Sticky Gooey Chicken

sticky gooey chicken

Each time I pull out my recipe book to make this family favorite that we often ate while growing up, it makes me smile!  Not only is this a family favorite to eat in our home now, but the recipe book is a priceless treasure to me.

This recipe book called “A Cookbook for Life” is one that is filled with favorite family recipes from my friends and my own family members, and I received it at my wedding shower.  Unknown to me, months before our wedding, my Mom sent out a beautiful note to those who were invited to our wedding–many local, but also those friends and family members across the country, who would not be able to attend.  She asked each person to “gather a recipe of your choice, a favorite to prepare in the kitchen…and from your heart”.  She also asked each person to “please add a small note on your “recipe” for a happy marriage.  I know over the years, regardless of circumstances, we all have developed a few loving pearls of wisdom we would like to share with them.”  My Dad took each of these recipes and typed them in to the computer, along with the person’s name and “pearls of wisdom” on marriage they shared.  He laminated each page and placed them in a special binder.  I even have a copy of the note my Mom sent enclosed in the front of my binder…a precious memory!  Truly this was a labor of love!

Now, onto the recipe…It is VERY easy to make, and it is one of those rare meals that ALL four of us enjoy eating. Usually I can only get 2-3 people to truly enjoy a meal at any given time, but this one is a home run. I should add that I only make this dish in the winter, or at least when the air conditioning isn’t running in our house.  Why?  You do have to open the oven several times to baste the chicken frequently–you don’t have to, but it makes it taste better.

Sticky Gooey Chicken

3 pounds chicken (with bones & skin; can use breasts, legs, or thighs & in any combination)

1 – 180z jar Apricot Preserves

1 – 8oz bottle Russian Salad Dressing (not all stores carry this in stock. If your store doesn’t have it, just try another one, they probably will)

1 package of Dry Onion Soup Mix

Combine and mix thoroughly dressing, preserves, and soup mix into a bowl.  Place chicken, skin side down into a 13 X 9 pan lined with foil.  Pour mixture over the chicken.  (I often find that I need to divide up my chicken into two pans so that it fits better and share the mixture between both pans.)  Bake at 375 for 45 minutes, basting every 15 minutes.  Turn chicken over and bake another 35 minutes, basting after 15 minutes.  (I just use a spoon to baste with).

**My Dad loves to cook and grill–and is quite talented.  He has tweaked this recipe a bit in recent years.  He also likes to blanch the chicken to help drain the fat, which allows the mixture to be less runny.  He has a cooking blog called The Runcible Spoon where his version of this recipe is listed.  You may find some other fancy and tasty recipes there, too!

I should admit that I haven’t made Sticky Gooey Chicken since last winter or spring, so I am long overdue.  In fact, this photo is from someone else’s identical recipe for Sticky Gooey Chicken that I found on the internet since I haven’t made it to snap an image of it.  My family actually requested it about a month ago, so I’d better get to making this myself…Enjoy!

Swoop…Here it is!

Swoop-Storage-Bag-Play-MatinOne

Swoop Bags!  This is one of those ingenious products that I wish I would have come up with on my own, or at least known about when our boys were younger because I would have had one–well, maybe two of them.  I remember when the boys were preschool and toddler age, and we had toys strewn about the living room because all of the bedrooms were upstairs at our old house, and we had no playroom, either.  Consequently, our living room often resembled a toy store that exploded.  I would have loved a way to contain some of the smaller toys in a defined space, then have been able to “swoop” it up and away out of sight in a moment’s notice.  It would have also been nice to have an easy and transportable way to take favorite toys to Grandparents’ homes, contain the mess, and bring it right back home.  A more current way that I could use a Swoop Bag with our older boys?  Legos, of course!  I must admit, I don’t honestly have a NEED for one of these now, but I sure would have liked one in the past.  Thought I would share this nifty product with other mom and grandmas out there in case you could benefit from one or to give as a gift for someone else in your family!

Merry CHRISTmas!

From our “Home Sweet Home” to yours, we wish you  a wonderful and blessed Christmas and  Happy New Year!

