Monday, March 28, 2011

Veggie Tales CD Winner

The winner of the Veggie Tales CD is # 3 Sara.  I will be emailing you Sara.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Things I Love - Trader Joes

Things I Love...

This is my feature where I get to share something that I just love. Since you are my friends, I like sharing things I love with others. It could be anything from a new product, food, recipe, song, image, to a person and everything in between. This will be something I am completely doing on my own, without pressure or compensation from a company, author, PR/Marketing firm, friend, business owner, etc. This will just be something that makes me happy and I want to share it with you. Enjoy some love!

Today's love is...........................Trader Joe's!

I have heard of Trader Joe's for awhile but never knew what the excitement was all about...until this last weekend.  I finally got to go to Trader Joe's for the first time and I loved it  There isn't one near us....closest one being 1 1/2 hours away, but I have a feeling we may make that trek once in awhile. 

Some of my favorite things from TJ's are their chocolate chip cookies.  They are tiny little cookie bites that are crispy and yummy and could be trouble!  The kids like them as much as Pat and I do!  Secondly, I love their Butternut Squash Ravioli.  It is one of my favorite things to treat myself with and I was so excited to see that they had some.  It was so delicious!
So, if you have a Trader Joe's in your area, you should definately go check it out.  You just may find your new favorite treat!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Week 2 Update

This is my 2nd week of NO POP/SODA.  It has definitely been a struggle for me.  I had truly didn't realize how much I really enjoyed having one whenever I wanted to.  But, I am still determined to finish out the Lenten season without a sip of any Diet or Regular Pop.  I have found that I am drinking more water, which is good, more coffee which is probably not good, and have found some new drinks to try, like Diet Snapple Raspberry Iced Tea. 

I have also begun an 8 week long-term sub job at our middle school.  Not the best time to give up pop, but so far I have been too busy to even think about drinking one in the afternoon.  Although, when I see other teachers having their afternoon jolt of caffeine, I am wishing I could have one too.  The Diet Mountain Dew in my fridge will be taunting me for a few more weeks, but I plan to continue to ignore it!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Is Spring Here Or Not?

 Even though Spring arrived on Sunday, it certainly doesn't feel like Spring.  In Northern Minnesota where I have family, they are having a blizzard right now.  They are talking possible snow showers for us here in Iowa tomorrow and tonight it is rainy and cold.  So, I thought I would share a couple of photos from my weekend with you.  We went to see the flowers at the Como Zoo and Conservatory in St Paul, Minnesota.  It was the last week for their Winter Garden and my was it gorgeous.  Just walking into the room, the scent was amazing!  I hated to leave the warm humid, floral scented air.  Enjoy and think Spring!

The entrance to the sunken garden.  Amazing!

The amaryllis were so pretty!

The Stargazer Lilies are one of my favorite flowers.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Inspiration for Today

From time to time, I like to share Bible verses with you that have inspired me or helped me through a moment in time. I like looking up the verse in different Bibles to see how the translations differ. I loved how this verse was translated. May it bring you peace today.

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus
Philippians 4:19 NIV

And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19 NLT

You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need, his generosity exceeding even yours in the glory that pours from Jesus.
Philippians 4:19 The Message

Friday, March 18, 2011

Things I Love - My Mom

Things I Love...

This is my feature where I get to share something that I just love. Since you are my friends, I like sharing things I love with others. It could be anything from a new product, food, recipe, song, image, to a person and everything in between. This will be something I am completely doing on my own, without pressure or compensation from a company, author, PR/Marketing firm, friend, business owner, etc. This will just be something that makes me happy and I want to share it with you. Enjoy some love!

Today's love is............................My Mom
Last Friday, my mom turned 72!  A few years ago we started the tradition of celebrating her birthday with her sister and her sister's daughter in Minneapolis, which is half way between us.  We have so much fun together and today we leave to spend our annual weekend with them.  On the drive north to Minneapolis, one thing I can be sure of, is that we will be stopping for my mom's favorite treat.....ICE CREAM!  It has become a tradition and anyway, who can turn down ice cream?!?!  One of the first things we are sure to do after we check into our hotel room is get out the Scrabble board.  All 4 of us LOVE to play Scrabble and look forward to challenging eachother to several games.

