Thursday, December 29, 2011

Tonight's Food Masterpiece

Simple, Homey and Humble. That's how I make my meals a masterpiece.  Tonight's dinner for my family was Old Fashioned Beef Stew served over whole wheat noodles, Corn Muffins and Chocolate Crackle Cookies for dessert.

This is my entry for the Zanussi Cookers make every meal a masterpiece competition

FREE baby wipes here!

Seventh Generation is giving sample packs of baby wipes to the first 300 people who use the link on my blog!

 You will actually receive two...YES two ...samples.  You can keep one and pass one on to a friend so they can experience how great Seventh Generation's Free and Clear Baby Wipes are, too!  The wipes clean baby's bottom with plant-derived ingredients; no alcohol, synthetic cleaners, dyes or fragrances.   They are whitened without chemicals containing chlorine and are soft  and  safe.

You’ll need to sign up for the Seventh Generation Rewards Program in order to redeem your samples, but that is quick and easy.    Use THIS LINK to claim your samples.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Review: Nero Kwik Media Photo Book

Recently, I had the opportunity to try Nero Kwik Media software and to create a photo book of my own.  In the past,  I have made other personalized, photo type projects like photo books, greeting cards and calenders.  I have really enjoyed putting these projects together and when this opportunity with Nero came up, I was excited to give it a try.

Something I found unique with the creation of this book was the Nero Kwik Media software.  Before you being your project, you must download this software.  Its is Windows based and was easy to install.  It automatically finds the photos stored on your computer and has them ready for you to choose from when you begin creating.  I had some photos still on my camera that had not been downloaded to my computer yet.  I realized this after I had installed the Nero software but adding in these additional photos was simple to do as well.  With other photo projects I have done, you are required to upload your photos to the web to add and edit them. 

You have the choice to make  photo  books, calendars, and greeting cards with Nero.  As I said before, I made a photo book.  You have several options for your photo books like choice of cover material and theme/layout.  I chose a black leather cover and the black page layout.  I did feel the choices of layouts were a bit limited when compared to what other companies do offer, however.

Once you get your book options chosen you can pick your photos you want to use.  Once you have made your decision, you arrange them in the order you want them to appear in your book and --boom--it automatically places them in your photo book.  While this ***might*** make the creation of the book quicker for some people it brought some big issues for me.  I intended to have certain photos placed on the same pages together.  While I had arranged these photos together in the order I wanted them place in my book in the earlier step,  pages within the book may have one photo space or two or three or four spaces for photos per page.  So although they load onto the pages in order, photos may not end up together on pages.  Therefore, after my book was created, I had lots of work to do to choose new page layouts and/or moving of my photos to do so that they were place together as I intended.  While this is completely possible using this software, it was pretty time consuming.  If I were to use this software again to create a book, I would keep this in mind and choose photos or a theme where I wouldn't mind what the final layout was.  For example, a wedding photo book or a book that highlighted the things we did over the summer etc.  I would not try to make a book where I would have various photos of one of my children individually on their own page.

Since my book was covered in the black leather and I had chosen the sleek black page layout, I thought it would be fabulous to have a book completely done in black and white photos.  So after spending a very long time getting my photos and pages arranged properly, I began the photo editing process.   The software has some great editing options, like the ability to add vignettes to your photos.  I really liked the way it showed a preview of your photo before you chose the particular editing application, too, so you could see what it would look like with that editing being done.  I did, however, find the editing and saving of the editing photo to go quite slowly.  More slowly that what I have experienced with web based photo programs.  I also had many occurrences where the software sort of locked up or something and kicked me back to the beginning pages where you choose what project you want to create.  It does save your work automatically along the way, so my project was not lost, but, it took a while to get back into my project.  It also would not save the current photo I had been editing so I had to go back and re edit it.  This became so frustrating and also time consuming that I gave up on making my whole book black and white and only made the first half that way and the rest natural color.  I also had an issue with a few of my photos after I edited them.  When they would load, edited, back onto my book pages, a black band would appear at the bottom of the photo cutting off that bottom portion of the photograph.  I could not figure out why it was happening and don't know if it was a software glitch or operator error or what.  Like I said, it was only occasional, and random, so I could never really make a connection there.  It was annoying because I would then either have to chose a new photo, if too much was cut off, or re size my photo and crop off that black band, or reload my photo to the project and re edit it so it would come out right.

When you are happy with your project and give it the final approval, Nero will automatically upload it so it can be bought and printed.  I did experience some issues with this process as well.  My uploading quit a couple times, I am not sure why, and also once the uploading begins you should be given a window where you do your actual purchasing of your book.  The window to purchase did not pop up for me and I was very confused as to how to purchase.  I had to go back and approve my book several times before this all worked out smoothly and the purchase window appeared.  

My book was printed and arrived in the mail very quickly.  I was sent an email when my book was printed and shipping which was nice.   Overall I was impressed by the final project and think it looks very nice.  The leather cover is very appealing and high quality looking.  I think it would look great displayed on a shelf or end table. 

