Monday, April 30, 2012

The Most Helpful iPhone Tip Ever!

Several months ago I was playing with my iPhone when I noticed the performance was painfully slow. YouTube would barely run without getting tripped up a dozen times and my email would barely "ping" to let me know a new email had come in. I also noticed that my battery was dying after only a few hours of use which was scary! I was extremely frustrated and started to worry that there was something wrong with my phone or it had a virus.

One day I was looking for an article about blogging related Apps on your iPhone when I came across an iPhone tips and tricks message board. A discussion on the message board website talked about slow performance and making sure all Apps were turned off to see if that helped speed things up a bit. I thought the guy was crazy, didn't you just hit the 'Home' button to exit out of the running App? Apparently not!! Apps will continue to run even when you’ve left them. Which is fine if they’re Apps that need to run but if you have a bunch that don’t then your phone memory and battery life are going to suffer. Suddenly I realized this is what was happening to me! I never properly closed out of any App I was using. Perhaps I’m the only one out there who didn’t realize that I had so many Apps continuing to run in the background.

Here are the steps to truly shutting down an app – just in case I’m not the only one who didn’t know how to do it.

{How to Properly Close Apps on Your iPhone}

  • Tap the home button twice.
  • At the bottom of the screen you’ll see a row app icons. These are the apps that are running. Slide your finger to move forward or backward through the apps. Chances are you’ll have more than the four that first show up.
  • Touch one of the app icon’s and hold your finger on it until they all start wiggling. A small red circle will appear at the top left of the icon. (See screen shot above).
  • Tap on the red circle and the app icon will disappear. The app is now no longer running in the background.
  • When you’re done shutting things down tap the home button and the apps will stop wiggling.
  • Tap the home button again to return to your home screen.
Now that I am aware of this little tip, I take the time at least once a day to shut down the apps I am no longer using to keep my phone running more efficiently. My iPhone is as fast as it was from the day I bought it. Perhaps I am the last one to know about this little tip but thought I would share in case there are others out there like me that did not know! Do you have any fun iPhone tips to share? I would love to hear them!

Have a great day!
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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Easy Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli Casserole

Jeff and I have really fallen into the take out trap ever since we brought Nicholas home from the hospital. I love the convenience of having dinner already made, however, it is not a habit I want to get into simply because of the extra calories and expense that comes with it.

I made it a goal of mine to start cooking again and decided to start with one of my tried and true favorites...Cheesy Broccoli and Chicken Casserole. This meal is so easy and delicious, I am sure it will become a favorite in your home too!

2 cans cream of chicken soup

2 packages of Success Rice

2 eggs

2-3 boneless chicken breasts - defrosted

1 package Steamfresh Broccoli florets

1 cup sour cream

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

Pinch of garlic salt

Pinch of salt and pepper

2 cups of shredded cheese

Preheat oven to 350.  In a large pan, saute onions with a little butter until caramelized.  Defrost the boneless chicken breasts and cut them up into bite size pieces.  In a stove top skillet, cook your chicken (using a little butter or oil if you choose) until the chicken is cooked thoroughly.  While your chicken is cooking, you may want to also cook the rice and broccoli to save on prep time. 

In a large bowl, mix your chicken, rice, broccoli, soup, eggs, and one cup of cheese.  Spoon mixture in a casserole dish. Cover with remaining 1 cup of cheese.
At this point, you can cover it well and freeze it, unbaked. Or you can cover it and refrigerate it, unbaked, for up to two days before baking.  To enjoy now, bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes until hot and bubbly in the center.


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Monday, April 23, 2012

My Newest Obsession: Instagram

Happy Monday friends! I hope you all had a great weekend and got caught up on those never ending to-do lists! The weather in Cleveland was a bit on the chilly side so we ran a few errands and caught up on a few things around the house. I also finally got my hair cut and highlighted for the first time in months!!! It felt so good to get out of the house for a few hours for some pampering. Nicholas drank a bottle for the first time ever and took it like a total champ! I was so proud of him, he didn't miss a beat at all. Nicholas has really been such an easy baby so far. What a blessing he is!!

