Baking and Preparation Day

We are busy today! In between cleaning and baking, we are wrapping presents! Tomorrow we get to see my husband's family and then on Christmas we have my family over to our house. I cook and bake for days in preparation. :) Today, we've made Neiman Marcus cake, Magic cookie bars, banana crumb mini loaves, fudge, and we still have to make apple pie, red velvet cake and taco soup tonight. I also have to finish my last fleece blanket for Isabella. I thought a no sew fringe blanket would be fast! Thankfully my hubby helped me last night and did a whole blanket in about 2 hours. He is a sweetie. Today we have to make mugs with orange spice tea mix for tomorrow's gifts. I hope you have a merry (and less busy!) Christmas! Thank you Lord, for bringing your Son into this world! Please help us not to forget You in the midst of all the excitement.

How Quickly They Grow and Make You Laugh

Noah, my 3 1/2 year old is growing up. You notice the growing so much more with the first one because you are carefully watching their every move, but subsequent children enjoy a little less scrutiny I think. And so, it seems they often take you by surprise when they show signs of maturing. I was in Lowe's shopping for the hubby when such a moment happened to me.

As we placed our item on the counter to check out, the cashier said, "I bet Santa Claus is going to come see you for Christmas!" My children looked at her with blank stares and said nothing, so she repeated it two more times in the course of checking us out. And still no response from the boys, just blank stares and half smiles, like why does this lady keep saying that?

I smiled too, said nothing about Santa and we thanked her and left the store. As we walked out the door, Noah whispered to me,

"Mommy, that lady thinks Santa Claus is real!"

I couldn't stop laughing all the way to the car. It's fun being a mommy.

The Greatest Milestone

A good reminder of the most important milestone for our children. (hint: it's not walking) :)

Coming soon- baby #4!!

I am so happy to announce that we are having baby #4! :)

We are so excited, although, the fourth time doesn't seem quite as "new" as the first two did. It's very surreal still at this point, so it's hard to imagine life with the newest member of our family. Right now, I am almost 8 weeks, so the baby is about 1/2 of an inch. I have been a little sick off and on, but for the most part feeling great, and not terribly pregnant feeling.

This new little one is due mid-July. Isabella will turn two in August, so I feel blessed to have been given such a wonderfully long break from pregnancy. My boys are 18 months apart, which would have made me 6 months pregnant right now.

Only two weeks from today we get to see this precious new baby on the ultrasound. I am definitely looking forward to that! And in 12 weeks from now we find out the gender. The weeks seem to go by a little more quickly when you have three children to take care of! :)

Thoughts on Clutter Reduction

I am in a constant battle of clutter removal- I really prefer a minimalist look in our home. We don't have too many trinkets or things laying around, but toys, papers, clothes, and books seem to pile up quickly somehow in our house. I am always looking for useful articles filled with information on clutter reduction. I really enjoyed reading this article at Zen Habits on decluttering:
Living Simply: The Ultimate Guide to Conquering Your Clutter.

Babylon Reborn and Birth Pangs

With the G20 meeting this weekend to reform international monetary standards, and Russia and Iran in alliance (Gog and Magog), we should be aware of these "birth pangs of a new world order." Also, check out this article- end times prophecy is coming alive: Babylon Dreams.

Matthew 24:3-8
3 As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"
4 And Jesus answered and said to them, "See to it that no one misleads you. 5 "For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will mislead many. 6 "You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. 7 "For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. 8 "But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.

Abortion

Thought for the day:

If abortion were mandated for everyone by law, would proponents still feel a fetus is simply extraneous tissue?

Leather Bound Reformation Study Bible for ANY donation!

Get a copy of the Reformation Study Bible for any amount of donation! Hat tip to Tim Challies' blog.

A chill in the air!

It's finally feeling a little chilly here in Texas! I am amazed when I see pics of the snow on the ground around the country. I am excited to pull out the sweaters. :) The only downside is the need for socks to be clean and shoes to be tied since the little ones aren't going barefoot anymore. I am starting to plan for Christmas and am hoping to make a lot of gifts for the kids this year. We are going to do popcorn garland and construction paper garlands. All my perfectly matching ornaments and decorations will have to stay in the box this year. :)

We took our house off the market since it's probably the worst time in the past decade to sell a house. We plan to relist it after the holidays, and hopefully build a place with cash! Speaking of which, we are almost debt-free!!! We have one school loan left that we are repaying and we only have about $3000 more to go! Which means we are almost done! We have paid off $38,000 in about 18 months (including paying cash for a used car). Whew! It's been hard to write those checks, but soon enough we will be done. God IS GOOD! We can't wait to call Dave Ramsey and scream "We're debt free!!!!"

Isabella is 14 months!

Here is the giggling sweetheart!

video

OH my.




We got a puppy! And she's cute. She's an English Springer Spaniel, and so far she is the smartest dog we've ever had! She is potty trained for the most part, with an occasional accident, and we never had to even teach her how to use the dog door- she just did it herself. We are very impressed. The kids love her, but Isabella doesn't quite like her as much, because they are almost the same size!

