Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Our First Thanksgiving without Family

This was the first year I didn't spend Thanksgiving with my family. It's a big deal for us, and I was a little down. And overwhelmed: it was also the first year I had to make the turkey! Since I would be cooking by myself with no one entertaining the boys, I got started two days before by making my mom's Puerto Rican stuffing. It was my first time making that too, and it came out just like my mom's! I was so proud of myself. It ended up being a huge hit on Facebook and at Thanksgiving dinner.


The next day I made pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, rice pilaf, and broccoli casserole, and let the turkey marinate overnight. I had Justin put it in the oven in the morning before leaving to play football with all the missionaries so I wouldn't have to wake up extra early.

Once up, I cooked the cheesy mashed potatoes and mashed sweet potatoes with orange zest while the boys watched a Thanksgiving cartoon. When the popper popped up on the turkey I checked the temperature, which wasn't where it was supposed to be, so I kept it in longer. I was more scared of serving an underdone turkey than a dry one. It ended up dry but not terribly so. There weren't much drippings, but it still made a great gravy! Last thing to make was Justin's boxed stuffing (yuck!) and then putting out the rolls, peas, canned cranberry sauce, and green salad.


The missionaries showed up first, and then a sister from our ward came just as I was finishing laying out the food. I had everything ready by 12:30, something we never accomplish at my parents' house even though there's more help!

Dinner was delicious, if I say so myself. Afterward, Sister Mathews washed my dishes before leaving (which made cleaning up later so much easier!) and I put the boys down for a nap. The rest of us watched the LDS movie The RM.


The past few weeks, the missionaries had been training me and put me on the 12-week program that new missionaries do. I had questions for them, and they offered to teach the first lesson on the Restoration as an example of how to use the principles I was learning. They asked me to play the role of the investigator (person learning about the gospel of Jesus Christ). At the end they asked me to pray if what they taught was true, and I was like, seriously? They told me to play along, so I did. It ended up being one of the most spiritually powerful moments in my life. Let me tell you--it's true! Those two young men have so much power and authority because they are so close to the Spirit due to their studying, praying, serving, and keeping high standards. I hope my boys become as strong of missionaries as they are.

The boys woke up toward the end of the lesson. We made the missionaries do the turkey wobble with us and then we had dessert. Sister Mathews had made a pumpkin pie-like dessert, I brought out the cookies, and I mixed together a quick fruit salad. We played the game Balderdash and had a blast! We also learned that one of the missionaries is an exceptional liar, tsk tsk. ;)

Our friends the Turbees came over so the hubby could taste the food I posted photos of on Facebook. I ate the turkey heart in front of them all but didn't get the reaction I usually do. I was surprised to find myself more disappointed than grateful for their politeness. After the game, everyone left and we put the boys to bed. Justin and I enjoyed some leftovers before going down ourselves. It was a much better Thanksgiving than I had anticipated! I am thankful for the wonderful people here who made it so fun and memorable!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Lakeside Collection Gift Basket Giveaway

Have you always wanted to give a gift basket but couldn't find one with the right gifts inside? Or the price was too high? The Lakeside Collection offers gift baskets that you customize, so you not only can put in whatever you want but also spend how much you want. There are five categories to shop from to please your outdoor friends, foodies, fashionistas, little princesses, and pet lovers.


The Lakeside Collection sent me the Curious Cook gift basket to review. Everything was wrapped superbly, so that although my package arrived a little banged up, the contents were safe and sound.


The gifts included were perfect for my family, too! I loved them all, and my husband was most excited by the bread dipping set. He wanted to go out that night and buy bread so we could use it right away!


The gift basket comes unassembled so you save on shipping and can arrange the basket however you want,  based on what you bought. Or, if you want to split the gifts among people, then you don't have to worry about undoing a fancy, pre-wrapped basket. Either way, there are assembly instructions online for a sample basket of each type so you can get a general idea of how to compile the gifts. This is how I assembled my basket (you can finish it by wrapping it in cellophane, though I prefer it without--better visibility and less waste).


