Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Versatile Blogger Award

My first blogging award!
Last Two Saturdays ago, I had the honor of receiving "The Versatile Blogger Award" from Granola Mommy of 2! I was completely shocked and thrilled when she left me a comment with the news.  It was such a nice surprise to find out that one of my readers likes my blog enough to think it worthy of an award! 

Anyone receiving the Versatile Blogger Award must follow the rules to pay it forward, if you will. The rules are as follows:
  • Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to them in your post. 
  • Tell your readers seven (7) things about yourself.
  • Give this award to fifteen (15) recently discovered bloggers. 
  • Contact those bloggers and let them in on the exciting news.
First of all, thank you so very much Granola Mommy of 2 for following my blog and enjoying it enough to give it an award. I hope that my future posts continue to live up to your expectations!

 So, 7 things about myself... well, what do you all want to know? I'll try to think of interesting things that you might not already know. So.... 

1. I'm an only child. But I have a half-brother who is 9 years older than me (and I've only seen twice in my life), and I've had a step-brother & step-sister since 10th grade, when my mom remarried. I am excited that Monster will get to have siblings growing up, unlike me. 

2. I married my high school sweetheart (although we never went to school together - met at church). Ben was actually my first real boyfriend. We started dating when I was in10th grade. Broke up twice along the way... and ended up married 4.5 years later!

3. Our family plan was to have 3 kids, all around 2 years I guess we're on schedule!

4. My favorite animals are donkeys, penguins, and Orca whales. I don't know why - they just are.

5. My favorite food, besides junk food (hehe), is cheese. When I was pregnant with Monster, all I ever craved was cheese. So far, this pregnancy is following the same pattern.

6. I am a SCUBA diver. Ben & I got certified in April of 2009. I haven't been diving much, though, since I got pregnant in July 2009 and couldn't dive while pregnant. Since Monster was born, we only went out diving together a few times, and now... well I can't dive for a while again! LOL. Ben keeps very busy, though, with his other dive friends.

7.I am a procrastinator. A really, really, bad one, in fact. Do you know what day I was given this award? April 16th. Do you know what day I started writing this post about it? April 23rd. Do you know what day I finally FINISHED writing this post?! Today, April 30th! Yikes!
But now on to the fun part! I get to choose 15 other bloggers who I think deserve this award. I have discovered so many wonderful blogs in my short 8 months of blogging. Maybe one of them will interest you, too!
In no particular order, here they are!
1. Chill Mama Chill
2. Happenings of the Harper Household
3. The Southern Belle Baby
4. Purposeful Homemaking
5. I'm A Lazy Mom
6. I Heart Things and Things
7. Heather's Hodgepodge
8. Manager to Mom
9. Diary of  Devil Dog Wife
10. A Mommy's Blessings
11. Enjoying The Small Things
12. The Misadventures of a Family of 8 (soon to be 9!)
13. Neck Rolls and Toe Crust
14. A Year With Mom & Dad
15. Thrifty Nifty Mommy

Congrats to all of these bloggers! Thanks for having awesome blogs that I love to follow!

Go check 'em out & give them a big congrats!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

As Promised....

I remembered to catch the walking monster on camera!
Here he is... wobbly legs and all!

(note: you will need to pause the music player at the bottom of the page to hear the video!)

Holy Cow This Kid Is Smart!

It's crazy how much Monster is learning, and how fast! He doesn't really say any words yet, so sometimes it's hard to remember how smart he is and how much he is absorbing and learning.
He just reminded us last night of how crazy awesome he is, by doing the sounds that a cat & dog make!

(note: you will need to pause the music player at the bottom of the page to hear the video!)
 He has also been REALLY walking for a full week tomorrow, and I don't have any videos of it yet. It's too cute for words, so I promise I'll get a video soon, and when I do - I'll share it here. :D

I'm off to do some much-needed housecleaning today, and then tomorrow will be a busy day with 2 church services (Ben plays guitar on the worship team, so we have to be at both services) 8:30am and 10am. It's gonna be an early morning! But after that, we're going to my grandparents' house for Easter lunch & an an egg hunt. Then when things are winding down there, we're heading across town to celebrate with Ben's family. It's gonna be busy, but it's also gonna be a lot of fun.

