Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Book Review: Redefining Beautiful: What God Sees When He Sees You

I was recently sent a copy of the book Redefining Beautiful: What God Sees When God Sees You by Jenna Lucado and her dad, renowned author Max Lucado. Jenna relates to the reader by sharing stories of her teen years and empathizes with the reader. She discusses boys, friends, and the way the media portrays young women. While the book is designed for tween and teenage girls, as an adult woman, I also found great value in it. The book speaks to the reader as a friend and even has spaces for the reader to record thoughts and feelings in response to questions asked by the author. Jenna talks about the pressures of friends, boys and even media to look a certain way. She talks about the need for a strong relationship with your father. But wait...there are lots of girls today who do not live with their fathers, or have fathers who are emotionally distant or abusive, and some who do not even know who their fathers are. Does this mean they are doomed to never feel beautiful? Absolutely not! Jenna goes on to explain that our Heavenly Father loves us as we are. She encourages the reader to focus on what He finds beautiful in each of us and to let that define how we see ourselves. We can constantly be improving our physical look through diet and make up, but even those who are deemed most beautiful by the world, are often unhappy with their looks. True beauty can only come from within and this book does a great job of helping young girls to realize this. It acknowledges a young girls desire to be viewed as popular and attractive, but it gently reminds the reader that as a daughter of God, she will always be beautiful in His eyes.

I recommend Redefining Beautiful: What God Sees When God Sees You for any young woman who has even the slightest relationship with God. It will likely help her develop that relationship further as well as help her to become more comfortable with who she is. The teen years are tough, especially on young girls. Developing self confidence is essential to making it through and this book will help them do just that.

***Disclaimer*** I received a copy of the book Redefining Beautiful: What God Sees When God Sees You from Thomas Nelson (publisher), in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own and were not influenced by the publisher, author, nor anyone else. No monetary compensation was received.

Wellness Wednesday: Sodium

Sodium often gets a bad rap when it comes to diets, but our bodies do need it in order to function. Sodium is necessary for muscle contraction and relaxation, helps transmit nerve impulses and helps to maintain fluid levels in the body. Many of the symptoms of water intoxication (drinking too much water) is the result of washing the sodium out of the body.

Of course, like everything else, sodium should be consumed in moderation. If you have certain medical conditions or take certain medications, you may need to extremely limit your sodium. Water is attracted to sodium so when there is too much sodium in the blood, your blood volume increases causing your heart to work harder. Here are some ways to reduce the sodium in your diet:

- Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. Frozen is also good as long as there is no sauce, seasonings or salt added. Many canned fruits and veggies are high in sodium, but if you buy the ones labeled "no salt added", you should be okay.

- Use spices and herbs in place of salt when seasoning food. Citrus zest is also a yummy alternative.

- Choose reduced sodium and no-salt-added foods when possible.

- Make your own broths and soups or choose ones that are low-sodium.

- When dining out, order your food with no salt added and be aware of the sodium levels in what you do order.

- Avoid processed foods. 77% of the salt Americans consume comes from prepared or processed foods. Cooking from scratch lets you know exactly what is in your food.

Like most things in life, sodium is both good for us and has the potential to harm us if used to excess. The recommendation is too not exceed 2,400mg a day of sodium and if you are in the high risk category (African-American, have high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic kidney problems, etc) you should stay below 1,500mg a day. Those limits do not just include salt that you add to foods either while cooking or while eating. It also includes sodium already in food, be it naturally or processed. If you are watching your sodium intake be sure you are counting all your sources.

As with all medical information I share on my blog, please consult your doctor before making major changes. I am not a doctor or a nurse and my advice should not be taken as medical advice.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cleaning for a Reason

I came across the website Cleaning for a Reason the other day and wanted to share it with all of you. Cancer touches so many of our lives and this is such a nice way to help those going through cancer treatments. These treatments are usually very draining and leaves the patient with little energy and feeling ill. It can be difficult to manage your everyday needs, let alone the needs of your home. Cleaning for a Reason has come along to help with one part of that. They are a nonprofit organization that offers professional housecleaning and maid services to women currently undergoing cancer treatments. Due to the overwhelming need for this wonderful service, they have to limit the number of sign ups they can accept each day. Every Monday-Thursday, they start accepting applications at 12:00PM CST and will accept up to 50 applications each day. As long as there is a participating maid service in your area, that is not full, they will get you set up. Currently, they are about 2 weeks behind on processing applications, but they will email as they match up maid services with patients.

If you use or know of a professional maid service, be sure to tell them about Cleaning for a Reason. The more companies that participate, the more women that can be helped. There is also a place on the website where you can make a tax-deductible donation. They also sell various gift cards and pink cancer products on the website with a portion of the proceeds from both the gift cards and the products going toward Cleaning for a Reason.

Cancer is a difficult thing to cope with and the treatments can make life seem unbearable. I love that there are wonderful people that come together to create these fantastic organizations to help ease the burdens of cancer patients and their families. I hope you will join me in helping these organizations continue to grow and serve our loved ones. If you cannot contribute financially, send an e-mail or make a phone call to 1 or 2 professional cleaning services in your area and let them know about Cleaning for a Cause. Thanks for reading.


***Disclaimer*** This is a website I discovered on my own and all opinions are solely mine. No compensation, monetary or otherwise, was received for this post.

Monday, December 28, 2009

My resolutions

I have always believed that when you share your resolutions, you become accountable for them. Therefore, I plan to share my resolutions and family goals for 2010 with all of you. I will update you as the year progresses.

Physical/Health Resolutions
- I resolve to lose 100 pounds this year by:

- eating 7 servings of fruits and veggies every day and in a rainbow of colors
- making sure that at least 75% of my grains are whole grains
- keeping my portion sizes in check
- exercising for 30 minutes at least 5 days a week
- We will take family walks or participate in other forms of family exercise at least twice each week.

Spiritual Resolutions

- I will read my scriptures for 15 minutes every day
- We will have family scripture study every day

Emotional Resolutions
- I will write in my journal at least 3 times a week.

Financial Resolutions
- We will pay off our credit and student debts this year.
- We will begin a savings account and reach a certain amount by the end of the year. I will not be sharing the amount we want to reach, but will share our progress.
- I will not purchase any gifts this year. Everything I gift to others will be handmade by myself or the children.

Relationship Resolutions
- I will re-read Fascinating Womanhood and begin applying the principles to my marriage once again.
- We will institute official date nights at least twice a month.

Education Resolutions
- I will turn in all homeschool paperwork on time.
- I will learn how to use my sewing machine.

Organization Resolutions
- I will have schoolwork planned 2 weeks ahead of time.
- Meals will be planned 2 weeks ahead of time.
- We will organize the school room into a more functional space.

Now, some of these may seem drastic, but they build on things I already do. If you are a person who eats 1-2 fruits or veggies a week, trying to eat 7 a day would be a lot, but I already eat 4-5 servings a day. The same with whole grains, I already eat about 1/2 of my grains as whole grains, so increasing that to 75% is not a big deal to me. I also have broken down large goals, such as the weight loss, so that I actually have a plan to make it work. If there is no plan, it is easy to get distracted. Plus, if I fall in one area, such as portion sizes, the other areas do not have to fail as well and I am still able to progress towards the larger goal.

I would love to hear what some of your goals and resolutions are. I will check in around the first of each month to let you know how I am doing on our goals and to see how you are doing on yours. Let's make 2010 the year we hope it will be!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Calling all December 2009 Babies!



