Sunday, May 30, 2010

Springtime in Tennessee

 My children are growing up with spring smelling of honeysuckle and magnolias. 
I grew up with the smells of pine trees, mountain air and lilacs. 
What does your spring smell like?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

My Sentiments Exactly


Have a great holiday weekend!


The winner of the Gourmet Grilling Basket Giveaway is Brooke.

The winner of the Heritage Makers playing cards is Heather.

The winners of the Lucky Labs giveaway are Shawna, Claude and Jenna Wood.

The winner of the Tiger Woods PGA Tour® 11 Giveaway is (David and) Stephanie.

Congrats to everyone!!!! Email me and I will get you your prizes. 

Still time to enter to win a fun read
A few more days to enter the Spring Photo Challenge. Some great photos already posted!

Want an awesome giveaway this weekend? How about a Shabby Apple Dress? I want to win for me!!!
 This one for a Chili's gift certificate is pretty sweet too.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

1st Birthday

The plan was to have a real birthday party for Collin with invites, a cool cake, friends and games. But, that didn't happen. I'm really tired. (Have I mentioned that lately?) In the end, I called my next door neighbors and asked them if they wanted to have cake with us and sing to Collin. They have a little boy Lydia's age and a baby just about the same age as Collin. They walked over and we spent an hour eating cake and watching the kids make a mess. Now that I think of it, that was probably just what Collin would have chosen to do anyway.

I think these blue eyes are here to stay.

I never claim to be much of a cake decorator; I usually just wing it. Tasted yummy though.

At least Collin seemed to think so.

Happy Birthday sweet sweet boy. 

More photos here. Scroll down to see his gifts.

 Collin's b-day shirt is from mitetees.

Eden Home Review

You would have been embarrassed if you had seen the happy dance I broke into when Eden Home asked me to do a review. See, I was actually planning on getting Collin's birthday gift from their site anyway. I consider it Karma for all the awesome giveaways I do....

Eden Home is this incredible website providing all organic and eco-friendly goods for your home and life. From darling clothes (I really want this lounge set) to gift baskets to baby goods, everything is stylish, high-quality and well priced. 

I have heard a lot of people talking about throwing "Organic Baby Showers" and actually was introduced to Eden Home when another blogger talked about registering there. Well, if that sounds like your kind of thing, check out this incredible giveaway! If you create a baby registry before June 30th, you will be entered to win $1000 in organic goods! Sweet! (Is it too late to register for Collin???)

Want an incredible deal? I was already planning on getting Collin these leather shoes because they are the cheapest I have seen anywhere. They have lots of different styles, so check them out. (Only $16!) I have been wanting to get Collin some BabyLegs leggings for a while, so I went ahead and picked some out. He's wearing them in the photo to the right. I love that they're organic. If you haven't made that switch yet, you will be amazed how much softer organic fabric can be. They really help out Collin's chuck-o legs when he is crawling on the hard wood. 

Lastly I wanted to get a toy for Collin's b-day. I'm really into "generational toys". That is a term I use to call toys that will last for my grandchildren. I like wooden toys that are well built, classic and durable. I found an abundance of "generational toys" at Eden Home. I love that so many are made from natural and organic wood. The more natural things I can surround my children with, the better. 

I picked the xylophone for Collin (and Lydia) to explore new sounds and colors. It's made with Non-Formaldehyde Glue and Water-Based Dyes so no need to worry about it going in the mouth. And it's darling!

Thank you to Eden Home for allowing me to try out some fantastic products. I will definitely be a regular customer. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Monsters in the House

Any other moms sick to tears of the messes? Check out Christoph Niemann’s photos and I bet it will make the clean up just a little bit funnier. 

Don't forget!

