Nutrisystem Results after Four Weeks #NSNation

I've reached the end of my first month on 
and it's time to celebrate!

In just one month,
I have officially lost 9 pounds
and 8 1/2 inches!

 Here's my measurement loss, broken down:
upper arm = -1 inch
chest = -2 inches
waist = -4 inches
hips = same
thighs = -1 1/2 inches

I've noticed an increase in my energy level because
I'm eating delicious foods that are good for me, 
I'm drinking 6-8 glasses of water daily,
and I'm moving, moving, moving.

My clothes are fitting more loosely and 
I'm getting closer to my goal!

Want to lose weight and get healthy on Nutrisystem?
Join today by calling 1-888-853-4689 or
or by visiting http://www.nutrisystem.com/nsblog
FTC Disclosure: In exchange for blogging my progress, I am receiving Nutrisystem foods and services at no charge.

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Book Review - Our Last Great Hope

Dr. Ronnie Floyd, in his book Our Last Great Hope: Awakening the Great Commission, has really made an impact on my heart. As pastor of a church, he is man who has nearly always been immersed in the Word. Yet, he is a real person who struggles with life just like the rest of us. He shows a whole new perspective to readers about the Great Commission, that command by Jesus to make disciples of all nations. The book gave me plenty of opportunities to look hard at myself, at my heart and my attitudes, and showed me ways I can help people be saved. Floyd challenges us to make sweeping changes, in our lives, our families, our society, and how to engage the next generation. It is an alarm that needs to be sounded.
This is not a book to read in a day or two. There is just so much to think about that is better digested slowly. It's a book to be read several times, one the reader can refer back to again and again. Floyd has inspired me in several ways with his book Our Last Great Hope. I do feel the sense of urgency to gather as many as we can, so that none are lost. Yet the need and desire to be genuine is so important, that the urgency needs to be tempered so as not to scare people off. I feel a sense of responsibility and I wonder if I'll ever feel like I did enough. I'm so glad I read this book and now I want to tell you why.
You know how sometimes you'll get a little idea, kind of nudging you to do something, to take a leap that is something you're more likely to push away and choose not to do? That's God, telling you to stretch beyond your comfort zone, and do something for Him. As soon as I finished the book, I could hear a calling. I guess I was really in tune with God, because I didn't feel a little nudge; rather I felt a good hard shove. I was clearly being directed to begin something for Him. The next day, I walked up to my pastor before church began and told him God was telling me to organize Christmas caroling in the neighborhoods around our church. My pastor told me to send him my plan in an email, then approved my plan. The following Sunday, my pastor began his new advent sermon series, called Christmas Carol Theology (yeah, I got goosebumps, too.) God has a grand plan, and we're all a part of it, we just need to be open to His calling. If you are Christian, I highly recommend you read this book. If you are not Christian, I pray that you will find the deep joy and peace I have found (and I recommend you read this book too, as well as the gospel of Mark).
Disclosure: I received this book at no charge in exchange for my honest review.

Cocoa Energy Restore - Review

I always laugh at the commercials on television that list fifty symptoms, asking if you suffer from any of them, then tell you they have a pill to cure it, but that it'll cause fifty side effects that are just as bad or worse than the original symptoms. It is kind of a shame that as a society we've become so dependent on pills to cure everything for us. It makes so much more sense to eat right, get sleep, and exercise. Then again, who has time to cook right, sleep deep, or work out? The reality of our lives is that it moves fast, really fast. We're bombarded with stress, responsibilities, and pressures from friends, family, bosses, and society. Most of us are exhausted, both physically and mentally. Most of us have way too much to do and way too little time to do them all.
Cocoa Energy Restore delivers the energizing properties of dark chocolate PLUS the stress-reducing herbs of Ashwagandha, Rhodiola and Schisandra, clinically proven to enhance energy, focus, and stamina. Two capsules of pure vegetarian cocoa helps fight fatigue and exhaustion, boost mental and physical performance, and improve focus and energy. Protective natural health with Resvitale's CocoaWell supplements is a much better alternative to synthetic drugs that cause strange side effects.
I have been using two per day each day this week and have noticed a marked improvement in my energy levels. I've had no jittery feeling, no anxiety, and no noticeable negative side effects at all. I am definitely sold on this product. Although I was kind of hoping for chocolate chewables!
Disclosure: I received this product at no charge in exchange for my honest review.

Visit From Santa

Luckily for me, I have some important connections. I was able to arrange for Santa to come by my daycare today. He has great timing too, as the kids were sitting down watching "Santa Claus is coming to Town" and learning all about him! The looks on the children's faces were priceless. He spoke with each child and some of them wanted to sit on his lap. 
One little girl wouldn't go near him and had a few tears but we assured her that she could watch from a distance. Santa asked what they wanted for Christmas and I heard requests for blocks, a Barbie, dress up clothes, a ball, Batman, and Spiderman. It sounds like what my generation would have asked Santa for some 30 (um, I mean 40) years ago! Our beloved Santa reminded the kids to be good and to remember that Jesus loves them. Then he was off with a jolly Ho Ho Ho! The kids will be talking about this for months.

