Sunday, September 30, 2012

2012 Goals - September Update

How is September over? I find it really hard to believe that it's October. I'm excited - I love pumpkins, Halloween, and preparing for the holidays. I cannot believe how quickly this year is flying by! It's a very exciting year. We have entered an especially exciting time in our lives. Not just because Wesley is mobile and super fun, but also because Jarrod has declared his candidacy in the United Methodist Church as an Elder. For those of you that understand the Methodist Church know what a huge deal this is. For those of you unfamiliar with the United Methodist Church, this means we have a long process ahead of us of schooling, papers, lots of interviews, and some really big things. I'm sure I'll write more about that over time. And on to the goals! 

Family Goals
  • Become debt free in 2012 - This month we paid over $1,800 on debt. This brings out 2012 total to almost $30,000 down on debt! We are coming to terms with the face that we will more than likely not be debt free by December, but we will be debt free quickly in the new year. This is especially exciting because of the changes happening with Jarrod's ordination.
  • Have 10 date experiences in 2012 - We didn't have any dates in September, but we are going out of town in October and have another day-date planned in October also, so we're doing alright... We are sitting at 6 dates so far in 2012. 
  • Have 10 family days in 2012. - With Wesley being sick this month, we didn't do a whole lot, but we do have two family dates planned for October! We're still at 7 events this year. 
Leanne's Goals
  • Hit pre-pregnancy goal weight by April 1st and maintain it throughout the year - After amending and changing things slightly, I'm officially at my pre-pregnancy weight and working to maintain that. Nursing is definitely helping, so heaven help me when I stop that! 
  • Walk 300 days in 2012 in preparation to walk all 60 miles in the Susan G. Komen 3-day for the Cure - Okay - full disclosure - I have walked a lot, but I have gotten really bad about keeping track of when and how far I've walked. If I get a week behind, it's hard to get back on track. I estimate that I've walked about 25 days, which brings me up to So far, I've walked 204 days in 2012. That's 74.5% of days. 300 days is 82% of the year.
  • Finish fundraising (raise $2,300) by September 1st - I have not met my goal yet, but hope to very soon! Wesley did a great job of helping. It's not too late to save the boobies! You can help by donating today
Jarrod's goals
  • Lose 10 pounds. - Jarrod has stopped weighing himself. He's not quite as militant about goals as I am...He's still walking with me in the evenings, which has been awesome. This month he even went more than a mile!
  • Get content ready, publish blog, and gain some notoriety. - Jarrod's blog is continuing to do really well. He announced his plans for ordination and I know will continue to keep folks informed about that on The Liturgy Nerd.
  • Try one new exciting recipe a month. -Jarrod made a delicious hash from the Food Network Magazine. Unfortunately I didn't get a picture, but it was delicious! I also made many many dozens of chocolate chip cookies and perfected my recipe there. I'll share more of that soon!
How do you set goals? How do you hold yourself accountable?
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Thursday, September 27, 2012

My New Epiphanie Bag!

I'm a thrifty, simple, and a fairly no frills kinda girl. I don't spend a lot of money on fancy make-up, expensive skin products, or anything for my hair. I don't color my hair, need fancy clothes, or really spend money on much of anything...

But sometimes I get my mind stuck on something fancy and figure out how I need it. Dave Ramsey would call me a princess and I know I definitely have my moments. Thankfully, I want to be out of debt more than just about anything. But recently I had a princess moment. That lasted several weeks. And completely consumed my thoughts. I had fallen in love...

...with a beautiful Epiphanie bag.

I know many of you won't understand. It's just a purse, you'll say. You folks will be wrong. It's not just a purse. It's a beautiful statement piece that is functional and gorgeous. Let me preface with the fact that I have not spent money on any bag of any kind since long before I was married. I have received some gorgeous ones as gifts, but I've not spent money on one. I needed wanted a bag that would safely hold my laptop, camera, and other necessary purse items (lip gloss, wallet, snacks, water bottle, etc.).

After a lot of research, I completely fell in love with the Epiphanie Clover. I wrote about her (you cannot call a purse that gorgeous 'it'!) on this post. And after that I couldn't get her off my mind. I thought about her every day when I'd carry 3-4 bags of stuff to and from the office each day. Or when I'd struggle to secure my camera in my purse in hopes it stayed safe. Or when I'd leave my camera at home because I didn't want to break it or it didn't fit in my purse. When I'm traveling I need to have a lot of items with me (pump, milk bags, computer, camera, phone, snacks, folders, pens, etc.) and my purses just weren't cutting it.

