Friday, January 31, 2014

"Second Time's the Charm" Book Review...

...I was thrilled when Melissa Keir asked me to read another one of her books! "Second Time's the Charm" is the first book in a series so I sped through this short story so I could find out what happens next.

A middle aged divorcee with two children must find her way back to love after a devastating divorce leaves her with no self confidence in herself or even in love. Lissa's ex-husband has shredded her self esteem, so she has thrown herself into her children and job. An emergency life threatening illness of her best friend's son puts her on the path to romance. Lissa finds her new love in an unexpected way...introduced by his ex-wife. 

Who knew that first time loves could lead to second chances?

This was a very quick read. It proves that you can find love when you're least looking for it. The real conflict seemed to be Lissa's ex and the grief he gave her for dating again. As a grown "child of divorce," it's important for a parent to move on and be happy which is what Lissa did. A happy mom, makes a happy family, right?  Knowing that this is a series, I think Melissa did a great job laying the ground work for drama to occur in future books in this series. I can't write too much because I'm anxious to get on to the next book "Three's a Crowd!"

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Kong Dog Toy Review...

Disclosure: I got this product as part of an advertorial.

...Entirely Pets is the leader in online pet supplies and non-prescription pet medications. Our vet operated site provides you with a wide selection of pet products at unbeatable prices, with excellent customer service.

As your one-stop pet shop, provides affordable solutions to give your pet the healthiest and happiest life possible while saving you money. Basically, we aim to keep tails wagging! Our "pet friendly" site features the most popular brands on the market and various in-house product lines. We have been consistently delivering value and convenience to pet owners around the world since 1999.

My favorite items on the Entirely Pets website are all the Kong toys! I got to pick a Kong for my furbabies so I chose the extra-large Kong Stuff-A-Ball.

I stuffed it full of a few dog treats...

Then I gave Shad first dibs. He didn't quite grasp the concept as he kept batting it around the basement with his nose.

Emma took the first opportunity she could to steal it away from him then she retreated to the safety of her kennel. She had to sniff it out first.

But it took her no time to figure out how to get to the treats!

Entirely Pets was super easy to work with. The furbabies toy came right away in the mail. They Kong was super strong and durable so the dogs won't be tearing it up any time soon. It was a pleasant surprise for them on the coldest day of the year and kept them busy since they couldn't play outside. We'll definitely be using this for a long time at our house and probably investing in a second one so they don't fight over it.

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

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Weigh-In Wednesday...

...I've had a few people ask so here's a link to the Tank Top Arms workout I've been doing. I plan on doing a post about it in eleven weeks. :-)

Wednesday, January 22-Bright and early arm day at boot camp! Plus I did Tank Top Arms when I got home. Whew, my arms are Jello!

Thursday, January 23-I did 15 minutes on Jacob's Ladder plus Tank Top Arms. Whew-Jacob's Ladder is tough!

Friday, January 24-Leg day at boot camp and then Tank Top Arms in the afternoon at home. It is so hard to get out of bed early when it's so cold!!!

Saturday, January 25-Arm day at boot camp before I had to go to work.

Sunday, January 26-Tank Top Arms with a 25 pound toddler on my back for half the push-ups. It was a gorgeous day out so I'm bummed we didn't get any walking in but we were busy, busy girls!

Monday, January 27-I woke up VERY early and swam! I hadn't swam in forever and it felt so good and relaxing in the water. I can't wait until I can swim again.

Tuesday, January 28-Tank Top Arms and chasing AR around gymnastics.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Life in the Fast Lane...

...When I had AR, I put my life on hold. I didn't want to miss a single second with her so I basically did nothing besides work and be a mom. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining at all, I wouldn't do it any differently, but now that she's a bit older, I've started doing more...exercising, reading, socializing, etc...And in true Alyssa fashion, do you think that I gradually eased into things? Maybe for a couple months, but now my plate is full. As in, big girl, pour on more potatoes, my plate is overflowing! Here's my life in the fast lane these days...

Exercising/Weight Loss-As you've all seen my posts, I'm trying to lose weight. It's a never-ending battle. As this time, I'm really maintaining but hey, I'm almost forty pounds lighter than I was six months ago so I'll take maintaining and lose what I can. I'm trying to do boot camp 2 mornings/week, swim one morning/week, and run twice/week.

I'm an ambassador for Hospital Hill Run again this year. I love that race! I've been visiting local running stores to pass out info about the race. My goal is to run the half again, first half since having AR. I won't start my official training until March but I've got to build up my endurance between now and then.

They're getting new mileage club shirts at work which is the motivation I needed to get back into the pool! Oh, plus there's talk of the Tri Girls reuniting for the triathlon in August. I don't know what' s more frightening-competing post-baby in a tri or wearing a swimsuit in front of co-workers?

Teaching-Today is my first day of teaching...a college class! I'm excited and nervous at the same time. I basically have everything ready through the end of February, still prepping the first test, but I feel prepared for this first week. I've already been asked to teach again this fall. I haven't committed yet as I wanted to make sure I enjoyed teaching and I'm good at it. I did the math and if I do this for four years then I'll have enough money to buy AR's first car before she even turns five!

Product/Book Reviews-I have quite about five products to review right now and a few books to finish reading. My goal is to try to schedule and review two/week so I don't fall behind.

Valentine's Day-After I go to Costco this upcoming weekend, I'll have all the supplies I need to make AR's Valentine's. I'm pretty excited about them and I hope they turn out! I have to make twenty for a playdate and the kids at the sitter's.

AR's Second Birthday-Although it's four months away, I'm already full swing in party planning mode! I even made a trial cake to see if I could do it. FYI-it turned out pretty awesome!

Writing-I've started writing and I don't mean blogging. Through all the book reviews I've been doing, I've been introduced to the world of indie publishing. I decided to try my hand at writing a love story and I, well, loved it! I've had a few people read it and I'm on a critique website. I've gotten good feedback and best of all, no one's straight up told me it sucks to that's exciting! It's a long, tedious process and I just wish I had more time to devote to it, but alas, I don't. I'm going to keep pushing on and hopefully, you'll see a post about it one day!