Three days left to:

Six days left to:

One week left to:
And lastly:
Become a fan of natalie's sentiments on facebook!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

TLC Book Tours - On Folly Beach (and Giveaway)

I'm thrilled to be part of another TLC book tour, this time with the newest book from Karen White, On Folly Beach. Again the bulk of the story takes place in the deep South where generations aren't forgotten, but part of one's identity. Two stories are simultaneously told. One modern day and working towards conclusion. One fifty years past, yet as real and alive as if time has stood still. One war widow, Janie, finds hope and solace in the clues left behind by two mysterious lovers. All she has are the clandestine messages they've hidden in the books that have now come into her possession. She clutches at these clues to save her from drowning in her sorrow of losing her husband. She follows the clues from her home in Indiana, to Folly Beach, SC in hope of discovering the story that has never been told. Somehow she knows that she must find the answers to these mysteries to move towards healing herself. ***

One thing I love about Karen's books is that they cannot be contained in one unique genre. Are they romance? Well a bit, but in On Folly Beach we read of loves lost, or ill fated. Are they historical fiction? They could be considered that, especially with her incredible portrayal of the World War II days in the coastal towns of South Carolina. (I had no idea that Germany was able to sink hundreds of US ships in our own waters!) Mystery? Oh, definitely and it will keep you up late into the night wanting to know what happens next. Or more so, what happened 50 years ago, and wondering how Janie is going to uncover the story.

This was such a great summer read, I want to make sure you get the chance to read it. Two of you are going to receive your own copy of On Folly Beach.

To enter, just leave me a comment with your own personal favorite summer read. I'll choose the winners on  June 2nd. Even if you don't win, make sure to pick this one up for yourself.

Monday, May 24, 2010

When exactly do I get to sleep again?

Collin is not sleeping great. Thus I'm not sleeping great. Thus I'm not in the best mood right now. Diet Coke isn't even making a dent and I'm worried I'll revert to chocolate. That would be bad because it would take a lot of chocolate to make me feel better. I'm really really tired. Happy Monday by the way....

In better news, I finally created a natalie's sentiments facebook page. Won't you head over and "like" me. I promise, it will cheer me right up.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Girls Night Pontifications

I have never understood two things. First, how any woman (especially a mother) can exist without regular girl's nights out. Sometimes evenings out with my friends are all that keep me sane. Second, why women say that they will see if their husbands can "babysit" the kids. My thought is, once Dad is home from work, he is just as responsible for the kids as mom. Dad's can't babysit their own kids. Dad's JOB is to take care of the kids. Just like it's mom's job. I've noticed that I don't tend to like men who "babysit" their kids. They usually are the same guys who don't bring their wives flowers and don't call when they are going to be late for dinner. But moving on....

Chattanooga finally got a Melting Pot and last week I went out with some friends. Collin hasn't been sleeping well and I've been averaging 5 hours of sleep at night. I knew the only thing that would make me feel better was a good vent session and copious amounts of chocolate.

Why have I never been out to eat there before?! It looks like it was designed for a night out with the girls. All dark and sexy inside with slightly flirtatious waitstaff. 

Here's the abridged version of the night:

As ladies arrive conversation hovers around getting to know the new girl and Kristi and I giving each other looks as we realize we are the oldest girls in the group. How did that happen? 

Server enters.

"Here you go ladies, let me prepare beautiful bowls of creamy cheese for you to dip bread and apples into."....(Spinach and Artichoke Swiss and Fiesta Cheese Fondue were my favorite. I'm kicking myself for not trying the Traditional Swiss Cheese Fondue.)

Conversations heads into labor horror stories, as our friend Sarah nears her due date this weekend. I watch Jessica eat her bread wondering for the millionth time how she stays a size zero.

Server reappears.

"Here you go ladies, let me prepare decadent bowls of swirling luscious chocolate for you to dip fruit, rice krispy treats and cheesecake into.....(Cookies ‘n Cream was amazing, as was the S’mores. The Original chocolate though...oh my. I will dream about it.) 

