Thursday, February 26, 2015

How We Survive Without Cable or Satellite TV

Hey there readers! We are home on a snow day, it snowed 3 1/2" here last night but it is melting fast. Since we will be back to the grind tomorrow, I've been catching up on my sewing, cleaning, and Facebooking.

A friend of mine posted a status on FB about finding a new horror show channel on her Roku player. Several people commented and asked about her Roku, not having cable, and what about an antenna for local stations. I gave my .02 worth and thought this would make a good blog post since we have never had cable at our house and it's been close to 16 years now.

We have this in our attic.
We live in a suburb of Charlotte so there are many channels to choose from. When tv switched from analog to digital in June of 2009, we tried out a few antennas to see which gave us the best reception. We tried a batwing style, rabbit ears style, and a flat style antenna. The one we currently use is a Phillips HDTV antenna that I bought at Wal-Mart. Tim mounted it up in our attic and we get 30 channels, at least. These are the networks like CBS, NBC, PBS, Fox, ABC, etc. Check out to see what all channels you can get. We are lucky that we are close to Charlotte. If you live in the boonies, your reception might not be as good.

As the kids started getting older, they wanted to watch Disney, Nick, ABC Family. We have a Wii and have had a Hulu Plus subscription for about 2 years now. It has met our needs and I have no complaints. We also tried a streaming service called PlayOn where it grabs streaming feeds from the internet and plays through the Wii. Some channels were good, but it was all on-demand and the links to the streams would change and some channels were really choppy. We cancelled our subscription and watched tv via the antenna or binge-watched tv at my parents house or at the in-laws since they both have Dish.

All this for $20!
Last month, I saw a news article about a new service called Sling TV. It is different from a Slingbox. Anyway, for $20 a month, you can get 20 channels of live tv and they will be adding AMC networks to this core package soon so that's good news for Walking Dead and Mad Men fans. For $5 more, you can add a sports package, kids package, or info package to your service. Here's the listing of what is included in each package right here and scroll down.

I thought about subscribing when it first came out but the catch was we have a Wii and they don't support their service through the Wii and I don't want to watch tv on Camden's iPad or on a PC.

After they launched the service, they announced a pretty sweet deal. If you sign up for 3 months, you got an Amazon Fire TV Stick or Roku Stick for free. Hello, sign me up, get a $40 tv stick for free! They have other deals too like a 7 day free trial or $50 off a set top Amazon Fire TV box or Roku box. I got the Fire TV Stick 2 days ago and I have been really impressed with the service. I also got 1 month of Amazon Prime for free, though I doubt I'll keep that. Anyway, the live channels play really smoothly, they aren't choppy and it buffers very rarely. I've downloaded the History tv app and the A&E app since we like Duck Dynasty. I also downloaded the PBS Kids app since Camden likes PBS Kids shows. Anna has discovered games on there and she is currently playing Crossy Road, lawd help. Once I tear her away from playing Crossy Road, I want to watch classic Sesame Street and Electric Company. Here's the Fire TV Stick promotion here.

So that's how we watch tv without cable or satellite! Drop me a line if you have any questions about it! Off to watch tv!


Disclaimer: I was not compensated in any way for writing this blog. My opinions are my own.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas Recap-Gifts and Recipes

Good morning readers! I hope you all had a fantastic Christmas, we sure did! Now I am getting organized for the new year and putting away a little bit of Christmas decorations at a time, or "de-Christmasing the house" as a friend called it. The day after Christmas I put away our gifts. Yesterday I put away Camden's little tree and the wrapping paper. Today I will put away the mantel decorations. Tomorrow will be the porch decorations. I'll work on the big Christmas tree as time permits. Anna wants to keep her tree up as long as possible so we might still have it up come Valentine's Day!
I'm seriously considering this!
 Looking back on Christmas, I had good feedback on the teacher gifts I had made and I thought the food I brought to the Christmas Eve dinner turned out great, especially since there was none left! That's always a good sign that a recipe is a keeper. I made sausage balls and here is the low down.
3 Ingredient Sausage Balls
1 lb. sausage, hot or mild, your choice
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, not the fine grate but regular
1 1/2 cups Bisquick
Preheat oven to 350.

Note: I was telling a co-worker about making sausage balls and she gave me some tips. Made sure your ingredients are room temperature so I did that. Work in by hand the sausage, Bisquick, and cheese together in a big bowl. Another tip: don't overwork the ingredients. Roughly shape into balls and put on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 15-18 minutes (watch and make sure they are done, but not burnt). These made a lot, maybe 40? And every last one was eaten! 

