No More Delaying Dreams

Do-what-you-can-with-what-you-have-where-you-are

I have had this domain name and blog for over a year now. Even longer have I had the dream of creating a successful blog that: “documented the efforts of an extrodonary entrepreneurial family man who put it all on the line to pursue his personally destiny and achieve self-actualization for him and his family.” Yeah right, your saying to yourself, what a dreamer. It’s true, I am a dreamer, and in fact, I’m dreaming right now! That I’ll actually make this into an awesome blog that everyone will read. It will take me to far off places and introduce me to interesting people I’ve never met! Well if you read this and you’re not my mom, wife, or friend, I may have realized a part of that dream; everybody is interesting in my mind.

So, the fact s that my wife has been blogging on this domain for most of the time that I’ve had it. I told her to get started on it because, “I don’t have time!” Turns out, Emily hates to blog about stuff I micromanage and force feed her. She pretty much blogged about what she wanted, but not without me giving my critiques and opinions here and there. ROFL I set this blog to auto-post to my personal social accounts before handing it over to my wife… I didn’t change the setting. Yep, now half my professional contacts on LinkedIn think I like to paint my nails and cook for my husband. Try explaining that to a sales prospect!

Today, I say no more delaying the dream. It is time to take back the blog and make things happen. I barely have anymore time then when I created this domain, but as one of my favorite quotes states, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” I’m not going to say that this effort is going to be the best there ever was and that if you stick around you’ll see some really cool stuff. Chances are it’s going to be real ugly and I may as well be talking to a pile of dirt right now cause you aint really readin my half bit jibberish are ya? Well if you are, thank you! and if you aren’t let’s see where a little bit of persistence and resilience gets me.

I am a husband, I am a father (of two here soon!), I am a dreamer who believes I can do and create whatever I want, and I hope to help you keep dreaming and achieve whatever you want.

Stay in touch,

-Josh

Socks and Birthdays

We have a few birthdays coming up that I decided I needed to start worrying about because I intend on making mostly all of the gifts. The first birthday is in March, my friend’s baby Alia will be turning 1, and then Jax’s 1st birthdays will follow that in April.

For Alia I decided to re-purpose a super cute old dress of mine (the bodice is has started to go) to be a super cute dress for her. I also want to make Alia a sock bear. I have a few scraps of cute pink fabric I’m going to attempt to make a dress out of. I’ve never sewn dolls or doll clothing so we’ll see how that goes.

Earlier this week I tried to make a sock bear for Alia, but it didn’t turn out as great as it could have so I’ve decided to give that one to Jax, and (having learned from my mistakes) make another one for her. The bear’s pretty cute, but I know my next one would be a lot better.

We’re really adamant about not spoiling our kids for holidays and birthdays so I need to be very methodical about what and how much to give Jax. In the relatively short future I anticipate being pregnant and Jax moving into the room that is currently our office. I kept seeing these teepees for little kids’ rooms around the web and decided that that’s EXACTLY what I wanted to make Jax! I’ll use some scraps of material I have lying around to make him a few stuffed animals, and maybe make him a pair or two of shorts, grab him some books and maybe shoes from DI and there you go! Does that sound like a lot? My grandma told me that the teepee would be enough, and mostly I’m giving these gifts for myself rather than him. Yes, I know he won’t remember this birthday… And maybe some of these gifts are for me… I just think it would be really cool to have a teepee for the kids!

Even though these birthdays aren’t for a while yet, because I’m making the presents myself I need to start early. But that’s alright, it keeps this SAHM busy, that’s for sure!

What gifts have you made for your kids?

Basically the Best Thai Soup in the World

Our church time changed with the year so it’s now 1-4pm… A difficult time for small children and for those who like to eat dinner relatively early. We’re used to eating around 5pm. So for us, it’s easiest to do something in the slow cooker on Sundays, because then we can eat fairly soon after we get home from church, and I don’t feel like I’m slaving in the kitchen for my entire Sunday. Yesterday I decided to try a new soup from a cookbook my mom got my for Christmas – Crockpot’s “Best-Loved Slow Cooker Recipes.” And let me tell you, it was FABULOUS. Every one should make this!

First of all, I LOVE Thai food. So does Josh. I really felt like I could have ordered this soup at a Thai restaurant. Probably about five times while we were eating it Josh said, “Oh ya, this is a keeper.” Unfortunately Jax couldn’t have any because it has peanut butter in it and he’s only 9 1/2 months old :(

I changed a few things to be more cost-effective.

Thai-Style Chicken Pumpkin Soup

Ingredients:

1 T olive oil

6 boneless skinless chicken breasts (I used 4 and there was plenty of chicken)

1 large white onion, thinly slices (I used a yellow onion and diced mine)

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 T minced fresh ginger (my ginger root looked sketchy so I used about 2 t ground ginger)

1/2 to 3/4 t crushed red pepper flakes (I used cayenne pepper instead)

2 stalks celery, trimmed and diced

2 carrots, peeled trimmed and diced (I don’t peel my carrots, so much more nutritious!)

1 can (15 oz) solid-pack pumpkin (I used 2 C of some pureed pumpkin I made shortly after Halloween)

1/2 C mango nectar

1/2 C fresh lime juice (mine was from concentrate)

1/2 creamy peanut butter

4 C low-sodium chicken broth (I always just use bouillon and water)

3 T rice vinegar (mine was just white distilled vinegar)

1/2 C minced fresh cilantro, divided

1/2 C heavy cream (I just used milk to same money)

1 T cornstarch

2-4 C bot cooked rice (I used 4 C short grain white rice)

3 green onions, minced

1/2 C roasted unsalted peanuts, coarsely chopped (mine were lightly salted)

Lime wedges (optional)

 

Directions:

1) Heat oil in large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Add onion, garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes; cook for 1 to 2 minutes longer or until mixture is fragrant.

2) Transfer chicken mixture into slow cooker. Add celery, carrots, pumplin, mango nectar, lime juice, peanut butter, broth and 2 cups water; stir to combine. Cover; cook on low 8 hours or on high 4 hours.

3)Stir in rice vinegar and 1/4 C cilantro. Mix cream and cornstarch together in small mixing bowl. Stir mixture into soup. Turn setting to high. Simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes or until soup thickens.

