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Sweet Potato Chips

I’ve been making sweet potato fries for the last three years, since I first discovered my love for them at my favorite local restaurant, Honey. Tossed in olive oil, salt/pepper, thyme, and Parmesan and cooked for 20 minutes at 400 degrees — perfection when dipped into a chipotle, dijon, mayonnaise sauce. But for some reason, it had never occurred to me to make sweet potato chips. Until I had a surplus of Costco sweet potatoes. Then it was time to find more options to use up my sweet potato supply! And since we devour bags of sweet potato chips around here, this was the logical conclusion: make Sweet Potato Chips!

So here is what I did:

Sliced three sweet potatoes with a mandolin slicer on the thinnest setting.
Tossed in 3 TBS of olive oil and 1 TBS of salt.
Lay out on a baking sheet and cook at 400 degrees for 8 minutes,
turn over slices and cook for another 3 minutes or until crispy.

Delicious!

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Winners

Kristi and Heidi are the winners of the giveaway! Send me your email and we can get your address to ship you the products. Yipppeeeeeee. I think you’ll love them!

But wait, there is still something for those of you who didn’t win! If you make one Shaklee purchase in the month of April, you can get the lifetime discount for free! Just contact Harper to make a purchase!

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Basement Organization

*** DON’T FORGET THE SHAKLEE GIVE-AWAY — JUST THREE MORE DAY TO ENTER! ***

So, our basement has been a bit of a work in progress over the past two years. We finished the actual construction in August 2010, but I haven’t really been happy with the organization and layout until now. We’ve flip-flopped some of the rooms a bit and have had major storage issues. We made sure to keep an unfinished area in our basement for storage, but we had one problem that kept it from being usable space: Books.

You see, Brian and I have a book problem. When we were first married we had FIVE book shelves in our tiny one bedroom apartment. And that was before I worked for a book publisher and Brian did his graduate degree. Yes, the book problem has only expounded over the years. And we have literally no place to put books in our house. We’ve been putting off the inevitable for two years but I finally took the plunge and did a major book purge. We’ve been finding that we are reading more and more books through e-readers so it didn’t feel as painful as it would have previously. Now our 10 bins full of books has been reduced to 3 and our local used bookstore if overflowing with new merchandise. That was a ton of work!

So here is the newly organized basement storage area:

I really wish I had taken a before picture. You wouldn’t have believed to ladies could have accomplished this much in just one week (during naps and evenings, mind you!). There is now a space for everything — and between our home improvement projects, photography equipment, kitchen supplies, and camping supplies there is a LOT of stuff to organize. We are so happy with the finished product!

My “office” or sewing area was being used a storage space for some of the extra stuff we couldn’t fit in the real storage area. So, now that all of that stuff is out of my office, we were able to reorganize my space too. We picked up a bookshelf (I had to keep some books, you know!) at a used furniture place (for $18.50! Woohoo!) and got to work organizing. Well, at least, we got to work organizing after the painful ordeal of having to take apart the book shelf and reassemble it just to get it down the stairs.

Here is the finished product.

Not bad, eh? It feels like a legitimate sewing room now!
Now to get going with some new sewing projects . . .

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A Week with Gigi

It’s really hard to live far away from family. Especially when you have such an awesome family. My parents live 2,000 miles away. That’s three zeros too many in my opinion. There is only one upside to living that far away — when they come for a visit, it’s 24/7 interaction when they are here. If we lived close by, we probably wouldn’t get the kind of one-on-one extended time that we get when family members visit us in IL. For instance, this past week my mom came to stay (after my mother in law was here just the week before — I’ve been truly blessed!) and we had so much fun.

When she is here I get the bonus of having a lot of extra help around the house. Our project this past week deserves its own post (think major overhaul on our basement storage). More than just extra help, having my mom (or Gigi) around means lots of wonderful conversations, times of just being silly, good food, shopping, and having fun.

My favorite part of having Gigi around, though, is getting to see her interact with my kids. It’s a new way of looking at how I was raised and how she must have interacted with me when I was a kid. Plus, it’s just super special to my mama’s heart to see my kid’s getting loved on. Want to see what I mean?

She could be seen playing in the backyard with Parker within minutes of her arrival.

And snuggling with Nolan up to the very last minute she was here.

And so many other kisses, hugs, laughs, tickles, songs, and games were given in between.
What fun! We miss you already, Gigi!

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Touch a Truck

*** DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE SHAKLEE GIVE-AWAY. YOU HAVE UNTIL 4/26 TO ENTER***

Have you ever looked at the catalog that the Park District puts out each season? It is full of free or nearly free activities for families to do! I would have never discovered this wonderful Touch-a-Truck event if it wasn’t for that catalog. After getting that catalog, I decided to start keeping a calendar of all the events that are offered by the various programs in our area — it’s already turning out to be a very fruitful endeavor!

