Friday, November 30, 2012

Book Review: Paternity Test by Michael Lowenthal

I love when I start a book and don't really know what I'm about to get myself into. Somehow it happened that I skipped the description and was happily clueless when I first cracked open The Paternity Test, by Michael Lowenthal, and dove in. I never do that, which must be a testament to my exhaustion of late, however I'm glad I deviated from my norm. Obviously, the title offers a clue. But it's not what you might think.

There is a love triangle, but an unconventional one to say the least. The story is about becoming parents, but the real focus is on the relationship between the parents, and not on parenting or babies. I hate to give away too much, because it was fun to read without knowing the basis of the story. In fact, I may have already said too much.

Written ever so poetically, The Paternity Test delves into the complexities of long term relationships; what makes them tick and what has the power to make them implode. Anyone who has ever made a conscious decision to become a parent probably recalls that heady feeling of ohmyGOD I'm doing this, I'm doing this, I'm doing this, and the associated, overwhelming euphoria, coupled with can't-turn-back-now panic. Lowenthal captures that with his beautifully, realistically flawed characters. But he goes much further. And then, what comes next? Now that the decision is made, what becomes of the couple? Is it possible for them to remain essentially the same, or are they inevitable drawn into the tide of change? Furthermore, what happens when procreating isn't as simple as A+B=C? There are so many variables, so many possibilities.

I recommend The Paternity Test, as an off the beaten track love story, a humanistic view of how people connect to one another when they are unexpectedly tossed into the flow of life together, a recounting of how people stay together and break apart...change and stay the same.

Holiday Happenings in the D

If you're looking for something festive to do in the Metro Detroit area this holiday season, you definitely have a lot of fun choices available! Here's a little sampling, although I'm sure there are many more. Please share if you know of a holiday event in the area that isn't listed here!

  • Crossroads Village & Huckleberry Railroad  Crossroads Village is a historical museum, kind of like Greenfield Village, but on a smaller scale. For the holidays, everything is decked out in Christmas lights. Don't miss the train ride! Kids can visit Santa and a lot more. Located in Flint, Crossroads Village is only about 12 miles from Birch Run. That could mean a perfect opportunity to get a little shopping done too! We went last weekend and had a wonderful time! Look for a separate blog post coming up soon. What you need to know: Christmas in the Village dates and times: November 30, December 1-2, 7-9, 14-16, 19-23, & 26-30; 4:00-9:30 PM. Train departures: 5:00, 5:50, 6:40, 7:30, and sometimes (if needed) 8:20, 9:10, and 10:00 PM. Additionally, Mondays in December plus Christmas Eve, the Village is open for drive-thru only, to see all the beautiful lights, from 5:00-9:00 PM, at a rate of $5 per vehicle (no buses). Village/Train Combo tickets: range from $10-13 (2 & under are FREE). Village only admission available, but you really don't want to visit during the holidays without riding the train!
  • Noel Night The other night, Chris's cousin mentioned she and her family were going downtown for Noel Night this weekend, and it sounded really cool so I came home and looked it up. I was so surprised when I found that this is the 40th year and I had never even heard of it! Here's the scoop, as far as I understand it. Taking place in Detroit's Midtown Cultural Center, Noel Night is a sort of giant holiday open house and extravaganza. Places like the DIA, the Detroit Historical Center, and the Michigan Science Center open their doors for FREE, with Santa visits all around. The streets are filled with family holiday craft activities, Christmas sing-a-longs, performances, and horse and carriage rides. How fun does this sound?? I was working on Chris to go, but unfortunately Bethany has a foot injury and I don't think walking around downtown for hours would help. What you need to know: Noel night is happening this Saturday, December 1st, from 5:00-9:30 PM. Most activities will be between Cass and John R and Kirby and Willis, with free shuttle service between venues. I'm sure there are costs associated with some activities (and don't forget parking!), but it sounds like there is quite a bit of fun to be had for FREE. Check out the website for more information, including a map with shuttle routes and venue locations.
  • Redford Theatre An historical Detroit movie house, the Redford Theatre offers several holiday happenings in the coming weeks, including showings of A Christmas Story and White Christmas. Santa will there for both of these events, and live organ music is played 30 minutes before showtime. What you need to know: Dates & Times: A Christmas Story, November 30 @ 8:00 PM, December 1 @ 2:00 PM & 8:00 PM; White Christmas, December 14 @ 8:00 PM, December 15 @ 2:00 PM & 8:00 PM. Tickets are $4.00 each, or Living Social is currently running a great deal: $6 for 2 tickets, a small drink, a small popcorn, and a small candy. For more information, including location and parking, visit the website. The Redford Theatre is cash only.
  • Warren Symphony Orchestra - Scrooge If some live Christmas music will help get you in the holiday spirit (and it will!), check out this local orchestra's holiday production, both orchestral and choral, taking place at Macomb Center for the Performing Arts. What you need to know: Date & Time: December 9 @ 3:00 PM. Tickets: $23/Adults, $20/Seniors, $10/College students, Kids (grade 12 & under) FREE (music to my ears!).
  • Holiday Nights in Greenfield Village An historical Christmas spectacular, complete with strolling carolers, ice skating, fireworks, and much more, this is a very popular event that sells out, so get your tickets now if you're interested! We went back when we were the parents of two, and had a wonderful time. In fact, we've been wanting to do it again ever since, but we haven't gotten around to it yet. What you need to know: Dates & Times: December 1, 7, 14, 16, 18-23, & 26-27, from 6:30 to 10:00 PM. December 8 & December 15 are already sold out! Tickets: Adults (13 & up) $20/$17 members, Kids (5-12) $15/$12.75 members, 4 & under are FREE. Parking is $5. Dining packages available. Keep in mind that this is a crowded event, and Greenfield Village is huge, so a lot of walking is involved.
  • The Henry Ford Museum If freezing your fanny off outdoors isn't your thing, consider visiting The Henry Ford Museum during the holidays for some indoor fun. Visit with Santa and enjoy the lovely holiday decorations. While you're there, you can also see The Polar Express at the IMAX theater. What you need to know: Hours: 9:30-5 daily, closed on Christmas. Santa is at the museum from now until December 24. Tickets: Museum admission is free for members, $17 for adults (13-61), $15 for seniors (62 & up), kids (5-12) $12.50, 4 & under are FREE. IMAX - check website for showtimes, Adults (13-61) $13.75/$11.75 members, Seniors (62+) $12.75/$11 members, Kids (2-12) $9.75/$8.25 members, under 2 are FREE if sitting on a lap.
  • Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas: The Musical  This was probably my very favorite Christmas special when I was a kid, and although my kids have seen it on DVD and television many times (both the original and new versions), I'm excited for them to see this live production at the Detroit Opera House this year! What you need to know: Dates & Times: December 18-30, Tuesdays and Saturdays at 7:30 PM, Sunday evenings at 6:00 PM, Saturday matinees at 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM, Sunday matinees at 2:00 PM, AND special weekday matinees on 12/20, 12/26, & 12/27 at 1:00 PM. Ticket prices vary, please see the website for more info. Please note that babies in arms will NOT be permitted!
Obviously, this is an incomplete list, mostly consisting of things we have done in the past or plan on doing this year. I'll also throw out a couple favorite Santa haunts, in addition to the ones listed above. My favorite mall Santa is at the Somerset Collection. We haven't gone in a few years, but I know in the past they did timed slots for Santa visits. I'm assuming they're still doing this? This means get there early to reserve your spot, and then plan on hours of shopping and lunch before you get your turn. But  the pictures are really great! For a Santa visit in a really beautiful setting, consider the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores. In years past, they had a children's tea and then Santa visits in the adorable children's cottage. It doesn't look like they're doing that this year, but on the website it says a trip to Santa's Workshop is free with museum admittance. Santa is there on Saturdays through Christmas, from 10-4. Additionally, there are hands-on activities in the Workshop Tuesday-Sunday.