Pre-Wesley, even when I was in graduate school, this was never a problem. I was never a big purse kind of girl. If I needed my laptop and books for school, I carried a backpack. My purses were small and I could maintain my status as a minimalist. When Wesley was little(r) he didn't require toys, snacks, etc. like he does now. I could easily carry my stuff and camera in his diaper bag. Now I struggle with my purse, camera, diaper bag, pump bag, etc.

Obviously I was justifying the need for this new purse. This, coupled with the fact that I was feeling unappreciated, didn't bode well for my budget. I know I didn't need anything. I have lots of purses and plenty of bags. But I knew that a new bag would be used and have purpose in my busy life. I started to look at everything in our home as something I could sell to get this purse.

I calculated how much money I was saving our family by breast feeding and pumping, cloth diapering, and making our own baby food. I got frustrated. I entered contest after contest hoping to win my beautiful Epiphanie Clover. I daydreamed about what color I'd enjoy more: fuchsia, grey, or teal. Jarrod became tired of my goings on about this bag. I evangelized for Epiphanie, telling everyone I could about their gorgeous bags.  

Finally Jarrod caved. He indulged me when I started selling stuff. I sold our old GPS. I rolled all the coins I could find in the house. I started collecting money. Suddenly I had almost $100! Not quite enough for my gorgeous bag, but enough for Jarrod to agree that it was a good investment for me. He also talked me into going with Fuchsia because it's a signature piece. Gray would have matched everything, but pink really makes a statement. He was absolutely right.
She's gorgeous and I love her. She holds everything that I need and I'm so excited that we'll be traveling together a lot this month. I have two week-long business trips - one to Kansas and one to California. I am excited to have such a beautiful bag to carry my essentials.

You can read more details about the Clover and other Epiphanie bags on their website, but I wanted to give you a quick rundown of my favorite features:

  • Super soft interior that won't scratch my camera or other important items
  • Everything is padded, which is great for my pump, camera, and laptop.
  • Removable interior pads - you can store lenses, cameras, and other items by simply moving the velcro-fastened interior pads
  • Sturdy, flat bottom - All my other purses would fall over. They were always laying on the floor on their sides. This one is awesome and stands up by itself. I didn't realize before I purchased it how much I'd enjoy that! 
  • Gorgeous leather, beautiful color, and really high quality materials. 
I love this purse so much that I debated not going to the bathroom at Target because I didn't want to bring her into the public restroom. Seriously. She's beautiful and makes me incredibly happy. 

Have you ever splurged on something that you just fell in love with? Did you have buyer's remorse or did you fall even more in love? Have you ever named a purse? ;-) 

Again, Epiphanie has no idea who I am. I wasn't compensated at all and my opinions are completely my own. 

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012


I needed a pick-me-up last week. I was feeling run-down, ragged, and unappreciated. A lot of things that moms do are unappreciated - cloth diapering, nursing, pumping, cleaning, cooking, working, staying somewhat sane, laundry, making the bed, and keeping everyone alive. It's tough work, but I don't usually get thanked for it! (Note: My husband does most of these things and more as well. He doesn't get thanked either. He's a better person than I am because he doesn't get grouchy about it!)

Jarrod knew something was wrong when I started to calculate how much money we were saving by nursing and pumping versus feeding Wesley formula. Obviously I nurse him for other reasons besides financial, but that's not what I was focusing on last week. I needed to be appreciated.

My boys love me so much and laughter, helping me, and saying thank you is usually all the appreciation I need. But every once and a while (I told Jarrod to count on it every quarter!) I need to really be shown appreciation or I'll go crazy. I'll tell you more about what I did to pamper myself later this week, but for now I'll tell you what my sweet hubby did...

He came home from the grocery store with these beautiful flowers. I can count on one hand the number of times Jarrod has given me flowers. I'm typically not a flowers kind of girl. They are expensive, die, and you can't eat them. :-) But flowers on occasion can definitely make me feel appreciated!

These particular flowers have brightened our kitchen for several days and are still going strong! The fact that Jarrod remembered I was having a tough time and bought them for me almost means more than the flowers themselves. Really, all I need to be appreciated is to know that Jarrod was thinking about me and went out of his way to do something special.

It's hard to remember to appreciate your spouse when you spend so much time cleaning, running the house, and helping each other on the mundane tasks. Jarrod is an excellent partner in the household chores and caring for Wesley. Thankfully, with a little reminding, he's also excellent at appreciating me with flowers. :-)

Do you ever feel unappreciated? How do you handle that in a healthy way? What does your family do to show you how much they appreciate you?
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Monday, September 24, 2012

The Great Cookie Giveaway!

