Friday, December 7, 2012

Trying to Lose Weight Over the Holidays

I've tried to get in shape and use weight a few different times in my life, usually with little success. I was doing good a year or two ago and managed to lose close to 30 pounds, thanks to a nearby gym that offered daycare. When you're a stay-at-home mom, working out is good; free daycare so you get an hour or two of "me time" alone is great. That ended when money got tight and I could no longer afford the gym membership.

I tried walking for a while, but it was hard where nowhere nearby that I could walk with a stroller. I was walking during the middle of the night once my son and husband were asleep but had to quit that because there were too many dogs running loose in the neighborhood at night and they were bothering me. I got a treadmill off craigslist and later found an exercise bike for free and used those some, but the treadmill got put away once rugrat outgrew his daily naps because my husband wouldn't watch him so I could use it and I was afraid of him getting hurt because he'd try to climb on it while I was using it.

Yeah, this whole post has been a lot of excuses, but those are easy to find when you don't have any real motivation. The last year or so, I've been concerned because I gained back the weight I'd lost plus another 40 pounds, but I've also been a little afraid of losing too much because I knew I wouldn't be able to afford new clothes. I'd gotten up to 346 pounds though and was getting sore just from my daily routine, so I knew it was time to do something. (I've been blessed with good health and never had diabetes, high blood pressure, or any weight-related health problems, but I could tell this was slowing me down and felt like I was pressing my luck if I didn't do something to at least get back down to my previous weight.

I found this program online through a work-at-home forum that should take care of both problems. It's called the EPXbody challenge. It's sponsored by EPXbody, which is a company that sells nutrition and weight loss supplements. (Yes, I've also signed up to be a distributor and those are affiliate links, but I wouldn't be using it if I didn't think they were worth it). The gist of of it is that you take their weight loss products for 3 months while trying to lose weight, send them before and after pictures and prove of your weight, and they  pay you up to $10 a pound to lose the weight, in exchange for being able to use your photos in their marketing materials. The top pay is $500 for losing 50 pounds, and that is what I am going for. I started out with a sample pack that a friend of mine made up for me with 2 week supply a few of their products (EPX Burn & Nourish and Nutri-Thin) and lost 16 pounds in that time, so I think 50 pounds in 90 days will be doable.

Of course, of all the times to start a weight loss plan, November and December are the worst. I made it through Thanksgiving and still managed to lose weight though, so here's hoping Christmas goes good as well. I will be visiting my family and I've already hit my mom up to go walking with me (and probably tossing a few DVDs and many resistance bands and weights in my bag), so I'll at least be able to stay on track with the fitness side of things. I've also signed up for SparkPeople to help me track everything (I'd been using livestrong, but sparkpeople is more popular now and has groups, challenges, work out plans, and additional goal trackers -  even some that are FlyLady-related to help me out around the house, too.). If you're a SparkPeople member, feel free to visit my SparkPage and add me as a friend.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

*What Is/Was Your Child's Favorite Toy?

My son has had a few short term favorites, but the number one was his Sophie the Giraffe teething toy we got him as a baby. He carried it everywhere, even as he got older and was past teething age, and Sophie was one of his first words. We even had to buy another because the first one got left at a restaurant by mistake and he was distraught until it came. At 2 1/2 years old now, he still plays with her some because she fits in with all his other toy animals.

I'm still waiting to see what the "favorite" toy will be for the toddler years, because he has so many interests, but it looks like airplanes and boats are the top contenders right now.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Power of a Timer

Being a devoted fan of both FlyLady and the Pomodoro Technique, you'd think I'd have realized by now just how valuable a timer can be.

After all, I use one to time cleaning and decluttering sessions - well, I need to get back to doing those regularly, but using one worked when I was actually doing it. And I use one for writing and balancing my work-at-home jobs with things around the house and play and care time with my son.

One thing I'd missed, however, is how useful a timer can be as a parenting tool. I discovered this the other night in a moment of frustration. Robbie, my 2 1/2 year old has a habit of dawdling and playing around instead of  doing what he's asked, especially if those things involve eating, picking up toys, or putting clothes on. I was frustrated a few nights ago, reheated his food set the timer for 20 minutes (he's already been "eating" for close to an hour), and told him he needed to finish before the timer went off if he wanted dessert.

It worked great. Since then, I've used it to encourage him to get dressed faster before we left the house, to pick up his legos, and as a countdown to let him know when he can get out of time out. He seems to enjoy racing to "beat" it and it makes things easier on me because he doesn't argue with it or ignore it like he sometimes does me.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

*Trying On Glasses, Virtually

Me trying out GlassesUSA.com's virtual mirror
I was supposed to start wearing eyeglasses when I was a freshman in high school. I was worried about breaking them and not sure how they'd look on me, so I opted for contacts instead. Wearing them bothered me and I had trouble getting them in, so that lasted for about a week before I gave up. I made it through the rest of school and the next several years without wearing glasses by sitting up front and ignoring the fuzziness, even though I'd sometimes get a headache when I had to read a lot.

My eyesight finally got bad enough that I had to address it in the past few years. First, when I worked for the prison, we had to shoot a pistol and rifle qualification every year and I went from qualifying as an expert to barely passing it. One of the instructors even told me it seemed like I couldn't see the target well at a distance and recommended getting some prescription eyeglasses. I put it off for a bit longer and finally went to the eye doctor once I was getting headaches from reading on the internet and trying to write on the computer, and because it was getting hard to read street signs when I drove.

I'm still pretty vain though, so I opted for contacts again. I did a little better with them, but there are times that glasses are just more convenient and certain activities that it's not good to wear contacts for. My optometrist recommended getting at least one pair of glasses as a backup and they've come in really handle for dry and windy days when the contacts bother me and for days I swim and don't want to keep changing them between driving, swimming, and showering.

