Monday, June 30, 2008

The Giveaway Winner is...

Nicol with the name, Dragonfly. She gets her first pick of the prizes here. The second place name (and second choice of prizes) is Cricket, suggested by Kathleen W. If we have a third child, Cricket he/she will be! We don't have a third place, so I picked names and Susan gets the third prize. I'll leave comments on your blog or email you all to get your choice of prizes and what type of chocolate you want.

Other than picking our favorite name, we did a lot on vacation... a lot of relaxing, that is! I'll post pictures soon!

Friday, June 20, 2008

On Vacation...

Sorry, no names yet for the giveaway. It will have to wait until we get back. We have been so busy packing lately and getting ready! I'm so sorry everyone... I promise soon- we are taking the list to the beach! Until then, think of me sitting on the beach, pondering your picks...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Are you prepared?

My husband's uncle passed away recently. We've been keeping in touch with family so we can find out what has been going on and how we can help. B's mom has been helping her sister go through everything, and after some basic assessment, had some horrible news.

B's uncle did not have life insurance, so the funeral and other expenses will need to be covered by the family. He cancelled his health insurance a while ago (he's self-employed), so his medical care and ambulance services will also have to be covered by his family. Now they find he has been receiving forclosure notices on the house for the past few months. He also has no will and no money. B's aunt only has a part-time job and will soon lose her house. She is in the worst situation financially, and it couldn't have come at a worse time. I forget how lucky we all were that my parent's were so well prepared, so when my Dad passed, financial worries weren't a worry at all.

I want to note is that B's aunt didn't know any of this. She was of a different era and her husband took care of everything financial. It's fine to have one spouse take care of the finances, but the other person should always have access to everything and check up on things from time to time. My Mom was a rarity in her era... she did all our family finances herself. My Dad worked a lot and my Mom has both her Bachelor's and Master's degrees in mathematics... so, it was a no brainer. My husband and I do things the same way... he has a way with languages, culture, and geography... I'm the math and science girl, so I'm in charge of our finances. But B still knows what's going on and knows that we're prepared.

No matter what your situation, please make sure that you at least set aside an emergency savings for something like this if you can't afford life insurance. Also write up burial instructions, and write up a quick will. You can find them online- all you do is fill in your name and print. Then take it to a notary public for signatures and give a copy to close family and put one in your file cabinet at home.

There is even more you can do... check online for tons of free resources on how to make sure your finances are stable. It's great to have 6 months salary saved up, put money away for your retirement, and prepare for your childrens' education expenses. We've completed all these goals and continue to contribute to the funds each month. I really do rest easier at night. It feels good to be prepared.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Medicine, the Giveaway Contest, and Vacation...

Sorry that I haven't posted in awhile, but I've been enjoying my new found freedom! Freedom from dry skin, slow digestion, and especially fatigue and weakness. They have started me on thyroid replacement hormones and I feel amazing! Check this post for more background. I feel so good, I can't believe that it's only been five days since I started the medicine. I also now understand why I couldn't lose any weight after Love Bug was born and why I gained so much with this pregnancy eating nothing. In the five days I've been on medication, I've already lost 3 pounds. Yes, this concerns me, and I'm getting help to step up my diet an add extra healthy calories to my day. I've been so used to not being hungry that it seems strange to be so hungry all the time now and I'm still getting used to eating more. Hypothyroidism is pretty common, especially among women. I've also seen on some websites that it's common after age 50, but my obstetrician and endocrinologist said that they see it in women my age very often, especially during or just after pregnancy.

As for the Giveaway Contest, we still don't have a winner yet. You gave us so many great suggestions, and we're still discussing them. We just picked his real name and that took us weeks, so you'll have to allow us a few days at least for his internet name. Hopefully by Friday I'll have an answer for you.

I won't be able to send the prizes until the first week of July. We're going on vacation next week, so I'll send them as soon as I return. I also promise to return with lots of pictures and stories about our time at the beach. Yeah- I can't wait!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Friday Night in Rome

Love Bug and her pizza! Yum!

Last night we went out for a night on the town and it was so much fun. We started out early, around 5 pm, to do some shopping. I was desperately looking for shoes, since my feet have started swelling to giantess proportions. We ended up not finding anything, but it was so fun to look!

We met B after work and walked around the Campo de'Fiori before heading up to the area around the Pantheon. We found a place to eat and had a wonderful meal of bruschetta, salad, pizza, and wine (just a sip for me).

We're making our way up to Blue Ice, my favorite gelato place, and guess who we saw?

Yes, that is Ron H.oward in the middle wearing the blue baseball cap! And to the right, facing the other way, is Tom H.anks! They're here to film Angel.s & Demon.s. How cool is that? Although, I must say that I wonder about Ron H.owards taste. B had Love Bug on his shoulders for about 10 minutes, and not once did he rush over and say what a beautiful baby she was, and how he was going to write a movie just for her. Oh, well!

