Tuesday, July 22, 2014

#TuesdayTen: Relaxing on National Hammock Day

When I was a kid our family had a hammock. I remember my dad relaxing in it with a glass of (unsweetened) tea and a good book.  Actually, if memory serves, more often than not her was "resting his eyes" with the book open on his chest.  My brother and I used to get in the hammock too. Sometimes we managed to get ourselves situated correctly and relax. Other times we enjoyed tipping each other out of it and spinning around in it.  Good times!

Today is National Hammock Day, so it's a good day to think about relaxing and hanging out. Along those lines, I present to you my favorite ways to relax.

1. Reading a good book on the couch
2. Sitting in a chair in the front yard, soaking up rays on a hot day
3. Taking a bubble bath
4. Calling in sick for a mental health day and enjoying the silence of my house
5. Going for a drive with no destination in mind
6. Convincing the kids to "fix" my hair and letting them brush it
7. Rocking in the rocking chair while the kids are drifting off to sleep
8. Vegging out with some games on my phone or iPad.
9. Going to bed early and creating a dream to (hopefully) enter into
10. Using a new lotion or hand scrub for some aroma therapy

Now all I need is a few more hours in each day to enjoy these pursuits!  How about you? What's your favorite way to relax? Tell me in the comments or create your own post to link up!

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We hope you have enjoyed our #TuesdayTen lists! If so, please link up one of your own and share your post using #TuesdayTen!

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

#AskAwayFriday with Carol from Battered Hope

Happy Friday!  I'm so excited for today because I'm having a jewelry party to help my friend Heather show off the new line for Premier. I've been working my hiney off to get my house ready and I am so proud of myself!! A jewelry party is the perfect motivation and reward for all my hard work! (I'm still treating myself to a massage at the end of the month, though!)

Today for #Ask Away Friday I am matched up with Carol from Battered Hope. Carol blogs about the trials and tragedies in her life and how she has overcome them. She is a true source of positive inspiration on the web.  She shares stories about her life, dogs and motivational thoughts. If you need a pick me up or a kick in the butt to get moving, you should check out Carol's blog!

If you're not familiar with #AskAwayFriday, it's a great way to meet new people and get really nosy! You pair up and swap ten questions with your partner to be answered in a post on Friday. #AskAwayFriday was created by Penny of The Real Housewife of Caroline County, and is now hosted by these #AskAwayFriday hosts…
Tamara from Tamara Like Camera,
Tiffany from Mrs. Tee Love Life Laughter,
Christy from Uplifting Families,
Stacey from This Momma’s Ramblings
Amber from Bold Fit Mom
And now for my answers to Carol's questions:

1.  One of the things on your Bucket List is to have a blog post go viral. Do you have a favorite post that you felt should have gone viral, and if so, why? 
That's a tough question to answer!  I can't say that I've ever written a post, hit publish, and thought "that ones' gonna go viral!"  I don't even write posts with the intent of going viral.  For now I get a huge kick out of seeing someone I've never heard of or interacted with Pin something I wrote on Pinterest.  That tells me that my posts are going out beyond my own circle.  With that said, I think I've written some pretty good posts over the years.  10 Friends Every Woman Needs was one that sat in my head for a long time before coming out.  I also firmly believe what I wrote about allowing my children to fail, even though it goes against current parenting practices.

2.   Your children are quite young. How do you think your life and/or career will change when they are in high school, college and beyond? 
I don't know if I want to think about that!!  I enjoy working and I work full time. My job is amazing and flexible and I don't see any real reason to leave it, so I don't imagine that much will change professionally.  The kids have been gone in different combinations this summer, and I'll admit it's been nice to take it easy a bit on the parenting parts.  I hope that we continue to have a strong relationship as they grow up and start to move away (physically). I hope that they will stay close when they begin their adult lives, but I won't be offended if circumstances take them elsewhere. My job is to raise them into mature, responsible adults and I'll never know if I succeeded unless they go out on their own eventually!