My mom and I last year at the Como Zoo Conservatory Flower Show
My mom is the most giving and loving person I have ever met.  She gives so much of her time to others that she barely has a chance to do anything for herself.  As a retired rural mail carrier, she has spent most of her retirement volunteering for her church in numerous capacities, the local tourism society, the hospital board foundation, for master gardeners, and the local nursing home.  She maintains her many beautiful flower gardens as well as the gardens at the nursing home.  My mom and dad also help maintain and care for the little country church and cemetery just down the road from their house.  My mom always has food or clothing set aside to drop off at the local food pantry.  Mom has also spent many days caring for her great-grandson and her great-granddaughters when their parents needed help.  Mom and Dad also attends many of our kids' sports and school functions, even though they live nearly 2 hours away.   This is, of course, all the things I know about.  I am sure there are many other acts of kindness my mom does on a daily basis, because that is the kind of person she has always been.  

My parents at their 50 Anniversary celebration
My parents have been married for 54 years.....55 years this August! Wow! What an example they have given us.  Their focus has always been on giving and caring for others.  I am so grateful for their loving guidance and examples and I can't wait to share more memories with my mom this weekend.  There are sure to be lots of laughter, lots of Scrabble, lots of good food, and of course, ice cream!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Review: ZhuZhu Puppies

You've heard of ZhuZhu Pets and babies, KungZhu hamsters, and now there are ZhuZhu Puppies!  Our kids are fans of the Zhu Zhu Pets and our daughter squealed with delight when she saw the box of Zhu Zhu puppies.  Since she has been home sick this week, I thought it was the perfect time to get them out and let her play with them.

We received 2 puppies named Sabrina and Loolah, a Polk-A-Dot Dress, and the Bark de Triomphe Playset.  It was all put together in about 5 minutes and ready for play.

Reagan liked playing with the puppies and watching them roll around the house.  She liked combing their hair with the brush that came with each puppy.  It is a cute set and works well with the other ZhuZhu accessories that we already have.

The ZhuZhu Puppies are now available at a store near you.  All ZhuZhu puppies have their own unique personality and whimsical sounds.  You will enjoy watching them scoot, scamper, bump n' boogie across the floor or through their own Zhu Zhu Puppies playset.  There are currently 6 different puppies, 6 different outfits, and 3 playsets available for purchase.  There are also 4 accessory items including a puppy car, hotdog cart, bubby and bathtub.  For more information check out

This review is mine and my daughter's honest opinion.  I would not review anything that wouldn't benefit myself or my family.  We received the playset, an outfit and 2 puppies for the purpose of this review.  No other compensation was provided.

My Sacrifice For Lent

Last week, my husband and I decided we would give up pop/soda for Lent.  It was a pretty quick decision and one I didn't think about before I agreed to go along with it.  It isn't that I drink a lot of pop.  I mainly just drink Diet Mountain Dew, and not even every day.  But, most days I will have a can...or if I really need a boost...a 20 ounce bottle.  Now that it has been a week without a Diet Mountain Dew....I am really missing it.  Not because I am having headaches, but just because I enjoyed that little treat during the afternoon.

Of course, if this was something that was easy to give up, then it wouldn't really be a sacrifice then, would it?  So, I will go along for the next 5 weeks, drinking Vitamin Water, ice water, coffee, and lemonade.  Who knows, by the time Easter Sunday rolls around, I may not even want one.  What did you give up for Lent?

*UPDATE* As of March 2016, I am still Diet Mountain Dew free and all Diet pop free. After giving this up five years ago, I have found that if I even drink anything diet or any beverage that has aspartame or sucralose in it, I get sick. I get stomach pains so horrible that I am confined to bed in a fetal position. If that doesn't send a message that diet soda is bad for you, I don't know what will. Once in awhile, I will have a regular soda, but most of the time I stick to water. If this post helps one of my readers stop drinking diet soda, then please let me know! I'd love to hear your stories!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Prayer should be the breath of our breathing, the thought of our thinking, the soul of our feeling, and the life of our living, the sound of our hearing, the growth of our growing.  
Homer W Hodge

Won't you join me in prayer today?  With all that is happening in Japan, the least we can do for all the people over there is pray.  Even at times when we feel so helpless....we can give it all to God in prayer.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Loving My New Hoodie

I have written about this website before and today they are going to get another plug:  Wild Olive Tees - Get Your Verse on!

I won their new hoodie off of their blog a few weeks ago and just received it last week.  I absolutely love it and wanted to tell you all about it.