Cookies make everyone happy. Sometimes you just need a little pick-me-up. I needed one this weekend that I'll share more about that this week, but for now, I want to hear from you. Does someone in your life need cookies? I want to mail them cookies by Monday.
This weekend I made 100 chocolate chip cookies. It's a variation of this recipe - I added some oatmeal and used half milk chocolate and half semi-sweet chocolate chips. Trust me when I say that they are delicious. Most of the cookies are spoken for, but I have 2 dozen sealed up and ready to ship to someone who needs a smile.

I promise the cookies will be fresh, delicious, and wrapped with love. I'll include a card and maybe even a picture of Wesley! (Seriously, my kid is so cute.)

Here's how to enter:
1. Leave a comment telling me who you'd want the cookies mailed to and why. Please do not nominate yourself.
2. For extra entries you can:
- Share this photo on Facebook and leave a comment back here for another entry.
- Share the link to this post on twitter and leave a comment back here for another entry.
- Donate $5 to Susan G. Komen for the Cure for 5 more entries. (Click here to donate!)

This giveaway ends on Thursday, September 27th at 11:59pm Central time. A winner will be chosen randomly but with preference given to the needs of the person nominated. Cookies will be mailed on Friday to arrive to the winner by Monday.
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Friday, September 21, 2012

Check out my sweet shades, guys! {Sweet November Review}

When I was pregnant, I scoped out Pinterest for cute little outfits to make for my unborn little baby. Not knowing if baby was a boy or a girl, I made two onesies, one for a boy and one for a girl, as a going-home-from-the-hospital outfit. The boy onesie was easy. I loved the idea of him wearing a tie onesie home from the hospital.
For a little girl, I decided that we needed to make a sweet necklace onesie. I found this one on Pinterest, but the original link was not included. Thankfully, Sara commented on that post and I was able to include her link on the post! I did recreate her onesie and ended up giving it away to a friend for her little girl.
Since then, I've also recreated it again.

Long story short, I recently got a comment on a post letting me know that Sara's picture was on an etsy listing! I know this sort of thing happens and I debated on even telling Sara - I wasn't sure if she knew about or was connected to the etsy listing. But I decided to take a chance and send her a message.

I got the sweetest message back thanking me for my note. She (thankfully) was able to get the listing removed. I was thankful to help, but Sara told me to pick something out from her shop - store credit for $10. How sweet! I almost turned her down...but then I saw this:
via Sweet November
I know. I couldn't live without this precious onesie. Of course there was plenty of other awesome stuff too...
vis Sweet November
via Sweet November
Seriously. Super cute and incredible reasonably priced. You couldn't make this stuff for less than you could buy it from Sara!

Don't have a cute kid in your life? That's okay! Sara makes stuff for us too!
via Sweet November
via Sweet November
via Sweet November
Seriously. This stuff is precious!

So I told Sara that I would LOVE the aviator onesie for Wesley. Within a few days, I had a package in my mailbox...

SO super cute! And on top of that, Sara put something in just for mama!

They are precious and I immediately picked out an outfit to match them. I wore them all day and completely forgot I was wearing them. Cute earrings that don't hurt or solicit tugs from a little man are really hard to come by!
I wanted Wesley to be able to wear the onesie soon so I tossed the onesie in the wash immediately and planned to put Wesley in it for a little gathering we had on Thursday evening. He needed to look especially precious for his little girlfriend.
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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sick Boy

I wrote earlier this week about Wesley being a daycare baby. (Seriously, typing that makes my heart hurt.) Of course being sick goes hand-in-hand with being around lots of kiddos. Wesley has been around people since he was very little. Being a church-baby, Wesley has never met a stranger. I focus on the good parts of that - he's being exposed to germs, meeting lots of people, and has so many who adore him.

Unfortunately, that means that Wesley is likely to get sick. He was almost 8 months old before we had to sit on the sick side of the waiting room. Several weeks ago Jarrod, Wesley, and I all came down with something on a Friday afternoon. Our noses were runny, we were coughing, and we just didn't feel good. Wesley was fussy all weekend but didn't run a fever, so we didn't worry. He slept a lot and was generally fussy. He stopped eating solid food, but had good moments, so we hunkered down and rested for the weekend.

