Friday, December 26, 2008

A Very Strange Christmas

Snow fell here in Washington this December. Lots of it.

We had over a foot, and it lasted for a very long time. We had a big storm again yesterday (Christmas) morning, which put our plans in doubt, but my parents braved the weather and made it up here anyway. It has melted quite a bit--finally--today, but there is still a great deal out there because it's not really warming up.

So...what did this mean for our Christmas plans?

The snow started to fall in earnest on Tuesday night the 16th. School and my Bible study Christmas brunch were cancelled on Wednesday. School was cancelled Thursday and Friday as well. So, no pre-break Christmas parties at school. Teachers didn't get their Christmas gifts. Mom didn't have much "child free" time to prepare for Christmas. All felt very strange.

Church was canceled on Sunday. LeeRoy got off work early every day except the 23rd. The kids' Christmas cantata at church was cancelled on Saturday and Sunday nights. They did have dress rehearsal on Thursday and a performance Friday, but that was it.

Gymnastics was cancelled all last week, along with the Christmas party on Thursday in which we had prepared a hand made gift for a fellow teammate. That will likely take place after the first of the year, because we have this next week off anyway.

Christmas Eve church service was canceled. We were really wondering whether or not Kimber's plane would actually arrive on Tuesday, because flights in and out of Portland had been mostly canceled on Sunday and Monday. Fortunately, she did land with no issues.

All in all, it has just been odd for the past week and a half. Almost everything we had planned and prepared for was either on hold or canceled. We all have a fairly serious case of cabin fever. Although we did get out to do some shopping and ran a few errands, it has just been strange.

The low key, less activity holiday has not been all bad. We have spent quite a bit of time together, gone on lots of walks in the snow and it's been fun, but overall, I am a little sad at missing out on some of the things we had really been looking forward to.

Yes, we'll give the teachers their gifts in January. The cantata will be held at a later date. The gymnastics party will still happen. But it will feel odd all over again to be doing Christmas activities so far after the fact.

Christmas 2008 is definitely one full of interesting memories.

7 Day Love Challenge

Do you believe that marriage works? Beyond anything else in your life, are you fighting for the health of your marriage?

Familes Northwest is starting a 7 Day Love Challenge during the week of February 7-14, 2009, where couples will choose to commit to show their love for each other in ordinary and extraordinary ways.

Each day will have a love challenge given to couples in hopes that they will take it on and see a new spark start within their relationship, or fan the flame already burning.

I will be posting more about this and posting more marriage tools as the days go on. With all of the resolutions you can make for 2009, how about making it a goal to nurture your marriage and make it the best relationship in your life this coming year.

You can sign up to receive the challenges by using the box in my sidebar, or by going to 7 Day Love Challenge And just by entering to receive them, you will be entered to win a couples' getaway to the Skamania Lodge here in Washington state.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


The winner of the Build-a-Bear Workshop gift card is Martha!

Thanks to all who entered!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Giveaway Just in Time for Christmas!

Just in time for Christmas, Build-a-Bear Worshop has a cute pair of Moose named Holly and Hal, ready for decoration or play (or both!)

Holly and Hal are brother and sister and Hal has light up antlers that will make your holiday season even brighter. He is adorable, very soft, and a very fun addition to your celebrations. Just squeeze his hand and his lights gently flash on and off until his hand is squeezed again.

When you go to Build-a-Bear Workshop, you can purchase Holly and Hal for only $12 each, and when you buy both, they come with a FREE book, "Holly and Hal Moose: Our Uplifting Christmas Adventure." This is a book the entire family will enjoy, the pictures are beautiful and the story is sweet.

There are multiple other Christmas Animals available at Build-a-Bear Workshop, from the Chilly Cheeks Penguin to holiday Bears and Bunnies. You can even buy Christmas outfits to put on the animals you already own.

And don't forget, Build-a-Bear Workshop is an extremely fun and entertaining place where you can make your own, one-of-a kind stuffed animal and choose clothes and accessories just for that animal. My kids each have stuffed animals they have made there, and they remain among their most prized possessions even years later. If you haven't been lately, there's no time like the present to make a trip, Christmas vacation is a perfect time for a family activity like Build-a-Bear Workshop. And if you've never been--get in your car and head there right now! Your kids will give you an extra big hug for doing it!

Now for the Giveaway:

The folks at Build-a-Bear Workshop have generously donated a $10 gift card good at any location toward the purchase of Holly and Hal Moose or any other animal or accessory you choose. Won't this just make a child in your life's day this Christmas season?

Here's how to enter:

1. Leave a comment on this post, be SURE to leave your e-mail address if it is not clearly visible on your blog, or you will be disqualified.

2. Tell me one thing you would love to give to your spouse or kids (or both) this Christmas--is there something you'd give them if you had the money, or have you already purchased the exact thing you want to give? Tell me!

3. The deadline for this contest is Sunday, December 21. I'll draw a number using and mail the card out first thing Monday morning.