My newest iPhone app obsession lately has to be Instagram.  Have you joined yet?  Instagram is a FREE iPhone App and is a fast, beautiful and fun way to share your photos with friends and family.  Snap a picture, choose a filter to transform its look and feel, then post to Instagram.  You can also share your photos on Facebook and Twitter too.  I have to admit, it's a bit addicting!!!
Here is my sweet boy drinking his first bottle via Instagram. That face just melts my heart every time!!!!

Up until recently, Instagram was only available to iPhone and iPad users. In early April, Android users were finally able to use this fun and addicting App. Now over 30 million people have downloaded the Instagram App. You may have also heard that Facebook recently bought Instagram shortly after the Android release.

I personally love Instagram because you can easily view all of your friends and families photos in one easy to read stream right on your iPhone  Have a favorite Blogger?  Follow them too on Instagram to view all of the fun photos they take throughout the day.  I have been trying to do a better job lately taking pictures now that Nicholas is here and Instagram provides me with a fun and unique way to capture our memories.

Since Instagram is so popular, there are several Apps and websites out there that also want to get in on the craze and enhance your Instagram photos.  Postagram is a fun App that allows you to turn your Instagram photos into postcards to send to family and friends. What a great way to send pictures while you are vacationing or out of town!

I found another fun way to enjoy your Instagram images through Sticky Grams.  StickyGram is a personalised printing service that turns your Instagram images into lovely little magnets. You create your pack online and they deliver them to your door.  Each StickyGram is 50mm x 50mm. That’s approximately the same size as they appear on your iPhone. They come in packs of 9.

Do you Instagram? How do you use this app to enhance your pictures? I would love for you to follow me! My instagram name is karenathome.  I would also love to follow you too!  Please leave me your user name in my comments.  Happy Instagramming!!!

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Nicholas Birth Story

Hello friends!! I hope you are all doing well! I really appreciate all of the sweet comments you left me regarding Nicholas' arrival. It meant so much to me to read them the next morning from my hospital bed. It's such a special feeling knowing you were all praying for us. Before I forget all of the details leading up to the big day, here is the story on how our sweet Nicholas arrived into the world!
It was Sunday, March 18th, the day before our sweet Nicholas arrived. All in all, a pretty uneventful Sunday for me as far as labor signs went. I was measuring 2 centimeters dilated and 50% effaced as of my doctor's appointment earlier that week. I did have some mild cramping and contractions through out the day, but nothing happened that would cause me to feel like things were finally getting started.

