Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Wednesday Hodgepodge

1. American Idol is back for a 14th season. Are you watching? Have you ever watched? If you were to audition for the show (or were made to audition), what song would you sing? I didn't watch the first few seasons but then watched a few in the middle. I'm not watching this year. I have been cutting way back on my television watching - not that I watch a ton actually. If I were to audition, I would either sing "God Gave Me You" or "Amazing Grace."

2. Mark Twain is quoted as saying, "If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first." So when did you last have to 'eat a frog'? Or two? How'd that work out? I know I've had to tackle lots of things I don't particular care for, but right now I can't think of one. Although, I do still need to finish my oldest son's high school transcript and course descriptions in order for him to apply to college. I think at this point we have put off the frog eating a bit and we're aiming for January 2016 college entrance rather than September 2015.

3. If you were going on safari, what is the number one animal you'd want to see? An elephant. I've seen them up close and personal, but I'd love to see one in its natural habitat.

4. January 21st is National Granola Bar Day. I know. Do you like granola bars? Chewy or crunchy? Your favorite flavor? How about regular granola? Let's exhaust this topic in honor of the holiday okay? I actually do, but typically only one brand and flavor. I like the Sunbelt Chewy Chocolate Chip ones. I keep them on hand as they work great for raising my blood sugar when I'm having a low. I usually pair it with a small glass of milk and I'm good to go. As for regular granola, I do like it, but I like it best in yogurt.

5. If only__________________________________________. Life had a rewind button...

6. You can add one item to your bedroom. What will it be? Keep it family friendly please. A dual heated blanket. I could turn up the heat on my side and hubby could keep his side of the bed cooler.

7. What is one thing you've enjoyed about winter thus far? If it's not winter in your corner of the globe, what season is it, and what is something you've enjoyed about whatever season it happens to be? I'm pretty sure "enjoy" and "winter" do not go together. This winter has just been weird here in Maine. We've had super cold weather (as in -20 one morning) and warmer than normal (as in 40 degrees yesterday - hello mud!). We haven't had a lot of snow yet either. However, thankfully the freezing rain hasn't been as much this year either, although any is too much. Oh wait, I was suppose to share something I've enjoyed. Um....well...I'll just leave it as I'm not much of a fan of winter. Period.

8. Insert your own random thought here. I've been super busy studying for my group fitness instructor certification. I take the test at the end of the month. However, I'm offering free classes starting next week! Yikes! January has certainly gone by fast.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Birthday Celebration

My youngest son had the nerve to have another birthday this week and turned 11. It seems like just yesterday he was a little ball of baby sweetness. 

Okay - well this photo was taken nine years ago on his second birthday so I suppose it wasn't just yesterday. 

This little guy (he's still shorter than me!) has always been extremely expressive - still is. He takes on life full speed and sees the joy in everything. If he's unhappy, than you can be sure it has been a very long day or a very hard situation. It takes a lot to make him melt.

Unfortunately, the poor kid has a birthday smack in the middle of January. It makes it super hard to do any type of birthday celebration for him. In fact, last year, while we didn't cancel his party, the roads were so slippery only one friend was brave enough (or crazy enough? You know who you are!) to make it out to our house and even then, it was so icy they had to sand their way up our driveway. Life in Maine in winter!

Being the frugal mom I am, however, I saved the party supplies I had bought last year for him and this year the weather was great so we had a few friends over Saturday night to celebrate. So that is why he had Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle paper goods but a Minecraft cake.

Homemade, well, boxed gluten free cake. He wanted red frosting. I bought the gel color. This was as red as I could get it and I was even using a baby spoon at one point to get more coloring in there. And yes, that is leftover Christmas candy.

We had a few friends over and some family as well. We demolished five large pizzas, cake, cupcakes (non-gluten-free) and a large amount of ice-cream. My son deemed it a great time. 

He was this excited about receiving a customized Minecraft card with his name on it from my sister and her family. 

Random cuteness. 

My friend's 4 year old daughter and my sweet 2 year old niece giving us her best "cheese!" smile. 

I'm glad the weather was good this year so we could celebrate his birthday with family and friends. Although, he is still waiting for an "epic Nerf battle" party so we may have to do something along those lines this summer when we have warm weather. 

My boys are growing far too fast for my liking, but I'm sure all mothers say the same thing about their children. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Ice Castle

Last year near the end of winter I heard about Ice Castles. There was one not too far from where we live in Maine located in New Hampshire. Unfortunately, I heard about it too close to their closing for the season so we weren't able to go. I was determined to make it there this year.

Today was the very cold day we went. Actually, I shouldn't complain all that much as it was above zero. However, we did have to go inside about half-way through our visit to warm up. It was worth it though.

We arrived about an hour after they opened. There weren't a lot of people there yet and we were able to head right in to the castle. No lines. No waiting. It was impressive in the daytime, but I did want to stick around until dusk as they light it up at night. 

Here are some of my favorite daytime shots:

This crevice was small! The little guys could walk straight through, but my middle kiddo had to go through sideways. I don't do small, tight, confined spaces. I opted to take photos instead.

I couldn't stop looking up. The icicles coming down in some spots were so impressive!

My middle son hamming it up.

Catching the sunset

This structure was massive.

Here's some perspective as to how big it really is - those two kids there are my youngest and his friend. My youngest is about five feet tall.

