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Monday, August 31, 2015

From Fezzik to Buttercup---the Intro

I'm a big fan of New Year Resolutions. I love to sit down after Christmas and categorize my life into a series of new leaves to turn over throughout the coming year. However, sometimes my perfectionist mentality tries to trick me into waiting for something big like New Year's Day to kick off a big change, a Monday to start a new homeschool session, or an after-the-holidays day to start a diet. I've sensed myself coming into a new season for awhile now. I think my return from England is going to be my "grand kickoff", since perfectionist me says one is needed. 

There are three focuses for this new season of my life, and unlike any other time since I was about 20 years old, the majority of these focuses is on me. There's a difference between living a life that is focused on serving others and living the life of a martyr. I've been playing the pitied martyr for much too long and I'm not getting any younger.

My biggest focus for this next season of my life is to regain my health, strength, fitness, and self-confidence. I'm tired of feeling like Princess Buttercup trapped in the body of Fezzik the Giant. I've never been the athletic type, but up until my second child was born, I was pretty active playing around in the mountains, swimming, working on construction sites with my Dad. Now I'm to the point where I pass by something in the hallway and tell one of the kids to take care of it because it's too much trouble to pick it up myself and put it away. Just as my mind craves new information in a super-nerdy way, my body is beginning to crave movement and effort---and even the pain it's going to take to get me back to that place where I can beat my husband in an arm wrestling match.

Secondly, I really want to focus on building a quality homeschooling experience for my kids. We've moved so much over the years and the homeschooling laws in former states kept me feeling stifled and uninspired. Arkansas has very relaxed laws and has recently removed even the testing requirement for homeschoolers which allows the parent total flexibility in choosing paths of study for her children. I'm excited to take in this great big world as a family---something that can't be done through textbooks and tests.

Lastly, I want to focus a lot of attention on the novel and other writing projects I've been working on. This is one area where I've told myself it's not my time and have felt guilty for the longing to write. I have no problem keeping up this blog---but it's bringing in money and, somehow, that makes it better than my own creative pursuits. Truth is, if I could focus on these other pieces of writing, I could stop blogging about toilet paper and oven cleaner and make some money off something that is actually inspiring.

I'm excited to begin this new season of life! I will be updating regarding my journey back to health with posts called, "From Fezzik to Buttercup", and you'll likely also see posts here showcasing our fun homeschooling activities. As for my non-blogging writing projects, I'll be updating my Facebook page regularly with those so make sure to like it to see what I'm up to.

Friday, August 28, 2015

If You Give a Girl a Passport: How to Fill the Last Two Weeks Before the Trip of a Lifetime #ShareFunshine #ad #cbias

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #ShareFunshine #CollectiveBias
If you give a girl a passport, she's going to ask for a trip to England. Chances are, if you plan a trip to England, she's going to need some distractions to fill the last two weeks before you go.

Lynzie and I are headed to England in less than two weeks! We're going to spend three days in Bath, a day in Chawton, and two days in Winchester. It's going to be a fun-filled, Jane Austen-fangirl, tea drinking, garden strolling extravaganza! We just need to get through these Last. Two. Weeks.

Lynzie has always been super creative so she's done pretty well filling her hours at a time when we'd normally be starting our homeschool year. This week, she's been having some fun with crafts and snacks. Last night, she made this adorable garden gnome coin bank from a Dr Pepper® bottle. 

Make sure to enter the Share a Little Funshine giveaway and then read on to see how she completed this super cute project. (Widget may take a little bit to load.)

Most of our family members are huge fans of Dr Pepper® so we usually end up including it in fun activities like last year's end of the homeschool year party or as a complement to my candy bar granola bars. This week, I picked up a 2-liter of Dr Pepper® Cherry from Walmart.

I had made Monster Cookies over the weekend so everyone got a little bit of pop to go with their cookie (or half a cookie for the little ones---these are big!). It's really easy to make a pop bottle coin bank like Lynzie made me. First empty the bottle, then wash it and remove the label. 

Next, use a sharp pair of scissors to cut an opening for your coins. Make sure it's big enough to get the coins back out again!

Cut plastic can be sharp so I melted the edges of the opening to smooth them out.

Finally, paint it up super cute and let it dry. What a great idea to make an iconic British garden gnome!

