Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - Angel

Anonymous Comments

In May, I will have been blogging here for 9 years.   In those years, I have met some amazing people, had the opportunities to be exposed to some fabulous products, and shared my family's life with anyone who happened to stumble across my little patch on the Internet.

I've been online since there was an online to be on.  I started when it was all bulletin boards and DOS and things were black and green and white. It's been amazing to watch the changes and advancements that have happened over the years.

There are fantastic, wonderful people to connect with online.  There are also mean, spiteful people.  Just like in life outside of a computer screen.  The problem with a computer screen is that it is easy to be anonymous. It's also easy not to understand the breadth of someone's life that they may choose to share pieces of online.

For the first time in 9 years, I've disabled anonymous comments.  I plan to leave it that way.  If you have something to say, at least have the honor to admit who you are.

To the anonymous commenter that left a comment earlier today -- I think you're a coward.  I also think you're wrong in some of the things you stated.  The rest is your opinion, and you're entitled to that and I can't say your opinion is right or wrong, even if I disagree with it. Some of your comments were out of ignorance, and some were out of mean-spiritedness.

Anyone who truly knows me knows that I do not -- would not -- exploit my children.

I was asked to the Volvo event precisely because I am a blogger.  Volvo employees extended the invitation and we were thrilled to attend.  Since I was invited as a blogger, the expectation was that I would write about our experience.  Which I did. The video posted was by Nate because he loves cars and because he loves to make videos.  Not because he happens to have a stutter.

I expect nothing further -- and received nothing more than a fun test drive -- from Volvo.  They know about the post, and thanked me for sharing it with them.

In the 9 years I've been blogging I have been approached by countless brands and PR firms.  Some I work with, some I pass.  I only choose to work with the ones that I am interested in.  It's been a great experience and my family is grateful for the products and activities we've been able to enjoy as a result.  But, I'm not getting rich or famous by blogging -- I'm definitely WAY DOWN LOW on the totem pole of rich or famous bloggers.  I don't blog as a business -- it's strictly a hobby for me.

I wonder if you understand blogging (and what it has become over the last 9 years) and I also wonder if you understand SEO and key words.  Since I've been blogging so long, my blog comes up quite often in Google searches.  I know that by posting about our experience playing in a Volvo, I will ultimately appear in someone's search results.

And, that person may not be familiar with my blog, or my children.  I wonder if you were offended by my last paragraph -- which was directed at this type of reader.  The ones that appear one time as a result of a search on Google.

You, dear anonymous coward,  have no idea the number of heinous, rude, cruel and obnoxious comments that are posted on Nate's stuttering videos on YouTube.  I delete them as fast as they appear.  I keep the videos up because I also receive a number of wonderful, warm and thankful emails as a result of those videos.  It's a tough balance, but I've made the decision (along with Nate) to keep them up so they can help those that it does.  And, we'll ignore the rest.

Just like I plan to ignore you as soon as I hit post.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Tell Me Thursday - Memories

From our return from the beach in October until a couple weeks ago, the shells we collected at the beach lived in my biggest glass mixing bowl.  And that bowl was constantly moved around because I knew I wanted to do "something" with them, but didn't know what.

As I was putting something away a couple weeks ago, I found this glass covered bowl and realized it was the perfect vessel for our shells.

I took some time to carefully place them, and now they sit on my kitchen counter.  I love looking at them and remember the days spent in sunshine walking along the beach collecting shells with my kids.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Volvo Cars Event

Top Gear (both the British & American versions) is a much-watched show in our house.  If you've ever spent any time with Nate, you know he loves cars and has since he was small.  So, when I had the opportunity to be part of a marketing event for Volvo cars, I immediately inquired if I could bring my entire family.

Luckily, they welcomed us all!

We arrived at one of the beautiful resorts in our area and were welcomed by a number of Volvo employees.  I learned that they had been in town for 2 weeks meeting with various press from all over.

We were able to listen to a number of people from Volvo tell us about their cars, their mission, and the things that make Volvo especially cool.  Nate was very interested in learning about the "torque curve" and seeing just how fast the Volvo race cars are able to go.  I'm not sure what was most interesting to him, but I know he really loved hearing from the men at PoleStar and learning about the cool things they developed and integrated into not just race cars, but all the cars Volvo sells.