Again, please tell us if you know of other holiday events going on! My December calendar is pretty packed, but I might be persuaded to squeeze a couple more things in!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

So What! Wednesday

So What Wednesday

Once again, I'm linking up with Shannon at Life After I "Dew" to say So What!

...The past 2 nights I went to bed super early. Like before 10 o'clock. That, for me, is unheard of.

...Mathilda missed preschool yesterday because I literally could not wake her up. I stopped short of dumping ice water on her head, because I figured she must've needed her sleep. She was, after all, up half the night the night before, crying for unknown reasons. Some things never change.

...Maybe I should be concerned about Mathilda's OCD ways? It started with an obsession with skirts, and then the hat (still going strong), and now it's sandals. Yes, it's almost December and my child is wearing sandals everyday. With socks, people. As long as it's not snowing or raining and she's not playing outside, I'm letting it slide.

...The 12-year old me would be horrified to see the 37-year old me, shamelessly decked out in cold weather gear. I think it would have killed me (or at least that's what I thought back then...) to wear socks or gloves at age 12, let alone a hat, a scarf, and boots.. All that matters is warmth. Everything else is irrelevant.

...I picked up an awesome Black Friday deal online, for in-store pick-up. And now I'm having nothing but trouble. The help desk told me to cancel my order and place it again. When I pointed out that then I would miss the 50% off savings, he was stymied. Now I have to wait 3-5 days for a resolution. I love online shopping, but some stores are clearly not properly equipped.

...The batteries in my mouse are dying. Rather than walk down to the basement and get fresh batteries, I've been taking them out and swapping them back and forth every five minutes. For some reason this works, and, even more mind boggling, I am finding it to be an acceptable solution.

...For the first time ever, I didn't eat turkey on Thanksgiving. And? I didn't miss it. I've always liked the other stuff more anyway.

...I made 2 loaves of banana bread yesterday afternoon, and already one loaf and half of the other is gone. And I LOVE when that happens!

...Bethany hurt her ankle over a week ago, and I was hoping it would get better with a week off basketball and dance for the holiday. No such luck. Doctor's appointment this afternoon.

...Raspberry ketones work. Seriously. This is NOT a spam message. Holy crap. I'm wearing a pair of jeans my friend gave me over a year ago that I could never get on until last week. And they're not even tight! I don't weigh myself, so I don't know numbers, except in terms of clothing sizes. Right now, my favorite number is 6. So either the raspberry ketones are working, or I coincidentally got a tape worm right about the same time I started taking them. Just for the record, I work out too, & eat fairly healthy.

What are you saying So What! to this week?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

ENDED Giveaway! Thunderstruck Combo Pack

I've never been a sporty girl, but there's something about a good sports movie that has the power to make me wish I was. They just make me feel all tingly with vicarious team spirit, you know?

To celebrate the December 4th release of Thunderstruck, starring NBA star Kevin Durant, on DVD and Blu-ray, I'm giving away one Thunderstruck combo pack, which includes the DVD, Blu-ray, and digital download! To enter, just use the Rafflecopter form below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: The prize will be provided by Warner Bros.

Prequel to the Jeff Kinney Interview

I had the most exciting opportunity last week, to meet a real live CELEBRITY. I've mentioned it a little here and on the Facebook page, but here's the deal.

I belong to a Facebook group for Michigan bloggers, where someone with connections offered the chance to review the latest Diary of a Wimpy Kid book, The Third Wheel, by Jeff Kinney. Hello! Me! Me! Me! I had already bought the book for Connor, ordering it in advance from Scholastic. But, what the hey. I still wanted in. This person also offered the opportunity to attend a Jeff Kinney book signing. I'm in! Yes, yes, yes! It was at a book store on a Monday morning, and I could bring my kids. I'm there, right?

So...I emailed the proper people to confirm everything, and got an email from a PR lady giving me the deets. Then she said that if we were "early risers" (ahem) then we were welcome to meet Jeff at his hotel for a "more formal interview."

Well, we are not early risers, but for one day? We could manage. I am also not an "interviewer"* by any means, but for this one time? I could do it! I HAD to do it! We're talking about Connor's favorite author. I mean, I can't imagine if I had been in 4th grade and my mom said let's go meet Judy Blume at her hotel and interview her!

Just a word here about stepping out of the box, and leaving our comfort zones. Interviewing a famous person was FAR out of my comfort zone. But I felt compelled to do it, so I did. I felt like this was something my kids would remember forever, and I had to do it for them. And for me. Because, you know that quote about doing the thing you're afraid to do, that I'm too lazy to look up right now but that some famous person said? Famous quotes are usually famous for a reason...because they resonate with people and they MEAN something. And I happen to believe that it is important to do that which you fear, for reasons of personal development, etc. etc.


Lucy opted out of meeting Jeff Kinney, although she is a fan. I think the getting up at 5:00 AM thing threw her off. And there was no way I was bringing Mattie because she doesn't like when I talk to anyone in her presence, as evidenced by the fact that she tends to get right up in my face and speak OVER me and whomever I happen to be speaking to. I didn't think that would be conducive to an interview. So it was just Bethany, Connor, and me, waking up in the dark and driving 25 miles in the soupy fog to meet Jeff Kinney at his hotel.

There was a problem, a little problem. My PR contact told me to call a certain person when I got to the hotel to let him know I was there. But...she didn't give me his number. I tried to contact her & get the number, but I had no luck. I knew of one other blogger who would be there, and we communicated via Facebook and text and decided we'd just show up and hope for the best. (Shout out to Danielle of Blossom Bunkhouse, notorious for her "controversial" Elf on the Shelf genius).

We got to the hotel, with only a first name and no phone number, and the desk clerk appeared to not even know that Jeff Kinney was staying in the hotel. So we sat down in the lobby and waited. I'm not quite sure what we were waiting for, but we knew that at some point Jeff Kinney would be coming downstairs and leaving for his book signing. Of course, he could have been all clandestine and left through a more discrete door. But we were Hoping for the Best.

What happened next? I know you're DYING to know. But in the meantime, don't forget to enter my Diary of a Wimpy Kid book giveaway! The winner gets to choose any book from the series! And if you just can't wait, head over to Amazon, where you can buy The Third Wheel ** for only 7 bucks! What a great Christmas gift!

*Forgive the quotation mark overload. Sometimes, I just have to do it.

