"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both." ~ Benjamin Franklin

Gimme The Boot

>> Wednesday, October 31, 2007

You’re going to be hearing about it a lot, I’m afraid. Yes, I’m going to mention the I-word.

There is a saying in the British Isles: If you wait for the weather to be favorable you'll spend your life waiting. So we trek out in all weather, "layered and prepared".

We do a lot of walking in Ireland. Most ruins are in the middle of fields full of poo or half a mile back from the road and reachable only on foot. And castle steps- don’t even think of walking on centuries old stone steps without a rubber sole. You’re just asking for trouble.

So I buy really good hiking boots every two years- about two months before we leave so I can get them broken in and comfy. Because you don't want to break in boots on vacation. Ouch.

MetBoots.com has boots for all your needs: work, casual, hiking... Even those super-waterproof-keep-your-feet-toasty hunting boots that all the guys will be wearing around these parts come next weekend. And free shipping on orders over $100.

Boots would be a good Christmas gift... I could just pick them out and leave Doug a little hint- like an email... He would probably play it safe and get me a gift card...

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So, That's What They Advertise in The Back of Popular Science

So... I was bored the other day... I'm not sure why I was bored, or where the girls were that allowed me to be bored. It may have been a weekend morning with Caelan napping and Brenna cuddling with Doug for some TV time.

So I grabbed the nearest thing- Doug's Popular Science magazine- and started to read.

There are lots of interesting things in PopSci. Of course I can't remember any of it. What I do remember is a website they featured in their "you don't have to be a nerd to enjoy this" section. (OK, that's not what they call it, but if you've read PopSci you know what section I am talking about)

So this website WeirdConverter.com... You can compare weight, length/height and volume of, well, weird things.

For instance: it would take 5.515565 Tom Cruises to equal the weight of one Right Whale testical. (Now, that's assuming Tom Cruise weighs 200 lbs, which, I gotta say, seems heavy to me. But still fun).

Or that it would take 177599539103200 kegs of beer to fill the Grand Canyon.

*******************************************************

I had paged through the PopSci and for some unknown reason I was browsing the ads in the back. It seems that there are ads for all kinds of "science projects" in the back- if you know what I mean. I found:

  • 1 ad for a pheromone additive for cologne
  • 7 ads for male enhancement and enlargement
  • 1 "Better Sex For A Lifetime" video
  • 1 ad for "Liquid Trust" (a liquid oxytocin) to fuel intimacy

Hmmm, and I thought it would just be kit cars and rocket kits.

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54 Shopping Days Til Christmas

I’ve been working on my gift giving budget and perusing options for those names on my list. My family draws names so there’s 4, plus parents (another 6), grandparents (5 more). And I can’t forget my loves (3 more people with multiple gifts).

That adds up to 25 or so gifts, average of $50 each. Ouch.

So I look for savings everywhere. I found some smart bargains coupons for places I actually shop.

I send my paternal grandmother flowers from ProFlowers.com for Christmas every year. She is always pleased with the arrangements and they last for weeks- usually through the new year.

I’m a big fan of photobooks. I’ve used quite a few companies and really have to say that Shutterfly has some of the best quality. I also use Shutterfly for photo printing and Christmas cards. They always “reward” my purchases with free prints to keep me coming back.

And Target is probably my favorite every-day store. I buy everything there. Health and beauty aids, food, clothes for the girls, and gifts. Lots of gifts. Books, CDs, DVDs, toys… I can get just about anything there. And if I can't get it at the store I can usually find it online. And if it's not right returns or exchanges can be done at the store.

What are your gift giving go-tos? And what do you give the person who has everything? I'm desperate for suggestions for our grandparents.

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Happy Halloween



Say CANDY!

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London First- Then On To Ireland

My bi-annual holiday is fast approaching. Our plans initially were to go to Ireland in March but Doug’s contract at “the Farg” ends in February so I thought a bit of a break then would be good.

Of course it all depends on the deals. So I have been scouring the web to check out deals.

During the search I came across a new-to-me site: HolidayHyperMarket. Full of last minute deals, build-your-own options, cheap flights and all inclusive sun holidays

The only downside (if you can call it that) is that all flights leave from the UK. Gee, if I can find a killer deal I think I can probably suffer through a couple days in London.

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Crayola Customer Service

>> Tuesday, October 30, 2007

For Caelan's first birthday I bought her the Beginnings Crayon Buddies. I really liked their design and the fact that Caelan wouldn't be able to chew on the crayon. Because all that colored wax is so tasty...

Unfortunately she pulled the crayon out of the little "egg" immediately. We replaced it, but it wouldn't lock in place. So now I had a 1 1/2 inch crayon. Neat.

Last week, after weeks of meaning to handle it, I dropped an email to Crayola.

They called me back. Can you believe it? They called me. I spoke with a very lovely woman who asked all kinds of questions and tried to help me "fix" the problem. When I told her that we had tried all the "tricks" to get the crayon to stay in and it just wouldn't she said that she was very sorry and that she would send me a couple of coupons.

Well, I got the package in the mail yesterday. Yes, the package. Not an envelope, but a package. In it were two coupons totaling $14 for any Crayola product, an activity booklet and a big "Happy Birthday" banner that can be colored (I had mentioned that the crayons were a birthday gift).

Crayola, you have a dedicated customer. In my opinion you went above and beyond to fix my problem and make sure I was happy. The simple fact that you called instead of just returning my email was a pleasant surprise and the "extras" you included with the coupons sealed the deal.

Your customer service was awesome.

So, everyone, I highly recommend Crayola® brand. They have actually earned my business.

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Giving Gifts

Both of my husband's grandmothers have birthdays in November. And both are having big celebrations this year to mark their milestones with friends and family. So this begs the big question: What will we get for two women who don't need anything?

I take a lot of pictures of the girls and have often had them made into books for family, which is really nice. And,of course, there are all kinds of other items that you can put photos on.

But did you know that you can have a Photo Blanket created? Or that you can have those precious photos transformed into photo pillows or photo pillowcases? (shown below)


Fotobed.com will take your photo and create a photo pillow, duvet cover, blanket... Even a shower curtain! All items are machine washable and won't shrink or fade. You can even add text to "document" the photo or occasion.

The site is so easy to use- choose a product, add your image, add text if you want, and order! Go ahead and order a duplicate- it's half price!

I think I may be able to knock out a couple of Christmas gifts with this, too.

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Contest At Jill's

Jill has a contest called Jill's Book Bag. It's just what it sounds like: she gives away a book (this month it's The Grapes of Wrath) and a bag.

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment. But hurry- she draws tomorrow!

And, if you haven't entered yet, I draw tomorrow for the great wallet/clutch/mini purse I'm giving away. The link is at the top of the page.

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Light 'Em Up

>> Monday, October 29, 2007

I love the scene in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation when Chevy Chase turns on all his Christmas lights... And then everything goes black. It's a classic.

And it makes me think about all those "super displays" you see. You know the ones... Traffic is usually backed up and crawling past... The lights have choreographed music... The neighbors get sick of it after the first night...

How much must the electric bill be? Yikes. I don't like Christmas that much.

So, for all of you Christmas-light-people, I have something you may be interested in: LED mini lights.

They use one-tenth the energy of a normal mini light and will last 25 times longer. They are made of epoxy plastic and contain no filament or glass.

Hmmm, less expensive to use, lasts longer, durable.

I've got one thing to say: Light 'Em Up!

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The Scream

Caelan was busily working on her walking skills and I thought I would document those steps. Caelan, however, didn't feel like performing that skill. Instead she gave this lovely performance.



Ah, kids...

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Gnashing My Teeth

Well, crud. I just got a message from my dentist’s office. It seems it is time for Doug and I to venture down to south-west Iowa and have our teeth checked.

