Thursday, December 15, 2011

Shutterfly--Review and Giveaway (Closed)

This giveaway is now closed.

If you haven't noticed, I've taken a bit of a hiatus lately.  I was planning on being back after New Years, but this review just couldn't wait.

I. Love. Shutterfly.  All things Shutterfly, but especially their photo books.

I'm a fairly regular customer of theirs, especially when there is a sale or promotion that I just can't pass up.

Like this one.

Shutterfly graciously allowed me the opportunity to make and review one of their 8x8 photo books.  If you haven't stopped by Shutterfly recently, go.  Now.  They have a new custom path option with fabulous themes!  And the best part?  There are now embellishments with each theme!  How cool is that? There are "stickers" and borders and phrases available to add to your pages anywhere and anyhow you want!  It kind of gives your pages a scrapbook feel without looking like a scrapbook.

Seriously:  go check it out!  It's a lot of fun!

And, as always, Shutterfly's quality is wonderful.  The pictures are crisp, the layouts are visually appealing, and the binding is very solid.

I've make photo books through several companies over the years, but Shutterfly is by far my favorite!

Here comes the best part:  Shutterfly is offering one very fortunate person an 8x8 photo book, with free shipping!

It really doesn't get much better than free shipping, am I right?

To enter, please just leave a comment here.  One comment per person, no extra entries.  I'll put this up on my Facebook page, too, for those of you without a Blogger profile.

I'll pick a winner Monday evening sometime.  Short and sweet.

Good luck!

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Grey Elf

"They are called the Sindar, the Grey-elves of Beleriand...they became the fairest and the most wise and skilful of all the Elves of Middle-earth."  J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion.

For our first anniversary, Mr. Einstein and I celebrated at his parents' lake cabin.  Our family and friends joined us for the weekend, and we boated and played and talked and ate.  After evening fell, the neighbor's great brute of a dog ran by growling and barking in the middle of the night, chasing...something.  The next day, we discovered what.

There were three of them, all grey, all with yellow eyes.  All abandoned.  The kittens were very affectionate, very hungry, and very well-behaved.

My brother-in-law took one, the biggest one, a female.  Mr. Einstein and I took the other two--one boy, one girl--with the intention of dropping them off at an animal shelter.

They never made it to the shelter.

We kept them too long, fell in love with them, and bonded with them.  So, we took them both home.

The girl we called Melody.  She "sang" the entire four hour drive home.

The boy we called Sindar.  He looked like one of Tolkien's grey elves with his pointy ears, sleek grey fur, and big yellow eyes.

We have had both of them ten years now.  Through one move, three kids, and numerous neighborhood building projects, they have been here with us.

Until yesterday morning.

I let Sindar out two nights ago, as per usual.  He's a moose of a cat, but a true fraidy cat.  He loves the outdoors, but will only stay out at night for a few hours, and never during the day.

The next morning, I asked Mr. Einstein if he had let the cat in that night.  Sindar eventually comes scratching at the door, usually around midnight.  But, not that night.

That night, we slept.

And Sindar died.

Somehow.  We don't know how.  We found him in the middle of the road early yesterday morning, cold and stiff.  There were no marks on his body, no blood, but we're assuming a car hit him.

It breaks my heart to know he died alone.  To think he suffered and I didn't know.

And I know he's "just a cat," but he was my cat, our cat.  And now he's gone.

Rest in peace, Sindar.  We miss you.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Gone Fishin'

Sometimes happiness consists of a stick,

some string, a wall hook, some seaweed,

and a grandpa.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


Remember this?

Well, we finally did it, cashed it in, took a trip, and celebrated our anniversary in style.

My in-laws very graciously came to spend the weekend with our kids two weeks ago, and Mr. Einstein and I took off.  Alone.  Just the two of us.  *bliss*

Our gift certificate allowed us one night of accommodations, but we wanted to make a weekend of it.  The Resort is a wee bit expensive, so we spent the first night at The Davenport Hotel in Spokane.

It's a completely remodeled hotel in downtown Spokane, and only one word can be used to describe it: luxurious.

Our room was small, but well-appointed.  They even have their own exclusive line of mattresses made for the hotel.  Everything was white and black and gilt and fluffy and expensive.

We lounged around for awhile and went downstairs for a cocktail (I seriously can't believe I just typed that.  A cocktail.  Me?)  where I had my first-ever martini, key lime.  Yum!

Then we went across the street to The Davenport Tower for dinner and, again, Yum!

Of course, I didn't take any pictures there.  It just felt too touristy to do something like that amid all that luxury.  I felt enough out of place as it was!

