Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Emergency Sleepover

Sunday night, several hours after Irene had passed, our power went out. When it was still out Monday morning I packed up the kids and headed over to my mom's where we spent the night. We all slept in the living room - the toddler in his pack-n-play, the other 3 on the sofa bed and myself on the far right of the couch. Daddy stayed home to watch over the house.

My crew taking over Grammy's living room.

Before you say how sweet they look, note that this picture was preceded by an hour of "mommy, he's touching me!"

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Easily Convert PDF to Word with Adobe ExportPDF

It is pretty easy nowadays to convert Word documents into PDF. I remember way back when, when I was still working, that you needed to have the full, paid version of Adobe Acrobat installed on your computer in order to save a file as a PDF. Now, that feature is built in directly Microsoft word and I love it. It comes in very handy when I need to update my media kit at least twice a month.

But did you ever convert something to PDF and then lose the original Word version? You need to update it and make some changes, but you can't find it. You search your computer's folders high and low and yet somehow it is just inexplicably gone.  If you never experienced this then you are lucky. I have had this happen and believe me it is not fun. The reason is because I was left with nothing else to do but recreate the entire document from scratch. I remember this happening with a double sided legal document, with tiny print of course, and it was torture typing it all over.

Well now Adobe has a program that can export PDF to Word called Adobe ExportPDF. This is an online service that allows you to upload your PDF and then converts it into an editable Word document for you. Even the page and font attributes are maintained. Where the heck was this 6 years ago when I really needed it?

If you frequently create PDF documents from your Word files than I cannot emphasize enough the importance of keeping your digital files organized and easy to find. And backed up! This will save you so much aggravation. But should you misplace the original Word document somehow, at least you know there is Adobe ExportPDF to help you out.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

OK Irene, We're Ready For You

Well, as least I think we are ready for you. Yesterday afternoon the boys and I headed out to Stop & Shop for a few necessities and then fill up the minivan with gas. Traffic in town was INSANE. Surprisingly, the grocery store wasn't too bad. There was one loaf of Nature's Promise bread left so I grabbed it, but there was still plenty of other brands of bread on the shelves. Just a few hours after I left my sister-in-law went in and there was no bread to be found.

Photo courtesy of my awesome sister-in-law.

On the way back home I headed into the gas station and could not believe how packed it was. There are eight pumps and the line for each was about five cars. Thank god for DVD players and iPhones to keep us entertained while we waited...and waited.

We waited a long time.
After dinner last night my husband cleared the deck of all of our patio furniture, umbrellas, toys and the gas grill. Everything is in the shed except for the grill which he put in the garage in case we need it. We figure if the power is out for a while we can grill some food.

Bye-bye stuff.

I have been hard at work filling up containers and plastic bags full of filtered water and putting them in the freezer. We are also making bags of ice. We have a freezer box in the basement so if we lose power we will try to pack all of our perishables in there with all of the ice to keep it cold for as long as possible. Hubby also filled several buckets with water for flushing toilets and after baths tonight I will fill up the tub as well.

Those old Chinese food containers came in handy.

Ziplocs full of water to freeze. 

We have been getting steady raining for a few hours now. It seems the very edge of Irene is getting near. The projected path has Irene passing right through Connecticut with the eye going just East of us. Needless to say it is a little scary.

I love my iPhone.

Irene's projected path as of Saturday morning, courtesy NBC Connecticut.

It looks like the real heavy rains are going to start around midnight for us. I think we are as ready as we are going to be for Irene. Of course we will  monitor the progress but I am trying to not freak out the kids so I am keeping it off the TV for now.

For all of you also in Irene's path I am thinking of you and hope you all stay safe.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Bracing for Hurricane Irene

We don't usually get much hurricane activity up this way. Maybe some residual rain and win, but nothing too serious. In fact the last one I remember was Hurricane Gloria from way back in the early 80's. I think I was about 5 and we were living in Yonkers, NY with my grandparents. I remember sitting by the window and watching as the hurricane winds were bending birch trees over till their tops practically touched the ground.

Courtesy of NBC Connecticut
Well apparently Hurricane Irene is heading straight for Connecticut this weekend and is due to hit us on Sunday. The path right now shows the eye of the storm passing right through our area. What fun!

During the winters when big snow stores are on the way, I laugh at the people flocking to the stores for bread and water. Yet tomorrow I will be one of those people. It is better to be prepared, right? I have to bring the boys to school for the open house after lunch, but then we will have to hit Stop & Shop for some basics. Goody, out shopping with four kids for the second time this week. Can you tell how much I am looking forward to that?

According to Facebook chatter from local friends, the stores are already wiped out. I anticipate it will be insane there and I may not even get what I need. Though I bet the organic bread is probably the last to go, so maybe I have a chance? We will see.

