Friday, October 29, 2010

Thrifty Finds and My FREE Bag of Loot!

{Edit: This giveaway is now CLOSED.} Before I begin, I want to let you know that my October sponsor, NEPA mom, is having a FANTASTIC giveaway on her blog today. The giveaway package includes five different prizes and I have to say, this is one time I do wish I was back in NEPA because it’s such a great gift package! Enter for yourself or someone you know who lives in the NEPA or Binghamton, NY area. You have until tomorrow night to enter!


I’ve been thrifting and yard-saling here and there and I wanted to show you guys what I’ve found over the last month, including a whole bunch of free stuff (but I’ll save that for the end). :)

From Goodwill:

goodwill finds and luke 015
$4.00 Kimchi Blue dress from Urban Outfitters (thanks to my sister for filling me in – I had never heard of this brand before). I love the way it fits and as soon as Santa brings me my big brown riding boots, I’m totally wearing this with leggings and a long-sleeve tee underneath. Super wrinkled for the picture, sorry! :)


$6.99 shirt from Banana Republic. A little pricy for Goodwill but I really like the way it fits and I know it will last. These two shirts are perfect examples of why if you see something you like while thrifting, don’t be afraid to try it on if it’s not in your normal size. This shirt is a full TWO sizes bigger than what I normally wear, and the dress is one size above, but either they’ve been shrunk in the wash or they just run small because they both fit really well.

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$1.99 artichoke. I have a biiiig thing for fake fruit. I can’t stop myself.

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$2.99 urn (I want the bottom for another project I plan on doing)

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$1.99 huge glass frame (I see another chalkboard project in my future!)

And now from the lovely yard-sale:

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I originally bought this antique triple-matted frame for $.75. I loved the detail. Lindsay and I left the yard-sale to go to other ones, but we came back at the end of the day because she had seen something she wanted and was going to offer a lower price. Well, low and behold, the woman had everything left on the side of the road with a big FREE sign!

I think both of our hearts simultaneously stopped beating for a moment. ;)

I scavenged picked up everything below for FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEE:

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Plastic container for sweet tea for DH, glass Pyrex dishes, Pampered Chef dish towels and cloths

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Two cute “coffee” mugs

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Christmas cd, Night before Christmas book, assorted Christmas ribbon and candle decorations, wooden toy train puzzle (not pictured)

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Different sized frames (I love it when I find small ones)

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Big tote bag, which came in handy when I was shoveling the free stuff into it! hahaha

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Cute planter – this is pretty pathetic but I’m already looking forward to filing them with mini mums next fall when we have our own house again!

I also got a snow shovel, which is outside and I’m too lazy to take a picture. Plus I figured you know what a snow shovel looks like. :)

Have a FABULOUS weekend, everyone! :)

Linked to:
Thrifty Thursday @ Tales from Bloggeritaville
Frugalicious Friday @ Finding Fabulous

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Miscellany Monday {7} – Fall Weekend Edition

Our weekend was pretty awesome.  I think that by definition a miscellaneous list is supposed to be totally random but these are all kinda under the header of my weekend so we’re just gonna let the technical definition slide a little today.

1.  My Saturday started out with getting these lovelies (but in gray – I promise they look waaaaaay better than this picture below ) for only $18 after sale and gift cards.  Nope, I just couldn’t wait for Santa.  Chris He can bring me tall brown riding boots for my birthday and/or Christmas, if he happens to be reading this.  ;) Oh my heavens, I am in love.  It’s still kind of a shock to my child-of-the-80’s system to wear anything that is considered “slouchy,” but I’m getting over it REAL FAST. 

White Mountain Shoes, Freefall Boots

2.  Saturday afternoon included fresh apple cider, a wagon ride, and lots of cute pumpkin pictures at a local orchard.  It was a perfect Saturday afternoon, and it was great.  Except for the fact that it was literally impossible to keep this child still or actually looking at the camera for a cute pumpkin-patch picture.  Hey, last October he could barely hold his head up, so I’ll take what I can get!  Toddlerhood is way more fun!

pumpkin patch 2010 045   pumpkin patch 2010 037



3.  Speaking of my child, on Friday we went to the doctor for his 15-month check-up.  His head circumference, once again, measures off the charts.  This is the second time a medical professional has told me I should be really thankful I had to have a c-section!  hahahaha!