There are so many different styles of glasses frames available these days that I don't have to worry about fashion anymore. There are all sort of styles and colors available that will match any sort of style and fit any face shape, even some that work with my chubby cheeks and retro/punk fashion sense.

There is even a virtual mirror online  at GlassesUSA.com that you can try out to see how different frames would look on you, and there's a share feature so you can send it to your friends and get their opinions on them. Be sure to scroll down to the bottom of this post, below the virtual mirror, for GlassesUSA discount codes just for our readers.


STOREWIDE DISCOUNTS FOR MAMARANTS READERS!!
- Take 15% off + get free shipping on your entire order (orders over $50). Code: FS15
- Take 10% off any order of prescription glasses. Code: Blog10

Friday, November 16, 2012

Homemade Twinkie Recipe - Save the Twinkies!


I'll go ahead and admit that I've never been a big fan of Twinkies, but many people love them. With the announced closing of Hostess foods, it appears that Twinkies may be gone forever and some stores have already sold out of them as people have started craving Twinkies like WOody Harrellson in Zombieland.

If you've just gotta have a Twinkie now or in the future, you may want to bookmark this homemade Twinkie recipe or print it out for further reference.

Recipe: Twinkies
Ingredients
  • Non-stick spray
  • 4 egg whites
  • One 16-ounce box golden pound cake mix
  • 2/3 cup water

  • Filling
  • 2 teaspoons very hot water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups marshmallow creme (one 7-ounce jar)
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Preparation
You will need a spice bottle, approximately the size of a Twinkie, ten 12 x 14 -inch pieces of aluminum foil, a cake decorator or pastry bag, and a chopstick.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Fold each piece of aluminum foil in half twice. Wrap the folded foil around the spice bottle to create a mold. Leave the top of the mold open for pouring in the batter. Make 10 of these molds and arrange them on a cookie sheet or in a shallow pan. Grease the inside of each mold with a light coating of non-stick spray.
Disregard the directions on the box of cake mix. Instead, beat the egg whites until stiff. In a separate bowl combine cake mix with water and beat until thoroughly blended (about 2 minutes). Fold egg whites into the cake batter and slowly combine until completely mixed.
Pour the batter into the molds, filling each one about 3/4 of an inch. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean.
For the filling, combine salt with the hot water in a small bowl and stir until salt is dissolved. Let this mixture cool.
Combine the marshmallow creme, shortening, powdered sugar and vanilla in a medium bowl and mix well with an electric mixer on high speed until fluffy.
Add the salt solution to the filling mixture and combine.
When the cakes are done and cooled, use a skewer or chopstick to make three holes in the bottom of each one. Move the stick around inside of each cake to create space for the filling.
Using a cake decorator or pastry bag, inject each cake with filling through all three holes.
Serving Size
Serves 10

Monday, November 12, 2012

On My Way to Becoming a Crazy Cat Lady

Looking outside my window right now, there are 2 feral cats asleep on the rails around my back porch. We also have one inside kitty - she's hanging out on top of out entertainment center, her normal place to hide from the dogs. I'm not a cat person and have never been and neither is my husband, so how did this happen?

It started several years ago. One of our neighbors got several cats and, for some reason, decided to just let them roam the neighborhood. I don't know if this is because of the neighborhood-wide mouse infestation that happened a few years ago or if he originally meant to keep them inside, but he ended up not feeding or caring for them at all and they were mostly living in the woods on the edge of the neighborhood.

We'd see two of them in the yard on occasion and they'd usually run when we got near, although my husband did mistakenly bring the gray cat in once, mistakenly thinking it was out cat and she'd gotten out. For the past couple weeks, a large black cat has been hanging out on the porch, possibly because there are a few warm nooks to sleep in and stray pieces of dog food to eat. I noticed it and started leaving out a bowl of cat food and a bowl of water, and now it's living here for real. I've noticed the gray cat out there a few times as well, so I guess it's moved in too.

From the sound of it, they've been getting under the house at night to stay warm. We can't let them do that because they'll tear up the insulation and the ductwork, so I'm going to try to rig up some of the stuff we already have into DIY feral cat houses. I've seen a few cool plans for making them out of an old cooler, or putting a cheap foam cooloer or foam insulation inside a Rubbermaind tote, but I don't know if Billy is willing to give up either of those to turn into a cat house. In the meantime, I've got the old dog house that our Rottie lived in until she died amnd I'm going to see if I can find some free straw to insulate it with. It's big enough to hold at least a couple cats.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Works In Progress

I mentioned earlier that I was working on some creative things, and I have two main ones in the works right now.

The big one for November is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). It's a yearly challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Yes, that's very short for a novel and it really means writing part of a first draft, but the point is to get into the habit of writing every day and then work on additional drafts and editing later. Of course, I came up with about 5 different ideas before I started writing, and I'm still considering switching over and working on a different project instead of the one I've started writing. I figure if I come up with even a good idea to build from it's worth it and the extra writing practice will do me good.

The other work in progress is one I started last month and then put on hold to give me time to write. It's a comic strip that I had an idea for. I'm still working on character sheets now - drawing each character with multiple poses, facial expressions, etc. Next will be backgrounds and then putting it all together and publishing. I think I'll do it as a webcomic first then publish comic books once I have enough done.


In other news, the toe is feeling much better. I took rugrat trick or treating (pics to follow when I dig my camera out) and I think the walking around actually helped it. My calves are tight and feel like I walked about 5 miles, but most of the pain in the toenail is gone and my toe is no longer all stiff and achy. I go back to the foot doctor on Wednescday and, if he gives me the all-clear, I'll probably start back on a walking and biking routine again.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Not Again

Well, I'm back. Life finally slowed down a bit and I'm not very mobile right now so sitting here and blogging makes sense.