Family CHRISTmas Traditions

 

Christmas is definitely one of our favorite holidays, full of family fun and traditions!  Like everyone, my husband and I both came into our marriage (17 years ago this month!) with our own wonderful and special family traditions…Attending Christmas Eve Services, The Advent Wreath, Christmas Carol (the “old school” version of the modern day Elf on the Shelf), opening a teaser gift on Christmas Eve, and gathering for overdone (yet always traditional) frying-pan cooked hamburgers, just to name a few of our traditions.  While still keeping some of these traditions, we developed new ones as a married couple, and in recent years we have begun even more with our boys.  We decided that it was important to us to be intentional about keeping the true meaning of Christmas alive, not wanting it to get lost or simply pushed aside during the season.  I thought I would share a few of the ways we try to keep the CHRIST in Christmas:

Jesus’ Birthday Cake: When our older son was three years old, we began baking a cake for Jesus in honor of his birthday and singing “Happy Birthday” to Him.  We started out by having our cake on Christmas Eve, but in recent years it has become our dessert after our Christmas dinner—and we have decided it was more “appropriate” to make it an Angel Food Cake, rather than a standard cake.  We have also joked that it should never be a Devils’ Food Cake.  Makes sense, right?!

Crown of Thorns Tree Topper: My husband and I used a traditional angel on top of our tree for many years until I ran across this AMAZING find in a Christian bookstore catalog about four years ago.  It was a crown of thorns that came from branches in the Holy Land and was painted gold, and I was so excited that I immediately had to order it!  I felt as though this crown would be a wonderful visual reminder to keep our focus on what Christmas was all about.  The boys and I look forward to putting this meaningful, finishing touch on our tree each year!

Crown of Thorns Topper – from Amazon

One of my dear friends came up with a less expensive alternative for her Crown of Thorns tree topper after seeing mine.  She went to Michael’s and purchased a small, inexpensive grapevine wreath and placed it at the top of her tree to represent Christ’s Crown.  It works just as well, looks great, and has the same meaning!

Jesse Tree: This is the second year of our newest family tradition for Christmas, the Jesse Tree, after hearing about it from a few of my husband’s co-workers.  In simple terms, a Jesse Tree is an Advent Tree that helps teach children about the Bible at Christmas time, using scripture verses and ornaments that represent each of the verses.  To research the Jesse Tree last year, I went online to find websites that offered free printables for the scripture verses to follow along for the days leading up to Christmas, as well as ornament printables that go along with these verses.  I printed out the ornaments using our color copier and had our boys help me cut them out and mount them onto red cardstock.  I then took the ornaments to Office Max and had them laminated so that we can use them from year to year.  Finally, I took a hole punch in the top and strung small lengths of red and green ribbon to make a loop so the ornaments could hang from the tree.  Of course, I purchased a small and inexpensive two-foot pre-lit tree from Target for $15 to use as our Jesse tree.  Each night the boys take turns reading the scripture verse and placing the ornament on our Jesse Tree.  Some nights we forget or don’t have time, so we double-up the next night.

In researching the Jesse Tree last year, I read and saw that many people make their own ornaments out of felt or even clay.  There are places you can purchase ornaments, but my frugalness kept me from doing that—hence the free printables I used.  My goal for 2012 was to keep my eyes out in my shopping excursions here and there to find actual ornaments or pieces that I could use in place of the paper ornaments, just to make the ornaments a little more fun.  I have found this to be a challenge, however, as many ornaments are very specific in the Bible…and add in the fact that I was teaching full-time this fall, and this project fell by the wayside.  I only have a mere four “actual” ornaments at this time and have decided that I will continue to add to my collection over time, whether I purchase them or make them.  Meanwhile, our paper ornaments work perfectly!

There are many, many websites and printables out there to access.  I am including links to the website that I used last year, but feel free to have fun looking around at everything out there or creating your own ornaments!

Verses for the Jesse Tree

Jesse Tree Ornament Printable

I know the time will come when our boys get married and develop their own family traditions. Hopefully, our Christmas traditions will hold a special place in our boys’ hearts and are something they will look back fondly upon.

If you have any family traditions for Christmas with Christ as the focus, feel free to post and share them on my blog so that we may all read them and possibly incorporate them into our families.  Merry CHRISTmas!

