Friday, September 30, 2011

Our New Little Girl

 This is a picture of Ana Ruth, our new little girl that we are sponsoring through a program from Final Frontiers called Touch a Life.  She lives in Honduras in a town whose name means "singing frogs."

Ana Ruth is five years (will be six in December) and is destitute.  She has an older sister, Cesia (who is not yet sponsored by anyone), and an older brother Humberto (who is sponsored).  They are pictured below.  The picture of Humberto (which was taken some five or six years ago) also shows their grandfather.  Their parents left some time ago, and they live with their grandparents.

Sponsoring Ana Ruth will help provide food and clothing for her and, hopefully, the opportunity to get some schooling.  When she goes for her daily meal, she learns Bible stories and songs.  She has already trusted Jesus as her Saviour!  That is a big blessing!

I have a large printout of this picture and have put it in a frame.  Robert has hung it on our living room wall with our other family pictures.

We will be able to receive letters from Ana Ruth on a regular basis, as well as pictures.  I am excited about cultivating a relationship with her as we write back and forth.  Please pray along with me that God will bless her and use her for His Glory as she grows up.

UPDATE: Robert decided that we will sponsor BOTH Ana Ruth and Cesia!  I bought a matching photo frame which is waiting for a picture of Cesia and to be hung by Ana Ruth's picture.
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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Blogger Tip: Who Pinned You on Pinterest?

I read a great tip the other day about how to find out if anybody has pinned any of your posts on Pinterest.

Here is a generic link:

Replace "yourblogURL" with your blog's URL (or web address, in case you don't know what URL is).

For example, for my blog, here is the link:

That's it!  You can bookmark the link, and check it from time to time.
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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Book Review: Hermie: A Common Caterpillar

Even though it's been over a week since I read this book, I've been kind of procrastinating writing a review.  I enjoy writing positive reviews for books, and don't mind writing negative reviews (when there's a good reason for the negative review).  However, I just can't get excited about this book.  Granted, it is cute; the illustrations are nice.  The story is ok, but it simply did not "Wow" me.  My little daughter Gracie was not impressed, either.  I knew she wouldn't be able to sit for the story, even if I edited it to fit her level, but I hoped she would at least be interested in the illustrations, but she totally didn't care.  Maybe when she is older, she will enjoy it more (but that doesn't help this review!).

Hermie: A Common Caterpillar is about a little green caterpillar who thinks he is quite ordinary with nothing special about him.  He sees other beautiful creatures and wishes he could fly like them or have beautiful markings like them.  The book says that one special thing about Hermie is that he talks to God and that God talks to him in his heart.  He shared his feelings about being "common" to God and to his friend Wormie, another common caterpillar.  God will tell them, "Don't worry, I'm not finished with you yet."  In the story, Hermie and Wormy meet several other creatures who have admirable characteristics:  a snail who carries his home with him everywhere, an ant with great strength, and a ladybug with beautiful black spots.  Both the ant and the ladybug reminded the two friends that God had made them that way.

One night, Hermie felt especially dreary and weary.  His friend Wormie helped him find a leaf to lay on and he settled down for a long nap.  While sleeping, he dreamed that he was something special -- "He had strength like the ant.  He had a house like the snail. He had spots like the ladybug."  He woke up, surprised to be in the dark.  He wiggled to get out, and to his even greater surprise, found that he had wings!  Not just any kind of wings, but beautiful, colorful wings with beautiful spots.  He was thrilled that he could fly!  Then he realized what God had done:  God had made him special, both inside and out.  Hermie was able to give encouragement to his friend Wormie before he settled in for a nice, long nap, too.

I think the book has a good moral to it, but I think that a few Bible verses added to it would've made it even better.  For example, "He hath made every thing beautiful in his time." (Ecc. 3:11) would've been a good one to use.

All in all, not a bad book, but, in my opinion (and I know I'm in the minority), it could've been better.

Disclosure:  I received this book free from the publisher through the book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255
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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Repost: Sweet and Sour Chicken

 I got this recipe from one of Robert Grandmother's cookbooks called Wok Cook Book. This is, by far, the best recipe in the whole book.

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Serving Size: 4
Cuisine: Chinese
Main Ingredient: Chicken
Categories: Stir Fry, Main Dish

-= Ingredients =-
3 cups Pineapple ; chunks (One large can will do great.)