I hope you all have a wonderful Easter weekend. Got any fun plans?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sneak Peek at Monster's 1-year Photos!

I was just sent these 5 sneak-peek photos from the photographer who took Monster's 1-year photos!

I am completely in love with how these turned out. I can't wait to see the rest of them!
Anyone local looking for a great photographer? I highly recommend Illusion of Grandeur!

So, which of these 5 is your favorite?

Swap-Bot Blog Hop!

Swap-Bot is a website that allows you to create & join swaps with people all over the world. You can swap crafts, photos, writing, art, craft supplies, drinks & candy. There are also online swaps - where you just swap photos or answer quetions in email form, or - like this one - "Visit My Blog & Blog About It"! I had 10 partners in this swap, and the assignment was to visit each person's blog, and then write a blog post about them!

I always love discovering neat new blogs to read, so I was excited for this swap! I got to meet 10 other bloggers and check out their blogs. I even found some that I will be going back to again and again!

So, without further ado, here are the 10 blogs that I visited:

1. ...consiousness collection...

...Consioudness Collection... is an eclectic mix of the random thoughts, ideas, and musings from the blog owner, Em, in Australia. She was recently in Japan, and has posted some beautiful photos of the scenery & food (which made my hungry just looking at it...yum!)
Em also recently opened an Etsy shop, foraged & found, where she sells Japanese MT Washi Masking Tape, which has become a new popular craft supply. Currently, 10% of all profits from her Esty shop will go to help the Japan Tsunami Victims. How great is that!

2. Wallflower DIY

Wallflower DIY is written by Kaatje, a 23 year old art student who lives in Belgium. This is her personal blog where she shares about crafts, DIY projects, sewing, fashion, food... pretty much normal girl stuff! Two posts that stood out to me when I had to do with food... I wonder if that's pregnancy related? *blush* But oh my did they look delicious!

3. Angel In A Glass Creations

Angel In A Glass Creations is a blog by a gal named Angelina Glass, where she mostly shares the crafts the makes and the recipes she cooks. She also has an etsy shop where she sells her handmade scarves, hats, handbags, and even little plushies! She is very talented! (Ok, and I have to ask... did anyone else catch how super clever Angelina must be? Look at her blog name... and look at her name... and her blog name... pure genius I tell you!!! :D)

4. Betwixxt

Betwixxt is written by Gracie, who lives in the US like me! She blogs about projects she is working on, things that inspire her, home decor, and just life in general. She is a wedding planner - which is a job that I imagine must be a lot of fun!

Gracie also has an etsy store, where she sells her homemade bags, wallets, headbands, bows, and other super cute items! My favorite are her Coffee Cozy's. How cute are they?! And so much more eco-friendly than those ugly cardboard ones!
 5. My Frizzle!

My Frizzle is a blog by Rozemarijn, who lives in the Netherlands. This is mostly a crafting/creativity blog (sewing, DIY projects, homemade soap, etc) but I also found a lot of delicious looking recipes that I'd like to try! One really cool aspect of this blog is that it is written in both Dutch and an English translation!

6. Unionvale Mom's Spot & Unionvale Homeschool

I got to check out 2 of Cariann's blogs - her craft/personal blog, and her homeschooling blog!
Cariann's personal blog has a variety of posts, from Swap-Bot swaps, to photos of her children, and yummy recipes. (are you noticing a theme here - apparently I'm drawn to food right now. Wonder why?)
Her homeschooling blog is very interesting to me,  since my degree is in elementary education and I hope to be teaching in the next few years. I have always admired homeschoolers and think they do an amazing job at teaching & raising their kids, so this blog - focused on one mom's homeschooling journey, will be fun to read through.

