Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Ultimate Blog Swap: Honey Baked Ham

Today I'm participating in the Ultimate Blog Swap. You'll find me posting over at Feeding My Sunshine about one of our family's favorite recipes, and I'm excited to welcome Tammi from Picture Perfect Cooking to Bake Sew Write:

Good morning! My name is Tammi and my blog is Picture Perfect Cooking because I am definitely not perfect, but cooking and photography are the perfect hobbies for me. I am thrilled to be participating in the 2nd Annual Ultimate Blog Swap hosted by Life…Your Way and guest blogging at Bake Sew Write!

You will find that most of my blog posts are about food and photography with a little gardening, housekeeping, reading and pet love thrown in as well. My husband and I live next door to his parents on a farm in South Central Kentucky. My father in law and his cousin have bee hives and started producing their own honey last year so today my recipe is for a Honey Baked Ham using honey made by bees that live right across the road from me.

Honey Baked Ham

  • 1 spiral sliced pre-cooked ham
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ tsp. ground cloves
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. allspice
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
  • ½ cup honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, mix the sugar and 1 cup water. Add spices and honey. Simmer over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat.

Place the ham in a large baking dish and spoon about half of the glaze over the ham. Place ham in oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, basting with honey mixture every 15 minutes.

Once the ham is done, remove it from the oven and pour the remaining glaze over the top. Let the ham rest for a few minutes then slice and enjoy!

Visit Life Your Way to see all of the Ultimate Blog Swap participants! 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

It's Raining Cash Giveaway!

$550 It's Raining Cash Giveaway

Welcome to the $550 It's Raining Cash Giveaway hosted by Giveaway Promote.   I've joined a fantastic group of bloggers to give away $550 in cash via PayPal to one lucky person. Just complete the tasks below to earn entries into this giveaway. One winner will be chosen at random from all valid entries.

Bloggers, join in an upcoming giveaway event! Sign up and we'll keep you posted about future group events, like this one, hosted by Giveaway Promote. If you'd also like to hear about all other events currently open for blogger sign-ups, subscribe to Giveaway Promote's weekly group giveaway events and hops newsletter.  

This giveaway is open worldwide. It will end at 11:59pm EST on April 29th, 2012.

4/15/12 Swagbucks Update and ANOTHER Tip!

Four months as a Swagbucks user, and I must say, I only like this program more and more the longer I'm a part of it! In the past month, I've earned close to 5700 Swagbucks, bringing my lifetime earnings to 26,440. That's equivalent to about $290 using the $5 Amazon gift card as a rate of exchange (90 SBs = $1). My goal is to earn a free Christmas (read about that here) and I'm well on my way!

I think it's helpful to set a daily (or weekly) goal to try to hit to keep on track. That keeps me from overdoing it -- once I've hit my goal, I can put it away for the day. But it also gives me a target to shoot for to keep me motivated. So far, I think a reasonable goal for me is 150-175 Swagbucks a day. That equals out to about 1100-1200 Swagbucks a week. This will allow me to redeem the 5 $5 Amazon gift cards that are the best deal and redeem a $50 Amazon gift card every other month. If I can hit this target, I can save up $600 in my Amazon account to use for Christmas! That is more than enough for our family of three :) Even if you have ten kids, though, how nice would it be to have $600 waiting in your account for you to use?!

I shared a tip last month with my update, and I thought that might be helpful again. Here's something new I have added to my "daily" Swagbucks checklist (read about the rest of my dailies here): Some of the Special Offer boards have daily surveys. Trial Pay and Peanut Labs seem to have the most consistent options. If you go to the Trial Pay wall and click "Surveys", there are several companies that offer a new survey every day. Of course, you have to qualify to earn the Swagbucks and they aren't screened for you like the surveys that pop up in Trusted Surveys, but it's worth the minute or two it takes to see if you qualify. If you do get to take the survey, you can earn an easy 25 to 90 Swagbucks!

I really can't recommend Swagbucks enough. They have a promotion going on now to give away a trip to Las Vegas! I mean, how awesome is that?! Actually, they'll be sending one super-Swagger AND someone who votes in the contest too, so even if you join now, you could be on your way to a great vacation :) You can sign up using any of the links in this post!

Read more of my Swagbucks updates and tips here.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Why Today Is a Great Day

TODAY is a great day. Why, you ask? Three reasons:
  1. Hunger Games premiere! I know, it's all the rage. Can it really be that great? YES! I can say because I just got home from seeing it :) If you're not into movies, The Hunger Games books are amazing!
  2. It's MEGA SWAGBUCKS DAY! Every Friday, Swagbucks offers bigger wins for searches. Mosey over to the Swagbucks Facebook wall if you don't believe me :)
  3. SWAGBUCKS CODE! If you haven't given over to the wonders of Swagbucks yet, NOW is the time to do it! Starting today through the end of the day April 2nd, Swagbucks is offering a 70 SB sign up bonus! When you register, enter the code MARCHSWAG and get 100 SBs at sign up instead of the usual 30 SBs. This will put you a quarter of the way toward your first $5 Amazon gift card, and all you have to do is enter your name and email address. I mean, hello?! There really is no better time to join! (Use any of the links above to sign up.)
I'm sure there are many more reasons why today is a great day. Can you think of one? Share! Happy Friday!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

March Swagness -- GET EXCITED!

March Swagness has come to Swagbucks - it's all about you earning bonus Swag Bucks while doing all of the things you’re already doing on Swagbucks. Every day thy’ll give you an earning goal, which you’ll find on their homepage. As you earn Swag Bucks throughout the day, that meter will fill up and when it’s full, you’ll have earned your bonus for the day. The bonus will always be 10% of that day’s goal.