After the informative talks, we were given the the chance to take a 60 mile test drive! Lydia and I hopped into a convertible -- the 2012 C70!  The top folds down completely into the trunk, and looks like a regular hard topped car.  I have to tell you that it was FUN to drive.  We had an absolutely gorgeous Arizona day to drive around town, and Lydia and I laughed and talked the entire way.

Bo & the boys took their test drive in a 2012 XC70 Crossover.  While Lydia and I took an urban drive, the boys went off-road for a bit in the XC70.  They had a fabulous time!  Nate called me at one time just to say "Mom, this is AWESOME!"  He was also thoroughly impressed with the torque.  (I really should have  him explain what that is . . . wait for a future post.)

It was great fun! We have always appreciated the safety reputation of Volvos, and were sad to let our 2000 wagon go last year.  The Volvo employees welcomed us, and seemed to enjoy talking with the boys.  We heard some of their stories, and really enjoyed our morning.

As we were driving  home, Colin said that he knew he would want to buy a Volvo when he's ready for a car.  Typical to Colin, his reason was because of all the safety features.  Nate replied, "I want one because they are so cool!  Did you feel that torque, dude?"  I think my boys encompass all that Volvo is trying to convey with their brand these days.

Nate made a video about the experience that I want to share.  Colin & Lydia also have videos in the works, so look for them in a future post.

If you have the chance, check out the new Volvos.  They are awesome cars!

*Note:  If you're a regular reader here, you know about Nate's stutter.  If you've come here from a search for Volvo, you may wonder about his stutter.  If you check the links to the right, you can see posts that talk more about his stutter and how he feels about it.  He loves the opportunity to talk and share his thoughts, and the fact that he sometimes struggles to speak never keeps him from talking.  We welcome comments, except those that are rude or cruel.*

*Disclosure: I received no compensation for this post.  All opinions and text are my own.*

Nutrition Possible (Giveaway!!)

March is Nutrition Month and I recently received an email with information about a website powered by Centrum called  It's important to me to make healthy choices, but sometimes I'm bewildered by the different choices in vitamins and supplements.

I checked out the site and created a free account to take a nutritional assessment.  (You don't have to sign up, but creating an account allows you to save your assessment information.) I answered a series of questions about how many vegetables and fruits I eat, how much sleep I got, and what my health concerns were.  The assessment took 5 - 7 minutes and when it was finished, I received a list of suggestions and supplements I may want to try.

One thing that I really liked was that I was able to choose a store, and then have my list emailed to me.  The email included coupons for supplements that I could use right away.

The site has tons of health information as well -- like information about different supplements, health articles, and an area to search nutrition questions.  The site is bright, colorful and full of information.

Centrum and NutritionPossible want to help you find a healthy balance in your life, and have offered to sponsor a giveaway and give one of my readers 2 supplements of their choice from the Centrum line, as well as a few other goodies (a lunch bag, water bottle and pen).

To enter this giveaway, visit the website and take the nutritional assessment.  Once you learn your top 2 suggested supplements (or choose 2 that you would like to try), come back here and click THIS LINK  to fill out my giveaway form.

The information you will need to enter the giveaway is your name, your email, and these 2 bits of information:

Name of Giveaway: Nutrition Possible

Mandatory Question: What are 2 supplements that were suggested to you after your personal assessment?  (If you are chosen as the winner, these are the supplements you will receive.)

Giveaway will end March 31, 2012. Good luck!!

**Disclosure: I received 2 bottles of supplements, lunch bag, water bottle and pen to help facilitate this review.  The giveaway items are provided by Centrum and Nutrition Possible, but I am running this giveaway according to my giveaway rules.  No additional compensation was provided. All opinions and text are my own.*

Wordless Wednesday -- Memories

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

MasterLock & Random Acts of Kindness & Giveaway!

Last month, MasterLock participated in the Random Acts of Kindness week by handing out locks at various fitness centers around the country.  What a fun way to encourage people to continue their fitness goals!

They kindly sent our family a Master Lock 1534D Password Plus Combo Lock to try out for ourselves.  With this lock, you don't have to remember a number!  You can set it for any 5 character word as the combination.

The lock is very sturdy.  At first, we thought Bo would take it to the gym with him, but then we realized we needed a new lock on our back gate.   We easily set the combination to 5 characters that we will remember -- but won't be easy for others to guess.  (I'll give you a hint -- we chose the first letter of each word in a 5 word phrase that means something to us, but wouldn't be known outside our family.)