Did you know that the typical family will spend $221,000 to raise a child through age 17? And that is BEFORE any college costs get added in. It is no wonder that babies born late in the year are referred to as tax deductions. Of course, as any parent will tell you, the benefits of a baby far outweigh the financial costs, but the point remains that they do cost money to raise them. The folks over at TurboTax want to help ease that cost for one December 2009 baby and their lucky family.

TurboTax is the nation's No. 1 rated, best-selling tax prep software from Intuit Inc. They are again holding their annual (this is their 3rd year) nationwide search for America's Cutest Last-Minute Tax Deduction. The parents of one lucky baby, born in December 2009, will win $5,000.

To enter, parents or legal guardians should submit a photo of their baby born between Dec. 1-31, to thecutesttaxdeduction.com. The deadline for submissions is January 7, 2010. Judges will select 10 finalists, and America will determine America's Cutest Last-Minute Tax Deduction and the $5,000 grand prize winner!

I know there are a bunch of new moms and dads out there waiting to show off their new bundle of joy. Here is a great way to do it and possibly win $5,000 in the process. If you do enter, please be sure to comment and let us know so we can be sure to check out your new little cutie.

***Disclaimer*** I have not received any compensation, monetary or otherwise, for this posting.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Try-It Tuesday: Free, personalized video from Santa

A friend of mine recently shared the link for Portable North Pole with me for a FREE, personalized video from Santa. When my little ones watched it, they were mesmerized. The video is a "stock" video, with parts that are personalized individually according to the form that the sender fills out ahead of time. This causes some concerns for some that their child will realize something is not right, but I simply explained to my children that Santa did not have time to make EVERY child their own complete video, so he filmed one video for everyone and then filmed individual portions for each child. You can choose from the toddler version, child version, naughty teen/adult, or nice teen/adult. All those under 13 are automatically nice and it will not allow you to enter a younger child on the naughty list. The video will comment on the person's age as well, so lying about the age will not help you. The child's version also lets you choose from 5 or 6 questions you would like Santa to answer, such as How does Santa know who's naughty or nice and How do reindeer fly. Those with more common names, will have their name spoken by Santa and you can also upload a picture that will appear in Santa's book when he checks to see if they have been naughty or nice. Uploading the picture is optional, but is the real clincher for the kids so I highly recommend doing it. They pictures are deleted off the system in January so they are not stored long term. Another tip is to put Santa's name as the sender so that when the child receives the e-mail alerting them that they have a video from Santa, it says Santa has sent you a video instead of Mom/Dad sent you a video. Alternately, you can go back to the website and enter the e-mail address and password they give you. I did encounter some problems (page not found) when I used it, but found that going back a page and trying again usually fixed it. All in all, this is definitely worth trying.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winner: Progresso High Fiber Gift Package

The winner of the Progresso High Fiber Gift Package is:
Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:

43

Timestamp: 2009-12-21 17:24:51 UTC

Which says:
I tweeted! @erinjeany

Congratulations Erin!
You have 48 hours to respond to the e-mail I am sending. If I do not hear from you by then, I will have to choose another winner.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Gift Wrap

Here are a few ideas for inexpensive, earth-friendly gift wrap:

- Use your children's art work to wrap gifts for grandparents.

- Cut up paper bags and stamp a festive design on it. You could use paper lunch bags that are stamped on for smaller gifts.

- Use colorful newspaper(the comics are great), phone book pages (it's fun if you can match the "topic" to the gift), or magazine pages, to wrap up the gift.

- Buy re-usable shopping bags. You can get some cute ones for $1 and they are reusable.

- For larger gifts, don't wrap them at all. Hide it and then write a series of clues to help the recipient find it. Actually, you could do this for any sized gift.

- When making gift baskets, use old detergent or cereal boxes wrapped in paper.

- Use a bandanna or scrap of fabric as gift wrap.

- If part of the gift includes clothing, use the clothing as the gift wrap.

For some other ideas and for gifts that are also environmentally friendly, check out this post from last year.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Help 1-800 Flowers support Toys For Tots (Free for you)




1-800 Flowers has committed to helping Toys For Tots bring joy to needy children this holiday season. They have developed an app for their Facebook page, that allows you to send a "warm fuzzy" and a message to anyone (they do not need a Facebook account) as a Secret Santa. On December 21st, they will "reveal" who the secret Santa was. If 10,000 warm fuzzies are sent, 1-800 Flowers will donate $5000 to the Toys For Tots foundation. Both the sender and the recipient will also receive a coupon for 15% off their next order.

This is a fun, free way to send warm thoughts to a loved one and to help give a child a happy Christmas. I hope all of you will take the time to send at least one.

This post is part of a campaign through Global Influence. I have not been paid for this post.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Review and Giveaway: Progesso High Fiber Soup

I am a huge fan of soup. I love creamy soup, clear soups, simple soups and soups chock full of stuff. I have been making my own soup for the past few years due to the fact that I like to be in control of what is in my soup. However, there are often times I open a can of soup simply out of convenience. When My Blog Spark contacted me to see if I was interested in reviewing Progresso's new high fiber soup, I took them up on it. When I do buy canned soup, I try to buy a "healthier" version than the regular ones, so high fiber works for me. They sent me a can of Progresso High Fiber Homestyle Minestrone. The soup itself has a higher level of sodium than I like, 690 mg, and therefore tastes a bit salty to me (note, I am very sensitive to salt in foods). Otherwise, it is very yummy and chock full of veggies, beans (which is where I imagine much of the increased fiber comes from) and pasta. Each can has 2 1-cup servings, each with 110 calories, a full serving of vegetables, 2 grams of fat, and 7 grams of fiber. There is no added MSG and this is a ready-to-eat soup so no water needs to be added. For those concerned with allergies, this flavor contains wheat, egg, and soy. Progresso already has 75 flavors of soup and they have added 4 new High Fiber soups. Aside from the Homestyle Minestrone, they also offer Chicken Tuscany, Creamy Tomato Basil, and Hearty Vegetable and Noodles in the High Fiber version. Along with the can of soup I was sent, I also received 2 branded soup mugs and 2 branded stainless steel spoons.




How would you like to win your own Progresso High Fiber soup prize pack? My Blog Spark is giving one of my readers the exact same prize pack they sent me. To enter, tell me your favorite Progresso soup. You can earn bonus entries by posting your favorite soup recipe or a link to your favorite recipe on your blog, subscribing to my blog, following my blog, or sharing this giveaway via your blog or other social networking site. Please leave an extra comment for each bonus entry. The winner will be chosen on December 21st and they will have 48 hours to get back to me or a new winner will be chosen. I am not sure what time I will choose the winner on the 21st, but entries will be accepted up until the drawing. Good luck!


***Disclaimer*** As I stated, I received a can of Progresso High Fiber soup in Homestyle Minestrone, 2 Progresso branded soup mugs and 2 Progresso branded spoons, in exchange for posting a review. The giveaway and the items I received are provided by My Blog Spark. I received no monetary compensation and the opinions are my own.

Winner: Crayola Color Explosion Glow Dome

Here is the winner of the Crayola Color Explosion Glow Dome:
Here are your random numbers:

11

Timestamp: 2009-12-14 20:19:04 UTC

Jessica, you are the lucky winner. "Jessica Parent said...

