Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I Updated My Header

Just wanted to say a quick thanks to Tara of Pip Designs, my fabulous blog designer, for my photo update. The picture was taken by Karissa of K Barber Photography, a Lakeland family photographer.

Also, the Twitter button link has been fixed and I'll try to make it a 2012 resolution to add some new recipes to my new 'Recipes' tab. Maybe I'll share the Giada De Laurentiis recipe that I tried this week. It was awesome!

What is your favorite Family Musings recipe?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pumpkin Pie Pancakes

If you aren't pumpkined out (I'm not!), then you'll want to take that last 1/2 cup of pureed pumpkin out of your fridge and make these! Then smother them with real maple syrup. And eat them for breakfast, lunch, brinner, dessert... whenever you want. These are so, so good! I have to actually stop my girls when we eat these otherwise they'd get sick from eating as many as they liked.

Pumpkin Pie Pancakes

  • 2 cups Bisquick
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup pureed pumpkin
  • 2 T sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1-2 dashes pumpkin pie spice
Combine all ingredients just until blended. Add more milk if your batter is too thick (I always do). Let rest for a minute while your griddle or pan heats up. As a nod to my husband's love of all things bacon, sometimes I'll grease my pan with leftover bacon fat, but usually I just use a touch of real butter. Leave your pancake along until the sides start to dry out just a tad, then flip. 

Remember to not flip your pancakes more than once. This can make them tough and not so good. I like to make a huge triple batch of these and then store them in the freezer to enjoy whenever I feel like it. The benefit of making a larger batch is that you don't have to worry about what to do with the extra pumpkin in your can. 

These have just enough pumpkin pie flavor to be nice but not so much that you forget you are eating a pancake. Oh, and I'd show you a picture of these, but my pancakes never turn out "pretty," just yummy!

What's your favorite pumpkin recipe? 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving - 24 Days of Thankfulness

I have so many things to be thankful for and have spent the last few weeks listing them on the Family Musings Facebook page. And as I've been known to do in the past, I want to record those status updates here so they will have a better chance of surviving the years.

(1) I'm thankful for my amazing friends who support me in many ways.

(3) My beautiful family!

‎(4) The food in my pantry and refrigerator. Our family has plenty of nutritious choices and will not go hungry.
‎(5) I was thankful for beautiful Fall weather for our family's mini vacation

(6) I was thankful for a husband who let me take a vacation with the family, instead of asking me to do everything I normally do [dishes, laundry, cooking, cleaning] somewhere else.

(7) Today I am thankful for the reminder of how much I love Zumba Fitness and the opportunity to host a House Party this month.

‎(8) Today I am thankful that my girls love books. We could sit on the couch and read them all day long if I was willing to ignore cooking, cleaning, and Facebook.

‎(9) I've already told you that I was thankful for my friends. Today I'll elaborate on that and add that I am thankful my friends can come over to my house and have a good time playing, even though it isn't spotless. Plus, I am thankful to Mommy Parties for the excuse to get together once again.
(10) Yesterday I was thankful that Thursdays are brinner days. It makes meal prep so much simpler. 

(11) Today I am thankful for the ability to rent a carpet cleaner with no notice because my daughter took off and then stepped in the contents of her diaper. It's all cleaned up now and my whole downstairs carpet is a little bit better for the ordeal.
‎(12) Thankful for morning walks through downtown Lakeland with a hot chicory coffee in my hand as I stroll through the Fancy Flea (a semi-annual vintage market), alone. 

(13) Thankful for the health of my children. 

(14) Thankful for friends who swap childcare with me so I get to have some mommy time twice a month.
‎(15) Thankful for a clean kitchen to prepare meals for my family and friends.

(16) Thankful for the women at my church who walk up to me and ask how MOPS at Kathleen Baptist Church is going. 

(17) Thankful for the wonderful ladies who showed up to aforementioned MOPS group. 

(18) Thankful for the super foods God made to nourish our bodies.

(19) Thankful for the opportunity to serve others.

‎(20) Today I am thankful that even though we don't have a lot of "nature" in our neighborhood, every now and again we get a fun, naturey surprise.

(21) For my husband's schedule that allows him to take an entire week off to spend with us.

(22) The miracle that is life and the gift I have as a mom that I get to experience life in such a unique way. (The link takes you to a friend's birth story.)

(23) Thankful for the author of all life who is in control through all circumstances.

(24) Thankful that I don't have to cook dinner tomorrow because our family made other plans.

What are you thankful for?

5 Tips to Make the Most of Blog Hopping |

Today I am guest posting at on how to make the most of a blog hop. Check it out and leave a comment to let me know what you think.