I was feeling pretty tired and unmotivated most of the day, however, did my best trying to keep up with the housework and an active Toddler. I just felt huge and anxious all day wondering when our little man would arrive. I went into labor with Jillian two days before my due date so I had a feeling things would start happening with Nicholas very soon. Earlier that afternoon, we decided to take a family trip to Target to stock up on a few last minute baby items. I had a feeling it was probably the last Target trip for awhile!!! After arriving home, I decided to take Jillian outside for a short walk around our cul-de-sac while Jeff worked outside in the yard. It has been an extremely mild Winter and Spring for us with temps in the 80's the week of Nicholas arrival. I thought it would be nice to take a walk with Jillian although all she wanted to do was run in every direction that was away from me. Needless to say, our walk came to an end rather quickly!! I am sure I was quite the sight chasing a Toddler around our neighborhood 40 weeks pregnant so I decided to spend the remainder of the day inside. I was pooped trying to keep up with her!! Jeff was so helpful and took over the responsibility of chasing Jillian around outside the rest of the day while I tried to relax inside.
Late that Sunday evening, I sat on the couch with Jeff and wrote out a few thank you notes to the neighbors who had hosted a diaper shower for me. I was also debating how I was going to handle work the next day. I no longer had to go into the office, however, knew I had to at least log on and review a few items for my manager if there was no baby. Not a decision I thought I would be making, I really had thought labor was eminent that weekend. After watching an episode of "Big Bang Theory," we decided to go to bed early knowing our days of getting a good nights sleep were numbered.
Around 2am, I got up to use the bathroom which was pretty routine for me at this stage in my pregnancy. I crawled back into bed and started thinking about work and all of the things I needed to accomplish the next day. Jeff's Mom was coming over in the morning to help watch Jillian so I could get a few things accomplished. As I laid in bed, I felt a few more weird cramps and then a sharp one took me by surprise. I felt a weird wet feeling on my legs so I got out of bed and headed back to the bathroom. More weird wetness occurred but nothing dripping as if my water had broke. After an inspection, I discovered I was bleeding ever so slightly with some strange clear fluid. I was really unsure if this was the start of my bloody show, or water breaking, or what the heck was going on. I really expected more of a gush if my water had broken. I crawled back into bed and grabbed my iPhone off my nightstand. I Googled "signs of your water breaking" and read up on what I should do next. The article recommended laying down for 30 minutes to see if your water would collect when you stood up. I did what the article instructed and waited. Then the coolest thing happen. I felt N shimmy down in my belly like all of a sudden he was "free." His movements started to feel so much more distinct then they had in recent weeks. I got out of bed again to see what would happen and only the slightest bit of liquid seemed to trickle out. Still not enough to make me confidently think my water had broke. It just felt gooey more than anything. I decided then not to drive myself any crazier and decided to wake up Jeff. He and I had joked about me waking him up in the middle of the night before we went to bed and now I was actually doing just that. Jeff pretty much reacted the way you would think most husbands would react in this situation and bolted out of bed. I kept telling him how unsure I was about what I was experiencing and really hoped that it wasn't just me wanting it to happen more than what was actually happening!! I was constantly "checking things out " and trying to find clues to make me feel a little more confident about a broken water. Finally I decided just to call the doctor on call and see what they thought I should do. I was so excited to find out when they put me through to the doctor that it was actually my own doctor!! I am not sure if I have mentioned this yet during this pregnancy but I LOVE my doctor. Due to difficulties that I had experienced giving birth to Jillian, we had decided to shop around new doctors with this pregnancy and I couldn't have been happier with our choice.
I explained to my doctor what was going on and he told me to head to the hospital. It sounded to him like the real deal but I would need to be tested for sure if my water had indeed broken. We called Jeff's Mom to come over to watch Jillian, took a shower and then started gathering up everything we needed for the hospital. As we were about to head out the door, I was talking to Jeff's Mom and felt a major trickle down my leg. I ran to the bathroom to confirm that my water had very much broken!!
Here we are at 3am, right before we left for the hospital:

We were admitted to the hospital's Triage unit around 4am where they did a test to confirm that my water had broken, and then we waited for what felt like forever for a birthing room. My doctor checked me when I initially arrived and was measuring 3 centimeters and 50% effaced. They decided to put me on Pitocin since I still wasn't having any intense contractions yet and my doctor wanted to speed things along since I had a broken bag of waters.
The first thing the nurses explained to us when we arrived was how under staffed they were and how the amount of women who had checked themselves into the hospital that night to have a baby was absolute craziness. You would think it would have been a full moon that night. They told us Mom's were literally battling it out for labor and delivery rooms and that they were prioritizing everyone by how far along you were. I actually spent 8 hours of my labor in the Triage room, they were that busy. To be honest, that whole situation really aggravated me. I probably would have given birth to Nicholas a few hours earlier if it weren't for the staffing issues. I was stuck in a teeny tiny uncomfortable Triage bed while Jeff had no "man couch" to relax on. My butt kept falling asleep from the uncomfortable position they had me in and I couldn't even try to sleep if I wanted to. To make matters worse, they decided to TURN OFF my Pitocin drip just in case I started progressing too far since they didn't have enough nurses to handle all the laboring Mom's. So we just sat in Triage waiting for an Labor and Delivery room to open up.
I was so bored and not in any significant pain yet so I decided to pass the time by putting on my make-up.  I was also extremely hungry.  I never did end up eating that day.  I tried to sneak a Nutri-grain bar until the nurse came into the room and almost busted me!  Ha!


