Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Dasani Drops Influenster VoxBox

I received these items complementary for testing and review purposes from Influenster.

I was so excited when I got the email letting me know that I was chosen for the Dasani Drops VoxBox. I had seen a few commercials on TV for the product, but I hadn't tried it. In the past, any flavor enhancers that I added to my water had been of the powered kind, and I wasn't too impressed with them, so I wanted to see what the liquid flavor enhancers were all about.

In my VoxBox, I received 2 full size (1.9 fl oz) bottles of Dasani Drops in the Cherry Pomegranate and Pink Lemonade Flavors. I tried them (and am still using them) and love them!  I did a video review so that I can tell you all the things that I love about them.

So just to recap... Here is why I love Dasani Drops: 
  • Great Flavors that don't taste artificial. 
  • Portable enough to carry with you on the go. 
  • Adds Nothing to your water other than flavor. No calories, no sugar. 
  • Reasonably Priced when compared to other flavor enhancers. 
  • Makes Me Drink more water! 
What's not to love right?! As you saw in the video, I did purchase additional flavors, and I have liked them all.  My favorite is the grape, and after that, its hard to call. I can't wait to try the other flavors that Dasani Drops has to offer.  If you are looking for a way to increase your water intake, I definitely recommend purchasing a bottle or two of Dasani Drops.  

Have you tried them? If you have, tell me what your favorite flavor is in the comments! 

Want to see more reviews? Visit the Influenster Page to see what other people are saying about these flavor enhancers. Also, Like Dasani on Facebook and Follow Dasani Drops on Twitter
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Monday, July 29, 2013

Weekend Update

Today I'm linking up with Sami to share my weekend with y'all. It was a pretty good weekend... no really big plans, but it turned out to be a fun weekend.

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  1. My great weekend started Friday with this Twitter conversation between Allie, Lori and Me... Allie had a huge giveaway on her blog for her 1 year blogiversary, and guess what?! I won!! Seriously, I was (and still am) SO freaking excited about this! Lots of ad space on blogs, gift cards to Target, Starbucks, Baublebar and more! You always enter these big group giveaways, hoping that maybe you will win, but seriously, I did not expect it! I started following all of the bloggers that participated, and I've found some great blogs. That is my favorite part about entering big group giveaways... I always start following more blogs and loving the bloggers. I'm not the person that follows for the sake of the giveaway and then unfollows... my bloglovin reading list is proof of that. I really love connecting with bloggers and hope that I form some great relationships because of this. 
  2. Every year, our church hosts a Senior Citizens Supper for the Senior Citizens in our church. Each year, there is a different theme, and this year was "Shipwrecked on Gilligan's Island." I helped serve the food, and after everyone had a chance to eat, some of the teenagers performed a Gilligan's Island skit. It was funny that before a couple of weeks ago, none of them had even seen the show. After it was over, the theme song was stuck in my head for a few hours. 
  3. I made Maggie her first tutu! Little Miss will be 1 next week! Her birthday party is coming up this weekend, and she is having her 1 year photos taken tomorrow, so this tutu will be used for both events. I can't wait for her to wear it. She is going to look so stinkin cute! 
  4. Sunday was Auntie's Day, and I got to spend the day with Parker and Maggie. They got me a little gift, and Parker gave me my card and helped me read it. 
  5. Here's what they gave me... a cute card with owls on it that said "Who loves you? We do! That's Who!" and a cute little flower box full of chocolates and caramels. Also, Maggie took her first steps, and I got to see it! Great Auntie's Day with my niece and nephew! 
What did you do this weekend?

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Friday, July 26, 2013

Aunthood is a Gift - I'm a #SavvyAuntie

On June 28, 2010, my life changed forever. On that day, Parker was born, and I became an Aunt. I'd never felt love like that before. Then, on August 4, 2012, I got to experience becoming an Aunt again when Maggie was born. Both times, it was love at first sight, and I knew my life would never be the same. 

Being an Aunt is truly special. The feelings I have about being an Aunt, and the joy that it brings into my life are almost indescribable. No matter how bad my day is, when Parker crawls up in my lap to give me a hug, or Maggie blows me a kiss, it is instantly a million times better. The other day, I was spending time with them and I had to leave to go to class... as I was leaving, Parker said, "Wait Crystal, I want to kiss you!" Those kisses, from that three year old little boy, mean more to me than any kisses I've ever had. 