That week he wasn't 100% but still never ran a fever, so we didn't worry. On Wednesday he went to school and within 2 hours we got the call. He'd gagged and spit up a whole bottle. He was sick. I stayed home with him and let him sleep a lot. We assumed he was teething and just took things easy. He stayed home from school on Thursday and is always home on Friday. On Saturday he ran a fever all day and didn't leave the house. By Sunday, he was feeling better. He was back at school on Monday.

We went the whole week again not at 100%. On Friday we called the doctor and took him in. Wesley has always pulled at his ears and at his 6 month appointment we made sure that the doctor checked them. I thought he probably had an ear infection, but his ears looked great. (After the doctor moving wax around - not fun at all!) The doctor determined that it was a sinus infection and prescribed amoxicillon. I cried for 2 days.

Then Wesley started to perk up. He was laughing again, eating solid food, and crawling around the house. It had been nearly 2 weeks without a real Wesley presence in our home. While I'm not in favor of antibiotics as a rule, I think we made the right choice. Of course, we also decided to start him on probiotics as well and will continue. I was already researching when he got sick. Hopefully between probiotics and breastfeeding, he will remain healthy more often than not.

I am convinced that breastfeeding kept Wesley well nearly 8 months. With the number of people he is in contact with each week, it's pretty remarkable. I hope that continuing to breastfeed will keep him as healthy as possible. This illness is motivation to keep pumping at work, on the road, and in the mornings, even if it's inconvenient. I know it's what is best for him and will hopefully keep him healthy for as long as possible. I know germs are good and he needs to build up his immunity, but I hate having a sick baby.

How do you keep yourself from getting sick? What do you do to keep your kiddos healthy? What is your favorite guilty pleasure to help make yourself feel better when you aren't well?

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Daycare baby

For the first 6 months or so of Wesley's life, he was cared for by Jarrod, myself, and a fantastic nanny. We knew we didn't want to send our little one to daycare unless we had to. We didn't even explore daycare options when I was pregnant because I knew I wanted him at home. Thankfully, our flexible schedules and great timing led us to a nanny angel. She loved our boy and took care of him just like we would. When the tornadoes hit and sirens went off, she gathered our zoo and kept Wesley safe in the bathtub. She was an absolute godsend.

Our nanny was way overqualified and one day she got a job. While we were all super excited, we were also sad to lose her. She had become part of our family (and has remained so!). We began researching daycares with very little time to hem and haw. A member of our church owns her own daycare very close to Jarrod's office. Jarrod took a tour and fell in love. I wasn't sure, but after visiting, I knew we'd found a winner.

I cried for about an hour the day Wesley started daycare. I left for work before Jarrod and Wesley did, which was definitely good. I knew I'd never be able to leave him at daycare that first day, so it is good that Jarrod takes him. During the day I received several pictures and text messages from the owner letting me know how Wesley was doing. One of the pictures showed Wesley sitting at the front desk - day one and he's already running the place! I was thrilled.

I picked Wesley up that day and knew we'd made the right choice. Everyone I met was delightful. Wesley was so happy. He gets a little report card each day, telling us when he ate, when he pooped, etc. It also tells us if he was happy, busy, cooperative, fussy, or quiet. Wesley is always happy and busy. Once he was cooperative. It was awesome.

I am thrilled that Wesley is well cared for. I am excited that he brings joy and happiness to the folks who work at his daycare. I love that he's social and gets to interact with other babies. I am especially excited with the incredible diversity at his daycare. Only 20% of Wesley's class is white, and that includes Wesley. His teachers are foreign and teach us so much. It's exactly the experience I want him to have.

Of course I am incredibly thankful for a wonderful, responsible, and helpful husband. I'm thankful for a wonderful job that I completely adore. I'm thankful for fantastic childcare options and so many people who love my boy. I'm thankful for an adaptable boy who is comfortable around lots of people.


You knew there was a but.

I hate that my baby is in daycare. I hate that I am not there to feed him, teach him baby sign language, and play with him all day. I hurt to think that he's doing something for the first time without me seeing it. I feel so guilty that he's not with me. I feel even more guilty that Jarrod is the one who takes him and picks him up more often than not. He's with Jarrod more than he's with me and it makes me so sad.

I feel guilt every second of the day because I'm not with him. I feel guilty when I am with him and need to put him down. Or better yet, when he's annoying me. Being away from Wesley during the day definitely makes me appreciate our time together even more, but there are definitely times when he frustrates me.

In a perfect world, I'd spend nothing but quality time with my kid, do great work at my job without worrying, wondering, or feeling guilty, and be relaxed all the time. In reality, I feel split in half all the time, which means I'm only doing mediocre at any given moment.

