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

Where Have I Been?

>> Wednesday, April 30, 2008

OK, my day is more than half gone and I haven't even said hello? What is wrong with me? How rude!

Well, if you must know, I've been busy since about 6am. Kids, husband, life... Sometimes it just gets in the way of blogging...

This morning was spent running errands while Brenna was at school. Caelan accompanied me on outings to my church's office (to have stuff printed for my bloggy talk), Peel's (for hairspray and styling creme, wholesale), Target, the bike shop (to drop off Brenna's two-wheeler that I picked up at a garage sale last year for $15. It's a Trek. New tires are necessary and I'm sure the chain needs oiled or something.) and a quick stop at a salon for an eyebrow wax.

Then home for lunch and laundry (a load done and another in the wash) then quiet time.

I actually finished my newest post on Killarney, about Killarney National Park, Muckross House, Friary & Traditional Farms. It's a long post with quite a few pictures and a couple of videos. If you go over don't forget to click the Blogger's Choice Awards button on the left and vote for me!!

And now quiet time is almost over. I have to stop by the church office and pick up the copies they made for me, finish a load of laundry, walk to the park with the girls and get the pork chops in some marinade. We're grilling tonight.

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NY Times Faces Reality

Well, the Times of all places could no longer deny that we are technically NOT in a recession. The technical definition of a recession is negative growth. We had less than 1% growth in the first quarter, but a growing economy is still a growing economy.

Here's other things to ponder:



Now I admit that some people reading this have been hit by slowed growth. But, there were people that were laid off when the economy was growing at 4% and unemployment was 3.1% It is the nature of the marketplace - poorly managed (or just unlucky) companies fail and well managed (or just lucky) companies grow. It would still happen if the economy grew at 25%.


Here are some things that hurt our economy:
  • The Federal Government has grown fat, especially in luxury items. Medicare/Medicade and Social Security are three times the Department of Defense.

  • Congress keeps churning out new laws limiting competition in most industries. Federal bureaucracies also create their own rules - usually for not other reason than to have one. Each rule and law adds to the cost of doing business and rarely helps the consumer. It makes it harder for new businesses to be created, new markets to open, or even new products to be released.

  • Congress and Federal bureaucrats think they can "help". The only way they can help is to ensure a level playing field and get out of the way. Right now, they are only "helping" entrenched businesses and/or those that lobby the most.

  • The tax code is a drain on the economy. It is too complex and has too many rules that conflict with each-other. If you are audited, it is entirely up to the experience of the auditor as to what rules will be enforced. You know you are in trouble when you only have a 40% chance of getting a correct answer when you call the IRS help line. The other reason is it a drain is that it punishes success. It punishes savings and planning for your own future.

  • Earmarks, earmarks and more earmarks




Have I missed anything?

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At the End of Just Another Day

>> Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Well, let's see how I did today, shall we?


  • laundry (it never ends) Or maybe I just never do it. Nope, it's still in the laundry basket.
  • check internet connection at local school for my blogging presentation on Saturday I went to check the connection only to find out that it went down right after I got the email saying I could come check it. They think it may be the server so I need to set up the laptop to connect to Doug's cell phone. Great fun.
  • finish post about Killarney National park and Muckross on my travel blog Still working on it. Seems I have a lot to say.
  • clean living room and kitchen (and hope it mostly stays that way) for Thursday mom's group Well, toys got picked up twice. And they are back out again. And I can guarantee that my kitchen won't get mopped tomorrow.
  • make 2 pans of veggie enchiladas (a new recipe); one to eat tonight, one to freeze Yea! I did this! And it was GOOD!! I'll have to share the recipe soon. Maybe I'll remember to take a photo when I have the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.
  • write a note and/or make a card for Doug's dad's birthday/Father's Day gifts Didn't do this, either. But I did make a gorgeous Mother's Day card for my mom. No, I can't share it- she reads the blog.
  • make an appointment to have my eyebrows waxed Really should have done this. Maybe I'll just stop in someplace tomorrow & see if they can fit me in.
  • call esthetician- questions about the acne drugs. Yep, drugs. Bah! Still need to make this call...

Sooo... What did I do today? **Well, I got to shower- alone, no less- which is a great achievement. **I read a few blogs- and even made some comments! **The girls and I took a walk, read books and played pick-up-toys, toss-toys-around-again. Twice. **I actually used our weight machine. **We all played a board game and the girls had a bath and stories before bed.

I guess the important things got done.

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Author! Author!

I know bloggers who will say that they have no desire to be an author. I guess I don’t really understand that because what is a blog other than a whole lot of really short stories? Granted they may just be about life or your thoughts but we all try to keep them entertaining and to keep our readers coming back. If that’s not an author what is?

I make no secret about wanting to, someday, publish and actual book. Time seems to be my biggest enemy. Well, that and the whole marketing thing. Self Publishing is getting bigger all the time, though, and I found a company called WordClay that has a DIY step-by-step publishing wizard that allows you to work a bit at a time, save what you’ve done and continue later.

Because life doesn’t stop for your dreams- you have to make your dreams fit your life.

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Bribery

On our way back from running a quick errand I stopped and grabbed a pack of Ho-Hos.

I just bribed the girls with a tea party of Ho-Hos and juice boxes in their "kitchen" so I could get a few minutes peace.

It's been a rough morning. And quiet time is still an hour away.

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Save the Cupcakes! No More Smoosh!

I’m a big fan of food carriers. If there is a way to transport edible items easily and without mess I am all over it.

So when I saw the Cup-a-Cake Cupcake Holder I had to do some further research. What I found was the individual holders (it comes in a set of 6) have plenty of room at the top for frosting and prongs in the lower part of the case to keep your cupcake from sliding around or falling on the frosting if you turn it upside down.

I ask you- why couldn’t I think of this? Hmmm? Brilliant. Now I can send baked goodies easily in Doug’s lunch.

You can find the Cup-a-Cake Cupcake Holder and other useful items at Vat19.com.

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Just Another Day

The girls are playing oh-so-nicely in the other room and I am trying to figure out what needs to be done today.

Let's see...