5 Tips to Make the Most of Blog Hopping | | Communication and Business Thoughts for Creative Entrepreneurs

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Giveaway: V8 V-fusion

This giveaway is now closed. The winner has been announced here.

I recently started juicing but find that some days or mornings I just don't have time to get it all done. In those instances, my girls either drink milk or pre-made fruit juice. I was recently sent a sample of V8 V-Fusion Concord Grape Raspberry 8 ounce cans (along with a lunch kit) and was surprised to find that all of us enjoyed the taste. I packed it in Bruce's lunch and split one between the girls and each of them asked for it again and again.

I'd like to let you all in on the juicy goodness and here is what you can win:
  • A green lunch tote (which I really like, but let Bruce use)
  • Reusable Velcro bag, the perfect item for keeping and snacks fresh
  • Branded cards for moms to include notes for their children (or husband) to read at lunch
  • Branded grocery list notepads
  • A coupon for one free V8 V-Fusion, V8 V-Fusion Light or V8 V-Fusion + Tea beverage (46 ounce or 8 ounce 6 pack)
  • A pack of NEW Goldfish sandwich bread from Pepperidge Farm, the perfect item to turn a boring sandwich into an exciting lunch item
  • Plus, $25 Wal-Mart gift card!
Follow this giveaway link to submit your entry - Enter the Family Musings V8 V-fusion Giveaway! This giveaway ends Sunday, December 4th at midnight.

(By the way, I'm trying a new method for giveaway entries. Feel free to let me know what you think. I hope it makes it easier for lots of people to enter!)

FTC Disclosure: I received these items to facilitate my review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Double Duty - Mommy Manicure & Kid Activity

Due to my love of Pinterest, I find all sorts of great things to do with my girls. Of course, I also find all sorts of things for myself as well. Imagine my delight when I found something on Pinterest that worked for them and for me all at the same time.

It's called Cloud Dough. And my girls and I both loved it. I altered the inspiration recipe a little and this is how I made it:

Cloud Dough
4 cups flour
1/2 cup olive oil
a few drops of orange extract

I combined it all together in a ziploc bag until it was thoroughly mashed up. It was a nice bit of stress relief for the few minutes it took me to combine. The extract is optional and you could use other scents.

So, how does this help out all the ladies in my house?

Well, the girls like the texture of it and seeing how it can hold lots of different shapes. We got to see what the inside of our fists look like, make impressions of our hands, and even pretended to build a miniature Great Wall of China. Charlotte also liked to pretend she was making pancakes out of the Cloud Dough.

And I liked it because the olive oil and flour work as a mini manicure for my hands. I could play with the girls while rubbing the Cloud Dough into my cuticles and knuckles. It was rather relaxing.

The only change I'll make next time is to replace the orange extract with an essential oil such as lavender. I think this would make the spa experience a little more complete. If you have children who like to put things in their mouth though, be sure to stick with something that is food grade, such as extract.

You probably have all of these ingredients in your pantry. Go make a batch and tell me what your kids think!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Review: (in)spired Deals Gift Idea

I love a hand written card. Who doesn't? If you were to browse the blogosphere, you'd find lots of posts eschewing the lost art of a hand written letter. We all know other people like getting mail because we like getting mail.

It's like I tell Charlotte, my 4 year old, "You have to send mail to get mail."

But sending mail isn't always penciled into our schedule. Unless it bills. We know to send those every month. And I have a sneaking suspicion that the machine which opens our mail won't appreciate any hand written notes on our payment slips. Besides, what would I say, "Wish this was cheaper!"?

I find it is easier to send mail if I keep beautiful cards and stationary at hand. In fact, I keep a basket on top of a bookshelf filled with a variety of card and paper styles. I have something that matches just about every personality surrounding me.

Recently, (in)spired Deals sent me a card set to review and I am in love. It is called God's Heart Card Pack. It includes 12 cards (2 each of 6 designs). Each card is filled with encouragement. These cards are inspired by Holly Gerth's book, God's Heart for You: Embracing YourTrue Worth as a Woman. There are actually many products in Holly's God's Heart collection including artwork, a companion journal, and other gift items.

I particularly like that there are different styles of cards in this pack. Some are more modern, while others are pretty classy or just simply stated truths of encouragement.

Looking through the cards, I was prompted to finish this sentence: "In God's heart I am..."

In God's heart I am fearfully and wonderfully made, a delight, a precious treasure, an honored daughter, his hands and feet, and so much more.

How would you finish the sentence, "In God's heart I am..."