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Nugget of Inspiration

"The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it."
~ Michelangelo


Four Winners Announced

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Fuller Brush Products - Review

Even though Fuller Brush products have been around since 1906, I can't remember ever using any of them. I like their slogan - Make it work. Make it last. Guarantee it no matter what. I received the Stainless Steel Gel and the Tile and Grout Cleaner to try.
The Stainless Steel Gel has polishing micro beads and I decided to put it to the test first. I've got a spot on my stainless steel refrigerator that won't come off. I had put one of those large flat advertising magnets on the front of the fridge because it came from Texas Motor Speedway. When I moved the magnet, it left a huge rectangular spot.
I have tried several different cleaners that didn't work. I sprayed the Fuller Brush Stainless Steel Gel on and was happy that it didn't run down the front of the refrigerator. It stayed right where I sprayed it.
I wiped the gel (along the grain of the steel) with a soft dry cloth and realized immediately I had used too much. But the product worked GREAT and totally removed the mess left by the magnet. I flipped the cloth over to the dry side and polished it with a few swipes and couldn't believe the difference.

My Grocery List - Marina Games - Review

My Grocery List is a brand new game from Marina Games. I sat down today with three 4-year-olds to play the game. The game includes five grocery lists, five shopping baskets, and 30 grocery item cards. It is designed for ages 3-7 years, and 2-5 players. The cards go face down and each player is supposed to choose a card during their turn. If it matches their grocery list, the card goes in their shopping basket. If it isn't on their list, it's turned face down again in the same spot. Then the next person takes a turn.
The kids had an absolutely wonderful time playing this game with me. They caught on very quickly and we ended up playing three times. Luckily for me, each child won a game so there were no hard feelings. The game pieces are made of a sturdy laminated chipboard. At the end of each game, I had each child pass their shopping basket to the left and their grocery list to the right, to throw on another learning opportunity as well as keep the game fresh.
As a preschool teacher, I love this game. It's better than the average memory game. There are lots of hidden learning moments throughout the game. When all six items from a grocery list are in the shopping basket, the six cards all fit perfectly in the outline of the basket, which provides a visual to the child about full, half full, and elementary fractions. As each child found another grocery item, I would also say things like "You have two of your six grocery items. That means you need four more." The grocery lists have the grocery items written out as well as a matching picture to help with letter recognition and word association. There is no reading required to play, so it's appropriate for preschoolers. If you have young kids, I highly recommend this children's game! You can find Marina Games online, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
Disclosure: I received this product at no charge in exchange for my honest review.

Deciding Whether to Refinance Our House

With the current Mortgage refinance rates so low, we're considering refinancing our home. It doesn't seem like the rates will drop further and there's no telling how long they will stay low. At the same time, we're not really sure how long we're going to live here in this house. We really love Pflugerville, but our boys will graduate in spring 2013 and this house seems so big for just two of us.

We've also tossed around the idea of moving to a larger property, like maybe ten acres. Property is pretty expensive here for large lots, so we'd probably have to move out of Pflugerville. If we do that, I'm not so sure I'll keep doing home daycare. I might just retire at that point from daycare since my own kids will be moving out. I've been doing daycare so long, I can't even imagine what my life would be like without all these preschoolers. 
I guess we'd have to figure out whether national refinancing would save us money over just staying at our current rate, which isn't that great anyway. We pay a pretty high rate right now, but if we're going to move in a year and a half I'm not so sure we'd save money because it would cost us to get an appraisal plus the closing fees. Actually I guess it could even end up costing us money over the long run. Too bad we can't use a Military VA Loan! I heard those rates are great too.

We also considered selling this house and buying a smaller house in Pflugerville so I could keep doing daycare with my current clients and waiting list. I've checked current sales figures for this area and we'd probably lose money selling this house too. There is guarantee we'd be able to sell it either. The economy is so fragile right now that it's really hard to make a decision. It seems like we're losing money no matter what we choose. Then again, if we wait too long Mortgage refinance rates could go way up again. If only we could see into the future!

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See How Much I Love You - SHMILY coins

Over the years, my mom and sisters have developed some very unusual family traditions. One of us received a set of horse pins one year as a gift. Not that it wasn't appreciated, but somehow the horse pins turned into the ultimately recyclable gift. Those horse pins turned up at every gift-giving occasion...my sister would get them in her Christmas stocking, then give them to Mom in a beautiful gift box for Mother's Day. Mom would give them to me for my birthday (pinned on a nice sweater) and I would give them to another sister for her graduation present. It was even funnier the year that another set of identical horse pins found its way into our family tradition. This has gone on between all of us for more than thirty years.