Labor Days

Shannon over at Rocks in my Dryer had this great meme about labors. I thought it looked like fun so I'll join in!

How long were your labors?

  1. 10 hours total, 3 hours of pushing. Miserable, awful pushing....
  2. 4.5 hours total, 10 minutes of pushing. He was upside down or the doctor wouldn't have made it in the room.
  3. 3.5 hours total, 5-6 minutes of pushing (3 pushes total)

How did you know you were in labor?

  1. Induced, so I knew it was coming. All day.
  2. Induced again. The pitocin didn't hurt for a couple of hours.
  3. I woke up with some serious contractions, got up and had more and faster, so I was pretty sure.

Where did you deliver?
All three were born in the same hospital, different rooms.

Drugs?
The first time I had an epidural, and it was not as fun as people like to tell you. The second time I had one dose of Stadol which doesn't actually work either, it just makes you sleepy in between contractions. The third time I went completely drug free. I preferred the third birth the most of all three.

C-section?

No, and I really hope I never need to. But I always want to have one when I start feeling the head descend and my hips start splitting open. Sorry for the imagery. I can't forget it either. :)

Who delivered?

The same obstetrician for all three. He was on vacation until the day before my due date with Isabella, and he came in early from on his first day back from vacation to deliver her. I was never so glad to see his face as I was that morning. I really thought the nurse was going to have to deliver her. :)

Waiting on God

I saw this great post on Waiting on God over at Crystal's blog. I really needed this reminder as we are in the midst of waiting and deciding so many things. We want things to work out our way, but how many times has God shown us His amazing goodness, something so much better than we could have planned ourselves. He is God, and our own limited views most often are short-sighted. It's good to remember His faithfulness.

A Prayer for the FedEx Man

O Lord,

Please hasten the truck that carrieth the precious box, for which I have been waiting an eternity. I thinketh I can no longer bear the atrocity of this behemoth thou calleth the PC. Each page loadeth at the pace of the hard shelled tortoise. My patience waneth with the broken enter key and unbearably slow reconnection to the network of wireless. How I miss mine Macbook. Please grant the FedEx man with unhindered travel and clear skies that he may quickly bring me my dear LCD.

Thy humble Apple fan,
Mandy

I'm a Carrot Cake Girl.

This is a cute little meme I got from a friend today. It's random but fun.

If all of the eight desserts listed below were sitting in front of you,
which would you choose (sorry, you can only pick one)! Trust me...this is
very accurate Pick your dessert, and then look to see what psychiatrists
think about you.

REMEMBER - No Cheating. Make your choice before you check the meaning.



Here are your choices:

1. Angel Food Cake

2. Brownies

3. Lemon Meringue Pie

4. Vanilla Cake With Chocolate Icing

5. Strawberry Short Cake

6. Chocolate Cake With Chocolate Icing

7. Ice Cream

8. Carrot Cake

No, you can't change your mind once you scroll down, so think carefully
about what your choice will be.





OK - Now that you've made your choice, this is what the

researchers say about you... SCROLL DOWN---No Cheating






1. ANGEL FOOD CAKE -- Sweet, loving, cuddly. You love all warm and fuzzy
items. A little nutty at times. Sometimes you need an ice cream cone at
the end of the day Others perceive you as being childlike and immature at
times.

2. BROWNIES -- You are adventurous, love new ideas, and are a champion of
underdogs and a slayer of dragons. When tempers flare up you whip out your
saber. You are always the oddball with a unique sense of humor and
direction. You tend to be very loyal.

3. LEMON MERINGUE -- Smooth & articulate with your hands, you are
an excellent caregiver and a good teacher. But don't try to walk and chew
gum at the same time. A bit of a diva at times, you set your own style
because you do your own thing. You shine when it comes to helping others
and have many friends.

4. VANILLA CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE ICING -- Fun-loving, sassy, humorous, not
very grounded in life; very indecisive and lacking motivation. Everyone
enjoys being around you, but you are a practical joker. Others should be
cautious in making you mad. However, you are a friend for life.

5. STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE -- Romantic, warm, loving. You care about other
people, can be counted on in a pinch and expect the same in return.
Intuitively keen. You can be very emotional at times but a true person in
every way. You like to do things for yourself and help others learn about
themselves.

6. CHOCOLATE CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE ICING -- Always ready to give and
receive. Very creative, adventurous, ambitious, and passionate. You can
appear to have a cold exterior but
are warm on the inside. Not afraid to take chances. Will not settle for
anything average in life. Love to laugh.

7. ICE CREAM -- You like sports, whether it is baseball, football,
basketball, or soccer. If you could, you would like to participate, but
you enjoy watching sports. You don't like to give up the remote control.
You tend to be self-centered and high maintenance.

8. CARROT CAKE -- You are a very fun loving person, who likes to laugh.
You are fun to be with. People like to hang out with you. You are a very
warm hearted person and a little quirky at times. You have many loyal
friends. You were meant to lead and teach others. A wonderful role model.