Ironically, as we scrape the bottom of the bowls, conversation heads over to poop. Mostly we're made up of moms with young children, so we terrify those without kids with our tales of poop finger painting on walls and public diaper explosions. I love to see the shocked faces of the childless and the knowing smiles of the young mothers. Somehow it is so much easier to talk about the unsavory parts of mommyhood when you are showered and dressed nice with no sticky fingers clawing at you. 

Anyway, LOVED the Melting Pot. I told Shane we must return soon to have the full experience with the meat. Though, no matter how much I love hanging with Shane, some things are just better with girlfriends. Mainly chocolate. By the way, my diet starts Monday.

Back to poop - the very first blog post I ever read was based on that very topic. Back in the days when I swore I would never have a blog. Head over to read it for some laughs. Then read the second edition here. I laughed so hard I cried. Ah, we Mormon housewives are so funny.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Tiger Woods PGA Tour® 11 - Giveaway!

What does my husband want for father's day? Breakfast in bed? Handpicked flowers from the yard? A nice card telling him what he means to our family? Nope. He wants the Tiger Woods PGA Tour® 11 and for the family to leave him alone to play. So that's what he's getting. I had this suspicion that there are other hard working dads out there who might just want this too. 

Lucky you, EA SPORTS has offered one reader the Tiger Woods PGA Tour® 11 - you choose the platform! XBOX 360, Playstation 3 or Wii. Releases in stores June 8th.

This is one of the most hotly anticipated games of the year. Called "one of the most authentic golfing experiences ever created" by Game Center, you can expect great graphics including amazing representations of famous golf courses and a dynamic weather function that mimics life realtime weather conditions. I am actually excited to play this game. (And except for EA Active, I don't play video games.) Hope it has the Coeur d'Alene Resort Golf Course. I've always wanted to golf there since I grew up only 20 minutes away, but this will be a cool alternative. 

Because I am allowing you to choose your platform, you will have to give your husband a rain check on Father's Day, letting him know the game is on it's way. Sorry about that, but I'm sure he won't mind.

 To Enter:
  • Let me know in a comment which platform you would choose for the Tiger Woods PGA Tour® 11. (XBOX 360Playstation 3 or Wii) and who you want to give it to. Unless you want to keep it, which is great too!
  • For an extra entry, let me know in a separate comment that you are a public follower and/or have my button on your blog.
  • For an extra entry, "Like" me on facebook and tell me in a comment you have done so.
  • For an extra entry, Facebook or Twitter about this giveaway and let me know in a separate comment on this post that you have done so.
  • For three extra entries, blog about this giveaway and let me know in three separate comments that you have done so.
I'll announce the randomly selected winner on May 29th. Good luck!


The winner of the Pleasant Vonnoh giveaway is The Dunn Family! Congrats! Email me and I will get you in touch with Pleasant. 

Don't forget to enter your photos into the Spring Photo Challenge and to check out the ones already posted!!!!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Tricking my family into healthy eating.

Shane is training for a half marathon and wants to eat healthier. Problem is, if he even suspects that dinner is healthy, he is immediately unsatisfied 30 minutes later. It's a mental thing. He gets himself a huge bowl of cereal or something else to compensate. And it annoys the crap out of me. He wants to eat healthy: thus I spend the kid's nap time cutting up veggies, marinating chicken and making whole wheat bread. Then after dinner he searches the cupboards and fridge for something "more". Drives me crazy because he only does this when it's a healthy meal. The dumbest thing he has ever said is "You know, I think I could be a vegetarian". I laughed for 5 minutes straight.

I figure my only option is to"trick"him. Really, it's for his own good right? So I need recipes that seem all yummy and fattening, but really are healthy. Any tips?

I found a bunch of recipes I really like from "Substitute Yourself Skinny" by "the Bikini Chef". I posted   my latest meal from this book over at my recipe blog. I really like this cookbook because all the recipes are easy and meals that I already make. They just have simple substitutions that make regular meals much lower in fat and calories. And yummy desserts too. If you don't enjoy the food you are eating, you will not stay on your diet. Eating your regular foods with basic substitutions mean weight loss with no pain. And no late night cereal.