Good luck!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I'm a slacker

I know, I've been a slacker with posting. Life has just been so crazy busy, I'm trying to make as much money as I can before my December 15 payday because that's all I'm going to be able to earn before Christmas.

Here are my latest posted reviews:

Noelle DVD

Hannah Montana: The Complete First Season

The Amazing Bible Fact Book


As soon as I can get a review written for the book The Paper Bag Christmas I plan to give it away. Be watching in the next couple of days.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

First two Recipes

Here are the recipes for the first two days' menu items. I have made both of these before and they are always positively received by my family. This time was no exception.

I don't think I'm going to make the meal for tonight (the chicken). We have so much of the lentil stuff left that I think I'm going to serve it in tortillas tonight for leftovers.

Spaghetti Pie--From The Potluck Club book 3

8 ounces spaghetti, broken in to 2-inch pieces
2 T melted butter
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1 egg, well beaten
1 1/2 lbs ground chuck (I used ground turkey)
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped green pepper (I didn't use this, didn't have any)
2 T vegetable oil
1 jar (15 1/2 ounces) thick spaghetti sauce
1 t. sugar
1/2 t. leaf oregano, crumbled
1/2 t. garlic salt
1 cup cottage cheese (I used ricotta because that's what I had)
4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded

Cook spaghetti in boiling water following label directions; drain. Place in 9x13 inch baking dish. Stir in next five ingredients until thoroughly combined. Spread mixture evenly in pan. Saute chuck, onion, and green pepper in oil in large skillet until meat is brown; drain. Stir in spaghetti sauce, sugar, oregano, and garlic salt. Spread cottage cheese over spaghetti layer and top with meat mixture. Bake at 350 for half hour. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over top and bake and additional 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and just begins to brown. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting.
Serves 6.

Sweet and Sour Lentils and Kielbasa over Rice

3 cups dry brown lentils, rinsed
1 package turkey kielbasa, sliced.
3 Tb. vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 med to large zucchini, shredded
3-8 to 10 ounce cans pineapple chunks
2-3 Tb fresh ginger, chopped fine
6 Tb. soy sauce
6 Tb. brown sugar
6 Tb. ketchup
1 tsp. pepper

1. Put lentils in a pot and add twice the amount of water. Cover and bring to a boil. Turn heat to medium-low, simmer until tender, about 45 minutes. Drain lentils in a strainer.
2. Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onion and zucchini. Cook until onions are soft.
3. Add pineapple and ginger. Cook for 5 minutes.
4. Add lentils and kielbasa and the rest of the ingredients. Cook, stirring regularly, for 20 more minutes.
5. Serve over rice or wrap in tortillas.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Menu for This Week

Surprise, surprise, I actually have it together enough to post my menu for the week.

Monday: Spaghetti Pie

Tuesday: Sweet and Sour Lentils and Kielbasa over Rice

Wednesday: Chicken Tikka Masala

Thursday: Ham and bean soup with beer cheese bread

Friday: Pizza Pockets (doubling recipe for lunches)

I really need to be better at cooking a "real" meal more than twice a week. I know we're busy, but it's no excuse.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Just had to Share

My hilarious eight year old daughter is extremely creative, but she cannot spell AT ALL. I can almost always tell what she's trying to say, but I got the biggest chuckle out of her spelling sentences from last week. I had my husband scan it in so I could post, but he did it in a PDF file and I can't figure out how to convert. So I'll just type it out.

She wrote:

We are going to orgie for Thanksgiving.

What she MEANT--We are going to OREGON for Thanksgiving.

Tears came to my eyes I was laughing so hard. That is one to save for the scrapbook.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Pumpkin Streusel Bread

This year we grew some pie pumpkins, and this was the first recipe I made from the pumpkin. Yummy, it's already half gone and it's very delicious. I think I could have added more pumpkin for my family's liking, I'll probably tweak the recipe a little when I make it again.

Streusel-Topped Pumpkin Bread

Combine, stir and set aside:
2 eggs
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup pumpkin

Sift together:
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 2/3 cup all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
3/4 teaspoons salt

Stir mixtures together. Add 1/2 cup raisins and 1/2 cup nuts if desired. Pour into greased loaf pan.

Make streusel topping and sprinkle on top of pumpkin batter.
1/3 cup flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon firm margarine or butter

Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 to 50 minutes.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Title Trakk Blog Tour

Welcome to the 1st ever Blog Tour!

This week we're chatting about:

The Fantastic Fall Giveaway Contest!

Just in time for the holidays, you could win over
$335 worth of books, cds and dvds!