I'm already saving for next year's trip with my adorable new garden gnome coin bank!

Michael has been pretty great about listening to all of Lynzie's exciting plans for England. I love it that my teens get along so great. She even shared her M&M's® Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches with him while they were having a chat outside.

Speaking of M&M's®, they're the key ingredient in my family's favorite Monster Cookies recipe. My mom has been making these for us since I was little and I love to make them once or twice a year for my own family. I use big bags of M&M's® Plain and M&M's® Peanut because I like to have some extras to push into the tops of the cookies to make them extra colorful.

Monster Cookies
1 lb. butter or margarine
60 oz. peanut butter
1/3 c. baking soda
2 lb. brown sugar
4 c. sugar
2 TB corn syrup
1 T vanilla
1 dozen eggs
2 c. chocolate chips
18 c. oats
2 c. each M&M's® Plain and M&M's® Peanut + extra for topping

Mix the butter and peanut butter together in a stand mixer. Sprinkle baking soda on top and mix in well, breaking up any clumps. Pour mixture into a soup pot and add sugars, corn syrup, and vanilla. Beat eggs and add to the mixture. Mix very well with a large spoon. Stir in chocolate chips and oats. Stir in M&M's®. Scoop out cookie dough with 1/4 cup measuring cup and bake on ungreased pans at 350ยบ for about 15 minutes.

With a can of Dr Pepper® Cherry, a yummy cookie snack, some sunshine, and a great book, Lynzie was able to conquer one more morning leading up to our trip. I know it's going to be the experience of a lifetime---even though the last couple weeks can seem like forever!

Looking for instant savings on some of your favorite products? Click here to save on M&M's®, SNICKERS® Ice Cream Bars, Dr Pepper® Cherry, Skittles®, Pedigree Dentastix®. Also, Download the Blippar app from your Apple or Android store to scan your package and receive exclusive content.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Final Call For Souls

The first time I visited Paddington Station in London, I was made very much aware of one particular thing. The final boarding call really was final. There wasn't a lot of looking around to make sure they had everyone before the train pulled out. If you weren't on when it was time to go, you were left behind. Stuck. Simple as that.

Does anyone else feel like the current events are really just one big last call for Christians? So many issues that were once "gray area debatable" have now become very much black and white.

I've already written about the big favor the Supreme Court did Christians by forcing all of us to come out of the closet regarding our stance on homosexuality, special rights for homosexuals, and whether or not we should have a right to redefine what God has already clearly defined. We now have to make a solid choice to "obey the law" or face persecution.

There are no more "valid" arguments for keeping the abortion mill that is Planned Parenthood open. It doesn't matter what other services they may offer a woman, they've been exposed as committing unspeakable, unwatchable, and very much illegal acts. We have to make a solid black or white choice now. Are we going to fight to end tax payer funding or are we going to sit on our hands some more so we don't rock the boat?

How about the Ashley Madison exposures? (See what I did there?) Adulterers without the integrity to come clean on their own have been forced to own their sin and face up to the consequences. Last I heard, there have been three suicides linked to the leaks, as well as the public humiliation of several well-known figures. Millions of men and women are put on the spot now: confess and begin the process of restoration or continue to try to lie their way out of owning it.

To top it off, the current most-likely candidate for the Republican party is Donald Trump. Seriously? I'm just going to delete everything I just wrote about him and leave this here. I can't even touch that.

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” Matthew 24:14 NKJV

Matthew 24:14 is significant for our time because it answers the question the disciples are asking about the end of the age. Not only will this be one last chance for non-believers to hear, believe and repent, it will be one last chance for believers to hear and repent.

I can't help but wonder if all the junk coming down the last few months is not just a big wake up call, but a last call. What are we going to do with all this? Are we going to vote? Christian---what are you going to do about it? Are you going to protest, act, sacrifice, debate, speak up, get up, man up? 

Or are you just going to "pray about it"? Yeah, we should pray. Pray and then act.


Preparing for England with Regency Stays

Whew! It's been a crazy few days as I've been constructing these Regency era stays for Lynzie's Jane Austen Festival ensemble. They're definitely, DEFINITELY not perfect...but they're functional and they're almost done! Yay!

This was my first time sewing eyelets by hand. Some of them look pretty good!

Hope you're having a great week!