Today I received a package of SHMILY coins. These were also created as part of a family tradition, but with a sweet twist. I think it's such a neat idea that I wanted to share it with you. SHMILY coins are small wooden tokens of love to remind someone "See How Much I Love You!"
Along with the coins came a sheet with the sweet story about how these came about and I made a copy for each coins I received to give with the coin. I'm sending a few of them out in some Christmas cards this year. What a wonderful little gift to send to a special friend or family member you only see once in a while! Everyone likes to be reminded they are loved.
This would make an adorable Christmas gift charm attached to a present too. It would also be a darling little token in a thank you notes. I bet your college student or soldier would love to carry a SHMILY coin in their pocket when they feel a tad homesick. You could even start a playful game with your spouse, your child, or your teenager, and leave it where they will find it...the kitchen drawer, a lunchbox, under a pillow...just to remind them you love them. You can order them with the story attached or in a little velvet gift bag at http://www.shmilycoins.com/, plus find them on Facebook and Twitter.

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Stores that say Merry Christmas

to these stores where I shopped this weekend that said
to me instead of some other vague holiday wish.

HEB Grocery
Michael's Crafts

Please support these wonderful stores!

Monday Inspiration

"Thank God every morning when you get up that you have something to do that day which must be done, whether you like it or not. Being forced to work, and forced to do your best, will breed in you temperance and self-control, diligence and strength of will, cheerfulness and contentment, and a hundred virtues which the idle will never know." ~ Charles Kingsley

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PT3 Personal Training Session Week 1

Saturday morning 10am was our first PT3 personal training session with Will Shoucair. I know I'm in for it when my trainer shows up in a shirt that says No Pain, No Gain! Will is so awesome to work with because he is genuine and cares about my progress. After stretching out for a few minutes, we learned some exercises to work arms and body core with straps. Johnny and I took turns with the straps, and I rode my stationary bike in between my turns. I didn't realize I could pedal that fast, but Will knew I could. He's great at motivating us!
He pays a lot of attention to detail, making sure we stand correctly so we're not injuring ourselves. He ensures we're doing it in a way that will make us strong and burn calories. I lost 3 pounds last week, after starting doing the exercises he emailed me the day after our evaluation. Will says my program is designed to help the weight drop off faster than on my Nutrisystem program alone.
He definitely worked us hard, right up to where we wanted to collapse. At the same time, I felt great. I knew I'd hurt today (and I'm a bit stiff and a tiny bit sore) but it's clear he didn't push me past my limit to where I can't move at all. I've been careful to stretch today to keep my muscles loose. I really worked up a sweat!
I love Will's style of training and he even spent time with us after the session to help Johnny stretch out his too-right hamstrings. He told Johnny it's dangerous to have such tightness, than his lower back could be injured just by twisting or moving wrong because his hamstrings don't give and his back might compensate (by breaking a disc). Poor Johnny has been ordered to get a professional massage!
He followed us to the kitchen to see what we were eating for lunch and how we prepare it. He is satisfied with my Nutrisystem program. He did tell me to drink the water I cook my veggies in because some of the vitamins and minerals leach out into the water during cooking. He's happy with the changes Johnny has made in his diet and told him more protein. Will is increasing our exercise program requirements by a bit this upcoming week. He's also excited to learn we have a backyard pool and says we can use that next summer. Did you know exercises in the water increase the resistance by seven times?
Give Will Shoucair of PT3 Fitness a call at (512) 309-1783 if you need an Austin area personal trainer. He's a good Christian brother and genuinely cares that we meet our goals. I highly recommend him and can't wait to say I've lost 50 pounds!
Disclosure: I am receiving my own training at no charge in exchange for blogging my progress.

Mrs Fields Cookies Christmas Gifts - Review

Mrs. Field's cookies are some of the most delicious cookies in the world. Their new Christmas gifts are absolutely adorable and make wonderful presents. There are large ceramic platters, gift baskets full of cookies, tower collections stuffed with goodies, and of course cookie jars overflowing with the yummiest gourmet cookies you've ever tasted.
This is no ordinary ceramic cookie jar. The Elegant Snowman Jar is 10.5" tall and 7.5" wide with plenty of room for lots of delicious cookies. Your cookies will not go stale in this jar because the lid has rubber strip around the top, which also protects it from chips (not the chocolate kind) from regular use. I had a cookie jar once that was really cheapy and it was all messed up around the lid.
He comes filled with an assortment of amazing cookies. As I was opening each package of all the different flavors, just a couple of them fell into my mouth (don't tell my Nutrisystem counselor). I love these cookies! Forty-two assorted Nibblers cookies and two big frosted snowflakes make this a perfect Christmas gift.