  • laundry (it never ends)
  • check internet connection at local school for my blogging presentation on Saturday
  • finish post about Killarney National park and Muckross on my travel blog
  • clean living room and kitchen (and hope it mostly stays that way) for Thursday mom's group
  • make 2 pans of veggie enchiladas (a new recipe); one to eat tonight, one to freeze
  • write a note and/or make a card for Doug's dad's birthday/Father's Day gifts
  • make an appointment to have my eyebrows waxed
  • call esthetician- questions about the acne drugs. Yep, drugs. Bah!

I finished my bloggy talk and had Doug read through it. I think it will be good. I have my page of notes as well as a hand-out they can refer to at home. It turned out much longer than I planned- I may not have time to cover it all. If you're interested in seeing what I'm handing out leave a comment and I'll email it to you. It's way too much to put on here.

Is there more? Probably. Can I remember it now? Not a chance.

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I'd Take Me Some Global Warming Right About Now

Seriously... It's cold enough here for heavy sweaters, hats and mittens. The wind is brisk (to put it mildly) and my girls are bouncing off the walls. We went for a short (in distance) but long (in actual time) walk just to get some energy burnt off.

And the rest of the week isn't holding much promise. Argh.

Updated:
And this morning we wake to thick frost. Brenna thought it had snowed. Good thing I hadn't planted any flowers yet. Think it will kill the dandilions in my flower bed?

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Time is Money

Being self employed has it’s benefits and it’s drawbacks. It’s great because Doug can take time off whenever he wants, but on the flip side if you don’t work you don’t get paid. As a contractor he also makes more money per hour than the salaried employees but he doesn’t get the benefits (even without the bennies we still come out ahead).

Being self employed is always a give and take so you want to make sure you’re getting paid for what you work and you can do your billings in a timely fashion. Journyx is free Online Time and Expense software. Check it out if you need to organize your timesheets and billing.

Jxlogo_future

Sponsored by Journyx

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Ooohh... Aaahh...

>> Monday, April 28, 2008

After an annoying amount of time I have finally gotten my Wishbalde to work correctly with Vista. I can not even begin to tell you what a hassle it has been. But, happily, I am able to make pretty stuff again.

Like this Mother's Day card I made for Doug's mom. Which I can show you because she doesn't have internet.



Go ahead, you can say it -- Ooohh. Aaahh.

I have leftover flowers so I thought about making one for my mom, too. But I think it would be a ruined surprise because my mom does have internet. Nothing like knowing you're second. (But only because I have to mail Doug's mom's stuff this week. Really.)

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Playin' DressUp

Really, I’m a sucker for playing dress up. Which is kind of funny as I really don’t remember ever being fond of it as a child. But now I jump at any opportunity to dress in a costume. Renaissance? Yep. Costume party? Yep. Halloween? Yep. I’m not sure if it’s because it’s fun to pretend to be someone else for a while or if it’s an escape from reality for a while. Either way, if there’s a costume involved I’ll probably be the first to prepare.

Knowing all that you can imagine that my favorite holiday is Halloween. And since Brenna’s birthday is mere days before I imagine we will have a few themed birthday parties when she gets a bit older. Of course I have thought of it for her 4th birthday, but since it will be family I just don’t see the possibility of any of them donning Halloween Costumes to come to her bash.

Of course that doesn’t stop me from thinking about it- or from browsing InCostume.com for ideas. They have an adorable Sugar Plum Fairy costume that I could probably get Caelan in this fall- if it would fit over a snowsuit!

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Stuffed

No, for once it's not me but my freezer!

I spent yesterday perusing the grocery store ad and shopped it up today. 4 lb ground beef, 4 packages of hot dogs, 2 packages of brats, pork chops, chicken breast, tenderloin filets, hamburger buns and mini bagels are all wrapped in their packages and enclosed in freezer bags and taking up all the available space in my freezer downstairs.

Quick lunches for Doug & the girls courtesy of Armour Lunch Makers (8 for $10) and Oscar Meyer Deli Creations (2 for $5) are in the fridge with salad makings, yogurts and fruits.

And canned goodies and pasta are in the pantry.

I think we're good for a couple weeks.

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What? You Don't Like Giveaways?

>> Friday, April 25, 2008

Click here to enter.

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Beyond Pale

I’m a white girl.

There, I’ve said it. You see, for many, many years I tried to convince others that I was a bronze goddess and spent much time in tanning beds and the sun maintaining the permanent skin damage required to give me that “healthy glow”.

A few years ago I finally began to listen to the reports about the sun’s damaging rays and the rise of melanoma. Of course it helped that a friend of mine had a pretty serious lesion removed. So then I began the annoying process of slathering my body with self tanner to maintain that “glow”. And I began wearing sunscreen daily.

Now I am noticing the effects those years of sun have taken on my face and chest. Self tanner only seems to make the problem more noticeable as it clings to some spots more than others. Yuck.

This year I have decided that I’m just going to give up and embrace my “white-ness”. With age comes the wisdom I guess, to embrace what you actually are and not spend so much time trying to be something you are not.

So in addition to my sunscreen for every part of my body I am also making an investment in sun protective clothing. With two active girls you can bet I’ll be outside a lot and not everywhere I go will have shade.

I found a company called ANAYA that makes UV protective clothing – dresses, skirts, pants and tops. They have options whether you stay at home with the kiddos or work in an office.

I really like their shirt dress and their pants look very comfortable but not schlumpy. Their garments are tested and certified by the Australian/New Zealand Standard 4399 (people who know about sun) based on a combination of protection and comfort. Every one of their garments comes with the standard certification label.

Although their clothes may cost me a little more I think it’s going to be a good investment- the dermatologist bills to undo even bits of the damage I’ve already done are much higher.

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I'm Craving

Wednesday morning Caelan and I were at the grocery store picking up just a few items. The fresh fruits and veggies are directly beside the Chinese food. OK, so it's pseudo Chinese food, but still...

It was 9:30 am so, of course, there was no hot food in the steam warmers but that didn't stop me from practically tasting the orange chicken. Mmmm...

Now it's Friday and I am still thinking of Chinese food. Alot.

So I am trying to decide if I should just give in to my craving, go get some Chinese and savor it slowly, stopping when I am full or if I should just eat what I have in the house, fighting this craving with nothing satisifying me so I stuff myself in the process.

Think I just talked myself in to a trip to the store...

Which reminds me-I forgot to pack Doug's lunch this morning. I bet he'll go out for Thai...