4) To serve, put rice in soup bowls. Ladle soup around rice. Sprinkle with remaining cilantro, green onions and peanuts. Squeeze fresh lime juice over soup, if desired.

 

 

Vacation, New Year, Anniversary and Resolutions… Whew!

First of all I’d like to apologize for my… absence from the blogosphere. Without going into more detail I’m simply happy to announce that I’m back, with new motivation and a new ideas. Of course with the holidays things have been incredibly busy. We had Christmas at Josh’s parents in Utah a few days before Christmas day because his brother was going out of town so we were able to spend Christmas day in our house with Jax! A huge blessing. We made breakfast burritos with Josh’s parents in the morning then enjoyed a roast in the evening. I think I’m going to do Christmas in the crockpot in the future, then I wouldn’t have to spend all of Christmas day in the kitchen! And doing dishes!

Our 2nd anniversary was on December 29th and we had a great night. Josh’s parents came up and watched Jax while Josh and I went out to dinner and a movie (which we NEVER do). BTW we got the offer on Restaurants.com where you pay $25, get a $25 gift card to a restaurant and movie tickets … I’m not sure if it’s worth it. The choices of restaurants are very limited and have a minimum purchase to even use the gift card (which was more than $25 let me tell you!)… But I guess you kind of pay for an expensive dinner and get a movie free. So maybe it is worth it I don’t know. We went to Ichiban, a Japanese restaurant by our house, and it was HORRIBLE. We thought we were going to get food poisoning… seriously… Then was went to see Les Miserables which was FABULOUS! We’re so getting it when it comes out.

And now onto the New Year, though it was like a month ago. I’m really excited for this year, and being a SAHM I have many awesome resolutions I’d like to accomplish. And not just the “work on through February or March” kind of thing… Here are my resolutions – - -
1) Read the Old Testament with Josh (so far we’re doing great, though only 1 chapter a night so I doubt we’ll finish it within the year but that’s alright)
2) Finish painting upstairs (almost done with the kitchen, then we just have the hallway, bathroom, living room and bedroom… wow that sounds like a lot)
3) Pick a topic to study throughout the year to increase academic knowledge (I’m studying U.S. History this year through audiobooks from Audible.com… just finished “1776″)
4) Complete 1 sewing projects a month (I’m actually ahead of schedule so far, having completed a vest suit for Jax and a dress for me in January :) )
5) Revamp and maintain blog (ahem… working on that… obviously)
6) Get garden established (so far I have a schedule for the year, and raspberry seedlings hopefully germinating downstairs!)
7) 6 month food supply (we may only end up with a 3 month, but I’ve been trying to stock up a little bit during every grocery trip)
8) Maintain fitness routine (isn’t this on everyone’s list? But ya… I haven’t been so great with this one… … …)

I think that’s it for the most part, other than some family financial goals. I’m pretty excited about my goals, especially the sewing and gardening. I’ve also been working on making more of my household items… So far I made my own laundry soap, which is cheap, amazing, and soon to be posted about :)

How was your New Year? What are your resolutions?

Trash the Trash!

We live in a world of disposables. Everything is “use it and toss it,” which has our landfills piling up. We should all take a look at our waste and look for ways to reduce, reuse and recycle. Here’s an article we found on BlogHer, which we couldn’t wait to share.

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Do you find yourself frustrated with how much trash your family is generating? Feel the same about how much money you’re spending? I’m here to tell you that you can decrease the amount of garbage you produce while also saving money. How? By saying buh-bye to almost all the disposable products in your life. (Okay, perhaps not every disposable product, as I am a huge fan of toilet paper.)

Paper NapkinsThis post is part of BlogHer’s Go Green to Save Money editorial series, made possible by The Home Depot

If your family automatically reaches for paper napkins, it’s time to switch over to cloth. Not only are cloth napkins almost endlessly reusable, but they simply work better than their flimsy paper counterpart. They can be used a number of times before needing to be laundered, and lend decor and formality to any meal. Sure, you can buy them brand new, but I’ve found wonderful like-new napkins at garage sales, thrift shops and even a free pile or two. And if you’re lucky, your mother might even have a couple dozen to send your way.

Menstrual Products

If you’re of childbearing age and of the female persuasion, you already know that monthly menstrual products are both expensive and overly packaged. However, there are reusable options that are easier to use than you might think. I invested in a silicone menstrual cup four years ago and haven’t looked back since. Yes, it took a cycle to get it figured out, but I estimate that I’ve saved $60 per year, or $240 since I made the switch. For those who prefer a pad, there are many, many reusable cloth pads options as well. Not having to deal with all that menstrual-related garbage and the fear of being caught without supplies? Priceless.

Coffee Filters

Although I’m a fan of tea, my husband is a coffee drinker through and through. But that doesn’t mean that we buy or dispose of filters. Instead we own gold coffee filters for our coffee maker, (came with the machine) as well as a small one for individual cups of coffee. They seem to last at least a decade with daily use, but I was recently able to find a replacement at my local Goodwill. (Yay!) I just lovehow the coffee grounds pop out for composting, and how we never have to buy and then dispose of the paper filters.

Paper Towels

I stopped using paper towels a few years ago and have yet to regret the decision. In their place I use rags made from stained old T-shirts. But if you’re looking for a less ragtag solution, a pack of microfiber cloths can serve as an awesome substitution. Endlessly re-launderable, these lint-free cloths can work to clean windows, wipe up spills and pretty much anything else you would use a paper towel for. And the best part is that you’ll no longer have to store that huge pallet of paper towels in your pantry any more. (That, and the trees you just saved from being cut down!)

Clothing

This may seem like a strange addition to a list of disposable items, but hear me out. How many times have you tossed or donated an article of clothing just because there was a rip or a stain? Yeah, I thought so. By spending some time on stain removal or with a needle and thread you can bring your clothing back to life. And don’t worry that you need the skills of a 1950′s Home Ec teacher to mend a seam or sew a button back in place. As Bela Karolyi would say, “You can dooo it!”

Gift Wrapping

There’s no reason why you should buy (and then throw away) wrapping paper on special occasions. I am the #1 fan of reusable paper gift bags, yet I don’t think I’ve ever paid for one. How? I’ve received a number of them through the years, but I also save them from being thrown away whenever I’m at a gift giving occasion. Sure, I give more than I receive, yet I always seem to have more than I need. And want to know a great trick for wrapping large gifts? A single color pillow case tied with a pretty ribbon will save you from using up an entire roll of wrapping paper. Just make sure to get it back.