And a follower-you rock girl ;-D"

Jessica, has already gotten in touch with me to claim her prize so there will not be a re-draw. Thanks for entering.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Family Friday: Holiday Traditions

Traditions are those things that we do purposely at regular intervals and create positive feelings. They help us connect with those who participate in them with us and, in the case of handed-down traditions, help us to connect with previous generations. Traditions can be started at any time and ended at any time and they can be altered to meet your needs. Growing up, we always went to choose our Christmas tree as a family, including my grandparents. The time came that my grandparents stopped coming with us and we stopped going to the local tree seller and started going to farms to cut our own, but we still made a day of it as a family. Two years ago, my husband got a great deal on an artificial tree, and while I am not thrilled with it for many reasons, it is silly to go buy a real tree now. We have now set that tradition aside and will replace it with a new one. Today, I wanted to share some of our other holiday traditions and learn about your holiday traditions.

Last year, I shared about our traditional "wrapping party", aside from that, here are some of our other holiday traditions:

- Every year on Christmas Eve, we drive through a certain neighborhood that goes all out with holiday lights. The kids love it and it is such fun to see what changes each year. There is also some of the neighborhood kids that set up a stand and sell hot chocolate and popcorn, so we buy some of that too. Last year, we had some live deer cross right in front of our van and the kids got all excited and thought they must have been Santa's.

- When we decorate the tree, we play Christmas music and drink hot chocolate.

- Baking Christmas cookies is an all day activity with me and the kids. They love helping in the kitchen and it helps ease the load.

- We read the Christmas story from the scriptures before opening gifts on Christmas morning.

- We attend a living Nativity every year at a local church and discuss what Christmas is really about.

Another tradition, I heard that someone does is to choose a special gift for Santa each year, such as a warm hat or nice boots. They leave the gift for Santa which is then rumored to be donated to a local shelter. I think this is a wonderful way to help others and truly honor the spirit of Santa Claus. I know others who throw a birthday party, complete with cake, for Jesus. What are some of the traditions you grew up with and follow today or what are some of the traditions you have started with your family? If you are interested in starting new, meaningful traditions, there is a great article here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Gift Ideas: Crayola gifts, a Crayola giveaway and a sweepstakes


I was recently sent 3 wonderful Crayola products to review through My Blog Spark and Crayola. I have always enjoyed Crayola products and think that their crayons are the absolute best, so I was thrilled to receive Crayola Beginnings Color Me A Song, Crayola Glow Dome, and Crayola Glow Station.


We started by trying out Crayola Beginnings Color Me A Song
. This coloring center comes with batteries already installed, a few sheets of paper and 8 triangular crayons so it is ready to go right out of the box. As your child colors, the music tempo speeds up or slows down, according to how fast your child is coloring. There are 4 instruments: a piano, a drum, a trumpet, and a guitar, and your child can choose to have 1,2,3, or all 4 playing as they color. There are also 2 volume levels, but even on the highest level, it is still quiet enough for mom (or dad) to maintain their sanity;0) The crayons store in a little pull out drawer so this makes for a great travel activity. Another feature I like is that it is fairly easy to wipe down so if your little one gets a little crazy with a crayon, or if you are out of paper and they color directly on the pressure sensitive board, you can easily wipe it off with just a paper towel and a little elbow grease. The recommended age on this is 24+ months. My 18 month old shows mild interest in it and my 3 year old LOVES it. Even the 7- and 8-year olds have enjoyed playing with it.


Next, we tried out the Crayola Glow Dome. This was the top item on my 7-year olds Christmas wish list so she was so excited to open this. It comes with 6 special markers that you use to either trace a pattern (it comes with 2 and more are available online at the Crayola website) or draw freehand, onto the plastic. Be aware that the markers do not show up real well when the lights are on, but once you turn the lights off, they glow beautifully. The dome with the artwork on it also spins, allowing your child to draw fish that swim and rockets that soar. They can even control the speed and how the lights flash. It is recommended for ages 6-years and up so the little ones did not get to do any coloring with it, but loved watching the art come alive. Keep reading to find out how you can win one of these yourself.


The final product we reviewed was the Crayola Glow Station. This is a favorite at our house as my kids love anything that allows them to play in the dark. This is a poster-sized canvas that glows in the dark. There is a crystal-tipped wand that allows them to "draw" on the canvas creating fun pictures. The set includes stencils and texture sheets that can help if they are not comfortable drawing freehand. The pictures will eventually disappear or they can be "erased" simply by turning on the lights. There is also a diamond-shaped tip that can attach to the wand to create starburst effects when "stamped" on the canvas. A dry erase marker and clear plastic sheet is also included to allow your child to create a picture and then transfer it to the canvas. DO NOT USE THE DRY ERASE MARKER ON THE CANVAS ITSELF. You also want to avoid touching the canvas directly with the crystal as it can scratch the canvas. The canvas is designed to be hung on a wall, but can also be used on a flat surface. It rolls up for easy storage as well. The recommended age is 6-years and up. Our 18 month old had no interest anyway, the 3-year old enjoyed it, but did not understand about keeping the crystal off the canvas and the older kids (and the parents) had a fun time playing with this.

On top of the all the fun gifts Crayola is offering this year, they are also holding a Give the Gift of Creativity sweepstakes. The grand prize is a 7-night Caribbean cruise for a family of 4 on Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas. To enter, visit http://www.crayola.com/gifts/vacation and create a wish list for yourself or your child. You can earn an extra entry by sharing your wish list on facebook.

I do not know your odds of winning the cruise, but I do have a prize for you that you have a better chance of winning. My Blog Spark and Crayola are giving one of you the Crayola Glow Dome. To enter: tell me what your favorite Crayola product is. You can earn bonus entries by subscribing to my blog, following my blog, or blogging about this giveaway. Please leave an extra comment for each bonus entry. The winner will be chosen on December 14th and they will have 24 hours to get back to me or a new winner will be chosen. I am not sure what time I will choose the winner on the 14th, but entries will be accepted up until the drawing. Good luck!


***Disclaimer***- Crayola provided me with the free Beginnings Color Me A Song, Color Explosion Glow Dome, and Glow Station, in addition to the information, and Color Explosion Glow Dome to give away through MyBlogSpark™. No monetary compensation was provided. All opinions remain my own and were in no way influenced by anyone else.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Picture Me Winner

Congratulations to Steph, the winner of the 10x10 portrait from Picture Me Portrait Studio! She will have 72 hours to contact me to claim her prize or I will re-draw.

The winner was chosen using random.org. I assigned a number to each entry and let random.org pick:
Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:

12

Timestamp: 2009-11-29 03:14:47 UTC

Steph was number 12.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Tips for a delicious Thanksgiving turkey


I love a tasty turkey and have tried several recipes in the past trying to get it just right. What I have learned is that there are several recipes with flavor I like, but it is the cooking method that makes the difference to me. Here are some tips that help make for a yummy turkey:

- When preparing the bird, rinse it well with clean water. If you have a large enough container to brine it, use a simple salt water brine or add some honey, garlic, and fresh thyme to make a honey brine. I have personally never brined a turkey, simply due to lack of space, but I do brine chickens before roasting them and it adds a lot to the flavor.

- Before roasting the turkey, whip up some soft butter with herbs in it. Use whatever herbs your taste buds prefer, but here are some that go well with turkey and work well together: sage, parsley, rosemary and thyme. Be sure to add in black pepper and some salt as well. Slip your hand between the skin and the turkey breast, separating the skin from the meat on the breasts and the drumsticks. Using a small spatula, or your hand, spread the butter mixture all over the meat, but under the skin. Spread some on the mixture inside the cavity of the bird as well and use the rest on the outside of the skin. Some people also stuff the cavity with lemons or onions and celery. I do sometimes, but have not noticed a huge difference in taste.

