Bismarck, ND - Here We Come!

It's time for spring break where normal people travel South or West, actually just about anywhere warm for some fun in the sun. Not me. I am headed to Minnesota via North Dakota. I take this 12 hour journey every few months to visit my family and friends.

Normally, I leave during the kiddo's nap time and drive through the night (12 hours). Yep, I am insane. A few months ago we encountered a snowstorm in North Dakota. My husband and I spent 16 hours in our mini-van with two toddlers. Talk about insane...needless to say, it WON’T happen again.

This time, I am not taking any chances. I spent the last few days searching for inexpensive hotel rates in Bismarck, North Dakota which is the mid-point of my trip. I checked rates at Travelocity, Expedia, Orbitz and Hotwire and wasn't thrilled with the prices.

This afternoon, I tried a site I was unfamiliar with called Hotel Reservations.com. Not only was the site super-simple to navigate...but I saved at least 10 bucks on the rates quoted by the other sites. I am thrilled! While I am not going to be enjoying any "fun in the sun" like many of you...now, I am going to take my 10 bucks, buy myself a margarita and lounge by the hotel pool! =)

If you are planning to travel this summer and want great rates for your Hotel Reservations check out HotelReservations.com. They also offer great rates for world wide travel...in case you want to travel somewhere that is more exotic than Bismarck, North Dakota.

4/6/07 – Post Update

I just wanted to update my post to let you know that I had a wonderful stay at the Super 8 in Bismarck. Honestly, I was a bit reluctant to stay in a 1 star hotel, but Hotel Reservations.com offers reviews too. The hotel was inexpensively priced and the reviews were good, so we stayed there. Ironically, the least-expensive hotel was actually the cleanest I’d ever stayed in! The reservation process was smooth and simple and I even had a play-pen waiting for me in my room. I will definitely use the site for my next reservation!

This is a sponsored post.

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*Important* - We are moving!

Update your bookmarks! I just moved this blog on it's own domain....

You are going to LOVE the new look!

Stop by....


Looking for a Great Daycare Near You? Check Out Daycare Bear

Check out this wonderful online resource. Have you been trying to find a daycare near you? What about a preschool, a nanny or a babysitter? Daycare Bear is a simple to navigate free tool that will connect you with providers in your area.

Are you a daycare provider, babysitter, preschool owner or childcare center operator looking to expand your business? Advertise on Daycare Bear. It is the fastest growing childcare and daycare center search in the U.S.

I love the search tool the site provides. You can search by the type of center you are looking for (non-profit, drop-in nanny, home-based, etc...) while also searching for openings based upon your child's age and daily rates.

A few years ago, I literally spent weeks trying to find a part-time childcare provider near me. I made dozens of phone calls. I searched the phone book and I interviewed several providers. I wish this site would have been available during my search. It would have saved me a ton of time and energy.

I hope you'll take a moment to check out the site. Whether you are a provider or a seeker, it will be a wonderfol tool for you!

This is a sponsored post...


Just Say Hi - New Online Dating Site

If you've spent any time searching dating sites you've probably become frustrated with cheesy slogans, expensive joining fees and difficult navigation.

Out of curiosity, I checked out a few sites for myself. (I am happily married, but checked them out for "blog research". It turns out, a bunch of attractive men were "waiting to hear from me". That's odd...because they didn't even know I existed.

Anyway, I continued clicking and learned that some sites have "premium members" and other hidden fees.

Sites like E-Harmony, True.com and Cupid.com are always free to browse, but you can't go much further than that without getting a paid membership. JustSayHi.com is completely free. You don't need a credit card and there are no hidden charges. They have a quick 60 second sign up so you can start browsing local singles immediately!

Click here to "Just Say Hi".

This is a sponsored post.


Ooo eeee oooo aahhh ahhh...ting, tang walla walla bing bang...

Alright, I admit.  I am going a little nutso tongiht with the muppet show posts, but I was so excited about the "ma na na na" skit that I looked up my second favorite skit..."the witch doctor" on You Tube. 

For your viewing pleasure.....  (I REALLY hope you guys love the muppets as much as I do.)  If not, show your kids....it will crack them up.



Ma na na na...do do...do do doot!

I just watched a Saturn Commercial where they had this "ma na na na " song in the background.  What a blast from the past!  I am a huge Muppet's fan and was reminded of my favorite skit. 

So...I typed "Muppets" into You Tube and lookie what I found!  


I hope you enjoy the blast from the past as much as I did.

PS - if you know what a "Ma na na na" is....let us know in the comments section! =)


Two Under Two...The Good, The Bad and The Foggy

I’ll never forget the day I found out I was pregnant with my second child. I’d spent nearly all day in bed watching afternoon talk shows with my six month old daughter laying on my chest. I was exhausted…and nauseous. The last time I felt that sick, I was pregnant. Oh my goodness, I couldn’t be…could I? Nah. It took us nearly two years to get pregnant with my daughter. There is no way I got pregnant that quickly with a second child. My head was spinning. I ran to the bathroom and puked…again.

I bundled up the baby and made a bee-line to the drug store. As I set the pregnancy test stick near the scanner I watched the clerk look at me...and then the pregnancy test…and then my baby…and then me again. I am fairly certain he was doing the math in his head. He smirked. “Would you PLEASE just scan the freekin test”, I said under my breath.