Fabric Grocery Bags

Keep them in your car and make it a habit to bring them into the store with you. I keep an small one in my purse and use it at least four times per week, and since I get a nickel off my purchase whenever I use it, I estimate that it’s saved me over 70 bajillion dollars so far. Just make sure to throw your bags through the wash every now and then, especially if you’re buying meat.

Handkerchiefs

Yes, we switch over to facial tissue when we’re ill, but for those times when you get a runny nose from allergies, going from cold to warm or eating spicy food, hankies are fantastic. Buy them once and create no garbage? What’s not to love?!
Reusable Water Bottles/Coffee Mugs/Takeout Containers

Don’t be that person whose drinking habits are filling our landfills. Bring your own water from home, hand your own coffee mug to the barista and tuck an empty container into your purse for your restaurant leftovers. Want to know a secret? I’ve noticed that I’ll often get more coffee served in my reusable mug than if they’d used their paper cups.

Plastic Silverware

I brought home a couple handfuls of unattractive stainless steel flatware from afree swap a few years ago, and man, am I happy that I did! My family uses these forks, spoons and knives for our work and school lunches almost every day, yet we don’t have to worry about losing an errant spoon or two. I love that we’re not generating garbage from our meals, and frankly, I prefer the feel of metal in my mouth rather than plastic.

Do you have tips and tricks for avoiding disposable products? Please share your ideas in the comments section below.

~Katy Wolk-Stanley

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To what extent are you willing to go to in order to reduce your waste?

Why are Kids Going Hungry?

How is it that we live in a country of excess, obesity and wealth that far exceeds most countries yet 1 in 5 children in the United States struggles with hunger? That doesn’t even make sense. We know that when the holidays come around many people are looking to donate to good causes, so we thought we’d share some places that will make your money go far, helping as many as possible. Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign is a great place to donate. A $10 donation can help connect a kid with up to 100 meals! That’s like one trip to Carl’s Jr. for one person, with a shake. We could SO put that money to better use. Here’s some of the campaign’s information from their site.

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We’re ending childhood hunger by connecting kids to effective nutrition programs like school breakfast and summer meals. This work is accomplished through the No Kid Hungry network, made up of private citizens, government officials, business leaders, and others providing innovative hunger solutions in their communities. These partners work together, implementing solutions that break down the barriers that keep kids from healthy food.

Through its Cooking Matters program, the No Kid Hungry campaign educates and empowers low-income families to stretch their food budgets so their kids get healthy meals at home. Cooking Matters participants learn to shop strategically, use nutrition information to make healthier food choices, and cook delicious, affordable meals.

The No Kid Hungry campaign works to shine a national spotlight on the crisis of childhood hunger in America, creating a powerful movement of individuals committed to bold action. We build partnerships that enlist influential individuals in the cause and advocate policy changes needed to achieve our goals.

Together, we are making No Kid Hungry a reality in America. Will you join us?

 

About Share Our Strength

Share Our Strength began in the basement of a row house on Capitol Hill in 1984, in response to the ‘84-‘85 famine in Ethiopia. Brother and sister Bill and Debbie Shore started the organization with the belief that everyone has a strength to share in the global fight against hunger and poverty, and that in these shared strengths lie sustainable solutions. Today we focus these strengths on making No Kid Hungry a reality in America.

Ending Childhood Hunger is Possible

We see a future where kids have access to the healthy food they need, every day. Kids will get a healthy breakfast every day at school so they’re ready to learn, and they won’t have to worry about how they’re going to eat when school is out for the summer when the safety net of school meals isn’t available to them. Rather than feeling the stress of food insecurity, kids will just be able to be, well, kids.

We know it’s possible. Will you help us make ending child hunger in this country a reality?

 

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Printable Nativity Scenes

Over at Are We There Yet? Amy put together a HUGE list of printable nativity scenes. The first nativity featured (below) looks really intense but so cute! I think I’m going to attempt to put this one together on my piano. The way we see it, the more nativities and images of Christ in your home around Christmas time, the more your family will remember what the season is really about. :)

Do you have anywhere you could set up a printable nativity scene?

Homemade Beauty Products

Check out this article I found over at BlogHer. I REALLY want to make all of these!

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Beauty Products for Less

October 27, 2012 6:06 am by sewlikemymom in Green

After doing my post on green cleaning, I started thinking about how much money I was saving by not buying commercial cleaning products and how much safer I felt my family was without being exposed to all those chemicals. I started thinking of other ways to cut chemicals and unnatural products out of our lives and decided a great place to start would be some beauty items.

 

This post is part of BlogHer’s Go Green to Save Money editorial series, made possible by The Home Depot

I’m not fancy — I’m mostly a Chapstick-and-mascara-hair-in-pony kind of girl — but I’m a sucker for a smelly lotion or delicious lip balm. So I started hunting around Pinterest and blogs that boast natural or raw living ideas. I came up with four products I wanted to start making, and one afternoon, I got to work. I ended up with lip balm, body butter, sugar scrub and lotion bars.

Lip Balm

The lip balm was one of the things I was most excited about. I seem to go through it at an extraordinary rate. I get tired of shelling out the money, even for my cheapy Vanilla Lip Smackers. (I know, but I can’t help myself! I swear I’m 30, not 13.) I really cringe to hand over $3 or $4 for something a little fancier.

To make the lip balm I used:

  • 2 T. beeswax
  • 4 T. natural oil (I used safflower, but I’ve seen sunflower used as well. I assume olive oil would also be a good option)
  • Few drops of strawberry flavor

I simply melted my beeswax and oil together in a bowl in the microwave until melted. Added some strawberry flavor to it and stirred well, then dumped it in my pots. I found these pots for $.79 each and they hold .5 ozs. I only got four, but ended up with enough lip balm left over to make probably two more. I put what was left into an old baby food container and gave it to my four-year-old.

Cost break down:

  • $1.12 for beeswax
  • $.33 Safflower oil
  • $.35 strawberry oil

Total cost: $1.80 for 4 pots

I had leftovers, but I just did the math for what I had here. Each pot of lip balm cost me $.45 for half and ounce. My lip smackers run $1.49 these days and are .14 ozs each. Mine – $.90 per ounce. Others – $10.43 per ounce.

