Category Archives: Bloggy Fun

5-Month Clothing Fast {Challenge}

Five-Month Clothing Fast

::Deep Breath::

I have started a fast – from purchasing any clothing, shoes, or accessories for myself – until January 1, 2014.

I know!

It sort of just got into my head this past week, and I’m not sure why. Or, maybe I do. Here’s why I might want to fast from purchasing clothing et al for 5 months:

  • Purchasing clothing is “easy” for me. If it’s in the budget, I just buy it. I do a lot of my ordering online at my favorite shops – Target Daily Deals and Groopdealz. I felt like it was getting too easy – too comfortable – to just click that button to Place Order.
  • To identify with the poor – there are many across the world who have 1 set of clothing. ONE.
  • I have plenty of clothes, and I don’t have a need for more.
  • Spiritual discipline -when I am struggling with this fast, or when I’m tempted to purchase clothes – I remember my God instead who gave everything for me. I replace that ease and comfort with concentration on the Lord. (I hope!)
  • To reject consumerism. Most of the clothes I buy are made by the poor who are not getting a fair wage. For at least 5 months, I can say that I don’t support that through my clothing purchases (buying fair trade makes ALL of our wages go up – please support fair trade!).

Here’s why this fast will be difficult for me:

  • Comfort is my idol, and my clothes wear out quickly. I’m very clumsy, and I have two kiddos. So I at any given moment am staining and ripping and washing and shrinking clothes. Once there’s a stain I can’t get out or the fit isn’t “just-so,” I never want to wear it again. It just picks at me all day.
  • I do enjoy buying clothes and finding that sweet spot of comfort, style, uniqueness, fit, and price.
  • I already have my eye on a friend’s boyfriend jeans, a new pair of black skinnies, and new boots… none of which I will be purchasing.
  • I am almost really good at endurance. I push and push and push until the…very… end. And then I kind of quit early.

Why am I telling you?

  • Support – would you pray with me for the struggles and the joys that will be present during this fast? Ultimately, that I would seek Christ and others more because of this?
  • Accountability.
  • Challenge – I’d love it if you would join me! If you want to fast with me, please let me know! Post a comment, let me know on facebook, or tell me in person. Feel free to grab the image above and use it on your blog!

Image source

Starbucks Green Tea Frappuccino Copycat Recipe

I get addicted to drinks at Starbucks that I can’t make at home, and then I just crave them until BOOM – I must figure it out. Otherwise, I will go broke or be consumed with coffee daydreams.
Starbucks Green Tea Frappuccino copycat Recipe

So here’s a copycat recipe of the Starbucks Green Tea Frappuccino. The best part? It’s only 200 calories (with no whip). Starbucks won’t list this nutritional info online, but I’ve read it’s about 400 calories.

Green Tea Frappuccino copycat Recipe

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup ice
  • 1 cup milk (I think this would be delicious with Coconut Dream for a non-dairy option)
  • 2 Tbsp instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 tsp green matcha tea powder (like this one below!)

Directions:

Blend. Top with whipped cream if you’re like me and feeling sassy.

Watch the video!

The Microsoft Store of Austin – More than I expected. #GoMicrosoft $100 Giveaway!!

What’s better than a hands-on technology store? A hands-on technology store that offers a ton of FREE services.

When I walked into the Microsoft store, I met Malcolm. He stuck with me and answered all of my questions. I didn’t buy anything while I was there, and I was never pressured to.

My buddy Malcolm

Here is what Sam had to say before we went:

Honestly, I hadn’t been in the new Microsoft store at the Domain yet because…well… I thought it would be just like the Apple store. To be fair, the exterior is big, plain, and white – just like the Apple store. But, in my opinion, the Microsoft store is different.

Their aim is to be a family-friendly and community-oriented store. So we took the family to check it out!

Yes!

My first visit was on a Thursday at 4pm. There were not many patrons, but there were plenty of customer service reps. I had a bunch of questions answered, looked around at the products, and Samuel played xbox and fresh paint. My takeaway from the first visit was that the store had some awesome stuff to offer (a lot of it free), it was a great store to visit just for fun, and everyone there was willing to get you going on a machine if you were stuck (which I was :)).