Updated:
So the girls and I went to Hy Vee and had lunch. Brenna wanted to eat there... So we did. They were quite good. The problem with eating there is that the girls tend to take longer than I do to eat (there is so much to see, you know) that I ate too much. I wish they had half size portions... I should have asked them to box half of it immediately. Back to the I Can Make You Thin show... I have it saved on TiVo. Oh, yes, I knew better than to erase it.

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Just to Say Hi

Not long ago I saw the greatest “thank you” card from a wedding. The bride and groom, during their wedding photos, had a picture taken of them holding a big sign that said “Thank You”. Inside the card they had written a bit about how much it meant to them for the guests to share their special day.

I was blown away by that card. It was simple and beautiful and you could see that the couple put a lot of thought into every aspect of their wedding.

Of course Doug and I are almost 5 years removed from our vows and we have kids but I thought a photo card of all of us taken somewhere from our lives, maybe our backyard or a park, would also make a great “Thinking of you” card or even a “Just to Say Hi” card. I think this one would be perfect with an outdoor photo:


Anymore it is so easy to create your own Photo Cards and the cost is no more than a nice card that you would buy from the store, so why not?

At Cards Direct you can personalize any cards, inside and out, so they say just what you want. Because, honestly, it’s easier for me to create the perfect card than to find it in the store.

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Score!!

>> Thursday, April 24, 2008

My SIL and I hit 4 garage sales in a bit less than an hour. I really like it when neighbors plan their sales for the same time. Makes it so convenient...

I was able to pick up a few clothes for Brenna (and a pair of crocs which she has been wanting since last summer and instantly put on her feet) for about $15. Name brand stuff in great condition...


But what I really scored on were the learning toys. I got 2 Leap Pads (the ones that fold around the books) and 5 books for $10. Brenna informed me that Caelan will like the blue one, so she (Brenna) will use the pink. So good of her, isn't it? I also got an infant Leap Pad and 3 book sets for another $10. We love learning toys here- and these work great in the car.
And for Doug I got an antique camping table. It has bench seats that fold up into the table, then the table folds in half and becomes it's own carrying case. Got that for $10, too. Pretty nifty, no?

Now I'm not one of those who "brakes" for garage sales, I'm pretty picky about where I visit. I check out the ads for specific things. If an ad says kids clothes I won't go, they need to list sizes. And I don't go to sales on the south east side of town. I'm a garage sale snob.

Anyone else hit any good sales yet?

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Got Water?

My brother called me just the other day asking to borrow our dehumidifier. It seems that, in preparation for the new counter tops they were having installed, he unhooked the dishwasher from the drain in the sink.

Then he promptly forgot and started the dishwasher as he left for work. When he came home at noon he was greeted by quite the mess. Luckily he was able to get it cleaned up and avoid major Water damage (or I can guarantee his wife would have hurt him).

With the spring rainy season here (and it has been rainy in my part of the world) and lots of do-it-yourself home projects set to begin I know there are other people who may be having problems and will need some help with water damage restoration.

As a tip from me to you, let me direct you to DryOut.net. If you have a water damage emergency they have an emergency form and toll free number right on the front page of their website. If you are more of a do-it-yourselfer they have a very informative page of self help tools, a page about dehumidification (and a free mold test kit), and a close relationship with most insurance companies (just in case the job requires a professional).

Just a good resource to have bookmarked. You know... Just in case.

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So Far So Good (This Will Probably Curse It)

The girls have actually been amusing themselves rather well today. Right now they are upstairs in their room playing. (OK, Brenna just announced that she is going poopie, so I have to go monitor the wiping. She tends to clog the toilet.)

Ok, both girls have poo'd for the day and I'm back... Let's see how I'm doing on my list...

  • Baking brownies for small church group tonight
  • At least 2 loads of laundry (one in dryer, another washing)
  • I must shower (and shave my legs). Think there's a chance I can do it alone? YES! A shower by myself! Now I'm all smooth!
  • Figure out what an embroidery sewing machine is worth (my step mother just had to have it, then never used it and left it when she left) and list it on Craig's List
  • I am in charge of our church's nursery. I need to get to work on May's schedule as well as reminding people that they are helping this weekend.
  • Amusing two little girls who will be stuck inside all day due to nasty, rainy weather. They seem to be doing quite a good job of this all by themselves. And soon it will be "quiet time".
  • And I want to get to a couple of garage sales that start today. Brenna could use some summer clothes and I am frugal. SIL just called. They will be here about 2:30 and my brother is off work today (rain day) so he can watch kids! Yea!
  • I still have to finish my blogging seminar talk, get stuff printed and find out if my laptop will connect to the wireless network where I'm teaching. Yeah, this will happen during quiet time...

Hmmm, not too bad... So what am I doing here? What can I say? It's an addiction...

PS Have you entered Scrap Bribing this month? The link is at the top of the website--

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There's A Kid At My Door. That Only Means One Thing... It's Fundraiser Time. Ugh.

Yesterday there was another kid at my door wanting to sell me something to raise money. At least it was something we could use- discounts at local restaurants. Thankfully it wasn’t wrapping paper or chocolates.

I guess I wasn’t involved in enough stuff at school to have to go out and raise money. Or did it not used to be this way? It seems like every activity has a fundraiser. Maybe if most of the money from our taxes didn’t go to admistration…

All I know is when the girls are beginning to get involved with activities and the subject of school fundraising comes up I’m gonna be pushing a company called SchoolPop.

With SchoolPop you register your school or organization, have people sign up and then you shop at your favorite stores (online and brick & mortar) to raise money.

No more sending the kids door to door, no more wrapping paper, no more popcorn, no more cookies. If you need to raise funds check this out. (They also have a sister site for churches and non-profits.)
Sponsored by SchoolPop

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So Busy...

We were out of town last weekend and I still don't think I've caught up! I feel like I've been doing laundry constantly for 3 days- with more to follow today- as well as trying to get (and keep) the house at a relative state of cleanliness.

Today's to do list includes (but is not restricted to)

  • Baking brownies for small church group tonight
  • At least 2 loads of laundry
  • I must shower (and shave my legs). Think there's a chance I can do it alone?
  • Figure out what an embroidery sewing machine is worth (my step mother just had to have it, then never used it and left it when she left) and list it on Craig's List
  • I am in charge of our church's nursery. I need to get to work on May's schedule as well as reminding people that they are helping this weekend.
  • Amusing two little girls who will be stuck inside all day due to nasty, rainy weather.
  • And I want to get to a couple of garage sales that start today. Brenna could use some summer clothes and I am frugal.
  • I still have to finish my blogging seminar talk, get stuff printed and find out if my laptop will connect to the wireless network where I'm teaching.