 

 

A Lesson in Appreciation and Thankfulness

Some of you may not know this, but my blog has been running on auto-pilot for the past few months.  Why, you ask?  From the first part of September until the first week of November, I was out working full-time in the “real world” for the first time since December 2000 when I left my teaching position…

This past June while my husband and older son were away at a youth camp for church, I had this C-R-A-Z-Y thought that entered my mind completely out of the blue.  I had this feeling that I should do some subbing at our boys’ school this upcoming school year.  I really didn’t want to do it or even think about it, so I immediately put it out of my mind.  Many years ago I was “burned out” on teaching from all of the hours I put in and stress that I was under, and once we knew we were ready to start a family and that our plan was for me to stay at home as a mom, I resigned my position.  I have been so happy and content in my job as Mom, Wife, and passionate about my various volunteer roles in life (the main one being a volunteer at their school!), that I didn’t see a need to rock the boat.

Needless to say I didn’t tell my husband about this idea when he came home from camp because I didn’t want to have this “thought” be out there in the open because he might think it to be a good idea.  About a week later, my husband tells me that he was thinking I should get on the sub list at our boys’ school for this school year.  What?!  I told him it was actually funny that he said this, and I fessed up to the random thought I had been avoiding and was in denial about.  I decided that I would think about it.

Think about it, I did.  I decided that I really had no excuse or reason not to.  Nevertheless, I dragged my feet on continuing to “think” to make sure I was good and ready until I honestly felt I was content about going forth   About three weeks later, I finally sent out an email to my son’s former 3rd Grade Teacher, who is now in an administrative position at the school, to ask if they had a need for any additional subs.  I received a reply back with a “We’re ALWAYS looking for good subs.  You’ll hear from our Office Manager in the next few days.”  Perfect!  I was all set to finish out the rest of our summer until school began in a month.  I could do my usual thing and be available to sub here and there and somewhat on my schedule, unless a last-minute sub was needed.  (Screeeeech…here’s where the story takes an unexpected turn)

A couple of days later I am waxing my mini-van in our garage in the July heat and humidity—I am completely crazy, I know—when I took a water break and checked my email.   I received an email from the school’s office manager who I was expecting to hear from regarding paperwork that I needed to fill out.  My heart pounded when I read the email, which didn’t say what I was thought I was going to read.  It stated that one of the Kindergarten teachers was going to need to be on maternity leave this fall, and the administrators would like me to come in and talk with them about the possibility of taking on this position.  While my heart was still pounding and hands now shaking, I called my husband at work.  We both agreed that it couldn’t hurt to get some more information about this position and that it really could and would be a good thing for me to consider taking on this position for a few reasons: It is at our boys’ school; I know many of the staff and parents there; I had taught Kindergarten for three years before; This would be a good test run to determine if I ever would want to go back to teaching (I have leaned towards not ever going back, but hadn’t fully shut the door on this issue).

Two days later I found myself in a meeting with both administrators at school, one of whom I know very well, as I used to volunteer weekly in her classroom, and the Head of School, whom I had met a few times.  I won’t go into detail and bore you, but let’s just say the meeting went very well, was enjoyable, and filled with excitement on both of our ends.  Even though I was very nervous about taking on this endeavor, I felt so at ease with everything and the level of support I already had at that very moment.  I was also getting an opportunity to have a “behind the scenes” look at the curriculum and my own boys’ school for six to seven weeks!

Again, forwarding through with the story…about three weeks into the new school year around the end of August, I went in and did some observing and shadowing with the Kindergarten teacher—first half days, then whole days for another week.  This allowed me to get comfortable with the routine, and the students to get used to my face.  I was simply referred to as a volunteer in class until that last day before her maternity leave started so the kids did not have any anxiety.  My first day of teaching the class officially began on September 10th.

Yes, the L-O-N-G hours of teaching was underway.  Contrary to what most people think, it is not just a job that you do while the kids are in your classroom.  Outside of teaching, it includes planning, meetings, parent communication, bringing work home to do, plus more work at home on the weekends.  Oh, and when you’re sick, you get to plan for a sub, too!  (Yes, I got sick with a horribly sore throat AND laryngitis during the week I had to complete report cards and was barely well enough to hold Parent/Teacher Conferences the following week.)  The stress I had experienced so many years before came back to me—and this time with having my own children to continue to be Mom for.  I naively thought I could have our boys do their homework and “hang out” in my classroom until it was time to go home.  That lasted two days.  I had to enroll them in our school’s after-care program.  They went from having a mom who picked them up from school, had a carpool schedule with their friends’ moms, and who sometimes surprised them with freshly baked cookies when they got home from school, to being the last few kids to get picked up at 5:30 when after-care officially closed.  I even only  had to walk across the hallway to the cafeteria to pick them up, too, but I used every last moment that I could. Some evenings, they would have to stay with me in my classroom until almost 6:00 because I wasn’t quite finished with my work.