**Affiliate link. Forgive me again.

A Generation of Techies

Last year, Chris and the kids made a movie to give to grandparents as a Christmas gift. It wasn't your typical cutesie grandchildren singing Christmas carols sort of thing. Which, if you know my husband, shouldn't come as a surprise. Actually, the whole thing was Connor's idea. He came up with a crazy idea for a video, and Chris said, "let's do it!" All four of the kids were in it, and Chris filmed and edited. It was a unique gift, that's for sure, and everyone got a big laugh out of it. They'll probably never forget the Christmas they were introduced to Pregnant Ninja.

Chris has been making nutty movies since I've known him, and now our kids are carrying on the tradition. Connor and Bethany love making videos as a hobby, just like their dad. Bethany does fashion and beauty tutorials (she's 11, just FYI), and Connor likes creating stop action Lego movies. When Bethany and her friends get together, they make music videos. It seems like everyone has a device that easily records video nowadays, and the evidence is on You Tube. Video editing software is becoming more user friendly, and turning video production literally into child's play. Of course it can get as complicated as you like, but making a video that looks good and has cool effects isn't as difficult as one might think. Cyberlink makes photo and video editing software that helps you get some pretty awesome results. Check for Cyberlink updates for up to the minute multimedia software.

I'm married to a techie, so my kids are kind of techie by association and heritage. Whether it's music or movies or the latest television or blu ray player, our family is usually pretty knowledgeable. I'm not quite as tech savvy as my husband (he might venture to say that's an understatement), but I enjoy the benefits of technology and I love gadgets and photo editing. I'm not sure if the kids are planning a new movie for this year's Christmas, but if they are, maybe it would be a good time to familiarize myself with the video editing aspect a little more. Or...I could just leave it to Chris.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Repurposed Halloween Candy

Don't tell me I'm the only one who still has some lingering Halloween candy laying around the house? I know I'm not, and I know that you're probably wishing you had sold it to the local dentist's buy-back program when you had the chance. For weeks our bowl shamelessly graced the kitchen counter, until Chris had the decency to bag up the dregs and toss them in the pantry. I've repeatedly vowed to throw it out - even BEFORE all the good stuff was long gone - but I haven't done it yet. I have tossed a handful here and there, carefully burying it in the trash to avoid unwanted confrontation with the little people of the house, and the rest is going soon. Tomorrow? Sounds good.

If you, like me, have an aversion to throwing out perfectly good (fill in the blank), then here are a few ideas for what to do with your leftover Halloween candy.

  • Movie snacks  I hid the small bags of M&Ms in the cupboard for future visits to the movie theater. Skittles, Reese's Pieces, and anything else that's bite size & in a bag would also be good choices for the movie stash.
  • Baking needs The Hershey bars went into my baking cupboard. I can shred them or chop them up as cookie add-ins or cake toppings.
  • School lunches Chips, pretzels, fruit snacks, and Rice Krispy Treats were used as special lunch box treats. 
  • Freeze it I put the mini Snickers and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups on cookie sheets and froze them. When they were good and frozen, I took them out (a little at a time to avoid melting), chopped them up, and put them back in the freezer. They can be used for ice cream sundae toppings or for baking.
  • Frosting  I'll admit I haven't yet been brave enough to try this, but I have found recipes for Laffy Taffy frosting while browsing the internet. If you have tried this, let me know! I'd love to know if it's worth making.
  • Make cookies I decided to add some of my frozen chopped up Reese's Peanut Butter Cups to a batch of peanut butter cookies. They were a big hit!  
Do you have something different to do with your Halloween candy? And by the way, I'm really glad the good stuff is now gone and I can get on with my mostly candy-free existence!

For my Peanut Butter Cup peanut butter cookies, I just followed the recipe on the Crisco package and stirred about 1 3/4 cups of chopped, frozen peanut butter cups into the dough. I'm sure this would work with any peanut butter cookie recipe.

Frozen chopped up Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

Ready to be mixed into the dough

Ready to go to the cookie sheets

The delicious finished product
Crisco peanut butter cookie recipe

Banking for Dummies

My knowledge of any and all things financial is embarrassingly negligent. In other words, I know basically nothing about things like various types of bank accounts, investments, stocks, bonds, interest, and anything else having to do with the world of banks, finances, or money. Although I've heard of things like chemical mergers and acquisitions, my first hand experience and knowledge about the topic is non-existent. What makes a bank a chemical investment bank? How do the terms "chemical" and "bank" even belong in the same sentence? I decided to try to find the answers to these questions, but that ended up not being quite as clear cut as I hoped. Sometimes the internet is fickle like that. Maybe it would have been better to ask a real live person who knows about banking matters instead of counting on the trusty World Wide Web.

From what I can understand, chemical banks are those that have expert knowledge in the field of chemicals. I never really thought about how pervasive chemicals are in our daily lives, in their various manifestations. There are the food related chemicals, such as additives and flavors. Then there's the agricultural field, which includes chemicals in fertilizers and who knows what else. Surfactants found in cleaning and personal hygiene products would also be included, as well as lots of other things, like biofuels, paints, inks, and much more. Okay, apparently chemicals are all around us. And that means there are lots of corporations dealing with chemicals. And corporations of all kinds have banking needs, so I suppose it makes sense that there are banks dedicated to servicing the chemical industry. A bank offering chemical advisory knowledge would obviously be a good fit for a corporation manufacturing and selling chemicals.

Banks such as The Valance Group staff experts in the field who have specialized knowledge and training that general bankers typically wouldn't have. I'm sort of having an "a-ha" moment! Clarity is a beautiful thing. Although, don't get me wrong, I'm still 99% clueless.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Family Vacation Destination: Martha's Vineyard

In Cape Cod with my cousin, circa 1996

A few years before we got hitched, Chris and I vacationed in Cape Cod with my mom and my cousin. We spent two weeks in July exploring Boston, Cape Cod, and Martha's Vineyard. That vacation is one I think of often, and hope to repeat with Chris and the kids some day. I loved being able to drive up and down the coast, walking around the little towns, hanging out at beaches, and feeling a connection with American presidents, since Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard in particular, is a known holiday hot spot for Commanders in Chief. One chilly day we spent out on the ocean whale watching, and another day we took a ferry to Martha's Vineyard for the day. Martha's Vineyard was beautiful, and I was intrigued by its history. At the time I remember thinking it would be nice to dedicate a full vacation to the island itself. Maybe it's time I look into Marthas Vineyard accomodations, and see what is available for families.

One thing I clearly recall from that vacation is that the weather was far milder than I expected. I can understand why local residents escape the heat of the city for the Cape, although it is actually only about an hour outside of Boston. There were days when it was too cool to swim in the ocean, and once we ended up buying sweatshirts while we were out because we weren't dressed quite warm enough. However, the beaches were beautiful, and we spent many hours exploring tide pools and sitting around bon fires late into the night. I can imagine how much my beach-loving kids would enjoy playing in the sand and the salt water.

