Friday, September 28, 2007
Favorite Ingredients Friday (Twirly Whirly Pizza)

Good Friday to you all! It's time for another Favorite Ingredients Friday recipe exchange! I can't wait to see what you all come up with.

Upcoming Themed Schedule
October 5- Holiday Cooking, Blogger Style (2nd Edition)
October 19- Soups
November 2- Cookies

The recipe I'm about to share was in one of my recent Parents magazine. We tried it and it's very yummy! I hope you don't mind that I ripped out the page and scanned it in to my computer so I could share it with you with the nice graphics. It'll be easier to print out this way, if you so choose. Just click on the image to enlarge. Enjoy! :)

Now, I look forward to seeing your Favorite Ingredients Friday recipe! I won't be able to visit your recipes right away but fear not, I will stop by to visit your recipe as soon as I can!

Don't forget to link your specific recipe post link on Mr. Linky so I can see what's cooking at your house!

Oh, and be sure to put the title of your recipe in parenthesis! It makes it so much quicker for me to go back and search for recipes as I build my weekly menu.

For guidelines and my past Favorite Ingredients Friday recipes, click here.

Thanks so much for your participation. I do appreciate it!

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6:00 AM

Win a free template from Splat Designs

Lindsey at Splat Designs is hosting a free template contest and I'm entering to win. No, I'm not changing a thing here at my blog, but I wouldn't mind winning a free template design for the home-based jewelry business website that I'm trying to put together.

If you're interested in a chance to win, head over to Lindsey's site for more details!

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5:45 AM

Thursday, September 27, 2007
Holiday Cooking, Blogger Style- 2nd Edition

Last year I hosted the 1st Edition of my Holiday Cooking, Blogger Style recipe exchange and I was delighted with the impressive participation from my fellow bloggers! 81 bloggers linked up and, since many of you listed multiple recipes in one post, there were over 200 recipes shared!

I've used many of your shared family recipes throughout this past year for my own family, as well as for entertaining parties that I've hosted, and for various holiday gatherings that I've attended.

As the holiday season draws near, I thought it might be fun to host a 2nd Edition of my Holiday Cooking, Blogger style holiday specific recipe exchange.

I want to give those of you that are interested time to go through your recipes and pick out your favorites so please mark your calendars for next Friday, October 5th. On that day I will post the specific instructions for this holiday recipe exchange as well as my favorite holiday recipe and then open up Mr. Linky so that those interested in participating can be listed in one central location. Feel free to grab the button above to use in your post.

I'd be most appreciative if you would be so kind as to help me spread the word by posting about this on your blog!

Thanks so much and I hope to see you next Friday!

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5:00 AM

Slow Cooker Thursday (Greek Lamb & Spinach Stew)

It's time for the slow cooker recipe exchange that Sandra over at Diary of a Stay at Home Mom hosts each week.

My choice for this Thursday's Slow Cooker recipe exchange is something I found in the Woman's Day magazine. It's a big hit in our household!

Slow Cooker Greek Lamb & Spinach Stew

2-lb boneless lamb shoulder, visible fat trimmed, cut in 1-in. pieces
1 can (14½ oz) diced tomatoes
½ cup chopped onion
1 Tbsp minced garlic
½ tsp each Greek herb seasoning and salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 can (19 oz) cannellini beans, rinsed
1 can (13.75 oz) whole artichoke hearts, cut in half
3 cups baby spinach (3 oz)
2 tsp grated lemon zest
Topping: crumbled feta cheese

1. Mix lamb pieces, tomatoes, onion, garlic, Greek seasoning, salt and pepper in a 3½-qt or larger slow-cooker.

2. Cover and cook on low 7 to 9 hours or until lamb is tender when pierced.

3. Mash 1 cup beans. Stir mashed and whole beans, artichoke hearts and spinach into cooker.

4. Cover and cook on high 15 minutes or until spinach wilts and mixture is hot.

5. Stir in lemon zest; sprinkle with feta.

Per serving: 325 cal, 36 g pro, 19 g car, 6 g fiber, 11 g fat (4 g sat fat), 100 mg chol, 619 mg sod

Now that I've shared my slow cooker recipe, please visit other Slow Cooker Thursday bloggers, starting with Sandra.

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4:55 AM

Wednesday, September 26, 2007
WFMW (great sanitizing wipes)
Happy Wednesday to you! It's time once again to post another WFMW tip.

I discovered this tip quite by accident. Normally I purchase Lysol Disinfectant Wipes at Costco but one day I sent my husband and he came home with the cheaper Kirkland Signature Household Surface Wipes instead. I scolded him for being cheap and then resigned myself to using the Kirkland wipes.

Guess what? I like them better than the Lysol brand! They're thicker, they smell good, and they're cheaper. What's not to love?

So, the next time you're at Costco, try out the Kirkland Signature Household Surface Wipes!

To see what works for others, be sure to check out the other links at Shannon's, the creator of Works-For-Me Wednesday!

My past WFMW entries are found here.

Oh, one last note, my next Pay It Forward Book Exchange post will be on Monday, 1 October. If you want to win free books, stop back then for more details!

Thanks so much!


5:00 AM

Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Beware of Sears!
A few months ago I published a post about our newly purchased Bosch dishwasher. Oronzo and I were really excited about getting it, in large part because we had saved up and purchased it free and clear from Sears.