The worst part is that if there is a lot of damage or power outages this could affect the first day of school on Monday, Which is disappointing for me because I have been counting down till the first day of school ever since the last day of school.

Are you in Irene's path? What are you doing to prepare? Any tips for this hurricane rookie?

Green Giveaway Friday Linky 8/26

So we have lots of preparing to do this weekend. Monday is supposed to be the first day of school. However, hurricane Irene is due to hit us on Sunday. Not looking forward to Irene's visit at all. I hope everyone in Irene's path stays safe!

Please add both your green and non-green giveaways and contests into Mr. Linky below so we can do some giveaway hoppin! Be sure to include the expiration date. Thanks!

You can also submit your green giveaways to me during the week for me to feature on Fridays.

Blogging Good News
Tropical Traditions Organic Canadian Raw Honey 8/28

Crunchy Beach Mama
$50 ReNew Life 8/29
UPrinting 500 Piece Letterhead 8/30
Surf Sweets Organic Gummy Candy 9/7

Family Focus Blog
Dinosaur Toy  9/6
Pro Chef Toy  9/7
$50 Visa Gift Card  9/8
$50 GC Green Earth Bamboo 9/12

Organic Chico Produce & Nut Wash 8/31

Jem's Room
NaturOli Soap Nuts 8/26

The Mom Buzz
Sip n Go Water Bottles 8/31

Obviously MARvelous
Earthbound Farm 9/2

Outdoor Living
Solar Fountain 8/31

Playful Planet

Storyland Yoga DVD & Mosabee bPlayful Yoga Mat

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Easy Rice Pilaf Recipe

Ever since I was little I have been eating this rice pilaf. It is one of those family recipes that started with my great-grandmother (also Marianna) and then was made by my grandmother, my mother and now me. This is a super easy and basic recipe with nothing fancy, but my kids love it. And that alone makes it a winner in this house! This makes a great side for roasted chicken and many other chicken dishes.

As is the case with most family recipes, many ingredients are eye balled and have no exact measurements. I use white long grain rice so be sure to adjust your cooking time and liquid quantity if you use another rice like brown.

Rice Pilaf Recipe

2 cups white long grain rice
4 cups (32 oz box) of low sodium chicken broth
a handful of uncooked spaghetti
a couple tablespoon salted butter

1. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat.
2. When butter is completely melted, break spaghetti into one inch pieces and add to butter.
3. Cook spaghetti till lightly browned, constantly stirring to avoid burning.
4. Add in chicken broth, increase heat and bring to a boil.
5. Reduce heat to low, cover and let cook for 20 minutes
6. When done, fluff with a fork and serve.

This would also taste yummy with fresh veggies like peas, carrots, mushrooms, etc.

Melt butter over medium-low heat.

Add spaghetti pieces to butter

Stir constantly till lightly browned.

I prefer organic, low -sodium chicken broth.

Pour in chicken broth, raise heat to medium-high and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Fluff and serve. Yum!

SwimWays End of Summer Sale

Summer is winding down and kids across the country are heading back to school. Maybe you live in a warmer climate where you can swim year round or maybe you are in an area like me and you have only a few weeks left of pool time. Either way, you can stock up on some great SwimWays gear and toys at their end of summer sale! All items in their online store are 20% to 70% off. That includes pool toys, pool games, pool floats, pool decorations, swim training gear and more!

Maybe next year you think your little swimmer will move up to Swim Steps 3 - well you can buy the Swim Vest for $24.95 and be ready to go when the warm weather hits in 2012. Want to grab some fun pool toys for the kids to play with?  My boys love the Rainbow Reef Fish and there is also a Rainbow Reef Turtle. There are also plenty of underwater diving toys and hoops for the more advanced swimmers.

Or maybe mom and dad need a float to sit and relax in while in the pool with the family. My personal favorite is the Spring Float Recliner. This pool float open and folds up easily, inflates and deflates quickly and is equipped with a backrest, headrest, cup holder and ottoman so that you can relax in comfort. What better way to enjoy the cool water and warm sun than leaning back on this float with your drink there with you. (Remember, don't drink alcohol when swimming- its dangerous!)

The SwimWays End of Summer Sale is running from August 20 through September 5 so be sure to head over their soon and check it out. Spend $100 and you will also receive free shipping.

As a Swim Team Ambassador, I received free products for my family to use this summer. The opinions and views expressed in this post are my own.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

There Should Be Rules For Shopping Carts

Yesterday myself and the boys headed to Target for some back to school shopping. Silly me thought that going on a weekday afternoon would save me from the crowds. Um, wrong. Hello, you are not the only stay at home mom in Connecticut! It was insane, especially since our Target is being remodeled.