Some photos of my book (pardon the photo glare I was getting tonight, we do not have good lighting in our house):

a black and white page of Jenson

another black and white page layout

And moving to my natural color pages, one of Miliana, Evan's seen adjoining

Another page

Disclosure: This post is part of a SocialMoms product evaluation, for which I’ve been selected. One free photo book was made available to me for review purposes. I’ve been compensated for my time with a $100 PayPal payment. The opinions expressed in this post are mine and don’t necessarily reflect the opinions of SocialMoms or Nero.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

ten tips for de-cluttering and organizing toys in your kids’ playroom or bedroom

I remember when my first child was a baby.  We had a few little toys for him.  We had a bookcase in his room with the few little toys on it.  He got older.  The toys became more plentiful.  The bookcase was over run.  We bought a toy box.  The toy box fit in his room and it was so easy to keep the toys in order and controlled.  There was no clutter around the house.  It was great.  Time went on.  There came to be more and more toys.  We had a second child.  We built a playroom by finishing our basement.  It was great.  There were shelves and all the toys were so neat and organized.  Time passed.  The toys became more plentiful.  Now we had boy toys and girl toys.  We had baby toys and toddler toys.  We had baby #3.  The toys became more plentiful.  Now we recently had baby #6.  The toys are very plentiful!

So what can you do to keep toys organized in your home?  Is it a losing battle?  Do you just throw in the towel and give up while there are children in your household?  Here are some tips for keeping the toys under control!

1.   If you have  basement, that just might be the perfect space to get toys out of your other more commonly used living space.  If its not finished living space right now you can semi finish it for not too much money.  Buying large rugs or even a piece of carpet and  loose laying it rather than installing it is an easy fix for floor comfort.  Buy portable shelving units available at many stores or buy brackets and wood to create shelving.  Of course if you have the money, finishing the space with drywall etc is preferred, but for a quick and easy fix, this works great.

2.  If toys are currently kept in your main living areas of your home, like the family room or living room, move them to the children's bedrooms if you don't have the option of using space elsewhere as a dedicated playroom.  When there are toys flung about everything instantly looks messy.  If you get drop by company you are constantly apologizing for the condition of your home.  You can't sit and have a conversation or watch tv or read in your living room because the children are playing too loud or there are toys all over your furniture.  Sending the toys to the bedrooms where they are less likely to be seen  by guests or in your way helps keep you happy.

3.  Use plastic storage bins.  They come in all sizes and designs.  All shapes and colors.  Its a great way to pack thigns up and away and keep things lookign neat.  Each puzzle can go into a shoe size box.  The big race track set in a large tote box.  They stack, they line up well.  They just keep things neat.

4.  If you have a lot of toys but are short on space, consider rotating tthings.  Every week put out a few different types of toys out where they can be played with.  At the end of the week, pack those away, and put out new toys from your toys stash.  The currently unused stash can be stored anywhere, attic, basement, garage just somewhere out of the way.  This will keep things interesting and new for your children but also keep things from being overly cluttered and unorganized.

5. Regualry go through and inspect the toys.  If they are broken get rid of them.  Toys that just sit around because they are no longer usable take up a lot of space.

6.  When your children out grow toys, get rid of them or pack them away if you think you will have use for them at a later time.  Don't just let toys that are not getting used sit there.  Make space for something else.  This, of course, is much trickier if you have a larger family, like me.  There are children at many age levels and toy levels.  If you have one or two children close in age, however, its much easier to accomplish!

7.  Don't go overboard with gifts.  Some parents buy buy buy for every birthday, Christmas and other gift giving occasions.  The result is lots and lots of stuff!  If you want to spend a lot of money...that's your prerogative...but consider buying one or two bigger ticket items rather than bunches and bunches of less expensive stuff.  You will have less to keep organized that way.

8.  Teach your children to clean up after themselves.  Make sure you have your children pick up one thing before getting another out.  Many toys  being out at once creates a big disorganized mess.  It looks bad.  Its also harder to clean up.  You can't just scoop up all the mess and put it in its bin and be done.  You have to pick up each piece individually and decide where it goes.  Often pieces and parts end up in the wrong spot.  Later they can not be found and the toy may not even be able to be played with  since pieces are missing.  Its just much easier to clean up one thing before getting anything else out.

9.  Set up a clean up time at the end of every day.  Sometime before pajama time.  Some time before bath time.  Some time before snack time or story time or bedtime.  Make this an all out pick it all up and have it perfect clean up!  Everything gets put away.  Now if they were picking up one thing before getting another out during the day, this will be much easier.  But even still, with pretty good clean up s going on throughout the day, children are apt to leave this and that behind.  Now is the time to get it all cleaned up!  I like to call it "vacuumable clean!"  yes, nothing left out so that a vacuum can easily be ran through!

10.  Look for the new Hot Wheels Wall Tracks.  They let your child race Hot Wheels not on the floor but on the wall!  Its a great way to keep the mess off the floor and its something new and exciting for the kids as well!  Its also a great way to keep the baby from getting into the toys your child is playing with.  I know my children would love that too!  You can check them out here

Clutter and disorganization drive me crazy.  Its a good thing there are ways to keep from being over run by the toy clutter! 

“I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Hot Wheels® blogging program, for a gift card worth $40. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

ten tips for preparing your home for your new baby's arrival

We recently welcomed another new baby into our house.  Jenson is our 6th child so I have prepared for the arrival of a baby quite a few times.  So what are some tips that I would give to parents who may be getting their home ready for a new little family member?  Let me share 10 tips.

1.  Get baby's clothing ready.  For first time parents that probably means buying a lot of new things or getting everything they got at their baby shower washed up and put away.  But what does it mean for us who already have clothing from other children?  Well I keep all my children's outgrown clothing in big plastic bins and write on the outsides the size of the clothing and gender.  So before my new baby arrives I send my husband up into the attic with the mission to find the bins labeled BOY 0-3 clothing, unisex bin and also the 3-6 month clothing because its really hard to get my husband to go into the attic and my babies are born very big and grow very fast so they fit into 0-3 sizes for a maximum of about 3 weeks.  Then I wash everything up and sort through putting back anything that won't match the season the current baby will be born in. 