Earlier this week, I turned to Twitter to ask the Aunts, what their favorite part of being an Aunt is. Lori from a crazy walk on the safe side commented on those kisses too. She said: 
I don't get to see my nieces and nephew as much as I'd like, but I love how excited they always get to see us on can count on lots of hugs, kisses and unconditional love. Beach trips and playing in the ocean with them is my favorite!
Unconditional love... that's what it is. I'm lucky enough to live close to my niece and nephew, so I get those little reminders of unconditional love often. If a few days go by without me seeing them, I miss them so much. Even now that Parker is being a brat sometimes (three year olds are moody!) and Maggie is fussy from teething, just being around them makes my heart happy.

If you've been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know that I struggle with not being a mother. I recently wrote about how I was the only one, of three granddaughters without children. When I was thinking about this post, it hit me. I might be the only one who isn't a mom, but I am the only one that has been given this gift of Aunthood. I take great pride in being an Aunt. I'm not their mom, but I love these kids with all of my being. I didn't give birth to them, but they are mine!

This Sunday is Auntie's Day -- a day dedicated to honoring and celebrating Aunts and Godmothers. This day was started 5 years ago by Melanie Notkin. She is the go to expert on Aunts... she even wrote a book about it. "Savvy Auntie: The Ultimate Guide for Cool Aunts, Great-Aunts, Godmothers, and All Women Who Love Kids" is a great book, and resource for Aunts. I read it when it first came out, and loved it. I would highly recommend it.  It's kind of like a "how to be an Aunt" book.

Not only did Notkin write the book, she created a whole online community of Aunts... an Auntourage , if you will... Check out the Savvy Auntie website, and Facebook page. You can also follow Melanie on Twitter and Instagram. (She's not paying me to say all of this or anything... I just think she's awesome, and want to make other Aunts aware!)

So take some time out of your day on Sunday to honor the Aunts in your life... whether they are your Aunt, or your children's Aunts. It doesn't have to be anything over the top... just let them know that they are loved and appreciated. You will make an Auntie's Day!

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Thirty before 30

Today, I am revealing my Thirty before 30 list. I know that I have tried similar lists before, and failed (ahem... 27 before 27, anyone?)... but this time, I am giving myself more time. Even though I am revealing the list today, I am setting my start date as July 28. I will turn 30 on May 28, 2015. That will give me 22 months to complete all of the things on my list. 

This time, I thought about things that I really needed and wanted to complete. Some of them are spill overs from my failed list last year, and some of them are completely new. This time I have categorized them so that I can keep track of them better. I'm really excited about the things that I have on my list. Some of them will be super hard to complete. and some of them will be a lot of fun.  I also thought that today, I would give you a little bit of insight as to why I added these things to my list. 


  1. Graduate from College and get a Teaching job -- If this one isn't checked off by the time I'm 30, I will seriously have a conniption. 
  2. Promote to Tupperware Director -- This is something that I've been working on for a while now, and I'm just not getting there. I really hope that it is something that I can accomplish, sooner, rather than later. 


  1. Lose (at least) 50 pounds -- I can stand to lose a lot more, but I'm starting with this goal for now. If I hit it, I will increase this number. I've got to get serious about my weight for a number of reasons... mostly because I want to slim down. 
  2. Quit Smoking -- this nasty habit has gone on long enough. It is getting more costly, and I just need to stop. 
  3. Complete a 5K -- I don't want to be the fastest runner, but I just want to finish. 
  4. Go a whole month without eating any fast food -- Remember when I said some of these would be extremely hard to do? This one is going to be very very hard. I eat so much fast food now, it is ridiculous. Its easy, convenient, and readily available. Greenville has been listed as one of the top markets for fast food in the past, and everywhere you turn, there is another fast food joint, or 4 staring you in the face.  I need to cut back on this in general, so I really want to go a whole month without any. 
  5. Try 10 foods that I've never tried before -- This one should not be too hard. I'm a very picky eater, and the things that I eat are very limited. It's time to branch out a little. 


