Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Protect Your Family Nest #FamilyNest

Many of you know that I have a background in the financial services industry. When I was a banker, one of the things I handled was loans. Primarily, it was auto loans and home refinances. We were always required to offer "Credit Life" Insurance to each and every customer. I say required because if you offer it to some and not all, that can be seen as discrimination, so it was important to remember to offer it to everyone. While we were paid incentives for selling it, and had goals to meet, in the beginning I felt "pushy" offering it to people and wondered why they would need it when they probably already had life insurance, if something happened to them.

One day, I had a wife come in crying. Her husband died, which was traumatic enough, but OUR bank had her in foreclosure because his life insurance wasn't enough to payoff the mortgage, and her income was barely enough to pay utilities and buy food. I felt horrible for her. When I pulled the loan documents out, they had declined the Credit Life, which was her last lifeline, so she had to move her children out of the only home they had ever known. From that point on, I never once felt bad about offering that insurance, and while as a banker you never know what someone's insurance portfolio contains, at least you are hopefully making them go over it before they reject that additional insurance.

For my family personally, we take out the maximum amount of life insurance on both of us through Nick's company so that we are covered in case anything happens to either one of us. It is especially important that stay at home moms (particularly those with small children) have life insurance on themselves because your spouse would need to pay for daycare, and other needs if something happened to you. Many people think because they don't have an "income" they don't need life insurance, and frankly that just isn't true. We also have a private policy, which with many companies runs as low as $20 per month, and we put a portion of each paycheck into a savings account for liquidity purposes.

Sometimes people hesitate to think seriously about life insurance because they don't want to really think about their own mortality. However, if you are a parent or spouse, you have an obligation to make sure that those who would be left behind in the event of your demise are taken care of and provided for. It won't just be your annual salary that is permanently gone, but the remaining spouse will then be responsible for any auto and home loans if they want to keep those things. Death is stressful enough to deal with for survivors without the added burden of the financial despair they could be facing.

Take a moment soon to evaluate your own situation and make sure it is sufficient. 

DISCLOSURE: “I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Allstate blogging program, for a gift card worth $50. For more information on how you can participate, click here.”

About Allstate Life Insurance
The Allstate Corporation is the nation's largest publicly held personal lines insurer. Allstate is reinventing protection and retirement to help more than 17 million households insure what they have today and better prepare for tomorrow. Consumers access Allstate insurance products (auto, home, life and retirement) and services through Allstate agencies, independent agencies and Allstate Personal Financial Representatives in the U.S. and Canada, as well as via www.allstate.com and 1-800 Allstate®.

More information on Allstate Life Insurance: http://www.allstate.com/

Allstate Life Insurance on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Allstate

Follow @allstate on Twitter

Hashbrown Casserole

This is a tried and true success. If I need to send a casserole somewhere, or attending a potluck, there is ALWAYS a request for this recipe. I like making it because it's fast and easy to put together, and then just pop it in the oven. People LOVE it fresh, but on the rare occasion when there are leftovers, it's been said that it tastes even better reheated, which you don't hear often. Personally, I don't eat it, because you know, I have the whole aversion to onions thing....:) but everyone else seems to love it!

HASHBROWN CASSEROLE
1 (2 pound) package frozen hash brown potatoes, thawed
1/2 cup melted butter
1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 (8 ounce) container sour cream
1/2 cup chopped onions
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 cups crushed cornflakes cereal
1/4 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

In a large bowl, combine hash browns, 1/2 cup melted butter, cream of chicken soup, sour cream, chopped onion, Cheddar cheese, salt and pepper. Place mixture in a 3 quart casserole dish.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, saute cornflakes in 1/4 cup melted butter, and sprinkle the mixture over the top of the casserole.

Bake covered in preheated oven for 40 minutes.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Time Island


If you are looking for me tonight, I'll be hanging withe kids on "Time Island"...well, our version in the backyard anyway! My boys LOVE a good adventure, and I can't wait to get started on this one. We'll have a few friends over to play as we explore the lush jungle (uncut grass!) and pretend we have beaches and caves out there as well. Mom Select and Time Island generously sent us a Time Island In Home Party Kit tucked neatly into a very cook Survival Backpack, so we will be playing themed games, I've got some "adventure" recipes baking (hopefully I can get a photo before they eat them up!), and giving away Raffle Prizes. The boys were excited about the temporary tattoos (because those are cool!), stickers, and band bracelets that they can wear and share with their friends.

Fortunately for us, the temperature has cooled off to a mere 95 degrees (it was 106!) so we won't be melting during our adventure. I've got some themed cookies and cupcakes that I made and decorated, some candy (not chocolate in this heat) that I put in some decorations and hid in the yard while they were at school, and maps I drew for them to use when exploring to find the treasure. I also hid the extra bracelets, stickers, and tattoos in little box containers. They have instructions to go 10 paces N turn R then go 5 paces W turn L go 7 paces and X marks the spot! I hope it'll be more fun for them to find the rewards than to just put them in goody bags. At this age (6-9) they all are working on team work and how working together as a team is more beneficial than working on your own, so I've tried to incorporate that by blindfolding the search person and having their navigator call out instructions to them from across the yard;) Can they listen to their friend and hear over the other teams? Can they remain patient and follow directions? Only time will tell on Time Island!


***Disclosure: I received the free In Home Party Kit as part of a promotional program between Mom Select and Time Island. No positive review was required nor requested. All opinions expressed are 100% mine and have not been influenced in any way.***

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hooper Finds a Family

I am always looking for new books that are targeted at the age range my boys are in, because they have my love of reading, and thoroughly enjoy new books. I recently came across a review of Hooper Finds a Family: A Hurricane Katrina Dog's Survival Tale by Jane Paley on the blog of a friend, and she shared the contact information with me, and I was able to get a review copy to read, and now share my thoughts with you.

I want to say that this book is aimed at ages 8-12 (grades 3-7) and that is right on target. This book is written from the perspective of the dog, Hooper, and while it is fictional, it is based on facts. It starts out detailing Hooper's trials as he fights for his survival during Hurricane Katrina, and for that reason I don't think it would be appropriate for children any younger than 8. My soon to be 8 year old wouldn't be too upset by the struggles, but my 9 year old with Asperger's would be traumatized by these events. He gets scared enough during normal thunderstorms as it is.