I dread this for a couple of reasons. The first is, of course, that this is the dentist. {{shudder}} Having my teeth cleaned gives me the willies. I cannot for the life of me figure out why anyone would want to poke around people’s mouths for a living. Gack! Can you imagine the horrible dental hygiene dentists and their assistants must see daily? Or the halitosis?

The second reason is the cost. Dental visits aren’t cheap. Which is why we drive an hour and a half south of our home to visit the dentist. He is half the cost of a dentist where we live. Half the cost.

Because Doug is a consultant we pay for our own health coverage. Which is a pretty big chunk of change every month. To add dental coverage on to that, through my health insurance company, makes no sense. It is actually a losing proposition.

Well, it was. Now I’m not so sure. Doug and I have both had all of our wisdom teeth removed. I had braces. I am relatively sure that at least one of our lovely daughters will be requiring some sort of expensive dental work in the future.

As I am sure you know by now, I am a planner. So in my wanderings around the world wide web I did a bit of searching for discount dental plans.

I found this great site that helps you find and compare dental plans in your area and find a dentist who works with your plan.

There is tons of info available- like my big question: What is the difference between a dental plan and dental insurance?

Some of the characteristics of Dental Insurance include:

Limitations,
deductibles and annual maximums
Waiting periods for major dental procedures
Tedious and time-consuming written claims process
Limitations/exclusions
on pre-existing conditions
Certain dental specialties, such as cosmetic
dentistry, are
rarely covered
Consumers pay expensive monthly premiums
for defined coverage
Typically inaccessible to individuals and families
unless provided by their employer
Some of the characteristics of Discount


Dental Plans include:

No annual limits, members enjoy discounts on most
dental services all year long
Most plans activate within 1 - 3 business days
No tiresome paperwork hassles, plan membership card is presented for
discounts on most dental services
No health restrictions
Select plans
include discounts on dental specialties, including cosmetic dentistry and
orthodontics
Consumers pay affordable membership fees for access to a
network of providers offering discounts on most dental procedures
Available
directly to individuals, families, businesses and groups
In short, discount
dental plans are an affordable and easy-to-use alternative to dental insurance,
and offer plan members significant savings on most dental procedures.



Hmmm, discount dental plans, finally something I can sink my teeth into. (Sorry, I couldn't resist the pun!)

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It Took A Frenchman to Say It...

Apparently it is big news that the President of France walked out of an interview with 60 Minutes.

I can't say that I blame him. If I am president of a country with as much going on as France and some journalist only wants to talk about my spouse - after it was requested that topic not be discussed - I would leave, too.

Sarkozy called the interview "stupid" and a "big mistake".

I happen to think that much of what our media deems important is just that, sir.

And, if I may add, just not relevant to my life.

That must be why I don't watch "news" shows...

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Are You Adaptable?

Of course you are. It comes with being a mom. You adapt to sleep schedules (or non-sleep schedules), eating schedules, bathroom schedules... Your entire day revolves around your child.

Does your stroller?

When I first saw the Mutsy I wasn't sure what I thought about it. I was intrigued, though, and loved the colors (pink, blues, green, red, orange... Nine colors!)

But then I saw how adaptable this stroller is! It has interchangeable seats and wheels. Your stroller begins with a bassinet (which can be taken off and used for a nap!) and a completely separate adjustable/ reversible seat. I can't tell you how often I have wished that I could turn Caelan to look at me. As your child gets older you can purchase the "fun seat" with it's own "steering wheel".

When it comes to travel no stroller I've used is more adaptable than this. It not only folds flat but you can remove the wheels. One of their strollers even comes with two sets of wheels- one for streets and one for "off road".

If that isn't enough to have you give this a look, there is even an accessory called the "babysitter". It will hold any stroller seat and instantly transform it into a rocker.

Talk about a functional product! I'm in love! The strollers are available at fine baby retailers across the country. Or, if you don't have a fine retailer near you there are lots of online options.





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Have You Missed Anything?

>> Sunday, October 28, 2007

There's been a lot going on this week... Have you missed anything?

Just below is the greatest chocolate cake recipe I have ever made.

Then there is the post about just how busy the rest of my year is. Whew! It makes me want to throw in the towel before it even begins!

Brenna turned 3 on Friday. BTW- did you see the new "Baby Geeks" photo at the left?

And I came up with the perfect diet plan. Hey, if it works for carbon...

And, not to be overlooked, Doug & I celebrated our 4th anniversary on Wednesday.

And I added some really great info to my travel blog.

And don't forget to throw your comment in the ring for October Scrap Bribing. It's a great prize. And the contest ends on Tuesday.

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What's Dinner Without Dessert?

If you've been around my blog for any time at all you know a couple of things:
1) I really enjoy baking
2) I usually do all the cakes for family birthdays

It's not that my cakes are better than anyone else's. I just have the time and I really do enjoy trying new recipes.

Next weekend is a combined celebration for my birthday and my BIL's birthday. When he was here for Brenna's birthday yesterday I asked what kind of cake he would like.

Thinking back to the beginning of the year he asked for the Chocolate Pound Cake with Italian Meringue Buttercream that I made in April.

The last time I made one of these I had to use a regular hand-held mixer. And it SUCKED! Oh, it worked, but I really needed an extra set of hands. A Hamilton Beach® Mixer would have come in soooo handy. Instead I had to use Doug. Which was almost as difficult as doing it myself.
Don't get me wrong, it was worth it...




This cake is SO GOOD! It's rich and fudgey and the buttercreme melts in your mouth. Chocolate bliss!

Chocolate Pound Cake
Makes 1 Bundt cake; total time 1 1/2 hours

Cream together:
3 cups extra fine granulate sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

Add One At A Time:
4 eggs
3 egg yolks

Whisk together:
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 c. Dutch process cocoa powder
2T turbinado sugar
1t potato starch (I used corn starch & it worked just fine)
3/4 t table salt
1/4 t baking soda

Combine; add to butter with dry ingredients:
3/4 c whole milk (I used 2%)
1/2 c sour cream
2T brandy, optional (I didn't use it)
1 t vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in center

Cream the sugar and butter together in a stand mixer with paddle attachment on low for 5 minutes.


Add eggs and yolks one at a time, letting each fully incorporate before adding the next

Whisk dry ingredients together in a bowl

Combine the wet ingredients. With mixer still on low alternately add the dry and wet ingredients to butter mixture, beginning and ending with the dry. Scrape the sides of the bowl to the bottom, then mix on medium speed for 20 seconds to develop the batter's structure. (It's gonna be thick.)

Coat the pan with non-stick flour spray, fill to 3/4 full and bake 55-60 minutes or until a skewer comes out nearly clean. Cool in pan for 5 minutes then invert onto a flat surface and cool to room temperature.

Can be wrapped in plastic and stored at room temperature for one day or frozen for a month.

Italian Meringue Buttercream

Boil:
1 c extra fine granulated sugar
1/4 c water

Whip; Add:
5 egg whites
1/4 c extra fine sugar

Slowly pour syrup into meringue; Beat in:
4 sticks unsalted butter, cut to tablespoon pieces, at room temperature

Mix in:
1/2 c melted and cooled semi-sweet chocolate and 1 t vanilla

Boil sugar and water over medium heat until it reaches 245 degrees (I don't have a candy thermometer so I just watched it very closely and when it started to boil I took it off the burner). As it cooks begin meringue so it will be ready)

Whip whites with a wire whisk in a stand mixer on high until they reach stiff peaks, 1-2 minutes. Sprinkle in 1/4 c sugar; beat to incorporate.

Slowly pour hot sugar mixture into meringue in a steady stream with mixer on high. Pour between bowl and whisk.