These Shoes Were Made for Walking...

We bought Isabella a pair of everyday walking shoes. I remember seeing these adorable little girl shoes last year and imagining having a baby girl to put them on. So of course we had to get some this year! At first she wasn't sure what to do with them but she got excited after a little while and started kicking her feet and laughing.

In other news, Isabella started walking this week! She will be one on the 27th. The girl has some really good motor skills. She can also put a wand back into the lip gloss container over and over again. She is very coordinated! I can't believe my little baby is already becoming a toddler.

I joined PaperBackSwap. :)

I've finally joined PaperBackSwap. I can't believe I've waited for so long! We have a bookshelf of books I haven't picked up in years. I just signed up and added 10 books to my list and got 2 credits for free books!

Within the hour someone requested a book of mine, so I will soon print the label, affix the postage, and stick it in my mailbox! As soon as they receive it, I get a free credit for any book I want on the site.

I used one of my free book credits to get a beginner's Spanish guide for my husband. It says it should be in the mail in a couple of days! And, if you use the link or banner on my website to sign up, I get a free book credit! :) So exciting.

The House is For SALE :)

We put the house up for sale! I can't quite believe it really.

So far, it's been two weeks and we've had a few very interested callers but no lookers. We've only advertised it in one place. It's not on the MLS so I don't think many people know about it, just those who drive in our neighborhood. We put a road sign out but someone stole it. Urgh. We are not in a hurry at all since selling it's just a lifestyle change, not a necessity. Selling your house is so much nicer when you don't need it to sell!

One of my husband's coworkers joked that we are selling everything, and my husband would sell the shirt on his back if someone wanted it. We had a good laugh over that one, because we know it's really true! If you see it, it's for sale! :)

It's been a real challenge to get the house ready to show. Here's a list of what we've done over the past 6-7 weeks (the majority was done by my husband, the most wonderful man ever):

Put in new flowerbed/landscaping in front yard
Replaced carpet in Master bedroom with wood
Installed three new faucets in bathrooms
Installed flooring threshold
Scrubbed baseboards
Painted small hallway
Hung pictures
Put a number of boxes/things in attic
Repainted front and back porch and eaves, front door, bathroom cabinets (inside and out), trim, and touched up every room (this was so much work!)
Finished out custom cabinet
Repainted garage in white
Cleaned out closets and purged tons of clutter (and the closets are still somewhat full!)
Replaced window screens that were broken
Hired a window man to replace windows (from hail damage)
Replaced a toilet seal
Replaced broken doggie door
Fertilized yards
Raked leaves
Hired roofing company to replace roof (from hail)
Threw away junk toys in back yard
Sold so many things, and gave the rest to Goodwill.
Cleaned out old VHS/DVD collection
Took pictures
made brochures
Bought a sign
Collapsed from exhaustion
Then cleaned some more. :)

I hope to post a house tour soon!

Satan and Temptation

This is a very insightful article on temptation by Tim Challies, and the pattern Satan uses to tempt us. Definitely a must-read!

Drive Free- Retire Rich!

I love our new life without a car payment! We are only in our first month of being car-debt free but it's awesome!

Here's a great reason to "drive free" for anyone who is new to the concept!

From Dave Ramsey:
Drive Free: Retire Rich!

Healthy Chocolate

I love chocolate.

When I crave a piece of chocolate, I go to my cabinet for one of two flavors:

Calcium or Multivitamin. :)

I love chocolate vitamins. They taste like tootsie rolls, and they fulfill my chocolate craving. I take one or two calcium- tootsie- roll chews, and one multi-vitamin every day and eat them slowly like a piece of candy. I can usually get them on sale at CVS, and you can print a coupon here. Writing this post made me remember I am out of chocolate vitamins. I think I may just have to substitute the real thing for them...

Chocolate cravings are inevitable- so why not make them really good for you! :) It works for me!

Get a Copy of Passionate Housewives for $4.14 Shipped!!

After entering (and losing :) numerous contests to win a copy of the highly acclaimed Passionate Housewives Desperate for God:Fresh Vision for the Hopeful Homemaker, I finally caved and went online to order a copy.

After doing my comparison shopping, I noticed I could use Buy.com and Google Checkout to get a copy shipped to me for only $4.14! Regular price is $14.14 shipped, and you get $10 off for signing up for Google checkout. Such a steal!! The only condition is that you have to be a new Google checkout user. Just add it to your cart and click below on the Google Checkout icon.

Passionate Housewives Desperate for God: Fresh Vision for the Hopeful Homemaker
Get your copy of Passionate Housewives Desperate for God: Fresh Vision for the Hopeful Homemaker for $4.14 shipped!

I love this book. I was feeling quite exhausted and was losing my focus after weeks of busyness and alternating sick little ones. Reading Passionate Housewives really reminded me again of why I want to be a homemaker and stay at home mother. These ladies have been there and done that! Their book was written to encourage us in our God-given roles, and it was so refreshing to read it. Trust me, you won't regret reading this book! And at only $4, you can't afford not to pick up a copy! ;)

For more money-saving/frugal ideas check out Crystal's blog!