Anyway, back to the Touch-a-Truck event. Basically, they bring in all different kinds of vehicles and let the kiddos have free reign. Our firetruck/tractor loving boy was in heaven. I stayed home with Nolan that morning, but Parker had a grand old time on this outing with Ceecee and Daddy. Well, you don’t need me to tell you — just look at these pictures!

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Tractors!

More Tractors!

Ambulance!

Making friends!

Driving a truck!

Now doesn’t that look fun?

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Give-Away: Shaklee Products and Life-time Discount Offer

Did you guys know that Sunday is Earth Day? I used to totally balk at the idea of celebrating keeping our earth healthy and green — but that just shows you how much I’ve changed over the last decade. Not only does a healthier planet equal a healthier “me,” taking care of our earth is a God-given responsibility that we all have. So, how shall we celebrate? Let’s do a give-away! Sound good? I thought so!

Two years ago I did a little “Spring Greening” series where I shared all the household and personal care items that I use to be more aware of my environmental footprint. Back then one of my favorite cleaning products was Shaklee. And guess what —  that hasn’t changed a bit! I love  my Shaklee cleaning products. The concentrated bottle of Basic H that I purchased TWO YEARS ago is still going strong. How many of you can say you are still using the same bottle of cleaning product from two years ago? The concentrated formula allows you to dilute the solution at different rates (they give you the formulas, don’t worry about the math!) to create cleaning products for windows, mirrors, basic all-purpose cleaning, and heavy duty degreasers. It’s great! And they work well too! Being a mom, I’m particularly comforted by the fact that after I clean my windows I don’t have to be concerned when my toddler promptly puts his mouth all over the window. They are no nasty chemicals in Basic H, so I am worry free. Well, other than the additional cleaning that I will have to do!

Anyway, guess what I’m giving you guys an opportunity to win? A bottle of Basic H! Actually, TWO bottles of Basic H — so we’ll have TWO lucky winners! But wait, there’s more! (Feel like an informercial yet? Don’t worry, this product is as good as it sounds!) If you are one of our two winners, you’ll also get a FREE lifetime discount off which gives you a 15% off all Shaklee products for life. Pretty sweet, no?

Here are the Give-Away details:

If you are not already a Shaklee member (sorry members!), you can comment on my blog that you’d like to enter the giveaway. Please tell me why you are excited to try out Shaklee products in the comment. Also include your e-mail address so I can contact you if you are selected as a winner. The give-away will be open until April 26th at 5 p.m. central time, the winners will be announced on April 27th.

This give-away is being offered through my Shaklee representative, Harper. Please visit her website to check out all of Shaklee’s products!  http://harperguerra.myshaklee.com/us/en/

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A Boy and His Bike

Here is a fun story about a boy and his new bike.

One Friday evening, a sweet grandmother (let’s call her Ceecee) bought a new bike for a young boy (let’s call him Parker). Parker was so excited! He wore his new helmet through the whole store (even when it still had tags/cardboard attached to it). He kept talking about his bike and couldn’t wait for it to be set up.

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Fast forward to Sunday.
Parker was so thrilled to see his bike being built by his daddy!

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He watched in awe and tried to help out with the screwdriver whenever he could.
He could barely contain himself!

Despite a rainy day and a large thunderstorm brewing, Parker braved the outdoors to take his bike out for a ride for the first time.

This boy knew exactly where he wanted this bike to take him. “Let’s go!”

Turns out, riding a bike is a bit tricky when you are just learning. He got lots of encouragement from Ceecee, daddy, and mama. He’s still learning, but Oh! Is this bike thing fun, or what?

It’s hard not to be super proud of your boy after his first ride.
This mama couldn’t stop smiling at her big boy!

Let’s hope there are many more fun bike rides to come!

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Toddler Thursday

I know that people generally do Toddler Tuesday, but I didn’t quite get my act together to get a Toddler post up by Tuesday. And since I have a Toddler EVERYDAY of the week, I figured no one would mind too much.

So I finally checked something off my pinterest to-do list. I mean, I’ve conquered a few things before, but it’s slow going. It’s fast to pin something, but it takes a lot to actually accomplish it. I read an article yesterday about how our kids really just want us and not all the pins that we think we should be and do. It was a really good reminder. I do think pinterest can place undue stress on our cooking/entertaining/clothes/activities — but used rightly it provides an endless fountain of inspiration and great ideas to try. [End Pinterest Philosophical Tangent]

And what was the long awaited pinterest project? The Marble Run, of course! I knew immediately this would be a winner for my boy. After seeing several friends try it with great results, I knew it was time to get around to it! This incredibly cheap activity kept Parker busy for a long time yesterday morning, and I know it will be around for a long time to come. Everyone with a toddler should make one! The only downside is the marbles that seem to be everywhere in our living room. This will certainly have to take a hiatus once Nolan is putting things in his mouth and on the move. But until then, it’s GREAT!