Continue to beat the frosting for 10-12 minutes until the outside of the bowl has reached room temperature and the frosting is thick and glossy white.

Beat in butter by tablespoons; should take 2 minutes. Don't worry if the butter is cooler than the batter and causes separation, just continue to beat and it will come together.

Mix in 1/2 c melted chocolate (I used the dipping chocolate that you can find in the store now. Melts easy and doesn't harden as it cools)

To Build:

Split the cake in half horizontally with a long serrated knife using a gentle sawing motion. Cut into the center and continue around the cake. Swirl frosting beyond the edges so it spills out, set top layer and swirl with more frosting.

Chocolate Curls:

Use a solid milk chocolate bar. Using a vegetable peeler, run it down a narrow edge from about mid-bar. Use a toothpick or skewer to pick up curls and place on cake. They are fragile and will melt in your hand.

After looking at that recipe can you blame me for wanting a Hamilton Beach® Stand Mixer? In the instructions it says to use a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. And with so many steps going on all at once it is so easy to start the mixer and work on another part of the recipe. The mixer is all metal so it won't vibrate itself off the counter, it's got the tilt up head to easily add ingredients and a pouring shield to keep the flour from going "poof" all over. And it's powerful enough to not get bogged down by the thickness of this recipe.

And, being a fashionable wanna-be chef, you gotta know I am absolutely in love with the Eclectrics® Mixer in "apple". Although I could be forced to "make due" with the "sterling"- since it matches the kitchen. For now.






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So Busy

Wow. How is it Sunday? What happened to my weekend?

OK, I know my weekend was eaten alive by preparations for Brenna's birthday party, Brenna's birthday party itself and an evening spent with friends from out of state.

Then up early today to help with childcare during the early church service and then actually getting into a church service (kind of. Caelan had a meltdown in the nursery so I spent half of the service with her) until noon.

Now it's 3pm and I have no idea how to get to all those things on my schedule- let alone the holiday "to do" list that is looming.

I see lots of caffeine in my future.

During yesterday's party Doug's paternal grandmother told us about her upcoming birthday party. And, upon hearing the date, I knew my November calendar was filled.

First weekend:
Friday- Drive 1 1/2 hours north west for Doug's aunt's surprise party
Saturday- Celebrate my BIL and my birthdays. And my brother's civil wedding. Shhh... They are going to have a big ceremony next year but they just want to "make it legal" before the baby is born.
Second weekend:
Friday, Saturday & Sunday- Doug has a big project that "comes to a head". He has told me to not expect to see him.
Third weekend:
Friday/Saturday- Doug's family in from Texas to celebrate
Sunday- Doug's maternal grandmother's birthday. It's an all-day thing.
Fourth Weekend:
Friday- I am scrapping. I will need to escape by then, I'm sure.
Saturday- Doug's paternal grandmother's birthday party. This may involve more family from Texas visiting. I'm not sure, yet.

Which trickles into December with a baby shower for my SIL and a trip to the Amana's the first weekend, a family Christmas the second weekend, my nephew and mother's birthday the thrid weekend...

And I didn't even include holidays...

I'm tired just thinking about it. I think I need another PepsiOne.

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What Would You Change?

There is just one problem with moving into a pre-owned home. That problem is that other people just don’t have good taste. OK, maybe their taste is just fine, but it certainly isn’t your taste.

That is the problem we encountered when we moved into our “new” home two years ago. While there are rooms that I absolutely love (like the great room with it’s sponge painted walls and 16 foot ceilings or the family room with it’s wet bar and tiled floor) there are rooms that I absolutely abhor.

Top on that list is our half-bath. It’s only redeemable quality is that it is next to the kitchen. I honestly question the sanity of the ”designer”. The dark wallpaper thinks it is wainscoting while the top portion of the wall is hand painted wallpaper. That doesn’t really match. The cabinet is so dark. And the faucet! The golden faucet makes me cringe every time I see it. Oh, and the toilet paper holder is the same “rich” color. It’s lovely.

Don't believe me? Look:






I am a firm believer that one piece can change the entire look of a room. And, for this room, I believe a new faucet would do the trick (until I can get that hideous wallpaper out of there!).

Fortunately for me, Faucet.com has a great selection of Moen faucets for me to choose from.

At Faucets.com your satisfaction is guaranteed and they also guarantee their prices. Shipping is fast and free on orders of $99 or more.

Give yourself a little gift before all those holiday guests. Doug doesn't know it yet, but I am.



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Three Is My Favorite Number

>> Friday, October 26, 2007

I can't quite believe it, but three years ago today Doug and I became parents. So, in tribute to my beautiful Brenna, here are groups of three:

Three photos:
Looking much older than three:
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
A classic beauty:
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Birthday gift:

Yes, my three-year-old now has her own computer. Now she can "work" with me while Caelan naps.

Three things you do that make me laugh:
The way you say "five-teen" when you count to twenty.
The way you collapse like a fainting goat when you are surprised.
Your utter joy at "helping" clean.

Three things you do that melt my heart:
When you say "I want to hold you"
When you come downstairs in the middle of the night to cuddle
Seeing you sleeping in your bed so peacefully

My three wishes for you:
A life filled with love
A childhood filled with laughter
A heart filled with joy

Daddy and I love you, Brenna Clare. To grandma's house and back...

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Where Is It?

>> Thursday, October 25, 2007

I'm embarassed to admit this, but all our summer stuff has invaded the garage. With no rhyme or reason it has all plopped down wherever it could find a spot.

The red cooler seems to have parked itself in the Jeep. The bicycle trailers are currently hosting various inflatables. And the garden hoses are slowly creeping over, around and across everything. Soon they will take over and I will have a rubber jungle.

Don't believe me? Look!




I'm thinking some garage cabinets may be necessary. Soon.

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Goin' Somewhere?

See that link to the left? The one of me and Brenna at O'Brien's Tower at the Cliffs of Moher? The one that says "My Little Travel Blog"?

Well, click it. I've added a couple of new posts that may come in handy if you're heading off somewhere for the holidays. Or to escape the holidays. (Hey, I'm not judging. If I could escape the holidays I would.)

I've got packing tips and Fine Living's Top 20 Travel Tips.

And if you, like me, aren't going anywhere why don't you just browse my past travels and dream.

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Calorie Offsets

>> Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Some of you may know that I "evaluate" retail businesses in my free time. (HAHA! Free time! Get it?) Anyway, tonight I had to "evaluate" a fast food joint. I had to order saddle bags with a side of muffin top. Oh, and don't forget the drink.

With these assignments come conditions. This "evaluation" required me to go alone- after 8pm. So not only am I required to ingest non-digestible fats but I have to eat after 8pm. So the food can just sit, heavily, in my stomach. All night.

And that's when it came to me: Calorie Offsets! It's brilliant! Here's how it works:

  • You eat food you know is bad for you.

  • You then force the rest of your family to eat healthy stuff (I figure a 3-to-1 ratio is best as it takes a lot of fiber to flush out all that grease) Here are my loveys eating fabulously fresh, fit food at Subway:


  • Voilá! You have offset your calories.

  • No guilt. No shame.


With Calorie Offsets you can continue polluting your body while insuring the health of those around you.

No need to thank me. Just send money. I'll put it toward apples and yogurt.

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Once Upon A Time

There was a teenage girl. She was into rock music and the musicians that went with them. She had a friend- who had a friend. Who was a geek. She didn't date geeks.

Once upon a time there was a young woman. She lived an "alternative" lifestyle. The friend married her sister. His friend was the best man. The young woman was the Maid of Honor. He was still a geek. She didn't date geeks.

Once upon a time there was a woman who realized that she was selling herself short. Her friend had a party. His friend was there. He was still a geek. She decided a geek might not be a bad idea.