Linking with:

Monday, August 24, 2015

5 Tips for Sharing a Family Car #1stImpressionsCount #ad #cbias

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #1stImpressionsCount #CollectiveBias

When my husband and I were in high school, I had a habit of "borrowing" his car to skip class with my girl friends. To absolve myself of any guilt, I'd often thank him for "sharing" his car with me by taking it to the car wash where I'd clean it spotless and detail the inside with Armor All®.

Now he's got a new generation of drivers to share a car with and we want to make sure it's a pleasant experience for everyone. As parents of two high schoolers, we know how important it is for them to make that great impression. As our kids are just entering the driving world, we want to teach them how to take good care of the cars they'll be sharing with the rest of the family. Not only will they look great for their passengers, but good car care keeps them nice for the next person who uses them. 

In high school, I'd grab Armor All cleaning cloths out of the vending machine at the car wash. I've recently found a whole line of Outlast products by Armor All that will help to shine and protect both the car's interior and its wheels. Two of my favorite products are the Protectant and the Tire Glaze.

I found Armor All Outlast products at Walmart. They've got a great selection of things to spruce up your car including, Armor All® Outlast Trim & Plastic Restorer, Armor All® Outlast Tire Glaze, Armor All® Outlast Leather Restorer, and Armor All® Outlast Protectant.  

Do members of your family share a car? Here are some tips for keeping the peace and making sure the car looks nice for the next person to drive.

1. Keep it Clean. Take turns being in charge of washing and detailing the car. Keep a caddy in your garage filled with products for spiffing it up and consider investing in a small outdoor vacuum cleaner to save money on the coin-operated one downtown. We love how Armor All Outlast Tire Glaze repels grime and makes our tires shine. They look great!

2. Keep it Protected. Armor All Outlast Protectant does more than shine up the plastic and vinyl inside your car. It also protects it from damaging UV rays and helps keep it from fading and cracking. Plus, it makes everything look so nice and new that it makes everyone less likely to mess it up.

3. Keep it Fresh. Car fresheners can be hit or miss so make sure you're using yours on a car that has been shampooed regularly and isn't harboring unpleasant smells. You don't want to try to mask an odor; trust me---wet carpet and Coconut Dream do not go well together. So take care of lingering odors and then use a mild, refreshing scent to enhance the atmosphere of your car.

4. Keep it Organized. I like to set a little tray inside the middle console for storing things like change or charging cables. This is a great place to keep quarters for the car wash. Consider purchasing and marking phone chargers that are specifically for the car. This way, no one has to go hunting for them when they're needed.

5. Keep it Uncluttered. One of the best things you can do is keep a box or basket inside your car for catching all the garbage, books, mail, purchases, and more that can accumulate. Make it a rule that it gets emptied out after every trip and you'll have a clutter-free vehicle.

Armor All Outlast #1stImpressionsCount Sweepstakes What are some things you've done to make sharing a car a positive experience? 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Planned Parenthood Protests Planned for Sat. Aug. 22 #PPSellsBabyParts

I'll have more on this later but wanted to get the information out now about peaceful protests taking place at Planned Parenthood facilities all over the nation (some internationally!) tomorrow morning at 9am local time. PLEASE share with your friends...and fill your car...and be there. Here is a list of locations.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Sewing for England 2015

Bath Abbey, Bath, England

Lynzie and I are headed for England---in only 23 days! Woo Hoo!! We're super excited and are ready to dive in and get our sewing projects done. We'll be walking in the Grand Regency Costumed Promenade so we must have Austen-ish outfits to wear.


I'm probably going to just redo my dresses from last time I went as one is way too big and another needs a little mending and reforming around the bodice. Lynzie has chosen some beautiful fabric for a day dress.

So far, we've finished Lynzie's chemise and I'm minutes away from finishing my green Spencer jacket. There's lots more to do and I'll try to keep you updated on the mad dash to the sewing finish line!

Thanks for linking up to the {Not Just} Homemaking Party! Linking with:

Meal Solutions for a Great School Day #FuelForSchool #Ad #cbias

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

While most of Northwest Arkansas is hitting the books today, the Coller Kids are still anticipating the first day of school. Since Lynzie and I are headed to England in just three weeks, I've put all school work on hold until we get back. Still, I'm in planning mode---finding just the right materials to fuel their minds and making meal plans to fuel their bodies. One way I keep kids fueled on a busy homeschool day is by making sure there are plenty of food items in the house that are easy to prepare for the days I get overwhelmed with responsibilities and need the older ones to help out. (That would be pretty much every day, actually...)