Body Butter

I LOVE body butter. It’s so silky and smooth and has an amazing ability to soften any part of your body, no matter how rough. I have this weird thing with my feet, and I have to slather them with lotion before I go to bed every night. If it’s not good lotion, I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and they’ll be too dry and I’ll have to lube them up again. I love body butter for this exact reason — it keeps them nice and hydrated all night and most of the next day. The thing I don’t like about body butter? Its price tag!

To make the body butter I used:

  • 1 c. shea butter
  • 1/2 c. coconut oil
  • 1/2 c. almond oil
  • A few drops of lavender oil I had on hand

I put all the ingredients into a large bowl inside a pot of water on the stove and simmered until it melted. Once it was all liquid, I put the bowl in the fridge. It was taking too long to firm up, so I stuck it in the freezer instead.

Once the liquids had turned back to almost a solid state, I used my hand mixer to whip them. The consistency is something like icing and it smells heavenly! I put my body butter into these jars. I grabbed them 50 percent off and gave one to a friend. Each jar was 8 oz (they’re not stuffed, but nicely filled) and is perfect. You have to be careful not to get this body butter too warm or it’ll “melt” back into a liquid. If that happens you’ll need to melt it all, freeze it again and re-whip it back into butter.

Cost breakdown:

  • Shea butter – $13.44
  • Coconut oil – $2.48
  • Almond oil – $4.24

Total cost: Three 8 oz jars = $20.16

Mine – $.67 per ounce. Others – $2.14 per ounce

 

Sugar Scrub

At first I wasn’t going to do any kind of scrubs or bath salts/bombs, because they’re very common. But my feet need the TLC, especially going into the winter. I try to sit down once or twice a week and scrub them with a good scrub and a pumice stone to keep them soft and crack-free during the winter. And this sugar scrub is so good, you could eat it, literally!

 

To make my sugar scrub I used:

  • 1 c. of regular granulated white sugar
  • 1/2 c. coconut oil

This takes 30 seconds to whip together. You just stir the coconut oil and sugar to incorporate. If you want to add a few drops of essential oils, you can, but I preferred the coconut smell so I didn’t add anything.

Cost breakdown:

  • Sugar – $.50
  • Coconut oil – $2.48 —— $2.98

The oil didn’t really change the amount of sugar, just made it wet, so it’s about 8 ounces.  Mine – $.37 per ounce. Others – $2.06 per ounce

Lotion Bars

I really enjoy lotion bars because of their versatility. I prefer to keep one in the bathroom and right after a shower, while my skin is still full of moisture, I slather it on and let the oils really soak in. You’re left with incredibly soft and silky skin that’s not greasy or slimy feeling.

To make my lotion bars I used:

  • 1 c. beeswax
  • 1 c. shea butter
  • 1 c. coconut oil

Again I made a double boiler on my stove and threw all the ingredients in together. The beeswax takes the longest to melt but with stirring frequently, it wasn’t too long. Once all the ingredients were liquified and mixed together, I poured them into molds. I bought a soap mold, but apparently I needed to grease it first because my bars got stuck inside. I had to warm it up a little to get them out and they warped!

 

The rest went into a silicone cupcake mold I have and they came out perfectly.

  • Cost breakdown:
  • Shea butter – $13.44
  • Coconut oil – $4.96
  • Beeswax – $4.50 —— $22.90 for ten 2 ounce bars

The best lotion bars cost an arm and a leg! Mine – $1.15 per ounce. Others – $5.13 per ounce

Since converting to a more natural beauty regimen, The Hubs and I have been experimenting with alternative uses for coconut oil. He’s always loved to cook and eat with it. and I’ve really been swayed by its moisturizing and protective abilities.

Did you know you can use unrefined coconut oil for:

  • Cooking
  • Sun screen
  • Moisturizer for your whole body
  • Protecting baby bottoms that have rashes
  • Defrizzing curly hair
  • WD-40 substitute

Check out this list of 52 uses for Coconut Oil. At the bottom of the page is a link to 70 more uses, so check them out, too! We can’t sing its praises enough.

These recipes are just as amazing as the store-bought versions without all the nasty, unnecessary chemical additives. So break out your natural ingredients and start making your own beauty products today!

~Melissa

JCP Cares… About Christmas… And the Salvation Army

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This just in about a special program JC Penney is launching this holiday season. Are you in one of the cities they’ll visit? If not, there are things going on at your nearest JC Penney where you can donate to the Salvation Army.

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jcpenney Launches Nationwide Holiday Giving Tour

Retailer Spreads Holiday Cheer, Surprising 12 Cities with Acts of Generosity

PLANO, Texas, Nov. 27, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — jcpenney today announced the launch of its nationwide Holiday Giving Tour. Beginning on #GivingTuesday on Nov. 27, the retailer will embark on a 12-day tour throughout the U.S., carrying out special acts of generosity in a new city each day. From Christmas tree lighting and ice skating to Santas and tobogganing, jcpenney will bring a touch of Christmas cheer to cities across the country through simple, humble acts of generosity that pay homage to classic American holiday traditions.

The tour will kick off on Nov. 27 with a live holiday performance by Grammy Award winning artist John Legend, followed by free ice skating, skate rentals and hot chocolate in Manhattan’s celebrated urban winter wonderland, Citi PondSM at Bryant Park. The tour will conclude on Dec. 8 in Los Angeles with a free exclusive, acoustic holiday concert outside a jcpenney store, performed by the reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year and ACM and CMA Male Vocalist of the Year, Blake Shelton. All events will be shared on jcpenney’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages.

“As a company founded on the Golden Rule, jcpenney has a strong legacy of giving back. As we embark on our exciting transformation, we realize becoming America’s favorite store isn’t just about the shopping experience we offer our customers – it’s also about what we do to support the communities in which we live and work,” said Miki Woodard, jcp cares president and vice president of philanthropy at jcpenney. “The holidays are a time of generosity and giving and we look forward to sharing this holiday spirit through our Holiday Giving Tour by surprising America with acts of generosity across the country.”
jcp Teams Up with #GivingTuesday 

As a founding partner of #GivingTuesday, jcpenney joins the nationwide movement on Nov. 27, the first day of the jcp Holiday Giving Tour. The #GivingTuesday initiative unites families, communities, companies and individuals to inspire Americans to join in acts of giving and celebrate our country’s great tradition of generosity.

jcpenney stores will also be providing acts of generosity to customers throughout the holiday season by distributing collectible holiday buttons featuring one of 50 classic designs and holiday expressions. A unique code on the back of each button will offer customers a chance to win one of millions of gifts including great American vacations, tickets to The Ellen DeGeneres Show, jcp merchandise, gift cards, and more.