My son slammed open the gate on our porch last week and caught my big toe, breaking it and ripping the nail off. I am still in pain and not able to walk right, plus sore because the band-aid is stuck to it and I can't get it off after after soaking it for 2 hours in water and epsom salt (gonna call the doc back on Monday, but nobody's yanking that thing lose without numbing it or something first - I can't even stand to touch the edge of what's left of the band-aid now, after I tripped most of the unstuck part away).

Other than that, I'm still busy, but less with obligations and more with things I want to do. I'm hitting the SEO and content writing pretty hard right now, mainly because we're very short on cash and have a bunch of medical bills now on top of this (for October = 2 normal doctor visits for me, bunch of blood work, ER visit for the son when he fell and split his forehead open, and now another doctor visit plus the podiatrist visit he referred me to and at least one follow-up in 2 weeks). Can't win for losing, but I guess that's life.

Seriously though, if I get all tacky and stick a "donate" button in my sidebar, this is why. Yes, this also means more sponsored posts and such for a while, but I'll keep marking them with an asterisk (*) in front of the title so you can skip them if you'd like, and I'll try to write plenty of regular posts to balance them out.

I do have a few things in the works on the creative front as well, but more about them later.


Monday, October 22, 2012

I'm back.

I haven't been blogging much because life has gotten a bit overwhelming and I took a break from most of my blogs and social media sites.

I'm going to start trying to update more regularly again in a week or two, including with a long-overdue review of a lovely dress from eShakti and a summary of some of the changes in my life lately.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Zucchini Wars

If you're a gardener in the South or have ever lived near or gone to church with a Southern gardener, then you know about the zucchini wars.

If you don't, here it is. We plant a few of these seeds in our garden each year, watch as the plants grow huge, then big yellow blossoms appear. All of a sudden, they start bearing tons of fruit, sometimes 6 or 8 huge zucchinis per plant. Of course, they all ripen at once and the same goes for every other zucchini plant within miles.

It gets baked, fried, shredded up into breads and muffins, hollowed out and filled with meat and tomato sauce and cheese, and used as a replacement for noodles in lasagna. Still, there's only so much squash a person can eat, so the "wars" begin.


Churches are notorious for them. Arrive early and leave your windows down, your doors unlocked, or the bed of your truck uncovered, and you'll probably find a grocery bag full of long green squash waiting for you after services. It happens in neighborhoods, too.  If your neighbor gardens, then watch out! You may return home from work or walk out the door on a Saturday morning to discover "gifted" zucchinis propped up against your door or waiting in your favorite rocking chair. They can even find their ways into mailboxes and newspaper boxes, and occasionally even bicycle baskets.


And that's only the anonymous gifting. The more covert stage of the zucchini wars involved baked goods. Many a person has fallen victim to this by accepting an offer of zucchini bread or muffins. From there, it's a quick downfall as word gets out that you like them and you're offered even more.

There's no way to beat them and no polite way to win, so you might as well start liking veggies hidden in your breads and cake, till up a patch of ground, and head off the offers next year by growing your own.

If you need me, I'll be in the garden or in the kitchen, buried in squash. The truly disturbing part - I have twice as many butternut squash plants as zucchinis this year and it looks like they'll be ready to harvest in a few weeks.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Car Seat Emergency Stickers

Another great idea from Pinterest!
I've seen a couple pins showing stickers attached to carseats with the child and parent's information, in case of an accident or other emergency and I thought it was a great idea worth sharing.

You can see an example at http://dontpatthebelly.com/2012/04/car-seat-emergency-information-stickers/

Apparently, you can by them pre-printed online, but they'd also be really easy to print onto sticker paper or just write on an index card, laminate or cover in clear tape, and tape to the carseat.

The link above includes the following information on the sticker:

Child's Name:
DOB:
Address:
Phone:


Parent/Guardian Names:
Phone Numbers:


Emergency Contact:
Phone Numbers:


Doctor/Pediatrician:
Phone Number:
Allergies/Medical Conditions:


Other things you could add include:
Blood Type
Organ Donor Status
Dietary Restrictions (Kosher, Vegetarian, Etc)'

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

My First Computer


My first computer was a Commodore 64. It was originally sold from 1982-1984 and still holds the record for the most units sold of any computer system ever, about 17 million. 


It had 64K RAM, a bunch of games, a full color display, and a sound card and interface that let you program your own sounds and music. It came with a really slow, loud floppy disk drive that was supposed to be an improvement over the original cassette-based drive and an old-school dot matrix printer.


Instead of a GUI, you had to enter all the commands in BASIC, but it seemed pretty easy at the time and I thought it was really cool to be able to type in code and create pictures, sounds, and short/simple programs. It was definitely enough to start a girl on the road to geekdom.


We only had it for a year or two, because my parents bought in in 1994, when I was a freshman in high school, and it quickly became clear that it wouldn't work well for word processing or this new thing called the internet that teachers were encouraging us to use for research. We got a Gateway PC with Microsoft Office, a "real" inkjet printer, and a dial-up connection the next year and were up to date as far as mid-90s computing went, but I still have a soft spot for the old Commodore for showing me that programming was fun and not too hard.






a mom blog communityThis post is part of the 2012 Blog Dare from Bloggy Moms.

One prompt per day, for each day of the year.

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Monday, June 25, 2012

*Georgia On My Mind

For some reason, my family keeps ended up in Georgia. My grandmother managed a bookstore there back before I was born and, when I was very young, my grandfather lived in a mountain community near Atlanta called Big Canoe. I remember going on vacations to visit them and going to Six Flags and riding the roller coasters and rides there.

When I was in college, one of my friends lived near Lake Lanier in Gainesville, Georgia. Her parents owned a chain of bar and grills in and around Atlanta and I had several friends in Atlanta at the time. She didn't have a car, so I would drive us down on the weekends and her parents let us stay with them. This way, we could visit friends and go see bands when they played in the area. I wanted to move down there myself, but out of state tuition and falling in love with the man who's now my husband kept me here in NC.

