Friday, February 26, 2010

A gentle reminder from my Pumpkin

As my dedicated readers know, my New Year's Resolution was to be more positive. I must admit that as of late I had fallen into my old patterns a bit. In fact, today I was just complaining about the fact that I have worn a hole into my favorite pair of jeans. When my youngest heard me talking about it, she came over, looked at the hole, and said,

"Just think mommy, now if your knee ever itches it will be super easy to scratch it!"

With her smile and positive attitude, I couldn't help but feel better. Sometimes I feel like my kids teach me more than I could ever teach them. . . and I am grateful!

Have you heard of Chocolate Cake Club?

My girls generally have so much "stuff", that for their birthdays we've been trying to do activity based gifts rather than products. Last May, when Peanut turned 5, we took the girls to a hands on cooking class. They had an amazing time! I would definitely recommend it to anyone. Other ideas that we have for upcoming birthdays are: skiing lessons, painting pottery, art classes, mini-vacations, and adventure days.

While we love the idea of family-based activities for gifts for the girls, their grandparents often prefer to give them something a little more tangible. One site that I have often recommended to them for their purchases is Chocolate Cake Club. Last year several family members purchased various cooking kits from Chocolate Cake Club for Peanut to go along with the cooking class theme. Both girls have loved using their cooking supplies throughout the year. With a mini-vacation theme coming up, I'm sure the girls would love to get their own luggage. Chocolate Cake Club has some adorable suitcases! I just know my girls would love the polka dot suitcase or this adorable toiletry bag. While I could always put this on a list to give to their grandparents, I might not have to. Chocolate cake moments is having a contest where they are giving away an adorable Spring Break Family Travel set. If I won, then instead I could ask the girls grandparents for tickets for special events or souvenirs from the trip. So, cross your fingers for me and head on over to enter for yourself too! Good luck!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Have you read . . .

Have you read The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger? If not, I can say without hesitation that it is a definite MUST READ! From the moment I opened it, I was hooked. I had to know what happened, what was going to happen, and how it would all turn out. Sadly, when my husband asked me what it was about I had a really hard time explaining it, so I won't even try to attempt it here. The book was really well written, though I have no idea how she could have written it. To create such a seamless story with jumps in time that overwhelm any sense of chronological order is nothing short of amazing! I haven't seen the movie yet, but suspect that I won't enjoy it nearly as much as the book since the bar has been set so high. Thanks Audrey Niffenegger for a powerful and emotional escape read!

Now, I'm on to The DaVinci Code . . .

Ten Tips for a Fun Distraction Free Vacation

Twittermoms and Alamo have me thinking about and ready to plan my next vacation because of their post here. Prior to reading this post I really hadn't thought much about how distracted vacations have become. I have a hard time leaving my computer behind and Doc is a workaholic. Fortunately, the kids aren't addiction to any distractions just yet. Upon thinking about it, I think our next vacation will utilize the following ten tips:
  1. Get everyone involved in the planning. Make sure you plan something for everyone. While Doc and I might enjoy it, our kids will get bored and want to play with their video games if every day includes tours of big old buildings.
  2. Make your vacation an appropriate length of time. As much as we want to be distraction free, there are some things at work that really can't wait 10 days. Plan a vacation that is 3 days if that is all you can realistically take.
  3. Turn your cell phone off! While it is unrealistic to remain completely detached from society, don't take your blackberry so you can browse the internet and check email while waiting in line. Instead, take a basic cell phone or just turn it off when you don't need it. Sure, the GPS in the phone will be great when you're really lost, but you can also use a map. Enjoy being lost and the adventures it brings. Some of my favorite memories are from trips with my grandfather when he would take us someplace that was 1/2 hour away . . . but it would take us 2 or 3 hours.
  4. Plan car games. A quick search of amazon led me to auto bingo, would you rather, and the book "Miles of Smiles". Car games are a great way to interact and have fun on the car ride in preparation for the trip.
  5. Set aside time. If you know that you will HAVE to check email once a day, then set aside a time to do that. Don't deviate from that time or extend it. Give yourself five minutes, then forget it until the next day.
  6. Be organized. Know what you are going to do so that you don't have too much down time when you would be tempted to fall into your distracted ways. Not that you have to have every second planned, but a plan can go a long way in keeping you on track.
  7. Be flexible. It sounds a bit contradictory to #6, but it is not. Maybe you didn't even know that you'd be passing through a town that boasts the worlds largest waffle. If you see a fun stop along the way, then stop. Enjoy every minute of your time together as a family.
  8. Pack Snacks. Even if you have a no eating in the car rule, break it for the family vacation. Hungry people make cranky people, and a fight is one sure way to ruin the fun for everyone.
  9. Bring Music. My kids love a good sing-a-long. While I can't maintain my own enthusiasm for hours at a time, a couple of good fun songs can go a long way in keeping the family smiling. Also, as the kids get tired, play some relaxing music to help take the edge off. My girls love listening to some of my favorite (appropriate) music. They always like to hear why I love certain songs whether it was the song Doc and I danced to on our wedding day, the song that was playing when Peanut was born, or the song we used to sing to Pumpkin when she couldn't fall asleep at night. It is a great way to reminisce about old memories while making new ones.
  10. Take your Polaroid and a Scrapbook. Take a camera that will allow you to get immediate pictures or find a place that can print from your digital in an hour. On the car ride home each person can make a couple of pages from the trip that highlight their favorite parts. When you get home you can create a great book that shows all the highlights and lowlights of the trip.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Books That are Made into Movies - Can you Read and Watch?

