Sunday, February 28, 2010

Nicholas Sparks

Everyone has probably heard of Nicholas Sparks by now.  If nothing else, for his books-turn-movies.  He's pretty famously known for The Notebook.  You may have also seen Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember, Nights in Rodanthe, and just recently released Dear John.  The Last Song will also be coming out soon.

I love Nicholas Sparks.  I actually started reading his books before I saw any of the related movies.  I've read *almost* all of them.  I have to catch up on the last two, I think.  I must say that I have liked some more than others, but have been happy to have read all of them. 

I have a few thoughts for you on Nicholas Sparks books....

First, if you haven't read the books (even if you've seen the movie), you should.  The books are WAY better than the movies.  Eventually, I will probably go back and read some of the again.  It's been probably six years since I've read The Notebook!

Second, after you've read The Notebook, you really need to read The Wedding.  It's the sequel and most people don't know that.  It has a few twists and turns and I think it's one of my favorites!

Lastly, if you are a Nicholas Sparks fan and have read his novels, you should really check out his book Three Weeks with my Brother. 

It is a recap of a trip his brother and him went on.  However, through the process of their three week trip, you get to learn about his past.  He had a rough life and a lot of his books are based on people in his family.  It was a neat insight into where he and his stories come from.  I listened to it on CD and really enjoyed it.

Nicholas Sparks books (in order, in case you are interested):
The Notebook
Message in a Bottle
A Walk to Remember
The Rescue
A Bend in the Road
Nights in Rodanthe
The Wedding
The Guardian
Three Weeks with my Brother
True Believer 
At First Sight
The Choice
Dear John
The Lucky One
The Last Song

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Potty Talk

I have a confession....  I've become that person that refers to using the restroom as "going to the potty".  It's sad really.  I'm 30 years old.  I don't have children of my own.  Yet, that pesky little "potty" word has slipped into my day to day vocabulary.  I guess it's the hazard of the job.  I can be at the nicest restaurant with my husband and still say, "I'll be right back.  I have to go potty".  I mean, who does that?  I have a feeling the potty talk won't be going away for a long, long time either.  I apologize to all those who are much classier than I.  I do not mean to offend. :)

Here's a funny "potty talk" between me and Little Man yesterday:

setting: we were sitting at McDonald's having lunch with friends and he announces that he has to go poopy, so I take him into the bathroom.

Me: "Here, go in this stall"
LM: "You go in that one next to me"
Me: "I don't have to go"
LM: "Just try for me, OK?" 
Me: (laughing out loud) "Ok".  Then I held his door shut while sort of standing in the stall next to me so he wouldn't see my feet right in front of his door.  So funny!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Prayer Request

I have no fun post for you today... sorry dear faithfuls.

I spent a good part of last night at the hospital and will probably be doing the same tonight.  My father-in-law is not doing well.  He was experiencing some swelling and went in to see the doctor.  In no time he was taken by the squad to the hospital, sedated and having machines breathing for him.  We found out that the right side of his heart is not working as it should and he is in need of a miracle.  Please pray for him if you can, and also peace for the family.  Thank you.

P.S. This is Michael's step-dad for those of you who don't know.  Michael's father passed away 11 years ago of a brain tumor.  His mom has been married to Bob for 5 years as of yesterday.  Not a fun way to spend an anniversary! :(

Thursday, February 25, 2010

I beg of you...

Dear Idiot Drivers,

If you do not know the difference between driving in six inches of snow and driving in less than an inch of snow, please stay home.  My blood pressure cannot handle another day of being stuck in 20 mile an hour traffic ON THE FREEWAY for non-icy, dusty snow conditions.  If you feel the need to drive so slow, maybe you could take a different route?  I would greatly appreciate it.  Also, just because a car is off to the side of the road, does not mean we all need to slow down to a snails pace to look.  It's just a car.  There's no drama to be seen.  Pay attention to the road ahead of you and DRIVE!

Trying to get to work on time

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

My First Mosaic


It's a box of five cards with simple mosaics.
They come neatly put together.
Each card came in a plastic wrapper with the matching stickers included.  Genius.
You choose the one you want, and then let your little man go to work.
They have to match up the shapes and colors.  
Not only is this good practice, but it's also a great activity to increase fine motor skills.