Unfortunately, I think Sears sold us a $1,400 lemon (this included a $300 extended warranty)! If you have the time, read on to hear all about our horrible experience with Sears!

Three weeks after our dishwasher was delivered, it started intermittently running dish cycles with no water. We pulled out the warranty paperwork and called to request service.

Within a few days, a service tech came out to inspect our dishwasher. Keep in mind that Sears wasn't able to give us a time on when to expect their technician. The best they could do was give us a 4-hour window on when we might expect someone. I had to take time off work to wait for the techs arrival (towards the end of the 4 hour window, of course) and then had to wait another hour or so for the service tech to tell me he wasn't sure what the problem was but he was going to order a part to see if the replacement part would fix the problem.

The part took over a week to come in. This time I made Oronzo take time off work to deal with the technician. Once again, we had to accept staying at home to wait for the tech to arrive within that 4 hour window. The tech replaced the part and basically told us he hoped that would do the trick.

No such luck. Three more visits and three months later and the techs still couldn't pinpoint the issue. By the second visit, the dishwasher wasn't working at all! With each visit, Oronzo was having to take more days off of work to deal with the techs, thereby loosing a sizeable chunk of change in lost income!

The last visit took place before I left for Las Vegas and Oronzo was told that they would try to order another part but it was on backorder and the tech didn't know when it would be in.

By this time, Oronzo had reached his limit! He called Sears Customer Service and told them he wanted a replacement dishwasher. They referred him to the Resolution Department. After arguing for nearly an hour on the phone, Sears finally agreed to replace the dishwasher. He was told they'd call him within 3 days to schedule an appointment for the replacement delivery.

A week later, after hearing nothing from Sears, Oronzo went into the store and demanded to speak with the Appliance Department Manager to find out the status on the replacement. Oronzo was told they had no idea what he was talking about, no one from the Sears Resolution Department had ever contacted them.

Oronzo refused to leave Sears until the Manager agreed to schedule a replacement appointment. He had to argue because they were reluctant to do a replacement. They wanted to continue to try to repair it, even after four failed attempts! When the manager finally agreed to the replacement, the appointment was to have happened yesterday morning at 9 AM. It didn't happen.

Yesterday morning, the delivery driver went to pick up our replacement dishwasher and found no dishwasher waiting. He called Oronzo to let him know. Oronzo got on the phone with Sears corporate again and was told that the store was wrong to have promised him a replacement because the model we'd purchased in May was discontinued. They'd have to find a comparable replacement and that wouldn't be available until mid-October at the earliest.

By this point, Oronzo was really HOT! He stormed the local Sears store again, tracked the Appliance Department Manager down, and demanded a full refund of the cost of the dishwasher plus the $300 extended warranty. The manager told him he wasn't allowed to offer him a refund because it was pass the 90-day refund policy. Oronzo told him in no uncertain terms that he was not leaving and he would be following this manager around all day, if necessary, until he gave him the refund that he was demanding.

The manager, anxious to have no further unpleasantness in front of potential customers, finally gave in and agreed to the full refund. A technician was sent to our house this afternoon to pick up the broken dishwasher and we're to expect our refund to be posted back to our account by tomorrow. If it isn't, Oronzo is contacting a lawyer.

Once we have our refund, we intend to go purchase another Bosch from a locally owned appliance center here in town, which is what we should've done in the first place.

You know, our struggles with Sears are not an isolated incident. As we started sharing the details of our troubles with family, friends, and co-workers, we heard time and time again of others having similar struggles. More than once we were told, "Sears customer service and products have really gone down-hill." I wish someone would've warned us before we bought our dishwasher there. I'll tell you what, we won't be making appliance purchases there ever again and we'll be recommending to others that they don't either!

So, have you had any dealings with Sears? If so, how was your experience?


5:00 AM

Sunday, September 23, 2007
Katrina's "Fall Into Reading 2007"

Katrina at Callapidder Days is hosting another one of her reading challenges. Her Fall Into Reading 2007 challenge began yesterday.

Since launching my Pay It Forward Book Exchange in July, I've been reading a lot more books than ever before so I have decided to join in on Katrina's Fall Into Reading 2007 challenge to keep that momentum going!

I hope you'll consider joining in too! It's a lot of fun! Not only that, you have the chance of winning free books and a $10 Amazon gift certificate as a participate of this Fall Reading challenge. Go check it out!

All these books on my list will be given away during my monthly Pay It Forward Book Exchange giveaways so stop by the first Monday of every month for chances to win!

Shoot the Moon by Billie Letts. Editorial Review from Booklist: A man's desperate search for his identity drives this riveting offering from the author of best-sellers Where the Heart Is (1995) and The Honk and Holler Opening Soon (1998). No one in sleepy DeClare, Oklahoma, has forgotten the 1972 murder of pretty Cherokee Gaylene Harjo and the abduction of her infant son, Nicky Jack. Hard-nosed deputy sheriff Oliver "O Boy" Daniels pinned the blame on local preacher Joe Dawson, but few in town believed the kindly Joe was capable of such an act. Powerful emotions resurface 30 years later, when Nicky Jack, adopted and raised by a rich couple in Beverly Hills, mysteriously reappears, determined to learn about his mother and the circumstances surrounding her death. Veteran short-story writer Letts peppers her prose with a cast of quirky characters, including a quartet of nosy, domino-playing senior citizens and a perky pool-hall owner who bakes peanut-butter pies. Readers of Sue Miller and Wally Lamb are sure to embrace this memorable tale of love, loss, humanity, and hope.

Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen. Editorial Review from Publishers Weekly: With its spotlight on elephants, Gruen's romantic page-turner hinges on the human-animal bonds that drove her debut and its sequel (Riding Lessons and Flying Changes)—but without the mass appeal that horses hold. The novel, told in flashback by nonagenarian Jacob Jankowski, recounts the wild and wonderful period he spent with the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth, a traveling circus he joined during the Great Depression. When 23-year-old Jankowski learns that his parents have been killed in a car crash, leaving him penniless, he drops out of Cornell veterinary school and parlays his expertise with animals into a job with the circus, where he cares for a menagerie of exotic creatures[...] He also falls in love with Marlena, one of the show's star performers—a romance complicated by Marlena's husband, the unbalanced, sadistic circus boss who beats both his wife and the animals Jankowski cares for. Despite her often clichéd prose and the predictability of the story's ending, Gruen skillfully humanizes the midgets, drunks, rubes and freaks who populate her book.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. Editorial Review from Publishers Weekly: See's engrossing novel set in remote 19th-century China details the deeply affecting story of lifelong, intimate friends (laotong, or "old sames") Lily and Snow Flower, their imprisonment by rigid codes of conduct for women and their betrayal by pride and love. While granting immediacy to Lily's voice, See (Flower Net) adroitly transmits historical background in graceful prose. Her in-depth research into women's ceremonies and duties in China's rural interior brings fascinating revelations about arranged marriages, women's inferior status in both their natal and married homes, and the Confucian proverbs and myriad superstitions that informed daily life. Beginning with a detailed and heartbreaking description of Lily and her sisters' foot binding ("Only through pain will you have beauty. Only through suffering will you have peace"), the story widens to a vivid portrait of family and village life. Most impressive is See's incorporation of nu shu, a secret written phonetic code among women—here between Lily and Snow Flower—that dates back 1,000 years in the southwestern Hunan province ("My writing is soaked with the tears of my heart,/ An invisible rebellion that no man can see"). As both a suspenseful and poignant story and an absorbing historical chronicle, this novel has bestseller potential and should become a reading group favorite as well.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. Editorial Review from Publishers Weekly: Hosseini's stunning debut novel starts as an eloquent Afghan version of the American immigrant experience in the late 20th century, but betrayal and redemption come to the forefront when the narrator, a writer, returns to his ravaged homeland to rescue the son of his childhood friend after the boy's parents are shot during the Taliban takeover in the mid '90s. Amir, the son of a well-to-do Kabul merchant, is the first-person narrator, who marries, moves to California and becomes a successful novelist. But he remains haunted by a childhood incident in which he betrayed the trust of his best friend, a Hazara boy named Hassan, who receives a brutal beating from some local bullies. After establishing himself in America, Amir learns that the Taliban have murdered Hassan and his wife, raising questions about the fate of his son, Sohrab. Spurred on by childhood guilt, Amir makes the difficult journey to Kabul, only to learn the boy has been enslaved by a former childhood bully who has become a prominent Taliban official. The price Amir must pay to recover the boy is just one of several brilliant, startling plot twists that make this book memorable both as a political chronicle and a deeply personal tale about how childhood choices affect our adult lives. The character studies alone would make this a noteworthy debut, from the portrait of the sensitive, insecure Amir to the multilayered development of his father, Baba, whose sacrifices and scandalous behavior are fully revealed only when Amir returns to Afghanistan and learns the true nature of his relationship to Hassan. Add an incisive, perceptive examination of recent Afghan history and its ramifications in both America and the Middle East, and the result is a complete work of literature that succeeds in exploring the culture of a previously obscure nation that has become a pivot point in the global politics of the new millennium.

Hitched by Carol Higgins Clark. Book description: Regan Reilly and Jack "no relation" Reilly -- head of the NYPD Major Case Squad -- are getting married! Arriving at a bridal salon to pick up her dream gown, Regan discovers the designers bound and gagged. Four dresses (hers included!) are missing; a fifth is in shreds on the floor. With just a week before her wedding, Regan takes the case, meeting an unusual mix of brides and grooms-to-be, or not-to-be. Meanwhile, Jack is determined to crack a perplexing series of rainy-day bank robberies -- before his upcoming nuptials. Carol Higgins Clark fuses two seemingly unrelated mysteries with an ingenious twist, taking readers from the streets of New York City, to the casinos of Atlantic City, and finally to that most popular wedding spot- Vegas baby!- making Hitched a delightful addition to this wonderful series.

Grand Weaver by Ravi Zacharias. Book description: How differently would we live if we believed that every even t of our lives- from the happy to the tragic to the mundane- was part of a meticulous and purposeful design in which all the elements intertwined with breathtaking precision? That's the question bestselling author and internationally known speaker Ravi Zacarias answers in this book. Dr. Zacharias reveals how every detail of his life has been woven into its perfect place. Then he ecourages us to examine our backgrounds, our disappointments, our triumphs, and our beliefs in a different light, explaining how they are all part of the intentional and perfect work of the Grand Weaver.