2.  Since I have had other children before I have all the baby equipment as well.  So Before baby's arrival I like o go through and get all the baby equipment out and clean it up real good.  I also make sure everything that might be battery operated, like the baby swing, is still in working order and that it has fresh new batteries in it.  I make sure everything else is in good shape with no undue wear etc to it also.  Some of my baby equipment is now 13 years old so it important to make sure it is still safe and in good shape for a new baby.  Remember things like car seats have expiration dates, too.  So you will need to check to make sure big brother or sister's carseats are still within their suggested usage dates.  Also, you need to make sure there are not any recalls on any items you may have.

3.  I like to stock up on food before the new baby gets here too.  We have 2 full size refrigerators in our home plus a big freezer.  This allows me to stock up on just about anything I want to.   I make sure we have lots of the items my family goes through a lot of....milk, yogurt, cereal, etc.  Plus I like to stock up on easy to prepare or heat and serve type foods that my older children can make themselves and the younger ones to eat.  That way if I am not feeling well when I first bring a new baby home or even days when I am just real busy carrng for a particularly fussy baby, the children can fend for themselves for lunch.

4.  Along the lines of stocking food, its a great idea to make a good stash of meals and freeze them, too.  There are many sites on line dedicated to make ahead and freezer cooking.  You can find some great recipes that are freezer friendly.  having healthy homemade meals is especially important when there are other children in the household.  Being prepared a head of time like this will keep your family well nourished and help you, the new mama, peace of mind too.  

5.  When adding a new little member to your household its a good idea to think about your home's safety too.  Its a great time to think about your smoke detectors.   Did you know that it is recommended that you get new smoke detectors every so often?  Yes they should be replaced periodically.  So even if you have an adequate number of detectors in your home maybe its time for new ones.  We recently replaced all our regular ones with ones that work with each other.  If one detector goes off, they all do.  Since our home has a very spread out floor plan, this is great for us.  A detector couple be going off at the other side of the house and you would never hear it in the master bedroom.  I really like the safety these give.

6.  Since I make all my laundry detergent, before I have a new baby I like to create quite a large stash of detergent to have ready and waiting for me.  I get several 5 gallon buckets and make enough to fill each.  I do lots of laundry and adding a new baby creates even more than ever before.  Not only are there baby diapers, if you use cloth, and baby clothing but there are extra clothes that you end up going through due to baby mishaps that soil your clothing. Although making detergent is pretty easy, its nice to know I won't have to worry about it for several months at a time when I have so much else to do.   If you don't make your own detergent, its a good idea to stock up a good supply of store bought detergents.  A good choice is something like Seventh Generation's detergent.  It will be safe for baby's delicate skin and good for the environment as well.

7.  Getting a baby nursery completed is usually at the top of new parent's to do lists.  Its a good idea to get things like painting or new carpeting done a good time in advance of the new baby's arrival so that these things have enough time to "air out".  Things like new carpet have a lot of chemicals in them that can release into the air especially in the first weeks after they arrive in your home.  Not something you want your baby's new, delicate lungs breathing.  make sure to accomplish these things well in advance.

8.  Babies grow quickly.  Before you know it they are mobile and into everything.  Its a good time to go ahead and start your baby proofing before the baby even arrives.  install outlet covers and other safety devices.  look for cords that are within baby's reach.  Move breakable items to higher locations.  Look for sharp edges on furniture etc and see what can be done to make them safer.  Install safety gates on stairs.  You will probably find things you forgot to take care of once your baby does hit the crawling stage but by starting early you will be ahead of the game and ready.

9.  Another safety precaution to take is to look at your hot water heater.  Too hot water can be very dangerous for babies.   Babies' skin is thinner than adults and therefore can burn more easily.   It is recommended that you keep your hot water heater to below 120 degrees.  Water will be hot enough for you but not dangerous

10.  Even if you use cloth diapers its a good idea to stock up on some disposables diapers and wipes.  There may be times when the laundry just doesn't get done and you end up short on cloth diapers.  Or you might want to use disposables for trips or outings with baby.  Of course if you are using cloth, one main reason may be because you worry about the health concerns that may be associated with some disposable diapers.  A good option is to use diapers like Seventh Generation's Free & Clear diapers.  They are free of chlorine, latex, fragrances and petroleum-based lotions and come in a range of sizes from newborn to stage 6. Moms who have used them on their babies report that the diapers are soft to the touch and have exceptional absorbency.  They also have baby wipes that are free of alcohol, synthetic dyes and fragrances and whitened without chemicals containing chlorine.  I do have occasions when I use disposables and I think Seventh Generation is a great option. 

Preparing for a new baby is always fun and exciting.  Even when you have done it many times over, it can make you wonder what you have forgot and if you are truly ready.    Its always nice to review with other parents and get new ideas and suggestions. 

“I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Seventh Generation blogging program, for a gift card worth $50. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Introducing Jenson!

This young man is Jenson Elliott Neiding

Jenson was born weighing 9 pounds and 4 ounces

Since Jenson had no real plans on being born, we attempted to force him out by having my water broke.  When that failed we stepped up our efforts via an induction.  After many hours and very slow progress  I began to worry that the induction would be a failure and a C Section would follow.  I was checked for progesss and found to still be sitting at 5 cms.  Again.  I got up to use the bathroom.  I got back into my bed and suddenly had my first painful contraction.  I was just thinking "good, maybe we will get some progress now" when I had my second painful contraction that followed the first by about 30 seconds.  I looked at my monitor and saw it had lasted a minute.  Then the third contraction hit, again 30 seconds later.  This was followed by an undeniable urge to push.  It was very confusing for me since I was just checked minutes ago and was 5 cm.  I tried to grab my nurse call button but the next pushing urge hit me strong.  I couldn't even grasp my call button and was wiggling around the bed in agony trying to resist my urge to bear down.  My husband looked over at me and asked "what are you doing?  Is there something wrong?"