- You can truss the bird if you choose. Again, I never have, but I do bend the wings up underneath the turkey to prevent them from overcooking. Then, transfer the bird to a roasting pan. If you do not have a rack to sit the bird in, make several crumbled balls of foil and set the bird on those. This helps keep the bottom of the turkey from getting soggy.

- I have tried roasting my turkey several ways, but the juiciest turkey came from cooking it like this: Start in an oven that is preheated to 425 degrees. DO NOT cover the turkey. This goes against what many do, but I find that cooking it at a higher temperature to start, gives it a crisper skin and the turkey is more moist, kind of like searing a roast before cooking it. Once, the skin is nice and dark (about 30-45 minutes), take the turkey out and cover it with foil. Reduce the oven temperature and cook at 275 degrees until done. A good rule of thumb for this temperature is 10 minutes per pound.

- Remove the turkey from the oven when it reaches 170 degrees. You do not want it to be less than 165, for food safety reasons, or much higher than 170, because it will continue to cook after it is removed and you will risk overcooking it. When checking the temperature, be sure to insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh and make sure it is not touching the bone.

- Keep the turkey covered and let it rest for about 20 minutes. This allows the juices to distribute themselves evenly throughout the bird.

I hope you enjoy your turkey and I wish all of you a wonderful Thanksgiving. I will share some ideas for turkey leftovers in a few days.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pictures and a giveaway

A few weeks ago, I received a very nice e-mail from Kim. Along with her sweet comments, Kim asked if I would be interested in participating in a blog program with Picture Me Portrait Studio. This is the portrait studio located inside of many Walmart stores. Although we recently had pictures taken of the children this summer, I was very excited about this opportunity because I had been wanting to get a family portrait as well. Kim assisted in scheduling our appointment and this afternoon, all 6 of us headed off to one of our local Walmarts for our portrait session.

Pictures have always been hit or miss for us. More often than not, at least one thing goes wrong and we do not get the pictures we were hoping for. I am thrilled that today was one of the exceptions. No one managed to cut their own, nor their sibling's, hair. No one fell or otherwise marked their face. No one found a permanent marker and colored on anyone's face. All of these things have ruined pictures for us in the past. So far, so good. Kim had also sent me some tips for a successful portrait session and we implemented many of them today. Here are a few things that I attribute to our successful session.

- Schedule the session at a time when everyone is well rested and not hungry. Avoid meal times and nap times. We also brought fruit snacks along with us so that the little ones would stay happy throughout the session. We also picked up a few snacks in Walmart before our appointment so they could snack while the adults looked at the pictures.

- Once everyone is dressed, avoid messy snacks and drinks. We also found it helpful to bring the baby dressed in other clothes and then we dressed him at the studio right before our session.

- Arrive a few minutes early so everyone can "settle in", but do not arrive too early that they grow restless. The benefit of having pictures done at Picture Me, is that you have Walmart right there to take the kids for a walk if the wait time is running long.

- Bring a bag with a hair brush, make-up, and anything else that you might need for last minute touch ups.

Now that I shared the tips I found most helpful, let me tell you how our portrait session went.

Yesterday afternoon, I received an automated phone call reminding me of our appointment. That was followed by a phone call, later that evening, from Alicia, the studio manager. She confirmed our appointment and asked some basic questions about what I was expecting at our session (what types of poses, who would be in the pictures, backgrounds, etc). Upon arriving at the studio, all three associates were busy assisting other customers, but acknowledged me within a few seconds of my arrival. We were a few minutes early, so I did expect to wait a few minutes. Debbie, our photographer, led us back to the studio right about the time of our appointment. Now, with 4 little ones, aged between 1 year and 8 years, I expect portrait sessions to take a little while, especially when trying to take group pictures. This was not the case today. Debbie quickly figured out how to make the youngest two smile on cue and we managed to take 7 different pictures within thirty minutes. The kids were just as happy when we left as when we arrived. After the family portrait was taken, I made an offhand comment to Debbie about not liking my skirt that day. I so very much appreciate the effort she took for the remaining pictures, to avoid my skirt being visible. After the pictures were taken, we sat down together at the computer and chose what we were going to get. As part of the blog program, we chose a 10x10 specialty portrait. I am so excited about the 10x10 specialty portrait we chose. It is 3 pictures: the family portrait, the portrait of just the kids, and the one of my husband and I; along with our last name, the year, and a lighter colored G (for our last name) in the corner. It comes with a mat and frame as well. I wish I could share it with you, but it is not on the CD so you have to imagine that one, but I will share the other pictures below. We also chose to order the $7.99 picture package which comes with 30 pictures (we chose the family portrait). The package should be at the store December 4th and the 10x10 portrait should arrive about a week later. Picture Me also puts your pictures on a password protected website that you can access to view, share, and order your pictures. This is great for us because my in-laws live so far away. I was also given a Picture CD to bring home today and have been given permission to share the pictures with you. Enjoy!

The Family



My husband and me



My children



All the girls


My boys (my personal favorite from this session)


Dad and the kids



Mom and the kids


Maybe it was because I followed some of Kim's great tips, but this was by far, the best portrait session I have ever had. The kids were happy and cooperative, the photographer was friendly and efficient, and the pictures are wonderful. I cannot wait to receive my 10x10 portrait and the family pictures that we ordered. I am sure many of you are preparing to get Christmas pictures taken. If you have not considered Picture Me, I highly recommend that you do and for those of you in the Rochester, NY area, I highly recommend Debbie at the Henrietta location. You can even order cards with your portrait printed on them, giving you a unique Christmas card that is guaranteed to be a favorite of those who receive it.

Kim and Picture Me are also offering one of my readers a free 10x10 portrait ($99.99 value). This is a gorgeous piece that would fit in any where. I was given the choice of using 3, 4, or 9 pictures for our 10x10 portrait and you also get your choice of black, cream, or white mat and a classic black frame. Here is how to enter:

- Tell me the last time you had a family portrait (this was our first since 2/2001) taken and/or share a funny story about a portrait session you have had in the past. (1 entry)

- Tell me who you would include in your 10x10 portrait. (1 entry)

- Subscribe to The Happy Wife (2 entries)

- Blog about this giveaway with a link to this post (3 entries)

- Post about this giveaway with a link on a social networking page or e-mail 3 friends and cc me on the e-mail (2 entries)

I will choose the winner on November 28th and entries will be accepted until I announce the winner. I will announce and contact the winner (be sure to include contact info if it is not in your profile) immediately and they will have 72 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. Good luck!


Disclaimer: I received no payment other than the free 10x10 portrait and the Picture CD. All opinions are my own and were not influenced by the products received.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Free Redbox Rental Code: Good for today only

For those familiar with Redbox's free rental of the month, here is your code for November: TEGJ6FD (Apparently there has been trouble with some of the codes that were sent, including the first two I listed earlier, but this one appears to be working)

Remember, it is only good today, November 2, 2009 and will expire at midnight. It can be used once per "account" (debit/credit card).

If you are unfamiliar with Redbox or their free movie program here are the details. On the first Monday of every month, Redbox offers a free rental to everyone. When you get to the Redbox machine, touch the "button" that says "Rent with a code". Enter the code above and then you will be able to choose your movie. You will still need to swipe your debit/credit card at the end of the transaction, but you will not be charged unless you keep the movie more than one night. If that does happen, you will only be charged for the additional night(s) and the charge is $1 per night. The movies are due back the next night by 9PM. One of my favorite features of Redbox is that you can return them to ANY Redbox. So, if you check out your movie at a Wegmans in Rochester, NY and then head out on a road trip, you can return your movie at a Walgreens in Chicago, IL. This actually came in quite handy on our recent cross-country road trip. Anyway, you can get another free rental code if you sign up on Redbox for weekly e-mails or text alerts.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween Freebies

Here is a list of places to bring the kiddies (or not) throughout the day tomorrow.

