Birthday Bucket List: Make a KIVA Loan

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Well I marked another thing off of my birthday bucket list. Last week I donated $25 to Damaris in Honduras.

1518158Damaris is 31 years old and married. She lives with her husband in the village of Nueva Frontera, Santa Bárbara. Previously, she had a convenience store.

For eight years now she has worked growing basic staples such as corn, beans, and coffee. She sells these products in the area where she lives. Her loan is for 17,000 lempiras. She will invest it in the purchase of fertilizers and in cleaning her coffee field, to keep it maintained and get better harvests. Her goal is to buy half a “manzana” [a manzana = about 1.7 acres] to sow coffee.

There are so many options for finding the person you want to loan to! Because of the difference in currency rates, $25 USD can go so much farther in different countries.

FROM KIVA’S WEBSITE:

“We are a non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Leveraging the internet and a worldwide network of microfinance institutions, Kiva lets individuals lend as little as $25 to help create opportunity around the world.”

Learn more about how it works.

If you would like to join and help those around the world try to make a better life, please use the link here: http://www.kiva.org/invitedby/cindy8457 For every new referral, KIVA will give me a free $25 loan to give to another individual who needs a little help to provide for themselves and families!

I agree so much with Kiva’s purpose which is stated below:

“We envision a world where all people – even in the most remote areas of the globe – hold the power to create opportunity for themselves and others.

We believe providing safe, affordable access to capital to those in need helps people create better lives for themselves and their families.”

Would you consider donating today?

http://www.kiva.org/invitedby/cindy8457

Learning to NOT Make Dinner from a Box

Over the last year and a half, we have fallen into this terrible habit of cooking something out of a box with directions and everything preserved in small packages. For example: the first full year that we lived together in our own apartment (when Khloe was thankfully still young enough to be eating baby food) we cooked and ate every version of Hamburger Helper and Chicken Helper available. Oh, and spaghetti. We ate A LOT of spaghetti. I am not putting down Hamburger Helper or spaghetti meals, obviously we aren’t the only family to purchase them or the companies would have already went under. Ha! BUT I was so tired of feeling like we always ate the same things, and never anything truly healthy. FYI: browned hamburger meat and packages full of preservatives are not much more healthy than fast food in my opinion but what can I say, we were young and broke and this was a new experience for us.

Now I do want to make this clear, this is not a rant about eating truly wholesome, pesticide-free, antibiotic-free, whatever-else-you-want-to-claim-is-dangerous-free foods, etc. This is just my adventure in attempting to provide our family with varieties, albeit sometimes more healthy, and definitely a more flavorful menu.

**Corn Chowder  This inspiration came from Myra over at http://www.myblessedlife.net She is always cooking up something amazing and I definitely have acknowledged my lack of baking/cooking expertise since following her blog. Haha! This just sounded good from the recipe, but turned out amazing!! And the man of the house was happy it was a soup recipe that actually called for meat and “substance” as he called it. (: http://myblessedlife.net/2013/02/corn-chowder.html

**Easy Crock Pot Potato Soup This recipe actually came from a close friend of mine. She is a busy mom with 4 kids (two sets of twins!) who works a full time job outside of the home, so I think she knew I would love any recipe with the word EASY in the title. I had to try it out when she recommended it.

Ingredients:

  • 1 30 oz. bag of frozen, shredded hash browns
  • 3 14 oz. cans of chicken broth
  • 1 can of cream of chicken soup
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. ground pepper
  • 1 8 oz. package cream cheese
  • bacon, shredded cheddar cheese, green onion, sour cream for garnish

Directions: Combine everything (except cream cheese) in your crock pot. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. About one hour before serving, add cream cheese and cook until thoroughly melted.

