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 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:


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:


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 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.