Voting time!

Sorry for the
lack of blogs lately- I’ve been plugging away at No Strings and spent the whole weekend away from home, so I haven’t been around to post anything exciting. The good news is that we have our name submissions up for a vote, so select and submit your favorite and on Friday we’ll finally have a nickname to last us ’til the real thing hits!

Nickname that baby!

My clever hubby came up with
a form where our readers can submit nickname ideas for our currently unnamed child. Once we receive enough submissions, we'll be putting them up for a vote for everyone's favorite. They can be weird, wild, crazy, normal, cute, pretty, whatever! Just nothing obscene or inappropriate, please- those won't count 🙂 Submit your ideas and we'll have a "name" to tide everyone over 'til January.

Special thanks to Alison for the nickname idea.

My business venture.

I have been working tirelessly since last night to get a virtual assistant business up and running. Being less than four months away from the arrival of Baby Girl, I have determined that I absolutely MUST make this thing happen so I can get used to working from home as opposed to babying a business AND a newborn.

So far, I have loosely built a Web site (using Typepad– I love this blogging host with an everlasting love), set up an account with an awesome invoicing/time tracking/expense tracking company called Freshbooks (they offer their most basic service- which is still very extensive- for free!), written copy, established a Gmail e-mail and Twitter account, ensured the domain name availability, compiled a profile on 48days.net, and researched monthly expenses such as Internet access, a landline, and a P.O. Box.

Whew.

There is still so much to get done, but I have never been more determined in my life. I HAVE to make this work. I HAVE to market my services. I HAVE to supplement our income using the gifts I have been given and capitalizing on the experience I have built over the years. Right now, it's nearly 11:00 p.m., and both Cody and I are working furiously on our computers to get things up and running. I feel like I could keep going all night- I am THAT motivated- but I need some rest if I'm going to be productive tomorrow.

My first order of business is obtaining a copy of The 2-Second Commute: Join the Exploding Ranks of Freelance Virtual Assistants
and using that as my guide from start to finish. I read nearly the whole thing when I visited the bookstore on Tuesday and it covers everything from filing for a business name, to taxes, to legal forms, to agreements, and everything else in between. I am so glad there is a resource out there that walks newbies like me through the process without skipping the vitals.

So wish me luck! My baby girl deserves the best example we can provide for her. This is just a small step in that direction, but one I am excited to take.

p.s. If you want to critique the rough draft of my Web page, shoot me an e-mail at NoStringsVS@gmail.com and I'll send you the link. It needs some work (key word: ROUGH), but I'm happy to share with a willing set of eyes!

Favorite meal of September… so far.

Cody and I have been strictly adhering to the meal plan we put together at the beginning of the month in an effort to save as much money as possible while I work on seeking out alternative sources of income. Last night, we made Fruity Turkey-Rice Pilaf from one of our favorite cookbooks, Betty Crocker's Healthy New Choices: A Fresh Approach to Eating Well. It's loaded with lean protein, fiber- and antioxidant-rich dried fruit, and yummy wild rice pilaf with herbs. The recipe is so easy, and the leftovers are delicious! I ended up with some extra rice pilaf, so I added more turkey and fruit and we were fed well two nights in a row. Since I didn't have green onions on hand, I used chopped white onion and it was a great substitute. I wish I had a picture to share, but take my word for it- it looks as good as it tastes!

1/2 lb. ground turkey breast
4 medium green onions
2 cups water
1 package (6 3/4 oz.) quick-cooking long grain and wild rice mix seasoned with herbs
1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries (I used cherry-flavored cranberries- yum!)
1/2 cup chopped dried peaches or apricots
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg or cinnamon (I used both)

Spray 3-qt. saucepan with cooking spray; heat over medium heat. Cook turkey and onions in saucepan about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until turkey is no longer pink. Stir in water and seasoning packet from rice mix. Heat to boiling, stirring occasionally; reduce heat to low.

Stir in rice, cherries, peaches and nutmeg. Cover and simmer about 5 minutes or until rice is tender and fruits are heated through.

Makes 4 servings.

Side note: If you buy a less-expensive but non-quick cooking rice box like we did (the kind that takes 25 minutes or so to cook), you have to alter the cooking process a bit, otherwise you may end up with mushy fruit and overcooked turkey. It's a good idea to start making the rice separately while the turkey and onions are cooking. After the turkey is browned and the onions are cooked, I added the fruit and nutmeg/cinnamon and let that heat through while the rice finished. Then I added the rice to the turkey/fruit mixture and let it cook an additional five minutes.

