Monday, April 29, 2013

Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist (book review)

Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes

From the inside flap:

This is what I want you to do: tell someone you love them, and that dinner's at six.

Bread & Wine is a collection of stories about life around the table--about family, friend- ships, and the meals that bring us together. It's about Bacon-Wrapped Dates and Mango Chicken Curry and Blueberry Crisp. It's about the ways God teaches and nourishes us as we nourish the people around us. It's about recipes, entertaining ideas, and meals to share with friends and family, made by hand and with love.

Many of the most sacred moments in my life, the ones in which I feel God's presence most profoundly, when I feel the goodness of the world most arrestingly, take place around the table. Something extraordinary happens when we slow down, open our homes, look into one another's faces, and listen to one another's stories around the table.

This is my love letter to life around the table.

My review:

Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table is a collection of essays and life stories from Ms Niequist in this journey that we call life. It is a collection of life stories about how entertwined lives are with one another and how food and eating around a table add another fundamental element to life. Niequist writes about all things of life…good times (such as baby showers) and bad times (such as dealing with medical issues and children’s sicknesses). I enjoyed reading Niequist’s personal stories and could relate to many of them on many levels. I laughed throughout this book. I cried. I smiled and I thought.

Intertwined in her stories were many yummy sounding recipes that Niequist shares with her readers….everything from blueberry crisp to white bean soup to farmer’s market potato salad. I have not tried any of her recipes, but it has set a fire under me to start making recipes instead of just relying on pre-made food.

I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone!

Disclaimer: I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, from the publisher and from Handlebar Marketing..

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sunday Night Chit Chat

Time once again for Sunday Night Chit-Chat...hosted by our friend Carla! 
To play along simply start your post with a photo or quote... Copy and paste the starters and link up to Carla so she and others can visit you and see what you've been up to!


My in laws were over on Saturday and wanted a family picture of us as the last one they have only has Bill, me and 2 kids. I asked that they take one with our camera too.

What are you.....

 Right now the kids are watching "Team Umizoomi" on the DVR.
I have been watching episodes of "19 Kids and Counting" that I have on the DVR.
Listening to?
 Rebecca is talking. Benjamin is banging toys. Jacob is eating a snack. The TV is on.
The dryer is going. Bill is talking to Rebecca.
 I haven't done much cooking per se.
I made pumpkin muffins today.

Happy you accomplished this week?

 I got to work. I did some work at home.
 Looking forward to next week?
One week closer to summer break.  
 Thankful for today?
For my husband and kids.   

Bonus question:
What is your preferred method for contacting someone? (email, text, phone, letter, etc...)
 I prefer text and email I think. And messages on facebook.
I know they are a bit impersonal, but I always feel guilty calling someone knowing I might be interrupting them. And with 3 young kids it is hard for me to take time to call.
So there you have it. A little glimpse into my world on this Sunday night! Hope everyone has a wonderful week and remember to link up to our wonderful chat host Carla! :)

Kroger Spring Dinners (Review)

A couple of weeks ago for dinner our family had the opportunity to try some new to us food, thanks to being a bzzagent.
We were given the opportunity to try Kroger Moist and Tender pork tenderloin, Kroger Crescent rolls, and Kroger Macaroni and Cheese. We were also able to try Kroger cake mix and frosting, which I used for Benjamin’s birthday cake.
First our family had a nice family sit down dinner that consisted of the pork, crescent rolls and macaroni and cheese.

With the Pork tenderloin, I actually was able to make a few meals. The first meal that I made I cut the tenderloin into chops and baked it in the oven. My hubby and I agreed that the pork was very lean and very moist. (I was also able to freeze some of the chops for a future meal. I also used about ½ of the tenderloin and made bbq pulled pork in the crockpot last week that turned out amazingly tender and yummy!)

