Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Method's Cleaning Product Giveaway Winner!

Congratulations to Jenna from Hamlett Daily Dose! She is comment #23 and the winner of the 3 bottles of Method Cleaning Products!

(The winner was chosen from Random.org)

Congratulations to the Winner!!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!!

Hope you all had a blessed Easter!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Kid Friendly Homemade French Fries

I made these Kid Friendly Homemade French Fries a few weeks ago and they were a huge hit with Jillian!  She loved being able to hold them herself and the soft texture of the french fries made it easy for taking small bites.  I am always trying to find healthy alternatives to kid friendly foods and this has been my favorite so far!  No frying, just wholesome baked goodness.  Enjoy!

{What You Need}

  • 3-4 Large Russet Potatoes
  • 1 pinch salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pinch Lawry's Season Salt (optional)

{How You Make It}

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

Cut the potatoes into 1/4 Inch Strips.

Place the cut  potatoes into a microwave-safe dish with the water. Cook on in the microwave for 5 minutes on full power. Drain off liquid, and toss with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Arrange fries on a baking sheet in a single layer.

Bake for 30 minutes, turning once, or until fries are crispy on the outside.

Come joinng the Party!!! I am linking up to the following parties:

Chic on a Shoestring Decorating

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Ten Easy Spring Cleaning Tips

Spring is finally here and I don't know about you but I am so ready to open up all the windows in our home and air out all of the dust and germs that have been lurking around here all Winter long.  I am also ready to tackle those pesky dust bunnies that keep jumping out at me from under the beds and lurking in the dark corners of our home.  To help get you started, I put together a few helpful tips to make tackling those Spring Cleaning projects a little bit easier. 

1. Tackle Your Homes Hot Spots First - Every home has it's trouble areas.  I know ours is our kitchen table and kitchen counter right by the phone.  These areas ALWAYS seem to have junk mail, a random baby toy, cell phone charges, and receipts, all just scattered around.  Our laundry room and my night stand also always seem  to attract clutter too.  And clutter always seems to attract more clutter.  I try to clean these areas up every day but it's hard to always stay on top of it.  If you have these troubled areas in your home, try purchasing baskets or storage organizers to keep nearby on a shelf or in a closet to help corral the clutter. 

2. Take Inventory of Your Cleaning Products and Supplies - Before getting started on your cleaning marathon, reviewing your inventory of cleaning supplies to see what you have and what you will need to purchase.  Nothing is more frustrating than to start cleaning only to find that you’re already out of your favorite anti-bacterial cleaner.  You will certainly lose your cleaning mojo in a flash.  Every since Jillian started crawling, I have also been trying to replace cleaning products for flooring with vinegar or more Eco-friendly products.  This gives me a little more peace of mind watching her crawl all over the floors all day long.

3. Tackle One Area at a Time - Pick up and eliminate clutter in each room before you get started.  This way you get a quick overview of the room to see where your dirty areas really are.  Keep a few boxes and trash bags handy for items that are to be thrown away or can be donated.  Put away items in their rightful places in other rooms or in storage organizers.

4. Organize and Clean Out Your Pantry - I always feel good when my pantry is cleaned and organized.  Not only will having a clean and organized pantry put you in the mood to cook in your kitchen, a thorough decluttering of old pantry items will also help ensure that the food you prepare is fresh. Get started by creating a clean, organized storage space with these kitchen pantry cleaning ideas.  First, clear absolutely everything out.  Put your items in boxes and set them aside if you feel this may take some time to tackle.  Second, scrub down your shelving and walls.  Wipe down every surface from floor to ceiling, clearing away all dust, bugs, and dirt. Finally, dust off or wipe down spice containers and canned goods.  Before you put anything back in the pantry, every item should be clean and wiped down.  Lastly, sort all of your items.  While you’re clearing and cleaning the kitchen pantry, take time to look at your inventory. Sort through the items, and get rid of any food that is past the expiration date.  You will feel so much better working with a clean and organized pantry!!