I enjoy family vacations that encompass simple pleasures, and while exciting theme parks are fun too, sometimes just hanging out and relishing the company of loved ones and our natural surroundings is even more gratifying. In our family, we love beach vacations. We do not require something "to do" 24/7, and are perfectly content packing some snacks, beach towels, and sand toys and laying around the beach for lazy stretches of several hours. In fact, some of my happiest memories with my kids involve just laying around the beach, doing nothing much. What more do we need than sunshine, a place to swim, and sand to play in? The kids enjoy finding treasures - rocks, shells, aquatic life-, burying each other in the sand, trying to catch fish with nets and buckets, and of course endless swimming, floating, and boogie boarding.

For us, the appeal of a Martha's Vineyard vacation would be alternating between building sand castles and walking down the street for an ice cream cone; window shopping at unique touristy shops and watching sunsets on the beach; taking long walks and dozing on the warm sand. Simple, easy things like this make the best memories, and are good for the soul. I think island vacations are especially awesome. There is just something decadent about being isolated on a beautiful island, with nothing to do but joyfully appreciate everything around you.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. However, all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

So What! Wednesday

Life After I "Dew"

So What! So What! So What!

I had the teeniest little zit on my face the other day. So small. I could only see it when I got all up in the mirror's face. And yet. I cannot stand to have a zit on my face. So I had to pick it. And I couldn't get it (it was pretty miniscule after all). So I picked it some more. And now? I have a freaking mess on my face that I have to hide with gobs of cover up. Why oh why do I do this to myself?

I took my kids to meet Diary of a Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney the other day, and I figure I can get a lot of leverage out of that for a long time. Like this: I might make you eat brown bread, but I let you ride a tour bus full of strangers so you could talk to Jeff Kinney while he ate his breakfast! So THERE!

Mathilda wears a hat 24/7. She only takes it off to take a bath, brush her hair, or, if necessary, to get dressed/undressed. This means, if you're following, she wears a hat to preschool, to ballet class, to sleep in, and everything in between. She's a tad OCD. But she's 3, and this won't last forever, and this is one battle I'm not taking on.

I love that I can still sneak in some Christmas shopping when Mathilda is with me. This won't last much longer, so I'm taking full advantage while I can.

I wish my kids didn't have school today.

Sometimes it's hard to tell if a hermit crab is dead or alive. I sure hope we're not losing another one. Crossing my fingers that he's molting!

Yesterday the kids had no after school activities and I let them just be kids and hang out. They did their homework, but I didn't heckle them to do chores. Chris was not so happy with that decision. The house suffered, so maybe he's right?

I'm doing so well with my Christmas shopping! I have a whole bunch done already, and have a pretty good idea of the other things I need to get. Maybe there won't be any last minute running around this year?

We were invited to Thanksgiving dinner at my cousin's house, and she assured me that we don't need to bring anything. I actually think...we're not going to bring anything. I don't know, maybe I'll change my mind after all.

I'm really glad I don't have to cook Thanksgiving dinner. Have I mentioned that I'm not all that fond of cooking?

I refuse to listen to Christmas music until Friday. Then it's ON.

What are you saying So What! to this week?

ENDED Giveaway! JAWS Cleaning Products!

For awhile, I've been reading about JAWS online. No, the JAWS I'm talking about has nothing to do with giant sharks or unfortunate diving incidents. It stands for Just Add Water System, and it consists of non-toxic, eco-friendly cleaning products.

JAWS cleaning products

The cleaners come with an extra cartridge, so when the bottle is empty you can just fill it with tap water and insert the refill cartridge. After that, you can just buy refill cartridges, saving on the plastic waste of purchasing new bottles.

From now until November 25, Michigan Hiller's stores are running a BOGO sale on JAWS. The regular price is $4.99 a bottle (includes a refill cartridge) for JAWS Glass and Hard Surface Cleaner, JAWS Multi-Purpose Cleaner/Degreaser, and JAWS Bathroom Cleaner/Deodorizer; and $5.79 a bottle (again, including a refill cartridge) for the JAWS Disinfectant Cleaner/Degreaser.

While I'm anxiously awaiting delivery of my very own JAWS products, hoping they'll help keep me motivated to clean this holiday season, I'm also offering you the opportunity to try JAWS for yourself! One lucky winner will receive a set of all four JAWS cleaners!

As soon as I get mine and have a chance to use them for a few days, I'll post a review. In the meantime, use the Rafflecopter form to enter! Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

In exchange for hosting this giveaway and writing a product review, I will be receiving a complimentary set of JAWS products. All opinions are my own.

Learning the Ropes in Blogging

Even after years of blogging, much of the jargon and technical aspects of my "art" are lost on me. Although I feel that I have accomplished quite a bit, not being all that tech savvy, I certainly have quite a bit to learn. Just when I think I have things figured out, something disappears from my blog. For example, my little row of connect with me buttons (social media, email, RSS) that was at the top of my right side bar is gone. I don't understand where they have gone. When I go into my page layout, they are there. When I view my blog, they are not there. They use to be there. But they are apparently lost in cyber space. And I don't even begin to know how to figure out how to make them appear again.

Although blogging has been around for awhile and has become pretty widespread, I still feel that bloggers are kind of internet pioneers, picking our way along the trail and figuring things out as we go. One of these things I don't get, but probably should make an effort to understand, is how to effectively build a mobile audience with my blog. Do I need a joomla mobile plugin on my blog? What does that mouthful even mean? Um, I'm not quite sure, actually. I do know that more and more people are on the go, and they're multi-tasking, and they're accessing websites via mobile devices more than ever. What I don't know is whether my blog is optimally equipped for mobile devices.

I try to look this stuff up online, and my eyes start to glaze over. Can you say information overload? Maybe it's just a matter of time before blogging becomes a college curriculum of its own. I know my local community college offers a few classes on topics like SEO (I'm utterly clueless here too), so maybe it's time to look into them.

If you're a blogger, how do you keep up to date on everything going on in the tech world?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Awesome Deal on Ecomom - Act Fast!

I am all about finding awesome deals for the holidays, and today I found one I have to share with you!

Ecomom is a cool website with all kind of eco-friendly products, including Melissa and Doug toys. They have a lot more than just toys though, so even if you're not shopping for kids, you should still look into this offer!

Okay, here goes.

First, if you don't have an account with Plum District, then use this LINK to set up an account now.

Then, if you don't have an account with Ebates (and you really need one!) go over there and set up an account.

Okay, now you're ready to rock and roll!
  • Sign into your Ebates account
  • Find the link for Plum District & click on it
  • Go to the Ecomom deal and snag $20 for $40 worth of merchandise (I believe this deal expires 11/23)
  • Head over to Ecomom & shop to your heart's content...because not only can you use the voucher you just bought, Ecomom is also running a spectacular deal: $20 off orders $50-$99, $40 off orders $100-199, and $80 off orders $200+ (November 19-November 25).
  • Your Ecomom discount will automatically be factored in.
  • Free shipping on orders $50 and up, which is figured in BEFORE your discount is applied
  • Start the check-out process & when prompted, register (do NOT check out as a guest!)
  • After you are registered and enter your credit card info, there will be an option to go back and add gift certificates. Click on the link, and you'll THEN be able to add your voucher code from Plum District. You'll see your total will be adjusted right away.
  • Continue with your order. You may have to sign in again and then enter your credit card number again. Don't worry - your credit card wasn't charged before!

