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

Congratulations Bubbi!

>> Monday, March 31, 2008

The random number generator picked 5- and that's you! I'll be sending the scrap bribing goodies your way in the next couple of days!

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SuperFast

I remember when I moved in with Doug. Because he did a lot of his work from home he had high speed internet. I had used dial up. Let me tell you, I got real used to high speed real fast. Can’t quite imagine being without it.

So when I am in the country, say at my grandmother’s, and am helping her with something online the waiting seems… Well, L O N G. And if I remember correctly her phone lines won’t support DSL. There is a solution, though, for Rural internet users. HughesNet is satellite internet for a very reasonable rate. In fact, it’s probably not that much more than they pay for their phone and internet combined.

And with all the VoIP and cell phones does anyone even use a land line anymore?

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Brenna's Day on the Farm

As I think about this I am pretty sure I posted these pictures way back when they were taken- May 2007. Yes, I am very far behind on my scrapping. I'm sure I'll catch up- when the girls are in Jr. High...

Lately we've been singing a lot of "Old McDonald" as Caelan is learning animal sounds and really likes joining in on the "EIEIO". So when I pulled these photos out of my "to be scrapped" file the inspiration was waiting.

I had too many photos for one page but not quite enough for two. So I pulled out Page Flippers. Mine are 6"x12" but they are also available in 3"x12". Love, love, love these. (Note to self- give away for scrap bribing...)

Here is what you see when the flipper is closed:

Can you read the EIEIO? Doug couldn't figure it out...

And opened...
A bit of wishblade cutting, some ribbon and stamping... I really like this page.

I get my flippers at Archiver's. Now- just something to remember when you use these... Apply the flipper to the page protector (if you use one)- not the page itself. Trust me.

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How to Cuddle Your Loved One

One of my friends is in a long distance relationship. Well, they’re married but he’s deployed right now. Iowa to Iraq is a long way. They have a daughter who is under two and she got pregnant when he was home over Christmas. It’s tough on both of them but they have faith in God and family to help them through it.

Recently she was asking if anyone knew a special Father’s Day to send to her hubby overseas. I recommended a Custom Pillow so he could “hug his girls” every night. She thought it was a great idea and got one made almost immediately.

She said that photobed.com was really easy to use and that she was able to add text to the pillow. And that she also had a photo blanket added to the order with a photo of their dog on it. (I guess the dog cuddled with them at night).

She’s a good Christian girl or I would have mentioned that she could use a more “racy” photo of hubby to make a photo shower curtain.

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Finer Dining

OK, so I did a long and rambling post (below) on the lack of "fine dining" in Des Moines which took me to many places...

Anyway, I'll just give you a bit of a rundown...

I looked pretty darn good (which must have been great for me to admit that much). My SIL took photos so I'll try to get one soon & post it. I thought our reservations were for 7pm so Doug & I headed out shortly before 6pm to have a drink and an amuse-bouche (Etymology: French, literally, (it) entertains (the) mouth; in American "small appetizer") somewhere else.

After finding out that our reservations were actually for 7:30 (which turned out to be 8 as my SIL's sister is always late -but that's a whole nother story that I won't bore you with here) we decided to head to the Jordan Creek area thinking that we might find something out there that would fit my "adult evening" desire.

And we did... We ended up at Fleming's. Now, I had been to Fleming's before, not long after they opened. And I didn't leave feeling impressed, only cheated out of way too much money. The first time we had a meal there... Our steaks weren't cooked correctly, my potatoes arrived cold and we had terrible service.

But the ambience is really nice and the restaurant has a great upscale feeling (except for the sports on the bar TVs) so we decided to go there.

What a great experience. We had two terrific bartenders. They were attentative and had actual conversations with us (and even laughed when I said that my drink looked like a science experiment- complete with beaker).


It was called "Romance" and it's supposedly a martini. But it didn't have vodka... When I was a bartender all martinis had vodka... It's fruity and has rum, Blue Caraco and Champagne... And a juice or two. Yummy!

We decided to check the bar appetizers and found a winner: Chef's Artisan Cheese & Charcuterie (Etymology: French, literally, pork-butcher's shop, from Middle French chaircuiterie, from chaircutier pork butcher, from chair cuite cooked meat; in American fancy meat).


From the presentation to the taste this was First Class. I will go so far as to say everyone should go to Fleming's just for this appetizer. The chef brought it out and explained what everything was (counter-clockwise from the olives): Finocciona Salami, Blue Shropshire from England, Country Pâté, smoked duck, Montrachet (goat cheese) from France, White Cheddar from Ireland, Prosciutto di Parma, whole grain mustard and a sliced baguette.

Exceptional. Perfect. And much better than our actual meal (at another restuarant).

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Apparently They're A Toy

On of the favorite things for my daughters to do is to play under and behind the sliding blinds in my kitchen. Which has resulted in what were once very nice patio door coverings becoming bent and difficult to slide (as a couple of the wheels have come off). I want to replace them but am hesitant to spend too much until the thrill of hiding behind them as gone. I'm considering smooth vertical blinds from selectblinds.com. The price is right and they have great reviews. I also like that they will send me a free sample and I can pick a color other than white. And I can look at Ty Pennington on their website. Really, what's not to like?

I see they also have nice prices onMini Blinds which I can get to fit the basement doors. Did I mention that those are really fun to play with, too?


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How Casual Dressing Leads to Shoes, Posh, Bridget and Peanuts...

>> Friday, March 28, 2008

I have some great dresses. One I bought in London (well, I bought two there but one is more bright and fun for going out. The other is more suitable to a graduation or a summer wedding.) Two I bought for our trip to London (one to wear to the theatre, the other for tea at Kensington. Which we didn't go to because we were having tea at Parliament. So the tea dress was worn to the theatre and the theatre dress is still waiting to be worn. ) And then I have a couple of more casual dresses which can be dressed up or down depending on shoes and accessories.