1 1/3 tablespoons Cornstarch
1/4 cup Sugar
1/4 cup white wine vinegar (optional, substitute white vinegar)
2 tablespoons Coriander sprigs ; minced
1 1/2 teaspoons Dried cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons Ketchup
1 tablespoon Soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon Ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Red pepper ; crushed
1/4 cup Chicken broth (I used chicken stock since I already had an open container. I don't know if it makes a difference or not.)
~~ -- MAIN DISH -- ~~
1/5 cup Salad oil (I used wok oil since I have not been able to find salad oil at all.)
1 3/4 lbs Chicken breast ; cut into strips (I cut up three boneless skinless breasts which was plenty.)
1 clove Garlic ; minced or pressed
1 medium Onion ; thinly sliced
1 medium Green pepper ; cut in strips (Next time, I will add a red bell pepper for color.)
4 cups Rice ; cooke
Cilantro ; optional

-= Instructions =-
1. Drain pineapple chunks; reserve juice for another use. (I used the juice to marinate the chicken.)
2. Prepare sweet and sour sauce (stir everything together) and set aside.
3. Place wok over high heat. When wok is hot, add 2 T of the oil. When oil is hot, add chicken and garlic. Stir-fry until chicken is opaque (about 4 minutes); remove from wok and set aside. (I cooked the chicken in two batches, and I added more garlic to the second batch. Also, just to make SURE that the chicken was cooked all the way through, I put it in the microwave for 2 minutes while I was doing the veggies in the next step.)
4. Add remaining 1 T of oil to wok. When oil is hot, add onion and green pepper. Stir-fry for about 1 minute, or until tender-crisp. Return chicken to wok. Add sweet and sour sauce and pineapple. Stir until liquid boils and thickens (about 1 minute).
5. Serve with rice. Garnish with cilantro.

I forgot to garnish with cilantro, but it still turned out fabulous! Robert loved it with the rice (I don't eat rice that much). We will definitely have this meal on a semi-regular basis.

Repost from my personal blog, Kinsey Family Blog.
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Monday, September 26, 2011

Toddler Routine Cards

One of my goals is to get Gracie into a routine of doing necessary things and for me to not to forget to do anything important!  I made up some Routine Cards for Gracie.

Morning Routine Cards

Bedtime Routine Cards

The cards were pretty easy to make up using Pages (MS Word would work great, too.).  I printed them, cut them out, had them laminated, punched holes in the corners, and slipped them onto a Book D-Ring (found at Walmart, pack of 8 for around $2).

This will be easy to add to if I think of other things that Gracie and I need to do.  I'm also going to add an appropriate first page to each.  I keep them hanging on the door handles of the hot water heater/ac closet which is right outside Gracie's room.

So far, she hasn't shown any interest in these cards whatsoever, but I think, in time, she will understand what they're for.

Updated 1/22/2014:  The PDF files for these cards (and other things I've created) can be found in my DropBox Folder.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Toddler Shopping List

I thought it would be fun to give Gracie her own little "shopping list" of things to look for while we shop.

This was very easy to make using Pages (and would be easy in MS Word as well).  I printed them, cut them out, had them laminated, and put them on a Book D-Ring.

Sometimes Gracie is interested in looking at her little shopping list, and sometimes NOT.  You know how fickle Toddlers can be!
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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Repost: Meatloaf

A friend of mine (Tobitha) shared a quick and easy Meatloaf recipe a while back. I like anything that is quick and easy, so I decided to give it a try. Robert had to work late that day, so I took him his supper. When he took the first bite, his eyes lit up like a Christmas tree, and I knew right away this was a keeper recipe!

There are three different variations

1 lb. extra lean ground beef
1 pkg. (6 oz.) Stove Top Stuffing Mix (I used Savory Herbs)
1 cup water
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix meat, stuffing mix, water and add-in (see options below). If you have a Kitchen Aid mixer, use it!  Mixing this by hand is HARD on the knuckles because of the Stuffing.  Press into 12 muffin cups sprayed with cooking spray. (You can make one big loaf or two small loaves if you want.  Be sure to increase the cooking time.) Make an indentation in center of each meatloaf with spoon; fill with extra sauce (see options below).

Bake 30 minutes or until cooked through. Top with cheese; continue baking 5 min. or until cheese is melted.

Additional tip: After removing from the oven, let it sit for 10 minutes. This prevents it from falling apart.

Option: American Style (This is my favorite so far!)
1 tsp garlic powder stirred into 3/4 cup barbecue sauce (We like Sweet Baby Ray's Original)

Option: Italian Style
1 tsp. italian seasoning stirred into 3/4 cup spaghetti sauce

Option: Mexican Style (I have not yet tried this variation.)
2 tsp. chili powder stirred into 3/4 cup thick 'n chunky salsa

Source: Kraft Food & Family (love this magazine!)

This is a repost from my personal blog, Kinsey Family Blog.
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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Book Review: Not By Might by Al Lacy

Al Lacy is one of my favorite authors.  He has written many exciting and inspiring stories about Christians living in the West during the 1800's.  Not only is he a successful writer, but he is also a preacher and an expert on the King James Bible as the inspired Word of God. (In fact, he will be coming to my church to speak in November.)

Not By Might is #8 in a series about nurse Breanna Baylor who is married to John "The Stranger" Brockman, the main character in another popular series.  John Brockman is now the Chief Marshall for Denver, CO.  Not By Might features several interwoven stories offering danger, suspense, soulwinning, altruism, and even a miracle!  The book opens with a notorious gang making plans to kill the US Marshall Executive Administrator Chester McCarty who put the head of the gang Duke Forster in federal prison some 14 years before.  The informant of the Marshall's whereabouts is a government employee who secretly befriended the gang's leader when he was in prison.  Once Chief Marshall Brockman messes up their plan to kill McCarty, he becomes the gang's main target.