  1. Make at least 5 Quilts (including one for Parker and Maggie) -- This one I am super excited about. I've gotten into the whole quilting thing a lot more lately, and I can't wait to get started. I already have plans for like 4 of these. I may end up doing more than 5. 
  2. Take the Wilton Cake Decorating Class -- This is something that I've wanted to do for a long time. I've dabbled a little bit in cake decorating before, but I really want to go through the actual course. My mom and my Aunt are also interested in this, so maybe its something that we can do together. 
  3. Make or do at least 20 things that I've pinned on Pinterest  -- I have a little bit of an obesession with Pinterest. Currently, my boards have over 2300 pins... Instead of them just sitting there, I want to make a conscious effort to actually do more of them. It can be things that aren't crafty... but it must be inspired by Pinterest. Recipes do not count. 


  1. Watch at least 10 movies, made in the 1980s, that I haven't seen before -- I'm that person that if it was made before I was born, I probably haven't seen it... This shouldn't be hard to do, since there are so many that I haven't seen... Pretty in Pink? Nope. The Goonies? Nope. The Breakfast Club? Nope... the list goes on... 
  2. Watch the entire Sex and the City series in order (including both movies) -- This is something that I've wanted to do for a long time. It was on my list last time, and I just never got around to it. I actually own all of the seasons and both movies on DVD, so its just a matter of doing it. 
  3. Read 50 books (including 5 classics and 10 nonfiction) -- I need to make more time for reading. I love to read, but I often push it to the back burner. I included the stipulation of 5 classics and 10 nonfiction, because I need to read stuff other than just romance novels. 
  4. Go to a Concert -- Concerts have never been something I've been to a lot. There are a lot of people that I'd love to see live, but I just haven't been. People that I know just aren't concert goers. I kept it general, so that any concert can count. 
  5. Visit a museum -- I love history, but I haven't been to a museum in years. NC has some awesome museums to visit.. a lot of them are small and capture local history. It doesn't matter what kind I visit, I just want to visit at least one. 
  6. Tour 5 NC Wineries -- I love NC Wines. Last year, I visited Hinnant Family Vineyards, but I want to visit 5 more in our state. There are over 100 wineries in our state, so finding 5 shouldn't be hard! 


  1. Blog every day for a whole month (including weekends) -- I hope to do this more than just 1 month, but we'll start with 1. I need to be more consistent in my blogging, and hopefully this challenge will help me. 
  2. Write an Alphabibliography-- This is something that I started way back when, but I want to start over and complete it this time. This list item is inspired by a book that I had to read for one of my classes this summer, where the character was given this assignment by his teacher. You basically pick one word that begins with each letter of the alphabet and write about its significance to you. 


  1. Organize my office -- I keep saying that if I organize my office, that the rest of my house will be easier to organize. That is mostly true. My office/3rd bedroom is a disaster, and no work gets done in there. This will be my office/craft/sewing room. The before pictures will not be pretty... but hopefully the afters will a nice, organized space that leads to productivity. 
  2. Organize my closet -- I need to go through my closet and get rid of clothes that I do not wear anymore, and organize the clothes that I keep. I have way too many clothes. 
  3. Organize my pantry with Tupperware Modular Mates -- This is partly done, and partly not. Somethings are in Modulars, and a lot of stuff isn't. I need to completely go through my pantry and reorganize it. I love Modular Mates and sell a lot of them, and its time to finally put into practice what I preach. 

For Others

  1. Direct the Christmas Play at Church -- I've been a lot more involved in church lately. This year I directed Vacation Bible School, but directing the Christmas Play is something that I've been lead to do lately. I really want to direct the play for 5th grade and under. I've been looking at ideas online already, and have some ideas of my own. 
  2. Mail out Christmas Cards by December 1 -- I'm horrible about mailing out my cards. Last year, I had them addressed and everything, and forgot to mail them out. Sometimes they arrive after Christmas. I need to do them earlier! 
  3. 10 Random Acts of Kindness -- I always love hearing stories about people performing Random Acts of Kindness, and I want to do the same... these won't be predetermined, because they are, well, random. It can be anything that makes someone's day a little brighter. 
  4. Mail 20 cards (not including Christmas cards) -- I love getting cards in the mail. I need to be better about sending them. They can be anything... birthday cards, get well cards, thinking of you cards... just anything to show people that they are on my mind. 