Along with its event in Bryant Park, jcpenney will also be celebrating #GivingTuesday by donating one dollar to The Salvation Army – up to $100,000 – for every jcpenney holiday button redeemed at www.jcp.com/christmas on Nov. 27.

Small Change, Big Difference
The jcp Holiday Giving Tour builds on jcpenney’s philanthropic efforts this season. Through its charitable giving program, jcp cares, jcpenney is making it possible for customers to give back. From Nov. 23 to Dec. 31, customers can support The Salvation Army by rounding up their store purchases to the nearest dollar and donating the difference to the organization’s Red Kettle Campaign. With nearly 25,000 bell ringers at store fronts and shopping malls nationwide, this annual campaign helps to provide meals, clothing and toys to families who need it most. The Salvation Army’s iconic red kettle is featured as one of jcpenney’s button designs to signify the importance of their mission in communities across the country.

jcp Holiday Giving Tour Schedule:
Nov. 27: New York, NY- In partnership with #GivingTuesday, New Yorkers will enjoy a complimentary performance by John Legend followed by free ice skating, skate rentals and hot chocolate throughout the afternoon at CitiPond at Bryant Park.

Nov. 28: Langhorne, Pa. – Lumberjacks will distribute complimentary firewood outside jcpenney’s Oxford Valley Mall store.
Nov. 29: Orlando, Fla. – jcpenney will replace toll booth attendants with Santas. For every toll paid, jcpenney will match with a donation to The Salvation Army up to $10,000.

Nov. 30: Knoxville, Tenn. – A miniature jcpenney-branded blimp will drop small gifts to unsuspecting pedestrians in Market Square.
Dec. 1: Dallas, TX – Residents of warm-weather Dallas will get a chance to sled down a customized tobogganing hill at Flagpole Hill park.

Dec. 2: New Orleans, La. – The local jcpenney store at Oakwood Shoping Center will surprise residents by turning their parking lot into an ice skating rink.
Dec. 3: Chicago, Ill. – Warming up the Windy City, a cashmere-clad Santa will hand out jcp cashmere scarves, hats and more in downtown Chicago.

Dec. 4: Alamosa, Colo. – The small town will receive a fully decorated, Rockefeller Center-sized Christmas tree and lighting ceremony.
Dec. 5: Kemmerer, Wyo. – Home of jcp’s first “Golden Rule” store, jcpenney will take over the local town car wash. Without having to get out of their cars that morning, the residents of Kemmerer can drive through a tented elf-staffed assembly line receiving hot cider or coffee, a $10 jcp gift card, a breakfast burrito from a local restaurant, and a car wash by jolly Santas.

Dec. 6: Portland, Ore. – A local artist will create a beautiful pointillism portrait made out of hundreds of live poinsettias outside Pioneer Courthouse Square and at the end of the day, residents will be invited to take them home.
Dec. 7: Phoenix, Ariz. – A team of helpful “elves” will offer complimentary valet service at the Paradise Valley jcpenney store to alleviate any stress around holiday shopping parking.

Dec. 8: Los Angeles, Calif. – Blake Shelton will give an exclusive, acoustic holiday performance outside the jcpenney store at Westfield Culver City.

(Nearly) Free and Homemade Christmas: Gift Wrapping

This is the first Christmas we get to decorate our house, and we have NO decorations. In light of the fact that we have no money for decorations  people spend a LOT on Christmas decorations that usually distract from the real meaning of Christmas, we thought we would highlight things that we’re doing to prepare and decorate for Christmas, for free or nearly, reducing waste, and keeping everything centered on the Savior. Everything will be homemade and free or super cheap (that includes gift wrapping, ornaments and decorations). The first thing to tackle was the presents.

Josh’s commissions have a tendency to be high in late summer, and drop during the holidays, so with that in mind, we bought all of our Christmas presents in October. Yet when it came to wrapping them I knew I needed to be creative.  Christmas wrappings waste alone adds 1 million tons a week to our landfills. No bueno. So we decided to make our own wrappings that could be used year after year!

Here’s how it turned out.

For the gift tags I just cut out letters from cardboard, modge-podged newspaper to them, and hot glued little Christmas trinkets my grandma sent me in her little craft box. I secured a little bit of Velcro to each bag and letter, so I can interchange and reuse them!

I have mixed feelings about the bags. I’m glad they’re done for this year, but they were a not-so-well-thought-out trial run. Next year will be better on many levels. I just measured the sizes I would need to hold the gifts we got, then sewed little bags and put buttons on them. You could also do zippers, snaps etc. Whatever you have on hand! I just used scrap fabric from the aforementioned craft box. They’re fun and unique, though I had a few obstacles:

1) I planned to do them in felt, and leave a pinking sheared edge, but when I found I didn’t have enough felt, I didn’t update the design for fabric so some have the raw edge still.

2) I didn’t think out the button placement enough either, so some of the bags the flat buttons down to the bag, but on others you have to tuck the flap in and button up to the bag… if that makes sense which it probably doesn’t.

3) It was death trying to sew those buttonholes. I have a sweet sewing machine that will sew the appropriate sized button holes with the press of a button, but I was having major tension problems. They came out a little rough.

All in all, I’m happy they’re done and having made many mistakes, will be better prepared for next year. (I’m planning on buying blue and white Christmas fabric for the bags next year immediately after Christmas when they’re on sale!)

I absolutely hate to post this picture, but I though I must. I’m yet to make all of my amazing Christmas ornaments and a tree skirt… and we don’t have very much family here to get presents for… and out carpet is HIDEOUS. Oh ya, and our evil cat knocked down all the lower ornaments, which I’m still steaming over… But hey, like I said, it’s done and I have learned much to make next year a whole lot better :)

Cosmetics that Change the World

There are companies out there that exploit cause marketing, like Yoplait, but trust us when we tell you that good companies are out there too. Cause marketing is epidemic, and reaching into nearly every industry, including cosmetics!