FTC Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post and received a pack of cards to facilitate my review.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Inspecting A Snake Skin

As I followed my family to the van this morning for church, I glanced over into the grass and found a completely   intact snake skin. Knowing how much my husband and girls like to inspect things, I called them back and convinced Bruce to lay the skin by our door so we could look at it later.

Then, once we got home from church, the girls immediately asked for the snake skin. It was really neat to look closely at the skin and think about the snake. And while I couldn't get a clear picture, we could even see where the snakes eyes and jaw had been, that's how cool the shed skin was.

Our initial inspection and noticing the neat features of the snake, such as the diamond pattern on its back and the curved lines on the belly.

Pointing out the distinct features of the snake's face.

Finally, we had to figure out how long the snake is. This particular snake was probably close to 3 1/2 feet long, which makes it even more remarkable that the skin came off so cleanly. I am hoping that Bruce will be able to show Charlotte some of the skin underneath our microscope.

I tried to find a video to show the girls so they could see how the snake actually sheds its skin. This is the best one I could find, and even this snake doesn't have such a clean shed.

This experience is a reminder to me that our education doesn't end when we finish our formal schooling. Even I have never seen a snake skin so close-up. It is also a good reminder that education can happen any where, any time. We don't need to have a book in front of us to learn more about how the world works. In fact, I am certain that reading about this in a book, or looking at pictures, couldn't be nearly as cool as finding our own skin to inspect at home.

Monday, November 14, 2011

PSA: Reebok Toning Shoes/Apparel Class Action Law Suit

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Reebok Settlement for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

If you purchased Reebok toning shoes or toning apparel between December 5, 2008 and October 12, 2011, you may be an eligible member of a class action law suit against Reebok. The suit alleges that Reebok violated certain state laws when advertising and marketing these toning items. As is typical in these types of cases, Reebok denies all wrong doing and the court did not say which side was right or which side was wrong. Here is a link to the Reebok settlement  and the EasyTone Settlement where you can get more information about participating.

Eligible shoes include Easy Tone, RunTone, JumpTone, SlimTome, EasyTone Flip, TrainTone, and Simplytone.

Eligible apparel includes Easytone Capri, EasyTone Shorts, EastTone Sleeveless Shirt, EastTone Pants, EasyTone Long Bra Top, and Easy Tone Short Sleeve Top.

The settlement allows for Reebok refunds depending on which items you purchased. If you'd like more information, you can call 1-888-398-5389.

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Review: Dollar General Supports Veterans

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of DollarGeneral for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

I've never met anyone who didn't think our veterans shouldn't be valued. We are blessed to live in a time when most people understand the sacrifice that the men and women in the Armed Forces make. I think it is also nice to honor the sacrifices the families of service men and women make as well. It can be extreme sometimes with deployments unexpectedly lasting more than a year or dealing with the long term effects of going to war.

Dollar General has asked me to share with you how they are supporting veterans, active military, and their families this weekend. Dollar General's Veteran's Day discount includes 10% off in store on Saturday, November 11th. It also includes a 10% discount online when you use coupon code VETERANSDAY. The code is good Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

Another neat thing Dollar General has done is put together $20 and $30 care packages designed specifically for men and women on active duty. You can purchase these directly on the Dollar General website and ship it to any valid US or military address. As an added bonus, shipping is free. Each package will include toiletries and snacks.

Finally, you are invited to visit the Dollar General Salute the Troops page and leave a video message to thank the troops who work hard to make our world a safer place. You can also visit their Facebook page to leave a written message for the troops.

Visit Sponsor's Site

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Somethings Got To Give

I've posted before here and on Facebook about how messy my house can get. And how quickly it seems to happen. The amount of clutter in my house really does affect our quality of life. Not in a Hoarders sort of way, but in ways that are less obvious to those around me.

  • It keeps me from inviting people over for impromptu conversations and play dates.
  • It keeps me from homeschooling because there is no clear space to do it.
  • It keeps me from relaxing in my own space.
  • It keeps me from staying home more because I feel stiffled by my surroundings.
  • It costs my family money because I spend more to leave the house, rebuy things I already have, or don't use my coupons because they don't stay organized.

I could blame it on our small space. But I have friends with even smaller homes which are always neat and clean when I stop in for random visits.

I could blame it on the kid's toys all being kept in the Living room. But that doesn't address all of the clutter that is created by the adults in the house.

I could blame it on the other people in the house. But secretly, I think I am the worst offender when it comes to creating clutter.

Those things are just excuses to cover over the fact that we own too much stuff. I am on a serious decluttering mission. I want to declutter like I have to move our family into an 800 sf home. I want life to be simpler because I have fewer things to take care of or move around. I want to be able to breath freely in my own spaces.

