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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Steampunk Book Necklaces

Hello Hello! Yesterday was Memorial Day so Jamie was off work. I took the opportunity to have some mom time in my room and made a couple of cute necklaces to list in my Etsy Shop. This one features one of my favorite novels, Wuthering Heights.

 ...and this one honors the timeless tale of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. I totally love them and am thinking I need to make a couple for myself!

Speaking of Alice, Vanessa at A Fanciful Twist is hosting her 8th Annual Mad Tea Party. I participated last year and had an absolute blast! I'm already collecting ideas and pretty things to put on a great party this year. Check it out and join up. It's going to be a great summer inspirational treat!

Thanks for linking up at The {Not Just} Homemaking Party!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Sharing Diet Coke on a Family Day #ShareItForward #ad #cbias

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #ShareItForward #CollectiveBias

One thing we're always telling our kids is that relationships are important. Your relationships are the only thing you can take to Heaven with you, so they need to be the #1 focus in any situation. That's why we try to have a full-on family day at least once a week. Sometimes, we miss it---but not often. Today was one of those family days and today we made it sweeter by treating the kids to a case of Diet Coke to share.

Yep, we're one of those families. The ones you find riffling through the store displays, looking for our names on cans of Coke. Some of my kids, like Michael, enjoy this hide and seek game. Others, like Avalon and Selah, know they're doomed before they begin, so they settle for Anna and Susan and are glad they at least got the first initial right. Lucky for them, there's the option of buying the cans in cases that carry nickname cans. We found a case with great nicknames like Sweetie and Dad---even these BFF ones, which are perfect for these two best friends.

Today our family day was made extra special by celebrating the girls' last week of ballet for the year. They competed and performed at the Christian Ballet Olympics last week and did very well. Avalon earned a silver medal in her level, Lynzie earned a bronze medal with honors in hers, and Selah earned a gold medal with honors in her level---advancing her up to a new training level for next fall! It's important to us to celebrate these things as a family. It keeps the girls focusing on helping one another to do their best and keeps the competitive feelings directed inwardly, in an attitude of competing with oneself, rather than with one another.

Last week while my mom was still here, we took a couple of kids to Sam's Club for a Coke demo and other shopping. I love the demos at Sam's because they're always featuring great stuff and fun giveaways. This day they were giving away free cans of Coca-Cola products. My mom, having never been in a Sam's Club before, thought this was pretty awesome! We found our 32-count "nickname case" at a great price. They're great for big events---or if you have nine kids.

With a whole case of nicknames to choose from, we all had fun today picking them out for one another. It's funny how something as simple as a can of soda can really boost your ego. I mean, when someone says, "Here, take this *Superstar* can, it fits you", well, how can you resist?

Be sure to check out more ideas at the Share It Forward site. Have you ever found your name on a can of Coke?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The End: The Beginning of Summer

Well, y'all---I've reached the end. I knew it had to come sometime...and it was a long, long, LONG time coming...

By this time next week, I'll be just two short days away from the beginning...

The beginning of my NO OBLIGATION SUMMER!!!! Woo Hoo!!!!

This week marks the end of a year of ballet...

A year of homeschool co-op adventures...

A year of playing the part of a starving, sleep-deprived, hurried and harried taxi driver...

By the last day of May, all my obligations outside these four walls will have ceased for the summer and I can RELAX for awhile until time to start preparing for my England trip in September.

Just me, my porch, my sweet tea, my book, and my kids in the swimming pool on the lawn... {ask me about this imagined bliss in a few weeks when I've been pickin' ticks and treating sunburns...}

Orange Lime Torte featuring SunnyD #WhereFunBegins #Ad #cbias

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #WhereFunBegins #CollectiveBias
I love anything citrus. From desserts and drinks to lotions and perfumes, the scent and flavor of citrus is one of the best parts of summer time! Last night I made this delicious Orange Lime Torte using one of our family's favorite refreshing drinks: SunnyD. I've been drinking SunnyD as long as I can remember---even back in the day when it was full-out Sunny Delight. My kids always request it when we're doing a special breakfast for a birthday or holiday and it's a great choice for our large family, since a gallon jug of it is less than $3 where I buy it.