Personal / Random

  1. Sing Karaoke -- I love to sing. Most of the time, its karaoke in my living room. I've sang karaoke in public before, but it has been a long time. 
  2. Have a Girl's Night with my Sister -- My sister and I don't spend enough time together. We need to have a girls night, to give us some bonding time, and to give her a break from the kids. 
  3. Try 20 New Recipes --  I have a ton of recipes pinned on Pinterest. I love to cook, but don't do it enough. If I'm going to give up Fast Food for a month, and try foods I've never tried before, I will need some new recipes to try out. 
  4. Go on a picnic  -- This is just something I want to do...Grab a blanket, a basket of food, and have a picnic... preferably by a lake or pond. 
  5. Take a day trip, alone, to the beach -- I'm not much of a beach person. Though I only live about an hour and a half away, I can't remember the last time that I've been. I just want to take a day and drive to the beach, sit there alone, watching and listening to the waves, maybe reading a good book... just take some time for myself and relax. 
There you have it... a list of 30 things that I want to complete in the next 22 months. I think that there is a good mix of the categories, and I really feel like I can complete all of these. I will be blogging about my progress on the list as well. That is kind of an unwritten #31. My plan is to dedicate the post on the 28th of each month to update my progress on the whole list... but as I complete things, I will write posts about them. 

Do you have a list of goals that you want to complete by a certain time? I'd love to see your lists. I looked online for a lot of inspiration while I was creating my list. A lot of bloggers do this, and its always interesting to see what goals people set for themselves. 

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Monday, July 15, 2013

Music Monday -- Little Moments by Brad Paisley

This song isn't new by any means, but it is one that is on my mind today. I've mentioned this song before, and how it took on a whole new meaning early one morning in 2004.  As I thought about what to write for today, this song came to mind again.

I know the song is talking about the "little moments" in relationships, but for me, this song is such a great reminder that we should hang onto all of the little moments in our lives. Stein Ove Fenne, our Tupperware President, always says "We don't remember days, we remember moments." It's so true.

One of the reasons that I'm remembering little moments today, is that it would have been my Granddaddy Harvey's birthday. He died in 1997, when I was 12 years old. Over the years, the memories of him have been fading, but it's definitely the little moments that I remember with him.

As a kid, I was obsessed with playing school. I would make worksheets that my pretend students would have to complete. Of course, no teacher could have only one copy of a worksheet, so he would take me to the post office, or the local copy shop to make copies of my homemade worksheets.

When I was in the 6th grade, the year before he died, he picked me up from school everyday, so that I wouldn't have to ride the bus. On the way home, we'd always stop at a little convenience store and he would buy me a Dr. Pepper or a Pepsi and a slice of Hoop Cheese.

Today when I think of the time that I spend with my family, especially with Parker and Maggie, I definitely cherish the little things. As Brad Paisley said "I live for... little moments... like that."

Monday Link Ups: Monday Mingling, Funday Monday
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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Blog Business...

Notice anything different around here? If you visited yesterday, you might've seen some ugly while I was changing everything. I've cleaned up the pages a little bit, and I have a new design. It took me a while to decide what I wanted to do, but then I got a little bit of inspiration, and went with it.  Let me know what you think of the new look!

One thing that I have added is sponsors... I feel that sponsoring other blogs and having them sponsor you is a great way for both parties to gain exposure. I've only sponsored a couple of blogs recently, just because I don't have the extra funds to invest in it. So, any money that I make off of selling ad space will be reinvested in the blogging community for me to sponsor more blogs.

I struggled a lot with setting my prices. I don't have a huge blog, but it has grown some over the course of this year. I started small, with what I feel are fair prices. Right now, there are only 3 categories, and I am keeping the number of sponsors low, so that I can provide everything that is promised.

All advertising will be handled through Passionfruit. To purchase, click on the Sponsor link above.

The Long Winded Ramble -- $10
This is the in post ad feature. Your ad will be featured at the bottom of each post that I publish for 30 days. I am trying my best to post 4 to 6 times a week. This ad also features an introduction post throughout the month, as well as the option to have your own guest post on my blog. There will also be lots of social media shoutouts on Twitter, Facebook and at least one on Instagram. Only 1 of these will be sold each month.