Our household and way of life at home completely changed.  My husband (who works long hours during the day—and works until the wee hours of the morning at home a few nights a week once the boys are in bed) would often come home from work before I did with our boys.  For the first time ever, he drove carpool two mornings a week, and he had to pitch in with extra chores around the house that I would normally do, and many nights got started on dinner.  When we did “cook” at home, it was “bare bones” and frozen things from Costco, but many nights we would end up having to eat out or bring in.  To be cost effective, it was many times fast food.   The grocery shopping was done when I was desperate (GASP…and without coupons!) or on the weekends.  The house suffered from lack of cleaning and organization.  The laundry was a continuous battle.   Let me pause here.  I sound like a complaining and whining baby with what ALL moms who work outside of the home do day in and day out, and this is what I used to have to do before we had kids when I worked.  I will address this in my lessons and appreciation a bit!

The worst part…our boys were unhappy.  They have never had to share me with anyone or the world before.  They always got “my best” and now they were getting “the leftovers” or what there was even left to give, if any.  Our ten year old, who has never been very affectionate, gave me more and lingering hugs and made comments on an almost daily basis for about three weeks: “I don’t like you working, Mommy” or “I like it better when you stay home” or “Please stay on the couch and sit with me.  We never get to spend time with you anymore”.  Those comments were like turning a knife into my heart.  One evening at bedtime during the end of September, I was talking to him and telling him that we only had one more week before our Fall Break from school, when we would take our much-anticipated trip to Disneyland.  After that I reminded him there were only three more weeks of my teaching left, and then I would be done teaching and home again.  He replied, “Mommy, I don’t know what I’m looking forward to more, going to Disneyland or you being home with us again.”  I cried and right in front of him and for two reasons.  First, it obviously broke my heart.  Secondly, it was the sweetest thing EVER to know that I rank up there with Disneyland.  How cool is that?!

Needless to say, our family was very happy and ready for November 5th, my first day officially being back at home.  This was a really great lesson in so many ways for the four of us.  We feel VERY blessed that I am able to be an at-home Mom.  The boys have an appreciation for me and for all that I do (I am guessing my husband, too).  I love being able to have the time to do those “little extras”, not only here at home, but at our boys’ school—I felt like I was missing out on helping the boys’ teachers in their own classrooms.  I have always told our boys how hard teachers work—now they see it firsthand.  My husband and I don’t know how families where both spouses have to work full-time do it, day in and day out.  Then, I think of those single parents, too.  We are in awe!  I also can see how working parents struggle to help their kids with homework, check their backpacks, or even sign and return papers.

We know that my working-full time is not ideal for our family at this point in our lives.  I also feel as though I can officially close the door on my teaching career.  For all of the time, effort, energy, and passion that teaching requires, I simply do not have it in me.  Of course, my perfectionist ways are not conducive to teaching—at least on my end of things—which is one of the main reasons I left even before I had my own children.  With this recent teaching opportunity, I had kind and positive feedback.  That was very rewarding to hear, and affirmed my hard work and long hours!  I found our boys’ school to be the “real deal” behind the scenes and was thoroughly impressed! Throughout all of this, I had such support from administration, staff, parents, family, and friends…especially my husband.  I am truly blessed!

This has been a wonderful and eye-opening experience!  I strongly believe that God orchestrated this entire situation, starting with the seed that was planted back in June for me to go on the substitute list.  Everything fell into place from there and was truly meant to be.  I couldn’t have planned things better myself! I am not “scared away” from being in the classroom and am actually going to go on the regular substitute list starting in January—but only on a daily basis here and there and when our family’s schedule allows.  My passion for helping teachers and their school continues, has never wavered and is strengthened, if anything, after my recent teaching experience—this is just another way that I can help!