This past weekend, I grabbed a 24 count case of SunnyD bottles from this special end-cap display at Sam's Club. They have them on rollback for $5.38 until the first week of August. I like to get them for the kids' lunch sacks to take to park day with our other homeschooling friends. They can refill the bottles with water from the drinking fountain all day.

It's easy to put together this refreshing summer torte. Start by baking a pound cake in a 15" jelly roll pan. Once it's cooled, turn it upside down, poke holes throughout, then brush SunnyD all over the surface of the cake. Cut into three equal pieces, and set aside.

Mix the filling ingredients, being sure to sprinkle the pudding mix on top of the whipped topping before stirring it all up together. This mixture will be thick.

Spread the filling between layers of cake, and on top of the last layer.

Garnish with citrus zest and sliced fruit for a delicious and beautiful dessert. I served mine at my monthly book club meeting last night. It was a hit! This dessert would be excellent paired with my Strawberry Tea Time Torte for your next summer party. Let me know how you use it.

Orange Lime Torte featuring SunnyD
16 oz. pound cake mix + ingredients to make the cake
1-2 TB lime zest
1 c. SunnyD
2 TB lemon juice
8 oz. softened cream cheese
1/3 c. milk
12 oz. whipped topping
3.4 oz. instant vanilla pudding mix
orange and lime to garnish

Preheat oven to 350ยบ and line a 15" jelly roll pan with parchment paper.  Prepare cake mix according to the directions on the package, adding in the lime zest, and spread evenly into prepared pan.  Bake about 20-22 minutes, until done and cool completely. Prick the cake all over with a fork and then brush it evenly with SunnyD.  Slice the cake into three equal pieces and set aside. Whisk cream cheese and lemon juice together until smooth, then whisk in milk.  Spoon whipped topping over top of this but don't mix in. Sprinkle with pudding mix and then stir it all up well. Spread the filling between the layers of cake and top of the last layer. Garnish with citrus zest and sliced fruit. This dessert must be refrigerated when it's not being devoured by you and your guests!

SunnyD is a classic family favorite. Find more great recipes at sunnyd.com. How will you enjoy SunnyD for unapologetic fun in the sun this summer?

Friday, May 15, 2015

Have a Spa-Like Experience at Northwest Arkansas Birth Center #BirthCenterNWA

This article was compensated by Acorn Influence and its advertiser. All opinions are honest and are my own. #BirthCenterNWA


Earlier this week, I was given the opportunity to visit the NWA Birth Center in Rogers, Arkansas. Wow! What a treat! I've had nine babies and have never come close to the relaxing and beautiful experience the women who birth here have the opportunity to enjoy. For those of you moms---imagine having your baby and recovering in this relaxing suite, as opposed to a sterile and uninviting hospital room. {I asked the owner if I could book a private night's stay...even though I wasn't expecting. She said she's the only one who gets to do that...}

As I entered the homey atmosphere of the birthing center, I was greeted by a brightly and fashionably-decorated sitting area with a kitchen built in. On another wall was this display of fun baby and mama items that aren't available in most retailers I frequent. I'm a sucker for a hospital gift shop, but this selection was even better as it is designed to meet health and comfort needs, without a lot of frills.

The birth center is not just for those who are expecting a baby. Any woman can come enjoy the experience of an annual exam or screening in a more peaceful environment than she's used to in the standard doctor's office. The costs for utilizing the birth center can be half as much as a hospital birth and the care is more closely designed to individual needs. There's even an ADA compliant birthing room to accommodate those with mobility issues.

One thing I love about the birthing center staff is that they encourage practices that make sense during labor. Eating and drinking is promoted to keep energy up (thus the gorgeous kitchen area) and there's even a beautiful patio area that opens out onto a walkway for the laboring woman who wants to walk. Best part: no routine IVs to keep you strapped in bed with an unnecessarily prolonged labor.

The birth center is designed for women in low-risk pregnancies, and since more than 80% of pregnancies are considered low risk, it's likely this will be a good fit for you or someone you know. Since the staff operates on the truth that there's nothing "wrong" with a woman who has just given birth, they tend to send clients home within 4-6 hours after delivery. This is the time when a woman is still feeling that adrenaline rush after birth and it's important to get her home and settled in her own comfortable environment before the exhaustion sets in. The staff follows up later in the day by video chat and with a home visit soon after.