For teacher gifts this year, I bought these cute note cards from Walmart (made by Hallmark) and wrote a thank you to Camden's teachers. Anna did her own thank you notes, so thank you Anna for one less thing Mommy had to do!

I will be doing these again!
I bought a bag of Ghirardelli wrapped chocolates and tied them to the outside of the envelope with gold shiny curling ribbon. I used a small piece of double sided tape to stick the wrapper to the envelope. Voila! Easy peasy! The teachers liked these too and it was something other than another apple-themed gift, a mug, or a candle. Who doesn't love chocolate and a nice thank you note they can keep?

Until the next post,

Sunday, December 7, 2014

So You Got An Embroidery Machine on Black Friday/For Christmas

Hey readers! How's it going? We had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family, it was nice to see my relatives from Florida, and especially my Aunt Caryl who is working in Hickory for the next 6 weeks! She is a travelng med tech for the government and we love spending time with her. It is always a treat to see family from out of town since our family is spread far and wide.

Again, I did not brave the craziness that is Black Friday but I loved Cyber Monday! Give me some uninterrupted shopping time online and BAM! Christmas shopping is knocked out! I am a member of a few sewing and embroidery groups on Facebook. Since Black Friday, I have seen many new members join these groups since they bought the Brother PE500 embroidery machine for a steal at Walmart on Black Friday. I have a Brother SE400 which does embroidery and sewing. The PE500 is pretty much the same machine except that it is embroidery only. On the Facebook groups, I saw many questions being asked from these new owners and also a high level of frustration. I've had my machine for 2 1/2 years and here is some advice from what I have learned since then.

You will most likely need software to combine letters for monograms and use the designs and fonts purchased from other websites. Yes, the machine comes with preloaded letters and designs but that is but a tiny fraction of what you can do with your machine. Embroidery is expensive at first since you will need embroidery thread, stabilizer, and maybe an extra hoop in a different size or two. But back to the software. I recommend Sew What Pro, Embird, or Embrilliance. For fonts and designs, try 8 Claws and a Paw, Apex, AK Designs Boutique, Itch 2 Stitch, Embroitique, and Etsy.

The thread you need for embroidery is shinier than regular sewing thread. We don't have a craft store here in town so I have bought the Coats and Clark embroidery thread form Walmart. The hot pink is beautiful but my machine likes some colors and other colors shred. Check out Metro thread at . Other good thread is Sulky, Mettler, Madeira, and Isacord.

Grab a spool of Brother bobbin thread in white and black, I use 60 wt. You can get these at craft stores or online, our Walmart doesn't carry bobbin thread so I got mine from eBay.

You will need stabilizer, I bought a pack of 8x8 precut sheets of cut away and tear away stabilizer from Amazon. Rule of thumb is "if you wear it, don't tear it" since cut away is thicker than tear away. There are many, many kinds of stabilizer out there so don't get overwhelmed. If I'm doing a project and need to know what kind of stabilizer to use, I do a Google search for "stabilizer for towels" or whatever and see what comes up. Embroidery Library is very helpful!

Another stabilizer that lots of people swear by is water soluble stabilizer or WSS. It goes on top of your embroidery and washes away with water. This is a must for towels or fleece so your stitches don't sink down into the towel. I bought mine at a fabric store. Sulky and Vilene are good brands, mine is Sulky.

While you are buying, get a can of adhesive craft spray to lightly attach the stabilzer to your fabric. I use Elmers craft spray from Walmart but many other sewists rave about 505 spray.

Speaking of projects, which is probably why you bought your machine-to create gifts-my advice is to stay simple at first. Baby onesies and t-shirts can be challenging since the knit fabric can get holes in it. For those, get a ballpoint sewing needle so you don't ruin the shirt (ask me how I know). But starting out, here is what I would do. First, I'm going to do this in another post since this post is getting quite lengthy. Read on for Part 2, using your machine.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Part 2: Projects

Before starting out on your first project, read your manual. Go through page by page and practice by embroidering a letter on a scrap piece of fabric. Get in the right mindset too, don't have high expectations that you are going to crank out a dozen appliqued t-shirts with 5 different fabrics in time for Christmas pictures. More realistically is a dishtowel, towels, or a bag with an initial on it (Family Dollar has cute cinch sacks for $3). When I bought my machine, I had grand illusions of a mini-sweat shop, creating appliqued t-shirts and outfits, custom pieces, and making a killing on Etsy. All this while working a full time job and being a wife/mom. Oh yeah, and I had never sewn before. I was so disappointed when I couldn't sew an initial on a zip pouch without my machine getting a tangled knot of thread under the fabric. The problem was my bobbin case was cracked and I was good to go when I replaced that.