Be sure to check in everyday, as the earning goal for any given day could be higher or lower than the day before. Your total bonus amount will continue to accumulate each day, and your bonus amount will be applied at by April 5th – this special promotion runs through April 2nd. If you hit the earning goal every single day of March Swagness, your bonus amount will be doubled!

EVERYTHING you earn on Swagbucks counts towards March Swagness – including (but limited to) Search,Surveys, Tasks, Swag Codes, Special Offers, Referral Bucks, Winning TTPTP, Hashtag and Comment hookups – if you earn it from us, it counts towards the day it was earned! Get your March Swagness on starting today, when the goal will be 50 Swag Bucks!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Easy Individual Lasagna

I came across this recipe on Pinterest (hello, muse) and loved the idea of it! I love lasagna, but it's just time-consuming. I'm starting to think it takes me forever to make because I just don't do it that often. I think it would be easier if I did it more! Anyway, there are two things about this recipe that were calling my name: 1) the "individual" servings and 2) putting the meat in the food processor. Why do these excite me? 1) We have a wee one at home, but the only people eating real food are me and my husband. I love recipes that allow me to freeze stuff in individual portions so we can eat them later. 2) My husband is a VEGGIE HATER. Seriously, corn and potatoes are the only vegetables he will eat. (Ok, let me be fair -- I have converted him to asparagus. But it took forever! Though he does love it now, so I guess it was worth it.) Anyway, in this recipe, she puts the browned meat in the food processor to chop it up super fine and get that pretty sauce that restaurants always have. I couldn't care less about pretty, but a light went off in my brain -- mix in veggies! If they're ground up, they're imperceptible! Woo! Here's my version of the recipe which diverts from the original a decent bit...
Pin It

  • 1 lb ground beef (or Italian sausage or whatever meat you love!)
  • 1 jar spaghetti sauce
  • 1 container Ricotta cheese (15 oz)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 box of uncooked lasagna noodles
  • 2 cups Mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 zucchini
  • Salt
  • Pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Brown meat in high-sided pan. (You will be adding your sauce in here, so use a pan that gives you enough room.) While the meat is browning, put on a big pot of water to boil your noodles and chop up your zucchini.
3. Once the meat is done, drain off any excess fat. Put the meat in the food processor and pulse until finely ground. You're looking for an even texture all through the meat.
4. Once you get the meat out of the pan, put the zucchini in the pan and saute until soft. Add the zucchini to the food processor and grind it up with the meat.

You won't even notice me once I'm all chopped up!
5. Add the meat and zucchini back into the pan and pour in the sauce. Stir occasionally while you prepare the rest of the dish.
6. Once the water comes to a boil, ADD TONS OF SALT and then add the noodles and cook until al dente. (Just follow the directions on the box.)
7. While the sauce simmers and the noodles boil, mix your Ricotta cheese with the egg and add salt and pepper to season. Add 1.5 cups of Mozzarella cheese and 3/4 cup of Parmesan. I used a Parmesan/Romano blend. Just use whatever you have!
8. Once the noodles finish boiling, drain and lay them out on waxed paper or cookie sheets in a single layer.
9. Prep your pan by covering the bottom with a thin layer of sauce. This will keep the noodles from sticking.
10. Spread the cheese mixture onto the noodles. The original recipe called for 1/4 cup per noodle. I just heaped a spoonful on and spread til it was covered adequately.
11. Once all the noodles are cheesed, spread a heaping tablespoon of sauce on top of the cheese.
12. Roll the noodles up "jelly roll" style and place them seam side down in the pan.
13. Top the roll ups with the remaining sauce and cheese (1/2 cup Mozzarella, 1/4 cup Parmesan, or however much you like!)
14. Cover with aluminum foil (use toothpicks to keep the foil off the cheese if this is an issue for your pan) and bake for 35 minutes. Take the foil off for the final five minutes of cooking if you'd like your cheese to brown up a bit.

My husband loved this recipe -- LOVED IT! If you have veggie-haters in your home, try this one out. You can sneak anything into that sauce! I've also found that it freezes really well. We've been eating it off and on for a week! Hope you enjoy.

OH -- by the way, I have some Ricotta cheese left over. (The big container was on sale.) What's your favorite thing to do with Ricotta? I need some ideas!

Friday, March 16, 2012

3/16/12 Swagbucks Update AND a Tip!

Aaaand I'm a day late on my monthly Swagbucks update, BUT I didn't do much Swaggin' yesterday, so my stats should still be pretty accurate. This marks my third month as a Swagger (these are terms you pick up from spending time around other Swagbucks fanatics. ha), and I am proud to say in my three months with Swagbucks, I have earned a lifetime 20,756 Swagbucks! This translates to roughly $230 using the $5 Amazon gift card as my rate of exchange (90 SBs = $1). Amazing! Here is a screen shot of my redeemed gift cards:

That's right, it goes onto a second page now :) I have redeemed $125 in Amazon gift cards, $50 in Paypal gift cards, $10 off at Diaper Junction (we're trying out cloth diapers), and $5 at Barnes and Noble. That's $190! From searching! And surveys! And filling out offers! AHHH! I could not love Swagbucks any more than I do. It is simply wonderful!

As I looked over these stats, I was curious about my biggest moneymakers. If you are a Swagbucks member, you can look at your ledger (hover over your name at the top of the SBs page, click on "My Swagbucks", then click on the Ledger tab) and arrange it by Category using the drop down menu on the left.  Special Offers are my biggest money-maker. Even excluding the 3600 SBs for a credit card offer I completed, I've earned over 7000 SBs from Special Offers! (Surveys -- almost 5000 SBs -- and Tasks  -- almost 2000 SBs -- follow up in second and third places.)