Photography-I did a "photoshoot" for a couple this month and it's made me want to do more. Not that I want to actually be a photographer but I want to be able to take photographer quality photos of AR and our family. I've talked to Katie Beach, our wedding photog, and she's going to do a natural lighting class on March 9. If you're interested, email or leave me a comment. I'm looking for three other people to do the class with me. I'm also already working on some pictures for the February Photo Challenge I'll be posting on here.

AR-Dude, she needs a social coordinator! Tuesday nights we have gymnastics. Mondays we've started swim lessons. I want to do a Mini Kickers program (soccer) but it's only offered on Tuesday mornings so I'll have to keep looking. She's got a playdate and birthday party coming up on the 9th plus we're going to be celebrating H's tenth birthday soon! Seriously, how did H get to be ten already!?!

I'm also trying to sell her baby stuff. I think I've come to terms with being okay with her being an only child. That should be a post in itself and it will be when I'm 100% okay with it. In the meantime, I've been posting pics and meeting people to get rid of some of her bigger baby toys to make room for all the new ones we got at Christmas. I also need to do a post on her since I haven't done one devoted fully towards her and her developments since, oh, you know her 12 month post which was eight months ago! FYI-We're still not 100% over her cold/sinuses/whatever you want to call it. The doctor said her lungs sounded clear both times we went so I guess that's good but I wish this cough would go away!

So that's what's going on in my world these days. You know, aside from working, being a mom/wife, and trying to keep my head above water in the household department. These next few months are going to get crazy! But hey, that's life in the fast lane, right?

Monday, January 27, 2014

NEW Purex Crystals Fresh Mountain Breeze!!!

...Last Friday afternoon, a bottle of the NEW! Purex Crystals Fresh Mountain Breeze arrived on my doorstep. The Purex Crystals are a laundry enhancer that you use like a fabric softener. They eliminate odor and freshen laundry.

As soon as I opened the box, the scent from inside the bottle was hitting my nose and I was in love! I couldn't wait to do laundry and that's something I've NEVER said in my entire life. I scurried around the house claiming any piece of clothing that I thought needed a wash. Then I headed downstairs, started a load of laundry and I was not disappointed.

The aroma of the Fresh Mountain Breeze crystals took over the stinky, dirty laundry that filled my washer. Purex Crystals are 87% natural crystals that go in at the start of the wash, so they spend more time with your laundry infusing them with long-lasting freshness. It was so easy to use, all I had to do was pour in the crystals, load my laundry, add soap, and close the lid!

Fill the cap and dump in-easy peasy!

I "patiently" waited for the load to finish so I could once again smell how good it was. Again, it didn't disappoint. Now, a few days later, and the scent is STILL with the clothes! The clothes smell fabulous and I absolutely love it.

They got a giveaway going on to win $500 so be sure to check it out AND because Purex is so awesome, they've given me three coupons to giveaway to my reader so that you can try the natural softener yourself...FOR FREE!!! The giveaway will be open from January 27 at midnight to February 2 at midnight with winners picked on February 3. To enter, leave me a comment telling me why you want to try Purex Crystals. This is mandatory and then there's other entry options to better your chances.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Ozeri CardioTech Pro Series BP5K Digital Blood Pressure Monitor...

...Our house is getting high-tech! We received an Ozeri CardioTech Pro Series BP5K Digital Blood Pressure Monitor. I wish I had this while I was pregnant since I had to check my blood pressure every day. It sure would've beat going up and down the stairs at nine months pregnant but now we have it which is great! Matt always has high blood pressure and mine has been on the higher side since having AR so this is a great way to to check our pressure regularly in the comfort of our own home.

  • New intelligent voice-guided feature alerts you to the proper positioning of your wrist for accurate blood pressure measurements.
  • Automatically provides an audible hypertension assessment via a new talking function (as well as a display on the LCD screen).
  • Portable, accurate, and simple-to-use with clinically proven technology, stores 180 blood pressure readings (90 x 2 users) with date and time recordings.
  • Automatic Irregular heartbeat (Arrhythmia) detection and Hypertension Indicator.
  • Push-button access to average blood pressure readings based on all readings in memory, AM versus PM readings, or the 3 most recent readings.

  • Of course, someone had to help Daddy set it up.

    It's so simple to use. All you do is place it on your wrist, the British lady will tell you if your hand position is too high, too low or ideal. It doesn't cut off your circulation like the machines at the grocery stores do and it only takes a few seconds to register. The buttons and numbers are big and easy to read. My husband and I were both pretty thrilled when we each took ours and our British friend told us that our blood pressure was "optimal!"

    If you have any need/reason to regularly check your blood pressure, I'd suggest investing in this to make your life easier! Head over to Amazon to check out their product page.

    Saturday, January 25, 2014

    Our Return Flight...

    ...We flew back on Monday, like I said before, it was a whirlwind trip. Somehow the flight back and the wait at the airport is much quicker than the flight to. Maybe because I know what to expect or possibly because Nana waits with us until the last possible minute before we have to go through security. It could also be that Tampa takes your luggage for you making check-in much quicker and I get to skip to the front of the line since I have a stroller when we go through security. Anyways, it always goes quick.

    We only had about 20 minutes to pass before the plane started boarding so in that time, AR took a few selfies on my Note. I feel like selfies should always be captioned, "Hey, girl, HEY!"

    Our boarding pass was B9 but we got in line right after the A group. We snagged a window seat and waited to see who would be stuck lucky enough to sit by us. As it turns out, no one wanted to. The seat beside us was the very last one filled. It ended up being a younger guy in his early 20s which I was very happy with, I don't think the Mizzou football player would've liked sharing his leg room with AR.

    She was a good girl again on this flight. I asked for two water with lids when we ordered our drinks. The flight attendant brought them to us without lids. It was all okay at first, but as AR tried to pull her water away from me because "she's a big girl and can do it herself," I quickly had to ask our middle row friend to take my drink before we all ended up wet. Of course, she fell asleep the last twenty minutes of the flight, but hey, I don't normally get to hold her while she sleeps so I'll take all the cuddles I can get.

