Thursday, December 30, 2010

So I'm Noticing a Trend Here...

Okay, so I have moments of blogging prolificness followed by long periods of blogging ineptitude.  You could blame it on my kids, my experimenting with couponing (no I am not of of those Extreme Couponers on the TLC show) or all the online shopping I did for Christmas (New Years resolutions related to budgeting money more effectively will follow).  However, it really was that I didnt put it as a priority.  And for that, well, I'm sorry.  So I'm back, for now.  Let's see if I can make this work this time.

Christmas was a whirlwind of eating, going (see eating), entertaining (see eating again) and present giving followed by a little more eating (New Years resolution related to not eating so much and such indulgent foods to follow).

We got together with my in-laws the week before Christmas to exchange gifts and have a traditional Christmas dinner (homemade hot rolls, scalloped potatoes, ham, green beans and pecan bars).
Christmas with the in-laws!

Lion House rolls - the best rolls I've ever made from scratch!

Pecan Bars - better than pecan pie, oh yeah.

It was loads of fun and we enjoyed opening and giving lots of gifts.

The Wednesday before Christmas my parents and sister came to town as did several members of my dad's side of the family for a Christmas party.  We had hors d'oeuvres (think mini crab cakes, bites of filet with paremesan cheese and horseradish sauce, cocktail shrimp, homemade mini quiches, homemade jalapeno poppers, meatballs, spinach artichoke dip, more pecan bars, etc). 

Deer Ol' Grandpa Frank (ha ha ha!)

Natalie sporting her "Jesse" hat (from Toy Story)

Aunt Kathi and Grandpa Frank

Dad with Aunt Kathi and Uncle Wendell

My Deer Ol' Husband (I know, but I cant help myself!) and Uncle Dave

Me and Uncle Dave (who, btw, is a chef - love of food runs in the family!)

Aunt Jennifer, Cousins Kate and Justin and Grandpa Frank

It was so great to see the family.  Its been 5 years since we've all gotten together on that side and we all agreed it had been WAY too long.

The next day my mom, sister, dad and Kevin and I hit the bus for a day trip to New York City to do a food tour in the Central Village/Soho neighborhood.  My WORD, it was a good time!  We went to 6 restaurants on the tour and then hit up 2 more afterward.  We saw Bob Dylans old house and had a sighting of James Gandolfini (i.e. Tony Soprano)!  Such a neat way to tour a place you're unfamiliar with and an interesting view into the culture there.  The Duck Confit macaroni at MacBar (a place we visited after the tour) was among one of the favorites of the day!

Christmas day was fun - as it usually is.  I knew what all my gifts were this year as we all made lists.  I'd even bought a few things for myself and wrapped them up under the tree.  Hey...when you're an adult you get to do things like that.  We ate breakfast casserole in the morning and then had rosemary bread, baked potato soup and salad for dinner (followed by pumpkin spice muffins with cream cheese frosting - for Jesus' birthday and all).

Mom got a Kindle!

Liam just LOVES play-doh!

Homemade Pear Honey in the stockings

I stood outside at 3:30am sick as a dog for this Toy Story dvd.  Ahh what we won't do for our kids and a good sale!

It was a princess Christmas this year!

In case you can't tell this is Kevins "oooh... so COOL" face.

My sister rounded their visit with a pork cassoulet, thyme roasted carrots, green beans and salad with homemade vinaigrette and rosemary bread followed by peanut butter ice cream with homemade peanut butter sauce.

Um, I know we had homemade pizza in there one night too.

So, /urp..., all in all it was a super Christmas with all the different members of the family.  I actually got my Christmas cards out on time AND had time to crochet a few Christmas presents ahead of time AND do some Christmas baking (see here and here).

Dad and Lib

Papa and Natalie

Nana and Natalie looking at old photos of me with buck teeth

 Me (looking tired from all that eating!), Mom, Lib

I *will* be going on a diet after this weekend to atone for all of my gross indulgences in culinary delights, but OH what fun I've had doing so.  Stay tuned for my grumpy, hungry, self to return to blog land with tales of chicken, brown rice and vegetables.  All right, I'll find something more interesting to talk about.  Liam and his pink purse perhaps.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Preschool Update

Preschool has been such a blessing this year.  It always feels like a marathon when we're there.  Me chasing Liam, Natalie struggling to focus and general chaos as 5 women try to herd 7 preschoolers and 3 toddlers through a lesson plan.  I generally leave totally wiped out, mentally and physically and wonder what, if anything, Natalie learned that day.  However, it's been good for me as it's made me a better educator at home.  For instance, Natalie now recognizes the "W" in Walmart and the "M" in McDonalds.  (Classy, I know.)  In fact, she's recognizing more letters, memorizing Bible verses, making good friends and going on some great field trips.