Here's my tip for today:

My best resource for finding out about good offers without spending my life searching the pages is through Facebook. Occasionally, people will post offers they have completely successfully on the main Swagbucks Facebook page. I have also found the Swagbucks Offers That Credit page to have a wealth of information, including follow ups, cancellations, and ticket submissions. I will note that people are less careful of Swagbucks official rules on that page. They often talk of using false information to complete offers which is not acceptable according to Swagbucks and is just downright dishonest! However, I find the page to be infinitely useful and I owe it much credit for my crazy-high Special Offers total.

I'd love to hear about your Swagbucks experience! What is your biggest "money-maker"?

If you aren't a Swagbucks member, I hope my experience will encourage you to sign up! Referrals are another way to earn Swagbucks. Once you are a member, if people sign up through you, you can earn matching Swagbucks up to 1000 SBs. Consider signing up through me and then tell all your friends and earn Swagbucks from them!

Monday, March 12, 2012

In My Pinterest Queue

If you use Pinterest (which necessarily means you are obsessed... I mean, come on, it's awesome), you'll know what I mean when I say I won't live long enough to try all the things I've pinned. If you're not a Pinterest fanatic,  let's just say it's like internet hoarding -- which is dangerous because the internet doesn't take up space... the hoarding knows no bounds! I pin in the hopes of a "someday" when I will actually be able to make or cook all the awesome/delicious looking things that other people have made and cooked. One day, my friends, one day. Here are a few things in my Pinterest Queue:

4 Ingredient Peanut Butter Granola Bars

Source: foodformyfamily.com via Aleah on Pinterest
Mini Berry Pies on a Stick

Homemade Vanilla Extract

See what I mean?! Aren't these things AMAZING!? Sigh. Do you have anything pinned that you can't wait to try?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Biannual Blogathon Bash Kick Off!

Biannual Blogathon Bash

It's time! This weekend is the Biannual Blogathon Bash. Can you say, OVERWHELMED??! Having a new blog means there is so much I could be doing to improve my blog. I am going to really try to focus my goals to make this weekend as productive as possible. Here's what I'm looking to do...

GOAL: At least 15 hours of blogging! 

15 hours isn't an insane amount, but I have a five-month-old and my in-laws are coming, and I believe in realistic goals :) this is something I can achieve! It will be a stretch to work this in, but it is going to be so worth it in the end. Here are a few things that I would like to accomplish:
  • Create a posting schedule and write up a few posts.
  • Research Alexa Traffic Ranking (so excited for this mini-challenge!)
  • Brainstorm ways to make my social media work harder for me
  • Streamline a focus for my blog
  • Tag all my posts to make them easier to search through
  • Work on three month Swagbucks update
I'm so excited to be linking up to other blogs doing this too. I'm sure their to-do lists will inspire more for me! Even if I can't get everything done this weekend that I would like, it's nice to have a group to keep me motivated :) happy blogging!

Biannual Blogathon Bash Mini Challenge -- GOOGLE PLUS

For your Biannual Blogathon Bash Mini Challenge in Social Media, start here.
Google+ is a newer social media outlet, but with Google's vast reach, it is growing rapidly. Google is one of the most popular mail platforms, and Google allows all their email users to link their accounts to a Google+ profile. It operates in much the same way as a Facebook profile. You have the option of creating a Google+ profile or a Google+ page. If you already have a profile that you use for personal connections, it would make sense to create a separate page for your blog. If you have a separate email address for your blog, it is probably just easier to create a profile. The instructions for both are included below.

To create a Google+ profile:
  1. Set up a Google account by signing up here.
  2. Once you create your account, you will see the link to your Google+ profile on the top left. For example, mine says "Aleah+"
  3. Just like on your Facebook page, you can fill in your profile with information about you and your blog, your blog address, location, and search settings. You definitely want to make sure that anyone can access your page for optimum access!
  4. Google+ has "circles." On the left, you can see who you have in your circles and who has you in theirs. This is similar to Facebook's "Likes" -- it allows you to see how far your reach extends.
To create a Google+ page:
  1. Sign into your Google account.
  2. On the right side of your stream, click on Create a Google+ page.
  3. Pick a category for your page: Product or Brand; Company, Institution or Organization; Local Business or Place; Arts, Entertainment or Sports; Other. If you already have a Facebook Page, pick the one that is most consistent with your category there.
  4. Click Create and then get to work filling in the info just like you did for your Google+ profile or Facebook page!
How can a Google+ profile or page grow your blog? You can share your posts to your page and people can either share them or "+1" them. The "+1" button is basically a "Like" -- it indicates that people think it is worth reading. The more "+1"s you get, the more reach your blog has!

Leave a comment on this page once you complete the challenge!

Biannual Blogathon Bash Mini Challenge – FACEBOOK

For your Biannual Blogathon Bash Mini Challenge in Social Media, start here.