Thankfully, the pros FAR outweigh the cons. Likewise, it's not forever. Someday he'll be in preschool or regular school and that will be a whole new ballgame. I can't imagine not working, but it's beautiful to have the option. If I wanted to stay home, we'd find a way. I adore my job and I am so blessed.

Being a mom is so hard but the most wonderful, beautiful, and fantastic thing I've ever done.

What's the hardest part of being a mom? What is the best? Or what do you most look forward to about being a mom?
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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Eight Months

Our little man is 8 months old. I marked on my calendar when he'll be 41 weeks old because that will mark the day that he's officially been here longer than he was growing inside of me. That date is getting closer and closer. I can't believe it.

Dear Wesley,
I think I say this every month, but this is such a fun age. Things are definitely getting more challenging as you're asserting your independence, but we're having so much fun.

You are a champion crawler now. No army crawls for you! You crawl your way around the house whenever we let you and would prefer to be down crawling around than anywhere else. You sit up very well and I'm pretty sure will start pulling up on things anytime now. You stand if we stand you up and will stand yourself up if we're holding your hands, but you haven't pulled from sitting to standing quiet yet. You make lots of awesome sounds. Ba, Ma, and a weird fishy face sound. You are very silly and laugh all the time. You already seem to know when something is funny.

You've mastered the pincher grasp and feed yourself puffs without any trouble. You still like to grab 5 in your hand, but you know how to grab one between your thumb and pointer finger to get them in your mouth.

Sadly this month you got sick for the first time. We thought it was just teething symptoms but after 2 weeks of a semi-sick kid, we finally took you to the doctor. (You weigh 16 pounds even - still a little man!) The doctor checked you out and said you had a sinus infection. :( Thankfully your ears, throat, and eyes all looked great. After about 24 hours on antibiotics (and a lot of crying from mama) you were back to your old self. Still no signs of teeth! We'll be starting you on probiotics very soon.

Because you were sick this month we didn't start any new foods. In fact, you didn't eat much solid food at all for about 2 weeks. We continued to try, but you weren't having it. We're excited to try some new things this month. You are probably getting tired of peas and peaches!

You made a new friend this month. Some friends of ours moved about 5 miles down the road and now you get to play with a sweet one year old baby girl at least once a week! I'm really excited to watch you two grow up together. You interact with her and it's very sweet. I know she's going to teach you lots of fun things - pulling up, walking, and eating food! You have lots of friends in your class, but they are nearly all much younger than you. Daddy says you bowl over the little girls in your class!

You are the happiest baby ever. You blow bubbles, giggle, and love being around people. You make friends everywhere you go - the grocery store, a new church, or Target. You smile at people and they love your hair. Mama would prefer to cut and spike it, but daddy loves it long and wild. You have lots of friends at church and people love to pass you around. I don't get to hold you nearly as much as I used to when we go to church because you make your way through the pews being passed around. Everyone loves you so much. Daddy and I have your pictures up at work and you brighten the day of our coworkers because of your precious smile.

Our life is so full of joy because of you. You bring so much happiness to so many people. Being your mama is my absolute favorite thing ever.

Mama and Daddy
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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Of course I'll never forget...

I stayed away from the blogging world yesterday. I didn't write a blog post about September 11th. I didn't read blogs about the 11th anniversary of that horrible day. I didn't relive it. I suppressed emotions and completely ignored the fact that the calendar said it was September 11th.

I tried to ignore Facebook, only checking and updating as my job required. I tried to skim the newsfeed because I didn't want to see pictures, read updates, or join people in never forgetting. I tried to pretend I had no idea why every flag was lowered in every town I drove through yesterday.

I relived it all last year and told you all about my feelings. I couldn't do that again this year.

There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about September 11, 2001. It is not just etched in my memory, but etched into who I am. Being a yankee, working in Manhattan, and intimately knowing the New York skyline necessitates that 9/11 is part of my DNA. Of course I won't forget.

But I'll try.

Yesterday I didn't mention 9/11 to anyone but my sister. I texted her and said I was ignoring the date. Instead of talking about it, I found a million and a half other things to complain about. I complained about everything. I ate a whole cupcake in about 3 seconds. I complained about the old man running the cupcake store. I complained about slow service, annoying people, and getting things done, people that ignore deadlines, and people that complain.

Right, I know.

Basically, I let my fear, sadness, and discomfort completely overwhelm me. I was consumed with sadness that I didn't really live my life yesterday. We all have days yesterday and I won't beat myself up about it. But I am acknowledging it - I'm coming clean. I wish yesterday didn't happen. I wish 9/11 wasn't a date on my calendar. I wish I could forget. But I can't.