We picked up the pool noodle at Target and had to go to Toys-R-Us for the marbles. Who knew they were so hard to find? The whole thing cost a total of $2. I still have to figure out the best place to put it where it will stay in place with Parker putting pressure on it.

I used a serrated knife to cut the noodle and it made a surprisingly smooth surface. Tooth picks are holding the two sides together and the start/finish signs in place. An old shoe box is serving as the final destination of the marbles. So much fun!

And because a post on my blog wouldn’t be complete without a gratuitous adorable chubby baby pic, here is Nolan watching his big brother playing with the marbles. Can you believe he will be three months old on Friday? He’ll be participating in Toddler [insert day here] posts before we know it!

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Easter Celebrations

The Easter celebrations started before the weekend did! Early in the week we received a surprise Easter package from my mom. She is always amazing about remembering holidays and making them special. This package was no exception!

20120410-121621.jpgParker playing with a light-up baby chicken toy.

Then we enjoyed an impromptu evening with our dear friend Rochelle (Shell, as she is known around these parts). Brian worked late on Thursday, so she spent the evening with us. Good times at Chick-fil-a and around the house, good conversations, and just being silly–what’s better than that?

20120410-121603.jpgParker requested that Shell read him “Jesus Loves Me” before bed.

Then we had a wonderful Easter weekend. Brian has been extremely busy at work lately (saving the world, you know) and it was such a blessing to have him home for THREE WHOLE DAYS. Especially since he is travelling this week and next week for work. We loved having him all to ourselves over the holiday weekend!

20120410-121547.jpgMy Boys. 

Friday was full of fun and relaxation: a visit to Cosley Zoo with some good friends, homemade Fish Tacos, more time with friends, and a little Arrested Development. Our church does their service too late for us people with small kiddos, so we didn’t make it to a Good Friday service. Saturday I slept in and then we went out for a fun breakfast at my favorite restaurant, Honey. We haven’t been there in a long time so it was a real treat. Then we walked around our little downtown and enjoyed the beautiful weather. We even picked up some new books at the used bookstore (including my new favorite, Oh, The Places You’ll Go. Seriously, this book is full of wisdom).

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On Easter we all made it to church. For the first time since Nolan was born! It really was a celebration! And Nolan even made it in the nursery the whole time so I was able to listen to the whole sermon. It was a good consideration of John 20. The service ended with the Hallelujah chorus, as usual. No matter how “connected” I’m feeling during worship, that song is somehow able to bring me to tears. It sounds corny, but that song really makes me look forward to the day when I’ll be able to sing about the triumph of Christ over death in heaven.

It took Parker all of 2 minutes to ask to take off his “fancy” shirt after church.
Nolan was quick to lose his khaki pants too.
That’s what you get when you have boys!

After Parker’s nap we did a little impromptu Easter egg hunt in our backyard. I wasn’t sure he’d be interested, so I kept the eggs fairly obviously hidden. I must have made it too easy because he was super into it and found them all really fast. It was fun to see his excitement over the whole process. I’m not really sure how to tie in the egg hunting with the true meaning of Easter, but it was sure fun!

Woohoo! This is fun!
There is a dinosaur in this one!

Look at ALL my eggs!
And my cool monkey basket is awesome!

We had some friends over for Easter dinner and that was really great. It is so good to be with likeminded people on such an important day. Our conversation was such a blessing to me. And the food was great (if I do say so myself!). We had grilled rack of lamb with lemon, garlic, and shallots, sweet potato casserole, brussel sprouts tossed in parmesan, carrots in a honey glaze, pretzel rolls, and salad. Then Heather treated us with this delicious dessert from Smitten Kitchen. You can see some pictures on her post about the day here.

Hope you all had a great Easter weekend!

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Friends

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My first friend was my sister. We are only 18 months apart and we experienced everything together. We shared all of our likes and dislikes. We spent days and weeks conspiring about barbies, then star wars, then the monkees, then the Beatles. We were (and still are) the best of friends. More than just sisters, we’ve always had a really unique and wonderful friendship.

And now I’m getting to see the same relationship start with my boys. This past week Parker started showing more of an interest in Nolan. He asks to “take care of Nolan” which means he wants to hold him. They’ve started smiling at each other. I see Nolan look at Parker with that “you’re my older brother and you are amazing” look. And Parker always wants to know where Nolan is and what he is doing.

It’s such a sweet thing to behold. It makes this mama’s heart so very happy. My boys aren’t just brothers. They are becoming friends.

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