Sponsored by our friends at:

The Grand Prize Winner will receive:


Whispers of the Bayou by Mindy Starns Clark
Rachel's Secret by BJ Hoff
Beach Dreams by Trish Perry
Playing God by Michelle McKinney Hammond
White Soul by Brandt Dodson
The Legend of the Firefish by George Bryan Polivka
Finding Marie by Susan Paige Davis
The Power of Praying Through the Bible by Stormie Omartian
A Man After God's Own Heart by Jim George
Evidence for Faith 101 by Bruce Bickel & Stan Jantz


Wake Up! Wake Up! by Everyday Sunday
Rock What You Got by Superchick
Sunday by Tree63
Houston We Are Go by Newsboys (Live CD/DVD)
Nothing Left To Lose by Mat Kearney
I Am Free Worship Collection
Salvation Station by Newworldson
Not Without Love by Jimmy Needham
Pages by Shane & Shane
Colors and Sounds by Article One


Love's Unfolding Dream
The Ten Commandments Animated
Between the Walls

But that's not all!
We're giving away even more!

During this blog tour (November 10th - 16th) we'll be drawing 2 winners daily from the contest entries to win an additional free book or cd!

Visit the Contest page today to enter the contest and place yourself in the running to receive the Grand Prize, plus all the daily prizes! Deadline to enter is November 17th.

Founded in 2006 by Tracy & C.J. Darlington, is an interactive website spotlighting Christian books, music & movies. Updated weekly, we feature author and musician interviews, album and book reviews, music videos, movie reviews and interviews, book excerpts, surveys, polls, and fun contests. Learn more:

Friday, October 31, 2008

We have some winners!

I'm announcing the winners of my five Bloggy Giveaways!

#1 Rachael Ray Cookbook/Crockpot Cookbook

#2 The Book Club Cookbook

#3 Relationship Book Pack

#4 Christian Book Pack

#5 Christmas Book Pack

These winners have all been contacted via e-mail. If I do not hear back from the winners by Sunday evening, the prizes will be forfeited and I'll contact the person with the next random number.

Congratulations to all!

Fun With Food

This is one of my favorite pictures of my kids--cooking lasagna for dinner. I think they are pretty adorable, don't you?
This is entered in the fun with food photo contest at 5 Minutes for Mom

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Christmas Tradition--Advent Calendar with a Twist

One of our most treasured Christmas traditions is that my mom makes up an advent calendar for my kids every year. We use one similar to the one pictures, but instead of something to hang up every day, my mom creates tasks and different things on slips of paper that the kids get to open up each day leading up to Christmas.

Almost all of the slips of paper have something on them where the kids do something for others. All of them have a small gift to open up. Here are some examples of the slips of paper included and the accompanying gift:

1. Donate change to the Salvation Army bell ringer (gift: baggie full of change)
2. Give a candy cane to everyone in your class (gift: box of small candy canes)
3. Give a gift to a neighbor (gift: new Christmas themed dishtowel)
4. Send a Christmas card to a friend or relative (gift: Christmas card with stamped envelope)
5. Help mommy clean (gift: package of Windex wipes)
6. Give your mom a break, take the family out to pizza (gift: $20 for pizza)
7. Drive around town and look at Christmas lights (gift: Christmas music CD to listen to in the car)
8. Have a picnic in front of the Christmas tree (gift: paper plates and napkins)
9. Color a Christmas picture and give it to a friend (gift: Christmas coloring book)
10. Help daddy (gift: car wash soap)
11. We love our pets! (gift: dog and cat treats)
12. Take an angel from the angel tree at church and buy a gift for that person (gift: $20)
13. Watch a Christmas movie (gift: bag of microwave popcorn)
14. Decorate the house (gift: window cling decorations)
15. Decorate the tree (gift: personalized ornament for each child--this is a tradition she does every year)
16. Read together as a family (gift: a book we can all read aloud)
17. Read the Christmas story from the Bible (gift: bookmark)
18. Walk around the neighborhood singing Christmas carols (gift: bells to jingle while singing)
19. Make dessert for the family (gift: box of pudding mix and graham cracker pie crust)

These are just some of the things/ideas we've done in the past. If you're short on cash, you don't have to do the gift part. There have been many years when we haven't done the gift part at all and we just do activities like going to look at Christmas lights, watching Christmas movies, etc.

There are also volunteer things you can do as your children get older. When my kids were younger, they didn't get into the buying a present for the angel tree like they do now--that's actually their favorite thing to do out of all of them. They can be very creative with purchasing a gift for the allotted money. Some things we've brainstormed about for this year are: volunteering to be a bell ringer, volunteering to help out at the women's shelter or homeless shelter in some way, collecting items for the pregnancy center or women's shelter, collecting canned food in the neighborhood to donate to the food bank, etc.

You can be as creative with this as you can, but I hope you can take this idea and run with it if it interests you. It truly is the highlight of our Christmas season, because it gets the focus off of ourselves for just a little while each day and helps us to think about others.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Bloggy Giveaway #5 Christmas book pack

I am giving away three Christian Christmas themed books.