Bones to Ashes by Kathy Reichs. Editorial Review from Publishers Weekly: In bestseller Reichs's entertaining 10th Temperance Brennan forensic thriller (after Break No Bones), Brennan, her relationship with Det. Andrew Ryan on the rocks, welcomes the distraction of an unidentified New Brunswick skeleton from Québec's cold case unit. But when the bones are determined to be that of an adolescent girl, Brennan is convinced they belong to her childhood friend, Évangéline Landry, who disappeared at age 15. Now Brennan must come to terms with Évangéline's possible death, while trying to ignore her feelings for Ryan as they investigate a series of teenage abduction murders that could be tied to the mysterious bones. With her usual blend of cutting-edge forensic science, nail-biting suspense and characters that pop off the page, Reichs, who's vice president of the American Academy of Forensic Scientists and the producer of Fox's Bones, has produced another winner in one of the genre's most satisfying series.

Devotions for the Sandbox Set by Jane Morton. Book description: A collection of forty illustrated devotions, accompanied by scripture passages, short poems, and questions. Each poem expresses questions and needs from deep within a young child's heart. Each offers an accompanying Bible verse and questions to prompt lively discussions about God and His wonderful world.

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12:57 PM

Saturday, September 22, 2007
Home Sweet Home!

Painting by artist Camilla Connolly.

I'm back home after 10 days in Las Vegas and I couldn't be happier!

Yesterday I took a chance and showed up way early at the Las Vegas airport and actually caught an earlier flight home. I got home at 11:00 AM (instead of 2:10 PM) and picked Snuggle Bug up out of daycare by 11:45 AM. He was so happy to see me! He gave me a big hug and on the drive home he told me three separate times, "I miss you, Mama!" He's never said that before so it really made my heart melt!

Snuggle Bug and I went out for lunch and then out for ice cream (I felt a little spoiling was in order). Then we went home for a nap.

When I told Snuggle Bug that he had to lay down for a nap, he insisted on sleeping in my bed with me. So there we were, in my king-sized bed and he kept saying, "I sleep by you, Mama" and he got closer and closer to cuddle and insisted on sharing my pillow. It was so sweet.

Oronzo was quite happy to see me as well. He told me he missed me a lot too!

It's so nice to be home! Thank you, God, for getting me back here safe and sound.

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6:00 AM

Friday, September 21, 2007
Favorite Ingredients Friday (Sandwich Edition)

FIF Sandwich Edition button design by Crissybug.

Good Friday to you all! It's time for a special Favorite Ingredients Friday Sandwich Edition! I've always loved sandwiches (especially with a cup of soup), so I can't wait to see what recipes you all come up with! !

My contribition comes from the Rachel Ray Show. Rachel Ray is so fun to watch and this particular sandwich is delish! I hope you like it.

French Dip with Italian Attitude


1 wide baguette
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), plus some for drizzling
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 small onion, chopped
2 large clove garlic, divided, 1 chopped, 1 crushed
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups beef stock
1 sprig of rosemary leaves, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 pound sliced roast beef
6 slices provolone cheese


Slice baguette open lengthwise just shy of actually completely splitting it open; you want it to open like a book and stay together. Then cut the bread in half so that you have 2 books. Transfer the bread to a cookie sheet and toast in the oven until golden brown, 8-10 minutes, or toast under the broiler but keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn! Once the bread is toasted, rub cut side with the crushed clove of garlic then drizzle it with a little EVOO and cover it with grated cheese.

While the bread is toasting, heat a medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat with 2 turns of the pan of EVOO, about 2 tablespoons. Add onion, chopped garlic, tomato paste and rosemary, season with a little salt and pepper, and cook until the onions start to get soft about 2-3 minutes. Add beef stock, bring up to a simmer and cook for 2-3 minutes to let the flavors come together.

Using tongs swish a few slices of roast beef at a time through the hot broth then transfer to the cheesy garlic bread. Once all the roast beef has been mounded on the bread, top each half with 3 slices of provolone cheese and transfer to the broiler or oven to melt the cheese.

Now, I look forward to seeing your Favorite Ingredients Friday Sandwich Edition recipe! I won't be able to visit your recipes right away but fear not, I will stop by to visit your recipe as soon as I can!

Don't forget to link your specific recipe post link on Mr. Linky so I can see what's cooking at your house!

Oh, and be sure to put the title of your recipe in parenthesis! It makes it so much quicker for me to go back and search for recipes as I build my weekly menu.

For guidelines and my past Favorite Ingredients Friday recipes, click

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7:30 AM

Thursday, September 20, 2007
Keeping Up Appearances
As many of you know, I’ve spent the past 8 days in Las Vegas on business. The trip has gone better than I anticipated; in large part because Snuggle Bug is handling my absence quite well and therefore I feel less guilty and distraught about being gone. As a result, I’ve been able to relax and enjoy myself a bit during the hours that I’m not working.

This past week I’ve caught up on some sleep and I’ve actually had the luxury of quiet time to read a book, take a bubble bath, and pay a bit more attention to my appearance. I’ve been thinking about the paying more attention to my appearance bit and I wanted to discuss this with you all. Be prepared for a long post as I process this all within my own mind.

The Juggling Act
In my personal experience, I often feel rushed and overwhelmed with juggling a full-time job, efforts to spend quality time with my son when I’m not at work, devote attention to my husband, and keep the house from falling apart around me. What little time is left over I try to carve out for a little “me” time. This “me time” usually involves reading a book, blogging, or maybe catching a movie with a friend.