I walked in the house and threw up again. Boy, this flu bug is killing me, I thought. I was clearly in denial. I set the test stick on the counter and avoided it. If I didn’t take the test, I wouldn’t be pregnant…right? I cleaned up around it. I ate lunch around it. I even considered stirring my coffee with it when I couldn’t find a clean spoon.

It was a bit ironic. I used to love those little sticks. I would anxiously tear them open and…(well, you know what comes next). I would gaze longingly at the little spot where the second little line might appear. On the glorious day it actually did appear, I ran up to my husband and tried to shove it in his hand. He lurched back. (I was so excited that I forgot to clean it off, woops). We are pregnant! I squealed.

This time was different. I didn’t want to be pregnant. I couldn’t be pregnant. I barely figured out how to take care of this one…much less another one. We couldn’t afford a baby and I didn’t want another baby.

There was that second line I’d only had the pleasure of seeing once before. It looked florescent this time. I’ve probably taken 50 pregnancy tests and I’ve never, ever seen such a clear, bright line. I puked…again. Only this time, it was due to nerves.

I spent the rest of the day trying to figure out how to tell my husband. Should I buy him balloons, a cake, cookies? Maybe if I turned it into a celebration we would forget how ill-prepared we were for a second child. As I was planning the “we don’t want another baby…but ‘oh-well’” celebration, my husband arrived home early from work.

I couldn’t wait. “Honey, I have to tell you something”. “You aren’t pregnant again, are you?” He laughed. “Not funny”, I grumbled. “Yes..WE are”, I replied. He walked into the bathroom. I think he puked too. “Well, we’ll make it work”, he said. He sounded sincere. “Okay then”.

I am not sure if we said anything else that night or for the next eight months for that matter. We didn’t really talk much about the baby even though our excitement started to grow with every prenatal appointment. “We’ll make it work” became our mantra. And we did. My daughter had just taken her first steps around the time my son was born.

While this is the part of the article where I should be giving you tips on how we made it work, I can’t. Quite honestly, I don’t remember much. I remember changing a ton of diapers, pushing around a super heavy double stroller, having back pain from lugging around a toddler on one hip and a bulky car-seat on the other. I also remember getting up between one and five times every night for two years straight to tend to a crying baby. That’s about it.

My son is almost three now and my daughter will turn four this summer. The fog has lifted. Suddenly, I am sleeping again. I know what it feels like to take a long, hot shower again. I can shave my legs, fix my hair and apply makeup now. I even smell good. The other day, I read a magazine, drank a cup of coffee and watched a reality tv show without interruption. Pinch me.

My kids are a bit more independent now and I am enjoying some much deserved “me-time”. They play together. They like each other and they entertain each other. It is great.

If you are reading this in panic mode while awaiting a second baby I am probably going to disappoint you. I don’t have any profound advice to share or tips to offer. In fact, I am not even going to lie to you and suggest that it is easy. Two under two is hard. You won’t get much sleep, you won’t have much time to yourself and you will probably be running non-stop.

That being said, I am LOVING “two under four” . It is fun, it is easier and I blessed with non-stop laughter at the antics of two preschoolers. Who knows, I might even be ready to try “three under five” soon (just kidding, honey).


A Complaint-Free World Starts in the Home

 Can you imagine a complaint free world? "Really, honey...dinner was fantastic tonight". "Uh huh...sure it was."

I am a terrible cook. In fact, I can't even make one of those Campbell's soup can recipes. You know the ones I am talking about. They usually involve some sort of meat, topped with rice, topped with soup and milk. "Wa-la - dinner is served".

Well, it's not quite so simple in my house. Tonight, we were supposed to have "Pork Chop and Stuffing Casserole". It turned into "Pork Chop and Soggy Crouton Soup". "Mommy, this is yucky", my three year old daughter exclaimed. My husband didn't exactly complain, but he did seem stunned.

"Wow, Traci...is it hard to follow the directions on the back of a soup can?" he asked sarcastically. Needless to say, I am ready for a complaint free, sigh free, sarcasm free, eye-rolling free, and gag free world (especially during meal-time).

Have you heard of the Complaint Free World movement yet? It is a simple, yet powerful idea devised by Rev. Will Bowen, who pastors the Christ Church Unity in Kansas City. The task is easy, but the challenge may seem insurmountable. You start by wearing a little rubber purple band on your arm (like the yellow Live Strong bands worn by Lance Armstrong and his fans) as a gentle reminder to stop complaining.

Scientists suggest that it takes 21 days to change a habit. Therefore, the goal is to keep the bracelet on a single arm for 21 days. Why just one arm, you ask? Well, because the moment you sigh, grumble, moan, and whine about something you have to switch the bracelet to the opposite arm.

Personally, since I need a bit of a stronger "nudge", I am going to pull mine back as far as possible and snap it back against my wrist each time I whine about something - OUCH!

All kidding aside, imagine a complaint free dinner table. What about a complaint free home? Can you imagine a complaint and gossip free workplace? It almost seems implausible. What will people talk about around the water cooler? What will the conversations be like during the next "girls night out"? What will the next Super Bowl party sound like? While I am imagining people shuffling around, staring at their own feet and twiddling their thumbs, I am confident that the movement and the resulting awareness of all of the negativity that surrounds us will change all of our lives.

So, the next time one of my casseroles turns into a "just add meat" sloppy, soupy mess, my kids and husband will be forced to talk about their day. "So, how was preschool?" My husband will ask as he curls his toes and sips his stuffing soup.