Last week I shopped Walmart for State Fair® corn dogs and Jimmy Dean® breakfast sandwiches. My oldest son, Michael, is in charge of preparing breakfast and Lynzie does lunch. These are great items for them to make for the family while I'm working with the younger kids in the mornings. Both are found in the freezer section of Walmart. The corn dogs are in a floor freezer case and the breakfast sandwiches are in the stand-up freezer aisle.

Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches are delicious and a filling source of protein. You can choose from high quality Jimmy Dean breakfast solutions like Sausage, Egg & Cheese Croissant Sandwiches or Pancakes & Sausage on a Stick.

State Fair corn dogs are a good source of protein and feature a yummy cornbread and honey breading. I like how they're individually wrapped in the box so I can empty them into the freezer, saving space.

I also found these fun treat cups at Walmart near the party supplies. They're perfect for serving condiments and making lunch time just a little more fun for the kids. Plus, they solve the problem of corn dogs rolling into the ketchup and mustard on the plate.

Another stress-relieving solution for our homeschool day is to delegate responsibilities and assign chores. This keeps the home running smoothly so I'm not distracted and over-burdened by a load of housework. Everyone has their own list of things to do and I have them do them at the same time each day so they're easier to remember. 

As a homeschooling mom to 9, I'm always looking for quick and easy meal and snack ideas. Not only do we have the regular school day routine to navigate, but I'm also managing a home and babies in the meantime. Anything that can make that job a little easier is a win for me! Have you kept your family fueled with Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches or State Fair corn dogs? Let me know in the comments below!

Chicken Ranch Omelette THM Style Trim Healthy Mama #QuakerRealMedleys #ad #cbias

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #QuakerRealMedleys #CollectiveBias
A couple nights ago, I made the most amazing dinner for myself. Jamie had taken the older kids to evening church, the younger kids were asleep, and I was playing around with a new recipe idea. I love having breakfast for dinner so I made a delicious Chicken Ranch Omelette and paired it with a container of new Quaker® Real Medleys® Raspberry Pecan yogurt. Oh my goodness! If you're planning on being stranded on an island somewhere for a week, this is the perfect meal to fill your tummy before you go.

I found Quaker Real Medleys at Walmart in the cold/ready-to-eat cereal section. They come in three flavors: Raspberry Pecan, Apple Cinnamon, and Strawberry Almond. These are a new product out from Quaker and I think they're going to be great for on-the-go, as well as at home. For more information, make sure to download the Blippar app from your Apple or Android store. You can scan your package and receive information tutorials on Quaker Real Medleys Yogurt Cups.

There were demos for the yogurt cups at Walmarts all over the nation this past weekend. I attended one at the Pineville, MO Walmart and got my first look at this convenient granola and yogurt blend.  

 The shelf-stable yogurt cup comes to life when you add cold milk. Just fill to the dark line inside, stir well, and let it sit a few minutes. Then, stir again and enjoy. I've seen nothing like this before. I think my favorite is Raspberry Pecan, but really, it's pretty much a three-way tie. They're all satisfying and delicious!

I'd been dreaming about this omelette for over a month after having one that I thought was similar at a local restaurant. As it turns out after checking their website, I found that this is pretty much nothing like the one I had so you're getting a brand spankin' new creation today! Paired alongside the Quaker Real Medley Raspberry Pecan yogurt, I got some veggies, dairy, and whole grains all in one shot!

My Chicken Ranch Omelette features lots of my favorite ingredients. There's fresh produce, moist and flavorful rotisserie chicken, two kinds of delicious cheese, and my own zesty ranch herb mix. Add in three beaten eggs and you've got the fixings for a fantastic breakfast!

I let the beaten eggs cook just a couple minutes before beginning to add my ingredients. I laid the spinach leaves down first and then sprinkled the other veggies and chicken on top. The cheese went on last, just before I folded it over. I find it easiest to make a non-messy omelette when I leave one edge mainly free of fillings. That way, I can fold it over more easily without everything spilling out.

