Saturday, April 30, 2011

Great At Blogging

I am so good at blogging! I'm so good at blogging I totally neglected to blog about the fact that my daughter is now two years old! Between housework, keeping up with two kids, Kindermusik, volunteering at my friend's store, working at Carpet One, restocking Fed By Faith, making deliveries to tornado victims, being sick for a week, preparing for our women's Bible conference in July, going to our ladies group at church and small group, starting our food co-op pickups, mystery shops, doctor's and dentist appointments, and our Easter drama at church, all happening in the last two weeks, I simply haven't had the time to blog.

Now I just have to remember everything I've been wanting to blog about.

One thing I was so excited about was my last appointment at the dentist. I have bragged about them before but I just really love all the hygienists there and the dentist. I have been there three times since Hunter was born to have cavities filled that I couldn't have done while I was pregnant. So I am real friendly with all the employees there! Anyway, at my last appointment, we were celebrating because it was my last cavity being filled. As I was checking out, one of the hygienists came up to me and told me they chose me to be the patient of the week! It turns out they do choose a patient every week. I was definitely more excited than I probably should have been. I was telling everyone I could about it! They gave me a very nice travel mug and Starbucks card. So sweet!!

I've been working at my friend Allison's store once or twice a week to help her out a little bit. Brianna and Hunter love being out there, and it helps Allison get to work in the back room and catch up some, so it's a win-win! Unfortunately, every time I go there I find something I want to buy for the kids! The first time it was a magnetic easel which I am so glad I found! Both Bri and Hunter love it already! Since then I have racked up on clothes for both of them! The store has such cute stuff and such a variety! I just love being out there for a few hours a week.

Our food co-op has already started for the summer and we are loving it!! Our first box had asparagus, lettuce, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, strawberries, spinach, onions... I think that's it. Ohhhh, it's so good! On top of that we planted a bigger garden this year. Stephen tilled an area about 17x15 and we planted okra, carrots, onions, green beans, cucumbers, zucchini, squash, butternut squash, sunflowers, strawberries, green peppers, and watermelon. I think that's everything. I can't wait to be outside keeping up the garden this summer! Brianna already loves being out there. She even says, "Water garden!" She helped plant most of the seeds. We had a great time getting everything ready. The watermelon has already sprouted... now where in the world am I going to transplant it??

We had our annual Easter drama at church which was absolutely amazing as always, and the best thing is that because I had a non-speaking role, I only had to go to the last couple of night practices. I didn't make it to sunrise service on Sunday for Easter because although one child was up (Hunter), by the time Brianna got up, Hunter was back in bed! Stephen went to church at 5am to cook breakfast with the other men, so he just stayed at church and we stayed at home. We all went to lunch at Granny and Granddaddy's though, which was incredible as always.

I think I should post Brianna's birthday party pictures since they are almost a month old now.

We had her party after our Vegas trip at a local park, Camelot.

Bri got TONS of cool gifts. See that watering can? It is helping greatly in our garden!

After opening just a few presents, Bri was very bored with that whole process. We ended up opening the rest at home.

And then on her actual birthday, the 18th, we Skype'd with our Georgia family so they could see her open their presents that she didn't open at her party.

And just so you can remember what Hunter looks like:

I still didn't blog about everything I wanted to, but in consideration of everyone reading this, I'll stop now. I'll try to blog more soon!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter 2011

I am so ready for our kids to be old enough to really start traditions this year! Most of the traditions we have are things I grew up doing with my parents that I have really wanted to carry on.

One thing is an Easter egg tree! I know a lot of people do this but seriously, if I ever drove past my mom's house and didn't see an Easter egg tree in the month of April, I would be so disappointed! Seeing an Easter egg tree brings back such awesome memories of egg hunts with the Taylors (our favorite neighbors ever) and Easter baskets and sunrise services and Easter dramas and the list goes on and on!

I know our kids are only two years old and six months old, but Brianna can definitely understand plenty of things. I try to do something special almost every day since we're just at home. So a couple of Mondays ago, our "special" thing was to make our own Easter egg tree!

Never mind the fact that it's on an ugly ole' Crepe Myrtle that looks deathly ill (I think that is how it's supposed to look though). It was fun and it's cheerful and I love seeing it every time I pull into the driveway!! I bought those plastic eggs probably four years ago when everything was 75% off after Easter. So start buying up that kind of stuff now, people with little babies!

Then, yesterday, we spent part of the afternoon dying Easter eggs! Now, like I said, Bri is only two years old. She doesn't exactly get the whole concept of putting hard-boiled eggs into cups of dye, waiting for them to set, putting stickers on, coloring them, waiting for them to dry, etc etc. Can you imagine even trying to get her to sit still for all of that? Uh, no. That's why this year we did - Tie Dye Eggs!! (Just typing that made me realize - this is #18 on my 101 in 1001 list! Wahoo!)