Today my Mom is leaving to go back to the States. Her visit was so great and we had a great time! We'll miss you Mom, but we can't wait to see you again soon!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Organizing our keys... part 2

Stop by my Giveaway Contest here... And please stop by again to suggest more names!

My next task was the front door keys. We were left a pile of keys in a kitchen drawer and four different key sets on keychains... none making any more sense than another. I finally took all the keys off the keychains and tested each one. I took a few different baggies to place them in once they worked in a specific lock, labeled front door, building door, garage, front gate, and cantina (this is a storage space that most Italians have in their apartments... usually in the attic or basement of the building). I was able to then sort the keys, label the keys, make copies of whatever else we needed, and put them on keychains for B, for myself, an emergency set at a neighbor's, for houseguests, and for our cleaning lady.

The bad news... it did take about three hours to do, but at least I was able to combine the task with taking Love Bug to the playground while I checked the gate and building doors. The good news... in the end, we only had two keys left that didn't belong anywhere. One looked like a bike lock, that someone probably moved with and forgot the key when they turned in the apartment keys. The other was a front door key, but it was different than the sets we had. Finally we remembered that our locks were changed just before we moved in, and these must've been the old keys that they forgot to give to the locksmith. We called and turned them in, despite the fact that they said our old lock was probably already recycled and melted down.

It feels so good to have all this done. Does anyone else have a great organizing story they could share on their blog? Something that is unusual and not mentioned in many organizing books or magazines, like me and my keys? Who knows, maybe our different experiences could actually help each other!

Sorting my keys!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Organizing our household keys... part 1

Don't forget to check out my Giveaway Contest here... And yes, please go back and suggest more than one name if you haven't already... it's allowed!

Sometimes organizing your life means coming up with solutions that work best for you and your family. There aren't always tips for how to organize certain areas of your life, especially if they aren't common. For us, that is our keys... there are so many more keys to keep track of here.

We live in a typical European apartment, in the sense that it is very closed off, with doors into every room and even doors on each hallway. Each door has a key, an individual skeleton key (and yes, they're all different). I didn't want to leave each one in the doors, since Love Bug will eventually learn to turn them. If the door is closed, that also means she's locking them and potentially locking herself in as well. So, I took them out and was on a quest to find something that worked for us, for our keys.

I placed these hooks, high on the wall, in different areas of our house. Then, I tied pretty bows on each set of keys, and placed them on the hooks. The keys for the main part of the house- living room french doors, dining room door, kitchen door, etc. were hung by the phone in the front hall. The keys for all the bedrooms and the bedroom hallway are hung in our room. And each bathroom has it's own key hanging inside for additional privacy when using the toilet or shower.

Here are some examples:

I'll write more about the other things I did to organize our keys in a few days...

Friday, June 6, 2008

My Giveaway Contest

UPDATE: Comments are now closed. I'll let you know on Monday, after B and I talk it over!

It's my choice to leave most personal details, espeically my husband and daughter's names, off my blog, so I need a blog name/nickname for the new baby, arriving in October. Here are the criteria I'm looking for:

1. Insect Themed- since I have a Love Bug, this name has to match!
2. Masculine- it's a boy.
3. Cute- no scary or gross names allowed... cute insects only.
4. No moth related names (as I said in my 100 things post, number 14 & 15, I hate moths.)
5. Honor system here... think of names, comment on them, and don't read other comments and their ideas until you're done. If more than one person thinks of my favorite name, I'll give multiple prizes.

And now, for the best part, here is what you can win! One of these great book and candle combinations pictured below, with some Italian chocolate thrown in! Check out the pictures of the books and candles I'm giving away below. I'll contact you if you win to see what book and candle you want, as well as your favorite type of chocolate (dark, milk, or white). The winner (or first to comment on my favorite name, if there are multiple winners) gets the choose which one they want. I have them pictured together, but you can choose any combination you want.

Confessions of an Organized Homemaker by Deniece Schofield and a Large Yankee Candle in Clean Cotton Scent

Hope Through Heartsongs by Mattie J.T. Stepanek and a Teal Blue Villeroy & Boch tealight holder (with 4 extra tealights)

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and a Gold and Cream Star Candle

Depending on the number of prizes left (I'm giving away all three), you can also win another book, candle, with bonus chocolate, just by entering. Earn yourself another entry by mentioning my Giveaway on your blog- but don't forget to comment that you did this, so I can come check it out. And yes, you can suggest more than one name! Please do!

You must enter by Sunday, June 15th at noon (here in Europe- that's 6:00 AM Eastern

Please help me... come up with some creative names! I'm so excited to see your ideas. Happy naming!

