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

And The Winner Is...

>> Monday, December 31, 2007

WOW! I just want to thank everyone who entered and wrote a bit about my little give-away. This has been the best bribing by far! I really have a lot to live up to now!

Now, without further ado, the winner is:

MOMMY from Mrs. Parker.

Congratulations!

And everyone remember to come back on January 20 for the next round of bribing. I forsee a Valentine's theme.... And chocolate.

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Whew!

>> Sunday, December 30, 2007

Everything was good and there were more pies here than any one family needs. I think it averaged out to half a pie per person. Not sure why "don't bring anything" always means "bring at least 2 pies"...

The only bad part is that nothing really timed out the way I thought it would so instead of dinner at noon it was almost 1pm. At least the appetizers held them over. Before I volunteer to make that kind of meal again I'm gonna have one of these:



Nuff said.

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Celebration?

Last night I baked layered pumpkin muffins for today's breakfast and a carrot cake with cream cheese icing for one dessert.

I just put the turkey in the oven and will shortly be preparing the ham to be taken to my sister's for baking. Luckily she lives so close or I would have gotten a double oven a couple of weeks ago (and I am seriously getting one when our oven goes out).

Also on the menu today are Gouda Mashed Potato Casserole, Corn Souffle, dressing (from scratch- I cubed the bread and it has been getting stale over night, a triple baked veggie dip and a baked cheese and pesto appetizer.

And that's just what I'm making- should be great stuff for the new recipe blog (coming soon!).

The tables will also be laden with a chocolate chip cheeseball and green bean casserole, courtesy of my brother & SIL, a couple of pies (courtesy of Village Inn and purchased by my sister) and beverages that my other SIL is providing.

The teapot is whistling so my water is ready for tea. And then it's back to the preparations for the Christmas meal with my grandmother. I just feel myself gaining weight.

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A Mini Review

>> Saturday, December 29, 2007

Well, Doug and I went to a movie last night since our dinner plans got cancelled. We saw the new National Treasure. We both loved the original and the new one, though not as good (are they ever?) did not disappoint us.

As in the first movie, "Riley" really "made" the movie for us. His quips and comments are always good. There is a lot more action in this one, and a death. I saw a few young kids in the audience (aged 5-6) and I'm not sure it is a wise choice for them. I think it's worth seeing in a theater, definitely worth renting and/or buying when it releases on DVD. (HA! I almost said video. How old am I?)

Other stuff:

I finished my grocery list for tomorrows Christmas dinner. I will be shopping as soon as Doug gets out of bed (I let him sleep in, to the best of his ability as the girls are quite loud, on Saturday) and Caelan takes a nap. Then I have a chance of going alone, or only with one child.

My afternoon will be filled with baking and pre-making what I can.

Oh, and since I am *mostly* finished with my travel site I decided to start a new blog. Yep, 'cuz I don't have enough to do. Actually, this one won't take too much time... I'm just going to have my Fab Food Friday goodies at a different site. Don't worry, I'll remind you when I post a new one.

OK, I've been online since 7am, interspersed with childcare, of course, setting up the new site and cruising pricing for Ireland. I should probably stop procrastinating and get to work on things that really need done.

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And the Movie It Is

>> Friday, December 28, 2007

Thanks to everyone for their input. In just a few minutes I will be purchasing our movie tickets online. :)

Tamara & Midwest Mom- I am not a big fan of Japanese steak houses. We go to Ohana every year for my SILs birthday. The food is "ok" but not something I go out of my way for. So I am going with your backup- the movie.

Green3- I heard that I Am Legend isn't as good as the book. They never are. And that really cancels out any book to movie production for me. The curse of reading too much, I suppose.

Melody- Anymore I can recreate almost everything we get at a restaurant (not that I always want to, mind you) but it has to be something I can't do for me to really enjoy a restaurant. I understand being disappointed... And we have gotten to "try" so many places since I "evaluate" restaurants in my spare time.

Jill- we love us some BBQ. But there is no way I am fighting the Friday night crowds at Hickory Park. That's more of a weekend afternoon stop for us. Did I mention there is a Cold Stone Creamery inside the mall by the movie theater? :)

And off I go to buy my tickets online. (Seriously, how convenient is that?!?!)

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Dilemma

Doug and I had plans to go out for dinner with friends. As of a few minutes ago the plans were cancelled due to strep throat (not us).

So, my dilemma... We have a sitter lined up. We can still go out. And although I like Crave (the fondue room) I really don't want to go there. In fact, food just isn't interesting to me as it seems we've done nothing but eat this past week. And we still have a Christmas on Sunday and New Years Eve on Monday, both with pretty extensive menus. (Yes, I volunteered to cook. No, I am not complaining.)

What do you think? If you are around the Des Moines metro give me a suggestion for your favorite restaurant. Or should we catch the new National Treasure? What do you think?

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Baby Geeks at Christmas

The youngest among us were, of course, very excited when it came time to open the gifts that had filled the tree as everyone arrived. Because we draw names there was only one gift per child so to draw out the gift-giving fun I asked "Who wants to help?"

And, behold, a line of youngsters all eager to hand out gifts. Not one to pass up a photo opp I grabbed my camera a snapped a couple pictures.

Caelan, it seems, isn't one to pass up a photo opp, either, and planted herself directly in front of my camera- front and center. Little ham.


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Fab Food Friday

>> Thursday, December 27, 2007

Expecting guests for New Year's Eve? Heading somewhere and need an easy dessert that can easily be shared? I've got the perfect yummy!



Chocolate Chip Cheeseball



1- 8 oz pkg cream cheese- softened (I use Neufchatel, 1/3 less fat, just as good)

1 stick butter, softened

1/4 t vanilla extract

3/4 c powdered sugar

2 T brown sugar

3/4 c mini chocolate chips





Beat together the cream cheese, butter and vanilla. Beat in the powdered sugar a little at a time then add the brown sugar. Stir in the chocolate chips.



Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.



After 2 hours put the mixture in the center of a large piece of plastic and fold up edges to shape into ball. Refrigerate at least another hour or overnight.



I roll the ball in more mini chocolate chips.



Use vanilla wafers, graham sticks, chocolate wafer cookies, etc. for dipping

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Buying Cars

Like most, I've overpayed at car dealers. Do you want to avoid that in the future? Then, read this post.

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A Tip for the Guys

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. Yes, I know we just finished Christmas, but hang with me.

Lots of people purchase (or receive) diamond jewelry for Valentine’s Day. Especially engagement rings and earrings.

Why not make the jewelry you give extra special and have a Loose Diamond mounted into a one-of-a kind ring or necklace? You can even choose a matching set for earrings.

A&W Diamonds are conflict free and available in traditional and fancy cuts. Myself, I'm partial to the emerald cut.

PS: Doug this post is NOT for you. All I want is my trip to Ireland. Besides, the ideal 2 carat stone would pay for our trip about 5x over. lol

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It's Up!

Well, I've been working on it for a few weeks and it's finally (mostly) done.

Why not "take a trip" over to my new
travel website, have a look around, leave me a comment and bookmark me as I will be adding and upgrading.

Also, the link on the left (that says MY LITTLE TRAVEL BLOG) will take you to the corresponding blog. Just FYI.

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And The Entries Just Keep Coming

This month's Scrap Bribing has broken all previous records! Ond there are still 4 days left to enter!

I guess that's what happens when you offer such an awesome prize!?!

So now I am wondering just what could be as great to give away next month... I'm thinking about a Valentine's theme...Chocolate may just be involved.
Really. Good. Chocolate.

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I Was a Problem Child

When I was young I remember my mom “threatening” to send me off to boarding school. Of course I knew it would never happen- we were dirt poor and there was just no way my family could have afforded to follow through with that particular threat.

Then again, I’m guessing the boarding schools then weren’t like the ones you see Dr. Phil sending kids off to.

These specialty boarding schools, like Ivy Ridge Academy in New York are designed to help kids become responsible, contributing members of society. To help them handle and work past their “issues” and achieve academic success.

Hmmm… It might not have been a bad idea for mom to follow through on that threat. It took me a while to learn those things on my own…

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Happy Day After Christmas

>> Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Our Christmas day began quietly enough... The girls slept until 8am. It was lovely.

When they did wake Brenna wanted to know,immediately, if Santa had been here, so downstairs we went. Lucky for Doug & I, Santa had made an appearance and left a big toy to share.