All I Have to Give by Melody Carlson:

Anna and Michael have been trying for years without success to have a baby. Now in her late thirties, Anna has given up on the hope of motherhood after heartbreaking miscarriages and shattered dreams. As Christmas nears, she has to consider the possibility that it might be time to empty out the nursery and convert it to a guest room. Amidst her heartache, Anna secretly struggles with strange health problems that have her very worried. But, as often happens at Christmastime, there are miracles in store for Anna and Michael. As each tries to give the other the perfect Christmas gift the magic of Christmas is working its way into their lives. And what each of them unwraps for Christmas will surprise everyone.

One Perfect Day by Lauraine Snelling

This is the story of two mothers, strangers to one another. The first has two children--twins, a boy and girl, who are seniors in high school. She wants their last Christmas as a family living in the same home to be perfect, but her husband is delayed returning from a business trip abroad. And then there's an accident--a fatal one involving a drunk driver.Meanwhile, the other mother has a daughter who needs a new heart, and so the loss of one woman becomes the miracle the other has desperately prayed for. While one mother grieves, and pulls away from her family, the other finds that even miracles aren't always easy to receive.

One Perfect Gift by Kathleen Morgan

Jessica Ashmore has brought her young daughter to the Colorado high plains in the winter of 1933. A penniless widow, Jessica is hoping for employment as an office nurse. Though the job she wants is no longer available, she is grateful to at least be offered a temporary position taking care of stroke victim Abby MacKay at Culdee Creek Ranch. Abby's son Sean, an embittered WWI veteran who many view as a coward and deserter, is none-too-pleased with the arrangement--and he doesn't hide it very well. But Christmas is a time of love and forgiveness, and their antagonism starts to give way to far deeper feelings. Can Sean and Jessica ever hope for a life together? Will they be able to find that one perfect gift?

This giveaway is now closed.

Have fun, and be sure to enter the other giveaways at The Bloggy Giveaways Carnival

Bloggy Giveaway #4 Christian Book Pack

Something for everyone here with this set of three Christian books:

Farraday Road by Ace Collins

It’s just another quiet evening out for Lije and Kaitlyn Evans. But somewhere along the way, it becomes something more sinister and a murder takes place. In the aftermath, a small-town attorney sets out to find his wife’s killers and uncovers a deadly conspiracy. A suspenseful mystery with a twist of faith.

Conspiracy in Kiev by Noel Hynd

A shrewd investigator and an expert marksman, Special Agent Alexandra LaDuca can handle any case the FBI gives her. Or can she? Connecting the dots between an assassination attempt in Ukraine, a murder in Paris, and a brutal attack on a remote village in South America takes Alex on a dangerous puzzle-solving, soul-searching journey that changes her forever.

A Constant Heart by Siri Mitchell

Born with the face of an angel, Marget Barnardsen is blessed. Her father is a knight, and now she is to be married to the Earl of Lytham. Her destiny is guaranteed ... at least, it would seem so. But when her introduction to court goes awry and Queen Elizabeth despises her, Marget fears she's lost her husband forever. Desperate to win him back, she'll do whatever it takes to discover how she failed and capture again the love of a man bound to the queen.

International entries are ok, but if you are not in the US or Canada, you might have to wait a while for me to mail.

To enter:

This giveaway is now closed.

Have fun, and be sure to enter the other giveaways at The Bloggy Giveaways Carnival

Bloggy Giveaway #3 Relationship Book Pack

This giveaway is for two books that can help your relationships, especially your marriage.

The Man Whisperer by Rick Johnson:

What woman hasn't taken a look at her man and decided he could use some improvement? There are some things we can change and some things we can't. Rick Johnson helps women identify the strengths in their men and the things that hold them back. He shows women how they can use their considerable influence in positive ways--without nagging or laying on the guilt trips. A man whisperer is a woman who can use her subtle powers of persuasion to help her man become his very best. With humor and plainspoken common sense, Johnson helps women deal creatively with those annoying little habits while focusing on building his strong points. He also shows women why some tactics just don't work. Any woman who wants her marriage to be stronger will benefit from this enlightening book.

Pray Big for Your Marriage by Will Davis

Marriage is one of the most important relationships in a person's life--and one that benefits tremendously from prayer. Will Davis has taught people how to pray big for even the little things in life. Now he turns his straightforward and practical communication style to the marriage relationship. In Pray Big for Your Marriage Davis helps readers combine God's teachings on marriage with his promises on prayer. He shows men and women how to pray specific, pinpoint prayers for their spouses. Complete with a month-long prayer plan, Pray Big for Your Marriage teaches readers how to pray for • emotional and spiritual intimacy • the spiritual growth of a spouse • purpose in marriage • protection from temptation • and much more Pray Big for Your Marriage is for all couples--those trying to save their marriage, enjoying marital bliss, or getting married soon

This giveaway is now closed.

Have fun, and be sure to enter the other giveaways at The Bloggy Giveaways Carnival

Bloggy Giveaways #2 The Book Club Cookbook

The first cookbook designed specifically for book clubs, The Book Club Cookbook will add real flavor to your book club meetings.