I'm not complaining. I have a fantastic life. I didn't lose what others did that Tuesday. But it is a dark cloud on my calendar. And I did let it consume me yesterday. I hope you'll accept my apology.

Forgive me for not asking your 9/11 story. Forgive me for ignoring the pictures or logos you posted yesterday. Forgive me for complaining, being irritable, and letting sadness consume me yesterday. Thank goodness the joy comes in the morning and 9/12 is a brand new day.
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Monday, September 10, 2012

DIY Baby Girl Onesie Take 2 {DIY Necklace t-shirt for baby}

If I've ever done anything that's "gone viral" it was this baby girl onesie. The post became my most popular literally overnight - receiving almost 5,000 hits in a very short period of time. Of course the onesie I made didn't end up getting worn home from the hospital by a Johnston baby, but I did hand it off to a friend and I trust it got worn and she looked beautiful.
Fast forward - my little man is almost 8 months old and I haven't crafted in about that long. I miss it! Lots of my friends are having babies and I know the perfect baby gift! I decide that I'm also going to make a t-shirt version for a sweet little girl's first birthday!

Last time I made this onesie I used a pencil eraser and a sharpee dipped in t-shirt paint to make the beads. I made a flower from pink fabric. This time I knew I could come up with an easier way to make the beads. It was really by accident that I realized I could use different sized dowels to literally make a stamp for the beads. I purchased a multi pack of dowels to make a pool noodle wreath and had lots of dowels left over. They were in 3 sizes - perfect for beads!

After washing the t-shirt and onesies in Charlie's Soap Powder and assembling my supplies, I was ready to go!

I used soft black t-shirt paint. I poured some of it into a small cup, lined the onesies and t-shirt with freezer paper, and mapped out where I wanted to put dots. I didn't use a pencil or anything, I just started at each shoulder and put dots on either side of the neck. Then I went down as far as I wanted the longest necklace to hang and I put another dot. Then it was just as simple as connecting the dots with more dots!
I did the largest beads first and then did smaller beads. For the t-shirt I did all three sizes but on the onesies I only did the two smallest. I think it made for a clean look.

Once the beads were done I left them in a clean, dry space to set for 72 hours. The paint needs 4 hours to dry but you cannot wash them until it has been 72 hours. Trust me - I've learned the hard way! After 72 hours, they all got washed again. I figure it's not polite to give someone a gift that smells like paint. :-)

Once they were clean again, I sewed on a pretty flower. I used this tutorial to make pretty ric rac flowers. I think they look like ranunculus.

And here's the final product! Jarrod wouldn't let me try the pink t-shirt on Wesley, so you'll have to imagine it on a beautiful little girl.

The onesies turned out gorgeous as well. The whole process took about 30 minutes of hands-on time. It helped that I did the 2 onesies and t-shirt at the same time because I didn't need to get out the supplies again. Making the flower
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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Semi-homemade Cheesecake Brownies

I had some left over cream cheese from a recipe and needed to make a dessert. After trying to convince Jarrod that another batch of Gooey Butter Cake would be fantastic, he urged me to make something else... We settled on Cheesecake Brownies. I searched for a recipe that utilized a box mix because I've not been brave enough to make gluten-free brownies from scratch (yet).

After googling and pinteresting, I found very little. I decided to improvise and make something up. I give you...
Semi-homemade Cheesecake Brownies
Boxed brownie mix and ingredients to prepare the mix (We used Betty Crocker Gluten Free and it was fantastic)
8 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup of powdered sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (I know our generic bottle is a sorry excuse for vanilla...but it's cheap!)
Prepare the brownie mix according to the box. Spread in the bottom of a greased 8x8" pan.
Beat the cream cheese, powdered sugar, egg, and vanilla on medium until light and fluffy.

Pour the cream cheese mixture on top of the brownies. You can choose to swirl at this stage or you can leave them layered. I opted to layer this time but will probably swirl next time. Completely personal preference. 
Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the brownies are firm.

These were delicious and no one ever has to know I used a box. Desserts like this are perfect if you need a quick dessert and don't have time to make something from scratch. It didn't take that much longer than a regular box of brownies and was absolutely delicious!

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

My need for a GPS {Garmin vs. Tom Tom}

Jarrod and I were given a Garmin nüvi 255W for Christmas our first Christmas as a married couple. It was essential as I'm fairly directionally challenge and Jarrod's significantly worse than me not much better. We were living in Louisiana at the time and used the GPS for long car trips (to Dallas) and occasionally if we ever left our small town.