So in the parking lot I quickly threw two of the boys in a standard shopping cart just to get us inside so I could transfer them to one of the boats shopping carts that holds three kids. Our Target recently got new all plastic carts and they are seriously awesome. The larger one, which I can't find a picture of anywhere, has an addition in the front that seats two children side by side. The last time we were there I put the toddler in the regular seat and the twins in the side by side while the 6 year old walked. It worked brilliantly.

We get inside and of course, no big carts to be found. Great. The store is packed and I don't want the twins roaming around. So I throw both of them in the "cargo area" where they are practically sitting on each other. As we shop I have no choice but to put items on them. So there they sit with backpacks, folders and lunch box supplies piled on top of them. And because I was in a pissy mood now, I kept my eye out for the big carts to see who was using them. Why? Because I have seen on multiple occasions a parent with just one kid take these and it makes my blood boil.

I did end up seeing two of the multi-child holding carts as we shopped. One was being used by a mom of 3 - good that is who should be using it. The second was being pushed by a mom with two kids in it which normally is OK, but her kids looked like they were about 6 and 10. Seriously? Your 10 year old can't walk? My 6 year old loves to walk around the store and on the rare occasion that he does get tired, he will stand on the cart bottom and hold on while I push. But even if you did want your 6 year old to sit, couldn't you get a single cart and have the 10 year old walk? Here I am with my toddler and two preschoolers squished in a tiny cart while your big kids are lounging about and being driven around the store. It is just so inconsiderate.

So here is my rule proposal. You should only use the multi-child shopping carts if :
1. You have 2 or more children and
2. said children are too young to walk the store themselves. What is a good cut off age? 6?

Eventually I took one of the twins out once they started punching each other in the head. Awesome. So I held his hand while I steered the cart with the other. Normally I love shopping at Target but I couldn't get out of their fast enough. Shopping with 4 kids during back to school time is no fun at all.

Oh and I missed the Earthquake while I was in there which has me feeling very left out. People all around that area felt it, but for some reason we did not feel it inside Target. Boo.

Have you ever missed out on the big cart because someone who didn't really need it was using it? What did you do? (Or am I just nuts?)

Wordless Wednesday: Vacation 2011

Are you sick of me talking about my vacation yet? Sorry, one more post! Just a few pictures from our trip.

Ocean view from the deck of the house we stayed at. Loved it!

Digging a huge hole provides hours of entertainment.

Hard at work.

When shovels become lightsabers.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I'd Love to Own a Vacation Home

For generations, my family has been vacationing at the New Jersey shore. Long before the ding dongs on MTV were - why are people so obsessed with them? Anyway, every year we would rent a house and stack as many people in it as possible. Way back when I was little this consisted of my grandparents, my aunts, uncles, cousins, brother, mom and myself. Yeah like 20 people crammed in a house that technically sleeps 8. I spent many years sleeping on a air mattress while my cousin slept on 2 chairs pushed together. It was crazy insane but that is what made it so much fun.

As we have all grown older and either moved away or started families of our own, obviously it is not possible for us all to vacation together like that anymore. So now our vacation house is made up our family of 6, my brother, sister-in-law and their three kids and my mom and step-dad. If you are keeping score that is 6 adults and 7 kids. Did I mention they have twin boys too? It is crazy, but fun.

The house we rented this year. Just 4 houses from the beach. It.Was.Awesome.

Every year I dream about how awesome it would be to just own a vacation house on the Jersey Shore and be able to go whenever we want and stay as long as we want. So at some point we will pick up a few real estate books and drool over all of the beautiful homes right on the beach that we could never afford.If you think about how much we have spent renting homes over the years we probably could have bought something, but it is much easier to spend a little bit each year then to just flat out buy a home.

So owning a vacation home remains on my list of things to do if I ever win the lotto. If I ever play.

Do you dream of owning a vacation home? Where would it be?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Vacation Is Exhausting

We arrived back home from our one week vacation on Saturday and this mama is still trying to recover. With four young children, vacation consists of very little relaxing and a whole lot of craziness. The six year old and four year old's were actually pretty good. They listened on the beach and didn't stray from our sides. However the 20 month old is a totally different story. He spent the majority of his time running up and down and back and forth on the beach, chasing seagulls, running on the beach, stealing other kids toys, running on the beach and destroying all sand castles in a one mile radius.

Did I mention running around the beach?

Taking a stroll with daddy.

The first three days of our trip were rainy wash outs but the last thee days were sunny. By the third day on the beach my husband and I had divided up the beach into two zones. The front half of the beach, from our "campsite" to the water was his to cover. And the back half was mine. It didn't really matter, he was all over the darn place.