Now, we live in a suburb of a very casual mid-western city. No one dresses up for anything, it seems. When Doug & I were dating (long distance) and he would come to visit me I would take him to some fabulous places. We went to The Oceanaire, Pazzaluna, Jax and W.A. Frost on New Year's Eve (very romantic).

We've eaten at Lawry's in Chicago and Castagnola's in San Francisco.

And I can tell you that Des Moines has no restaurants that match those in ambiance and class. Which really leaves me no place to actually dress up and go out. Which, to be quite frank, sucks. I like to have an adult evening that I can dress up, feel a bit sexy and have a great meal (and maybe great theatre that doesn't just do a two day run but a two month run).

And there Des Moines falls short. Although I do have to admit that it is getting better...

Anyway, tonight is my sister-in-law's annual birthday dinner. Her favorite restaurant is Ohana. It's good (but not spectacular) and once a year is more than enough for me. But, since it's an adult evening, I am going to dress up. In one of my casual dresses. sigh

So I figured out which dress to wear and then realized that I had no black hose. So off to Target the girls and I go. I got black thigh hi's (sexy, remember?) and then wandered through the shoes. And found these:






Totally cute, yes? So I got them to make myself feel better. Because, really, shoes are one of my best friends. Now I just have to figure out if I am wearing them with hose or without because I have NO NICE JACKETS that really go with the dress. I'm thinking if I go with bare legs I can pull of the cute denim jacket I have.

And for hair... I'm in a bit of a growing out phase. I had that totally cute and funky very inverted bob, very short in the back cut like Victoria Beckham. (Say what you will, I think she is fabulous. Or as she would say, "Major." Not her singing of course, just her being.)


So I also bought a headband and I think I'm going to try for something like this little 'do she wore to meet the society ladies in her reality show about moving to America.



Yes I watched it. And I watched it again on the flight home from Dublin. She was funny! Fooling the paparazzi by dressing a sex doll as her... Truly classic.

So, I bet you didn't see where this would end up, did you? Me either. But it was a fun trip, yes?

It's almost 2 pm. I should go up and shave my legs (which would have been done in the shower this morning except I had two little girls that "had" to join me. One in her PJs.) to see if I can skip the thigh hi's (although I will ruin any thoughts of sexiness by adding these.) It's like the whole scene in Bridget Jones's Diary when she has to decide between the sexy panies which may ruin the line of her dress or the big granny panties which will, of course, guarantee her a bit of naughty fun later.

OK, must break away from this post before I find some way to input "Inconceiveable!" or "Anybody have a peanut?". Oh, yes, I could do it!

PS My original title for this post was "Dress Up? To Go Where, Exactly?" It long ago stopped being about that, didn't it?

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Wanna Catch Up?

Would you put this on a 3-year-old?

Noone wants my Easter candy? Or are we all trying to avoid it?

Caelan is one healthy girl... plus a cute photo of my darling daughters.

I found a site for my budget concious friends- it matches savings in your grocery circular to coupons that are available.

And, finally, another installment of my Ireland trip.

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More Than I Bargained For... Or Would You Put Your 3-Year-Old in This?

I bought Brenna's new swimsuit a couple of days ago. As she is wearing 4T I actually moved up to the "big girls'" section and bought her an x-small- the suits are just cuter...

As I mentioned in a previous post I buy my girls surf shirt suits. We're pale people (I'm of Irish descent; Doug, English). Tanning doesn't work so well for us. Besides there is no better time to learn good skin care practices.

Here is the suit I bought her. Cute, yes? I actually wish it had little shorts instead of bikini bottoms but they aren't teeny tiny.

Unlike this piece that I didn't know was included- because it was so teeny tiny.

I freaked out just a bit when it fell out of it's hiding place in between the surf top and bottoms. Who puts a child in a top this tiny? It's a string-freakin-bikini! I can't even imagine letting my daughter appear in public in this.
And, no, I'm not a prude. I may be much more conservative than I used to be but even if I weren't I can pretty honestly say that there is no way I would put this on a small child...

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1-derful Savings

We have so much that needs to be done. With spring (supposedly) here the honey-do list just seems to be growing. Which means money. Which means that I scour online coupon codes to get the best deal.

The deck needs to be cleaned and stained which means a pressure washer is going to be necessary. I swear we had one- or two- in the past couple of years… Can’t find them anywhere…

We have land in the Ozarks that Doug is dying to get down to. Since we’ve had the girls I haven’t been able to accompany him (and he worked every day last year) so he hasn’t gone. I keep telling him that if we aren’t using it we are getting rid of it. So camping is a definite on his agenda. And that always seem to require more camping gear. You know, to make it easier… What happened to roughing it?

And me… I have plans to plant a bit of a garden. Herbs, a few veggies, some flowers around the edges to keep it pretty (gardens aren’t a big thing in my neighborhood). Oh, did I metion I don’t have any gardening supplies?

And Doug’s CPU is still groaning at me so the Newegg free shipping promo codes are looking pretty good.

And there’s more… Too much more. My budget is groaning. Yea for 1-coupons.com!

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BMW beats Prius in fuel economy

>> Thursday, March 27, 2008

This sentence explains the popularity of the Prius with some people (emphasis mine):
"The BMW doesn’t have the external look of a green car and you don’t get the same self-righteous glow when you are driving it."

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Tan or Pale?

If there is one thing I could take from my life it would be the time I spent roasting my body in the sun and tanning beds. I am beginning to see the results of the sun as I age and you can bet I slather my body in sunscreen, wear hats and sit in the shade as much as possible now.