 My nurses arrived and told me NOT to push.  My dr had not been called since I was having no progress minutes ago.  I was forced onto my side to wait for my dr.  My dr lived a town over and had to be woken from her sleep during these early morning hours.  I was given strict instructions NOT to push and to pant through it.  The pushing urge was one of the strongest I have ever had in childbirth.  Each contraction it got harder and harder to resist that pushing urge.  I blew and panted and squeezed my face muscles.  The start of each contraction would send me into a near panic as I knew it would mean having to resist that undeniable urge.  I whimpered and begged and swore I couldn' t stop myself any longer.  If I even dared start to make the tiniest push a room full of nurses began yelling at me.  Finally my dr walked into the room and I was allowed to roll over and deliver my boy. 

Later the nurse told me they were sure he would be born without pushing before the dr arrived.  Had he been a smaller sized baby he surely would have. 

The whole incident left my face with large bruises on it and broken capilaries from the strong pressure i put on it during my long wait.  I am experiencing quite a bit of soreness post partum, much more so than some of my other births, even with babies larger than Jenson was.  I am not sure if it was from the wait or not.  One problem I have is incredible pain in my tailbone. 

Jenson is a nice, calm baby who is a nursing champ.  He does, however, enjoy his late nights that extend into early mornings without sleep. 

Check out Ohanarama

My children love playing computer games.  If you have children I am sure they love their computer time as well.  Parents of Elementary school aged children will definitely want to check out

My family has really enjoyed this site.  The games are really fun.  I am not really into playing computer games but found several games on Ohanarama's site to be very fun and really quite addicting too.  

I enjoyed the game Drop 3 the most.  I also found myself playing Tip Tower and Max Damage for long periods of time!  

My children enjoyed all the games as well.  My daughter likes Max Destruction best.  She also enjoys the word search game and the game Coin Confusion.  

One of my sons was grounded from playing computer so he was not able to play when  we first signed up.  He was eagerly awaiting his grounding to end so he could log into and start playing.  

We would have signed in and played more often, however, I gave birth earlier this week and my children were all staying away from home with friends while I was in the hospital so they were not on their computers at  all.    If I was not so busy with a newborn (and 5 other children!) I would be signing in more often as well.

One really neat and unique feature on Ohanarama is that you not only try to beat your own old scores on each game, you compete against your family members as well.  If you beat someone signed up as a family member's score, you get a notification at the end of the game that you beat their score, it also sends a message to the person beaten's email account letting them know your score has been defeated.  It really keeps your interest in playing the games up....and the competition is exciting.  My daughter will come running into my room announcing she just beat another of my scores.  My son moments ago came in and proudly announced he beat on of his sister's scores. 

This would be really fun for families that are seperated for periods of time due to a parent traveling.  Step families would find this a nice way to stay connected with one another when they spend time apart too, I think.  If you have grandparents that live further away so that visits are infrequent, this would be a neat way for them to "play" with their grandchildren.

I highly suggest signing up for Ohanarama.  I honestly think you and your children will enjoy it. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

10 tips for keeping your family safe on the road

 Summertime is here!  This past winter was long, cold and snowy.  I am so glad to see nice weather.  Along with summer comes road trip plans for a lot of people.  Whether you are traveling across town or across the country you want to make sure your family is safe.  What can you do to help ensure your road trips will be as safe as possible?  Here are some suggestions for you: 

 1.  How is your windshield looking these days? 
To drive as safely as possible you need to see as well as possible.  Not only should your windshield be clean, it should be in good repair, too.  The windshield provides up to 30% of your vehicles structural integrity. Do you have chips or cracks in your windshield?  What can you do about it? 
Windshield repair is often a safe and economical alternative to a full windshield replacement.  A chip smaller than 6 inches (or the size of a dollar bill) can easily be repaired by filling it with a special resin.  Scheduling a windshield chip repair is easy! Companies like Safelite AutoGlass provide mobile service – wherever your car is – often within 24 hours of your initial call.  Perhaps you feel you can purchase a do-it-yourself repair kit and give the repair a try yourself. Forget do-it-yourself repair kits. The resin could easily shrink or yellow, lowering the quality of the repair. Safelite AutoGlass uses a patented repair process… A vacuum is created over the damaged area and the resin penetrates and fills the finest micro-cracks. The technician pulls off the vacuum changer and the UV light hardens the resin. Safelite’s resin is proven to be the strongest and longest lasting on the market.  Remember, your family's safety is involved here!  Also, don't forget to look into your auto insurance.  This may be covered and there may even be no deductible for the repair.

2.  How are your tires?  Some things get better with are not one of them.  Are your tires old?  Do they need replaced?  
Check your tire pressure regularly. Tires tend to lose air over time. Buy a digital tire gauge and check your tires once a month and before a long trip. Proper inflation pressures can be found in your owner's manual or on a sticker on the car (usually on the driver's doorjamb or fuel-filler lid.
Check for tread depth. Check tread depth by placing the edge of a penny upside-down into the grooves of the tire's tread.  If you can see all of Lincoln's head, it's time for a new set of tires. Never buy a single tire -- it's best to replace all four tires at once.
Stay balanced. If your car develops a shimmy (a back-and-forth vibration, usually felt through the steering wheel) at a certain speed, it's possible that one of your tires has lost its balance weight. Having your tires re-balanced is a fairly inexpensive job.