Not Taking Care of Me
Unfortunately with juggling all these balls, what has a tendency to go by the wayside is my efforts to pay more attention to my appearance. Often times I rush out the door with my hair brushed but not styled (scraping it up into a pony tail or a messy bun does not count as styling) and now that I’m starting to get gray at the roots, I sometimes don’t color as often as I need to. My make-up is usually non-existent.

My outfits for work are business casual in nature, but sometimes just barely. When I get home from work, I usually throw on a causal pair of shorts and a t-shirt and the same pair of comfy but not very stylish sandals that I always wear.

Now, I’m fortunate to have a husband that doesn’t complain. He thinks I look “fine” even when I don’t think that I do. And my son is too young yet to care or to feel embarrassed by his mama’s appearance.

The Negative Effects
But not taking time with my appearance make me feel down. I don’t feel attractive, I feel frumpy. I worry that there will come a time when Snuggle Bug will be embarrassed by his frumpy mother. I can’t help but admire other women who seem to make an effort with their appearance because they look trendy, confident, and happier.

Making a Change
With the extra “me time” that I’ve had here in Las Vegas I decided to take some of that time to spruce up a bit. I’ve worn my hair down over my shoulders and curled it every day (I colored it again before I left home). I’ve made an effort with my outfits and I even purchased a couple of modestly short little dresses that make me feel good when I wear them and some stylish colored shades (3 pairs) while here to coordinate with my outfits. I’ve worn shoes other than my lame sandals. I’ve even put on a little makeup, including a colored lip gloss that suits me well. I’ve made an effort to get more rest so that I don’t feel so haggard and rundown!

The Positive Results from Taking Care of Me
Do you know what’s resulted from my efforts? I feel great! I’m walking with a spring in my step. I’m feeling confident and attractive again. I’m smiling more. I’m remembering that I can be an attractive, vibrant woman with just a little effort! And I’m getting more attention too. Don’t take this the wrong way, but I’ve become aware that I’m getting noticed in harmless ways by men that I come across in my everyday interactions, even at work. They’re going out of their way to chat with me, make eye contact, or give me a smile. I love my husband and he’s all I need but sometimes it’s flattering just to be noticed and feel validated as an attractive woman. Does that make sense?

All of this is no new revelation to me; it’s more of a reminder of how good it can feel to make the effort to take care of myself each day. And when I’m feeling recharged and better about myself, I think I make a better wife and mother too!

My List of Improvements
When I return home I hope not to fall back into my old ways. I’d like to make the time to pay more attention to myself and work on looking and feeling less frumpy each day!

In fact, here’s my list of what makes me feel good about myself that I’d like to continue to work on:

• fixing my hair
• wearing a little makeup
• polishing my toenails (it’s amazing how pampered I feel with that)
• trying to find cuter outfits/shoes to wear
• getting more sleep
• exercising more
• eating healthier

So if you’ve made it through my lengthy ramblings, I have a few of questions for you. What makes you feel good about yourself? Do you make a regular effort with your appearance or do you put yourself last in light of all the roles you juggle on a daily basis? If so, what would it take to motivate you to make a change for the better?


6:30 AM

Slow Cooker Thursday (Creamed Corn)

It's been a while since I've participated in the slow cooker recipe exchange that Sandra over at Diary of a Stay at Home Mom hosts each week but here I am once again.

My choice for this Thursday's Slow Cooker recipe exchange is a quick, easy, and delish sidedish! If you try it, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Slow Cooker Creamed Corn

3 (10 oz) pkgs frozen corn
1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese
1/2 c margarine
salt & pepper

Place corn in Crock Pot. Cut cream cheese & butter into chunks, add to pot. Salt & pepper to taste & cook on Low for 4 hours, stir every hour. Do Not Cook On High. Serves 12.

Now that I've shared my slow cooker recipe, please visit other Slow Cooker Thursday bloggers, starting with Sandra.

And if you're feeling so inclined, please join me tomorrow for my Favorite Ingredients Friday Sandwich Edition. I'd love to see what type of sandwiches are your favorites!

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6:00 AM

Wednesday, September 19, 2007
What will happen to O.J.?
I'm in Las Vegas on business (I arrived last Wednesday) and I'm staying in a hotel just down the street from the Palace Station Hotel & Casino where O.J. Simpson and other men allegedly went to the hotel room under the pretext of brokering a deal with two longtime collectors of Simpson memorabilia, entered the room, and at gunpoint ordered the collectors to hand over several items.

Let me just say, I'm no O.J. fan (I think he got away with murder) but as I'm watching the reports unfold on the news I can't help but wonder what is the truth and what isn't with this situation? The witness stories seem to be shifting.

I do know one thing for certain, O.J. used very poor judgement last week and now he's charged with two counts of first-degree kidnapping; two counts of robbery with use of a deadly weapon; burglary while in possession of a deadly weapon; two counts of assault with a deadly weapon; conspiracy to commit kidnapping; conspiracy to commit robbery; and a misdemeanor, conspiracy to commit a crime. O.J. also faces one charge of coercion with use of a deadly weapon.

How much will he pay for that poor judgement? Will he spend many years in jail, will he just be fined? Or will his lawyer get him cleared of all charges? After watching his bail hearing it appears that he's going to be let out on $125,000 bail after surrendering his passport. His next hearing for a status is scheduled for October 22nd. Within 24 hours he'll be released from the detention center.

I can't help but wonder, what do his daughter and son think of their father? This all must be so painful for them!