You can't change the world without changing your own home first. You can get the free bracelets for your family at www.acomplaintfreeworld.org.

Additional Resources




Do You Want to Work from Home? Don't Air Your Dirty Laundry Online

by Traci Anderson | More from this Blogger

The other day, I was reading some posts on a message board forum for moms who work from home. One of my favorite forums is the "telecommuting" thread. This is a great place to find current job openings and other ways to earn income online, or from home.

I visit the site often and am starting to get to know the personalities of many of the posters. One of the "regulars" rarely takes a bathroom break without announcing it to the entire forum. Let's just call her "Sally".

Just for arguments sake, I decided to pretend to be an employer who was considering hiring Sally. I "Googled" Sally's name and within moments, I was reading all about her marriage...including more "intimate" details that made me blush. I learned about arguments she was having with neighbors, her mother and friends. I also read ongoing complaints about companies that wouldn't hire her and other rambling posts about how she couldn't find a work at home opportunity. (Gee, I wonder why?) Let's just say that the majority of her posts were "TMI" - Too Much Information.

Continue Reading at Families.com....



Online Slideshow and Photo Sharing with Smilebox

Check out this cute little greeting I just created for my friends and family using Smilebox.com. I am in the process of creating a slideshow that I will post shortly, but I was so excited about this site that I thought I would throw something quick together so you can try it too! Enjoy! Let me know what you think of the site in the comments section. (PS. It's free.) =)

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The Myth of the Mommy War

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A friend called me this afternoon as she was driving home on her first day back from maternity leave to nurse her newborn son during her lunch break. She was clearly desperate, miserable, guilt-ridden and devastated,
"I don't know what to do, she cried". "I hate that he is spending the day with strangers". "What if they don't pick him up when he cries? "What if they don't rock him?" "I never would have gotten pregnant if I'd known it was going to be this hard".

My heart ached for her. I'd been there..twice...and it was awful. Even though I'd experienced the pain of leaving a newborn for the first time, I didn't have a clue how to make her feel better.

I am a bit of a free spirit. I am creative, but highly disorganized. When I think in terms of my future (and my children's future) I am often more concerned about what we will be having for breakfast tomorrow vs. college educations, retirement funds and medical benefits. Therefore, it was quite easy for me to leave my full-time career when my first child was born. Whatever happens...happens, right?

While my friend and I are as close as sisters, we are vastly different. My friend finds comfort in 401K plans, college savings and insurance coverage. I find comfort in flavored coffees, reality TV shows and a well-worn pair of jeans. Admittedly, I didn't have a clue how to make her feel better.

I left my full-time career to care for my daughter on a wing and a prayer. I consider myself lucky that my family didn't end up broke and homeless. When I left my job, we couldn't afford our house payments, our credit card bills or our insurance coverage without my financial contribution.
Through creativity and sheer will, we made it work, but I have the type of personality that literally gets high from taking risks. It was fairly easy for me to accept the consequences of losing everything to avoid the pain of leaving my daughter at a daycare center for the very first time.

So, what advice does a risk-taker give someone who seeks stability, financial security and a regular paycheck? I've worked from home for over five years now. I've quite literally done just about everything (legal and ethical, of course) to earn a few hundred dollars per month. Some months, I do home parties. Other months I write. When I want to de-clutter my home, I sell products on Ebay. For anyone with my "go with the flow" attitude, the pace is intoxicating.


My friend is brilliant. She has earned nearly six-figures working for various technology firms. I would be thrilled to have even an ounce of her skills. She is by far, the brightest, most capable person I have ever met. I want to tell her to quit her job, start a business to "just roll with the punches". But is that necessarily a better option for her family?

I feel fortunate that I have been able to avoid the pain of leaving my children for the first time to return to work, but perhaps I was the selfish one. I wanted to avoid the pain of leaving and I was more than willing to risk my families' financial security to do so.

Who us making the greater sacrifice? The free-spirit who is more than willing to leave her career without considering "safety nets" like savings accounts, retirement plans or insurance benefits or the mom who is seeks security and wants to ensure a comfortable, stable and financially independent life for her child.

This is the conflict many journalists define as the "mommy war". Quite frankly, I hate that term. It suggests that one group is at war with the other group...."the stay-at-home moms vs. the working moms" while it sounds intriguing and "sexy, it suggests that women are battling with one another. I believe that the biggest battle most mommies face is from within.

I've been a stay-at-home mom since my daughter was an infant. We've played together, I've watched her first steps, and I loved walking her into her classroom on her first day of preschool. That being said, she doesn't have a large savings account or college fund. I am often so preoccupied with our finances that when she wants to play "ring around the rosie", I am too busy calculating our medical bills to enjoy the part where we "all fall down".

While popular culture suggests that there is a moral war occurring between moms who believe it is better work vs. stay at home, I would beg to differ. . What if the so-called "war" is simply personality differences between the free-spirits and the moms who seek stability? Who wins that war? Who is really looking out for the best-interests of their children? We all are.

Maybe I am a hopeless optimist, but I don't believe that there is a mommy war. The moment I gave birth to my first child, I developed an almost animalistic desire to protect my child. I am not unique. All moms want what they believe is best for their children we just define "best" differently.