As a bibliophile, I constantly have a book nearby that I am reading. Sometimes I choose a book on my own, on a whim. Other times I am reading a book based on a recommendation by a friend or family member. Often, I find myself reading books that have been made into movies. With two children (and the ridiculous price of movies), I don't get out to the movies too often, however I do have a running list of movie requests from the local library. I've recently found myself quite disappointed in movies after I've read the book. The characters, places, scenes, etc. aren't what I've pictured. In fact, I read through the entire Twilight Series in less than a month. Once I started a book I just couldn't put it down. When I was finally able to get the movie from the library I was thrilled . . . until I wasn't. I found myself bored, falling asleep, and debating on whether I should just give up and turn it off. While I did watch the entire movie, I decided at that moment that I have absolutely no interest in seeing any of the others. Did this happen to anyone else?

My most recent read, Julie and Julia is another book/movie combination. When I saw the previews for the movie, they looked fun and inspiring. I put it on my list of books to read and movies to rent. Honestly, I just finished the book last week and was a bit disappointed. The book was well written and I could definitely relate to Julie. In fact, the problem may have been that I could relate too much. Sometimes I feel lost, like I am looking for my way, my calling after life as a SAHM. I don't like to cook or clean much, so I don't think I'd be a good housewife after the kiddos are in school full time. I don't really have a talent. I don't write well. I'm not crafty. I'm not creative. I think reading the book just made me jealous that she was able to find her "talent" rather than inspired to find my own. On a positive note, since I didn't particularly enjoy reading Julie and Julia, it is quite possible that I will like the movie when I get a chance to see it.

Next, I'm on to the Time Traveler's Wife . . . LOVE IT so far!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My Weight Journey

As a mom, woman, person in our present day stress and junk food-filled society, I have weight issues. Am I obese? No. Am I overweight? I guess that depends on who you ask. I would say that I am. I am definitely not "in shape" and have been working on developing both a healthy life-style as well as a healthy body image (for both myself and my girls). Approximately one year ago I invested in Tony Horton's Power 90 program and it was great. I lost approximately 15-20 lbs and was back at my pre-baby weight and size. (Though admittedly, I don't think clothes will EVER fit me like they did before I had my girls.) Unfortunately, Power 90 got boring and I got lazy. I've only put on about 5 lbs of the weight I lost, but I don't want to go back to where I started, so I'm starting another weight loss/maintenance journey. I purchased EASportsActive and began a 30 day challenge. I loved it for the first week or two . . . then got bored again. I got tired of hearing my trainer say the same positive things . . . it seemed so insincere (but really, how sincere can a video game be?). I grew irritated with the Wii not registering my movements on a few of the exercises. Now I know that there are some exercises that I might not always do exactly right, but the bicep curl . . . every day?!?! I'm pretty sure I know how to do a bicep curl. It isn't like it is rocket science. So, here I am, trying to find a new exercise program and a way to keep myself accountable. Any suggestions?

