Thursday, December 24, 2020

Christmas Eve 1983 -- Terra Alta WV - When the Power Was Out

Photo is of our tree 1983.

 Ask anyone over the age of 35 in my small town, and they can tell you all about Christmas 1983 because it was so unusual.  It was the most unique Christmas eve of my life, and I know there will never be another like it -- I was still a child, and although I was old enough that Santa no longer visited me, there was still the awe of Christmas and the joy of childhood surrounding the holidays that I will never be able to relive.

My dad was working at the equivalent of 911 as a dispatcher.  He was to get off work at 4, our annual party usually started at six.  I was in the living room listening to Marty Robins and Bobby Helms records on the old record player with the 8-Track tape deck.  I was bouncing off the walls because I was so excited that my aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmothers and step-grandfathers were going to converge on the house, and of course presents.  (Now I know the real gift was all the family's PRESENCE and not the physical gifts of my Bob Ross Joy of painting set I received that year.)

I drug my small little toddler table to the kitchen.  Mom always told me I needed to sit there to make room for the adults.  I idolized my cousin who was six years older than I, and I begged her each year to sit with me at this tiny table.  She was tall, unlike me, and her knees were taller than the table.  But I didn't want to have to sit by myself.  She dutifully sat with me, and while I can't remember much except being thrilled she was sitting with me.  She would have been a senior in high school that year.

As I was using Windex on the table, "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" slowed to a stop as all the lights went out.  Mom was outside shoveling snow so Dad wouldn't have to do it after working all day.

I didn't think anything about the power going out.  I mean, I was a kid, and Christmas was still magical.  Little did I know how unique that night was about to become.

Mom came in, chilled from being out in the cold.  I looked up weather history for our town, and winds were as high as 33 miles an hour and the temp had a HIGH that day of under 20 degrees.  Mom curled up in her snug sack -- a 1980s version of a Snuggie -- only it didn't have arms as it draped around you. She was in her gold and brown blanket when she picked up the rotary phone that was canary yellow and called her sister.  They started out talking about the turkey because Mom was baking the bird for dinner that evening, and she was worried about food poisoning if the electric didn't come back on soon.  (In reality, it would have just been undercooked at that point, and since there was no heat, there really wasn't any worry about if it would be "fit to eat" as she kept saying as she also called my grandmother to get her opinion on the fowl.)

I pulled the afghan that Grandma Bessie made over me as I was starting to get chilled by this time.  We had natural gas for heating, and it relied on the electric to kick on, so in addition to no electric, we had no heat. I was worried about Christmas -- would it be cancelled?  (I have since learned Christmas always comes, it's parties and festivities that can be cancelled.). As I fretted over if my cousin would be joining me at the toddler table, I braided the fringe on the afghan to help calm my nerves.  Mom watched the clock that Dad had given her the previous Christmas with worry as she bit her fingernails.

Dad came home at about 4:30 and said power was out all over the area.  The substation in the next town was down.  He rummaged in the olive green fridge and cussed about all that was there for him to eat there that day was salami, which he detested.  After he ate something cold, he called his brother to see how they were.  My aunt and uncle were not just okay, but doing great.  They had wood stove.  My dad wasn't always very good to his brother, but my aunt and uncle invited us down if we got too cold.  By this time, Mom was holding our guinea pig in an attempt to keep both her and the guinea pig warm.  Mom and Dad discussed the invitation and decided to wait a while to see if the power would return.  I was worried about my goldfish, Abraham Elizabeth. I had won her at a carnival two years prior.  Mom had lit a couple candles in the living room for light and I put the fish bowl near one to try and keep her warm.  Finally, Dad called the sheriff's office where he worked and told Mom it didn't look like electric would be restored anytime soon.  So we bundled up and headed to Dad's truck to drive the mile to my uncle's house.  Mom wouldn't let me bring the goldfish because she said moving the bowl to the truck in the sub zero weather and then into the warm house would be worse for the fish than leaving her at home.  We took the guinea pig in a box high enough my uncle's dog couldn't get to her.

After we got out of our coats and boots, reveled in the warmth, we started noticing we were hungry.  It was probably about 7 pm by this time, and we had eaten lightly all day expecting a huge meal that evening.  My aunt was going to bring the tossed salad to our family gathering, so we gathered around the table and had salad for Christmas eve dinner.  

Dad was a volunteer EMT and he had his pager with him.  It was a monstrosity of a thing -- much larger than a pack of cigarettes.  It kept going off about Santa being sighted in different towns in the county all night long.  The dispatcher on duty was having a boring evening, and for kids like me, even though I didn't believe in Santa anymore, it was so much fun to hear Santa was seen in Tunnelton -- then Kingwood, and then Terra Alta. 

My dad and my uncle decided to go check on some elderly folks to make sure they were okay.  This was before warming stations were opened during a disaster.  I fully expected them to return with a few people, but they didn't.  My aunt loved candles, and she had candles everywhere.  She lit them all, and it gave such a magical glow over everything.  The candle light reflected in both my mom's and my aunt's owl-like glasses, and I curled up on the couch under some afghans just enjoying a Christmas that was so different.

With all the candles, the wood stove going, and all of us talking, my aunt started to get warm.  She took off her sweater.  She was wearing a flesh colored turtleneck underneath, but in the dim candlelight, my dad couldn't tell she had anything on and the look on his face was priceless.  We all laughed about that.  

All around the living room, we dozed, until very early in the morning all the lights came back on.  Somehow it was decided (maybe because I was so asleep?) that I was going to spend the night there since it was warm and Mom and Dad would go home.  I remember padding up the stairs to sleep in the bed with my aunt as my uncle spent the night on the couch.  It was so odd the next morning waking in a house that was not my own on Christmas morning -- one of only twice in my life that has ever happened.  I called Mom and Dad headed down to pick me up.