    The guy really was a good sport. As soon as he sat down, AR started giving him stickers. They started off on his hands then she started up his arm. Before too long, he had a whole garden of flower stickers! He was super sweet and left them on the entire flight, even as he walked off the plane he still was wearing them. I also offered him a Blow-Pop along with the other array of snacks I had packed.

    As we got off the plane, AR wanted to walk and not sit in her stroller. Do you blame her? She'd been cooped up for 2+ hours. I let her walk a bit since the walkway was wide enough for us to pass. When we got about halfway, I stopped to pick her up and told the two guys behind us to go around. One guy muttered something I didn't quite catch but I knew it wasn't polite. There's always one person in a tiz when you travel and I'm just glad he didn't sit by us!
    I doubt we'll be going anywhere between now and May so it's crazy to think that the next time we fly, she'll have her own seat. I don't know if this is a good or bad thing because I'm not so sure she'll want to sit in her carseat that long. Oh well, we'll cross that bridge at that time!

    "The Iron Duke" Book Review...

    ...I finished up the audio version of "The Iron Duke" by L. Ron Hubbard.

    The Iron Duke

    Meet Blacky Lee, ruggedly handsome with a quick wit and a roguish charm. Think Clark Gable with larceny in his heart and a price on his head. A price put there by the German Gestapo. But Blacky's always got an angle, and this time it s as audacious as they come. He'll hide in plain sight, impersonating the crowned head of a Balkan kingdom. He'll become The Iron Duke.

    Can he pull it off? Win the love of a country...and of a beautiful woman? All Blacky has to do is risk everything and, for once in his life, find a way to do the right thing. Get in on the deception as the audio version of The Iron Duke puts you in the middle of the royal con game.

    I think I would have enjoyed this book better if I had read the book first!  I had to restart it several times to get all the characters straight in my mind.  I did enjoy the different voices and the actual taping was nice and clear so if I’d been more familiar with the story line, I could have imagined it better in my mind.
    The story was suspenseful and I love a book when you can’t figure out the ending. Book was witty and contained lots of good humor.  Book has a little of everything, romance, thrill, mystery, adventure….should meet everyone’s approval.

    Friday, January 24, 2014

    The Rest of Our Trip to Florida...

    ...After seeing all the manatees on Friday morning, we came back to Nana's. AR and Nana went swimming outside, the pool was heated, while I took a nice long bike ride. I accidentally took a wrong turn so it was longer than I planned but I enjoyed being outside.

    On Saturday morning, Nana had her friends over to see her newly remodeled house and meet AR. AR chose her own outfit and it turned out that we all ended up matching.

    She found this round pillow in Nana's bedroom and carried it out to the living room. Apparently, she thought it was a horse. What a great imagination!

    Three generations all in blue.

    After the party, AR took a nice long nap while I went to get my haircut, I was in need of some massive deshedding. When I got back, I went on a long walk with my mom's dog. Jodie and I got back to the house and AR was up from her nap and looking for me. She got in the stroller and we went a little further with her. I always do lots of outside exercising when I'm at Nana's, too bad she's too good of a cook! After our walk, we went shopping at Beall's. I was pretty thrilled that I spent $100 and had Christmas/birthday gifts for six people! Plus I got a new sports bra and workout capris while AR got two new outfits and a spring dress. I love shopping at Beall's!

    Saturday night, this girl wore herself out! She ran circles around Nana's living room changing after her dog. AR hasn't been much of a talker but she would say the dog's name, Jodie, clear as day. She's also started calling Daddy, Matt. He taught her that. 

    Jodie was a very good sport about it. I mean who wouldn't love all the hugs and kisses from this precious little girl? I'm glad AR and Jodie had such a good time. When we got off our flight on Monday afternoon, my mom texted me that Jodie had attacked the neighbor's dog. By the time I called my mom, she had already talked to an adoption/rescue organization and her vet who both told her it was risky for Jodie to be around other dogs and a huge liability to them since they don't know what/when she could go off on dogs or humans.

    I'm sick to my stomach just thinking about this. She was seriously so good with AR the entire weekend while she chased her, hugged her, petted her, and she never even snapped, snarled, or gave her a dirty look. My mom is just like me, a huge dog person, so this its a very difficult decision for them to make and I know she's heartbroken about it.

    Sunday was a relatively slow, hang out day. Nana met up with her friend who gave AR a ride on the golf cart.

    We had lunch at a local place called Grannie's where AR ate chicken livers for lunch and loved them! After we all took a long nap, we decided to head to the pool. Here's my mermaid wrapped up in Nana's sweatshirt as we walked in.

    I swam a little bit with her but then jumped in the hot tub while her and Nana swam. She is such a fish! She blew bubbles, stuck her head under the water, kicked her feet while holding on to this step...and all on her own without being asked! I can't wait for her "official" swim lessons to start in a couple weeks.

    We also checked out the park in their living community. It was not a great park, especially for little ones, but we made the best of it. AR loved hanging from the bars but that's no shocker as she's part monkey.

    She loved this slide and went down it too many times to count. She even accidentally went down head first.

    They didn't have the little bucket toddler swings. Nana put her on this one and as I snapped three great pics and was in the process of saying, "Mom, don't let her fall," she promptly fell onto the luckily, soft, rubber chips. That didn't stop her from crying while pointing at the swings and wanting to do it again.

    There was a really nice dog park right next to the playground. We ventured into the big dog side as they were more entertaining. We sat on a bench and watched the dogs chase tennis balls and Frisbees then race the small dogs on the other side of the fence. AR loved it especially when Harley came over to say hello.

    It was a nice and relaxing trip. I enjoyed the break from the frigid weather. A trip to Nana's is also a break for Mommy as Nana let's me sleep in and does bath time and AR has a great time with her. We'll be seeing her again in February and talking lots as we gear up for planning AR's second birthday. It seems like I was just pregnant with her and now we'll be celebrating the big two soon. Thanks for the trip, Nana!

    Thursday, January 23, 2014

    Homosassa State Park...