Ecomom GREEN Friday discounts!

My order total was $106.
Ecomom discount: $40
Plum District voucher: $40 (paid $20)
Ecomom total, after discount & voucher applied: $26
Total paid for $106 worth of Christmas presents: $46 ($26 on Ecomom + $20 on Plum District)

Two of these items I was going to buy anyway from Amazon, for $30 total. They were in my cart, and I was about to order when I saw this Ecomom deal on Facebook. For an extra $16, I got 5 more gifts. Everything I ordered was Melissa and Doug, but like I mentioned - there are LOTS of other things on Ecomom - from household cleansers to nursing accessories and MORE!

In case you're interested, here is a rundown of what I got. Nobody tell Lucy & Mattie!

  1. Melissa & Doug Single Puzzle Rack - $12.99
  2. Melissa & Doug Ice Cream Parlor Set - $30
  3. Melissa & Doug Flip to Win Hangman - $12.99
  4. Melissa & Doug Wooden Princess Stamp set - $9.99
  5. Melissa & Doug See Inside Numbers Peg Puzzle - $7.99
  6. Melissa & Doug Self Correcting Alphabet Letter Puzzle - $12.99
  7. Melissa & Doug Grocery Basket - $19.99
From Amazon, my usual go-to website for online shopping, I would have paid about $90 for the exact same order. That's a pretty good savings as far as I'm concerned! Remember, you must have at least $60 worth of stuff in your cart in order to take full advantage of the Plum District voucher and the Ecomom discount, plus your ORIGINAL (before any discount) total must be over $50 to qualify for free shipping.

Thanks go out to Hip2Save for writing about this deal!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links!

Once Upon a Pringles Can

Not long ago, I shared how I re-purposed an old acrylic picture frame that wasn't being used, turning it into a dresser tray. I had so much fun playing with Mod Podge that I couldn't wait to dip into it again! I love the idea of making something while spending next to nothing.

Enter the re-purposed Pringles can.

Re-purposing a Pringles can

I put a piece of electrical tape all around the can where I wanted to cut, to use as a straight edge. Any kind of tape will do, this is just what I had lying around.

Then I used a box cutter to all the way around. I was careful not to stab myself. Box cutters are dangerous.

I cut some nice, reversible scrapbook paper to fit the can.

Then I coated the can with Mod Podge, using a foam paint brush, and carefully applied the paper, pressing firmly all the way around the can.

Next I coated the paper with Mod Podge. The pictures don't look too different, but now the paper has a nice sheen to it.

I then applied Mod Podge to the inner rim of the can, and very carefully pressed a piece of fabric ribbon all the way around the inside of the can.

Next I did the same to the outer rim, lining the ribbon up with the piece on the inside.

I did the same for the bottom of the can, putting Mod Podge around the edge and then applying ribbon.

When all the ribbon was on, I covered everything in a couple layers of Mod Podge, and then sprayed it with acrylic gloss spray finish.

Everything I saw on Pinterest showed the metal edges of the Pringles can, and I did not want them showing!

I think it came out pretty good. I don't know what I'm going to put in it yet. I was thinking maybe something decorative, but I'm not sure. When I think of something, I'll try to remember to take a picture & post it on the Facebook page.

Have you ever re-purposed a Pringles can, or anything else that might normally be viewed as trash?

ENDED Sesame Street Live Giveaway! Metro Detroit

Way back when Bethany was just a little munchkin, and I was expecting Connor, I was feeling the need to do something really special with Bethany before her little brother made his arrival and changed her life forever. My birthday was coming up, and Sesame Street Live was coming to town, so I requested tickets to the show for my birthday present. We went downtown to the Fox Theater for the show - Chris, Bethany, and I, along with his mom & step-dad, and we had crazy fun! Bethany was about 17 months old at the time, and she got so into it! It was hilarious to see her so enthralled, bopping to the music and clapping her hands. Since then, we've gone several times,and had a terrific experience every time.

Sadly, because this is what my life has become, I honestly cannot remember if Mathilda has been to a Sesame Street Live performance! What kind of mother am I?! I think she may have gone when she was a baby. Surely there is photographic evidence somewhere. This is a prime reason why I really need to organize all my photos and memory cards.


Sesame Street Live is coming back to Detroit's Fox Theater in 2013! "Elmo Makes Music" will have 41 shows, starting January 24 and running through February 18. 


All you need to know about tickets:

  • On sale NOW!
  • 3 ways to purchase tickets, 1)At the box office, 2) Online at, or 3) by phone: 800-745-3000
  • $12, $20, $25, $35 (Gold Circle), and $68 (Sunny Seats)
  • Sunny Seats include perks, like VIP seating and character meet and greets.
  • Family Night - all tickets $10! (Excludes Gold Circle).
  • Group rates available for groups of 10 or more, please call 313-471-6611.
  • Additional fees and/or surcharges may apply.


Use the passcode ERNIE at to receive the special offer. 

(Offer excludes Gold Circle & Sunny Seats. Not valid on previously purchased tickets.  Cannot be combined with any other offer.)

We've seen "Elmo Makes Music" a time or two. It is a fun story about a new music teacher coming to Sesame Street, and what happens when her truck load of instruments gets lost. I can't wait to take Mathilda, I just know she'll love it! Something new they're doing this time is a Sesame Street Live Play Zone! Kids can sit in Big Bird's nest, dance in Zoe's dance studio, visit Elmo's World, and go in Oscar's trash can! Bonus: it's FREE with your Sesame Street Live ticket! So.Much.Fun!!!

I'm thrilled to offer one lucky MichiGal reader a family four-pack of tickets to Sesame Street live at the Fox Theater! The winner will receive four vouchers, which will be redeemable for any show at the box office! Winner must live in the Metro Detroit area, or be willing to travel to the Fox Theater in  Detroit. The vouchers cannot be used at any other venue!

Just use the Rafflecopter form to enter! Good luck! And don't forget to enter my other Thanksgiving Blitz giveaways that are going on right now:

Conscious Box
Diary of a Wimpy Kid

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: I received tickets for Sesame Street Live in exchange for writing this post. All opinions are my own.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Get a FREE Treat Card: Monday 11/19 & Tuesday 11/20 ONLY!

In college, I worked at a greeting card store. It was the best job. Why did I love it so much? In part, because I got to see all the new cards as soon as they came in. When business was slow, I could pore over the rows of cards, carefully choosing greetings for my friends and family for every occasion imaginable.

Now I can combine my love of online shopping with greeting card shopping. Personalized cards are especially awesome. Treat is Shutterfly's latest foray into allowing consumers to create one-of-a-kind cards. They have a wide range of greeting cards for every holiday and special event, and each one can be specially customized, either with text or photos AND text.

Visit Treat to find cool cards like this one, for any occasion!

Treat is cutting edge. I mean, have you ever seen a Twihard greeting before??

Interested in checking out Treat for yourself? Today and tomorrow ONLY (Monday, November 19 & Tuesday, November 20), you can use the code TREATBLOGR to order one free greeting card from Treat! FREE SHIPPING too! This is a total win-win! Now get on over there & claim your free card!