I do realize it's now only about seven hours until Easter, but for all you procrastinators, here is the fastest way ever to dye Easter eggs!! Perfect for two-year olds and people with ADD. Kidding.

Step 1: Boil as many eggs as you want to dye. I always do more than I think we'll need because inevitably a couple will break during the boiling process.

Step 2: Place several of the eggs in a colander in the kitchen sink. Splash them with white vinegar. I used about 1/4 cup of vinegar for every five eggs.

Step 3: Drip yellow food coloring on the eggs. Gently agitate the colander for a few seconds to help the color spread. Let the color set on the eggs for 30 seconds.

Step 4: Repeat step 3 with up to two shades (any more and the colors will get muddy), allowing each color to set for 30 seconds.

Step 5: After the last color has set, give the eggs a light rinse with water and let them drain for a minute or two. Air-dry them on paper towels.

The more you rinse them, the lighter the shades will become. So pretty!

I'm so glad to be able to start this so early with my kids (rather, "kid" since Hunter was completely oblivious...) and I can't wait until next year. Next year we will have a three year old and 18-month old so I bet they'll both want to be involved! That should be fun... interesting... crazy... hectic... SO WORTH IT!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

#79 - Keep my car clean for one entire week

I realize the way I wrote this out - "one entire week" may have some of you raising an eyebrow. I assure you, this was really hard for me. Case in point - it is April and I only just now was able to keep my car clean for an entire week. I guess between taking our own recycling, taking our own trash, taking loads to and from church for Fed By Faith, donating items to Fifi's, The Classy Paci, Goodwill, and Coalition, plus all my shopping excursions... my car is ALWAYS LOADED DOWN!!

I tried to sneak in my "clean car week" while we were in Vegas for four days... but Stephen just rolled his eyes when I suggested it, and I guess it would have been cheating. So the day we got back (well, really Saturday the 9th) I committed to keeping my car clean. The hope was that I would keep it clean for one week... then two... then a month... and so forth and so on. I am proud to say that every single day since then I have kept my car free from clutter. I may have bags of donation items ready to go, but there are no Goldfish to be found under the seat. No empty water bottles from three days ago. No gum wrappers. No loose change. One book and one musical instrument are kept in the back seat for Brianna but that's it.

Ahhhh. It feels so good. I hope I can keep it up!

Spring Cleaning - The Kitchen

Note: I began this post on March 17 and am just getting around to posting it. So sad. It took me forever to load the pictures!! Oh well, better late than never.

I have really been in a cleaning frenzy lately. I kind of went into it on my frugal blog, but I think this post goes here, on the personal blog. Who knows? Basically what I'm saying is you should follow both blogs so you don't miss anything. :) So my spring cleaning adventure begins in the kitchen. Now, I had already gone over the counters on this section of the kitchen, so that was one less thing for me to do. First step - the baking cabinets.

Basically, the top shelf was a mish-mash of stuff - duplicate herbs, sugars, and other random items. The second shelf is measuring cups, sugar for the coffee, and more herbs. The lowest shelf is for items I use very frequently. It had all just kind of gotten out of order as I move things around hurriedly when I'm cooking, or when Stephen puts things back, or just because there's so much stuff in there!

I took everything off the shelves and wiped them down. Then I put everything back on the shelves (discarding some old herbs and sauces, and I combined all my powdered sugar into one large container which gave me some extra room).

Ahhhh, so much easier on the eyes! I also keep a list of what I have in here so I don't go and buy baking powder when I don't really need it or yet another box of powdered sugar! That has been really handy to me. Next to be cleaned were the cabinets. This was pretty easy. I started a box upstairs that will go in the attic of kitchen items we haven't used in a really long time but I'm not quite ready to give away yet. This includes a couple of bread baskets, extra bowls, our wok, and extra pans, but I'm not saving the extra cookie jar or the sixth (or more) cake pan I saw. Space was immediately cleared up and I'm already breathing easier!

I am loving these great chalkboard decals I got for just a couple of bucks! They are so cute, and now no one is confused about what is in the jar!

I was able to convert this unused cookie jar:

into a jar for powdered sugar. Voila!

Another thing that you just have to do is clean the oven and refrigerator! Now I clean the refrigerator every other week. But moving the oven and scrubbing it down is a once-a-year affair! I wish I had a "before" picture... actually, no I don't. It would gross you out. Tell you what, move your oven and look at the floor and post your picture. Then I will feel better about my oven's dirty little secret. BUT, my oven is clean now! At least for this year!!

Next on the agenda: the cabinets. Most of the cabinets just needed a little straightening, but one of the ones that was out of control was the one above the stove. It was half cookbooks and half miscellaneous eBay items.