The girls were quite happy bouncing around on that toy- until we reminded them that there were more presents to be opened. They did well with Brenna receiving a Vtech digital camera from Caelan and a pair of Dora roller skates from mommy & daddy and Caelan getting a count & learn piggy bank from Brenna and counting maracas from mommy & daddy.




There were, of course, assorted gifts from family down in Texas and a few fun things in stockings. It was difficult to tear them away from all the fun stuff for breakfast- but Pumpkin French Toast was on the menu and Doug & I were hungry.

Late morning and early afternoon were full of fun and play. About 4pm my family began to show up and more Christmas merriment began (helped along by champagne and appetizers).

Too much food was eaten, much champagne was drunk (quite a bit by me) and gifts were opened and played with.

By the time everyone left and the girls were put in bed- about 8pm- I was exhausted. Only the minimum of cleaning was done and I was in bed and fast asleep by 9pm.

Today is beginning a bit rough. Although the girls slept like logs, Caelan seems like a nap will be necessary quite soon and Brenna is a bit whiney. It may be a long day...

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Weight- You Need a Plan

Now that the Christmas cookies have been taken to work to get them out of your house (I know I’m not the only one who does that, right?) and you are finalizing your New Year’s Eve plans the dread subject arises-

What are your New Year’s Resolutions? I know… Ugh. But it happens every year.

My main goal this year is to get healthier. Which will probably include some sort of weight loss diet plan.

There are lots of plans to choose from. My sister has had noticeable success on Weight Watchers this past year. And I’ve used (and I use that term loosely) eDiets in the past.

I think my main goal, though will be to lose a pound a week and use my new elliptical machine nightly. Because, while I would like to lose weight, my main goal is really to improve my health and boost my energy. My thinking is that if I can create new habits (like exercise and eating more fruits and veggies) then this “diet” won’t fail, like so many do.

And achieving permanent results just common sense, really. Drink more water, eat less junk, don’t eat while you watch TV, and don’t eat past a certain time in the evening.

Do you have any tips or tricks that have worked for you? Share!

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Little Reindeer

>> Monday, December 24, 2007

Brenna had a Christmas Program at preschool last week. It was very cute- a group of 3-year-olds singing Christmas songs. They even made "costumes"- they were Rudolph.
Brenna Reindeer

Absolutely adorable. Of course I recorded the "concert" for future embarrassment. But since it includes other people's children I am not posting it. If you want a chuckle, though, you can see it here. Attention spans are short and the coordinated movements, well, aren't so coordinated.

You may be asking how this preschool "got away" with a Christmas program. Well, I'll tell you. They are not government funded. I guess that says it all...

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Top European Travel Destinations?

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. ~St. Augustine



Travel was not something we did much of as I was growing up. The farthest I ever went from home was to Dallas to visit an aunt. I *think* I recall visiting Mt. Rushmore as a child… But I could be wrong about that.

As an adult I have taken every chance at travel that has come my way. Doug and I have lists of places we want to visit- very long lists.

Because I am a “list maker” I love to see what other people put on their lists. HotelsByCity.net has lists of “Top 10” destinations ranging from beaches, water parks and theme parks to ski/snowboard destinations, Winter Vacation destinations and everything in between.

I, of course, was very interested in their Top 10 European Travel Destinations, just to see if any of our choices meshed.

Let's see, they list London, Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, Barcelona, Glasgow, Venice, Berlin, Brussels and Athens.

Doug and I visited London together about 9 months after we began dating. And I can honestly say that neither of us would have been heartbroken to stay there. It is a vibrant city filled with history and culture. We definately plan to return with the girls when they are older.

Paris, eh. My brother-in-law has to go there for work in February and, since he will be gone during my sister's birthday, she is going to join him. I suppose I will reserve judgement until they return.

I've had plenty of friends visit Amsterdam- but they went for the stuff that is legal there that isn't legal here. And although it appears to be a clean and friendly city it's not on my list.

Rome, on the other hand, is on my list. Being a history buff, Doug would love to explore the remains of the greatest empire in the world.

Barcelona intrigues me... I think it is #11.

Scotland is high on my list. Glasgow is emerging from it's industrial slumber and is welcoming visitors with open arms. It's a great university town and I look forward to taking the girls there when they are older.

Venice is probably quite beautiful. And I am sure we should get there before it falls into the sea... Or the sea overtakes it...

Back to the history... Berlin has lots of it. A divided city, it is not flourishing and welcoming visitors. The Pergamom Museum contains the Zeus Altar- completely reconstructed from fragments uncovered in modern-day Turkey. That's reason enough to have it on my list.

Brussels I'm not sure about. It seems to waver through the top end of my list. On one hand it is gorgeous and they make lots of chocolate. On the other... It's mainly a business center.

And their final choice is Athens. With one of the last of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still in existence- as well as being surrounded by mythology- I can't imagine not wanting to visit.

So I agree with five of their top 10. What do you think?

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Merry Christmas

Here in our suburb we have one of the best light displays to be found anywhere. Think Clark Griswold with panache and computers. It's phenomenal.

We've been twice to see the "dancing lights", as Brenna calls them and when I show her last year's video (below) I'm sure we'll seeing them a few more times before (and after) Christmas.



You can learn more about the Sanderson Family Christmas and their lights- but watch the video first.

Merry Christmas!

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Thinking of Surfing... Watching the Snow

>> Saturday, December 22, 2007

It’s snowing… Again. We will be experiencing blizzard conditions later this evening and will be homebound. Which as fine as we have nowhere to really go anyway.

Sigh… The past few winters were so much milder; warmer and with much less snow and ice. I am usually not wishing for spring and summer until late January but I am so sick of winter already.

So, I was “surfing” through the web and looking at summer stuff. And you know how you end up on one site… And click a link to another… And then to another…

Which is how I ended up on this page about Summer Camps. Now, I never got to go to summer camp. We were poor and there was just no money for that kind of extravagance.

I was always a little jealous of other teens that got to go to camp and have the great “teen adventure”. I always felt like I was missing something.

So, anyway, I’m on this webpage and realize that this isn’t just any summer camp – it’s surf camp. And not only do they have camps for teenagers, but they have camps for kids and adults. Everything from surf lessons to surfing vacations.

So… Overnight camp in the British Virgin Islands… Surf, sand, sun… Sounds rough…

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Fab Food Friday

>> Friday, December 21, 2007


If you have any guests to entertain the next few days these appetizers are quick to make and yummy. Recipe from Kraft foods

Mini Cheese Balls




Prep Time: 10 min

Total Time: 2 hr 10 min

Makes: 18 servings, 3 cheese balls each

1 tub (8 oz.) PHILADELPHIA Chive & Onion Cream Cheese Spread

1 pkg. (8 oz.) KRAFT Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

4 slices OSCAR MAYER Bacon, cooked, finely chopped

1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 cup toasted PLANTERS Walnuts, ground

MIX cream cheese spread and mozzarella cheese until well blended. Stir in chopped bacon and seasonings.

SHAPE mixture into 54 balls, 1 level tsp. each. Roll in walnuts. Cover with plastic wrap.

REFRIGERATE at least 2 hours.

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I Thought I Was Done

But no. There is one final gift that needs to be purchased. One for my father.

Many of you may remember that my dad was crushed by a machine at work a few short months ago. We really didn’t think he would live. He has made a recovery that is nothing short of miraculous and we are very thankful that he is able to join us for Christmas this year.

Following his recovery his wife decided that she wanted a divorce. It’s a long time coming and was not unexpected but her timing was crappy. I think she would have preferred to play the grieving widow.

To make a long story short, dad is barely living on his workman’s comp as his lawyer works toward a settlement on his accident, which could take years to come through, and can’t afford to buy Christmas gifts this year. Which we all understand and have no problems with. We don’t need anything and our kids won’t notice.

But we want to get him something. So I will be heading out tomorrow to purchase a new coat and gloves for him from all of us kids. Ugh, the Saturday before Christmas and I will be shopping.

Thankfully Doug put in a lot of hours this year and our Christmas shopping was mostly handled with cash.

And that certainly helps with my Christmas cheer!

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Beyond Pissed

>> Thursday, December 20, 2007

And not in that good British way. Nope, I am mad.

About a month ago, after much discussion and research, Doug and I decided to get and HSA to replace our current health insurance. We figured that even with a $5000 deductible plus the (much lower) premiums we would still be ahead. So a couple weeks ago we submitted the paperwork.

