Saturday, December 22, 2012

Santa!!!

For weeks we practiced.  She was going to say hi, give him a hug, and tell him that she wanted a guitar for Christmas.

Yeah.  That's exactly how it went.

I think there is something about the tender age of 2 that requires children to be terrified of Santa.  


She was perfectly fine waiting in line and she was perfectly fine as soon as we left.  She just really didn't want to sit on Santa's lap.  Afterwards, she told me she was sorry she cried and that she was scared of Santa.  But she waved and blew a kiss on our way out, so I'm sure Santa will forgive her. 

Then we spent the afternoon watching Christmas classics.  After it got dark, we drove around and looked at Christmas lights.  It was FREEZING because I hadn't planned on getting out of the car, but the babies loved walking around and seeing all the lights.  Harper had to comment on every display and she talked about how she saw Santa in the window and how he must be really busy since he was at the mall all day.  She is so hilarious sometimes. 


The day was absolutely perfect.  Jason has missed so much lately because of his schedule, and it was really nice to have him around for some holiday festiveness.

On a side note, if you're waiting in line to see Santa maybe, just maybe, you shouldn't loudly tell your kids that Santa is fake and that last year's mall Santa died because he got too old.  I mean, tell your kids whatever in the privacy of your own home, but do you really need to say that Santa died with dozens of kids around? 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

This, My Friends, is My Family

I love Facebook.  As a military family, it's helped me keep in contact with people that I would have normally drifted apart from.  I've been able to reconnect with friends and it's a very easy way to share our life with family because, let's face it, I suck at blogging.

But at the same time, I hate Facebook.  Some of the stuff people post is just, well, stupid.

So here's the deal.  I'm incredibly open-minded.  I sat through the elections reading posts from both sides.  You like Obama.  Good for you.  You like Romney.  Whatever floats your boat.  But when you start posting stuff about Obama being a socialist or Romney eating babies or whatever stupid stuff was being posted, I'm going to delete you.  If you post well-researched criticism about Obama's foreign policy or Romney's tax returns, I can respect that even if I don't agree with you. 

Well, yesterday a tragedy happened and everyone on the internet has to comment about it.  There were the typical "we must destroy all guns" posts.  There were the typical "you'll have to pry my gun from my cold, dead hands" posts.  Again, whatever.  But then there were posts about how shootings wouldn't happen if we put God back into schools.

Um, hello?

So let me get this straight; Christians don't shoot people?  Christians have never committed a violent act?

Let me back up here for a second.  I'm a Christian.  I believe in God.  Kaelin has been raised in the Church and went to Catholic school.  I'm not anti-Christian and I'm not anti-religion.  I do, however, have a problem with people forcing their religion on others.  I have a problem with people who use the Bible as a reason for discrimination.  I have a problem with people who think you have to be Christian to be a good person. 

I posted this on Facebook this morning.
 

It seems completely logical to me.  Atheists kill people.  Muslims kill people.  Jews kill people.  Christians kill people.  I mean, these are simple facts, not social commentary.  There's even a record of an Amish man who killed his family.  Obviously, one believing in God does not prevent them from being a bad person.  I get that people disagree with me, but God is not a panacea.

So after several more hours of "God is the answer" posts, I started deleting people.  You have every right to post whatever you want to post on Facebook, but I have every right not to read it.  Simple enough, right?  It's not that I'm intolerant of other viewpoints, but forcing God into public schools will do absolutely nothing to prevent future shootings.  Talk about less gun control or more gun control or mental health or police officers or some other solution; but don't look to God to solve this for us. 

Then I got a message from a family member I deleted.  I really shouldn't be surprised by the way the conversation went since this was the same person who called me ignorant when I was 7 years old.  I would find it funny if it wasn't so sad.

Well, I guess I didn't make the cut! But, that is fine. I still stand behind what I believe in! Our nation was built on Christian principles and God was involved from the very beginning! One Nation Under God use to mean something to people!! And when we took God out of schools that was the start of a big downfall! And it's not about what religion you are its the relationship that you have with God! So, while your spreading all of your nonsense on face book about people and their religions, more so about their relationship with God remember what your preaching to people about. Maybe you should stop and listen to yourself!! Maybe you should stop and read the bible more!! I pray that you find what ever it is your looking for and that the people around you are as perfect as your are. Because I know that there is only one that is perfect that is Jesus Christ!! And yes in my household it's Merry Christmas and He is the reason for every season not just Christmas!!! No need to respond and I'm sure you'll splatter this all over face book, as your preaching to people about what they put on face book!!

And my response.