Oh, and not to mention the random cookbooks in the living room.

Found a home for all the ebay stuff, and now my cookbooks fit here. Much better!

If you recall, my computer crashed several weeks ago. I finally got around to ordering a new one, and I decided when I was setting it up that this area needed a makeover.



The other cabinet that was out of control was the tupperware: I got rid of a bunch of sizes we never use and some miscellaneous items in this drawer and it's much better now!

Here is my kitchen spring cleaning list, if you haven't started yet and are needing some ideas:

  • Clean the oven. Clean the stove top. Move the range away from the wall and clean the floor and cabinets around it.
  • Empty out the food cupboards. Throw away old food and old spices. Wipe down the shelves. Reorganize and restock. Make a list of items needing to be replaced.
  • Empty out the refrigerator. Wipe down the shelves, wash the drawers. Throw away old food and condiments. Make a list of items needing to be replaced. Clean the outside of the refrigerator. (Note: I do this once every two weeks so that it doesn't build up and makes for a fast clean-up job!)
  • Remove everything from the counter tops. Wipe down the counter tops, backsplashes, appliances. (Note: I try to do this every night right before going to bed. It, too, makes for less cleaning in the long run!)
  • Break the garbage can down. Clean and sanitize.
  • I have a large bookshelf with cookbooks: Pull cookbooks off shelf. Wipe down shelves. Dust cookbooks. Restock and reorganize.
  • Steam mop the floors and baseboards.
Some other things that you may need to do that I don't do just because it's not necessary:
  • Vacuum any vents.
  • Clean any walls, door frames and door handles.
  • Wash the front of the cupboards.
  • Polish your stainless steel.
  • Wash curtains and windows.
  • Remove any light fixtures and wash them.
  • Pull furniture away from walls and clean behind the furniture.
And most importantly, don't let your cleaning overtake you! I came home one night to see an item added to my checklist... Stephen had written in, "Enjoy your husband!!!!!!!!!"

Obviously I was spending too much time cleaning and not enough time with him. :) Lesson learned. I'll never clean again. Just kidding!!

Eventually I will post the rest of my rooms as I complete spring cleaning!

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Convenient Groom

I am actually one of those people who enjoy reading Christian fiction books. Admittedly, many times they are utterly predictable and somewhat corny, but they always have a happy ending! I chose to review this book, The Convenient Groom by Denise Hunter, because it seemed a little different from other Christian romance books, and the story seemed pretty unbelievable.

The concept is that a marriage expert gets ditched just a few hours before her wedding. Shockingly, an acquaintance offers to step in at the last minute and marry her so she can save face. Don't worry, though, he's secretly been in love with her for a long time. He sees this as his chance to woo her and make her fall in love with him. You can probably predict the ending of the book from that brief synopsis.

Did I know what the ending of this book was going to be? Yes. Did it make the story less enjoyable? Not really. The book itself was really well-written. The characters used language that was conversational, and the book was very easy to read. I would recommend this to people who enjoy Christian romance novels.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

You can click on this picture to enlarge it if you can't see it. We got new blinds and were happy to see that Jesus was the one who assembled them. Jealous much??

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Las Vegas 2011

We have been greatly blessed with grandparents who can't get enough of babysitting their grandchildren, thank goodness!! Last week, thanks to four of those grandparents, Stephen and I were able to take an adult-only vacation to Las Vegas, where we hadn't vacationed in about 8 years, I think. We went twice before we turned 21 and we hadn't been there since then, so we were curious to see how different this trip would be from others.

We were supposed to fly out of Raleigh at 11am on Tuesday morning. Unfortunately, (after mom and dad had already made their way to our house to begin their babysitting stint) our flight got delayed due to high winds in Philadelphia, where we were connecting. It was only delayed to noon, so we went on to the airport. Once we got there, we found the flight had been delayed yet again to 1:30... and then again to 2:30. At that point we finally switched our flight. We were supposed to be in Vegas at 12ish their time, and it was already creeping up to that time! Switching flights meant we would fly from Raleigh to Charlotte, and then Charlotte to Vegas. Fine by us, we were just ready to get there!! So we boarded the looooooong flight from Raleigh to Charlotte (about 25 minutes) and then had an hour and a half to kill in Charlotte. The Charlotte airport is super nice, so we headed for the USO, which is basically a little getaway for military members. We holed up in there, checked our email, got some snacks, and watched a movie. The time there went really fast and we were finally on our way to Vegas! Due to the lengthy flight and direction of the winds, we didn't reach Vegas until about 9:45 or 10pm their time (about 1am our time). Once we checked in we were still pretty wired (and Stephen had gotten a good nap on the plane) so we just decided to sight-see. We were staying at the MGM Grand so we just walked around... I mean in this one hotel there are approximately 25 restaurants, 8 nightclubs, a couple of theaters, a lion habitat, and of course an insane amount of gambling tables! So there was a lot to see! We finally headed to bed some time after 1am which is a big deal for us Stephen.