I would recommend parents read this book BEFORE you have your kids read it, just to make sure they can handle the struggles Hooper faces.

I found that Hooper was very easy to relate to, and the emotions he exhibits are probably pretty accurate. While I am sure that the family that lost Hooper was very sad that they never found him, I just adored the portion of the story about Hooper with his new family. When Hooper gets matched with his new family in New York, they have just lost their longtime dog companion, and the father especially, struggles to accept a new dog into their lives. But once he does, it is so touching!

Hooper is a very brave dog, and endures many life threatening situations, but shows how he not only survives, but thrives. He overcomes his fears, and comes to love and embrace the new family he is sent to live with.

***Some of the proceeds from the book will go to Labs4rescue, which matches stray labs with new families and the organization that matched Hooper with Paley. Disclosure: I was given a complimentary copy of Hooper Finds a Family to facilitate my review. No positive opinion was required, no compensation was exchanged, and all opinions expressed are 100% mine and were not influenced in any manner.***

A Solar Solution for Internet Addicts Like Me

While I may live in Oklahoma, the landlocked center of the US, I am fascinated with all things weather related, and have been watching non-stop coverage of Hurricane Irene on the weather channel. I can't help it, I love to see the power of nature, even though it often wreaks havoc when it rages. Not that we don't get our fair share of nature's fury here in OK either. While we are in an extreme drought now, and we did have some horrific tornadoes this year, it wasn't as many as normal. We also tend to have blizzards throughout the winter that often cause loss of power for an extended period of time.

Because we face the fury of nature on a regular basis, I find that it helps calm my nerves to know that I have prepared for them in advance. I keep a supply of bottled water, canned goods, a can opener, batteries, and other necessities on hand and in our "safe place" in our home, and I replenish the supplies on a regular basis to make sure everything is fresh. One thing that I had not thought of until this storm though, was considering a portable solar battery charger. I think it makes sense to have these, especially because smart phones don't run off of easily replaceable batteries, and in the event of an extended power outage, you might need to have the ability to communicate with others via phone, text, or internet, and if you battery dies, you could be out of luck.

If you are like me, and addicted to the internet, you might feel the constant need to check your email, facebook, twitter, weather, news sites, play games, and text with your friends and family. While that's great for a while, it will drive you batty if the battery dies and you can't recharge it! I already have to charge mine twice a day because I run the battery down, and that's when we have power available! I think one of these will be on my list of items to check into, because while I do enjoy the fun things I can do on the internet, I have also seen firsthand the seriousness of what nature can do, and I would feel much better knowing I had a portable solar battery charger on hand to charge the batteries on our phones in the event of an extended power outage!

I am participating in a blog campaign from Bucks2Blog for a portable solar
panel company and was compensated. However, the views and opinions are my
own.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Keep In Touch

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of TracFone. All opinions are 100% mine.

Many of my friends have purchased cell phones for their children about the age of 10. My oldest son is 9, and I have NO intention of him or his brothers having their own cell phones anytime in the near future. With that said, they are also at an age where they are playing sports and wanting to go play at friend's houses, and I want to make sure they are safe. Obviously I'd never let them go anywhere with someone I didn't know and feel comfortable with, but I have known people in my life who have had issues even with trusted adults. One solution that we are looking into for these situations is a TracFone.

With a TracFone, there are so many features that make this appealing for our situation. They are very inexpensive, have no activation or cancellation fees, and no contracts. Some phones come with a FREE option to double any purchased minutes, others require a $19.99 fee if you choose to upgrade to this feature. They offer brand name phones that you are familiar with, they have reliable service, coverage, and reception.

For $10 you can get a phone that makes calls and texts, or for $29.99 you can get a phone with a full QWERTY keyboard, apps, mp3 player for music, video and camera capabilities, and web access.

For minutes, you can choose to pay as you go, or buy cards in the store to add minutes to your phone. TracFones also work for international calls.

You can see a YouTube video about no contracts from real TracFone customers and another YouTube video about no more surprise bills from  real TracFone customers

.

This YouTube video demonstrates the reliability of a TracFone.

Visit Sponsor's Site

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Real Estate Lessons Learned when Buying my First Home

We purchased our first home in 2007, and while we knew that it would be a stressful experience, and had done a ton of research beforehand, we had no idea the challenges that would lie ahead of us. There are a few lessons that we learned during this process that I share with others in the process of buying their first home, and now I will share some of them with you;)


  • Be sure to find a real estate agent that you are comfortable working with. You want someone who listens to you and your needs. Our first agent did none of those things and it was very frustrating. Once we found another realtor to work with, it was SO much better. If anyone is in the OKC area, I highly recommend ours. Just feel free to leave your email in the comments or contact me for the info!
  • Find a reputable loan company you can trust! We used a broker that came recommended from a friend, and it didn't work out well. We had to move the day after closing to avoid extending our lease for 3-6 months, and the DAY OF CLOSING this guy says our loan was no longer being offered by the bank even though we had been pre-approved. It was a special program with great terms that expired the week before closing and he failed to realize that or we could have closed earlier. Instead he had to rush to get us a new loan and get ALL the paperwork completed that day. It was not terms we were happy with, so we re-financed at the 2 year mark with another company we trusted and got a record low interest rate.
  • Get a thorough inspection and make sure you ask questions. We had an inspection, but there were a few things we didn't know to ask about or take into consideration. Like where is the faucet at the front of the house? It was 2 years before we found it hidden behind some bushes. Luckily it hadn't frozen and burst during any blizzards when it wasn't covered. Other little things the previous owner had covered up and hidden that didn't come to light until after closing. Such as the cute towel and candles on the toilet tank were covering the fact that it had been SHATTERED and poorly glued together, or that he tiled over linoleum in the kitchen, or that the door that had boxes stacked in front of it for their movers was ROTTED OUT and we couldn't see that because we didn't know to insist that the boxes were moved.
  • Ask for a list of utility and service companies from the seller. The town we moved from had one company for electric, gas, and water. Here they are all separate companies, and our service was almost disconnected right after we moved in because I had only set up an account with one company. I didn't know there were 2 other companies I needed to call and set up accounts with. 
  • Get a home warranty contract included in your purchase. This saved us thousands the first year! Our seller had done very poor home maintenance and many things were broken and needed to be repaired, including the AC unit. 
This is just a short list of lessons we learned that I hope can help others during their first time buying process, or just serve as reminders for people buying after living in their home for many years. Always be sure to thoroughly check every nook and cranny and make sure any problems you uncover are things you can fix or live with. We love our house, but wish we had known some of these things before we moved in to save us some stress!