Now, I want to mention that the company that would be providing the HSA is the company we currently have insurance through. The company that approved Doug three years ago with no riders or additional questions about his health.

So you can imagine our surprise when he was completely declined due to "multiple medical conditions".

*blink* What?

So I called the customer service number. Now I knew that they couldn't tell me what was "wrong" with Doug but I knew I needed to get the necessary info to appeal this ludicrous decision.

What I didn't expect was to have them tell me that they can't even tell Doug why he was declined.

*blink* What?

But, if he calls he can tell them what treatment he has had and they can tell him if that was the reason for the decline.

"But he hasn't been treated for anything," I say. "You currently cover him- surely you can see that he isn't being - nor has he been - treated for anything."

"He currently has coverage?" the clueless customer service rep asks.

"Yes," I say, "For about three years."

So she gets our current policy info and confirms that, yes, he is currently covered. And no, she can't see any treatment that he is undergoing.

"Can't you just have the application reviewed?" I ask.

"You can request that in the appeal letter," she tells me.

I am so having Doug call and name every disease he can think of to see if he was declined for any of them.

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Concerned About Border Security?

I don't normally pass stuff like this through the blog, but I want to share this.

Last year Congress passed The Secure Fence Act and completely funded it. So far nothing has been done, however, and late Monday evening HR2764 was passed (and just let me say that I love how they slam lots of stuff in one bill. Scam artists, the lot of them):

H.R. 2764, a bill that provides funding for several federal departments and
agencies, was brought to the House floor and passed late last evening by the
Democratic leadership. Not only does the bill contain provisions removing
all specific locations as outlined by the Secure Fence Act, it also removes
all requirements to construct any fencing or physical barriers along the
border. This action basically repeals the Secure Fence Act and undermines
past efforts to secure our nation's border.

H.R. 2764 has been referred to the Senate for consideration and then will be returning to the House with any changes in the form of a conference report. Congressman Hunter is working with his colleagues in both the House and Senate to ensure that these dangerous provisions do not remain in the final version of the
funding bill.

Basically HR 2764 reverses the Secure Fence Act and removes it's funding. If our nation's security is high on your list of concerns I urge you to contact your congress-person and senator( full list of contact info here )and let them know what you want done.

Remember- you hold the power. Your vote put them in office- it can also take them out. Be sure to remind them of that. And stand by it.



Here is my letter. Feel free to copy it and send it to your elected official if you don't want to write your own. Links to your representatives are just above.


I was disappointed to see the passage of HR 2764 through the House late Monday evening. The security of our country is of utmost importance to me and my family. Not only are our freedoms threatened by terrorists crossing (both) our borders but our economy is in jeopardy, as well. We cannot continue to support “undocumented workers” through our federal programs, hospital emergency rooms and educational programs and hope to care for our legal residents, as well. I won’t even begin to expand on all the un-taxed dollars that leave our country due to companies like Western Union.

I am counting on you, as my elected representative, to follow the will of your constituents in this matter and not a party line and leve the Secure Fence Act in tact and funded.

Jody (last name removed)
(city), IA
www.iowageekonline.com

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Extra Effort

I’m a girly-girl. I love to get my hair done, I love shoes, I love bags and I love makeup.

For now Brenna seems to be following in my 3-inch-heeled footsteps. She loves getting her hair cut, she will clip-clop around the house in my shoes, she has a collection of “purses” and she is intrigued by makeup.

OK, so the only stuff I let her put on her face is lip gloss (and once in a while I’ll put some sheer eye shadow on her) but she loves the stuff.

Someday I’ll have to show her how to apply it correctly. MakeupTip.com has some great info- beginning with the basics and including great tips like a smoky eye and lip shaping.

Good stuff to check out if you're getting ready for hubby's work "holiday" party. C'mon, I can't be the only one who puts extra effort into that...

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December Scrap Bribing

The theme for this month... Well, actually it's a dual theme. So let's call it
Resolutions and These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

As I mentioned before, this is- by far- the largest prize I have given. There's a lot going on, so let's get to it.

Everything you see here is included.

What? You can't see what's inside the lovely scrap organizer? Well, let me show you...

First I have included an assortment of Prima flowers. I love these. They are great to group together or to scatter on a page. I have used them on top of photos and have laid them on a page as background. You will also see chipboard cut outs. There is so much you can do with these. Paint them, glitter them, trace them...
Next comes the resolution part (unless your resolution is to scrapbook more- mine is!). The Organized Life has tips for organizing every aspect of your life. I have tried to get you started with the tote... The rest is up to you.
Back to scrapping goodies. This is a pack of 8x8 Christmas papers. I like 8x8 sizes for background, accents and photo mats.
And there is more!

Here we have loose sparkle, paint and Stickles. I love to paint chipboard and sprinkle the loose stuff on. The sprinkles stick to the wet paint and you spend less than a pre-sparkled goodie. The Stickles are great for accenting a page. I love to add them to stickers to give them a bit more dazzle.

This may be one of my most favorite things: Glue Dots. I especially like the mini size because they don't bunch up and they are never too big.

Not done yet!
Here are 3 rolls of ribbon (about 1 foot each, I think) and rows of self stick rhinestones. I love to accent with ribbon, either as a frame for photos or with a bow or knot. The rhinestones are great for the Prima flowers or to accent, well, anything.
And, finally, I have chipboard alphabet charms and mini Prima flowers. These charms are great if you attach them with a bit of wire or brads. And these little flowers look great mixed with the larger ones.
Do you love it? Of course you do! So enter! All you have to do is leave me a comment! So easy!
Want more chances? Write a nice little bit about this giveaway on your blog and link to it. (Be sure to let me know!) I will add an extra entry for you.
AND, be sure to tell everyone who visits from your blog to let me know you sent them! For every comment I get that tells me you sent them I will enter both of you!

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Resolution #1

Friday is Doug’s last day at “the Farg”. And although I won’t miss his 70 hour weeks I will miss the paycheck that go along with them (the positive side of being a contractor is an hourly wage).

Thankfully Doug was approached by a company he used to work with a few weeks ago and agreed to work “as he could” until his contract ended. So he has another job in place.

But he will be putting in only 40-hour weeks. I’m really not sure what he will do with all his extra time. (Maybe he’ll try to take back his blog? HA! I think not!)

So I am reconfiguring the family budget. Of course you should annually check your insurance rates, how many of us really go out and get a new Home Owner Insurance Quote or auto insurance quote?

Yep, me neither. But come the first of the year I will be doing just that. I’ll be checking out the resources on FinanceGenius.com and using some of their handy tools to help guide my decisions.

I suppose it’s my first resolution.

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Pajama Day

Well, only half way.

This morning the girls and I will be "lounging"- which includes, but is not limited to, cleaning the living room and kitchen, doing a load of laundry and bathing. I suppose the "lounging" comes in now as I am online and the girls are munching generic Cheerios and watching Wonder Pets.

About 4pm we will be picking up the babysitter, a set of keys and a pizza. About 5:30 "friends" will arrive to play with the girls and Doug & I are off for a relaxing dinner with adults and then to set up for a caucus class Doug is leading.

Two weeks until the caucus. I still don't know who I will be supporting. Feel free to push your candidate in the comments.

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Our First Stop in Ireland

>> Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The closer we get to spring the more you are going to hear about our trip to Ireland. Try not to hate me. I’m just so excited!

I have been working on our itinerary for, oh, the last year and a half, trying to fit in some of my favorite places from my solo trip in 2003 (to share with Doug and my mom) along with a few places that are new to me.

My plan is for us to fly into Dublin and work our way back to Shannon for the flight home. And the first stop on my itinerary is the Wicklow Mountains, just south of Dublin.

I had thought to make this stop the last time we were in Ireland but we decided to skip it in favor of Dublin. In hindsight we should have stopped.

I want to hike through the mountains and visit Glendalough, the Glen of the two lakes. The monastic site was settled by St. Kevin fourteen centuries ago and today it is one of the most important sites of monastic ruins in Ireland.

The photos I have seen of Glendalough and the surrounding area I know that a single day won’t do justice to all there is to see- historically and naturally. It’s breathtakingly beautiful. I'm not geoing to skip it this time.

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Christmas Extravaganza

Tonight Doug, the girls & I will be attending a Christmas Extravaganza with Mitt Romney. Should be interesting. Watch here for photos and my thoughts.