Little Man was LOVING this.
But, eventually he tired out of it.
This is as far as we got the first attempt.
I'll admit.  That's a lot of little finger work.  Not bad. 
I think this is a great idea.  What kid doesn't want to use stickers?
Mixing education and fun is always on the top of my list!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Day to Day Centerpiece

Back in October I got the brilliant idea to come up with a centerpiece for our counter that divides the kitchen from the living room.  You may remember it.  It looked something like this...

I even thought ahead and knew that it could be turned in to a creative Christmas centerpiece as well.

Unfortunately, that's all the further I thought ahead.  I don't decorate for any other holiday or season, so I needed a centerpiece that was more "day to day" than a theme.  I'll keep it real--the vases sat empty for about a month until I got my act together.  I had some ideas, but was a little hesitant about how it would all pull together.  In the end, I went with my original thought and I think it turned out alright.

I went back to the original taupe colored candles from the fall centerpiece.
I used coffee beans in each vase to give it a little texture.
Then I used these fun little decorative balls.
The reason why it took me so long is that I was considering making some of the decorative balls myself... but in the end I just bought a box for $10.

part of the back view...

I chose green on purpose.
If you haven't noticed from the pictures here and there, my room is very red.
I wanted a balance.
Plus, I have other greens thrown in around the two rooms.

Candles and stripes in the place mats

A clay vase type thing

On top of my cabinet I have this planter.  
In it is our monogrammed cake topper (that I blinged out MYSELF might I add!!:)

I also have some decorative green apples up there.

And another planter on the hutch...

When I originally came up with the idea of coffee beans and decorative balls, I was afraid it was going to be a little too "earthy" for the glammed up mirror frame.  In the end, I don't think you even notice the mirror frame.  It works, and both Michael and I like it.  Good thing-because it won't be changed for a while! :)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Stretching your dollar... (part 6)

Making your store, bank and credit card work for YOU

This isn't a new concept.  However, I don't think people take advantage as best they can of all that is out there.  We try to take advantage of all of our opportunities.  Obviously, this will depend on where in the country you live, but it seems to me that no matter what your grocery store is--everyone seems to have some sort of deal or loyalty card or something these days.  Here's what we do.

Chase- This is where we bank.  We have opened up accounts at other banks for a while to utilize their $75 or $100 incentives, but our main banking is and always has been at Chase.  We signed up for their Chase Leisure rewards.  We pay $25 each ($50 a year) for our cards to be part of this system.  Normally, for every dollar you spend you get 2 points.  If you pay the $25 you get 4 points for every dollar.  We have done this for the past two years and it always pays for itself in the first month.  Those points can be cashed in for many things, but we tend to use them for gift cards.  We get gift cards for restaurants, Barnes and Noble, movie theater passes, and retail stores like Target or Bed, Bath and Beyond.  You just have to swipe your card and use it as a credit card.  It also counts for bills that are paid with the card. (Not online banking, but paying on a direct site.)  We have gotten HUNDREDS of dollars in gift cards for simply using our cards as we would have anyway.  If you don't have a Chase near you, you may want to shop around for your banking.  My mother-in-law banks somewhere else and she said her rewards for the whole year was just enough to get a taco at taco bell.  I'd say your bank is not working for you then! :)

Giant Eagle- For those of you not familiar with this store, it is one of our local grocery stores.  It's one of those fancy stores that has great produce and great meats, but almost everything costs a considerable amount more.  We generally shop at Meijer.  It is cheaper and they double your coupons.  But we're no fool.  We take advantage of all of the perks Giant Eagle has to offer.  For every $50 you spend in the store, you get 20 cents off your  gas.  For every 10 gallons you put in your car in gas, you get 1% off your food purchase.  We don't do our  grocery shopping here, but it is the closest store to our house.  We use it for last minute pick ups, medications, and we buy gift cards there.  For example, if we know we are going to eat at Bob Evans, we get a $25 gift card.  We aren't out any extra money and it adds to our fuel perks.  On top of that, we always get our gas at Giant Eagle.  In fact, Michael fills up his work truck there if one is close.  My bosses generally fill up the Volvo, but if they don't, I make sure to fill up at Giant Eagle as well so I can swipe my loyalty card and earn the points.  This gets us food perks.  Once you are at 20% you have to use it.  Whenever we get to 20%, I do my weeks grocery shopping there.  I try to stock up on meat on that trip.  We have saved a ridiculous amount in gas already.  The food perks just started recently, but we've saved a considerable amount on food as well.