The next day, we headed on over to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, to The Coeur d'Alene Resort.

While we were waiting for our river cruise to begin, we saw (unexpectedly) the hydroplane races!  Growing up in Seattle, we watched the hydroplanes on television every year during Seafair, so it was really cool to see them in person, and from so close!  Oh Boy! Oberto was always my sister's and my favorite, so I snapped a few shots of it, just for her.


Our St. Joe River cruise was hot and breezy, and about 2+ hours too long.  We were on the cruise for 6 hours total, and while it was nice, the scenery rarely changed and there were no extra seats up on the second level.  Fortunately, we had a nice spot at a table next to an open window.  We played cribbage and read and played around on the iPad.  It was all stuff we would have just done in the hotel room, so it was nice to get a chance to at least get some fresh air.

Our room was a "lakeside" room, but it mostly overlooked an outdoor dining area and the marina.  This is the entrance/exit of the marina from our room at night:

The Davenport was definitely my favorite of the entire trip, but I'm really glad Mr. Einstein won that gift package!  The resort was an experience we might never have had otherwise.  The whole weekend was something that we definitely needed, just the two of us.

Camping Adventures

We had talked off and on all summer about maybe going camping, but Mr. Einstein didn't think it was fair to the wildlife for M to be in their territory.

At the end of July, however, some friends of ours asked us if we wanted to go, and we said yes.

So, we frantically searched online for a campground that still had available campsites and discovered Alta Lake.

Alta Lake at sunrise. Yes, I said sunrise.

We snagged the last two. And even better, they were side by side, set apart from the rest of the campground!

Technically my sister's tent.

The five big kids spend their time playing in the "woods," getting as filthy as possible, swinging, and playing in the water.

We roasted hot dogs and marshmallows. Made hobo dinners and drank instant coffee.

We talked and talked and talked.
Saw the stars.
Battled yellow jackets (oh, the yellow jackets!).
We swam in the lake, froze in the mornings, and sweated in the afternoons.

I cannot wait to do this again next summer!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


She's a second grader today:

(That dress was below her knees at the beginning of the summer.)

My "little" girl.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Finally Tri-Cycling

It's been a productive summer.

E finally learned to ride her bike without training wheels:

C finally figured out her bike with training wheels:

M finally figured out how to pedal his retro trike:

All on the same day.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


One trip.
One week.
One walk to feed the ducks.
One water fight.
One evening of fireworks.
One day of shopping.
One boat trip.
One day of sleeping in.
One lazy day.
One nap.
One cold day.
One trip to eat ice cream before lunch.
One dinner out.
One carsick kid.
One visit to the zoo.
One stop at the outlet mall.
One return home.
One trip.
One week.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

At Least Someone Enjoyed It

This morning, E asked us if they could run through the sprinklers this afternoon.

Apparently, though, it was too cold for 2/3 of them.

Oh, well. At least one of them enjoyed it.
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Friday, June 10, 2011

A Good Day

E had her spring music performance this morning, so Mr. Einstein took the morning off from work.

I know!

It was wonderful!

We all went over to watch, then came home, and then decided to take everyone out to lunch. Including E. So, back to school we went to sign her out for little bit.

It was such a relaxing morning!

And, I totally needed it.

This last year has been such a whirlwind of activities, upheaval, worry, and stress. It was nice to have had this one morning, this one unexpected time, with just my little family.

It's been a good day.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

An Evening with Friends

We swap babysitting with some friends of ours, and May was our month to watch the kids.

Between our two families, we have 6 kids:
3 girls and 3 boys, ages 7, 4, 3, 2 1/2, 2, and almost-1.

It was (finally) beautiful that day, so we went on a walk.
With 6 kids.
3 walked, 2 strolled, and 1 was carried.

We ended up at the school next door to play and play.

It was a fun afternoon/evening!
Thank you, Ben and Heidi, for letting us watch your kids!
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Thursday, June 2, 2011


Every year, our small town has a big celebration over Memorial Day weekend.

And every year, our small dance studio puts on a big performance at the amphitheater.

Both the girls dance with Dance FX, run by Toby and Rosalie Black (I second-shoot weddings with Rosalie).

They offer a wide assortment of dance classes,

from Tiny Tots (ages 2-3):

(I have no idea what this little girl is doing, but her expression is priceless! And that's Rosalie with her)

to cheerleading:

(They cheer with the high school cheerleaders.)

to big girls' hip hip:

to jazz:

(That's C!)

to lyrical jazz:

to little boys' hip hop:

to Irish dancing:

to big boys' hip hop:

(Here's a random picture of E doing her hip hop; I can't figure out how to move pictures around from Picasa.)

to clogging:

I love this performance! It's by far my favorite every year.
The weather doesn't always cooperate (as you can tell from the photos; the clouds and sun were fighting that day, making it impossible for me to keep up with my camera settings), but it's a beautiful, fun setting, and free for the community to watch.