Whatever software you get, read the manual. Join the Facebook group for the software program. Start out slow.

Here is a good project once you get the hang of your machine: Stay-Put or Topsy Towels. Janay of Stitched by Janay did a set, here is her blog about it, the link to the tutorial and buttonhole is in the post:

Expect the unexpected! You will get birds nests under your fabric, your needle will come loose and fly off, your needle will break, your machine will eat your fabric. It's ok, it happens to all of us! Be prepared to deal with these setbacks and how to fix them.

Youtube is your friend! There are so many videos about using your machine. Google is your friend too.

To recap, go slow and practice on scrap fabric before you monogram on your good fabric. Don't set really high expectations at first. You will get better as you get more skilled. Know how to change a bobbin, rethread your needle, change the needle, and clean out under your needle plate, where the bobbin is.

Embroidery is a fun hobby but be patient, stay with it, and you will love it!

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

We Were Minding Our Own Business When....

Good morning everyone! Happy Daylight Savings Time Ending to you! We all slept amazingly last night. Before we went to bed, we had an interesting evening.

Beans, beans, good for your shirt!
Mom and Dad picked up Anna and she spent the night with them. Tim, Camden, and I decided to go out to eat since we have a gift card we need to use up. So we picked a Mexican restaurant. We are waiting on our food, eating chips, when the waitress came by with a full tray of food for the couple sitting behind us. The weight of the plates shifted and she fell and this big plate of black beans went flying and it hit the corner of our table, the plate broke and the black beans went EVERYWHERE. The back of Tim's shirt was covered in black beans, my sleeve had beans on it, and even Camden got hit! Oh my gosh, it was a hot mess (literally)!

Just a small portion of the stains
on Tim's shirt!
Immediately, the manager came out and about 5 other wait staff came out, apologizing and cleaning up. I felt so bad for the waitress. They offered to pay our dry cleaning bill if necessary-I think everything will come out in the regular laundry-and dinner was free. I'm glad no one was hit by the flying porcelain when the plate broke. In all my years on this Earth, I have never seen that happen before! So we get another chance to burn our gift card at another time.
Gotta get those steps in!
Other random things going on in our life: Anna misses cross country and she told me she wants to start training again this week! Well you go girl! It just so happens that I am in a contest at work, sponsored by our Wellness Committee, to see how many steps you walk in a week for the month of November. We have pedometers and have to walk a minimum of 10,000 steps in a week for the first two weeks then it goes to 20,000 steps the last two weeks. If you meet your goal, you are entered in a drawing for 1 of 3 Visa gift cards! Not too shabby for the holidays! So Anna and I will be running/walking on the local Rail Trail here soon.

We got a new mailbox, we have our suspicions that the leaf truck that comes around hit it during the weekly pick up time. The mailbox is bigger and nicer. No word on if the owner of the leaf truck will pay for it....

This sums up our Halloween!
 Halloween was great, but it was rained out! We dropped Anna off at a Halloween party for her youth group then it started POURING down rain, thunder and lightening, the whole works. We hung out at my parent's house since it was close to where Anna was. Camden did not get to go trick or treating but that's ok, he came home with a ton of candy from school! The day before, I went on a field trip with his class to the pumpkin patch. we had a great time and he enjoyed it! At work, we handed out candy to the munchkins who go to a developmental day care center, the same one that Camden goes to in the summer when school is out. There were about 50 kids and their parents who came by as part of a Parade of Spooks. We loved seeing their costumes and they were so precious.

Also the day before Halloween, that night actually, Anna sang the National Anthem with 3 other girls in the school talent show. Shout Out to my Aunt Caryl who wanted a video so here's a video of the first 10 seconds, Anna is on the far left:


There is a lot of talent at the middle school! One 7th grade boy did a hip hop dance and he killed it! It was mindblowing. He looked like your average pre-teen kid but he tore it up. The crowd went nuts! For the finale, the chorus sang part of "Thriller" and they had dancers too. It was a great show!

Y'all take it easy, I better start getting ready for lunch at the in-laws. Don't want to scare anyone with how I look LOL! Halloween is over!


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Just Rolling Along....

You know, this thing!
Hi everybody! How's it going? School is still going well, Camden has adjusted to his new teacher. He is thriving in a smaller class with only 5 children. What is he doing now? He is flopping on Anna's bed, face first, kind of like that old school "drinking bird" you could put on the side of a drinking glass. He's laughing his head off too. Goofball!