When Malcolm told me you could bring in any Windows product (even if you didn’t buy it there) for help, I texted my mom. She’s an avid Windows user, but her Windows 8 machine was a whole new thing, and she was having trouble figuring it out.

She just so happened to come into town and brought her new laptop! So we visited on a Sunday; I was so glad to be able to also get a feel for the store on the weekend. Even though there were a lot of customers, the store did not feel packed at all. There was plenty of space for the whole family to get through. I even nursed Emma on a bench in the theater room.

Here’s a rundown of the service my mom got: the first lady that greeted her was very friendly and welcoming, but she didn’t have the right information about class times and the “free help” we had heard about. She urged my mom to set up an appointment for later (which honestly is probably ideal if you need a solid tutorial, but anyway). However, another rep came along and interjected to get my mom on the right path. They said a class was just about the start.

Well, the class didn’t have enough people to be put on, and the teacher offered to take my mom aside anyway – awesome! So she spent 20 minutes or so getting hands-on help diving into Windows 8. Not enough to make her a Windows 8 wizard (we did have lunch plans), but enough to get her started.

What I loved about the Microsoft store:

FREE services. This is one of my favorite things about the Microsoft store (besides the fact that no one inside [except me of course] was dressed like a hipster). What’s free?

– Classes. Each day, a number of free classes are offered. The classes range from toddlers in technology to Microsoft Office help to virtual golf. To see a list of classes offered at your store, go here, type in your zip code, click to go to your store’s page, then scroll down to see a list of events.

– Xbox game trials. Have you ever wanted to try out a video game before you buy it? Of course you have! Well, the store offers tons of games that you can sample before purchasing. They can’t have every game offered because the Microsoft store is aiming to be family friendly (thanks for that!) while all of their games are- not.

Playing video games – that background is a panoramic screen that goes across the entire store

– Meeting room. Before I went, this was described to me as a “theater” space. Not quite. It’s not enclosed, simply offset from the rest of the store. But it does have a large projector, and you can book the meeting room for free.

the theater room

– Windows assistance. Obviously, the Microsoft store sells windows products: laptops, phones, Surface (their tablet), etc. Not only will they spend as much time as you want getting everything on your new product just they way you want it, but you can even bring in ANY Windows product that you need help with, and they will take the time you need. This could be, “Uh… Show me how to use Windows 8.” Or, “Something’s going wonky with my phone. Can you help?” Yes, they can. And Malcolm even told me they’re offering tune ups and help tracking down viruses for a limited time. The best news to me? They don’t charge you AND you don’t HAVE to set up an appointment. That being said, I would set up an appointment if you need to go in at a busy time, like Saturday. The appointments are equally free. 🙂 You can schedule appointments right on your store’s page.

My mom getting her Windows 8 lesson

– Summer camps. If you have a grade school child, there are free summer camps available – how cool is that!? No summer camp is free! Unfortunately, they are already booked up for this year. 🙁

– Discounts and custom encounters. If you have a group that wants to do something at the Microsoft store, like maybe a homeschooling group getting a demo or a church group trying out a new piece of software, they are willing to work with you to make a custom event! Each store has a community manager that can make a custom class. I love that! And if you have a homeschooling group or co-op, I believe a certain amount of purchases qualifies the group for a discount!

– (Not free.) Birthday parties. Pay a cleanup fee to host a child’s birthday part at the Microsoft store. They can set you up with Dance Central or other video games (for free), and they’ll provide free swag. Yes!

Watch out for this:

– Saturdays and Sundays. On my first visit, when I asked Malcolm what the place was like on Saturday, he said, “Busy.” People are trying out all of the devices and having tons of fun playing video games. I really thought Sunday was going to be impossible, but I was pleasantly surprised! A video game station was even open.

Sunday crowd

– Free means not always available. From what I could tell, they had plenty of customer service reps on the floor. I had all of my questions answered (mostly by Malcolm – thanks dude!). I don’t think it will be a problem accessing most of their free services, but the summer camp situation was disappointing. I was so excited to share those with you, and it was a bummer to find out they were already all shut down. The pro here is you can pre-register for anything. From talking with Malcolm, it seemed that none of their free classes were ever too large, but if you pre-register, you’re guaranteed a spot.