Meanwhile, nurse Breanna Brockman goes to another town help a lady who had recently given birth and was still having much pain.  Doctor Rex Rawlings who sent for her was once the fiance of a new nurse at the Mile High Hospital where Breanna works.  Their engagement was broken because Natalie, the new nurse, did not want to be the wife of a small-town doctor.  Her father, who was a small-town doctor, worked himself to death a few years before.  Both Natalie and Dr. Rawlings still love each other very much and regret not working things out between them.

Without giving anything away, you will enjoy reading how John Brockman escapes getting killed and how Natalie and Dr. Rawlings meet each other once again.  The theme of the story is taken from the verse Zechariah 4:6, "Not by might, nor by power, but my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts."  It is God Who works things out according to His Will and for His Glory.

One thing I enjoy about Al Lacy's books is that you can always count on them to be exciting, very clean and appropriate, and to have a clear presentation of the Gospel.  Years ago, when Bro. Lacy was with another publisher, he was asked to write in scenes with bad language and intimacy.  He refused to do so and found a publisher who would allow him to write good, clean novels.

Not By Might does well as a stand-alone novel, not needing the prior six novels to have been read to understand the story.  There are a number of characters and names in the book (from what I understand, he names many of his characters after people he knows) which at times can be a little confusing.  It would've been nice to have had a list of characters in the book to use as sort of a cheat sheet.  The only other negative thing about the book is that, in my opinion, nobody talks like that in real life.  For lack of a better word, much of the dialogue is rather mushy and somewhat stilted.  Even so, it is a good read.

Reviews on Blogging for Books can be reviewed and ranked by others.  I would love it if you would visit my review on the Blogging for Books site and rank my review.  Upon ranking my review, you will be entered in a drawing to win your own copy of this book!  Don't worry, you won't hurt my feelings if you give me a bad review.  I'd rather have an honest bad review than a dishonest good review.  "Faithful are the wounds of a friend: but the kisses of an enemy deceitful." (Proverbs 27:6)

Here is the link for my review:  Not By Might by Al Lacy

FTC Disclaimer:  I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.”  I was not required to provide a positive review.  All opinions expressed are my own.
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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Blog Post Roundup 9/17/11

"Be of good cheer. Do not think of today's failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles. Remember, no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost."
— Helen Keller

Free Image Editing Resources for Your Blog -- lists MANY options for editing pictures and graphics

FREE Online Chore Chart -- Looks great for older (reading) children

“Most of us don’t need a psychiatric therapist as much as a friend to be silly with.”
~Robert Brault
Monday Movies -- watch all four very-short movies!!  It'll give you a good laugh!

At the Corner of Church and Liberty -- In Remembrance of 9/11

Wed. Bible Studies: What My Children Must Know (Week 7) -- Pastor Dave Baker of Columbia, TN, gives wonderful parenting advice.


Blessing My House -- Overcoming struggles in daily housekeeping

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Balance and Discipline -- September 16, 2011

Good morning!  I hope this has been a good week for y'all!

As usual, it's been busy around here.  I've been doing fairly well keeping up with household chores.  I'm trying to do more at night, so that when I get up in the morning, I have less that I have to do.

I've been thinking lately about Shortcuts.  I think, sometimes, it is perfectly ok to use shortcuts when the time saved outweighs the importance of the perfectionism involved.  For example, I have two dishtubs that I use to store my dishcloths in.  One contains the smaller ones that I use to handwash dishes, clean off countertops, and give to Gracie to clean up her several-times-daily little messes.  (Yes, I make her wipe up her spills, unless it's a huge spill and she is overwhelmed.  Like yesterday, I gave her a small bottle of milk leftover from lunch at Wendy's.  She spilled just about the whole thing on the floor, and started crying.  That in itself is unusual; usually, she says, "uh-oh!")  Anyway, where was I?  Oh, yes, the other dishtub has the larger dishtowels that I use to dry off dishes and dry off my hands.  Once upon a time, I would fold all of these before putting them in the dishtubs.  Since I keep them on the bottom shelf of my pantry, they aren't really visible to the public.  I finally figured out I was wasting time by doing this, and now, I just throw them in there.  Just to let you in on a little OCD tendency of mine, I like to rotate things so that they are evenly used.  I'll put just-cleaned items in the back, so that they are used after the ones that were cleaned at an earlier time.  Now, I just try not to think about that.  LOL!

In the Teaching and Training area, I made a little hand-held set of routine cards for Gracie.  One is the Good Morning Routine and the other one is the Night-Night Time Routine.  She hasn't shown much interest in them yet, so I may have to wait until she is a little older.  I will have a post for these routine cards next week.