Facebook is the most widely used of all the major social media outposts. It has become a kind of "must have" for anyone and everyone on the internet. People can share things they find interesting in all sorts of formats. Most bloggers choose to set up a Facebook Page as opposed to a Facebook Group. Facebook Help has a great breakdown of the difference in their article here, so I won't go into the details. A Page allows you to reach more people faster and easier. Your blog might reach a point where creating a Group makes sense, so you could always keep that in mind for the future. Onto the "how"...
  1. Login to your Facebook account. If you do not already have a Facebook account, you can create one specifically for your blog or you can set up your own account, and create the page from there. Here are Facebook's instructions for creating an account (although they are basically as simple as Twitter's -- name, email, password, boom!).
  2. Once logged in, go to http://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php. Facebook allows you to choose what kind of page you will create -- Local Business or Place; Company, Organization or Institution; Brand or Product; Artist, Band or Public Figure; Entertainment; Cause or Community. Most bloggers select "Cause or Community" because most blogs are a sort of mini-community. One of the other categories might fit your blog better, so choose with your blog in mind.
  3. The first step will be to upload a picture. This can be your blog "logo" or a picture of you or something that represents your blog in some way.
  4. Then you will fill in your "About" section. You can describe your blog -- its goals, main features, etc. Then enter your blog address as the website. If you have a Twitter and Google+ page, you also have the option of adding in those links too!
  5. The next page you will see is the "Admin" view of your Facebook Page. Here, you will see several features about your page:
  • Notifications: You will be notified anytime someone writes on your Facebook Page wall, comments on a post, etc.
  • Messages: People can message you through your Page and it will show up on your Admin view at the top.
  • New Likes: The beauty of a Page is that people can "Like" your Page. This shows up on their profile, their friends see it, click on it, and they can "Like" your page too. It has this sort of viral effect, streaming from one person to the next. Facebook will tell you when you have new "Likes" so you can keep up with your reach.
  • Insights: Once 30 people "Like" your page, Facebook will start tracking activity to your account. You can see when people come to your page, what they do while they're there, how long they stay, and exactly how many people you are connected to through the people that "Like" your page. This is very valuable for you to track what your high impact actions are!
How can Facebook grow your blog? Through Shares and Likes! Share all your blog posts on your Page and people who have Liked it can see your latest posts. You can also update your status to advertise upcoming events and share other blogs you like. You can create a "poll" to gauge your readers' interest in different topics and help you find a new direction for your blog. If your readers "Share" your posts, all their friends will be able to see your posts and your Page.

I will use my Page as an example. Even though my blog was new, I chose to participate in a giveaway and used my Facebook page as my sign up link. People could "Like" my Page for an entry into the giveaway. In less than three weeks, I got over 1,300 Likes! According to Facebook's data, I have access to over 374,000 people through the friends of those 1,300 Likes. This is an incredible audience for just three weeks of exposure! Most of my readers access my posts through my Facebook Page and, if they share them, all their friends get to see them too.

Leave a comment on this post once you complete the challenge!

Biannual Blogathon Bash Mini Challenge – TWITTER

For your Biannual Blogathon Bash Mini Challenge in Social Media, start here.

Twitter is, by far, the easiest social media account to set up.
  1. Go to http://twitter.com
  2. Type in your full name, email address, and create an account password (not your email password). Click on the "Sign up for Twitter" yellow button. Use whatever email address you use for your blog.
  3. On the next page, create a username. Ideally, this username will connect with your blog. For example, my blog's name is Bake Sew Write. My Twitter username is bakesewrite.
  4. Double check all the info you entered to make sure it is correct.
  5. You now have a Twitter account!
Once you create an account, Twitter will suggest people for you to follow and will guide you through filling out your profile. Include your blog address as your website in your profile, and create a little tag line that briefly describes who you are/what your blog is about. Once you have your account set up, you can begin "tweeting" all your blog posts by writing a little description (140 characters or less) and pasting the blog post URL at the end.

How can Twitter grow your blog? First, a lot of people check their Twitter accounts on their phone and when your posts pop up, they will read them. Secondly, Twitter has a "retweet" feature that allows people to share your tweets with their followers. Finally, the best way to use Twitter is to "hashtag" your tweets. What does this mean? When you create a tweet, you can tag keywords by using a hashtag -- # -- the pound sign, number sign character. For example, if you post a recipe for lasagna, you can tweet a description and at the end put "#lasagna". This links your post to any searches done for lasagna and will allow it to pop up as someone is browsing through recipes.

Leave a comment on this post once you complete the challenge!

Biannual Blogathon Bash Mini Challenge – SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS

One of the best and fastest ways to grow your blog readership is through social media. Facebook alone has over 500 million users (as of the end of 2011). When you add in Twitter's 175 million users and the launch and growth of Google+, social media has a lot to offer a blogger in search of an audience. We are at a point with advancements in social media that I would argue every blogger should have at least one (if not all three) of these main social media accounts. It makes sharing and promoting your material easy, fast, and extensive.

My mini challenge for you today is to create a new social media account for your blog. I will go step-by-step through setting up a Twitter account, Facebook page, and Google+ profile. Pick one of these three to create for your blog and follow my steps! If you already have all three social media accounts, your challenge is to "polish" them up. A lot of times, our blogs take turns, grow, and change, but our social media accounts stay stuck where our blogs were when we started them. Streamline your vision for your blog and apply that to your social media accounts. Make sure your Facebook and Google+ profiles are highlighting the same features and sending the same messages. If you feel like your pages are all up to date and looking snazzy, spend a few minutes networking with other bloggers through your social media pages to increase your reach. We can always be working to improve our network of followers!

And now, the tutorials:
The most important part of your social media presence is a sense of consistency. Make sure all your profiles send the same image of your blog and feature consistent descriptions of your blog's features. You will find your blog growing by leaps and bounds in no time!

Leave a comment on THIS PAGE about how you completed the challenge and maybe link up to your new social media page if you want to show it off! :)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Joseph Kony & The Power of Mothers

Of all the people in the world whose hearts should break at the thought of children being stolen from their homes and forced into a life of slavery, sexual or military, mothers are the ones who should be screaming loudest. If you are a mom, you know better than anyone else can how much love, time, patience, care, hope, and power fuel your relationship with your child. Mothers in Africa feel what you feel and have their babies ripped from them. If you have not had the opportunity to watch this video, YOU MUST. You can choose to turn away, but you must know what is going on in the world outside your door. You must be informed.