*Google Checkout Details:
Offer Conditions: To earn the new buyer bonus, buyers who haven't signed up for Google Checkout in the past must sign-up for Checkout on Buy.com during the promotion. To redeem the new buyer bonus, buyers must make a purchase on Buy.com of at least $10 before tax, shipping, and other discounts.
New Google Checkout buyers may earn and redeem a maximum of one new buyer bonus only. Google reserves the right to cancel bonuses or take other action.

Deal Shopping is Still Fun!

After I went to Barnes and Noble Tuesday night, I had a very successful bargain shopping trip- despite less than helpful cashiers at my least favorite CVS. I was in the south part of town alone and didn't want to venture to my favorite CVS store in a less safe part of town, so I went to a more popular CVS. And never will I do that again.

They refused my internet coupons because they were in black and white! And exactly how frugal would it be to print every coupon in full color? I mean really! I found it difficult to keep smiling as he told me coupon after coupon wasn't good. I am usually one to cut my losses, but after spending over 30 minutes shopping there, I didn't feel like putting everything back. Quite a few items I ended up taking off and returning after standing in line again because of their "policy." Such are the risks we CVS shoppers take. ;)

When I got in the car, I was happy again when I realized I still got several good deals.

After that, I went to Walmart, and using MoneySavingMom's Walmart deal list, I ended up with almost everything for free! The ultimate compliment to any bargain shopper is when the cashier is impressed with your deals and asks how you did that. Of course, I had to tell her about MoneySavingMom!

All this for $23.36!

I only used one $3 off $15 coupon at CVS. I'm sure if I had tried to use more they would have rejected those too! ;) The majority of the savings here was from doing multiple transactions and rolling my ECB's, as well as internet coupons and some newspaper coupons.

Here's what I bought:

3 Packages Charmin 9 Roll
1 8pk Bounty
2 Pampers size 3 40 pack
2 Pampers wipes
2 Boxes of Kashi cereal
1 box Honey Bunches of Oats
1 box Live Active Cereal
2 Listerine Smart Rinses
2 Packages candy necklaces
2 boxes bandaids
1 tube CVS brand A & D diaper cream
4 Johnson's buddies soaps
1 Zantac 150
3 Limeades
2 med. Zucchini
2 jars Vlasic relish
1 4 pack Yoplait yogurt

Just buying these things at the sale price would be $89 plus tax. I saved more than $62, and on things we use! So very fun. And not even grumpy CVS cashiers can take that away! :)

Life and Barnes and Noble

Last night I went bargain shopping all alone! My husband was so sweet to give me a break. He has been working so hard on everything for about six weeks straight- his job, the house and projects. He is totally my hero. As hard as I try, I can't keep up with his amazing effort. I am ready to fall asleep every night and he is still going strong.

Yesterday, Isabella was really cranky- I am not sure if she was a little sick, has an allergy or was teething, but she would scream at random times and then go back to playing. She wanted to be held most of the day too, so I was quite exhausted after cooking dinner. My husband offered to give me a break and let me go to Barnes and Noble and shop by myself.

I stopped in at Barnes and Noble, had an IBC root beer and a Rice Krispy treat and planned out more of my trip. I had already printed my coupons and made my list, so I was just looking over it.

As I sat there at my little corner cafe table, I could hear other conversations going on around me. One table over was a young couple looking over their engagement pictures. They were adorable- energetic, in love with each other and with life. Being only three feet away from them, I couldn't help but overhear their banter. It reminded me of my husband and myself about eight years ago. We still have the banter these days, but it's heavier somehow. I can't quite put my finger on it, but I think it has to be either age, tiredness, or responsibility that hovers over our conversations. We are still like them, only with less energy.

At another table on the other side, I heard two young girls, likely right out of high school or in their first year of college. They talked about people in their lives and the decisions they were making about school as if the rest of their lives were to be determined by their conversation.

They talked about their relationships with parents and old boyfriends and how those people would be affected by their choice to get a two year degree instead of a four. So very much drama about things that, from an outsider's perspective, seem so insignificant in the course of their lives. I see so much of myself in those girls too. Living for the excitement of the moment, hanging on every decision as if the rest of my life depended on it. I still do that now- analyze, dramatize, and discuss each decision being made- as if my focus on it will somehow determine the outcome.

I remember how exciting it was to be that young, carefree girl with the world ahead of me. But in reality, I much prefer the older version of me- the one that comprehends that she can't do it all on her own.

We have so much life ahead of us, but in eight years we've realized that life really isn't in our hands to decide. We have so much more purpose now- so much more time to see God's plan at work. We've learned more about trusting in Him. We've seen His hand move in our lives.

But really, it's a linear progression. In eight more years, I will look back at the 25-year-old me and see that she didn't know much at all. She had only an inkling of what life was really like.

