October 30, 2008

Product Review: a surprise gift

About 6 weeks ago I got a fascinating email through the web site Rookie Moms. I had never heard of them at that point. Whitney, associated with the website, wrote wanting to mail me a new toy just brought to the market. I thought this email had scam written all over it. (once again, I was corrected - this was legit!)

I forwarded the email to my husband Jim (who is a geek by trade) and thought we had nothing really to lose. I provided my name and address.. nothing else. The deal was I was to write a review on the toy. The deal got sweeter - they were going to send me two toys.. one to give away to a family or organization in need.



I know you are all wondering what the toy was! It's called Mrs Goodbee Dollhouse


Both Sara and Eli were so excited when the UPS guy arrived at our door with 2 huge boxes! It was Christmas in October!

Here is a short video of the kids learning about the toy before we opened it:

video

Here is my review of Mrs Goodbee. I'm basically going to break it down into pros and cons. Please keep in mind that my children are almost 9 (daughter - Sara) and 3 1/2 (son - Elijah).

Pros

I assumed that Eli would play with it and love it. I didn't expect Sara to be interested at all. Boy, was I wrong!

One of the first things I loved about this dollhouse is it's simplicity. The house folds up easy for storage. (yet, we've haven't put it away since we got it!)
There were a few very minor things to put together. (ie. the yellow outdoor stairs that lead to the front door and the bay window) There are not a tons of pieces. The kids were able to play with it within seconds! This would make a great "out of the box" Christmas gift. Have you ever tried to open up a box of a billion pieces of polly pocket or barbie on Christmas morning? yikes!



The house opens up to reveal 3 sections that have 3 levels. There are 12 rooms total! A kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, living room and lots more!. This toy is great for 2 kids. There is great fun on both sides of the house - so each can be playing on their own. No fighting kids.. yeah!

We loved the sounds that make the house come to life! The sounds are so real: Jim thought somebody was at our front door, it was the doorbell of the dollhouse! Eli flushes the toilet over and over! He thinks it hilarious! Boys!

There are many things to with the house. It leads to lots of imaginary play. Elijah even added his army men... there is always some sort of attack or invasion in his world :)


Cons

The house comes with a dog, a baby, and a girl. Personally, I think the whole family should come together. But naturally, they are sold separately. I can see buying extra furniture and extended family - but I think initially the core family should be together.

Sara says she wishes the front door would open to invite friends in.

The company that puts out the product, Learning Curve, really want us to get the concepts of caring, sharing and preparing. Because I knew I was going to write a review I was looking for these concepts... didn't see them as much I had hoped. Learning Curve has teamed up with Good Will. They want us to use our empty box and fill it up with unwanted clothes and toys to donate. You read about this on a piece of paper on the inside. I would have liked to have seen the the Good Will logo on the outside of the box.

The company web site also offers a "key" to go to play games and learn more. For Elijah - he was too young. For Sara - it was too old for her. (she is more interested in playing games on her Webkinz site) I think the web site games would be good for a 5-7 year old.



So who did we give the extra dollhouse to?

We gave the other dollhouse to a missionary family that lives in Northern Wisconsin. They have an almost 5 year old girl and an almost 3 year old boy. After about 2 weeks I asked what they thought - they had pretty much the same thoughts we did - they wanted more pieces of family members but they loved all the sound effects!

They loved how Mrs Goodbee had a little bit of an English accent and wondered if their kids would start talking like that since they played with it so much!



Thank You so much Rookie Moms for letting us play with Mrs Goodbee!

So far behind...

Between my Mother's visit and starting a new job this week I am so far behind! It's a part time job - but now my schedule is all messed up.

I seriously don't know how Moms do it all. How do they work full time and raise a family? I work 2 part time jobs and feel like such a loser.

I'm a bit stressed with working and having Eli at home. I know he is fine - but the guilt is something terrible. I let him watch an hour of cartoons then he plays and read for the rest of the time. I just need time to figure out how to balance everything. Just like with money and diet - it's all about balance.

I know some of you have asked about the soda intake. It's not great. On average I have one every other day. It's still a huge improvement.

October 27, 2008

A new job!


Yeah for me! I got a new part time job!