I have bought and prepared Kroger Crescent Rolls in the past. My children love the rolls! They are nice and flaky and delicious. And I love that they are priced less than their national brand competitor and taste just as good, if not better!
We also had the opportunity to try Krogers’ premade macaroni and cheese. (We could have tried the macaroni and cheese or the mashed potatoes. As my children are not fans of potatoes, I chose the macaroni and cheese.) The macaroni was very easy to prepare (microwave for a few minutes) and the container had enough for 4 servings for our family. My kids and hubby LOVED the macaroni and my husband has requested that I add it to our grocery list regularly. Personally, I thought it was just okay (but I am a macaroni and cheese snob and really only care for the national brand that comes in the blue box!).
A week later, we had Benjamin’s birthday party and I made his cake using a box of Kroger brand white cake mix, a box of Kroger brand chocolate cake mix and Kroger brand vanilla frosting that I tinted using non-flavored food coloring.

The cake was yummy and moist and the frosting was so flavorful without tasting fake. I was even asked for my frosting recipe because Benjamin’s Godmother thought I had made the frosting from scratch. Everyone loved the taste of the cake!
Overall, my family and I were/are VERY pleased with Kroger brand of foods that we were able to try and it was great being able to eat a healthy, yummy meal together as a family!
Disclaimer: I received Free products from to try in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Johnsonville Sausage Company= GREAT customer service!

I will admit it. I like to get stuff in the mail. I sign up for free samples that I know that the family will use. Sometimes I get them, sometimes I don't. I also have been known to sign up to host parties where you get a chance to try new products and share them with your friends.

A couple months ago, I saw an opportunity to sign up to host a Johnsonville Cajun party. I signed up and didn't think anything about it. I apparently got an email saying that I was selected to receive a package, but I never did so I thought there was an error. Not a big deal.

Fast forward to today:

UPS knocks on the door with a package for me that contained this:

In it was a letter from Johnsonville, saying that they were sorry for the confusion and that THEIR system generated acceptance emails to an additional 10,000 participants than the 1,000 that was supposed to be registered. However, they were able to get kits that were almost identical to the first 1,000 sent to all those who received the email saying that they were enrolled, because they strive to do the right thing to their customers.

In the kit, there were several free product coupons (including one for Johnsonville sausage), an apron, a reusable shopping bag, measuring spoons, a can of red gold tomatoes, a bottle of Louisiana Hot sauce, mardi gras beads and masks, a flexible cutting board and a shopping list pad, as well as recipe booklets.

How is that for customer service?!? They did not have to send kits. They could have just said too bad. But they didn't.

To me that is why I will stay a Johnsonville Sausage customer.

Disclaimer: I was sent this kit free, however they did not require any publicity or blog posts for it. I just wanted to write this out of my own opinion for a company that I believe went above and beyond.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Freefall to Fly by Rebekah Lyons (book review)

Freefall to Fly: A Breathtaking Journey Toward a Life of Meaning

From the back cover:


At first glance, Rebekah Lyon’s life path seemed straightforward: walk the aisle, take the short road to motherhood, and build a family on a suburban cul-de-sac in the South.

But life looked radically different when her family relocated to the heart of New York City. She was forced to navigate a new normal with three kids, two toy poodles, and a minivan. Blindsided by crippling despair, Rebekah wrestled with bigger questions woman often ask: Why am I here? Does my life matter?

In a Western culture driven by performance and Pinterest fantasies, her story echoes the rise of loneliness, depression, and anxiety that women are facing at all-time highs. Why are expectations and lifestyles breaking us down in unprecedented ways?

In this beautifully moving memoir of vulnerability, courage, and ultimately transformation, Rebekah shares her journey in the unknown- a thrilling, terrifying freefall that eventually led to flight. Searching for meaning , she stumbled on surrender, discovering that meaning follows surrender.

Rebekah found freedom when she faced her greatest fear, and she invites other women to do the same. For it is only when we freefall that we can truly fly.


My Thoughts:

Rebekah Lyons is a brave woman. She writes with a powerful sense of self that is also relatable to any woman who has questioned any part of her own life. Lyons speaks of her own experiences with different stories of her own life and tries to relate them to everyone else. She speaks of her own struggles with anxiety and depression. She questions how does this happen to someone who is seemingly normal.