This is the design on the front

The verse on the back
The hoodie is soft and comfy, but not too bulky like other hooded sweatshirts can be.  It has just the right amount of fleece on the inside, so I don't get too warm wearing it either.  This hoodie is only available for a limited time, so click here to get yours for $37.50 today!  They have so many other neat designs on T-Shirts as well.  I have their Sing Praises T-shirt and I have given their shirts as gifts as well.  So, be sure to look around their website.  Mother's Day is coming up and these would make great gifts for moms, grandmas, sisters, aunts, godmothers, etc. 

Thanks again to Wild Olive Tees for choosing me and sending the hoodie!  I will be "Getting My Verse On"!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Inpsiration for Today

From time to time, I like to share Bible verses with you that have inspired me or helped me through a moment in time.  I like looking up the verse in different Bibles to see how the translations differ.  I loved how this verse was translated.  May it bring you peace today.

Faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you cannot see.
Hebrews 11:1 NIV

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Hebrews:  11:1 RSV

What is faith?  It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen.  It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see.
Hebrews 11:1 NLT

The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living.  It's our handle on what we can't see. 
Hebrews 11:1 The Message

Friday, March 11, 2011

Things I Love - Spring

Things I Love...

This is my feature where I get to share something that I just love. Since you are my friends, I like sharing things I love with others. It could be anything from a new product, food, recipe, song, image, to a person and everything in between. This will be something I am completely doing on my own, without pressure or compensation from a company, author, PR/Marketing firm, friend, business owner, etc. This will just be something that makes me happy and I want to share it with you. Enjoy some love!

Today's love is............................Spring! 
I am waiting and waiting for spring to get here.  Only 10 more days until the calendar says spring even though I know Mother Nature doesn't always work by that calendar.  I am so anxious for the days to be sunnier, for that smell of spring in the air, to see the buds on all the trees and most of see my flowers start to peek through the brown ground.  I love spotting my crocus, daffodils, and tulips stretching up through the ground.  It reminds me that warm days are coming and soon all the snow and cold will be a memory.
This week I received my shipment of daffodils from the American Cancer Society.  You buy bundles of them to support their American Cancer Society foundation and research and I do it every year.  I place some in the fridge and some on the table so I can extend their time with me as long as possible.  This week I also put out all my spring decor.  I love placing all my bunnies and lambs and other spring decor out around the house.  Soon I will be planning our oldest son's 11th birthday and finding goodies for the kids' Easter baskets.  So many things to LOVE about Spring!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Review: Friendship Bread by Darien Gee

By Darien Gee
Publish Date: April 5, 2011

An anonymous gift sends a woman on a journey she never could have anticipated.

One afternoon, Julia Evarts and her five-year-old daughter, Gracie, arrive home to find an unexpected gift on the front porch: a homemade loaf of Amish Friendship Bread and a simple note: I hope you enjoy it. Also included are a bag of starter, instructions on how to make the bread herself, and a request to share it with others.

Still reeling from a personal tragedy that left her estranged from the sister who was once her best friend, Julia remains at a loss as to how to move on with her life. She’d just as soon toss the anonymous gift, but to make Gracie happy, she agrees to bake the bread.

When Julia meets two newcomers to the small town of Avalon, Illinois, she sparks a connection by offering them her extra bread starter. Widow Madeline Davis is laboring to keep her tea salon afloat while Hannah Wang de Brisay, a famed concert cellist, is at a crossroads, her career and marriage having come to an abrupt end. In the warm kitchen of Madeline’s tea salon, the three women forge a friendship that will change their lives forever.

In no time, everyone in Avalon is baking Amish Friendship Bread. But even as the town unites for a benevolent cause and Julia becomes ever closer to her new friends, she realizes the profound necessity of confronting the painful past she shares with her sister.

I received an ARC of FRIENDSHIP BREAD from Librarything and couldn't wait to read it.  Several times over the course of my adult life, I have made friendship bread...most recently within the last few months.  So this story really intrigued me.

This novel involves marriage, as well as divorce, grief and loss, friendships, and families. 

At first it was a little tough to keep the characters straight.  There are 5 main characters as well as several secondary characters plus others who live in the community.  But, once I got into the story I was able to keep track of each one. 

I really identified with Julia and Livvy and often times I was brought to tears by their story.  My two sisters are extranged and the story just reminded me how sad that makes me.  Julia's grief over losing their 10 year old son was written so well that I could feel her pain at every turn of the page.  As the mom of a 10 year old boy, I can't imagine the depth of her loss. 