I'm pretty sure there's more. I got lucky and had three sponsored posts waiting for me this morning, which is why there is so much posting already. I want to thank you all for sticking with me through these as they really do help our "pay off all the debt" fund. (And if you're interested in learning more about how to get these opportunities let me know. I'll hook you up.)

Well, I'm off... I figure I have about 15 mintues while the girls watch Wonder Pets...

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We Fest With the Best

It’s no secret that Doug and I love history. Our bookshelves are filled with history books, our vacations usually involve exploring ancient sites in foreign lands and we love ourselves a Ren Fest.

Before Doug proposed (in a very unromantic way) I had hoped he would propose at the Ren Fest in Minnesota. You see, we were going to be there for the Wine & Romance weekend and they have a wooing contest. I had hoped he planned to woo me from a stage with a proposal of marriage.

Nope. I think Doug likes the history of war while I like the history of chivalry. Whatever it is it works for us.

So every year when spring rolls around and renaissance festivals around the country begin to take place I find myself browsing websites for new renaissance costumes, accessories and ideas.

I spend way too much time on Renstore.com perusing their articles and blogs. And I won’t even go in to how long I can browse their huge inventory. In fact, I’m off to check out their selection of patterns. It’s been too long since I made a new gown. I’m a glutton for punishment, I know.

Sponsored by The Renaissance Store

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Something Yummy Over at Fab Food Friday

Ok, so it's only Thursday, but I have so much to do today that I got my newest recipe up for all of you a day early.

It's Cream Horns with Vanilla Bavarian Cream. Soooo yummy! Perfect for a Mother's day brunch. Or served with berries and chocolate sauce as a special dessert.

They're really easy to make- just a little time consuming. But you'll thank me after you have the first bite.

And you may not thank me after you want to have more!

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Don't Just Mug Your Mug

The list of items you can put a photo on is growing. I found a site called Seacheez.com that has expanded personalized picture gifts to include items like can coolers, candles, note cubes and quilt squares.

I’m happy to see the new items as I’m running out of gift ideas for all those grandmas and grandpas. We can only give them so many photo mugs.

Saecheeze.com is really easy to use- choose your image, choose your item and edit until it looks right. And the items are affordable.

I’m really impressed with the idea of quilt squares. With the size of my family (if I could get photos of everyone) I could make a family quilt for my grandmother for Christmas. She would love it… I, of course, would have to learn how to make a quilt…

Sponsored by Sae Cheez Images

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One Day You Can Say You Saw Her When...

>> Wednesday, April 23, 2008

This past weekend we went east to visit family and celebrate birthdays. My cousin has a love of karaoke. And, we learned, so does Brenna. She sang three songs. This one, her first, was by far the best.

So, here she is, singing the "Cars" song, or as everyone else knows it "Life is a Highway" by Rascall Flatts. (Seriously funny stuff. She sings, she dances.)



I told Doug that night that I don't think we'll have to worry so much about gymnastics or sports with this one... But theater and dance... That's where she'll be.

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Help for Our Economy

Well, I just saw that the dollar is at an all time low against the euro. We felt the effects of the difference while we were in Ireland 6 weeks ago- and now it’s worse.

But what’s bad for US travelers is good for those in the EU. Because the prices of Flights to USA are great and with the euro being so strong Europeans can come here and boost our economy! There is a fare on DialAFlight.com from Belfast, Ireland to New York for £198.

So, how about it Europe? Check out DialAFlight.com, figure out where you want to go, then call one of their agents to set up your perfect American getaway. You don’t have to go to New York… You could hit Vegas and make a side trip to the Grand Canyon. Or fly to Orlando so the kids can visit Disney. Maybe check out the heartland of America.

C’mon… We pulled you out of slumps in the past. Come on over and give our economy a boost!

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Does Hy Vee Give a Plastic Bag Bonus?

I'm just curious...

I had a few items that we needed before my big shopping trip next week. Milk, fruit, veggies, Mikes Light Cranberry Lemonade... You know, essentials.

Things were hectic trying to get out of the house this morning and I forgot my shopping bags. You all remember my IKEA reuseable shopping bags, right? Love them.

Anyway, I forgot them. And, boy, did I regret it. Because my groceries (4 items which I requested not be bagged; one was anyway) came home in 10 plastic bags. Yep, 10. I only had 18 items, and three weren't bagged.

So, again I ask, does Hy Vee give their employees a plastic bag bonus? Do they have a prize for wasting plastic bags? Because, quite honestly, I can do a better job of baggin groceries. Granted, I used to do it in high school- but these people are doing it now.

I can't tell you how many times I have called my local Hy Vee to complain about the bagging of my groceries (today my yogurts were all on top of a bag of cereal). I know they are getting sick of it. But so am I.

Pretty soon I'm just gonna deal with all the dirty looks and bag my own stinkin' groceries.

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Lounging by the Creek

We’re going to have a beautiful day today. 76 and sunny, according to the weather report. Unfortunately this beautiful day will be followed by storms and nasty weather. Which will be adding water to our already swollen creek. Which will add to the erosion and crumbling of the creek banks. Which is just going to make the cost of the repairs that much more.

sigh

On the up side of our creek erosion and terraced flower garden sliding down the hill (yeah, I have to find a silver lining where I can) when the repairs are done we will have a lovely creek-side patio.

And if I can still afford to feed my family after the expense we’ll be undertaking (man, am I scared of the cost) then hopefully I will also be able to afford to put patio furniture on the patio. I recently found a site called beFurnished.com with lovely teak tables, lounge chairs and benches. I like the teak because it can take the weather changes we have here and will last more than a couple of seasons.

So, hopefully, at this time next year I will be telling you that I am pulling out the patio furniture for the patio on such a nice day. Maybe I’ll invite you all over for margaritas and tapas beside the creek.

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Mother's Day Scrap Bribing

>> Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ok, so apparently a couple of people noticed that I am late on scrap bribing this month. And extra entry to each! (You know who you are!)