4.  My poor baby is also on antibiotics for a cough that just wouldn’t go away and ended up being the beginning of bronchitis or pneumonia – the doctor thought it was the start of either one.  I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped to the floor when he said that.  Pneumonia is no joke for babies! Let me encourage you – if your child has a cough that won’t go away, make sure it gets checked out.  We had already taken him to the doctor once and they said he sounded fine, but at the follow-up they finally heard it in his lungs.  So thankful that my baby is on the mend!  Those meds work fast!  

5.  Today in church our pastor was preaching about Satan from Ephesians.  In his defense, I personally thought the message was interesting, but I will admit it was pretty warm and cozy in the sanctuary.  All of a sudden from the back of the room comes this loud, LONG snore.  Like imagine a piggy has just found a whole bunch of table scraps in his pen!  hahaha!  You guys, it was SO bad!  People kinda giggled quietly but we were all just kinda waiting to see what Pastor Bob would do.  He got really quiet and then just burst out laughing, and then everyone laughed out loud with him!  He said, “Sorry I’m putting you to sleep back there!”  Oh my gosh, it was so funny.  I think the best part was the elderly woman behind me who whispered loudly to her husband, “If I was that person I would get out of here as soon as possible!”  Oh my gosh, good times with the body of Christ! 

6.  For the past 5 days, we have been in negotiations with another offer on our house.  We have been back and forth about price, and we finally received word this afternoon about the buyer’s final offer – she will not budge above a certain amount.  It is NOT what we wanted (who wouldn’t want more money?!) but we decided to agree to it because winter is coming and we don’t want to put more oil in our tank and we just want to be able to move on from all of this house drama.  Well, we haven’t heard from the realtor again all. day.  I am just so nervous that this is going to happen to us again and we are going to come to an agreement only to find the person has backed out.  I would SO appreciate prayers that we get a call tomorrow that this person is all set and ready to go!  We do know she wants to close by December 1st at the latest, which is great news because we wouldn’t have to add any more oil to keep the house from freezing.  I’d reeeeeally appreciate just even a one sentence prayer as you’re reading this!  Thanks ladies! 

7.  And lastly, to leave you on a happy note, I strongly encourage you all to go out and try Starbucks’ Salted Carmel hot chocolate if you’ve never done so before: 

I have heard about this for YEARS and finally bought one last night on my date to Starbucks with Chris (with an espresso shot added) and HOLY CRAP is it amazing.  I may or may not have embarrassed my DH with the involuntary moaning.  I promise I really did try to stay quiet.  LOL!  I have been thinking about it alllllll daaaaaaaay.  Don’t think about the calories (mine was nonfat milk and still super rich) – just enjoy. 

Have a great week!  :)

Miscellany Monday @ lowercase letters

Image via

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Two Things and the Winner

First, you guys were killing me with your first date stories and your home date night ideas!  I think I laughed every time I came on the computer and checked the comments. 

Second, I also want to thank the people who commented on my Santa post below.  I appreciate you guys sharing your thoughts with me!  I’m still not exactly sure but I’m definitely leaning toward the direction of incorporating him in some small way. I still have to run that by Chris, though.  Feel free to add your comments if you haven’t yet!  I’m still all ears (or….eyes). 

Third, the winner of the giveaway is: 


JILL!  Congrats Jill! Please e-mail me your shipping address and last name so I can send it on to MyBlogSpark.  (My e-mail is on the left sidebar). 

We’re off to take Luke to the pumpkin patch today!  Have a great rest of your weekend!  :)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

$30 Visa Card and Free Dinners GIVEAWAY!!!

Hellooooo ladies!  (And gentlemen?!)  You’re gonna want to check this giveaway out! :)

MyBlogSpark has again sent me a box to sample, and they want one of YOU to win one, too!  Included in your box will be a Wanchai Ferry Orange Chicken dinner kit and a Macaroni Grille Creamy Basil dinner kit, plus a $30 Visa gift card so you can have a date night at home! 

MyBlogSpark wants you to use the dinner kits to “Stay in and go all out!” and recreate your first date experience – and you can use your gift card to provide a little ambiance to your evening. ;) 

My first date with Chris was actually “not” a date – we were best friends and he had taken another girl out and I had jokingly told him I was jealous because he'd never taken me out.  So the next weekend we went out to see “Elf” and then ate at Boston Market for dinner (we were really poor college kids!  lol).  He specifically did it in that order because he knew I hate going to eat before a movie because I always feel rushed.  I remember having such a great night and laughing so hard.  I think we did something else after dinner but I can’t remember now.  That was late fall of 2003 – and here we are seven years later, married with a baby, so clearly he did something right!  lol! 