After our toes became a bit numb and after my kids hurt themselves on the super fast luge-like slide/tunnel in the middle of the structure, we headed inside for a bit of a warm up. They had a TV with two videos playing. One was of Lindsey Stirling playing her violin in an Ice Castle structure and the other was The Piano Guys (that's how I found out about these things). In case you haven't seen either one, here they are...

After we warmed up, we headed back outside to see if the lights were coming on. They were! So very cool. It was worth the over six hours in the truck today driving to New Hampshire and back. 

Here are my favorite shots from when the lights started to come on:

The lights were just starting to come on.

This was a working water fountain. The lights flashed and changed. This was taken just as it was starting to go dark.

Same fountain. Photo taken just before we left.

All photos were taken with my Android phone. Really wish I had some "smart-phone" gloves. My hands were pretty cold! I would take off one glove, snap some photos, put my glove back on and warm up my hand, miss some shots, and repeat the process throughout the whole time we were there. But like I said earlier, it was well worth it. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Just Do It and Other Random Thoughts

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Nike pretty much nailed it with that little saying. Here it is, January 15th of 2015 and I haven't put up a blog post in over a week and that was an overdue book review.

I've been participating in a Titus 2 Bible study at my church. It's been fantastic. We are currently studying "Busy At Home." This doesn't mean spending your day cleaning house, but it does mean making those at home your priority - family first may be an easier way to say it.

Our homework assignment was to write down how much time we spend on activities - in and out of the home. Assuming one gets eight hours of sleep at night and uses Sunday as a day of rest, that means one has 96 hours in a week to get everything done. I have to admit I was a little worried about what I would come up with on this assignment. I already feel like I'm always on the go, but it showed that I had a few extra hours in my week. Or else I underestimated the time I actually do spend on things. I'm going to go with the former and just be thankful I have seven hours in my week unaccounted for at the moment.

I posted this photo over on Facebook earlier in the week. Four years ago I discovered Zumba and I love it. Seriously. It's the only workout I've ever stuck with as long as I have. Over the last couple of years I've thought about getting certified to teach it. 

Recently an opportunity came up for me to rent space to teach exercise classes. Affordable. In the same building that my boys take karate classes. It would help me redeem the time I spend sitting and waiting for them to get out of class.

However, instead of becoming certified to just teach Zumba, I'm opting to become a certified group fitness instructor instead. This will allow me to do all kinds of things. I've taken to calling it the "Z" word instead so the "Zumba Police" don't get mad at me. I'll be teaching Cardio Dance Fitness. I'll have freedom to use all kinds of music (like TobyMac!). My goal is to use "clean lyrics" - even in Spanish.

I'm looking forward to starting at the end of the month, but I do have to admit to being a tad nervous as well. I'm doing this all on a tight timeline. Saturday I'll be taking a CPR class (required for the ACE certification). Immediately after I'll be applying to take my test (there has to be a ten day lead before you can take the test). Then I'll have two weeks to finish studying before taking the test at the end of the month. Phew!

2nd birthday

Lastly, this guy pictured above just turned 11 years old today. I feel like I blinked and we went from the above photo to this in about five seconds...
Orange stripe test in karate - September 2014

I can no longer tuck him under my chin when we stand. I certainly can't hold him in my arms on my hip anymore! Time is flying far too fast for my liking. We had a very low key celebration here at home for him tonight since his birthday is mid-week. We are picking up a friend tomorrow afternoon and he'll spend the weekend with the birthday boy. We have friends and family coming on Saturday evening for pizza, cake, and ice-cream and, of course, presents. I'm still in denial that my baby is 11.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

{Review} Dead Gorgeous by Elizabeth Flynn

From the back cover:
Kirsty was trying to make it in the fashion world. As the in-house model for Ivano King and having dated the great designer himself, she believed she was well on her way.

But Kirsty is found dead in her flat one Sunday afternoon, and D.I. Angela Costello is called to the scene.

Kirsty has left behind a lovesick ex-boyfriend and a jealous flatmate And what about King's new girlfriend, who openly admits she has a reason to wish Kirsty dead?

Behind the flawless make-up and gleaming catwalks, Angela's enquiries uncover theft, drug addiction, prostitution - and suddenly her own life could be in danger...

My thoughts:
Dead Gorgeous had two things I enjoy which made me want to read it - mystery and fashion. I enjoy a good mystery and this certainly fit the bill.  I also enjoy fashion but I am far from being a fashionista. In fact, my daily look is typically slip-on shoes, jeans, and a t-shirt. My guilty pleasure is watching Project Runway wishing very much that I could sew a straight seam let alone use a sewing machine. However, I can only sew a button and fix a small rip by hand - that's about it. I have an odd fascination with it all though.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I have to admit I'm a day late on this review. I simply forgot about the book sitting in my stack of review items. Thankfully I had a free time today and blew through the entire book. Yes, I started and finished the entire thing today.

The author was great. This is the first book I've read by her. I enjoyed the fact that she is British and used quite a bit of British slang. I wasn't familiar with a lot of it, but it didn't stop me. Typically most of it could be figured out within the context of the story.

She did a great job drawing us into the book and quickly moving the story forward. It was a great whodunit and the plot twists kept coming so every time I thought I had it figured out something would change and I was proven wrong - right up until the very end.

While this is the second book about D.I. Costello, it is definitely a stand-alone story. I have not read the first book (yet, I just bought it and downloaded it to my Kindle) but did not feel it stopped me from enjoying or understanding this story at all. I'm very much looking forward to the next book by this author. I highly recommend Dead Gorgeous by Elizabeth Flynn.

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.