Disclaimer: In exchange for this post, I get free cards. However, all opinions are 100% my own.

ENDED Diary of a Wimpy Kid Giveaway!

Later this week, check in with MichiGal for a review of Jeff Kinney's latest book in the Wimpy Kid series, The Third Wheel. Today is the day I have the opportunity to meet the author himself...maybe I'm chatting with him right now! In honor of this momentous occasion, I thought it would be a good time to offer you the chance to win a Wimpy Kid book of your choice!

The winner will be able to choose from:


Diary of a Wimpy Kid  


Rodrick Rules


The Last Straw


Dog Days


The Ugly Truth


Cabin Fever


The Third Wheel

My kids devour these books. The Wimpy Kid series makes my kids laugh and engages them in reading, which I obviously LOVE. They are popular with little kids and bigger kids (elementary and middle school), boys and girls. Any one of these books would pretty much be a winner with just about any kid I know. So what are you waiting for? Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter! Please note: giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I was given a copy of The Third Wheel for review purposes. All opinions are my own. The winner's prize will be provided by & shipped by the publisher.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

ENDED Conscious Box Review and Giveaway!

 **Look for a new giveaway a day, now through Thanksgiving!**

I keep hearing about monthly box subscriptions that send goodies right to your door step. There are different themed boxes - some are more for beauty products, some for babies or kids, some for food. When I heard that Conscious Box was looking for bloggers to try a box and host a giveaway, I jumped right on the bandwagon.

Conscious Box strives to introduce customers to "conscious" products, environmentally and ethically speaking. Every purchase goes to a cause, 1% for the Planet, and the boxes are packed in the U.S. by employees earning a fair wage. You can choose between an eco-friendly gift box or a vegan gift box.

Getting a package delivered feels like Christmas, so of course I was so excited when I received my Conscious Box, and I couldn't wait to see what was in it. I think there are ways to cheat and do some internet snooping to see what might be in your box, but I prefer to be surprised.

I received the October Conscious Box, and honestly I couldn't be happier with it! This little box was chock-full of cool products that I likely would have never tried otherwise.

First glimpse of the October Conscious Box

October Conscious Box

 Here's a rundown of what was in my box:

  • RW Garcia Curry & Mango Dipping Chips  These are all-natural, gluten-free, non GMO verified and HOT. Whew. They are good though, and I think they'd be really tasty dipped in guacamole, like it shows on the packaging.
  • Geo Deo This is a 97% natural, invisible solid deodorant. Detox complex to help fight daily buildup of impurities, allergen-free, aluminum-free, and no animal testing. The scent is Island, and it smells so good! I was really happy to get this because I've been wanting to completely switch to aluminum-free deodorant. It is NOT an antiperspirant, which makes me nervous! I sweat, especially in the warmer months, but so far it's been working out okay in the cooler days of fall. The real test will be in the sweltering heat.
  • GoodLight Natural Candles The box contained 6 unscented tea lights: paraffin-free, lead-free, non-toxic, clean-burning, eco-friendly. I had no idea paraffin was a health risk until I read this package! These are made from palm wax, which is apparently much healthier and safer.
  • Logical Drift Free Music Download  Meditation, relaxation, spa & yoga music. I haven't done this yet, but I want to start meditating, so I'm definitely going to check this out!
  • Teatulia Peppermint Tea One tea bag of caffeine-free organic tea. I like an occasional cup of tea, so I'll be trying this.
  • VitaRocks Lemon Burst flavored all natural vitamins that pop. I haven't tried this yet, but it looks like a Pop Rocks package, and and feels and sounds like Pop Rocks. This is an interesting twist on taking your daily vitamins!
  • Crum Creek Mills Soy Nut Mix Individual size snack bag of certified organic soy nut mix. I love that this has only 131 calories, but 9 grams of protein and 10% RDA of iron! This is a very good thing for me, because since I've stopped eating meat, I'd say there's a pretty good chance I'm not getting enough protein or iron!
  • Larabar This was a small, chocolate chip cookie dough flavored snack bar. Gluten-free, organic, and even kosher. 
  • Bumble Bar Organic Sesame Bar Gluten free, original peanut flavor snack bar. This sounds interesting, and I will be trying it. Soon.
  • Zarbee's All-Natural Children's Cough Syrup An individual to go packet of cough medicine in grape flavor. I love the idea of to go packets. There is one teaspoon of medicine in the packet. Safe for children 12 months+, gluten-free, dye-free, contains no drugs or alcohol. Yet it soothes sore throats, is an immune boosting formula, and pediatrician recommended. What a cool product. I hope it works, because if it does I'll be buying more, for sure!
  • Clandestino Banana Bar with Dark Chocolate I can be sold on anything that contains the words dark chocolate. I had no idea what to expect with this candy bar, but Mattie and I both loved it! It's soft and chewy, and only has two ingredients: fresh banana and dark chocolate. I don't know where they sell these, but I'm going to find out!
  • Yummy Earth Organic Lollipop Mine was Mango Tango flavored. I had this when my mouth was on fire from eating the RW Garcia Curry & Mango dipping chips. And it's fruity flavor brought my taste buds back to equilibrium.
  • Postcard The box also included a glossy, heavy card stock postcard. Like the kind you mail to a friend when you're on vacation. It has a pretty picture on it.
The Conscious Box is small, so I was quite impressed that they fit so many items in it! And now for the part you've been waiting for...your chance to win a Conscious Box of your own!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received a Conscious Box for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A North Face Success Story

For years I've seen everyone and their great-aunt Edna strolling around town in North Face jackets. They seem to be part of the winter dress code around here. But to be honest, I never really thought much about them...until I got myself a middle schooler. As soon as the weather turned, Bethany started asking if she could join her peers and get a North Face jacket of her own. It's been a couple years since we've needed to buy her a coat, and I figured if she got one she really likes she won't complain about wearing it all the time. Ahem.

So I started grilling everyone about North Face deals, and scouring the web, searching for the best deal I could find. I got a ton of excellent tips, and I diligently looked into all of them. But somehow nothing was working out, and I began to fear that we would be paying full price for Bethany's jacket. That almost happened today. I was ready to throw in the towel. But I did one more search. And I asked Bethany if she would be willing to deviate from her two favored colors, which she readily agreed to. And I signed up for Ebates.

I'm sure other people have better North Face success stories. I think I am just so happy with mine because I was literally within minutes of paying full price.

Okay, here goes.
  • First thing I did was sign up for Ebates. I have heard people talking about it forever, but for whatever reason I never signed up until today.
  • From Ebates, I went to the Altrec website.
  • I ordered a Denali Thermal Jacket, just like the one pictured above, in a Girls size XL. I asked around and did some research, and found that most people agree a Girls XL is equivalent to a Ladies Small. Ordering a girls instead of a ladies was a big cost saver. The jacket was on sale for $79.19.
  • Altrec offered free shipping and no sales tax.
  • Ebates offered a free $10 Target gift card (or you can choose a different store, but Target is my fave!) with my first purchase over $25.
  • Through Ebates, Altrec offered 6% cash back, which came out to $4.75.
  • I referred a friend who was also shopping for North Face, and received $25 for my first referral.
Original price: $99
Sale price:  $79.19
Target Gift Card value: $10
Ebates cash back: $4.75
Friend Referral: $25

Adjusted price of jacket: $39.44!!!