Finally after an eight hour wait, we were moved into a much more spacious Labor and Delivery room. I was now measuring 4 centimeters dilated and was 80% effaced. My Pitocin was turned back on and the contractions were coming pretty regularly. I decided it was time for my epidural, why sit there in pain? By the time the anestisiologist arrived, I was so happy I ordered it when I did. I was in a lot of pain and really needed some relief!

With my epidural working its magic, I decided to finally take my first nap of the day. Our Labor and Delivery room also had a decent "man couch" so Jeff also decided to take a nap. It was so nice to be able to have some quiet time before having to push. Half way through my nap, I started to feel my contractions again and they were slowly getting worse.

After our naps, our families had arrived and came into our room to hang out with us. They had waited to come to the hospital until then since there was no room for extra guests in the Triage room. This was the first time I was able to visit with Jillian too and I was so thrilled to see her and be able to spend time with her. She sat on the bed with me a lot but didn't seem too bothered about me laying in a hospital bed. I honestly had no idea how she was going to react and was proud of her for being so good.

As I sat and visited with our families, I could still feel my contractions becoming more and more painful. To a point where I had to start breathing through them again. Eventually I asked my family to leave because I didn't want them to see me in so much pain. I called for Jackie, my nurse, to find out what was going on with my epidural. She checked me out and decided perhaps I needed another dose of drugs. She called the anesthesiologist to come back to give me a "topping off". After two doses, nothing seemed to be working and I started to panic and got a little hysterical. I was freaking out from the pain and kept asking for someone to help me. No one seemed to know why my epidural had stopped working. My contractions were ridiculously strong with one right after the other. I mostly just remember holding Jeff's hand and trying to breathe through them, although there were definitely times that I lost focus and just sobbed through them instead. And then there were a few that I just lost all control whatsoever and ended up crying and screaming hysterically through. It was far worse than any pain I had ever experienced.

After begging and pleading with my nurse that she needed to help me, she called the anesthesiologist again to help me for the third time. He inspected my back this time and mentioned that part of the epidural may have shifted and the medicine they had administered was no longer hitting the right nerves. So through the intense pain, I had to sit still for him to remove my epidural and put in a new one. Trying to sit still and not move during such immense pain as he put in a new epidural was horrible. Finally after 15 minutes, it slowly started to work and my contractions from hell slowly improved and faded away. The relief I felt from the pain was so strong, I cried for a few minutes as I slowly started to feel normal again.

It was now 7pm and I had been in labor for 17 hours. Jackie called the doctor to check my progression. After the horrible contractions I had experienced, hopefully some progression had to have come of it. Thankfully I had progressed and was 8 centimeters and fully effaced. Nicholas's head was in a +1 position and was continuing to descend. It was almost time for me to meet my son.

When the time finally came for me to push, I was ready! I felt like a horrible pusher with Jillian's birth and was determined to do a great job with Nicholas. My nurse had checked me and confirmed I was 10 centimeters and the head was "right there!". She ran off to get the doctor, however, returned with a woman we had never before. Again because of the under staffing issues, my doctor was tied up with emergency back to back c-sections and wasn't available to deliver Nicholas. No doctor was available. Jackie introduced the woman to us as a midwife and that she could deliver the baby. Jeff and I just looked at each other. Neither of us wanted to be rude, however, we were both thinking the same thing. No way! Now we had a huge decision to make: wait an hour with Nicholas just sitting there in the birth canal for our doctor to become available or have the midwife deliver me now. To make matters worse, they had discovered that Nicholas heart rate was dropping with every contraction I was having. They guessed there was an issue with the umbilical cord--that it was either pinched or twisted. After asking a million times if there would be harm to the baby by waiting, we opted to wait for the doctor. Jeff was really starting to grow more aggravated and impatient as we sat and waited for the doctor. He left the room and headed out to the nurses station to get a status on the doctor. You could tell immediately when he came back into the room he was really fired up then. He had found out our doctor had a third c-section to do! We were really upset by that point. Jeff paced the room a bit and then runs off again. He comes back with my nurse and says the doctor is on his way. I found out later that he pretty much started making ultimatums and became "that Dad" by yelling at a few nurses. I honestly can not say I blame him, we were both worried about the well being of our son and were growing more and more concerned with each passing minute that he was just sitting in the birth canal.