Some other good ideas I learned from the book:
  1. Cream sauces and creamy soups get most of their creaminess from fat and calorie laden heavy whipping cream. Use ½ nonfat milk and ½ nonfat sour cream instead for the same creamy texture without the unwanted creamy fat that will sabotage your bikini body.
  2. Nonfat vanilla yogurt is a delicious substitution for mayonnaise. Use as a healthy substitution in chicken salad, tuna salad, and dipping sauces such as aioli. It is very flavorful and naturally creamy so you don't need to use a lot of it.
  3. Watch out for sugary pasta sauces and dipping sauces. Sugar has empty calories that add up quickly. Instead, use freshly diced tomatoes with a little freshly chopped basil leaves or cilantro leaves. Add a hint of lemon zest, drizzle of balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil (½ tablespoon each) and finish with a small pinch of sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. Toss with pasta such as penne or fettuccini or serve with baked wonton crisps.
  4. Wonton wrappers are perfect as crispy crackers instead of crostini and tortilla chips. Buy the squares and cut into triangles. Brush lightly with olive oil and bake in a 225º oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until crisp and golden. Top with salsa, serve with chicken salad or other dips as you would crostini and chips. As a bonus, they are inexpensive and unused wonton wrappers keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.
What are some of your "Tricks"?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Lucky Labs Giveaway - 3 winners

Wish I could offer an iPad for a Father's Day giveaway. I really wish I could. But until I get one for myself, it probably won't happen. I'm selfish that way. BUT, I can offer you something to deck out your Dad's (or husband's) Macbook or iPad, if they are lucky enough to be an owner.

The Lucky Labs is a fantastic etsy shop specializing in Macbook and iPad decals. As if iPads didn't look cool enough, you can personalize them to fit your style. I'm tempted by the Darth Vader one. I really like Star Wars. (For those of you who do have an iPad, do you love it???)

I'm also crazy about the Skill Family decals for the back of your vehicle. Nice way to say, "Sure, I drive a minivan, but I do it with attitude." Also, all decals are Free Shipping!

The Lucky Labs are offering three winners their choice of one decal! (Or 4 Skull Family decals.)

To Enter:

  • Check out The Lucky Labs and then come back here and comment on this post letting me know what  decal you would choose. 
  • For an extra entry, make The Lucky Labs one of your Etsy Favorites and let me know in a separate comment you have done so.
  • For an extra entry, Facebook or Twitter about this giveaway and let me know in a separate comment on this post that you have done so.
  • For three extra entries, blog about this giveaway and let me know in three separate comments that you have done so.
I'll announce the randomly selected winner on May 29th. Good luck!

Heritage Makers Giveaway - Playing Cards

Yep, two giveaways in one day. That's how much I love you! Actually, I realized that if I was going to get everyone their prizes in time for Father's Day, I needed to step things up!

Your dad into games? Mine is. As a family we play Liverpool Rummy for hours. Our record is 10 hours straight. Maybe that is why I thought these personalized playing cards from Heritage Makers would be such a cool gift. My sister did some for my Dad a few years ago and used some great wedding photos. You could decorate with grandkid photos, or design them to read your personal family game of choice. Personalized and manly at the same time! And you didn't think it was possible.

One reader will receive a set of custom designed playing cards!

To Enter:
  • Check out Heritage Makers and then come back here and comment on this post letting me know another product you like (besides the cards of course). 
  • For an extra entry, let me know in a separate comment that you are a public follower and/or have my button on your blog.
  • For an extra entry, Facebook or Twitter about this giveaway and let me know in a separate comment on this post that you have done so.
  • For three extra entries, blog about this giveaway and let me know in three separate comments that you have done so.
I'll announce the randomly selected winner on May 29th. Good luck!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What's worse....

...the fact that I have my baby boy wearing a flower crown or that I have him sporting a wife-beater. No matter how cute it is, it's still just wrong.

How can my sweet baby be turning one this week? It just went too fast. 