Not bad, right? Bethany is excited because she's getting the jacket she wants, and I'm excited because I got a great deal! North Face deals seem to disappear as quickly as they're found, so if you find one - jump on it! I don't know if my specific deal will work for you, but don't despair! Even at the regular price, taking into account the Target gift card and the cash back, this would have been a decent deal. You can also order through The North Face store on Ebates, and they offer 8% cash back! And don't forget, if you want to take advantage of Ebates perks, you have to start your shopping on Ebates! First go to Ebates, and then find the link to the store you want on the Ebates website, otherwise you won't get credit!

Disclaimer: This post contains an affiliate link. If you sign up for Ebates using the link above (here it is again: Ebates), I get a referral bonus.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Real Estate Adventures: Top 5 House Shopping Tips for Families

We bought our first house before we had kids, and our second house when we were expecting baby #4. When we were house shopping the first time around, adding kids to our family was just an elusive idea. We considered our first home to be a starter house, and never expected to stay there forever. Good thing, because with three kids, our little house was bursting at the seams. The second time around, we were more experienced, not to mention tunnel-vision focused on finding a good home for a big family. However, we still had a lot to learn, and there are some things I would do differently if I could go back in time.

Whether you're in the Michigan market, like me, or you're researching Vernal Utah Real Estate, the following list of house hunting hints is relevant for just about any family.

  1. Make a list and check it twice. Walk around your current home and take note of what you would like to change in an ideal world. What would you add? What would you get rid of? Make a list of EVERYTHING you would like in your new home. Then go over your list with a fine tooth comb and make a new list with all the things you are not willing to live without. Resolve not to budge on this list! These are the things you have decided are vital for your family's comfort. Make a second list of home options you'd love to have, but that you're willing to be flexible about. For example, our Must Have list included a basement, a garage, central air, minimum of four bedrooms and two full bathrooms, and two living spaces (living room + family room, living room + den, etc.). Our wish list included a finished basement, which we found, and a fireplace, which we didn't get.
  2. Research schools, up close and personal. Unless you plan on homeschooling or sending your kids to private schools, getting to know the local school district is so important. Sure, you can do internet research and get facts like standardizes test scores or an ethnic breakdown of the student body. But what you really need to do is  talk to people. Network as much you can to find people who actually send their kids to the schools. Most people are happy to tell you all about their school district - the good, the bad, and the ugly. Make a list of questions that are important to you, and find people to answer them. If your friend's husband's cousin sends her kids to the school in question, try to get her phone number or email address and ask away. Call the school to ask questions. Make an appointment to speak with the principal. Ask prospective neighbors. Ask real people, and you will get real answers.
  3. Hang out in the neighborhood. Visit your possible new neighborhood at different times of the day. What looks peaceful and serene during the day can turn into rowdy party central after dark. Drive around and take note: do the homes look well-kept? Are kids outside playing? Where is the closest school/grocery store/Target? Do they look well-kept? Park and take a walk, make conversation with anyone you pass. The people who already live in the neighborhood are the best ones to answer your questions or address your concerns.
  4. Find out where the kids are. When you drove and/or walked around the neighborhood, did you see many children playing outside? Were they supervised, or running wild? How old were they? Are there parks, pools, or other local kid-friendly hang-outs nearby? Find out, and visit them if you can. You're likely to meet parents who can tell you the ins and outs of the neighborhood kid scene.
  5. Be honest and realistic. If your children are not yet in school, and you don't like the school district you're thinking of moving into, think long and hard about your decision. Don't assume, especially in today's real estate market, that it will be simple to move again when it's time for your kids to start school. If people are grumbling about the downfall of the neighborhood - more break-ins, car thefts, vandalism, etc.- listen to them! Contact the local police department to get the scoop if you're unsure. But keep in mind, if it's going downhill now, it will probably continue its downward spiral.
Three and a half years later, we are fairly pleased with our decision. We should have researched the surrounding area better, and thought about proximity to schools. All of our kids' schools, and  most of their friends, are across a busy main street. This means walking to school and to friends' houses won't be an option for them until they're older. Given that we were under massive pressure to find a house ASAP, I think we did a pretty good job finding a home that fit our family's needs.

Do you have any house shopping strategies you'd like to share? Please post in the comments!

This post has been sponsored by Community Best Real Estate, but all opinions are my own.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Michigan Made: Simply Suzanne Granola

I love Michigan-made products, I love granola, and I love chocolate. So reviewing Simply Suzanne Sweet and Savory Lotsa Chocolate Granola was a total no-brainer for me. I had never heard of it, but apparently it's now sold at Meijer, so I will definitely have to (tell my husband to) look for it*.

I introduced this scrummy granola to my kids in the form of a little after school snack. They dug it, obviously. What's not to love about this scenario?

Simply Suzanne Granola...please excuse the scratched to hell plastic IKEA plate
 Apples + chocolate syrup + chocolate granola. No complaints. Well, Mathilda wouldn't touch it, but we don't count her.

While the apples and chocolate syrup with granola was really good, I had a bowl of the granola with milk for breakfast the next day, and it was SO delicious. I'm sure it would also be great in yogurt; too bad my stomach will no longer allow me to eat yogurt without wretched stomach pains. But if that ever goes away, I will try it!

Now I love granola of pretty much any variety, but Simply Suzanne tastes different and better. The Sweet and Savory Lotsa Chocolate flavor that I tried has a little bite to it. I was intrigued and combed through the short ingredient list, where I saw something unexpected: black pepper. Hmmm. Maybe if I hadn't read right past the "Sweet and Savory" part (I only saw the Lotsa Chocolate part until just now!) I wouldn't have been so surprised by that. Ha. Anyway, black pepper is not something one would typically expect to see in granola, is it? It gives this stuff a little something-something. (Aside from the black pepper, there are only 7 other ingredients: whole grain rolled oats, chocolate, brown sugar, maple syrup, canola oil, cinnamon, and sea salt). The packaging is great too. You can't really tell in my picture, but the plastic bag the granola comes in is resealable, which is so convenient.

I love short ingredient lists too! I also love no high fructose corn syrup, no artificial flavoring or preservatives, no cholesterol, zero trans fat, and high in fiber and protein. Wow, this little bag is full of good stuff! And it's hand crafted in small batches. Sold. I'm so glad I was given the opportunity to review Simply Suzanne granola, because it's one of those things I'm not sure I would have tried on my own. But I will be buying having Chris buy some of this ASAP. I heard there is a chocolate-coffee flavor too. I'll take one of each please!

*Chris does the Meijer shopping, I do the Kroger shopping. For whatever reason.

I was given free product for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wedded Bliss

It's hard to believe that next year Chris and I will celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary! My, how wedding planning has changed over the past 15 years. We struggled through every detail, wanting fondant icing on our wedding cake before most local bakeries were doing it, being underwhelmed with the selection of wedding gowns available at Metro Detroit bridal shops, and designing our own rings. The internet was around, but it wasn't what it is today! Couples have it made nowadays with Pinterest and other online resources that can provide ideas and inspiration for anyone. Thanks to the internet, I just learned about Moissanite, a gem stone that is remarkably like diamonds.