3.  Are child safety seats installed properly?
In order for a child's car seat or booster seat to work properly, it has to be installed correctly.  Read the manuals for each of your seats.  Install each seat exactly as stated in the manual.  There may be differences in proper installation from seat to seat so this is very important.  Make sure the seats have a good tight fit with no wiggling or wobbling.  Consider taking your vehicle to a car seat inspection location to have your install job checked by a professional.

4.  Practice extended rear facing of children in car seats.
Although it may be common practice to turn a child to face front ward at their first birthday, is that the safest practice for your child?  Consider keeping your baby rear facing to at least 2 years instead.  Why is this practice safer? 
When a child is in a forward-facing seat, there is tremendous stress put on the child's neck, which must hold the large head back. The mass of the head of a small child is about 25% of the body mass whereas the mass of the adult head is only 6%!  A small child's neck sustains massive amounts of force in a crash.  The body is held back by the straps while the head is thrown forward - stressing, stretching or even breaking the spinal cord.  The child's head is at greater risk in a forward-facing seat as well.  In a crash, the head is thrown outside the confines of the seat and can make dangerous contact with other occupants, vehicle structures, and even intruding objects, like trees or other vehicles.
Rear-facing seats do a phenomenal job of protecting children because there is little or no force applied to the head, neck and spine.  When a child is in a rear-facing seat, the head, neck and spine are all kept fully aligned and the child is allowed to "ride down" the crash while the back of the child restraint absorbs the bulk of the crash force. The head is contained within the restraint, and the child is much less likely to come into contact with anything that might cause head injury.

5.  Keep your child in a booster seat.
Keeping your child in a booster seat is so much easier these days.  Booster seats are being made to accommodate children of greater height and weight limits.  They are also allowing you to use the seat's safety harness system for a lot longer as opposed to the car's shoulder belts.  A harness system is much safer for your child.

6.  Put the cell phone away!
Do not take phone calls while you are driving.  Do not text while driving.  Do not check your email on your smart phone...or the weather...or anything else.  It may be best to turn your phone off while you are at the wheel to avoid any temptation to take that quick call that comes in!  You can always return calls later when you check your voice mail!

7.  Avoid travel during peak road traveling times.
Could you leave a bit earlier?  Leave a bit later?  Avoiding the roads, especially busy highways, when traffic is at it's busiest will make for a safer trip.  There will be less for you to watch for and less drivers to be concerned about.

8.  Do not drive if you are tired.
If you have more than one driver in the car, frequent driver switches are a great idea.  It will give you time to rest your eyes and mind.  If you are the only driver, take breaks frequently.  If you are traveling a great distance and have to stop earlier than you wanted to for the day, don't stress about it.  Extra money spent on hotel stays will be well worth it considering your family's safety, possible even their lifes, are involved.  An extra night of hotel costs will be far less than the cost of vehicle repairs should you have an accident because you were not performing at your peak, too.

9.  Watch your speed.
Keep an eye on your speedometer.  Do not drive faster than what current conditions would allow as well.  Even though the speed limit might be 65, an extra busy road or bad weather may mean that its best to travel at slower speeds.  Again, the few extra minutes or hours added to your travel time will be well worth it when you arrive at your destination safely.

10.  Pull over in bad weather.
If its raining so badly you have to strain to see, its not safe.  Its best to pull over and wait it out.  Very bad weather conditions generallly last only a relatively short time, so you will not lose much travel time.  Even very windy conditions could warrant some time off the road.  Trying to control a car being blown about is not fun, or safe.

One bonus, last tip!   Wear sunglasses!
Before you pull out of your driveway make sure your sunglasses are handy.
  • You may be inside the car, but you’re not protected from the sun. Wearing sunglasses while you drive prevents exposure to UV rays as well as sun damage to the eyelids which can lead to skin cancer.
  • It has been suggested that if you’re driving in the rain, wearing sunglasses can help improve your visual acuity.
  • Sun glare can be extremely dangerous to drivers. Blinding sunshine can block oncoming vehicles, traffic control devices and pedestrians from your sight. Wearing a pair of sunglasses will help to reduce the risk of sun blindness.
So when you hit the road this season, do so with your family's safety being first priority.  I hope my tips will help you to accomplish that.

“I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Safelite blogging program, for a gift card worth $30. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

About Safelite AutoGlass:
Safelite AutoGlass® was founded in 1947. Throughout our more than 60 years of service, our company has grown from a single store in Wichita, Kansas, to a national auto glass provider, serving nearly 4 million customers per year.

Through industry-leading 24-hour instant scheduling, convenient in-shop or mobile service, top-of-the-line materials and SafeTech™ certified technicians, you'll find that Safelite AutoGlass offers superior customer service, value and quality.

More info:

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

what appeals most to my family about Verizon FiOS

We use the internet a lot in this household.  I really mean A LOT!!! My husband works from an in home office so he uses the internet all day while working.  My children are enrolled in an online school and do their work from our home so they spend many hours a day connected to the internet.  Our family not only enjoys the internet for recreation, we actually rely on it.  If our internet is down no one works and no one can go to school.  We also have our phone service through the internet, so again, without the internet we have no phone service.

Having Verizon FiOS is truly a dream of my husband's.  He would love to have it.  While its not currently offered in our location, if it were he would sign up immediately.  What attracts him and the rest of our family to the FiOS service?