Our nation was actually founding on the principle of separation of Church and state. If you recall, the earliest settlers were escaping religious persecution from Europe and wanted the freedom to worship whatever God they wanted in whatever manner they wanted. So, although our nation was founded by Christians, our nation was not built upon a Christian foundation.
Taking religion out of school did not start this "downfall." I can name numerous people in the family who claim to be Christians, but do not practice as such, like premaritial sex or cheating on their spouses. Yet, I know many people who are not Christian who are good people. As I said on Facebook, having religion does not make one a good person. Many killers have done so in the name of God.

I read the Bible. I have read the Bible numerous times, both as a Catholic and as an academic. Yet, I realize the Bible for what it is: a work of fiction containing parables and myths that have been selected and edited by elite groups over centuries and centuries. While there are great lessons to be learned from the book, it is not infallible and was written in a different time such as when eating meat could kill you because of contamination. It wasn't safe to eat meat 2000 years ago, so the Bible said to eat fish. Does that mean we shouldn't currently eat meat?

In regards to Christmas, please celebrate as you wish. However, there is not a war on Christmas, and you should not be offended if someone wishes you Happy Holidays, the same way that others should not be offended if you wish them Merry Christmas. But please know that while you strive to keep Jesus as the focus for Christmas, the early Christians of Rome took the traditions of a pagan holiday, Saturnalia, and used that as the grounds to convert pagans to Christianity. The Christmas tree that you posted pictures of is lovely, but it has nothing to do with the birth of your Savior.

I have never preached about what people should or shouldn't post on Facebook. Anyone is free to post whatever they like, as I am free to use my block and unfriend buttons if I care not to read what they are posting. You are allowed to disagree with me, as I am allowed to disagree with you. You will always be my aunt, but that does not mean I need to see your unfounded opinions on Facebook everyday. Yes, I will be posting your message on Facebook, as well as my response to it, as an example of why I deleted so many people from friends list.

By the way, telling someone they need to read the Bible more or calling their opinions on religion nonsense is not a very Christian thing to do.
 Here's what I got back.
Your a piece of work, and I will pray for you because you need it!!! And post all you want, if people don't agree with you or fit into your mold you think that they are wrong!! I forgot that you've done everything and know everything!! So, what should have been a private message you've just turned into something ugly!! So, I hope that your proud of yourself!! So, post all you want!!!! God Bless and Merry Christmas!!!
 And my final words.
I don't believe that anybody who doesn't agree with me is wrong; I just don't care to hear about how pushing religion on our public schools will stop people from killing each other as the majority of killers in our country claim to be Christian. I believe that teaching children how to be a good person is more important than making them memorize scripture.

And yes, I am very proud of myself. I served my country, and I have an amazing family who I never get to see because he is selflessly protecting our country's right to freedom. I have three wonderful children who make my life worth living. I have a great job that I love. I have parents who love me and numerous friends who respect my beliefs whether or not they share those beliefs.

I was not aware that your message was supposed to be private as you specifically told me to share away. And I'm not quite sure how I have made things ugly as I believe I have been very respectful of your beliefs and have shared mine in a civilized way.

With all that being said, I truly hope you do have a Merry Christmas and enjoy your time with the babies. I know how hard it is on the kids to be so far away from their grandma.
Between this and the aunt who told me I was going to hell for "gay loving," I'm probably not going to be invited to any more family reunions.

Oh well. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

How to Make Money with Swagbucks

Swagbucks is a rewards program that offers virtual currency that can be exchanged for gift cards, merchandise, and even cash.  I've been a member for a couple of years now and can vouch that it's not a scam.  It did take me a while to figure out the best way to get earnings, but now that I have, I'm making about $500 a year with only a few minutes of work each day.  There are people out there who spend all day on Swagbucks and make thousands of dollars a year, but I'm not one of them.  I don't have that kind of time, and I'm way too lazy. 

So, I'm going to outline what I do to maximize my earnings with minimum time.



EARNING SWAGBUCKS

1.  First, sign up for Swagbucks.  (That is my referral link.  Basically, if you sign up through me, I get matching Swagbucks up to a certain amount.)  When you sign up, if you upload a photo, you get Swagbucks.

2.  Install the toolbar.  You get 1 SB each day for it. 

3.  Use the Swagbucks search engine, either on your toolbar or on the homepage.  Every time you search, you have the chance to earn Swagbucks.  I've earned between 7 and 54 SBs from a single search.  I try to do enough searches to get at least 3 rewards a day, but usually I get more.  Just by searching, you can earn 21+ SBs a day.

4.  Take the daily poll and complete the No Obligations Special Offers (NOSO).  Just keep clicking skip on the NOSO and enter the captcha at the end.  Takes about a minute and you get 3 SB.