    ...We woke up Friday and hung out around Nana's house. Then we headed to Homosassa State Park. When Matt and I visited back in 2009, we went here and I tried to get the same pics. Read about it here and here.

    This was the visitor's building. I have the same pic of Matt with this manatee.

    Daddy wrestled this alligator last time we were here so this time Nana and AR did it for him.

    You take a 20 minute boat ride which is a little windy over to the park.

    Everyone with a paid admission got a stamp on their hand so we had to sing the bee song which we sing when AR gets her bee stamp at gymnastics.

    This is in the underwater observation area. Of course, my monkey thought this was a hanging bar.

    AR the Manatee!

    When I cleaned out my old car, I found this disposable camera. God only knows what pictures are on it. I figured I'd bring it on the plane for us to take pictures. AR LOVES it! It was the best "toy" I brought. She carried it all around the park "taking pictures."

    Here are two manatees heading back out to water after eating a lunch of cabbage.

    This is one big 'ole alligator!

    Look at all the flamingos!

    Love that they have the American flag in with the bald eagles.

    I think this is a great shot of the owls. I'll pat myself on the back for this one!

    Lu the Hippo is the only non-native animal at the park. In order to stay with the rules, the governor made him a resident of Florida so he could stay. He turns 54 next week and will get a big birthday cake!

    My favorite picture of the day! I have a pic of Matt and I in front of the same sign in 2009. She was really distracted by the waterfall in front of us but hey, at least she's looking at the camera!

    Wednesday, January 22, 2014

    Weigh-In Wednesday...

    ...Here goes, my first Weigh-In Wednesday. I know they're boring to read but I'm hoping they'll keep me accountable. Please comment with motivation, healthy ideas/recipes, or if I'm slacking, totally call me out on it!

    Thursday, January 16-Snow and travel day means no workout. :-(

    Friday, January 17-In Florida, but never fear, I got a workout in! I rode a bike to the workout center. While AR and Nana swam, I rode the stationary bike for 25 minutes while I read and watched them. Then I took the long way home on the bike, taking a wrong turn and making it even LONGER!I also did my tank top arms workout while baking cookies so yeah, today's workout probably didn't do much with the whole cookie baking.

    Saturday, January 18-Did my tank top arms workout in the am. After lunch, I took a 15 minute walk with my mom's dog. When we got back to her house, AR and her were waiting for us so we took a short five minute walk. Even though we were in FL, it was still chilly!

    Sunday, January 19-Tank top arms workout!

    Monday, January 20-Tank top arms workout! Hey, I know it's not much, but I figure it's better than nothing at all, right?

    Tuesday, January 21-Slept in and skipped boot camp but I did run two miles! Plus, of course, tank top arm workout!

    Tuesday, January 21, 2014

    The Flight to Florida...

    ...I woke up last Thursday morning to snow on the ground. I prayed that it wouldn't delay our flight. Luckily, my lunch time it was all gone. My MIL picked us up at one and we headed to the airport. We circled Terminal 2 at the airport TWICE and there was seriously no place to park. Oh well, I figured I could handle it for the short distance plus I figured someone might offer to help. Yeah, I was wrong. Not a single person offered to help. I waddled into the airport with AR in a stroller, my camera backpack on my back, a huge carry-on hanging on my arm, a rolling suitcase and a convertible carseat. It was no easy task.

    I take it back, one man did help me in line...he pushed her stroller forward as I struggled to move forward with everything else. I finally get to the front of the line, get her a boarding pass, and think I'm in the clear. Wrong! I forgot that at STL Terminal 2 they don't put your luggage on the conveyor belt behind the check-in desk, you have to walk it ACROSS the terminal to go through security. So I load up with all my bags and my 1.5 year old and struggle once again, this time passing four airport/TSA employees standing and talking to each other and not a single offer of help.

    We finally ditched the suitcase and carseat, made our way through security and had about an hour and a half before our flight. The one thing I love about Terminal 2 is that there's five-six unused gates that no one realizes are there. I always take AR there so we can run around, be loud, and do whatever we want. Plus there's a family bathroom this is never used so there's no wait and it's super clean. I set up my laptop with a nursery rhyme DVD for her to dance to while I read. It worked out great!

    About thirty minutes before our flight, we headed back to our gate. AR watched the plane pull into the gate. She was mesmerized by it all.

    When I switched cards, I found this old disposable camera in my console. God only knows what pictures are on it. I threw it in our bag figuring I could use it on the flight instead of getting out my DSLR. AR saw it and it was the best "toy" I packed. She loved "taking pictures" the whole flight and basically our whole trip.

    I still got out the DSLR. Here's AR and me ready to leave on a jet plane.

    Our boarding number was B-1. Luckily, we got to board directly after group A and got in line before two HUGE families. We found an empty row and snagged a window seat. It was a two hour flight and AR did awesome. She got tired towards the end of the flight, she hadn't had a nap all day and I thought she'd nap on the plane, of course, she didn't. I also think her ears were bothering her because she got a little fussy, but nothing crazy. When we landed, all the people around us told her what a good job she did and I was one proud mommy. We found Nana when we landed and ate at the airport. As soon as we got in the car, my girl passed out. Next time we fly, she'll probably be over two which means she'll have her own seat. That's awesome for Mommy but not on the pocketbook!

    Monday, January 20, 2014

    Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe...

    ...Every now and then, Yahoo will display a recipe. I'll click on it, think it looks delicious and then forget all about it. I saw this recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies and sent it to Nana. My email said: Can we make these? It had a link to the recipe and a picture of a craft project I needed her help on. She responded, Sure it looks easy enough. Was that a link to the pattern? I clicked it and a recipe for chocolate chip cookies showed up! Guess we should work on our communication, huh?