I may be a lost cause but while I have some semblance of control I make sure my girls have sun protective clothing and sunscreen. The swimsuits I buy them have “surfer shirts” instead of tiny tops to keep those oft-burnt shoulders covered and I try to keep brimmed hats on them. Brenna’s new swimsuit even has SPF 50 protection.

I haven’t used any wash in sunscreen because I’m not really sure how to add it in my washer- but I think it’s a pretty good idea. I found it at SunsationalStyle.com- along with everything I could want for sun protection: clothing, hats, shades and, of course, sunscreen.

Do you have regrets about sun exposure? Do you do anything to keep your kids from overexposing?

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Glendalough, Ireland

Yet another installment of my trip to Ireland. Lots of info and a few photos of the monastic site of Glendalough, founded in the 6th century. It has a beautiful round tower and lovely church.

Here's a photo I took of the girls sitting on "steps" over the rock wall. It was cold, sleeting and windy that day. But what did we care? We were in Ireland!

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Tankini to Bikini

Well, I just ordered my swimsuit the other day. Because of my rather generous bust line one piece suits are not an option. So I ordered three pieces. A tankini top (with underwire support), a cute belted swim skirt and a halter style top. Because I will have nice abs before the summer is over.

I’m just not sure exactly how. Right now I am using the "eat when you’re hungry and stop when your body is full" method. And making smarter choices to cut back on useless calories.

I’m also exercising every day- either walking outside or using my elliptical. I’m trying to gear myself up to do pilates or weight work in the morning before the girls are up. 6 am is just so early…

If I can’t make this work I may use a website I found where I can read tips for weight loss help and compare top healthy meal replacement systems from Medifast and Nutrisystem. I’ve never used a meal replacement system but the commercials are pretty convincing…

Until then I’ll just use their tips for healthy weight loss:
1) There is no miracle diet (except maybe a personal chef, a personal trainer and a nanny!)
2) Drink plenty of water.
3) Don’t starve yourself.
4) Sit down when you eat.
5) Exercise regularly.

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So, I Suppose We've Hit Our High for Today and We're On the Way Down

Our high for today was 40 degrees. It's obvious by the video that we hit that before the sun actually rose as we had this coming down.




We had rain, thunder, sleet, hail and snow all coming down at once. It was lovely.

I blame biofuels... And the UN.

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Savings and Circulars

>> Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I do my grocery shopping on Mondays. So Sunday evening I am sitting in the kitchen figuring out what’s on sale at my main grocery store, finding recipes that use those products and making my shopping list.

And then I look for coupons. I have quite a few sites on my list and I just found another: Penny Pincher Gazette. Not only do they have Grocery Coupons but you can also check them easily against what is on sale at your local stores to maximize your savings.

And, just in case you don’t have a clue what to make check out the recipes and get the coupons that go with them! It’s easy to sign up… And save.

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Well, This Seems to Be Working

Thanks so much to Iowa Mom for her tip of bribery to keep Brenna in my room and quiet.

I let her pick 3 Easter Eggs and set her in my room with a video, books and toys. She was told not to come out until the video ended or she would lose an egg.

And it worked!

The next day it worked as well!

YEA! I now have my own quiet time!!! (As long as this keeps working... lol)

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Consider This for Your Next Get Away

It’s time to begin planning those summer vacations! Oh, yes it is- if you want some of the best deals and the best selections of places to stay. If you’re planning an extended family get away you might want to consider a home-away-from-home: a Vacation Rental.

Let’s say you want to take Grandma & Grandpa with you to the “Happiest Place On Earth”… There are 351 great Florida Vacation Home options alone.

And rentals aren’t just in Florida- there are even some in Iowa! Home rentals are definitely a growing trend- and a great option for saving money (they all have kitchens so you can save HUGE on dining!).

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Kindle Opportunities

Yesterday I told you all about my desire for a Kindle.

As Doug and I were talking about it last night I thought about how cool it would be to have my Bible on it. My pastor is always telling us to mark our Bibles, to underline words or to make notations. I don't know about you, but I absolutely hate writing in books. Workbooks I'm alittle better about it but I have this huge respect for books and just don't like to write in them. SO this would be great because you can make

Bookmarks and Annotation
By using the keyboard, you can add annotations to
text, just like you might write in the margins of a book. And because it is
digital, you can edit, delete, and export your notes, highlight and clip key
passages, and bookmark pages for future use. You'll never need to bookmark your
last place in the book, because Kindle remembers for you and always opens to the
last page you read.


Thankfully my husband is just as much of a tech geek as I am- he wants one, too.

As I was reading more I began to wonder just what it takes to be one of the offered blogs... Well, it turns out you can just go to this form, input your blog(s) and read the terms.

It won't make you rich by any means, but it might increase your ranking (if you watch that kind of thing).

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Educational Resource

I recently read that Tutoring is on the rise across the country. And while I understand it for difficult subjects there are times when I wonder if it’s just because classrooms are so full that children aren’t given the attention they need. Or maybe it’s because the teacher just isn’t very good. Or maybe it’s because the teacher has to concentrate so much on kids who should have been held back and shouldn’t really be in the class. Whatever the reason tutoring services are everywhere.

Club Z has excelled to become the world’s largest one-on-one tutoring program and has helped over 100,000 kids reach their goals and improve their learning skills.

If you can’t count on your child’s teachers it’s a great resource to have.

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Perfectly Healthy and Average

>> Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Caelan had her 18 month well baby visit today. Can you believe she's 18 months old? I can't- and I live with her!

There was a new form to fill out today; it was filled with questions relating to autism. In case you haven't heard, autism is on the rise. Which completely contradicts this article from 2006 which stated that since mercury was removed from immunizations that autism rates were dropping. Slate had an article that even connected television watching to autism.



At any rate, Caelan didn't fit any of the profiles. Which I pretty much knew- she's talking in sentences and singing "Old McDonald" and about half the ABCs. I really think that autism is anything that the doctors can't categorize...