7 Simple Rainy Day Crafts for Preschoolers

It is a georgeous day today. (High 60's...sunny, which is fantastic for this time of year in Montana).

So, why did I chose to talk about rainy day crafts on a beautiful day? Because April is on the way and for once I am going to be prepared for it.

(Plus, there is nothing better than grabbing a latte and hitting the craft stores on a day like today). =)

So...I am making my shopping list now and thought I'd share some activities I found with you.

  1. When I was a kid, we used to make a hopscotch board out of chalk on the driveway. Leave it to Martha to make a super-dooper cute one out of fabric and ribbons.
  2. Need a little sunshine on a rainy day? Paint a georgeous day on your windows with the kids with this simple window painting activity from FamilyFun.com.
  3. Be prepared with a Collosal Bucket of Crafts from Amazon.comCOLOSSAL BARREL OF CRAFTS

4. Bring spring...(and nature) indoors by making some coffee filter


5. No time to run out for craft supplies? Print some crafts on DLTK!

6. Make forts, dioramas and even a guitar out of old boxes.

7. Make soap crayons together and let them play in the bathtub.



Seven Simple Ways to Decorate Easter Eggs

Are you ready for Easter yet?  I'm not.  I spent the day searching for fun and simple ways for my kiddos to decorate thier Easter eggs this year and thought I'd share the resources I found with you on today's Simple 7.


  1. A groovy idea from FamilyFun.com...Tie Die Them!
  2. From Martha...*of course*...Wax Resist Die Them....it's a good thing!
  3. Kids Domain suggests making them FANCY-SCHMANCY....by using glitter and gemstones.
  4. Go the "au-natural" route and create your own Easter Egg Dye.
  5. Create your very own "egg-critters" - from About.com.
  6. Keep it Simple...Sillly - with these easy egg dying ideas from Family Circle
  7. Last but not least...get a little messy and make some fingerprinted Easter eggs from DLTK.com.

Britney Spears - Finally the Role Model She Never Wanted to Be

Sometimes the best role models are the ones who show us what not to do. Case in point, Tom Cruise. At the apex of his fame, he pounces like a giddy teenager on Oprah's couch, followed by a nationally televised showdown (or should I say breakdown) with Matt Lauer on the Today Show. When is the last Tom Cruise movie you saw? Just wondering.

And now, there's Britney Spears. As the mother of a young daughter, I couldn't stand Britney. In fact, I loathed her and everything she stood for.

All of the sudden, I just feel sorry for her. At one point, Britney had the opportunity to be a positive role model for young girls. She knew millions of impressionable "tweens" were acting like her, dressing like her...(make that....UNdressing like her). Britney soon became the patron princess of the "prosti-tot" culture.

All the while, Britney argued that she did not want to be viewed as a role model (let's just assume she was referring to the "positive" type). Well, my dear, you have your wish and it is long overdue.

As the mother of an impressionable young lady, I am finally ready to make amends with Britney. In fact, I should be thanking her. Soon my daughter will learn all about the panty-free, pop-phenom whose career quickly spiraled into oblivion.

I am sure there are a few Entertainment Channel producers sitting in a studio somewhere busily tweaking the next edition of Britney's "E-True Hollywood Story". (How can they possibly keep up?) My daughter (and young girls everywhere) will learn all about Britney's ten-minute Vegas wedding, her shaved head, her umbrella attack on the paparazzi and the rehab stint she was forced into by her back-up dancer, ex-husband and "baby-daddy". Lest we forget Britney's recent admission that she is the anti-Christ. (But did any of us really doubt it?)

I never thought I would want to write about Britney (much less tell my daughter about her) however, she is the classic example for little girls of "what not to do". Don't sell out. You have a lot more going for you than your sexuality. You are free to dress like a tramp, but don't be expected to be treated like a lady. If you aren't finished partying, don't have babies - it's hard to enjoy your children with a hangover. And last (but certainly not least) don't be expected to be taken seriously if you can't keep your panties on.

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Create Your Own Free Online Store

I just spent the last half hour creating my very own online store! As you can probably tell, I am passionate about helping families spend quality time with one another. In fact, I view it as a mission of mine.

I spent nearly 10 years working in the social services industry where I witnessed first-hand the tragic results of families who were torn apart by drugs, poverty and other issues.

I was visiting a favorite forum of mine and someone referred me to this site - zlio.com.

I love it! I just created two pages worth of products specifically designed to give parents simple ideas, and activities to do with their children.

You are more than welcome to visit my new store..."Our Time Together"....or better yet, create one of your own!

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7 Quick and Easy Lunch Ideas for Kids

It's 11:00 and we eat lunch at 11:30. I am starving...and the kiddos are getting cranky. I thought I would start my Simple 7 series in panic mode and share my last-minute lunch brainstorming session with you.

1. Egg Toast. Otherwise known as "bullseye sandwiches". My kids love these. You simply cut a hole into a piece of bread. Butter both sides and place into a pan. Crack an egg into the hole...flip, season and serve. (We also put shredded cheese on the top).

2. Bacon / Ranch Tortilla Roll-Up. These are super simple and tasty. Simply fry up some bacon (we use turkey bacon) and place into a warmed tortilla. Add some shredded cheese, ranch dressing...(and slip some veggies in if you can get away with it). Wa-la. Lunch is served!