A few minutes later our doctor comes into the room and was ready to go!! Apparently Jeff's "arm twisting" had paid off. Several other residents came into the room a few moments later to assist the doctor. A few minutes later I was pushing. I felt so much more alert and energetic than I had when I was pushing Jillian out. I was determined to get him out as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the case and he just wasn't coming out. The good news is that he was slowly progressing with each push but at a snail's pace. You could see his head which obviously contained large amounts of beautiful dark hair. I had tried so hard!!! To this day, I still feel like a lousy pusher. Nicholas heart rate was continuing to drop with each push and everyone in the room was concerned and watching the monitor closely. After a few more unsuccessful pushes, the doctor suggested using a vacuum to pull him out. I became nervous at the thought of using a vacuum again to deliver our baby. The word vacuum alone brings back bad memories from Jillian's birth. I honestly can say though that I trusted this doctor and knew he would only do what was right for Nicholas. His heart rate kept dropping and needed to come out soon.

I watched as my doctor unwrapped the vacuum device and placed it on his head. I leaned as forward as I could and gave it my all with this last push. Next thing I remember was the doctor pulling Nicholas's head out by the vacuum. He was half way out when my doctor says "Here is the reason the heart rate was dropping.". With Nicholas's head right in front of me, he unwound the umbilical cord from his neck TWICE! After Nicholas was free, he pulled his whole body out and rested him on top of me. I clearly remember the thoughts going on inside my head as I processed that moment. The first thing I thought of was how much he looked like Jillian. He had the same full head of dark hair that she did. It was like all my love for Jillian became refocused on this little baby boy. A second chance to remember all those little details of Jillian as a`newborn that had faded over time. It was such an amazing feeling. I often wondered how I could love another baby as much as I loved Jillian and my question was answered the moment I saw him.

Nicholas Alan was born right on his due date at Forty weeks. After 19 hours of labor our precious boy had finally arrived! Nicholas was born at 8:50pm on Monday, March 19, 2012, weighing in at 7lbs 10oz and measuring 20 1/2 inches. He is simply perfect!

Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him.
Psalm 127:3

Friday, April 13, 2012

Parade of Homes ~ Linky Party!!!

TGIF Friends!  Well, we made it to the end of the Parade of Homes Tour.  I must admit, I am a bit dissappointed.  What an amazing group of tours we had here!!  Thanks to all of my guest bloggers who participated in the tour.  I really appreciate you taking the time to put together such amazing posts.  I know it takes time and effort to clean and stage your home, take the pictures, and then upload them into a blog post.  I really appreciate it!!! 

Now it's your turn!  Below is a linky party all set up for you to enter a link to your home or room that you are proud of.  I can't wait to see your beautiful homes!!! 

Have a great weekend!

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Parade of Homes ~ Day 9 ~ All In A Day

Hello friends!! I hope you are all having a great week and enjoying all of these beautiful homes!! What an amazing group we have had this week!! If you are new to my blog or just now tuning in, I would highly suggest starting with Day 1 to begin your tour.

Just a reminder, the Parade of Homes goes through this  Friday, April 13th. On Friday April 13th, there will be a linky party for everyone to link up their Homes!!! Please mark your calendar and start photographing those rooms in your home that you can't wait to show off!!!
Today we have Amy from All In A Day showing off her beautiful home.  Amy is no stranger to Karen At Home Blog!  If you recall from my Life of A Stay At Home Mom series, Amy was one of my guest posters back then too.  Thanks again Amy for participating as a guest blogger and for welcoming us into your beautiful home!!!