Chicken Ranch Omelette
3 eggs
3/4 c. diced rotisserie chicken
1/4 c. fresh spinach leaves, chopped
1/4 c. green onions, diced
1/4 c. tomatoes, diced
1/4 c. shredded cheese
1/4 c. Queso Blanco dip

Prepare all ingredients ahead of time. Heat skillet and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk eggs until frothy, then whisk in the ranch dressing mix. Pour egg mixture into the skillet and let it cook a couple minutes until the bottom is almost done. Add spinach, chicken, and remaining toppings, saving some shredded cheese, onions, and tomatoes for the top. When omelette is almost cooked through, sprinkle shredded cheese on top and fold. Remove to a serving plate and top with Queso Blanco, tomatoes, green onions, and remaining shredded cheese.

There are so many delicious things you can do with Quaker Real Medleys. Use it as the base for a parfait, add some fun toppings, or even prepare it as a dip for graham crackers or fruit. Crunchy. Cool. Yum. What yummy meal ideas do you have for these new yogurt cups?

Looking for some great Trim Healthy Mama Recipes? Try these! 

THM Lunches & Dinners

Creamy Tomato Basil Chicken
Pork Egg Roll in a Bowl
Spaghetti Squash Casserole (No Pasta Spaghetti)
20 Squash Recipes
Baked Spinach and Pepperjack Chicken

THM Breakfasts

List of THM Breakfast Ideas
Chicken Ranch Omelette

THM Treats
Chocolate Peanut Butter Candy

THM Misc.
Homemade Ranch Dressing
Make Your Own Chicken Stock & Broth
Zesty Burger Spread

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Back to School for the Homeschooling Mom at Northwest Arkansas Mall #NWARK #ad

This post was compensated by Northwest Arkansas Mall. All opinions are honest and are my own. #NWARK

I'm so excited to be offering an awesome giveaway to my Northwest Arkansas readers! Someone is going to win a $200 shopping spree---and I hope it's YOU!

Last weekend, Lynzie, Selah, and I headed to the mall for some mom shopping. I love taking my girls along because they're so sweet about making sure we all have a fun day. This day was about blessing mom and they were 100% ready to serve.

I've always joked that one of the biggest advantages of being a homeschooling mom is that I get to spend all day in my sweats---or even pajamas---if I want to. However, the downside is that it often makes me lazy and unmotivated. This year, I'm committing to dressing for success, and Northwest Arkansas Mall in Fayetteville has everything I need to make that happen. Check out this adorable lace-trimmed sweatshirt from JC Penney and these super cute and comfy pants from Earthbound Trading Company. Why should I wear sweats and jammies when I can wear these?

JC Penney is one of my favorite places to find simple styles that I can mix and match with things that are already in my closet. I love shopping the sales and then getting surprised at checkout with an even bigger savings. That's what happened with this red and blue printed dress. It was originally $50, marked down to $20, but rang up for a little over $12! 

I was also excited to find a good selection of long skirts at JC Penney. Just the other day, a friend was struggling to find long skirts. Now I can tell her where to shop for them!

Once I finished picking out my outfits, I headed to another favorite stop. Whether you're going classy or comfy, Payless Shoe Source has a style for almost any outfit.

Now that the clothes shopping was done, it was time to look for some accessories. I love Claire's for cute jewelry and hair accessories. They've even got some cute school supplies. If you can wrestle them away from your daughters, you can fill up your own mom notebook with adorable things to make grading papers and making notes more fun. 

As a homeschooling mom to many, my days really are filled up with meeting the needs (and lots of the wants) of these nine kids. Usually our trips to the mall are for taking care of their shopping lists so it was fun to shop for myself this time around. (That's totally ok to do, you know!) I think the girls had fun, too, swapping places with mom and being the ones dreaming about the things they saw, rather than being the ones getting all the goods!

Ready to win your own shopping spree to Northwest Arkansas Mall? One winner will receive the following:

  • $50 Gift Certificate to the Razorback Shop
  • $50 Gift Certificate to Tradehome Shoes
  • $100 Gift Certificate to JC Penney

THE RAFFLECOPTER WIDGET MIGHT TAKE A COUPLE MINUTES TO LOAD. Make sure to wait for it as that's how you'll enter the giveaway. Please make sure to share this giveaway with all your NW Arkansas friends! a Rafflecopter giveaway
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