I loved how the story was about the five main characters as well as the whole community of Avalon.  I felt like this story could have been written about the community I live in.  The town of Avalon really could be Anytown, USA and the story reminds us to check in with our neighbors and find ways to support eachother through all our struggles.

Throughout the novel, I laughed, I cried, I cringed, I got mad, and I wanted to jump up and make Friendship Bread!  I love how really, the bread became a character itself.  You couldn't wait to see where the bread would turn up next.

The end of the book is filled with recipes for the Amish Friendship Bread starter, how to share new starters, and other varieties of Friendship Bread, for example, butterscotch friendship bread, or chocolate caramel brownies.  After traveling the next two weekends, I plan to get my starter going!

Darian Gee has a winning novel with FRIENDSHIP BREAD.  She has written other novels under the name of Mia King and after reading this one, I definitely need to check out her other novels.  I am looking forward to keeping up with the people of Avalon.  I just hope she doesn't keep us waiting too long!

For more on FRIENDSHIP BREAD, check out the website  You can also find more discussion and information at or at  I have interacted with all three of these sites and have found them helpful and enjoyable. 

I give this 5 out of 5 stars.  I highly recommend this story to book clubs as well as individual readers.  There are so many topics and situations to discuss.  And, of course, your book club should also have plenty of Friendship Bread to go around!

I received an Advanced Readers Copy of this book.  I was not compensated in any other way for my review.  This review is my honest opinion.  I would not review anything that wouldn't benefit me or my family.

Let's Celebrate Easter With A Giveaway!

In honor of Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, I thought I would giveaway A VERY VEGGIE EASTER VEGGIETALES CD. 

Make Easter "egg-stra" special for your family this year. Heartwarming stories and fantastic songs teach us all what brings real and lasting joy. This CD is a blend of hilarious Veggie songs and classic Easter celebration hymns. Song titles include Hosanna Loud Hosanna, All Around the World, Christ the Lord Is Risen Today and many more!

Our kids loved the VeggieTales growing up.  If your kids haven't been introduced to them yet, check out their website at  They have lots of fun games to play and excellent DVD's to purchase. 

To enter, just fill out the form below.  You can enter once through 11:59 PM on Sunday, March 27, 2011.  I will chose a winner through on Monday, March 28, 2011. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

One Great Community

In October 2009, a woman in our small town was diagnosed with cancer.  She kept it to herself for quite awhile until the treatments of chemo and radiation forced her to tell those closest to her.  All throughout her fight against cancer she continued working and living in her home...alone.  Then a few months ago, the cancer came back and she was admitted to Hospice.  Her strongest desire was to remain in her home until the end of her journey.  But, like I mentioned, she lived alone.  So, our community came together to make sure that she could stay in her home.  Many people took turns checking in on her and bringing her meals.  Then, as the disease progressed, there was a schedule to be sure that every minute of every hour was covered and she was never alone.  I was priviledged to be able to be one of those people who helped to care for her.  Each day that I stopped there, I was overwhelmed with the amount of support from so many to make sure she could be taken care of in her home. 

Last Wednesday, she was called to her heavenly home.  She was a strong believer and frequently told me she didn't fear death because she knew where she was going, she just didn't want to leave earth yet...she had much to do.  But, at 72 years of age, her fight with cancer was over.  She was able to slip away peacefully, in her own home, with her son present....just as she would have wanted.

I am so grateful that we chose to live in this community of 700.  Full of caring, loving people who will sacrifice their time to help one woman stay in her home during her final days of life as well as many other random acts of kindness.  This is just one small story of the wonderful things happening in our community and I am so blessed to be a part of it.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Review: Cuisinart Pure Indulgence Ice Cream Maker from CSN Stores

I have been DYING to get this Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker and when it finally arrived from CSN Stores, I couldn't wait to get started with some ice cream!

Since you need to store the ice cream bowl in the freezer, you have to wait 24 hours before making any ice cream.

The instruction booklet comes with recipes including ice cream, sorbet, custard, and frozen yogurt also with numerous flavors.  With the opening in the top, you can also add any type of mix-ins at the end such as chocolate chips, strawberries, chopped candy, chopped oreos, etc.  It makes 2 quarts which is the perfect amount for our family of five with some usually leftover.  We had 4 adults and 7 kids here the other night and there was enough for everybody!