Discover-  This is the only credit card we have.  We got a Discover card for the gas rewards.  We have the card that gives you 5% back on your gas purchases and 1% back on your other purchases.  We then use those rewards to get gift cards.  Sound familiar?  Oh, and when we are filling up at Giant Eagle and getting those food perks... we are also earning Discover card points.  We have so many gift cards it's out of control.

We hardly eat out anymore unless we have a gift card.  These gift cards come from either our Chase Leisure rewards, Discover card rewards, or my boss.  We don't really go to the movies without gift cards either.  Make your stores, cards, and bank work for you.  You'll be happy you did!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Unstuffed Pepper Soup

I made this yummy soup in the crock pot last week and thought I'd share it with you.  I didn't take any pictures when I was making it, because I wasn't quite sure how it was going to turn out.  Both Michael and I liked it though.  It was good as leftovers too!  It made so much that I was able to freeze a lot as well.

Here's what you need:
1 Lb. 96% Lean Ground Beef, cooked
2 (14.5 oz.) Cans Diced Tomatoes seasoned with basil, garlic and oregano
2 (10.5 oz.) Cans Chicken Broth
1 Large Onion, chopped
3 Bell Peppers, chopped
2 (10 3/4 oz.) Cans Condensed Tomato Soup
1 1/2 Cups Cooked Long Grain Rice
Here's what you do:
Spray crockpot with non-stick cooking spray. Inside the crockpot, combine the cooked beef, diced tomatoes, chicken broth, onion, bell peppers and tomato soup. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Warm up the rice, stir it into the soup and serve.
Serves: 12 one cup servings, 3 WW points per serving.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


I have been on an avocado kick lately.  I use to hate guacamole--and yes, I had tried it.  But for some reason over the last few years my taste buds have really been changing.  For the past six months or so I have become mildly obsessed with avocados.  I will order things at restaurants just because it has avocado in it.  Most recently, I have been putting them in my lunch wraps.

Little Man has taken note.  He always pays attention to what I am eating and sometimes asks me if he can have what I have.  One day last week I had an avocado and he wanted to try it.  He LOVED it.  He then went on to eat a fourth of the avocado I brought.  He calls them "agacados".  At first it started as "agacajos", but has moved  closer to the actual word. :)  The next day he asked me first thing if I had brought him some of that "green stuff I love".  He ate another fourth at lunch that day as well.  He was in the middle of eating it and suddenly said, "I'm just so embarrassed I can't stop eating this stuff".  OH MY!  I literally laughed out loud.  He says the funniest things sometimes.  Yeah for loving "agacados"!

Friday, February 19, 2010


Little Man got this game for Christmas and as far as preschool games go, I love it.

It's simple.  It's easy to play.  It's fun (as far as 4 year old games go). It teaches.
Two thumbs up.

It comes with these bingo playing cards.
There are cards and front and back.  Each card has 9 basic pictures with basic words.

Then it comes with this little slide thing

You slide it forward and two little tiles come out.

You have to see if the tile matches your card.
If it does, the first person to call it out gets the tile.
Then the tile gets placed on your card.
Little Man is obviously beating me here.
It does take him some time to recognize the match, which is sort of the point of the game.
It's to teach basic words, but also to improve quick thinking skills, etc.

And.... he won!

Then you have to stack all the tiles back in, like this.

I love a good game that teaches while you play!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Snow Art

Snow!  Snow!  Snow!

It's no secret.  I love snow.  We got hit with quite a bit of it this month.  Love it!

So... in honor of all the white fluffy stuff, I'm going to share a few art projects we've done in the past.

This one was done with q-tips.
I drew the basic shape and Little Man painted it with paint and q-tips.