And for the first time in my adult life, I am actually excited to grow older.

Life is So BUSY!

We have been so busy this month, and unfortunately blogging has taken the hit. :(

We've been working like crazy- putting in new floors, repainting, reorganizing, and upgrading our house to get it ready to sell. We hope to move this summer to an inexpensive housing solution, whether it be renting for a little while or building our own home with a small loan. We are very excited about how our life is changing, and the idea of keeping more of our money each month is very thrilling.

In the midst of house preparations, there have been two weeks of sick little ones and sick mommy, late nights for my husband at work, and looming freelance deadlines. We are in a whirlwind of life right now! It's only for a season, so hopefully I'll return soon to regular posting!

Babies and Bathrooms

What do you do when your bladder is about to explode and you've got three little children (one being a non-walker) in public?

We ran into Linen's and Things. I didn't have a stroller. I didn't know for sure if their ginormous buggies would fit in the stall. I was about to die. They had one of those really cool hold the baby chairs, but it didn't have a seatbelt! And at 4, Elijah is too little to stand and hold Isabella, who is half of his weight.

Here's the best I could come up with:

It worked pretty well. No babies crawling on public bathroom floors, and luckily we narrowly missed a serious bladder explosion. It was a good day.

My Second Baby is Three!

Last weekend, my little Noah turned three years old. I still can't believe it.

From this tiny babe:


To this happy, talking, full of energy, precious little three year old. The one with a cute voice who told me the other day, "I love you" without me saying it first.


Isabella had fun too :)


Elijah is turning into a little boy. He's losing that preschooler look. I knew it would happen, but really wasn't expecting it so soon. :)


Here's Noah as we sang Happy Birthday. This is also the face he makes when he's in trouble. :)
And blowing out all three candles on his Ninja Turtle cupcake:

It's so much fun being a mommy, but it's certainly mixed with a little sadness when you realize your baby boy will never be two again.

Menu Plans 5/12/08

Here's our menu plan for this week:

Tonight- grocery shopping/ leftovers
Tuesday- Black Bean Soup- this is a new recipe, and I am very excited to try it!
Wednesday- Beans, Rice, Cornbread (save leftover beans for Saturday's soup)
Thursday- Minestrone, Homemade bread (by far our favorite minestrone recipe!)
Friday- Lasagna, salad, garlic bread, cookies- the really good kind that takes 2 hours to make, in double portion to share with another family.
Saturday-Taco Soup with Cornbread
Sunday- Sloppy joes and sliced potatoes

Check out more menus over at Orgjunkie!

Never Say Never.

I am learning to stop saying never.

Like, "I'll never have children until I am at least 28."

I am 25 and have three already.

Or, "I'll never let my kids wear wrinkled clothes in public."

Uh huh, that one is so dead. Wrinkled? That means it's clean, right?

Or this one:

"I'll never drive a mini-van."

We are now the proud owners of this pretty little paid-for-with-cash baby:



And I absolutely love it! The kids can get in all by themselves, no lifting or crawling needed! I still put Isabella in, but she's right by the door now and it's so easy!

We sold our newer, much more expensive SUV so we can get out of debt. Only a little while and a bit more work, and we will be debt-free! We are working on becoming completely debt-free, including the house. It feels good to no longer have a car payment, and we feel like we upgraded our car since the new van has leather, sunroof, and a power door! I am so very grateful to whoever thought of a power sliding door! We already use it all the time.

If you are resisting the minivan too, spare yourself the misery now and go and get one- you won't regret it. :)

Copycat White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cheesecake Recipe


Cheesecake Factory's WCRT Cheesecake

YUM!

When I worked at the Olive Garden in college, they had the very best White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake I have EVER tasted. It was pure heaven. Since I got a 40% discount, hubby and I had the occasional slice with our discounted meal. Until one day, as I was getting a slice out of the box to serve to a table, I looked at the nutritional facts....

56 grams of fat. In one slice. The one scrumptious, heavenly slice of raspberry cheesecake goodness I loved to linger over had an entire day's worth of fat content. So good... and so very bad.

Despite it's one flaw, I still love that cheesecake, and will take a slice whenever I can get my hands on one.

Just please don't tell my hips.



I found this sinful copycat recipe here. Check out that website for more copycat recipes from your favorite restaurant. It's a little busy with all the ads, but it seems to have some good recipes!


Crust

1 1/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs or 20 crumbled Oreo cookies (filling removed)

1/3 cup margarine, melted


Filling

1/2 cup raspberry preserves
1/4 cup water
4 8-ounce pkgs. cream cheese
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 eggs
4 ounces white chocolate, chopped into chunks

Optional Garnish

2 ounces shaved white chocolate
whipped cream



1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Place a large pan or oven-safe skillet filled with about 1/2-inch of water into the oven while it preheats. This will be your water bath.