I am participating in a blogger campaign by Bucks2Blog in behalf of a
missouri real estate company and was compensated. However, the views and
opinions are my own.

Recipe: Cheesy Chicken


Recipes: Cheesy Chicken

2 chicken breasts cooked and shredded (I cook them in the slow cooker overnight, then skin and debone)
1 8 count crescent rolls
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup milk or buttermilk
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

***(note: my kids LOVE these, so I double the recipe, and we rarely have leftovers. You will have to experiment to see if you want the extra gravy. Too much makes them mushy, but the family loves it, so sometimes I bake each batch in a separate pan. Everyone gets enough and has all the gravy they want, without any mush. I have also used the garlic flavored crescent rolls, and my husband prefers those)***

Preheat oven to 375 degress. Spray 9x13 pan with Pam. Lay out crescent rolls in 4 sections on waxed paper. (Keep the triangles together to form a rectangle). Put shredded chicken and cheese on rolls and roll them up (like a short burrito). Mix cream of chicken soup and milk and heat on stovetop in a small pan until fairly smooth. (add any leftover chicken or cheese to this). Pour between crescent rolls in pan. (Be careful to pour around, not on top or they will be mushy!). Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes or until crescent rolls are cooked through and brown on top.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fotobounce

Last week, several of my blog friends were talking about a new software they had tried out called, Fotobounce, and how great it was for photo sharing. So, I emailed the company asking about it, and they generously offered to let me review it also.

What it is:
Fotobounce is software that allows you to set up private networks to share photos. You can set them up for groups of friends, family members, etc. and people can ONLY see the photos you have given them access to. This is great for me because I have several different friends, and many of them don't know the others outside the particular group. For example, my high school and college friends don't know each other, so they don't care to see photos of people they don't know.The private peer to peer network is local to your computer, and has facial recognition software technology which makes tagging people very quick and efficient.

I post photos on Facebook only on my personal page, and haven't done that very often because I am not a technical genius, and it takes me forever to get them uploaded, put in the correct album, and tagged. I also have a Flickr that I use for sharing photos with friends who don't use Facebook, but again, it takes me a while to get them uploaded. However, this software was pretty easy, even for me. I clicked the button to download, opened it up and it was super easy to install, then it took just a couple of minutes for all of my photos to be pulled and organized. With the face recognition it tagged people quickly and now they are all nice, neat, and organized into my groups.

If you'd like to try this out, you can Download Fotobounce here for FREE, or there is also an option for $49 that eliminates the ad's. For me, I don't mind a few ads to save $49, but everyone has different preferences;)


This is a screenshot the company sent me to show you what it looks like. I am trying to get one of my personal pictures to add, but I can't figure out how to edit the screenshot to get it small enough to upload, haha. I need software to do that for me;)

***Disclosure: This is a sponsored post, BUT I was the one who initiated contact with the company because I was so interested in trying it out, and felt like many of you might also be interested in this service, so I wanted permission to be able to share it with you. No positive review was requested or expected, and all opinions expressed are 100%mine.***

Friday, August 19, 2011

Lovable Labels

We are going to be very busy this weekend getting all of our school supplies gathered and labeled, because Open House is on Monday night, and we have to take everything with us! The first day of school isn't until Wednesday, but our school always has parents bring the supplies early, meet the teachers, and get signed up for lunch accounts, bus routes, PTA, etc at Open House.

This year though, it will be a tad bit easier for me. Lovable Labels contacted me last month and asked if I would consider doing a review and giveaway (The Giveaway is posted HERE) of their products. I asked Joshua and Logan to look them over, and they choose the Back to School - Sporty pack for the items to review. The items arrived very quickly and are just adorable. Joshua will be starting soccer next week, so he just adores the soccer backpack tags that were included.

The Back To School Pack includes:

•15 Regular Sticker Labels
•80 Slimline Sticker Labels
•48 Press n'Stick Clothing DOTS
•12 Shoe Labels
•2 Mini-Metal Tags (two 4” silver ball chains incld)
•12 Square Labels

I love that all of these labels are Waterproof, Dishwasher/Microwave Safe, Washer and Dryer Safe, Sun, Bleach, Sunscreen, and Temperature Safe. The price for this particular package is $44.95 in Canadian Dollars (Sorry, I am bad at conversion, but it is slightly less in US Dollars), which is very affordable for the amount of product included, and they offer several other items as well!

These worked out very well for me with the clothing dots and shoe labels because my kids are all so close in size and have many identical items, yet it is such a battle to keep them separate. They don't want "their" item mixed up with their siblings item. We also won't have to worry about items getting sent to lost and found at school because the teacher will know who to return forgotten items to, if they are ours.

I hope you'll take a moment to check out the Lovable Labels website, Facebook, and twitter pages!

***Disclosure: I received one complimentary Back to School Pack to facilitate my review. No other monetary compensation was exchanged. A positive review was not requested nor required. All opinions expressed are 100% mine and were not influenced in any way.***

Grocery Day

Today is my grocery shopping day, and I am printing out my coupons to take with me. Several of the sites have newly released coupons available, so don't forget to check my Coupons and Money Saving Sites Tab to print the coupons you might need for your weekend shopping trips. I am including links here for coupons that I printed to use, or thought some of you might find especially useful, though others are available from many of the sites.