    Anyways, I made these during our visit and hey turned out fab! I loved that you could freeze them although we didn't. Here's the recipe:

    Chocolate Chip Cookies

    2 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    1 1/2 cups regular semisweet chocolate chips
    1 cup large bittersweet chocolate chips
    1 1/2 cups walnuts, finely chopped
    1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
    1 cup light or dark brown sugar, tightly packed
    1/2 cup white sugar
    2 eggs
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    1. Heat oven to 375° F.
    2. Sift flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
    3. Mix together chocolate chips and chopped nuts. Set aside.
    4. All medium speed unless otherwise noted: In a standing mixer, with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars until well mixed and light. Scrape down the sides. Add one egg. Mix for 5 seconds. Scrape down the sides. Add second egg. Mix for 5 seconds. Scrape down the sides. Add vanilla. Mix for 5 seconds. Scrape down the sides.

    5. Also important to let your helper to play with dirty dishes to keep from tossing the flour out of the bowl when you mix it all together.

    6. You’re going to add the sifted flour mixture in 4 batches, stopping before adding the final batch. For the first 3 batches, mix at low speed just to combine, scraping down the sides between each addition. When you get to the final batch of flour, add the chocolate chip/nut mixture. They will get a bit crushed. That’s okay. Mix until there’s barely a trace of flour visible. Don’t over-mix. Sometimes, it’s better to be safe and do the final bit of mixing by hand.
    7. Set up a sheet pan with a silpat or parchment paper. Bake one tray at a time or they will all cook at different rates. Make them spherical, not flat. The cookie size is up to you. I find the bigger they are, the better ratio you have between gooey interior and crisp exterior. 2 ounces is about right for that.
    8. Leave a few inches between the raw cookies. Place sheet pan in the oven. They cook very fast at this temp. I never set a timer. I just hang around the oven and drink tea. They’re done when they’re brown and crispy on the outer border and raw in the very middle (8 to 10 minutes). Remove sheet pan. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then, with a spatula, transfer cookies to a cookie rack to cool. If you’re not going to eat them right away, they should be frozen.
    9. If you’re not baking them off right away, portion them out with an ice cream scoop, place them on a sheet pan, and freeze. Once firm, store them in a Ziploc bag. Works great to bake them off when they’re frozen.
    We left out the walnuts and couldn't find bittersweet chocolate chips so we used semi-sweet chocolate chunks. We both agreed this recipe was a keeper! Mine turned out a little gooey because Nana's oven was acting weird so we turned it down to 350. But, hey, whose going to complain about gooey chocolate chip cookies???

    Sunday, January 19, 2014

    Give & Save Website Review...

    Disclosure: I got this product as part of an advertorial.

    Do you ever see those dog ads on tv with Sarah McLachlan singing? Or the ones with Alyssa Milano saying for just pennies a day you can feed a starving child? If you're anything like me then you're bawling your eyes out at the end of the commercial and ready to sign away your paycheck. Unfortunately, my own bills, groceries, etc...get in the way. Don't get me wrong, we donate money to charities throughout the year, but there's just no way possible that we could donate to every one out there.

    As I was searching for birthday gift ideas for H, I came across the website Give and Save. It's a site that allows you to purchase products and services and 50% goes back to the charity you choose. You can pick from any that they have selected or you can nominate your own charity. So if I do Master the Met again, I can add the American Lung Association to raise funds for them! How cool is that plus I can buy a gift/service to use for myself or family. Win-win in my eyes!

    This is how their site works. Give and Save searches local companies and finds deal up to 75% off.  Each time you select a deal, gives up to 50% to a charity YOU choose.
    We need your help.

    I think the site is still in it's early stages because right now, they're aren't a ton of products to choose from (although they do have loom kits which is perfect for H!). It's a great concept and I know I'll definitely consider it for a fundraising goal should I work with Master the Met again. In my opinion, it's a great way to kill two birds with one stone.

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

    Saturday, January 18, 2014

    "Come to Me" Book Review...

    ...I entered a giveaway and won a copy of the book "Come to Me" by Laverne Thompson. I read the description and couldn't wait to start reading it. I knew it would be the perfect book to read while in Florida and I was right. Too bad it took me less than a day to finish it because I still have two more full days in Florida plus a plane ride back!

    Confirmed bachelor Baron Munro doesn't believe in love, much less love at first sight. But what about love at first sound? It wasn't until he heard Jasmine Sandler's voice that he realized his life was missing something.

    Jasmine didn't know what to make of the man who haunted her days and invaded her nights. She knew the sound of his voice as intimately as she knew her own.

    But...they've never actually met. Dare she take the risk of a lifetime?
    As I started reading this book, it jumped right into Baron and Jasmine meeting. At first, I was like, what the heck, but then the major plot twists happens. I seriously could not put the book down! Jasmine moves to D.C. to be with Baron and ends up in a car accident leaving her with no memory and no hearing. She wakes up thinking that Baron's best friend is who she's with, not Baron. Laverne did an awesome job setting the scenes and making me feel what the characters did. I was rooting for Baron, hoping Jasmine could remember him. I loved the story and the concept, that you can fall in love with all five senses and if one sense fails, you have four other to trigger memories. I feel like the book could have been drawn out a bit longer to expand on the characters and plot but Laverne did a great job telling a story. Definitely a must read!

    Friday, January 17, 2014

    My Real Life Cabbage Patch Doll!!!

    ...Apparently my child looks like a Cabbage Patch Doll. She got two of the exact same ones because they both said this doll reminded them of AR.

    So what do you think?

    Oops! Pardon this picture, this is what happens when you try to take a 1.5 year old's picture one too many times!

    My own real life Cabbage Patch doll. Crazy, huh?

    They even surf the web together. Oh and did I mention that the dolls' name is Rose Ally. Ironic, huh?

    Happy Friday!!!

    Wednesday, January 15, 2014

    Weigh-In Wednesday...

    ...December 18 I did a Weight Loss Wednesday post. Since August I've lost almost 40 pounds. Since December 18 I've been totally unmotivated. Luckily, I've only gained a couple pounds despite all the hot chocolate, Reese's trees, and other delicious goodies I've indulged in. I "took a break" from working out and eating right and now I'm questioning it. I should've known better, a break is never good. You never jump back into things like you did before and that's exactly what's happened here.