Our usual Christmas breakfast of pancakes with turkey gravy was held off until December 26 that year because the turkey was still in the oven, and Mom always made the gravy with leftovers.  Mom, Dad, and I opened gifts from each other, and it was later that day that everyone came to our house for the Christmas celebration.  It was 24 hours later, but the food was just as good, conversation of the previous night was the main topic, gifts were opened, and my senior in high school cousin joined me at the toddler sized table.

On the first day back to school, our class was all abuzz about how different our Christmas was -- so much so that my 5th grade reading teacher said, "Okay, we're going to go around the room and everyone can tell about your Christmas eve, so we can get back to learning."  The only story I remember was of a boy who lived in our state, but his power was serviced through Maryland.  He said they had electric but they looked out and saw West Virginia without electric and that their Maryland neighbors had it.

Memories are often formed when we don't know they are being made.  Sometimes it is something different that makes the usual unusual.  I am sure that this year, 2020, will be remembered by many people for a lifetime.  My husband and I are joining his family over Zoom for dinner and gift opening.  We are a first time aunt and uncle ourselves, and we have yet to meet the precious bundle of joy.  She is now nine months old.  We had hoped to visit earlier this year, but I got sick the week she was born, and then lockdown happened the next time we thought we would be visiting.  I am planning a time capsule memory box for her, and I took a photo of our first Facetime since that was the first time we met her.

So, maybe this year will be to the children of today like Christmas 1983 was to me -- different, and it is my most vivid memory of childhood Christmas because it doesn't blur together like so many other of the holidays do.  I even remember I got a toy Adam "computer" that year.  (It would play Colecovision games and had a cassette of a Buck Rogers game that came in the package.) 

My goldfish survived the night, and for whatever reason, my mother always read a lot of books where people died.  One of the books she gave me for Christmas was about a girl whose brother died.  I read it over the next few days, and had already cried enough knowing my goldfish wasn't going to live much longer that I didn't shed any tears when my fish died at age 2 years, 3 months.

Christmas 1983 wasn't what anyone would have asked for, but I will always remember it as one of my favorite Christmases.  

Saturday, November 28, 2020

50+ Gift And Stocking Stuffer Ideas for Tweens and Teens

 FTC disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links.

It's so hard to shop for tweens and teens.  I try and stay away from electronics because really, do they need more encouragement to spend time looking at a screen?  Here's some of my favorite gift ideas for tweens and teens.

Something they can use for a lifetime is always a good idea.  My husband has a MUCH younger brother.  A few years ago we started getting him high quality age appropriate tools.  Examples are a light with magnet extender that can be used to pick up nails (great fun for a nine year old as he hung it from the living room chandelier), a tape measure, and a hammer.  Good quality tools are expensive and can last a very long time.  So it might seem weird to gift your tween or teen a screwdriver, chances are, they will appreciate it for decades to come.  Girls also need tools.  When I was in college, there was only one girl on the floor in my dorm who brought a tool set to college, and you'd be
amazed at how many times we visited her to borrow from her basic tool kit

Along the same lines, if your tween / teen shows interest in a hobby, get them good supplies.  Do they like to draw?  Good quality colored pencils (even good for those who aren't into drawing because a high quality colored pencil is SO much better than the cheap ones and you do need them through college.)  Try getting them into a new hobby -- crochet hooks and a skein of yarn aren't expensive (sometimes as low as $10 for both), and you can find lots of tutorials on YouTube.  Same with knitting needles.  Or find a small cross stitch kit such as this Pusheen one that would be of interest to get her started on a new hobby.  What about a wood burning set?  

One year, I gave a tween boy a S'mores maker.  My mother thought I was ridiculous, but he loved it.  Speciality appliances can be a hit.  Remember, college isn't too far off, so they can be the cool kid with a small fridge in their bedroom now and take it to college in a few years!  Other great ideas are a movie theater  style popcorn popper.  Something the family can enjoy until they move out on their own.  What about a cotton candy machine?  They are around $50, and can turn hard candy into spun cotton candy -- the one I linked to can even use sugar free candy, and not all of them can.  Cuisinart makes a soft serve ice cream maker
that has a mix it ins where things like sprinkles, chocolate chips, and cookie pieces can be mixed right into the ice cream.

Other great ideas can be something that's normal but can be cool.  Why not a lamp for their room with a glass base where they can store small treasures -- seashells from the beach, rocks, etc.  There's always items that hold memories that are small and you don't know what to do with them, so this is a great way to store some of those things.

Blankets these days are not your normal blanket.  Why not get them one that looks like a burrito, pizza, poached egg, or waffle

If they don't have a good sleeping bag, now might be the time to get them a good quality one that doesn't have a cartoon character on it.  I went to so many sleepovers, camp outs, and camps as a teen I totally wore mine out.

Board games have gotten a bad rap over the years but a few that seem to be favorites are Pandemic where everyone works together to either win or lose as a group.  Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride are other favorites.  Exit games play like an escape room in a box.  (The Exit games are considered legacy games and are good for only one play.)  Just this year there is the new Cards Against Humanity Family Edition.  This isn't just the old Cards Against Humanity with inappropriate cards removed, but all new cards and plenty of potty humor.  (I actually want this for myself!)  In the past I have taken my original set and removed all cards inappropriate for the under 18 crowd and it's been a huge hit with tweens and teens.

With virtual schooling still happening on snow days why not get them something to make it easier or more enjoyable?  Some ideas are blue light blocking glasses, USB warming slippers, USB warming gloves,  and a fun or unique computer mouse like this one that looks like a Volkswagen Bug, or a nice lap desk with storage so they can go to school in bed on the couch. 

Grilled cheese toaster bags.  You put cheese between two slices of bread.  Put it in the toaster.  I use these all the time -- it's best if you butter the toast after it is done before you eat it.

Pickleball is becoming huge, so why not give them a Pickleball set?

Doesn't every teen need six inch wiggle eyes to adorn their bedroom door?