One of my favorite quotes in her book is : “ We aren’t depressed because we are getting old; we are depressed in the prime of our lives.” (p. 67). That quote resignated with me and speaks volumes about my own experiences in life. Lyons argues that if we learn to listen to ourselves and to God then we are more than able to come out of our depression and become the best woman that we can be.

This book was thought-provoking and engaging to me. I liked hearing about Lyons’ life experiences, however I felt a little disconnected with her as her situation is so much different than my own, when it comes to money and situation in life. This took away from some of the story but the overall message was there. This book was a hard read for me, as the author jumped around a lot and I found that I had to re-read sections in order for her words to really make sense. That may just be her story telling style though.

Overall, I think that the message of the book is great and should resonate with each woman who reads this.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher, Tyndale House Publishers and Handlebar Marketing, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.









Monday, April 22, 2013

Busy, busy weekend

This weekend was BUSY, BUSY, BUSY!

On Saturday Rebecca had another soccer game. It was COLD and SNOWING throughout most of her game. The wind was super duper cold. She had fun that is what matters! Her team won again. I really do like her soccer coach for this session of soccer….he is the soccer coach at one of the our areas university and he does a GREAT job with the kids, teaching them fundamentals and encouraging them. Rebecca loves soccer!

After soccer, we came home for lunch and Bill had to leave for work. I cleaned a bit, did some laundry and figured out my grocery list.

Saturday night, Rebecca’s school was hosting a father/ daughter dance so I had to send my hubby and Rebecca to that. It was so cute seeing them together.

Hubby said that the majority of the time Rebecca and most of the other girls just wanted to play with the balloons! LOL
Sunday morning, my hubby participated and ran in his first official race. He ran in a 4 mile race and did the run in 45 minutes 13 seconds. I think that is an AWESOME job for a first official race and he was 9th in his age group. The only downside was that the kids and I did not go to see him as he had to leave at 7am in the morning and it was COLD outside. I felt bad, but I really didn’t want the kids to be outside that early in the cold.

When hubby came back home, I went to the grocery store and Walmart. Then came home to pick up Bill and the kids. Then we took some donations to Goodwill (where Rebecca was excited to find a chapter book that was at her level!) and went to a local meat market to pick up some hamburgers for dinner.

Sunday evening was spent finishing up laundry and just spending time with the family.

And the best part of this weekend was that we were all HEALTHY for the weekend!!!!!

So, overall it was a busy, but good weekend!

How was your weekend?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Things on my mind....

I have dealt with depression and anxiety issues most of my life. I wasn't officially diagnosed until about 2004 with depression, but looking back I have suffered from it most of my life, going back to probably elementary school. I have been on and off medication through the years. Most recently I was on medication before I got pregnant with Benjamin and through my pregnancy with him. Then I weaned myself off of it...I was in a better place....

But as I should know depression and anxiety don't go away. They may lay dormant for a while before they rear their ugly heads again.

And it seems that I am in the midst of that. I have been so anxious these last few days. There are so many things that seem to be in turmoil in my own personal life right now.

Hubby is anxious as well...due to financial worries, and that I am not happy, he is lonely, works too many hours for peanuts (he is salaried and he works anywhere from 50-80 hours a week), he doesn't get to see me very often or our daughter. He spends most afternoon with the boys so that I can work, but with my work schedule and Rebecca's school schedule he barely has anytime during the week with either of us. It is really hard. I am so envious of people that get to see their spouses for more than half an hour each day.

My work has been crazy because of my schedule. I have to leave early pretty much every day for my hubby's job and that is causing friction with my boss. She acted like this was a huge surprise when I brought it up. It is NOT a surprise. It has been this way for the last 2 years as well. It is the nature of my husbands job. I cannot control that. I know it is a hassle, but you know what I have trained 2 others to be closers so that I don't have to be there. I would get a babysitter, but let's see I would be paying what I would be earning so there really isn't a point; 2 of my trusted babysitters work when I do and my mother is undergoing chemotherapy again and having a rough time of it so I cannot ask for her help with the kids. I am sorry that 4 out of 6 of our afternoon staff are college kids that will not be available after May. That is not my fault and out of my control. I do not do hiring.
It isn't easy for me either. I am losing essentially 6.5 hours of work each week by having to leave early. And that means smaller paychecks. Which lends itself to financial stress.