Bring your children in costume to the Sears Toy Shop (I am assuming this is the toy department in the store, usually near the hardware department) and they will receive a free Mattel toy. There is also a coupon for $5 off a $20 toy purchase.

Michael's will be hosting a Halloween Event from 10AM-2PM. Kids will receive a free Trick or Treat pail, balloon, and candy. There will also be a free coloring activity, a Crayola Model Magic pencil topper demo and a Make and Take frame.

Toys R' Us will have a parade and "trick R' treating" through the store from 12PM-3PM. Kids 3 and older will receive a re-usable bag that they can use to collect goodies and giveaways as they parade through the store with Geoffrey.

Looking for a costume for yourself? Dress up as your favorite burrito, bowl, taco or salad and stop by your local Chipotle. If you do this from 6PM-close, you will be rewarded with a free Boo-rito burrito.

If you don't feel like dressing up like Mexican food, or even if you do Taco Bell is offering a free Black Jack Taco to everyone from 6PM-midnight.

I am sure there are plenty of other free activities going on out there, but these are the "national" ones that I am aware of. I know one of our local Wal-Marts (the Brockport one, for local readers), is also having a Halloween activity tomorrow. I do not have all the details for that right now, and I do not know if all Wal-Marts are doing this (I don't think they are). We are also participating in a local church's trunk-or-treat tomorrow night. They are supposed to have a mile of cars, about 300 of them, for the kids to "trunk or treat" at. They will also have a huge outdoor movie screen and a huge inflatable fun park. This should be a fun day, all day, for the little ones. Please feel free to share any "free" plans you may have come across.

French's Cook-Off

Be sure to enter the French's Cook-Off for a chance to win a weekly prize and the grand prize of $25,000. Recipes must include at least 1 French's product, contain no more than 8 ingredients (not including salt, pepper, or water), and be ready to serve in under 1 hour. Of course, in my slacking, you only have until tomorrow to enter your recipe. Here is the recipe I entered:

Cranberry Mustard Pork Chops

2 ½ pound boneless pork chops
Flour
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup red wine
1 cup chicken broth
6 tablespoons French’s Dijon mustard
3 teaspoons flour
3 tablespoons water
1 can whole cranberry sauce
French’s crisp onions



DIRECTIONS:

Lightly toss pork pieces with flour; shake off excess. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.

Heat 2 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet. Add half of the pork; cook about 10 minutes, turning once until chicken is golden brown on each side and cooked through. Remove to a platter; keep warm. Repeat with the rest of the pork. Add more butter if needed.

Whisk together wine, chicken broth, cranberry sauce, and mustard; add to skillet, scraping up browned bits. Combine flour and water in a small bowl. Stir into skillet. Boil 1 to 2 minutes or until sauce starts to thicken. Reduce heat to medium and let simmer 5 minutes. Pour sauce over pork. Sprinkle with French’s crisp onions. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Try It Tuesday: Harry Connick Jr- Your Songs




When I was approached by One2One network, to do a review of Harry Connick Jr's new album, I was thrilled. I have been a fan of his for as long as I can remember, both as a singer and an actor. I love his voice and cannot deny that he is very easy on the eyes. His new album, Your Songs, is a collection of love songs sung by him. How can I complain about hearing Harry Connick Jr. sing me love songs? Well, you will see how I fell later in the review.

So what songs are on this CD you ask? Here is the album track list. The names in parentheses are the original performers:

All The Way (Frank Sinatra)
Just The Way You Are (Billy Joel)
Can’t Help Falling In Love With You (Elvis Presley)
And I Love Her (The Beatles)
(They Long To Be) Close To You (The Carpenters)
Besame Mucho
The Way You Look Tonight
First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (Roberta Flack)
Your Song (Elton John)
Some Enchanted Evening
And I Love You So (Don McLean)
Who Can I Turn To? (Tony Bennett)
Smile (Charlie Chaplin)
Mona Lisa (Nat King Cole)

You can see a behind-the-scenes video of the making of this album on Amazon.com It is neat to see how many musicians were involved in this project. You can also follow Harry Connick Jr through his website and on facebook.

I absolutely love this CD with one exception. I felt the emotion was missing from the first song, All The Way. Since it was the first song, I almost turned it off, but since it was Harry Connick Jr...I kept listening. I am so glad I did. Every other song sounds as though he is singing directly to you. The songs are beautiful and he brings his own style to these well known songs. If you are a Harry Connick Jr fan, you will love this album. If you are looking for love songs, this CD is great. If you just like good music, you will also enjoy this. If you are heartless, have no respect for good music and you do not like Harry Connick Jr (what?!?!), then you will not like this album. As I said, I loved Your Songs and I am pretty sure you all will as well.


***Disclaimer*** I received a free copy of Harry Connick Jr's Your Songs CD in exchange for this review. Although the CD was free, the opinion is my own and was in no way influenced by anyone or anything.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Making dinner in a flash

TwitterMoms is again hosting a fun contest for bloggers. This time the prize is a random drawing from participating bloggers for a Samsung Refrigerator. Wouldn't you know, that is the only appliance we have not yet replaced and needs replacing? The "theme" for the contest blog is also very fitting for me, "Making dinner in a flash". So here are my tips for getting dinner on the table quickly.

- Prepare your ingredients ahead of time. I chop vegetables, shred cheese, and brown meat within a day or two of buying it. I then throw everything in the freezer so that when I need it, I can just pull it out and add to the recipe. If you cannot do this, do not be afraid to buy your veggies already chopped, either in the produce department or the salad bar at the grocery store.

- Plan ahead. I plan my meals one week ahead of time. This means that I already know exactly what we are eating and have all the ingredients on hand and ready. I can even pre-measure out the recipe ingredients at my convenience so that I can just throw everything together as needed.

- Love your crock-pot. You can throw everything together the night before and throw it in the fridge. In the morning, throw it in the crock pot and let it cook. At dinner time, grab some salad and dish up from the crock-pot.

- In a real pinch? Buy an already-cooked rotisserie chicken at the store, a bag of salad, and some potato or macaroni salad from the deli. You end up with the taste of a homemade meal in very little time.

- Double your recipes and freeze the second portion for another day. If you are already making one lasagna, making the second one only takes a few minutes longer. When you are ready to eat it, take it out to defrost and then cook as normal.

- Extend your recipes. When you buying a roast, buy one a few pounds larger than you normally use. Cook the roast for dinner one night. Add the leftover meat to the leftover gravy and serve over egg noodles or rice another night and as hot roast beef sandwiches a third night.

So what ways do you make dinner in flash? Feel free to leave your ideas in the comments or do your own blog post and enter the giveaway at Twittermoms (please let me know if you do this so I can check out your post).

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Wellness Wednesday: Avocados



I decided to write about the health benefits of avocados because they are one of my favorite foods, but they tend to get a bad rap because they are higher in fat than other fruits. While that is true, there are many good things about avocados, including the fat they contain. Here is why avocados should not be avoided:

- They can help defend against certain cancers (namely oral cancer and breast cancer) and inhibit the growth of prostate cancer.

- Avocados are good for your eyes. They are high in carotenoid lutein, which protects against cataracts and macular degeneration. In fact, avocados have the highest levels of carotenoid lutein than any other commonly consumed fruit.

- Avocados have high amounts of vitamin E, folate, and potassium. Potassium helps keep your blood pressure in check. Folate is good for your heart and helps prevent strokes. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps prevent cancer.