Even though I am late I had been thinking about what to get as the package will be arriving right before Mother's Day. So I got a little something that I had gotten for myself a while back:

The Cosmo Cricket Biography 101.


scrap bribing 4/08 2

I love this. Not only is it an 8x8 album but it is also a shadow box. You can have it open to display or closed so it looks like a small suitcase.

Mine is open right now and has in it the dress my mother made to bring me home from the hospital, a wee baby bonnet I wore, a rattle and a pair of crocheted booties. When (IF) I ever get caught up on my scrapbooking I am going work on my own baby pictures for the album.


Scrap bribing 4/08

And just so you aren't starting from scratch I have an 8x8 pad of Dasiy D's Premium papers (24 sheets of paper + 2 sheets of die cuts + 2 sheets of stickers).


Scrap bribing 4/08 3


I chose this pad because it just "felt right" with the scrapbook/shadow box.

So, there it is. And here's how we play:

1) Leave me a nice comment. That gets you entered once. (PS- If you don't leave me a way to contact you then you can't win. Make sure you leave an email or you are signed in with Google and I can reach your profile page.)

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 let me know 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 May 1. Leave a comment now & get those posts up! Good luck!!


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Oooh, Shiny...

The “days” will be here soon. You know, Mother’s Day… Father’s Day… Those days when we celebrate those people who raised us and stuff.

Yeah, I’m pretty nonchalant about it even though I’m a mom. My kids aren’t old enough to know what’s going on and my biggest wish is for a day of peace- maybe away from them.

But if you have to buy a gift for someone who has everything (because, honestly, don’t most parents have everything by now?) a watch is always an easy choice.

Of course if you are on a budget (or a tight budget, like we are) you want to get something nice at a reasonable price. I was perusing some of the stuff over at replicahause.com, a replica watch company, earlier.

They have some nice stuff, from a Gucci replica watch collection to Rolex and Cartier replica time pieces. Their list of watches for men and women is long and includes practically any brand you can think of.

The testimonials page at replicahause.com is full of satisfied customers from around the world. It’s definitely worth a look if you are racking your brain for a gift. Or if you just want something new and shiny for yourself without spending an entire paycheck.

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They Slept Tight in Their New Beds

After Uncle Jarod arrived Brenna was ready to get to work! She measured and leveled and "helped". She even did the hard part... Slats.

And here she is attaching slats to the trundle. Caelan wanted to make sure Uncle Jarod had enough screw drivers.
And this slat looked like it could use a bit more work...
Yea! Beds!
Caelan opted for the toddler bed so the crib will be gone by the weekend. They slept soundly- through a very noisy thunderstorm. Must have been comfy!

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No More Fighting the Hose

Well, as soon as it quits raining here it will be time for Doug to pull out the garden hoses. Except for one. One hose will mysteriously disappear this year. I hate that hose… It’s impossible to loop back around, no matter what I do it goes the other way. If I try to let it lead it loops around me. I think it may be part snake.

So this hose will mysteriously disappear and I will replace it (before Doug does) and get what I want: a No-CRANK self winding hose. I’m gonna sign up for the No-Crank Rewards Program, get a code so I can save $$ at Garden-Gadget.com and get a hose that I don’t have to wind.


And you're all gonna be jealous... OK, OK, so you can join the No-Crank Rewards Program, too. Just don't forget who sent ya there...


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It's All So Exciting

>> Monday, April 21, 2008

The beds arrived today and, by the way Brenna is bouncing off the walls with excitement, you would think it was Christmas.

While she was in school today Caelan and I shopped for new comforters and sheets.



I only got the Tinkerbell comforters and 1 pillow case for each bed. Not sheets or other Tink goodies (I'm mean like that). Just plain sheets (1 light green set and 1 white).

I was just upstairs with the girls trying to clean and arrange the room so we can fit in a twin bed and trundle along with the crib and toddler bed. It's not going to leave a lot of room... I am considering just getting rid of the toddler bed all together as I figure Caelan will probably want to sleep in the trundle, anyway. She hasn't spent the night in a "real" bed yet, which is why the crib will stay until she lets us know she's done with it. (I figure it will be gone by the weekend. Anyone want to weigh in on this?)

I also realized, as I was trying to clean, that Brenna is way too excited to keep still while Doug & I attempt to assemble the bed.


Oh, yeah, that could be bad for our marriage. So I put in a call to my brother. I'm bribing him with BBQ so he will help.

The mattresses just arrived. Brenna is beside herself with excitement and Caelan is feeding off her. It's gonna be a long afternoon....

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Noone Missed It?

Well, here it is, the 21st of April. We were out of town all weekend for family birthdays and with all the stuff that had to be done (as well as all the regular stuff) I completely forgot.

And I am sad that noone else noticed.

Because it's the 21st.

Did noone miss my scrap bribing? I suppose I should try to figure out what I'm giving away and get it posted, huh?

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Romantic Getaway in Your Future?

I’m reading this great book about marital relationships. It breaks down to men think like waffles (in blocks and only one subject at a time) and women think like spaghetti (everything is connected and intertwined with everything else).

The chapter I just finished said that couples should get away twice a year- just the adults. One time a year should be just to discuss the “business” of the family: vacations, finances, kids’ schedules and activities, etc. A great idea. I never thought of the family as business.

The second getaway they recommend is for reconnection. Someplace romantic, preferably with room service and maybe a hot tub. I’ve been planning just this kind of weekend for later this year (Doug’s birthday, our 5th anniversary, my birthday) and have been spending a lot of time trying to figure out the perfect place to escape to.

I’ve been perusing the website for an Asheville Bed and Breakfast , the Lion and the Rose. They have a new video tour of their beautiful “pink lady” and I have to say that luxurious and inviting instantly spring to mind while I watch it.

It’s just the kind of place Doug and I used to stay before we had children. And it’s just a few miles down the road from the Biltmore Estate, a place we both want to visit. It could be the perfect getaway.

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He's Such a Tool- Continued

>> Friday, April 18, 2008

Well, Ace of Cakes I'm not...

But here's my brother's tool box birthday cake. Yes, he's 33. What are men but little boys all grown up? Besides, there's cash in it...

Fab Food Friday 095


Directions are at Fab Food Friday if you want to make your own.

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Big Girl Beds Are On The Way!