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Emily loves MAC makeup. Before she was married, when she didn’t have many bills, that was all she would buy. Little did she know that by purchasing makeup from MAC, she was making the world a little better.

In 1994, MAC cosmetics launched the MAF (MAC Aids Foundation) to designate proceeds to help those afflicted with HIV and AIDS. When you buy their VIVA GLAM lipsticks,  EVERY CENT of the sale price goes to the MAF, not just a portion like its competitors.  M.A.C. Cosmetics is currently the leading non-pharmaceutical corporate fundraiser for HIV/AIDS worldwide and has raised over $224 million dollars to date thanks to the VIVA GLAM campaign. They team up with celebrities like Ricky Martin and Nicki Minaj to promote AIDS awareness as well as their line of cosmetics that support the cause.

MAC is more expensive that drugstore brands, but it’s better makeup, and it’s a great company to support. Check out what buying one VIVA GLAM can do:

ONE VIVA GLAM = 254 male condoms that effectively prevent HIV transmission

ONE VIVA GLAM = 24 female condoms for distribution by local Health Departments to prevent HIV transmission

ONE VIVA GLAM = 32 safe sex kits that include condoms and lubricant

ONE VIVA GLAM = 2 nights of shelter for a homeless person living with HIV/AIDS

ONE VIVA GLAM = 1 rapid oral HIV test

ONE VIVA GLAM = 8 home-delivered meals for a person living with HIV/AIDS who cannot cook for themselves

ONE VIVA GLAM = Monthly transportation to/from medical appointments for a child living with HIV/AIDS

ONE VIVA GLAM = 4 HIV tests for newborn babies to determine their HIV status

ONE VIVA GLAM = Medicine for 5 newborn babies to prevent transmission of HIV from their mothers

ONE VIVA GLAM = HIV tests for 14 pregnant women

ONE VIVA GLAM = 1 crisis counseling session for a person living with AIDS who is also struggling with addiction and homelessness

ONE VIVA GLAM = A six month supply of Omega 3 fish oil to help decrease the inflammation cause by the immune system’s battle against HIV

ONE VIVA GLAM = One year of clean, sterile syringes for an injection drug user to prevent HIV infection

ONE VIVA GLAM = 3 nutritious meals for 3 children affected by HIV/AIDS in South Africa

Cool right? You go MAC, you go.

The Blessing of Grandmothers

I was so very blessed to grow up with a close relationship with both of my grandmothers. Josh’s grandmothers died while he was young, so he didn’t know them that well, but when we got married he was glad to have two new grandmother-in-laws. My grandmothers are amazing and I’m so grateful for them. I appreciate how they keep me grounded in their individual ways.

This is Grandma Cuyler. We’re so close that I talk to her on the phone many times a week.   My Grandpa Cuyler died a few years ago, and she moved closer to my mom; that’s when we really started to build our relationship. She was raised in Idaho on a sheep farm, so she know a lot about hard work and the value of homemade necessities. Even though she married a car salesman and lived the “suburban” life with two children in California, she encourages me in my endeavors to live a more “homemade” lifestyle. Whether through her own personal experience, or second hand through her sisters or mother, she has a variety of knowledge on everything domestic from tatting, to baking, to canning, to natural ways to clean your home. She is a priceless source for information for me, and one of my very best friends. Because of her background, she helps keep me grounded to the home while in the midst of materialism, worldly trends, and temptations.

This is Grandma Pitter. She’s born and bred Californian through and through. She and my Grandpa Pitter played a major role in raising me while in elementary and middle school. When my Grandpa Pitter died in 2000, I was often over at my grandmother’s house to help her after surgeries, and now talk to her on the phone often to keep up to date. She inspires my artistic side. My grandma was an professional oil painter who still has many pieces in her home and loves to craft and decorate cakes. With her arthritis she’s slowed down some, but encourages me to develop these hobbies. She’s a great resource to bounce ideas off of, and has such a sweet spirit. She keeps me grounded by encouraging me to really make my house a home, not just by filling it with purchases, but with handmade treasures.

I am so very blessed to have these women in my life, I would be a different person without them.They keep me humble, sane and inspired.

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!

Foul Play from Yoplait

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Today we were looking through some articles about how much cause marketing campaigns from major companies, mostly grocery, actually benefit the cause being marketed. Well there was a lot of information there, mostly disappointing, but we ran across this article that included information about Yoplait and their “Save Lids to Save Lives” campaign… Let’s just say you may want to switch your brand of yogurt.

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Another example is Yoplait yogurt’s well-known “Save Lids to Save Lives” campaign, where 10 cents from each yogurt purchase can go to Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast-cancer foundation. Notice we didn’t say will go to Komen. In this promotion, the purchase triggers nothing; you have to mail back the container lids for Komen to get its donation. You’d pay more for a postage stamp (42 cents) than the donation amount Komen would receive (40 cents) if you mailed in four lids. What’s more, you would have to eat three containers of yogurt every day for 4 months during the promotion just to raise $36 (your postage cost not included).

Not only that, but critics say Yoplait yogurt is made with milk from cows treated with rBGH (a bovine growth hormone). Yoplait does not deny the use, and it does not label the products as being free of rBGH. According to advocacy group Breast Cancer Action (BCA), three separate studies published in U.S. and British cancer journals from 1998 to 2000 show that eating dairy products that come from cows treated with rBGH might increase a woman’s risk for breast cancer. In short, the yogurt itself might cause the very problem Komen is trying to prevent.

But clearly, the Yoplait/Komen campaign and others are examples of cause-marketing approaches that run counter to the idea that they’ll take all the work out of donating. In fact, one could argue that the companies are banking on most customers being too lazy to take the extra step to redeem the donations.

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Lame. And sketchy. We should all take a look at what that yogurt on the grocery store shelf is really worth to us. Do we really want to give a company doing shady things like that our business?