I propose that mothers be the next group to join in with full force again Joseph Kony. Invisible Children's video shows the youth of America, moved and gaining momentum to stop this evil. They connect to the children who have been robbed of their childhood and safety. Their hearts break at the thought of what their lives could have been if they hadn't been blessed to be born in America. Mothers are the other side of that coin. We can connect to the women who are left in their homes, weeping at the loss of their sweet, sweet babies. Our hearts can break at the thought of how we would feel if these were our babies.

It is so, so simple. The call to action is to spread the word and use the great power that we have been given -- our voices. You don't have to start a riot or devote the next year of your life to working in Africa. Just pick up your phone or a pen or open a new tab on your browser. Call, write, or email the key representatives who have the power to continue American support for African troops who are seeking Kony. Skip your Wednesday morning latte and give the $4 to Invisible Children so they can equip children with education and economic opportunities. Spread the word. Share this video on your blog and make your own call to action.

You've seen the power that your posts can have. You've seen people pin your recipes, share your cleaning tips, and take advantage of your coupon match-ups for cheap diapers. These are all valuable and beneficial. They bless lives and families around the world. But this -- this has the power to shape the future. This has the possibility to change nations. This can save lives.

KONY 2012

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Biannual Blogathon Bash

Biannual Blogathon Bash

I am excited to be participating in the Biannual Blogathon Bash! My blog is a baby, so I have been working hard (a lot of behind the scenes stuff) to make it everything I want it to be. This blogathon will give me the much-needed motivation to take Bake Sew Write to the next level!

Bloggers, consider joining in on the bash. Sign up here!

Readers, what would you like to see more of in this blog? I'm excited to have some ideas for product reviews, more recipes, and a new sewing project. Ultimately, though, I'd love to explore your interests. Let me know what you'd like to see from Bake Sew Write!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

In the Moment

I'm a new mom -- like, 5 months new -- and I'm totally inexperienced. I never babysat. (And when I say never... that's really what I mean. Never. Like not even once.) I have a younger brother, but I was not quite four years old when he was born, so I didn't have any substantial part in taking care of him. I went to babysitter, but she didn't really keep any babies once I was old enough to help. I had changed maybe two diapers ever in my existence before someone handed me my own kid and said, "Good luck!" as they waved me out of the hospital. (Ok, this didn't really happen...)

All this to say, forgive me if my observations are, like, DUH. They are all new to me! I was watching Baby J earlier and it struck me. My kid lives totally, 100% wholeheartedly... IN THE MOMENT. Right now is the only thing he knows. He's just... here. Or there. Or wherever he is. But he certainly isn't anywhere else.

What do I mean? I mean, he doesn't know that there is a future to be worried about. He doesn't know that he could be mulling over the past. He doesn't think about where he'd rather be or what he wishes he was doing. Sure, sometimes he gets uncomfortable or bored and he cries. But that's not because he knows what will happen next. It's because in that moment, he knows he's not ok and if he cries, I'll come fix it. I guess you could say that counts as him thinking about the future, but it seems more to me like he's trying to fix his present, this moment, the right now.

If I cut on a light, he stares at it, mesmerized. If the dog walks by, he's like WHOA! If I crumple up some paper, he stares at it and then at me and then back at the paper. If he sees his toes, he grabs them and does everything he can to get them in his mouth. It's all about the right here, right now for him.

I am not that way. Not even a little! I'm always thinking about what to do next or what I just did. I'm never just... HERE. Then I hang out with my little man, and suddenly, I'm like, "You know what, electricity is pretty amazing! You're right -- dogs do look like living stuffed animals! Why does paper make that sound when you crumple it? Let's do it again. And holy cow, the human body is just a world of wonder! Why hadn't I ever noticed that before?"

Obviously, we all have to be adults and do adult things like pay bills and make life plans so we don't all go spiraling into hunger and cold. But often, I mean, at least once a day, we should take a moment to just look around us and go -- WHOA.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Homemade Quick Drop Biscuits

Mmm, that title just made your mouth water, didn't it? I'm a biscuit lover, through and through, but I didn't start making my own biscuits (you know, from scratch) until about a month ago. Crazy? Maybe. Why? Because they are SO EASY! I always just popped them out of a can, which is fine, but man, making them from the bare bones -- there's just nothing like it!

For this, I turn to my trusty Joy of Cooking. This book has never steered me wrong! I also love that it includes EVERYTHING -- from boiling an egg to cooking a pigeon (I kid you not). I like that it is basic, but also allows for flexibility if you are an experienced chef. (And yes, I say chef because we're more than just cooks! We're artists! Ok, maybe I'm being silly, but I stand by my terminology.) Anyway, here's what to do to create deliciously easy quick drop biscuits.


  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons chilled butter or shortening (or a combination)
  • 1 cup milk
Ever had your bag of flour rip on the bottom? Yeah,
that's what happened to mine. Thank you, plastic bag!
(It's already easy just from the ingredients!)

1) Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

2) Mix together your dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt). JofC says sift. I say, whatever... Although, it does really help to heap your flour into the measuring cup with a spoon. If you jam your measuring cup down in the bag, it can compact the flour too much and make it all clumpy. Spoon it in and no need to sift!

3) Cut in the butter using a pastry blender (or 2 knives) until the butter is the size of small peas.

Here's the part where you might be saying, "What?! Cut in? What is that?" Yeah, that's what I said the first time I read that. Well, the first thing you want to make sure you have is a pastry blender. What is that? This:

Where can I get it? I got mine at Walmart for $3 :)

Why do I need that thing? The idea is to take super cold butter and break it into smaller pieces that will still remain in tact and melt during baking. This creates that flaky deliciousness that you want your biscuit to have. If you chopped the butter up super tiny and mixed it in, it would get too warm and wouldn't melt right during baking. You can use two knives to cut the pieces apart once they're in the flour, but the pastry blender is SO MUCH faster and easier and seriously inexpensive that it's really worth the investment. Some people do this part in the food processor, but I find that it gets the butter too chopped up and you don't get that flaky goodness.