Voila! Super easy, uber healthy, and mega delicious!

This meal is complete enough to serve on its own, or pre-game it with a mixed-green or cucumber salad!

Much-needed creative inspiration.

I spent a lot of time researching ideas, recipes, and work opportunities over the past few days, and part of me gets a little overwhelmed by all the goals and projects I want to tackle with Baby Girl on the way. I spent all of last week getting distracted by various things instead of baking the zucchini bread I kept saying I would make, and finally I got around to it last night. We're talking like a week of procrastinating here, people. I'm kind of tired of living life that way- flying by the seat of my pants, somewhat organized but mostly not, with a hodgepodge of ideas and no concrete plan to implement them into anything tangible. What I am lacking is a plan. So here are a few of my findings to jump-start things:

Other than my desire for very pale pink walls, I haven't gotten very far with a nursery design. I'm the type of person who needs to see something concrete in order for the random ideas that are floating around in my head to take any sort of shape. On my blogging jaunts today, I stumbled across Project Nursery, a site FULL of design ideas, inspiration boards, real nursery designs, and DIY projects. LOVE IT. It's just what I needed to start really planning Baby Girl's nursery!

While on that site, I saw a button for a business that sounded vaguely familiar: TomKat Studio. When I clicked on the page, I remembered seeing this local mom's business featured in our town's magazine, Go Gilbert. Her blog is simply adorable- chock full of her designs, finds, and Cupcake Monday. I mean, who can beat that? Yes, please! I'll take Cupcake Monday!

A few other favorite blogs: luvinthemommyhood, Happy Together (especially the tutorials like this one), and My Mama Made It. Blogs are a dime a dozen these days, but well-designed, well-written blogs that are actually useful and teach you how to do something are priceless.

While at B+N the other day, I found this book
and knew that it was a must-have on my reading list. I discovered her site today, Work at Home Success, and it is a great resource for lost souls like me who have no idea where to begin or look for legitimate at-home work. Ideally, I would like to freelance as a virtual assistant or copy editor but I need some sort of direction in order to learn how to secure clients, file taxes, etc. so that I don't get overwhelmed by trying to figure out the ins and outs of running a business AND caring for a newborn. I only have about four months to figure this out, so if you know any other great resources out there, crafty or business-related, send them my way!

Happy Birthday, Mum Mum.

Today is my dear grandmother's 95th birthday. She has been a major part of my life since I can remember- she moved in with my parents and I when I was only four years old. Twenty-five years! I wish I could say she is in great health at such an age, but sadly, that is just not the case. Things seem to be declining quickly these days, and at this point I am just praying that she will be here to meet her newest great-granddaughter come January 2010. I am confident that she will, but with these things you just never know. I ask for God's mercy and blessings on her every single day.
 IMG_2512

I love this picture of us. I was fighting tears because she couldn't be at our wedding, but I am so happy that this picture captures her laugh so well.

Mum Mum always loved me unconditionally. And there were times
when I was very, VERY unlovable. I am so thankful for her example of
unconditional love because I will carry that with me for the rest of my
life. She is so much more than just a good example to me, though. I
love her dearly and hope that today is a day full of clarity and good
health, if only enough to enjoy this day that belongs to her.

Princess or Pioneer Woman?

When I was at the library the other day, I picked up a great book for Cody called Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know
by Meg Meeker. The other night, I started reading it and simply couldn't put it down- in the span of three hours, I had nearly finished the whole thing! Good stuff in there. There were several things that impacted my view of fatherhood and made me reflect on my own upbringing by my dad. It certainly made me thankful for the father I have and the things he has taught me along the way, as well as the things he tried to teach me that I was too stubborn to listen to- but do my best to take heed of now.