First and foremost, it our need for speed!  Verizon FiOS is blazing fast.  Much faster than anything offered to us right now.  When your family is running 5 or 6 computers at a time for hours a day, slower speed connections can be a real downer!  Since we have 3 children that can be doing online classroom meetings at a time, plus my husband conducting online business meetings slow speeds can really interfere.  There are occasions when our connection speeds are running so slow that we will all have to get off our computer for a time while my husband conducts and important meeting without sharing our bandwidth.

There are times when our phone just can not be used do to the terrible reception due to our overly slow internet.  I have had to use my cell phone on more than one occasion to make calls I would have preferred to do on our home line because I simply could not hear a thing over our phone line.  I hate straining to listen to someone talk over then phone getting broken bits and pieces of what is being said as the phone fades in and out.  We could totally eliminate that bother from my life with Verizon FiOS.

The next big advantage of Verizon FiOS is the ability to receive HDTV.  We often experience problems with our satellite dish tv stations.  We just had a repair man come out last week because we were not getting many channels we should be.  The problem?  Our dish needed repositioned....again.  With FiOS you have
massive bandwidth of a 100% fiber-optic network connected directly to the home.  Because of that you get very reliable reception.  We get lots of outages to our TV channels when we have storms (which is not a good thing with the weather we have had this year!).  That would not be an issue with FiOS.  We even have our satellite interrupted when snow gets on the dish.  Someone has to run out and clear it off.  Verizon FiOS TV was rated #1 in value, overall quality and customer loyalty, according to the 2010 American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) Survey for the largest subscription TV service providers.  That says a lot right there.  FiOS even has Flex View.  With Flex View, you can buy, rent and watch on-demand video titles on your FiOS TV, on your computer or on your mobile phone.  We would use that a lot.  We are picky about choosing appropriate entertainment for our children.  When we want to watch a movie as a family it would be great to have that option.

We are definitely sold on FiOS in this family.   If/when it becomes available to us, I can guarantee our household would sign up that very day!!

I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Verizon FiOS blogging program for a gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here

About Verizon FiOS
Modern consumers enjoy the ultimate digital lifestyle at work, home and play with Verizon FiOS advanced and integrated TV and broadband services.  The speed and intelligence of the nation’s largest all-fiber-optic network lets FiOS customers create personalized, integrated entertainment and information experiences that connect them to everything they care about -- anytime, anywhere, on a multitude of devices.  FiOS helps make life easier, more productive and more fun.

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE, NASDAQ:VZ), headquartered in New York, is a global leader in delivering broadband and other wireless and wireline communications services to mass market, business, government and wholesale customers.  Verizon Wireless operates America's most reliable wireless network, serving 94.1 million customers nationwide.  Verizon also provides converged communications, information and entertainment services over America's most advanced fiber-optic network, and delivers innovative, seamless business solutions to customers around the world.  A Dow 30 company, Verizon employs a diverse workforce of more than 194,000 and last year generated consolidated revenues of $106.6 billion.  For more information, visit

More info on Verizon FiOS:

Verizon FiOS on Facebook:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My signature pasta family recipe...And Carrabba's Pasta

I think everyone likes one form or recipe or another!  Really the possibilities are endless when it comes to pasta, I think.  You can make it as healthy (or indulgent) as you want.  You can go spicy or mild.  Pasta can be hot or cold.  You can throw a quick dish together in a matter of minutes when dinner time is imminent, or, alternatively, you can slowly simmer a sauce  all day long.  So many, many choices.

I love going to Italian Restaurants to eat.  I think its because there are so many choices available.  Whatever my mood I am sure to find a dish to match.  My children love pasta and Italian cooking, also.  We all leave happy when we choose a restaurant like Carrabbas!

Right now on the Carrabbas facebook page you can take a quiz to find out your pasta personality.  You will be asked 5 simple questions ranging from what you would most likely wear to what your perfect day would be like.  What were my results?

"You’re truly one of a kind, like Carrabba’s Penne Franco. You like to keep things fresh and exciting. So next time you want to try something new, choose our unique Penne Franco: penne with mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and ricotta salata."

It sounds good to me and if I went to Carrabba's I would be definitely tempted to give it a try!

So what's your Pasta Personality?  Why not go to

take the Facebook Carrabba’s Pasta Personality quiz, and give it a try???

CARRABBA’S PASTA: Carrabba’s makes every pasta dish by hand with the freshest ingredients.  Pasta is cooked perfectly every time and signature sauces are made from scratch daily. Creative flavors and combinations of ingredients are part of Carrabba’s authentic family recipes as well as new creations.

Right now Carrabbas has some great specials going on. They have Signature Pasta Meals, featuring seven distinctive dishes served with choice of soup or fresh salad starting at $10. Check this mouth watering list out:
LIMITED TIME OFFERS: Now through July 2011.
Featured Signature Pasta Meal:
Pasto Rambo – Named for the chef who created it, it’s made with shrimp tossed with imported Italian linguine, spinach, mushrooms, and tomatoes sautéed in our basil lemon butter sauce. Lobster is available instead of shrimp for an additional cost.

Other Limited Time Offers:
Parmesan-crusted Chicken – Topped with fresh arugula and grape tomatoes tossed in a hand-prepared lemon vinaigrette, served with choice of side. Substitution of wood-grilled chicken also available. Pairs well with Estancia Pinot Grigio.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin – Three pork tenderloin medallions wrapped with prosciutto, wood-grilled and topped with an apple and fig infused port wine sauce, served with the vegetable of the day. Pairs well with Coppola Pinot Noir.

