Friday, December 31, 2010

How I Did In 2010

Last Year I made some goals for myself and I am happy to say I actually feel like I worked on several of them.  One goal was to read more, and I found I read the same amount of books in 2009 and I did in 2010....22 books.  I wish it was more, but I can shoot for that for 2011!  My To-Be-Read pile keeps getting bigger and bigger!

I wanted to pray more which I did and am grateful for.  Praying for others brings such peace to my life.  I also wanted to yell less at my kids which I hope I did.  I feel like I did anyway, but maybe they wouldn't answer it the same way.  Anyway, that is an ongoing goal for 2011.

I wanted to plan my meals out more and I did do pretty well on that.  I have my go-to list for meals next to the stove and so if I am ever panicking over supper, I just go to that list and know that most everyone will be happy and I usually always have the ingredients for those items.  We also tried to all eat at the table together which made for some late meals some nights during football season, but I think it was worth it for us all to be together at the table.

One thing I wanted to do and didn't get accomplished was making more 1 on 1 time with each child and 1 on 1 time with my husband.  Life seems to always get in the way and so this year I have made it more of a focus.  I made a schedule called "Special Kid of the Month".  I then assigned each child a month of the year.  That month will be their special month.  Pat and I will each have a separate "date" with them, choose them for special trips or jobs, if there is debate over what game to play or movie to watch they will get to pick, etc.  So, each child will get his/her birthday month and 3 other months.  I am as excited as they are and I hope it all works out.  Reagan gets to start out January since her birthday is that month and I already have our date planned out.  Can't wait to do something special each month for our kids! 

Now, to find time for Pat as well may be more difficult, but I am hoping we can find time for a "date" at least once a month and just other time to catch up on each other's lives.  A lot of our dates may have to be lunch dates while the kids are at school, but I will take all the time I can get.

The only other item I want to work on for 2011 is getting on my new treadmill!  I have begged for a long time for one, but more forcefully the last few months.  I spent all spring, summer and fall out walking nearly everyday around our small town and I have missed it.  So, my hope is to get on the treadmill for at least 30 minutes 4 times/week.  I know I can't commit to every day, but I think 4 times is reasonable!  Who knows...maybe I will even lose some weight! :)

In the blogging area, I hope to be able to continue to provide you with inspiration, smiles, reviews on great books and helpful products, and continue my Things I Love feature on Fridays.  I appreciate the fact that you want to hear what I have to say.  Thanks for spending time with me!

So, that's where I am at.  I am very much looking forward to the new year ahead.  May your year be filled with blessings, achieved goals, and lots of time for reading!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Review: Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Twelve-year-old Lanesha lives in a tight-knit community in New Orlean's Ninth Ward. She doesn’t have a fancy house like her uptown family or lots of friends like other kids on her street. But what she does have is Mama Ya-Ya, her fiercely loving caretaker, wise in the ways of the world and able to predict the future. Abandoned by her peers because of her ability to see spirits, Lanesha longs for connection despite the strong love of her adopted grandmother, Mama Ya-Ya. As hurricane Katrina approaches and her neighbours flee, Lanesha must stay and brace for a storm of epic proportions. As the levees break, Lanesha must find a way to survive the floods on her own...

Jewell Parker Rhodes, an award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction, including Voodoo Dreams, Magic City, Douglass' Women, Free Within Ourselves: Fiction Lessons for Black Authors, and The African American Guide to Writing and Publishing Nonfiction, is the Virginia G. Piper Chair in Creative Writing and artistic director of the Virginia G. Piper Center in Creative Writing at Arizona State University. She lives in Scottsdale, Arizona.

NINTH WARD, published in August of 2010,  was selected by School Library Journal as one of the Best Books of 2010.

I won NINTH WARD from  This website features new books and has recipes from the story to go along with it.  These recipes could be used at a book club discussion, for example.  The featured recipes with NINTH WARD are Lanesha's Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting.  These were the cupcakes Mama Ya-Ya served Lanesha at her birthday. Also featured is Lanesha's Lemonade.  By going to you can search for these recipes.

The story of Lanesha and Mama Ya-Ya grabbed me right away.  Of course, we all know what happens when Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans, but the author still gives me new glimpses of what it must have been like for families that stayed behind to fight the storm.  Her descriptions of the days after the hurricane broke my heart as Lanesha suffered through the toughest parts.

I think this is a great Young Adult novel and is an excellent teaching tool of how to be strong when adversity strikes, how other cultures live and about what is really important in the end.  Ghosts and seeing into the future were also a part of the story, and while I am not a believer in that, their part of the story was an interesting piece of Lanesha's life.