The combination is easy to set, and easy to change.  In fact, the boys come to me regularly with new words to re-set the lock.  We've decided to leave it as it is, however, so I don't have to try and remember a new combination every week!

The lock is the high quality I expect from MasterLock, and I'm happy knowing our gate is secure!

We're past the official Random Acts of Kindness week, but MasterLock wants to send a lock to one of my readers!

To enter the giveaway, do NOT leave a comment below.  (But feel free to leave a comment about anything else!  Just not to enter the giveaway.) Click THIS LINK and fill out the simple form.    The information you will need to enter the giveaway is your name, your email, and these 2 bits of information:

Name of Giveaway:  MasterLock
Mandatory Question: Share a random act of kindness you've performed recently.

Giveaway will end March 25, 2012. Good luck!!

**Disclosure:  I received a lock from MasterLock, and another was provided for the giveaway.  No additional compensation was provided.  All opinions and text are my own.*

Pillsbury Bake-Off ($25 GC Giveaway!)

When I'm standing in the check-out line, I invariably check out the specialty Pillsbury cookbooks.  There are always fun recipes, and great photographs to go along with the recipes.  I also like that each booklet has a theme.

Every year, I watch for the Bake-Off Winners.  Their website means that I can check out the recipes, pictures and stories behind the recipes while I'm lounging at home.

In 6 short days, the winners of this year's contest will be announced!  I have had fun looking at the final 100 entries, and adding different recipes to our menu plan for the coming weeks.  (I think we have a week coming up where Bo & I will both be home for more than 1 day at the same time!)

There are so many great recipes to choose from, but I narrowed it down to a few favorites to try soon.  They make it easier by breaking the recipes out into categories -- like breakfast, dinner, sweets.  One of the recipes I want to try is the French Dip Roll that uses french bread dough and deli roast beef.    I also want to make the Chocolate, Ginger Cream and Pear Tart for a special Sunday dessert.

All the necessary ingredients can be found at Wal-Mart, and if you visit their Every Day Saver site, you can check out the current specials before you reach the store.  To help you create some new recipes inspired by the Pillsbury Bake-Off, Wal-Mart has generously offered to give one of my readers a $25 gift certificate.  I also received a gift card to buy ingredients!

To enter the giveaway, do NOT leave a comment below.  (But feel free to leave a comment about anything else!  Just not to enter the giveaway.) Click THIS LINK and fill out the simple form.    The information you will need to enter the giveaway is your name, your email, and these 2 bits of information:

Name of Giveaway:  Pillsbury Bake-Off
Mandatory Question: Share a recipe from the Pillsbury site that you want to try.

Giveaway will end March 25, 2012. Good luck!!

If you want to know my giveaway rules, check out the link on the right sidebar.

**Disclosure:  The gift card, information, and giveaway have been provided by Walmart and General Mills, through MyBlogSpark.**

Monday, March 19, 2012

Disney on Ice in Phoenix in April (DISCOUNT CODE)

You know how much we love Disney on Ice!  I'm so excited that we will be seeing Disney On Ice celebrates 100 Years of Magic next month at the US Ariways Center in Phoenix from April 12 - 15.

More than 65 of Disney's captivating characters and their unforgettable stories come to life in this commemorative celebration, produced by Feld Entertainment.  In this lavish ice show, everyone's favorite sweethearts, Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, take audiences on a fun-filled adventure, sharing memories with Disney friends including Goofy, Donald Duck, the beloved Disney Princesses, Buzz Lightyear, Woody, Jiminy Cricket, Pinocchio, Mulan, Timon, Pumbaa, Stitch, Nemo, the Incredibles and many more!  To get a glimpse of the fun, visit and click on the 100 Years of Magic video clip.

If you're in the Phoenix area, I have a special discount code for you!  You can purchase 4 tickets for only $44 by using the code NALA at

The code is good for Friday, April 13th at the 10:30am and 7:30pm shows, Saturday, April 14th  at the 7:30pm show, and Sunday, April 15th at the 1:30pm and 5:30pm shows. (excluding Front Row and VIP seating). A minimum of 4 tickets is required; additional tickets can be purchased at $11 each. No double discounts. Service charges, handling and facility fees may apply.

I hope to see you there!!