So, what do you think about all of this?

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7:32 AM

Tuesday, September 18, 2007
I need help designing a themed FIF button!
I'm in need of assistance here! :)

I'm currently in Las Vegas on business, with no access to my Photoshop program that I use to make my themed Favorite Ingredients Friday buttons.

This coming Friday I'm doing a "Sandwiches" edition. Is there anyone out there that has time to design me a complimentary "Favorite Ingredients Friday- Sandwich Edition" button? You don't have to be a FIF participant.

If you are able to help, would you leave me a comment? I'm really not picky about the style, as long as it has the relevant information on it. You can check out some of my past themed buttons here by looking at the "themed" links that I have on this post.

If no one is able to help, I'll be forced to use my regular FIF button but still post it as a "Sandwich Edition".

Thank you so much in advance for anyone considering to do this for me!

Edited to add:

I've got a logo now! Thanks, Crissybug, for being the first one to create and send me a logo. It's perfect!

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6:30 AM

Monday, September 17, 2007
Welcome to My Neighborhood!

A dear blogger friend of mine, Kathleen Marie at The Open Window, has come up with a neat "Welcome to My Neighborhood", where she's inviting us all to share our favorite things about our neighborhood (perhaps our favorite local hangout or attraction) using photos, stories, and/or slide shows.

I'm in Las Vegas on business right now and I didn't plan ahead by taking pictures of my neighborhood before I left, so you'll have to let me paint you a picture with words. I do have pictures of Snuggle Bug that I can use to help support my story.

Oronzo and I purchased our 4 BR, brick home approximately 2 years ago. It's in a quite, well-kept little neighborhood.

This is the first home that I've ever owned. I've spent most of my adult life moving from city to city for work and, as a result, renting.

Buying this home has allowed me to finally but down roots. It's allowed Oronzo and I to create a safe and loving haven for the raising of our children.

Our home is filled with laughter, love, and the smells of baked goodies! We open our home to friends and family often.

Being from a small town, I craved to know my neighbors so over these past 2 years I've worked hard to find opportunities to interact with those that live around us.

When we moved in and got settled, Oronzo, Snuggle Bug, and I walked from house to house to knock on doors and introduce ourselves to everyone on our street. I even went so far as to make a neighborhood chart and pass it out to all the neighbors so that we could all know each other.

On Valentine's Day Snuggle Bug and I went up and down our street and delivered cookies that we had baked the night before.

We've gotten to know many of our neighbors quite well. Our morning walks result in invitations to come in to neighbors houses for a visit. When out taking care of their yards, our neighbors will stop for chats. When we go out of town, we have neighbors that are happy to look after our house for us.

And at Halloween, Snuggle Bug rakes in the loot because our neighbors know him and they like to give him handfuls of candy at each stop!

Not far outside of our neighborhood is our church. After joining, we learned that Oronzo's parents were members of our church when they were newly married. We love our church! Although large, it's warm, inviting, and very beautiful. The parishioners are friendly and the priests are fantastic! Snuggle Bug was baptized in our church and, as long as we stay put, will celebrate his First Communion and Confirmation here too. When he's a bit older, I intend for Snuggle Bug and I to join the family choir! I love being a part of a spriritual family such as this one.

A few blocks from our church is our favorite local French cafe. We eat breakfast there every Sunday and we've gotten to know the owner and wait staff quite well. The food is delicious, the cafe is bright and cheerful, the walls are covered with the artwork of local artist. It's a bustling cafe and Snuggle Bug loves how he's given crayons and paper immediately upon being seated. We love this place!

We love supporting local owners whenever we can!

We have several parks near our neighborhood. Snuggle Bug's favorite park is the one that has ducks. We take him there frequently so that he can feed the ducks a loaf of bread. One piece of bread for the ducks, one for Snuggle Bug. That's how it works.

The parks in our area host many activities. Each Spring and Fall we attend outdoor pops concerts where we pack a picnic dinner and a blanket and we go and enjoy music under the stars!

The parks also have frequent festivals, games, and many other family-fun activities. Since we live a few blocks from several close friends, we schedule park play-dates quite frequently.

We're fortunate to have several bookstores within our neighborhood. One is just 2 blocks away. It's a little hole-in-the-wall used bookstore that has row upon row of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves crammed full with books. Poking around this maze of books is one of my favorite past times! I love the smell of all those books!

We also have a Barnes & Noble bookstore close by and Snuggle Bug enjoys their Kids Corner where they hold toddler story times several times throughout the week.

He also enjoys the Thomas the Tank train table that is in the children's area. Even though he has his own train set at home, he still makes a bee-line to the Barnes & Noble train set each time we visit.

Not only do we have a lot of bookstores in our neighborhood, but we also have a great library branch very close by and several others within driving distance. Our local library is fabulous! We've been taking Snuggle Bug to library story-times since he was an infant. At the library closest to us, Snuggle Bug has gotten quite attached to some of the librarians, especially the story time coordinator, Chris. Whenever he sees Chris, he drops everything and rushes right to her to give her a hug!

A while back, the main library in town organized a Story Town event where story book characters came out to play and local authors read their books aloud while older children acted out the story in costume. Each child was given a free book upon entrance into Story Town. Snuggle Bug loved this!