5. Freshen Your Bed Linens- I know after a long winter, our comforter is starting to look a little on the dingy side.  I am really hoping I saved the tag and that it reads 'Washine Washable'.  If not, it's going to be shipped off to the dry cleaner here very soon.  I also plan on washing the mattress pad and throw pillow coverings.  If you don't feel comfortable washing your bedding or fabrics, spray them lightly with a fabric refresher like Febreeze or Downy Wrinkle Release for a little freshening up.

6. Wash Your Windows - My windows are really starting to look very streaky and dirty after this long winter.  I am even starting to spot a little dirty hand print or two from a certain cutie.  That spring sunshine is just not shining as brightly through the windows as it should be, so a thorough cleaning of all of our windows both inside and out is in order.  An easy tip to washing windows is to pick a cloudy day.  If it's too sunny, the cleaning solution will dry too quickly and cause streaks.  Another window washing tip is to use a squeegee.  The key is to drag the squeegee horizontally on the outside of the window and vertically on the inside of the window.  That way if you see streaks, you will know if they are coming from the outside or the inside!!

7. Shake Out or Replace Your Throw Rugs - Gather up your throw rugs and take them outside for a good shake. Then air them out outside on a clothesline or railing for several hours.  I know our throw rugs in front of our main doors have really take a beating with all the snow and salt this Winter.  If they are looking like they have seen better days, it's probably time to replace them with some pretty Spring rugs. 

8. Purge your closet - Every Spring  I love to take my Spring and Summer clothes out from the back of my closet and move them up to the front.   I always take advantage of this seasonal switcheroo to take a look at my Winter clothes and to assess what I really wore this year and to also look at my Spring clothes to see if this is something that I can see myself wearing in the next few months.  If I don't, then I put them into a garbage bag to giveaway to The Salvation Army or the Goodwill.  A good rule of thumb that I use is that if I haven't worn it in the last two years, then I probably won't wear it again.  I try to ask myself why I am really still hanging on to it.  Definitely get rid of items that no longer fit, are faded, or stained.  Celebrate your newly cleaned out closet by buying something fun and new!

9. Clean Your Baseboards and Corners - You may overlook these surfaces on a daily basis, but once a year, give your baseboards, door frames, and walls a through cleaning.  Run your vacuum attachment over your baseboards and into wall crevices between your baseboards and your rugs first to get rid of any excess dust and dirt.  Then wash your baseboards and door frames with a sponge and a little dish washing detergent mixed with a little warm water.  A Mr. Clean Magic Eraser or even a baby wipe helps wipe those scuff marks off the walls. 

10. Set Reasonable Goals and Remember to Have Fun! - Start off your Spring Cleaning project with a plan.  Jot down the rooms and areas of the home that really need a good scrubbing and go from there.  Set goals for each room and estimate a reasonable time to complete them in.  Involve the kids and other family members to help divide up the work.  Remember to have fun, you are going to have a clean and organized home when it's all said and done!

To kick off the Spring Cleaning Season, I am personally giving away three of my favorite Method Cleaning products! - GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED -

  • Method's All Purpose Cleaner with Powergreen Technology
  • Method's Glass and Surface Cleaner
  • Method's Antibacterial Bathroom Cleaner
To enter, leave me a comment and tell me how you found my blog!! It's as easy as that!

You can earn additional entries by doing the following:

1. For one additional entry, leave a separate comment letting me know you have become a follower of my blog or that you are already following my blog.

2. For a second entry, follow me on Twitter - Click on the Twitter icon on the right hand side of my blog.

3. For a third entry, leave a separate comment letting me know you blogged about the giveaway. Please make sure to leave the link to your blog post or the entry will not be accepted.

4. For a fourth entry, Grab My Blog Button and post it to your blog!!!

5. For a fifth entry, please click on the 'Like' button found on the 'Like Us on Facebook!' box on the right hand side of my blog.

For each entry, leave a separate comment - and don't forget to leave your email address! This Giveaway ends Thursday, April 21st at 11pmEST. A winner will be drawn by Random.org and posted on Tuesday, April 26th (open to US Residents Only).

Good luck!!

I am linking up to Amanda's Weekend Reading Party over at Serenity Now!