Finances are tighter than ever. I am cutting back where I can but it is so hard as everything seems to be going up and up in price and I am trying to prepare for summer when I get no paycheck. My anxiety is stopping me from being able to really plan and focus on a plan.

Physically I have been feeling awful, with back pain and chest pain that is all anxiety related. I have dealt with these symptoms in the past and know that that is what it is.

I am worried about the development of Benjamin...he is a little over a year old and still not pulling himself up or trying to feed himself. He keeps getting ear infections.

The entire family has been dealing with illnesses and things since November. We have been too the doctor 19 times so far in 2013. That is ridiculous. I am not sure what to do .

My heart is aching for those injured and/or killed in Boston earlier this week. I have relatives in Boston that I have no way of reaching, so I have put out a question on facebook to see if anyone has heard from them at all this week. This world is a scary place and my children are still too young to ask questions but I know that the day will come when I can't shelter them anymore from these acts and I don't know what I will do.

My mom has been undergoing another round of chemo for her bladder cancer that recurred. This round has been much more taxing on her (so much so she took the last 2 weeks off of work and if you know my mom that means something.). I am worried about her, and at the same time beating myself up mentally for not taking steps to take better care of myself.

Sorry this is so long. It is kind of like a brain dump I think. I am just so overwhelmed right now....

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

I am here....

Sorry I haven't posted in almost a week.

I am here.

Just have a lot on my mind right now.....

Thursday, April 11, 2013

I caved last night....

The last 2 days it has been over 80 degrees where I live.

2 weeks ago there was snow on the ground. There is a chance of snow showers tomorrow night.

Yep, that would be Ohio weather.

At 5pm last night it was 78 degrees in the house and humid. Normally I would just put a fan in front of the window and call it a day. HOWEVER....

....last night I was dealing with a puking baby who only wanted Mommy, a 3 year old little boy with a fever, no energy and didn't want to eat or drink, a daughter who had gotten in trouble at school and was in a "mood", and a hubby whom we believe has some sort of food poisoning that left him unable to basically move without feeling the need to throw up. AND I WAS HOT.

I caved.

I turned on our a/c.

I know I should have just dealt with it.

But last night I needed 1 thing to go right and I needed to be comfortable.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Benjamin's 1st birthday party!

On Sunday, we hosted a small first birthday party for Benjamin. We invited the grandparents, aunts and uncles and Ben's Godparents and their children. It was a simple, sweet, perfect party.

His birthday cake--- half chocolate, half white---decorated by me!

Ready for the party!

Lots of fun presents--I think his favorite was the tissue paper!

Fun cookie monster and Sesame Street maracas

birthday cake with a candle for one year old and another one to grow on.

He loved touching the cake....did not like to taste the icing though

playing with icing

Post Benjamin
It was a great day. The weather was great and everyone had a great time.

How do you celebrate your children's birthdays?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Spring Soccer began today....

It is that time of year again....I become a "Soccer Mom" for the next 2 months.

YMCA Spring Soccer for Rebecca officially began this morning.

First she had to have her team picture taken.

Then they got to practice and play their first game as the "White Polar Bears." 

The temperature was COLD and WINDY but the sun was shining and it was good.

Jacob was cold and hungry, so we had to break out the goldfish snacks before the game even began.

Benjamin did not like the sun or the wind being in his face. So we moved to the other side of the field where the wind was coming from behind and put a blanket over his stroller like a tent and he was a much happier camper.

Rebecca was chosen as the player to start the game by kicking the ball. :)

Rebecca had a lot of fun and it is so neat watching her growing up and experiencing new things.

The "White Polar Bears" won the game and I had a happy, but tired little girl on my hands.