Doug and I did a lot of searching for beds for the girls’ room. We looked at local furniture stores hoping for a nice set that wouldn't break our budget. Yeah, right. Sometimes this frugal stuff is tough.

So when we returned home Doug hit the Internet and found a great deal on eBay. Now, we don’t usually buy such expensive stuff as beds on eBay but the deal was just too great to pass up and the company had excellent feedback and great testimonials.

So we placed our order for white bunk beds with a trundle (after browsing their beautiful doll house beds and talking ourselves out of them more than a couple of times) and they will be here next week! Brenna is very excited!

If you’re looking for affordable good bunk beds or loft beds check out bunk-beds-loft-beds.com. Their site is so easy to navigate and they give you tons of info about the beds. Shipment is quick (we received notice of our bed leaving the warehouse about 36 hours after we placed the order) and assembly instructions for many of the beds are online- just so you know what you're getting yourself in to.

When Brenna is too old to share a room with Caelan, I’m thinking something like this will be perfect:



Too cool, right? Is it just me or is anyone else just jonesing to organize stuff in all those drawers and shelves?

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Just a Bit of FYI...

If you need red frosting do not use liquid red food coloring. I just used an entire bottle (you know, one of those little ones that come in the 4 color paks) and have a lovely dark salmon color.

Yep, that'll make a really manly tool box, don'tcha think?

So off to WalMart to get the more concentrated food coloring paste. I almost just picked up fondant- which I have never used and am pretty sure I could easily screw up.

Now I'm off to make another frosting dying attempt.

If this doesn't work I'll have to make a whole new cake and go for another design. I have 3 hours... It can be done.

Wish me luck!

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I May Be Crafty But I Can't Do This...

I enjoy gtting flowers- who doesn't?- but I can never get them to look good in a vase! How do the designers get them to look so nicely spaced? And just how do I use that flower food?

Well, Proflowers has a really handy video on how to arrange fresh roses. Did you know roses have protective outer petals? Yep, you remove them to get a full bloom. And they even mentioned the flower food!

You can follow the link above or just check it out here:



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He's Such a Tool

>> Thursday, April 17, 2008

Tomorrow these two cakes (baked in loaf pans) along with half a chocolate donut and frosting will be a tool box.

Cakes baked in loaf pans


Can't see it?

Maybe if you have a gander at this treasure chest cake you will get an idea.

It's Jarod's birthday, you see. Last year I made him the last minute "girlie" cake but this year I've had more time to prepare. And since my other brother came up with the idea I just have to create it.

Thankfully my girls aren't opposed to toy tools so we have a couple of hammers and saws in toyboxes. I'll wash those thoroughly (because who knows where they have really been) and put them under the lid. And his gift will be inside the cake, as well. Let's hope he doesn't eat it.

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Open Me First!

The only time I really send out mail (other than bills) is in the fall. Most major events in our family fall between September and December. Between pictures of the girls, birthday cards and Christmas cards going out (not to mention gifts that have to be mailed) I put a run on the post office.

I like to add something personal to the envelopes I send out whether it be family address labels with cute caricatures or a custom note card with a matching envelope. Whatever it is I just want my letter to “stick out” from the rest of the mail. Ok, I want my letter to be opened first.

I’ve looked through lots of online sites (as well as brick and mortar locations around here) and I keep coming back to VistaPrint when I have a printing need. They have everything I need (and some things that I didn’t think of!), prices that beat the competition and a great reputation for quality. And their website is super easy to use.

I saw a great idea on their home page- babysitter notepads that you design yourself. The cost is less than you would pay for those you buy in the store and you can make it your own. (It would also make a nice little gift for those other mommies you know!)

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More on Ireland...

My most recent posts take you to Killarney. We were there three days so there is much to share... Look for at least 3 more posts from Killarney alone before I move on to the west.

There's also a post up about the English Market in Cork and the great restaurant upstairs that uses items only from the market in their menu. YUM!

Why not take a little trip with me and visit my travel blog? Just begin at the top and scroll down.

You'll get a sponsorship pop-up. If you're feeling really generous go ahead and nominate HKWT for best travel blog. Then just close the pop-up and read.

I also added that gizmo I told you about the other day so you can get emailed newsletters directly into your inbox so you won't miss a bit of my travels and other fun stuff going on over there. It's just there on the left... It says Subscribe to My Newsletter. I know... How original.

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It's On My List

I have family vacations planned for years to come. There are so many places to visit, so many adventures to have. It’s lucky I am that Doug enjoys the journey and the destination as much as I do. We would be a bad match without that love of travel.

It would be ironic, then, if our girls were to say to us one day, “Seriously? Another vacation? Can’t we just stay home?” Surely that won’t happen if we keep it fun, right?

A must-do on my list is, of course, the Grand Canyon. This one will have to wait as I want to do it “right” with camping and hiking- and the girls will have to be able to carry their own stuff for that.

I’ve been checking out PygmyGuides.com, a Grand Canyon tours, hiking and camping company, to see just what they have (besides some really amazing photos).

Their site is information on steroids. You get everything but the experience. From intros of all their guides to the stuff they supply (and you’ll be packing) you’ll be ready to go the minute you arrive at the Grand Canyon.

From single day Grand Canyon tour hikes to overnight backpacking trips Pygmy Guides has got it covered. Their testimonial page is full of satisfied customers. In about 10 years I plan to be one of them.

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How Do People Do This?

>> Wednesday, April 16, 2008

While the girls and I were at a local park this evening I noticed quite a few children running around but only a couple of parents. I was a little concerned about this as some of the kids were not being very careful and were pushing smaller children.

My concern heightened when I saw a child tumble off a platform that was about 4 1/2 feet off the ground head first. And no parents checked to see if he was ok.

It wasn't until I looked at the parking lot that I noticed a handful of cars with parents in them talking on their phones or reading books or papers. Not one of them was paying attention to their children.

Now, I understand that my little suburb is very safe. I understand that the likelyhood of your child getting seriously injured is quite small. But I also know that things with kids happen very fast. There were lots of cars coming and going as there were half a dozen soccer practices and baseball practices going on. No one else on that playground would have known if it was a parent carting off a reluctant child or if your child was actually being taken against his will.

Oh, did I mention that none of these children were over the age of 6?

Am I overprotective? How do people do this?