7. The Journey & Musings of a Single Country Gal

This blog is written by Mindy, and is full of product & book reviews, and fun link-ups such as "Meet Me on Monday" and "Five-Question Friday" where she posts answers to questions about herself, to let her readers get to know her better. And I feel almost embarrased to say this - but she shared this recipe for Creamy Cheesy Ham and Potato Soup that I am now craving for lunch. lol

8. This and That

This is Nasreen's almost brand-new craft blog. She has only been blogging since March of 2011, but is off to a great start! Other than her sharing the blogs she's visited as part of this blog swap, she writes about crafts she is currently working on and other random daily happenings in her life that relate to crafting.

9. BPositive. BFree.

Becca's blog is surely a refreshing one! The vision and mission of her blog is "reaching out to people in positive and uplifting ways through creativity and love." How awesome is that? Her blog is filled with posts that remind me to think positively, see the bright side, and love others. Interspersed with her writing, she shares photos of crafts that she makes (mostly knitting) that go along with the topic of that day's post. I am excited to be following this blog!

10. I Heart Things and Things

The final blog I got to explore was Danie's. Her writing is open and honest, and she writes about, well, whatever she feels like writing about. She just started a 30-day writing challenge, similar to the photo challenge I recently finished, where she answers a promt each day. What a perfect time for me to start following her blog - I will get to learn more about her. And so far, she seems pretty awesome! Oh, and she makes cupcakes! Yum!

So there you have it - the 10 blogs that I had the pleasure of discovering through Swap-Bot. Hopefully one of these blogs also has something that interests you, too!
Happy reading!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Coupons & Debt

Ben & I have made the decision to start couponing - like, really couponing. Not just the random once-a-year "$3 off a haircut" coupon that comes in the mail... but researching sales and clipping coupons every week.... as many as we can find... to save some serious cash on our grocery bill.

This is one of the changes we are making in order to be more "Gazelle Intense" (it's a Dave Ramsey thing) in getting out of debt. Ben is also going to start looking for part-time work - possibly a pizza delivery driver on the weekends.  (A weekend job is pretty much the only option that would work) And even just an extra $100 a month will help tremendously! Between the money I anticipate savings from groceries, and the money Ben's second job should bring in, we're hoping we can be fully debt-free by the end of 2012 (or sooner!)

We are putting the motorcycle on craigslist and hopefully that will sell soon. Then we also have to sell our car because if we don't sell it soon - we're not going to be able to sell it anymore. It is going to reach the point of "if one part isn't broken, another part is" which we've already started down that road, already throwing $2,000 at car repairs in the last 9 months. And there will be more stuff going wrong in the future. It's time to sell this one for whatever we can get for it, and buy ourselves a vehicle that will last - one that we buy newer, and that we can drive until it dies (hopefully many years down the road). The down side is for a vehicle like that, it's gonna require a loan. *sigh* But maybe after selling the motorcyle and car, we'll have the loan for my car almost fully paid off - so instead of adding another loan payment, we'll be replacing a loan payment.

But we are still hoping to be debt-free by end of 2012 - including the new vehicle loan - because we are going to work our debt snowball with intensity!

Sorry, I tend to ramble. Anyway, back to coupons....
There's so much info about couponing out there, I just get overwhelmed. But I'm thinking this will be like cloth diapering was... when I first made the decision to cloth diaper, I was overwhelmed with all the options and opinions. I almost gave up becuase it seemed like I'd never figure it out - but I just dove in with both feet, and learned as I went. I now LOVE cloth diapering and the confusion at the begining was totally worth it, now that I've got the hang of things and am actually doing it. If couponing is the same, then I know I'll do fine... but it sure is still intimidating getting started!
 If you use coupons, please share any tips or advice you have! I'll need all the help I can get!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Monster's First Birthday Party!

Can I just say WOW!? We had a great turnout to Monster's birthday party. I even impressed myself with how nice the decorations, food, and cupcakes looked. I spent days ahead of time worrying that x, y, or z, won't turn out right, etc. But all those worries were useless! We had way more than enough food. And I was even told that it looked like we had it catered, because it was such a nice spread of food. That made Ben feel good, since he purchased & prepped all the fruits & veggies. Go daddy!!

Well, how about some pictures?

