Saturday, February 2, 2013

Birthday Gifts - Week 1

I was going to blog as I did each thing on my birthday list. But I don't have that much time, so I'm going to write (try to) once a week. I have found that I have changed some of the original ideas to fit our needs/experiences. Regardless of the changes, they are still random acts of kindness.
 So here are the things that we (I try to have the family help me) did this week.

#4. - Flowers to Hospital - actually I let C pick out flowers for his grandma who had a knee replacement a few weeks ago. He thought it was great! He said "We have to find one with purple flowers, because purple is her favorite color." He was so excited to give them to her.

#9. - Books for needy child - Again, I changed this one. It was Parent/Teacher Conferences this week. Of course, there was a book fair as well. We let L & C pick out books for their classes. It was fun to see how excited they were to give the book to their teachers. The teachers were excited to get a new book too.

#19. - Be a personal shopper for someone - I just picked out books for L's teacher. She had a credit and wanted some books, but was tired and didn't know if she would make it to the book fair before it closed. I offered to go get the books for her.

#30 - Let someone in front of you in line - My cart was full and guy came up behind us with just one item. I let him in front.

#35 - Make dinner for someone - I helped make dinner for the teachers one night during conferences. The lady that was in charge got sick and they needed some help. So I helped out.

I realize that I didn't do one each day, but I have been trying. The part that I love best is seeing my children experience the joy of serving.


Friday, January 25, 2013

My Birthday Gift

I had the wonderful experience of spending my birthday at Disneyland. That in and of itself made it a special day. A few months ago, I saw this blog post. I was planning on doing something similar for my birthday, but it didn't work out with being at Disneyland.
So I decided that instead of doing all of those things in one day, I'm going to try to do the following things over the course of the next 36 days. I'm not doing them in any particular order, just what I feel like needs to be done that day. Here is my list, but it is subject to change :)


Random Acts of Kindness

1. Mailman package
2. Firefighter treats
3. Assisted living visit - hand made cards.
4. Flowers to the hospital
5. Homemade coloring books and crayons in waiting rooms
6. Change in the vending machine
7. Treats for mechanic
8. Food pantry
9. Books for needy children
10. Notes to church leader
11. Treats for librarian
12. Collect carts at a store
13. Presents to random children at a park
14. Send a note to a missionary/ military person
15. Hiding dollars in toy aisle of Dollar tree
16. Buy something from dollar store to give to someone
17. Buy a book to pass along
18. Read a book to a child
19. Be a personal shopper for someone
20.  Treat someone to lunch
21. Leave a gift for the server
22. Mail out some coupons with a note.
23.  Leave diaper and wipes on a changing table
24. Run an errand for someone
25. Pick up trash
26. Leave a smile
27. Pass out silly bandz to random kids.
28.  Drive nice
29.  Donate to good will
30. Let someone in front of you in the line.
31. Give a care package to a homeless person
32. Spend time playing with your children.
33. Call a friend just to talk
34. Mail your neighbor a thank you card
35. Make dinner for someone just because
36. Pay for the car behind you at the drive thru
I have some other ideas as well, but am planning on making it through this list first.
Today was my first day at it. Today I did number 31. I keep a stash of "homeless" care packages in my van. When ever I see someone with a sign, I try to give them one. It is neat way to help someone who is in need without giving them money. It is also neat to see my children help me "find" the people we want to help.
Some ideas of things to include in a 'care package' are:
granola bars
gloves
socks
hats
fleece blanket
bottle of water
tissues
soap
chap stick
little cup of fruit & a plastic spoon
wipes
deodorant
Here is a website with lots of other ideas too.
I just pop a few items in a grocery bag and tie it shut. I then store the grocery bags in a plastic box by my seat that I can get to easily while driving.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Disneyland 2013!

We just got back from our family vacation for this year. We went to Disneyland. This was the first time that I had been since I was about 10 years old. Our children were so excited to go for the first time. I tried to find out some tips for going with young children, children with special needs, and being pregnant. There were lots of websites that I found to be helpful. I decided that I would share some things that we found useful during our visit to the Magic Kingdom. Take them for what they are worth!
(We had 3 day passes with one Magic Morning Entry to Disneyland. We have 3 small children (3,4,7) and I'm 6 months pregnant. Our oldest is on the Autism Spectrum. We were also trying to save as much money as possible:)