Fast forward a few years. I now drive professionally. My commute to the office is 27 miles each way, but I'm only there about 25% of the time. The rest of my work is done on the road. I travel all over the central part of Texas, often driving a couple thousand miles just for work...not including driving to see friends and family and normal commuting. My little Honda gets a lot of love and is currently sitting pretty at over 200,000 miles. She's paid-for and I love her.

While the Garmin 255W was great when we used it occasionally, it was outdated (even though we updated the maps) and caused me a lot of frustration and headaches on the road. I finally hit the end of my rope last weekend when the GPS got us all turned around twice on two separate trips this weekend. I needed a new GPS.

Of course, I started where I always start when I need help finding the perfect product - Facebook! I put this call out on Monday:
Anyone have a GPS that they LOVE? I'm in the market for a new one. I need it to have lifetime maps and traffic updates. And I need it to be awesome - I drive a lot! Suggestions?
I got a lot of suggestions of what NOT to get, a lot of generic "Garmin!" "Use your phone!" answers, and several phone app recommendations. While I do not have an iPhone, even if I did, I would still want a separate GPS. Because I routinely drive 6-8 hours in a day, I'd like to be able to rely on my phone for talking, searching for information, and emergencies. I do love the idea of an all-in-one device, it just isn't practical for the amount of travel that I do.
July was a higher-than-average month for me, but I drove over 1,800 miles for work alone. Add in another 50 miles a few days a week for driving to the office, normal driving around town, and a few trips out of town to visit friends and we're talking well over 2,500 miles in a month. That's a lot of hours in the car!  
I did get some very helpful information from Skye. I took her information, some of the comments on facebook, and hit I also took Jarrod's experience with a Tom Tom he recently purchased for his job. I knew I wanted lifetime map updates and lifetime traffic updates. There is nothing worse than being out in the middle of Nowheresville, Texas and the GPS thinks you're driving in a field. I love the traffic updates on Jarrod's Tom Tom - it reroutes if traffic is bad. Perfection for my city driving!

Turns out that Amazon was having a sale on the Garmin nüvi 1450LMT. I learned that LMT stands for Lifetime Maps and Traffic. Wahoo! It seemed to have everything I wanted - large-ish screen, maps and traffic. And I paid $136.38 including tax. Shipping was free (Wahoo for Amazon Mom!) and it arrived in 2 days.

I've lived with the new GPS for several weeks now. At first, I noticed zero differences. The interface was almost identical as the old Garmin. It still didn't know the highway split north of Waco. I wasn't getting any traffic updates and I was angry. I read the manual (which was like 3 pages...) and plugged the GPS into my computer. Nothing changed.
Really, I wasn't trying very hard. 
I figured out how to get traffic updates and BAM! My life is 100% better than it was before. I'm the nerd that programs work into the GPS even though I am completely confident I can get to work without the GPS. But I love knowing what time I will be there. And now I love knowing where the traffic is!

On my way to work earlier this week I saw that the GPS had me take a different exit than I normally do. I realized quickly that it was avoiding traffic. I exited two exits early, missed the traffic, and felt like a genius! I practically waved at the stopped cars, "Suckers! You're NEVER going to get to work!!"

Did this purchase make me prettier? No. Thinner? No. Smarter? Prompter? Better? Yes, yes, and YES!

Garmin has absolutely no idea who I am. This is just my experience with two of their products. Links are affiliate links, but I do believe has the best prices. Amazon has no idea who I am either. :-) 
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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Need a Virtual Assistant? {Skye McLain, virtual assistant}

I've written before about my friend Skye (here, here, here, and here!). She's incredibly talented and is the mastermind behind this awesome shop and this fantastic blog. She's learned a lot about owning her own business, HTML, and writing. She's twitter savvy (and I'm constantly jealous), Facebook official, and she's even figured out Google+. (Teach me, Skye!)

And in the midst of all of this, Skye realized she can use these skills to help others. There are bloggers and professionals that need more time to focus on their craft. Don't we all wish we had someone to handle some of the mundane tasks like cleaning out the inbox, listing products on a website, or handle sending the newsletter (without typos!). Seriously, I need myself a Skye!
If she could cook, clean, and change diapers I'd hire her and move her into our spare bedroom...

I can't do that, but what YOU can do is spread the word that Skye's officially gone virtual. She's launching a new website with her virtual assistant skills TODAY! Do you need help managing your business? Skye's your girl! Help spread the word of Skye's madskills!