Our last field trip we went on was to a dairy and ajoining ice cream shop.  We got to see all things cow and see how the ice cream was made.  Here are some highlights:

Lets just say that cows must not be able to smell, because they'd have keeled over from the stench!  Glad this room was well ventilated!

The ice cream they make doesn't get any fresher than this...

The entourage

Not sure what the cow was thinking here, but I like to imagine something like "man these kids smell!"
The preschoolers LOVED seeing the pigs.  The farmer tossed a pumpkin in the pen and it broke into pieces for the pigs to chow down on.
Ice cream at 10:30am... Sweet!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cha Ching! I've got to share this deal. I just got on the Ebates wagon and I just got my first $9 check in the mail for the normal online shopping I do (within the past month). Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, there's no weird homepage, annoying toolbar or spam emails. All you have to do is go to the website to make an online purchase and then click on the link for the store you want to visit (i.e. Old Navy, Lands End, Toys R Us, etc). I seriously don't know how I've not known about this until now.

You get the cash just for going through the Ebates website and you get $5 for creating an account. Really the only store I've found that they're lacking is Amazon...but I've made plenty of other purchases from their affiliates.

If you decide to give it a try, please use my referral link.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Saving a Buck Here and There

So we recently got done with austerity month - just really trying to pinch some pennies to see how frugal we could actually be.  It was a good lesson for us non-budgeters and I think we'll probably revisit that month a few times a year to put some things in perspective.

During that month I learned a lot of things about how to leverage coupons so I wasn't just walking away having saved 50 cents here or $1 there.  I actually was saving a LOT.  I don't always hunt for coupons now (as it doesn't matter with certain purchases) but I've found a lot of resources that are SUPER handy.

  • Living Rich With Coupons  (get on their mailing list.  SUPER helpful stuff! I also subscribe via rss feed on Google Reader)
  • Coupon Mom (they have a grocery coupon database, grocery store sale to coupon matchup with shopping list creator, and coupons for Target, CVS, etc.  They also have video tutorials on how to get started in couponing.  And the best part???  You DON'T have to spend hours clipping coupons anymore!)
  • The Coupon High (always really good deals! I subscribe to this one on my Google Reader rss feed)
  • Ebates (you simply use this site to search for items you want to buy on the sites you already use (i.e. Old Navy, Groupon, Target, etc.  I just got 8% cash back on a purchase from Old Navy.  I believe they actually mail you a check!!!)
Here's some of the one's I'm still testing out but look promising:
  • Swagbucks (Still testing this one out, but apparently you can get $$ back just for searching the web.  I've always liked Google as my homepage, but I'm testing using Swagbucks as my homepage to see how much $$ I can make in my normal web searching.  Apparently it takes 450 Swagbucks (SB) to get a $5 gift card from Amazon.  I joined on Friday (Fridays are Mega SB day) and I've already got 68 (SB).  I read someone's blog who said she bought a laptop with her SB's.  There are other ways to earn SB other than searching (taking surveys, looking for hidden clues, etc).  I'm not all that interested in that as I don't usually have the time.  We'll see how this goes.
  • Redemption Unlimited  (A blog by a couple of gals that talks about everything from grocery store deals and coupons to menu planning, etc.  I subscribe to this in Google Reader)
  • The Krazy Coupon Lady (I subscribe to this in Google Reader)
  • Money Saving Mom (I subscribe to this in Google Reader)
  • Coupon Geek  (I subscribe to this in Google Reader)
  • Moms Need To Know (I subscribe to this in Google Reader)
 Anyway, I just wanted to share with you some of the proof that couponing  DOES work.  Recently on a trip to Office Depot I picked up a labeler (something I had reallyreallyreally wanted for a while).  It was normally $50 marked down to $15.  Good deal, huh?  Well I actually got this whole mess for $15!!!

Labeler $15
Printer Paper $1 each
Camera Case $10 on clearance
Post-It Label Pads (made $5 using a coupon!).
And a $10 off $20 Office Depot coupon.

Now I can label my house to my little hearts desire!  So fun. I'd love hear about any couponing/meal planning sites that you couldn't live without.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Say Cheese!

This afternoon we put ourselves through the trial of trying to get a decent picture of all four of us at once.  Have you EVER tried to get a picture with a 3 year old and 1 year old smiling (much less looking!) at a camera?!??!  It's right up there with the ease of spotting the Lock Ness Monster.

