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?