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Take Me Home, Country Roads

Doug and I have many, many conversations about our retirement. OK, his retirement as I’m never going to work a “real” job again. There are so many places to see, so many things to do. And while my ultimate goal is to live the last of my years in Ireland I wouldn’t be averse to wandering around the states before we go.

We often talk about selling everything when Caelan graduates from college and buying a big RV. Of course we would still want a “home base”… We just can’t decide where. I just recently saw the new community being built at
Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

It’s absolutely gorgeous, close to the state park and many hiking trails, on the lake and far enough from major cities to offer seclusion. Yep, I think that could end up high on my list for places to park the RV…

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Pfffttt....

Well, it's technically "nice" out today. The temperature is in the mid-60s and ths sun is hazy through the high clouds.

But...

Of course there's a but...

The winds are strong enough to blow a shopping cart through a parking lot. With a small child in it. (Yes it was my cart and my child. I was unloading the cart and the wind blew it uphill into the truck.)

So we are stuck inside today as anything we want to do outdoors would get blown away. Which is ok because the house needs cleaned in preparation for Mom's Group tomorrow.

How much "help" do you think I'll have? I only hope they think cleaning is fun when they are old enough to do a good job...

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Where Art Thou Sock?

>> Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tips_tricks
I’ve been noticing quite a few posts around the blog-o-sphere about sock eating washing machines. Every time I read these I laugh and then I share this bit of info:

If you have a front load washing machine be sure to pull back the seal after removing each load. This is where the water drains out and small items (such as socks or loose change) can get caught there.

You can also do what I do and buy lingerie bags for the kids’ socks and underwear. This keeps everything together and I have yet to have a single sock who has lost it’s mate.

For more great tips on how to organize and declutter your home visit MyThings.com, a free online solution to keeping track of your stuff.
Sponsored by MyThings

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In Islamic Countries...

Under Islamic law, women are not allowed out of the house by themselves. If a woman is traveling by herself, it is assumed that she is a prostitute. Think about that for a second and then read what happened to someone whose fantasy of Islam met reality.

I wanted to add my two cents to this little piece that Doug dropped in yesterday because I just don't think this story will get much publicity.

This woman was hitchhiking across Turkey wearing a wedding dress to promote world peace. She was murdered and her body was found hidden along the road like a piece of trash.

I can only imagine that, had her journey been a success, her story would be turned in to a movie and we would all be hearing about how good all people are if they are only given a chance.

Well, all people are not good. You cannot make them good simply by giving them the chance. There are awful people out there who will kill you for your religion, your sex or the color of your skin. Playing nice and trying to appease them only makes them see you as weak and stupid.

Can we stop being weak and stupid now?



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I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

Well, after the fiasco of the swimsuit I ordered not fitting and sending me into a deep craving for a DQ treat and a hole to hide in to wallow in my self pity of being born with freakishly large bQQbs I have again begun my search for a swimsuit that will fit properly.

I’ve been perusing the pages of BiggerBras.com because they sell suits that have the fit of full busted lingerie and can be purchased in separate pieces.

At least this way I can get the top closer to right by ordering by bra size rather than generic size. So, off I go to place an order and hopefully get a swimsuit I actually like – for the first time since I was 18.

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Sharing

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How Do You Begin When You Can't Find the Beginning?

Seeing all the credit offers pour in through our mail it’s easy to see why credit cards are one of the leading causes of bankruptcy in the country. Credit cards have fed our “have it now” desires and people have completely forgotten how to save for anything.

If you’re sickened by all the bills pouring into your home every month but you just aren’t sure how to begin paring them down let me suggest a visit to The Credit Exchange.com.

The Credit Exchange is not a debt management company but a Credit Card Counseling service. They will help to lead you in the right direction to help you pay off your debt and begin to build wealth.

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What can $350,000 get you

Lesson learned - stay away from San Fran, LA, New York to DC and tourist spots. That is, if you want to get the most for your money home-wise.


Here's the international version.

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Michael Moore's Healthcare System

Yes, this is what our system will look like if Hillary or Obama get elected.

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Just So Diego Knows...

Brenna enjoys Dora and Diego- like practically every other child her age, I'm sure.

And, like practiclly all children her age she answers the questions they ask.

But, do other children have "conversations" with Dora or Diego on TV?

Example:

Diego asked this morning about trains, "The animals are getting on trains and going to their homes. Do you like trains?"

To which Brenna replied, "Yes, I like trains... But I really want to go back to Ireland."

Looks like Doug & I should get busy...

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I Love Free Bloggy Goodies

So, I’m busy… I’ve been working on getting Ireland info onto my travel blog, I’ve got a new recipe to add to the recipe blog, I try to keep the geek blog updated, Brenna and Caelan are actively giving me blog fodder (and messes to clean, tears to dry and boo-boos to kiss) and I am working on the blogging presentation I am giving in two weeks.

When I agreed to teach blogging I was thinking in practicality- it’s easy, right? Well, I’ll be talking to women who don’t even know what a blog is. Which takes me from the bare basics clear through all those helpful applications we all use like second nature.

So I’m cruising through the internet looking for fun stuff to share and I found Zookoda.com. Designed specifically for bloggers, Zookoda sends a summary of your blog posts directly to your visitors’ inbox.

And that’s only the beginning…

You can design a sign up form to match your blog.
You can custom design your newsletter to match your blog.
You can schedule when your newsletters go out (daily, weekly, monthly).
You can view real time bounce, click and unsubscribe reports.
Oh, and it’s free.

I can see this feature being especially nice on my recipe and travel blogs which I only update a few times a week. It would let people know I have new content up and, in theory, bring up my visitor numbers.

I can also see this being a great tool for new bloggers. You easily build an email list of friends and relatives and, voilà!, instant readership.

It’s a very cool tool so be sure to watch for it on my blogs (oh, don’t worry, I’ll be pointing it out to you!) and go check it out for yours. If you add it I’ll sign up!
Sponsored by Zookoda

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My Life... As An Elephant

>> Monday, April 14, 2008

I have a tendency to buy books from Scholastic when Brenna brings the order forms home from school. I usually contain myself and only buy the $1.95 books and rarely spend more that $10 at any given time.

Except for the final book order of the year. I loaded up with a big floor puzzle, a set of phonics learn-to-read books and little cards that fit together to spell words. I also got a book that was in the special Mother's Day section.