The Short Ramble - $6
This is a sidebar ad that will be placed, in rotating fashion, for 30 days. This ad spot features one introduction post throughout the month. You will also receive social media shout outs on Twitter and Facebook. I will only have 5 "Short Ramble" sponsors each month.

Exchanging Rambles - Swap Opportunity
This is a free ad spot that will be featured on my sidebar, under the "Short Ramble" sponsors for 30 days. These ads will also rotate. Throughout the month, you will receive social media shoutouts on Twitter and Facebook. Use the code RAMBLINGS to make this ad spot free.

Since I am just getting started with sponsorships, the first 5 people to use the code NEW will receive 50% off your ad price.

I look forward to working with you as a sponsor on My Ramblings.

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Friday, July 12, 2013

My Memories Suite Review (and Giveaway!)

First of all, I am SO excited about today's post! I have been scrapbooking for a long time... I have dozens of unfinished pages, and my craft room is filled with papers and stickers and other embellishments. I've never been really good at it, and I am never quite satisfied with how my pages turn out. I get frustrated, stop, and then never finish. 

Lately, digital scrapbooking is becoming more and more popular. Gone are the days of walking in a specialty scrapbooking store to browse the papers and stickers. Now, you just find a digital kit that you love, download it and go to work. 

Enter, My Memories. My Memories is one of the best digital scrapbooking softwares available. They recently offered me a copy to try out and review. Within minutes of downloading it, I was already creating scrapbook pages, just with the things that come with the software... no extra downloads or purchases required. 

Here are a couple of pages I created, using their pre-designed templates. 

They make it so simple! You can create your own layouts too. It is simple click, drag and drop. You see everything on the screen, and can customize it how you want it. It's fast, too. Once I had selected which pictures I wanted to use, the layouts above only took about 2 or 3 minutes to do. Imagine how fast you could complete a whole book! 

Don't scrapbook? No worries. You can create other things as well. This program is great for bloggers who want to create their own graphics. Here are a couple of images that I made using quotes. 

If you're looking for certain graphics or a certain theme, their marketplace is full of items that you can purchase to add on to your pages or images. There are even some freebies and sale items. The possibilities of what you can create are limitless! 

Loving this software? Well... the people over at My Memories are so awesome that they are giving all of my readers a code that will give you $10 off the price of the software, and $10 to spend in their marketplace!  All you have to do is enter the code STMMMS30868 at checkout.

It gets even better though, because they are offering one lucky reader a FREE copy of the software! How awesome is that?! Just use the rafflecopter below to enter. Anyone, anywhere in the world can enter. 


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Throwback Thursday: The Evolution of My Blog

I've been itching for a new blog design lately. I've been seeing all of these lovely blog designs that other bloggers have, and while I like my current design, I feel like its time for something new. I also know that a lot of bloggers hire someone else to do their blog design, and while that is great and works for other people, I've always created my own graphics and played around with my own design. I don't know everything there is to know, but I am constantly finding new tutorials and things to make my blog great. So, over the next few days, if you show up here and things look a little wonky, that's because I'm playing around with my design. Bare with me until I get it done!

Since today is Throwback Thursday, I thought I would take a little walk down memory lane with my blog. Over the past (almost) 7 years, this place has been my little corner of the Internet, and it has gone through several transformations. I was looking back at some of the headers that I've created in the past and today I'm gonna share them with you.

I used to change it up a lot around here, and a lot of the time, it would be seasonal. I don't know exactly when these are from, or how long they stayed, but at one point, they were the focus of this here blog.

And my current header: 

11 different headers... I'm sure there are some that I'm missing... and of course when I first got started, it was probably just words... I kind of have a little idea about the direction that I want to go in next, but I'm not 100% sure what I want to do. 

Has your blog been made over a lot or a little?  

Linking Up With


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

5 Girlie Girl Things That I'm Bad At...

At times, I can be a total girlie girl. Most of the time, I am not. I'm not anywhere near being a 'tomboy' but on any typical day, I am just simple and natural. Perhaps the main reason for this is that I suck at most things that your typical 'girlie girl' is good at. Here are 5 things that I just can't seem to get the hang of... 