That was 5 years ago. The girl is now a wife. Of a geek. For four years.

Moral: Give geeks a chance.

Happy Anniversary,Doug! I love you!

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My Mailbox Is Full

It has officially begun. The time of year when my mailbox is stuffed. Everyday. With 4 birthdays, one anniversary and assorted holidays happening during the final months of the year I can be assured there is something in there besides the bills that recur on their clock-work schedule and the political mailings (which are coming in thicker as the caucus has been moved up).

Something else fills my mailbox this time of the year, too. Catalogs. Lots of gift catalogs. Toys, electronics, food... You name it, I've received a catalog for it. And I usually look through every one of them. And I will mark items, check them against other items, check prices, coupons, shipping savings... Because I want the best deal.

Quite often, though, the best deal falls on "Black Friday". Ugh. I hate "Black Friday". I don't care how much money I can save, I'm really not interested in waking up before the sun so I can go out in the cold and be one of 50 people vying for the "IT" item of the season. No thank you.

Luckily for me I have the inside tip on some of the best 2007 thanksgiving specials. Yep, Black Friday ads before you can see them in your Thanksgiving Day newspaper!

I will, of course, be checking out the Target deals. I have my eye on a kid's digital camera and a bouncing zebra. And then, with my trusty source leading the way, I will purchase what I want online at the same price as the store.

I will remain happily ensconced in my home, wrapped in fuzzy jammies, drinking tea and eating leftover pumpkin pie as I shop.

I just doesn't get any better than that.

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For Tonight's Entertainment

>> Monday, October 22, 2007

Brenna's birthday is Friday. We got her the Fisher Price Easy Link Internet Launchpad.

The reason for this gift is multi-tiered.

A) Doug is a computer geek.

B) Brenna has been playing with the keyboards since she was a baby.

C) Now she can actually use them.

D) This will keep her from clicking around the computer and locking it down.

E) Or something else that I can't fix.

F) It will give her direct access to a few other game sites.


Of course we have no place to set this little gem, so Brenna is also getting her own desk.


Which I will be assembling tonight.

With a little help from Mike.

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Get Back On Your Feet The Right Way

I think I have said before that money and I have a love-love relationship. I love to have it and I love to spend it.

But as I have become older and wiser I have also become more frugal and more selective about what I buy.

Of course it wasn't always that way. About two years before I met Doug I had a bit of financial trouble when an ex-boyfriend moved out of state. I'm not sure how, but he took some vital information with him. Soon I found out that I was the proud "owner" of two trucks and a hospital bill- in Montana.

Yep, that was a mess. And it blew my credit all to shreds.

Of course, as things begin to adjust back to normal you get all kinds of "offers" to help repair your bad credit. And it's difficult not to jump at them.

If you need help repairing bad credit I suggest a visit to BadCreditOffers.com. The best offers are listed for you along with information on repairing your credit and credit scores. It's all the information you need to get you back on your feet.

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October Scrap Bribing: What's In Your Wallet?

>> Saturday, October 20, 2007

Or more importantly- What IS Your Wallet?

This month's scrap bribing prize is the Vituri Wallet in blush. I have this same wallet in sage and love it.

It has lots of space for money, change, a checkbook, credit cards, membership cards, savings cards...

And a removeable strap so it can be a small purse


Of course, this is scrap bribing so there must be someplace to display photos:

There is a nice little sleeve for ease of changing the photos.

This is a brand-new still-in-the-plastic wallet. I got it as a "gift" for signing up for the 12 hour crop (and paying $50). The wallet retails for $25 at Archiver's.

How to win:
Leave me a comment.

If you want to double your chances place a post on your blog and link to this post. (Don't forget to let me know about it!)

Want more chances? Make sure that everyone who comes from your post tells me that they came from there. I will enter both of you for that comment.

Winner will be chosen by random drawing on Halloween Day.

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Fab Food Friday

>> Friday, October 19, 2007

I've been "on top" for one month this Saturday! Thanks to everyone for pushing my buttons! (Sorry, I couldn't resist!)

Speaking of not being able to resist, I have a great fall treat for you!

Layered Pumpkin Muffins



These were so yummy! The girls and Doug absolutely LOVED them. (Don't they look nice by Brenna's "gorgeous"?)

The recipe is from Kraft and was actually a layered pumpkin loaf. I decided to make muffins because they are single serving size. Keeps me from over-indulging. Well, in theory.

So, here's the recipe for the loaf:


1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar, divided
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
4 egg whites, divided
1/2 cup fat-free milk
1/4 cup canola oil
2 cups flour
2-1/2 tsp. CALUMET Baking Powder
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp. salt
1 pkg. (8 oz.) PHILADELPHIA Neufchatel Cheese, 1/3 Less Fat than Cream Cheese, softened



PREHEAT oven to 350ºF. Grease a nonstick 9x5-inch loaf pan; set aside. Mix pumpkin, 1 cup granulated sugar, the brown sugar, 3 of the egg whites, milk and oil in large bowl. Add flour, baking powder, pie spice and salt; stir just until moistened. Set aside. Beat Neufchatel cheese, remaining 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar and the remaining egg white with wire whisk until well blended.
SPOON half of the pumpkin batter into prepared pan; spoon Neufchatel cheese mixture evenly over the batter. Cover with remaining pumpkin batter.
BAKE 1 hour to 1 hour 5 min. or until wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Run knife or thin spatula around edges of pan to loosen bread; cool in pan on wire rack 10 min. Remove bread from pan to wire rack; cool completely.

For muffins: follow all directions. Fill muffin cups about 1/2 full, place a teaspoon of cream cheese filling in the center then fill to about 2/3 full. I had a lot of cream cheese mixture left over. Either try to cut the filling recipe down or double the recipe for the batter. A sprinkling of turbinado sugar on top will create a yummy muffin top (I have to remember to do that next time!)

Seriously yummy! A new fall treat for us!

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On My List of Places to See

Belgium is one of those places that can be easily overlooked when you think about European travel. And Flanders, in the northern part of the country, has six of the country's greatest cities.

Recently Globetrotter's LogBooks releasedGlobetrotter's LogBook® #6 - Flanders' Six Divine Cities. With 118 top sights, carefully selected by the Flemish Tourist Office you will see the bst of Antwerp, Bruges, Brussels, Ghent, Leuven and Mechelen. This pocket sized guide not only has your what-to-do covered, but it also had a mini notebook, souvenier booklet and travel guide. This is the perfect companion for your travels... And to relive your trip.



Press release:

Experienced city-hoppers will certainly confirm it: Flanders, the northern part of Belgium, is one the world’s top destinations when it comes to the number of 'wows' per square kilometer. Which is hardly surprising: where else would you find at least 6 marvelous traditional yet trendy cities under one hour’s drive
from one another?

Anyone coming to explore historical pearls such as Antwerp, Bruges, Brussels, Ghent, Leuven and Mechelen will definitely want to buy the Globetrotter's LogBook® #6 - Flanders' Six Divine Cities. It’s a beautifully produced and highly original pocket-sized, what-to-do guide, as well as notebook, souvenir booklet and mini-travel guide. Features 118 top sights-to-see-before-you-die, carefully selected by the Flemish Tourist Office. Compact. Informative. Up to date. With clear maps and interesting websites for more background information. With telephone numbers, opening times, entrance fees and accommodation details. With plenty of room to include a personal souvenir that captures the memory of every city and sight. For making notes about heaven knows what while you explore Flanders' Six Divine Cities.
Experiences, impressions, favorite addresses, catchy parting words from your
traveling companions, the signature of a helpful taxi-driver, or even a handwritten message from your handsome guide. You name it. The more creative you are, the more unique and personal your Globetrotter's LogBook® will become. Sounds like fun!