Whether it's mojitos with Love in the Time of Cholera or honey cake with The Secret Life of Bees, nothing spices up a book club meeting like great eats. Featuring recipes and menu ideas for one hundred popular book club selections, The Book Club Cookbook will guide you in selecting and preparing culinary masterpieces that blend perfectly with the literary masterpieces your club is reading. With contributions from many of the authors of these favorite books themselves, as well as profiles of book clubs all across the country that are integrating food into their meetings in creative ways, The Book Club Cookbook includes such scrumptious pairings as: Tandoori Shrimp with Life of Pi by Yann Martel, Death by Chocolate with The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, Griet's Vegetable Soup with Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier, Joan and Lalita's Peach Cobbler with Cane River by Lalita Tademy and many more!

This giveaway is now closed

Have fun, and be sure to enter the other giveaways at The Bloggy Giveaways Carnival

Bloggy Giveaways #1 Healthy Cookbooks

For my first giveaway, I have two cookbooks: Rachael Ray's 30-Minute Get Real Meals and the Deluxe Potful of Recipes (a crockpot cookbook).

The latest addition to Rachael’s runaway hit series of 30-Minute Meals cookbooks is designed for cooks who want to look and feel great but long for the fun and the flavor that’s missing from their extreme low-carb meals. This Rachael Ray cookbook is a fabulous addition to any collection.

The Deluxe Potful of recipes by Joanna Lund is a collection of healthy recipes to be made in the slow cooker.

This giveaway has now ended

Have fun, and be sure to enter the other giveaways at The Bloggy Giveaways Carnival

Friday, October 17, 2008

Halloween Costume Rant

Have you shopped for Halloween costumes lately? I absolutely cannot believe the prices the stores charge for so little. Let's look at a couple of examples.

Last year, Logan wanted to be Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean.

This costume comes with: Shirt, vest with sewn in fabric sash and two attached belts with buckles and boot covers. Never mind that the materials these things are made from are very, very thin, cheap fabric and plastic-vinyl. Kids see the picture on the costume bag and are totally "wowed" by the whole thing. So you look at the price: $49.99! Fifty dollars for a tiny amount of fabric and vinyl.

But wait, it gets better. Did you notice that it doesn't come with the hat, mustache, and goatee? That will set you back an additional $19.99. The sword (which is my son's favorite part of the costume) is $14.99. Which comes to a grand total of:

$84.97 (plus tax) for a Halloween costume that will be worn for part of one day.

Here's another example:

In case you aren't familiar with it...this is a Hannah Montana costume. I have actually seen this hanging on the rack at my local store. It is so thin and flimsy, it's like those really thin pajamas that pill up after one wearing? The top is completely see-through it is so thin.'s October, and I don't know what the weather is like where you live, but here in the NW it is COLD on Halloween and coats and sweatshirts are usually required.

This lovely costume: JUST the skirt, shirt, and lovely vinyl belt--is $34.99. That doesn't include the wig (in case your daughter isn't a blond) for $9.99 or the fishnet tights for $5.99. You will have to come up with your own boots, which would probably set you back about $24.99 for the cheapest I could find at Payless Shoes.

Grand total to faintly resemble Hannah Montana and freeze: $75.96.

So, if you have two kids like I do--I would be shelling out a whopping $161 plus tax for these two costumes, worn with coats so you can't really see them anyway, and worn one day.

My son wants to be Prince Caspian this year, the costume is very similarly priced to the Jack Sparrow one. We purchased the sword ($14.99) and found a knight mask (so it's not totally authentic) at Party City for $1. I'm going to make the "fake" chain mail headgear and arm bands from metalic mesh fabric from JoAnn fabric for $5. He's going to wear brown pants, a black sweatshirt, black shoes, and a couple of belts that we have around the house.

My daughter wants to be a cowgirl. We purchased a pink cowboy hat and gun belt with guns at Party City for $20. She's going to wear jeans, a white shirt, and my mother-in-law had some bandana fabric which she's fashioning into a vest. She'll just wear her furry boots...we don't have the money or inclination to buy cowboy boots.

It will save us some money, but anyone else just frustrated by the poor quality and exhorbitant prices of costumes?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Latest Reviews and a Giveaway Announcement

I have some giveaways coming up soon--I'm excited that I will have a week of giveaways starting on October 20. That will be leading up to the next Bloggy Giveaways starting on Oct 27. So be looking! I know I've slacked off on the giveaways lately, but these should be great! My whole desk here is coverered with books.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Classic Holiday Gift Set

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Our new pet

Ok, ok...I know, we already have a zoo here. But Logan has been very sad that he doesn't have his "own" pet. Grace has the rabbit, LeeRoy has the fish, I suppose the cat is mine...and the dog belogs to all of us.

We went to the pet store yesterday and he totally fell in love with a cockatiel. That's what he wanted for his birthday, so that's what he got.