Thank you for taking the time to read about my journey and family’s lessons in appreciation and thankfulness!  I know it was a long one, but it has been a great opportunity for me to reflect back on these past few months and just B-R-E-A-T-H-E.  This has also been an excellent way for me to get my creative juices flowing with my blogging again.  I was so far-ahead this summer with getting my ideas written up to keep the momentum going on my blog while I was teaching, that I sadly don’t have any extra ones “in the hopper”, ready to go.  In between the hustle and bustle of getting ready for Christmas, I hope to keep up and make at least one post and hope to stay on my regular bi-monthly Tuesday schedule.  I am certainly thankful for the opportunity to have blogging as a fun and creative outlet as an at-home mom!

 

 

A Timeless Gift That Will Turn Heads

Silhouettes

It’s November, and Christmas will be here before we know it! Since I am a planner, I thought I would share a unique and classic gift idea with you that Grandparents are sure to LOVE and treasure forever and always—silhouettes of your children! The silhouettes we had made of our boys three years ago are actually so dear and precious to me, they have a prime spot right next to me here on my desk.

I honestly need to give credit to my mother-in-law for suggesting I get these done of our boys, and I’m so glad I did. She read an advertisement in the paper that a renowned Silhouette artist was going to be at the mall near our home. She asked if I wouldn’t mind taking our boys down and even sent me a check to cover the costs because she wanted them as a keepsake. Years ago, she had them done of her boys when they were children while in Disneyland. (You know the little place tucked in Main Street USA that has been there for years?) Funny thing is my Mom had one done of me when I was a little girl, too, on my first trip to Disneyland. She always treasured it.

Tim Arnold has been creating silhouettes professionally for over 30 years and sometimes travels around the country—which was how I had the opportunity to watch him capture a moment in time with our boys’ likeness. I was in complete awe as he transformed a piece of black paper using embroidery-type of scissors with precision and steady hands into the absolute likeness of our boys…right down to eyelashes and cowlicks on our older son to the eyeglasses and spiked up hair of our younger son. You can absolutely tell those silhouettes are of our boys from their profiles. It is truly uncanny! Our boys sat still, one at a time, while Mr. Arnold completed each one in about 10-15 minutes time.

Unfortunately, Mr. Arnold does not have any events planned in Arizona, where you have them done in person. However, according to his website Silhouette-Man, you can email a picture or send a photo in the mail. Pictures must be a profile picture, and it is best if the subject is not smiling and has a serious face. He will then transform the photo into two silhouettes, a left-facing and right-facing (there are two layers of black paper as he cuts), sign, and mail to you. You also have the option of an ivory or white 5 X 7 background that he will mount the silhouette onto. The website states there is a 2-3 week turnaround time—which is why I thought I would make this post now, giving plenty of time to place an order prior to Christmas. You can order classic, black oval picture frames through him at an additional fee. I’ve even seen them at Michael’s here locally.

This is sure to be a favorite and treasured gift for Grandma…and you can keep the extra one for yourself!

The Thankful Turkey

Thankful Turkey

I don’t know about you, but I have so much to be thankful for and truly feel blessed in every way and in all aspects of my life. This “attitude of gratitude” stays with me throughout the year, but this is the time of year when we all tend to think about such things with the Thanksgiving holiday approaching.

My sister-in-law has a tradition that she does each year with her three boys that serves as a tangible display of these blessings. When her two older boys were younger, she stumbled across the idea of “The Thankful Turkey” in an issue of “Family Fun” magazine as a way to bring Thanksgiving a little closer to home for them, as they live out of state from many of their family and friends.

Each year, a few weeks prior to Thanksgiving, she and her boys prepare for the project. They cut out colorful turkey feathers from construction paper. These feathers, along with a short note that she has typed up, are enclosed in an envelope and mailed to family and friends. Obviously, the number of feathers mailed out match the number of people in that particular family. The note asks each family member to write something they are thankful for, along with their name on the feather. She encloses a pre-addressed and stamped envelope, which makes it very easy for the feathers to be returned to them.

A few days prior to Thanksgiving, she and the boys create the body of a turkey on a poster board. Then, on Thanksgiving they read through each turkey feather that has been returned to them and glue them onto the poster board, around the body, creating a very colorful and “Thankful” turkey! We always receive a short email on Thanksgiving evening that includes a picture of our nephews proudly standing in front of their project.  (You’ll note the turkey picture at the top of the blog is not theirs. The only pics I have of their turkey has my nephews in it, and I do not like to use photos with our boys or family members in my blog.  This is a similar project I found online.)