I plan to donate my copy to our Middle School/High School and hope that the students/teachers add it to their reading list.

If you would like to learn more about the author, visit

I gave NINTH WARD 4 out of 5 stars and really thought it was an important story to be told.  Thanks to the author for sending me a copy of this book!

To purchase a copy of NINTH WARD, click the image below:

If you choose to purchase this book through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas to You!

Taken from Luke 2:10-12 NIV

The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you;  he is Christ the Lord.  This will be a sign to you:  You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

May each one of you feel the love of Jesus today and every day.  May you be blessed and share your blessings with others less fortunate.  May you cherish the moments with your families.  May you remember the true meaning of Christmas - the birth of Jesus Christ who came to save us and give us the greatest gift of all - Grace!  May you have a wonderful Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

My Day at Mission of Hope

Yesterday I spent my day volunteering at the Mission of Hope.  We had to assemble food baskets for 225+ people.  The baskets included rolls, corn, beans, apples, oranges, potatoes, candy, pie, rolls, ham, and milk.  Each of these baskets were tied with a ribbon and a card from the Mission and from Kurt and Brenda Warner.  Yes, THAT Kurt Warner.  His foundation donated $5000 and 58 Columbia coats toward this Christmas giveaway.  Kurt is from Cedar Rapids and his mom, Sue, was there helping out all day as well.

After getting their basket, the patron was able to pick out 1 coat, hats and gloves, and a toy for each child in their family.  That was where I spent my time.  I helped fathers and mothers choose toys for their children, many times choosing the Zhu Zhu pets that were generously donated by the Zhu Zhu Pets 10,000 Smiles Campaign that I wrote about in this post

It was such a blessing to see the many, many volunteers giving up there day (many I'm sure could have been shopping or baking) and instead gave their day to see God's work happen right in front of our eyes.  Everyone was so completely thankful for the gifts of food and clothing and toys.  Many of them mentioned how their child or themselves didn't have a winter coat and now would be able to keep warm.  For some, this was the only opportunity to get a gift for their child.  It was just an awesome reminder of how much I am blessed and I am so glad to be able to share my blessings with others.

Here are some photos from my day.  I had such a fun day and there were many, many laughs.  Thanks to Julie, Tina, Kimmie, Tom, Jeanie, Garret, and LuEllyn for making my day so much fun.

 Some of the donated toys to give away
 More toys and the coats from the Warners
 The food baskets
 Me and my sis-in-law, Julie - One of the Supervisors at Mission of Hope
 The art of wrapping the food and tying it with a ribbon...not as easy as it looks! :)
 Garret watching over the toys
 More food baskets
 Ready for the patrons to come in
Coats and clothing to giveaway. 
 Even though it looks like a lot, we did run out before everyone came through.  

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


One of our favorite Christmas traditions is to snuggle up in the basement in front of the fireplace and the big screen and watch THE POLAR EXPRESS.  Tonight will be our "Polar Express Night" and I'm looking forward to it.  One of my favorite singers is Josh Groban and so I thought I would share this video with you of one of my favorite songs...."Believe".

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Traditions

Our family has many Christmas traditions.  On my mom's side of the family, each one of the sister's takes their turn and hosts Christmas as well as making an ornament for each member of our large family.  So, our Christmas tree is full of numerous homemade ornaments from years and years of Christmases. 

Since we closed on our house on December 15, we have always reserved that day as our "Family Day".  That night we have a special dinner with sparkling grape juice for the kids served in fancy glasses, and we usually decorate our gingerbread house that night.  Well, this year it got too late with obligations, homework, etc, so we had to wait until the weekend to make our Gingerbread Houses.  This year I bought a kit that had 5 buildings as part of a village.  I thought this was perfect since there were 5 of us, we could each make our own building.  Well, I was NOT happy with the kit as 2 of the buildings were broken, 1 repairable and one not.  Also, the frosting they included was 1-not nearly enough and 2-crappy.  So, I looked online and found an icing recipe, made up my own, cleaned out our candy shelf and we went to work.  Enjoy the photos below!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Great Gift Idea: Husky Tools Review

The Home Depot's Gift Center has released a line of amazing Husky Hand Tools all for under $20.

Whether you’re looking for the perfect gifts or stocking stuffers for the special DIYer, contractor or tool aficionado in your life, or to help with projects around the house, The Home Depot’s Gift Center has a wide variety of innovative Husky Tools to choose from - all of which are under $20, and some even under $5! Husky Tools is offering a diverse selection of must-have tools in the Gift Center at an impressively low cost.