Smiles
*Customization of gifts and price with a variety of items and prices. 
*Low shipping costs.
*Gifts are high quality.
*Comes with return instructions and shipping label.
*If you're not into gift baskets, they have a ton of other unique gifts to choose from!
*Excellent customer service!

Frowns
*Not the type of gift basket you can ship to a distant friend since it isn't pre-assembled, unless your friend is like me and couldn't care less about the presentation.

One of you lucky readers will win any gift basket of your choice! Enter in the Rafflecopter form below. This giveaway is open to the U.S. only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, November 28, 2014

"I Want to be Baptized" Book Review

For those of you who are LDS, I have a fantastic book for you to help prepare your children for baptism: I Want to Be Baptized by Annalisa Hall. This book is excellent in every way possible!


Smiles
*Thoroughly explains why we need to be baptized.
*Great format. For younger children, you can just read the major points, and for older there is an analogy and explanation for each point.
*Includes scriptural and musical references for each point at the end of the book.
*The illustrations (by Corey Egbert) are beautiful, fun, colorful, and detailed.
*All of the above make it very kid friendly. My 4-year-old loves it!
*Makes a great lesson aid for Family Home Evening or Primary.

Frowns
*None.

Annalisa and Corey have also published The Holy Ghost Is like a Blanket, which I really want to get now! It even comes in a board book for little ones. For more information about or to buy the books, visit annalisa-hall.com.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

"95ers: Time Runners" Movie Review

I am a huge fan of clean filmography. However, many family friendly films can be too family friendly. Sometimes I want something for adults but without adult material. The independent film 95ers: Time Runners delivers just that. It has suspense, action, and deep themes without gore, language, and sexuality.

War rages in the distant future. Millions have died and cities lay in ruins. But the most feared weapons are the time machines. Final victory can only be achieved by manipulating the past…

In our day, FBI agent Sally Biggs is obsessed with investigating unsolved cases involving paranormal activities—especially the bizarre disappearance of her scientist husband. She suspects that the mysteries have something to do with the destabilization of time, since she herself has a strange relationship with time. She has the power to rewind it—to go back a few seconds, whenever she wants, and remake her choices.

But she had no idea that her power was connected to the cataclysmic war in the future, and that she, her husband, and their unborn child would become its most important targets. Assassins with terrifying technologies are hunting her, and her own timeline is unraveling. Her only hope is to follow her husband’s ghost to the awesome truth that ties all the mysteries together—before the ones she loves fade out of reality.




Smiles
*High-quality, impressive graphics!
*Mild action violence with no gore.
*No language (though there is one use of bastard if that bothers you).
*Unique spin on time travel.
*I love how it connects to Dickens's A Christmas Carol and emphasizes the power of choices.

Frowns
*I was confused the first half of the movie; I wish it had revealed more in the beginning. Also, although some have praised its use of real scientific theories and terms, I didn't understand any of it, further adding to my confusion.

Visit 95ers.com to watch this cool sci-fi movie today!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Halloweekends

The Halloween season this year was so much fun! I was very happy there were so many things to do. Our first Halloween activity was an impromptu pumpkin-carving night at our church.


Then the Saturday before Halloween we had a fun-filled Halloween day.


We first went to a party at the Great Swamp Conservancy. It was small in size but big in decor and activities. The boys' favorite was playing in the dried-corn box with the trucks.



There were different stuffed animal habitat set-ups--a sea, swamp, farm, jungle, and cave--and some real, small animals outside.









There was also a pinata, reading time, carnival games, crafts, food, facepainting, coloring contest, and more. The boys had lots of fun and didn't want to leave.



Gabe LOVES raisins! It's his "candy."

After nap time we went to a party at the rec center. We were early and there was already a line!


There were carnival games and a haunted house that Caden kept wanting to go through. Upstairs was a talking pumpkin.