In the Hobbies department, my husband bought me an early Christmas present:  a new dSLR camera!  (Nikon D7000 with 18-105 mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens plus 50 mm f/1.8 lens)  I have been wanting one for quite some time.  Robert got it early for me, so that I can practice and be able to take Christmas photos (for my Christmas cards) with them.  It's been fun learning how to use it, but I definitely have a lot of learning left to do!  I love mental challenges, and this one stretches me both mentally and creatively.

Organizing has been put on the back burner for a while.  I mean, big organizing, like all the stuff in our shed.  I don't know when our garage will be finished (all that's left is the mudding and painting of the inside).  We're waiting on the guy we asked to do it to have some free time.  I can't wait, because I'm anxious to go through all our boxes and get ready for a garage sale plus be able to use some of our things that have been boxed up.

I'm really enjoying listening to the Bible in the car.  I listen to the CDs with Alexander Scourby reading the Bible, and I'm really enjoying how he reads It.  I'm making good progress towards catching up on my Bible-in-a-year plan.

It seems like I always have a lot going on, and with a toddler, there's that much more going on!  Sometimes trying to keep up and maintain a balance can get somewhat overwhelming.  I see all that I need to do and want to do and have to make priority choices.  I'm trying to take a good look at things that can be, or should be, cut out.  I would love to be able to browse Pinterest for new ideas, but realistically, when am I ever going to have the time to implement those ideas?  I've decided to "pin" things as I come across them on websites and save the browsing when I truly have the time to do it without it negatively affecting anything else, perhaps during bouts of insomnia.  I have also found a way to cut down on Facebook time.  I created a list of people and pages called "Favorites" and I designated certain people in that group.  When I am pressed for time and/or when I don't feel like reading through the non-favorites' drama, I tell Facebook to only show the posts from my Favorites.  It really helps to cut down the time.  I like keeping up with people too much to totally get rid of Facebook.

That's what it's like around here.  How about you?  How are you doing maintaining balance and discipline in your life?  Link up with the Linky Thingie below.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Repost: Texas Caviar

Texas Caviar (a dip for tortilla chips) is a favorite appetizer of ours.  So easy to make, and people really enjoy it.  Some call it Redneck Caviar.

  • 1 can of black-eyed peas, drained
  • 1 can of shoepeg corn, drained
  • 1 bellpepper, chopped
  • 1 bunch of green onions (scallions), chopped
  • 1 bottle of Italian Dressing
Mix and Chill overnight

2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
1 tomato, chopped

Repost from my personal blog, Kinsey Family Blog.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Why I Am an iPhone Fan

Gracie plays with my iPhone 4.  At age 19 months, she is quite adept at navigating the screens and finding her games.
What's not to love about an iPhone? It's a beautiful cell phone with a bright, engaging touch screen. It has access to thousands, if not millions, of apps that can do many wondrous things. You can use it to view photos and videos, to listen to music via the iPod app, to communicate with people via email, text, or voice, and even to surf the web. It is a marvelous invention!

Although I had heard of the iPhone and iPod for several months or maybe a couple of years, I didn't really understand what was so special about them until I looked at the demo version of the iPhone 3 at the local AT&T store in the mall. Although I've been a techie-geek-type for many years, I was pretty much out of the loop at that time. I still remember what impressed me most about the iPhone and what started me drooling over it: YouTube. I thought it was so neat that you could pull up any video you wanted. I would always pull up this video which shows one of my favorite singing groups at First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, singing one of my favorite songs "What a Saviour He Is."

About 2-1/2 years ago, I began looking at phones since I knew that my contract would be ending in July. I was hesitant to get the iPhone because of the expense ($200 for the iPhone, an extra $30 monthly charge for the data plan). I looked at a number of different phones, but always came back to the iPhone.

On May 9, which was a Saturday, my husband Robert and I went out on the town. I don't remember where we ate that day, but I remember he said he had a surprise for me. We went driving towards the mall, and I said, "Oh, are we going to AT&T?" He had a perplexed, surprised look on his face, and he said, "Why do you say that?" I can't remember my reply, but it had to do with something he had mentioned wanting to do. I had no idea that we were going to go there to get me a new iPhone!! It was an exciting time. I still remember the salesgirl who took care of the transaction. You may wonder why Robert chose this particular day to surprise me with my iPhone. After all, my birthday was still more than a month away. The special occasion was that the next day, Sunday, was Mother's Day. Although we would not be sure for another week, we thought we were pregnant with our first child, my beautiful daughter Gracie. Robert was taking it on faith that we were expecting and wanted to make this First Mother's Day a special one for me! The next day, he had a balloon for me that said "It's a Girl" This was a very special weekend for me. All you mothers should understand. There's nothing like wanting children for ever-so-long, and finally having that dream come true.

There's not a day that goes by that I do not use my iPhone. I do not like to talk on the phone (probably a holdover from being a telemarketer and then a customer service representative for three years), but I do like having a phone with me where-ever I go. I do not keep a file of contact information on the computer like I used to. It's all on my phone. (incidentally, it's also synced with Google so that I do have access on my computer and there's little worry that I'll lose the information.)