Still, I have a feeling I may end up there again in the future, maybe after we retire. Like parts of North Carolina, Georgia also has beautiful mountains and lakes and Atlanta has so much to offer for people of all ages. If we decide to look at retirement communities or senior living Atlanta would be one of the areas high on our list. There are so many places available with beautiful surroundings and pools, fitness, and other amenities nearby and being close to the city means more events and cultural offerings to choose from.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Best Book I Read Recently

Hunger games.jpgI usually don't get into books that are trending, and I've skipped most of the young adult series that have been popular with adults lately, like Harry Potter and Twilight. 

Still, when I heard about the Hunger Games, I was interested. I like survival stories and fiction and am into post-apocalyptic and dystopian books and movies. I waiting for a while to read it though, because there was a huge backorder at our local library, then finally broke down and bought the eBooks of the whole series because I wanted to read them before watching the movie.

I ended up absolutely loving the books and reading the whole series in two days. I still haven't seen the movie yet, but will probably catch it soon. We have a $2 theater that shows "second run" movies nearby, and they're planning to run it for several weeks. It's popular here all over again because the town where they filmed District 12 is just a few miles away.




 
a mom blog communityThis post is part of the 2012 Blog Dare from Bloggy Moms.

One prompt per day, for each day of the year.

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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Why Clean The House?


(This is an essay I wrote for a homemaking course I'm taking.)

Why clean the house?

This was something I asked myself for years, with the wrong attitude and lots of “poor me” type statements tacked onto the end. Why clean the house – nobody appreciates it? Why clean the house – it’ll just get dirty again? Why clean the house – I’m not the only one who lives here?

For years, I had plenty of excuses so I didn’t clean the house, or I did the bear minimum to keep things halfway sanitary, but not at all neat or welcoming. I have never had to clean while I was a child, except as a punishment, and I had never really learned how to clean or keep things in order, but I had convinced myself that it wasn’t all that important and that I had “better” things to do.

I remember really thinking about it after reading a quote online at said something like “A cluttered house is a sign of a cluttered soul”. I didn’t know why, but that quote made me so mad at the time. How dare they judge me? How could they assume my house was any sort of reflection of me? Why was a messy house always the woman’s fault anyway? Didn’t they know I worked long hours and needed a break when I got home, too?

Looking back, those thought and attitudes were the very type of clutter my mind and soul were filled with. I was so focused on myself and on how busy and self-important I felt that I never realized that the clutter and chaos in my home was a reflection of me. I blamed my messy house on depression and constant fatigue, and then I blamed the mess for causing my depressed feelings and lack of energy. I felt overwhelmed by it all, but was too caught up in feeling sorry for myself to make even a small change. The sad thing is it took a stay in the hospital, when I was physically and mentally at the end of my rope, for me to realize that I needed to get my physical house in order the same way I needed to get my mental and spiritual “house” in order.

Being in the hospital was a little like being in a hotel. The room was sparse but neat and I was limited to a few outfits, basic toiletries, and some books and notebooks for writing and drawing. The first morning I woke up, I made my bed because it looked so messy and unkept and I started taking pride in keeping my few things neat. I realized then that order and routine set the tone for the whole day and lifted my spirits. It really began to sink in how much my cluttered home was dragging me down and affecting my moods and my energy, and I started to realize how it must be affecting my husband as well.

When I got back home, I started working on cleaning. I didn’t really know where to start, so I spent a lot of time sorting through boxes and drawers one small thing at a time, taking hours without making much visible progress. I finally found my way back to the FlyLady website and determined to give it a try. For a couple years, I would try it, “flutter” for a while and then get into a depression or get overwhelmed with work and fall behind again. Still, things were getting a bit better, very slowly. I still had way too much clutter and what I now realize was a hoarding problem, but at least I had routines to help me keep some of it in check and to keep on top of hygienic things like laundry, dishes, vacuuming, and clean bathrooms.

When I found out I was pregnant out of the blue, after 8 years of supposed infertility, it really put things into perspective. My house was still far too cluttered and hard to clean because of the piles of stuff in the way. I knew I needed to make some big changes quick and get rid of a lot of clutter and then do a thorough cleaning to make it safe and welcoming to bring my son home to. I had pregnancy complications that resulted in having to quit both my jobs early, which gave me lots of time at home. I was also blessed to have a chance, thanks to a television special, to get to meet Marla Cilley (the FlyLady) in person for help and encouragement in de-cluttering. I did manage to get things neat, for the most part (one thing we found out is my husband also has hoarding/packrat tendencies and he was more reluctant to let things go), before my son was born, but I had health issues after his birth that let things fall behind again. Things are much neater than they were, but I still have to push myself to keep on top of things and not let the nagging voice that tells me “it’s not worth it” or “it’ll just get messy again” win. It’s also just been a big adjustment to try to find time to clean with a small child who wants to get into everything as fast as I can straighten it up.


Now, I have so many answers to the question “Why clean the house?”

The first is simply, because it’s my job. I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom and have been blessed to be able to do so. Part of this “agreement” is that my husband takes care of earning most of the money to pay our bills and I take care of our son and the house. It is also part of the “job description” the Bible gives for a woman who is a “keeper at home”.

The second is because my family deserves it. Like I mentioned earlier, a cluttered house can make you feel very moody and depressed, and it often causes arguments between spouses. On the other hand, a neat and clean house can lift your spirits and is a calmer and more relaxing place to rest or come home to. My husband should be able to come home in the evening to a peaceful and welcoming environment, not to chaos and clutter that makes it look like I don’t care about what he has provided for me. My son needs a home that is neat and safe for him to play in and explore, and where he will be happy to invite friends over as he gets older. I also deserve a clean, orderly house, because it shows that I respect myself and my family enough to keep it up and that I respect my job as a homemaker.