You can't go wrong with S'mores, and the three pack of S'mores Chapstick is sure to be a hit in flavors of graham cracker, marshmallow, and chocolate.

Funky socks such as "If you can read this, bring me pizza"

A portable ping pong set

A jar of peanut butter they don't have to share.

A Bounce Battle Game

A poop knife.  (Yes, it's a thing.)

Shakespearian Insult Coffee Mug

Large assortment of hot cocoa K-Cups

40 Count Frito Lay variety chips

I have given the book Minimum Wage Millionaire: How a Part Time After School Job can Change Your Financial Life to different teens in my life.  I wish I had this knowledge when I was their age!

An "Instant audience" device that cheers, rimshot sound, boos, and has cricket sounds

An extendable fork so they can steal fries from someone else's plate.

Bullet Journal / fine  liner pens in 48 colors

Light up cactus table lamp

dip holder for ranch, cheese, ketchup that hooks onto a plate

DIY / Make Your Own Bath Bombs

A fidget Cube

Magnetic Putty

A hammock for outside (or one with a stand for their room)

And adult workout jump rope

Life Skills for Teens book 

A nice auto seal water bottle

A wireless doorbell for their room.  There was a girl I went to college with who had one for her dorm room and everyone thought she was the coolest!

A bed shelf

A Glow in the Dark Gamer Blanket 

Girls would love a dress of cats wearing Santa hats or if you want something not holiday specific, how about one with dinosaurs?

An ON AIR neon sign for streamers

Lego set of Succulents 

Create your own Yarn Llama kit

For boys who like to work out, how about this "I Flexed and the Sleeves Fell Off" tank top

I Love, love, love creating gift buying guides,  (My niece used to call me "Gift Girl") You can check out other ones I have written by CLICKING HERE 

Also, check out my book "The Great Gift Buying Guide" that helps you collect information on your family and friends so you give gifts that will be remembered for years.  

Monday, November 16, 2020

Giveaway -- Sweepstakes Wins Record Book Ends 11/23/2020

 FTC disclaimer: This Post contains affiliate links

Back in 1998, I discovered sweepstakes thanks to a coupon site I visited.  I wish I had started keeping track then of things I had won in sweepstakes and giveaways and freebies I received, but I didn't.

I decided it would be a great giveaway to give one of my lucky readers a Sweepstakes Wins Record Book.  This would be a great gift for yourself or anyone who loves to enter contests.  It is under $10 at Amazon, and would make a great stocking stuffer

It is 100 pages long and has a chart on each page where you can put the date of your win, what the win is, the sponsor, and value!  

Giveaway is open to the USA only (APO and FPO addresses are welcome as
well. ) Winner has 48 hours to respond to the e-mail.  Must be 18 to enter.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Our Family Tradition for the First Snowfall

FTC disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.

I have become so tired of hearing the words "unprecedented" and "things might look a little different this year", but the truth is, 2020 has not been a fun year for anyone.  So, this might be just the time to begin a new family tradition.

I've been able to share this with other families, and it has become a favorite.

I remember when I was little maybe about 4 or 5, Mom came into my bedroom in the middle of the night to wake me up.  I asked her what was going on.  She told me to go look outside.  

The house I grew up in had a huge picture window.  While it sounds lovely, the truth was we were on the main road of a town of 1500.  Privacy curtains weren't really a thing in the 1970s and 1980s, and we had different people tell us over the years how they would stand on the sidewalk outside our walk and watch TV (with no sound) over the years.  So everyone could see inside.

But this night, the picture window was almost magical.  Outside were the biggest, fattest snowflakes I have ever seen coming down.  There was a streetlight right outside our house, and it illuminated them into something magical to a small child.

While I sat mesmerized by the show, my mother headed to the kitchen.  She made some popcorn (this was in the days you had to make it on the stove) and hot chocolate.  She brought the bowl to me while I was sitting backwards on the couch so I could watch nature's display.  The hot chocolate was sipped silently by the two of us until we finished our literal mid-night snack and I headed back to bed.

That began the tradition of every year popcorn and hot chocolate at the first snow.  It's a simple tradition, but one that I still look forward to every year.  I oft make hot chocolate in the Keurig, but I keep a 40 count assortment of flavors on hand to be able to make it a little more special.  I also keep a package of Abuelta hot cocoa on hand for special occasions.  This is a Latino favorite with some cinnamon in the beverage and the best hot chocolate I've ever indulged in -- and it's priced right, too.  Just over $3 for a package of 6 tablets (makes 4 cups each).  

It's been over 40 years since I sat at that picture window and watched with wide eyed wonder as snowflakes drifted to the ground.  I'm looking forward to when my neice is old enough that I can share this tradition with her.  Although, I'm sure at first we'll have to eat graham crackers for safety reasons, but the sentiment and love will still be in our celebration.

If you are curious about the cup in the photo above, it is a Starbucks cup I bought off eBay.  I spent a summer teaching English in Asia before Starbucks was much of a thing, so while I usually only buy mugs on location, I wanted one from where I had spent a summer!  It is the mug I used for this year's first snowfall tradition.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Veteran's Day Memories from the 1980s -- The Christmas Shopping Season Kickoff

 When I was growing up in the late 70s and early 80s, there was no "Black Friday" as we know it today.  What my family did was, since my aunt worked in a bank and had Veteran's Day off, that was the beginning of our shopping season.

When I was five or six, I asked for money to buy Christmas gifts for everyone.  My mother gave me $20 (probably about $50 today).  Even so, that doesn't go far when you are buying for 10 people.  The mall that year had artists in the middle kiosks, and there was a man who crafted things from seashells.  They were priced right and I bought several for people on my list.  I asked my mom to buy me a small amount of pipe tobacco for my uncle, and the hardest person to buy for was Papaw.  So I left his gift for last, and in so doing, I had under $1 to spend.  I found the best gift ever for him at the grocery store -- he drank coffee all day, and I can remember his dress shoes clipping from the table to the coffee pot for refils, so in my six year old mind, the perfect gift was a trial sized container of Taster's Choice coffee for 29 cents.  The great thing is, that gift went down in legend, and when I was a senior in high school, I gave him a larger container of coffee and said that was the rest of his gift from when I was 6.  Everyone had a great laugh about that.