I'm an interactive marketing specialist for a marketing firm here in town! Actually, it's the company my husband works for and I know the owners pretty well. It's 15 hours a week... I only will go into the office when Eli is in preschool. The rest I will work from home! Yeah!

October 24, 2008

Baked Potato Soup

Smallnotebook inspired me to look through my soup recipes this past week. If baked potatoes are comfort food then baked potato soup is extra comfy food. This soup is so good on a fall day!

serves 4

Ingredients:
  • 3 bacon strips, diced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 large baked potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 1/2 cup half-and-half cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • Shredded Cheddar cheese
In a large saucepan, cook bacon until crisp. Drain, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings. Set bacon aside.

Saute onion and garlic in the drippings until tender.



Stir in flour, salt, basil and pepper; mix well.



Gradually add broth. Bring to boil; boil and stir for 2 minutes.



Add the potatoes, cream and hot pepper sauce; heat through but do not boil.



Garnish with bacon and cheese. Enjoy!

October 23, 2008

Does anyone still iron?

My Mom is visiting us from Canada. (Thus my lack of blog posts lately) Yesterday she asked if I had an iron. A what? Oh I have one of those, I replied, but you'll have to dust it off!

I honestly don't remember the last time I ironed. We've been in this house for 5 years and I know I haven't used it since we've moved. I showed Eli the iron and asked him what it was and he thought it was a spaceship!


My Mom loves to iron - I caught her yesterday ironing her pajamas! Who does that? She says ironing is relaxing.


Do you still iron? Do you know where your iron is?

October 20, 2008

Seaman King


What a wonderful weekend Jim and I had going to John's graduation! There were 893 recruits that graduated! John is now officially Seaman King. The first thing he noticed after we got to talk with him was that we were the first people to call him by his first name in over 7 weeks.

We noticed some changes in him. He took what his superiors said very seriously. Deep down inside, however, he is the same kid - just better :)

The good news is that he will be home for Christmas.

Good Job Sailor!

Super Sweet Cherry Mash Bars

These Cherry Bars have 3 great things going for them:

1/ They are super sweet!

2/ They look so pretty!

3/ You don't have to turn on your oven!


Ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup half-and-half cream
  • 1 cup miniature marshmallows
  • 1 cup cherry baking chips
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
This is no diet food!


Line a 8x8 or 9x9 pan with parchment paper. This makes taking them out a snap!


In a medium saucepan, combine butter, sugar, salt and half and half. Heat until boiling, stirring occasionally. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring enough to keep from scorching.


Remove from heat and stir in the marshmallows,


and cherry chips.


Mix well. Press the mixture into the prepared pan.


In the microwave melt chocolate chips, and peanut butter together stirring frequently until smooth.


Spread over the mixture in the pan. Refrigerate for 2 hours before cutting into squares.


The easiest way to cut these bars is with a pizza cutter. Enjoy!

October 16, 2008

Off to the Windy City


Jim and I are off to the windy city - Chicago today. Tomorrow is John's graduation from boot camp in the Navy. We are really proud of him! He has embraced it and making the most of everything he has learned.

I will return on Monday with photos :)

It Knows What I Like!

I imagine that most of you that read this blog probably already know about this... but for those of you that don't - it's going to blow you away!


Pandora a is web site that knows what you like. Music that is.

Simply put, you create your own personalized radio station by starting with one of your favorite artists. From there Pandora adds songs based on that original artist.


Pandora is simply Awesome!


~ If you don't like the song it picks - you don't have to listen to - skip to the next one.

~ By simply giving Pandora a thumbs up or thumbs down to any song it learns what you like - this makes your personalized radio station that much better!

~ You can have mulitiple radio stations. Some days you feel like jazz, other days you want country.

~ The site is free! no membership, no fees, no pop-up ads or spam emails!


I'm listening to Pandora right now as I write this post...
here are a few of my stations:

David Cook
Beethoven
Sting
Third Day
Jack Johnson


Give it a try.. better yet, leave me a comment with your personalized stations.

October 14, 2008

"I'll do ANYTHING" - just read more!

Sara's principal wanted every student in her K-4th grade school to read more. Mrs Sorenson was willing to show her students just how far she was willing to go.