And can you tell I finally figured out how to do a watermark? Love!
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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Blue State Red State--Review

Confession: I'm not much of a coffee drinker.

Seeing as how I was born and raised in Seattle, this might be considered shocking, if not downright impossible. Alas, it is true.

Oh, I enjoy the occasional latte or mocha, but as for a cup of coffee? Unless it's a special occasion, no thank you. However, on the rare occasion when I do drink coffee, I like it dark, bold, earthy, and smooth.

(You will all be happy to know that Mr. Einstein does drink coffee. Daily. Does that redeem me, even a little bit?)

Anyway, I took the opportunity to review some coffee from Blue State Red State mostly for my husband, but I did try it, too. And it was good!

Blue State Red State is a brand that allows you to give back to society and express yourself with every purchase. The idea is simple – buy things you use every day, but instead of us keeping all of the profits, 33% of our profits will go toward making America better. And you direct your donation when you check out, so with every purchase, you express yourself. We will be supporting charities and advocacy groups across our brands because we think people should expect more from the companies they buy from. It’s not enough to have a quality product anymore. We think it’s just as important to be a good corporate citizen, give customers a voice, and share our success. Blue State or Red State – it doesn’t matter – the point is to get more involved and do some good through your purchases! So find the brand that resonates with you and try some coffee – Red State Red, Blue State Blue, or Blue State Red State – we know you will be happy with the product and you will feel good knowing your purchase will make a difference.

Cool. When you buy from Blue State Blue, donations go to Democratic advocacy groups. When you buy from Red State Red, donations go to Republican advocacy groups. When you buy from Blue State Red State, donations go to charities and politically neutral non-profit organizations. See! Something for everyone!

My Review

I got the chance to review the Ramparts Roast. Yum! It's dark and smooth, deep and bold. And smoky! I found it to be a well-rounded coffee with a nice finish and, surprisingly, very little aftertaste. It was good! It's a very nice drink-alone coffee, though I think it would also be good as a dessert coffee. With something sweet, I'm thinking. Mmm...

If I were considering becoming a daily coffee drinker, this coffee would have pushed me into it. Seriously. It's good.

This post was written for Family Review Network and Blue State Red State who provided the complimentary product for review in exchange for my honest opinions.

Friday, May 13, 2011


(This should have gone up yesterday, but Blogger was down. Bah!)

Somehow, someway, this little ball of scrumptiousness...

...turned into this little beauty.

Happy 4th Birthday, C! We love you very, very much.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cardi Wrap--A Review

I have to say, I just love this wrap!

It's one of those things that I don't think I ever would have bought for myself, but since I got the chance to review it, I jumped at it! And, seriously, I'd love another one in a different color.

The Cardi Wrap

The Cardi Wrap by Kymaro is a scarf/shawl/cardigan/wrap all in one. It comes in 7 different colors and 2 different sizes, and is basically a big sheet of soft, stretchy material with two sleeves. There are over 50 ways to wear it through draping, twisting, tying, and looping. Plus, every Cardi Wrap comes with three triangular rings (black, silver, and gold) and two pins (color-matching flower and bow) for even more options. There is a way for every body type to wear the Cardi Wrap and have it look flattering!

My Review

I've had this black Cardi Wrap for only a couple of weeks now, and yet I've worn it at least 5 times already, to church, on a date, to a school function, etc. It is just that versatile!

And as much as I love the Cardi Wrap, I hate this picture. Maybe I should clean my mirror...

My favorite way (so far) to wear the Cardi Wrap is to simply drape one end over one shoulder, leaving a really long train down one side. In the picture above, I pinned the flower on to keep everything in place, but it doesn't really need it. The material is clingy enough that it usually sticks to itself nicely

The Cardi Wrap is very soft and light-weight and washes well. It does have a tendency to attract cat hair and dust, but those are easy to remove.

I really am so excited to have this as a part of my wardrobe now! It really does go with everything! It can be dressed up and dressed down. It's fun to have something so versatile in my closet!

This post was written for Family Review Network and Cardi Wrap who provided the complimentary product in exchange for my honest opinions.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Letter Buddies AlphaBooks--A Review

Have I mentioned before how much I love my iPad?

I have?

Okay. I'll spare you. This time.

You're welcome.

I got yet another opportunity to review yet another app: Letter Buddies AlphaBooks.