Globetrotter's LogBook® #6 - Flanders' Six Divine Cities
• ISBN 978-90-808-8073-3
• published by Morton, Diaz & Cook in collaboration with the Flemish Tourist Office
• 12.95 euro, 192 color pages, hardcover with expanding back pocket and Gift Box
• available from www.globetrotterslogbook.com (home delivered by registered mail) and from better (travel) bookstores, tax-free and outdoor stores.


Be sure to visit the website to "thumb through" the LogBook. I'm really impressed by the thought that went into it. Lots of room to really make it your own.

Any of the Globetrotter's LogBooks would make a great gift for the traveler (or wanna-be traveler) on your Christmas list.


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One Thing Leads to Another

>> Thursday, October 18, 2007

I am keeping half-an-eye on the girls (Brenna is currently standing on the deck and "painting" the sliding glass door with dish soap and Caelan is playing with Brenna's toys) and clicking a few of my reads that I never seem to have time to read. And, yes, if you are on my sidebar you are probably one of them. I stop by- really!- even though I have been doing a lot more lurking than commenting lately.

So, anyway, I decided to check out my Goodyblog link. And I saw a link to Skip to My Lou and her very cute Halloween treats. Now, I love a good blog with craft ideas and other great stuff so I started to click around. And she led me to a site I am absolutely in LOVE with: The Toymaker. Click the "holidays" tab and check out all the printable .pdf's. She has some great treat bags, cards and boxes. And, since I love all things Irish, you can bet I love the St. Patrick's Day printables.

Honestly, even if you aren't crafty go over and check it out. All you need is a printer, some glue and scissors. Of course a bit of glitter and some other crafty things will probably find their way on to the things I make.

Beautiful, beautiful stuff over there. You won't regret the click.

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A Nasty Exchange

>> Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The following is a chain of emails that was sent out by Iowans For Romney.

The first part you will see is my reply, followed by a very unprofessional exchange done in the name of Governor Romney. I would suggest beginning at the end and reading back to my comment. If this is something the Governor condones I must say that he is not the candidate I thought he was.

I actually emailed the Romney campaign- twice- with this information but received emails both times saying that my message did not come through. Maybe I'll just send them this link...

***********

To Whom It May Concern:
I find it quite tacky that this exchange of emails was sent out to whomever happens to be on the Iowans For Romney email list. If Team Romney is looking to make Ms. Schmieder look bad I am afraid it may backfire. I would hope that a group that states that everyone deserves equal rights and benefits would also believe that Ms. Schmieder has the right to disagree and not watch the video. For you to berate her for disagreeing – and to share it like you have – well, I’ll just say that I’m very disappointed.

Jody (last name removed)
________________________________________
From: Team Romney [mailto:iowans.for.romney@gmail.com]
Sent: Thursday, October 04, 2007 9:19 PM
To: acejudy@mchsi.com
Cc: jmartin@politico.com
Subject: Re: Breaking: Log Cabin Republicans Endorse Romney!

Judy,

Team Romney is very disappointed in your comments. Gov. Romney has consistently believed that homosexuals should be embraced into the Republican Party and deserve EQUAL RIGHTS AND BENEFITS. We are thrilled with our endorsement of the Log Cabin Republicans, and over 25,000 Republican voters have tuned into YouTube to watch the endorsement video and you should too.

As you know the Homosexual Gay and Lesbian Log Cabin Republicans also endorsed Romney in 2002.

Governor Romney has also even handed out flyers at Homosexual Parades when he ran for Governor of Massachusetts, and I have a copy below for you to see.

We must grow our party and homosexuals MUST be included!


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Judy Schmieder
Date: Oct 4, 2007 3:43 PM
Subject: Re: Breaking: Log Cabin Republicans Endorse Romney!
To: Team Romney
We are NOT interested in celebrating a life style we do not condone. While they certainly have a right to their choice of sexual orientation, we have a right to be separate from that. We are sorry that your welcoming something that goes against the beliefs of many.
Do NOT cosider us as supporters of Gov Romney. And we choose not to use the provided link to watch the "endorsement".

Thank you----- Original Message -----
From: Team Romney
To: iowa.team.romney@gmail.com
Sent: Thursday, October 04, 2007 1:29 PM
Subject: Breaking: Log Cabin Republicans Endorse Romney!

Iowans,

Today, we are proud to announce that the Log Cabin Republicans have endorsed Mitt Romney for President! The Log Cabin Republicans are the nation's largest organization of Republicans who support fairness, freedom, and equality for gay and lesbian Americans.

We are proud to welcome the gay and lesbian group to our growing list of endorsements!

Please Click Here to watch the Gay and Lesbian Log Cabin Republicans Endorse Mitt Romney for President! The endorsement video will air on FOX News nationally and all over Iowa! Start spreading the word!

Thank you for your continued support!

IOWA TEAM ROMNEY

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54... That Seems So Old...

I got an email from an old friend today telling me that his younger brother- who is just a few years older than me- is now a grandfather. I think he may be 40… Definitely no older than 42.

How insane is that??? Of course he started early in life. Doug & I, we started late. When Brenna is 20 Doug will have just turned 56 and I will be hitting 54 about 10 days later. If the girls follow that example Doug & I had better live to our 80s to have our grandchildren hope to remember us.

Wow. That seems so far away and, well, OLD. I’m sure it probably felt that way to my mom who is now of a “certain age” but in no way seems old. She is very vital and active.

As is my grandmother, so if I care for myself I should be able to see those grandchildren.

Included in that care is making sure my will is in place (and updated every so often), retirement accounts, health insurance, life insurance and long term care insurance. In fact, all but the last are already in place and helping to secure my future.

Long term care is something that I know many people don’t think about- until it’s too late. Like anything, the best time to begin is before you need it. The age I see referred to most often is 50- which is still quite young. And, like all insurance, the earlier you begin contributing to your plan the lower the premiums are.

I know that many think that there are other options for care, but Medicare only pays for limited, skilled rehabilitation services with a maximum of 100 days in a nursing home; Medicaid is only available when an individual qualifies for nursing home level services; and savings, 401K, personal retirement and IRAs are usually counted on to serve as “principal” that will generate ongoing revenue rather than be spent on caregiving services.

National Health Administrators is working to promote awareness about the need to plan for long term care. They can provide you with information about long term care, help you find the right insurance plan and even discuss payment options to fit needs and budgets.

Be in charge. After all, it's your future.

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What Am I If Not Mom?

>> Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Today was book study day at Mom's Group. We alternate on a weekly basis. One week it's a planned activity (regional airport last week, Art Center next week) and book/Bible study the next. Right now we are reading "Don't Make Me Count to Three!" by Ginger Plowman. It's a heart-oriented look at discipline and I must admit that it is really making me look at how I correct the girls' behavior and things that I can do differently.

During our discussion today I mentioned that it will stop Brenna in her tracks if Doug says something like, "this is my wife" or calls me by my name. Because to Brenna and Caelan I am "Mommy". And quite often that is how I think of myself. It is very easy to forget that I am not "Brenna's Mom" or "Doug's Wife" but I am Jody, individual.

Then I heard that new legislation in California could be used to ban the words "mom" and "dad" from public schools. Yep, seems that it is discriminatory against "partner 1" and "partner 2" in same sex relationships.

Here's a link to the bill itself. Now, I read through the bill and I have to say...

What a load of crap. The "re-defining" of words by our politicians is getting out of control. Here are actual sections of the bill (my additions are in blue)


Section 212 has been repealed. Here is what Section 212 said: 212. "Sex" means
the biological condition or quality of being a male or female human being. So,
what does "sex" mean now? Apparently we are now all androgynous as being born
with female or male genetalia does not, actually, make you male or female.