Although we love supporting local owners when we can, I must admit that we frequent a nearby Starbucks. They're only a mile from our house so we like to walk to Starbucks so that I can induldge in a tall hot chocolate with whipped cream and Snuggle Bug can have a piece of his favorite cinnamon swirl coffee cake.

I'm afraid we've created a Starbucks addiction in our son. A couple of weekends back we were visiting Oronzo's parents and they took us to have a picnic up in the mountains near their home. Aleiza, Oronzoz's mom, asked Snuggle Bug, "Do you want to go for a walk with Grandma?" Snuggle Bug's response was, "Get stroller, go Starbucks?" After indulging in a hearty laugh, we gently explained to Snuggle Bug that there was no Starbucks on the mountain, or even in the town where Oronzo's parents live.

Just a few blocks from our house we have a locally owned butcher shop! It sells the best sausages, steak, and other meats. It also has delicious deli sandwiches on the softest sub rolls. My mouth is watering just thinking of these. Walking down to the butcher shop to get sausages and chat with the butchers while we eat our deli sandwiches is one of our favorite Saturday activities!

Well, there you have it, a glimpse in to our little neighborhood that we love so much! I hope you've enjoyed my tour.

Now, I'm off to check out the other participates' posts for Kathleen Marie's Welcome to My Neighborhood event! I hope you've decided to participate so I can get a peek of your neighborhood! :)

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8:00 AM

Saturday, September 15, 2007
Reporting live from a coffee shop in Vegas!
Have any of you vacationed in Las Vegas? If you have, much of this will look familiar. If not, take a peek and see what you might be in for should you decide to do so!


I'm currently staying at the Marriott Renaissance Las Vegas Hotel on Paradise Road. As a business traveler, I wouldn't recommend it. Since I'm not even a Silver level Marriott member yet, I have to pay if I want to eat breakfast (to give you an example of the outrageous prices, The All-American breakfast of eggs, bacon, & toast is $14.95). If I want internet access, I have to pay $12.95 per day (from noon to noon). And it's much more cost effective to find a dry cleaner off the strip than to pay the astronomical fees this hotel charges.

Not all chain hotels near the strip are like this. Last year I stayed at the Hampton Inn on Tropicana and got a complimentary breakfast each morning and internet was free! I'll probably be going back to that hotel next year.

The year before that, I stayed at the Bally's hotel and that was fun, except for the fact that I had to walk through the smoky casino anytime I wanted to exit the hotel (they're all set up that way).

And a few years back Oronzo and I stayed at the New York New York hotel and that was the most fun of all! We purchased an all-day pass to ride their roller coaster and I road it so much that my ribs were bruised!

One of these days I'm going to have to stay at the Paris hotel because I love their shops and restaurants most of all!


If you're into fine dining, Vegas is the place to be! Each hotel has a plethora of restaurants inside, catering to all tastes. Just don't expect to get off cheap when eating on the strip. Most of the restaurants are on the pricy side, making it a challenge for those of us here on modest government PerDiems. Gone are the days of the hotels offering cheap food and drinks to lure you in to gamble!

I believe each hotel has a buffet that, although pricy, might perhaps give you more bang for your buck. To give you an example on buffet prices, Le Village Buffet in the Paris hotel charges $14.99 for breakfast (from 7 a.m.- 11 a.m.) and $17.99 for lunch (from 11 a.m.- 3:30 p.m.).

You could skip the buffet and have a sweet or savory crepe at La Creperie for about $9.00. It's fun to watch the crepes being made while you wait! Or you can indulge your sweet tooth at one of the many pastry shops. Click on the picture I've posted to get a better view!

I have stumbled across an inexpensive and delicious place to eat breakfast! The La Salsa Cantina in the Miracle Mile shopping center serves a breakfast of 2 eggs, sausage or ham, potatoes, and 2 tortillas for the low price of $3.95!

And I can't forget to mention the plethora of coffee shops scattered throughout the strip. My all-time favorite is now The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf inside the Miracle Mile shopping center. A local clued me in that you can get free wireless internet access there. Sure enough, they were right! Not only that, the tall hot chocolate that I purchased for $3.26 is tasty, the staff is friendly, and no one seems to care that I've been sitting at one of their tables for over an hour, catching up on email and blogging!

If you have a car, I know there are great places to eat that are off the strip, I'm sorry I just can't recall the names. I'll have to get back to you on that!


I'm not much of a gambler (sorry, no reviews to offer in that area), but I'm in Heaven here at Las Vegas because of the shopping!

One of my favorite places to shop while I'm here is Sur La Table! It's got every imaginable kitchen gadget available inside! I could spend hours browsing through this store.

Then there's FAO Schwarz at Caesar's Palace Forum Shops. FAO Schwarz is 3 stories high and filled with toys, toys, and more toys! I went shopping there and, even though I balk at an overpriced meal, I had no qualms about dropping $64 on a very cute Halloween costume for Snuggle Bug.

There are a lot of nice upscale shops here on the strip and a couple of nearby shopping centers too! You could spend weeks here just on shopping alone!


You have several options for transportation if you're here on vacation.

My personal favorite is the monorail. The best deal right now is the $9 all-day pass. The all-day pass is really the way to go, compared to a single ride is $5, if you want to make a lot of stops to explore all the hotels. If you don't think you'll stop all that often, you could consider spending $35 for a 10-ride ticket.

The monorail is clean, air-conditioned, and what amazes me the most is that it's run on an automated system. No one is driving it! They can if they have to, but I've never seen a driver. It sure beats trying to walk the entire length on foot or hassling with a taxi.