I use the Cozi app (also available on the computer) to keep track of important events and appointments. You can have Cozi send you a reminder text which really comes in handy.

With the Google Maps and Yellow Pages apps, I can find the nearest location and contact information for certain businesses and get directions for how to get there!

I can also keep in touch with my social media using the Echofon (for Twitter), Facebook, and Byline (for reading blogs) apps.

Blogger has just put out an app that enables me to post on my blog. I usually use it to type out ideas to use in future posts which I save as drafts. At this very moment, I am using this app to continue writing this post as I sit on the couch with Robert who is watching some guy movie.

There are some fun games to play including Words with Friends. Robert and I will sit in the same room and play each other. When I was pregnant with Gracie, I got hooked on the game Gold Rush. I was determined to get three stars on every level, so I made maps of each on graph paper (told you I was a geek!).

Right before Gracie was born, Robert tried out a couple of other smartphones and finally decided that nothing beats the iPhone! He got the iPhone 3GS which has video. He was able to use his phone to take videos of Gracie right after she was born (even though a nurse had told us this was not allowed as I was having a c-section). These videos are very precious to me.

Robert has used his phone to do online stock trading. We both use our phones to do google searches and other Internet research when we are away from the computer. The screens are rather small for this (which is why mobile versions of websites are so nice), so we have to pinch and zoom quite a bit. Even so, it is very handy to have a world of information at our fingertips.

Fourteen months ago, my husband got me the iPhone 4 for my birthday. This phone is much more improved over the iPhone 3 with better reception, better resolution, better photos, and better video over the iPhone 3GS.

My daughter inherited my old iPhone 3GS and LOVES it! We have misplaced it twice. The first time was right after our Christmas trip to see family. I finally found it camouflaged in my backpack while getting ready to go to my mom's this last June. The second time was last week, and we still haven't found it. Please pray that we do find it. It's a great educational tool and keeps her entertained.  UPDATE:  The iPhone has been found!  Hooray and Praise the Lord!  It was in a plastic bowl in my pantry.  A little squirrel put it there.

The only negative I can really think of is that when we go visit my mom in rural South Mississippi, we do not get good reception.  Unfortunately, Mama is not part of the "97% of Americans" that AT&T boasts having coverage for.  With my original iPhone 3, I got NO coverage whatsoever.  With Robert's iPhone 3GS, I think he gets spotty at best coverage.  With my iPhone 4, I surprisingly am able to make and receive calls and texts.  My internet capability is spotty at best.  That is only at my mom's house.  At my Grandparents' house, which is just across the road and down a few hundred feet, I can only use the phone on the front porch.

Rumor has it that the new iPhone 5 will be coming out in mid-October.  If you are in the market for a new iPhone, I would definitely wait until the iPhone comes out and either get the new iPhone 5 or get the iPhone 4 which should be deeply discounted, much like the iPhone 3GS was last Christmas.

If you're not an AT&T fan, you also have the option of getting the iPhone through Verizon, and beginning with the iPhone 5, through Sprint as well.  From what I understand, the Verizon phone is different (not as good) as the AT&T phone.  I don't know how different the Sprint version will be.

I'm not sure how long ago, but AT&T changed their data usage from unlimited to limited with new iPhone customers.  Because Robert and I were existing customers, we kept our unlimited data plan.  I do believe that Verizon also offers a limited data plan, but I've read that Sprint will be offering an unlimited data plan.  You'll have to check that out for yourself, though.

Looking at AT&T's website, there are three data plans available for the iPhone 4:  4 Gb ($45), 2 Gb ($25), and 200 Mb ($15).  I just looked at our AT&T bills for this year and noticed that with the exception of the January bill, I have not gone over 1 Gb of data usage.  The January bill showed over 2 Gb of data usage.  This was quite surprising to me. It seems that we could actually go with one of the limited data plans and save money in the long run.  The overage fine is $10 per 1 Gb (It does not say if that is a prorated amount.)

Special Updated Section:  How to Find a Lost iPhone (without totally losing your mind)

How to Enable and Use Find My iPhone for Free on iPhone 3GS and Other Pre-2010 Devices -- This will work for the iPhone 3 IF you have a newer device as well.

 Find a Lost iPhone:  Putting Tracking Apps to the Test
(I have only tried one of these apps.)

14 Ways to Find a Lost or Stolen iPhone


In future posts, I will be highlighting various apps.  If there is anything else you would like to know about, please leave a comment below.

You may want to read the comments below for more information on the iPhone.
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Monday, September 12, 2011

Recipe Review: Easy Tomato Soup

Source:  Cooking Essentials by Cooking Club of America, page 126

 Easy Tomato Soup

 1-3/4 cups water*
1 vegetable bouillon cube**
1 medium onion
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
14 oz. (400 g) canned tomatoes***
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
salt and pepper
1 teaspooon superfine sugar****

*I used milk since that's how I prefer my tomato soup.
**I couldn't find any, so I substituted 1 heaping teaspoon of Glory Foods' Roasted Vegetable Seasoned Cooking Base.
***I used a 14 oz. can of diced tomatoes.
****I used regular sugar.