Another year, I was still very little, probably still in Kindergarten, and my mother had always warned me about germs, not to use combs that belonged to other kids at school, and was a bit overprotective about my health.  She had somehow burnt her hand badly on the toaster.  I remember I was terrified of her hand, not understanding how germs and contagion worked.  After going to the mall and Hills, my aunt, cousin and I stopped for dinner at Long John Silver's.  I always ordered the Billy Boneless chicken meal for kids.  There wasn't a toy with it, but there was a treasure chest where they would give you a coin, and you would get a bubblegum machine type prize from the chest.  I remember Mom touching one of my hush puppies.  I was terrified I would catch her burn (it looked terrible.). I don't remember how I reacted except I didn't want to eat the hush puppy thinking it would turn my skin looking like hers.  I do remember that she told me how bratty I acted and how embarrassing it was, and I got spanked when we got home.  I remember thinking how it was unfair but worth it so that I wouldn't look like her burn all over my body.

When I was eight or nine, my aunt bought an old Scout.  I can't remember if it was my cousin or me (probably me) who named it "The Old Blue Heap".  I think she bought it in part to show her ex husband how poor she was as much as having a car her teenage daughter couldn't whip around town too fast in it.  Well, since we live in West Virginia, there are a lot of hills everywhere.  When we were going up a hill in the next town there was this man running along the Scout waving.  We all turned and waved to him.  Then we saw him still waving.  We thought he was being friendly, so we waved again.  He continued to run along side us and we hit one of the only stoplights in the town.  He was huffing and puffing and signaled for us to roll down the window.  I think it was the gas tank that was dragging on the ground.  Whatever the case, we had to go home, and since everything was closed that day, we just went to go shopping in our car, not my aunt's vehicle.

One of the last times I remember Veteran's Day shopping, my aunt decided we were going to go to the big mall in Pittsburgh.  She and my mother were country girls and hated to drive in the "city" of 35,000 that is an hour away from where they grew up.  So, that year instead of Mom going along, it was my aunt, her ex-husband, my cousin, and me.  We made my second trip to Pittsburgh (2 1/2 hours away -- my first trip was in first grade when we went on a field trip to the zoo and our bus broke down on the way home.). The mall was amazing to me as a 10 year old from a town of about 1500.  There were escalators, which looked fun, but I was actually terrified of them!  Mom had been trying to get me to find a pair of boots for a long time as we lived in the snowiest town in West Virginia, but it wasn't until we were at that mall that I found a pair -- moon boots.  My aunt questioned me -- was I SURE my mother would be okay with them?  I told her Mom would just be happy I bought boots.  Sure enough, that's what I heard my mother say into the phone later.  

That is the last Veteran's Day Christmas shopping kickoff I remember.  My cousin graduated high school that next spring and for whatever reason our tradition wasn't continued.  I always think of Veteran's Day as when the shopping season begins.  Some people think it's too early to think Christmas, but that's when we started storing gifts in closets and in others' homes until the tree would go up in December and the secret surprises could be wrapped and tucked beneath the twinkling tree.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Free Thanksgiving Dinner November 2020!

 FTC disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links.

Right now, iBotta has a FREE Thanksgiving dinner when you purchase it at Walmart.  It is no secret that I love iBotta, especially with the Walmart pick up.  Just link your accounts and order for pick up and your money earned goes into your iBotta account with no scanning barcodes or snapping receipts.  I've gotten almost $500 back this year alone, thanks to offers such as $2 back on Morningstar Farm sausages.  I'm not a big meat eater and I'm less picky about meat if it's plant based, so a package of 6 vegetarian sausages for $1.37 is a deal I will snag as often as it is in my account -- and most times I can get five at once -- and since I use it, similar deals often pop up.

I was thrilled this month when iBotta offered a FREE Thanksgiving dinner.  You need to join iBotta, then download the chrome extension.  It sounds like a lot of work, but it's really quick to do for  $20 of free groceries -- a 3 pound turkey breast, a two liter of Coca-Cola, French's Onions, gravy, green beans, cranberry sauce, a box of stuffing, cream of mushroom soup, and family sized mashed potatoes.  (The stuffing isn't pictured in my photo because Walmart was out of it, but it's still in my account for next time I do a grocery pick up.)

Another thing I love about iBotta is you pay out of pocket then have the money refunded to you.  So I use whatever credit card I have that is best for groceries, and earn points on money that I get back! 

To receive your money from iBotta, you have options of getting a gift card to Amazon, money into your Paypal account, or directly into your bank account.

If you aren't going to need these things yourself, this is a great deal to do and donate to someone who can't afford it.  I remember what it was like to not be able to afford a turkey at Christmas or Thanksgiving before I got into couponing, and I know it would be greatly appreciated by some people, especially with the pandemic and people being out of work.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Giveaway! The Power of a Praying Woman book in imitation leather

FTC disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links

 It's been a long time since I've done a giveaway on my blog.  I'm going to try and start blogging more often, so I thought it would be good to get some interest again with a few giveaways.

This week I am giving away a copy of The Power of a Praying Woman by Stormie Omartian.  I received this in the Butterfly Box I reviewed recently and I already have a copy of this book.  This edition I am giving away is an imitation leather, teal colored.  It has a ribbon bookmark.  It would make a great Christmas gift!  

This giveaway is open to the USA and APO / FPO addresses.  You must be 18 or older to enter, and ends November 16 at 11:59 pm Eastern.  

There are many ways to gain entries.  Have fun, and good luck!  

Friday, October 16, 2020

Butterfly Box Subscription for Christian Women Review

 FTC disclaimer:  I received a free Butterfly Box in exchange for this post.

I never have subscribed to a subscription box, but I love to watch unboxing videos on Youtube.  Life got in the way (as well as hair that I haven't had professionally cut in over a year), a bit of a reaction to my flu shot, and I didn't get an unboxing videoed.  

Each box contains 5 - 6 items each month.  Items go through a rigorous selection process so I am told.  I am not sure exactly what that means, but each month has a particular theme.  I am assuming my box was centered around the theme of prayer.

When I opened my sample box, the first thing I found was small packets of tea.  Who doesn't love tea?  You might wonder why tea in a Christian women's subscription box, but all their items are faith based or support Christian owned businesses.  The tea is super cool!  Its called Tea Drops I got white tea vanilla bean and Sweet Peppermint.  They are really drops!  They dissolve when you make them.  How cool is that?  (I would have been happy if the box was totally tea, but there was more to explore!) When I went to the website of the company that made the drops I was really surprised to see a big banner ad for teas for zodiac signs since most Christians are against astrology, but the tea was fantastic, so that's just an interesting side I discovered.

The next item was a small little bracelet called "My Prayer Bracelet: a reminder to pray for joy".  it has a little butterfly on it, and the Bible verse of Romans 12:12 on the card.  My first thought when I saw it was how nice it would be to give to someone who is going through a tough time as a token for them to know you are praying for them.

When I brushed away the paper crinkles to see what else was in the box, I saw it was a book.  One of my issues with books is I have read so many books it is hard to find a book I haven't read when it comes to Christian women.  The book was a gift edition of The Power of a Praying Woman by Stormie Omartian.  Not only have I read this book, but I have read it several times and even have read a number of her other "The Power of a Praying ____" books.  I will be giving away this book soon here on my blog.  It's nice, would make a nice gift, but it's not something new to me, as I already have this book in paperback.  (This one is imitation leather with a bookmark ribbon and does contain new material, but since I have a huge backlog of books I want to read, I'm going to pass this on to someone else.)

The final item in the box was a journal.  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE journals.  This one is spiral bound and lays flat.  (My favorite).  It is hardcover, lined pages, and it says "Be Still and Know".  I love notebooks and journals of all types.  I've been more diligent about keeping a journal of my day to day stuff this year because I figure that since we are in the middle of a pandemic, it will be a great historic record someday.  But I use journals and notebooks for all kinds of stuff.  Lists, journals, keeping records of things, etc.  So I was very happy with the journal (and especially so since it's the exact type I prefer.)

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Spiritual Seeds Planner Review and Giveaway

FTC disclaimer: I received a free planner in exchange for this review.

It's no secret to anyone who knows me how much I love planners, calendars, and stickers to put on them.  I have a huge box of washi tape to decorate my planner, and even keep some of my older calendars that I love to reuse in the future.  I was in 1st grade when I received my first calendar as a

gift, but I'm excited that in 2021 that I can reuse my 1982 Ronald McDonald calendar on my wall. 

So when I was asked if I wanted to review the Spiritual Seeds Planner, I was so excited.  I started using a planner over 30 years ago when I was in highschool.  It tucked easily in my backpack and helped me remember everything from when Bible quiz meets were to when I had to take the SAT.  Since that time, I have bought a new planner each year, but I've never seen one quite like the Spiritual Seeds Planner.

If you are a Christian woman, I highly recommend this planner.  It's about 7 inches across and 10 inches high which also makes it ideal for college students.  (Think Christmas gift!). You can get it in various colors, but I chose "Grapefruit Pink".   The cover is embossed with a tree that highlights the Fruit of the Spirit as described in Galatians.  (Who remembers learning these with "The Fruit of the Spirit's Not a Banana" song?)  There is also a ribbon bookmark, blank pages for notes, and a vision board.

There is a two page spread of Fruit Vision at the beginning, and at each month there is a prayer and "Monthly Plotting" on how you prayerfully want to develop that Fruit of the Spirit of the month.

This is a weekly planner, and the side bar of each week gives a life to do and work to do list, as well as a place you can write down what Fruit of the Spirit you are focusing on that week.

In addition to the planner, you can also purchase sticky notepads that coordinate with the planner or stickers.  

I received the Teen Challenge pack which included the planner, a tote bag, stickers, and a  pencil pouch.  For each Teen Challenge pack purchased a planner is donated to an adult or Teen who is in the Pacific Northwest Teen Challenge program.

I have a special coupon code for you if you want to purchase a planner -- just go to and enter code FRUITOFTHESPIRIT for 20% off.  This would make the planner $28 plus shipping or the planner / sticker book combo $40 plus shipping.

Also, you can enter to win one by going to

The giveaway ends October 25, 200 and the winner will have two weeks to respond.  Just click below to enter!

Friday, September 11, 2020

September 11, 2001 in West Virginia


It's been 19 years.  I don't have children, so I feel it is important to share some of my life experiences in a way they will hopefully life on after me. Everyone always asks "Where were you . . . when. . . "  My generation remembers where they were when the Challenger exploded, as well as where they were on 9/11/01.  

My mother needed to be to work at 8 in the morning on 9/11.  We only had one car, and I had planned on going to Cool Springs Park to have lunch with my grandmother that day.  So I took Mom to work, andI decided to come home and do some mail in sweepstakes.  I'm not a big TV watcher, and I never have been, so I worked on filling out envelopes in silence.  At about 9:30 I decided to call Grandma to see if we were still on for lunch.

"Have you seen the news?" she asked.   I replied I hadn't.

"The whole world is in chaos.  The world is at war.  There are bombs going off in cities all around the world."  I was only mildly concerned as my grandmother had a tendency to exaggerate (as you can see by the bombs going off in cities all over the world, as that did not happen that day!). I merely asked her if she still wanted to go to lunch, she said she did, and I said I'd be by to pick her up about noon.

So I decided I should get the real story, and instead of turning on the TV, I called my mother at work.  "What is going on?" She replied, "Isn't it awful?"  My heart sunk into my stomach thinking that my grandmother had been correct in her assessment of the situation.  I told Mom what my grandmother had said, and she corrected it and told me to turn on the TV.

I turned on the TV in time to hear the breaking news that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon.  I kept the TV on, and saw the South Tower collapse live.

I logged on to the computer, to check on some of my friends, and I had already received a few e-mails from friends who lived in other parts of the word asking if I was okay.  

The official timeline says that 10:03 the plane in Shanksville, PA crashed.  The exact moment it was announced on the TV is lost, there was so much going on that day.  Shanksville is somewhere between 9 and 15 minutes of flying time from me.  I have been to the site of the crash a few times since.  But on 9/11, there is something I remember after the plane crashed there.

Our local news station asked people to stay off the phone (as well as the internet because at that time most people used dial up internet.)  The reason is they wanted to leave the lines as open as possible so that first responders could use them.  (Even though Shanksville is about 1 1/2 hours drive from me, it's still relatively close.)  Also, phone lines in New York City were jammed with people wanting to check on loved ones.  

Amazingly, my grandmother and I went to lunch that day.  I can't remember what I had, but I remember everyone in the diner talking about what had happened and what life might be like.

We went back to my grandmother's place, and her boyfriend at the time came to visit -- it seemed like no one wanted to be alone on that day.  He started talking about some movies about the Rapture (a Christian belief that Jesus will come back and take all believers to Heaven, and some teach the world will spin out of control after that.)  Her boyfriend started talking about the movie "A Thief in the Night".  His topic of movies showed he was concerned and thinking this might be the beginning of the Christian belief of end times.  It seemed so absurd and comical when my grandmother didn't realize his movie genre being discussed and asked, "Have you ever seen Grumpy Old Men?  Now THAT is a good movie."  It made it even funnier because I felt like her boyfriend WAS a grumpy old man.

We had the TV on the rest of my visit.  She had a satellite TV receiver because she lived in between mountains in the Allegheny Mountains of Appalachia. I left in time to pick my mother up at work at 4:00.  One of the things I remember was the absolutely beautiful sky.  I'd not seen a sky so blue since I was a child in the 1970s and I haven't seen one so beautiful since.  It's odd to remember how blue the sky was, but I know I'm not the only one who remembers this.  Perhaps it was because all air traffic was halted and there was less air pollution.

I arrived to pick up my mother, she came out to get in the car, it was obvious she had a rough day.  She was the worker at an information center of a nursing home.  So she had to preform her job and the TV in the solarium where her window faced was filled with people watching the TV.  Veterans were near the TV wearing ball caps saying "WWII" with an American flag on it.  Co-workers would come in because, like I stated before, no one wanted to be alone that day.

At 5:00, when long distance rates went down -- these were the days when everyone had house phones and cell phones were rare.  The cost of a call was by minute, and rates were determined based on time you placed the call in your time zone.  I think it was full price from 8 in the morning until 5 pm, evening rates from 5 pm to 11 pm, and night rates from 11 pm to 8 am.  At 5 pm, the phone rang.  It was a friend from an hour away.  We had made plans to meet at Pizza Hut that evening, and he said, "You're not still planning on coming are you?"  I had forgot about it, and I said, "No".  He said his family was getting in the car to go get his grandmother in Pittsburgh, they wanted her out of the city.

I remember holding my guinea pig, Hamlet, that evening as President George W Bush addressed the nation.  As I petted Hamlet's fur, and he did his contented "lap talk" that guinea pigs often do, I couldn't help but think how nice it would be to be a little furry creature that evening.  He knew nothing of what was going on, and he was just as happy as could be sitting on my lap enjoying cuddles.  He got a lot more attention that usual over the next few days as it was a way to relieve some anxiety for me.  I remember e-mailing some friends encouraging them to give blood, saying that I couldn't but I hoped they could.  Amazingly there was very little extra blood needed because of the lack of survivors.

I went to bed that evening, made sure to write in my diary as I knew that day would have as much historic significance as December 7, 1942 or November 22, 1963.  As FDR called Pearl Harbor, "A day that will live in infamy." I knew 9/11 would join those days.

I wanted to pray but didn't know how.  Growing up Protestant, I never prayed the rosary until that night.  I had recently ordered an item on eBay and the seller had included a plastic rosary with a card on how to pray it as a gift.  I said Hail Mary-s until I fell asleep with the rosary in my hand.

9/11 was on a Tuesday.  On Saturday evening, I met my friend at Pizza Hut.  After that I went to a bar with a friend.  I don't drink, so I got a Diet Pepsi.  I remember our conversation -- would the draft be instituted?  Would he have to go to war?  All this while karaoke was going on.  There was only one song everyone wanted to sing that night.  "God Bless the U.S.A."  I can never hear the words "I'm proud to be an American" without thinking of September 15, 2001 and all the half drunk people singing about their patriotism.

I can barely remember 1976.  But I do remember how everything was patriotic for a few years when I was little.  We even have photos of me in a little red, white, and blue toddler winter hat.  The months after 9/11 were very much like that in terms of patriotism. American flags were sold out everywhere.  Anyone who had an American flag and hadn't been flying it started displaying it.  I remember being able to count 20 flags I could see from standing on my front porch.  Even Christmas gift wrap that year was patriotic.  I remember this because we bought so much gift wrap in the days after Christmas that year it was almost 15 years before we needed to buy wrapping paper again.  Our local Walmart went in that year and they didn't know how much they needed in terms of holiday supplies, they overbought, and it went down to 90% off.  For years we were using metallic paper with red, white, and blue stars for our Christmas gifts.  

The children born at that time graduated high school this year.  They were born in a world where 9/11 was just fresh in our minds, graduated in the middle of a pandemic. I don't envy those kids.  They have to be more resilient than those of us who are now middle aged as they have had to adapt, but I can't imagine starting life in the shadow of 9/11 and beginning adulthood in the middle of a pandemic.