Side Note: From experience, definitely make sure ALL of the cream cheese is completely melted. We’ve made this a few times now and definitely have made one set that didn’t get melted completely……

**Taco Soup This also came from Myra at My Blessed Life. I cooked this earlier in the week.. it was great! I will add:  we crushed small round tortilla chips and placed them in the bowl before adding the soup. http://myblessedlife.net/2012/01/taco-soup.html

**Tomato Pie I came across this on a random blog stroll. And guess who the guest post was from? I’ll let you click and find out! (She is a kitchen genius. Pretty sure I should just print every recipe she’s posted and be set for months. LOL!) This was SO good. I had my reservations, but it turned out absolutely amazing. Even the man of the house was very skeptical and then admitted he really like it. This is one of the simplest recipes for an easy meal. Please check it out if you have time!  http://goodcheapeats.com/2010/05/tomato-pie-guest-post/

**Chicken Bacon Club Sandwiches How funny that I actually found this recipe in a Wal-Mart sale paper. They always have a few recipes listed and advertise the ingredients needed, all available at Wal-Mart, of course. This was SO, SO easy and more tasty than our usual chicken sandwich meals. We added some oven baked fries and called it a day.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 Cup Hidden Valley Smoked Bacon Ranch Sandwich Spread & Dip, divided
  • 2 cups cooked chicken
  • 8 slices of sandwich bread, toasted
  • 4 leaves lettuce
  • 1 large tomato, sliced

Directions:

  • Stir chicken and sandwich spread together.
  • Spread 1/2 chicken mixture on 4 slices of toast.
  • Top with lettuce, tomato and remaining toast to create sandwiches.

**Cream of Tomato Soup and 3 Cheese Grilled Cheese This was actually the first recipe I started with on my drive to make more things homemade. I really loved the way it turned out. I will say, I accidentally added too much garlic and had to compensate with extra puree tomatoes and milk to even out the flavor. When we first tried it it was STRONG. Hey, living and learning. This was such a wholesome meal with the three cheese grilled cheese sandwich, made on cheese bread by the way!! Oh my goodness it was so amazing combined with the soup. It was like having a Panera Bread meal at home. (:

http://www.ohsweetbasil.com/2013/02/cream-of-tomato-soup-and-grilled-cheese.html

I’m not even sure how I came across her website or the recipe now, but I will tell you that I am subscribed via email and definitely looking forward to receiving more of the recipes on her page. Go check out Oh Sweet Basil and see what yummy recipes you come across.

Are you a natural in the kitchen, or are you like me and need a little nudge in the right direction every now and then? I’m hoping all of this practice can uncover some long lost skills I just had yet to discover. Ha!

I now realize that we have eaten a lot of soup lately. What can I say, it has been so cold out, I think it fit the occasion (;

A Frozen Birthday Party

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On New Year’s Eve, we took our daughter to the movie theater for the first time! We were a little nervous. It was going to go one of two ways: really great or really terrible. Thankfully, it went really great! She loved the movie and we really enjoyed it too. Our daughter’s birthday was coming up in February, so I had thought, “how cute would it be to have her birthday party in the Frozen theme?!” She had gotten some Frozen dolls and toys for Christmas even before we watched the movie and loved them all. This would be cute with Elsa and Anna Balloons, etc.

Wrong.

Guess what? Disney or whoever is in control of decorated party supplies STILL has yet to release official Frozen party decor. Ugh.

But I made it work! I spent hours on the internet and learned that I am not alone in wanting to plan a Frozen themed party! So I gathered different ideas that I liked and created my own version.

Below you can see where every little girl got to go home with a princess crown, and could be Elsa or Anna (our daughter’s favorite is Elsa).

frozen crowns

But of course, there were quite a few little boys that were coming and I didn’t want to leave them out! So they all got to wear reindeer antlers and be Sven the Reindeer from the movie! Both the crowns and antlers were tied around the kids’ heads with matching ribbons.

frozen svenThis link is where I found the inspiration and templates for the crowns and antlers. http://www.sisterssuitcaseblog.com/2013/12/disney-frozen-party-ideas.html The materials I used were craft foam from Wal-Mart, brown felt to attach to the foam (because that was the one color craft foam that Wal-Mart didn’t have), and thin ribbon.