I cube my butter first which does make this
a bit faster/easier.
Sometimes the butter clumps up on the
pastry blender. Don't cry. Just scrape it
off with your spoon!
It should look like this when you're done.
Type A's, you are allowed to have some pieces
of butter that are bigger than small peas. It's OKAY. Just back away from the bowl.
Whew, now that we're past the hard part... (seriously)

4) Make a well in the center of your dry ingredients + butter. Pour in the milk, all at once!

Mmmm, I could swim in that pool of milk!
In all seriousness, I hated milk until I got pregnant.
Ever since then, we've been fast friends.

Here's the part where JofC made me laugh...

5) Stir the dough 1 scant minute.

Ha! What's a scant minute?? I don't know. Basically, just don't over mix it. Once the wet and dry come together, you're good. Here's what the dough should look like.

It will be quite sticky. Too sticky to roll out and cut. These are drop biscuits, remember! If you are a fan of the rolled and perfectly round kind, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F, cut back on the milk by a quarter cup, and you'll be all set to roll them out and make perfect little circles to your heart's content. Me? I like just blobbing them down and gobbling them up! No perfect circles for this girl :)

6) Drop walnut-sized dabs of dough from a spoon onto an ungreased baking sheet and bake 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

My biscuits are bigger than walnuts. My husband likes to make little ham and cheese sandwiches out of them, so bigger works better for us. Also, I do find that rubbing my baking sheet down with some butter makes for a happier biscuit bottom, but it's up to you. My oven pops these babies out at exactly 12 minutes on the dot, so make sure to check yours carefully!

... After!
Now comes the fun part -- eating them! Drizzle with honey (my personal favorite), slather with jam or jelly, drown with gravy -- whatever your fancy. Enjoy :)

Disclosure: Affiliate links

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Swagbucks Birthday Bash!

If you have not yet joined Swagbucks, now is the time to do it! They are offering an extra sign up bonus -- instead of just 30 SBs, you will earn 140 just for joining! Sign up here and enter BIRTHDAYBASH12 to get your bonus bucks. The code expires 2/27/12 so hurry! Just this sign up bonus will put you a quarter of the way toward earning your first $5 Amazon gift card :)

Once you sign up, you can RSVP to the Swagbucks Birthday Bash! Just with your RSVP, you will be entered to win one of 4 $1000 prizes! They will also offer lots of bonus opportunities to win Swagbucks in celebration of their birthday. There has never been a better time to join Swagbucks!

Read more about my tips and experience with Swagbucks here.

Sign up and start earning the fun way!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Earth Mama Angel Baby

After reading about the possible carcinogens inhabiting widely used baby shampoos (here's an article about it from the Washington Post), I decided to go on the hunt for something a little more natural for my almost-five-month-old. I am not normally a freaker-outer when it comes to news about this or that causing cancer. I didn't throw out all my plastic food storage containers (though I no longer heat them up in the microwave), I still use commercial cleaners, and I buy processed, packaged food. I try to be smart about this stuff and use it in moderation (as in, I don't wash my floors in bleach). I also stick to organic when it comes to the "dirty dozen." BUT -- when it comes to a product that I am slathering all over my sensitive-skinned tiny person, "potentially cancer causing" was enough for me to toss out my old products and go in search of something new.

In case you are in a similar boat, I thought I would share with you my own experiences. I found that there are about a billion "organic" or "all natural" baby shampoos out there. It is very, very difficult to be sure that you are getting a product that is safe but that will also WORK! I don't want my child to get cancer from his soap, but I would also like it to clean his stinky self. (Why didn't anyone tell me how bad babies' feet could smell?!) I finally settled on Earth Mama Angel Baby Angel Baby Shampoo & Body Wash. It had great reviews on Amazon and is USDA Certified Organic. I just bought a small bottle of the pumping foam and figured I'd try my luck.

Well, I must say, this soap is awesome!

Here are the ingredients: organic coconut oil, organic olive oil, organic aloe leaf juice, organic vanilla bean extract, organic orange oil, kosher vegetable glycerin, potassium citrate, organic shea butter, and organic calendula extract.

Everything is natural, organic, and totally non-toxic. I knew that when I bought it, but what I didn't know was how well it would work. I have a stinky little boy -- he sweats like a pig (got it from his momma) and drools like a waterfall. I fear the day he begins moving on his own because I know he will only manage to get himself even dirtier! This soap works like a dream. He comes away smelling slightly sweet and citrusy (thanks to the vanilla and orange), but I like that it is not a strong odor. I know that it is gentle because he just carries a bit of the scent with him. I love the way it foams up! It makes it easy to see where I have lathered my little wiggler. We have been using it for about two months now and are barely a quarter of the way through the bottle. (Granted, it's winter, so I only bathe him about twice a week.) The soap is not a "no tears" formula (did you know they use numbing agents to achieve that little perk?? how strange!), but I haven't found it very difficult to keep out of his eyes. I just go slow when I'm washing and rinsing his head. I love this soap, and I will be adding it to my list of "must haves" for all my new mom friends!

Do you use organic or all natural baby soap? Do you make your own? I'd love to hear what you do to get your tiny ones clean!

Disclaimer: I was not paid for my review, nor was I sent a sample by Earth Mama Angel Baby. I just love this soap and wanted to share my opinion with you! Links are affiliate paid.