3.   What five words describe you best? 
Easy Going

4.   When you and hubby have a night alone together, what do you like to do? 
With kids and work schedules it's not always easy to go out together, but we do have evenings to ourselves after the kids have gone to bed. We enjoy watching TV together. There are a few shows he's gotten me hooked on and we tend to binge watch them from the DVR.

5.   You have co-authored a book, The Mother of All Meltdowns. Do you see a sequel in the future? Or do you think you will write a different type of book? 
Crystal says there's a sequel on the way, this time discussing relationship meltdowns. I've bowed out of that one because of Ken's desire to stay private. Crystal promises the book is not about smack talking your spouse, but I can't tell a story about us without his consent, so I won't.  I've thought about a different story, but nothing has solidified yet. I'm working on developing a few characters in my head and thinking of how to put them together though.  Who knows if it will ever see the light of day!

6.    I see that you liked movies such as The Breakfast Club and Star Wars. What is your absolute favorite movie from last year? What about a book? 
Last year I really enjoyed Catching Fire. I read the books and thought they were well made into movies. I also enjoyed Frozen. Incidentally, those might be the only two movies I saw in the theater. I'll have to ask my movie secretary (Ken). He keeps better track of things like that!

7.   In what capacity are you involved in your church? Would you like to be more involved and if so, how? 
I love being involved at my church. Up until Benjamin was born I was the Youth Minister and I coordinated all the middle and high school religious education and social activities.  That overlapped slightly with teaching the Children's Church program. I started teaching Frances' class when she was three and I am getting ready to start my 8th year with that program.  I coincidentally spaced my kids out enough that I can teach them for three years )ages 3-5) and then start over with the next sibling!  When Benjamin is finished with that program, I'd like to volunteer with the youth ministry program again.  I also LOVE helping with Vacation Bible School.  I've been a group leader and I've helped with crafts. The past two years I've been the game leader. It's one of the highlights of each summer!

8.   What do you enjoy the most about blogging? 
Hands down, without a doubt, it has been the community!  I blogged for a long time before I found a community and, while I enjoyed it, it didn't draw me in like it does now. Plus, I feel a responsibility to keep it up now more than I did before. I used to go weeks without posting anything at all and now I try to post every weekday. In fact, I've joked that blogging makes me a better mother!

9.   What is your coveted job? 
If the opportunities were limitless and I had the chance to try any profession in the world, I'd love to be an archaeologist.  But I'd probably get hot and hurt my back after a while.  Then I'd come back to the job I have now where I love what I do and the people I get to see every day!
10.   What types of foods do you enjoy cooking the most? What about your hubby? 
I enjoy cooking all different types of things. I enjoy trying out new recipes and letting the kids help me out.  In fact, just three nights ago, Henry insisted on getting the fish sticks ready for the oven and Benjamin wanted to make the rice. Then I told Frances she was in charge of the fruit and vegetable and she took care of it!  Then they bragged to Ken that they had cooked the whole dinner by themselves and he rolled his eyes and grinned at me. I didn't steal their thunder.  
Ken likes to grill and he likes to grill meat. We often have meatless dinners when he's not home, but I would never dare to try serving PBJs for dinner when he's around. He's got to have meat with every meal!

That's it for our swap! I hope you stop by Carol's blog, Battered Hope and check out her answers to my questions.  In the comments you can tell me what kind of food you love to cook.

Rainbow Bandz Loom Kit {Review}

I'm on a streak at home! I've been cleaning and organizing and purging like a mad woman all month! It's been great to see my successes, but I'll admit that last night I was getting kind of burnt out. I have made house keeping my number one priority and let a few other things slide. And then I realized that I had a review due and I hadn't even started it.

So last night I took a much needed break from cleaning and got out my new Loom Band set.  You may remember that I already had the opportunity to review some loom bands in the past, but this time I received the loom itself (from the same company).

This new loom is a higher quality than the other one we have.  It is clear plastic with sturdier pegs that the purple one I've been using. The other bonus is that the lines of pegs come apart from each other and can be used in different configurations other than the standard offset one most people use.