1.  Dissolve the bouillon cube in 1-3/4 cups boiling water (or milk).  Peel and chop the onion.  Melt the butter in a large pan, add the onion, and stir over low heat for 10 minutes, or until soft.

2.  Sprinkle the flour over the onion; stir well.  Add the stock, tomatoes (chop if needed), tomato paste, and salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring all the time, then simmer for 2-3 minutes, stirring occassionally.

3.  Place a large sieve over a large bowl, pour the soup into the sieve, and press the solids through with the back of a spoon.  Do not use a blender for this soup:  it needs to be sieved to remove any tomato cores and seeds.*

4.  Pour the soup back into the pan, return to medium heat, and bring to a simmer.  Add the sugar, then check the seasoning.

*Since I used diced tomatoes, I figured there probably were not many, if any, cores or seeds to deal with.  So I did what they said NOT to do, and I pureed it in my Vita-Mix blender. It came out just fine.

The whole family loved it, especially Robert.  He offered some to Gracie and she immediately said, "Mmmmm!"  I was really surprised!  Robert was VERY disappointed when there were not enough for seconds.  This was enough for two adults and one toddler.

Robert asked me to make more to freeze and for him to take to work for lunch.  I doubled the recipe (using a 28 oz can of diced tomatoes).
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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Blog Post Roundup (9/9/11)

How to Number Comments in Blogger/Blogspot -- I did get this to work with the instructions.  The graphic URL is what gave me the most trouble.  If you upload your graphic to a site such as photobucket, make sure that the code is just the location of the picture.  If you have any questions, email me, and I'll try to help you out.  Also, note that you'll need to have the exact dimensions of your graphic in order to change the height and width codes.

I'm Going to Church -- Encouraging post for when you've had "one of those days"!

A Crystal Goblet or a Cool Whip Bowl? -- Vessels of Honour

Grouchy Girls -- Ways to help our little ones overcome bad attitudes

The Problem Isn't Facebook -- Excellent post about what the REAL problem is.

Trying to Create My Kids in My Own Image -- I liked the last paragraph.  Please note verses are not KJB.

On Becoming an Encourager -- by Bro. Cary Schmidt

Sunday Sweets - Getting Crafty -- These cakes are amazing!!

22 Ways to Bless Your Children

Temperature Wars - Prayer (Part 2) -- Prayer ideas for your family

Stick it To 'Em! {I did!} -- Fun Lunch Idea

Your Children Need You, Not Things
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Friday, September 9, 2011

Toddler Busy Bag: Button Snake

This is another fun activity for toddlers that helps them to learn buttoning skills and can also be used to learn colors, sorting, and matching.
The materials needed are very simple:  different colors of felt, ribbon, a button, scissors and/or pinking shears, needle, and thread.

I started off by folding the felt in thirds and cutting each piece in thirds. Then, I cut each long piece into fourths.

 I cut some of them using the pinking shears for visual difference.

 Using ten different colors of felt, I had enough to make three button snakes (one for Gracie, one for a friend, and one for a Giveaway coming soon!).

I cut the ribbon into a length approximately a foot long.  At one end, I tucked down the edges to make a point and sewed the edges.  I then sewed a button onto that end.

 At the opposite end, I sewed a piece of felt.

Here is the finished button snake!  (Ignore the mess in the background.  I was working on several projects at one time!)

So far, Gracie has enjoyed looking at the button snake.  She hasn't really tried to take the felt pieces off or put them back on.  She likes to watch me do it.  She likes it when I take off a piece, say the color, and give it to her.  She makes little piles of them on the floor around her.

UPDATE:  Gracie tore the end felt piece off of the ribbon.  I am going to have to redesign it so that it is more toddler proof.

I tried to keep it as simple as possible.  I folded the felt in thirds around the ribbon.  Then I hand-stitched the bottom part of the felt (that's around the ribbon) together.  I added a button to the middle part of the felt piece.  It kinda reminds me of a snake rattler.  I used a button from one of my favorite dresses that I finally had to get rid of (I kept the buttons).

Gracie will be able to pull the felt pieces off of either end.  I think she thought she was supposed to pull that last one off since I was pulling the others off from the other end.

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Toddler Busy Bag: Sponge Blocks

This is a super activity that's a lot of fun for toddlers and offers several teaching opportunities.  It's also very simple to make!

 I bought a package of 6 "regular" sponges at Target for about $2.39.  I later found a package of 10 "foam" type sponges at Dollar Tree for $1!  I wound up using both for textural differences as well as more color options.  Simply cut in fourths the long way.

 Gracie liked holding the sponge blocks as I was cutting them apart, but was also distracted by the pool noodle (used in Monday's Toddler Busy Bag:  Noodles on a Rope).