The first two times I just made the regular vanilla which only required whole milk, heavy cream, sugar and vanilla.  How easy is that?!

I absolutely LOVE the ice cream maker.  It is soooo much easier than our old one that required us to use ice or snow and salt to get the ice cream cold.  It also makes up so much quicker.....just 25 minutes.  It is a little loud, so you may want to set it in another room while it is mixing up.  My husband was very skeptical of it but, he is now a big fan. He didnt' think he would like the taste of the ice cream, but everyone loves it!  He is even going to pick up more ingredients for us tomorrow!  He really wants to try adding the chopped oreos to the ice cream!

CSN Stores lists the ice cream maker for $79.85 which is pretty comparable to other stores.  I ordered it on a Wednesday night and received it on Monday, even with free shipping. 

If you are in the market for a new ice cream maker or any other small appliance, CSN Stores is the place to go.  Their website offers hundreds of items for your home with reasonable prices and excellent shipping!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Review: Beauty Rest 100% Pima Cotton Extra Firm Pillows from CSN Stores

I have been waking up nearly every morning with back pain and was constantly struggling to get comfortable while sleeping.  I haven't been this uncomfortable since being pregnant.  So, when I was offered to review some items from CSN Stores, one item I wanted to get was new pillows.  Not cheap pillows, but really nice pillows.I ordered the Extra Firm King Size pillows.

They are quite large pillows.  So, even though I used to use 2 pillows, I only need one of these pillows.  They have held their shape really well.  Surprisingly, I have had much less back pain since I started using these pillows. 

I think these pillows are definitely an excellent purchase.  The two pillows together were $38.99.

I ordered these pillows off the CSN Stores website on a Wednesday night and the pillows arrived on Friday, even with FREE SHIPPING!  CSN Stores offers pillows as well as hundreds of other items for your home.  With easy ordering and fast shipping, they are your go-to website for all your shopping needs. 

I received a code to make a purchase on CSN Stores and I chose the pillows.  This review is my honest opinion and I wouldn't review anything that wouldn't benefit myself or our family. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

Things I Love - Phily Cheese Steak Pizza

Things I Love...

This is my feature where I get to share something that I just love. Since you are my friends, I like sharing things I love with others. It could be anything from a new product, food, recipe, song, image, to a person and everything in between. This will be something I am completely doing on my own, without pressure or compensation from a company, author, PR/Marketing firm, friend, business owner, etc. This will just be something that makes me happy and I want to share it with you. Enjoy some love!
Today's love is............................Phily Cheese Steak Pizza, from Sandra Lee's Semi-Homemade Magazine March/April 2011.

I've been getting Sandra Lee's Semi-Homemade magazine since its debut and there are always several recipes from each issue that I want to try.  Her recipes are so easy because you usually have most everything in your pantry and the steps are so simple.
In her recent issue, under her 20 Minute Meals category, she had Phily Cheese Steak Pizza.  I showed it to my husband and he said, let's try it!
Last night we had make-your-own pizza night with the kids making their usual pepperoni pizza and cheese pizza.  The Phily pizza was so easy to put together and it was DELISH!!!!  This will definitely be making the regular rotation in our meals.  Our son, Bennett even liked it! Enjoy!
Makes 5 Servings (In our house, only 3)
Prep: 3 minutes, Cook: 2 minutes
Bake: 15 minutes
1 (11oz) can refrigerated thin crust pizza dough, Pillsbury
1 Tbs vegetable oil
1/2 (8 oz) package chopped onion - I used a half an onion
1/2 (8 oz) package chopped green pepper - I used a half a green pepper
1/2 pound deli roast beef slices, chopped - I had the deli slice it just a tad thicker than for sandwiches
1/2 cup shredded provolone cheese
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese - I used 1-8 oz package of the pizza mix cheese in place of both
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly spray a large baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.  Unroll dough on prepared baking sheet; starting at center, press dough into a 15x10-inch rectangle.  Bake for 5 minutes.
2. In a small skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat.  Add onion and bell pepper; cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.
3. Remove crust from oven.  Top with beef, cheeses, and onion mixture.  Bake for 10 minutes, or until crust is golden and cheese melts.  Sprinkle with crushed red pepper.

This recipe has been posted at MAKE AHEAD MEALS FOR BUSY MOMS as part of the Melt In Your Mouth Mondays.  Check out all the other recipes HERE and link up your own!