Fortunately, our friends Dave and Jill donned a puppet and gave it a shot (no pun intended).  I'd say we have SOMETHING to use for our Christmas list.  Any favorites?

Mine is #2 for it's subtle glimpse into the craziness of our lives.  Hint: note Liam's shoes....


Hanging out after all of their hard work in front of the camera.  Liam: doing what he does best - filling his hollow leg with crackers.  Natalie: doing a spontaneous jig.  Mind you, this is BEFORE candy.

Happy Halloween!

 We had two fun nights of trick or treating this weekend.  Last night we did Trunk or Treat at our church and tonight we did Trunk or Treat at another church PLUS a little neighborhood trick or treating.  Natalie was ALL smiles as that was the MOST candy she's ever seen.  Enjoy it kid, because that's all the candy you'll see until next year.  Bwahahahahaha! *cue evil laugh and music*

No, seriously.
Trunk or Treat!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Lil' Chef

This little girl loves to dress up.  We pulled a chef's outfit out of the closet that we got from her cousins last Christmas and tried it on (it was HUGE last year).  It fits perfectly now! 

I really hope she's the sort of girl that will want to bake 5 different versions of the same dish with me to find the "best" one.  I LOVE spending time in the kitchen and hope she does too!

Friday, October 29, 2010


So she might not quite have the prounounciation correct, but Natalie is LOVING gymnastics.

I took my camera a couple times to get some shots of my fledgling Olympian. (Okay...she'll probably be too tall to be a gymnast and won't be a star at ANY sport if she's got her mother's athletic prowress.)

her class... so cute!



Oh, the teeth!

Bouncing on the trampoline.

Our thought for gymnastics is that:
A. She's got a TON of energy and needs to run it off.
B. She falls down a fair amount and loves to climb on things, so learning to fall with flair could be a benefit.
C. This is a good predecessor to ballet (Lauren) or martial arts (Kevin). Can I get a HI-YA?

Side note: I mentioned recently that Liam couldn't wait to join the gymnastics class and Kevin about choked on what he was eating. Then he grunted something about "his son wasnt going to be in gymnastics!" There are two boys in Natalie's class of 5 kids now though and it's really more of a tumbling class to be honest. And tumbling can be totally manly! I think as long as I put him in some sort of manly camo shorts and shirt (ala Rocky Balboa) then Kevin will get used to the idea. Ha!

Let's See, Where Were We?

How can it have been so LONG? I feel like I've fallen into a black hole of "busy-ness". We've started preschool (as you've seen in my previous post) and it's been a terrific success. However, I find myself with MUCH less free time than before and I'm wondering if I'll ever get it back!

About 6 weeks ago now I broke my camera lens so I haven't taken many pictures since the incident. We were in the midst of an austerity month (a month where we just buy the essentials and pinch the extra spending). I was busy selling stuff on craigslist to earn a little slush fund and was resigned to pay for the new lens from the sale of one of my scrapbooking gadgets. Side note:I actually thought the whole camera was broken - so finding out that it was just the lens was a huge relief.

I had another lens (50mm fixed, for those of you that care) that was pinch hitting for me, but it was far from effective for day-to-day shooting. It's a portrait lens so a lot of my pictures were VERY close to their subjects.

Case in point:

I was across the room. I mean ALL THE WAY ACROSS and trying to get a photo of my closet's state of disarray so you could see the transformation (I've been on an organizing streak). I think you get the picture, but REALLY!

So I finally found a lens I wanted for half price on Craigslist and I asked Kevin to research buying a used lens for me so I wouldn't be shistered - especially since this money was coming from the hard-earned Craigslist sales I'd made. Apparently the site he was reading told him to turn the end of the lens to make sure it moved freely and noticed that our broken one did not. Deciding to man-handle it, as it was already broken, he twisted it much harder than normal and it popped back into action!

This is me when I realized (15 minutes before we're to buy the "new" lens) what had happened.

It's the "you've got to be kidding me" face.

We went ahead an got the other lens... just because it's SO much nicer (and apparently I need a backup). Its a Canon 28-135mm IS - a nice step up from my 18-55mm. I mean, it was pretty impressive that I could now take a picture like this from the back of the parking lot in the dark and STILL read the letters.

So now I just need to learn how to use it and all of it's nifty features. I'll just be working on that in my spare time. =P

Monday, October 11, 2010

Where We've Been

Aaackkk!  I know it's been forever.  And I constantly feel like I'm behind on this blog.  I haven't a moment to post today, but I do have a cross-post to offer to show what we've been up to these past few weeks. 