Weekend Bloggy Reading

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Jillian's Visit to the Allergist

There have been several concerning incidents where Jillian has broken out in a mysterious rash.  The first incident happened when she was six month old.  I had received a frantic phone call from daycare saying that Jillian had broken out in a horrible rash, was scratching at her temples viciously, and was crying so hard she had some difficulty catching her breath.  Jeff and I were both scared to death and immediately picked her up from daycare and whisked her off to the ER.  As fast as we got her there, the rash had already disappeared and Jillian had calmed down.  We never got a straight answer from the ER doctors on what could have caused Jillian to have such a reaction.  We did happen to try a different version of Jillian's formula that day, however, the doctor didn't think that it would cause such a severe reaction since both types of formula were made by the same company, Enphamil.  It was frustrating not knowing what could have caused our baby to react to something so severely.  We just continued to pray that it wouldn't happen again.

The second incident happened a month ago.  I was in the process of transitioning Jillian from formula to regular milk.  I initially tried giving Jillian milk outright in a sippy cup, however, my picky girl would not have it.  I decided to try the transition method where you mix milk with formula, slowly increasing the milk to formula ratio every couple of days.  I had just increased Jillian's intake of regular milk from 1 ounces to 2 ounces which seemed to be going well.  Then I got the call from daycare that Jillian had another rash all over her torso accompanied by a fever.  We needed to come get her and get her checked out by a pediatrician.  I did happen to notice a slight rash on Jillian that morning, however, it had disappeared by the time we arrived at daycare.  I asked them to keep an eye on her in case it returned.  And sure enough, it did.  Our pediatrician was nice enough to see us right away even though she was just about to wrap up her last appointment.  She examined Jillian and explained that even though she had a fever, the rash looked to be an allergic reaction.  The fever could have been caused something completely unrelated like a virus or even teething.  So we left with a referral to a pediatric Allergist and instructions to call her if the rash returned.  I felt awful that both rash incidents happened while Jillian was at daycare.  The unfortunate thing too was that both rashes faded by the time I had gotten to her so I didn't feel like I could clearly explain to the doctor what happened during both occasions.  I only had cell phone pictures to show them that Jillian's daycare teacher's had taken, which I was extremely grateful to them for taking. 

There was one other time where Jillian had broken out in a mysterious rash.  Luckily, she and I were both at home.  We were changing her out of her clothes and into her pajamas and I noticed a strange rash all over her torso again.  We tried thinking about what she had been in contact with that day and what new foods she had eaten.  We were in the process of introducing Jillian to new and different foods since she had just started eating table food.  Jillian had spent the day with Jeff's Mom since it was her day to watch Jillian.  We found out that the only thing out of the ordinary was that Jeff's Mom had Jillian try scrambled eggs for the first time.  The logical answer was that Jillian was having a reaction to the eggs so we decided no more eggs for Jillian for awhile!

After seeing Jillian so upset and uncomfortable during each of these rashes, you can imagine how upset I was when I found out that I couldn't go to the long awaited appointment to the Allergist.  The appointment was two weeks ago during the peak of my illness.  I could barely get out of bed the morning of her appointment.  We had been waiting for this appointment for three weeks and couldn't bare the thought of cancelling it just because I was sick.  So Jeff took her while I rested at home. 

Do you want to know what my sweet girl is allergic to???  Milk, Eggs and Peanuts!!!!!!!!!!!  My poor baby, we are both very upset that she has to deal with this.    On the bright side, the peanut allergy is mild, only a 35% risk.  The Eggs and Milk are more serious coming in at a 90% and 80% risk, respectively.   I felt so bad for Jeff too, what a time he had at the Allergist.  At first, the Allergist was uncooperative and didn't even want to administer the allergy tests since Jillian had a fever during one of her reactions.  He said it sounds more like a virus and didn't even know why he was even there.  However, Jeff insisted doing the test since he had made the trip downtown and was already there.  So the doctor tested her for milk, eggs, peanuts, cats, dogs, and dust mites.  After confirmation of the three food allergies, Jeff had to take Jillian across town to a lab where they needed to draw some blood to confirm the severity of the allergies.   Jillian was not a cooperative patient and completely fought the nurse who was trying to draw blood.  On top of everything else, Jillian had a major blow out inside the lab, probably from nerves, and poor Jeff had to try to find a decent location to change her.   I just felt awful that I couldn't be there for either of them during this whole fiasco.