    I've spent $60 to join weight loss challenges hoping they'd motivate me, but they haven't. I've worked out once and I was so out of shape that I couldn't move for three days thus giving me more of an excuse not to work out. The pot for one of the challenges if $700 as though that's not enough incentive but I'm still not into it. I'm five pounds away from hitting a major goal (which I think was in the post on December 18) and yet I don't want to put in the work or the time to do it.

    This past month was the perfect time for me to hit it hard, work out, count calories. I'm really concerned once my class at LU starts that I'm going to be strapped for time. It's so frustrating yet I still continue to sabotage myself. UGH!

    In fact, God has even told me to stop being fat. Before the first weigh-in, I decided to treat myself to a Slurpee and a Reese's tree. Guess what? I got pulled over on the way home. This past Saturday, AR and I went to Cracker Barrel for lunch. As we were waiting for dessert, AR knocked over my water spilling it on my jeans. See, this is God's way of telling me to get with the program!

    I don't know what my deal is but it's got to change! Maybe it's the accountability. In the fall, I was paying for boot camp classes so I had to work out. I'm too cheap to pay for something and not do it. I thought paying for the weight loss challenges would be the same way but apparently it's not. I also think it's the support of the people around me. The girls in my boot camp class were AWESOME! My whole office was doing a weight loss challenge in the fall too. Having EVERYONE involved was really motivating, not to mention scrutinizing and I mean that in a good way. Also, this fall waking up at 5am was no big deal either, but now all I want to do is stay in my bed as long as possible which means no time for working out.

    So starting next week (because I leave tomorrow for Florida and won't be back until Monday), here's my plan:

    • I can't commit to a membership or month of boot camp because of the LU class. I've bought a drop-in pass to get me jump started that I've used this week, will use next week and then I'll have two random passes to use.
    • Start counting every morsel that enters my mouth.
    • Posting Workout Wednesdays. I know this is boring as a reader but it helps me because I'm publicly saying I'm lazy if I post a week of no workouts. After all, this blog is all about me, right?
    • Lose those five pounds by Valentine's Day!
    • Beat everyone in my Weight Loss Challenges and take their money!!!
    Okay, it's a start. I have some races and fitness goals in mind that I'll post on Wednesdays. Please help keep me motivated. If you see me in person, ask me if I've lost those five pounds so you can watch my face turn red and I can squirm if I haven't. #byebyebabyweight

    What's a post without a picture? I've been sharing my after dinner dessert, 100 calorie Healthy Choice Fudgicle, with AR. Hey, it's less calories, right?

    Friday, January 10, 2014

    "Chalkboard Romance" Book Review...

    ...Another new author I've discovered has won my reading heart! Melissa Keir is the author of the book I recently read Chalkboard Romance. Melissa writes a series of books called Sexy Between the Covers. Her books are full of romance and oh so spicy! Check her out on Facebook, her website or her blog.

    Lauren Walsh, a divorcee and elementary teacher, wanted to feel sexy again, after her ex tossed her aside for a younger woman. Her teaching partner and best friend encouraged her to sign up for The Playhouse--a renowned dating agency.

    Mac Thomas remained trapped in a marriage to a money grubbing socialite. Forced to stay away from his young son, Mac lost the ability to trust. After the death of his wife, he returned to care for his son but his sister wants more for him. She sets him up with The Playhouse.

    Passion ignites but Mac’s a parent of one of Lauren’s students. A teacher and a parent dating could cost Lauren her job and her chance at happiness. Will Mac be able to convince the school and Lauren, that love is the most important thing?
    This was a quick, easy read which as a working mom is all I have time for any more. I loved how quickly the story moved along and how well the characters were described and developed. I instantly was cheering for Lauren and Mac to work out and I really wasn't a fan of Melanie. I know that her and Lauren were supposed to be good friends but it was obvious who her mystery guy was which made me cautious of her.
    While the book had a great ending, I wanted to know more about the parent that ratted Lauren out. Also, I wanted to know more about Draikoh San. She could write a whole series about clients of The Playhouse. Excellent work by Melissa! I look forward to reading more of her stories.

    Thursday, January 9, 2014

    THERA°PEARL Children's Pal Review...

    ...When we received our THERA°PEARL Sports Pack, AR couldn't keep her hands off it. I started surfing their website and saw that they offer Children's Pals. These are the perfect ice/heat pack for bruises, swelling, bee stings, or whatever other injuries your wild child might literally run into. The Children's Pals come in fun characters: Buddy the Puppy, Ping the Panda, Pearl the Pig, and here's Ribbit the Frog:

    The sitter calls these "boo boo ice."

    When the package came in the mail, AR didn't know what they were at first, but she was drawn to the package because of the fun pig and frog.

    I took them out of their package which is 100% childproof, almost even mommy-proof, too!

    After inspection, she remembered what it was and immediately put it on her cheek.

    She shared Pearl the Pig with Mommy, but Ribbit was all hers!

    She even shared Pearl with her baby doll. Maybe she'll grow up to be a nurse?

    As much as AR loved the Sports Pack, she loved the Children's Pal even better! The fun characters drew her attention, hopefully they would distract her if she wasn't feeling good and help calm her down. It was easy for her to hold the pal on her face by herself so that was nice as it left Mommy with an extra set of hands. She loved squishing the pearls inside. Hopefully we don't use these often, but when we do, they'll get the job done.
    You can find out more about their products by visiting:
    Thank you THERA°PEARL for the opportunity to review your Children's Pack!

    *I received one Children's Pal at no charge. All thoughts/opinions are mine.

    Tuesday, January 7, 2014

    Mattie's Meatloaf...

    ...Lately, I feel like every time I turn around meatloaf is in my life. People are pinning meatloaf recipes, asking for them on FB, or commenting on how awesome mine is. I have to admit, I think it's pretty awesome as does my husband, my stepsis and most people that sample it. Remember when I had my post-baby surgery, my mom and I had a meatloaf cook-off? Reading back on that post now, it was obvious I was on some major painkillers, why else would I write about dinner and BS in the same post???

    Anyways, I found this recipe YEARS ago when Matt and I first got together. He was never a fan of meatloaf growing up, but he would always rave about this recipe. I copied it in my recipe book and titled it "Mattie's Meatloaf." My stepsis is also a huge fan so anytime she watches AR, I make it for dinner the night before so they can have leftovers.