Doing My Hair

When it came to the hair styling abilities in our family, my sister got all of them. I always see such cute ideas for doing your hair on Pinterest, and I've watched countless Youtube hair tutorials, but when it comes time to do them, I can never get it quite right. A ponytail, or a bun is about as good as it gets for me... and even the buns aren't perfect. I own a flat iron, but it rarely gets used. Braiding? Forget it. When I want to jazz up my boring hair, I add bows, headbands or ribbon... recently, I have started doing this fan bun thing, that seems to be working for now. 

Painting My Nails

If my nails are ever done, it is by a professional, and usually for a special event. If I ever paint my nails, they look horrible. I'm not one for a lot of color on my nails, anyway. Usually when I get them done, I get a French manicure or something similar. I'm a nail biter, so if I did have them painted, the polish wouldn't last, because I would bite it. 99% of the time, my nails look like this... 
Toenails are another story... I like having them painted... I love a bright color, especially since I live in flip flops most of the year. I'm bad at painting them myself, so I usually have my sister do it, or just get them painted during a manicure. 

Wearing Makeup

Wearing makeup has never been a priority of mine. I never begged my mom to buy it for me or to let me wear it as a young girl. I would wear it every now and again... but it has never been an every day thing. Until recently, it was only reserved for special events, and again, someone else always did it for me. I've dabbled in it a little more lately, but you won't see me posting tutorials anytime soon. Even if I did wear makeup on the regular, I would never wear lipstick or lip gloss... I hate having anything on my lips. 

Walking in Heels

This one is more out of necessity rather than choice. I would love to wear sexy heels that make me 5 or 6 inches taller, but that just ain't happening. There have been times when I've worn heels, but it just never feels right because I'm so fat... I feel like an elephant walking on stilts. The other reason is that if I wear heels for an extended period of time, they hurt my feet extremely bad. I have a stress fracture in my left foot that really never goes away. Last year, I was in a boot for like 3 months, and it didn't help much at all... so wearing heels, especially tall ones is out of the question. On occasion, I will wear a smaller heel, and I can tolerate wedges, but mostly, I stick to flats. 


This one, I have actually been working on. I've started wearing scarves, and more jewelry, but I'm still not great at it. I don't own a lot of funky accessories. I actually have little desire to buy a bauble necklace or anything like that. I have simple tastes when it comes to jewelry. A little bling here and there, a lot of silver, some black and white, but nothing way over the top. I have one ring that I wear everyday. I often forget to put on earrings... for months at a time. As mentioned above, I do hair accessories often, but other than that, there is room for improvement. 

I'm all girl, and sometimes, when I have somewhere to go, and all the stars align, I get my hair, makeup and nails done, put on a pair of heels with a cute dress, add some jewelry and have a night out on the town. Those events don't happen often, but I love when they do. I love getting dressed up, and dolled up once in a while... but on an every day basis, I am probably one of the most low maintenance girls that you will meet. 

What girlie girl things do you suck at? 


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

When God Has Another Plan

Sunday was a very emotional day for me. Seven years ago, on July 7th, my life completely changed. One question, 4 words, completely turned my life upside down. July 7, 2006 was the day that Will asked me to be his wife. I know that I've said before that I was done talking about my broken engagement on this blog, but to this day, it is still a huge part of my life. That experience has shaped who I am today, probably more than any other single experience in my life.

Normally, the date probably wouldn't have crossed my mind. However, on Sunday, I had to drive to Jacksonville to see Megan and baby Justin. When we dated and were engaged, Will lived in a little town outside of Jacksonville, and we spent most of our time there. In the car, we were talking about Justin's birthday being 7/7, and it hit me. Driving that all too familiar road, the same one that I traveled alone so many times during my semi-long distance relationship, on the date that I was proposed to, was just too much.

Seven years ago, I had a plan for my life. I wanted nothing more than to get married, have children and build a life with my family. On the night Will proposed, I saw all of that plan coming together. Then, 6 months later, that plan fell all to pieces. Being so close to having your plan come to fruition, and then to have it all crumble before your eyes is a heartbreaking experience.