Yeah... my Mom is here!

I was going to write about Bel Canto, a book a read a while ago, but I just kept getting stuck. Does anyone else sometimes get stuck when they are writing? You have all these ideas in bed, as you're running around during the day, but they never seem to come to you when you're sitting at the computer!

My Mom arrived yesterday and it's so great to have her here! We have lots of fun things planned, like another day at the beach, and some stuff we haven't explored yet. As a bonus to her wonderful company, she also brought us some new things that we needed, especially a new laptop! It works so well and I don't have to be in safe mode anymore... yeah!

I also found out yesterday that my thyroid is acting up again. The good news is that they know what's going on, but the bad news is that I'm officially hypothyroid. But in an attempt to focus on the good, at least it is something that is relatively easy to treat and won't hurt the baby. It's a simple thyroid hormone replacement. I thought I remembered Shannon at Rocks In My Dryer blogging about it, and reading her very laid back account of this makes me feel better. I hope it's a result of this pregnancy (my endocrinologist said it's possible). If this is the cause, it should go away a few months post-partum.

I'm just glad that I finally know why I couldn't lose weight after Love Bug was born, no matter how hard I tried. The doctor said, which is a huge relief, that after the pregnancy, all my pregnancy weight (from both babies) should come off much easier. This is a little vain, so I can fit in my clothes, but mostly, I just want to feel good about myself and feel healthy again. I've had tiredness and weakness for a long time, and I'm glad that will be better too. Please pray for wisdom for my doctors to treat me with the best of their ability, and pray that I'm a good patient and do well on the treatments.

Don't forget to stop by tomorrow for my Giveaway Contest!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

If we are actors on God's stage...

Another part from that book I really loved, Gilead, by Maril.ynne Robins.on, reads:

"Calvin says somewhere that each of us is an actor on a stage and God is the audience. That metaphor has always interested me, because it makes us artists of our behavior, and the reaction of God to us might be thought of as aesthetic rather than morally judgmental in the ordinary sense. How well do we understand our role? With how much assurance do we perform it?"

I love this verse mostly because it gives me a context of which to think of God. It reminds me of my view of Love Bug. The world is her stage and I am her audience. I have no doubt that God is a much more divine audience (and much more polite, since he never yells, "Mommy says don't touch!" at me). But I hope he takes as much pleasure watching me, as I have in watching Love Bug. I hope that, like me, he sees missteps as endearing. I also hope, that like him, I can find positive ways to help Love Bug find her way (and her way to Him) when she has done wrong. Love Bug is my child, and this text reminds me that in a similar way, we are the children of God.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Three-Day Weekend and Coming Up This Week

One of the things that I love about living overseas is unexpected holidays. In the US, we learn in the early grade school years when to expect certain holidays. Without fail, each year they arrive, and we're all free for a day. But overseas, you're always learning about new holidays in each place you live.

My husband came home Friday afternoon and I thought I heard him say something about a three-day weekend. What, what, what?!?! When he comfirmed, that yes, June 2nd is a holiday here (Foundation of the Republic), I was so excited! Three whole days with Daddy... what lucky girls we are!

We went to mass on Saturday night and then had a special dinner afterwards, as usual. Sometimes with friends (like last night) or sometimes with family. Saturday night mass is the mass we usually attend. The Catholic Church has offered a Saturday Vigil Mass for about 40 years and more and more protestant churches are following suit. It's based on the old ideas of celebrations and Sabbath day starting the evening before at sundown. For us, it works so well with our schedule and ensures that Love Bug is quiet so we can enjoy the service and pay attention to the homily (sermon). We've gotten so many compliments on her good behavior, and we're just lucky that this is a time of the day when she's winding down and can sit quietly with a toy or book. If Love Bug is any indication, all of our children will be Night Owls, like their Mom and Dad.

Today we got up and had a nice big breakfast and then rested, read, and played all day. Love Bug enjoyed it and actually took two naps, which means that I got to finish my latest book, The Conspiracy of Paper, by David Liss. As I've said before, I don't have much choice about what I read, because they're usually sent to me by kind family and friends who know that the only English library here is very small and hard to get to from our place. This is from my cousin, who loves this type of historical fiction, and she's slowly turning me into a fan as well. I probably won't post anything about this one, but you can read the description on the link I added. I would definitely recommend it. It's fast paced and there are so many different elements, and unanswered questions at the end of each chapter, that you can't help but keep reading.

This week I have another post ready about Gilead, the book I posted about a month ago. Later in the week, I have a post ready about Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett, which is the book I read between the last two I mentioned.

Finally, next weekend, I'm having a Giveaway Contest. It's good... very good! I'll give you more details next weekend, but please stop by!