Limoncello Bread Pudding – Back by popular demand! Brioche bread pudding made with fresh Madagascar vanilla beans and a rich custard, served hot out of the oven. Topped with Blue Bell vanilla ice cream and drizzled with Carrabba’s homemade Caravella Limoncello liqueur sauce.

Now Introducing:
Peach SangriaCarrabba’s new light and fruity Peach Sangria blends Copper Ridge White Zinfandel, Absolut Apeach vodka and Patrón Citrónge with a splash of citrus. Topped with a fresh lemon wedge and strawberry, it’s a taste of the Amalfi Coast in spring.

There’s no better place than Carrabba’s to enjoy a complete Italian meal – any day of the week.  I am sure something sounded just fantastic to you.  To me the Parmesan Chicken sounded yum yum delicious!  Keep in mind specials will run until July 2011.  You might want to go soon and often.

So what's my personal signature pasta dish?  I actually fix pasta dishes quite often.  I have a great recipe for Manicotti.  I like to make up a quick pasta using a variety of fresh veggies sauted in Olive oil and topped with a generous amount of home-grown tomatoes.  This is a great option for hot summer days when the tomatoes are plentiful!  One real standout that I make, however, is my spaghetti sauce.  I have tried many recipes over the years and have never found one better!  Give it a try.  I think you will agree its fantastic!

Meaty Spaghetti Sauce

1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 lb Italian sausage(if there are no objections in your family, try using a hot, spicy variety!)
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 lb fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 cup diced green pepper
4 cloves minced garlic
3 Tbl olive oil
32 oz whole canned tomatoes, undrained
16 oz tomato sauce
12 oz tomato paste
3/4 Cup water
1/2 Cup Chablis or other dry white wine
2 TBL sugar
1 1/2 tea dried basil
1 1/2 tea dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1/2 tea salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp dried ground thyme
1/4 tsp black pepper

cook ground beef, sausage and chopped onion in a large dutch oven.  When meat is browned drain and stif r in green pepper, mushrooms, and garlic along with olive oil.  When these veggies are tender, add  all remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer 25 minutes.  Uncover and cook 20 minutes more, stirring occasionally.

Cook up your favorite pasta.  Spoon generous amounts of sauce over pasta and don't forget to top with fresh ground Parmesan!

I make this sauce for guest often and it never fails to get rave reviews.  Its very filling, too, which is great if you have a big, hungry family like mine!

Our family will be going out of town this weekend and will be eating out.  I am definitely putting Carrabbas on my restaurant suggestion list now!

“I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Carrabba’s blogging program, for a gift card worth $50. For more information on how you can participate, click here.”

Locations: Visit for the closest Carrabba’s location. There are more than 230 locations nationwide.

About Carrabba’s:
Johnny Carrabba and Damian Mandola founded the first Carrabba’s Italian Grill in 1986 in Houston, Texas. Today, there are 232 Carrabba’s Italian Grill locations around the country, run by passionate local proprietors focused on delighting guests with fresh, made-to-order Italian cuisine and the ultimate dining experience. Carrabba’s serves dinner seven nights a week in a casual environment that pairs innovative dishes and a complementary wine list with abundant hospitality. For on-the-go guests, Carrabba’s also offers convenient Carside Carry-Out. To learn more about Carrabba’s, please visit

Carrabba’s Pasta Personality Quiz on Facebook - Take the quiz to see how your personality compares to some of Carrabba’s signature pasta dishes!

Monday, May 16, 2011

36 weeks pregnant.....

My Doctor did an ultrasound and estimated the baby's weight to be 6 lbs 8 ounces.  I laughed.  She said its really only accurate for very average sized babies.  I don't have average sized babies.  I have been told I was having an average sized baby before and ended up birthing an 11 lb 22 inch child. 

Does this look like an average baby in there to you?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Classic Family Recipes With Coke!

When you think of Coca-Cola you may think of popping the top on an icy cold beverage on a hot summer day.  Maybe you think of the ever so popular combination of a burger, fries and a coke.  Does a great family classic recipe ever come to mind, however?  For many people it probably wouldn't.  However, there are actually great recipes that can be made with just that....Coke!

The first recipe I think of when I contemplate cooking with Coke is BBQ!  There are several bbq recipes out there that use the popular cola, actually.  One that I have personally used is for Pulled Pork and uses not only Coke but Jack Daniels as well.  Now I would happily drink a coke on occasion, however, I would never think of drinking Jack Daniels!  However, when cooking I often find a touch of Jack to be quite yummy.  Its the same with beer for me.  I hate the taste of beer as far as drinking it goes, I love to cook with it.  I find this recipe very good and perfect for taking to those summer picnics that will be coming  up soon.  Try it and let me know how you like it.

You will need:

  • 5 to 6 pounds boneless center cut pork loin or pork shoulder
To Make Marinade:
  • 4 cups coca-cola
  • 1 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 12 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon Tabasco sauce
  • 2 teaspoons celery salt.

For the Jack and Coke BBQ Sauce:
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2/3 cup cola
  • 1/3 cup Jack Daniels Whiskey
  • 1/4 cup Frank's Hot Sauce, or other hot sauce of your choice
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
  •  kosher salt, to taste (although I find I can skip this altogether
 You will also need
  • 6 kaiser rolls


Combine cola, Worcestershire sauce, cider vinegar, garlic, Tabasco sauce, and celery salt in a bowl, pan, or pot large enough to hold all the pork. Add the pork, turning to be sure it is well coated, cover, and marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the ketchup, cola, whiskey, hot sauce, honey, soy sauce,  and salt to make the barbecue sauce.