I realize that just because it happened once and didn't work out, doesn't mean that it won't happen again, but I find that I'm not a hopeful as I used to be. I've spent the last six and a half years so guarded, trying to protect my heart from knowing that pain again. I've spent the better part of five years holding on to hope for a relationship that obviously wasn't meant to be. I've spent the last 3 years loving and doting on children that aren't biologically mine.

Aside from being single, the children thing is huge for me. I long to be a mother. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love being an aunt, and I adore Parker and Maggie as if they were my own, but at the end of the day, they aren't. I want to give them cousins. I haven't really talked about this a lot, with anyone, but in August of last year, I was diagnosed with PCOS. I realize that the diagnosis doesn't mean that I will never have children, but it will be a challenge. There is some comfort in knowing it now, before I tried for years to conceive, but it is still hard to deal with knowing that I will more than likely need some kind of assistance getting pregnant.

None of this was my plan... but I have to believe that all of this is part of God's plan for my life. The sermon in church on Sunday was on "The Making of Diamonds." The preacher said that the difference between coal and diamonds is a lot of heat and pressure, and that while He can use a lot of "coal," there are some people that have to go through the heat and the pressure in order to become "diamonds." I've definitely been feeling the heat and the pressure over the past few years. I don't understand what all of this is for, but I have to hope  that there is a bigger plan out there for me.

Alone and broken hearted, questions fill your mind
Changes can be hard that come by God's design
But if you could see tomorrow with a view from Heaven's throne
Every unexpected struggle has led you closer home.
When God has another plan, walk on and just say yes

When God has another plan, be assured that He knows best
When all your dreams are shattered, rest in His sufficient grace
We don't have to understand, when God has another plan.
Chasity Fisher sings "When God Has Another Plan" during a morning service at Kings Cross Roads.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Weekend of Babies

I don't normally start off my blogging week by doing a weekend recap, but this weekend was jam packed with stuff, so I figured this one would a good one to blog about.  I titled this post the "Weekend of Babies" because that's what it felt like to me... lots of little ones. I'm kind of lumping July 4th in with this weekend as well, since this was an extra long weekend because of the holiday. 

1: Look at all those kids... they were all at our family 4th of July cookout. For three of them, it was their first 4th of July. All of the kids are 3 and under. Our family has had quite a baby boom since 2010. (Hence, all of the baby showers I have been planning.) The top row are Miranda and Derek's kids. The twins are three and the third girl is 1. (Fun fact, all of them have the same birthday, the last one was born exactly 2 years after her sisters.) This was a special time for them to be with us, because in about a month, they will be moving to California. Those kids in the middle, Maggie and Parker, have been seen a lot on the blog... I can't believe that Parker is 3 now, and that Maggie will soon turn 1. This auntie wishes that time would slow down just a little bit. On the bottom row are my cousins' kids, Reagan (1), Easton (6 months) and Landon (4 months). What a great looking group of kids! 

2: We found out last Wednesday, that Megan would be induced on Saturday night. Since her husband is a Marine, she had to deliver in the Naval Hospital on Camp Lejune in Jacksonville. On Saturday, Megan dropped Reagan off to stay with my mom while she was in the hospital. I spent a lot of time with Reagan this weekend, talking to her about her new little brother. Since she just turned 1, she probably didn't understand what all was happening. 

3: Since Reagan was staying with Mama, I stayed to help. Mama normally keeps Parker and Maggie on Saturdays while my sister is at work. So, she would have 3 kids to look after, and that is a handful! We spent the day trying to entertain them. After Parker gave each girl a ride in his 4 wheeler. we all took a ride on the golf cart to the pond to see the ducks. 

4: Sunday afternoon, after church, we loaded up the car with just the girls, and headed down to Jacksonville to see Megan and the new baby. Traveling almost 2 hours, with 2 little ones, was very interesting. Reagan and Maggie got along well with each other. My sister caught them holding hands once. These two should grow up to be good friends... They are only about 5 weeks apart in age. 

5: Once we finally got to Jacksonville, we were able to meet this little fella... Justin Scott was born on Sunday at 11:52 am. He is tiny and precious, just like all new babies are. I'm sure he will fit right in with this bunch. He does help even out the boy/girl ratio a little... We're up to 5 girls and 4 boys. 