So, this morning, I reintroduced myself to Fly Lady, the program that kept me organized and neat when I was a working mom. It should definitely work now that I am a stay at home mom!

I also created a Cozi account for our family and linked all of the Fly Lady zones and Flight Plan to it. I hope that having the reminders on the phone will keep me on task. I can't wait for the next 27-fling boogie to pop up!

What tools do you use to keep your home neat and clutter free?

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Sometimes You've Just Gotta Get Away

Going on a frugal vacation with a toddler and baby in tow is not my idea of fun. You're basically asking the mom to do everything she does at home, but with fewer resources. It never really turns out to be much of a vacation for aforementioned mom. I know, I've been her before.

However, I wasn't her last weekend! My husband surprised us and took our family away for 2 nights at the Disney All-Star Sports resort. He also purchased the Quick Service Dining Plan for our family so that I didn't have to prepare a single meal. It really was a vacation for this mom!

I walked away from last weekend feeling wonderfully rested, something I'm not accustomed to after a family vacation. In fact, everything went so smoothly I can't find a single thing to complain about. Nothing went wrong. It's as if we were meant to have this fun, relaxing weekend together as a family. No distractions in the form of wi-fi hot spots or accommodating 4 other adults preferences for what to do or where to eat. Just us, doing as we pleased, and enjoying one another's company.

A great feature of this resort is its heated pool. On Friday night, Bruce and Charlotte went swimming around 8 PM and had a great time. It was too cold out for me and Mary needed some sleep so I stayed inside. When the two brave swimmers came back I was told that Charlotte could have stayed out there for another hour, easily. All four of us finally made it into the pool on Sunday morning and it was perfectly lovely.

We spent Saturday morning at the Animal Kingdom and found really short character greeting lines at Camp Minnie Mickie. Mary was so shy and could barely be coaxed to take her head off of our shoulders.

It seems as if Charlotte wasn't very excited to meet the characters, but that just isn't true. She loved it and even had a present for each of the characters. It was a single leaf she picked up off the ground. This is an expression of great love from her because she loves leaves, especially when they are whole with pretty colors.

I think Charlotte was most happy to meet Minnie. I especially like that Minnie got down on her level too, instead of putting Charlotte in that awkward position of hugging her leg.

Here's one where everyone is being a little bit more participatory. Even me!

After a morning with the animals, we went back to the hotel and all napped or rested until about 5 pm. Our plan was to keep the girls up late enough for the 10 pm fireworks show. Charlotte enjoyed it, but Mary fell asleep during it. I kept telling Bruce that I had never seen Cinderella's Castle look so beautiful as it did before the show. All of the turrets were draped with lights and it was just gorgeous.

The Quick Service Dining Plan did not disappoint. Our first night at the resort, Bruce and I both had a london broil dinner with an amazing wine gravy. It was so good I sopped it all up with my roll. All of our meals provided more than enough food to feed us and I usually had food left on my plate (at least until Bruce saw it). And did I mention how wonderful it was to not have to cook or prepare a single meal?!

If I remember correctly, when Bruce took this picture he declared that this would be the cutest they'd look all day. I think he only said that because they were sitting still and being quiet.

On Sunday, after we were done at the hotel, Bruce suggested we have lunch at Mara, over in the Animal Kingdom Lodge. This is a picture of the girls and I in front of an Ijele mask, made by a member of the Igbo tribe. It is worn by just 1 person and this is the first and only time one of these masks has ever left the Igbo village.

I really just can't thank Bruce enough for thinking to take us away for this mini vacation. It was something our family really needed since it had been 1 1/2 years since we'd done anything similar to this. By staying at the budget resort, utilizing a meal plan, and then asking a family member who works at Disney to take us into the theme park, this was also a very frugal vacation for us.

I know not every family is going to be able to get away to Disney World for a weekend, but I hope, before the weather turns to cold, that you and your family can find a way to experience some close time together without the distractions of technology or chores.

Where is your favorite quick getaway place?

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Family Holiday Portraits

A few weeks ago our family partook of an annual tradition - family pictures. And just like last year, my friend with the extraordinary eye, Karissa Barber, a Lakeland family photographer, took them for us. Our location was Circle B Bar Reserve, just before sunset, and I don't think our pictures could have turned out any more beautiful! I'm only sharing a handful here so that I can surprise the grandparents at Christmas time.

You can see several more at the K. Barber Photography blog (that's a direct link to her post about us).

Have you taken family photos recently? How did it go?