– Not every rep seems to be fully trained. I’m not sure what was going on with the mis-information my mom got, but from what I could tell (from both visits), if you were looking for some help, you could get it. Maybe their greeters are not the same level as their trainers or answer desk staff. So if you know what you want help on, I’d go straight to the Answer Desk.

In my dream world:

– Text and email alerts. Because the Microsoft store has so many cool things going on, it would be nice to have a text or email alert occasionally to check out the new calendar. Something like “This week’s free events include a Dance Central party and Entrepreneur training. Check it out here.” would be awesome. And brainless for me – which is what I need. 😉

Bottom line, the Microsoft store was so much more than what I expected! Samuel was very disappointed that we didn’t take a computer home, but he loved that he got to play on everything in the store, and they were glad he was “touching all the buttons”. 🙂

playing Fresh Paint

Want $100 to spend at the Microsoft Store? Just share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest then comment below with what you might spend it on! Only US residents 18 and over can enter. One entry each please. The winner will be drawn at random. Entries close on May 31 at 11:59pm.

This is a sponsored post. I was paid to attend a webinar, review the store, and cohost a Twitter party. Check it out Tuesday May 14 at 12pm CST to get your questions answered and win prizes!

Learn more at:

@MicrosoftStore

Microsoft Store on Facebook

Microsoft Store on Pinterest

LeapFrog Ultra eBooks Review

Awhile back, LeapFrog sent us the LeapPad2 to review. I was really impressed with it then, and now that we’ve been using it for a few months, I’m even more impressed with it. (Woohoo!) And since my almost-3 year old Samuel only gets to play with it a few times a day for a certain amount of time, it’s still one of his favorite toys.

One thing I mentioned in my review is that the LeapPad2 has a lot of great educational games to offer for grade-school kids. For the younger child, we mostly watch educational videos, play simple games, and read ebooks. Which, trust me, is plenty for Samuel!

He’s a pre-reader, so I was excited when LeapFrog wanted to send us a couple of the “Learn to Read” Ultra eBooks to review. Ultra eBooks are different from regular eBooks in that they are supposed to grow with the reader.

Here are the things I really like about the Ultra eBooks. A * denotes items that I think are unique to the Ultra eBooks.

  • You can touch around the pictures to hear sound bites or see more action.
  • Mini-games are integrated throughout the books. The games are sometimes just for fun, but often they test vocabulary and sentence structure.
  • The child has the option to read the book themselves, record themselves reading, or hear it read aloud.
  • Samuel seems to enjoy them just as much as videos.
  • * The books are written at 3 different reading levels. As the child masters more reading challenges, the reading level can automatically adjust with them. Or, they can choose a reading level.
  • With a simple touch, any word on the screen will be read and sounded out.
  • * As the words are read, the word being spoken is highlighted and also dances up.
  • The stories, music, visuals, and games are all really fun.
  • It’s a fairly independent activity. The child can work with the books all on their own.

Here are the only things I could find wrong with the books:

  • They’re pricey. Ultra eBooks are around double or more than what a regular eBook costs. Spending $20 on a book, even one with all of the reading bells and whistles, feels like a stretch to me. So far, I have bought only regular ebooks because of the sticker shock of the Ultra eBooks. I can see why they cost that much, it’s just a bit hard for me to swallow. But I definitely have been looking at them and waiting for the right one – like a favorite story or character – because they are definitely an upgrade from a regular ebook. (Also, the app cards make great stocking stuffers and birthday gifts!)
  • The ones I received are in the “Learn to Read” series. The subtitle is a bit of a stretch. While I do think Samuel could learn some sight words and have some great reading, vocabularly, and sentence structure practice (when he’s ready for that), I don’t think the books alone would teach him to read. I’m pretty sure that’s not what LeapFrog intended me to think, though. 🙂 I am one of those hands-on people, so I love watching what his teaching toys do and trying to expand on them and use them as tools. If that’s what you’re looking for, then an Ultra eBook is a fun addition to your reading toolbox.