Today' I'm linking up with: 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Almost Homemade Strawberry Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Filling

Yesterday, we had our annual 4th of July cookout.  In addition to my 'oops' cake, this year I made cupcakes... I hadn't really planned to, but my aunt brought over a box of cake mix and a can of new icing that she wanted to try out. I decided that I would jazz it up a bit, so that they wouldn't be just plain boring cupcakes.

I call these "Almost" Homemade because most of the ingredients were store bought... but I did make the Vanilla Cream Filling from a recipe that I found online. 

Here's how I did it... 

 First, I baked cupcakes, according to the directions on the box. 

While the cupcakes were cooling, I prepared the vanilla cream filling, using the filling recipe found here. I put the filling in a large plastic bag so that I could pipe it into the cupcakes. 

Next, I made a small hole in each cupcake to hold the filling. There are different methods to doing this, but here's what I did.  Insert a cake decorating tip into the center of each cupcake. Don't go all the way to the bottom, because you don't want the filling to run out. 

Fill the cupcakes. 

Next comes the frosting... My aunt wanted to try the new Duncan Hines Frosting Creations frosting. She had chosen the Strawberry Shortcake flavor. The way it works is that you mix in a flavored powder with the can of white frosting. 
Mini Review: While the flavor packet mixed in really well, the frosting turns out very thin and runny. It would run out of the piping bag without any pressure. At first, it worked well on the cupcakes, but overtime, it began to run off of the cakes, almost like it was frosted while the cake was warm, but these were completely cooled. The flavor was good, but it was super sweet. It is also supposed to frost 

Frost each cupcake...I put the frosting in a piping bag fitted with a large star tip, because I wanted the swirl.

On the top of each cupcake, I added a strawberry slice. Since it was the 4th of July, I added some blue sugar sprinkles as well. They looked really good, like something you'd see if a bakery.

When you bite into, or cut into the cupcake, this is what it looks like...
(Note... you can see how runny the icing is here)

The cupcakes were very good, but a little on the sweet side. I think I will try them again, using a different kind of frosting...something that is a little thicker and will hold up. I will also use a tip with a wider base when poking my holes, so that I can get more filling into them.

Did you make any yummy treats for July 4th? 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Campus Book Rentals - Cheaper Textbooks!

In a few short weeks, thousands of college students will be returning to campuses across the country. In the days before classes start, once they've settled into their new dorm rooms, they will be making a trip to the bookstore to purchase textbooks... I've been in college forever... so I know a thing or two about textbooks. Aside from tuition, textbooks are the biggest expense of going to college. I always seem to take that class with that professor that just has to use the newest edition of a book, meaning that there are no used copies available. Even if there is a used edition, it can still be expensive. Seriously, one of my books for this summer session was over $80, used,

After the semester is over, students make a bee line to the bookstore to sell back their books, hoping to recoup some of the money they've spent on books that they hardly used. Most of the time, they walk away feeling like they've been robbed. I've had the bookstore tell me they can only pay me $2 for a book that I just spent $50 on 4 months earlier. Book values must seriously decline rapidly...

However, now there is another option for students. Textbook rentals are becoming more and more popular. One of the first companies to offer textbook rentals was Campus Book Rentals (CBR). I was recently introduced to the company, and when I started looking at their prices, I was sick! They are so much cheaper than the bookstore! Living in a college town, I have a couple of options for purchasing my textbooks locally, but none of their prices compare to CBR!

Not only do you save 40-90% on the price of the books, but the shipping is free... both ways! You can also choose how long you need the book. They offer standard rental periods, but you also have the option of setting your own return date. It really could not be more simple!.

In case you need more info, here's a video that explains the process:

The best part? Yes, it does get better... For every textbook that is rented, they donate to Operation Smile. I love companies that have charitable components built into their business model.

Have textbooks that you didn't sell back to the store? CBR is now offering a new program called RentBack. This is the opportunity for them to rent your textbooks to other students, and you get paid every time it's rented. The bookstore only offered you $20 for your book? Rent Back could earn you $40 to $80... that's right...2 - 4 times as much as selling your book back to the bookstore. They make this process super simple too.

I will definitely be utilizing Rent Back in the near future.

So are you heading back to school in the fall?  Know someone who is just starting? Share this post with them and help them save some serious money!
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