Natalie started preschool - but not the traditional kind.  Its a co-op with other women that are interested in homeschooling for preschool (at least) and possibly continue for elementary school.  I have to say I'm the least experienced in the group as far as teaching goes, but I'm happy to help and do when directed.  I know this is going to be a great group of little friends/classmates for Natalie (and Liam too as he grows up around it).  It's all very exciting to see it unfold. 

Take a look -->
The First Day of Preschool as blogged by my friend Erin:
The Second Day of School:

Friday, September 24, 2010


Dear Natalie,

Earlier this month you turned three. It felt like a natural progression until I sat down to show you videos of yourself when you were Liam's age. Just two short years ago we were oohing and ahhing over first steps, communicating with you in baby sign language and chasing you around the house trying to keep you from playing in toilets.

Now you're almost fully potty-trained, like to say "Actually" and dance with your father around the house calling him "Prince Phillip".


I suppose it DOES give me hope on Liam's extra cranky days. That this too shall pass. But then, maybe I shouldn't WANT them to pass. Maybe I should be cherishing every single minute rather than thinking about where we NEED TO BE or if LAUNDRY NEEDS DONE or if you're not EATING YOUR DINNER or if you're RIDING YOUR BROTHER AROUND LIKE A HORSE.

Your little birthday cookout was a fun time. We had a couple of your friends over and you shared the limelight with your brother, since he hadn't had an official party, per se. You were cool with it. Perhaps since you didnt know yet, but really I hope you're always cool with sharing things with him.

We started out the day giving you your big birthday present: a dollhouse. It was an instant hit. Thankfully - As your Nana and Mom had driven all over creation a few months ago trying to find it. Yes, I bought it off Craigslist, but its in near new condition and I got it for a steal! I think you'll probably appreciate stuff like that when you get bigger. I've already heard you walking around the house saying "I bought it on sale!". Ha!

You played with this all morning. I do think it was the best birthday present money I've ever spent on you thus far! Liam even liked it!!

Liam played King Kong

I'm not sure what this face means, but I'm sure it was something about how girls are stinky.

Later that day we went to Toys R Us for you to spend some birthday money from Mommo and Poppo. I'm not sure WHAT you're doing in this photo, but kid, you're too funny.
I've since come to think that Toys R Us is a black hole. We spent about an hour and a half there and while we DID have a good time, we were all about spent by the time we left. And this is what we left with...

Mommo and Poppo's money was put to good use!

Natalie, before you were born, your father and I SWORE we'd never push the princess thing. But I think we've come to realize that you absolutely LOVE princesses and there's not really much pushing we've done about it on our end. We also have realized that the whole "being polite and kind to puppies and woodland animals (to include your brother)" portion of the princess gig is a pretty nice quality and corrects our original thinking that all princesses were "divas". Sorry kid, no room for a diva in this house, but if Aurora or Ariel or Cinderella will get you to clean your room, be nice to your brother, go pee pee on the potty and any other such things, then bring on the princesses. They can march in my house and throw up all over everything if that helps! Well okay, I have to put my foot down at princess decor, but then again, I was never very much for "character-themed" decor. But I digress...

So the party was a "royal barbeque". Well, it was really a barbeque, but I figured you'd like to dress up with your friends so that's why we threw that in there. After having the party - which was so informal really - I think I realized that I'm never going to be one of those "party" moms. Don't get me wrong. I'm DEFINITLEY in to birthdays and celebration, but something about herding even a few 2 and 3 year olds along with their infant siblings was a little crazy. You seemed to love it though - so really that's all that counts.

Sequoia and Natalie
Combating the mosquitos out back.

Liam celebrating 1!

You blowing out three candles.  Your (and Liam's) crowns were made by my friend Heidi who I think bleeds craft glue or something.  She's a crafting queen!

So you're growing up so fast. It's hard for me to believe that you're in gymnastics and going to be starting preschool next week. It also shocks me that you can seemingly remember everything that happens to you - like the comments I get about you falling down in the CVS 6 months ago EVERYTIME WE PASS IT. Sheesh! With that sort of memory I've gotta watch what comes out of my mouth!

You're a pretty special part of our every day, Natalie. Your dad and I think you are just the best little girl we've ever known and are SO thankful we get to call you ours. I believe your dad's also said that it's okay with him if you live at home until you're thirty. Hmmm... I'm a little divided on that, especially if you still keep such a messy room, but I'd be totally fine with next door.

Mom and Dad