So where were YOU on 9/11?

Sunday, September 6, 2020

City of Trolls -- Mount Horeb Wisconsin


When people ask me where some of my favorite travel destinations have been, Mount Horeb is near the top of the list.  A town in Wisconsin with under 10,000 people, yet I have so many memories and photos of there. 

In 2017, my husband and I went to the Church of the Nazarene General Assembly in Indianapolis, as it was a closer way to get to a college reunion for me than going to Tennessee.  Afterwards, my husband and I decided to travel through the midwest a bit, going out to Antique Archeology in Iowa and then heading back.  It's a bucket list item for me to travel to all 50 states, so we did what, as a child I used to call "the longcut" and went through southern Wisconsin so we could travel through another state.

I was getting restless, and wanted to stop and do something, so I started checking my apps.  Apps I generally check when I'm getting restless on a road trip are for thrift stores, Roadside America (I have the upgraded version for the entire USA, and it's been well worth it to me, especially since my state and the next state from me are in different regions), and geocaching. I saw on Roadside America that we were close to Mount Horeb, and it said it was filled with trolls.  Needless to say, this intrigued me and I found a geocache in that town that had good reviews, told my husband to put it in the GPS and we were off.

Also, the geocache I put into the GPS?  It was located at a local business -- outside so it could be accessed anytime.  It's commonplace for "swag" to be exchanged in geocaches, and this geocache was filled with great swag from the insurance company.  So, we have a pizza cutter advertising an insurance agency in Mount Horeb that we used regularly!  When having a fun meal, it's a great way to remember a welcoming town that we would have missed if it hadn't been for the trolls.

Amazingly, this town has almost two dozen trolls.  They are expertly carved, and we went from troll to troll taking photos.  According to the Mount Horeb Chamber of Commerce in the 1970s a store put a troll in their lawn to attract business and truckers started talking about it.  When a bypass was built, the town decided to put up trolls to attract visitors.  I have to say, it worked.  We stopped at a town we otherwise would have missed to visit all the trolls.  We had fun, went to a local bar and ordered Wisconsin cheese curds.  The waitress reminded me of my grandmother, and that was a lot of fun.  She was thrilled to serve a couple their very first cheese curds.  She was quite interested in the fact we were from West Virginia and just decided to stop in. 

Another fun memory is while we were taking photos of the trolls, we found a couple painted rocks.  This was when the trend was just starting and it was the first painted rock I had ever found.  It just seemed to round out the enjoyment of our detour off the Interstate into a friendly town in the midwest before continuing on our journey.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Ibotta is easier to use than ever with Walmart Grocery Pick Up.

 FTC disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links.

I have used iBotta for years.  The concept is really simple -- you open the app and add offers you want to redeem, then pick up the items on your next trip to the store.  Some stores you are able to add your savings cards, and in that case that is all you have to do.  Other stores you will need to snap photos of your receipt and scan the UPC codes, but it's an easy way to get money back.

I got $66.28 back on my groceries last week!  It can really add up, especially if you watch the bonuses.  I finished a few bonuses last week which included buying 30 different items (I got $10 for that, and $5 because I did 12 of those on a weekend, so it was what we used to call a "double play".)  I also was able to get bonuses because I bought the same item in two different shopping trips.

But here is how it has become so much simpler and I have been able to save so much more during the pandemic. . . I have my Walmart account connected to iBotta.  So when I go in to place a curbside order, I open my iBotta app and just add what I want to my cart.  I love this because currently Walmart has free grocery pick up at $35, and you know it's not difficult to get $35 in groceries. 

But what I really love is I don't have to go chasing through the store to find new products.  For instance, iBotta recently had $10 back on any Back to the Roots kit to grow some organic food.  These were $12.99 at Walmart, so I put one in my cart and the shopper found it for me because I wouldn't have had any clue where to find it in the Supercenter!  So now, I have a kit to grow my own mushrooms for $2.99! 

Lately there have been some really good offers, I even got a pint of dairy free ice cream for free, and Pretzel Pop Tarts have been 50% off.  With my husband having not been to work since March, being able to get discounted groceries sure is a plus right now!

All you have to do is download the iBotta app by clicking here and put in my referral code of mtgkg.  Link your accounts with iBotta, and then shop with your phone in hand.  I'm so happy that you can now use it with Walmart Curbside pickup, and I have gotten so many discounted groceries since I have discovered this great trick!

Sunday, August 9, 2020

What is ZonDeals? Why should I sign up for this deal site?

This post contains affiliate links.  
I first heard about ZonDeals about two years ago. Since then I visit almost daily to see what items are new.

It is a site where you can get coupons to get things on Amazon very inexpensively -- sometimes even for pennies.  To make the most of it, you should have Amazon prime, but there are sometimes things that ship free -- just hit the item and click on the box that says 'see the item on Amazon' to see if it is free ship -- as some items do ship from China and not the Amazon warehouse.  The coupon codes very from a small percentage although I have seen things as much as 99% off.

It has helped me with stocking stuffers for Christmas.  One of the funniest was a chin strap snore
reducer that I paid under 25 cent for -- shipped.  My husband's family all snore loudly.  In fact, one time I walked into my inlaw's house and thought their washing machine was acting up, but it was just his brother sleeping, so the laughs that came with the chin strap were plentiful.

I've gotten some nice stuff -- including a mailbox that shows our house number.

I've gotten a number of vitamins and supplements.

And probably the best things I ever got was one night about two years ago, I saw an offer for a box of 20 N95 masks for $6.  I have allergies and thought these would be helpful, so I ordered a box, and set them in with my medical supplies.  Needless to say, come March of this year, N95 masks were in short supply.

I also have been able to buy elastic to make masks. This was very helpful because I had donated all my elastic to a friend who is a nun who was sewing masks.  Then I dug out my 70 year old sewing machine and I was out of elastic for the ones I started sewing.  My savings on this was only 50% which is low for many of the ZonDeals coupons, but it was something I was happy to find!

Some of the items are odd -- I've seen Russian alphabet blocks.  I've seen other things I wonder why anyone would order them, but stuff changes rather regularly, and although it's not as good as it used to be as it used to be that I could select economy shipping from Amazon and earn digital credits, I still take a look at ZonDeals a couple times a week.

New items appear at midnight pacific time.

The amount you can save is dependent upon how much you buy that you actually need.  I feel like it's a spendy savings.  One thing I recently bought was decorations for a fiesta.  It was a great price.  Did I NEED them?  No, but they will be great if I ever want to decorate for a fiesta skill contest.  (I enter contests and sweepstakes as a hobby and am always looking for great props.)

ZonDeals is a site I enjoy, and I check back with it often because you never know what might show up next!

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Don't High Five a Deacon -- Father's Day 1989

Dad only went to church on occasion.  One of those "on occasions" was Father's Day 1989.

The church was one I did Bible quizzing with, a little more on the upscale side than those churches in my hometown.

As is custom in some congregations, all fathers were given a small gift.  Most churches I've attended will give a "soap on a rope" which my dad used to leave in the car for a few months until the summer sun made the "Wild Forest" scent a little much and Mom or I would move the box with the corded soap to a box of things to sell when we would have a garage sale.

Father's Day 1989, however, was a bit different.  The church handed out small wrapped gifts to each dad. Inside each was a tire gauge.  I was sitting with the teenagers and we were passing this picture of Dad down through the pew and each of us were trying to keep from laughing as it came to us.  (Passing pictures was as popular as passing notes, and often just as entertaining.)

I was passing a note to the pastor's son to tell him "That's my grandmother's dog upside down with it's legs in the air" when I noticed a lull in the proceedings.

Pastor K was going on "Someone must have it!  It is just a small piece of paper taped to the package that says 'Happy Father's Day'. "

Unknown to me, Mom was nudging Dad to raise his hand.  More description as to how "Happy Father's Day" was written from the pulpit.

Dad slightly slipped up his left index finger.  This was a standard greeting to people.  Like "We're #1" except he wouldn't raise his hand in the air to do so, only about shoulder height unless he was driving and then he would keep his hand on the wheel and "wave" by raising a digit or two.  How he thought anyone could see this was beyond me.

Pastor K seemed THRILLED to find that someone really had won the big prize for the day, and that his pestering from the pulpit for the recipient to acknowledge the gift had finally been rewarded with a father admitting he had "Happy Father's Day" written on the gift wrap of his tire gauge.

Dad had to go to the pulpit to collect his winnings.  It was a $20 gift certificate to a local steak house.  Instead of "Thank you", my dad bellowed, "ALLLLLL RIGHHHHHTTTT!"

Dad left the pulpit area to resume sitting with Mom.  I was receiving a note from a friend that said, "Maybe he will start coming to church more often."  I glanced up and saw Dad high-five a deacon on his way back to his pew.

My last Father's Day with Dad was in 2006.  His gift that year came from my recent trip to Israel -- a Pittsburgh Steeler's t-shirt in Hebrew.  My husband used that, backwards as his t-shirt under his dress shirt at our wedding as my husband gave his own private shout-out to my dad, whom he never met.  The most memorable Father's Day with my dad was the year he high-fived a deacon visiting a church in which he barely knew anyone.  We laughed about that for years, and I still do.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Help! I Think My Guinea Pig Has Mites!

Do you think your guinea pig has mites?  Well, I have news for you. . . the answer is YES!  All guinea pigs are carriers of mites.  However, most of the time they lay dormant, and don't cause any problems.  

My guinea pig started having seizures and I thought it was due to high blood pressure or something related to old age.  When I took Lucky to the vet, I commented about the seizures.  The vet tickled him on the back, and said, "Seizures like this?"  Sure enough, Lucky had a seizure.  Usually you don't want to let a guinea pig have a seizure, they can hurt themselves, or hurt a human.  (I will likely have a small scar where Lucky's jaw clamped onto my wrist while I was trying to support him and keep him safe during a seizure.).  So, you don't want to do anything to CAUSE a seizure.  (In the vet's case, he did it to see if it was mites.)

Another sign a guinea pig has a mite flare up is if they have scabs on them from biting at themselves or scratching.  Mite flare ups can be caused by being around other guinea pigs with active mites, a guinea pig who hasn't been feeling well, stress, or even old age.  Be sure to not confuse mites with ringworm -- that is another issue entirely and needs different treatment (as well as more care because humans can catch ringworm from a guinea pig)

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

What I did on my summer vacation in 2017 and since

This post contains affiliate links.

One of my readers pointed out that I hadn't done a life update since 2017, so I figured it was time I did that.  I pretty much quit blogging for a while because I lost a contract I had to write monthly, and I just started redoing some old posts and such to keep some traffic coming to the blog.  I have missed writing, and I finally made some money from Google AdSense, so I'm thinking of getting back into it.  I took a blogging course a few years ago, and the only thing that happened was my page views went down, so that was super discouraging.

Trips we have taken since I last wrote:

My husband and I went to the Nazarene General Assembly in Indianapolis.  I went to a Nazarene college over half a lifetime ago, and I wanted to to go the alumni banquet and see friends.  The one friend I was hoping to see and didn't passed away about a year ago -- killed by a drunk driver.  We weren't close, but knew each other and were still friends on Facebook.  From Indianapolis, my husband and I decided to road trip a little further west -- a bucket list item for me has always been to go to all 50 states, so we went out to Iowa and went to Antique Archeology, up into Wisconsin and visited a town that was filled with dozens of troll statues, had cheese curds at a bar, and visited Illinois for the first time and even played mini-golf in the basement of a funeral home!