Update:

Well,I don't have much to say. I really thought that it would be an intimate gathering of no more than 100 people. WRONG! Even though we RSVP'd we had no table and people who didn't RSVP but arrived before we did got seating. Now,I understand that you don't want to turn people away, but really, there were too many people packed into one ballroom. I'm sure fire codes were broken.

I'm also a bit sad because I had hoped to learn something about Governor Romney, maybe get a chance to ask him about the health care he passed in Massachusetts and what he thinks now that it has been in place a while. (I don't care for it. Because it is mandatory that you have health care insurance rates in MA have risen at least 15%. Businesses can't afford to keep providing it and individuals can't afford it so the state covers it. Hmmm, it's almost like universal healthcare lite)

We didn't stay long. Too many people and the "family fun" that was promised didn't seem to be forthcoming. I was disappointed.

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Swimsuits for Girls Like Me

If you’ve been around any time at all you’ve heard me gripe about my bQQbs. And I know- from the emails I’ve received asking for bra recommendations- that there are quite a few of you out there that have the same problem I do.

So I wanted to share this resource I found for full busted swimsuits.

Last year I had the worst time trying to find a swimsuit to fit my bQQbs- and the rest of me. Most places carry suits but not separates. BiggerBras.com will sell tops and bottoms separately so you can actually get something that fits! And has support!

Finally, a swimwear site I can use!

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Something I've Been Wanting

I mentioned a few days ago that a box of the Christmas treats I was making would be going to PayPerPost. I know that some of you probably think that odd, but I want to explain why.

Being a contractor allows Doug to make pretty good money. We live a nice upper middle class life. I am able to stay home with the girls and actually raise them.

Being a contractor also means that when a job ends there is no security. If there are no jobs available then Doug doesn't work. And no work = no money. So we try to live frugally and save for the rainy days to come.

So when I learned about PPP it was something I had a definate interest in. I enjoy writing and I love to learn about, well, almost anything. I really loved that I could accept or reject opportunities so I could stay as true to myself (and my readers) as possible.

Well, with the money I have made from PPP I was able to get something I have been wanting for about a year but just couldn't justify.



Yep, I bought an elliptical machine. Now I don't sit when I watch TV, I "ellip". And Doug is using it, too, in the mornings before he showers.

So, not only do I want to thank PPP for the opportunity to make some money from home doing something I enjoy, but I also want to thank all of my readers for coming by and checking out what I have to say. If you didn't stop by and leave me comments or emails I wouldn't still be here.

Of course, I do bribe you once in a while... And tomorrow is the big day. The biggest "bribery" gift so far...



And if you're interested in PayPerPost just click this little linky...

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A Bag Built for Organization

I am a crazy organized person. Oh, you may not know it sometimes, but I am. In preparation for our trip to Ireland I have been buying luggage. Hey, it’s on sale right now… My plan is that we will take three 27” rolling bags (technically they can be carried on, but we will check them) for clothes for the four of us (four days worth and we’ll do laundry once) and then a carry on for each of us. We will, of course, ship items ahead to avoid too much hassle at the airport. I’m all about traveling light.

I still need a bag for while we are roaming the countryside. I want it to be small-ish but have lots of room. And, being a freaky organizer, I want it to have pockets for all the things I’ll be carrying- my wallet, camera, video camera…

I saw the Buxton Bag and think it may be just what I am looking for. It has lots of zippers and compartments so I can keep everything just the way I like it- organized. And it comes in black, red or tan which I appreciate as most bags like this only come in black. And I rarely wear black.

C’mon, I’m not so crazy organized that I will carry a black bag with brown shoes.

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Awwww Yeah...

>> Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I must say, you have all been incredibly patient with my tardiness in getting the Glenn Beck stuff up.

These are shots of the beginning "sponsors" from each segment. Funny stuff.

Please excuse the beginning of the first video- I was paying more attention to what was going on backstage and not the screen.



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Share a Bit of History

Before my great grandmother died she wrote a book about her life for all of her descendants. I cherish that book. She was born in 1900 and the stories are amazing.

I have no idea what it cost for her to do that (we have a very large family) or even where she had it done. Her book was “Dedicated to my decendants (sp) so they might know how it was in the “olden days”" and is filled with remembrances and photos.

It’s so much easier now to Self Publish your life story. Or anything else you want to share. AuthorHouse will support you completely through the process and even help with promotion.

You are the only one with your life story. Why not share it?

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Who Gets My Vote?

The Iowa Caucus' are just over 3 weeks away and I have yet to make up my mind on who to vote for. Of course no single candidate will be just what I want, so I have to decide who will best fit my idea of a good leader.

I have made a few decisions, though.

I am a conservative and no Democratic candidate will get my vote. I don't believe in universal health care, period. I believe that we, as a country, expect too much from our government. We have become complacent and too many of us believe that we are, somehow, owed. Handouts are not helping us economically, nor are they inspiring people to fend for themselves.

I don't believe I will be casting my vote for Rudy Guliani, either. Although I believe he is the one candidate who could bring both sides together, he is much to socially liberal for me.

And John McCain, though I completely respect his service to our country, has a record that, I don't believe, can be called conservative. I think he could end the war with us victorious. I also believe that he would provide amnesty and open our borders- WIDE.

Many people in my church would be disgusted by this, but Mike Huckabee won't be getting my vote, either. He is a fine man but his pastoral heart would bankrupt our country quickly. He invites people to view his record. I see more tax increases in Arkansas during his tenure as governor than during Bill Clinton's. I also see that he was for tax payers footing the bill for illegal immigrants to go to college and that he denounced a bill to keep illegal aliens from voting. I also believe that he would institute some form of universal health care. I think he will make a great Vice-President.

Ron Paul... Where to go with this guy. I admit that he is tempting with his "Stop the IRS" and "Stop NAFTA Super Highway" stuff. But he just makes libertarians look bad. And I am disgusted by the disregard for property his supporters show. Hello- those signs you are spray painting will all have to be fixed- with tax dollars! I think his campaign should be billed for everything that needs repaired.

Tom Tancredo I like. I've met him a few times and he is a guy who goes after what he believes in. Unfortunately he may be a bit too harsh for most people. I do applaud his stand against Western Union. Just look at all those tax-free dollars being sent out of the country...

Duncan Hunter... He actually got a double fence with a road in between for the Border Patrol to, ummm... patrol, and crime and drugs in the San Diego area dropped 90%. He sponsored the fence bill- which passed and has funding but has yet to really even begin. Unfortunately Mr. Hunter has not been in Iowa much. I don't know much about him.

So that brings me to Mitt Romney. I will admit that I am not bothered by Mr. Romney's religion. Do we believe the same? No. Does he have the same fundamentals I do? I believe so. I appreciate that he has been a business man. I think he would run our country like it should be run- as a very large corporation. Get rid of what isn't productive. Quit wasting money. He has a strong focus on family- very important- and can tell you exactly why he is pro-life after being pro-choice (I think you must be able to give a very specific reason as to why you changed your mind. I respect him for this speech he gave. I like a person who can say they were wrong.) I do worry, though, about the health care legislation that was passed in Massachusetts while he was governor. Everyone musy have health coverage. You pay for it yourself and if you can't (or it's not provided by your employer) the state pays for it. Not quite universal health care... but closing in on it.

And lastly, Fred Thompson. I like Fred, too. I think he's a straight forward guy. I believe he is conservative and his record from when he was in the Senate follows that path. He is very laid-back in his approach to campaigning- so much so that he is called lazy. I admire him for pointing out the stupidity of the hand raising in debates (Hello? Third grade?) and think that he is being overlooked for not being "rabid" enough, for lack of a better term. Laid back may be just what we need.

So, there I am. Four men to choose from. We will be meeting Mitt Romeny this week and plan to meet the other three at least once before the caucus. Hopefully by January 3rd I will have made a choice.

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I'm In Recovery

Hello, my name is Jody and I am a shop-a-holic.

No matter how long you have been “on the wagon” you fight every day to remain there. Especially this time of year.

I remember back in the mid-90s. I was making really freakin’ good money. I was extravagant in my gift giving. Jewelry, clothing, expensive toys, trips. Yep, I spent what I earned- and then some.

What went beyond my cash flow was covered by credit cards. I didn’t pay attention to interest rates or annual fees. I lived in my own little world full of stuff.