But on to my healthy girl... She's cutting eye teeth (and is chweing one of her fingers raw). She was 24 lbs 14 oz and 31 3/4 inches tall today. Still perfectly average.


I had the girls photos taken last week as a surprise for Doug for Easter:


I am completely blessed with healthy beautiful daughters.

Now I'm gonna make a donation to St Jude and offer a prayer for those who aren't as blessed as us.

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Where Does Your Recycling Go?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again now… Do not call me “green”. I may have many “green” tendencies but I prefer to call myself frugal. Like with recycling… Here in Iowa we have a deposit on bottles and cans. This was put into place about 20 years ago (give or take) to cut down on litter along Iowa’s roadways. Since that time recycling has become a pretty common thing so you would think this who deposit thing would end. Nope…

But honestly, I recycle anything that can be. In fact the B&B owner we stayed with in Killarney said, “I’ve never had anyone stay that asked about recycling or sorted things for recycling”.

I replied, “Well, I won’t fill landfills at home with this stuff, so I won’t fill yours.”

What I’m wondering now, though, is if our local recycling company knows that they can sell the Scrap HDPE that they collect. Because it would take a single family ages to collect enough to sell- but the company that picks up our recycling every Friday could probably make a bit of profit (and lower my costs) by selling it.

Just in case you are wondering what HDPE scrap is, here are some examples:

HDPE film form is used in snack food packages and cereal box liners. Blow-molded
bottle form is mostly used for non-carbonated drink and milk bottles.
Injection-molded tub form is used for packaging whipped toppings, margarine and
deli foods. Because HDPE has excelent chemical resistance, it is also used for
packaging household and industrial chemicals such as detergents, acid, bleach,
etc. General use of High Density PolyEthylene includes injection-molded beverage
cases, bread trays, bottles for beverages and household chemicals, films for
grocery sacks, etc.


Who plans to call their recycling company to see if they utilize a company that will buy plastic scrap? I’m thinking I will…

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Is Anybody Hungry?

Ok, so when I began thinking about this post the title immediately popped into my head. Anyone know what song it's from? The first person to tell me gets a bunch of candy... We have so much from Easter, Valentine's, Christmas... And I want it gone! (Sorry, but no Godiva chocolate bunnies will be sacrificed for this contest.)

Anyway, when we returned from Ireland I felt like I had gained 10 pounds. I didn't step on the scale so it may have been more. But I felt blah, icky, sluggish... You name it, I felt it.

So when I saw the commercials for the show on TLC, I Can Make You Thin I figured I would watch it, just to see what's what.

And it's still sitting on TiVo. But I did see a portion of the first episode which seems to be about how you eat. I saw a bit about eating whatever you want but only eating when you are hungry.

How many of us actually allow ourselves to get hungry? I didn't. So today, while the girls had lunch, I cleaned a bit. I wasn't hungry for lunch until almost 3pm. So I ate then.

Another bit I saw was about the pace you eat. He suggested putting down your knife and fork after every bite and chewing your food completely, savoring it, before taking another bite. This way you can actually feel when you are full sooner and not over eat. I ate slower last night but didn't feel any signals to stop and finished my meal. But it wasn't a huge meal- just a boneless pork chop and asparagus, so I may not have overeaten.

I suppose we'll see how long I can stick with these concepts. I've tried so many things over the years (food diary, counting points, calories, etc) and I just don't want to have to "work" so hard at it. This doesn't feel like it will be too hard; more like re-learning what your body feels like and recognizing it's signals.

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Interest Rates and Housing

I tend to read a lot of news. Not all of it is based here in the US because, believe it or not, I can often get US news with less bias from the UK or Scotland.

I noticed the other day that, though the UK is undergoing a housing slump and people are forfeiting their homes, the government didn’t cut interest rates as was anticipated. Very smart. For one thing it keeps the British pound strong (maybe if our government didn’t cut interest rates to “save” everyone from themselves we wouldn’t have such a weak dollar).

Another thing I saw was that people over there are drawn something called a Tracker Mortgage because there is anticipation of interest rate cuts. Now this was something I hadn’t heard of before, so I had to investigate.

So here's what I found:

The tracker mortgage differs from the Standard Variable Rate (STV) in that the
interest rate is directly tied to the Bank of England base rate, and does not
follow the lender’s rate, which would always be higher. The incentive,
particularly to the first time buyer, is that the margin is set to a maximum of
only 1% or 2% above the Bank of England base rate. And in some extraordinary
cases it may even be set below the rate. This means that repayments during the
life of the tracker offer, (usually from 2 to 5 years), are invariably cheaper
than with other standard mortgages.

Ok, that's all fine and dandy, but here's the kicker:
But even here, there is always a possibility of the Bank of England base rate
rising exceptionally, and in these circumstances the borrower would not be
protected against spiralling costs.

Now, honestly, I don't forsee interest rates rising all that much- anywhere- any time soon. But if it did... Well, I just wonder how many people are reading their mortgage agreements...

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I SOOOO Want One of These!

Have you all seen the Amazon Kindle?

I seriously can not begin to describe how cool this is! Let me just give you a few blurbs:
*Wireless connectivity enables you to shop the Kindle Store directly from your Kindle—whether you’re in the back of a taxi, at the airport, or in bed.

*More than 110,000 books available

*Free book samples. Download and read first chapters for free before you decide to buy

*Lighter and thinner than a typical paperback; weighs only 10.3 ounces

*Unlike WiFi, Kindle utilizes the same high-speed data network (EVDO) as advanced cell phones—so you never have to locate a hotspot. No monthly wireless bills, service plans, or commitments—we take care of the wireless delivery so you can simply click, buy, and read

OK, so the $399 price tag is steep but it is soooo cool and does so much! I want it, I want it , I want it! Maybe I can get one for my anni-birth-mas gift...