See the little red mosquito like bumps in the picture above?  Those are the allergic reactions.  So where do we go from here?  I have an appointment with Jillian's pediatrician next week to talk about what kind of milk I can give Jillian.  Jillian is still on her Enphamil formula for now which has always agreed with her.  Obviously, eggs and peanuts are out indefinitely.  The allergist did mention that most kids do grow out of milk and egg allergies by the time they are four so here's to hoping that happens.  For now, I have to keep Jillian away from straight milk, eggs, and peanuts.  The interesting thing about this is that Jillian still eats dairy products like cheese with no adverse reactions. She can also eat baked goods like cake and cookies without having any reaction from the cooked eggs.  So heres to hoping that her allergy isn't that severe, I really hope she doesn't have live with food allergies her entire life.  The letter we received in the mail this week from the Allergist confirming Jillian's bloodwork mentioned that even though she has a clear allergy to all three of these foods, we do not need to carry an Epipen since her allergies are not life threatening.  Praise God!

I would love to hear from Mom's who have dealt with food allergies, especially with milk, eggs, or peanuts.  Any suggestions?  Did they eventually grow out of it?  Even though the peanut allergy is the least severe, for some reason that one is the most scary to me.  I would really appreciate any words of advice!!! I am really worried and this all so new to me.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How to Create A Blog Button

I hope you have been enjoying my 'Tips to a Better Blog' series.  I know I have enjoyed hearing your feedback and have been receiving all sorts of emails for more tips and tutorials.  I received a question from my friend Britton on how to create and share a Blog button.  Blog buttons are a definite must have for any Blogger.  A Blog button is typically a 125x125 or 150x150 icon designed specifically for your blog.  The Blog button usually contains the same color, design, and font as your blog and can be a quick and easy way to "brand" your blog.  Blog buttons can also be used for other bloggers to "grab" and display on their blogs.  It's a quick and easy way to get your blog name and brand out there.

I recently discovered a quick and easy way to create your own blog buttons without having to use a professional graphics tool.  I put together a quick little tutorial for you below so you too can learn how to create a blog button, upload the blog button to a photosharing website, and create the HTML code for your readers to grab and display your Blog button on their blog. 

Throughout this tutorial,  I am using Picnik.com, which is an on-line photo sharing design tool.  Picnick is so fun and easy to use.  I have also used it to create my blog header and several photo collages. 

{Create Your Blog Button}

First, upload ANY photo into Picnik.com.  You are going to completely manipulate the photo so any photo will do.  This will make more sense later.

I uploaded a random picture I had of Jillian that I happen to have saved on my desktop.  Once your picture is uploaded, it will bring you to an 'Edit' feature.  You will also notice several other tabs across the top of your screen.  You want to select 'Crop'.

In the actual size boxes, you will need to key in the numbers 125x125.  This will shade out most of your picture and highlight a 125x125 area. The choice is yours on how big you want your blog button to be.  In this example, I am choosing to create a 125x125 Blog button. 
Hit 'OK'

You now have a 125x125 area to work with.  Now click on the 'Create' tab and hit 'Stickers' with the little blue smiley face icon. 

In the 'Stickers' tab, look under the 'Basic' menu and select Geometric.  Click on the Geometric to open the selection.  Choose the large black square shape which is the on the top left hand side.

A little black, square box will pop up in the middle of your picture. 

Drag the corners of the box to completely cover your picture.  Your picture will now be completely black. 

Here is where you will be creating your own design.  The first black square is the background of your button.  If you look at my Blog button, I started with a black square as my border, then added a blue square, then a white square on top of that.  By layering the squares, I made a multi-color border affect.  You will need to click on the square icon every time you want a new sticker to use.  Feel free to use any of the other stickers, it is your button to create!!!