2. Combine the raspberry preserves with 1/4 cup water in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Heat for 1 1/2 minutes on high in your microwave. Stir until smooth. Strain to remove the raspberry seeds (toss 'em out), then let the strained preserves sit to cool, then put the bowl in the refrigerator until later.

3. Measure 1 1/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs (or crush 20 Oreo cookie wafers -- with the filling scraped out -- in a resealable plastic bag) into a medium bowl. Mix in 1/3 cup melted margarine. Press the crumb into a 9-inch spring form pan that has been lined on the bottom and side with parchment paper. Use the bottom of a drinking glass to press the crumb mixture flat into the bottom of the pan and about 2/3 the way up the side. Wrap a large piece of foil around the bottom of the pan to keep the cheesecake in the water bath. Put the crust in your freezer until the filling is done.

4. Use an electric mixer to combine the cream cheese with the sugar, sour cream, and vanilla. Mix for a couple minutes or until the ingredients are smooth and creamy. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl and then add them to the cream cheese mixture. Blend the mixture just enough to integrate the eggs.

5. Remove the crust from the freezer and sprinkle 4 ounces of white chocolate chunks onto the bottom of the crust. Pour half of the cream cheese filling into the crust. Drizzle the raspberry preserves over the entire surface of the filling. Use a butter knife to swirl the raspberry into the cream cheese. Just a couple passes is fine, you don't want to blend the raspberry and cream cheese together too much. Pour the other half of the filling into the crust.

6. Carefully place the cheesecake into the water bath in the oven. Bake for 12 minutes at 475 degrees, then turn the oven down to 350 degrees and bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until the top of the cheesecake turns a light brown or tan color. Remove the cheesecake from the oven to cool. When the cheesecake is cool, use the foil from the bottom to cover the cheesecake and chill it in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

7. Before serving, sprinkle the entire top surface of cheesecake with 2 ounces of shaved white chocolate. To serve, slice the cheesecake into 12 equal portions. Apply a pile of canned whipped cream to the top of each slice and serve.

Makes 12 servings.

My Meal Planning Helper


When I fall into a cooking rut, (far more often than I'd like!), it's usually because I haven't been planning my meals.

I use calendars and planners to map out each days meal, but when I'm busy or tired I just don't do it. That's when I turn to my handy master meal list I keep in my planner.

I wrote out every meal I could remember making so when I can't think of anything, I don't have to! I just look down the list for something I can make with what I have on hand.

On my meal list, I've also started writing out the ingredients so I can plan a meal when I am out. If I am in the car waiting or have a quiet moment (Ha!) I can make a quick menu list and grocery list to go with it. No thinking required. And that's music to the ears of this mommy of three little ones.

For more kitchen tips, check out Tammy's Recipes!

Zoo Trip

We visited the zoo last Thursday and had lots of fun! It was Isabella's first trip I do believe. She really enjoyed it- she likes riding around outside.
The boys are definitely getting older- they loved to see the animals and asked me lots of questions about them. We have a membership there- if only gas prices weren't so high, we'd go a lot more often!














And the Award for Cutest Texas Fan Goes to...

Free Oil Pastels from Pentel

Here's the link at MoneySavingMom!

My Favorite Kitchen Tool. Ever.

I am quickly becoming the queen of kitchen appliances. I really love anything that helps me cook more quickly or efficiently.

I think I might have one of everything now! I love my kitchen aids. And I really, really love my Kitchen Aid mixer. I told my husband when we first married that I never wanted an appliance for any gift. I thought that receiving appliances would mean the romance had died. :)

It only took 5 1/2 years of marriage for me to ask for an appliance as a gift. For Valentine's Day, instead of jewelry or perfume, I got a stand mixer. I LOVE it. It's a huge help- I make bread, omelets, cakes, cookies, and even mashed potatoes in it. I use it almost every time I cook now.

I always had the cheapest hand mixer you could get, and every time you needed to add an ingredient you had to stop and put it down, add the ingredient and pick it up and turn it on again. (It took me about 30 minutes to make a pound cake! ;). Now I just pour everything in the mixer and turn it on and off as I need to. It's wonderful. I tell my husband like every other day that I love my mixer, thank you so much. :)

If you are looking to find a mixer, sometimes you can find used ones on Craigslist or eBay for a good price. We got a great deal on mine by buying it brand new on eBay. I've also heard of some people getting theirs at Goodwill or estate sales. You should definitely be able to get a much better deal than at Walmart or retail. Even Amazon has much better prices than a brick and mortar store. A good deal on a 4.5 quart like mine is $120-$140 (retail is $200), and for the 5 qt. a good deal is about $175-$200 (retail is $299). If you found one for less than that, you should be able to resell it on eBay for profit! Stand mixers are very popular items there.

Check out more kitchen tips at Tammy's Recipes.

Get from $25 to $500 for free!!!

So very exciting! I've jumped on the bandwagon, so to speak, and joined RevolutionMoneyExchange! It's competition for Paypal, and it's breaking into the scene quickly by giving away $25 to every new account holder! And you can get up to $500 by referring your friends! The money appears in your account instantly after they sign up.