If you just aren't sure about the monorail, or maybe you're not staying in a hotel that's close to one of the monorail stations, you can always rent a car and drive from place to place. Fair warning though, the traffic on the strip is almost always heavy.

When parking at the hotels you can self-park in the hotel parking garages and schlep back and forth on your own two feet, or you can do what I do, valet parking!

Of course, you are expect to tip with valet parking. I've asked locals and have been told that you should tip anywhere from $2 to $5, depending on how long they have your car. I tend to do $3 each time. One local recently told me that valet parkers make about $300/day in tips alone, can you believe it?!

Now, it is nice to have a car so you can go see sights off the strip, like the Hoover Dam tour (this is pretty impressive), take the kids to Bonnie Springs (Snuggle Bug loved this last year mainly because of the petting zoo they had), or head to Lake Mead for some nice hiking or boating.


Although many things stay the same, from year to year, I'm noticing a lot of changes too!

Last year when I was here, the new Wynn hotel was the place to be. Now I see that Trump International Hotel & Towers are going up. They're selling luxury high rise condos that can be placed in a rental program when not in use. A man told me yesterday that, "Trump needs to stay out of Las Vegas!" It appears to be too late for that.

I've also noticed that the Aladdin hotel sold out and is now owned by Planet Hollywood . Remodeling is in works.

Well, there you have it, my travel review of Las Vegas. I know, I know, I've neglected one of the key ingredients of a trip to Las Vegas...the gambling. Sorry, I just don't gamble. My impression is that you have to gamble a lot to get much in the way of comps. It's just not worth it to me.

Okay, time for me to vacate this table at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and do some more exploring. I do have a little bit of gambling to do. I'm heading over to the Mirage Sports Book to place a bet on my Huskers for the NU vs USC game. It may be a long shot but I'm standing by my Huskers!

Have a great weekend! Let me know if you make it to Las Vegas.

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10:48 AM

Name: Overwhelmed

My complete profile

It wasn't supposed to work this way...Parts 1 through 10

(the story of the private, domestic adoption of our son)

(Part 1)
(Part 2)
(Part 3)
(Part 4)
(Part 5)
(Part 6)
(Part 7)
(Part 8)
(Part 9)
(Part 10- Adoption Finalization)

Fostering isn't for the faint of heart!

(our journey to adopt again through foster-to-adopt, the good, the bad, & everything in between)

Adoption #2- considering the State
More Adoption #2 thoughts
Adoption #2- Back to considering the State
Adoption #2- The Paperwork (Round 1)
Adoption #2- The Paperwork (Round 2)
Family Foster Home Licensing Prep Checklist
Adoption #2- Long overdue update
PS-MAPP class homework assignment
Our preliminary home inspection went well!
Adoption #2: Licensing update
Adoption #2- Foster Facts
Adoption #2: I love it when things go my way!
Adoption #2- The home inspection
Adoption #2- We failed our home inspection!
Adoption #2- We passed the follow-up home inspection!
Adoption #2- Still waiting
Adoption #2- We're getting closer
Adoption #2- An update & a lead
Adoption #2- The lead that didn't pan out.
Adoption #2- We're licensed!
Adoption #2- We have a tiny baby here!
Adoption #2- Update on this precious little girl.
Adoption #2- Quick update on Baby Bug
Adoption #2- Baby Bug is staying longer!
Adoption #2- Baby Bug is growing!
Adoption #2- Overdue update on Baby Bug
Adoption #2- The latest on Baby Bug
Adoption #2- Shopping spree for Baby Bug
Being a Foster Parent Does Not Make Me A Saint
Adoption #2- Another Placement Call!
Adoption #2- Placement Meeting- UPDATED!
Adoption #2- We have Boo at our home!
Adoption #2- Meeting Boo
Adoption #2- I'm angry on Boo's behalf!
Adoption #2- A Birthday Party for Boo
Adjusting to three 3 and under!
Stressful moments in fostering.
Adoption #2- Update on our foster daughters
CPS Workers Jerking Our Chain!
It's getting much worse!
Fostering: Update on Baby Bug
Fostering: Update on Boo
The effects of fostering on Snuggle Bug
The time is drawing near to let go of Baby Bug.
Good conversation with Baby Bug's dad.
Boo has a Permanency hearing coming soon!
My heart is breaking!
Bittersweet news about Baby Bug.
Next Friday is going to be tough.
Packing up Baby Bug's belongings
It's done- Baby Bug is gone.
Working on finding peace, one day at a time.
Referral to the Early Intervention Program
Baby Bug update
Home Inspection for re-licensing
Parole granted for Boo's bio mom
Baby Bug is turning 1 year old soon.
Day 2 of Boo's permanency hearing
A prayer answered today!
Attending Baby Bug's 1st birthday party
Foster news
Good news for Boo's case
Boo's bio family visits
Termination Trial date set!
A new caseworker for Boo
I've been asked to testify in court.
Court hearing for "John Doe"
Contested termination trial begins tomorrow afternoon
Boo's adoption has been finalized!

Beautiful adoption video
Date Night Bliss
Family Rules and Values
In the swing of school
It's time for the kiddos to head back to school a...
Flying home for a nice, long visit!
Baby fix!
Easing back into blogging
A shocking phone call
1 year anniversary for Boo

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