3. Pizza Toast. Whenever my kids are hungry...and bored, we make Pizza bread. Simply take a piece of bread (French Bread is the best) and top with prepared pizza sauce. Grab whatever toppings you have leftover in your fridge and have the kids create their own pizza. The other day, we made BBQ chicken pizza bread with black beans, cheddar cheese, leftover chicken and BBQ sauce. It was DE-LISH! )
Once your pizzas are assembled place in the oven until the cheese turns brown.

4. Boiled BBQ Chicken. This is a simple meal kids love. Place some frozen chicken breasts in boiling water. The chicken is done when you can pull it apart with a fork. Shred the chicken, add BBQ sauce and serve on buns, tortillas or toast.

5. Banana Peanut Butter Sandwiches. From the Dole Kids Cookbook

6. Apple Tuna Sandwich. From the Dole Kids Cookbook

7. ....and when all else fails, make a classic PB&J and let the kids PAINT IT!

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Prevention and Treatment for Drug Addiction

Have you heard of the Montana Meth Project? If not, you probably will soon. The campaign has been so successful here, that it is about to go nationwide.

I live in Billings, Montana and for nearly 5 years I was knee-deep in our local methanphetamine epidemic. I was employed as an Investigator for our local Child and Family Services Unit. Nearly 90% of our investigations involved child abuse and neglect due to methanphetamine addiction.

The Billings' city logo is "The Magic City" however, in a 1998 Time Magazine referred to Billings as "Meth Town USA". Needless to say, despite the national publicity, the mayor chose not to adopt that slogan.

Today, thanks to the Montana Meth Project, we are no longer known as "Meth Town USA". Rather we should be known as the community that took action. While some parents were outraged by the "in your face" advertising the Montana Meth Project created, most of us who understood the consequences of a meth addition were thrilled that someone was willing to step-up in a creative, bold and proactive way.

Unfortunately, prevention won't always work for your friend or family member that is already addicted. As someone who has worked with drug addicts for years, I firmly believe that treatment works! I've met women who were at the height of their addiction. They lost their children, they lost their jobs and their homes. With only the shirt on their back, they went to treatment and came out clean & sober.

Do you have a friend or family member in need of treatment? Start with Stone Hawk. They are an incredible, realistic facility that utilizes counselors and team members that have "been there...done that".

Even better....over 70% of Narconon Drug Rehab graduates beat their drug addiction successfully!

Click the link to learn more about the Stone Hawk drug treatment program.

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drug treatment

This is a sponsored post.

Bluetooth Headset...Should I, or Shouldn't I?

I have been seriously thinking about getting myself a bluetooth headset. It would be great for driving, cleaning days and those rare days I go to the gym or do laundry.

At the same time, I have a love-hate relationship with the headsets. While I want one...it makes me crazy when I am trying to talk to someone who is using one.

This commercial is a good example of what I am talking about....

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New Series! Simple 7

I am excited to announce that I am starting a new series of daily posts called "simple 7". While I plan to continue offer simple housekeeping, crafts, activities and other tips...my simple 7 series will feature quick links in a variety of topics.

Coming soon...

7 Simple Potty Training Tips
7 Quick and Simple Lunches for Kids.
7 Simple Ways to Earn a Little Extra from Home
7 Simple Ways to Say "I Love You"
7 Quick and Simple Crockpot Recipes....

and more! Do you have some suggestions for the Simple 7 Series? Post them in the comments section!

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Some Soup for You!

Remember that great Seinfeld episode where the Soup Nazi screams at his *unruly* customers..."no soup for you". Well, I am not the Soup Nazi and great soup recipes are no longer a big secret thanks to this great site....

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The Gracious Bowl.

They have fantastic recipes including Cream of Sherried Mushrooms, Lemongrass Shrimp...and even a Chocolate Rose Petal soup!

Do you have a favorite soup recipe? Drop me a note in the comments section and share it!

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A Bridesmaid Dress...and a Treasured Memory

One of my 3 1/2 year old daughter's favorite things to do is to check the mail. Earlier this week, she came running in with a rubbermaid box. "Mommy, is it for me?" She asked, excitedly. It was! We cut the tape, popped it open and pulled out a lovely red velvet and satin dress.

This looks familiar, I thought.

It was a bridesmaid dress from my wedding nearly 7 years earlier that my cousin had sent my daughter. The note inside was written to her....

It read, "My Dearest Jenna...This is the dress that I wore in your Mom and Dad's wedding. I was so blessed to be included in your parent's ceremony. It was such a pretty wedding, and the love your mom and dad had for each other, and the Lord really shined that day.

I want you to have this dress. What you chose to do with it is up to you and your mommy. You can save it, and wear it to a dance or a party when you are big. Or you can wear it to play dress-up. I love you."

I cried. While most people cringe when they think of bridesmaid dresses, but I will have fond memories of my daughter playing dress up in the empire waisted red-velvet dress that I picked for my wedding.

What an amazing gift. I am putting the note in Jenna's scrapbook and will be taking the dress to a tailor so it will fit my little "Jenna-bean".

Thank you Auntie Didi! We love you!


Super Simple Meal Planning

I am all about meal planning. In fact, I created a website, blog and e-book dedicated to Once a Month Cooking. That being said, it has been a rough month. I've barely had the time to take a shower much less spend an entire day in the kitchen cooking. (I'm bummed because OAMC is a huge time saver when I take the time to do it.)

Anyway, I thought I would show you my next best meal planning trip. It goes like this.