We also had a craft area where the kids could color pictures of Elsa and Anna, make a door hanger with the Frozen characters, and glue together their own Olaf snowman to take home.Olaf

When it came to other decor, I mainly just decorated the tables and left it at that. I mean, children in attendance were mainly under the age of 5 with the exception of maybe 3 others. They did not care what the place looked like. We did silver, blue, and white balloons. 3 on each table attached to a metallic blue/silver weight. Then I used decorative diamonds, and silver and blue star confetti around the centerpieces. Here are two views of it:

frozen decor frozen table decor

Looked festive without going over board for a three year old’s party. I can get a little excited with the party planning ideas, but I am still realistic with what is REALLY necessary. My next concern was food. Food is the main reason most people end up enjoying or coming to the party. Ha! So I wanted kid friendly, Frozen themed, and enough for adults as well. Whew. I really managed a little of both. We had the common party things like meat and cheese tray, bags of chips, a tray of sliced strawberries/oranges/apples, and animal crackers. Then we had a table with sugar cookies with blue icing, a tray with marshmallows and pretzel sticks with vanilla icing and blue sprinkles, blue jello, blue cupcakes, and blue lemonade. (We also offered bottled water and juice drinks). Last year I totally went over board with the quantity of food.. and we took A LOT of it back home with us. This year, I bought just enough and the only thing extra we took home were some animal crackers, chips, and a few cupcakes. Woohoo!

Frozen cupcakesOh yeah, on the food table there was fake snow everywhere. (:

Frozen foodHere was some of the blue/Frozen themed food!

I got there early to decorate, so when our daughter came in and saw it she was in awe. Which made me happy. She told us “dis was the best party! I can go to the ball now!” (Apparently that had something to do with the fact that Elsa and Anna were princesses?) Whatever, as long as she had fun.

Have you thrown or considered throwing a Frozen party? How did it turn out, or what are you considering to make it more fun? (Hope the official supplies are released when you decide to throw a party in the future!)

Alabama Women Bloggers – Self Interview

gettingtoknowyou-e1371739469559Well, I saw this on Twitter this morning, and thought how fun would that be to meet other female bloggers from my area!

1. What part of the state do you call home?

North Alabama. (The Tennessee Valley)

2. How long have you been blogging?

Since November 2013

3. Why did you start blogging?

Actually, I’m not completely sure. To share my adventures in being a southern mom and the life that happens along the way.

4. What do you love most about blogging?

Reading and “meeting” people from all over! (Not just North Alabama!)

5. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I see my fiance and I married, possibly already having our second (and last) child. By then we also hope to be in cattle farming. MAYBE I’ll be almost through with my Master’s.

6. What is your favorite movie?

I love so many movies, but I think one movie that I have truly loved since I was a child is Pearl Harbor.

7. If you could use any actress to play you in your life, who would you choose and why?

I’m not sure who I have ever considered my celeb look alike. No one? But I think with all of my ambitions and goals, I could always refer to Angelina Jolie. (I know that she may get plenty of negative attitudes and responses, but her over all goal is similar.) She has a passion for children, especially the under privileged children or those who cannot control the circumstances they have found themselves in, and in that, we are similar. I would want her to play my part so that her passion could be genuine and real.

8. Name the top 5 things on your bucket list.

My life bucket list (I have yearly ones that are more event detailed.): 1. Sky dive. 2. Attend my grandchildren’s weddings. 3. Travel to each continent. 4. Make sure my children have the chance to experience culture around the world. 5. Take a road trip with Trevor from East Coast to West Coast.

9. Who or what inspired you to blog?

Just the fact that I love to share my experiences as a mom, hoping to help or encourage someone else along the way.

10. If you could be known for one thing in your life, what would it be?

Changing the lives of children who otherwise thought they never had a chance.

11. Where is your favorite place to go on vacation?

I love the ocean. Anywhere with sand and sun and salt water makes me happy!

12. Describe the best moment in your life.

The day our daughter was born. There are no words to explain those emotions and happiness.

13. We’re headed to your neck of the woods for one day. What is one thing we have to do, and what restaurant we must eat at?

We MUST eat at “the steakhouse”. It’s actual name is Western Sirloin Steakhouse.. but if you call it that, we know you’re not from around here. (; And there is so much to do… it depends on what kind of things you’re into. But I’d definitely prefer to take you to “the mountains”, aka Bankhead National Forest and let you hike the Sipsey River. There’s also a place we found that has a waterfall not on a map.