Monday, February 20, 2012

$700 Winter Blast of Cash Giveaway

$700 Winter Blast of Cash Giveaway Event
Welcome to the $700 Winter Blast of Cash Giveaway hosted by Giveaway Promote.   A fantastic group of bloggers has gotten together to give away $700 in cash to one lucky person. Check out the list of participating blogs at the end of this post. Complete the tasks below to earn entries into this giveaway. One winner will be chosen at random from all valid entries.   Bloggers, join us in an upcoming event! Sign up for Giveaway Promote's event mailing list to receive information via email about their future events.  
This giveaway is open worldwide.
It will end at 11:59pm EST on March 4th, 2012.

NOTE: None of the entries are mandatory. You can enter as few or as many times as you want. You do NOT have to like or follow every page to be entered. The more times you enter, the better your chances of winning!
  a Rafflecopter giveaway   This giveaway is brought to you by:
Giveaway Promote Review and Giveaway My Kids Review It
Baby Feeding Shop Miki's Hope Yummy Boy Mummy
Gone Klippin' Krazy Mamacita La Cuponera Mama Luvs Books
Colleen's Book Nook Made.By.Jess Frugal Gals
Kat's Corner Niche Daily Digital Deals Couponing4You
Mommies Point of View Oh! My Heartsie Money Saving Mindy
Military Wives Saving Coupons Not Cash Our Mom Spot
Shopaholic Mommy Travel Mommy Building Carpenters
I'm Not Superwoman Half-Pint House Handouts A Helicopter Mom
My Cloth Diaper Stash Someday I'll Learn Tidbits From A Mom
Blueberry Squash Style 'n Decor Deals Twingle Mommy
Its the Simple Things My Kids' Cool Mom Acadiana's Thrifty Mom
JustFindIt4U The Frugal Navy Wife Operation $40K
Whoreders The Ladies Lounge Ohayo Okasan
Taunya's Place Too Faith and Family Reviews Freebies With Attitude
Disney Contests and Sweepstakes Emptynester Savings and More Flaunting it with the Image Diva
Oh My Gosh Beck! Our Share of Crazy Carpe Diem
Potato Chip Cats Perfecting Photos Choosing Love
Happy Home and Family Carmen's Coupon Blog TheItMom.com
oc Deal Mama The Anti-June Cleaver I Heart Giveaways
Krazy Couponing with Trish Random Deals My Charmed Mom
Saving While Making Money I Love My Kids Fuggs and Foach
Coupon Hauls Tory's This and That SwagSaver
Cheap Junkie Mothering Matters Sister's Saving Cents
Savior Cents Linda's Angels Free Hot Samples
J Magnolia Designs I Am A Couponer Picture Clusters
2 Kids and a Coupon Sweeping The USA Mary's Cup of Tea
Feed Your Pig Wonderful Things In Life Grow With Stacy
Coupon Savvy Sarah Book Flame Family Makeover Maven
Coupon Coffee Shop Capri's Coupons Green-Baby-Goods
Mom Always Finds Out Pinching Pennies with Heather The Mommyhood Chronicles
Prolific Shopping Bake Sew Write Krazy Coupon Club
Southwest Coupon Clippers Cheapskate Cafe The Coup Diva
Mommy Who Loves Giveaways Uncreative Mommy in a Sea of Crafty Bloggers Life: Full of Unexpected Happiness
Arizona Moms Network Bluegrass Savers Extreme Coupon Professors
Saving For My Family Sweet Pea Saving Deal Doll
Wild N Mild Giveaways Cute-Ecakes Relax 'n Save
Adventures in Coupons Nicki's Coupon Blog Black, Divorced & Virtuous
Sassy Savings with Susan For The Love Of Happy Live. Love. Sticky.
Cheap Is The New Classy Beauty and Fashion Diva The Denver Housewife
Celebrate Woman Today Finger Click Saver Teach Me 2 Save
Whole Lotta Mama

Sunday, February 19, 2012

What Mothers Do

A friend of mine recommended this book recently. She is one of my closest friends, smart and beautiful -- what more could you ask for in a friend?! She became a mom just under two months after I did, so we are puttering around in the same boat so to speak. She mentioned this book and I immediately ordered it from Amazon. If she says it's good, I know it is!

I had no idea how good this book would be. I read the first 50 pages last night and didn't want to put it down! Here are a few amazing quotes from just the beginning. If these don't resonate with you, moms, you just might be Superwoman!
  • "After my daughter's birth, I found time spent with her was full of interest, but I didn't know how to explain it, even to myself. We might have had a good morning together - but whatever had we been doing all that time?" (7)
  • "Looking after a baby may feel like 'something' at the time it is happening, but at other times mothers find it difficult to explain. It's hard to find the words to communicate what 'looking after my baby' really means." (15)
  • "The essentials of mothering are invisible. It's hard to explain them in words. Practical tasks are only part of it. They do not account for that strength of feeling that goes with bringing up one's own child. A mother can discover this suddenly when she has been looking after her baby all through a long day. In the evening, her husband comes home, and at last she can exchange news with another adult. He is the one person, the father of their child, whom she can expect to understand her. Perhaps he asks her something generous like: 'How's your day been?' It has been a difficult day. Now she can share it, hope for some sympathy, and regain her energy. She tries to find something to tell, but this can be frustrating. The words she uses simply don't match the experience." (18)
  • "The most motherly achievements are often written off as failures. 'Worrying' is a good example. Most mothers worry. But what is a mother actually doing when she is worrying? ... Her thinking may be quick and wide-ranging and work on several levels. She may end up with a fairy clear idea of why her baby is crying. Then she checks out this idea with someone and they tell her that she 'must stop worrying so much,' as if all that careful thinking had been stupid... A much more appreciative word is needed to honor intelligent motherly concern." (23)
  • "Education requires students to jump hurdles. There are now tests and examinations right through school and college. They require that a girl prepare thoroughly, demonstrate her knowledge during a short and intense period, and relax afterward... It is only too understandable that a woman might apply the 'hurdle model' to childbirth... She must study hard, aim for a 'successful' birth, and then she can go home and relax. Once she has recovered, life will return to normal, as it always has done... How alarming, then, to return home with the baby and find there isn't even a moment to settle down to a video or to join her friends for a drink." (39)
  • "Once a baby is born, a woman's life is competely changed. 'The strange thing about being pregnant and being a mother is that, although we know the one leads to the other, they are not part of the same psychological thing,' wrote Nigella Lawson. 'When one friend of mine, shortly after the labor, said that she knew she was pregnant, but why didn't anyone tell her she was going to have a baby, I knew exactly what she meant.'" (39)
If you have been, are, or will be a new mom, or even just know a new mom, check out this book! I can't give it a wholesale recommendation because I've only just started it. So far, though, I think this will be one I recommend time and time again!