In addition to exercise, I need to find a way to control my food intake. I am an emotional eater. When I am sad, angry, depressed, happy . . . I eat! I eat to drown my sorrows and I eat to celebrate my accomplishments. I am aware of this, and sometimes I can control it. Other times, I fall short in my attempt to count calories and eat in moderation. As Paula Poundstone once said, "I've decided that perhaps I'm bulimic and just keep forgetting to purge." Rather than purge, I have decided to try Sensa. According to the Sensa website,

The scientific principle behind Sensa is remarkably simple. As you eat smell and taste receptors send messages to your brain which release hormones that tell your body it's time to stop eating. This is a phenomenon we call Sensory Specific Satiety. By enhancing smell, Sensa Tastants were designed to help speed up the process and trigger your "I feel full" signal, so you eat less and feel more satisfied. Because Sensa works with your body's natural impulses, rather than against them, there are no feelings of hunger or intense cravings."

So, I'm hoping that it works. I think that maybe, just maybe if I can have some help in eating less it might increase my motivation to work out more. Wish me luck!

*I have not received any product nor compensation for this post or any related to it. Everything contained in this post and all future weight related posts are solely based on my own opinion (unless otherwise indicated in that post).

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Barstools . . . and a giveaway!


Confirmed Winner - Carey

Do you ever have something surprising happen and think, "Wow! What a coincidence!" or "This must be fate!"? Recently, I had one of those moments. For our birthdays, Doc and I try to pick items we really want and/or need around the house. We're really pretty boring people and generally prefer practical gifts. Well, my birthday is coming up in March and I decided that I want . . . wait, let's make that NEED new bar stools! Our current chairs are not only ugly, but also very wobbly. The same week that I told my husband about my request, I received an email from CSN stores asking if I would like to do a review or giveaway on my blog. My flattered self was thrilled that someone found my blog and ready to review/giveaway. My rational self realized that I couldn't endorse a company I really didn't know much about. So, I spent a little time browsing the 200+ sites! Okay, I didn't actually browse them all, but I did look through several of the sites and was thrilled to find barstools that I LOVE. The only problem was that I have a really hard time using online swatches to order something that is going to be in my house. I tried that with a desk one time and the end result was disaster. Anyway, I called the CSR at (one of the 200+ CSN stores) to see if it was possible to send me fabric samples so that I could actually compare them to my decor in person. The CSR I spoke to was very kind, helpful, and patient throughout our interaction. While I have not yet ordered the barstools, overall I have been impressed with the level of service I have received so far. Anyway, long story long (my inability to make any story short is definitely an inherited trait). I now feel ready and able to host my very first giveaway thanks to

So, here's the deal. I am giving away Wedgits. You may recall from my post here that I simply adore Wedgits. They are a fun and unique building toy that will keep your child (or maybe even you, if you're anything like me) entertained for hours. All you need to do to enter is:

  1. Go to and browse the 200+ stores.
  2. Select the store that looks most interesting to you.
  3. Browse that specific store and pick one item that you'd love to have.
  4. Leave a comment here with the store name, and a link to the item you've found.
  5. Cross your fingers and hope that selects your number.
This giveaway will end on 2/15/10 at 7:59pm EST. Good Luck!

*Note: I did not receive any products nor compensation for this post/giveaway. All opinions are my own.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Sony Reader? Nook? Kindle? Where are you?

You may recall my attempt in December to win a Nook Well, I was not successful. Nor was I successful in getting one for Christmas. I'm still on the lookout for a great deal on a Nook, Kindle, or Sony Reader (seriously people, I'm not picky!). However, Tracy from Book Room Reviews is giving a Sony Pocket Reader away to one of her readers. Nothing is a better deal then free, so I will try, try again. Wish me luck! (Don't forget to go enter for yourself too. If you win and can't use it, remember that my birthday is coming up in March!)

Craft Time . . . Remind me again why I do this!

You may recall when I posted a few "Fun Crafts I don't want to forget". Well, we did it! The girls and I set out to make those adorable crayon heart necklaces as seen in some unknown parenting magazine. I had great intentions of making a fun gift for Valentine's Day that wouldn't add to the already high level of sugar intake expected on that (and every) holiday celebration at school. The girls LOVE crafts. In actuality they are always asking to do crafts, but usually they end in a fight of some sort or another. For example, during this experience we heard "I want the pink cookie cutter!" "She put a fingerprint on my heart!" "She's using all the red crayons! I want a red crayon in mine!" Four hours and several gray hairs later we had these

Yes, you heard me right . . . 4 HOURS later. I must also tell you that we had been saving broken crayons for quite a while and spent almost an hour unwrapping and chopping them up even more a couple of days before. Oh, I almost forgot to add that the four hours also didn't include the time I spent the following day stringing ribbon through the tiny holes and tying it in knots (though admittedly, without the girls' "help" on this part, it took me only about 1/2 hour). In all we made 42 crayon necklaces. It is a good thing we only needed 37 because there were a few really ugly ones in the bunch.