This is the sweetest bird. It is about a year old and has been hand raised by someone who had to give it up due to a move. Its name is Tarzan (because he likes to climb) and he is very tame. Loves to climb on shoulders and loves to have his head petted (he bends it down for you to pet).

Logan's in love...we can barely get him to leave the bird alone so the poor thing can sleep!

Oh well, just another addition to the animal menagerie.

ChaCha--a legitimate work at home job

So--you're looking for a legitimate work at home job?

I have had some questions, both privately and publicly here about working for ChaCha, so I thought I'd answer the questions so you all can make a decision about whether or not it's for you.

What is ChaCha?
It is a human powered search engine, in a text message service. People text in their questions to ChaCha's mobile number from their cell phone (242242) or they can call 1-800-2CHACHA(242242). ChaCha employs guides (that's what I do) who receive the question on their computer, search for the answer online, source that web page, formulate a concise (130 characters or less) answer and submit it. The answer is then sent to that person's mobile phone.

Here's an example of a question and answer:

Q: Who is the actress who played Rose in Titanic?

A: Kate Winslet played Rose in Titanic. Her latest movies are Revolutionary Road and The Reader. Thanks for using ChaCha!

Source page: IMDB on Kate Winslet

I get questions about everything under the sun. Homework questions. Song Lyrics. Directions. Address/phone number look-up, random weird questions, gas prices, jokes, election questions, sports scores, zillions of "Who is Jane Smith from Provo, UT?" etc.

For ever answer, a guide gets paid either 10 cents or 20 cents. The base pay is 10 cents, but if a guide completes 200 questions/answers a week with 95% accuracy (there are QA people who check) and 95% completion (you can't abort questions all the time just because the answers are difficult to find, this makes your completion rate go down), then for the next week, you get paid 20 cents. That person is called a Top Guide.

I have been a Top Guide for many weeks in a row now, ever since I completed my first week, so I make 20 cents a question.

Most questions take me between 40 seconds and 1 minute to answer. If I'm fast and get fairly easy questions, I can make around $6-$8 an hour. If I'm slow, it hovers more around $4. But the longer I do it, the faster I get, because there are some very standard questions that TONS of people ask, and some are just conversational questions that don't require research at all.

The Pros:

1. I can work any time, day or night, for any length of time. If I just have time to answer one or two questions, I can do that, or I can sit here for hours answering. It's my call.

2. It is really fun. I love being a sleuth and finding answers to questions on the internet. That's actually why I started doing it in the first place.

3. My goal is to make $500 a month, and that is pretty easy to achieve with my schedule. I rarely work Friday-Sunday, and those are the days where ChaCha provides incentives and bonuses due to high traffic, so if you are able to work those days, you could make more, faster. Weekends are our family time, so I don't take away from the family working on the computer most of the time.

The Cons

1. You have to answer every type of question, including sexually explicit questions. This is not something for someone who is easily shocked or offended. I can usually answer these types of questions clinically, but if you are opposed to them, this is NOT something for you. If you aborted all of these types of questions, you would never make Top Guide money.

2. Some of the questions are very difficult to answer. You have to be creative and able to think of ways to answer questions like: how many professional photographers in the world actually make any money doing their job? or what is the all time top song purchased on itunes? (I searched a long time for this one)

There are other roles other than a guide. There are also voice transcribers--people whose job is to listen to the questions people call in and transcribe their questions to be sent to guides, and expeditors--people who clean up the questions, make them easier to read, and put them in appropriate categories to make searching easier. Both of those roles pay less than being a guide, but they are also slightly easier.

If you're interested, you can go here:
If you do sign up, I would really appreciate you putting me down as your reference:
parcelhome at comcast dot net.
I get a bonus for referrals, and every little bit helps in today's economy!

You're not going to get rich doing this. But it certainly pays better than surveys and other things you could be doing at home without any skilled training!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Dave Ramsey

I'm so excited, because on November 1, we're going to see Dave Ramsey live!

Last October, we went to see him live, and it is what got us on the road to getting out of debt and working toward financial freedom. We've been "on the plan" for a year now, and it definitely has made a difference in how we think and act about our money.

We have volunteered to help at the event, so we get to attend free, plus we get t-shirts and our choice of a free item (we're choosing Financial Peace, Jr.)

After a year, I think this is exactly what we need to have a shot of energy to keep with the plan.


Well, Christmas is coming (isn't it always?) With the economy being the way it is, hubby's bonuses have been cut for the year.

I have been trying to make up as much of the difference as I can with money from ChaCha, but I never feel like it's enough.

We have talked about just getting a large "family" gift for Christmas this year (a Wii) instead of gifts for each child, but I'm not sure how well that will go over. It's frustrating.

What is everyone else doing this year for Christmas in light of the downturn in the economy?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Canning Up a Storm

This is just a representative of what has been happening around here. I have been so busy I keep forgetting to take pictures! Once it's all on the shelves in the garage, I'll take a photo of the whole thing.