If you want one too, shop with the link on the right & help me save for my own... Please!

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Geeky Goodness for All

Computers are just one of those things that a family can’t do without anymore. Between homework, research or just fun a computer has become a need instead of a luxury. I know that each of us has one- yes even the girls. Of course theirs are quite old and don’t do much. Although both still connect to the internet and the girls enjoy their educational games.

Whether you are looking to add another computer (because the kids always want on the computer while you’re on it!) or if you need a new one (Doug’s CPU is groaning at me right now) you can save hundreds by using PC Kits.

Easy as My PC has kits, illustrated instructions, warranties and even upgrades. A great option- even if you aren’t a geek.

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Easter - A Day Early

>> Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter was a day early in our house due to the insanely busy weekend. What is it about holidays that family "must" get together? sigh

It was really cool this year because Caelan "got it". Well, the finding of eggs part... We'll keep working on the "Jesus rose from the dead" part.

Here's Brenna digging into her loot. Yes, my child has some amazing bed head. The girls got basically the same things: A spring dress and shoes (which it was too cold to wear), a hooded towel (on sale at Pottery Barn Kids- we get them one every Easter and use the onld one for a pool wrap), Godiva chocolate bunny, a couple of small toys, an Easter bag from the Dollar Spot at Target ('cuz Easter baskets are a pain. What do you do with them after Easter? These are cheap and we just add them to their toys), and a Play Doh goodie from Kohl's ($4.99).

Caelan was enthralled with her GOLD bunny. Yep, the girl likes sparkle.. She's gonna cost her daddy a bundle...
Then the fun of the hunt began...
Look! It's an EGG!
And after all the eggs were captured it was time for breakfast.
C'mon- doesn't everyone have peanut butter eggs and jelly beans for breakfast?
Here's some live Easter action!

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Why Are Mother-in-Laws So Difficult to Buy For?

Well… Crud. Yet another Mother’s Day is approaching and I have to figure out what to get Doug’s mom. Now I know most of you are saying, “It’s Doug’s mom, let him figure it out.”

Which I would gladly do… Except it wouldn’t get done without me “nagging” him up to and past Mother’s Day about it. It’s just easier to do it myself.

Doug’s mom lives in Texas so the gift thing tends to be difficult. We’ve had gift certificates sent to her at home but have never heard if she has used the services (or even received the gift certificate). We’ve hooked her up to internet access only to have it not get used. We even got her a digital photo frame for Christmas (only to be told a few months later that it was broken (?). No worries… We bought a extended warranty- just in case. Now we are told that she doesn’t actually have it… Mmmm…

So I am searching for non-technical mothers day gifts. I’m thinking of taking some pictures of Doug and the girls and making a collage on Photofiddle. Or maybe having one shot turned into a painting or a sketch… Just something different than a photo…

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Help!

OK, so I have one child who naps. By 1 pm she is down and sleeping for 2-3 hours.

And I have one child who doesn't. Unless I have run her ragged she is awake all. day. long.

I try putting her down for "quiet time" hoping she will stay put- in my bedroom- and let me get something done.

Not long after "quiet time" has begun she is behind me full of questions and wanting help.

So, I ask all the other mom's out there: WHAT DO I DO??? I need to have that bit of time- just for my sanity!

All suggestions will be attempted. (Assuming they are non-violent and harm no small animals)

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Westward Ho!

I used to be a pretty crazy girl. More like unpredictable crazy than outright nuts. If you look at my vacations, though, they are usually pretty tame. I’ve never been one to do wild things on vacation.

Probably the “craziest” thing I ever did was go to Ireland by myself in 2003. I loved every minute of it. You are really forced to talk to people otherwise you spend your entire vacation completely alone. And what fun is that?

Now, if you want to talk about stupid things I’ve done on vacation I suppose I would have to say walking more than 2 miles after dark in San Fransisco stands out. But it was our first night there and we were there on business. I would have liked to spend more time exploring the city since there are so many things to do in San Francisco. I can, however, recommend a couple of really good restaurants.

But that will have to wait for another time. The next time we go to California (assuming it isn’t under water or a part of Mexico by then) we plan to visit the southern part and hit the San Diego zoo.

Before we go I'll be using all the family vacation ideas I have saved in my favorites; including Trusted Tours and Attractions. I get their newsletter so I know what's new and can get discount tickets for interesting tours. Just an FYI- sign up for the newsletter now and be entered to win an iPod Nano.

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Really?

>> Sunday, March 23, 2008

I only have a few entries in my Scrap Bribing this month.

And I, personally, think it's a pretty good one.

Go check it out- and don't forget the linky love!

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On our return from my grnadmother's yesterday I was struck by a terrible migraine. So I "got" to stay home today while Doug took over my duties at church and took the girls to his aunt's house for Easter festivities.

Home... Alone... Oh the things I could have done if I didn't feel like absolute crap. So I laid in bed and slept much of the day away. I did get around to watching Saving Sarah Cain. I laughed... I cried (ok, I sobbed)... And though it was entirely predictable I loved the message. It was, in my opinion, more a "chick flick" than a family movie, unless you have a teenaged daughter. I can see lots of discussion happening if you watch this with your daughter.

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Lots of fun pictures and video from Easter that I plan to share tomorrow. Hopefully! Now I'm off to make the grocery list...

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More Savings

You all know that we are working on paying down our debt so I utilize all the savings sites I can find. A new site for coupons just came across my radar this weekend, so I thought I would share it.

BuyWithCoupons.com is new on the scene and very easy to navigate. Their categories are listed in the right hand column and you can easily subscribe to their feed so you don’t miss anything.