I did find some pictures of our hotel that I took:

We were up around 7:00 or so the next morning, feeling great and rested even though we only got about five hours of sleep, which I guess was due to it really being 10am by our internal clocks. We headed off to Starbucks (I normally do not advocate Starbucks but I knew without some caffeine I would crash later) and then just started walking the strip. There is so much to do in Las Vegas. We had planned our trip very carefully to get in everything we wanted to do, but we wanted to be able to make "side trips" along the way as well. So we just started walking!

This is the pub that we ate lunch at. It's called Nine Fine Irishmen and is in the New York New York casino. We were at New York New York anyway because they have this really cool outdoor roller coaster which is actually on the roof of the casino. Actually, I do have some pictures of the coaster, although it doesn't really give you that good of an idea of the track or length or anything. It's actually a fantastic coaster which would rival anything at most amusement parks. It's even cooler because you're flying around on top of a hotel...

One thing our hotel had was a restaurant called Rainforest Cafe. It was very cool and definitely a great place to eat if you have kids. It had a huge aquarium (I took pictures and they're all blurry), snakes that drop out of trees, monkeys that swing in the trees, huge mushrooms you can eat under, just to name a few things. Very fun. We didn't eat there but it was cool just to walk around it.

Like I said, our hotel had a lion habitat which was a free thing in the lobby. You just walked past these lions that were chilling with their trainers.

I have no clue how many casinos are actually in Las Vegas. I know there are more now than there were the last time we were there. We tried to stop in almost every one, because they all have something different to draw you there. And it's such an easy walk along the strip, I mean, what else did we have to do?

This is probably what Stephen dreams about every night:

Dad and I could probably eat this whole Statue of Liberty between just the two of us! (It's made out of just Jelly Belly jellybeans!)

Excalibur hotel:

This is inside the Excalibur casino:

It's not just anywhere that Superman is just walking around. Although Stephen did wonder why he was taking the bridge rather than flying...

This is inside the Luxor hotel/casino. If you know anything about Criss Angel, you know he loves motorcycles. There are motorcycles he owns all throughout the hotel. You can't really see this picture but this is just one of them. They are very fancy.

We went to a shark aquarium inside the Mandalay Bay hotel. It's the only predator-based aquarium in North America. This fish was about three times the size of my hand. I love aquariums but my pictures always come out really dark or really blurry, so I don't have many pictures from this part of our trip.

Outside the Luxor:

Paris hotel/casino:

I know this is weird, but these are the bathrooms in the Paris hotel. Very fancy!!

Huge H&M along "Miracle Mile" in Planet Hollywood casino. Like heaven! (I love H&M)

The Miracle Mile is a string of stores in the Planet Hollywood casino. We stopped in several stores, but one of the cool things is that they have an indoor thunderstorm every hour. When we arrived it was two minutes to the hour, so of course we hung around to watch it. There was a lot of lightning and thunder, and then it started pouring rain over a designated area! I videotaped it, but I'm pretty sure most people have seen enough storms that you wouldn't want to watch the whole thing...

One of the casinos we lingered in was Bellagio. It has a conservatory that is open to the public for free 24/7.

This is the ceiling:

The outside of Bellagio:

The Cosmopolitan casino/hotel:

Very cool bench inside the Cosmopolitan:

The chandeliers that stretched from the ceilings to the floor (this is from the second floor but they start on the fourth)

When we got to Vegas we were supposed to get free show tickets to see Terry Fator. Unfortunately, something happened with our vouchers and he was sold out on the night we wanted to go, and we couldn't get tickets. They said we could see any other show, so we chose to see Criss Angel. Just sayin', if you ever have to pay to see him, you're probably going to regret it. Our tickets were included in our package so we didn't feel any great loss.

Of course we had to eat at one of the many famous buffets in Vegas! We ate at the Mandalay Bay so we could get a package deal with our aquarium visit. It was soooo good! Leila always reminds me of how many pounds of crab legs I put away the last time we ate at one of these. This time I think I ate more cake and sushi than anything else! Mmm... just thinking about it makes me hungry!

We left Vegas on a dreary, windy day. We flew back to Charlotte, where we were supposed to have a three hour layover. We got there and Stephen was itching to get home, so we switched flights to one that was leaving a couple of hours earlier than ours.

Oh, by the way, on the flight from Charlotte to Vegas, we were seated on the airplane next to a guy who brought his dog on the flight. How interesting.

And for those who are keeping score, yes, we left Vegas with more money than we had when we arrived. Success!