Oh, wait, this was added to "clear things up": SEC. 9. Section 212.6 is
added to the Education Code, to read: 212.6. "Sexual orientation" means
heterosexuality, homosexuality,or bisexuality.

Or maybe this one:
66260.7. "Gender" means sex, and includes a person's gender
identity and
gender related appearance and behavior whether or not stereotypically associated
with the person's assigned sex at birth.


Hello, people, this is what our politicians are doing. Forget national security. Forget the huge national debt. This is the stuff that they worry about.

This and passing judgement against a country that didn't exist 100 years ago for atrocities that were committed by an empire that is no longer in existence.

Yep, that's what we pay 'em the big bucks, exceptional health coverage and phenominal retirement plans for. To pass judgement on something that happened before any of them were alive.

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Just Call Me Chicken

>> Monday, October 15, 2007

So, I have this "thing" about chicken. It goes all the way back to my childhood on the farm. Well, more technically, the visits to my grandparent's farm.

You might not know it now, but way back then farmers had this thing about eating what they raised. Yes, yes, I know, farmers don't do that now... Work with me.

So, our farm had pigs and a big garden. (And corn, but that was sold as feed- it wasn't edible for people.) I'm talking HUGE garden. Acres of growing stuff. If you can think of it we grew it. We also had Nubian goats for a while. I can honestly say that I know how to milk a goat. And, yes, we drank it.

My grandparents farm had dairy cows (I can milk one of those, too), beef cattle, a few pigs, and lots of chickens. I can also take eggs out from under a chicken without losing a hand.

But, anyway, back to the chickens. Of course there was no point is raising the chickens if you weren't going to be eating the chickens. They only lay eggs for so long, you know. So, quite often, we kids would accompany grandma outside to kill us some dinner.

You've heard the expression "running around like a chicken with it's head cut off"? Have you seen it first hand? Nasty, bloody mess, it is. But oh so fun to see as a child. But my grandma didn't cut the head off her chickens. Nope, she slapped a pole down across their heads, stood on it and pulled that birdie by the feet. (Back off, PETA, no more chickens there to save) Off popped the head and you were left with a headless chicken running around.

Then, of course, it had to be cleaned, which- if I recall correctly- involved putting the body in boiling water to make it easy to remove the feathers, cleaning the insides out - I think I must have blocked that out, thank God- and then dismembering the bird for frying or preparing it for roasting (and don't forget the neck, gizzards and liver -gag!)

Ok, so now you have my visual of chicken. And you might understand why I have a real problem eating chicken off a bone. Skeeves me out. {{shudder}} But tonight I tried something. I thought I would treat my hubby and roast a chicken. Not only roast it but place a savory bit between the skin and the meat.

WHAT WAS I THINKING???

I had to separate the skin from the meat with my fingers. Gah! And then stuff in the savory herbs in cream cheese and "massage" the mixture in to all the crevices. Touching... Slimy... Chicken... Skin... Gah!

But I did it. And I shoved it in the oven. And Doug and the girls thoroughly enjoyed it. Brenna ate and ate and asked for more. Doug said it was really good. Caelan enjoyed the potatoes. And I... Picked at it. It was too moist for me and I still had the skeevies from seeing the meat come off the bones as Doug carved it.

The recipe is here. Three out of four geeks say it's quite tasty.

And me? I'll have a chicken breast, no bones about it.

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Harvest




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Feel Doubly Good!

There are plenty of coupon sites out there. All of them collect a "referral" for leading you to the retailer. The Free Coupons at NC Natural are no different in that regard.

What the difference is, though, is that the referral fee the coupons generate is used to keep the NC Natural website free for it's users. It's a great idea.

So why not do some good while you save money? It's a win-win. Especially with the holidays coming up.

Need new shoes for to go with that great dress you got for those parites? Check out Zappos savings, you're sure to find the perfect pair at a great price.

Or do you print your own Christmas cards or letters? Make sure you have plenty of ink- get 123InkJets coupons.

Books, wine, toys, clothes... It's all here! You have nothing to lose- it's Free Coupons! You'll save money! Plus you'll get that good feeling that comes from helping.

You'll feel doubly good!

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Maybe You Should Recall The Idiots?

>> Saturday, October 13, 2007

BIG headline in the newspaper today about infant cold medicines being recalled.

No, there is nothing wrong with the medicine, it's fine. What's wrong is that people aren't reading the labels or listening to their doctors and end up overdosing their children.

For a run-down from a pediatrician click here.

I've never liked to give my girls medicine. If they have a cough I have them drink water to soothe their throats- their doctor says it usually works just as well as cough medicine. If they have a stuffy nose they get nasal mist to clear it out- along with the aspirator. And if I do give them medications I can pretty much guarantee that I don't give as much as the label says is "safe". I'm sure to under-dose as I am afraid of over-dose.

Honestly, when did people quit taking care of themselves responsibly and start relying on lawsuits to solve their problems?

Here's a hint:
*Read the label.
*Follow the instructions.
*If you aren't sure call your doctor.

And, just for the record:
*Coffee is hot.
*Don't put electrical appliances in water.
*Plastic bags are not toys.
*Safety scissors can still cut you.
*Don't play inside your dryer.
*Don't eat cleaning products.

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It's 11pm- Do You Know Where Your $$ Is?

>> Friday, October 12, 2007

Money and I have kind of a love/love relationship. I love to see it come in. And I love to spend it. I am working more on the part where it comes in (hence the paid posts that occasionally pop up, as well as some undercover shopping) and trying to avoid the spending part.

But, because of this love affair with the almighty dollar, I also love to read about how to make money, how to invest money and how to save money. One of my favorite authors is Jean Chatzky. I first “discovered” her when Oprah did the “debt diet” last year. She has a great book called Pay It Down: From Debt to Wealth on $10 a Day. This is a woman who knows what she is talking about and can make it seem do-able.

I was excited to see that Jean is a keynote speaker at this year’s Wealth Expo.

The Wealth Expo is sponsored by MyWallSt.net: Your Financial Social Network. It is a three day conference that features keynote speeches from names you know in investment, exhibits from some of the largest companies in the world and networking like you will find nowhere else.

The Wealth Expo is this weekend in New York City:
Friday, 10/19: 1 p.m.-6:30 p.m. EDT w/ a cocktail hour to follow
Saturday, 10/20: 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m. EDT w/ a cocktail hour to follow
Sunday, 10/21: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. EDT (no cocktail hour)

If you are serious about making your money work for you- or just finding out how to make your money stay in your bank account- you may want to look into this.

I did notice on the home page that there are 3 more seminars scheduled in the first half of 2008. One is in Minneapolis. A much more convenient trip for me. If Jean is speaking you can be sure I'll be checking it out.



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Fab Food Friday

>> Thursday, October 11, 2007

Here is another castle cake for three little princesses. I followed the same recipe as the last castle cake but made a few slight modifications:

**No matter what I did the cupcakes slid when I put them at the corners. So I stacked them in the center.

**I made this one a three layer cake instead of two, which (I think) looks better. It does take up a lot of room in the fridge.


Birthday Princesses ages 3, 2 and 1.
It's good stuff!

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How Wii Save

I remember singing a song with this line in it waaayyy back when I was a tot in school:


Christmas is coming
The geese are getting fat
Please to put a penny
In the old man's hat

If you haven't got a penny
A ha'penny will do
If you haven't got a ha'penny
Then God bless you


Well, I don't eat goose and I'm pretty sure that if you tried to give a panhandler a penny these days you might end up with it shoved up your nose. And you, of course, can't sing that song in school anymore because it mentions God.

Ahhh, but that is way off the topic that I was going to bring to your attention and I'm not even sure why I thought of that song other than the fact that it mentions Christmas.