Welcome sign on the door -
And on the front table, we had the book I made for him on Shutterfly. The guests were encouraged to look at it, and sign on the back page, like a guestbook!

Here's what the back pages looked like afterward - 
Here's a view of the whole room.
Detail of the table centerpieces:

 On the right wall, I had his monthly progression pictures displayed. 2 weeks - 12 months.

And the gift table in one corner... look at all those monster gift bags! Yay for the Dollar Tree!

 Birthday banner along back wall:
And in the other corner.... monster cupcakes!

 Monster cupcake close-ups:
Furball monsters...

and string monsters!

Monster's 8-yr old cousin Autum helped make them - she stuck all the eyes on! Great job Autum!

Food tables

And drinks in this corner -
 See the little monster labels on the water bottles? And then we had little flavor mix-ins for the water bottles :)

  And here was the seat of honor!

 So, the party started at 2, and we started getting a steady stream of guests around 1:45. People kept coming until about 2:30 - we ended up with about 45 people there! Monster is sure one loved little boy!  Of all the guests that showed up, one was a very special surprise - my best friend Katie, who moved to Montana for college 6 years ago, came to the party! She flew in from Montana, and I didn't even know she was coming! It was so nice to see her, and I'm glad she was able to be here for such a big event in Monster's life!
We got a pic together...but not on my camera. :( Oops!

Some guests...

And this is Monster with his Omie & Papa (my grandparents). This was my grandpa's first time getting out of the house for something other than a Dr visit since his lung surgery to remove the cancer! Doesn't he look great!

Notice Monster's awesome Monster shirt! This was given to him at Christmas from an exchange with one of the ladies in my online mommy group. She made it just for him - and it was perfect for his Little Monster birthday party!

So, after a bit of snacking & chatting, it was time for the cupcakes!
I took a video of Monster eating his first cupcake...but it's too large to upload to Blogger. :(

It was cute though. At first he grabbed the frosting... and kept grabbing handfuls of frosting and licking it off his fingers. Then when the frosting was gone, he discovered the cupake, and went for the cake part. Everybody cheered & clapped - so he clapped too. Then we all laughed. So he clapped again. And we all clapped and laughed. Repeat about 4 or 5 times, lol. And then he just went on eating his cupcake!

So these pictures will have to do. I think he liked it! YUM!

But when it was gone...  Not happy! (Yes that is frosting all in his hair)

Then it was on to opening presents... Monster liked playing with the wrapping paper the most. :)

(note the messy hair of a post-cupcake Monster)

We were incredibly blessed with lots of toys, clothes, shoes, and more from everybody! The biggest present he received was from Grammie & Grandpa (my parents)- they got him a sand & water table to play with outside this summer!
He also got lots of music/noise makers, because he love love LOVES to make noise. Grandma & Grandpa (Ben's parents) got him a tambourine, bells, and a really cool "Twirly Whirly" - it makes noise. :)

He also got a little drum from Aunt Alethea, Uncle Chris, and cousin Autum!

And one of those bead slider things that they have in Dr offices!

And Grandma & Grandpa GG (his great-grandparents on my step-dad's side) got him this thing - it's a rider/walker hippo that "Eats" these little blocks of food as you push it... pretty neat!

Oh, he also got a few pairs of "big boy jammies" - You know, the shirt + pants kind, instead of zip-up footies. He's growing up!

 And I don't know why we don't have a photo - but who remembers those Bubble Mowers? You know, the little plastic lawn mower that blows bubbles? Guess what? They still make them, and Monster was given one for his birthday! He's going to love that this summer!

So that was about it for the party.... by the end of it we were completely exhausted, and feeling very loved & blessed. Thanks for everyone who showed up! We also have lots of food left over - we're gonna be eating fruits & veggies over the next week or two! :)

I'll leave you with this picture. It's not a very good one. It's blurry & the flash is too bright -but it's the only one we got of the 3 of us with my camera! I hope somebody else who took this photo got a better shot! Maybe they can email it to me sometime, lol. But - it's the 3 of us!

Have a great week!
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