I couldn’t find any pictures to show you of our first dates because they’re  all at my house, still packed in boxes (and most of the early ones aren’t digital – holy cow that makes me feel so old!).  I do have this picture from when we went on spring break with friends to Destin, Florida, circa 2005.  Isn’t that background magnificent?!  God is so amazing. 

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And here we are last night, eating our dinners!  And yup, since we are living with my parents still, this picture was taken by my MOM!  What a date night, huh?!  hahaha

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I have to admit that I goofed up a little when I accepted this “Spark.”  I clicked yes, thinking how fun it would be, without fully thinking through the implications of DATE NIGHT AT HOME.  Um, hello, we live with my parents and brother right now!  But my mom watched Luke while we ate and talked, so that counts, right?!  I hope so because that’s about as good as we’re gonna get right now!  I am keeping the Visa card to use for date night “in” when we finally have our own place again. :)

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As far as the food, the Wanchai Ferry Orange Chicken got great reviews from everyone in the family.  It tasted great.  The Macaroni Grille meal was good but probably not something I’d buy again.  However, they both definitely taste as though they’re from a restaurant and not from a box – they are very comparable to restaurant-quality food.  Of course, knowing me, you might know what I’m going to say next:  I’m definitely not crazy about some of the ingredients in the boxed dinners.  I would never eat food like this every night, but I don’t think there’s harm in doing it once in a great while.

Okay, so how do you win?!! 

Leave a comment answering the following question: What did you do on your first date? (G-rated, please! :) (If you’re single, what would be a dream date for you?)

For a second chance to win, leave another comment answering this question: What are your best tips for having date night at home?

Winner will be chosen Saturday at noon.  Remember that if you don’t have a blog and I don’t know you personally, you will need to provide me with an e-mail address so I can contact you to get your mailing address.  Good luck! 

Disclosure: the products, prize pack, information and additional prize pack to give away were all given to me from Wanchai Ferry and Macaroni Grill through MyBlogSpark.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Olive Garden Pasta e Fagioli and Breadsticks

lindsay visit 007

If you’re like me and can’t go to Olive Garden every time your heart desires, well guess what?!  You can have Olive Garden at home!  Alllll of the credit for this soup recipe goes to my friend Mary, who posted it on her blog ages ago (I can’t find it now) and my life has never been the same. Just kidding.  Kinda. It is SO, SO, SO good.  And a dead-ringer for the Olive Garden version.  I was craving it the other night, and then I wondered if I could find a good breadstick recipe to round out the meal. 

Well girls, you’re in luck – because I found an awesome one for you to try! 

Brandy from the blog Gluesticks posted her wonderful recipe, so twice in the past three weeks I have made this Olive Garden-themed dinner.  In fact, I just had leftovers for dinner tonight.  :)  {As a bonus, she also includes the recipe for Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana (which I’ve never tried because I hate sausage but I’m sure one of you out there will want to try it!)} 

Rather than type out all of the ingredients for the soup, I’m just going to direct you to the site:  Top Secret Recipes’ Pasta e Fagioli.  {Two tips: You’re going to want 2-3 times the V-8, especially if you’re having leftovers (the beans will absorb it, especially overnight).  I also never add pasta directly to the soup (it will suck all of the liquid out).  Serve it on the side and let people add as much as they want.}

As far as the breadsticks go, I took Brandy’s advice about using only 1/2 stick of butter for the topping, and she’s right - it’s fine.  I keep subbing in more whole wheat flour each time I make these.  Yesterday I made them with 2 cups whole wheat and 1 and 1/2 cups of unbleached white, and I think they came out awesome.  That’s the way I will continue to make them. 

Enjoy the links – and enjoy your delicious dinner.  ;)

Linked to these great blogs:
Tasty Tuesday @ Beauty and Bedlam
Tuesdays at the Table @ All the Small Stuff
Tempt my Tummy Tuesday @ Blessed With Grace

The Santa Debate – Please Share Your Two Cents!

Hi guys!!!!!!! Before I ask you my question, can I just say that wow, I have reaaaaaaally missed blogging!  However, it also felt amazing to take a step back and just enjoy time with my little sister for the 4 days she was home.   While she was here she found her wedding dress and we picked out the bridesmaid dresses (I’m the matron {hate that word} of honor).  It was so great to see her and I already miss her like crazy.  :(  But at least I get to see her again at Thanksgiving! 

Oh and I also want to thank you all for staying in my absence.  I actually didn’t lose any followers, and for that I am *shocked*.  Thanks for sticking around!  :)


One of my all-time favorite movies as a kid.  I think I still know every line! 