14. What is a tradition you and your family have?

Christmas has been the same since I was a small child. Christmas Eve with dad’s family, Christmas morning EARLY with my mom, and Christmas breakfast and gifts at my maternal grandmother’s house.

15. We all love social media, share your links so we can follow you.

TWITTER: @britton_cindy

INSTAGRAM: @cindy_britton

Snowmageddon 2014 in Alabama

Okay, so I have always thought, “I like to get snow every now and then.” Correction: I like the thought of getting snow and I like it when it snows ONE inch, then melts by the next day. When we REALLY get snow, I’ve learned that I actually hate it. I hate having to drive in it. As southerners, we just aren’t accustomed to these weather conditions. Other than play in our yards, we do not know how to function in winter storms, and that was proven as a fact last week when it snowed on February 11th and 13th in North Alabama.

Honestly, we all thought that the 11th was bad when it snowed maybe 1.5″, but at least it had melted by noon.

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khloe snow angel

As you can tell there wasn’t even enough snow to cover the ground when our daughter wanted to make a snow angel. We had so much fun, though! It was too powdery for a snowman, but we used the snow on our cars and patio table to make snow balls and had a snow ball fight. By mid-day it was all gone, and we were looking at normal Alabama winter conditions.

Tuesday brought cold, cold, COLD rain in the early morning. By noon, however, it had turned to sleet. I left work early that day just to avoid icy roads and crazy drivers. I pulled in my driveway around 3 p.m. as it started to snow. When it started snowing, it literally NEVER STOPPED until after 11 p.m. I was a little disappointed at first. The ground was so wet from all of the rain, that nothing was sticking. But as the temperature dropped, things started to change. The first picture is when it finally started to stick to the leaves and grass around 3:45.

sticking2-12-14This second picture was around 5 p.m.! That’s how much snow we had gotten total the day before!

5pm 2-11-14

Here we are at 9 p.m. As you can see, snow was still coming down hard. It continued for another TWO HOURS. I seriously don’t remember getting this much snow in North Alabama. I’ve heard stories, but I was either too little to remember or not born yet. That’s how often it happens. My sidewalk is almost invisible! Our driveway had already been that way for a while.

9pm 2-12-14

I also got to mark something off of my 24 Before 24! Making homemade ice cream! When I put that on the list, I thought this would enable me to make an excuse for purchasing an ice cream maker this summer! Well, we made SNOW CREAM! We didn’t have any condensed milk, so we made do with a bowl of snow from our patio table, milk, sugar and vanilla flavoring. Then we crushed up some Butterfingers and added them, making it like a Blizzard! (:

snow cream

We spent Thursday morning taking turns between playing in the snow, breakfast break, and warm up breaks.

Below is what too much snow can do on a poor pine tree that isn’t accustomed to 4-6″ of snow!

fallen tree

My daughter thought the snow was so amazing. (:

snow driveway

Below is my sad attempt at a snow angel. Ha!

snow angel

Of course, later in the morning I had to drag myself to work. I hate driving in icy conditions, and when 6 inches of snow has fell, even with roads grated, people lose their common sense. (Then again, people tend to do that when it sprinkles in July. They suddenly forget how to drive.) But it was definitely worth a few hours of fun with my family!! My daughter sometimes runs to the door and says, “No! We’ll never get to see the snow again!” I promise her there might be more next winter, but I am silently thinking, I don’t want anymore like that for a year or two! Ha!

Build and Grow

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WHERE WERE ALL OF THESE FUN ACTIVITIES WHEN I WAS A SMALL CHILD?

Okay, if I am honest, I had plenty of opportunity for things like this in my grandparents back yard in the shop where I learned to GET AWAY from the table saws as we watched Papaw build hope chests, shelves, and hand craft the cedar trimming that still hangs in my mother’s home to this day. (Which led to a few eventful creations of our own with some left over nails and scrap wood. Let’s just say, I’m sure they ended up as kindling over the years. Ha!)  Or sometimes it was on the front porch where I vowed to never eat another pea or bean again. I guess I never realized how much I was learning or developing during these activities. When you are 9 and you shell enough purple hull peas that your fingers ache and your nails are purple and green for days, you do not feel like you are learning anything. None of these activities, however, included a cute little workshop apron, completion patch for each project, or a free pair of child size safety goggles. Where’s the fun in that?!