On a positive note, the girls have been wearing their necklaces around the house for the past two days. They love them! In fact, they love them so much that Peanut, my oldest, doesn't want to give them to a few kids in her class. She specifically said, "Do I have to give one to Trouble(name has been changed)? He always breaks his crayons when he colors with them." While I doubt Trouble (or any of the 14 boys in her class) would be terribly sad if he didn't get a crayon heart necklace, we must be fair and give one to everyone. (Peanut did get several pirate tattoos last year from these same boys.)

So, assuming no lawsuit results from this gift, will I ever do this or something similar again? (Hubby is sure someone is going to try to eat the crayon necklace and then sue us when they get sick. I keep telling him that crayons are non-toxic and they don't taste very good. After one bite I would think that any normal child would stop eating it.) The answer is a resounding "YES!" Why? I really can't quite put my finger on it. As I've said before, I'm not crafty nor artistic, but what I'm really bad at is playing pretend. Crafts, cooking, and reading with my kids are the best interactions we get, fights and all!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

What are you reading?

As I have mentioned before, English was never my forte when I was in school. I am not an expert on proper grammar, themes, or denouement. However, that being said, I LOVE to read. I have loved to read since I was a child. I've been reading to my girls since they were only a couple of days old. Reading is my escape. I read just about anything from trashy romance novels to scientific articles on the link between telomeres and cancer. My favorite book of all time is The Double Helix by James Watson. I loved the Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer. If you give me a "good" book (meaning one that I find interesting), I will definitely be done reading it within the week. Unfortunately, If you were to ask me a series of questions about the book, I can't guarantee that I will be able to answer any of them. When I read, I do so for enjoyment. Sometimes that enjoyment comes from learning something new and interesting (as is the case with my scientific articles). Sometimes the enjoyment is purely based on a temporary escape from reality. I just finished a book that was kind enough to afford me a bit of both types of enjoyment. I was fortunate enough to receive an Advanced Readers Copy of The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen. It is a novel based on the true story of Sofonisba Anguissola, the first known female Renaissance painter. I had actually never heard of Sofonisba Anguissola before, but to be fair History wasn't my best subject either (neither was art). I found myself absorbed in the romance and relationships of the book, while also wondering how much of it was really true. At the end of the book, the author, Lynn Cullen gives you a brief history of Sofonisba so that you might be able to determine where the true story ends and literary imagination begins.

So, back to my original question . . . What are you reading? Having just finished this book, I am set to start another. Julie and Julia by Julie Powell is next on my list. Unfortunately, my list is getting shorter so I need some ideas for other books to locate and put on my list. Any suggestions?

*Note - I actually don't remember where I received the ARC of The Creation of Eve. No one paid me (or even asked me) to create a review. I simply enjoyed the book and wanted to share it with others. I plan to post brief reviews of many of the books that I read so that family and friends can read about them and let me know if they want to borrow them. If you are interested in reading this, please send me an email. I only have the one copy, but will be happy to pass it on.

Can a Positive Attitude really be the difference?

Recently I posted telling you all about my New Year's Resolution. Yesterday, as I realized that it is already February, I thought back on my January and how I've been doing so far. I must say that I am proud of myself (insert round of applause here). I have been more positive. I feel like I have been a better mother as a result. In addition, I find myself happier. I smile more. I even have found that I've had great customer service experiences in January. I think I've had more positive interactions in January than I can remember having during all of 2009! Now, my question is this . . . Are stores really doing that much better? Admittedly, I haven't gone into Lowes or Walmart at all this year yet (nor do I plan to), but overall I have been pleased. I already told you all about MicroCenter and NorthlineExpress, but just last week Kroger and FashionPlaytes exceeded my expectations for great shopping experiences. I don't know if it is my attitude or I've just been lucky, but either way, this resolution is here to stay!