Do your children play sports?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Invisible: A Novel by Ginny L Yttrup (Review)

From the back cover:
Ellyn DeMoss-- chef, cafe owner, and lover of butter-- is hiding behind her extra weight. But what is she hiding? While Ellyn sees the good in others, she has only condemnation for herself. So when a handsome widower claims he’s attracted to Ellyn, she’s certain there’s something wrong with him.
Sabina Jackson -- tall, slender, and exotic -- left her husband, young adult daughters, and a thriving counseling practice to spend a year in Northern California where she says she’s come to heal. But it seems to Ellyn that Sabina’s doing more hiding than healing. What’s she hiding from? Is it God?

 Twila Boaz has come out of hiding and is working to gain back the pounds she lost when her only goal was to disappear. When her eating disorder is triggered again, though she longs to hide, she instead follows God and fights for her own survival. But will she succeed?

 As these women’s lives intertwine, their eyes open to the glory within each of them as they begin to recognize themselves as being created in God’s image.
My thoughts:
Invisible by Ginny L. Yttrup follows the intermingling of the lives of 4 main characters---Ellyn DeMoss, Sabina Jackson, Twila Boaz and Dr. Miles Becker-- and how each of these characters (and each of us) have our own issues that make us want to be invisible to the world. But as these characters find out we are not invisible to the world, to our friends or to God. We are created in His image and if we put our trust in Him and allow Him to work in our lives we can become so much more than ourselves.
Take Ellyn--she is an overweight, very self conscious, chef who is hiding behind her chef's clothes and does not think that anyone can like her for her. She drowns her sorrows in buttery croissants and pastries. She knows that God is there, but she feels like she is invisible to Him and that "Earl" is who is in her head ALL the time telling her that she is worthless because of her weight. As the story unfolds we see Ellyn dealing with her weight issues and struggling with seeing herself as a child of God.
Sabina has her own demons to deal with. As a counselor, she lost a patient to suicide and she is dealing with tragedy of not being able to see God in the situation and hiding from him---to the point of closing all the blind and curtains in her house and hiding.
Twila is the character that is so different. She is coming off of treatment for dealing with anorexia; however she is probably the most strongly rooted person in God and his pain and suffering. She is like a lighthouse beacon for the other characters, even though she doesn't understand that.
Dr. Becker is your lovable male hero in the story. He has a strong relationship with God, even though he is afraid of what the next step in his life is. He offers a little bit of a balance to the female characters, although at times I really am not sure that his story line really fit with the others in the best possible way.
Invisible was a great book! Yttrup did an excellent job of keeping the flow of the book going, while also keeping the reader guessing as to some of the issues that each character was facing. There was just the right amount of humor, tears, and understandings to make the story flow. The only issue that I had with the book was that at times the relationship between Dr. Becker and Ellyn was sort of dorky, but I guess that may just be how the relationship was forming.
This book made me think. It made me think about my own issues with food and how I perceive myself in the world. Do I want to be invisible? Do I do things to sabotage myself being created in the image of God? How do I view others?
I would very HIGHLY RECOMMEND this book!
Disclaimer: This book was provided free of charge by the publisher and Handlebar Marketing in exchange for a review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Happy birthday Benjamin!

It is so hard to believe that it has been one year since we added another piece to our family puzzle!

A year ago today we welcomed into the world Benjamin Brian, who was born via c-section in the morning.

The year has gone by so quickly!

In the past year, Benjamin has had all of his first holidays.

He has started eating solid foods.

He has learned to crawl "army style."

He has become a very vocal little boy.

He loves to be held by me and Bill and seems most content when we are both at home.

He is a content little man, smiling even when he isn't feeling very good.

He is a true blessing!

Happy 1st birthday Baby Benjamin!

Monday, April 1, 2013

We had a happy Easter!

This weekend was busy but a good busy.

Saturday, I spent the day doing some spring cleaning upstairs, opening windows and airing out the house, shopping for work, and just getting some things done.

Sunday morning the kids enjoyed their Easter baskets before we headed off to mass.

After mass, we came home and found that that sneaky Easter bunny had left some eggs to find in the house that contained puzzle pieces, giving us something to do while we waited to go to my parent's house for dinner.

At my parent's house, we met up with my brother, his wife and their 3 kids and we had a fun afternoon full of an Easter egg hunt and yummy food!

Overall, it was a very blessed weekend.

I hope that you had a great weekend as well!