Downstairs was pumpkin carving (which we skipped) and a disappointingly small trunk-or-treating. But the participating vehicles were amazingly decked out.


The following Thursday the library had a special reading time that included a scavenger hunt and free fall-themed books. Only one other parent (and the only dad too) dressed up besides me.

I originally wore a red sweater, but changed it to a shirt for Halloween night.

Friday was finally Halloween. Justin was hemming and hawing about taking the boys out, complaining about the cold (it was hardly chilly) and saying they wouldn't be out for more than 20 minutes. This was the first time he was able to go so I wasn't happy with his attitude.


After 45 minutes, they came back to unload so they could get more candy! They left Gabe with me and trick-or-treated for another 45 minutes. Meanwhile, I passed out goodies with my friend. She gave out candy while I handed out bubbles and toys. We gave each kid an option and I was very surprised at how many kids, including some older ones, chose the bubbles and toys over candy! Success! And a couple weeks ago I found tiny containers of Play-Doh on clearance for next year!

Justin's mom sent us his old Ghostbuster's costume, which Caden can't wait to wear next year even though he has no idea who Ghostbusters are. He just wants to use the ghost catcher thingy. I'm thinking of making it into a family themed costume, something we haven't done before!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Christmas in Snow Valley Bookset Review


Two weeks ago I shared with you summaries of the Christmas in Snow Valley romance novellas. Now here is my review of the bookset:

An Unexpected Kiss
*It was just like a Hallmark movie: cheesy, romantic, and unrealistically perfect.

Feels Like Love
*This one had a more realistic situation and a family dynamic I could somewhat relate to. I didn't think the surprise ending fit well with the leading man's personality.

Full Court Devotion
*My favorite! These characters were the most likable and compatible and, as a product of an interracial marriage married to another product of an interracial marriage, I loved the interracial relationship.

The Christmas Eve Kiss & Risking it All for Love
*I didn't care for these stories too much, but I appreciated that they touched on deeper, darker themes.

Blue Christmas
*A perfect ending to the set! It had the right balance of fun and seriousness and had a believable story arc and character change.

Overall Smiles
*Entertaining reads that you get you hooked.
*Love how the stories all happen in the same place and time with some of the characters crossing over into the other novellas.
*Clean without being prudish or boring.
*Really gets you in the Christmas spirit--and I'm a Scrooge!

Overall Frowns
*Whoever the publisher's proofreader was needs to be fired! There are not only usage mistakes, but also wrong character names!
*Sometimes too cliche situations and descriptions.

Note: Although clean compared to other romance novels, it is still PG, with sexual references, mostly for background info; a brief, non-graphic attempted rape scene; and one story using damn. So if you are more conservative (along the lines of the Duggar family), then this bookset is not for you.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Gabe's First Haircut

Last Friday Gabriel got his very first haircut! It wasn't planned. Although I cut Caden's hair when it was about the same length as Gabe's, Caden was a couple months older, so I was content letting Gabe go longer with the curls. I thought perhaps once spring came we would cut it. But it was always a mess and getting in his eyes and in my mouth (while co-sleeping). So when Justin decided to get a haircut that morning during a special deal, we thought, why not get Gabe's done too?

Caden had his done at a kid-friendly salon with all the stops, yet he sobbed both times he went there. I wasn't expecting much better from Gabe, especially since this was a regular salon. The hairdresser used to run a day care, so she was prepared with Sesame Street videos on her phone. She also saved some of his hair for us.


Gabe made confused faces and moved his head a lot, but did not cry or even whimper or fight me when I had to hold him still sometimes. He was very cooperative and easy. It was a night and day experience compared to Caden's first time (which you can read about here)!


Gabe looks more grown up and more like his brother. His hair isn't curly anymore, but I know it will grow back. (The funny thing is it was the opposite with Caden; his curls got tighter after being cut.)



 I love my little handsome boy!
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