    The Loaf
    1.5 pounds ground beef
    1 egg
    1 onion chopped
    1 cup milk
    1 cup dried bread crumbs
    Salt and pepper to taste

    Preheat over to 350F. In a bowl, mix all ingredients. Place mixture in loaf pan or form a loaf.

    The Sauce
    2 tablespoons brown sugar
    2 tablespoons mustard
    1/3 cup ketchup

    In a separate bowl, combine all three ingredients. Mix well and pour over meatloaf. Bake at 350F for one hour or until loaf is fully cooked.

    My notes: Onions don't sit well with my husband so I only use a half if that much. I always use Italian bread crumbs, not plain. The sauce is what makes the dish in my opinion!

    Happy Loaving!

    Monday, January 6, 2014

    Gorgeous Bride Tiara Giveaway From MyeSoul...

    ...Wedding fever is in the air! My SIL got engaged right around Christmas and she's already full swing into planning for a beautiful fall wedding, my favorite time of year if I do say so myself! While I'm so glad that my wedding planning days are over, it's still fun to look at wedding stuff, right? I found a company called MyeSoul.

    MyeSoul is an online store that has products like dresses, jewelry, and more for weddings, costumes, computers, electronics, and more. Seriously, I could spend HOURS looking through all the items they offer. Not only do they have a LARGE selection, but they have great prices, too. I've been asked to share the awesomeness with my readers!

    I will be hosting a giveaway for a Gorgeous Alloy With Clear Cystal And Imitation Pearls Wedding Bridal Tiara as long as I have entries. Some of you may already be married, but I'm sure we all know an engaged woman out there who would love to wear this on her wedding day. The tiara normally costs over $60, but with MyeSoul's pricing, it's only $34.99 and one of you lucky ladies, or man, could win it for free!

    Check out the Rafflecopter to see how you can enter. The contest is open now until Sunday, January 12 at midnight. Share with all your friends to ensure we have 20 entries!
    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    This is a sponsored post from with my unbised thoughts.

    Sunday, January 5, 2014

    STL Snowmageddon 2014!!!

    ...In case you didn't hear, and if you didn't, where have you been???, STL got a little bit of snow today. They'd been forecasting it since Thursday and everyone was taking it seriously. Friday afternoon, when I always do my grocery shopping, it was insane at the grocery store and Costco! People were stocking up like crazy! Oh well, I knew I wouldn't have time on Saturday and Sunday was out of the question so I braved the crowd and got our supplies.

    We had a stale loaf of bread in the fridge. I decided, hey, let's be cliché and we'll make French toast for breakfast on Sunday if the snow comes. This meant I had to stop at the grocery store again on Saturday morning for syrup, but luckily, it wasn't nearly as crazy. Side note: Apparently they eat waffles and syrup at the sitter's. When I picked her up on Friday, the sitter told me that after she finished her breakfast, AR decided to wear her bowl as a hat...a syrupy hat. This was actually what gave me the idea for French toast when she mentioned syrup.

    Saturday night, Matt set the alarm for 3am thinking he'd go in at 4. I woke up slightly before his alarm. When I looked outside, it hadn't done anything. His alarm went off and he got up. I heard his truck running outside and the tv on in the living room. I fell back asleep and woke up a little before 7 to AR giggling over the monitor. Apparently, Matt was back (or maybe he never left, I don't know!). They took care of the dogs then came and tackled me in bed. I got to sleep in both days this weekend! #winning

    The G-Fam all moved to the living room where we watched the news on the tv and the snow through the window. I loved how the reporters were telling everyone to stay off the roads then they'd cut to the Fox 2 Mazda Roadrunner who is driving down the highway. Matt decided to go shovel the driveway for the first time. AR and I watched from inside, she stood at the window knocking on the window and clapping when he'd look at her. Then Daddy left for work!

    AR and I went to the kitchen and got started on our French toast. I used my old skillet that's probably 10+ years old and the first two pieces ended up a mangled mess. Then I pulled out my new Ozeri pan and our French toast was perfect!!! While the toast tasted great, my child much preferred to stick her hand in the syrup and lick her fingers. I don't blame her.

    While I cooked, she climbed under the kitchen table and watched the wildlife in the backyard. Currently, she's really into the squirrels in the backyard and thinks they're hilarious. It must be the Alpha Gam in her.

    After breakfast, we Skyped with Nana, let the dogs out (Silly dogs wouldn't come back in! I had to put on Matt's muck boots and wrangle them back inside), and played, played, played! I broke out my Ugly Sweater Run stocking cap yesterday and AR is obsessed! I'm glad she's found a hat she doesn't mind wearing. Of course, we had to have her baby dolls in the picture...this isn't even half of them! Oh and don't you love her moccasins? My stepsis that lives in Utah sent them to her last Christmas and they fit perfect now.

    Around lunchtime, I went outside with a ruler. We had almost ten inches! Some of that could have been because the wind was blowing it all around, but still, that's a lot of snow!

    AR watched safely from inside. We, meaning me, didn't go out at all other than to measure the snow, let the dogs out, and scoop the back patio. I had specific instructions not to touch the driveway. Luckily, I don't go in until 2pm tomorrow so hopefully he'll clear it by then.

    When I came in the house, AR was really into cleaning off my boots for me. She'd pick up the clumps of snow and carry them all to the trash can.

    After a nice, long two hour nap, AR woke up and was so excited to see Daddy had come home! He basically stopped to eat, put on dry clothes, and warm up a little bit. He also plowed in front of our house and the neighbors on either side of us. AR would clap and cheer and get a big grin every time she saw his truck.

    But when he'd pass our house, she was confused. "Where's Daddy?"

    After he left, we decided we'd make him a cake for him to eat when he gets home later tonight. I took two steps away from her to get the sprinkles out of the cabinet and look what that stinker did. Stuck her finger right in the cake, see it on her lip?

    We decorated it with red and green sprinkles. Hopefully, Daddy will like it because it was made with LOTS of love.