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Stuff It

>> Friday, March 21, 2008

This afternoon the girls gave me a bit of reprieve and played (somewhat quietly) in their room. I used that time to assist the Easter Bunny and stuff plastic eggs (I did not stuff myself. I did not touch any of the mini Snickers, specked bird eggs or dark chocolate M&Ms. Really.)

You see, we've had a "Super Secret Super Spy" bunny (that's what Brenna called him) checking out what's been going on and he found out that we had a super busy weekend coming up... 1.5 hours south of us on Saturday and 1.5 hours north of us on Sunday plus an early church service. So no time for fun stuff Sunday morning.




Luckily that bunny reported back to the "big bun" and we had a visitor tonight after the girls went to bed. He left goodies:

I think I see Godiva bunnies in the towel hoods. And pretty dresses (that it will be too cold to wear this weekend).

He even left a basket for Doug...

And hid eggs around the house...


Hmmm... No basket for Mommy?

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Accessories are a Girl's Best Friend

Doug is hanging out with the girls and watching (yet another) episode of Backyardigans. I’ve had enough of the five friends for today so I was cruising around the web. Because spring is (really!) just around the corner I was just checking out handmade accessories.

I love to add spice to my rather dull “Mommy wardrobe” with items that aren’t “traditional” so when I saw this exotic designer jewelry by Jennifer Yuan I spent about 45 minutes clicking through her site.

Her necklaces are gorgeous! They are feminine and graceful and so wearable. I am in love with her “Fairytale” necklace. If money were no object I would buy it in a heartbeat.

Whether you can afford it or not visit Zhenun.com- her designs are so absolutely breathtaking.

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So, Typical White People- Raise Your Hands

OK, I'm sure that these words were completely "taken out of context" (even though you can hear the entire interview).


On Thursday, Sen. Barack Obama described his grandmother's racial attitudes as
those of a "typical white person."

During a morning interview with
Philadephia's WIP and its host Angelo Cataldi, Obama was asked about his
reference to his white grandmother in his recent speech on Reverend Wright.

Obama responded:

"The point I was making was not that my
grandmother harbors any racial animosity. She doesn't. But she is a typical
white person who, uh, if she sees somebody on the street that she doesn't know
there's a reaction that's been been bred into our experiences that don't go away
and that sometimes come out in the wrong way and that's just the nature of race
in our society. We have to break through it."


Didn't he just call his grandmother racist in his speech the day before?


"a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world," but he then qualified that description by noting she was also "a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe."

And didn't he have as his "spiritual advisor" a man who damns America and who believes that the government produced AIDS to kill blacks (forget about all those homosexuals who had it first). A man who, it appears, is prejudice against whites?

And why are people- brown, white, yellow or green- ok with this?

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It's Shogging- Not Shagging

We have been doing really good on spending down our debt. According to my calculations we will have no debt (other than property) in less than a year. Which, I gotta tell you, is a great feeling. Especially since I don’t see the economy getting any better in the next 2 years.

Of course there are things we still need (clothing, beds for the girls, bedding to go on the beds…) so I am watching what we spend very closely and making sure I Compare Prices on absolutely everything.

For those of you that are interested I want to let you know about Shogging.com- a website that actually lets you compare prices so you get the best deal AND lets you blog about the item you purchased.

It’s a great asset on those big ticket items. Like beds… Really gotta get on that. Caelan can now climb into and out of the crib. It’s a good thing she has a hard head.

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The Passion

>> Thursday, March 20, 2008

Tonight at my small group for church we watched The Passion of the Christ. I hadn't seen it before, wasn't really sure I was ready to see it. I know the story, have read the passages in the Bible. Last year my church even brought in an expert on Crucifixion, so I had a great understanding of what Christ went through.

But none of that came close to preparing me for the movie. The emotion of seeing Christ's mother really hit home with me. And made my heart ache. The violence He endured and the apparent joy in his tormentors faces was tormenting.

I'm pretty sure the movie will continue to haunt me as I move forward in my understanding of the Gospel.

I'm still not sure I was ready to see it... I think I may be in a bit of shock.

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I Don't Do It Enough. Do You?

It’s not that I avoid it, per say. I just find it to be a hassle sometimes. You have to go to the store, pick out just the right one, then you have to think of what to say and make sure you don’t mess up the date.

Sending cards can just be a hassle. Now if I had cards on hand I think I might actually send them out more often. Especially Birthday Cards. I can never find cards that are just right. Not too mushy, not too dumb, not too blah. Just a nice quote like this one


Most of us can remember a time when a birthday - especially if it was one's own brightened the world as if a second sun has risen. - Robert Lynd

Or this one

The first hundred years are the hardest. - Wilson Mizner


Followed by a quick personal note. That’s what I always seem to be looking for.

I’m considering having a bunch of cards personalized every year. It’s less expensive than buying single cards, they can say whatever I want and I can pick pretty designs like this one:

It's so easy to enter your own verse (or use one of theirs) and to add personalization (signatures or a design). You can even have your return address added to the envelopes.

Then I will have cards that I like on hand that say what I want them to- at half the cost of purchasing them individually.


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I Feel Like Such a Bad Mom

This week has been rough. My hormones are all over the place as my "cycle" can't get itself on a regular cycle. Sometimes a week early, sometimes just a couple of days.

Brenna is on spring break which is difficult as Caelan is pretty dependent on her one-on-one time with me and has been very whiney and clingy. So they are both hanging on me.

And I've been losing my temper with them too much. And then I feel rotten.

But when we go out they are perfect. They listen. They obey. Everyone compliments me on what wonderful kids I have.

I picked up my Thursday babysitter at 1 pm today instead of 3. I honestly plan to hide from my kids until we have small (church) group tonight. Otherwise I may take a header from our second story window or run away. (No, not really. Don't call social services.)

It's just one of those weeks...

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Cleanse My What?