Redplum:
Vanity Fair® - SAVE $1.00

Coupon Network:
$1.60 off any TWO Nature's Bounty® Vitamins or Supplements
Save up to $3.00 on NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Morsels
Save up to $3.00 Gain® Detergent PLUS 2 Gain products
Save up to $3.00 when you buy three or more Pledge® products
Save up to $2.00 when you buy Silk® Half Gallon Products
$1.00 off on any THREE BOXES select General Mills cereals
50¢ off when you buy ONE BOX Cinnamon Toast Crunch® cereal

50¢ off when you buy EIGHT CUPS any variety Yoplait® Yogurt
50¢ off on Pillsbury® Toaster Strudel®/Scrambles®/Pancakes
50¢ off on TWO CUPS any flavor Yoplait® Greek yogurt
50¢ off on Nature Valley® Granola Thins
50¢ off on Bisquick® Baking or Complete Pancake & Waffle Mix
75¢ off Nature Valley® Granola Bars OR Granola Nut Clusters
$1.00 off on Pillsbury® Sweet Moments® Refrigerated Desserts
30¢ off Pillsbury® Refrigerated Grands!® Biscuits

75¢ off when you buy TWO any flavor select Yoplait® Yogurts
50¢ off on TWO BOXES Betty Crocker® fruit flavored snacks
$1.00 off on Totino's® Crisp Crust Party Pizza® Products
$1.00 off on Romano's Macaroni Grill® Frozen Entrée
50¢ off on Fiber One® 90 Calorie Brownies
50¢ off on Pillsbury® Refrigerated Cookie Dough

80¢ off on Home Cooked Skillet Meals
40¢ off on two Pillsbury® Italian Meal Breads
50¢ off on Pillsbury® Sweet Rolls OR Grands!® Sweet Rolls
40¢ off when you buy two Totino's® Rolls Snacks
50¢ off on Pillsbury® Crescent Dinner Rolls
Save up to $4.00 Women's Degree® Anti-Perspirant/ Deodorant
Save up to $4.00 on Degree® Anti-Perspirant/Deodorant
$1.00 off when you buy ONE box of POST Shredded Wheat Cereal
$2 off when you buy any Osteo Bi-Flex® Supplement or Powder (I haven't tried this, but my Dad assures me it does wonders for him, so I am going to pick some up if I can get it at a good price, and give it a whirl.)

$1.50 off ON ONE (1) BOTTLE OF EMETROL FOR NAUSEA ***For my Pregnant Friend, Lucy. This is the stuff I was telling you about that I used with all three of my pregnancies. It was the ONLY thing that helped!***
$1.00 off Glade Scented Oil Candle holder
$1.00 off TWO Glade Scented Oil Candle refill
$0.75 off 1 package of PHILADELPHIA Cooking Creme
$0.50 off Pillsbury Sweet Rolls
$0.80 off Hamburger Helper and Tuna Helper
$0.40 off THREE (3) KLEENEX On-the-Go Tissue Pack
$2.00 off LeapFrog Sing and Learn
$1.00 off 1 Minute Maid Juice Box 10-pk
$1.50 off 3 Glade Glade 4-oz. Jar Candles
$1.00 off any ONE Skittles, Starburst
$0.55 off on any Bagel-fuls (4ct)
$0.50 off LAND O LAKES Buttery Taste Spread
$0.40 off One Package of LAND O LAKES Margarine
$0.50 off LAND O LAKES Spreadable Butter Product
$0.75 off LAND O LAKES Cinnamon Butter Spread

SavingStar:
Buy 1 L'Oréal Vive Pro Shampoo or Conditioner, Save 75¢ Expires 9/14/2011
Buy 1 L'Oréal Studio Line Styling Product, Save $1.00 Expires 9/14/2011
Buy 2 Musselman's® 6-pack Apple Sauce, Save 75¢ Expires 9/18/2011
Buy 2 JOLLY TIME Microwave Pop Corn Products 4.8 oz or larger, Save $1.00 Expires 9/17/2011
Buy any 1 Snyder's of Hanover Organic Pretzel Sticks, Save $1.00 Expires 9/14/2011
 Buy any 1 Bayer Aspirin product, Save $1.00 Expires 9/1/2011 
Buy any 1 Aleve Product 20 ct or higher, Save $2.00 Expires 9/1/2011
Buy any 1 Phillips' product, Save $2.00 Expires 9/1/2011
Buy any 1 One A Day Multi-Vitamins, Save $1.00 (does not include One A Day Kids) Expires 9/1/2011

***Some of these are affiliate links. While you do not have to click through my links to print these out, and the money paid is a very small amount, it does add up over time, and I do appreciate it;) ***

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Carmex

We live in Oklahoma where it is DRY and we get the most extreme temperatures. We are breaking a record this summer with more than 50 days of 100+ temps, and in the winter, Blizzards are not unusual. Not to mention the wind............oh how it does come "Sweeping Down the Plains". What that means for me is that my lips, and more specifically Aaron's lips get very dry and cracked. That poor child has to use Carmex 4 or more times per day to keep his little lips from cracking open! Now normally we use regular old original Carmex because Aaron doesn't like flavors. But I DO:) So, when Carmex recently contacted me and offered to send me some new Vanilla and Lime Twist flavors (With the most adorable picnic blanket EVER, which I happen to be giving away as part of the Spa For Ma event with tubes of the Vanilla and Lime Twist flavors as well, so click over and enter!) I was ecstatic!

These new flavors are YUMMY, and make me oh so happy. These fantastic new tubes are tucked safely away in my purse, out of the reach of my adorable little children. These are all for mommy! If you don't want to wait to see if you win the Spa for Ma Giveaway, you can purchase these at CVS, Walgreens, or Walmart.

You can also find more information on Carmex at their Website, Twitter, or Facebook page.

***Disclosure: I was sent 2 complimentary tubes of Carmex and a picnic blanket to facilitate my review, no other compensation was exchanged. A postitive review was not required, though it is deserved. All opinions expressed are 100% mine and were not influenced in any way.***

Addition and Subtraction Rock!

This is my youngest son Logan, being the funny little boy that he is. He is such a sweet and helpful boy, but when it comes to school work, it is VERY hard for him to pay attention. He gets distracted easily, and finds certain subjects difficult to retain.