If you happen to know your blog's HTML code colors, you can also key in the color code into the sticker properties box which sits on the right hand side of your screen.  For example, the HTML code for the light blue color in my blog is CFECEC.  You can find all of the HTML codes for blogs HERE.  If you would rather just use the colors that Picnik offers, you can use their options too.

See the code in the Sticker properties box? I keyed that in and the new sticker I just added to my blog button turned the light blue color that matches my blog. 

I added another white box in the middle which is where I want my text to reflect off of. I am now done with the stickers. 

The last thing I would like to do is add Text to my Blog Button.  Right next to the 'Stickers' tab is the 'Text' tab. Click on it.

You will see that your blog button hasn't moved and is ready for you to add 'Text'.  I also want to have my text match the pink color that is also shown in my blog.  Go ahead and find your HTML code again for the matching Text color, or choose your own provided by Picnik. 

At the top of the 'Text' section is a box which reads 'Type Here and Click Add to Place Text'.  Go ahead and type what you want your blog button to say in this box.  I typed in 'Karen At Home' using the return button after each word.  Click the Add Button.

You will notice that your text is very large and white.  First, go ahead and make sure you change the color of your text to what you would like for it to be in the 'Text Properties' Box.  I used HTML color code CA226B which is the pink color in my blog.

See how my text is off the page right now?  Here is where you will need to play with the double arrows to size it. 

You can also drag the size bar in the 'Text Properties' Box to play with the size of your text.  I also used the alignment feature in the 'Text Properties' Box to center my text.

My blog button is almost complete.  I would like to change my text font to something a little more pretty.  So I choose the 'Henry Morgan H' font. 

My Blog button is now complete!!! Now you will need to download the button to your computer or to Photobucket.  If you would like to eventually add this button to HTML code for your readers to grab,

you will need to upload your picture to Photobucket.  Photobucket is a free online photo sharing tool that is extremely useful to bloggers.  Shutterfly unfortunately won't do the job.  If you do not have a Photobucket account, go ahead and create one.  It's free.  Once an account has been created, Picnick and Photobucket "talk" to one another which makes things very easy to download your pictures into Photobucket.

{Upload Your Blog Button to Photobucket}

To upload your blog button to Photobucket, click on the 'Save and Share' tab.  Click on the Photobucket icon on the middle of the page.

Name your picture and hit the 'Save Photo' button. 

You will be prompted to log on to your Photobucket account with your username and password. 

Your file has been saved to Photobucket.  Go to your Photobucket account and view your new Blog Button.

{Create HTML Code for your Blog Button}

There is one last step if you would like to add your button to your sidebar with the HTML grab code.  The grab code is the HTML code that your readers will use to add to their blog to display your blog button.

In Blogger under Layout, choose to add a gadget. Choose HTML/Javascript. In the title box, type "Grab My Button". Simply copy and paste the HTML code below into the open HTML box. Replace the blue text  with your blog's web address.  Replace the pink text with your button's web address (found in the picture above under 'Direct Link' shown in the Share this photo box on the right hand side of your photobucket picture).  Where it says BLOG TITLE, replace with the name of your blog.  WARNING: Do not remove the quotes of the hash marks at the end of your web addresses.  This will cause your code not to work. 

You can adjust the height and width of the text box by changing the values after the rows and cols in the code above. Save and position the button where you want it on your sidebar. Save your changes and view your blog.

Here is what my HTML Blog button code looks like.

I certainly hope you have enjoyed today's 'Tips to A Better Blog' tutorial on how to create and share a Blog Button.  I would love to hear if you try this for yourself and see what you create.  If you have any questions while creating your blog button, please feel free to send me an email!

Linking up to Serenity Now's Weekend Reading!! Please join this fun party and read a few of the best blog posts of the week!