I actually enjoy using a more traditional approach to my health whenever I can. I visit my chiropractor for everything from sore back and wrists to headaches and sinus issues. I’m not a fan of pumping medications into my body unless it’s a last resort.

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot about this Colon Cleanse and it makes me think. Now,I can see that it could really help someone who only has a BM ever few days. (One woman claims to have lost 14 pounds which makes sense if her bowels are compacted. Ick.) And I can even see how it could promote a healthy immune system.

What I wonder is: If people just drank more water wouldn’t they see many of the results this product claims?

Hop over to the Colon Cleanse website, check out their claims and tell me what you think…

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A Spring-y Little Scrap Bribing

It's that time again... Time for me to give away some great goodies all in the name of bribery. Because, you see, the more people who visit the higher my page rank. The higer my page rank the more money comes in. The more money in the more generous I become. You help me, I give away stuff. Fair, yes?

So, anyway, on with the bribery...

Look at all these great goodies I have for you this month. I was influenced by the thoughts of spring and summer... Just look at those colors!

To break it down for you a bit... Our goodies begin with a great pack (20 sheets) of 8x8 pages. 2 sheets each of the patterned paper and 2 sheets each of the die cut papers. Yep, that pretty row at the bottom- scalloped edges and cut outs. Such fun to play with!

What good is that great paper pack without an album? I just love this green 8x8 top insert album. With space in the cover for a photo- and you can add pages! I also included 5 sheets of coordinating cardstock. You can never have too much paper.

Next is ribbon- lots of coordinating ribbon. You can jazz up the cover with some ribbon- just tie it around the front cover of the album. I also tossed in my favorite ribbon tack- continuous line Glue Dots!

And when have I forgotten the bling? Again, you can use thes goodies in the album- or give the front a bit more pizzazz. I am just in love with those circles! And the medium size flowers are great accents for spring photos.

So there it is- what do you think?

For those of you new to my little give away, here's how we play:

  1. Leave me a nice comment. That gets you entered once.
  2. Write a nice little post on your blog. Link to this post. That gets you another entry.
  3. Make sure you tell everyone who visits from your blog to tell me you sent them. For every comment that mentions your name I will give you another entry.

So easy! And the more people you send me the better your chances to win. So give me some linky love and get your readers over here!

The random number generator spins on March 31. Leave a comment now & get those posts up! Good luck!!

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Who's Hosting?

If you’re looking to host your own site the options can be overwhelming. Trust me… I’ve been there. There are dozens of web hosting companies out there vying for your dollars… Picking the right one can feel a bit dizzying.

If you are looking for some insight I recommend you check out WebHostingChoice.com. It’s a free guide designed to help both businesses and individuals find the right hosting company for them.

The home page shows a listing of the 10 best hosting sites (one of which I use). It’s a great place to begin. If you’re not really sure what you are looking for or are new to the whole web hosting thing check out their quick start guide and FAQs. If you’ve got some geek in you then try their advanced feature and search specifically for the features you want from a hosting provider.

WebHostingChoice.com can help you with everything from cheap hosting and domains to understanding bandwidth and dedicated servers to the lowdown on scams. They even offer a monthly newsletter filled with web hosting tips, coupons and info from leading technology experts.

Lots of information in one place in an easy-to-use format. It’s definitely a great place to begin.

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Sure, IRS, Spend More Money

>> Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Hey- did anyone else get this Economic Stimulus Payment Notice?



I have to admit that when I saw this in my mail I was very confused because- to my understanding- we will not get any of this "stimulus package".

And then I read it. And realized that this letter is not meant so much to let people know about the money they may (or may not) be getting because I'm pretty sure everyone knows about it. What this letter is meant to do is to bring in more taxes. Because:

"To receive a payment is 2008, individuals who qualify will not have to do anything more than file a 2007 tax return"


Because, you see, all the money being sent out for this "stimulus" is coming from the taxes being paid in. It is no coincidence that payments begin in May- after tax day, April 15.

And is anyone else annoyed that they spent yet more tax dollars mailing a letter to everyone in the frickin' country about something even those living under a bridge knew about? (I'm pretty sure they read more newspapers than I do)

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Debt is a Four Letter Word

I have to admit that I am terribly worried about the future of our country. With the government bailing out everyone from people who bought homes they couldn’t afford (and who couldn’t- or didn’t care to- understand the contracts) to Wall Street, all the debt they are racking up can only be paid down by one group of people- the taxpayers.

I don’t know about you, but we pay over 35% in taxes- and that’s just federal. If you figure in state and city (hello- the state is planning to raise motor vehicle fees this year and our city is planning a 24% property tax increase) we pay an insane amount of taxes. And I don’t mean to complain, but I’m not really sure I am benefiting from my tax dollars so much.

With personal responsibility being replaced by socialism I really believe that it is time for people to look at their spending and begin some sort of Debt Management program. Because once those of us who pay the taxes can’t afford to pay our mortgages, put gas in our vehicles or food in our bellies you have to believe the income the government makes off us will dry up.

It’s time to take the steps now- before you find yourself in a breadline (and, yes, I do think we will see breadlines within two years after Obama becomes president and increases social programs- along with taxes.

Cleardebt.co.uk has a Clear Debt Analyzer. It figures in Pounds but you can just plug in the numbers and pretend it’s dollars. Figure out where you are now.

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Video Posts

Since I got my Flip video camera I have been posting a lot more video. First I was putting it on my Photobucket page. Then I upgraded myself to YouTube. (Yes, later than everyone else in the free world. Sometimes I don't like change all that much.)

Not long ago I was reading an article about other video download sites and decided to check them out. And that's how I found Revver.