I signed up only yesterday and I already have $60 in my account! I was hesitant at first to give out my Social (in)Security Number, but after researching it, I found that they are backed by some huge names in finance, along with a real FDIC bank in South Dakota. And the page is secure too, which is also reassuring.

If you want to get a free $25, please use my link or button in the sidebar and I'll get $10 as well! It's only until May 15th, so get your free money while you can. :)

Are All Daughters this Fun?

Having a little girl is such a new experience for me. Even at the age of seven months she acts differently than my boys did. My boys were itching to get down at this age and didn't really care much about being held. Isabella- she's a different story- she loves to be held, to be close to me. And right now she is going through a very mommy's girl stage.

Don't tell, but secretly, I don't mind too much. :)

There's something special about that mother-daughter bond. And I'll take all the precious moments I can get with my sweet baby girl.





Busy, Busy

We have been so busy lately. I am not sure why though! ;) Since daylight savings we've been staying busy constantly! We have been doing lots of spring cleaning and organizing, and we are selling lots of stuff, and doing some side work in the meantime. Add in cooking, exercising, potty training (we've just finished- hooray!), changing diapers and preventing and breaking up little ones arguing, and you've got a very, very full day.

I hope to get back to a regular posting schedule soon. I even have posts lined out in my planner! :)

Hard-Anodized Cookware

We have a glass-top stove. It's nice to have the extra workspace, but finding pots that didn't scorch the food was quite a challenge. We had a set of stainless steel pots that were oh so pretty but every time I cooked something it stuck to the bottom of them.

Last year I was given a set of hard-anodized aluminum pans from Linen's and Things for Mother's Day, and I love them! We got them on sale, and with a rebate the set cost only $30! They work great on my electric stove- they heat evenly and food usually doesn't stick to them (if it does it's user error! :). They unfortunately do have a non-stick coating but in over a year it hasn't started flaking, where my T-Fal non-stick pot flaked within six months.

If you are in the market for a new set of pots and pans, you might want to give these a try. Target also has Calphalon hard-anodized pans in a cheaper version I like. Linens 'n Things, where I got mine, puts their Cooks brand on sale frequently. Here's the link to my set of pans.

For more kitchen tips, check out Tammy's Recipes.

Quote for the Day and Giving Birth

Leo over at Zen Habits just ran his second marathon last weekend and posted this quote:

“You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can’t know what’s coming.” - Frank Shorter

While I've never done a marathon, this quote really caught my attention- it reminds me of childbirth. I've given birth three times now, each birth slightly different- induced with an epidural, induced with a dose of Stadol, and natural onset with no pain meds. With each birth I think I remember the pain more and more.

Each were progressively easier, but for several months I couldn't forget the memory of the pain. I am finally forgetting my last birth a little, but at random moments, I remember the pain very well, and it scares me. I am hoping I can completely forget before I do it again. Like a marathon, it requires mental training, but I think there is a much greater reward at the end of giving birth.

Free INK Refill at Walgreen's April 2 Only!

Get a free refill of your ink cartridge on April 2! Refill your black or color ink at Walgreen's with this coupon. Find out which cartridges they refill here.

Our Free Swing Set

A couple of weeks ago I was scanning for freebies on Craigslist (under "Free") and saw this swing set for free in our local area. I quickly emailed the person and by that afternoon we had a free swing set in our backyard!

We have looked at swing sets in the past but they were definitely out of our price range- even the Walmart cheap one was $200!

The swing set isn't perfect or brand new, but my kids certainly don't care, it works! It has a slide, a toddler swing, a small swing, a carriage swing and a see-saw.

You never know what God will provide for you- and for free!

Check out more finds over at Money Saving Mom!



Stretching Eggs

When I cook scrambled eggs for a hungry man and two growing boys, I could easily use the whole dozen to feed them. An egg is like one bite for them!

So, when I make scrambled eggs, alone or in easy breakfast tacos, I add milk or half and half (if I have some) to the eggs to make them go further (further, farther- isn't further right? After three babies I can't remember!).

I usually add about 1/2 cup for 8 eggs, and they come out super fluffy and taste just the same. You could experiment with this and add more or less depending on taste.

For more frugal tips, check out Crystal's blog.

I Love this News Story

I saw this over at the Sparrow's Nest. It's great!

Freebie of the Day- Total Cranberry Crunch

Get a sample of Total Cranberry Crunch cereal and a coupon for $1 off your next purchase.

Styling Curly Hair



It took me a while to figure out what would work best for my curly red (read: stubborn) hair. After much trial and error and many dollars spent on hair products that didn't work, I finally figured out a combination that works well for me, and my wallet.

Here's what I do to "fix" my long, curly hair.

1. Shampoo and condition.
This was a trial and error process and I found several products that don't work for me. I can't use Suave of any kind, or Pantene. They make my hair greasy and flat. Herbal Essences has been my number one brand for many years. I prefer the older formula (with flowers on the bottle) that they still sell in one scent at Wal-Mart. Their new brightly colored shampoos and conditioners work well with my hair too though. I apply conditioner quite liberally, about twice the amount of shampoo I use.