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Monday, September 3, 2012

2012 Goals - August Update

It's a weird thing to say, but August was actually a slower month - at least in relation to June and July! I wasn't traveling nearly as much and got to sleep in my own bed at least most days in August. Wesley got settled into daycare and we enjoyed the last official month of summer. It was busy, but without weeks of traveling, it really felt a little more calm.

Family Goals
  • Become debt free in 2012 - This month we paid over $2,300 on debt. This brings out 2012 total to $27,600 down on debt! We are finally below $20,000(actually pushing $18,000!). We are coming to terms with the face that we will more than likely not be debt free by December, but we will be debt free quickly in the new year. We're pushing hard to make it there as quickly as possible!! 
  • Have 10 date experiences in 2012 - Jarrod and I led a retreat together this month. While it was work, we did get to travel and stay in a nice retreat center together. It was wonderful! We are sitting at 6 dates so far in 2012. 
  • Have 10 family days in 2012. - We did some fun things as a family this month, but nothing that noteworthy. We're still at 7 events this year. 
Leanne's Goals
  • Hit pre-pregnancy goal weight by April 1st and maintain it throughout the year - After amending and changing things slightly, I'm officially at my pre-pregnancy weight and working to maintain that. Nursing is definitely helping, so heaven help me when I stop that! 
  • Walk 300 days in 2012 in preparation to walk all 60 miles in the Susan G. Komen 3-day for the Cure - So far, I've walked 179 days in 2012. That's 74% of days. 300 days is 82% of the year. I didn't increase my percentage of days this month, but hopefully cooler temperatures will help me keep it up!
  • Finish fundraising (raise $2,300) by September 1st - I have not met my goal yet, but hope to very soon! Wesley did a great job of helping. It's not too late to save the boobies! You can help by donating today
Jarrod's goals
  • Lose 10 pounds. - Jarrod has stopped weighing himself. He's not quite as militant about goals as I am...He's still walking with me in the evenings, which has been awesome. He refuses to go more than a mile, but I think I'm wearing him down! 
  • Get content ready, publish blog, and gain some notoriety. - Jarrod's blog is continuing to really pick up speed. I think it's really helping him process some deep theological issues and connect with other like-minded folks. 
  • Try one new exciting recipe a month. - Jarrod made more sausage. This was the first batch since Wesley was born. He made bacon chicken sausage. It was incredibly delicious!
How do you set goals? How do you hold yourself accountable?
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Saturday, September 1, 2012

30 in 30 Recap

Well, the 30 in 30 challenge is over! Each day this month I posted a response to a prompt. I stole the questions from here. It was an incredible challenge. Sometimes I did a few questions a day and set the posts to publish and sometimes I did one at a time. Some posts were incredibly honest and very difficult to write. Some were silly and felt like cheating. Overall, I posted an honest answer to a random question each day during the month of August.

And now it's over.

Want to read over what I wrote? Check it all out:

1. List 20 random facts about yourself.
2. Describe 3 legitimate fears you have and explain how they became fears.
3. Describe your relationship with your parents.
4. List 10 things you would tell your 16 year-old self, if you could.
5. What are the 5 things that make you most happy right now?
6. What is the hardest thing you have ever experienced?
7. What is your dream job, and why?
8. What are 5 passions you have?
9. List 10 people who have influenced you and describe how.
10. Describe your most embarrassing moment.
11. Describe 10 pet peeves you have.
12. Describe a typical day in your current life.
13. Describe 5 weaknesses you have.
14. Describe 5 strengths you have.
15. If you were an animal, what would you be and why?
16. What are your 5 greatest accomplishments?
17. What is the thing you most wish you were great at?
18. What has been the most difficult thing you have had to forgive?
19. If you could live anywhere, where would it be and why?
20. Describe 3 significant memories from your childhood.
21. If you could have one superpower, what would it be and what would you do with it first?
22. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years? 15 years?
23. List your top 5 hobbies and why you love them.
24. Describe your family dynamic of your childhood vs. your family dynamic now.
25. If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be and what would you eat?
26. What popular notion do you think the world has most wrong?
27. What is your favorite part of your body and why?
28. What is your love language?
29. What do you think people misunderstand most about you?
30. List 10 things you would hope to be remembered for.

I don't think I'll be answering many questions for the next several weeks. I will be sharing stories about Wesley, recipes, and other adventures!

What questions did you find most interesting? Would you ever answer 30 random questions a day?
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