yes or no? comment, pretty please. :)

I'm trying to gauge interest in whether or not I should blog my coupon adventure?  This will not become a largely saturated couponing blog but I thought it might be fun to do some posts about it...maybe a little FYI about the things that I am learning or if I can post timely info about good deals?  I already have a couple of proteges. :) So what do you think?  Should I or no?  Interested in a little, from the ground up couponing? 

Please take a moment to comment a let me know what you think. :)

xo
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caramel apple dip--almost healthy.

Want the EASIEST most satisfying recipe ever?
One block of cream cheese (softened to room temp).
3/4 of a tub of caramel apple dip

Blend together.  Eat with tart green apples.
AMAZING.  Aaaaaamazing.  Do it and do it right now. 
It even makes a great gift...I piled some in a small jar, topped with some of the extra caramel and sprinkled some crushed heath bar on top of that.  Packaged with an apple it made a cute little birthday gift for one teacher and a "just because" gift for another. 

And you eat it with apples, that practically makes it a health food. :)

xo
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Sunday Dinner-The Worlds Best Pot Roast

Good morning and happy Monday!
I hope your week will be filled with unexpected blessings!  The Johnsens are off to a good start with the Giants winning the super bowl!  Doesn't matter much to me...but in this case "If daddy ain't happy...".  Even I was about to lose it over the last 57 seconds of the game. :)
Today, I thought I would share one of my FAVORITE recipes ever.  Every time I make this, it gets RAVE reviews, everyone loves it! Sunday pot roast! And YOU CAN do this!  Before I learned how to make this the only red meat I ever made was hamburger.  But this?  Oh man, SO GOOD.  And SO easy.  People who don't like pot roast LOVE this.  Doug says I make it just like his Grandma, so you know what that means.  I know some of you have made this recipe because I have shared it with you...back me up? 

I kind of needed to make something successfully and well, THREE of my last pinterest recipes were a HUGE flop, very disappointing.  I won't link to them, because that wouldn't be very nice but be leery of "pizza puffs", smores pockets and blueberry breakfast bake.  Are you ready to make a wonderful, amazing pot roast?    
This is the piece of meat I started with.  You want some form of rump roast.  I have used all kinds and they don't really seem to make much difference with the end result.  This is a good price for my neck of the woods and a good size for my family.  If you make a bigger one you will just have to bake it longer. 
Preferably you want a dutch oven.  Or at least a nice heavy pan with a lid.  This is my pot roast pot because I can sear it and bake it all in the same place.  You can do it also with a frying pan to sear and a different pan to bake it in but you lose all that good searing flavor.   
Open up your piece of meat and salt and pepper it like you would your dinner plate.
When that is done, cover the entire roast in flour.  Pat it on there nice and good.  Cover the whole thing.
Melt 2-4 tablespoons of BUTTER (NOT margarine) in your searing pot or pan on medium high heat.
When it is all melted and good and hot, using tongs or whatever else you can to make it work, you are going to start searing the entire roast.  By sear, I mean you want to cook the outer layer of meat to a nice DARK (almost burned) color to seal in all the goodness.  You can hold it, like above...
...or you can prop it up on the side of the pot. You don't want to poke it lots though, you are trying to seal in the flavor.  The butter will turn dark, too.  That doesn't matter. 
You will continue to turn the meat and move it around in order to sear all sides and areas.  See the photo above?  Not dark enough.  You want the meat to be a DARK, almost burned color. 
Getting closer...
Just about there. 
This is a good color.  
When you get it to this point, put the meat in the center of the pan, fat side down, add about 2 cups of water, put the lid on and put it in the oven.  Bake at 325 degrees for 2 hours. 
At two hours or so, open it up and check to make sure there is still liquid in the bottom.  If needed add another cup of water or so.  Replace the lid and bake for another hour. 
Continue baking until you press your fork into the corner and it nearly falls apart.  See how it flaked off so nicely?  That's how you know it's done.  :)
Remove the roast from the pan, put on a plate, cover with foil and then a towel to keep it warm. 
This is what you are left with.  Want to make some gravy?  Add approximately two tablespoons of flour directly to this pot.  Stir with a whisk. 
Grab two cups of potato water from the pot you are boiling potatoes in. 
Because you have to have mashed potatoes with pot roast. 
This is the gravy before adding the water, after adding the flour.  Super thick. 
Turn on the heat to medium and add about 1- 1 1/2 cups of your potato water. 
Whisk, whisk, whisk. 
Use your whisk to scrape all that flavor off the sides of the pot and into the gravy.
Continue doing this until it's bubbly and thick. 
If you need to add a bit more flour, do that.  Salt to taste. 
Then, enjoy an amazing, melt in your mouth dinner.
 Enjoy it!  I will answer any questions in the comments section. :)

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nerd post alert: i am not THAT crazy coupon lady.