I hope this helps if you’re considering buying an Ultra eBook for a LeapPad or Explorer. I definitely will buy another one in the future! Let me know if you have any questions in the comments. I’d be happy to help!

 

Leappad2 Giveaway!

I am so excited that I’ve been chosen as a LeapFrog parent. LeapFrog has a knack for combining what I love about toys (developmentally appropriate, educational, fun) and what my son loves about toys (fun, interactive, has noise, has lights haha!).

They sent me the new LeapPad2 to review, and we’ve been playing with it for about a week. Since I have a newborn who naps 4 times a day, Samuel gets “LeapPad” time when I’m putting her down for a nap. This is a win-win because he gets to play with his favorite toy, and I don’t have a 2 year old running into the nursery saying, “Moooooooommmmyyyy!!!” at the top of his lungs. 🙂

You can read the details below, but here’s my review in a nutshell: This thing is so great, I want one for ME. 😉

Why I love the LeapPad2 (there’s so much I could say here, these are the highlights):

– There is no Internet access. My son loves to play games on an old iPhone we have, or, of course, our own phones, but he knows exactly how to get to YouTube, and there’s just too much Internet access for him to play on these phones independently. Some parents might think it’s a pain to connect online to look for and download apps, but I see that as a plus.

– Developmentally appropriate! My son is only 2 and a half years old, and the device is made for ages 3-9, but he still has no problem finding a ton of fun, and I can see how he will be able to use the LeadPad2 for years. Literally. Here’s a really cool tidbit: The eBooks and games actually adapt to your child. As he answers more questions correctly, for example, he gets harder questions – I LOVE THIS FEATURE. I can say so much more about the kid-ness of the LeapPad2 – how it’s perfect for their size, how friendly voices and images show them how to play each app so they’re not lost – LeapFrog knows kids. That’s all there is to it.

– No boredom. Not only does the LeapPad2 arrive with great content, but there are over 300 apps available, plus any LeapFrog Explorer games can be used in the device. It’s just not possible for this to get old.

– Variety includes creative learning. Developing children’s creativity is absolutely lacking for the current education regime. We are so focused on math, science, reading, and writing that we won’t let our kids color an elephant purple. We’ve played with apps that help a child learn to draw (like really draw not just scribble or doodle or color) and create a film. I was quite impressed with the creative apps.

– At a retail of $99, the value is really high for the price. I know people who have purchased iPads for their kids, which is totally their choice, but for a young child $99 is much easier to stomach for a super nice Christmas or birthday present.

What could be improved:

– My son is left-handed. I was a little disappointed when I saw the stylus on the right side of the device. Thankfully, the screen is responsive to fingers, so he doesn’t need to use the stylus unless he’s working on writing games. For example, the Pet Pad has a writing section where he can trace letters with the stylus. I was pleased to see that there is a left-handed mode for this that flips the screen around, but the child has to 1) know they’re left-handed 2) see this small button and know what it’s for 3) press it every time they enter this zone. The device could be more left-hand friendly by assigning the child’s writing hand to their profile and using that setting in all writing activities.

– The LeapPad2 runs on 4 AA batteries. You can use rechargeable AA batteries, and you can also buy a recharger kit for the device. And you will want to have a way to charge rather than buy batteries. I think we got maybe 7-10 hours of playtime on one set of batteries. It would be a huge parental-approval boost to have the recharger kit come with the LeapPad2, straight off the shelf.

I hope this review is truly helpful to you! It was just released, and I think they are sold out on Amazon and people might be reselling them at a higher price. If I were you, I’d wait until the rush dies down and get one straight from the manufacturer.

OR……..you can try to win a LeapPad2 right here! All you have to do to enter is comment on this post. The giveaway will end on Friday, August 31 at 11:59pm. Good luck!

Disclosure: LeapFrog provided the LeapPad2 for this review, but all opinions are mine all mine!