If a Nintendo Wii has made it's way on to your list you might want to check out this contest to win a Wii plus one game (Mario Party 8).

It's being sponsored by Everybody Loves Coupons, the official blog of UltimateCoupons.com and you can enter through October 31.

It takes just a few minutes to enter and even if you don't win you've found a great site full of coupons and coupon codes for anything your little heart could desire. The site is really easy to use and has the most recent freebies and savings. Right now they have a HALLOWEEN tab- just in case you are like me and need to get some stuff (and want to save some money).




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Mentally Mental

>> Wednesday, October 10, 2007

My mind is fried. I have nothing for you. I can't seem to recall if I cleared the table after dinner or if I made sure that Brenna brushed her teeth before bed.

Since Doug put Caelan down (I think... If he didn't she's roaming free somewhere) I'm pretty sure she bundled against the coolest evening of the fall.

I can't believe I am so busy now. It seems like my days are non-stop. Brenna to school twice a week, mom's group once a week, church activities twice a week, all the shopping, cleaning and cooking that must happen for the household to run....

When did I shower last? Maybe I should note that on my calendar, too...

So, for all you busy moms I will show you the online goodie I use to keep me organized. Cozi is a great online tool. I really like that I can text lists and schedules to myself or Doug. The calendar is great because it's color coded. In addition to the "personal" appointments I also have a special color for holidays and birthdays.

I have made a few suggestions to them- like a to-do list and mobile internet friendly viewing. All in good time, I am sure. But, as it's free, I'm not going to complain too much.

Give it a try. Me,I'm off to consume an adult beverage and watch whatever TiVo has saved for my viewing pleasure.

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"Hey, You're in People"

>> Tuesday, October 09, 2007

I've been hearing that in the past couple of weeks.

Or the variation which is "I saw your name and thought, "How many Jody Halsteds can there be?"

Yes, that interview I did with People Magazine has finally made itself known to me. If you have the issue with Madeline McCann on the cover dated Septemver 24, 2007 check out page 238. (Yes, 238! Holy cow, when did People Magazine get so thick?!)

And there I am- the first paragraph:

"Got Fred?," read one poster in the Des Moines convention center, where Jody
(last name removed), 36, juggling a sippy cup and two toddlers, was ready to take the
measure of the latest candidate to sweep through the Iowa capital. "I want
to know what he is like, what he has to say, as opposed to what you see him
playing on TV".


Yep, that's it. I have been reduced to a sippy-cup toddler-toting Iowan. I do have to say, though, that I am the only person mentioned or quoted in that article other than Fred and his family.

I guess I'm in good company.

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Watch TV, Win a Scolarship

If this is a marketing ploy? If so it's a darn good one.

All you have to do is watch Guiding Light and As The World Turns on November 12th, 14th and 16th. Then log into the $50,000 College Education Sweepstakes and answer one question: Which character spoke the opening line of the show that day?

Seems easy enough. You can even sign up to get a reminder email of the sweepstakes.

And although it's no college education, there is a "second" prize: a 6 month supply of Pampers. They say in the prize rules that the value is $250... In my estimation it's a bit higher, but still, nothing to turn down...

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Happy AnniBirthMas To Me

>> Monday, October 08, 2007

Buying a gift for me is always such a trial- or so I'm told. I think I'm pretty easy to buy for.

So this year I took gift buying into my own hands. I got a gift to encompass our anniversary, my birthday and Christmas. I bought us Glenn Beck Christmas Tour tickets today. I'm an "insider" so I was able to get tickets today instead of waiting for general sales. Second row, baby!

I'm pretty excited as we saw him live last summer and had a great time. And we got to meet Glenn:


Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Now I have to wait until December 12th...

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I'm Still on Top! Plus... Let the Invasion Begin!

>> Saturday, October 06, 2007

Check it out! It's been 16 days! Wow, I really didn't think I'd last 6, let alone plus 10! So thanks for clicking my buttons!

************************************************
sigh

It's almost 2 pm. Time to get in the shower and prepare for Doug's family to begin arriving in 2 hours. I've got the pumpkin swirl cheesecake, the artichoke/spinach cheeseball and the Mediterranean Marinated Cheese made. I have a few touches left on the castle cake. And I haven't started the potatoes, the green bean cassarole or the sloppy joes yet.

But the girls are clean and cute. And I have until 5 to get the food prepared.

And I I want to do is sit here and pretend noone is coming over and I am actually able to enjoy this bit of quiet as Doug has the girls out running errands with him.

sigh

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Preparing for the Future

>> Friday, October 05, 2007

Slowly but surely Doug & I are getting our plans for the future laid out. We are paying down debts; we have significant amounts of life insurance and have made our wills. As we get older, though, the issue of long term care is creeping into the edges of my mind. Not so much for me, although I know it will be a good idea when I get about 15 years down this road of life, but more for Doug’s mom (I know my mom has LTC in place).

I suppose the reason I think about it for Doug’s mom is because she lives so far away from us. I am not sure if she has any provisions in place for the future. She is quite a bit younger than her husband and is sure to outlive him. And if, God forbid, anything happened to her I am just not sure if we could care for her without some sort of financial backup.

And then, of course, I think forward to my future. I will, statistically, outlive Doug. I am also the one in this household who pushed for higher life insurance policies, the creation of our wills and higher liabilities on our home and cars. I am the planner and I am the do-er. I am also the main consumer in my home- everything from cars to carpets, appliances to applesauce is purchased by me. I think that I defer to Doug on only a few things, computers and electronics and maybe snowblowers (which, in hindsight was bad as I am the one who uses it most often).

Statistically I will outlive my grandparents- and they are almost 80. Planning ahead early for those later years just makes good sense- financially and personally. Long term care insurance is added security.

If you are thinking about your future and want to know more about Long Term Care let me suggest visiting National Health Administrators website. There you can learn about LTC insurance, home care, assisted living, retaining you independence and information about finding the best LTC policy for you.

Because luck favors the prepared.

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Fab Food Friday

Black Bean Cakes with Mexican Rice and Slaw

This is one of my favorite recipes. I use a spicy blue corn chip to add a little extra flavor.

FOR THE SLAW
Puree; toss with:
1/3 c sour cream
1/4 c scallions; thinly sliced
10 sprigs fresh cilantro
1/2 jalapeno, seeded, chopped
juice of 1 lime
1 1/2 c shredded cabbage
salt to taste

Puree the first 5 ingredients in a food processor, toss with cabbage, season with salt. Cover and refrigerate.

FOR THE RICE
Saute in 1 T olive oil; stir in:
1/3 c each onion, celery and carrot; diced
3 garlic cloves, sliced thin
1 T tomato paste
1/2 t each kosher salt, ground cumin and paprika
1/4 t cayenne
1 bay leaf
1/2 c converted white rice
1 c chicken broth or water

Saute vegetables, garlic, tomato paste, spices and bay leaf for the rice in 1T oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Stir in the rice & broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover & simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered; fluff with fork and remove bay leaf before serving.

FOR THE CAKES
Mash together; add:
1 15 oz can black beans, drained, rinsed & divided
1 egg white
1/4 c corn tortilla chips, ground (Red Hot & Blue spicy chips are really good for this)
1/4 c red ball pepper, diced
2 T onion, grated
1/2 t each kosher salt, ground coriander and chili powder

Mash 1/2 c beans and egg white together in a bowl. Add remaining beans, chips, pepper, onion & seasonings. Refrigerate for 10 minutes (I prefer an hour) then form into two 3" round cakes.

Fry in, garnish with:
2 T olive oil
Lime wedges
Cilantro sprigs

Fry cakes in 2T oil in non-stick skillet over medium heat until heated through; approx. 4 minutes each side.