The last reason is so that I can use my house to bless others. My husband and I used to enjoy having friends over to visit us before the house got so messy, and that is something we have only recently been able to enjoy again. At one point, I even had an informal book/study group with some local ladies that centered around FW, but I did not feel like I could continue that until I got my house back in order again because I would have been ashamed of the clutter and dust. I believe that one of the greatest gifts we can share with others, especially if we have the opportunity to be stay at home wives and mothers, is hospitality, but that requires a home that is clean and welcoming. I look forward to having a home that I will be glad to invite people over to again, and where I will not hesitant to open the door and ask someone in if they stop by for a moment.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Toddler Antics of the Past Week

Friday night:

I was up late last night working on some writing. 
Robbie gets out of bed around 1am, ignores me and goes straight to the fridge. I ask what he's doing, he says "I cook", and starts moving a chair. 

He'd gotten 2 waffles out of the freezer, put them in the toaster, and turned the toaster on. When they popped up, he grabbed them, then went back to bed. When I went in there, he'd eaten half of one and was snuggled up with the rest.


Saturday: 

Me: Let's go fix dinner.
Robbie: Cake please.
Me: No, we need real food first.
Him: Pie?


Yes, I do feed him, but I think he may be part Hobbit

Friday, May 18, 2012

Why I Didn't Weed the Garden

Today started out with good intentions. I had a lot to do, was more motivated than usual (OK, that's not much, but it's a start), and was gonna get some stuff done around the house. Most of this is because my husband has been working a second job and I feel kind of guilty slacking here while he's working 16 hours some days, but it's a start.

My first bright idea was to go ahead and shampoo the carpet while the rugrat was still in bed. I picked up, vacuumed, and wet down a few areas with boiling water and carpet shampoo as a spot treatment, then went to get the shampooer and realized I was missing a piece I needed. After spending 40+ minutes looking for it, I threw in the towel and decided to weed the garden instead.

That's our mower under the tarp on the left. It's broken, obviously.
I went outside with my son and watered the plants we have starting on our back porch first. Luckily, I saw a squirrel in the yard and decided to show it to my son and stand there for a while and let him watch it

That was all good, until it got close to the garden and I saw this huge snake. I thought about running down there and attacking it with the garden hoe, but I didn't want to be handling snakes and swinging sharp metal objects with a 2 year old instead, so we watched it cruise around the gardens and went back inside instead.

Seriously, the thing was at least 3 feet long!
Since my carpet shampooer had already crapped out on me earlier in the morning, I took it as some sort of sign that I should just throw in the towel on actual work for the day.

We packed up our stuff and went to the park, because there was no way I was going back in that yard with the anaconda wanna-be lurking around in the grass.

I did go down there later to water the garden and didn't get eaten by the snake, but I am officially freaked out for the rest of the summer.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Boring Shoes + Sharpies!

This is what I wanted the Sharpie markers for a week or so ago.

I've had these plain white tennis shoes for a while and they're so boring I never wore them anywhere. Even for around the house white is just not the best color because it shows every little stain and mark.

I decided I wanted something more fun, but it took me a while to decide what to do with them. I had though about coloring them to look like wingtips or saddle shoes, but my 80s/90s nostalgia won out.

If you are in or near your 30s, you probably remember Lisa Frank. They made stickers, folders, stationary, and all sorts of things featuring neon-colored animals, unicorns, and other stereotypical girly stuff. It's still around, but I think it was much more popular in the late 80s-mid 90s, when I was in elementary and middle school.

As much of a tomboy as I was/am, I have an undying love for the stuff, especially Markie the unicorn. I even carried folders and notebooks with him on them in college and in the office when I worked as a real estate broker, so I just had to bust out the markers and make me some neon rainbow unicorn shoes.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Roller Skating


Thursday, April 26, 2012

What caused me to change my career field.


I talked about this when I first started the blog, but finding out I was pregnant caused some huge changes in my life, including my career.

Before I got pregnant, my husband and I had talked and planned on my staying home if/when we had a baby, but years passed and we weren't sure how to make it work when the time actually came.

As fate would have it, I didn't really end up with a choice. I had two hospitalizations in the few months before I got pregnant, including a car wreck that required surgery and months of physical therapy, so I used up most of my sick and family/medical leave time. Then, I had hyperemesis and fainting spells that caused my doctor to pull me out of work and recommend that I not even drive a car for several weeks.

All of this meant I didn't have enough time off to keep my job and they refused to move me to a position where I would be seated and not walking around a hot kitchen on concrete floors and surrounded by inmates. In order to pull my money out of my retirement savings and 401k, to pay my bills, I had to quit my job. I was upset over how it played out, but it was the best thing that could have happened.

As a result, I've been able to spend the past 2+ years at home with my son full-time. It's been great and I wouldn't trade that time with him for anything, even though he can be a handful. It's also given me a chance to think about what I enjoy and what I want to do with the rest of my life, and now I'm going back to college again, which I probably wouldn't have if I had kept my old job.




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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

If I only had $20, I would buy...

 A big pack of Sharpie markers.

Seriously, I've been doing a lot more drawing and artsy-crafty stuff lately and I love sharpies because they make great lines and come in so many colors.

I also have some shoes and things I'm waiting to decorate and I figure permanent marker is the easiest way to do what I have in mind.




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Friday, April 20, 2012

*Some Information on Mesothelioma

Living in southern Appalachia, it seems like almost everybody has either worked in a local manufacturing plant or "mill" or has family who had. Sadly, many of these people and their family members were later diagnosed with lung diseases that were likely related to their jobs, and many died from them. In most cases, it was only a few years between diagnosis and death and the majority never received any compensation from their employers.