First, I scan my pantry to see what we need. Mac and Cheese, Chicken Nuggets, Hot Dogs...(the staples). :)

Then, I send my husband to Costco where he buys tools, junk food and a bottle of wine (to get away with the tools and junk food).

After that, I scan my pantry again. What can I make with a box of noodles, a pound of hamburger, some cheese, chicken breasts and other random stuff......

With chalk in hand, I create a menu plan on a huge chalkboard I put in my kitchen with all of my leftovers.

While it isn't the most productive form of meal planning, it works in a pinch...and it's cute to boot! =)



Having an Ugly Day? Watch This....

I couldn't have found this video at a better time. I couldn't sleep last night so I spent the day with my hair pulled back wearing a ratty t-shirt and my husband's boxer shorts. I didn't shower until 2 (pm)...and it was only because my skin was starting to itch.

Needless to say, I was having an ugly day. I needed this today...enjoy.

PS - I am headed to Best Buy in the morning to purchase Photoshop!


I'm a Local Mom Advocate!

I spend at least an hour per day doing "blog research". (That's the professional way of saying, "mindless web searching".

Anyway, I found a site recently which I'd like to refer to as "MySpace...for Moms". It has all of the cool social networking features of MySpace...without all of the 'yuck' and spammy stuff.

I signed up immediately and saw that I am the ONLY user in my town (the site just got out of beta). So, I signed up to be a local mom's advocate! Woo hoo! Now, I connect local (and not-so-local) moms with the site and earn bonuses (gift cards) when my networks grow.

The site is completely free and extremely useful. I absolutely, positively would NOT promote something that I didn't feel good about.

If you are wondering what a Mom Advocate entails..it's pretty simple.

Yesterday, I connected with four of my local friends and asked them to post their upcoming MOPS meetings on the group. I also did a little web-surfing myself and added local events.

The coolest thing about the site is that it is an easy-to-use "one-stop-shop" for moms. I can meet other moms. Check the calendar. E-mail everyone about a party or playdate...and join other groups I am interested in. (Like blogging...).

So...if you would like to join me (and wouldn't mind using me as your referral source) please read more here and e-mail me and I will send you an invite to the site. When you get there...check to see if your town needs advocates too! It's fun!

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So Much for Being "Boss-Free"

by Traci Anderson | More from this Blogger

My new boss is a tyrant. She is bossy and demanding. While she stands less than four feet tall (including her piggy-tails) she is quite intimidating.

In a previous post, I talked about how much I enjoyed working from home because I enjoy being independent and "boss-free". Well, I am starting to realize that I am not actually boss-less, I simply switched from one type of boss to another.

My new boss is three years old. She tells me when I should work, and when it is time to play. The other day, she even chastised me for drinking too much coffee .."mommy, you need to drink some milk". She was right.

.....continue reading my families.com blog post.


Check out my Slide Show!


The Simplest $150 I've Ever Made...

Normally I dread the time of the month that my credit card statement is about to arrive. (I will actually avoid the mailbox for a few days if I know it is coming....)

When I finally got the courage to check my mail, there it was. I grabbed it bitterly. It was thick too. How many pages of charges were they able to stuff in here? UG - They probably charged me for the extra postage too.

As I reluctantly looked at the first line of the dreaded bill I was pleasantly surprised. In bold letters was a credit of $156.57. Cha-CHING!

I'd signed up for my American Express card when I joined my first home-based direct selling business. I used it to purchase office supplies and all of the products that my customers would write me personal checks for. Since I had a hefty bill each month, the "1-2%" cash back feature paid off nicely.

In fact, I was so excited about my $150 bonus this month that I transfered several of the bills I normally pay through my savings account to my card. Of course, I'll have to be diligent about paying it in full each month...but my goal is to use my cash back for a family vacation.

Would you like to learn more about credit card incentives and options? Check on the links below.

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Super Simple French Onion Soup

Photo Courtesy of
by Shasta MacNasty

We are going to get our last cold blast of the season this weekend so I thought I would make a yummy soup. Have you ever tried TGI Fridays French Onion Soup? It is to die for! Since I am craving TGIF..and would have to drive over 6 hours to go there, I thought I'd try it at home.

Here is a fantastic (and super simple) recipe for French Onion Soup. Let me know what you think of it in the comments section! (PS - I like provolone vs. swiss cheese on top).

French Onion Soup

* 1/4 cup butter
* 3 onions, thinly sliced
* 1 teaspoon white sugar
* 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
* 2 1/2 cups water
* 1/2 cup red wine
* 2 (10.5 ounce) cans condensed beef broth
* 1 French baguette
* 8 ounces sliced Swiss cheese


1. Melt butter or margarine in a 4 quart saucepan. Stir in sugar. Cook onions over medium heat for 10 minutes, or until golden brown.

2. Stir in flour until well blended with the onions and pan juices. Add water, wine, and beef broth; heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low. Cover soup, and simmer for 10 minutes.

3. Cut four 1 inch thick slices of bread from the loaf. Toast the bread slices at 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) just until browned, about 10 minutes. Reserve the remaining bread to serve with the soup.

4. Ladle soup into four 12 ounce, oven-safe bowls. Place 1 slice toasted bread on top of the soup in each bowl. Fold Swiss cheese slices, and fit onto toasted bread slices. Place soup bowls on a cookie sheet for easier handling.