Tips:
1. FOOD: Take lunch and healthy snacks with you. We ate breakfast at our hotel and then headed out for the day. We made lunch before leaving and took TONS of food with us in our stroller to munch on throughout the day. This proved to be very nice because we didn't have to stop to eat dinner, we just ate a snack. After the park closed (8p.m. in the winter), we took time to eat. 
     We found that having a fridge and microwave in our hotel room was so nice. It meant that we could make our own meals if we wanted to. We also found that Mimi's Cafe and Food 4 Less were two places that had reasonable prices. We utilized their coupons and were able to save extra money.
2. WATER:  Take a water bottle and stay hydrated! There are numerous water fountains located in both Disneyland and California Adventure. We took water bottles with us and refilled them when ever we had a bathroom break. For me, I found that I stayed hydrated better if I took the lid off of the water bottle rather than sip it from the spout. I also found that the days that I stayed hydrated, I felt better and wasn't as tired by the end of the day.
3.  SPECIAL NEEDS: We picked up a "Guest Assistance" pass the first morning that we were there. Basically you talk to a  cast member about the needs you have and they give you a pass to help you out. It was a blessing for us.
4. PREGNANT: I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to go on a lot of the rides. I was pleasantly surprised when I found that there were no warnings concerning any health concerns on most rides. I also learned that the warnings are only "recommendations" and that they won't stop you from riding those rides. I have to admit that I did choose to go on some of the rides with warnings. That was a personal choice and I recommend that you decide what your body and baby can handle. If I had any question about my safety, then I didn't go on it.
     Another tip that I would recommend is purchasing a maternity support belt. If you are just barely pregnant, you may not need one. However if your tummy is showing, I would HIGHLY recommend it. There are several on the market. This is the one that I used, but I'm sure any of them would work fine. I found that this was a lifesaver! I know that it helped me in a lot of ways. At first, I was very embarrassed to be wearing it. But as I wore it, I saw how much it helped and I stopped complaining about using it. I don't know how I would have made it without one.
     The last tip for pregnant women, let your husband pick up the little ones, push the stroller, and do all of the extra stuff that needs to be done. I didn't do this the first day and by the time that we got back to the hotel, I was feeling it. The next two days I was better about it and it made a HUGE difference. My husband was a star about helping me out and I appreciated it SO much!
5. MAGIC MORNING: I didn't realize that the Magic Morning entry only applies to Tomorrow Land and Fantasy Land. For us, we had our choice between Tuesday or Thursday. Since our first day in the parks was on Tuesday, we opted to save it for Thursday. It was hard to get up and get going that morning because we were so tired, but I'm glad that we used it. We chose to hit Fantasy Land because it gets SO busy during the day. It worked out great for us and we were able to ride the rides we hadn't gone on because of long lines.
6.  TIMING:  We found that timing was everything. We tried to get to the parks early and found that to be very rewarding. On Tuesday, we were there when California Adventure opened up. We walked into Cars Land and found that EVERYONE was headed for the Radiator Springs Racers ride. We noticed that Lightning McQueen was waiting for people to come see him. We were able to walk right up and talk to him. We also were able to walk right onto the other two rides. By the time we went on the Racers ride, we didn't have to wait as long. It was sweet!
7. HIDDEN GEM: A hidden gem that we didn't know about until the last 30 min. of our last day was
Redwood Creek Challenge Trail! This is taken from  the movie "Up" and is a course for children to earn "wilderness badges" My husband had mentioned it, but I didn't know what it was until we were passing by and saw the signs. Our children LOVED it. It was a great way to end the day. They were tired and complained about going in, but once they were in, they didn't want to come out! My only regret was that we had tried it out sooner.
Our trip to Disneyland was magical and wonderful! I hope that the insights that we gained can help your trip to be just as magical for your family. We highly recommend going in January! It was warm, not crowded, warm, fast lines, and did I mention WARM? (At least from our perspective of 20degrees :)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fall is in the air

Fall is in the air. The nights are cooler, the days are shorter, the air is crisp, and we all have a cold. This morning I was craving pumpkin pancakes with apple cider syrup. I also had really ripe bananas that I needed to do something with. I also was feeling like a cold was trying to hit me and two of the little monkeys had runny noses. So I set to work making some yummy treats that might help us feel better and keep from getting sick :)
Here are the recipes:

Banana Muffins (makes 12 muffins) (from That Cat Can Cook)

3 or 4 Large bananas, mashed (the more bananas the moister, so I use 4)
1/2 cup white sugar (original recipe calls for 1 cup, but I don’t like them too sweet)
1 slightly beaten egg
1/3 cup melted margarine or butter
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour
Mix the mashed banana, sugar, egg and margarine together. Set aside. In a separate bowl, mix together baking soda, baking powder, salt and flour. Mix wet and dry ingredients all together! Pour into greased muffin tins, and bake in 350 degrees F oven for approximately 20 minutes. Enjoy!
*These are much more flavorful the next day, and they freeze very nicely too!
*Also, if you like walnuts, you can throw a handful of those in there as well for some added flavour and texture, or try adding chocolate chips, or better yet, BOTH! Yum :-D

Crumb Topping (from All Recipes)
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter
Mix together and sprinkle on top of muffins before baking

I actually didn't do the crumb topping, but it sounds delightful and I want to try it sometime. I did add a few drops of wild orange and On Guard essential oils (doterra brand). They are both immune boosters and blend well with the spices in the recipe. When the muffins were done, my monkeys and I loved them. There was no significant difference in the taste with the oils added.