My question today isn’t really earth-shattering, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about for months and it’s something I’d really like your opinion on:   What are your thoughts on incorporating Santa with Christmas? 

I realize to some of you this might seem ridiculous, because Santa = Christmas in a lot of people’s eyes.  However, Chris and I were both raised in fairly conservative Christian homes, and there wasn’t any Santa.  Ever.  Christmas was a celebration of Christ’s birth, and we got lots of presents, but we knew that every single one was from our mom and dad. 

I hated the fact that I knew there was no Santa Claus.  Hated it, hated it, hated it.  I was so jealous of my friends that got to get their pictures taken with him, and leave cookies and milk out, and try to get a glimpse of him sometime on Christmas Eve.  I hated that I knew a secret but couldn’t tell them (because I would have been in huge trouble), so they all were blissfully unaware and there I was, kind of on the “outside.” I felt so embarrassed, even as a little kid, when adults would inevitably ask me every December, “So, what’s Santa getting you for Christmas?”  and I would have to reply, “I don’t believe in Santa Claus.”  Talk about a mood-killer in the cereal aisle.  LOL!

I remember sneaking out of bed one Christmas Eve when I was 7 or 8 and standing by the window, just hoping that my parents were wrong and that Santa was actually going to come flying through the sky to my house.

My husband, on the other hand, liked knowing that Santa wasn’t real.  He thought Santa was stupid as a kid and he was proud that he knew the truth.  Ha! Boys!

I understand what my parents were trying to do.  They didn’t want to lie to us, and they wanted to keep Christmas about Jesus only.  I understand that, and I respect that.  I kinda thought that’s what I would always do with Luke……

Except I keep thinking about how fun it would be to leave the milk and cookies out with Luke.  And carrot sticks for the reindeer.  And then leave them half-eaten on the plate and the carrot sticks gone and see the magic in his eyes when he wakes up.  There is so little magic left in the world, you know?

I thought maybe I could do the Santa thing but just have him fill up the stockings (more like the tradition of Saint Nicholas), and then our kids would still know that their presents came from us. 

For the record, Chris isn’t crazy about the whole Santa thing still, but he’s not 100% opposed to it.  He does think that Santa shouldn’t get all the credit for the gifts, which I kinda agree with.  ;)

So……this is my dilemma!  Help!  I am SO curious to know what you do with your children (or what you plan on doing).  Even if you don’t have kids yet, I’m curious to know your opinion.  Did you believe in Santa?  If not, did you feel like you were missing out? I would SO appreciate your thoughts!!



P.S. This is SO not related at all but Sandy from Reluctant Entertainer is giving away an apron and copy of her book on her site today and since you get an extra entry if you blog about it I totally am since both of those things are on my Christmas list so why not try to get them for free and make a super-long run-on sentence while I’m at it?! :)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Yup, I'm Still Alive..........

I have just been too busy LIVING LIFE to stop and blog! (And really, is that a bad thing!?) Over the past week I've had my best friend and her son come to stay for 3 days and now my sister is here for almost a week on her fall break from college. She just got engaged last month and this is the first time I've seen her or her ring since then. Today we went dress shopping and she found her dress at the first store! When does that ever happen?! She just found the one and she loved it so she bought it and it's beautiful so I'm so happy for her. Anyway, I literally have 6 ideas for posts swarming in my head (I made a note today so I won't forget about them); I'm just not sure when I'll be around to type them back up. I don't get to see my sister very often so I'm just trying to enjoy time with her while she's here this week.

Anyway, just wanted to pop in and say hi (it's been a 8 days since my last post - I was starting to get the shakes! lol) and let you know that there will be more coming soon. One of my upcoming posts will be your thoughts about Santa and kids and what traditions with that you grew up with because I'm really not sure how I feel about that and Luke so I'll be asking all of your opinions! Whew I feel like I just used a loooooooot of exclamation points and a lot of really long sentences. :)

Be back soon - thanks for sticking with me! :)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Also known as: THE PERFECT FALL COOKIE.  Oh yeah, I said it.  These puppies are fabulous.  Put it this way – I made 23 of these last night for the 5 of us (we’re staying with my parents and brother, remember?), and there’s only 8 left.  And it’s 7:45 a.m. 