I have been entering contests to win some Rock N Learn DVD's for a while, with them on my wishlist of items to try for the upcoming school year, and was more than excited when one of their representatives contacted me asking if I would like to host a review and giveaway for them! (The giveaway is up NOW as part of my A Blogtastic Extravaganza Event if you'd like to enter!)

My youngest two go to public school, which starts next week in our area. Over the summer, we have continued to do learning activities, and I require them to all read at least one hour per day. When the Rock N Learn DVD arrived a couple of weeks ago, they were thrilled to put it in and test it out. I am ecstatic at the excitement all three of them have about math now!

Aaron, going into 3rd grade homeschool, has some learning disabilities and we have been struggling with math, but making progress. While had the foundation of addition and subtraction down, these songs reinforce the facts I have taught him. He has struggled in the past with drills, but when set to the music, he excels.

Joshua, going into 2nd grade, is advanced in all of his subjects, but he too enjoys dancing around and singing math songs.

Logan who struggled to COUNT on a consistent basis in Kindergarten can now do math drills like an expert. I am crossing my fingers that this makes math in 1st grade easier for him, and you can guarantee if it does, I will be getting more of these DVD's!

The Addition and Subtraction Rock DVD I was sent is priced at $19.99, and that is what many of the others are priced at as well. They have several subjects, and as the mom of kids who struggle in areas, this is a great investment if it helps them get over the hurdles they are having.

Please feel free to visit the Rock N Learn website to view additional products, and they have generously offered a coupon code (JQ7711) to receive 25% off of any product on their site. They also offer 3 FREE websites where you can downloaded helpful worksheets to work with your kids. They are www.free-phonics-worksheets.com , www.worksheets-for-math.com,  and www.markothepencil.com.

***Disclosure: I did receive one free DVD to facilitate my review. No positive review was required, it was earned by it's own merit. All opinions expressed are 100% mine and were not influenced in any way.***

Thursday Deals

Totsy
I finally got around to signing up for the Totsy emails after I clicked over and saw that they really do offer some great deals on many items. I know 12 people who are pregnant right now, so I am in need of some great deals on baby shower gifts, and I am REALLY glad I found this site.

This is the information I found on the site:
Totsy offers moms on-the-go and moms-to-be access to brand-specific sales, up to 80% off retail, just for them and the kids, ages 0-7. Top brands for mom, baby, and child. Prenatal care products, baby gear, travel accessories, bedding and bath, children's clothing, toys, DVDs, and educational materials are just a sampling of a selection that promises only the best in quality and designer brands. 100% eco-friendly: Totsy is the first company in private sales to take on sustainable and socially responsible initiatives in all areas of business. One baby, one tree: With every purchase you make through Totsy, we will plant one tree in the name of your child to help reduce the effects of deforestation. Who says shopping can't save the world?

Valued Opinions:
I saw that Valued Opinions is accepting new participants, and I have worked with them in the past (when I had more time!), and they did offer completable surveys. Y'all know what I mean. Some sites offer a ton of surveys which you never seem to qualify for, but with this one, I did qualify for several and receive a payout. If only I had about 4 more hours in the day, I could make some extra income off all of these survey sites again! Most of these don't take that long to complete, and once school starts again I hope to be able to do more. Right now, I am just really behind, so no time for surveys:(

Cafe Mom
I have heard people raving about Cafe Mom all week, so I popped over to check it out this morning. It is a FREE site with a forum and community of other moms to share ideas and help one another. As we enter the tween years I hope to be able to utilize this as a helpful resource!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Recipe: Honey Mustard Chicken

This one is one of my favorites, and with school starting back and fall sports starting up, Slow Cooker Recipes become the standard around here. I LOVE THE FALL!!!


Honey Mustard Chicken

1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup honey
1/4 cup yellow mustard (kind you put on hot dogs)
1/4 cup dijon mustard (can substitute yellow mustard, but is better if you don't!)
1 tsp - 2 tbsp curry powder depending on your tastes!
6-8 chicken breasts or equivalent chicken pieces

Place chicken in slow cooker, mix all other ingredients together and pour over chicken. Cook on low for 4-6 hours. (If chicken is frozen cook for 6-7 hours, and if you use chicken with the bone in adjust accordingly!)

Excellent served with rice and veggies or a salad.

In hot weather, cool the chicken, dice it, and serve over a salad. Chicken is also wonderful in chicken salad or as sliced chicken for sandwiches and wraps.

To Freeze
Cook the chicken, cool, slice or chop, put quantities you want in a freezer bag, spoon some extra marinade over top, and then freeze using the Zip Top Bag Method!

Book Tour: Huber Hill and the Dead Man's Treasure

Book Tour: Huber Hill and the Dead Man's Treasure by B.K. Bostick

I am thrilled to be taking part in this book tour, and the author, B.K. Bostick has generously offered to sponsor a fantastic giveaway as well! The giveaway is posted IN THIS EVENT;)

This book is aimed at ages 9-12, and is an ideal fit for both Aaron and Joshua. Since I require them to read an hour each day, especially during summer vacation, Joshua has been reading books aloud to his two brothers. This is another one that they truly enjoyed.

The book description is: "When his grandfather dies, Huber Hill is devastated---until he opens Grandpa Nick's mysterious box. An old gold coin and directions to a hidden Spanish treasure send him and his friends off on an mind-blowing adventure, but he's not the only one on the hunt. Filled with dangerous animals and cryptic puzzles, this book will have you on the edge of your seat until the last page."

Those of you who know my boys, are aware of how much they LOVE a good mystery and puzzles. Combine that with some gold coins and treasure, and it sets the stage for excitement. They really enjoyed going on this journey, and since their dad's name is Nick, they got a kick out of talking about Grandpa Nick's mysterious box. Aaron draws illustrations daily, it is his creative outlet. Since he was very little, he has adored making Treasure Maps. They love to make them, take turns "hiding" treasure in the backyard, and then having their brothers go and find it. They are forevermore yelling "X MARKS THE SPOT".