This one was made with a spools of thread.
We used two different sizes.
Little Man painted with white paint.
There's glitter on there too, but it's hard to see.
I glued the blue paper on to the black background and then black paper as the cross.
Nothing like looking out a window with pretty snowflakes coming down!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

List o' fun-- bowling

I've been taking Little Man bowling since the first month I started working with him.  He was two and a half at the time and someone invited us to a bowling play date.  It was the first time Little Man had ever been bowling and he loooooooved it!  He was pretty good at it too for a two and a half year old.

Of course we use bumpers and they have 6 pound balls for the little guys.  If you sign up with AMF bowling they will send you coupons and information about promotions going on.  During the summer (at select AMF locations), kids can bowl two games FREE every day.  Of course, you have to pay for shoes.  It's still a good deal though.  Little Man has very good upper body strength.  He has just got to the point where he can bowl two games.  When we started, he was one of the only kids that could finish one whole game without getting worn out.  At our bowling alley, shoes are $4 and a game is $4.

Here are some pictures for you of our last bowling trip.
Even though you can't see their faces, I think the pictures are still incredibly adorable.
For those of you who are local, we go to Sawmill Lanes.  
Not only is it the closest, but it's also the only alley in the area that have the free summer bowling.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My Beloved

Alright, so I know that everyone says Valentine's Day is for the women.  I get that.  But I still think it's nice to get your man something.  They like to feel loved too, right?

I'll admit, I go through a little cycle when it comes to buying Valentine's and Anniversary gifts.  I know that Michael's likes and interests are things like movies, video games, electronics and gadgets.  However, I don't think a wii remote quite says "I love you" or "You mean the world to me".  So every time one of these "love" holidays come up, I am faced with a decision.  Do I go for the thing he will like or really want, or do I go for the emotional lovey dovey gift?  The answer--I go in cycles.  One time I'll give the gift that says "I love you" and the next time I'll feel guilty and buy the gift he likes.  Repeat.  Although, I must say, I do have a husband that loves and appreciates anything I give him--even the sappy stuff that makes me feel better! :)

Plus, the way I see it, he gets all of his favorite things for Christmas, his birthday, and in his Easter basket.  Why can't there be a little balance there?  All that to say... this year I went for the lovey dovey gift.  Now I know that after seeing it, most of you out there will be thinking 'my husband would hate if I did that for him'.  That's ok.  I get that.  But I happen to have a husband who loves my creative side and appreciates that I put the time into making him something from my heart.  So here's what I did...


I bought a 16 x 20 canvas from Jo Ann's.
I chose "manly" colors :) including blue, which is Michael's favorite

First, I painted the entire canvas blue.
I used this handy dandy mini roller.

I had planned to use my friend's cricut to make the letters, but ran into a time problem because of Michael having the weekends off.  Instead, I just bought some stencils and some sticky vinyl and traced them myself.  It didn't really bother me.  I've been tracing letters for my mom's bulletin boards since I was 12.  Plus, I was a teacher myself.  It went pretty quick.

Next, I planned everything out on the board and stuck the letters for "beloved" and "mine" to the canvas.
I wanted those words to stick out and be the blue.

And just to keep it real....
If you give me 12 feet of island, I might just use 12 feet of island! :)
Ok, so in my defense, I was in a hurry and trying to get it all done during nap time.
The next step was to paint brown over the entire canvas.
Have you ever tried to go shopping with a four year old boy who complains that his legs no longer work?  This is what I was dealing with while trying to buy my supplies.  
Normally I would have tried to go during preschool, but with all the snow we got I was out of options.  All that to say--I bought the wrong kind of brown paint.  I think it was for outside work or something.  Whatever.  It was a little sticky, but it got the job done. :)

Then I used a damp paper towel and wiped it off a little.  I wanted the blue peeking through.

Next, I put on all the other words and painted over it with a shimmery taupe color.  
The shimmer makes the actual color hard to see in the pictures.  Sorry!

Then I wiped it off like the last step.

After it dried, I pulled off the letters.
I painted the sides plain brown, but you can't really see in the pictures.
Here are a few different views.
(Sorry, the glare is from the shimmery paint)
Here it is hanging on one of my walls.  It's not it's permanent place, but it will help you get a better idea.

You like?

EDIT:: He also got Godiva chocolate truffles and chocolate covered oreos!!  It wasn't all arts and crafts! :)