Hi Karen At Home readers!!!  I am so excited to be here today sharing my home with you!  I had planned on doing a video tour!  You know, just to switch it up a little bit.  But…..that little thing called “life” got in the way and my home was in NO condition showcase via video after the Easter Bunny exploded in my house this past weekend! 

My name is Amy and I blog over at All In A Day.  I’m wifey to my amazing hubby Scott, mama to my super cute daughter Emily, and a creative spirit who tries to fit crafts & DIY projects, cleaning, being a mommy, & being a wife all in!

Yup, that’s us!  This was during our sweet baby’s first birthday party!

This is our home:

The space over the garage (on the left in this picture) is actually what is called a “carriage house”.  It’s basically a 1 bedroom studio apartment.  We used to use it for guest quarters, but we currently rent it out to an amazing tenant!  When baby #2 comes along, we’ll definitely use this space for a guest house again!

When you open the front door, you’re immediately greeted by stairs.  In my next life, I would LOVE to have a real foyer.  One where I can put a console table and some lamps and some art and do a little board & batten treatment on the wall!  But I digress…..

The baby gate is a super classy touch! 

To the right of the stairs is our dining room & formal living area.  It’s basically one giant room.  We turned the formal living into a playroom!  Much more functional for our family!

The other side of the room is our dining area.  We installed chair rail and stenciled the top half of the wall.  We still need to install the faux wainscoting on the bottom.

To the left of the front door is where we spend all of our time! 

Up first is our kitchen!

As you can see, our kitchen opens up to our family room.  Here’s the view into the kitchen from the family room.

Our kitchen also opens up to our breakfast nook/office area.  I love my DIY chevron curtains!

As I mentioned before, our kitchen/breakfast nook opens up to our family room:

There is also a half bath off of our family room (to the left of this picture).

Ok, so that’s it for downstairs!  Let’s head upstairs!

When you get to the top of the stairs, there is a little landing/hallway.

That door you see is our laundry room.  And no… cannot see it.  Yes….it’s that bad!  It’s on my list of rooms to makeover!

This little hallway leads to all 3 bedrooms in our home.  Above, the room on the left is our guest room, and the room on the right is Emily’s room.  There is a Jack & Jill bathroom in between the 2 bedrooms.  Yeah…not showing that one either! 

Here’s our guest room.  I’m literally right in the middle of working on this room.  I changed out the bedding and curtains (there are white curtains hanging….you just can’t see them).  I still need to add some art.

And here’s Emily’s room (these pictures are a little old – from when we first put together her nursery)!

Across the hallway is the master “wing”.  It’s a big, long hallway that leads to our bedroom.  Along the hallway is our closets and our bathroom.

Here’s our NEW master bathroom!!!!  Well, for now.  I still need to frame out the mirrors, switch out the light fixtures, and maybe add a chandelier over the tub!

I say “new” because here’s what it looked like about a month ago:


And of course, I can’t redo the bathroom without redoing the bedroom!  So here is our new master bedroom! 

I literally finished painting those curtains on Wednesday!  Just in time!

Still gotta hide those darn TV cords!

I am absolutely in LOVE with our bedroom now!!  Especially considering it used to look like this:

So embarrassing, but I’m all about keepin’ it real (complete with my bra on the dresser. ugh)!  And of course our house is always a work in progress.  I still need to add some art and pictures to our bedroom.  But I’m loving how it turned out!

The last stop on the tour is our backyard.  We added a deck last October.  We absolutely love the space now and enjoy having family dinners under the gazebo and entertaining here.

And that concludes the tour of our humble abode!!  I hope you enjoyed!

Thank you Karen for hosting such a great series and allowing me to be a part of it!

I’d love it if you stopped by my blog and said hi!

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