Once they were all cut out, I separated them into different piles for working on color recognition.  Gracie enjoyed manipulating them more than anything.  When I tried to build a tower, she thought it was great fun to knock it down!

Like most toddlers, her attention span is a little short.  Now it's time to play with Talking Tom on the iPhone.

Additional Educational Activities:  practice counting, practice matching the ones that are the same, practice stacking and building a tower, and practice manipulating by putting in the bag and taking out.

I have an extra set of sponge blocks that I will use in a giveaway soon!

WARNING:  This Busy Bag activity is considered to be a choking hazard, so parental supervision is a necessity! Remember, anything that can pass through a toilet paper roll is a choking hazard for little ones.
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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Product Review: Sony BabyCall Monitor

When I was pregnant with my daughter Gracie, I spent hours at the local Babies-R-Us (as well as the baby departments of Walmart, Target, etc.) trying to decide on all of the items to get for my little one.  My husband and I knew that we would get a monitor of some sort.  Robert wanted to get a video monitor, but I didn't really see a need for it. (Now that she's an adventurous toddler, I can see where the video monitor would be helpful!)  We kind of procrastinated getting one.  Then, one morning, I had gotten up and was checking email on the computer and went back to my bedroom to check on Gracie.  She was hollering her little head off.  I felt terrible because I had not heard her.  She probably had not been crying all that long, but I still felt terrible.  I did some research, read a lot of comments on Amazon, and settled on the Sony Baby Call Nursery Monitor.

The Sony BabyCall Nursery monitor is a fantastic monitor!  It is highly sensitive to sound and can amplify sound enough to wake up the dead.  I like to keep it on wide open high volume so I don't miss anything, plus to make sure she wakes me up.  When the central a/c/heat is on, we can actually hear that noise as well.  It acts almost like a white noise machine.

It is a durable monitor.  Somehow, ours got a scratch on the front, and the antenna on the receiver is somewhat coming out (the antenna is not supposed to be used as a handle, but it's so convenient!), but it still works great.  If Gracie bangs it on the table, the channel settings can get out of place.  That's an easy fix, though, and she doesn't do it anymore.  I have to be careful not to have my iPhone lying too close to it or the monitor will spew forth snap, crackle, pop sounds when the iPhone is fetching data.

All in all, I highly recommend this monitor.  The only thing I wish I had done differently was to get two receivers.  If we have a boy in the future, I will get another monitor just like this one, will set the channels the same and will use the two receivers in two different rooms (my bedroom and the living room).

Disclaimer:  I was not compensated in any way for this product review.  All opinions expressed are my own.
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Monday, September 5, 2011

Dishwasher Tip


This is what happens when you put a plastic glass on the bottom rack of the dishwasher.  Even though this results in a rather cool-looking glass, I don't recommend doing this.

We had to go "all plastic" after Gracie pulled off a placemat with a drinking glass on it, causing it to bust on the floor.  (My fault for leaving it there, but I guess I never thought she'd try to get it that way.)

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Toddler Busy Bag: Noodles on a Rope

I had hoped to participate in a Busy Bag swap, but was too late to enter.  One of the Busy Bags was for these cut-up pool noodles and a rope.  This is a great activity for practicing hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.  You can also work in color recognition.

Although it's still summer, it was somewhat difficult to find any pool noodles.  I finally found some at Target, and they were on sale!

I began by cutting the noodles into ~2" sections (I didn't measure) with a serrated knife.  Cutting was very easy and fast.

I bought the rope at Home Depot.  In retrospect, I probably should've gotten a thicker rope, but Gracie will just have to work a little bit harder to learn how to string the noodles!

I tied one end to a noodle (to keep the other noodles on the rope).  On my first string, I used a candle lighter to burn the other end of the rope, but I didn't like how that turned out.  It didn't look good, and I felt like it would invite a chewing opportunity for my daughter.  So, I simply tied a knot in the other end.

Each gallon bag contains 15 noodles (not counting the one on the string).

With the three noodles that I bought, it was enough to make up eight busy bags.  One is for my daughter, another is for a friend, ~four are for whoever responds to my Facebook call-out (locally), and two are for a future Giveaway on this blog!  (Stay Tuned!)

I introduced Gracie to the Busy Bag right after her nap.  She was intrigued by it.  She couldn't really string the noodles without help, but she enjoyed playing with them.  She found my stash of extras and wanted to carry those around with her as well.

UPDATE:  I modified the string to make it easier for Gracie to string the noodles on it.  I cut off a section of a drinking straw and inserted it on the end, tying a knot on either end to hold it in place.  She hasn't shown any interest in trying it yet (she was ready for a nap), but it will definitely help her.  Using a jumprope would work as well.

WARNING:  This busy bag activity is considered to be a choking hazard, so parental supervision is a necessity.  My daughter bit a small chunk off of one of the noodles.  Fortunately, my husband and I were both right there and noticed it right away.  Also keep in mind that any string or rope would be a strangulation hazard as well.
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Friday, September 2, 2011

Blog Post Roundup (9/2/11)

Time for another Blog Post Roundup!