- Avocados can help lower cholesterol levels. Beta-sitosterol is another compound found in high levels in avocados. Beta-sitosterol helps to lower cholesterol levels. Avocados, like most plant-based foods, do not have any cholesterol either. This is also where the fat levels come into play. Avocados are high in mono-unsaturated fats. These are the "good" fats that we sometimes hear about and they help to remove cholesterol from the body.

- Avocados are also very high in protein and fiber, more so than most other fruits.

So now you know what a nutritional powerhouse avocados are, you are ready to go out and buy some right? If you have never bought avocados before, here is some brief information on choosing and preparing an avocado.

- There are two main types of avocados: California/Haas and Florida avocados. The Hass avocado is smaller with a pebbly skin and range in color from green to purplish-black. The Florida avocado is much larger with smooth, shiny green skin. I prefer the Haas, as I find them to be much more flavorful.

- The best way to tell the ripeness of an avocado is to check the stem. If it comes off easily, the avocado is ripe. Do not choose bruised or soft fruit and do not squeeze the fruit as avocados do bruise easily.

- It is often best to buy avocados before they have ripened and then bring them home and place them in a paper bag. Within a day or two, they will have ripened.

- Do not place avocados in the refrigerator, as they get mushy.

- To cut open an avocado, slice in half, around the center pit. Then gently twist the two halves apart. You will be able to remove the pit easily with the tip of a spoon if the avocado is ripe. Another way is to whack the pit with a knife and then gently turn the knife and lift the pit out. If you are only using half of the avocado, leave the pit in the other half and wrap in cellophane to prevent the fruit from discoloration.

- Avocados are very versatile and can be eaten many ways. You can use them in recipes like guacamole, smoothies, or salad dressing. You can dice them up and use them on salad. Slice them up and use them on burgers or sandwiches. I also like to mash mine and spread on sandwiches in place of mayo. They are also yummy eaten as is. I sprinkle mine with a little garlic salt for a yummy treat.

How do you eat avocados? Do you have any great avocado tips to share?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Great deal on Snow White DVD/Blu-Ray

There is a great deal on the new Snow White DVD/Blu-Ray 2 pack. On Amazon.com, the sale price is $19.99, but if you enter the coupon code "Snowhite", they will take an additional $10 off, making the total cost $9.99. Shipping is $2.98, but the DVD does qualify for Super Saver shipping so it could be free if you add another $5 to your purchase (the total needs to be $25 before applying the $10 coupon for free shipping). This includes both the regular DVD and the Blu-Ray version so whether you have a Blu-Ray player or not, this is a great deal.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Halloween Shopping Guide


Halloween is one of my favorite holidays because of all the fun decorations. I have decided to post a shopping guide for those of you who may be looking for some ideas of new things to add to your home decor, family wardrobes or to use for trick or treating. You will see that all of the items are from Etsy and there is good reason for that. I love unique items, especially when it comes to holiday items. I cannot stand seeing the same decorations 30 times on the same street or 30 people all wearing the same holiday tie/shirt/earrings. So with all that said...here are my choices for Halloween shopping this year:

Decorations
I love this sign by The Homespun Raven. This sign is sure to last many years and you could even hang it year-round if you wanted. At $18, it is definitely well priced.




I also thought this vinyl cat from Vinyl Cutz would be fun to stick in a window. You can use it to decorate your house or your car. You can even order it in any color she carries, from fuchsia to lime. The list price is $8, but this can be ordered in other sizes as well.





Family Wardrobe

This set of ghost earrings and matching pendant, by REMLanmpwork, are just so cute and would look great on a child or an adult. At $16 for the set, the price is right as well.



How cute is this tie, by Ivy and Mae, for the little guy in your life? It costs $13.00 and comes in sizes 1T-2T and 3T-4T. She also carries a matching jumper dress for baby girls.



I can just see these non-slip clips by Lexi Lou Design in my little girls hair. I also love that they can be used any time of year. The clips are $3.50 and until October 15th, you can get a free Pumpkin 2-D Ribbon Art Clip ($2.50 value) with any $15 purchase.




For Fun

Call me unAmerican, but I have never been a fan of sock monkeys. That was until I met Macabre- The Skeleton Sock Monkey by zparkleys. Zparkleys carries a whole line of unique sock monkeys. Macabre sells for $45 for the regular size or $35 for the baby size.



I grew up carrying a plastic pumpkin when I went out trick-or-treating and later graduated to pillowcases. I wish I had one of these cute bags by Baffin Bags, to carry instead. This bag sells for $18 and Baffin Bags is currently running a Buy 3 Get 1 Free sale.




That concludes my Halloween guide for 2009. However, I also wanted to share this months Piggy Paint special, Ghouls Wanna Have Fun Gift Pack, is on sale for $22.50. It includes 3 polishes in Sleepover (black), Glass Slippers (clear sparkles), and Mac-N-Cheese (orange). Don't forget you can save an additional 15% by using coupon code HAPPYWIFE15L. The discount is good on everything on the site, including sale items.




***Disclaimer*** With the exception of the items I reviewed for Piggy Paint, I have received no product or payment in exchange for these listings. All pictures are owned by their respective artist and are used with permission. Please do not copy any of the pictures without permission of the artist.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Another way to raise money for Ovarian Cancer Research

Back in June, I posted about Kelly Ripa teaming up with Electrolux to help raise money for Ovarian Cancer Research, through online lemonade stands. Now that the lemonade stand promotion has ended, they are working on a new promotion to raise more money for the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. The Ovarian Cancer Research Fund is for exactly what it says, to fund research to find a way to detect ovarian cancer early and ultimately to cure ovarian cancer. This is obviously a great cause as any of us with ovaries, or who love and care for someone with ovaries, could easily find ourselves personally affected by this someday. Since most of us fit into those categories, I hope you will join me in this great new promotion.



So what is this new promotion, you ask? It is the Kelly Ripa Text-a-Thon for a Cause. Throughout September, which is also Ovarian Cancer Awareness month, you can donate $5 to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund by texting "KELLY" to 85944 from your mobile phone (it shows up as a one-time charge on your monthly bill) or by logging on to the Kelly Confidential website. Also, every time you log onto Kelly's website, you will be entered to win an Electrolux front load washer and dryer in the color teal, which is the color of the ovarian cancer awareness ribbons. If you cannot wait to win the washer and dryer, Electrolux is also donating $200 to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund for every set of teal-colored washer and dryers sold. While on Kelly's website, you can also design and send a virtual t-shirt to help raise awareness of ovarian cancer. There is no cost to you for sending a virtual t-shirt and Electrolux will donate $1 for each t-shirt sent. There are also real t-shirts, designed by Kelly, available for purchase on the site with 100% of the proceeds going to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.

As I said earlier, ovarian cancer is something that all women are at risk of. 1 in 67 woman will get ovarian cancer in their lifetime. There is a good chance that if you don't get it, someone you know will. Let's help find a way to detect this earlier and help all women live longer, healthier lives.

Getting the Little Ones to Eat More Veggies


Do you have trouble getting your little ones to eat more veggies? Of my 4 kids, I really only have 1 that we struggled with to eat her veggies and as the others were always so willing, eventually she came around as well. I can not promise these tips will work, but here are some of the things we have always done.

- Involve the child in selecting what veggies to serve. Do not just ask them what veggie they want, give them 2 or 3 choices and try to incorporate a "new" vegetable in the mix every once in a while. Continue to involve the child in selecting how to prepare the the veggie or in finding the recipe. I have always picked 1 or 2 ways that I may want to serve it and then given the child the final choice.