One of my husband's cousins, who died from mesothelioma after working in a textile plant which manufactured asbestos fabrics, was even told he had no claim because he'd been a smoker and that was obviously the cause of his lung cancer. Some manufacturing plants in the area today make applicants sign a form that says they cannot sue the company for any health problems that are related to their employment - I'm not sure if this is even legal, but it was enough to keep my husband from taking a fairly high-paying job with a company that manufactures wallboard.

I vaugely remember seeing signs about asbestos when I was a child in the early 90s and being told it was something bad and they were getting rid of it in our school building, and I've seen the ads for mesothelioma lawyers on television, so I thought that it was a fading problem. Instead, I've learned that mesothelioma rates have not really gone down since 1989, when the asbestos ban was passed (the increased for several years afterward), and the survival rate has only barely improved. Because it was expensive to remove asbestos from many products, and some manufacturers claimed it was impossible or that the replacement materials were inferior, many manufacturers using asbestos were opposed to the ban and the the EPA was sued and lost in 1991, overturning much of the asbestos ban and ensuring that asbestos is still used in many products today.

Another surprise was finding that about 30% of mesothelioma patients are veterans, usually those who served onboard US Navy ships or in naval shipyards from the 1930s through the 1970s. During those years, asbestos was used extensively for fireproofing and insulation and the close quarters of the ship made it virtually impossible to avoid exposure. The VA does recognize mesothelioma as a service-related disease, but many people have trouble getting VA claims approved and it becomes an even harder problem while battling a deadly disease at the same time. Veterans, like many other mesothelioma patients, would be best served by getting a lawyer to represent them during this process.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Too Awesome Not to Share

In case you missed it, or are too broke or trendy to catch television these days, Jenny Lawson ("The Bloggess" was on CNN today.

THEY thought they were getting another "mommy wars" story. Instead, she used her time to talk about the coming zombie apocalypse, her lady garden, and other awesomeness. Seriosuly, this had to have been the best CNN interview ever.

She has a video up on her blog and you have got to go watch it:
http://thebloggess.com/2012/04/and-then-i-used-the-phrase-lady-garden-on-cnn/

Friday, April 13, 2012

Dear 10 year old self...

Dear Michelle,

Hang on to this letter because some parts will make more sense as you get older. I don't remember what you were like at 10 or what is going on then, but life is about to get crazy in a couple years.

Enjoy it and stop taking yourself so seriously. You don't have to hold things together for everyone or be some super student. In a few years, nobody will remember or care anyway. Enjoy yourself. Learn about what you enjoy, but spend more time having fun and trying new things. You don't have to be the best to keep trying things, and you never will learn or get any better if you don't start and stick with it for  awhile.

If you want to do something, ask. Mom and dad talk like money's super tight, but they probably could have come up with it and let you take dance or gymnastics or art or music lessons if they'd known how bad you wanted to. You'll end up trying again as an adult and it will suck when you find out there a few things you "might have" had a talent for if you'd developed it any.

Middle school and high school will be weird. Again, get out more, actually do stuff and maybe party a little. You'll spend too much of the rest of your life stuck at home or in front of a computer to start that mess now. You'll lose most of your best friends and grow apart, but you need to be a better friend to the ones who stick with you in high school because some of them are awesome people that will stay in touch years later.

Don't be surprised how people turn out. Tone down the self-righteous stage you fall into your freshman and senior year because you end up with your own craziness, too. Don't sweat college too much, but go ahead and learn more about the internet and computer programming instead of letting people talk you out of it. In short, have fun and follow what you want to do instead of trying so hard to conform to what you think everyone else wants.

Love,
  Raine  (btw, that screename/nickname you pick in 8th grade is gonna stick with you for the rest of your life)



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*Got It

Guest post written by my buddy Bernardo Graham

I got satellite internet service for the farm because I got sick and tired of my kids saying I didn’t answer my cell phone. I don’t know what part of “I don’t get service out here” they don’t understand but they’re always yelling at me telling me they’re worried about me that something’s happened with all this big farm equipment.

I love being out here by myself though and since my wife died it’s been a bit lonely. I am glad my kids care about me so much but I also can’t spend all day inside checking my email – the chickens need to be fed and the cows milked and I’ve got all kinds of tending to the crops that I’ve got to do. 

I love my kids to death but unless they want to go outside to the farm with me and get the work done they need to just leave me alone and have faith that I‘m a grown man and can more or less take care of myself, you know?

Monday, April 9, 2012

... and he never found out!

Source: http://thefantasim.deviantart.com    
We'd been together for 9 years. I'd thought about leaving a few times, tried to leave once and came back because it was way past midnight, deer kept jumping out in the road, I was too upset to drive, and I hadn't told anybody I was coming. He found my note, acted like he never knew I was gone, and then made fun of me over it later.

I was struggling with depression and my doctor said that getting away would be a good thing, but I ignored that, too. He started hiding away, locking himself in the bedroom all evening - later, I found out he was spending hours on a fetish "community" online and browsing through craigslist personals. He was short with me when we spoke, sarcastic, hateful, edging on threatening, so I took a second full-time job to be away from home more. I started having panic attacks again, started purging and restricting - people told me I looked good because I lost weight, but I felt like crap because I was severely bulimic again.

And I started trying to save money. Not much saved, because everytime I had money it seemed like something needed buying or fixing and he was suddenly broke so I had to cover it. But enough, and I was making enough that things would be tight but I could rent a small place and support myself if I had to, so long as I kept both jobs. I had a plan, had found out a few places I could rent affordably and take my dog with me, and was slowly figuring out how to make it all work.