Balancing the Good and the Bad on Your Homeschool Blog -- Good article about being circumspect in what you share on your blog.

What We Do -- by the Christian Law Association

Can You Name the Most Commonly Used Words in the English Language?

Confessions of a Middle-Aged Mother

Slow Cooker Recipes Categorized in Mommy-Friendly Way

My Old Black Book -- Great quotes included.

Monday Video -- These are great kid videos!

Morning By Morning -- New Devotional that you'll just love!

The Difference a Day Can Make! -- encouragement from Bro. Cary Schmidt

4 Moms Practice Patience in the Midst of Chaos -- Good article.  Please note that Bible verses are not KJB.

Tim Tebow Helped Me Become My Son's Advocate -- Good article about changing one's focus

Saying "Yes" -- Great parenting article

Growing on the Go.... -- Love this adaption to the song "London Bridge"

Walk in Your Own Shoes -- Great article about contentment

Girls are Like Apple Trees -- encouraging article about remaining pure

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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Book Review: The Harvest of Grace

I was really excited when I saw that I had the opportunity to receive this book and review it for free!  Cindy Woodsmall jumped into my mental Top Ten List of Christian Fiction authors when I read her novel When the Heart Cries.  I was also excited because I had already read the first book of this series, Hope of Refuge, but had not been able to read either of the sequels.  I do not like reading books out of order (it's a little OCD tendency of mine), so I borrowed the second book of the Ada's House series, The Bridge of Peace, from the library and enjoyed reading it.

Grace - unmerited favor, undeserved gift.  This book is a beautiful picture of Grace, both from God towards mankind and from one person to another.  This story takes us through the stages of reconciliation between three different sets of family members, all of whom had "reasons" to be angry towards the other person.  Through the storyline, we experience the heartache and turmoil, the humbled spirit, and, finally, the act of extending Grace to the one who had wronged them.

The main characters in The Harvest of Grace are Sylvia and Aaron.  Sylvia experiences the heartache of betrayal on both the receiving and giving ends within her family, causing her to leave town and work for Aaron's family on their dairy farm.  Aaron, a recovering alcoholic, has come home to try to convince his parents to sell their farm and live with him in a store he just bought.  There is much tension and strife between him and his father due to unresolved conflict.  Cara, the main character from Hope of Refuge, faced struggles of her own in trying to do everything necessary to please the church elders so that she could join the Amish church, but the sudden appearance of her long-absent father (also a recovering alcoholic) caused her to feel long-buried anger and resentment, which is looked down on by the Amish faith.

One thing I appreciate about Cindy Woodsmall's writings is that she doesn't just tell a story; she lets us see the different layers and complexities of people's lives and characters.  It's like taking a look at the underside of a piece of embroidery work and seeing the different colored strings woven and knotted and pieced together.  The front side may not always be a beautiful picture, and one cannot always see the hidden strands that make up a person's life, whether it be from previous experiences or conscious yet regrettable decisions.  The wonderful part of this story, which in some ways was not emphasized enough, is that each person allowed God to do a work in his or her life which brought peace and reconciliation to others' lives.

Even though each book could probably be read as stand-alone volumes, I think reading the whole series gives the reader a bigger picture of each person's individual story.  I loved how each book focused on several characters and their individual struggles.  Each subsequent book lets you see the "rest of the story," and, finally, at the end, you get to enjoy them each join their lives with their beloved.

Reviews on Blogging for Books can be reviewed and ranked by others.  I would love it if you would visit my review on the Blogging for Books site and rank my review.  Upon ranking my review, you will be entered in a drawing to win your own copy of this book!  Don't worry, you won't hurt my feelings if you give me a bad review.  I'd rather have an honest bad review than a dishonest good review.  "Faithful are the wounds of a friend: but the kisses of an enemy deceitful." (Proverbs 27:6)

Here is the link for my review:  The Harvest of Grace

FTC Disclaimer:  I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.”  I was not required to provide a positive review.  All opinions expressed are my own.
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Eye Contact

At our church, one of our traditions is going around shaking hands with one another during one of the congregational songs.  This is a great way to greet people (especially visitors) that you may not have had the opportunity to see before the service.

One thing I've noticed, both in myself and in others, is that we have a tendency to not maintain eye contact while greeting each other.  All too often, while reaching out a hand, the eyes cut out to see "who's next?"  Even though the interaction between you and the other person lasts just a few seconds, I do believe it's important to make that interaction meaningful.  Not looking at the person sends an unconscious signal that they're not as important as the next person in line.  It can also make it seem more like checking off a duty list (gotta get to these 5 people and go to the back to get those 12 people; then go to the other side to get those 7 people over there) than helping to encourage and edify each other.

I'm trying really hard to keep this in mind as I go around greeting people, to look them in the eyeballs and convey a sincere message of "I'm so glad to see you!"

"Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another."  (Romans 14:19)
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