It's got a quick upload time which is nice because there were times that it felt like forever as my videos loaded on to YouTube. Part of the reason I chose Revver, though, is because I can earn money from it. I'm all about earning money... (Pays the sitter so I can get away once in a while...) Another thing I like is that all videos are reviewed before they are available for viewing to avoid obscene or copyrighted materials.

If you post a lot of video this is definately worth checking out...
Here's a video I posted of Caelan...

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I'm Drinking Water and I've Cut Down on Dairy... Now What?

I’ve been having microdermabrasion and a chemical peel once a month for about 4 months now. I’m not really sure it’s working the way I thought it would. I am still getting those horrible cyst-like outbreaks and I feel like I have more whiteheads.

I hate the fact that not only do I have worse skin than I did as a teenager but it is no longer so resilient and “fresh”. I just want beautiful, clear skin.

Since the treatments and products I have been using aren’t seeming to make a big impression I am considering a different course of Acne Treatment.

I’m really thinking about trying Proactiv®. The commercials make it look like a miracle. Anyone have any experience with it?

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Don't Miss This Stuff

>> Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I've got up some Ireland photos- and a bit about driving in Ireland.

Speaking of driving, the girls spin their wheels for the first time this year.

And, just in case you missed it, take a look at Caelan, my travelin' girl.

And if you are itching to get away I found a fun game that gives you a chance to win a vacation in Prague and Vienna.

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Time to Freshen Up

As I was doing my makeup this morning I realized that as soon as spring gets here I really need to make some changes. Nothing drastic but I will definitely need to brighten my colors now that we are moving on from the season of grey and dreary to the season of fresh renewal.

I also desperately need a new foundation. I’ve always favored a more sheer look but with the crazy cycle my skin has been in lately I think it’s time to change up- until I can get it under control.

And, of course, I am always on the lookout for any new makeup tips and tricks. Especially as my skin changes and, ahem, “matures”.

Maybe I need to up my appointments with my esthetician? Don’t shoot me, but I am actually considering a bit of Botox… How depressing. At least it’s not surgery…

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The Fun of Navigating Ireland's Roads- Photos From Our Irish Holiday

I know I have been slow in sharing photos from our trip... And I apologize as I know you all have been patiently waiting. But between getting back in the groove, the 4:30am wake-ups for a week (thank you, Caelan), getting pictures downloaded, and sorted... Well, these things all take time.

As I said over at my travel blog, renting a car and driving is the best way to really experience Ireland. As you may remember, we had to upgrade our vehicle this last trip as a mini-van and a "7 passenger vehicle" are not the same thing. In our upgraded Land Rover we were one of the larger vehicles on the road. Which made for some hairy experiences.

Driving really doesn't describe the experience of travel on Irish roads. You hurtle. Speed limits on roads like the one below are about 80k- or just under 50 mph. It feels very fast...

We actually met a car coming toward us on this road. We both stopped. As there was a widening in the road behind the oncoming car, he backed up. Note: this was a marked road on our map. Until quite recently (the mid 90's) Ireland didn't have many large highways as the majority of the population didn't have cars. With the surge of the "Celtic Tiger" Ireland has become the fastest growing economy in Europe.

I love these roads and was sorry to see so much road construction. But such is the way of growth, I suppose.

This was probably my favorite road sign of the entire trip. This is just past the Cliffs of Moher...


The only thing you can't see is the sign just ahead of it letting you know that the speed limit had just increased to 100k...

And this next photo was taken as we drove near the Gap of Dunloe. The clouds were so thick they covered the highest peak in Ireland.

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Always Thinking of a Way

It’s no secret that I would love to live in Ireland. In fact I’ve brainstormed ideas on what I could do to help us earn our keep over there…

Of course a bed & breakfast tops my list. I enjoy playing hostess and love to cook. It’s quite an expensive venture, however. I also search job listings for Doug. Anyone over there looking for a tech genius?

I’ve even gone so far as looking into Franchise Opportunities for companies that may not have made an appearance there yet. I can think of some take-away restaurants that would do great in cities like Galway, Killarney, Dublin and Cork. Hmmm… Ice cream, pizza or coffee?

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Crusin'

Since it was halfway nice out on Sunday afternoon we bundled up the girls and let them "cruise" the sidewalks for a bit.

Brenna had been after me to let her drive ever since we got back from Ireland. She loves her Jeep and wanted me to know that she is "a very good driver".

Ummm, not so much. Here you see her "talking" on her cell phone. She did stop the Jeep to make the calls but she would inadvertantly hit the gas pedal once it a while, causing her to hurtle forward. Usually into an unsuspecting adult.

And for Caelan we dug out the quad I found at a garage sale a few years ago. She quickly became a pro... Well, except for turning...



Check out their skills here:

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More Freebies Coming Your Way

Well, I got all the requested info sent in to Budget Travel and am anxiously awaiting their June issue. (In case you missed the news, my travel blog was named one of their “Top 15”.)

I am expecting a big surge in readers when that issue is released and again when they put the article on their website. So I am thinking about doing some give-aways. In addition to asking all the companies I have reviewed for goodies I also want something to promote my website. And since it’s a travel website I, of course, am thinking about travel items.

I’m considering a travel tote, but there are so many options for Business Promotional Items at Gimmees.com that I’m not really sure what I’ll do…

Head over there, take a look around, and give me your input. You all know I like a good giveaway…

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Slainte!

>> Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

If you're not one for green beer go over to Fab Food Friday and adopt a bit of the Emerald Isle to place on your dinner table tonight.

Fab Food Friday 089


My Irish feast was wonderful, thanks for asking. It included Irish Brown Bread, Steak & Guinness Pie served on top of Boxty, imported Irish cheeses, Colcannon and Whiskey Glazed Corned Beef. We also had Guinness, Smithwick's and a couple choices of hard cider. Oh, and Guinness Chocolate Cake.(Who's sorry they didn't come?)

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