Place the marinated meat in a roasting pan. Cover the roasting pan with aluminum foil and cook the pork in the preheated oven for 1-1/2 hours. Pour off 2/3 of the liquid in the pan and spread the meat with the barbecue sauce and return it to the oven, uncovered, for another 1-1/2 hours. When the pork is done, it will shred easily with a fork. Test it, and if it's still a bit difficult to shred, return it to the oven for another 15 minutes and try again.

When the meat is done, remove it from the oven and shred it with a fork. 

Pile it on your rolls and enjoy!

I personally love beans!  If we are at a pot-luck picnic or  party I usually will try every baked bean dish available.  So perhaps with your Pulled Pork Sandwich you'd enjoy some beans too?  How about beans with coke in them?

Cola beans:
  • 6 slices thick-cut bacon
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 15-oz. cans cannellini beans, 1 can drained and rinsed, 1 can undrained
  • 2 15-oz. cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 3/4 cup Coca-cola
  • 1 14.5-oz. can chopped tomatoes, drained
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • Preheat oven to 375°F. In a large ovenproof skillet, cook bacon over medium-high heat until crisp and golden. Drain bacon on paper towels. When bacon is cool enough to handle, crumble and set aside. Pour off all but 1 Tbsp. bacon fat from skillet.
  • Add onion and garlic to skillet and cook, stirring, until onion is golden, about 5 minutes. Add cannellini and kidney beans, brown sugar, molasses, cola, tomatoes, dry mustard and crumbled bacon and stir to combine.
  • Cover skillet, transfer to oven and bake until mixture is bubbly and juices have thickened slightly, about 1 hour

Another recipe I have made and enjoyed is a Coca-cola cake.  Here is the recipe for the chocolate dessert I have made:


  • 1 cup Coca-Cola
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
  • Combine Coca-Cola and buttermilk; set aside.
  • Beat butter at low speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar; beat until blended. Add egg and vanilla; beat at low speed until blended.
  • Combine flour, cocoa, and soda. Add to butter mixture alternately with cola mixture; begin and end with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended.
  • Stir in marshmallows. Pour batter into a greased and floured 13- x 9-inch pan. Bake at 350° for 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven; cool 10 minutes. Pour Coca-Cola Frosting over warm cake.
 For the Coke Frosting:

  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 1/3 cup Coca-Cola
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 (16-ounce) package powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Bring first 3 ingredients to a boil in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring until butter melts. Remove from heat; whisk in sugar and vanilla.

Don't make the frosting up ahead of when your cake is done.  It needs to be easy to pour when your cake is done.  

So there you have it.  You could make a complete meal with Coke!  Pour an icy cold coke to drink along with it and any Coca-Cola lover will be in pure heaven!

“I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Coca-Cola® blogging program. If I am one of the first 100 blogs received by SocialsMoms, I will receive a $25 gift card. For more information on the program, click here."

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Beauty

Miss Miliana....cute as can be

I just purchased a brand new camera.  I had a pretty cheap one that I basically used to death over the past years.  It would barely take a shot anymore.  I have been saving a dollar here, a few dollars there, whenever I could get a hold of a bit of money, for a very very very long time hoping to have a good camera one day.  I finally had enough and decided on a Nikon p100....loving the great clear shots and great features on it!!!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wordless Wednesday--20 weeks

20 weeks today with #6. All photos taken today. 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Review: Baby On Board Apparel

I recently received a  Amelia jacket  from Baby On Board Apparel in black. 

I absolutely LOVE this jacket.  It is as comfy as a sweatshirt but so much prettier! The BOBA (Baby on Board Apparel)  states that " The mandate for these collections is about creating clothing that works with every existing wardrobe and feel as great as a favorite t-shirt."  I will say they get an A+ for that effort!   Its a perfect top layer for the chilly weather we have been having.  Our house is usually pretty cold.  When I go other places that are kept warmer I have found I feel a bit overheated quickly in this pregnancy.  I love that this jacket is perfect to wear with a short sleeve tee.  Then when I feel a bit warm, I can remove the jacket easily.  The neck has a stylish crossover design which you can snap up or leave more open.  I have washed and worn this jacket at least 5 times since I received it and the colors have not faded a bit. 

I would say the sizing is pretty well normal  on this.  I normally, when not pregnant , wear a medium and am just under 6 foot tall.  During pregnancy I usually opt for a large top since I normally develop quite quite a large belly by the last of my 9 months.  This jacket is a large and fits me fantastically.  The open belly design would be perfect during that final couple months when nothing fits over my belly right.  

The website states "The Amelia Coat is perfect for pregnancy and beyond" and I would totally agree.  There would be no reason why you couldn't wear this great jacket after pregnancy as well.  That would make this an even smarter purchase.

I also really appreciated BOBA's eco conscience statement on their clothing tags.  It reads in part  "At Baby on Board Appearl we work hard to reduce our carbon footprint and you can too.  Wash in cold water and hang to dry...."   Very nice.

This is me at 19 weeks pregnant wearing my jacket.

Here are some other things I love from Baby on Board Apparel:

Look at the cute rouching detail on this hoodie!

I love the way they took a v-neck and gave it this cute twist!

This is actually a nursing top too!  The style would be so flattering for the first weeks after pregnancy.

Disclosure statement:  I received the Ameilia Jacket without charge so I could wear it and give my honest opinions.  I did this review as part of the  Happy and Healthy Moms Review team at