- Allow the child to help in growing their own veggies. If space is tight, find a veggie that grows well in a pot and let them help plant and care for the veggie. Also, when the time comes, let them help prepare the veggies for eating. Even toddlers can help in the washing process.

- Teach them to like veggies in their most natural states from an early age. Veggie recipes are nice to change things up, but teaching them to like veggies that are raw or lightly steamed and then served plain or with a dab of butter, helps to train their taste buds.

- Serve veggies as often as possible. I not only serve veggies plain as a side dish, I use several of the techniques that other moms use to "sneak" veggies to their kids. I add a few mashed turnips to our mashed potatoes, add shredded carrots to our meatloaf, and finely chop up broccoli to resemble herbs and add it to, well, just about anything. There are also some food companies that are beginning to blend veggies in with their foods as well. One is Horizon and their Little Blends line. They are combining yogurt with both fruit and veggies in one cup, a triple food pyramid whammy. With flavors such as Banana and Sweet Potato or Strawberry and Carrot, the kids are sure to enjoy them.

So how do you incorporate veggies into your kid's diets? If you blog about it, you can win a prize package from Twittermoms and Horizon. Check the details here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wellness Wednesday: Creating a Good Sleep Environment

We all know that getting a good night's sleep is good for us (I'll post why another time) and we all know how good we feel after getting a night of great sleep, yet many of us are unable to get the sleep we desire. Often, it is due to us trying to cram too much into the day, but sometimes we just are unable to get the quality of sleep we desire. Here are some tips to help ensure a better quality of sleep.

- Keep the bedroom as a place of rest. This means no tv, no phones, and no computers in the bedroom. It also means no fighting, arguing, or serious discussions in the bedroom. In fact the only activities that should happen in the bedroom are sleep and, um, well you know, the "other" thing you do in bed. Our brains and bodies can become conditioned to expect these other activities will occur, preventing us from falling into a deep sleep. When we re-condition ourselves to expect just sleep in the bedroom, it is much easier for us to get the sleep we need.

- Find the temperature that works for you. If you are often kicking the covers off during the night, try lowering the temperature or using a fan on your side of the bed. If you find yourself often waking up cold during the night, turn up the temperature or add a blanket to your side of the bed.

- Make sure your mattress is comfortable. If necessary, and possible, replace it. If you and your spouse have different mattress "styles", consider investing in a split-style mattress. If you are not comfortable, you will have trouble sleeping well.

- Limit the amount of light in the room. Use room darkening shades/curtains to limit outside lights from shining in. Turn you alarm clock away from the bed or cover the time. This actually has a double purpose, as looking at the time can cause anxiety which can cause problems falling asleep. You can also consider using a sleep mask, though I tend to find they come off during the night. Also, avoid bright lights before bed. The body is conditioned to sleep when it is dark, so the less exposure to light, the easier it is to fall asleep.

- Maintain a regular sleep schedule. Again, this relates to conditioning the body to expect sleep at certain times.

- Reduce the noise level in the bedroom. If you live in an area with a lot of outside noise, consider a fan or white noise machine to drown them out. If you have a spouse who snores or talks in their sleep, consider ear plugs. While I personally dislike using them, they do work wonders.

- Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants and will keep you awake. Smokers also experience withdrawal symptoms once they do fall asleep. These withdrawal symptoms will keep them from getting a deep sleep. Yet another reason to quit. Alcohol also disrupts sleep.

- Establish a relaxing bedtime routine. Avoid anything that makes loud noises or has bright lights. Also, avoid anything that stimulates the brain, such as word puzzles or games. Avoid exercising too late in the evening as well. Warm showers/baths, journal writing, and reading can all help relax you.


I know I am guilty of taking my laptop to bed with me and after researching this topic, I am able to pinpoint several other areas where I can improve my sleep. Obviously, there are seasons in our lives where we cannot get a full night's sleep regardless of what we do. However, we owe it to ourselves to do what we can to make the most of the sleep we do get. What are some things you do to help you sleep?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Try It Tuesday: Quaker True Delights

I enjoy a good granola bar and I really like raspberries and dark chocolate, so I was very excited when I came across a free sample for Quaker's new True Delights Dark Chocolate Raspberry Almond granola bars. I received my bar in the mail yesterday, right about snack time so I tried it right away. Upon opening it, I immediately noticed that it looked nothing like the pictures I had seen. The large pieces of raspberries were more like flecks of raspberries and although the photo on the website shows no less than 9 chunks of dark chocolate on the bar, I only found 1 on mine. I also only had 1 whole almond in the bar. Okay, so it failed in appearance, but what about taste? Remember the days when all granola bars tasted like cardboard? Apparently, so does Quaker. I was sooooo disappointed in the overwhelming grainy taste of this bar. I had been hoping to enjoy a granola bar with a "sophisticated" flavor and ended up feeling like I had just eaten a slightly sweetened piece of cardboard. Maybe the bar was stale, maybe it was a fluke that it contained so little of the yummy ingredients, whatever it was, I am glad it was a free sample and not something I had spent money on. If it was stale or a fluke bar, Quaker may want to consider better quality control, especially when sending out free samples that are supposed to convince me to buy the product. I have always liked Quaker products and rarely have had any problems so I was very surprised that I not only did not love this product, but that I really disliked it completely. The True Delights also come in two other flavors: Toasted Coconut Banana Macadamia Nut and Honey Roasted Cashew Mixed Berry. I can speak for those flavors, but if they are anything like the Dark Chocolate Raspberry Almond, they look and sound much better than they will taste. If any of you have had a better experience with this line from Quaker, please share in a comment. I was really hoping for a better experience and hope this was just a bad sample, but I will not spend my money on a whole box until I know if that was the case.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Just wanted to share

As some of you know, I have another blog, Things I Love, where I post about those things that, well, I really love. I typically do not cross-post, but did want to share a wonderful story with all of you about an experience we had with the police while on our recent vacation. Be sure to swing on over and check it out. In my husband's words, "It is the best experience I have ever had with the police."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Biggest Loser: What is the deal with Jillian?

Several years ago, I found that watching The Biggest Loser helped keep me motivated on my weight loss quest. After I lost 80 pounds, I slowly stopped watching the show. A few years later, I was dealing with some medical issues and then had 2 babies almost back-to-back, and I had gained back my 80 pounds. A few weeks ago, I sat down and decided that I was seriously going to take back my body and re-lose that weight and hopefully more. I was thrilled to learn that The Biggest Loser was starting another season and eagerly turned in this week to watch. While I am sure I will find motivation in the contestants, I was absolutely disgusted and turned off by Jillian's repeated use of the *F*-word. If I was on the show, I would ask to leave simply due to her language. Forget about the fact she shows no respect, she lacks decency as well. As a former US soldier, I get the break 'em down, build 'em up philosophy, but even in the military, the drill sergeants do not speak to soldiers in such a way as I watched Jillian do. Bob, I like and up until this season, I liked Jillian. I like her tough-as-nails attitude and it would be great, if she didn't also find the need to repeatedly use foul language. Personally, I find it very offensive, but we are also talking about a show that started at 8PM, an hour when many kids are still awake and winding down for bed. My almost 9 year old was repeatedly subjected to hearing the beeps as the censors had to cover Jillian's choice of words. She knows she is on a tv show and she should be disciplined enough to control her tongue much more than she did. The sad thing is, she has been working at building up herself as a "brand" and this one episode turned me off to all that she offers. I had been planning to buy her Wii "game", but after this week's show, will look for another one instead. Is this something that I forgot about her from the earlier seasons? Has she gotten progressively worse as seasons have gone on or is this something completely new this season? Whatever it is, I will not be watching again unless she cleans up her mouth.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wellness Wednesday: Cutting Food Safely

I love cooking and I love the feeling of chopping food up by hand. However, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind when doing any chopping or cutting in the kitchen. Here are some tips to remember:

- Always use a clean cutting board. This is especially important when cutting raw meats and foods that will not be cooked after, such as veggies for a salad. It is ideal to have 3 separate cutting boards, preferably color coded, that you always use for their intended food. For example, a red board that is always used for meat, a green board that is always used for fruits and veggies, and a blue board that is always used for other foods like cheese and breads. The reason for the separate cutting boards is to prevent cross contamination of your foods. Also, do not cut cooked foods on a cutting board that you had cut raw foods on earlier. Be sure to properly wash and sterilize the boards between uses.