In the past few weeks I have canned: 24 quarts of pickles, 16 pints of relish (both cucumber and zucchini), 8 pints pickled beets, 2 quarts pickled beans, and a great deal of spaghetti sauce. I am still in the process of making and canning the spaghetti sauce. I'm working in batches as the tomatoes get ripe (very late around here).

I have also frozen multiple quarts of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, broccoli, and green beans (no one around here likes canned green beans). Apples are just starting to get ripe also, so I know I'll do a lot of applesauce and apple butter too.

I have to say, that although it's a lot of work and really messy, I love doing it! I wish I hadn't waited so many years to start canning my own food. For some reason I was scared of it, but it's really easy, even pressure canning is not this big monster difficult thing I was making it out to be.

The other night, we had a meal that included many of our garden and preserved items, and we had such a sense of satisfaction eating those foods.

On another note--Grace had been really sick for the past week with coxsackie virus (hand, foot, and mouth disease). She was utterly miserable because the entire inside of her mouth was covered with canker sores. She's finally better after a little over a week, two trips to the doctor, and every home remedy I could come up with. It's nice to have her back to her chipper self again.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Baby Elephant

During Labor Day weekend we had some time off from football and we went to the zoo in Portland to see the new baby elephant. He is so incredibly cute! His name is Samudra, and they are calling him Sam. We'll likely return to see him again in a couple of weeks to see how he's growing.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Blueberry Zucchini Bread

We have zucchini coming out of our ears. I have been trying to give them away, but I think all of the people we know who grow zucchini must walk into our house, and seeing the utter lack of zucchini on every single surface, must bless us with their bounty. Not that I'm complaining. I made a pact with myself that I wouldn't turn down anything from anyone's garden this year. This is why I have made pickles and relish until my whole house smells like vinegar, but I'm not complaining!

We froze a lot of blueberries this year, mostly to put in our yogurt, but I decided to make blueberry zucchini bread last night. Yum! This recipe is pretty high in fat, but it's oh, so good.

From AllRecipes:

Blueberry Zucchini Bread
Cook Time: 50 Minutes Ready In: 1 Hour 45 Minutes
Yields: 12 servings

3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup vegetable oil
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups white sugar
2 cups shredded zucchini
3 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 pint fresh blueberries

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease 4 mini-loaf pans.
2. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar. Fold in the zucchini. Beat in the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Gently fold in the blueberries. Transfer to the prepared mini-loaf pans.
3. Bake 50 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a knife inserted in the center of a loaf comes out clean. Cool 20 minutes in pans, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.

The Great Onion Debate

I thought that the kids going back to school would quash some of this bickering. And it did help a little...until the other day.

I am in the kitchen making dinner. The kids like onions quite a bit, and whenever I'm chopping onions, they come in and snitch them out of the pile on the counter. I am not exactly sure how this started, but I come in when Grace is sitting at the kitchen table, head in hands, sobbing hysterically.

Me: What's wrong?

Grace: Logan says he likes onions more than me!!! Sob, cry, carry on

Me: So what? You both like onions.

Grace: But he CAN'T like them more than me!

Me: Why? You both like them, why is this such a big deal?

Grace: But I liked onions FIRST! He didn't even start liking them until a couple of months ago! Now he says he likes them more than me! That's not FAIR!

Me: This is totally ridiculous and nothing to cry about. You can both like onions the same amount. End of story.

Logan (walking through the kitchen): Heh Heh Heh

I could totally tell at that point that the origins of this debate came from him. He takes utter joy in making his sister hysterical about NOTHING. And it usually works, so I guess I don't blame him (having been an oldest child myself and knowing how easy it was to torture my own sister)

Gotta love kids!!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Reviews Update

Sorry I have not been good about keeping up with blogging. Both kids are involved with fall sports--Grace started competitive gymnastics and Logan is playing football. It seems like we're never home, and when we are, it's just to eat quickly and do homework. Here are my latest reviews, I hope to have some sort of schedule worked out soon, but my life is totally on overload right now.

Private Practice Season One

Monday, August 25, 2008


Through someone else's blog, I heard about a service called ChaCha .

What it is:

A number where people text any question they have into the site, and guides (the job I have) do an online search to provide them with the answer. We get paid between 10 and 20 cents per search, so it could potentially become a decent source of income for me when I get faster at doing it.

If you are interested, there's a page of their site for job opportunities. You have to fill out an application and take a series of tests to see if you'll be accepted. There are 25,000 guides across the US, and you can work as much or as little as you like.

If you do sign up, please use me as you referral parcelhome at comcast dot net
I get a referrer bonus, and really, my family could use the money right now.

Even if you don't want to become a ChaCha guide, check it out. It is a TOTALLY free service that you can use from your phone while you're out and about. If you don't have a smart phone, how many times have you been out and wanted to google something? If you're like me, a LOT!

Check out ChaCha

Sorry for my Absence

Sorry, it seems as if I just disappeared off of my blog! Here's what has been going on:

1. Grace has been working on making the competitive gymnastics team. It means daily practices, and now we are ding fundraising as well to pay for it all.