He did something new yesterday, he brought me the bucket of large Lego's and wanted me to play with him. This bucket has been in our den for years and he has never taken an interest in them, pretend play is kind of hard for children with autism. We sat on the floor in the den and built a tower with them. Excellent use of fine motor skills, you can tell we have been through physical and occupational therapy before.

Anna has just finished her reading, thankyoujesus she only has 4 nights of reading to do and give a brief summary. Last year it was 5 nights of reading, give a summary, write down what you got from the reading, and what is a question you have about the reading. It about did us in last year, lots of wailing and gnashing of teeth, in addition to the other homework she had. Here's my .02 on homework: if she has homework to do, that's her monkey on her back and not mine. If she doesn't do it, she'll face the consequences and embarrasment and bad grades when she gets to school. If she needs help with math then starts arguing with us about "YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG!!!" then nope, ain't nobody got time fo dat. It's all you, girlfriend. You need to pay better attention in class and bring home the textbook so we can at least figure out what the heck a "ray" is in geometry. We're trying to help but we will not tolerate being snarked at. The timer is set for 20 minutes, then after that you are done, no ipod, no goofing off the rest of the night. If she is working hard and really trying instead of procrastinating, then we will let her finish as long as there is no distractions and she isn't sneaking looks at her ipod or whatnot. We have come a long way since last year and yes parents, it does get better. Time management is a hard thing to learn.

I have a sore throat, the munchkins have not felt well the past week and I think I caught it from them. It is time to move the vaporizer from Anna's room into my bedroom tonight. Thank goodness for night time Alka Seltzer so I can get some decent sleep.

Even though I have a sore throat, I really want to bake some stuff since the weather has turned off just a touch cooler. I don't cook whenever I'm feeling under the weather in case it is a virus. I snagged some apples our Cooperative Extension was giving away at work, our local Apple Festival is next weekend, and I am going to eventually make an apple crisp. I will post it on here. I've made it before and it is really easy and so good.

I say ol' chap, it's time
for a spot of tea!
 Ugh, off to make something hot for my throat. I bought an electric water kettle at Aldi's today, we were hunting one up last December when we took a trip to Raleigh and figured we could use it in the hotel room if we got a hankering for mac and cheese or noodle soup. I couldn't find one anywhere! I grabbed this one today at Aldi's, it reminds me of my college days and heating up water for noodle soup or grits. It does heat up water faster than the kettle on the stove. It's tea and cookies time! That should make everyone feel better.

I hope you all have a great weekend! Thanks for reading!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Back to the Grind!

Greetings readers! School started here this past Monday and so far so good!

The biggest change this year is for Monkey Boy, he has a brand new, fresh out of college teacher. The teacher he had for 4 years transferred to another school closer to her home. He is in a class with 4 other students and the teacher assistants are the same ones from last year. Tim and I were a little concerned since the boy loves his routine and things staying the same. Plus, would his new teacher come back after the first day or would she get scared off (ha ha)! Lord knows Monkey Boy can be a handful, not to mention the other munchkins in the class.

According to the notes being sent home, he is doing great and doing really well with his iPad. We had to scale back on the iPad usage last year, it was like it would hype him up and he would get over stimulated. I'm so glad he is able to use it now. We use Proloquo2Go as his "touch to speak" app. Want more information about touch to speak apps and using the iPad for children with autism? Shoot me an e-mail mbsmith1234 at gmail dot com.

He also learned a new sign this week, the sign for rabbit. He was carrying around his Goodnight, Moon book and I made the sign for rabbit and had him to do it. He's now imitating the sign. This is great progress!

Anna started her second year at middle school. Her big change this year is trying out for the cross country team! Lawd help, somehow I got roped into being her training partner so we started walking/running on the local trail that runs through our downtown. It is 1.5 miles one way so we were logging 3 miles a night. I think I messed up my foot since my running shoes were too little now the top of my foot hurts, yeowch. I got some new running shoes and that helped, it is still sore through. ANYWAY, she likes XC and the girls on the team. I was talking with another mom whose daughter is on the team and she said it is a drama-free team, which is always a plus, and the season is short! I'm all for that!

Anna has been showing some initiative in completing her homework without me having to light a fire under her and bug her to no end to do it. She's also making her lunch on her own in the evenings. This too is progress! We were in the depths of Homework H*#& last year and it was not fun, don't ever want to go there again. Next week starts the nightly reading and completing the reading log so we'll see if this independence lasts.

School is out for Labor Day and it is a government holiday so who knows what we will strike out and do. We are looking for a bed for Anna so maybe we will end up at IKEA. I'd love that! Forget shopping for clothes, I could wander around IKEA all day, so could Anna.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, it is supposed to be back in the 90's here. We may hit up the new splash pad that opened up.