I informed you some time back that I have started couponing.  And not THAT kind of couponing.  There will be no 50 bottles of mustard or 10 gallons of marmalade here.  I am what my friend Beth refers to as a "Civilized Couponer".  It's true.  I've learned a lot and I thought I would share it with you.

First of all, I decided to start couponing because of my sister in law.  My busy, professional chiropractor, actively involved in her community, first time mom who has no NEED to coupon sister in law, who informed me that she never pays for razors, or many other toiletries.  She had me at free razors.  Is it just me or do you HATE to buy those kinds of things?  I mean if SHE has time to do this than anyone can.  I promise you that. :)  And she is normal, too.  I've seen inside most of her closets and there aren't any hoards of crazy stuff.  She DOES have an awesome closet FULL of diapers that she hasn't paid more than a couple of dollars a pack for that makes me feel jealous and foolish for ever buying a pack at full price.

With that said...

Here is a little fyi to prove I am not one of THOSE couponers:
-I only buy ONE paper a week.  I may eventually buy two but I will never buy dozens, nor will I ever dumpster dive or rob recycling bins to get coupons.
-I only coupon for things that I need or use.  Maybe eventually I would do it to score free things to donate to food banks or animal shelters but I am taking it slowly to learn the process well.
-I don't do shady things.  The end.
-I am overly nice and kind to my cashiers.  I talk to them, empathize with them and are EXTRA kind to them in a GENUINE way.

I started slow but have already shaved lots off of my grocery bill and I have set us up to NOT have to buy any kind of toiletry ever again at full or even half price.  I can honestly say, I will NEVER pay full price for anything ever again.  

While I am learning the system and how it all works, I started by committing myself to a couple of stores to start with.  For me, I chose CVS, Giant and Staples.  CVS because that is where my sister in law frequents for her best deals and honestly I needed her support and help.  Giant because that is where I like to shop the most and is the grocery store I am most familiar with.  And Staples because...well, my sister in law told me to. :)  

This week has been a good couponing week for me here are some of my BEST deals. 

At CVS this week I had two trips, the first was on Sunday and I got:
3 cases of Pepsi
3 cases of Amp
3 greeting cards
a shaving cream
2 bottles of advil
and
a peanut butter egg.
Between coupons and Extra Bucks I paid $2.15!!!!!

I did a second trip later on in the week and was able to get ALL of the above FOR FREE with CVS PAYING me $1.27.

For this particular trip, CVS was running a special spend $12 on certain products and get back $6 in Extra Bucks.  THEN there was a rebate in the Red Plum for $5 this week for spending $10 on the same products leaving me with owing $1.  THEN on top of that I had a coupon for each item leading to my $1.27 profit. :)  My sister in law was able to make $5-6 on the same deal because she has more coupons in her stash than I do.

See?  All legit and not crazy, just matching up deals with coupons.  :)
Another good deal I got this week was from Kroger.  They were running a special where you buy ten of a certain assortment of product then you get $5 off of your bill.  My sister in law also sent me an $8 rebate from Digiorno when you buy two pizzas...which were included in the Kroger deal.  I also had coupons for everything else.  At the end of the day I will have paid $9.50 for ALL of this.  That's like buying the pizzas (on sale!) and getting the rest for FREE.

Why am I telling you all of this?  To encourage you to give it a try.  I resisted for a long time because of all of the stereotypes out there about couponers and I didn't want to be associated with them.

But thankfully, because I have a nice, normal and awesome sister in law, I have jumped in and I am NEVER going back. :)

So jump in.  Get a paper.  Start small and learn along the way.  You WILL get hooked.

Love, a Civilized Coupon

*disclaimer...I am not saying that any of you gung ho couponers are crazy or uncivilized...just a little out of my comfort zone. :)
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winners, prayer and other random things.

First of all, just so you know, Blogher is in charge of choosing winners for ALL of the giveaways that I do through them.  I personally, LOVE that, it takes a lot of pressure off of me because it IS hard to choose just one, especially since I have a personal relationship with so many of you.  With that said...

Blogher has indeed chosen the first two winners: 

Amy won the Zeo Sleep Manager...yay Amy!
Jenn won the Withings Scale...which she will LOVE!

Yay for you ladies!  There's another great giveaway tomorrow!
Random thing number one: 
70 degrees on January 31?  Yes, please. 
We are playground hoppers.  There are several in our area and if the day is warm enough (tolerable for mom) and dry enough, we go.  With boys, you HAVE to get outside.  Trying to contain their brand of crazy indoors is just a recipe for disaster. 
Random thing number 2:
I can't share what's going on here but once again I am standing on the threshold of HOPE.  If you've been here long, you know what to pray for.  Let's just say, it takes a LOT of work to be STEADY regardless of circumstances and how you are treated.  I give myself a B- so far.  I hope I can share lots of great things soon but for now I am hanging to Romans 12:17, Proverbs 25:22, and Psalm 112:7.
Word.
Random thing number 3:  Maps are everywhere.  Versions of this embroidery are everywhere.  Here's my version. :)

I hope your week is going LOVELY. :) I've been getting up in the wee hours of the mornings to read and pray.  If you have a specific request that I can bring to the attention of Jesus on your behalf, I would be honored to do so...just leave a comment on this post or feel free to email me.   I mean it.  Anything.  Nothing but love here.

xo
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custom order sunday.