2. Logan is playing football. This also means daily practices, games, etc.

3. The garden is keeping me hopping and I have got to make and can pickles today, as well as deal with the plethora of other things.

4. Still dealing with the job/decision making issue. Went to visit the town where the job is to see if it would work for us, not sure we can afford to live there, even with a raise.

5. I have been doing a new online venture called ChaCha, which I will talk about in another post.

School starts on Wednesday, so needless to say I'm behind with everything, especially with my reviewing and everything else. I will probably take a bit of a blog break from today until next Monday, where I'll have some books to give away and some excellent other things to talk about.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Today's Installment of "Why School Needs to Start Tomorrow"

Kids are playing in pool and trampoline. I have been out there reading for an hour, supervising and not really doing much of anything.

Football practice starts in an hour, so I come inside to make dinner (this is getting old by the way).

The minute I get out the knife to start slicing tomatoes, I hear ear-shattering screeching from Grace coming from outside. It doesn't stop. All of the windows are shut because it's 90 outside today, so I can't hear what the commotion is, but I know it's nothing major. Screeching and screaming continues.

I finally go outside to find Grace screaming at Logan at the top of her lungs. I call her over and want to know the cause of this horrible ruckus.

G: Logan keeps triple dog daring me to do a flip into the pool from the trampoline!

Me: So what?

G: He's DARING me to do it and I don't want to do it!

Me: Then don't!

G (Screeching and whining louder to me): Mommy! You don't get it! He's DARING me! I don't want to! (Crying ensues)

This is when I try to explain that a dare is just talking. It's not a home mortgage! It's not a written contract for anything!

I am never going to get dinner cooked at this rate. I told Logan to STOP daring his sister to do things. He just grinned and didn't look ashamed at all. Go figure.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Summer is too Long

I'm going to be honest here.

There are certain things I really enjoy about summer:

1. I love to sleep in a little bit and not be pressured to be ready and out the door by 8:15.

2. I really like to not pack lunches. I like this very much.

3. Fewer activities make for a less hectic driving schedule and less stressful when I have to be in two places at the same time.

4. Time is less structured.

But mostly, I am pretty much over the summer now.

1. The kids are bored. Even with every day gymnastics practice for Grace and every day football practice for Logan, they are ready for some new school challenges.

2. I miss my regular activities and the contact they give me with other adults. I miss Bible study, volunteering at school, and that sort of thing.

3. Although I really admire people who can homeschool, and really wish I could do it myself, my kids just do not respond to me with regards to school work. We've been doing a summer curriculum and it's like pulling teeth.

4. I kind of thrive on the structure. The schedule.

5. The kids want to eat ALL. THE. FREAKIN'. TIME.

6. I really dislike taking the kids to the grocery store and the post office. You would think at 8 and 9 years old that they would be relatively easy to deal with at those places. Yeah, no.

So, that's my recap. School starts two weeks from today. Not soon enough in my book.

I really do love my kids. I just want the structure of our schedule back again.

Steven Curtis Chapman on Larry King

Make sure you turn off the music on the right before pushing play.

Nothing I can really say about this except, wow.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Children's Classic Books

Children's Classics 5 Minutes for Books is hosting a "Children's Classics" carnival, this month's featured age is on middle grade readers (ages 8-12). It was incredibly difficult coming up with only one book! I pondered a great many, because there are SO many excellent books out there for children, so many that I enjoyed as a child and am now thrilled to pass on to my own children.

The book I chose is one that really stirred my interest in the mystery genre. It's a book that kept me up reading very late into the night, and was one that I tried (often in vain) to recommend to every one of my friends. At almost every stage of my life, I have had one friend who is an avid reader like I am, and when I was in elementary school her name was Holly. I vividly remember going over to Holly's house one afternoon and passing along my precious copy of The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, which she devoured and loved as much as I did!

The Westing Game was written in 1978 and was given the Newberry Award in 1979. The book begins with sixteen people and families, all who have been "invited" to live in the Sunset Towers apartment building. Wealthy Samuel Westing has died, and these people are invited to the reading of his will. This will contains a game filled with puzzles, which will determine who will inherit Mr. Westing's sizeable estate. The sixteen are divided into eight groups of two to work together to solve the puzzles.

Isn't this every child's dream--to be given the opportunity to be rich based on solving puzzles in a game? Well, it certainly was MY dream!

This book is a great mystery, but it is also filled with a ton of humor. The characters come from all different races, nationalities, and walks of life. I found that, reading the book aloud to my children as an adult, I picked up on some different layers of humor than I did as a child. And also, as an adult, Ms. Raskin's writing is even more clever and entertaining.

The Westing Game is a book I have been proud to pass on to my children, one they love as much as I do!

Ms. Raskin's other books (The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel), Figgs and Phantoms, and The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues) are also brilliantly entertaining reads.