I’ve gotten better about my spending habits over the years- but not without some very rough patches. With Doug being self-employed and me staying at home we have to stick to a pretty tight budget.

It’s still difficult, though, when I find the perfect top (because it so rarely happens) and it is beyond my price range. Or when I see a “thing” that I would like to have but just can’t justify.

It took me a long time to realize what a credit score was. Too long. And there weren’t any places to get your free credit report. Now our credit score is something I keep track of pretty religiously. OK, crazily.

And I am always aware that any purchase- cash or credit- can have an impact. Do I still buy things that we don’t absolutely need? Yes… But now I'm aware of it and can stop myself before I buy just to spend money.

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Merry Christmas Meritt!

I'm sure that most of my readers already read Meritt on her CoffeeTalking blog or one of the others she has out in cyber space. She's a busy lady.

Meritt is also a a friend in real life. Her "CoffeeGirl" babysits for us and we attempt (but don't often succeed) to get together and actually talk.

We're cut from much of the same cloth (although I think she may be more of a perfectionist than I am) and you can bet that I am taking parenting tips from her for when my girls are older!

Go on over and wish her a Merry Christmas!

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A New Way to Read

>> Monday, December 17, 2007

I love to read. Everything. My interests range from history to autobiography, historical novels to romance, and practically everything else.

BooksOnBoard.com has downloadable Audio Books in MP3 format and eBooks for free reader software such as Microsoft, Adobe and Palm.

Their book list is extensive (over 190,000 titles from many publishers) and the prices are amazing. No club fees, no hidden charges. Very cool. And a great alternative if you enjoy reading (like I do) and your library is a bit tardy in getting new titles (like mine is).

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What's In A Name?

Quite a bit, if you are a three-year-old.

While we have never had a problem getting Brenna to eat anything there are times she will hear the name of something and decide that she doesn't like it.

Tonight, for example, I made quiche. From scratch. Yes, yum. But Brenna insisted "I don't like 'kitch'". However it was in a pie crust. And any parent who has seen the Backyardigans knows that there is a special pie, a "great pie". All it took was telling Brenna it was a "Great Cheese Pie" and it was "dewishious".

Another example is the Taco Soup we have at least monthly during the winter. Darn good stuff. It is served with tortilla scoops and cheese. Mmmmm... Taco Soup, however, is not on Brenna's list of accepted foods. But she loves "salsa dippies". Hence "Salsa Dippy Soup".

And speaking of "dippies", I am constantly amazed at how a little ketchup or "white" (ranch dressing) suddenly makes the unedible appetizing. Even in combinations that turn my stomach.. such as peaches and ketchup or sweet potates and ranch. Ewww...

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So Many Choices

I mentioned in a previous post that I am undertaking the –very slow- process of creating a website to accompany my travel blog. Well, I haven’t even began the website as I am still getting things moved from the Blogger format to another. Photos to tag and move to an online storage area, posts to copy, links to check…

So the actual website is actually not started. I actually just chose my host account the other day with http://www.webhostingchoice.com. It was a simple one-stop directory that helped me to decide what hosting site would work best for me based on costs, fees, space and bandwidth.

They also have a great quick start guide and an advanced search page if you are more advanced than, well, me.

It’s a great resource to use if you are looking into creating your own space on the web.

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Cookies Everywhere

>> Sunday, December 16, 2007

Caelan is napping and Doug & Brenna just left to run some errands. I just finished two big batches of cookies (Sweet Peanut Brittle dipped in Chocolate and Chewy Chocolate Bites) and will be beginning more very soon.

I actually need to decorate one box that cookies are being delivered in as it is a "pizza box" style- and plain. I think I may just wrap it in paper and call it good.

Tomorrow Brenna will deliver cookie bags to her three teachers and also to the front desk staff at her preschool. Caelan and I will take the "pizza box" of cookies to the shop that handles our auto maintence. I will probably also send a box out to PayPerPost. I'll have to remember to share a bit about them later on.

I got the goodies for my monthly bribing. It is- by far- the biggest prize I've given out. I think it's pretty darn nice, too. Thursday is the day for that. Just something to look forward to...

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Pardon My Absence

>> Saturday, December 15, 2007

Things are getting all kinds of crazy around here. It's a mere 10 days until Christmas and busy doesn't begin to describe all the stuff we have going on.

My morning was spent "evaluating" a store and buying a birthday gift for my nephew. Brenna helped me make a few pretzel rods dipped in chocolate and crushed peanuts or crushed mint Oreos after lunch. The afternoon was spent at my sister's house for the birthday party and this evening was filled with dinner, baths and work on my travel website (more on that).

Tomorrow is church and then 3 different kinds of cookies to be made so Brenna can deliver them to her teachers and the ladies at the front desk of her school on Monday. I will also be taking some in to the place that takes care of our vehicles and the remainder will be going to the Chiropractor's office on Wednesday.

Tuesday is shaping up to be busy as last week's Mom's Group was postponed due to weather. I may skip it... and clean the girls' room.

Wednesday is Brenna's Christmas Program at school. Yes, a Christmas Program. Then lunch with my mom- and hopefully Doug.

I still have to buy a gift for my father. Ugh. I wish I could wrap up a good divorce attorney for him since he is refusing to hire one...

Doug is doing two presentations of caucus info on the next two Thursday evenings, so I'll be joining him this week, at least.

And Saturday will include Doug heading out to my Mom's with my brothers to do some work in her kitchen for her birthday and my sister and SILs coming over to work on a card box and cards for my paternal grandmother's Christmas gift.

Then we're back to Sunday... Church and getting ready for Christmas.

And Monday.... Getting ready for Christmas and Christmas Eve service at Church.

I wish it would end there... But no! More festive stuff to follow including hosting another family Christmas the following weekend and a progressive dinner right after the New Year.

So, about my travel website... As most of you know I have a "little travel blog"- link on the left. I've "upgraded" from the free Blogger to the free Go Daddy and have been busy moving photos (and adding website info to them) and making sure all my links work. When that is done (hopefully tomorrow) I will begin work on the actual website. And when that is done I will upgrade to a blog that I pay for to get rid of the ads that accompany the "free" blog site.

And why am I doing this? Well, I was getting quite a nice number of visitors who would email questions to me. So I figured I would take the next step and add more info that a blog really didn't let me provide. I'm really looking forward to this and hope that my ideas and what I am able to actually do will come out somewhat similar.

So all that "stuff" - plus regular mommy duties are really denting my time. I'm sure I'll be writing the "bloggy Christmas" notes well into the New Year.

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Merry Christmas Melody!

>> Friday, December 14, 2007

Melody left her first comment for me on one of my posts with, what I am sure many of you think of as, the dreaded "I" word. Yes, Ireland. Lucky for all of you we have shared our stories on other websites so you don't have to listen to us.

Melody is a mom and college student. She also has an Irish Wolfhound (I'm jealous).

I've really enjoyed getting to "know" her in th last few months- I think you will too. Go on over and wish her "Nollaig Shona". That' Gaelic for "Christmas Greetings".

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Glass... and Steak!

When I lived in St. Paul not a year went by that I didn’t need a windshield replaced. I’m not sure if it was the extra cold winters or all the freakin’ salt chunks of the roads, but I always seemed to end up with a cracked windshield by the end of winter.

And there was the one time my Jeep got broken into while I was at work. The thieves made off with a Target bag- full of toilet paper, toothpaste and tampons. Hey! That stuff ain’t cheap.

I had a Minneapolis auto glass company that I depended on. Rapid Glass was always able to handle my repair quickly, no matter where I was. They did a great job, used OEM parts and I never had any problem with their repairs.

Plus- they brought dinner: a free box of steaks.

Mmmm… steak….


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Merry Christmas Leah!

Leah is a fellow Iowa blogger, SAHM, and host of a great recipe exchange (are those your cookies at the top?).

Leah left me a nice comment once and I follwed it back to her site and have been checking in ever since.

Head on over toone of her sites and wish Leah a Merry Christmas!

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I Love Me a Guy in Tights

We love a good Renaissance Faire. Every year we travel to Shakopee, Minnesota for the Minnesota Ren Fest. Just last year a permanent Renaissance Park was built on Des Moines’ east side. We’ve even been known to head over to Bristol, Wisconsin at the drop of a Cavalier Hat to check out what their Fest had to offer.

Of course we dress in our finest Elizabethan clothing for these events. Some items I have made (in the old-fashioned way: with a sewing machine) and others have been purchased. Doug’s outfit, especially, as it involves tall leather boots, the afore mentioned hat and weaponry.

There’s just something about the Age of Chivalry that sets my heart a-flutter. Well, that and the guys in tights and kilts…

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Fab Food Friday

>> Thursday, December 13, 2007

OK, I just made these today. But they are so good that I by-passed the other very yummy recipes because I had to share it.

Caramel Pecan Cheesecake Bars
except I made mine without the pecans

Another recipe from Kraft. And, just so you know, there is nothing good for you about this recipe- except the way you feel after the first delectable bite.

Yep... I actually made them look this good! Amazing, I know!



Prep Time: 15 min
Total Time: 5 hr
Makes: 32 servings
1 cup PLANTERS Pecan Pieces, divided
1-1/2 cups crushed NILLA Wafers (about 50 wafers)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
4 pkg. (8 oz. each) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
1 cup sugar 1 cup BREAKSTONE'S or KNUDSEN Sour Cream
3 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. vanilla
4 eggs
24 KRAFT Caramels
1 Tbsp. water
3 squares BAKER'S Semi-Sweet Baking Chocolate

PREHEAT oven to 325°F. Line 13x9-inch baking pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides of pan. Remove 1/2 cup of the pecans; set aside. Finely chop remaining pecans. Mix wafer crumbs, chopped pecans and butter. Press firmly onto bottom of prepared pan. Refrigerate until ready to use.

BEAT cream cheese and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add sour cream, flour and vanilla; mix well. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed after each addition just until blended. Pour over crust.

BAKE 45 min. or until center is almost set. Cool completely. Place caramels in microwaveable bowl. Add water. Microwave on HIGH 1 min. or until caramels are completely melted when stirred. Pour over cheesecake; top with the reserved pecans. Melt chocolate as directed on package; drizzle over cheesecake. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. Use foil handles to remove cheesecake from pan before cutting into pieces to serve. Store in tightly covered container in refrigerator.

**Notes:

  • I left out the pecans. It is fine without them.
  • Melt the caramels until they are very runny, otherwise they will cool before they spread.
  • Use a VERY sharp knife to cut the bars, point down, in a poking motion. If you try to cut like a regular cake the caramel will pull. I got some nekkid pieces before I learned that.
  • Keep a pair of kitchen shears near by to cut the very stubborn caramel.

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Christmas Show

I'm not sure how many of you listen to Glenn Beck or even have any idea who he is. He's a conservative talk show host and also has a show on CNN Headline News. He's not a journalist, but is a "thinker".

As I am conservative (after a stint as a liberal in my younger days) I enjoy listening to him as common sense plays such a big role. He's funny but he'll make you think.

Doug & I went to see his Christmas Show last night. I got great seats as they were my AnniBirthMas gift. Second row, center.

Despite what you might think, the show wasn't political. Well, the hilarious preludes for each half were, but the rest of the show focused on the meaning of Christmas and stories of Glenn's family.

For me to try to recount it will, in no way, do it justice. But, much like hi shows, it made me laugh, it made me cry and it made me think.

We had a great time and the 2 1/2 hours flew by.

I got a bit of video from the preludes that will make you laugh. I'll get it up as soon as the girls will let me.

Until then here is a bit from Toledo:

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Bouncing Back

You can’t get away from the news that more and more people are defaulting on loans and credit cards. And while there are many “reasons” people give for their bad fortune (hmmm, can you say “overspending” and “living above your means” there are just as many companies out there wanting to help you out of your hole.

When your future is on the line- as it is when it comes to your credit- you need to be careful when choosing from the multitude of bad credit loans.

BadCreditOffers.com, the user’s guide to bad credit, can help you figure out which offer is best for you. And, if you need hands on help, they can guide you through the top credit counseling companies.

Your credit runs your life- it determines your insurance rates, whether you can get a home or a car, it can even effect your job. You want to work to keep it clean.

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Happy in Iowa

Self magazine did a survey of the 100 largest metro areas in the US to find out which was the healthiest.

You may be surprised to know that the Des Moines metro is on that list. Yep, we're getting big.

Des Moines ranked 33rd out of 100 in healthiest cities ranking low in depression, high in mammograms, pap smears and breast exams and shortest in commutes.

What they don't mention on their website but do in their full article is that Des Moines is the 4th happiest place in the US- behind Minneapolis (I was very happy there so I get it), Nashville and Fargo, ND/Moorhead, MN.

Hmmm, must be the short commutes... 'Cuz it certainly isn't the weather.

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DC is On My List

When my brother returned from Iraq he served a year in Washington DC. I was 8 ½ months pregnant at that time so when Doug, my brother and sister-in-law helped move his family I stayed behind.

I got to see photos and hear stories about what they saw and did. And it sucked! I was so jealous. I have wanted to visit DC for a long time and the fact that Doug went without me, well, it just wasn’t fair. Yeah, I know, I couldn’t help and I wouldn’t have been able to waddle around the city but I still wanted to go.

So DC is high on my list of places to visit when the girls are older and able to appreciate the history of our country. (Besides, they need to see the real history as I really don’t trust our schools to teach it without making it PC and altering all the “bad” stuff).

I save all the links I find for places I want to visit and one of the links I have for DC is Trusted Tours and Attractions. They have some great DC tours including a tour of Mt. Vernon (home of George Washington), a night bike tour and and “Old Town Trolley” Tour.

In addition to DC, Trusted Tous and Attractions has tours in 20 other cities. You can sign up for their Trusted Travel eNewsletter for great info and travel ideas.

If you need more incentive to try their newsletter: sign up now you are registered to win an iPod Nano.



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You Sick Twisted Freak

>> Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I get my Anni-birth-mas present!!!

Just me, Doug, Glenn Beck and a couple thousand conservative freaks!

To help get me in the spirit. Turn up your volume and prepare to laugh.
(May be objectionable to extreme liberals- make sure to play it extra loud!)

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The Christmas Letter

I'm not sure when the Christmas Letter became an obligatory insert into the Christmas card or even who started it but if I were to find out I think I just might cut them down.

I really, really don't like Christmas Letters. With the exception of a few they are just too dull. If I am not so close to you as to know your month by month activities I don't think I really need a blow-by-blow at the end of the year.

I don't include them in my cards as anyone who cares enough about me can stop by and read all about what we are up to.

Because if the only time I am in contact with you is at Chrismas we aren't all that freakin' close anyway.

Thanks- I just had to get that out of my system.

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Snow and Ice, Ice and Snow

So, central Iowa is sitting under it’s third major winter storm in the last three weeks. I’m sitting here seeing all the closings and cancellations scroll across the bottom of my TV screen – including the airport. And I wish I could be someplace warm.

And since Caelan is napping and Brenna is in the other room playing with Play-Doh I was free to peruse travel deals to warm places.

I have lists of places I would like to visit in my favorites toolbar and was clicking pretty randomly when I hit a bookmark for Amelia Island in Florida. There is a beautiful bed and breakfast there, Elizabeth Pointe Lodge, that I have had my eye on for a couple of years. It’s gorgeous, right on the beach and has a big, beautiful porch that I can imagine watching Doug & the girls from.

And the shopping in the historical area looks like the perfect spot to walk and browse away an afternoon.

Ah, to be on one of the top 10 islands in America, relaxing and WARM! Right now there is a great Lodging Special that will give you a third night free when you stay two nights. And “my” bed and breakfast is on the list of participating properties- along with about a dozen others. Did I mention this deal is going on through February 29th?

Hmmm… That would make a darned nice gift…



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On With the Weather Report

Well, the sleety rain has stopped and the snow is coming down. I really wanted to say something pretty like:
The snow is drifting lazily from the sky, blanketing the ground like a glittering quilt
But it really isn't. It's falling as hard as snow can in little, hard, round pellets. Not really even flakes.

And snow over ice... Yuck. Definately a danger. Thankfully we are all tucked snug in our home. Others of my clan aren't so lucky. My sister in law had to go in to work- someone actually came to pick her up. My brother Jarod is out somewhere working to restore power. There is no answer at my sister and brother-in-law's house and I am betting the same at my brother and sister-in-law's.

Caelan is napping, Doug is working from home (not a surprise) and Brenna is downstairs "working" as well.