I think that this is the first book published by B.K. Bostick, so my only complaint is that there aren't other stories of his for my boys to read. They immediately wanted to go to the library, just to make sure there weren't any other books of his there. We did find some other fun reads though, but with school starting next week, their adventure time is getting cut drastically very soon!


GIVEAWAY: I have TWO GIVEAWAYS associated with this tour, and they will be listed in tomorrow's A Blogtastic Extravaganza Event Post!

Mr Bostick would also like everyone to know that he is participating in a fundraiser for his neighbor Alyssa, and you can find more information at Treasure For Alyssa!
You can also find B.K. Bostick at

Book Trailer

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Book Review: Book Review in November

Book Review: Barefoot in November by Benjamin J Carey

I want to give fair warning to anyone reading this book: It will capture you from the beginning, and you will NOT want to put it down. Make sure you have plenty of time to read this before you start, so you can read it in its entirety at once. It is a very emotional book, but you will be glad you selected it.

I have had close family members with heart and other medical problems, and the nature of this book reminded me of their situations. Denial is never a good option when it comes to healthcare. You should always listen to your body and continue seeking medical attention until someone listens to you.

My favorite thing about this book, is that it highlights the success post-recovery, and demonstrates HOPE is not futile. On a personal level, I think hope is an important factor in one's fight against illness, and if someone believes and is willing to give it their all, they are more likely to be successful. I realize that isn't always the case, depending on the situation, but often, people DO beat their illnesses and recover.

This would be an excellent book to anyone fighting to beat an illness now, survivors of illness, or family members.

Product Description

A young man escaped a twisted life in Upstate New York and fled to Manhattan to start over. We meet him later in the prime of his life building the American dream; only to find out that his world is about to be turned upside down. Suddenly he is faced with his own mortality, and the possibilty that he may be saying goodbye forever to his pregnant wife, young children, and the big white house he has built in a quaint Long Island suburb. "Barefoot in November" is about dying and living, not living and dying. It's a wrestling match between Man, God, and Destiny, and the stories that interconnect them. A story and characters so real; as if you are living it yourself.

***Disclosure: I was provided a complimentary copy of Barefoot in November courtesy of Center Street Publishing to facilitate my review. No positive review was required or requested, and all opinions expressed are 100% mine and were not influenced in any way.***

Should you hire a bankruptcy attorney?

Times are definitely tough in this economy, and I have several close friends who have been forced to consult with bankruptcy attorneys to get relief and a fresh start on things. There is such a stigma associated with this, that I think really needs to be evaluated. Filing for bankruptcy does not make someone a bad person, nor does it necessarily indicate they are irresponsible. Sometimes things just happen. I am going to give you a couple of examples of stories I have heard, some recent, some from my past as a bank loan officer, that I hope give you pause to rethink your personal feelings on the matter. I have seen this issue from all sides, so I think I have a good perspective on shedding some light. (*Note: Names and identifying details changed to protect the privacy of the individuals involved).

Story 1: This couple was very financially stable and strong. Combined, their salaries were well into the six figures. They owned a nice home, 2 average cars, and had a handful of credit cards that they paid off every month. They were responsible at saving, and had 4 months of income in liquid savings. Then, one of them lost their job. Immediately they went to "bare bones" spending while the spouse looked for a job. Then a child got very sick and had an extended hospital stay. They had a 20% copay bill for all expenses. The one spouse was getting interviews, and being told they were overqualified, and they were not hired. The housing market started falling, and several homes in the neighborhood went into foreclosure. After 8 months, this couple decided to sell the home because the savings had been stretched and was almost gone, and they knew they were in serious trouble. The appraiser came, and they found out the were now $60,000 upside down on the home due to the turn in market. Finally, with all other avenues exhausted, they turned to a bankruptcy attorney. They were able to file Chapter 7 and turn over the house, close and have all credit card balances forgiven, and the medical debt forgiven. They then moved into an apartment for 2 years, and were able to manage just fine on one income. After those 2 years, the unemployed spouse found a job, and then a month later the other spouse lost their job, and was out of work for 2 months. They made a smart decision at that point to begin budgeting long term on one income, and to save the second income. They have done very well since that point, and were able to purchase a new home at the 3 year post bankruptcy mark, and continue to live on the budgeted one income salary, and the entire second salary is in a savings account. If it weren't for bankruptcy and a fresh start, they would be burdened by a foreclosure and judgments from the medical and credit card bills they had been unable to pay when they were just trying to survive.

Story 2 is of an elderly lady. She was taken by some shady loan officers at several different companies. She was convinced that she needed a line of credit on her paid for home, to have available for emergencies, and the terms weren't completely explained as well as they should have been. When she became ill and was hospitalized for a month, she accrued sizable medical bills, even with medicare.  When she got home, her bank loan officer convinced her to payoff her medical bills with the line of credit, to "help on her taxes". She didn't realize that the minimum payment wasn't in her meager social security budget, and that she'd then be convinced to get credit cards and personal loans to cover her expenses. She found herself going hungry and without medication to try and pay these bills, until a family member realized what was going on, and stepped in. At that point they realized she wasn't of sound mind to make these types of decisions on her own anymore, but they still had quite a mess to clean up, and foreclosure proceedings were in process on her home because she hadn't been able to pay the line of credit bill, and didn't realize it put her home at risk. They took her to a bankruptcy attorney who got everything paused while they figured things out. Ultimately they decided to have her file, and then moved to a Senior Care facility. Fortunately they got this done and all the debts forgiven so they weren't forced to deal with it all after her passing and while they were grieving, and she was able to live out the remainder of her days without the burden of all that debt hanging over her head.

Now I know some people will disagree with my perspective on things, and that's ok, everyone is entitled to their opinion. I also know that there are irresponsible people out there. I just want to remind everyone that you don't know all the details of others financial situations, and should they need to seek the help of a professional, such as Nevada Bankruptcy Attorneys, for advice, then don't judge them. It's a very hard, personal decision, and a last resort for most people. Sometimes people have issues that aren't other peoples business, and they need to do what they need to do to get them resolved, without the judgment of others in their families, circle of friends, church families, etc.