The principal created a reading contest where 50 lucky winners (the school has about 500 students) would help in duct tapping her to a wall! Those with the most minutes read win!

When Sara came home from school she showed me the details of the contest and got started reading right away. She read 260 minutes that week, including her new favorite book, Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

Sara won! She was one of the top winners. This past Friday night they duct tapped the school principal!Sara joining in the fun!


As the principal was being duct tapped she was standing on a milk crate... when all was done they took it away to see if she would stick to the wall. This is one brave woman!
Notice that she is still smiling?


It worked! She stuck to the wall!

Thanks Mrs Sorenson for motivating Sara to read more!

October 13, 2008

Every decade they Grow!

Q. What gets bigger every 10 years?

A. The average size of an American closet!


Back in the 1950's through the early 70's many homes had closets like this one. Single door, closet rod with a shelf on top. In the house I grew up in - this was exactly my closet. I thought it was the perfect size.


When I moved out on my own in the late 80's I got a big closet! Bi-fold doors. Lots of room to keep my seasonal items and shoes and purses!



For some reason in the 1990's we decided that husband and wives clothes couldn't touch. Thus the invention of the his and hers closets. The funny part is - the man probably never used up all of his space.



Through out the 90's walk in closets help sell homes. I had an apartment once that had one of these. My cat thought she finally got her own room!


And finally - the mecca of all closets isn't a closet at all! It's a Dressing Room! These rooms are bigger then my living room! Do we not see the excess our closets have become?!


With all the talk of the economy this past week I find it hard not to observe that as our closet size increases so does our National Debt. Coincidence?

How big is your closet? How big is your debt?

October 11, 2008

A Good Investment...

To make light of the current issues of the current stock market my Mom sent this to me:

Investment advice.
If you had purchased $1,000 of Delta Air Lines stock one year ago, you
would have $49 left.
With Fannie Mae, you would have $2.50 left of the original $1,000.
With AIG, you would have less than $15 left.
But, if you had purchased $1,000 worth of beer one year ago, drunk all
of the beer, then turned in the cans for the aluminum recycling
REFUND, you would have $214 cash.
Based on the above, the best current investment advice is to drink
heavily and recycle.

Even if you don't drink, like myself, this sounds like good advice!

October 10, 2008

Drum Roll Please....


and the winner is..... Comment #4 Lorie!
Congratulations on winning a Matthew West cd!

Lorie, please email me your snail mail and I'll get this out for you! dana@kingclan.us

I promise.. my only political post.... I hope.

Make finger puppets of the all your favourite political characters... then you can stage your own debate!




Sarah Palin giving me the finger.. shame shame. :)

October 9, 2008

Bored?

You're bored? Have nothing to do? try this

please.. just don't leave any nasty comments :)

Dear Elijah

Dear Elijah - you are just sweeter then words could describe. So I took this small video to prove it!

video

You are going to make a great Daddy some day!

October 8, 2008

Dear Elijah

Dear Elijah,

This morning you spotted some turkeys in our front yard. You were screaming at them to go away. By the time I got my camera they were doing as you told them.

October 7, 2008

Disappointed

Since we have reduced our family to one vehicle I have been challenged to maintain the same social schedule as before.

I am not able to attend our woman's bible study at church because of our current car situation. I thought God may have a different plan for me. I thought maybe He was challenging me to start a new bible study.

I went bold. I asked Elijah's preschool teacher if I could put a note in the children's back packs asking if they were interested in a bible study. The teacher was excited and thought it was a great idea.

It read: Want something fun to do while your child is in preschool? Let's start a bible study. If interested call Eli's Mom, Dana at (insert phone number)


That was almost 2 weeks ago. No one responded. Not one. I was disappointed.

Elijah attends a Christian preschool. I have to assume that a majority of these parents are Christian. There are 20 kids in his class. Was it wrong for me to assume that 2 or 3 Moms would be interested. But not one.

What's wrong with this? Do these Moms practice their faith only on Sundays? Could they just be shy? I thought this would be easy.

Don't most woman attend a bible study? Do you?

yesterday's soda intake: none :)

October 6, 2008

Don't forget the Giveaway!