Then, I found out I was pregnant. I was scared to leave because he'd always made a big deal about having children and said nobody would ever leave and take them away from him. His behavior got worse, his attitude got worse, he didn't touch me at all while I was pregnant - he never hurt me, but there was no love or affection there either, and he was getting deeper into this online world of his. I tried to take care of myself for my baby, forced myself to eat and hold it down, tried to make good choices. Got very sick and lot both jobs, along with my health insurance. Spent the money I'd saved on doctor bills and stuff for the baby.

He treats me better now, halfway decent most of the time and sometimes even acts like he still cares. He loves his son though and is great with him. He spends time with us on weekdays, playing with his son in the evenings, but still locking himself away on the weekends in the bedroom alone with the computer. I'm a stay-at-home mom now. He wants me to work too and earn money, but will not pay for daycare - the plan is for me to care for a toddler all day and work at night, but I can't handle that right now. I'm working from home, doing some writing, getting a few blog ads, not really making ends meet. If I could afford to go back to the doctor and get in treatment again for depression and anxiety, I might be able to make it work, but I can't afford to know. I stay because I can't make it on my own.

I was so close to leaving for good, and he never found out.



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Almost Girl Scout Cookies

If you're like me, you love Girl Scout Cookies. You're also on a budget that may make it hard or impossible to stock up on them when they are on sale.

While there isn't any way to get the real thing, other than stocking up during cookie season or buying them online from others who have done so, I've found several options in stores year round that come close, many for half the price of the Girl Scout Variety.

For comparisons, here are the 3 most popular Girl Scout Cookie varieties - Thin Mints, Samoas or Caramel deLites, and Tagalongs or Peanut Butter Patties. They are made at 2 different bakeries, which is why some go by 2 different names.


The most common Girl Scout cookie knockoffs are made by Keebler and available at most grocery stores. They are the easiest to find, and the Samoas come closest to the Girl Scout variety, but they are also the most expensive of the 3 types I've tried.

The Grasshoppers taste a lot like Thin Mints and the Caramel Dreams are very, very close to Samoas. The Peanut Butter Filled cookies are a lot like Tagalongs, but use a chocolate cookie instead of vanilla, which is a trait they share with the other copycat versions I have found.

Cheaper options for "fake" Girl Scout cookies can be found at discount retailers like ALDI and Dollar General.

The boxes on the right show the Clover Valley brand cookies from Dollar General. These are usually around 1.85-1.90 a box, at least here in North Carolina. I have heard that these were made in the same factory as the Girl Scout cookies, but don't think that is true because there are differences in the cookies and because I don't believe the bakery would risk their contract with the Girl Scouts to produce cookies at such a low price.

The Mint Thin cookies are very close to the Girl Scout Thin mints and are good. The Fudge Caramel Cookies are meant to resemble Samoas, but are noticeably different because the whole cookie is covered in chocolate instead of just drizzled - they are good, but not a suitable replacement for Samoas or Caramel deLites. The Fudge Peanut Butter cookies are good, but not great. They are similar to the Keebler cookies in that they use a chocolate cookie base, but the chocolate covering the Peanut Butter layer seems thinner.

Another discount store option is the Benton's or Benton's Best brand cookies from ALDI. I did not see any Peanut Butter cookies or Tagalong knockoffs at my local store, but I would love to hear about them if any of my readers has seen or tried them.

Of those I tried, I really enjoyed both and found them to be very close to Girl Scout cookies in flavor, texture, and quality. The Fudge Mint cookies were soft and delicious and very much like the older Thin Mints, rather than the newer ones that can sometimes seem overly hard or waxy. The Caramel Coconut Fudge cookies are awesome and are the closest of all the copycat cookies to the taste and texture of Samoas. The only real difference I could see is that the chocolate drizzle seems to be milk chocolate, while real Samoa Girl Scout cookies use a dark chocolate drizzle.

I have heard that WalMart has, or previously had, their own version of these cookies s well, but I've never tried them. If there are any other copycat Girl Scout cookies that you've tried, I'd like to hear about them in the comments.

*Shopping Online with Become.com

Since I'm online so much anyway, I tend to do a lot of shopping and even "window shopping" online. It makes it easy to look for what I want and compare options and prices without having to drag my toddler out and drive from store to store.

I just found a new comparison shopping website called Become.com that makes it even easier by combining shopping at product research. For instance, searching for booster seats or cribs brings up both product listings and a "research" tab that listed product information and recent recalls.

You can search by price, brand. and/or store, which makes it really convenient, and specific products can be narrowed down into categories which fit them more.. Shopping for Hampton Hill Bedding, for instance, brings up a list of bedding options with the price and store and can be further sorted by size, material, and brand.

The search results also include photos, so it is easy to compare items at a glance. This means, as I was searching for a sink to complement by brass hand pump style faucet, all I had to do was search for "sink hammered brass" to browse through the offerings from several stores and pick out one to compliment it.

Another nice feature is the red dot that shows up on the picture to highlight sale items, and the original price listed beside the sale price. In a search for Home Depot storage buildings this helped me find one for sale for over $700 off the original price, which made it even cheaper than the local shed places.

If you do much shopping online, then you may want to add become.com to your bookmarks to helpe compare items and find them more easily.


This post sponsored by become.com

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Team Facebook or Team g+

I'm still on team facebook, at least for now.

For the most part, this is because it's where the people I know are and  it seems like Google+ is a bit late to the game. Also, it seems like Google's getting into way too much now and I'm a little squeamish about that (and still ticked off that they killed Google Real Estate).

A lot of my friends were/are upset by the change to timeline, but I don't really mind it. I think they are getting somewhat better about privacy, while Google's new privacy site with merging the data from various sites together worried me a little bit.

That said, if a bunch of my friend migrate over to Google+ in the future and facebook becomes a ghost town like myspace did, then I will probably follow them over. For now, I feel like I have enough social media in my life and, while I was an early adopter of the Google+ profile, I just can't push myself to post over there too right now.