You can rarely go wrong by offering support and encouragement instead of gossip and judgment.

This is a sponsored post, courtesy of Las Vegas Bankruptcy Attorneys, but is an issue I feel strongly about, and that is why I signed up to participate. As a loan officer, I saw many times the irresponsible angle, and I know it's there. As a consumer, and a friend, I have also seen responsible people fall on hard times, and suffer from problems not of their own making. Most people have good intentions and do the best they can, but it is great to know that their are solutions, occasionally bankruptcy, that are available when people absolutely need that relief.

***Disclosure: I am participating in a blogger campaign in behalf of Cary bankruptcy
attorneys and was compensated. However, the views and opinions are my own.***

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Book Review: My Girlfriend's Boyfriend

Book Review: My Girlfriend's Boyfriend

Last month I was browsing around on Netgalley looking at what new books they had, and came across this book. It looked like an interesting read, and is from a publishing company I trust and am familiar with, so I requested an ebook copy to read.

I loved this story, and don't want to spoil it for anyone, so here's a quick Book Description from GoodReads:

"Jesse is looking for the "right guy." When she bumps into Ethan, a despairing writer who she inspires, she thinks she's found him. But only moments later she meets Troy, a successful advertising executive who makes almost every moment romantic. Both seem perfect, but things are not always what they seem. My Girlfriend's Boyfriend is a fun romance that blends warm sincerity with fresh storytelling."


I have to say that I wasn't aware that this was a movie also until I began preparing for this review. THEN I found out that it was a movie first, then the book was written. That isn't always a successful flow, but it definitely worked in this situation. This book was clean, fresh, and made me laugh. I definitely felt the characters were easy to relate to and enjoyed the story. This would make a great quick read if you are needing a book to pick you up and leave you with a positive feeling.

***Disclosure: I received a complimentary e-book copy of this book from Cedar Fort Publishing. This was not a solicited review, a positive opinion was not required, and all opinions expressed are 100% mine***

Preschooler Plumbing Problems

If you are the parent of a preschooler, I hope you can relate to my pain of plumbing problems that they cause. Whether they are flushing non-flushable wipes, rolls of unwrapped toilet paper, mom's "special" items they found under the counter, hot wheels, or any other toy; they ALL tend to get stuck in the pipes and back them up. Oh yes, the lovely sewer water that backs up into the shower and bath tubs. If you are "lucky" you aren't IN the shower when this happens. Because while it is gross anytime, it IS worse if you happen to find yourself STANDING in it.

The week we moved into our house in 2007, ours backed up. As first time homeowners, it was our first experience dealing with this issue, and we knew no one in the area to ask for a reference, so we called Roto Rooter; mainly because we were familiar with their commercials on TV. They were fast, efficient, and found tons of feminine products in the line, courtesy of the former home owners.

The second time we had a plumbing issue, was shortly thereafter, when Logan decided he was ready to potty train at 2, and he used, then flushed baby wipes. While we were thrilled that he got the procedure correct all on his own, we weren't so happy that we had to call Roto Rooter back out. Not that they aren't great, because they are, but no one WANTS to call a plumber and explain that yet again, your pipes are clogged.

The third time we had a problem, Logan flushed hot wheels down the toilet, just to see what would happen....is anyone seeing a theme here? LOL. We did have the child proof toilet locks on the toilets, but he had those figured out. He even knew how to unlock it for Aaron, who due to his OT issues couldn't work the locks, at 36 months older than Logan.

The fourth time we had a problem, it wasn't a child related issue *YAY* but this time it was worse. As some of my long time readers know, our pipes from the city line to our home froze in January, and it backed up through our dishwasher and was flooding the house. I had wisely left the washing machine AND the dishwasher running when we went to bed during a blizzard. (Note to self: DON'T DO THAT AGAIN). Roto Rooter again came to the rescue, in the middle of a blizzard to fix the plumbing issue. I only wish that the companies hired by our insurance afterwards for repairs were as professional, prompt, and courteous as our friendly familiar Roto Rooter plumbers. Yes, I have the number programmed into the phone at this point, and yes they know my name when I call, LOL!

So, even though this IS a sponsored post, these sadly, are true stories. All opinions expressed are true and 100% mine. If you have a child like mine, who likes to, or accidentally tends to frequently flush inappropriate things, then you probably have a similar relationship with your plumber as well. When I see campaigns such as this one, with services from a company I have used and had a positive experience with, I always sign up to participate so I can let them know just how much I appreciate the help they have given us over the years.


****Disclosure: This is a blogger campaign by Bucks2Blog and was compensated. However, the views and opinions are my own.***

Squirmy Baby

Today is Logan's birthday! When he was younger, and I changed his diapers on changing tables, he was THE squirmiest baby I had ever been around! This child has squirmed since the day he was born, and still hasn't stopped. From the time he started walking, he has loved to climb things, and he doesn't stop moving, even in his sleep! We have to keep a mat on the floor next to his toddler bed, because he squirms and falls over the rails! It's only 12 inches high, so he isn't going to get hurt, but he can't be still!

Even from the time he was just months old, and not yet rolling over, I was terrified to change him in public restrooms on the changing tables, because the straps aren't the most secure things in the world, and I was terrified he'd roll off. With the only alternative the nasty floor, I knew I had to get creative. I mastered a plan of packing all the items I needed in an easily accessible pouch in the diaper bag, so I could hold him with one hand, and swiftly prepare the changing area with the other hand. By his 1st birthday, I could change even his messiest diaper in 2 minutes flat with ONE HAND. I felt like supermom, and nicknamed him my Lovebug, LOL:)

My suggestions to those of you who have squirmy babies as well, is to create your own "Super Speed Diaper Changing Kit". We are all different, and have different preferences, but what worked for me was to tuck a small refillable wipe kit that was easy open into my portable changing pad, tucked inside a diaper, with a plastic grocery bad tucked in as well. I could whip the pad open, put the clean diaper under the baby, open the dirty one, wipe the bottom, stuff the dirty diaper into the trash bag, close the new diaper, and toss the bag into the trash container and be on our way. Once the baby was back strapped into the stroller, I opened the diaper bag and created a new kit for the next change so I was ready to go!