Weekend Bloggy Reading

Monday, April 11, 2011

All Things Loved in March

First, thank you so much for all of your emails, tweets, facebook messages and comments about how I am doing.  I am still sick but hanging in there.  It has been a slow recovery and I will probably still be recoving for a few more days.  I still have a low grade fever and get exhausted very easily, but I think the worst is behind me.  The latest on my diagnosis is that my doctor thinks a have a virus called CMV, which is very similar to Mono.  I have extremely fatigue, a high fever, horrible night sweats, headaches, a rash, and I even have an enlarged spleen.  (I guess no contact sports for me this Summer? LOL!) I can not say enough about how wonderful Jeff and my family have been taking care of me.  It's been so hard being sick this long and not being able to take care of my family.  What I have missed most of all is just being a Mommy and a Wife.  I also missed my passion for blogging so I here is a quick post of what I loved most in March.  Enjoy!!!

{March Madness}

I look forward to March Madness every year and this year was no exception.  Jeff and I have always bet on the tournament ever since we started dating.  It's kind of been "our thing".  Even though this year's tournament was completely unpredictable with numerous Cinderella stories and upsets, I actually won second place in one of Jeff's buddy's bracket pool.  I was so excited!!!  Better luck next year Ohio State!!!

{The Bachelor}

I was really surprised on how much I enjoyed this season of The Bachelor.  I know it's one of my most favorite shows, however, I actually thought about not tuning in for another season of Brad The Commitment Phobe.  I was so pleasantly surprised though at how this season turned out.  Heck, I think we all fell in love with Emily!  She certainly was my favorite from the very beginning.  I know in the end it sounded like things had turned a bit rocky for them, however, I am now following both on Twitter and they sounds as happy as can be!!  Let's hope it lasts, who doesn't love fairy tail endings?

I am also so excited for this upcoming season of The Bachlorette with Ashley the Dentist.   Even though I am a little unsure at how ready she truly is for a husband at this stage in her career, it should make for some interesting TV.  She was also one of my favorites throughout Brad's season although I was disappointed on how she handled the hometown dates.  Regardless, I will be tuning in at the end of May for the most dramatic rose ceremony ever!!!

{The House of Smith's}

I came across the cutest home decor blog this month that I had to mention.  I love finding new and inspirational home decor blogs so hopefully you will find Shelley at The House of Smith's as creative and fun as I do!!  Shelley's most recent project, painting a Chevron pattern on an IKEA rug, blew me away.  You have to see it to believe it!


Tylenol truly is the wonder drug.  I have never taken so much of it in my life as I did in March.  Thank you Tylenol for making me feel better when I seriously thought I was going to die!!

{A Big Thank You to My Top Referrals in March}

 I have a section to my side bar which features my Top 10 Referrals of the Month. What is a Referral you ask? According to Google Analytics, these are the top sites that have brought me traffic throughout the month by either having my blog listed somewhere in a blog roll on their site, a linky party that I have joined on their site, or if they have featured me in one of their posts. I sincerely appreciate all of the referrals that I get and want to take a moment to thank you!!!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Still Sick....Thanks for Your T&P

I just wanted to write a quick post thanking all of your for your wonderful responses to my post below. I was having a pretty rough day and each and every one of your comments made it just that much brighter. If you can believe it, I am still sick. Horribly sick. I have had a fever for 12 days, it has been over 102.4 for over four days and has gotten as high as 102.7. I have spent the last two weeks in and out of doctor's offices, the ER, and have had more bloodwork done then when I was pregnant with Jillian. The bottom line is that no one knows what's wrong. Everything is pointing to a nasty virus, probably an evil cousin to viral Meningitis or Mono.  I am beyond exhausted, have a horrible headache, and wake up several times a night with the worst night sweats I have ever experienced. 

Jeff has been amazing taking care of both Jillian and I. I don't know what I would do without him. My parents and Jeff's parents have also been taking turns watching Jillian when Jeff is not able to and I can't thank them enough either. What a wonderful support system I have. I have not been on the interent since the post below but have tweeted once or twice about what has been going on.  All of your supportive tweets in response have been so appreciated. I know I have a lot of emails to respond to and I also plan on responding to all of your comments in my post below. I feel awful it has taken me this long but certainly will once I am feeling up to it. Please pray that I am feeling better soon.