Tuesday, August 26, 2008

XStra! XStra! XS Gold

October 24th Update:click here!

Let the countdown begin.

Twenty days to go...

October 24th Update:click here!

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Fast "Fake" Chocolate Croissants

I came upon a fabulous way to make quick and easy chocolate croissants.

A tube of refrigerated crescent rolls and chocolate chips.

How simple is that!?

My one word of advice is to use good chocolate like Ghiradelli. The better the chocolate, the fewer the chips needed.

So I'd say about 10-12 chips per croissant.

Just roll 'em up in the dough and bake at 375 degrees for about 12 minutes.

Fast, tasty, easy, and a bargain.

Remember your CarbBlocker :)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Andy Warhol Meets Willie Wonka

A couple of weeks ago, Matt brought home an invitation from a friend of his to a "grand opening" for a toy design and product invention company where his friend works.

Lund and Company Invention has been around for a while but they were celebrating a move to their new ultra-hip digs.

The kids were invited, so I'm thinking a cute little kid's birthday party type of affair.

Well...all I can say is that the party was stunning, overwhelming, odd, captivating, trippy.

We walk to the front door and there are two spotlights criss-crossing the sky.

We are greeted first by a fire-eating guy and then a stilt dude.

We enter the building, and the kids are given a password which opens up a bookcase revealing a hidden room.

We walk through the room, greeted by a bunch of characters dressed up in different costumes.

We pass by Tigger as he's assisting brave ones climbing the walls.

A three-piece band plays with great gusto.

A fully stocked bar includes everything for adults and children--even juice boxes.

A server continually passes around highly dangerous Cocktails by Jenn Lemon Drops.

"Oh," I think, "aren't these so cute!" I'm not a drinker and yet proceeded to slurp down three of them in our two-hour stint.

The kids have a field day as they play and draw on helium-filled balloons the size of stability core balls.

People in tailed tuxes with gold ties and cummerbunds circulate. I later find out that these are all the employees of the company--the inventors.

Throughout the entire area are:
*big platters of brownies the size of a cat's head
*plates of chocolate turtles and other rich creations
*Chicago-style hot dogs
*Chicago-style Italian beefs
*a bar of tall cylinder containers filled with candy--jelly beans, chocolate, licorice and little yellow logo bags beckoning to be loaded up

We meet Party Animals:
*Tara the 325-pound Tiger
* Mindy the purple-dress-wearing Monkey
* Max the white ugly freakish Boa Constrictor
* And a wide range of "spirited" men and women

We enter a room that is filled with writings and pictures all over the walls, and the kids add their mark to the collection.

As we leave, the kids are bid farewell by the owner, Bruce Lund, who's dressed like Frazier Thomas the Circus Manager from the Bozo Circus Show.

We get out the door and as we walk down the path to the sidewalk, we are given parting gifts, including some funky pens, by a couple of sparkly fairy ladies.

Whew! It's like having a Super Bowl in your living room. Outrageous and fun!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Quick Stop at Niagara Falls

As we drove back to Chicago, we thought we'd take a few hours to check out Niagara Falls.

Niagara Falls is broken out in to four separate regions, but we opted to just visit the actual Falls--American Falls and Horseshoe Falls.

First we took a trolley around the State Park, which was pretty lame, particularly when our driver decided to get off and chat with drivers of other trolleys for 13 minutes. And it probably would have been a longer stop had Matt not gotten off and given a silent 30-yard glare at the state employees.

We then headed on over to a boat ride to get up close and personal to the Falls. First on the Observation Tower:

A quick pic of the Rainbow Bridge which connects New York, USA to Ontario, Canada:

And then on the Maid of the Mist boat tour:
(see video below)

Our journey was complete after a visit to the souvenir shop for a tree ornament (my choice) and a magnet (Matt's choice):

Monday, August 18, 2008

An Appetite for Good Health

I've gotten to experience a different side of America than my familiar world three blocks from Whole Foods Market and as a Nutrilite marketer.

As we've traveled across seven states--Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire--I've noticed that most people are ignorant about what they are consuming. And how it affects their bodies in terms of energy levels, as well as their health--short term and long term.

Now, when I say "ignorant" I am using the dictionary definition of the word--lacking knowledge or information as to a particular subject or fact.

Why is it that, for the most part, people lack knowledge regarding the correlation between what they put into their bodies and how their bodies will perform, now and in the future?

I too was ignorant in regards to nutrition and wellness. But as time goes by, I have made it a priority to gain more knowledge and insight in this arena, as well as to share it with others.