Don't forget to enter into my giveaway. The drawing is this Friday!

Snacks for 23!

Is it possible to make a snack for 23 and not cost a fortune? Sure it is!

Elijah's preschool has parents take turns bringing in a healthy snack. 20 kids + 2 teachers + 1 parent = 23 hungry people.

First, I want to thank my friend Beth for coming up with the idea of trail mix for a snack. She reads this blog so I better give her some credit! Thanks Beth!

Homemade Trail mix is awesome frugal snack idea.

There are just two rules:
1/ Put in it only what you want
2/Use only what you have on hand. No spending gas money going to the store with this recipe!

Get your kids involved. We only put items in that Eli likes.

Elijah's Trail Mix
4 cups of pretzels (~$.40)
2 cups of whole grain gold fish (~$.60)
1 cup marshmallows (~$.15)
1/2 cup craisins (~$.50)
1/2 cup chocolate chips (~$.25)
2 cups Captain Crunch Peanut Butter Crunch (~$.70)

Total Cost: $2.60/23 = 11.3 cents per serving! Yeah!

The kids at school loved it. Everyone got something they liked. I packed the trail mix in little snack size baggies. This way I was able to prepare the night before and had no clean up! Simple!

I would love to hear some of the frugal snacks ideas you have!



.

October 5, 2008

Great Posts of the Week

Paid it Down showed an awesome video about priorities this November.

I really want to try these fried scones from Make and Takes.

My friend, from church, Kaytlin is in Jerusalem studying and has a fantastic view on language and culture.

This bowl from the Blessed Nest is so creative! Stacey blog is so pretty too!

I hope you all had a great weekend!


yesterdays' soda intake: I had a 2 fountain cokes! yikes!

October 3, 2008

Time to Harvest

As long as the earth endures, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease. Genesis 8:22


You'll notice that some of the pumpkins are still a bit green. I decided to harvest them early so there will be no more deer attacks!


What a fun planting year! I don't have much of a green thumb. There were some frustrating times. Overall, however, I did enjoy this year and the harvest it brought, small as it was.

Way back in April we started with little seeds. I was hopeful for the pumpkins and sunflowers. Today I want to share this bounty with you.


Fall decorating can be very frugal if you use what you harvest!



What's left of the pumpkin patch was dumped onto our compost pile.



Over time the sunflower will dry. It's going to be a great treat for the birds as they prepare for a harsh Wisconsin winter.



Look at all those sunflower seeds!


Have you started to harvest yet? Do you decorate with your harvest?

yesterday's soda intake: none


October 2, 2008

October Challenge: Reduce Soda

I really like the idea of having a focus each month - a challenge, if you will. In July I did a no fast food month. That was a huge challenge! Overall, I was amazed at the success our family had.

This month I'm going to try to reduce my soda intake.


No Soda. For me, this is huge!
I admit - there are many days where I will have up 3 or 4 cans of coke - and not diet coke either. I'm not saying that I'm cutting it out all together - but I am going to make a big effort to scale back.

So what am I going to replace it with? Here's the plan:

water
tea (the caffeine will help)
crystal light drinks
orange juice
and probably of Tylenol to help with the caffeine headaches!

I will be accountable to you. I will post daily what soda, if any, that I drink.

Wish me luck!

yesterday's soda intake: none :)

October 1, 2008

What I wanted to do and what I did do...

Being frugal is different for everyone. For some it means eating beans all the time for others it means buying a used car instead of a new one.

I don't believe you can realistically go from one extreme to the other and be happy about it. For example you can't go from flying first class to going on a gray hound bus! Its about stepping down a level, not jumping off the bridge.

I've been dying for ice-cream all week. I craved Dairy Queen -mmm peanuts, banana, with hot fudge. The cost for us, a family of 4 to go to Dairy Queen could be as much as $15. Instead, I took a level down and bought a box of drumsticks on sale at the local Piggly Wiggly. Cost $2.98


I believe that if you take baby steps the challenge of becoming a frugal person will have a higher rate of success.

Have you stepped down a level this week?

PS. Don't forget to enter to my Matthew West giveaway!

yesterday's soda intake: none :)