    After dinner, we finished up drawing on thank you cards and headed to the bath. She discovered the bucket fits perfectly on her head and wouldn't take it off. I let the water out of the tub and she insisted on leaving it on. Silly goose!

    We had a great snow day! I've been home with her a lot the past couple weeks and she's been so good! I don't know why I act like I'm surprised because she really is a good kid. Lately though, she just wants to crawl up in my chair and sit by me while she plays with her toys, listens to books my mom recorded, or play on her Leappad. AR will give love meaning hugs and kisses, but she's not real big on cuddling so I'm enjoying the time she wants to spend right beside me. Side note: Definitely have to limit the screen time on the Leappad, but totally excited to have it for our flight to Florida!

    Then 12 hours after our day started, it was time to put her to bed. When I lay her down at night is when I get the best cuddles. After story, prayer and love for Daddy, we go over all the animals in her room, sing Grey Squirrel and then she rests her head on my shoulder while I turn on the sound machine. Some nights, I don't want to lay her down!

    So there you have it, our snow day, where we didn't get to play in the snow, but we watched a LOT of it come down! Hope everyone stays safe and warm out there tomorrow.

    Saturday, January 4, 2014

    One Last Christmas Celebration!!!

    ...Today we had one last Christmas celebration with my MIL's side of the family. What a surprise when we walked in and saw Santa!

    We'd ask AR where Santa was or tell her to take something to Santa and she'd go straight to Uncle Phil.

    Matt with his cousins Katherine and Jenifer, the famous mural painters!

    AR had a blast playing with her two cousins. However, this picture doesn't make it seem that way, but I swear they did.

    Someone decided to show AR and Eva the piano...they were in heaven!

    Big cousin Jen came over and showed the girls how to play while they pounded on the keys themselves.

    It was a nice, relaxing afternoon and I love that it's after the holidays so we don't have to rush around. So now, our Christmas season is officially over until next year!

    Thursday, January 2, 2014

    Back to the Grind...

    ...Today is back to work for me. I've been off since last Friday and it's been wonderful to chill, be lazy, and hang with my girl. This is a random post of this and that and other thoughts.

    I took full advantage of my week off from good eating and working out. I also paid $50 to join a 12 week weight loss challenge where the first place price is $700!!! That's the kind of motivation I need to keep going so today marks back to working out. My goal is to do boot camp or run in the morning before work and then run in the evening on boot camp days or do a Pinterest at home workout on running days. I think the next few weeks I'll be able to swing it, but once my class starts at LU, I'm worried about my time crunch. As long as I get one workout in a day and eat well though, I should be okay. Plus the weather will be warming up in the next couple months which means AR and I can do more things outside which will be nice.

    Since I've been off, I've been putting all our Christmas gifts away and trying to get the house back in order. AR was loving playing in the box of peanuts.

    But once she started hiding toys in them and taking them out one by one, it was time to get rid of it. Bye, bye peanuts!

    My sister got AR a broom just her size. Of course, she still prefers to use mine which I let her until she jabbed it in my ear when I was on my knees picking up spaghetti noodles we dropped.

    Heading back to work, I'm all caught up on laundry. AR likes to dance around her room while I put away clothes. Thanks for the help!

    Luckily, my child tries to crawl IN her crib instead of out of it. Oh, she's also had this nasty cough for a few weeks. The Monday before Christmas, my mom took her to the doctor who said it was just her sinuses. Last Saturday, I thought the cough was getting better and we could stop the meds. Then wouldn't you know it, she woke up Sunday morning with a nasty runny nose. We're definitely getting our money's worth out of that humidifier.

    Oh hey, her hair is long enough for a ponytail! Woohoo!!! Now she has three hair-dos we can style. Still haven't got her haircut although those front bangs/hair are in her eyes if it's not pulled back. As part of the sitter's Christmas present, I gave her a whole box of ponytail holders so she can do AR's hair (this was in addition to other goodies and an extra week of pay).

    We've had lots of time to play around, be silly, and take pictures like this one. I don't know why, but I really like it. Oh! My SIL got engaged the weekend before Christmas. She's asked me to take pics of them for their Save the Date cards. It's a total honor, but I'm worried that they won't turn out well. I really struggled with outdoor lighting so any tips would be greatly appreciated.

     I'm also considering doing a photo challenge in February if anyone is interested. Here's the challenge I plan on doing.
    We've enjoyed being silly girls!

    I bought her some new sippy cups. It's like the next step after straws I guess. It's spill proof and helps them to drink from a regular cup. So far, I'm loving it and so is she. The ones we bought were the Playtex brand. I only have two right now so she'll stay on the straw cups at my MIL's but we'll send these daily with breastmilk to the sitter's.
    Yes, I still have frozen breastmilk but I'm guessing we'll use it all up by the end of this month. I'm happy I had some to help her through the winter this year, but I'll be glad when I don't have to thaw it out every day and then we won't have to send ANYTHING to the sitter's which will be AMAZING! So thankful we had a great breastfeeding relationship. I miss it in some ways, but in others, I'm so glad we're done. Not that we have a choice about baby #2, but that's one of those things that if we had a second, I wonder if I could I do it again for another year. I'm sure I could and would, but it wouldn't be something I was looking forward to.

    My sis got AR a LeapPad 2 for Christmas. AR's favorite program is the camera so we have lots of pictures of the two of us. I finally got her to stick out her tongue when I tell her to so here's one of the cuter ones that we have.

    And then we did a selfie with my DSLR to match! The little LeapPad doesn't take bad pics, probably just as good as my phone.

    So that's what we've been doing for the past week. Now it's back to work clothes instead of sweats, fruit instead of frosting, and hanging with adults instead of AR. Today feels like a Monday so I'm pretty excited that it's already Thursday. Oh and an update since I wrote this, Matt has to go in to work at 3am because of the weather so there goes the plan to run before work today. Please tweet or FB me to guilt me into running when I get home this evening!

    We're headed to Florida in a couple weeks to see Nana. While I'm NOT looking forward to traveling alone with her, I am looking forward to lounging and chilling with her and Nana in the warmer Floridian weather!