The thing that caught my eye the most was when the author discussed the type of woman you want your daughter to become, and she described two types of women: princesses and pioneer women. One thing we do NOT want our daughter to become is a princess- a girl who expects everything to be handed to her and everything to be done for her, and who gives nothing in return. We have seen too much of this going on in society as a whole- especially since my hubby works at a university and observes the spoiled antics of the New MTV Generation (have you SEEN "My Super Sweet Sixteen" or "16 and Pregnant"? This is the garbage they are feeding to our kids?!) on a daily basis, much to his disgust. He says that our kids are coming out of high school and into college with absolutely no idea how to do ANYTHING, and are so helpless and self-absorbed that they can barely function without someone holding their hand. And if they can't do something or if they fail, it is ALWAYS someone else's fault. This is just a general observation- we know there are some kids out there who do not epitomize this stereotype. Thank goodness. But the sense of entitlement really is quite prevalent these days.

The discussion of princess vs. pioneer woman has definitely helped me evaluate my own princess tendencies and redirect my energy toward becoming a truly proficient and productive member of our growing little family and of society in general. I'm not going to lie and say that as an only child who grew up in Scottsdale, I never displayed any princess-ish behavior and I was always a hard worker who had no expectations that my needs would always be met. Anyone who knew me would be quick to correct me and all the smoke I'd be blowing up your… well, you know.

Looking back, in a lot of ways, I was TERRIBLE. Irresponsible, reckless, entitled; and I can say with confidence that I'm still paying for past mistakes. When I look at life now, and I absolutely understand the sacrifices my parents made in the name of stability and provision, my behavior was just laughable. I didn't have parents who just gave me whatever I wanted when I wanted it- I went without my wants many times. But I never understood the value of the things I had because I didn't take the time to appreciate what it took to get them. God knows I do now. And if I can't lead my daughter by example, she would be quick to recognize the hypocrisy of what I would be expecting from her. And I would rather start now than wait until after her arrival when the demands of motherhood overwhelm me from taking on any other new responsibilities. And I am happy to say that I have an amazing dad-to-be on my hands who fully supports this philosophy as well.

So, here are a list of my goals. I'm terrible at goal-setting, but today is all I have for now, so why not jump in head-first and get this show on the road?

  1. Become more proficient at sewing and other crafts
  2. Open up an Etsy store
  3. Become a Virtual Assistant of some kind to generate income from home
  4. Keep on blogging!
  5. Keep a creative journal
  6. Take more pictures
  7. Start a habit of family dinners every night
  8. Support my dear husband in all his endeavors, and lighten his load whenever possible
  9. Use coupons for EVERYTHING
  10. When I need to buy, only buy used or on sale items
  11. Serve the community through our church
  12. Avoid being wasteful
  13. Making "Be resourceful!" my way of life!
  14. Run in the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon next January in order to get back into shape post-baby (I'll probably do the half)
  15. Spend quality time with family and friends
  16. Love God more so that I can teach my little girl who He is and pray that she loves Him too

My goals tend to morph and shift as life unfolds, but these are what they are for now. In light of this, I always enjoy reading "The Wife of Noble Character" from Proverbs 31 for inspiration:

10  A wife of noble character who can find?
       She is worth far more than rubies.

 11 Her husband has full confidence in her
       and lacks nothing of value.

 12 She brings him good, not harm,
       all the days of her life.

 13 She selects wool and flax
       and works with eager hands.

 14 She is like the merchant ships,
       bringing her food from afar.

 15 She gets up while it is still dark;
       she provides food for her family
       and portions for her servant girls.

 16 She considers a field and buys it;
       out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.

 17 She sets about her work vigorously;
       her arms are strong for her tasks.

 18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
       and her lamp does not go out at night.

 19 In her hand she holds the distaff
       and grasps the spindle with her fingers.

 20 She opens her arms to the poor
       and extends her hands to the needy.

 21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
       for all of them are clothed in scarlet.

 22 She makes coverings for her bed;
       she is clothed in fine linen and purple.

 23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
       where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.

 24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
       and supplies the merchants with sashes.

 25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
       she can laugh at the days to come.

 26 She speaks with wisdom,
       and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

 27 She watches over the affairs of her household
       and does not eat the bread of idleness.

 28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
       her husband also, and he praises her:

 29 "Many women do noble things,
       but you surpass them all."

 30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
       but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

 31 Give her the reward she has earned,
       and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

p.s. If Baby Girl gets anything with the word "Princess" on it, it will quickly be burned or returned. Just sayin'. If it says "Pioneer Woman," on the other hand… well, that's a whole other story. She'll wear it loud and proud. Hats off to Pioneer Women everywhere!