The awesome thing about these is that the pumpkin makes them SUPER moist.  I’ve never had a cookie so moist before.  Oh my gosh, I’m salivating already.  I had two last night plus some hearty bites of raw dough, and I’m restraining myself from any more.
That doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about it. ;)
Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from:

1 C white whole-wheat flour
1/2 C quick cooking oats
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t salt
1/2 C butter, softened
1/2 C brown sugar
1/2 C white sugar (or less)
1 egg
1/2 t vanilla extract
1/2 C canned pumpkin puree
1 C chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350.  Combine the flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; set aside. 
In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar and white sugar until smooth.  Beat in the egg and vanilla then stir in the pumpkin puree.  Gradually stir in the dry ingredients until well blended.  Mix in chocolate chips).  Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake for 8-10 minutes in the preheated oven (I had to cook mine for about 12, so just watch them). Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 min before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
*Next time I will reduce the white sugar to only 1/4 C.  Clearly, these have sugar, but if you remember Michael Pollan’s advice to “treat treats as treats”, it’s not as big of a deal.  Plus, have you ever checked out the label on pumpkin?!  It’s AWESOME for you.

FIVE grams of fiber and 300% Vitamin A in each serving.  So I feel that it helps balance out the high sugar content just a little. ;)

Trust me, you will not regret making these!  They got unanimous good votes from everyone in the family.  :)

Linked to these great blogs:
Tasty Tuesday @ Beauty and Bedlam
Tuesdays at the Table @ All the Small Stuff
Tempt my Tummy Tuesday @ Blessed With Grace

Monday, October 4, 2010

Miscellany Monday {6}

{1} So thankful

My husband’s new job benefits (for all three of us) started on October 1st. Last year, after my teaching benefits ended, we only had enough money to buy private insurance for Luke and I. My husband was without any kind of insurance from September 1st, 2009, to September 30, 2010. He went to the doctor one time, and he had no serious injuries or illnesses. God was very, very gracious to us.

{2} Apparently, we’re the weirdos

Chris was given an Olive Garden gift certificate for his b-day, so we went out to eat last night. On the rare occasions we eat out, I will usually (very politely) ask the hostess if they can seat us along a wall (and I always offer to wait longer than the expected wait time, if necessary). I just hate sitting in the middle of the dining room – it’s like, reverse claustrophobia, which weirds me out in an unexplainable way. Anyway, she seemed a little confused at first, but then typed in a note on her computer, and we sat down in the lobby. As we were sitting there talking, I hear one of the hosts by the to-go counter say, “So we have this couple that wants to sit in isolation…what do you guys think? Should we put them in 502? Is that isolated enough??” A second later, a hostess comes over to seat us. As we follow her, she says, “So you guys want to be in isolation, right? Is this table okay? I wasn’t really sure where to put you but we have this table all the way in our back dining room.” We just laughed and explained what had happened. Apparently it’s much faster to type in “isolation” than “seat by wall.” I wonder if they thought Chris was going to propose or something! haha

{3} Sweet little things

Speaking of Olive Garden, they have these new (to me) desserts – they’re called dolcinis.

Dolcini Image courtesy of

They’re mini cups of dessert and you can order them as singles or in triples. I ordered the chocolate mousse with dark chocolate cookie crust and chocolate shavings on top (the one all the way on the left). There may or may not have been some involuntary moaning and husband embarrassment going on at our isolation table.

{4} Tears of joy

Yesterday Chris and I went back to a church we had visited for the 2nd time. We got there early, and we met a few other young couples in the nursery (something we were worried about the week before). As we were standing there singing in the sanctuary, my heart just wanted to burst and I felt like crying. I knew we had finally found a new church home and I was overwhelmed. We are committed to going to this new church and we are both SO excited about how vibrant, loving, and committed to God this church appears. (And as an added perk, the pastor and his wife adopted two boys, which I think will be a great resource when we adopt in the future.)

{5} Pumpkin eater

A few months ago, a friend told me about the blog Eat Live Run. Jenna is a food blogger and she is pretty much the cutest thing you’ve ever seen. I made her whole-wheat squash pancakes yesterday for breakfast (subbing in pumpkin), and topped them with (real!) maple syrup and walnuts like she suggested. YUM. The whole house smelled spicy and warm. I highly recommend them for a crisp fall day.


My one suggestion: don’t add any salt – they were wicked salty (or maybe you could cut it by a fourth or something). You can always top it with salted butter if you want. If you’re anything like me, you have about 1,872 recipes clipped or mentally saved that you want to try. I’m glad I crossed one off the list!

{6} Two is better than one

I use two hands when I’m on a laptop. My right hand moves the “mouse;” my left hand clicks. Chris thinks this is SO weird. Does anyone else do this? Or is this once again a sign of my computer-ineptness? :)

Happy Monday! :)

Miscellany Monday @ lowercase letters