*Disclosure: I am a Feld Family Ambassador, and in exchange for my time and efforts in attending shows and reporting my opinion within this blog, as well as keeping you advised of the latest discount offers, Feld Entertainment has provided me with complimentary tickets to Feld shows and opportunities to attend private Feld pre-Show events. Even though I receive these benefits, I always give an opinion that is 100% mine.*

Monday, March 12, 2012

Another Rite of Passage - Riding on 2 Wheels

I think she's the youngest in the family to learn to ride without training wheels, but I can't find the dates the boys learned!  It feels like they were 5, though, and she won't be 5 until the end of April.

Bo had a clue when she mastered balance on the scooter a couple weeks ago.  Yesterday, she insisted on climbing on her brother's bike and took off!

On her 4th birthday, she received this princess bike, with training wheels.  She has had only one training wheel for a couple months now, but after she hopped on her brother's bike, Bo took that training wheel off her bike.

She zipped around like a pro and her Dad found her a larger bike on Craigslist that they picked up last night.

It happened with almost no help from anyone -- but she had lots of motivation to keep up with her big brothers.  That's my independent, motivated girl!

Friday, March 09, 2012

Vegas Getaway

A few weeks ago, my sister and I decided to go away for a few days. A couple years ago we spent a weekend in Vegas and visited the Titanic exhibit (awesome and still at the Luxor) and the Liberace museum (closed, which is a shame). This year, I found great fares through Spirit Airlines and an awesome deal at the Excalibur.

In about 48 hours, we:

  • Ate at Lynrd Skynrd's Bar.  If you like whiskey, order the julep.  It's a glass full of Maker's Mark, with a few mint leaves.  
  • Had a manicure / pedicure
  • Played slots
  • Ate at Hubert Keller's Fleur  (I watched him on Top Chef Masters and liked him very much!  I had the lobster macaroni & cheese.  It was good, but could have been more cheesy.)
  • Visited the Mob Museum (highlight of the trip.  If you're in Vegas, visit this museum!)
  • Visited the CSI Exhibit at the MGM Grand (lots of fun!)
  • Gave our opinions on a potential new TV show 
  • Shopped
  • Laughed hilariously watching Grease on AMC
  • Got my haircut at Paul Mitchell
  • Ate at Hubert Keller's Burger Bar (enjoyed a Surf & Turf burger -- a burger with asparagus and lobster on a bun.  Yummy, but the lobster was a bit tough.)
  • Enjoyed a water massage
  • Enjoyed oxygen at an oxygen bar
  • Walked a ton

The only downside to a trip to Vegas is all the cigarette smoke.  You can't visit anyplace without walking through a casino, and being saturated in smoke.

But, aside from that, it was a super-fun and relaxing couple of days.  I'm so lucky that my sister and I get along as well as we do!

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Wordless Wednesday -- Sisters

The Snow Ball Digital Book Review

As a family, we are immersed in technology.   I love my iPhone, iPod, Kindle, iPad (and of course my laptop & desktop computers.)  That love is shared by all of my children.  I download more apps for them than myself, and I'm always on the lookout for fun and/or educational apps.

We recently downloaded an interactive book -- The Snow Ball, by David Steinberg and illustrated by Liz Conrad.  It's about polar bears playing in the snow, and is delightful!  Children can choose to read the book independently, or have the book read to them.  On each page, there are interactive features in the illustration that kids can touch and watch what happens.

Lydia really enjoyed the book, and has watched it multiple times on our iPad and her iPod.  She giggles at the polar bears throwing snowballs every time!

Here's a brief video of her playing with the interactive story book, The Snow Ball:

I was wondering how David Steinberg felt about this new media, and this is what he shared:

Interactive e-books will never take away from the joy of holding and reading a good old-fashioned book," said Steinberg, "but they add a whole new dimension into discovering and experiencing books.
The idea of an e-book app like 'The Snow Ball' is to give kids the chance to immerse themselves in the world of the book,  taking the time to discover all the surprises tucked away on each page.  From an educational standpoint, what an amazing way for emerging readers to navigate their own learning.  Kids can choose whether to follow along with the word highlights as the narrator reads to them, or use the read-myself mode to try it all by themselves. 
As an author, I have to say that I love having these new tools in my storytelling kit.  I'll never stop loving books, but I admit that I've grown a little crush on my iPad these days, too.

Along with the Snowball book, (retails for $1.99 in both iTunes and Android app stores) there is a fun, free Penguin game that has the kids sliding penguins around on the ice.  I synced the game to my boys' iPods, and they both noticed it and played with it.  They thought it was cute, but definitely aimed to the preschool market.

If you want to check out the book, here are the links to find it on iTunes and and the Android store.