5.  Watch Swagbucks TV.  You get 3 SBs for every 10 videos you watch, up to 75 SBs a day.  I work on my computer, so I tend to have a tab open with Swagbucks TV and just let it play in the background.  This requires very little effort on my part; I just click a new video every couple of minutes.

6.  Install Swagbucks TV Mobile (Android or iPhone) on your phone.  You get 2 SBs for every 5 videos you watch, up to 50 SBs a day.  I usually just have them playing on my phone while I work or watch TV.  Sometimes you'll have to close out ads to start the next video, but most of the time, the videos play on their own.  Again, very little effort.

7.  Use Swagcodes.  Almost every day, Swagbucks releases codes that you enter to get extra Swagbucks.  These codes can be on Facebook, Twitter, the Swagbucks blog, or even hidden in the Swagstore.  I'd highly recommend signing up at Swagbucks Code Spoilers to get text messages or emails whenever there is a new code.

This is what I do every day because it really doesn't take any time at all and I'm usually already on my computer.  Just with these step, I get at least 150 SBs.  Now, there are a few more things I do on occasion to up my earnings.

8.  Print coupons.  These are the same printable coupons that you find at other sites, but you get 10 SBs for each coupon you redeem.

9.  Take surveys.  I hate surveys.  I almost never qualify for them and they can be time-intensive, so I only do them when I'm bored or I need the SBs.  Most surveys give 24, 60, or 72 SBs, but you also get 1 SB if you are disqualified from a survey.  I know tons of people who use surveys almost exclusively to earn Swagbucks, but it's really hit or miss.

10.  Take advantage of Special Offers.  These are offers like "Sign up for Netflix, get 1000 SBs" or "Order $20 from The Disney Store, get 1500 SBs."  If you buy your Groupons through here, you can get Swagbucks.

11.  Shop online.  If you do any online shopping, check here first to see if you can get Swagbucks for your purchase.  I was able to get several hundred Swagbucks while doing my Christmas shopping at Walmart, Old Navy, and Target. 

That's it!  Those are the things that I, personally, do to get Swagbucks.  But just to complete my list, I'm going to add a few more things that you can do (even though I don't.)

12.  Play games.  You can earn a couple of Swagbucks for each game you play.  Or, you can enter a tournament and earn a whole bunch if you win.  I've played a few games, but I don't do it often because I don't have the time.  But, if you're going to play Angry Birds-type games anyways, you might want to look here and see if anything is appealing.

13.  Do tasks.  Pick a task listed, do it, and earn Swagbucks.  I've never done this, but from what I've heard, they can take a lot of time. 

14.  Trade-ins.  Send Swagbucks your old video games, books, etc. and they'll give you Swagbucks.  I've never done this and I have no clue how much they reward you.  But it's there if you're interested. 

SPENDING SWAGBUCKS

Well, now that you have all these Swagbucks saved up, how exactly do you make money? 

1.  Buy stuff through the Swag Store.  The most efficient way of converting Swagbucks to money is by purchasing $5 Amazon gift cards.  This is because most gift cards are 100 SB -> $1.00, but these are 90 SB -> $1.00.  Unfortunately, you can only get 5 of them a month.  If you'd rather have the cold, hard cash instead of gift cards, you can transfer your SBs into your Paypal account.  There's also merchandise that you can purchase, although unless you can find something on clearance, it's usually not worth it. 

2.  Enter Swagstakes.  If you like to play the lotto, you can use your Swagbucks to enter for a chance to win larger prizes.

3.  Buy discounts for local businesses.  For instance, I can print a $1.00 coupon for my grocery store for 35 SBs.  Or, I can spend 35 SBs for a coupon for a massage that costs $89.00. 

I just buy Amazon gift cards.  I get my 5 $5 cards each month and then with my leftover SBs, I'll get a $15 or $25 card.  Then, I save all the cards for Christmas when I have about $500 or so saved up.  This year, I did about 95% of my Christmas shopping though Amazon.  Between Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and gift cards, I got about $1200 worth of gifts and only paid $74 out of pocket.  Not too bad since I only spend a few minutes a day on Swagbucks. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Best Pumpkin Roll Ever

Every year since I was 18, I've been tasked with making pumpkin roll for our family dinners, and each year I try a different recipe to find the "perfect" one. 

This year, I did it.  
 