Serve with rice and slaw. Garnish with lime and cilantro.

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Kind of Like a Horse Trader

>> Thursday, October 04, 2007

When I meet someone I always look at their teeth. Always. I think you can tell a lot about a person by their teeth. You can tell if they smoke (hello yellow), do meth (hello rotten), drink lots of coffee or soda (just a bit grey),or if they just don’t give a damn (nasty, fuzzy looking… ick). I wouldn’t go out with a guy who had bad teeth. Seriously. Could have been the nicest guy in the world but if I couldn’t bring myself to look at his teeth, well, the thought of kissing… {{shudder}}

I am lucky to have pretty nice teeth. It wasn’t always that way, though. I was raised on a farm and well water isn’t so great, it seems. Lots of minerals, no fluoride. (Does anyone else remember doing fluoride rinses in school?) I had lots of cavities as a child, most of which have ugly metal fillings. And then there were the braces. I had a nasty overbite. I wore braces throughout junior high. Metal braces that were cemented to the teeth. A couple of my teeth show the scars from that.

Fortunately dental work has come a long way and I am slowly changing old metal fillings to nice ceramic fillings. This work comes at the suggestion of my dentist as the fillings I have are quite old and are beginning to crack and fall out. As I found out the hard way…

I lived in St. Paul, alone, for 10 years. Which was great. Except for when something went wrong. There I was, alone one night, when I lost a rather large filling. The pain was incredible! I wasn't able to eat, drink, sleep... And it was Sunday. I couldn't even get in to see a dentist for at least 24 hours. If not more because you can never get into a dentist quickly.

I could have really used some sort of temporary dental repair. Of course none was available at that time.

But now there is! Dentemp OS is a new FDA approved over-the-counter dental cement for fillings and loose caps. Just a few facts:


Developed by a Dentist: Provides fast, temporary relief of pain and discomfort.

It's Easy! Just remove it from its plastic vial and it's ready to use.
No Mess! No Mixing! Several Applications in each vial.

Dental First Aid:
Replaces lost fillings and may be used to temporarily cement loose crowns.

It's Strong: You can eat on it within 30 minutes of setting.

Fully FDA Approved: All products have been tested and fully comply with
FDA Regulations for Oral Care.
You can get DentempOS at Walgreens, Rite Aid, CVS and many other locations around the US. Important info to keep in the back of your mind... Just in case.




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Make Them Last

I'm not a "homeschooling mom" but I do try to teach the girls what I can. Brenna was able to identify all her letters before she started pre-school last year and most of her numbers, as well.

Now she is learning to write. There are so many cute workbooks out there but they can't be reused. Unless you do this:

Take the pages out and place them in the plastic page covers that fit in a 3-ring binder. If you get the binder that has the "slip in" front cover you put the cover of the workbook in there so you know at a glance what you've got.






Voilá! A workbook that you can use again and again with dry erase markers!

I put in two workbooks. One beginning at each end. This way you can open directly to the workbook you want. Both end in the center, upside down from the other. (Upside backwards, according to Brenna)




Let the learning begin!

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Dead Again

Nope, not me, just the stupid battery in my laptop. It's the thrid battery it has drained in less than 3 years. Oh, and this battery is less than 3 months old. I'm not really sure what is going on. I unplug the machine, check the battery and it says 100%. Then, just a couple of minutes later I am getting a low battery-plug-it-in-or-you'll-lose-everything warning. In all honesty I'm pretty sure it's the stupid computer that's the problem but the Geeks at the store with the big yellow tag say that it is just fine. Oh, yeah, that's why it crashes every two days if I don't shut it down. Luckily it's still under warranty until December 26. So, about the beginning of December,after I get everything moved to my new, improved laptop and get a bit more RAM, I'm going to take it in and they are going to figure it out once and for all.

Grrr... it's so frustrating. Luckily the batteries are covered under the warranty because they are difficult to find. In the future I'll have to buy my laptop batteries online. It's quicker than having a store order them and have them shipped. And less expensive. Go figure...

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Birthdays, Birthdays and More Birthdays

>> Wednesday, October 03, 2007

I will be spending the next two days making desserts. One batch of Black Bottomed Coconut Bars- sure to be featured in an upcoming Fab Food Friday post, a Jello Poke Cake (sans girlie)- which I did a while back, another Princess Castle cake- hopefully improved from last time, and a Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake- which I showed to you but never shared the recipe (note to self: share the recipe).

Why so many caloric goodies? Because we have birthday parties Friday night and Saturday afternoon and our Lighthouse (small group from church) meets Thursday night and I am in charge of dessert.

Friday evening we will be celebrating my SIL Amanda's birthday and Doug's birthday. Saturday we have Doug's extended family coming over to celebrate all September and October birthdays. So in addition to all the desserts I will also be making enough food to feed a small army. I have decided on something easy- sloppy joes, something impressive- dijon scalloped potatoes, and something traditional- green bean casserole. All to be supplemented by Mediterranean Marinated Cheese -another FFF recipe, a cheeseball and tortilla chips with salsa (as per Doug's request).

I think I need a drink. Just thinking about the next few days... Ugh. I knew I should have bought alcohol when I was at the store today...

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The Annual Review

It's that time of year again... The time of year that I look at what we are paying in insurance premiums and choke. Honestly, it's insane the money we shell out every month. You would think that because we are healthy, accident free and have no homeowner's claims our rates would begin to edge downward...

So I spend a weekend researching insurance quotes online. Thankfully there are online resources for this as a few calls to check on car insurance and homeowners insurance make me cranky as I really don't care to give every agency in the area my social security number so they can pull every bit of history on me to see that I have no claims or violations. UGH!

Ironically, the insurance I spend the least on, our term life insurance has the highest payout. I suppose that's because we're healthy... sigh

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Am I Nuts?

Nope, I'm pretty sure it's not me... I wouldn't be caught dead with these on my truck.

It is just beyond me that someone thought it would be a good idea to hang testicals from a vehicle... And the fact that other people think it's a good idea to buy them...

Ugh. Just... ugh. No wonder the jihadists think we are the "great satan"...

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Finance a Home in 15 Minutes? Pshaw, You Say? Read on...

Banking services have come a long way in the last few years.

Gone are the days when you had to hope you were balancing your checkbook correctly- now you just enter your account information on your bank's website and you can instantly see how much money you have (or don't).

No need to worry about checks getting lost in the mail- most bills can be paid online (much to the dismay of the post office).

Credit cards can be instantly obtained with a few clicks, balances shifted to save on interest rates and limits increased.

So it only stands to reason that mortgages would follow. As I am someone who is easily frustrated by the stupidity of filling out the same information multiple times because "one form goes in the broker's file and one form goes to the lender; this form will go in your file and this form may be necessary so we need you to fill it out just in case" I am very appreciative of the fact that the SmartDoc electronic format will take all the information and use it wherever necessary- and I only have to input it once!

By using this technology entire processes are automated, some are eliminated entirely, and the closing is significantly quicker. And, as someone who has had their paperwork get held up "somewhere between Madison and Minneapolis", I love that the "human error" factor drops exponentially.

Of course this will not be for everyone but I am relatively sure that many mortgage brokers and banks will be using emortgage very soon. If they aren't already.

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Hmmm... What to Do...

I'm out of chocolate chips and am in the middle of making banana chocolate chip muffins.

I have M&Ms...

That should work, right?


Updated to add:

My M&Ms were blue, green and white. The colors ran a bit in the batter:




I'm sure they'll taste fine...

Updated again:

OK, they look a bit like Frankenstein's Monster Muffins (hmmm, maybe a new Halloween party treat?) with the coloring from the M&Ms kind of crusted on top and the pale green insides...

But the girls think they are tasty!

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