Check out the free game at iTunes and the Android store.

Learn more about David Steinberg at his website.

*Disclosure:  I received an advance copy of the interactive book and the game, in exchange for my honest review.  No additional compensation or consideration was provided.*

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Bulleted Life

  • I love technology and I especially love that my boys have cell phones and text me regularly.   How could I not with conversations like that one?
  • I think about things to post all the time, but I need to get better about actually posting them.  I added the Blogger app to my iPhone, so I'm hoping to post more "life" posts.  I miss those posts!
  • In the last couple months, I passed a bunch of Office certification exams (OneNote, Excel, Word, Access, Outlook) as well as a Quickbooks certification exam.  
  • I took the plunge and submitted an application to be a "Microsoft Certified Trainer."  My official email arrived last week.  After 13 years of teaching Microsoft applications, I'm officially certified.  Make whatever jokes come to mind :)
  • Now that I've done that, I'm starting to look beyond apps training (meaning the Office applications) and looking at technical training.  When I first started training 13 years ago, that was the intent -- but I got sidetracked.  It's never too late to move that track, however.
  • I'm also looking at a certificate in e-learning development.  I think that e-learning will continue to grow and I want to be part of that.  As much as I love standing in front of a class of students, I see class sizes dwindling.
  • Bo has been traveling.  A LOT.  I have not.
  • Tomorrow I am heading off with my sister for a few days.  I am looking forward to this trip immensely.
  • The kids are all great. 
  • This school year has been tough on the boys, and my heart hurts that it has sucked the way it has.  Because I respect their privacy, I won't share much here unless I get their permission.  I'm glad that Spring Break is next week and their fourth quarter begins after that.
  • Lydia is excited about kindergarten at "the brothers'" school, but Bo & I cringe at the thought of sending our precious baby there.  Homeschooling the boys for K was so much fun, but life is different these days.  I'm still considering our options, and ignored the enrollment week in January.
  • Having my parents live next door is awesome in so many ways.  (hi, Mom!)
  • Oh, and that text conversation above didn't happen at 11:44PM.  That was when I snapped the picture to share with Bo (who was traveling.)  My kids are long in bed by then.

Crayola & Creativity

I'm excited about the "Inside the Crayon Box" live chats sponsored by Crayola.  The first one is tomorrow night (March 7) at 9PM EST on their Facebook page.  The host for this first chat is Lisa Loeb, who has a great children's book (Lisa Loeb's Silly Sing-Along: The Disappointing Pancake and Other Zany Songs) and is dedicated to helping kids embrace their creativity.

I really believe in letting kids be kids as much as possible -- and I love this endeavor sponsored by Crayola.  To get a feel of what they're promoting, check out this video:

 If you can't attend the live chat, it will be recorded and presented on their YouTube channel. I am looking forward to playing along!

 *Disclosure: The information was shared with me through MyBlogSpark for Crayola. No product samples or compensation was provided.*

Gevalia Coffee Giveaway!

As a kid, I can remember my parents receiving Gevalia Coffee in the mail.  They loved receiving their boxes of coffee, and it was the only kind they drank for a long time.   When I mentioned the coffee to my mom, she said "OH!  I think I still have their cookbook!"  Sure enough, she did!

Gevalia coffee is now available at your favorite retailer, as well as via mail order subscription! I have seen it at Target recently, as well as Safeway.  Their full collection of coffees is available online, but you will find some of the favorites at local stores.  Look for the distinctive, bright yellow bags

My mom was excited to try out their coffee, as it has been quite a few years since they ordered it. She  did a wonderful video review for me!  (Followed up by a hilarious one.  You really need to watch both!)

Thanks to Gevalia and MyBlogSpark, I have 2 bags of wonderful coffee to give away, as well as a nice ceramic mug. 

** Winner has been chosen & notified!  Thanks for reading! **

MANDATORY QUESTION: How many cups of coffee do you drink in a day?

Giveaway will end March 12, 2012.   To enter the giveaway, do NOT leave a comment below.  (But feel free to leave a comment about anything else!  Just not to enter the giveaway.) Click THIS LINK and fill out the simple form.  If you want to know my giveaway rules, check out the link on the right sidebar.

**Disclosure: Kraft Foods through MyBlogSpark has provided sample product to me and is providing the prizes for this program at no cost to me. This program is not administered or sponsored by Kraft Foods or its affiliates, but solely by My Little Patch of Sunshine.**

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