Disclosure: Affiliate compensation

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Thrift Store Score!

If you love to sew, you are well aware of how expensive fabric is! When I first got into sewing, my thought was -- thrifty and fun! Once I started shopping for fabric, I realized that unless I was very careful, there was nothing thrifty about sewing. I couldn't believe that I could easily pay over $20 just to make one garment! Since then, I keep on the lookout for thrifty fabric finds.

I still scan the sale section at my local fabric store, but today, I got an exciting call from my husband. He is a thrift store enthusiast! He loves going in and seeing what he can find for some ridiculously good price. I love a good deal, but my super organized brain cannot handle the insanity that is a thrift store. I know, sometimes they are very well organized -- even by color! -- but I am just wired for the "new store" kind of organization, and for some reason, I just need there to be six of  particular item hanging on a rack in size order to get myself excited about looking at it. I realize this is a major character flaw, but there you have it.

Anyway, he was shopping at a thrift store and discovered THREE BINS full of fabric! It was all priced at... are you ready?? ... a dollar a yard! He came home, picked me up, and we went right back. I spent about $50 (leftover from Christmas), but I have more fabric than you can shake a stick at! (I don't know what that means. I have a lot of fabric. haha) If you are a thrift store lover, keep your eyes peeled. You never know what you might find! If you have a hard time shopping at thrift stores like me, send out your significant other or best friend, and you never know what they might find for you :)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

All You Magazine

Amazon has All You Magazine on sale right now for $1 an issue! This is an amazing deal for a magazine that routinely offers WAY more than that in coupons in every issue. Plus, it's just a great magazine :) get this deal before it's gone!

Disclosure: Compensated Affiliate

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

2/15/12 Swagbucks Update

Today, I have officially been a member of Swagbucks for two months. I can't believe how much I have earned in such a short amount of time! Here is a screenshot of all the gift cards I have redeemed since becoming a Swagbucks member:

Allow me to do the math for you: in two months, I have earned $100 in Amazon gift cards and $5 in Barnes and Noble gift cards! Let me explain why I choose the gift cards I do. The $5 Amazon gift card offers the biggest "bang for your buck" (in this case, Swagbucks). At 450 SBs, you are cashing out at 90 SBs per dollar. Since Swagbucks has a limit on the number of any one individual prize you can redeem per month, you can only take advantage of the best deal $5 Amazon gift card five times per month. Since it is the best deal, however, it is the first thing I redeem every month! Since my goal has been to earn us a "free" Christmas (free other than the time I spend on Swagbucks), Amazon is the best option for us. The Paypal gift cards would also be an option, but they cost more SBs for the dollar and pretty much everything we could ever hope to buy is on Amazon anyway.

Here is a current screenshot of my Swagbucks Ledger:

Note: This doesn't include any of my Swagging from today (except for
the automatic 1 SB I get for having the toolbar installed).
You can see, I currently have 3,598 unredeemed Swagbucks. I am saving up for the biggest Amazon giftcard I can get by the end of the month (probably the $50 one again). My lifetime Swagbucks earning is sitting at 14,728! I have earned 14,728 in 62 days as a member which roughly translates to 237 SBs a day. Using the $5 Amazon gift card as my rate of exchange (90 SBs = $1), I have earned roughly $164 or about $2.63 a day. Obviously, this is not a get-rich-quick scheme, but I will almost certainly reach my free Christmas goal!

What I love most about Swagbucks is that I can earn this extra money with very little effort. My total includes one credit card application and acceptance for a Discover Card. This netted me 3,600 SBs, but it was free and we can use it to earn rewards by buying thing we would buy anyway. I have also completed two paid offers -- one for a computer game and one for an online privacy service. The only reason I completed those offers was because the Swagbucks payout was more than I spent to purchase them, meaning I was earning more than 90 SBs for every dollar I spent. I've only done it twice because that scenario is rare, but it is worth looking out for!

How do I earn the rest of my points? I do my daily thing (see my post here). The surveys have netted me the most SBs for the least amount of time and effort, but there is an ebb and flow to the survey world -- sometimes I get offers, sometimes I don't. I don't waste my time with Swagbucks TV. Some people click their fingers off to "max out" every day (do the total number of rounds they allow), but I find this to be a major waste of my time. The payoff just doesn't outweigh the effort involved. I keep my eyes peeled for codes, search using their toolbar, and visit the Facebook group often. People regularly post about offers that worked (or didn't work) for them, so I have found out about some gems there. Mostly, it is a routine thing, but it really pays off! For a stay at home mom with a few minutes to spare here and there, I will be so thankful come November and December when we don't have to scramble for extra money from our budget. My Amazon gift card balance will be fat!

Keep a lookout for next month's Swagbucks update! In the meantime, become a member yourself using any of the links in this post :) there is still time to earn your family a free Christmas!

Disclosure: All the links to Swagbucks will sign you up through my account.