I just pulled a load of stuff from the closet to donate to Goodwill. It is almost the end of the year and I have to itemize it all before it can be donated. New IRS rules... And I want the tax write off.

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Merry Christmas Jodi!

Let's see... How did I come upon Jodi? I am pretty sure she left me a comment and I followed her linky.

I've been checking in on her ever since. Jodi has a large family and a very full house. I am amazed that she remains sane- especially with some of the drama that unfolds. She has a big house (that I am secretly in love with- I have a thing for old homes) and a bigger heart.

Pop over and wish her a Merry Christmas.

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On The Rocks

We are in the midst of another round of ice storms. It is supposed to last all day and every school within 100 miles is cancelled. My brother is probably out working- trying to get power back to all those whose power lines are felled by the weight of the ice. Des Moines is closing in on half an inch of iceon the roads.

No one in my house is going anywhere today. The girls and I have no place we need to be and Doug will be able to work unless we lose power.

I got all my Christmas shopping done yesterday. Well, except for my dad. He's difficult to buy for no matter what. But this year it seems more so. After he returned home to recover from his accident his wife told him she wanted a divorce. Not really bad news for us kids as she is really not a nice person and didn't treat my father very well. The only bad thing is that he will be alone. I don't think he does well alone- which is why he ended up married to her (I think).

I want to get him a dog. Even a cat. Just something that can be there with him and appreciate him. My youngest brother doesn't think it's a bad idea... And a pet won't cost more than his wife did.

Well, my whining one-year-old thinks she needs to work on my computer, too, so it's time for me to go. Pretty sure I'll be back later, not much else to do.... Wish I had bought the stuff to bake Christmas cookies...

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Merry Christmas Jill!

>> Monday, December 10, 2007

Jill came to my blogroll in a very interesting way. I was reading An Iowa Mom and she told me about this book giveaway. So I clicked on over and found an Iowa native living in Georgia.

And that is why Jill is in my "midwest" linkies.

Just so you know, Jill seems to have it all: red-hot-smokin' husband (her words), great looking kids, a job she loves... And she's attractive. Now go on over and wish her good tidings!

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Just for Her

I do the majority of my shopping online. I appreciate the ease of online shopping and the fact that I can do it anytime. There are so many others that feel that way that retailers court the online shopper with coupons and codes galore.

I was buying my paternal grandmother her annual Christmas flowers today and, of course, searched for the best deal. In doing so I came across a new coupon site- just for “her”.

Yep, coupon site designed for women. What a great idea! Honestly, I can’t believe I hadn’t seen one before. Anything for “her”. Check out these stores covered by HerCoupon.com. Purses… Shoes… Clothes… Travel… It’s all there.

I think one of my favorite things about this site is that it, of course, lists categories but it also breaks those categories into sub-categories. Like the travel category is broken down to car rental, cruise, flights and hotel. Logical, no?

HerCoupon also has exclusive coupons from companies you don’t usually find online savings from like BrushStrokes Fine Art, FreshPair.com and SpaLook.

Another neat thing on HerCoupon is that you can join the online shopper community. You will get a newsletter to keep you up to date on all the savings and you can read and comment about all the deals.

And don’t think men are forgotten. Nope, there’s a HisCoupon.com, too. Not quite so much stuff listed there... Hmmm...

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Merry Christmas Jenn!

Another newbie to my blogroll is Jenn. Jenn is my cousin's wife. She comments here sometimes and because I knew who she was I never clicked on her profile link because I didn't thnk she had a blog.

Silly me! As any blogger knows you begin by reading and then you get sucked in to the bloggy world.

So, Merry Christmas cousin-in-law! Everyone give her link a little click and say hi.

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What to Do With All Those Files

Christmas is coming
Your camera disk is stuffed
Can you download to the computer?
Is there space enough?

What about the safety
In case of a crash?
Or one wrong gaming stroke-
Those photos could end up in the trash.

And what about those files-
Such important information.
Finances, addresses and email
Could end up in digital sanitation.

iBackup, iBackup, iBackup.com
Anywhere access, scheduled backups
Easy as CD ROM.

Editor’s Choice awards
Are lining the walls
And more high end features
Than you will find in malls.

A free trial
Is yours for the asking
Just go and sign up
No tsk-ing, no tasking.

iBackup, iBackup, iBackup.com,
online backup, online storage,
Trusted more than mom.
(Sorry, mom!)


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What to Do in Iowa When It's 15 Degrees

>> Saturday, December 08, 2007

Go outside, of course!

After our snow Thursday today was the perfect day to try out the hill in the back yard! Aunts, uncles and cousins came over and much fun was had.

Brenna, my snow bunny, loved every minute and lasted longer outside than anyone. And wanted to go out for more after lunch!
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Caelan wasn't really sure what to think. She didn't fuss and even seemd to smile a couple of times. And, no, she really can't move in that snowsuit.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

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"Shoe" Me the Deals!

With all the Christmas shopping going on around here I have yet me make my list and give it to Doug.

OK, who am I kidding? I’ll just shop for myself, wrap it and put it under the tree from Doug or the girls. That way I will like what I get!

You all know by now that I likes me some shoes. You should also know that I never pay retail. NEVER. I am always on the look out for deals and promotions.

So when I found a great ShoeBuy coupon you know I headed over to check out their stuff.

In doing so I found out that Jessica Simpson has a line of shoes. I have to admit that I am getting pretty annoyed at all these “stars” with shoes, clothing, perfumes and other items with their names on them. And then I have to follow with, “But the plaid shoe is cute.” GAH! Pains me to do that!

If you're looking for a saucy pair of heels for hubby's upcoming Christmas party check out the ShoeBuy deals. And don't overlook the Jessica Simpson line- even if she, personally, makes you want to scream.

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Merry Christmas Carrie!

Carrie is relatively new to my blogroll. She is a fellow Iowa blogger who came to my site- somehow- and I tracked her back through her profile.

Carrie says in her bio that she is "striving to be a better steward of what she has been given" and her blog reflects that. Though she is younger than I, she has taught me a lot. I hope that I have been able to return the favor once or twice.

Merry Christmas Carrie!

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Zero is My Favorite Number

Doug and I are working hard to get things paid off in the most sensible fashion and still have money for IRAs and insurance. We make cuts where we can and make sure we pay the smallest interest possible if we have to finance something.

I read a lot of websites that recommend taking out a home equity loan to pay off credit. Which is a fine idea… If you don’t run up the credit again. Unfortunately most people do run that credit right back up.

Where my credit cards are concerned I watch for 0% credit cards offers and 0% balance transfer credit cards. I will often call my current credit card and ask them to match the offer. With the credit card offers that line my mailbox companies are often keen to keep me as a customer.

It is unfortunate that we can no longer live without a credit score and you must borrow to build that score. If you do it wisely even credit cards can be an asset.

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Fab Food Friday

>> Friday, December 07, 2007

OK, so it's Friday. And on Friday I usually offer a recipe. And, to be honest, I even have a couple to share. But the photos are on my camera... Upstairs. And I really don't feel like downloading photos and typing out recipes. Probably because I am drugged again to try to kill my bronchitis.

So what I am going to share with you today is a link to Quick & Easy Appetizers from Kraft.

These are especially great if you need something quick to take to a get-together or you need something impressive to serve guests. I use Kraft recipes quite often. And always receive fabulous compliments!

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Have You Tried Vacation Home Rentals?

I am almost ready to begin the booking process for our upcoming trip to Ireland! (You can't tell, but I am giddy with excitement!)

I have, somewhat, mapped out our itinerary and have decided that we will begin in Dublin and end in Shannon- opposite of last time. We will, of course, be driving ourselves as we never seem to really stick to our plans very closely.

I know we won't use hotels; I am actually considering using Vacation Home Rentals. In a rental we would be able to come and go as we please without bothering anyone. And we could stock the fridge with what we wanted to eat. And Ireland is small enough that much of what we would want to do could be done from a central location. Besides, you just don't meet the locals in a hotel. Not to mention separate rooms!

I was checking out HomeAway.com earlier and was very impressed with the properties they have available. They are the leaders in Vacation Home Rentals with over 100,000 cottages, cabins and condos (303 in Ireland) around the world.

OK, I'm off to peruse properties!

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Corporate Devils

My mom was here last weekend and we were discussing a couple of campaign commercials we saw during breaks in the ice storm coverage.