I'll admit, I thought nothing could make me want another baby any more than I already did---but this tour has deepened the desire even more! Make sure to check out the NWA Birth Center website and contact them to see if they can meet your needs. Have you had any experience with a birthing center? I'd love to hear your story in the comments below. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Economy for the Christian Home by Mrs. Sharon White -- Book Review

I'm thrilled to be introducing you to another great book by Mrs. Sharon White, Economy for the Christian Home: A 12 Week Challenge for Wives to Increase Charitable Giving. I'll be honest---giving is low on my priority list when it comes to spending our earnings. With our large family, I always feel there's some need that could be met here at home and I tend to meet a whole lot of non-essentials before I ever think about giving to those less fortunate. God has called Christians to a life of generosity though, and I know this is an area I need to focus on.

In Economy for the Christian Home, Mrs. White gives practical help and encouragement on budgeting out money to be given to those in need---easy steps that even those with the smallest of budgets can stick to. One thing I'm really excited about starting up is the Charity Box. This idea will help our family be intentional about setting aside money so we're prepared when the Lord leads us to share it.

I encourage you to grab a copy of Economy for the Christian Home and be challenged to care for the poor. This excellent resource would also be great for a group study. Check out another of my favorites from Mrs. White in my article on her book, Living On His Income.

Now it's time for The {Not Just} Homemaking Party! Thanks for stopping by and linking up!

Homeschool End of Year Celebration Ideas #FlavorYourSummer #ad #cbias

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #FlavorYourSummer #CollectiveBias

Even though we homeschool all year long, we love to have a party for the kids in the spring time as that's usually when we move up a grade and get all our new books and materials for the next season of schooling. We've always done something special to honor the kids' hard work over the year, but this is the second year we've planned an all-out bash! Are you interested in setting one up for your family? Here are just a few ways you can make your homeschool end-of-year party memorable and fun. Be sure to check out my article from last year's party for more great ideas.

I shopped Walmart for all our food and supplies for the party. Jamie was excited to make up some kabobs for the family, so I came up with a couple marinade recipes. I used Maggi® Chicken Flavor Bouillon and NesCafe® Clasico Coffee to make two great meat soaks. Both products were found in the Hispanic section of Walmart. I also picked up some Jack's® Pizza in the frozen pizza section of the freezer aisle.

It had been a really long time since I'd made skewers on the grill---mainly because threading enough skewers for 11 people takes a really long time. Ha! Jamie was all for it, though, and he made up a whole bunch of steak and chicken ones while Mom and I were out shopping last Saturday. These are the chicken ones he made for us---delicious!

The marinade for the chicken skewers was super simple. He used a very concentrated mixture of the bouillon and water and soaked the meat overnight. Then it was as easy as alternating the chicken, peppers, and onions on some pre-soaked skewers and grilling them until the meat was cooked through.

Savory Chicken Skewers
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2-3 assorted peppers
1 red onion
3 TB chicken bouillon granules
3 c. water

Cut chicken into chunks and place in bowl or plastic zip bag. Mix bouillon and water together until granules dissolve. Pour over chicken and refrigerate 24 hours. Cut peppers and onion into chunks and thread on skewers, alternating with meat. Grill and enjoy!

The second kabob recipe featured a coffee soak. I'll be honest---I wasn't totally sure about this one. I'd never tried anything marinated in coffee, but Jamie and my Mom assured me it would be great. Again, he used a concentrated coffee liquid mixture. Be sure to add salt and pepper to the marinade and let the meat soak 24 hours. With the addition of pineapple and onions, these skewers were an excellent idea!

Coffee-Soaked Steak Skewers
1 pkg. beef stew chunks
1 onion, cubed
1 pineapple, cubed
4 TB instant coffee granules
3 c. water
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper

Mix coffee, salt, and pepper into the water until salt and coffee are dissolved. Marinate the meat 24 hours. Thread pineapple, onion, and meat onto skewers and grill. Yum!

This was our first time trying Jack's Pizza and Jamie's first time grilling a pizza. We liked the taste and convenience of this brand---and the price was good, too. How fun to be able to grill it---keeps the kitchen cooler in the summer, for sure! 