I used the loom as it was sent to create a simple bracelet with three rows just to get back in the swing of things.  The bands are nice and stretchy and the new hook makes looming the bands so much easier! After that bracelet was finished, I set out to make a different kind of bracelet I had seen many times, but never attempted.  Through a quick search of Google Images, I determined that this style is called a "hexafish."  I found this tutorial video and got started. I noticed right away that I was going to get to take apart my loom and use a non-standard configuration! The other fun part is that once you get everything set up, this bracelet is actually very easy to make. It is repetitive, but not difficult. I did laugh at myself when I discovered that just because the video is 15 minutes long, it doesn't mean the bracelet only takes 15 minutes!  But I was able to watch TV and catch up with Ken while I was looming last night, so it all worked out.

All in all I was quite happy with this loom and looming supplies.  I was glad that I was "forced" (by my mean blogging schedule) to take a break from my cleaning and recharge my creativity. Maybe next I'll get started on this dress project I saw online...

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Half Way Point of Summer

As I was looking at my calendar, I noticed that my kids have 10 weeks of summer. Since this is the middle of the 6th week, summer seems to be coming to a close. In fact, stores are now putting out their "Back to School" sales and I just heard an ad on the local radio station this morning promoting the annual school supply collection for needy kids.

I'm not quite ready for summer to be over, since it is my favorite season and all.  Instead of thinking of it as halfway over, I want to focus on all the adventures yet to come!  I still have a lot of stuff on my summer bucket list to get done!

My kids have had an awesome time so far and we've got plenty of adventures left to go.  In fact we've got our first family-of-five beach trip coming up with Ken's family.  Benjamin can hardly wait until we leave! And I'll admit to my own excitement since I haven't had a beach vacation in about 8 years!

I'm no good at being wordless on Wednesdays, but here are some pictures of the kids' adventures so far this summer. They've done outdoor camp (both), STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) camp (Henry) and overnight camp (Frances), and had some time with Grandma and Grandpa. Frances even got to take apart the old ceiling fan, because...what else were we going to do with it!?

Ben is still too young for camps (he will get a week at Camp Grandma and Grandpa), but while the bigs are away, the mini and I had a bunch of fun being silly and having archery lessons!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

#TuesdayTen: My Favorite Apps {Linkup}

There was a time long ago when I didn't own a fancy phone or play with expensive gadgets.  Then I got a job in a technology center and the floodgates opened!  I now use the more regularly than I care to admit. A very small part of my job involves helping other people with their technology problems, so it's best that I understand the ins and outs of what's available.  And what better way to gain understanding than to play around with the devices?  At least that's how the thought process works in my head!

There are lots of great apps out there for all sorts of different purposes.  Some of them are just for fun. Some of them help you get work done. Some help you keep track of things. These are 10 of my favorites and most frequently used apps:

  1. Cozi-This app is a great calendar that you can share between multiple people. Ken and I have icons for each of the kids as well as ourselves and we can easily tell at a glance who needs to be where and when.
  2. MCM-This app is one I wish I would have known about a long time ago.  This is probably too much information for many of you, but I have always been confused by my menstrual cycles and even with keeping track of them on a calendar they have always seemed off.  This app allows you to enter in your information on a daily basis and it will predict your cycles, tell you when you are ovulating, and even help you remember why you are soooooooo tired on a certain day.
  3. 2048-Quick and easy to play, but not easy to master. I've gotten the 4096 once, but I'm not likely to see it again (or go beyond it).
  4. Oregon Trail-This is my version of Farmville or Candy Crush. The stupid, addicting game I just can't stop playing!
  5. Relax-A white noise app is an amazing thing to have on nights I can't fall asleep or someone is snoring.  I can plug in my headphones, snuggle up with my phone, drift off to dreamland!
  6. Kindle-I honestly thought I'd never get used to reading virtual books, but then I started using it and I've become addicted. I can get so many books for so little money (and most of them free) and I don't have to give up shelf space for more books. Plus this makes it really easy to read to the kids in the dark and keep reading for myself as I wait for them to go to sleep.
  7. HootSuite-I figured I should add a few of my blogging apps here, since I do get a lot of use out of them.  I use HootSuite to access my Facebook and my Twitter feeds quickly and at the same time.  I like being able to schedule things for a later time even though that makes me look like I'm spending much more time online than I actually do.
  8. Blogsy-I found this great app last year in my desperate search to find something that would allow me to easily blog from home. While I do have access to lots of different technology, I don't actually have a home computer that I can use.  Blogsy lets me compose and edit posts as well as adding pictures where I want them while using my iPad.
  9. Pic Stitch-Great for editing pictures on my devices. It's not ideal, but it does the job and I have fun putting collages together.
  10. Facebook-I probably don't need to explain this one, do I? Hi, my name is Rabia and I'm addicted to Facebook.
What are your favorite apps?