On Saturday when we got home I actually went to bed at 8:30pm out of pure exhaustion. I am still working on feeling normal again. We did have a great time though and the boys loved it all. But now it is good to be back home and sleeping in my own bed.

I look forward to the days where I can actually sit for more than 30 seconds at a time on the beach. Fingers crossed for next year!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Green Giveaway Friday Linky 8/19

Lots of kids went back to school this week, did yours? If not then when does school start back up in your neck of the woods? We start on August 29th and this mom is looking forward to it.

Please add both your green and non-green giveaways and contests into Mr. Linky below so we can do some giveaway hoppin! Be sure to include the expiration date. Thanks!

You can also submit your green giveaways to me during the week for me to feature on Fridays.

Blogging Good News
Tropical Traditions Organic Canadian Raw Honey 8/28

Crunchy Beach Mama
Flip MinoHD Video Camera 8/23

Family Focus Blog
Baby Bullet 8/22
$50 Visa Gift Card 9/8

Organic Chico Produce & Nut Wash 8/31

Jem's Room
NaturOli Soap Nuts 8/26

The Mom Buzz
Bobble Lunchbox 8/20
Sip n Go Water Bottles 8/31

Obviously MARvelous
Earthbound Farm 9/2

Organic Mama
Amazon $25 Gift Certificate

Outdoor Living
Solar Fountain 8/31

Thanks Mail Carrier
Seventh Generation Free & Clear Diapers 8/19
Rubbermaid Spray Mop & Microfiber Cloths 8/23

Thursday, August 18, 2011

How to Get Started with Composting

Composting is nature's way of breaking down and returning to the earth organic materials. By composting, you're helping to prevent pollution by avoiding contributing even more trash from rotting in landfills and instead, recycling naturally. Things otherwise known as trash decompose and return to an organic compound that can be used to enrich and fertilize your lawn and garden. Not only are you helping the environment by composting, you'll in turn have a more productive garden and reap the cost saving benefits from reducing the need to purchase harmful chemicals, potting soils, and additional water.

To properly compost, four ingredients need to be present - carbon, nitrogen, water, and oxygen. When composting there should be an approximate 2 to 1 ratio between carbon and nitrogen. The easiest way for me to keep carbons and nitrogens straight are to think of them in terms of colors - browns and greens. Carbon sources are usually brown and dry, while nitrogen tend towards things that grow and have a wet texture.

Now you're ready to start composting. But what can you compost? There are so many things that can be composted, it really does boggle the mind. Some items that can be composted are the following:

~ coffee grounds
~ vegetable and fruit scraps (including peelings, cores, and seeds)
~ tea leaves/bags
~ stale bread
~ eggshells
~ hay and straw
~ hair and fur
~ grass clippings
~ leaves
~ shredded paper with minimal ink
~ wood chips
~ yard trimmings (no diseased plants)
~ cardboard rolls
~ dryer and vacuum lint
~ shredded newspaper
~ cotton/wool rags
    Things that you should avoid adding to your compost pile are the following:

    ~ dairy products
    ~ meat, fish and poultry (including bones)
    ~ fats, greases, and oils
    ~ food sauces
    ~ sugary foods
    ~ ashes and charcoal
    ~ invasive weeds
    ~ any trimmings treated with chemical pesticides
    ~ treated wood
    ~  pet feces (manure is okay)
    ~ non-organics (plastic, metal, glass - recycle these)

      What are your thoughts on composting?  Are you inspired to start?

      Kelly is a Type A mom living in Austin.  She's a stay-at-home mom and blogs at Texas Type A Mom about family, food, reviews, and living a green life in Texas.

      Wednesday, August 17, 2011

      Wordless Wednesday: Experimenting with Aperture

      A few weeks ago I read a blog post over on Look What Mom Found... And Dad Too! about DSLR for dummies and how to start taking photos in manual mode. This post also talked about playing with the aperture settings. I've had my Canon DSLR camera for over a year and half and I have always just used it on manual. Learning how to truly use it just seems so overwhelming. But I decided to give it a go and I was pleasantly surprised with my results.

      My beautiful hydrangeas.

      More hydrangeas.

      My lone sunflower in the yard.

      A hummingbird moth enjoying some nectar from our butterfly bush.

      OK so right now you may be thinking - so what? How are these pictures any different or any better than pictures you have posted in the past? I will let you see for yourself with a comparison of this week's WW pictures to some WW pictures from earlier this summer. The older photos were taken with my iPhone 4.

      iPhone 4
      Canon DSLR

      iPhone 4
      Canon DSLR

      It is amazing what a good camera can do. I'm anxious to keep experimenting and to get better so I can eventually take great pictures of my kids!

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