Spring Weeding + Miracle Gro Giveaway

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Scotts® for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

Here in Austin, I’ve discovered that we have this lovely (not) weed called milkweed. I honestly don’t remember them from last year, but I remember them from the year before. And this year, since we lost a lot of our grass to a terrible drought, we had A.LOT. of milkweed.

Pretty much half of our backyward looked like this. And we knew we had to get those weeds out of there if we want grass … and less milkweed … to grow back.

What you have to understand is that this stuff is nasty. It’s prickly, it’s thick, it’s spiky, it’s well-rooted, and it’s poisonous.

It reminds me a lot of sin.

One cold, sunny Saturday, I went back there to pull up as much as I could, and I just couldn’t shake the parallels to sin. Here are some things that came to mind:

  • Sin is painful. We actually call these “spiky weeds” – just what you want in the yard of a 2-year old, huh? When they’re dry, they can slice your finger open (trust me).
  • Sin chokes out life. By its very nature, this plant is taking up space, a lot of it. Nothing else can grow until it’s ripped out.
  • Sin takes root. And needs to be removed at the root. And oh buddy, these roots are thick. Usually, even with the help of tools, I could not get the entire root out. But if just a superficial removal of greenery is made, nothing will change. The sin, I mean weeds, will just grow right back!
  • Sin multiplies and grows rapidly. Have you noticed this? When you let that temptation bring you into sin, it’s much easier to commit another sin against God. Because come on, you’ve already messed up – and His grace will cover it all – so why stop now?
  • Sin needs to be removed one by one. When you become a believer in Jesus, the Holy Spirit immediately begins working on your heart. But it’s not like all of your sin is eradicated all at once, or ever. You are on a journey, and that transformation takes time – sometimes it’s quicker than others.
  • Sin is more easily conquered in community. You know what I was thinking the whole time I was weeding? Boy, it sure would be nice to have another set of hands – I could get this done in half the time. Even better, what if I knew someone who had a trick to removing these things?
  • Sin is ugly. But God can use it for good! Just look at my yard – not yard of the month, ya know? So I googled “milkweed austin texas” to see what kind of tirades people went on and on about with these things, and guess what I learned? They are the exclusive food of the monarch butterfly’s larvae. Yeah. Just like our sin is nasty – but we can rejoice that we have a God of hope, who can redeem anything and uses it for His glory!

  • Sin will be a struggle until we enter the kingdom of heaven, but fighting it daily allows us to rely more on God and know His will more clearly. Did you think the pic above was I’m finished! ? Nope – that’s just the one little area I cleared out! The rest of my yard was still overgrown with them. But now, this area has room to grow grass.

Like all illustrations, this isn’t perfect, but it really gave me a glimpse into some practical truths about our sin nature. At the end of the day, though, here is what I’m resting in:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV)

And remember – God has given us this blessing of reconciling us to Himself so that we can share that great news with others (5:18-19)!

Related to my spring weeding, let’s have a giveaway!

EnG Product Shot.png

Miracle Gro has come out with a new product called Expand ‘n Gro™– it’s a planting mix that is all-natural (made of coconut fibers!) and super absorbent – so absorbent, in fact, that it expands up to 3 times it’s size when you add water. The all-natural fibers add nutrients that feed your plants for up to 6 months, so you prep your spring beds, and then you don’t have to fertilize for the season – nice!

A lightweight, all-natural soil product that holds water!? They’re sending me a sample to try, and I can’t wait. Obviously, my yard needs help. Do you want to try it, too?

Just Like the Candid Pastor’s Wife on Facebook, and leave a comment below letting me know you’re a fan. You’ll be entered to win a sample to try for yourself!

Your comment must be left by midnight CST on Saturday, April 21.

See more here:
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I Am… Gabriel

So…..

Did you know that I’m also an actress?

I know, I know. I’m kind of mum about it. Only because it’s not as glamorous and amazing as everyone thinks it might be, and I don’t want them to find out I’m really that boring.

And because what if they see something that I’ve done and they hate it? Eek! Thinking of the judgment on my artistic efforts make me want to hide under a rock. 