Hello friends!
A happy, happy Sunday to you!
Here's a little taste of what I've been working on.
This is my newest hoop design.  Simple and sweet and made with little (or big) girls in mind.  I just love it and the sweet message it delivers.  You can buy one here.
And if you've ever wondered "Could Crystal really make a hoho for me out of what I have?".
Let this example put that to rest.  I was sent this obviously, very loved and treasured lovey. 
And though it took a bit of thinking and planning...
I think the resulting hohos turned out very cute. :) I was able to reinforce the stronger areas of the blanket and make it sturdy enough to make hoho parts.  Now the original owners children will have a little bit of their mom to be with them always.  Don't you LOVE them?  I do. :) 
In some cases, I only use what you send me...in others I add to it...either way, it is always a HUGE honor for me to be entrusted with something so meaningful to someone and to create something for them to love all over again.  Keepsake hohos are my FAVORITE hoho's to make.  You can order one for yourself right here.   
And, I don't know why I never thought of this, but I added a little bow to the girl ones. :) Eeek! I love them and I hope their new owners will, too.
And my poor little hoho got into it with the pavement and lost. Thankfully nothing was broken, teeth or otherwise and in the end he was more irritated than anything. 
Don't worry...it hasn't subdued his sass or spunk.  :)

Happy Sunday to you!!
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my problem with homeschooling.

This post will be largely vulnerable for me.  So please take that into account when you comment or email me, OK?  I mean no harm to anyone, am judging no ones choices and am telling all that I have to tell from MY experiences.  OK?

So, if you have been around here for long, you will recall that I have an ongoing issue with the whole to home school or not home school bit.  I have prayed over it and read about it and researched it and done everything I could to work it out.  It was tough.  I was confused for some time.  I was not convinced that homeschooling was for us, but I couldn't let it go.  I began to wonder if God was indeed calling me to home school, which would make for some serious changes in our lives, which, if that was what God wanted me to do, then I would do it.  I know he equips the called to His purposes and that he would do the same for me.  At the same time, homeschooling was not sitting well with me.  Not in what I would expect the normal unsettling feelings would be but more of a "there is something more to this" kind of feeling.  So I kept praying.  And reading.  And researching.  And God kept revealing.

And as I walked through it all, I came to realize that my decision (I say mine, because it was MY issue) on whether or not to send Moses to public school or not, had very little to do with sending Moses to public school or not.  Yes, you may need to read that again. 

You see, God has been working on my hidden issues and hurts.  Ways that are hindering me, and my parenting, and my marriage and my being a friend.  Ways that the enemy LOVES to use because we can't see them.  Because we don't know they are there.  Hurts that are so deep and hidden that they are mysterious even to their owners.  However, much like a torrent wind blowing through the yard, just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it's not there and doesn't mean it can't do harm. 
I have a fierce calling to protect my kids.  I would even venture to say that it is even more so than your average mom.  I'm not saying I am more loving or better or more concerned than your average mom, I just have a past that tries to force up walls when it comes to protecting my kids.  I have no naturally healthy example of appropriate ways to protect my kids...so my defense is all walls up.  I remove those walls one at a time as I learn appropriate and good ways to let them venture out on their own.  If I have ever left you alone with one of my kids...just let me say, that is the highest honor that I could ever, ever, EVER bestow on anyone.  If I have left my kids in your care (and there aren't many of you) it's because I trust you fully to put yourself second when it comes to my kids well being, to look out for their innocence and guard it will all you have.  A pretty high calling for a babysitter, no? 

I guess I should say HAD no healthy example.  God is changing that by being my wonderful and perfect Father. 

I know that things happened to me, physically, spiritually, mentally and sexually that would not have happened had I been protected in the right ways.  My childhood could have been extended...my innocence could have lingered longer.  Some things you just know.  

One of my top parenting goals is to protect my kids from 90% of what I was exposed to as a child.  Their innocence and childhoods are some of my most precious treasures. 

I mean to protect them from things.  And I don't mean normal childhood things.  Those things I can deal with with relative ease.  I am not overly concerned with broken arms or bouts of vomit or attitudes.  Those things I expect and can deal with because they are normal.