2. Keep it in a towel.
I keep my hair in a towel until it is ready to do. I don't rub it or shake it in the towel, I just let it dry inside the towel while I put my makeup on.

3. Use a very wide toothed comb/pick.
I have one comb I have used every day since 2000. Seriously, life stops when I lose my comb. It looks close to the one in the picture.

4. Apply mousse first.
I use Suave max hold mousse (in a mauve can) and rub it through my hair. It acts like a primer for the gel. Rub it in from root to tip, until your hair feels wet again. This is usually a couple of handfuls of mousse for me.

5. Apply thick gel.
After applying the mousse, I apply gel from root to tip with my fingers, with my hair upside down. I use Garnier Fructis hair gel in Super Stiff and use quite a bit of this as well. If your gel feels watery in your hand/ fingers, it won't hold a curl well. If it kind of stretches between your fingers it's good stuff. Separate the hair by combing your fingers through it (no combs or brushes after gel).


6. Flip your head over to dry your hair.
Dry with a hairdryer, keeping the dryer closer to the hair and scrunching it to add the curl. Your fingers act as the diffuser. Rotate the hair dryer all over the head while scrunching the hair in your fingers. By keeping the hair upside down, it dries with more volume and more evenly without frizzing out at the top.

7. Don't touch it again.
After it dries, don't comb it, not with your fingers or a comb or brush. To hold a tight curl, it must stay in a catatonic-gelled state. If you tend to put it up and take it down a lot, it will get frizzy, so try to stay with whatever style you pick for the day. I often leave mine down during the day and put it up at night.

Here's what my hair looks like when I use this method:


What works for your curly hair? I am always interested to hear about curl-friendly products!

Breakfast Hack- Easy Tacos

I made some breakfast tacos for my husband today. Instead of cooking the eggs in the skillet (stinky, messy and hard to do with 8 eggs!) I scrambled the eggs with a mixer and threw them into a greased baking dish. I cooked them for about 25 minutes at 350, and when they cooled, I simply cut them into taco-sized slices. Here's what it looked like:

Beaten eggs ready to go.

Lightly browned and springy after cooking.

Egg slices with cheese.

Voila! A week's worth of tacos ready to go!

Check out more kitchen tips at Tammy's Recipes!

Freebie of the Day- Dove Go Fresh Deodorant

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I am Spoiled. Rotten.

Last week I came home from the gym to see these on the table:


Tuna steaks drizzled with honey-dijon ready for the grill:

Angel food cake coming out of the oven.

Veggies ready to be sauteed.

And the finished product was ready shortly after I showered. :)


He had already fed the boys, so it was just us at the table for a special dinner.


And he even made strawberries and angel food cake for dessert.

And get this, he made it all low-fat! What a wonderful man I have. He knows exactly what I like. :) I had to take pictures of it all- it was so pretty.

I know it had to be a lot of work- he even took all three kids to the store with him while I was gone! He told me he just wanted me to feel special. And I really did.

I am such a lucky girl. The Lord has really blessed me by giving me such a great partner and best friend.

Busy, Busy!

We have been so busy this week! Isabella was sick for a few days, which somehow makes everything difficult- even down to the simplest of chores. She was better yesterday, and since hubby had the day off for Good Friday, we took the opportunity to go relax and fish all day.

I did get a chance to take some fun pictures- I hope to post them before the weekend is up. Have a great weekend!

First Time Garage Saling- What FUN!

After reading Bethany's post about reselling garage sale items, I decided to give it a try Saturday morning! I'd never been garage saling, as I just never wanted the things I saw at most garage sales.

I didn't have any specific items on my list, just an idea of getting name brand clothes to resell on Ebay. I went to the first "multi-family" garage sale in a very expensive neighborhood, only to find severely overpriced items from only two families. I was wondering if these women thought they should recoup all of their losses on their items? I was quite sure this is what I would find at others, but I drove around looking for sales around my neighborhood anyway. I'm glad I didn't give up, as I was much luckier at the others!

I went to about eight garage sales total, and scored at the last three. I got a brand new iced tea maker, a wooden rocking horse, a Little Tikes kitchen, and 5 pairs of Abercrombie and Fitch jeans (these jeans cost $90 each new) a pair of men's Gap jeans, a t-shirt and an American Eagle sweater. I got all of the clothes for $20! Probably more than most garage salers would pay for eight items. I saw them as an investment! Apparently, the young couple who sold them to me were exactly our size- all eight pairs of jeans fit us!

I think I went a little garage sale crazy- it was all stuff we had looked at buying full-price but didn't want to spend the money. We were planning to go shopping that afternoon for clothes, and the cheap prices of the garage sales that morning made me extra stingy with my money- a very good thing I think! I couldn't find anything at all at the outlet mall!

I can't wait until next Saturday! I just have to be careful not to spend money on good deals that we don't need.