The Best Pumpkin Roll Ever (makes 10 1-inch slices)
Cake
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup (about 1/2 15 oz can) Libby's 100% pure pumpkin

Filling
8 oz cream cheese, softened
6 tbsp butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar

Directions
1.  Preheat oven to 375.  Line a 15 x 10 inch cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Sprinkle a kitchen towel with powdered sugar.
2.  Beat eggs and granulated sugar in a large bowl until thick.  Beat in pumpkin.  Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.  Beat until thoroughly mixed.  
3.  Spread into cookie sheet.
4.  Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched.  Immediately turn cake onto towel and remove parchment paper.  
5.  Loosely roll cake and towel together.  Cool on wire rack.
6.  Beat cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and powdered sugar until smooth.  
7.  Gently unroll cake and spread filling over the cake.  Remove towel and reroll cake.
8.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.   

It was so good, this was the only picture I thought to take.


Recipe adapted from http://www.verybestbaking.com/recipes/32372/LIBBYS-Pumpkin-Roll/detail.aspx.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day

Election Day!  Since a huge turnout was expected, and because I was going to have the babies with me, I decided to hit the polls around 10 thinking that everyone who was voting before work would be gone and I'd avoid the after work voting crowd. 

Um, no.


I waited in line with two babies for almost two hours.  In my 13 years of voting, I'd never waited in line, so I didn't think to bring the stroller or a snack or anything.  Obviously, I can't trust Noah not to run off if I sit him down, so I held him the whole time.  Without the Ergo.  That didn't suck or anything.

But, I cast my vote and got my nifty sticker.


The kicker, though, is that Jason went after work to vote.  Took him a whole 15 minutes.  D'oh. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

It's Spooky In Here

We were very excited for Halloween this year since Harper finally gets it.  We're also a little bit worried because when we practiced Trick-or-Treating with her, the most common phrase was "Give me more candy."  I had originally planned on the babies being Link and Zelda for Halloween, and had even made Noah's costume, but Harper was adamant about being Minnie Mouse.  Noah, obviously, would have to be Mickey. 


I wasn't thrilled with any of the store-bought Mickey and Minnie costumes so I made a tutu for Harper and hemmed some red pants for Noah.  All together, I spent around $35 between the tulle and the ears.  I was pretty impressed with how they turned out, if I do say so myself. 



Kaelin picked out a butterfly costume from Walmart back in September.  Unfortunately, she had a growth spurt and her costume was a little bit, um, on the short side.  She wound up wearing her Renaissance Faire dress, but wasn't too happy about it. 


Jason took the kids out while I stayed home and handed out candy to the few kids who came by.  It was kind of disappointing after all the kids we had at our old house, especially after all the time we put into decorating.  Oh well, at least the house looked awesome! 








Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Pumpkin Muffin Recipes

Every fall, I make pumpkin muffins.  This year, I was tasked with making muffins for the Men's Breakfast that the PTSA holds so, of course, they would be of the pumpkin variety.  I made my standby Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins and decided to try a new recipe, Cinnamon Pumpkin Cheesecake Muffins.  The new muffins were a hit, so much so that Jason stole quite a few before I was able to wrap them up for school.



Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins (makes ~18 large muffins)
Filling
8 oz cream cheese
1/4 c powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Muffins
3 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ginger
2 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
4 eggs
2 cups (15 oz) pumpkin
1 1/4 cup light olive oil
pumpkin seeds or chopped nuts (optional)

Directions
1.  Preheat oven to 350.
2.  Mix ingredients for muffins until smooth.
3.  In separate bowl, mix ingredients for filling.
4.  Fill muffin tins half full.  Spoon 1 tbsp of filling onto the muffin mixture.  Add more muffin mixture until tin is full.
5.  Sprinkle with seeds or nuts if desired.
6.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Cinnamon Pumpkin Cheesecake Muffins (makes ~18 large muffins)
Topping
3 tbsp butter
4 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
4 tbsp sugar
pumpkin seeds or chopped nuts (optional)

Filling
8 oz cream cheese
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp brown sugar

Muffins
3 cups all purpose flour
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
2 cups (15 oz) pumpkin
1/3 cup light olive oil

Directions
1.  Preheat oven to 375.
2.  Mix ingredients for muffins until smooth.
3.  In separate bowl, mix ingredients for filling.
4.  In separate bowl, mix topping ingredients with fork until mixture crumbles.
5.  Fill muffin tins 3/4 full.  Add 1 tbsp of cream cheese filling.  Sprinkle on ~1/2 tbsp of the topping.
6.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.


Tips for muffins:  Allow cream cheese to warm at room temperature for a bit before mixing it.  Completely filling the muffin tins creates larger "domed" muffins.  If you want smaller muffins, fill the tins ~2/3 of the way.  I use muffin liners and spray them with oil to keep the muffins from tearing when the paper is removed.