It's called Five Minutes Peace. As I read it, to myself while the girls ate lunch, I saw myself as Mrs. Large the elephant.

The book begins as most days do: the kids are having breakfast and it's not a pretty sight.

Through the book Mrs. Large makes the attempt to get just five minutes of peace. And fails. At one point a small child ends up in her bath with pajamas still on. Ah, yes, that just happened to me a couple of weeks ago.

It's a really cute book (and one all mommies could have written).

I am Mrs. Large... Are you?

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When To Begin Chores?

I'm thinking forward to summer vacation. To be quite honest I'm dreading it. I don't know what we are going to do with all those free hours in the day. I know many will be filled with outdoor play and, hopefully, exhausted naps but I want the girls to have some sort of schedule as well.

I'm also playing with the idea of making them do "chores". It probably wouldn't be anything more than I get them to do now, but I'm thinking of adding more structure and maybe a chore chart.

What do you think? When did you add chores to your child's routine? And do your kids earn anything from doing their chores? I guess that I just figure if I start them young it won't be such a surprise when they get older...

And if you're looking for a free chore chart- look no further. Lots of fun designs with more to come.

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Makin' Money

Brenna is still telling us at least 5 times a day that she wants to go back to Ireland. Her desire, of course, is to see the nice horsey that pulled us through Killarney National Park.

I try to explain to her that Daddy and (to a lesser extent) Mommy need to work and make money before we can return. It hasn't quite sunk in that it takes more than a day or two for this money making to happen.

What she does understand is that both Daddy and Mommy make money on their computers. So this evening as we were all in the office Brenna announced that she was going to "make money" on her computer.

After about 15 minutes of playing on Barney's website she said that she was done"working", she made money, can we go back to Ireland now?

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Got Info?

There is information all over the internet. But what if the information you have isn’t out there? What if you want to share your knowledge but don’t want to maintain a blog or website? Well, then you submit it to The Web Articles Directory.

This is a database of over 1300 unique content articles that have not been published anywhere else on the web. There are dozens of categories to add your information to or to search for the information you are looking for.

If you’re an Employee who blogs and you want to use that to enhance your position or if you’re looking for health info that you just can’t find anywhere else give The Web Articles Directory a try. You may just start going to them before Google…

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Ouch

And so true. Of course, by cut, they probably mean a 6% growth rate rather than the 8% requested. QED a 2% "cut". I mean, isn't that how you work your budget? I know that's how it would be reported here in Iowa.

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Does My Pastor Read Iowa Geek?

>> Sunday, April 13, 2008

He says no... I guess we must be on the same wavelengths...

Read God's Exclusive Nature and Oprah and God's Jealousy Understood Simply.

He's just more versed in this stuff than I am...

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Look Good, Do Good

Design magazines have a tendency to make me cringe. So often rooms just feel overdone and I wonder who lives in them- and how. I guess that I am of a mind that more isn’t better- it’s just more. I love a simple design, some nice art on the walls and one or two pieces in a room that draw the eye and create instant interest.

There are some amazing suede pots at www.JacarandaStyle.com - Unique Home Accents & Fine Gifts that are hand-stitched with hand beaded “necklaces”. Absolutely stunning. This is the kind of piece that draws people to it and makes them ask questions.

And then you can tell them about how Jacaranda Style returns a portion of their profits to the communities of their South African artisans as well as donating funds to the Ethembeni School for Disabled Youth, also in South Africa.

An item from Jacaranda Style not only looks good, it does good.
Socialspark_ad_250x250

Sponsored by JacarandaStyle

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I'm Down With OCD

>> Friday, April 11, 2008

About two years ago Doug, Brenna & I went to a silent auction for a little girl who had cancer of the brain stem. It was heartbreaking as she had a 5% chance of survival- and she was a twin. So we bid on a lot of stuff. And we won a lot of stuff.

One of the greatest things we got was this hand made wooden kitchen set. This set was well-loved before we got it. It has been well loved in our home and it is so sturdy that I'm sure it will last through many more children before it has cooked it's last meal.

Brenna and Caelan can spend hours "cooking" and having tea parties. It's really very sweet to listen to them through the monitor as they play together.

It's also a bit difficult for me to hear the pots crash and the toys hit the wall as they make a huge mess. I'm more of a "use what you need and put it away when you're done" kind of girl.

About once a week I get a chance to clean the toy room without it being destroyed immediately. If anyone is with me I usually get hassled a bit about how I do it.


Looks good, doesn't it? Everything put neatly away. Apron hanging, sweet little chef's hat gently placed on top of the pantry waiting to be worn again.

Everything nicely organized. Plates and bowls stacked, utensils together...

Fresh fruits and veggies separated from all the other groceries...

Yes, I separate the "fresh" items from the other stuff. Doesn't everyone?

No? Well then surely you set the table for tea and cookies?


Yes, I really do this. Yes, I do this in front of other people. Yes, I get laughed at. Alot.

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What Are You Doing This Mother's Day

Thirty years ago on Mother’s Day my mom came home from the hospital with my youngest brother. I was 7 ½. I remember my mom saying that he was her Mother’s Day gift. I thought she got gypped. He didn’t do much, just sort of laid there, ate, pooped, slept… Normal baby stuff. He wasn’t sparkly like jewelry and he didn’t smell good like flowers.

Of course Justin grew up to be a good kid, spoiled as he was the baby, but a good kid. And every few years Justin gets to share his birthday with the day we honor our mothers. This is one of those years. Which provides a bit of a problem with the scheduling of what we do as a family.

Last year I had a big Mother’s Day brunch. I baked all kids of wonderful goodies and we all ate and had fun. We can’t do that this year because my SIL has some plans for my brother’s birthday.

The year before I made reservations all us “moms” (me, my sister, both my SILs and my mom) went to a tea house for a girlie lunch.

This year I’m thinking maybe a girl’s afternoon with pedicures and chocolate fondue at a local place.

Whatever we do, no mother’s day is complete without flowers. I usually order early from 1-800-flowers.com so I don’t forget as the date approaches.

Which reminds me, 1-800-flowers.com is having a contest- Celebrate Mom For Who She Is- with lots of great prizes. You pick a category, load a photo or a video and tell a story about why you celebrate your mom. It’s a really neat contest. Go over and check it out- even if you don’t enter.



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