As your children grow older, I can absolutely see how you can incorporate cross-curricular learning in this activity. You may begin from the simplest form of this being a craft project for your littlest ones by having them cut out a feather you have traced, to them tracing and cutting it out for themselves. As children become older, you can look at a map and discuss where family and friends live across the country. Letter writing and addressing envelopes can be another lesson you can reinforce, taking this to yet another level for older children.

Hope this is a project that your family will “Gobble Up” this Thanksgiving!

Recipes to “Fall” For

Fall Pumpkin Recipes

Okay, so here in Phoenix area we don’t really have all four seasons…we’ve got pleasant and scorching HOT. October really doesn’t bring cooler weather by day, but at least the mornings and evenings are at least bearable. We’re still in shorts, and the kids sweat in their Halloween costumes. There are even families in our neighborhood that pass out cold water bottles and cold caffeine-free sodas to the kids as we Trick-or-Treat to help cool us all off as we make the rounds!

While our boys are happily enjoying watching football on TV as their fall-fun, I break out my pumpkin-scented candles on the counter and get to work baking yummy recipes that call for pumpkin…pumpkin anything. Whenever I see a recipe that uses pumpkin puree, I print it out, write it down, or (gulp-my new addiction), Pin it—gotta love Pinterest! I honestly could sound like Forrest Gump with his collection of Bubba Gump Shrimp recipes with those that I’ve collected—and have yet to make most of them. The smell of pumpkin anything baking in the oven helps to bring me into my happy place! I thought I would share two of our family favorites. Thank you to Katie and Anne for sharing these particular recipes with me in the past few years!

Pumpkin Mini-Muffins (aka Mini-Donuts)

For Donuts:

1 3/4 Cup All-Purpose Flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 tsp. allspice

1/8 tsp. ground cloves

1/3 Cup Vegetable Oil (you could sub applesauce for this)

1/2 Cup Brown Sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3/4 canned plain pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)

1/2 Cup low-fat milk

For Coating: (Optional, but makes them taste better! Best dipped & coated same day you are going to eat them, otherwise the coating tends to get soggy.  You can always reheat later & dip then)

1 stick butter, melted (You won’t use it all, just makes it easier to dip)

2/3 Cup Granulated Sugar

2 Tbsp. Cinnamon

Directions:  Preheat oven to 350o.  Spray each cup in a 24-cup mini muffin tin with baking spray or butter generously. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and spices (through cloves).  In a separate, large bowl, whisk together oil, brown sugar, egg, vanilla, pumpkin and milk until smooth.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until just combined—do not over mix!

Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.  (Using a 2 Tbsp. scoop will ensure uniform size)  Bake for 10-12 min or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Yields 20-24 mini muffins.

While muffins bake, melt butter in one bowl and combine sugar & cinnamon in another bowl.  Remove muffins from oven & cool for 2 min or just until cool enough to handle.  Dip each muffin in melted butter, then roll in cinnamon-sugar to coat.  Enjoy!

Pumpkin Chocolate-Chip Muffins

*If you double-batch this recipe, you can use one entire can of pumpkin*

1 Cup Flour

1 Cup Sugar

1 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

2 eggs, beaten

1 Cup Canned Pumpkin

1/2 Cup Cooking Oil (you can substitute with applesauce)

1/3 Cup Chocolate Chips (mini chips seem to work better.  If you use larger chips, lightly dust in flour first, as that will help to keep them from settling to the bottom of the muffin)

Mix together.  Use muffin liners or lightly grease muffin pan. Fill muffin cups & bake at 350o for 20-25 min.  Yields 24 muffins.

 

The Bosu Ball…It Will Work You to the Core

Bosu Ball

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a post about fitness or exercise, so I thought I’d share about one of my favorite pieces of gym equipment—the Bosu Ball.

What is it? The Bosu ball looks like a blue stability ball that has been cut in half, resembling half of a globe, and is attached to a rigid and flat platform. This flat side has handles carved into each underside that you can hold on to. How do you pronounce it? “Bo” like the boys’ name, and “Sue” like the girls’ name. What does the name mean? Originally, it was an acronym for “Both sides up”, but has more recently been referenced to as “Both sides utilized”.

This definition of both sides being utilized is absolutely correct, which is what I love about the Bosu—the versatility that it offers from one piece of equipment and allows me to get a cardio and strength training workout, all in one. I have used them in group fitness classes off and on for the past few years, but only when the instructor happens to utilize them as part of her class. I found it to be a fun piece of equipment that gives such bang for the buck, that when I saw a rare sale offer on them at Target, I purchased one for home.

The Bosu builds balance and targets your core muscles because of the unstable surface. If you work out with the rounded ball-side up, you can use it as if it were an aerobic step to do lunges and squats, or you can bounce across it for some cardio work; you can stand and balance on it to do upper-body strength training with free weights, such as bicep curls and shoulder raises; you can get in the plank position and lean your elbows on the rounded ball, or you can lay down and lean back against it to do crunches that specifically target your abs. Conversely, if you flip the Bosu over so the rounded part is on the ground, and the flat surface is up, you can use it to do push-ups or planks; you can get your heart-rate up and core engaged with “Mountain-Climbers”; and you can lay down with your feet planted on the surface and lift your hips off the ground, working your glutes. There are still many other exercises you can do with the Bosu!

Bosu website

Bosu link on Amazon.com

You can find the Bosu at most places: Target, Sporting Goods Stores, and Amazon, just to name a few. The going rate seems to be around $109. I had been eyeing the Bosu for a few months, debating on whether or not I wanted to spend the money on one. However, when I saw Target had them for $109 with a $20 Target gift card for free with the purchase, I couldn’t pass it up. The Bosu comes with a small pump to inflate it, a mini-manual and short exercise DVD, too. I have not had any problems with the inflation of my Bosu these past few months that I’ve owned and used it. I truly enjoy my Bosu, and you can bet that anytime it’s out in the living room, our boys LOVE to use it as a mini-trampoline…hey, they’re exercising, so I don’t mind one bit!

Hold the Phone!

Ooma 2

Piggy-backing on last week’s post, I had to share another way that we have cut costs (and the cord) in our home. Over a year ago, we dropped our home phone service with Cox. And no, if you’re already thinking it, we do not have our cell phones in lieu of a land line.

My husband is an IT—Information Technology—guru, and he knew there were other, alternative ways that we could and should be saving money with our home phone. You’ve heard of the “Magic Jack” on TV, I’m sure? Well, that hasn’t gotten the best reviews from users. However, there is a product that has received outstanding reviews, called Ooma.

What is Ooma? According to their website, “Ooma provides free home phone service once you purchase our device for a one-time fee. Plug your high-speed Internet and existing home phone into Ooma and call anywhere in the U.S. for free. You pay only applicable taxes and fees. You’ll enjoy clear, landline quality voice and bundled features like caller-ID, call-waiting and voicemail.”

For us “non-techies”, Ooma is a VoIP – Voice Over Internet Protocol—A technology that uses a broadband internet connection to enable voice calls without a standard phone line. All you need is an Ooma machine and a regular home phone! You do not need to leave your computer on to use Ooma, either.

We purchased our Ooma through Amazon for just under $200, and we own the device outright. We did pay a one-time fee of $39 when we set our Ooma account up that allowed us to keep our same home phone number that we’ve always had—for us, that was well worth the price vs. the hassle of changing our number. We subscribe to the standard Ooma Telo service package, which is FREE, with the exception of the mandated taxes and fees. With our standard package, we get free long-distance in the US, Caller ID, Call Waiting, and you still have access to 911. There is also voice mail that you can use via the Ooma device itself or by checking via your Ooma account online, and you can even purchase an Ooma handset to use that will allow you to check voice mail on the handset itself. However, we choose to let our answering machine that comes with our cordless phone be the way we check messages, the way we’ve always done it.

Are you ready for the cost of our monthly “phone bill”? Yep, it’s a mere $ 3.97! There is an Ooma Premier package that is offered for $9.99/month, but for us, the FREE standard package is perfect and is exactly what we had with Cox.

There have been only one or two occasions in over a year since we started our Ooma service, where we’ve had a little glitch with being able to use our phone. Also, if you have a home security system, you will need to check with your security company and ask if you need to have or upgrade to a cell tower with them, as they may not be able to use a VoIP as part of their system. Ooma has been a great way to save money while getting the same features we had when we paid around $20/month with Cox. This has been a great change that has helped us to save a big chunk of change!

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