A good primer for people is the 2004 Academy Award-nominated movie Super Size Me. It is 100 minutes well worth watching. This educational and amusing movie isn't just about fast food. Among other things, it illustrates just how messed up we've gotten in our relationship with what we put into our bodies each and every day.

Many people focus on trying to lose weight, but here's the bigger issue: the eating habits that have caused any given individual to be overweight in the first place.

When I first decided to lose weight, admittedly it was vanity that drove me. I was in a dressing room trying on clothes and disgusted that I had to go up yet another size. But what kept the weight off (30 pounds on a 5'2" frame) all these years was a desire for wellness. Being svelte is simply a positive byproduct.

I wanted to feel good--mentally and physically--plain and simple. I didn't care what the bathroom scale said. I cared how I felt. I wanted to have energy and vitality. I wanted to be sharp mentally. I wanted to be positive and happy and have a great outlook on life.

And I started to notice that food played a major factor. As I became aware that certain foods made me feel lethargic and crabby and just plain yucky, I started to look at food differently.

Now when I eat, I ask myself, "Twenty minutes from now, will I be energized by eating this or will I want to go take a nap?"

That simple question, asked over and over again, has reaped great benefits.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Road Trip

We headed Eastbound toward New England to visit Matt's family on Wednesday.

Matt and I debated the best strategy to conquer this thousand-mile journey with two five-year olds.

We opted to start our drive only a couple hours before the kids' bedtime, which allowed us to cover almost 500 miles without needing to give much attention to the kids.

About an hour away from Erie Pennsylvania we called a couple of hotels and chose to rest for a few hours at a Marriot TownePlace Suites. The kids woke up as we carried them to the room, and they started to explore and enjoy the hotel room equipped with a galley kitchen.

Our son proceeded to ask at least a dozen questions, including if the refrigerator had a butter dish, before they drifted off to sleep, looking mighty cozy with their fluffy white pillows and down comforter. It was actually a really nice room, very clean, nicely decorated, and comfortable. Too bad we were there for less than nine hours to enjoy it!

Then we were off on the road again, with next 5o0 miles not as quiet as the first. (see video below)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Pair of Sox

I haven’t been to a ballgame in years, so I was surprised at all the non-baseball activity occurring at a recent White Sox-Red Sox game.

Baseball is a slow activity, so I’m assuming that they’ve had to liven things up a bit to capture and hold people’s attention.

Throughout the game Matt happily pelted me with stats, which I have probably retained less than two percent of all those facts and figures.

We were in season ticket holders’ seats, so we had to be undercover as we rooted for the Red Sox. Kind of an interesting experience: To be excited on the inside and neutral on the outside.

We saw:

Billy Dee Williams throw out the first pitch

The U.S. Navy Parachute Team, the Leap Frogs descend on the field (see video below)

The cast of Jersey Boys sing the National Anthem

People around us consuming energy-giving (not) items like beer, soda, Cracker Jack, Super Ropes, hot dogs, and nachos.

Oh and by the way, Red Sox beat the White Sox 5-1.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Happy Birthday Twinkies!

Our kids turned five years old a few days ago. It was wall-to-wall activity from the moment they woke up until the moment their little heads hit their pillows.

Here is the Itinerary for Twelve Hours of Birthday Fun

*The kids attended their last day of summer camp complete with frozen fruit bars and a rendtion of Happy Birthday to You for each of them

*The kids opened presents including Klutz Ribbon Collections from Grandma and Grandpa

*We all drove to downtown Chicago to Navy Pier

*We rode the ferris wheel a couple of times

*The kids rode the carousel

*We ate french fries and ketchup

*We had a very short-lived minature golf game before abandoning the idea because of the long wait between holes

*We drove to California Pizza Kitchen and enjoyed pasta

*The kids had HUGE sundaes complete with hot fudge and whipped cream, leaving very little for their mom and dad.

* The kids barely stayed awake for the short ride home.

* All four of us snuggled in to one bed together and fell asleep.

*Matt and I woke up with cricks in our necks, put everyone in their own beds, and promptly fell back to sleep until morning.

Having fun can be exhausting!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Ribbon Gift Collections

I asked the kids what they each wanted for their 5th birthday. Both said, "The book Cayla got." About two months ago, they were invited to a birthday party and gave Cayla a Klutz Ribbon of Choice.

Ribbon is like a gift card in some respects, and better than a gift card in other respects:

1) It's easy and convenient. I give the recipient the album and/or the gift card, they choose and redeem online, and the gift gets sent right to their door.

2) It fits any budget. The Ribbons range in price from $25 to $500 (all prices include shipping of the gift!).