Check out this infographic for fun facts about the history of weddings!

If you are planning a wedding right now, I want to know: how much do you rely on the internet for your wedding planning?

A Brief History of Weddings |
Presented By visit

So What! Wednesday

So What Wednesday

So What!...

I'm perpetually doomed to not get enough sleep. What can you do? Learn to function on less sleep, that's what! I did take a nap the other day after I dropped the kids off at school. And then had the most unproductive day ever. 

I'm trying to diligently work off a to-do list to make sure everything gets done that needs to get done. But I keep getting sidetracked by emails & texts & other things that need my immediate attention. This 3-year old is pretty demanding, too!

I hate the cold. How in the heck did I ever end up in Michigan??

Lucy and Mathilda both took naps yesterday afternoon, for HOURS. I just let them sleep. Sometimes you just have to roll with it. Of course that meant bedtime was delayed substantially, but it all worked out!

Although I do despise the cold, I kind of hope we get a massive ton of snow this year so that my kids actually get a chance to enjoy it. Cold with no fun snow just sucks. 

I'm so lucky that Bethany has great friends who have fabulous moms who help me so much, I can never thank them enough!

I'm pretty dang proud of  myself for sticking with this Couch25K thing! Of course by the time I'm done and actually ready to run a 5K, it's going to be the dead of winter & I'll have to wait until spring. Which means I'm going to have to keep running all winter so that I don't have to go through Couch25K all over again!

Mathilda watches way too much TV during the day. Way.Too.Much. I should really do something about that. Avoidance of screaming is not the best reason for doing things, I guess.

Every week, I think oh, as soon as THIS ONE THING is done (Preschool meeting, book fair, somebody's birthday, whatever) I'll have so much time to get stuff done! And then I realize that THE NEXT THING is demanding my time and making it impossible to get anything done. Better time management: I'm working on it! (sort of)

I would be lost without my remote start on my van. Getting into a warm van in the morning makes the craptastic cold a little more bearable!

Spill it ~ what are YOU saying So What! to this week?

Do You Ever Just Want to Sell Everything You Own?

Sometimes...sometimes I feel defeated by STUFF. My possessions are interfering with my life. Seriously, you know?? I personally don't even have much of my own, so I guess it's everyone else's stuff that is stifling me. The toys! Who needs all this? The clothes! What the heck, so unnecessary! I mean, obviously we need clothes...but such a superfluous abundance of clothes that it doesn't fit in the closet & dresser when 3/4 of it is clean? No!

There are times when I'd just like to clear the house of everything but the bare essentials.

So much of our resources are dedicated to the accumulation, care and maintenance of our stuff. We spend money on buying stuff, but also on buying more stuff to organize the stuff we already have. The stuff needs to be organized, cleaned, and used.This takes a great deal of time and energy that could better be spent on more important things.

I don't consider myself to be terribly materialistic, but sure, I like stuff. At any given time there is probably a running list of more stuff that I'd like to have, running like a CNN ticker through my mind. But in general, I prefer experiences to things. I'd rather go on vacation than buy a new anything. I'd rather spend a day downtown than have a new piece of jewelry. Despite my preferences, I'm still bogged down with the responsibility of STUFF. I envy anyone who isn't, because the truth is...sometimes it feels burdensome to be the keeper of so many possessions. I'm not trying to say that I envy impoverished people who have nothing. Just that I'm envious of those who, based on personal choices and lifestyle, don't feel the weight of stuff maintenance on their shoulders.

Since I've got some catching up to do with my thankful posts,here's where I tie my frustrations into a 30 Days of Thankful post (covering several days).

Day 9 I'm thankful for my stuff. It's an indicator that I'm well cared for and have what I need to live comfortably. I know there are many people in this world who would be thrilled to have just a tiny bit of what I have been blessed to have. And everyday I try to remain in gratitude for the things I have that make my life more comfortable, safe, and entertaining.

Day 10 I'm thankful for cleaning out. If you had a look at my house right now, you'd be in wonder that I could spew such lies so easily and with no guilt. But I'm serious. I never thought I would be able to say this about myself, but I love the feeling of freedom I get from getting rid of stuff. Just like my Grandma. Well okay, she was the most organized woman in the world, so not quite just like her. I see the allure letting go of material items, and it always feels pretty darn fantastic when I have a whole ton of stuff to get rid of.

Day 11 I'm thankful for sharing. I get a pleasant little thrill every time I see my cousin's little boy wearing clothes that use to belong to Connor. The best way of getting rid of stuff is having someone specific to give it to who you know could use it. I love to give things away!

Day 12 I'm thankful for sometimes being on the receiving end of sharing. While I get a nice little endorphin rush from giving things to people who I know will use and appreciate it, it feels pretty good to have someone do the same for me. How awesome to not have to buy Connor any summer clothes because of a couple bags of hand-me-down clothes given to me by a generous friend! How fun to get a new (to me) sweater from my mother-in-law's friend! It's nice to have people think of us and deem us worthy of sharing their belongings with us.

Day 13 I'm thankful that I can recognize that the importance of stuff takes a definite backseat to the importance of living life to its fullest. Spending time with loved ones, doing interesting things, seeing the world, doing things I love, and having new experiences...this is the "real" stuff that happy lives are made of.

Day 14 I'm thankful for all the busy bee things going on in my life right now, even if it does mean more frequent absences in the blogging front. For example, working to find new ways of keeping my home organized (got to take care of that stuff, after all!).

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Book Review: Enchanted by Starlight by Tina L. Hook

The first thing I'm going to tell you about Enchanted by Starlight, by Tina L. Hook, is that initially I had some trouble getting into it. However, I'm definitely not one to give up on a book - sometimes they need to marinate in my mind for a bit while I become accustomed to the style and the voice. So I steadfastly read on, and before long it began to grow on me. This book is different, and not quite what I expected. But different is good, and I enjoy a change of pace in my reading.

Enchanted by Starlight switches viewpoints among three inter-connected characters: Grace, Skylar, and Alina. They knew each other once upon a time, and were each endowed with special talents by enchanted comets in their youth. Grace can make men fall in love with her, Skylar has a charmed social life, and Alina has the power to intuitively exact revenge. Each young lady chose her gift with a wish, and each chose something that she felt was lacking or needed in her personal life. Although they grow up and go their separate ways, eventually their paths cross again, which leads to pain, confusion, and regrets.

At the beginning of each chapter, the heading lets the reader know who is speaking in that chapter. Nonetheless, at times I found it difficult to follow whose life I was reading about and the particulars of that character. I just re-read the back of the book, and had I done that a few times during my reading of the book, I probably would have been a  lot less confused. Mingled love lives make the confusion more pervasive, but if you can manage to keep track of characters, you'll be fine!

This is a fantasy book rooted in reality. The characters are genuine...their world is very real...but their powers are otherworldly. If you don't mind a sprinkle of the unknown mixed into your fiction, give Enchanted by Starlight a chance.