Now that I am older, I watch as new activities pop up to teach children the things that I grew up thinking were natural every day fun, like building random things. I have come to realize and appreciate the opportunities I had as a child and understand just how different people’s lives can be even when they live in the same town. I understand that many children are not afforded the hands on involvement we were both given.

With that being said, we unfortunately do not have a workshop, yet. We have already built things together with our daughter in our back yard, though. Everything from a birdhouse out of scrap wood to a wooden bird feeder that came in a kit. We let her freely paint the bird feeder, so if you ever happen to see it hanging from the Dogwood tree in our backyard, over look its curious appearance (two year olds have interesting artistic talents. ) It was made with pure innocence and love, which makes it prettier than anything I could have ever bough in a store. Gosh, that sounds so cliche. Regardless, it hangs in the back yard in all of its glory.

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In December, I somehow found myself signed up for an email that sends an update daily on new freebies you can snag from many different retailers. I’ve scored over 100 free photo prints from Walgreens, free Aquafina flavored waters, free Multi-vitamin samples, etc. On one of the emails in December, it had an update that you could make a Christmas Train with your child at your local Lowe’s Home Improvement Store for free. (After some research, I found out that Home Depot also does something very similar. In case you’re a die hard loyal customer?) Anyway, it was a wooden train with holiday themed stickers that were rub and smell. How cute was that? It even came with an apron as well as a an iron on patch and certificate once we were through. Daddy ended up working that day, so here we were. The two year old toddler donning her apron, safety goggles, and the smallest hammer ever, and her mom. Not that I felt inferior, but I did feel stared at until my two year old finished with her project first. Ha!

SHE LOVED IT! Okay, WE loved it. To her, she had just built something as magnificent as the Eiffel Tower. I was so proud of her and excited for her. She STILL talks about it. Yes, in February.

photoThis is the amazing Christmas train. It was actually really cute!

In February, I had to miss the event, but she went with her daddy. They made a Love Note Holder. I was a little curious at what that would look like. I mean, the activities are for children ranging 2-10. A love note holder? It turned out pretty cute too! The ends are heart shaped and they’re chalkboard material. She thinks it is cute. She has used over half of the stick of chalk board that came with it.

note holder

Do you already take your children to events like this? What are the ones at Home Depot like? We really enjoy them and look forward to participating in many more!

24 Before 24

So a week ago I found myself on the blog The Duchess of Plumewood. I love her stuff! She does this Birthday Bucket List. For example: I will be 24 this year, so I would make a list of 24 things to do before I turn 24. And the lists increases for each year. I love the idea! I’ve gathered some inspiration from her and thought of things that fit my life. Here is what made the cut:

1.      Go hiking

2.      Write one handwritten letter a month

3.      Learn how use a sewing machine

4.      Take blog followers to over 50

5.      Make homemade ice cream

6.      Watch a play

7.      Start a diary

8.      Try a new food

9.      Do a cleanse

10.  Make a KIVA loan

11.  Read 24 books

12.  Become CPR Certified

13.  Write myself a letter to be opened in 10 years… and a letter to Santa

14.  Take my Mom to dinner

15.  Learn to drive a manual car

16.  Wake up before 6AM every day for 2 weeks

17.  Skydive for my birthday

18.  Take a Dance Class

19.  make dinner every night for a week with my crock-pot

20.  make 5 things off Pinterest

21.  get a new tattoo

22.  Mark 10 things off of my 2014 Family Bucket List

23.  Learn to make homemade biscuits

24.  Make a 25 before 25

Some of these things I am already working on..

like the reading part. I can’t wait to see if I can get them all completed by October!

Do you want to do this as well? Head on over to duchessofplumewood.blogspot.com/

where I found my inspiration!