And (there are a lot of “And”s here – it’s like when you make excuses for to your mom so that you can get your way, ya know?) because there’s not always a “next project” coming up, so it can be a little disappointing to have people asking about your non-existent success.

But I just have to tell you about the film I just wrapped on last month. It’s called I Am… Gabriel, and it’s the brainchild of a few non-filmmaker people in tiny Justin, Texas. They had a big vision for a film that could bring people back to the Lord. Not being filmmakers themselves, how were they going to get this film produced? They had no idea, but I overheard two of the sisters talking, and one of them said, “I just knew that He would provide the way.”

So maybe they weren’t so surprised when director Mike Norris met them in their restaurant. A script was written, meetings were had, crews were hired…. and the casting began. Starting with celebrities Dean Cain and John Schneider!

I’m so thrilled to have been cast in a supporting role myself, and I had such an amazing time working with the cast and crew. Everyone from the top down was incredible, and I’m praying this film is a movement of bringing people to Christ.

Would you pray for that with me? Would you do something else and Like I Am… Gabriel on Facebook? This page is where you will find all updates about the film, including a trailer coming out very soon! If you feel inclined to Share their Facebook page on your Facebook wall, that would be awesome too! The more word of mouth interest there is in the film, the more people will be able to hear the message of hope.

And the Winner is…

The winner of the Dayspring giveaway is Lisa M! She said

I’ve gone through a lot of things that most people would consider pretty rough in the last few years. By God’s grace, I’ve managed not only to survive them, but to come through them with my faith stronger than it’s been in a long time. I’m very thankful for that!

Thanks for sharing Lisa, and for entering everybody!! I hope it was fun!

Grace Above Fire {Dayspring Review and Giveaway}

I have been looking for something to go above my fireplace since we moved into our house. Well, I finally found it!


And here’s a photo that’s a little closer:

They’re called GRACE tiles, from Dayspring. Dayspring’s pictures are much more lovely than mine and show off the middle tile – the white dove in the shape of an “A”:


What I didn’t realize until now is that you can switch out the tiles anytime you want because the rod just comes right off the hooks. Dayspring also has PEACE tiles, TRUST tiles, Bless this Home tiles, and Peace on Earth tiles. I noticed that the GRACE tiles are on sale right now – $10 off. You can get them here. Make sure if you order these, that you get the rod set too.

Aren’t they lovely? Do you want some Dayspring lovelies yourself? Well I have $20 in Dayspring credit to giveaway! This $20 cannot be used towards shipping costs, but you can use it toward anything else in their online store.

Here’s how you can win:

  • In the comments, tell me how you’ve been experiencing God’s grace this week.
  • Like The Candid Pastor’s Wife on Facebook, and leave a comment letting me know you’re a fan!
  • Share a link to this post on Facebook, and let me know in the comments that you shared the love.

Each comment counts as an entry, and comments need to be entered before 11:59pm on Friday, April 15. I’ll announce the winner on Saturday. 

Good luck!

This post is sponsored by DaySpring. Although they provided me this product in exchange for my review, the opinions stated herein are mine, take ‘em or leave ‘em. Affiliate links are also included. See my site disclosure for more information.

Warrior Prayers Giveaway!

I already shared with you about the Warrior Prayers eBook – which I love! It’s a book that helps you easily pray through God’s word for your son(s).

The author, Brooke, is hosting 21 days of prayers on weekdays from April 1 to April 29. We will commit to praying certain prayers each day of the week, 10 times a day! I am so excited for this to begin!

Well, because I really really REALLY want you to join the Warrior Prayers 21 Days of Prayer, I am giving away a copy of the eBook to one reader!

You can enter up to three ways:

  1. Like The Candid Pastor’s Wife on Facebook. Leave a comment letting me know you’re a fan.
  2. Leave a comment letting me know what the heaviest burden for your son is – and we can bring it to God’s feet together.
  3. Like Warrior Prayers on Facebook. Leave a comment letting me know you’re a fan.

The giveaway ends Wednesday night at 11:59pm. The winner will be announced on Thursday – so hurry!

Would you like to join the Warrior Prayers challenge? You can get your book (it’s only $5.97), and sign up here!