5. Bake at 425 degrees F (220 degrees C) for 10 minutes, or just until cheese is melted


Don't Throw Out The Pickle Juice

Before you throw out the pickle juice after your next BBQ...take a look at this site. It offers dozens of cool uses for pickle juice including giving mac and cheese a "kick" and "pickling" a beer. (Which sounds oddly yummy right now.)

Here's just one of the tips...you can read the rest here...

Add cut-up raw carrots, celery sticks, broccoli and cauliflower florets, and red and green pepper strips directly to the jar of any type of leftover pickle juice. Make sure to keep these tangy tidbits refrigerated. The marinated veggies are great for snacking on straight from the jar or become an innovative addition to a crudité platter.



How to Get an Extra Hour of Sleep....

I feel so refreshed today. I am alert. I am relaxed. I am ready to take on the world...and I have the little cherub above to thank for it.

So, what would you be willing to clean up for an extra hour of sleep?
  • Flour on the counter, tv...and in the microwave?
  • Butter on the dog?
  • Eggs smashed on the floor?

These are just a few of the horrific morning mess stories my fellow moms have shared with me.

This morning it was my turn. I woke up....looked at the clock and was panic struck (but oddly happy at the same time.) My kids slept in! Which one is sick? Which one was kidnapped?

I rushed downstairs to find my daughter happily squishing flour between her fingertips.... "Mommy...I am making you breakfast". "What exactly are you trying to make me...'a mess'?" I asked, sarcastically? "No...COOKIES!" - "Ahhh...just what I wanted for breakfast".

While I gave her the best "we don't bake without mommy" lecture I could muster without coffee I really wasn't that mad. It was the longest night of sleep I'd had in a week. Thanks again for *breakfast*, Jenna!



Sesame Street Flashback - Doin' the Pigeon

My kids made me really sad today. It was snowing outside so we decided to veg out in front of the TV this morning. I grabbed their sleeping bags, some fruit snacks and my own pillow and blanket so we could curl up and watch shows together.

As I flipped through the kids' channels my preschoolers (ages 2-3) were barking orders at me... "no, not that one"...."that's not my favorite"..."I want Dora"...."find Diego"....ug. so much for a fun morning.

And then...they really annoyed me. I turned the channel to PBS and Sesame Street was on. It was a classic Ernie and Bert skit. I wanted to watch. "Mommy...I don't like this show"...my daughter yelled. It was as if she had punched me in the guts.

"You are THREE...and you don't like Sesame Street?...what is WRONG with you?"

I was sad. I loved Sesame Street. I loved Big Bird, Grover...and I really loved to hate Oscar. I have fond memories of eating bagged cheerios in my jammies after sneaking out way too early in the morning just to watch it.

Unfortunately, my kids have been exposed to WAYYYYY too many options. Movies, DVD's, video games, computer games, realistic animation, cartoon musicals....and more. Suddenly silly little puppets aren't so exciting, I guess.

So...I missed Sesame Street this morning and am bummed out. I figured You Tube would have some clips and wa'la...here is my favorite. Doin' the Pigeon...by Burt.

I hope you enjoy the flashback as much as I did!



Mentos + Diet Coke = Family Fun!

I live in Montana and the temps this week have been in the 70's...(which is unheard of this time of year).

Yesterday, I spent half the day scouring the local dollar stores for fun outside activities for my kids.

I got sidewalk chalk, kites, squirt guns, sandbox tools, bug catching kits, plastic balls and whiffle bats.

Within about 1/2 hour...my kids were bored....UG.

Today, I was looking for more activities to try with them and I found this article from Wiki How...

How to Make a Soda Bottle Volcano

Really...what kid wouldn't like watching coke spray like Old Faithful!

Give it a try...and post the results in the comments section. If you are feeling extra ambitious...check out these related Mentos+Diet Coke experiments.



A Litte Wisdom from Grey's Anatomy

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I was just watching the third of six episodes of Grey's Anatomy tonight. While most people have been watching Greys for over a year...I am a bit behind.

(I just thought of a simple tip...RENT! I rented two seasons of Greys for less than three bucks. I watch it when the kids are in bed..without commercials).

Okay...back to the point. A few moments ago I was blubbering like an idiot. Certain news stories make me cry..Extreme Home Makeover makes me weep and sometimes I even need to keep tissues handy when I watch cute animals on the Discovery channel.

Never, ever did I think that a "racy" evening soap opera would turn on the tear faucet.

If you missed this particular episode, here's a brief summary ...

A mother of a teenage daughter is dying (cancer, I think). When the doctors tell her she will not survive she gives her daughter some words of wisdom...

"do not forget to wear panties with pantyhose...even if it is bulky - you still need to wear them".

"drink a glass of champagne on your wedding night...and then stick with water - drunk brides are tacky".

Then, the daughter figures it out. "Why are you talking like that", she asks angrily.

The mother explains that she is dying and offers one final piece of advice....

"When you have children don't spend too much time worrying about whether or not they will be a concert pianist or math genius." "When all is said and done, just make sure that they are happy...that's all that really matters".

Again...I am a bit surprised by the source, but it was some of the best advice I've ever heard.

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Craft Mats...making crafting *slightly* less messy.

My three year old daughter LOVES crafting. Okay, I am not sure if she likes the crafting part as much as the getting messy part. (Like mother...like daughter, I guess).