Gourmet Gift Giveaway

Father's Day = Stress. Mom's are easy to buy for: a nice purse, earrings, flowers. Men...not so much. Every time I have to get my husband or Dad a gift, I am at a total loss.

This might help you out this Father's day. How about sending the Father in your life a gourmet gift basket? Dad not into baskets? He'll be into one of these. Gourmet Gift has some really incredible basket varieties for any occasion. Romantic, birthdaybaby, graduation, get well....even Barefoot Contessa Baskets! The baskets for men are really extraordinary. Golf, fishing, football, and Car Wash baskets, just to name a few.

Shane had to work for our anniversary last week, so I sent him the Grilling Greatness Basket directly to his office. He was totally thrilled. (And I looked like the coolest wife ever.) It was packed full of some seriously incredible BBQ and marinating supplies.  Can you say "Blueberry Jalapeño sauce"? Yum! Grilling planks, spice rubs, sauces; all in a beautiful reusable basket. By the time Shane came home, he already had a week of grilling planned. A gift for me too!

I love this idea for Father's day since there are so many baskets to choose from, and it is shipped gift ready. Really, it looks great straight out of the box. Email your siblings and go in together to get your Dad something he'll love.

Gourmet Gift is offering one reader The Grilling Greatness Basket! Just in time for Father's Day!!! 

To Enter:

  • Become a Fan of Gourmet Gift on facebook, and while you are there, leave a comment on the wall indicating your favorite basket. Then come back here and let me know you have done so. No other entries will count if you don't do this first!!! (See basket collections at Gourmet Gift
  • For an extra entry, let me know in a separate comment that you are a public follower and/or have my button on your blog. 
  • For an extra entry, let me know in a separate comment that you have facebooked or twittered about this giveaway. 
  • For THREE extra entries, let me know in THREE separate comments that you have blogged about this giveaway. 

I will announce the randomly selected winner on May 29th. Good Luck!!!!!!!

U.S. and Canadian addresses only.


The winner of the Yellow themed "Favorite's package" is Stacie B. No lie, the random generator picked #1!!! It does happen. Stacie, usually I require that you contact me within 48 hours, but from the looks of your blog, you may have your hands full with a new baby. At least I hope so since your last post said you were overdue... a week ago. (Check out her swollen feet!)

Congrats! On both winning and new baby! Email me and I will get you your prize. 

Another giveaway tomorrow. And don't forget to enter my Spring Photo Challenge!!!!

Local? A few days left to enter the Pleasant Vonnoh Photography Giveaway

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Perfect Anniversary

We celebrated our 9th anniversary this weekend and it was perfect. Last year, I was just about to have Collin so our anniversary was celebrated with takeout on the couch. This year, Shane really made up for it. He sent me out for a mani- pedi, to get my hair done, and to the mall to get a new outfit. All of this in preparation to go to my favorite restaurant in the world, St. Johns.

When I say my favorite restaurant in the world, I mean it. I've eaten at some wonderful restaurants from Italy to New York, and St. Johns in Chattanooga Tennessee surpasses them all. When I hear that someone who lives in Chattanooga has never been there, I feel it's like a local New Yorker who's never seen the view from the Empire State building- a shame. If you ever have the opportunity to visit this area, you must must must make reservations to dine there. Want to live vicariously through me? I'll tell you about our meal..... 

While we waited for our first course, we were treated to small bowls of chilled tomato soup with grilled shrimp and ramp Crème fraiche. After the first taste, Shane and I smiled at each other and settled into our seats knowing were in for a few hours of pure culinary bliss. 

For our first course I ordered the quail breast and arugula salad with radicchio, honeybells and maple glaze, sprinkled with edible flowers.  Shane ordered potato and ramp soup with butter poached main lobster and black truffle oil. Mouth watering yet? I wish I had photos to make you even more jealous, but by the time the food arrived, the lighting was too dim (i.e. romantic). I always get the quail at St. Johns. It's delectable no matter how it's prepared. Wondering what a ramp is? It's an incredibly rare wild leek that only grows in the Appalachian Mountains for three weeks. It has a wonderful garlic taste and for the next while can be found throughout the St. Johns menu. I love discovering new foods. 