3) Unlike traditional gift cards, a recipient gets a full gift without having to dip in to their own pocket. With traditional gift cards, a person goes to the store to redeem it, and it’s a game of picking something out that is close to the gift card dollar amount, without going too much over, so that they don’t have to shell out too much additional money to get their gift.

4) It offers popular name-brand gifts such as adidas, Ghirardelli, Cuisinart and Sony.

5) It's personal. Rather than giving someone just one step removed from cash, they receive an actual present without knowing exactly how much you spent.

6) It's a success. You know that the person is getting what they really want, because they get to choose.

7) It's backed by a 100% satisfaction guarantee and great customer service. If anything is wrong with the gift card/album or the gift, a solution is right in sight with no hassles.

8) It's backed by Amway Global, a 50-year solid company, with no fears of Chapter 11, like some traditional gift card issuers are currently facing.

9) It's for all gift-giving needs--personal and professional. Currently there are 19 different albums to choose from , with some "specialty" albums designed specifically for occasions like a wedding or baby shower; or to fit a special focus like my favorite "Pamper" for those who need a little TenderLovingCare.

10) Coupled with Quixtar/Amway Global's patented DITTO program, Ribbon is an easy and efficient way to budget and fulfill your gift-giving needs throughout the entire year.

I am a big fan of Ribbon, and I guess now so are my kids!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Happy Anniversary

Matt and I celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary today and have been together for almost nineteen years total.

That is mind-boggling to me. I remember when I first met Matt and within the first few meetings I thought to myself, "What are you doing in my life right now? You aren't supposed to show up for another fifteen years."

I had it in my head that I'd be ready for the man I was to spend the rest of my life with after I had made my most foolish mistakes in my 20s and early 30s.

Maybe I thought that if anyone truly knew me, before I was "perfect" (which I guess is supposed to occur when you are 35 in the mind of a 20-year old), they wouldn't want to stick around. Well Matt does truly know me, warts and all, and he continues to stick around.

I've enjoyed growing up with Matt (we are still growing up rather than growing old at this point) and doing this thing called "life" together.

Just like anything worth pursuing, marriage takes focus, attention, and effort. But it wasn't until after I committed myself to Matt and this marriage (which honestly occurred a few years after the wedding day) that I was willing to put in that effort, attention, and focus.

It was when I learned that from a commitment flows all the blessings. W.N. Murray says:

"Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would otherwise never have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way."

Along with being a parent, being the wife that God has called me to be has been the most intense, confronting, and most fulfilling role of my life.

We are more in love, and love each other more, than ever before. We are best friends and enjoy each other's company more than anyone else's.

One of the best gifts Matt gives me daily is laughter. Looking back on when our kids were first born almost five years ago, if I didn't have Matt's amazing sense of humor, I think I would have slowly gone mad. I remember one of the many, many, many challenging days when the two of us were drowning in parenthood, and Matt started on this mock tirade regarding our pretend help. "Where's Omar? This is the third time this week he's been late. Where's Hazel? She was supposed to do all the laundry today. Have you seen Gwendolyn? This kitchen is a mess. That's it! She's fired!"

For our anniversary celebration I requested dessert and go karts. Miniature golf was Matt's idea, and though I am not big on miniature golf (or maxiture golf for that matter) it was a blast as Matt quoted from the mock rockumentary This is Spinal Tap at the beginning of each and every hole.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Simple Beauty in Under Four Minutes

About a year ago I started using an Aritstry Essentials Makeup Kit.

This is some excellent mineral makeup, but in addition to the quality and great price (half the price of the competition), what really sold me was the simplicty and ease of the kit.
Let's face it, a product can be excellent, but if it just sits there on your bathroom counter or in a drawer, what good is it?

I thought that I didn't have time to "put on my face" because I'm a mom of young kids. But the reality is that I've always lacked that "girly" gene. I am not one of those women who has 13 lipsticks. Just the thought of owning 13 lipsticks is enough to make my head spin.

I'm a simple gal who likes simple things. If I have too many choices in front of me I get paralyzed and refuse to participate at all. The only major choice I've had to make with the kits is deciding if I needed the light, medium, or dark. Very easy, very simple.

And the exciting part for me is that I've actually been using the makeup. It takes me three minutes and 53 seconds to apply everything I need. Having a nice, natural look has led to many compliments, which has led to a slight increase in my self-esteem.

Oh yes, I'm supposed to be spiritual and say that it's the inner beauty that counts. But come on, let's get real. I can have the glow of God, but there ain't nothing wrong with avoiding looking like I just rolled out of bed.

A kit includes: mineral foundation, concealer, color-quad for eyes and cheeks, lip shine, mascara, eye brush and face brush.