I was treated to this 13-Piece Powertek™ Precision Cordless Screwdriver Set to try out.  Now, I am not someone who likes tools or gets excited about them, but this tool did make me a little giddy.  I am often having to change batteries in a toy that is closed with screws.  This handy tool makes that job so much easier.  Their is the perfect little mini screw attachment that can be placed on the end.  Then I pushed the button and it unscrewed it.  I replaced the batteries, pushed the button again and the compartment was closed.  So quick and easy. 

I think this tool would be the perfect gift for so many people....the college student, someone just moving into their own apartment, an elderly person in a nursing home or senior living apartment, single moms, etc.  It all fits in the nice little container and would fit perfectly in your junk drawer.  That is where ours is going to be.  Right where I can get to it quickly because I have a feeling it will get used a lot for all those little jobs around the house.  In fact, I have some drawer pulls I need to tighten!
13-Piece Powertek™ Precision Cordless Screwdriver Set - ($9.88)

Click HERE to order your own or head out to your local Home Depot!

I was provided with the 13-Piece Powertek Precision Cordless Screwdriver Set to review.  I was not compensated in any other way for this review.  This is my honest opinion and I wouldn't review anything that wouldn't benefit myself or my family.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Random Acts of Zhu

About a month ago, I was contacted to see if I would be willing to help give away 100 Zhu Zhu pets to my favorite charity.  Of course I said, YES!  I am 1 of 100 bloggers giving away 100 Zhu Zhu pets.  Their slogan is
100 bloggers x 100 Zhu Zhu Pets = 10,000 Smiles
The Zhu Zhu pets arrived and today I dropped them off at my charity of choice.  I chose our local charity The Mission of Hope.  My sister-in-law is a Staff Supervisor there and believes so much in their mission that it was an easy choice.  The Mission of Hope offers a Christ-centered ministry 24 hours a day, seven days a week to meet the physical, emotional & spiritual needs of former offenders and others in need.  Their mission is to meet basic needs, change hearts, disciple people and teach the church.  They do this by offering a warm place to hang out, have a cup of coffee and a pastry, a hot homemade meal, a food pantry and clothes closet, church services, and supportive groups. 

On December 22, 2010, they will open their doors to give away baskets of food and toys to those in need.  This is the day the Zhu Zhu pets and many other toys will be given away.  I will be there to help set up and hand out.  I so look forward to giving of my time.  As I was carrying things into the Mission today, clients and staff were so surprised at the generous donation of toys. I can't wait to see the faces of those picking out toys for their children, who without the Mission, would have no other opportunity to get toys. 

I would like to thank Zeno Group for making this donation possible.  Stay tuned for more about the donation day coming up.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Traveling with the Kids for the Holidays

My tip for the day :

Are you planning to travel with your children this holiday?  One thing I like to do for the kids is pack stuff for them to do in the car.  I will often buy a new book or coloring book or small toy so they have something new to play with during that long drive or plane ride.  Kids backpacks are the perfect way to pack these items for the kids because everything fits in them well and the kids can be responsible for carrying their own bag.   

Happy and safe traveling ahead!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Renuzit Review and Giveaway

I was selected to receive a free RENUZIT adjustable to try out in our home.  I have to admit, I had never tried these before, but I remember them from my childhood.  My neighbor always had them around her house when I was growing up and frankly I was never very interested in the scents she had.  But, they have definately found a place in my home now.  I was sent one of the new holiday fragrances, Apple Cinnamon, to try out and I really like the scent.  I actually placed the cone in the kids' bathroom as they could use a little freshening up in there!  It isn't an overpowering scent, but is definately noticable when you walk in the room.  I am anxious to try their other holiday scents:  Holiday Cookie, Festive Snow, and Winter Berry.  Don't they all sound so festive?

As I was learning about RENUZIT, I found they also have these neat Pearl Scents and Crystal Elements in all the holiday scents as well.  All of these can be found at your local discount store.  While I have been out and about, I saw a set of 3 at Target for $2.99 and Walgreens had a coupon for 1 for $.79.  So, they are definately affordable! 

To learn more and get all the latest information on the RENUZIT line check out or like them on facebook at

Now for your chance to try them out....I have 7 coupons for one free adjustable to give away!  Because I want you all to rush out and get one soon, I will just take the first 7 people to leave me a comment with your email address.  Let me know which holiday fragrance you would like to try and I will contact you for your address and mail a coupon right out to you.  Once I have received 7 comments, the giveaway will be closed.   May your home smell festive during the holiday!

I was given one Renuzit Adjustable cone to try out and coupons to giveaway to readers.  I was not compensated in any other way for this review.  This is my honest opinion and I wouldn't review anything that I or our family couldn't benefit from.