- Keep your knife sharp. This allows you to not only work faster and more efficiently, but it is actually a safety reason as well. A dull knife does not cut as well and is more likely to slip while cutting, putting your fingers at risk.

- If you drop your knife, DO NOT try to catch it. It is safest to jump back away from the falling knife.

- Never put a knife into a sink full of soapy water or dishes. It is can cause nicks in the blade, cause the blade to rust, and puts you at risk for cuts when you reach in to grab something else out of the sink.

- Wear non-slip shoes in the kitchen when cooking. This not only keeps you from slipping, it helps to protect your piggies if you do happen to drop a knife on them.

- Keep knives well away from the edge of your counters and cutting boards. This makes them less likely to fall and more difficult for wandering children to grab.


Using food choppers and food processors are another way to limit the dangers of knives, though they are not always practical. Even so, they also need to be handled with care when using. Always be sure the cover is on the food processor before starting it (many will not start anyway if the cover is not locked in place) and take special care when removing and washing the blades.

A great meal can turn bad quickly when the cook gets hurt or the guests get sick. Take these extra steps to ensure that your efforts are not undermined by something preventable.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Piggy Paint Coupon Code extended

I just wanted to let you know that the coupon code I posted earlier today for Piggy Paint has been extended through October 31st, 2009. Originally, it was set to expire today. The coupon is for 15% off anything on the Piggy Paint website, including sales items. The coupon code is HAPPYWIFE15L. This is a great way to get a jump start on holiday shopping.

Try It Tuesday: Piggy Paint



Over the past year or so, I have seen several blogs hosting giveaways for Piggy Paint. As the mother of three young girly-girls, I was intrigued from the first time I saw this wonderful company. I never did win any of the Piggy Paint giveaways, so when I was contacted a few months ago about doing a review for the company, I was thrilled.

We received a bottle of Girls Rule Piggy Paint and a bottle of Piggy Paint Nail Polish Remover. I had always hesitated to apply nail polish to my girls because they tended to pick at their nails when I did polish them and I was concerned about them, or their baby brother, eating the flakes. The nail polishes I found that were designed for children still were laden with chemicals. The biggest difference was that the polish dried "soft" and peeled off instead of flaking off. Wonderful, now I have to worry about the baby choking on the polish AND ingesting all those yummy chemicals. Piggy Paint came to my rescue with their non-toxic, water-based polishes. The Polish Remover is also non-toxic and made from natural ingredients. Neither the polish nor the polish remover have that awful smell that similar products have either and they are both hypoallergenic.

When we received our package, my 2-year old immediately asked to have her nails painted and I happily obliged. The polish dried quicker than any other polish I have ever used and it dried "hard", not soft and tacky. The purplish-pink color was so pretty that I decided to use it on my toes as well. The polish lasted as long as any other polish I have ever used. It tended to wear off rather than flake or chip off. The polish remover worked wonderfully on the Piggy Paint. Although it does say it works on any polish, it took quite a bit of scrubbing to get the Opi polish off my finger nails that had been applied during a professional manicure the week before. However, for the benefit of not having to smell the remover or worry about the toxicity of it, it was worth the effort.

Piggy Paint nail polish sells for $9.99 a bottle and comes in a variety of classic and fun colors, including pinks, purples, oranges, greens, blues, and black. The names are fun too (Mac-N-Cheese Please and Twinkle Toes are 2 examples). The Piggy Paint Polish Remover is $10.50 for a 4oz bottle. There are tons of gift sets available such as Ghouls Wanna Have Fun, Little Miss Firecracker and Mistle Toes, which includes 3 bottles of polish for $26.50 and a few other gift packs which include 2 bottles of polish and a bottle of remover for $27.50. For the month of September, you can order the Girls Rule! gift pack (a bottle each of Girls Rule! and Forever Fancy nail polishes and a bottle of polish remover) for $23.50. Also, through October 31st, I have a coupon for The Happy Wife readers to use. If you enter the coupon code, HAPPYWIFE15L, you will save 15% on anything you purchase, including sale items. That makes the Girls Rule! gift pack an even better deal. At just about $20, it is like getting the polish remover for free! Also, all orders over $25 come with free shipping.

Would I recommend buying these products? Absolutely! I have many years left before my girls will be of an age where I would be comfortable with them using "regular" nail polish and I do not want to withhold the fun of mani/pedis from them until then. I am so grateful for Piggy Paint and will continue to use them not just for my little ones, but for myself as well.

***Disclaimer***
I did receive free product in exchange for this review. I did not receive any other payment. While the product was free, my opinion is my own.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wellness Wednesday: Stop and Smell the Flowers


I recently read an editorial in our local newspaper where a woman was thanking a stranger for giving her flowers. She had seen him (a stranger to her) holding a bouquet of sunflowers and commented on their beauty and teasingly asked if they were for her. As she was cashing out, the gentleman approached her and handed her the bouquet and wished her a good day. This story also reminded me of an episode of The Big Give when one of the contestants used some of the money she had to buy all the flowers a street vendor had and then she proceeded to just hand them out to random people. Both stories left me with a happy feeling, yet when it comes to others buying me flowers, I have mixed feelings. I hate that they die so quickly, but they are so uplifting to look at. So what is it about flowers, that make us feel so good.

The State University of New Jersey recently published a study (led by Jeannette Haviland-Jones, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at Rutgers) that found connections between flowers and our satisfaction with life. Flowers help trigger happy thoughts and emotions, they increase of feelings of satisfaction and affect our social behavior in positive ways. I imagine that many of those people who received flowers from a stranger went on to do something nice for someone else later that day or the next. It becomes a pay-it-forward type thing. Here are some of the points learned by the study:

-Flowers provide immediate happiness. People receiving the flowers had "true" smiles on their faces and felt genuinely happy and grateful.

-Flowers help extend feelings of satisfaction and happiness. The recipients of flowers felt less agitated and lonely.

-Flowers allow us to make intimate connections. When someone has given us or sent us flowers, it tells us they were thinking about us.

-Flowers are a healthy and natural way to help us manage our day-to-day moods.

I know I have always enjoyed the flowers I have received, even when I know money was spent to buy them. When we recently bought our home, I was thrilled to have a garden. As I think back to the first few weeks in the house, I always felt best after taking a walk through the garden. The next time you are feeling down, or just because you want to, I encourage you to take a walk through a garden or even the floral department of your local store. Take in the scents and visual beauty and let them linger in your mind. Send flowers to someone you love and let them know you are thinking of them or just give some to a stranger. Cut some from your garden and leave them on a neighbor's doorstep. Just remember to take the time to enjoy the flowers around you. It has now been proven to be good for you.