I added a couple other fun "schoolish" snacks to the table. These cheese crackers are stamped with alphabet letters and the photo below it is alphabet-shaped cereal. Who says you can't play with your food? Our kids love spelling out words (even if they're not real words!) before munching their snacks.

Besides food, there are other great ways to celebrate the end of a great schooling year. Avalon will be honored at our co-op's graduation party for completing Kindergarten this year. Cap and gown sets are found very inexpensively online. This one also came with a tassel and a diploma for me to fill out. 

We like to gift the kids with something special like a new set of books or a DVD set they've all been wanting, but their favorite school-related gift is the refilling of their school boxes. I do this several times throughout the year and it's amazing the jump in excitement and motivation that occurs when the kids have new tools to learn with.

I also found these cute grade-completion certificates online. I printed this one out in black and white as I think it would be fun for a young child to color his own award.

Finally, what would a party be without games? One of our favorite party themes is the carnival theme. We've done several over the years and they're always a hit. We do everything from duck pond fishing to sack races to balloon darts. It's always a blast!

Another game we came up with this year is called, What Do You Remember? I grabbed a colored ball from Walmart and used a permanent marker to write phrases relating to the things we learned this past year. The kids take turns tossing the ball to one another and the person with the ball shares a memory relating to one of the phrases. It was fun for the kids to play this and remember all the great times we had!

Do you do anything special for your kids at the end of the school year? I'd love to hear some of your ideas!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Keeping My Family Totally Taken Care of All Summer Long! #LISTERINEMom #ad

I received LISTERINE® Brand products and a Walgreens gift card from Johnson & Johnson Healthcare Products Division of McNEIL-PPC, Inc. and The Motherhood as part of my participation in the LISTERINE® Brand Totally Taken Care Of program. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are my own.

I'm honored to be serving as a LISTERINE® ambassador this summer! One of the great perks is receiving an awesome collection of products for my family to sample and enjoy. This summer, Johnson & Johnson wants to make sure my family is Totally Taken Care Of with products that are great for assuring my whole family's health and wellness.

LISTERINE TOTAL CARE mouthwash features lots of benefits to give us better oral health. It makes teeth 50% stronger than they'd be after brushing with a fluoride toothpaste alone.

While LISTERINE TOTAL CARE is a great product for adults, LISTERINE SMART RINSE is designed for children ages 6-12 and provides 12-hour cavity protection. Both rinses are alcohol-free, help prevent cavities, and clean the whole mouth to freshen breath and kill bad breath germs. My favorite benefit is that they help restore minerals to the enamel of my teeth and strengthens them.

I'm really excited about the other Johnson & Johnson products we were sent---a couple of them came just in time! Last week, a new kitten joined our family. She loves to play---and with that play comes a lot of scratches! The kids are getting used to her rough play but we've needed Band-Aids a couple of times so I'm thrilled we were sent two boxes.

A few days ago, Avalon fell on concrete and scratched up the area below her eye pretty good. Thankfully, we had received some Neosporin in our box and daily application of it has helped her skin heal quickly.

I'm also glad to have this Neutrogena® sunscreen spray and water-resistant Band-Aids for our outdoor adventures. It's going to be a great summer!

All of these products are available at Walgreens so be sure to visit them to get ready for summer. You'll find everything you need to ensure your family is Totally Taken Care Of---including LISTERINE TOTAL CARE rinses! How do you keep your family Totally Taken Care Of in the summer? Let me know in the comments below.



Friday, May 8, 2015

Tips to Stop Your Child's Bed Wetting #ConquerBedWetting

This campaign has been compensated by Acorn Influence and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #ConquerBedWetting


Did you know that 15% of five-year-olds and 7-10% of seven-year-olds still wet the bed? Any parent who has had a child deal with bed wetting (Enuresis) knows that the struggle doesn't just involve trying to keep them dry at night. There's a lot of emotions involved when a child feels ashamed and embarrassed, and we often need to deal with those emotions before we can ever help them get to the point of staying dry all night. With nine kiddos, you know I've had a lot of experience dealing with trying to keep kids dry---day and night! Here are a few things I've learned:

Don't be unreasonable. Potty-training doesn't always stop when your kids are out of diapers. Sometimes it takes years after they've conquered day time dryness for them to get to the point where they've conquered the nighttime struggle, as well. We've found that when the kids know we are patient with them, they feel more confident. For a long time, we would discipline the kids for getting out of bed after they'd been tucked in for the night. However, we found that since they didn't want to get in trouble, they'd wet the bed instead of getting up and risking it. It just took a simple conversation to clarify that we were totally ok with them getting up to go potty---just not to ask for water/snack/book/one..more..song...