This pumpkin pancake recipe is one that I found last fall. It was super yummy. It is also very filling. I added 2 drops of On Guard to the syrup and 3 drops of both Wild Orange and On Guard to the pancakes. Again the monkeys loved them and there was no difference to the taste. I enjoyed them as well and my sore throat is gone. :)
HOT CIDER SYRUP:
    3/4 cup apple cider or apple juice
    1/2 cup packed brown sugar
    1/2 cup corn syrup
    2 tablespoons butter or margarine
    1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
    1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
In a saucepan, combine the syrup ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes or until slightly thickened. Let stand for 30 minutes before serving.

Pumpkin Pancake
Ingredients
    1 1/2 cups milk
    1 cup pumpkin puree
    1 egg
    2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    2 tablespoons vinegar
    2 cups all-purpose flour
    3 tablespoons brown sugar
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon ground allspice
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
    1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:
    In a bowl, mix together the milk, pumpkin, egg, oil and vinegar. Combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, allspice, cinnamon, ginger and salt in a separate bowl. Stir into the pumpkin mixture just enough to combine.
    Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.



Book Review: Forever, Erma

The book that I read this month was "Forever, Erma". My friend recommended this book to me. It was a wonderful read. It is a collection of Erma Bombeck's columns. I think I enjoyed this book so much because of the of the real life things she shared in a humorous way. There are many parts that are laugh out loud funny and even a few the will bring tears to your eyes.
The most interesting thing that I found with this book was that time doesn't really change that many things. Her columns spanned from the 1960's through 1996. I find it interesting that things like ironing or raising children or doing housework hasn't really changed that much. The things she wrote about then are still applicable (if not more so) now. This is a delightful book that should be found in every home.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Book Review: "The Help"

I will admit that I am a book-a-holic. I LOVE reading books. Sometimes they are new ones, sometimes they are old favorites that I just want to read again. I am usually reading at least two books at a time. One on my own and one with my husband/family as we travel places. I know that several of my friends enjoy reading too, so I thought I would start doing a book review. I must say that I am just expressing my opinion about the book. I will try hard to not give the story away. The first book that I picked is :
About a year ago, my book club read this book. It took me awhile to get into it, but I really enjoyed reading it. After reading the book, I saw the movie and thought that they did a really good job with it.  If you want to know what "The Help" is about, you can read the synopsis here.  
Recently, I decided to listen to the audiobook. (I find that I spend SO much time in my kitchen that I might as well listen to something while I'm there.)  I must say that this is one of my FAVORITE audiobooks that I have listened to.
I think the reason that I enjoyed this audiobook so much is that each of the main characters (Aibeleen, Skeeter, and Minnie) is portrayed by a different reader. It brings the book to life and is almost like listening in on their lives.
I love this book because it is not just about civil rights, but it teaches so many other things. For me, I learned to make sure I tell my children that "You is smart, you is kind, you is important" often. I want them to remember that when others might put them down. I also learned that social lines are only there if we choose to draw those lines. Several the women in this book were willing to step out of those lines and reach out to others that would not have normally been in their circle of friends. What a great thing to remember - be accepting of others,  even if they don't look like you!. I also was reminded that we really aren't that different regardless of race, religion, or any other differences that we might perceive. We all want to be safe, loved, valued, and happy. Overall, I enjoyed this book - both as an audiobook and a regular book. I would have loved it, except that there is a part with a nude drunk man that I felt was a bit more descriptive than I thought it needed to be.  The point could have been made without the nudity or at least without being so descriptive. I loved the movie and was glad when I found out that scene was not included in the movie.

Fun and free (or cheap)

As summer winds down and school begins, we get into school mode and not play mode so much. Luckily for us, school doesn't start until after Labor Day!  I am trying to enjoy the last few weeks of summer break with my kiddos.
This week I decided to focus on simple, but fun things to do. We have visited a few parks in our area, gone bowling (we get 2 free games each day for each kid during the summer), painting pictures, reading new books (thanks to the local library), and preserving food. It has all been inexpensive, simple, yet very enjoyable and quality time. That's my favorite kind of time to have!
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