Now, here I have to interject that I see many more commercials for Hillary & Obama than anyone else on the local CBS affiliate. I'm not sure why, though I'm sure it has to do with the time the TV is on (just a few minutes in the morning for weather and sometimes in the afternoon around Dr. Phil & Oprah).



The commercials that are bothering me now are by the two candidates mentioned above. Let me begin with Hillary. Her recent commercial (Strong) tells just how the middle class is getting "slammed" due to oil prices going up and home prices going down. And both of those statements are true. She goes on to say that as President she will end the corporate tax breaks "the administration" has given to big corporations. She says she'll create new jobs focusing on renewable energy and reduce the deficit.

Now, overall, her commercial sounds all well and good, but let's look at it in pieces. Yes, oil is going up. We have a dependence on it. Everyone knows that. Oil is about supply and demand. If we would drill our own oil out of Alaska you would immediately see the price of Middle Eastern oil drop dramatically. It's really not going to hurt the caribou.

Next- home prices. Yes, they are going down. What goes up must come down. Inflated home prices couldn't last forever. Or am I the only one who remembers the stories about people over bidding on homes. It was a sellers market for years. Now it's a buyer's market. I am sure she is also referring to the fiasco of subprime loans. I happen to believe that the lenders are fully responsible for this mess- to a point. No, they shouldn't have offered loans that they knew would be defaulted on. But people, c'mon, be responsible for yourselves, too. You know what you can afford. And if the payment seems "too good" it probably is.

Now, about those tax breaks... I'm a little annoyed at the "the administration" comment as tax breaks for big business have been in place since the democrats created the IRS. And while it doesn't seem right, let's look at why these tax breaks are given. They are given to bring businesses into a state or city. This then provides jobs. Tax breaks are also given because the employer provides benefits- namely health coverage- for it's employees. A tax break is not a one way street- it's a give and take. Now, I am not agreeing with tax breaks by any means as there are so many loopholes in the tax code that I am not sure any corporation pays enough in taxes but if they are completely taken away I am afraid for the what the "middle class" will be "slammed" with.

And, just because I aman evil conservative, I will ask: these new jobs focusing on renewable energy... What corporations will be providing these new jobs if you don't give them some sort of tax break to begin the process? Just curious...

On to Mr. Obama... I am searching his website for the commercial I am thinking of but can't find it. In the commercial I am thinking of he says that it is wrong that there are "CEOs who make more in 10 minutes than many people make in a year". And I have to say that I agree with that... To a point.

I can't think of anyone who should be paid millions of dollars. (Now, if you build a company from nothing I rescind my comment. You are worth every penny you make) But $60 million for a football player? $60 million for an actor? Per film? Please.

But these weren't the people Mr. Obama was talking about. No, he was talking about corporate CEOs. In all honesty I'm not sure these people are worth what they are paid, either. Then again the CIETC scandal is still stinging us Iowans and the numbers weren't near the millions of dollars mark... So I will go back to supply and demand. People can only be paid what the market will allow. Which is why so many CEOs only have their jobs for a short time- it's about results. And if you can't up the bottom line, well, in the famous words of Heidi Klum, "You're OUT!"

No one ever said life is fair. I've been from dirt poor to quite comfortable (in our "middle class" way). I'm not really sure when working hard to get ahead became a bad thing. Immigrants come here (legally and illegally) for opportunity and a better life. Anything is possible in America. If you work for it.

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Do You Jitterbug?

I know I’ve shown photos of my grandfather on this site before. He’s a great guy; in many ways my hero. He was born in 1928; he’ll be 80 next year. It’s almost impossible to believe he is that old as he still runs the farm he and my grandmother worked so hard to build.

Because he is so active he got a cell phone a few years ago. And he hated it. Mostly because they just don’t make cell phones for senior citizens. He didn’t need text messaging or internet. He didn’t care for the tiny keypad or the many ringtones.

He just needed a phone. Not long ago he got a Jitterbug. And he loves it. Jitterbug makes senior cell phones- and makes them right. He can actually hear when he uses his phone because it is hearing aid compatible and has a powerful speaker. The screen has large text and the buttons are large and backlit.

Jitterbug also has operators to help with everything. No confusing setup to handle by yourself. And no contracts or service plans. Just a straight forward phone to use when you need it.

If you have to buy any gifts for senior citizens consider the Jitterbug. It’s a phone they’ll actually use!

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Merry Christmas Bubbi!

>> Thursday, December 06, 2007

If I remember correctly Bubbi left a comment on the blog not long after I started writing. I think she initially found us through Doug's political writing and stayed after I took over.

Bubbi lives in the great vacation land of Wisconsin Dells; someday we plan to actually head up there with the girls.

Bubbi has a passion for Israel and loves her grandchildren deeply. She's always an interesing read- even if she does suffer from "senior moments"!

Merry Christmas Bubbi!

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Fantasy or Reality

I was watching Dr. Phil the other day. Yeah, sometimes it happens. Anyway, he had a teen aged girl on who was completely wrapped up in a virtual online game.

I can’t remember the name of the game but this girl would spend hours playing it. Days, in fact. This game had taken over her life; so much so that she was avoiding her real life in favor of the life her avatar was “living”.

And since not long ago Law & Order SVU had an episode centering around a similar game the “real life” thing kind of freaked me out.

Not that there is anything wrong with a bit of fantasy. Heck, in my fantasies I live in a manor in Ireland and am a relatively decent writer. And I think that’s healthy. Since my fantasy is actually more of a goal (although a manor may be a bit grand)I think it may even be helpful to me.

It's just when your fantasy becomes you reality that problems really begin to arise. I was reading an article by The Sedona Method that made a lot of sense.

The bit that really struck me was this:


So while typically there is nothing wrong with fantasizing about your career, sex life or life in general, it’s essential that you stay in control of your fantasies, and put your focus on your reality.

So, while fantasies aren't bad, ignoring your reality is. Great words of advice, I think.


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'Night 'Night

>> Wednesday, December 05, 2007

So, it's been an exciting day, as you can see by all the posting I did.

In all honesty I have a list of posts I want to write as well as a few paid opportunities that I would love to take the time to tell you about.

But my day began badly and, though it didn't get any worse, it didn't get much better. Caelan napped twice and I had hoped to pursue that same avenue of escape but Brenna's idea of relaxing in bed with mommy begins with full on cuddling which progresses to playing under the covers which becomes bouncing. She then exits the bed so I can only half-rest (if you're a mommy you know exactly what I mean) and runs in to give me updates every few minutes:

  • Mommy, I turned onthe TV.
  • Mommy, Gabba Gabba is on. I like it.
  • MOMMY! Gabba Gabba is on!
  • Mommy, can you fix this?
  • Mommy, can you fix this again?
  • Mommy, I got a hot dog but I can't get it in the microwave. (WHAT!?!)

On and on. Not so relaxing.

So I am going to forgo any more detailed posts- I have some good ones in the works- and money making opportunities for a warm bath and Project Runway from the comfort of my bed.

If I can stay awake that long...

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I'm Afraid

I'm afraid today will be bad. I usually look forward to Wednesday because Brenna spends the morning at school. But today she will be at home. Seems she gave Daddy the "I'm not tired" line last night while I was out and when I returned home shortly before 9pm she was still awake.

That makes for a whiney 3-year-old at 7:15 am. A clinging, sobbing 3-year-old that wouldn't let me shower. Which I desperately needed to wake up since Caelan was screaming for, well, I'm not sure what she was screaming for, but it was 5 am and I had to remove myself from bed and cuddle her for half an hour or so before she would quietly lay back down.

Have I mentioned that I am still fighting this nasty ick that I've had for weeks? Yep. I am pretty sure I still have the bronchitis but since my coughs are "productive"- read nasty infectious flem hacking and emitting from my throat (yummy)- I haven't been back to the doctor. I'm pretty sure a sinus infection is also involved as the yuck being blown from my nose is, well, equally attractive. I've been running a low grade fever for the past week, as well. Usually between 99 and 101.

Oh, and the girls have had nasty poo and are also hacking a bit and fighting nose ick. They were actually at the doctor again last week but have no infections or fever so the doctor says they are just fighting a virus.

Wow, that was a fun and uplifting post, no? Suffice to say that our plans for today are all shot to hell and we will be celebrating "Pajama Day" with mimosas (minus the champagne) and lots of sleep.

I hope...

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