Why Your Daughters Should Read 19th Century Literary Novels

Just to clarify, 19th century literary novels are those including Jane Austen works, works from the Bronte sisters etc. But why are these so important for girls this day in age? A number of reasons. Let us explain:

1) Vocabulary Development- A few weeks ago, we watched Pride and Prejudice (the new one with Keira Knightley) and that was the first time Josh had seen it. He had kind of a hard time following along. This wasn’t because Josh was not well-educated, but because he wasn’t used to the type of dialect used in that genre of works. He grew up watching action movies, thrillers etc. while reading mostly fantasy books. We are not at all saying that watching action films or reading Ender’s Game aren’t good things to do, rather we’re saying it’s also important to balance those things out with more, I guess the word might be “scholarly” material. Films and book from the 19th century have a higher level of understanding and use of the English language. Anymore, youth have a harder and harder time understanding proper, intellectual English because they’re simply not exposed to it. We, as parents, need to balance their intake out to include higher levels of English, as well as action-movie puns and colloquialisms.

2) Moral Standards- We’re sure that we can preach to the choir all day long about how moral standards are waning. Yes, we do need to take action in our children’s lives. Yes, we do need to be good examples for them. Yes, we do need to provide them with good, wholesome media and literature to give them other examples as well. Women in the 19th century may not seem like  the best example for young girls at first glance. Sure, they were expected to be subject to men and duties between the sexes were rigidly enforced. Yet moral standards were also rigidly upheld. Maybe we need to balance today’s uber-feminism and promiscuity with the restraint and moral etiquette of the 19th century. For example, in Pride and Prejudice, Kitty ran away with a soldier before being married and her family had to fix the mess. Many movies and books today would glorify the adventurous, crazy romance of running away for love. However, in Pride and Prejudice it is looked down upon on many levels, as well as it would be in any novel from that time period. These books don’t romanticize promiscuity, yet their romances are just as intense and nail-biting (I think even more so).

3) Marriage is Key- Because of the culture back then, women in the 19th century strove to be married for many reasons other than love, but novels from this time period certainly didn’t leave out the drama or romance. Since the wave of feminism in the world, women are putting less and less importance on marriage and having a family. Now it’s all about having a career and not needing a man etc. We’re not saying that women can’t have careers and need to be dependent on men, but rather a woman’s place as a wife and mother is the best place she can be. Women are meant to be wives and mothers, it’s in our very nature. We need to emphasize this with our girls before they get swallowed up in the popular feministic trends of today. At least in these novels the women are seeking marriage without compromising their virtue, and marriage is put on a pedestal, exactly where it should be.

 

Alright, that was a lot longer than we thought. Here’s the gist, it’s really good for girls these days to read novels from the 19th century because it develops their academic minds, sense of virtue and morality, and roles as women in the world. And they’re really fun to read. Okay? Okay.

Here’s a few 19th century novel in eBook form from Amazon to check out!

 

What is your favorite 19th century literary novel?

Kohls Helps Out Sandy Reconstruction

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CBS reported the following about Kohls donating to the Sandy reconstruction effort.

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Kohl’s Department Stores  announced a $1 million cash donation toward Hurricane Sandy relief efforts along the East Coast. Kohl’s is providing this donation to the American Red Cross, which is delivering much-needed emergency supplies and services in the hurricane-impacted areas.

“Our hearts go out to the families and communities impacted by the severe weather and flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy. Kohl’s wants these families to know that we are here to help”

In addition to a financial contribution, Kohl’s encourages its associates to volunteer in support of cleanup efforts through its Associates in Action volunteer program. In recognition of volunteer hours, Kohl’s will donate additional corporate grants to the nonprofit organizations being supported by Kohl’s associates.

“Our hearts go out to the families and communities impacted by the severe weather and flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy. Kohl’s wants these families to know that we are here to help,” said Vicki Shamion, Kohl’s senior vice president, public relations, social marketing and community relations. “The destruction has been great, the need will be ongoing, and Kohl’s is proud to be in a position to provide financial assistance, as well as volunteer service, to our valued customers, associates and residents along the East Coast.”

Kohl’s Associates in Action volunteers help a range of youth-serving nonprofit organizations year-round. More than 610,000 associates have donated more than 2 million hours of their time since 2001, and Kohl’s has donated more than $57 million to nonprofits throughout the nation. The Associates in Action volunteer program is part of Kohl’s overall philanthropic platform, Kohl’s Cares®, which is committed to supporting children’s health and education initiatives nationwide.

To inquire about coordinating a Kohl’s Associates in Action volunteer event for hurricane and severe weather cleanup efforts, contact your local Kohl’s store and ask to speak with the store manager about Associates in Action. Find your nearest Kohl’s by visiting www.KohlsCorporation.com.

About Kohl’s

Based in Menomonee Falls, Wis., Kohl’s (NYSE: KSS) is a family-focused, value-oriented specialty department store offering moderately priced, exclusive and national brand apparel, shoes, accessories, beauty and home products in an exciting shopping environment. With a commitment to environmental leadership, Kohl’s operates 1,146 stores in 49 states. In support of the communities it serves, Kohl’s has raised more than $208 million for children’s initiatives nationwide through its Kohl’s Cares® cause merchandise program, which operates under Kohl’s Cares, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Kohl’s Department Stores, Inc. For a list of store locations and information, or for the added convenience of shopping online, visit www.Kohls.com, or join the discussion on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/kohls or Twitter http://twitter.com/Kohls.

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We liked Kohls before we knew about it giving back, but now we think much more highly of the company.

Do you know of another company that’s giving back in the community?

Our Argentine Thanksgiving

Yes you read right – Argentine. In about three years, we will be a homeschooling family. I’m really looking forward to teaching my kids, and I’m a firm believer in turning “non-school” activities into learning opportunities. Many homeschoolers use Thanksgiving to teach their children about the “First Thanksgiving” with the pilgrims and Indians. And while I will be doing the same, I didn’t necessarily want to do that every single year. So I talked to my mother-in-law, with a history of nontraditional Thanksgiving dinners, and got her to agree to mix things up by picking a country each year, and centering Thanksgiving dinner around that country. We could learn about that country before hand, then decorate for that country and eat traditional dishes for Thanksgiving dinner. Cool right? Well I prepared a couple of options for the countries’ menus and my mother-in-law decided on Argentina. Here’s how it turned out!

The food all looked fabulous. I didn’t post Wednesday or Thursday because I was busy making it all!

These are the gorgeous rice-stuffed tomatoes, super light and fresh. My in-laws’ window was casting awful shadows :( But the tomatoes were great!