Anyway, after scrubbing paint off of the dining room table (oh..and chairs, floors, windows...and even my baking canisters) I decided it was time to get a bit more organized.

Check out these "craft mats" from Big Yellow Box by Crayola. You simply place them on your workspace and craft to your heart's delight. (Check out my daughter's mat in the photo). I think I am going to frame it. It looks a bit like a Picasso!

You can also create craft mats on your own by getting some thick canvas and waterproof spray protectant (for easy cleaning).

If you are interested in purchasing one from BYB - click on this link and request a local consultant.

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Super Cute Project....Marble Magnets

Here is a quick and easy craft activity for children of all ages...(except the ones that like to swallow stuff). =) They are called "marble magnets" and you can learn how to make them on one of my favorite blogs...notmartha.org.

My three year old daughter and I made these last week when I realized that she had WAYYYY too many stickers that she didn't want to throw out. They make wonderful gifts too. Pop them in an Altoids tin..and give them away!

This photo is taken from the notmartha site. (Mine didn't turn out *quite* so cute).


Now...I just need lighting.

In my last post I showed you my brand new orange (make that terra cotta...) den. (In case you missed it....

I love it. However, I didn't realize what a huge difference paint color makes on a room in terms of lighting.

Before, my room was stark white. I never had to turn on the lights because it seems we always had a fresh "glare" if you will. I felt like I was hanging out in a hospital room.

So, tonight...I am typing from my favorite new room, but I can barely see anything. Even with the ceiling fan on, it is still way too dark.

I am stunned what a difference paint color makes in terms of lighting!

So....I am searching around tonight for some floor lamps and other lighting and thought I'd share some options with you.

What do you think?
Lamp Floor 2Lt Portable - 74191 - Kichler LightingTraditional?
Lamp Floor 1Lt Flourescent - 74190 - Kichler LightingModern?
4 Light Floor Lamp In Burnished Rust And Hand Formedium Tulip Gl - 7995/4 - Elk LightingFunky?

Sorry for my home-obsession tonight. Like I told my husband...decorating is better than....well, you know. =)

If you are doing some Spring decorating too...check out shoppremier for more lighting choices.

interior lighting

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HGTV designed a room for me!

Okay - so I didn't exactly get an extreme home makeover, but I did get some great ideas that helped me decorate a room in my home that I hated.

I have a room that is next to my kitchen (I guess you could call it a den.). Anyway, U.G.L.Y....is an understatement.

It had bright white walls, a dirty looking fireplace and "oldish" looking wainscoting. (Not the cool white stuff that you see in pottery barn). Oh...and it had dirty white carpeting.

Anyway - I turned on HGTV on afternoon "Get Color" and they were featuring a family that had MY room! (Ishy fireplace...CHECK!) (Icky carpeting...CHECK!) Dated wainscoting...CHECK!) It was identical!

So...I watched as they painted the room a terra-cotta orange color. At first, I was horrified, but then I saw how the paint color pulled everything together.

I decided to give it a whirl....

I couldn't be happier. I LOVE it! Thank you HGTV! =)

So..what do you think? Have you ever been tempted to go ORANGE? Boy...it sure helps when you can see a guinea pig home on TV before making a color commitment!



So...How Much Do You Make?

As a work at home mom it seems like everyone wants to know what I am earning.

I guess it makes sense. It's pretty simple to figure out what a doctor, lawyer, police officer or teacher earns...(well, at least it is easy to get a ballpark figure). But what does a blogger, website editor, freelance writer or direct seller earn?

Of course, my friends and family don't come out and actually ASK....(that would be rude). But I know it drives them crazy....

"So, how was your tax-refund this year?"
"How much are you spending on Christmas this year?"
"Do you rent, or own?" etc..

Well, today is your lucky day. I am going to tell you what I earn...actually, I am going to give you a hint.

This month is the first month I've been qualified with Pay Per Post (which is a form of blog marketing). I've been posting at least two blogs fairly consistently and right now, I have $65.00 in my account that will help pay the bills. (I had sick kids, so I took a few days off). I also blog for a few other companies, but PayPerPost is my favorite!

So...do you have your calculator handy? (2 posts per day at anywhere between $5.00-$15.00 per post X 30 days). Not bad for just a portion of my monthly income.

As for the rest...well, I'll keep you guessing!


New Look...Under Construction

Check out our new look! I am spending the day tweaking this site...and simplesahm.com so the design fits my message....

The look of the old site was not quite..."simple..ish" - it was bright and flamboyant. (I think I'll save that color scheme for an upcoming kids site I am working on)....currently craftkitstogo.blogspot.com.

I am still working on things but would love to know what you think of the new look!

Post your feedback in the comments section.


A Blast from the Past...and a Great Project for Kids

Do you remember friendship bracelets? As a young teenager I remember spending hours creating all sorts of different styles of friendship bracelets.

I drove my mom crazy because I was constantly tying the ends on chairs, lamps, couches...whatever was handy as I tugged...wrapped and pulled my bracelets.

Do you have a pre-teen? Teach them how to make these super fun, and always stylish bracelets.

This site offers a ton of different styles and ideas.



Have you ever streeeeeeeetched a chicken?

....and I am not talking about the rubber type.

Chicken stretching simply means turning a whole chicken, into a variety of recipes. It is a great way to use leftovers...and save money.

Here's how at cheapcooking.com...

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