Make them comfortable. This includes physical comfort, as well as emotional comfort. I've realized that when my kids get too cold at night, they don't want to leave their beds. We experience way more accidents during the winter months. Dressing your kids in warm pajamas and making sure they've got a heavy blanket when it's cold just might do the trick. I know it sounds simple (and sorta silly!) but it's a fact around our place! In addition, make sure your child is put to bed happy and feeling secure. If there's been arguments or trouble in your home before tuck-in time, be sure to let your child know that things are ok and discuss any fears they may have. If you have to discipline your child after they go to bed, try to end it on a positive note so they can fall asleep peacefully.

Have some back-up. Sometimes having a little extra protection is enough to relieve the nervousness kids feel and help them get up in the night to use the bathroom. Pampers UnderJams wants to help your child be confident and make it simple to take care of those bed wetting problems for good.

I found Pampers UnderJams at Walmart near the diaper aisle. They're great for older kids because they've got a cloth-like look and feel to them which adds a bit of privacy since they won't rustle like diapers. They have a low waist so they can be worn discretely and feature a really absorbent core for good leakage protection that lasts all night.

Do you have any tried and true tips for conquering bed wetting in your kids? Let us know in the comments below and make sure to check out PampersUnderJams.com to learn about Enuresis, read articles, and watch videos related to bed wetting. You'll find some great ideas from pediatricians who are also mothers and who have dealt with bed wetting issues in their own children. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Make an Easy Fabric Gift Bag for Mother's Day #L2LMom #ad #cbias

 This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #L2LMom #CollectiveBias

Mother's Day has started early for me this year! Jamie went out Sunday night and bought me two bottles of this deliciously-scented Coty Love2Love fragrance. When we opened them up, we realized the smell reminded us of some scented oils he bought me when we were first married---and we've never found them again. Now I want to get all the scents in this collection to see if they evoke the same memories!

The Coty Love2Love fragrance collection can be found at Walmart in the fragrance aisle. There are five scents to mix and match for a great Mother's Day gift: Bluebell + White Tea, Fresh Rose + Peach, Jasmine + Sparkling Mimosa, Orange Blossom + White Musk, and Freesia + Violet Petals. These are quality scents at a great value with fragrances that awaken the senses to love and joy.

With Mother's Day coming up this weekend, I've got some easy instructions for creating a 9.5" x 7.5" fabric gift bag---the perfect size for gifting two boxes of Love2Love fragrance. You can adjust these measurements to fit any size bag.  

Step one: Cut out a rectangle of fabric that is 22 inches long and 10 inches wide. 

Step two: Fold the fabric over 1/4 inch and then 1/4 inch again, on all sides, stitching down the middle as you go. 

Step three: Now fold each short end over 1/2 inch (wrong side of fabric together) and stitch close to the edge of each fold.

Step four: Lay it down with the printed side facing you and fold one short end toward the other (right side of fabric together). Stitch up the sides of the bag, just until you reach the stitching lines you made in step three.

Step five: Attach a small safety pin to the end of a ribbon and use the safety pin to guide the ribbon through the casings you made at the top of the bag in step three. Then remove the safety pin, tie it off and trim and burn the edges of the ribbon to keep it from fraying. 

Just add a pretty gift tag and you're good to go! Enjoy packing up your gift and blessing someone you love on Mother's Day!

Make sure to look for the Love2Love promotional display at Walmart to find all the fragrances and a .50 gift bag to present them in. Also, check out the new fragrance, Bluebell + White Tea. I love the pretty blue bottle and the petal-shaped cap is adorable.

Which Love2Love fragrance will your Mom love the most? 
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