Here’s the AMAZING Chimichurri bread. Chimichurri is a spice mixture that is used in a lot of places in Argentine cooking. We baked it into the bread and marinated the meat in a similar spice mixture.

This was an interesting dish, but I absolutely loved it. They’re sweet potatoes, pureed and cooked with sugar and gelatin so you end up with amazing sweet potato jell-o almost. It sounds weird, I know. It is also served cold and is one of my favorite dishes of this meal.

Argentines eat Russian potato salad and it’s fabulous. It’s more citrus-y and has peas in it. It was really good and super easy to make.

We made three different types of empanadas, black bean and plantain (savory), apple, and peach. All were great. I could have eaten a meal of just empanadas. We baked them immediately before eating so they were fresh and warm.

I’m missing a picture of our marinated eggplant which was an interesting dish. It was served cold, and not everyone’s favorite. But I liked it, and I think if you’re doing a foreign-themed dinner, you need to through a random dish in there just for everyone to taste.

We cooked a beef brisket in a chimichurri marinade, and marinated some chicken breasts as well. It. Was. Awesome. And very fresh.

For dessert, we made sandwich cookies filled with dulce de leche (which I also can’t find the picture of), and this ricotta tart. Mmmmmmmmm they were so good!!!

If you were paying attention, you’d realize that many of these dishes were served cold, which was interesting, but surprisingly no big deal. The meal had it’s own character, that’s for sure! It was a hit though and everyone left the table with full bellies and LOTS of leftovers :)

Did you do anything out of the ordinary for your Thanksgiving dinner?

Viacom Donates to Help Sandy Victims

Here’s the story on their website. Honestly, I didn’t even know who Viacom was but, luckily for me, near the end of the article they list some of the more well-known brands within Viacom :)

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Viacom Donates $1 Million To Hurricane Sandy Relief Efforts

Company Also Pledges An Additional $1 Million To The American Red Cross Through An Employee Matching Gift Program

NEW YORK, Nov. 1, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — Viacom Inc. (NASDAQ: VIAB, VIA) today announced a donation of $1 million to help victims of Hurricane Sandy.  Viacom will donate $500,000 to the Mayor’s Fund for NYC and $500,000 to local organizations for relief and rebuilding efforts in Connecticut, Long Island, New Jersey and Westchester County.  In addition, Viacom has set up a $1 million employee matching gift program with The American Red Cross, which will give Viacom employees the opportunity to maximize their personal contributions.

With global headquarters in New York’s Times Square and operations in downtown New York City, New Jersey and on Long Island, Viacom has more than 4,000 employees who live in the communities directly impacted by Hurricane Sandy.
Viacom President and Chief Executive Officer, Philippe Dauman, said, “The devastation from Hurricane Sandy is unprecedented and has left so many struggling to rebuild their lives.  Viacom has always had a strong relationship with the communities it serves and we are proud to step forward once again to help those in need.  In addition to these efforts, Viacom’s media brands are mobilizing behind Hurricane Sandy relief efforts in ways that are most impactful and meaningful for their audiences.”
Viacom also announced the creation of a Viacommunity Employee Relief Program to directly assist Viacom employees who have been severely impacted by the storm.
“As we reach out a helping hand to our neighbors in the communities where we live and work, we also want to take care of our own employees,” Mr. Dauman added.  “Like millions of people in the devastating path of Sandy, some of Viacom’s employees have experienced enormous hardships including severe damage or loss of homes and other property. The Viacommunity Employee Relief Program will offer logistical assistance as well as aid to employees dealing with critical issues related to the storm.”
Viacom is home to the world’s premier entertainment brands that connect with audiences through compelling content across television, motion picture, online and mobile platforms in over 160 countries and territories. With media networks reaching approximately 700 million global subscribers, Viacom’s leading brands include MTV, VH1, CMT, Logo, BET, CENTRIC, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., TeenNick, Nicktoons, Nick at Nite, COMEDY CENTRAL, TV Land, SPIKE, Tr3s, Paramount Channel and VIVA. Paramount Pictures, celebrating its 100th year in 2012 and creator of many of the most beloved motion pictures, continues today as a major global producer and distributor of filmed entertainment. Viacom operates a large portfolio of branded digital media experiences, including many of the world’s most popular properties for entertainment, community and casual online gaming.

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Excellent. You go Viacom.

Do you know of any companies donating to Sandy relief?

Thankful for Those Little Moments.

It’s been rough with Jax. I don’t know what’s wrong with him. Last night and today he has had such a hard time falling asleep. He’ll be totally fine when I put him down, then in 5 minutes he’s screaming bloody murder. But he’s so tired. He’s been constipated. He’s teething. Maybe he doesn’t feel good about the combination of those things. It’s exhausting. For both of us. Right now is the perfect time for me to focus on the precious little moments in my life.

1) The brief moment when my wiggly little guy is too tired to hold his head up and look around, so he rests it on my chest.

2) My husband. He has way too much on his plate. Even though he struggles sometimes, I appreciates his sacrifice for our family and allowing me to stay home. There are those moments when he gets home from school way too late, having seen our son for 15 minutes that day, and he’s exhausted. But he gives me a tired smile and tells me he loves me.

3) The moment when I sit down at the end of the day and am proud for all I’ve accomplished, instead of focusing on all that still needs to be done.

4) Jane Eyre. I’m currently reading it and it is fascinating, yet wholesome.  It’s a small escape from the dishes and laundry.

5) Christ. For being there for me through all my little prayers throughout the day, and keeping gratitude in my heart.

What are some of your precious moments that you’re grateful for?

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!

 

 

The Mouse Gives Back

We love highlighting companies that are giving back to the community. With the recent hurricane on the east coast, we thought that this week we would highlight some of the companies that are donating to help the victims and repair the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.

Walt Disney Co. donated $2 million dollars, and will be matching any employee donations. Here’s part of the story from CBS:

As for Disney’s donation, half of it will go to the American Red Cross, and the other half will go towards various organizations dedicated to relief efforts.

Hurricane Sandy rescue missions

“It’s hard to fathom the devastation from this storm,” said Robert A. Iger, chairman and chief executive officer of The Walt Disney Company, in a press release. “Thousands of people in the hurricane’s path lost everything and face the daunting challenge of putting their lives and communities back together. We hope this helps provide immediate aid needed to get through this disaster and begin the road to recovery.”

Good to know the mouse is up to good things!