I am talking out of the norm, things kids should never have to deal with.  Childhood stealing things.  Things that could be prevented with a little due diligence things.  Innocence stealing things.  Joy stealing things.  Spirit crushing and soul disparaging things.  Years of therapy and counseling things.  Things that only the healing salve of Jesus can heal things.

Things that I was dipped, rolled and breaded in as a child.  Things that I sought healing for (from the wrong source) and was called a liar for speaking of.   

And that is where Jesus met me with this particular journey.  I was called out by the one who knows me best.  I heard him clear as day explain to me "Your issue is not to home school or not, it's about protecting your kids in a way that you were never protected". 

Touche'.  A glorious and wonderful revealing moment.  I was finally released from the "to or not to home school" question.  My issue WAS how can I protect my kids if I send them into the big scary world...doesn't that mean I don't love them...or want to care for them...or want to protect them?  Doesn't that mean I'm not doing my job as a parent seeking to do my VERY best at my very favorite occupation?  No, no, no.  All I was really saying is "God, you didn't protect me, how can I trust you to protect them?".   

God used a blazingly bright issue to light up an issue in the dark.

And often times, as it goes, acknowledging an issue makes it easier to deal with.  And dismember.  When you know what you are working with you can seek the truths that apply to that situation.  And God is always good to give them to you if you ask.   

God has been building columns for me.  The kind on a crisp, clean and white piece of paper.   In one column are ways He is equipping me as a parent.  The tools and words and scripture He is showing me.  In another column are ways those tools are manifesting themselves in my kids.  Ways that show me that they are secure and feel loved and ARE PROTECTED.  In one more column are the people he is placing in my life at just the right moments to tell me that my kids are awesome and that we are doing a good job...the teachers and friends and family who know my kids and I best.

He has shown me that I am a different kind of parent.  And that my kids will benefit greatly from that.  I am NOT my past.  My kids will not have the same damaging childhood.  They will maintain innocence and childhood joy for just as long as I can grip it.

Homeschooling is not an issue.  Does Kindergarten still scare me?  YES!  But in a normal person kind of way.  God has been good to clear out the cobwebs and shed light where it is needed.

I am "good" as a parent, fully equipped now?  No way. I will be learning how to parent until I die, but where I am at now, is a good good place.  The perfect platform for learning and growing.

And just in case you need some boosts in your journey, I thought I would share some of my favorite "parenting books" with you...

The first is not shown but it's my Bible.  I use an app in my iPhone called YouVersion.  You can choose a plan that suits you.  I use the Bible in a year version and it takes about 15 minutes a day to read.  Skip reading anything else before you skip this.  I can't emphasis how much of a difference in makes in my life.  Each time through the Bible is like a new book for me.     
This is my current repertoire.  I get up an hour before the boys do to drink my coffee and read.  It's time well spent and it sets my day up right.  I love sleep but giving up some of it reaps major benefits for everyone in my family. 
"How to talk so Kids will listen" is cute in that it was written by two older ladies in the early 80s but the lessons are timeless and have already done wonders in communicating with my sensitive child.
The other two are AMAZING as well. 
This book I bought when I was needing a book that just confirmed that my boys are NORMAL.  I did not want a religiously slanted book.  I did not want theories or ideas.  I wanted scientific confirmation that when my four year old acts like a wild banshee that it is normal and even expected.  I run to this book if I am ever worried whether some behavior is normal or not.  I HIGHLY recommend this book.
And this book...has saved lives in my house.  It did miraculous wonders for my boys.  And to this day they are great sleepers and bed time is a non issue.  Bedtime is EASY and SMOOTH and SHORT.  People who have witnessed my boys going to bed are usually impressed because it just happens.  No drama or screaming or long drawn out mess.  They go to bed.  The end.  And the foundation for their great sleep is THIS book.  Buy this book. :)

So that is my two cents.  My disclaimer is this:  this is all about my issues and journey.  Homeschooling is and can be awesome.  Public school is and can be awesome.  It's all about finding our own distinct paths in this world and helping our kids do the same.  Just thought I would share a slice of my journey in the hopes that maybe someone out there needs a little of the same revelation that I did.      
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i heart narwhals.

Little known fact about me?
I am in love with and obsessed with Narwhals. 
Who needs Unicorns when something like this REALLY exists? 
I will take one of each of the following please. :)
Print by House of Tender Beasts.
I could totally rock this t-shirt.  Yes, I could.  In a large. 
Because Etsy shirts are meant for teeny women. 
T-shirt by GnomEnterprises.
Look how fat and cute he is?!  Yes, please.  
Pendant by Metal Smitten. 
Be still my heart.  My wall needs this.  
Print by Black Apple.
Ummmm...a Narwhal cardigan?  Has there ever been an article of clothing more meant for me? 
Cardigan by Marty May.

My favorite thing about Narwhals is telling people about them.  And then trying to convince them that they are actually real things.  They are.  Google them. 

Happy Tuesday!
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