New Moms today are in luck! Huggies is introducing a new line of Little Movers Slip On Diapers that  look so easy to pop on and off of even the squirmiest child. I love that companies such as Huggies take the time to listen to mom's concerns about the issues they have, then take them back to their creative teams to find a solution.


About Huggies
The Huggies® community brings parents together so that you and your babies fully enjoy every day, whatever the day presents. Enjoy the ride with Huggies®.

More info on Huggies: http://www.huggies.com

Like Huggies on Facebook

Follow @huggies on Twitter


“I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Huggies blogging program, for a gift card worth $35. For more information on how you can participate, click here.”

Monday, August 8, 2011

10 Healthy Tips to get your kids ready for back to school

Back to School time is almost upon us here in Oklahoma. I know many other areas of the country started today, but we still have a couple of weeks of summer vacation left. It's a good thing too. because the temperature got up to 110 again today! I am not ready to be out in this afternoon heat on a daily basis for carpool just yet! However, it's time for us to start easing back into our school schedule, so here are 10 Healthy Tips to Help Get Your Kids Ready for Back to School:


  1. Start easing them into their school bedtime by 5-10 minutes earlier each night, until they are at their normal time, then do the same in the mornings so the first week of getting up early isn't horrible!
  2. Make sure you have plenty of quick, easy to fix breakfast meals on hand. It's important that they eat well before a full day of school! I like to make homemade pancakes, waffles, and burritos now, and freeze them!
  3. Start stocking up on healthy lunch items if they don't the school meal. My middle son hates the cafeteria food, so I buy fruits and veggies to freeze and pack in his lunches.
  4. Stock up on nutritious after school snack items. Our school does lunch at 10:30, then they get out at 3. It's too long for them to wait until 7 for dinner, so they need a filling healthy snack after school.
  5. If you have sports or after school activities, you need to keep a cooler with re-usable ice containers in your trunk for water and other cool snacks. It keeps you from having to stop at the gas station or fast food for unhealthy food.
  6. I make sure to double check my kids are washing their hands OFTEN right before school, and that they are aware that it helps kill germs. I want to make sure it's a habit before they go to school, so they can continue the behavior there.
  7. I get extra hand sanitizer, travel first aid kits, and travel tissue for their backpacks, so they have the tools they need to stay healthy handy!
  8. Don't be afraid to put sunscreen in their backpacks also, and encourage them to use it. Talking to them about WHY it's important makes them more likely to apply it before recess.
  9. I send my kids with sunglasses for recess as well. Not so much for the "cool" factor as for the "protect your eyes" factor. I don't care WHY they choose to wear them, as long as they do!
  10. Talk to your kids! This is probably the MOST important one. If you talk to them frequently and regularly, they are comfortable engaging in conversation with you, and are more prone to bringing problems and concerns to you!
These are tips that work well for our family, and I hope there are some that you are able to take away and apply to your own family. If you have any tips for me, I'd love to hear them, as we are always looking to improve our routine! I am not afraid of changing what isn't working well to find something that works better. You'll also notice that many of mine revolve around staying healthy, and that's partially because when Aaron gets sick, he gets REALLY sick, so I try to keep the other two boys from bringing home as many germs as possible;)

“I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Transitions Lenses blogging program, for a gift card worth $50. For more information on how you can participate, click here.”



About Transitions Optical, Inc.
Transitions Optical is a joint venture of PPG Industries, Inc. and Essilor International.  The first to successfully commercialize a plastic photochromic lens in 1990, today the company is a leading provider of photochromics to optical manufacturers worldwide.  Transitions Optical offers the most advanced photochromic technology in the widest selection of lens designs, materials and brand names.

Transitions® lenses are the ideal everyday choice for healthy sight.  They are clear indoors and at night.  Outdoors, they automatically darken as light conditions change.  Transitions lenses provide visual comfort, and enhance visual quality by reducing glare and enhancing contrast, helping you to see better today.  Transitions lenses block 100 percent of harmful UVA and UVB rays – helping to protect the health and wellness of your eyes – so you can see better tomorrow as well. More info on Transitions Lenses: www.transitions.com

About Eye Didn’t Know That!
Transitions Optical created the Eye Didn’t Know That! program to help people of all ages learn more about healthy vision.  The program was developed by a team that includes eyecare professionals, science and education experts, and Transitions Optical, Inc.  The Eye Didn’t Know That! website offers materials for children, parents, teachers and eyecare professionals to use to teach and learn more about eyecare basics and the importance of eye health and regular comprehensive eye exams.  The information includes fact sheets, games, quizzes, lesson plans and free downloadable materials.  To learn more and to find out what makes your friends and family say “Eye Didn’t Know That!” visit www.eyedidntknowthat.com.

Transitions Lenses on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/transitionsslenses

Follow @transitions on Twitter



Blackberry-Sauced Pork Chops

Going through my recipe cards planning for next week's menu, I came across something I haven't cooked in a while. I am not a fan of pork chops, dating back to my childhood, which my mother can attest to. Actually, I loathe them. But, Nick and the kids like them, and I have these other ingredients on hand, so I am adding it to the meal plan. Nutritionally it meets the special requirements Nick and Aaron both have, so it works out well for me too in that respect. Other than that, it's fast, easy to prepare, and pretty diet-friendly. You could even try to make it easier on your waistline by checking out Sensa; read these Sensa reviews to learn more! Enjoy!

Blackberry-Sauced Pork Chops

Prep/Total Time: 30 Min.
Yield: 4 Servings

1/2 cup seedless blackberry spreadable fruit
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
Dash ground cinnamon
4 Boneless pork loin chops (5 ounces each)
2 teaspoons steak seasoning
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup fresh blackberries

In a small saucepan, combine the spreadable fruit, lemon juice, soy sauce, and cinnamon. Cook and stir over low heat until spreadable fruit is melted. Remove from heat; set aside.

Sprinkle both sides of pork chops with steak seasoning. In a large non-stick skiilet coated with non-stick cooking spray, cook chops in oil over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer reads 160. Serve with sauce and blackberries.