#TuesdayTen is hosted by:

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We hope you have enjoyed our #TuesdayTen lists! If so, please link up one of your own and share your post using #TuesdayTen!

1) Link up a post, old or new, pertaining to the TuesdayTen topic for this week and add our TuesdayTen button to your post or sidebar.
2) Please do not link up contests, product reviews, or sponsored posts. Links not pertaining to the topic will be removed at the hosts' discretion.
3) Visit your hosts and follow them on social media.
4) Visit as many other linked posts as you can and show those bloggers some love by commenting and/or sharing.
5) By linking up you agree to be subscribed to out #TuesdayTen mailing list. Emails are only sent once a week and you can unsubscribe at any time. If you would like to be added to the mailing list without linking up, click here.
Come link up again next Tuesday, July 22nd, when the topic will be 10 Things that Help you Relax (in honor of National Hammock Day).
Don't forget to add the #TuesdayTen badge to your post or homepage!

Click to sign up for #TuesdayTen reminder emails: http://eepurl.com/PXVtr

Monday, July 14, 2014

Snowballing Your Debt: It Really Makes Cents

One of my resolutions this year is to save money and a part of that is getting our debt paid off.   We don't spend tons of money on extras, but we do have three kids, a mortgage and school loans.  The bills come in and the paychecks go out and honestly, some days I don't see an end to it. I tell myself that we only have one more year of day care to pay for.  I tell myself that we are both fortunate to have good, reliable jobs with benefits .  But I still wish I could see a brighter light at the end of the tunnel.

Then I heard of snowballing your debt.  It is a debt repayment strategy that Dave Ramsey has advocated.  Conventional wisdom would say to pay off your highest interest rates first so you can save the money you would be paying in interest.  According to this plan, however, there is a psychological aspect to debt that needs to be recognized.  The snowball method proposes that if you pay off your smallest debt first, you will see results more quickly and be motivated to pay off more.

The key to snowballing is that when you pay off one debt, you take the money you were paying and add that amount to your next debt. The idea is that you gain more and more momentum as you make payments and your debt gets paid off faster.  I'll admit to falling into the trap of "Phew! We paid that off, now we have more money to spend!"  But that's not the way to think about it!  

There is a fun calculator at What's The Cost that allows you to plug in your debts and see a plan for paying them off.  Seeing it all spelled out is highly motivating for me. I can even save the snowballs I've created and watch as the "time til debt free" gets closer and closer!

First you need to collect the following information for each of your debts:
  • Name of debt (You can name it whatever you want)
  • Balance due
  • Annual percentage rate that you are currently paying
  • Minimum monthly payment (whether it is a fixed amount or a percentage of the balance)
Tell the calculator how many debts you want to pay off and plug in the information for each one. Then you can decide whether you want a plan for paying them off according to the interest rate or the balance.  (Don't worry, you can toggle between the two to compare what looks better for you.)

Once you've entered all your info and picked a strategy, the calculator will give you a chart showing how much to pay each month on which debts. You can decide from here if you want to try paying more each month than you are currently.  

I ran my first set of numbers about two years ago. It was slightly depressing at that point, but seeing it spelled out gave me the motivation to get it taken care of.  I set up our payments on auto pay and put in a slightly painful amount to be paid every month.  New things have come up, some months have been really lean; but now when I run the numbers I see a light!  If we stick with what we are doing now, we could be debt free in 2-3 years (I didn't add the mortgage in to this.)

Do you have a debt repayment plan? Should you?
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