was empty, and she said "Lydia drink ALL the milk?" and I told her that she did. She was satisfied with that, and decided she'd rather have a Coke. LOL! (No, I didn't give her Coke - I gave her orange juice instead.)

I breastfed all three of mine, for varying lengths. I breastfed each child a little bit longer, with Lydia going past 2 years. It was a special, wonderful time with each of my children -- bonding and precious and sweet. It wasn't easy in the early months with Colin & Nate, but by the time Lydia came around I had no problems.

I'm grateful for those years I was able to nourish my children completely, and try to encourage new mothers to at least try it for the first 6 weeks. A dear friend of mine was sure she wouldn't nurse beyond 6 weeks, but ended up breastfeeding just under 2 years with her first.

If you can this week, provide some support for breastfeeding moms. Give them a genuine smile out in public when they're trying to feed their babies. Bring them a nutritious, easy to eat snack. Make sure they have an extra-large glass full of cold water. Encourage them in their decision to breastfeed their babes.
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