Speaking of new foods, I decided to be adventurous and try the leg of venison while Shane picked out a Buffalo steak. Mine was served with a gouda cornmeal souffle and marinated beets that perfectly complemented the gamey meat. The buffalo steak was absolutely divine paired with a scrumptious Béarnaise sauce. 

The highlight of the meal was (of course) the dessert. As soon as Shane told me we were going to St. Johns, all I could think was....Chocolate Pudding. Chocolate pudding at a five star restaurant? Oh, you have no idea how good this dish is. Served warm with carmel ice cream, it may be the most divine dessert I've ever tasted. Shane even called ahead to make sure it was on the menu.

I could eat at St. John's every night. Our server Catherine was wonderful, and the chef, Daniel Lindley, is pure genius. By the way, if you want to enjoy St. Johns quality food in a more casual atmosphere (and less expensive), check out The Meeting Place. I've never been, but I plan to try it out...very soon.

Thank you thank you Shane for an amazing anniversary night out. I felt beautiful due to all the pampering you arranged and I had a wonderful time.

Now what to do for our tenth anniversary? I'm thinking....Paris. I've heard they have good restaurants there. :)

Friday, May 14, 2010

"Getting Out of Auto"

Remember that 4 week online class I mentioned that taught me all about my SLR camera? Well, this is a little late notice, but "Getting Out of Auto" is just starting and registration ends on the 19th. I highly (highly) recommend it if you want to learn how to make the most of your SLR camera. The handouts alone are worth the $59. And it is really fun too!

Want to take a purely creative class? Make sure to enter my Spring Photo Challenge...

Picture Spring - 30 days of soulful seasonal celebration

During the month of April I participated in Big Picture Scrapbooking's "Picture Spring - 30 
days of soulful seasonal celebration". It was a wonderful online class that gave daily "inspiration" to awaken the inner photographer and to celebrate the surrounding beauties of Spring. 
I tried to do every assignment, but life got away from me. I did accomplish most of them. Some other assignments can be found here, and here.
Here are the rest of my photos.

The first day we were to take 30 steps from where we were at that moment and snap a photo. This is my lovely cherry tree. It makes me smile every time I see it.

We were to find spring pastels. This is Lydia's closet. She is a lucky little girl, don't you think?

Finding Springtime shadows.

"Awakenings" - finding evidence of new life. Taken on the first day where the buds were really making their entrance. 

The tree we planted when we first moved into our home. 

April showers.

Self portrait.

This is not some fancy cropping. My multi purpose lens broke, so I only have my prime lens. Thus, this is as far as I could hold the camera away from my face. Ignore the eye brows. I'm going natural until I can get in for a wax and a much needed facial.

One day we were to take a photo of our current "projects". This is my springtime office, and my little blog is my current project. That and learning my new camera. (Obviously)

As if you haven't seen this photo enough, this was the day we were to photograph "into the sun".

The assignment was to take a photo as if looking from another persons point of view.

We were to photograph spring fabrics. I found this display in a trendy section of downtown Chattanooga.

We were asked to catch light in someone's eyes. (Isn't he darling?!?)

The assignment was to photograph a charm that had personal meaning. I ended up taking that a bit farther....

The assignment was to look for "daily rounds". The simple and beautiful circles around us. However, on this particular day, this was the only "round" I was interested in.

One day we were to lay on our backs and photograph the sky.

"Mommy? Why are you laying down in the grass?

And finally, on the last day we were to take a photo of flowers. My hydrangeas have just started to bud, but my neighbor's yard is full of them in full bloom. I was so tempted to leave with an armful, but I settled for just a few shots instead. 

That was fun. Can't wait to start "Picture Summer". Want to join me? Scroll down to find out how.
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