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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Old Photo

Prompt: Post an old photo... and tell us what was happening at that moment.

This is a photo from college at Appalachian State, I'm pretty sure it was my freshman year. That's me and my dad and my mom was there too.

We had went out to eat at this really cool bar & grill place that had awesome quesadillas, a mechanical bull, and was a nightclub at night. It's shut down since but it was the place to be when I was a student.

I miss my crazy super-short hair and the whole college thing of being able to go out do and try new things without all the responsibilities of having a family and bills to pay.

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Friday, March 9, 2012

I never get to __________ anymore.

I think most moms have the same answer to this one...

SLEEP!   I never get to sleep anymore.

Yes, the cosleeping pic is so true right now, except my toddler has also decided lately that he will jump, sing, squirm around, and do acrobatics on the bed until about midnight to make darn sure I'm awake.

My husband manages to sleep through most of it, but I have trouble even sleeping if it is not quiet and still and I'm not laying just right, which doesn't include toddler feet resting on me or elbows in my back. (I woke up this morning with his feet on me and his head/shoulder's on my husband, my son stretched out over the bed in between us like a little bridge).




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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Pinterest ideas I have yet to try...


Umm, most of them.

Seriously, I love Pinterest but this prompt coincided nicely with the "I'm not just a Pinner, I'm a doer" meme that keeps finding its way to my facebook. Since I spend too much time pinning to actually do most of the things I pin, I made my own version for us lazy, broke, and/or non-crafty Pinners. :)

To answer the question - I have a ton of sewing tutorials, craft projects, and make-your-own beauty and cleaning recipes that I want to try and haven't. I also have about a bazillion recipes that I've yet to try, but since I have made a bunch of recipes from there already it's not a total fail.

If you wanna see all the stuff I'm pinning and not doing, you can add me on Pinterest here.


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Sunday, March 4, 2012

My Goals for Spring

How cool is it that today's blog dare prompt is about our goals for Spring, after I just posted about a few of my larger goals for getting back in control of my life this year?  Here are a few of my goals for this Spring:

  • Finish filing for financial aid and apply for every scholarship I can find that I qualify for.
  • Plant a garden and actually weed and tend to it this year.
  • Re-start and finish the "conservative" Couch to 5k program. 
  • Do more de-cluttering and get my office/sewing room set up right.
  • Clean out my closet and sell or donate about 3/4 of my clothing.
  • Buy some bras that fit right and look good under my clothing.
  • Get my self-confidence back. :)
  • Get my son potty trained.
  • Plant some flowers in the front yard and make the house look nicer outside.
  • Finish decluttering the inside of the house and decorating, paint if I can afford it, and start having guests over gain.
  • Train my two hellions of dogs to behave and be quiet so I can have company over.



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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Getting My Life Back

I've been super busy lately and sort of neglecting my friends and readers out there in blog land. Part of this has been the usual - keeping up with an almost 2 year old, doing some freelance writing to pay the bills, and trying to hold back the avalanche of housework. I've also been trying to spend less time online in general and more time outside and actively playing and doing things with my son.

In general, I'm trying to get out of the house and do everything I can within my own power to beat back depression and get that semi-normal life I've always wanted. I haven't really been actively depressed, but I still have the blahs and low energy and it's aggravating me (part of this may be thyroid related - the 2 are sort of a vicious cycle). Really, I'm almost 30 years old and I want to enjoy life more and feel like I'm doing and accomplishing things instead of just existing day to day. I'm sure my family will benefit too, because I have a lot more energy and a way better attitude when I'm getting out and doing stuff.

The biggest change is that I'm going back to school. I've been wanting to finish college for a long time now, and it looks like I'll finally be able to. It looks like I'll be eligible for some financial aid and I also found out I can probably get help with part of the cost of daycare while I'm in class. I hate to use it at all, but my husband is working late a lot of days and there's no other way to make it work. I'm afraid if I keep waiting I'll end up not going, and I really need the degree now so I can start making money.

Since I'm already doing some web design and graphics work on the side, in addition to writing, I've decided to double major in Web Technologies and Advertising/Graphic Design. The Web Tech program is a sure thing, but Ad & Graphic Design has limited enrollment so there's a chance I may not get into it. Taking these classes should help me out a lot and enable me to work from home doing custom webpages, rather than relying heavily on templates and stock images as I have done in the past. It will also make it easier for me to move on to a more advanced degree if I decide to later.

The college I will be attending is just a few blocks from the real estate office I worked at before Robbie was born, so I'm thinking about going back into that part-time if the market picks up like I believe it will this year and if I have the time to. I will probably do school only the first semester to see how much time I need to study and work on projects outside class and how it effects my family. If I do end up with several hours of spare time per day, since I will probably already be paying for full-time daycare enrollment, then I am considering talking to my former Broker-In-Charge about going back to work as a real estate agent as well.

This all clashes with my original plans of being a stay-at-home mom and homeschooling, but I think it will be better for our family as a whole and will make us all more happy. We need the additional income and it makes more sense to me to go back to school and work where I can earn more with less time, instead of being home but constantly online doing freelance work for what often amounts to $2-3 an hour.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

If...

If you can start the day without a cigarette,
If you can start the day without caffeine,
If you can get going without pills,
If you can always be cheerful, ignoring aches, and pains,
If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles,
If you can eat the same food everyday and be grateful for it,
If you can understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time,
If you can overlook it when those you love take it out on you when, through no fault of yours, something goes wrong,
If you can ignore a friend’s limited education and never correct them,
If you can resist treating a rich friend better than a poor friend,
If you can face the world without lies and deceit,
If you can conquer tension without medical help,
If you can relax without liquor,
If you can sleep without the aid of drugs,
If you can say honestly that deep in your heart you have no prejudice against creed, color, religion or politics,
Then – my friend you are almost as good as your dog.

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