From Cavallo Media:

My wife and I (Kevin Yuen) launched Cavallo Media after spending more than 8 years developing educational materials for the school markets in the U.S. and Canada. Now, we are taking our experiences working with young students, classroom teachers and educational experts and combining them with the exciting developments in mobile technology to bring parents and their kids easily-accessible, meaningfully-educational and fun applications that will help young children become strong, independent readers.


24 BOOKS IN ONE APP! The fun-loving Letter Buddies help children prepare for school. Simple

stories with striking photo-illustrations develop vocabulary and basic reading skills.

One book for each letter of the alphabet (X, Y, Z combined in one book)

Clear, bright photography introduces key foundational vocabulary

Simple sentences combined with fantastic photo-illustrations put the vocabulary in

context and teach important school readiness sight words

Cute and humorous, the Letter Buddies will entertain your children as they become

fluent readers and learners!

Letter Buddies materials were originally developed for early childhood education and are

currently being used in classrooms throughout North America! These popular teaching tools

have now been adapted into the Letter Buddies AlphaBooks app so your child can develop

valuable skills that will get them ready to enter Pre-Kindergarten or Kindergarten.

Perfect For:

- Children 2-6

Two-ways to read each e-book:

- “Read to Me” - listen to the narrated story with words highlighted as they are read

- “Read it Myself” - read the book in its traditional form

Educational Features:

- Learn early reading fundamentals

- Practice beginning letter sounds

- Acquire key foundational vocabulary

- Read along to vocabulary written in contextual sentences

- Expose children to important school readiness sight words

- Build awareness for simple sentence structures and basic punctuation

Additional Features:

- Text is perfect for developing and beginning readers alike

- Fun and engaging artwork supports simple text

- Narration supports a range of reading abilities

- Repeat audio by double tapping screen

- Narration can be turned on and off

- Text highlighting can be turned on and off

My Review

This is a fun app!

The colors are bright, the letters are personable, and it is so easy to use!

This app really has it all for the beginning reader!

The pages are very easy to scroll through and each letter has quite a few words/sentences/pictures associated with it (except poor "x"). As mentioned above, there are many different ways to use this app: narration can be on or off (yes!), highlighting can be turned on or off, and the audio can be repeated. And have I already mentioned how easy it is to use? So easy!

This is a perfect app for C! She's almost 4 and will be going to preschool next year. She's so curious about letters and words, and she's really intrigued by the AlphaBooks. They are fun and simple and very child-oriented.

Thank you, Cavallo Media for the opportunity to review this app. We really like it!

This post was written for Family Review Network and AlphaBooks who provided the complimentary product for review in exchange for my honest opinions.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

This Is OUR Year

Every year Mr. Einstein's school district does an awards night for Excellence in Education. Teachers, para's, volunteers, administrators, and community members are nominated for excellence awards, and a few actually win them.

Mr. Einstein won one two years ago.

It's a fun evening to just kick back, sit (for a long time), laugh with friends and colleagues (and spouses!), and hope, hope, hope to win a gift basket.

Because, let me tell you, the gift baskets are amazing!

Each school/building/office/service provider/what-have-you that is somehow involved in public education puts together a gift basket with some theme or other, like exercise (Mr. Einstein's school), outdoor, barbecue, camping, recession (E's school--awesome!), etc, and some community members/businesses provide some, too. Every person who walks in the door to attend the event gets a ticket, and throughout the evening, the superintendent draws random tickets for prizes.

Now, Mr. Einstein and I have attended this event for four years (not continuously, just the years he's been nominated) out of the seven he's been in this school district. We've even brought some of kids before, so had extra tickets (and no, that's not why we brought them). We've never won anything. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

This year, as I told a couple of people, is OUR year.

And you know what? It was.

It was OUR year.

No, we didn't win a gift basket.

No, we didn't win a community member/business gift.

No, Mr. Einstein didn't win an award (which he totally should have!).

He won the grand prize.


The Grand Prize!!!

He won a one-night stay at the Coeur D'Alene Resort AND two tickets for the St. Joe River cruise.


I know!

It really is OUR year!

Monday, April 25, 2011

THAT Kind of Weekend

We had THAT kind of weekend this weekend.

You know, the kind where 2 out of 3 of your children have to have 3 baths in 36 hours...

where you stay up late only to have to get up early...

where you plan a brunch in which all of the invited guests back out at the last minute,

but the last-minute guests all come,

and you have a fabulous time getting to know new people...

where it's warm yet windy and overcast...

where the kids actually get along and share during the Easter egg hunt,

but start fighting and yelling afterwards...

where you still do pizza-and-a-movie even though it's Easter...

where this is as good as it gets: