Adventures in Volunteering: The Bienestar Backpack Project

I know I ramble on sometimes about volunteer projects I attend, but this latest project is one that was probably the most meaningful for the year (so far).

I met with the director and program coordinator of Bienestar in early August to discuss potential volunteer projects I could help set up through Hands on Greater Portland. At some point during the meeting, we talked about school supplies and they told me that they have kids who go to school with no backpacks, no supplies, but who are eager to attend school every day regardless.

You know how sometimes you just say things based on emotion and don't really think it through completely? That happened during this meeting - I opened my mouth and I said, "I will find a backpack and supplies for every child in your four homework clubs! And have ten volunteers show up to stuff the bags!" We are talking about 99 kids! It just seemed like the right thing - kids should not start school without the supplies needed. Especially kids who are dedicated enough to want to learn that they take part in the homework club, which requires the kids provide their progress report card every month to the homework club teachers, who closely monitor their grades and work with their teachers in school to ensure they are on the right track to succeed in their grade. Kids who are willing to do that deserve to have a good start to their school year.

And so I set up a date for a volunteer project with volunteers from Hands On Greater Portland and left the meeting...and then it hit me....what did I just do?? 99 backpacks? AND supplies?? And I only had 3.5 weeks to do it.

Did I mention I'm not wealthy? No, I'm a single mom. Typically, just by definition, that equals: low on money. And while I don't consider myself poor, I certainly do not have the means to provide what I just offered. So I did what most people would do: ask every human they meet to donate. And in this case....it worked! It actually happened.  I did get a local Best Buy store who happened to be looking for a place to donate and volunteer, and it was as if magic happened. My friends, family, the company I work for and the company my friend Alison works for came up with half the backpacks and about 3/4 of the supplies needed to fill them. Best Buy came through with the other half of the bags and the other 1/4 of the supplies. And we DID IT!!!

Last Friday night, some wonderful people came over and spent FIVE hours helping me verify I had the supplies I needed, and helping me do some very necessary serious math problems to determine how many of each item goes to each child in each grade.

Keep in mind that we had varied numbers for each grade, so it wasn't like-oh, 140 folders and 7 grades-that comes out to 20 folders each grade and if there is 20 kids, that's one folder each. No, it was like an SAT math problem...I know this probably doesn't make a lot of sense but trust me--it was not a simple task! And I wasn't sure exactly how many donations were coming in the morning from volunteers (including Best Buy), so I was basing my numbers on what I KNEW I had-as being short is not okay-but having extra definitely was okay. It was a much bigger task than I had planned for and I am very lucky I have such amazing friends- Thanks Tara, Cassidy, Abbey, John and Natalie!!!  And Andrew got everything ready for us to take a quick dinner break of BBQ pizzas...it was just a great night of teamwork!!

Saturday morning, a small group from Hands On and a handful of Best Buy employees got together and filled the bags and it was a huge success!!!
The kids all were so excited with the amount of supplies we had!

They helped us unload the cars - trip after trip, giggling the entire time. It was so great that they were able to be a part of it!

They also helped us sort all the backpacks by what grade level they thought each bag was. They took it very seriously, but really enjoyed it. It was a much better system then having the adult volunteers sort them out!.
The kids who were already registered for the homework club at the site where we were working were able to come and pick out their backpacks while we were all there and that was the best ending to a great project. Seeing the excitement of the kids, watching their eyes widen with the choices they had to choose from, and hearing them talk to each other about what they got was so inspiring. It made us all really feel the difference we had made in the lives of these children.


We ended up with 119 backpacks, so we covered the 99 particpants of the Homework Club that I wanted - and had an extra 20 bags for other kids. We also had a fair amount of extra notebooks, pencils and glue sticks left over to help supply the homework clubs for the first half of the school year!




This project was something I took on - but one which I could not have done without the help of MANY people. It was not something I could have done alone-not at all, not in the slightest. Here is a list of the people who helped and/or contributed in some way (in no particular order):
  • Alison
  • John 
  • Cassidy
  • Abbey
  • My super-crafty friend, Julia
  • Wendy and her brother
  • Amy
  • Denis
  • Phil
  • My h.s. boyfriend Jason
  • My blogger buddy Flea
  • My one and only offspring, Andrew
  • My Momma
  • My Aunt Frankie
  • My sister Jenny
  • An old high school friend, Michelle
  • Another high school friend, Rob
  • Andrew's cousins, Brian and Kristie
  • Sara
  • Coworkers (aka friends): Nancy, Christy, Becky, Chris & Denise
  • My mortgage broker friend Tim
  • My cousin Jeni
  • Janet from NW Childrens Outreach
  • My company: Waggener Edstrom
  • Alison's company 
  • Best Buy

THANK YOU!!!!
Thank you all so much for helping me make this happen!! Every small donation, every small bit of time dedicated to helping helped make a BIG difference in the lives of at least 99 children!!!

And if you ever think that you can't make a difference - YOU CAN!!!
If you ever think that you are just one person and can't possibly do something big--- YOU CAN!!!!!!!!

This was just an amazing experience and I will absolutely repeat this next year...but with 3 months of planning, not 3 weeks!

Africa Bridge Fundraiser - Check Out My Crappy Photos!

You might remember me talking about this amazing nonprofit called Africa Bridge - this last weekend was their annual fundraiser. I just love this event every year.

They have great music (though it really didn't go on very long this year!):


And some fun African dancers:

My girls, Tara and Amy, volunteered with me and we worked at the silent auction tables, where I  practiced my sales-woman-like skills and tried to get people to drop some bucks on some wonderful donated items up for grabs. I had a few strategies with this, having never been a salesperson, I really had to work it...

One strategy was to tell people walking by that there was a competition with the other tables to see who could get the most bids. A few people seemed to buy in to this and agreed to write their name down to help my cause.

The other strategy I had was to tell people strolling by that I'm a new volunteer and I really can't have the auction end with no bids - I'll get fired!! I'm not sure this strategy worked.

The last strategy I had was to try chatting up the men. This sometimes works really well.


Once the silent auction was closed, they had dinner and a live auction, which was fun to watch. We were busy wrapping items in the back, but still got to enjoy the action. One of the volunteers family member wanted to bid on an item as a gift for his mother without her knowing it, so he asked if one of us could do the bidding for him. Or maybe I begged him if I could do it...doesn't matter - point is---I got to have a bidding number and spend someone else's money on something in the auction, and it really is fun!!!
He threatened to tackle me if I went over the maximum allowed, which was $500.00, but I was outbid at $500 and he gave me a head nod to go one more time and I won for $550.00. I wish I had a fat bankroll in my pocket cause auctions are fun!!! And it was for a great cause!!

This was "my" winning item:

It's a really intricately detailed drawing, on handmade paper in a frame. It's like 3 feet wide and totally gorgeous.
The founder of Africa Bridge, Barry Childs, gave a very moving speech about his passion for the children and people of the communities in Tanzania. I love hearing him talk. I love hearing anyone talk when they are so passionate about such a worthy cause.

He just moves me. Every time. I could listen to him talk anytime.  He inspires me to want to do more in life.


Such a beautiful night.

The goal of the night was to raise enough funds to build 4 cow co-ops and provide the supplies for it, including the cow. Each co-op costs $10,000 to build. They most definitely raised enough for the four. It was very inspirational to see people be so generous for this community so far from us. If I had an extra $10,000, I would definitely consider sponsoring a cow co-op. If you happen to be in this position and don't know what to do with your extra $10K, please consider Africa Bridge. They are doing such wonderful things to make an African country more self-sufficient, productive, free.

**note that these photos were not taken with my new and wonderful camera, which I didn't want to bring with me as I wasn't sure if I would be able to keep it close-by. These were taken with my phone camera, which I'm typically pretty happy with...but which I'm not really now since I have a new fancy, schmancy camera that totally kicks ass.

Random Thoughts Tuesday - I'm a Racist About to Lose My Vision

My son is an artist. This is a series of photos he's been working on, which I like to call - What I Drink.





I took the diet coke pic...it took me 9 tries and involved him getting very irritated that I couldn't coordinate the camera taking with one hand while holding the can with the other without getting my thumb in the pic...




And he was also irritated that I wouldn't hold still for my cherry coke photo, but in my defense I didn't realize it was a creative arts project he was working on!!
Have I mentioned how much I love my camera? I do.


Only in China would they have a 9-day traffic jam. When I read about this, I wasn't shocked to find out it was in China....why is that? Am I racist? I don't want to be... I also want a black boyfriend so I can call him: Boo. Or a mexican one so I can call him Papi. But does that make me racist? No. I just like nicknames and  white men doesn't go by the name Papi. Ever.


I have successfully passed my pre-op appointment to have LASIK surgery. I haven't even stressed out about the extremely expensive cost of it (which is ridiculous and should be covered by insurance) and I haven't stressed even a little bit about how there will soon be a laser ray gun pointed directly at my eye and I am going to willingly let someone pull the trigger on their laser ray gun at my EYEBALL. Nope, not gonna stress about that. And what if there is a power surge? Or an earthquake? Or someone sneezes and bumps the machine firing a high power laser at my EYEBALL? Nope...let's not even think about it. All I'm focusing on right now is how great it will be to wake up and be able to see. And exercise without having to nonstop push my glasses up or go blind. (If I were to lose my vision from the evil ray gun, it might help me not be so racist!)

I am so irritated at Steve Carrell that he's leaving The Office. He is a critical piece of the show and I will never forgive him for this!



The backpack project is coming to a close. Thanks so much to all that donated or sent good thoughts. I'll have pics and a final project wrap-up next weekend. Get ready to be bedazzled by all the goodness.

Adventures in Volunteering: Northwest Children's Outreach

We have this amazing nonprofit called Northwest Children's Outreach here in Oregon. They are this amazing nonprofit that was started by just a normal lady, like you and me.

She saw a need and she realized a way to fill it. I think the history is that the founder had a friend who worked in a social service agency and the friend was telling her about a family whose children only had 2 sets of clothes and the baby was always in dirty diapers because diapers are so expensive the parents had to try to make them last. So the founder found a friend with kids similar ages, recycled some of their gently used clothing and then purchased some diapers.

And now, she has coordinated seven warehouses full of donations that go out to hundreds of kids in need every week! It's just an amazing place...and this all started from just one person reaching out and helping one other person.

The warehouses are all in donated space, which in itself is amazing because property is expensive - but there are some really good-hearted people out there who are donating their realty (though I suppose they do get a nice tax writeoff...).

The clothes are all very neatly arranged in rows and rows and rows of bins, all the girls bins are on the right half of the building, the boys are all on the left. Each bin is for a size and an item, so Girls Size 6 Tops, Boys Size 10 Pants. It could not be more organized if Martha Stewart herself had come in and set it up. Winter clothes are kept in a loft in the warehouse and there is a group of big, burly men who come in at the end of summer and switch out the summer bins downstairs with the winter bins upstairs.

Depending on what day you volunteer, you'll have a different job. Sometimes you end up sorting clothes into the right sizes and refilling the bins. Sometimes you'll be sorting summer clothes to be rotated out to make way for fall clothes. This is a great chance for you to practice folding clothes, because it's a LOT of folding clothes. Beneficial and necessary...but a LOT of folding clothes.

But on Tuesdays - it's way more fun.

Tuesday nights is the time when orders are filled for different churches, nonprofits, social services. There are large super-size plastic bags with a child's name and age and sizes on a tag. You pick a bag and then you go to work filling it. Every bag gets the same items: 2 shirts, 2 pairs of pants, 2 pairs of underwear, 2 socks, 2 shoes, a sweatshirt or coat, a hat or scarf, 4 books, 2 stuffed animals, 2 toys.


It's a really fun event for kids to do because they get to pick out outfits and select just the right toys or books..which can be a time-consuming event really...there are a LOT of toys/books/animals to look through and you want your bag to have the best possible options.

The Northwest Children's Outreach centers are all run by volunteers-they have NO paid staff. This is really unheard of...especially for something so large. And it's been around for 9 years. With NO paid staff!! I just have never heard of any agency working like this and being so successful for so long.

They are preparing to open a location in Belfair, WA this month - expanding out of the state even!!! It's just amazing.

This is such a great example of what one person can do to change the world. The founder of NCO just started out with her one time helping of a friend and look at where it has come today. She started something that now helps hundreds of children every week.


And it's recycling clothing! It's good for the world as a whole. I will never again take my sons clothing to be dropped off at Goodwill or *gasp* use them as rags or throw them away. Donating your clothes to them will get them directly into the hands of some child who is in need within weeks. Such a huge impact on the world with one little change....and founded by one woman's small desire to help a child in need.

We can all make a big difference with one small change. What will yours be?

Food Should Taste Good - Eat It and Love It Giveaway

Wow, have you guys tried the most delicious chips being made? Made by a company that has the snazzy title: Food Should Taste Good:

All chip varieties are gluten free, cholesterol and trans fat free, and do not use genetically modified ingredients (GMOs). They are also certified Kosher, lower in sodium, and are a good source of dietary fiber. The chips are available in ten varieties: Multigrain, Sweet Potato, Olive, Jalapeño, The Works!, Chocolate, Lime, Yellow Corn and our two newest flavors, Blue Corn and Cheddar.

We had these the other day and LOVED them so much - I actually wrote to let them know how much I love them and they very graciously offered to let me try more and to host a giveaway. Who would turn that down? Not me...
So we got five bags to try, one of which had to be Sweet Potato again because we LOVED it so much. Even people who don't really love sweet potatoes actually enjoy them! Our local Fred Meyer sells these, but they don't have Jalapeño, The Works!, Chocolate, Yellow Corn or Blue Corn. I'm definitely going to find these another time for another barbecue!

We had a taste test of all of  them with some friends.
We tried these flavors:
Multi-grain - everyone likes these. They are a basic flavor and really satisfying. I don't really know how to describe the flavor, it's almost like a cross between a plain potato chip and a cracker.

Sweet Potato - um, did I mention we LOVE these? We do. And only the first person to arrive to the real taste testing actually got to taste them because Andrew and I made the mistake of opening the bag earlier in the week and they didn't last long after that point. We've had them at a different barbecue and everyone who got some at that point loved them.
Olive - Do you like olives? You'll like these. They aren't my favorite, but they are still good. Andrew described them as: Very olive-y. Nuff said.

Cheddar - Meh. These were okay. To be fair-I'm not a huge cheese eater. The people who love cheese, loved these. They weren't a strong, overwhelming flavor, but were definitely cheddar.

Lime - These are great dipped in salsa!
We all were very excited to have a healthier chip version to enjoy! Sometimes you just have a hankerin' for chips, but don't want all the mess of ingredients that come in regular chips. These are actually a healthy alternative without losing flavor.


Two thumbs up to Food Should Taste Good!!!
They actually have a fan club! And if you join up you can get a $1.00 coupon.

To find out if they are available at a store near you, they have a store locator here.

You all must try these!! Unfortunately I only have 4 coupons to giveaway - 2 for 2 winners! You want to win this!!

To Enter:


Leave a comment telling me what flavor you have tried or what flavor you would like to try

Extra entries:

Leave an extra comment if you follow/subscribe to my blog.

Leave an extra comment if you blog about this giveaway (and leave the link to the giveaway post).

Leave an extra comment if you entered any of my other giveaways.



Giveaway closes on September 6th at midnight.


Winner will have 72 hours to respond to my email. Please make sure you have a public profile or leave your email address in your comment. If I can't contact you-you lose.

Ground Zero Mosque Debate - Tired, Old, Never Accurate, Never Real

Here are some facts for you, and then let's be done with it:
  1. The so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" is actually two city blocks away. It's not on any walking path from a major transit area to get to "ground zero"- so it's not really going to be something you have to walk past and be insulted by.
  2. It's not really a traditional mosque-it's a large building with a pool, community rooms, and happens to have a prayer room. There are Jewish community centers in the same area that are never ever called synagogues. This is NOT going to be a mosque. There will be no calls to prayer, there will be no big turreted decorative building. It's just a building with lots of rooms-one of which is for prayers.
  3. Are we not a country built on the freedom of religion?
  4. Do we hate and fear all Christians because Timothy McVey blew up a large gov't building full of hatred for the United States...and he's a Christian.
  5. Remember the Japanese Internment? That happened here, in the United States, and is hardly mentioned really and is just a huge embarrassment in our history. And what about slavery? Remember how people feared black people and had to keep them virtually (and sometimes literally) caged? And how we let that whole Nazi thing drag on quite some time and millions died before we thought it was something seriously wrong? Don't those correlate a little bit to what is happening now? See anything remotely similar?
I'm done with this topic. Let's stop being racists, bigots, and idiots. I do not think that this community center built by Muslims is meant to be an insult to anyone. And although I KNOW that there is a huge faction of people who call themselves Muslim are really into hating America, I do not believe it's possible that ALL people who call themselves Muslim feel the same way.

Just like all Christians do not believe it's okay to beat your wife, though some do.

And just like all Catholics don't think it's okay to force a young girl who has been raped by her father to have his baby, though some do.

And just like all Jews don't....well, I got nothing on the Jews actually...

Random Thoughts Tuesday - Life Isn't Fair Edition

I love NPR. I feel smarter listening to it and they only hire people who have the most calming and relaxing voices. As opposed to some radio stations who hire some girl and her voice is like nails on a chalkboard and she's less mature than my teenage son (talking to you, JohnJay and Rich).
From NPR:
A new study shows there is one psychiatrist for every 400,000 people. It means that most people in India go untreated for substance abuse problems, severe depression and psychotic disorders. Or, at least, they're not treated by doctors.
Faith healers and temple doctors are by far the most socially acceptable way to try to cure mental illness in India. There's hardly any psychiatrists, and a mere 37 mental institutions, to serve the country's whole population of 1.2 billion. But even if there were more professionals, it might not matter. Psychiatrists compete not with each another, but with healers and gurus.
Note to self: India = full of untreated crazy people.
I have never really had the urge to go to India anyway, though if someone offered me a free trip-I wouldn't turn it down. Actually, there is not many places where I would turn away a free trip....other than obvious choices like a country at war (talking to you Iran/Iraq/Afghan/Pakistan) or places where I'm most likely going to just disappear (talking to you Somalia/North Korea). So if you happen to have a free ticket somewhere, and a free place to stay, and you just can't go - pass it on my way and I will send you some fabulous photos of my journey!

My sister has had her house on the market for a few years now. It hasn't sold. They owe more than they can sell it for so will take a loss regardless. But they had to move to California and so now they rent out their lovely home for less than the mortgage payment and they rent a place in California. They are military and have no option but to live in another state right now. Fair? Not really. Though I guess they could have rented a small little apartment to live in, but is it fair to have to sacrifice your quality of life because your job forces you to be in another state? No. Not really.

45% of the people of Tanzania do not have access to safe water. That's almost half the entire country. What?? Water is essential. You must have access to it.

I read online today that every 3.5 minutes a child is diagnosed with cancer. Sad. Nothing but sadness.

How can you follow that? You can't....so I'm out. Hope you all had a not-sad Tuesday.

Weekend Wrap Up - Visitors Can Be Fun!

Guess who stopped by this weekend?


My parents! They were on their way to Reno to win some big money, so they stopped off and we fed them the best pizza ever! We have had grilled pizzas FOUR times this month! They are so delicious!!!!

And grandma had a bunch of questions for us about her new laptop, but this is very typical for parents, right? Every single person I know helps their parents with computer questions. 


I also had a friend visit this weekend who we haven't seen in 5 years and we love her as much as if she was part of our family...more on that later...but isn't she the cutest thing EVER??

The lovely Danell hung out with us for a couple nights and visited, and caught up on the last five years. We laughed about our memories from when we were neighbors 11 years ago, when she was 15, Andrew was 5, and I was 24....that was a lifetime ago!! Since then, she's gotten cuter, more mature, has a masters, is a teacher, got married to a super-handsome and wonderful military man, and traveled the world (or a good portion of it!). She's just an amazing girl!

And she taught us how to make the most delicious (and super healthy) broiled eggplant!!
I like it with cheese best, which is not AS healthy, but still...a great side dish!

We had dinner at the swanky restaurant in town and enjoyed the most delicious drink I have ever had. It's called something something creamsicle. I think they were REALLY light on the liquor part of the drink because we both had three and didn't really feel much of it at all. Regardless...BEST drink ever!

Oh-and we almost went and bought a new kitten after dinner....well...maybe the drinks did affect us a little....luckily, the pet store closed just before we got there. I'm still considering it...three cats is more than the humans we have in the house, so that seems a bit much. But kittens are sooooo cute!!!!

And another work week begins. Bleh.
Hope you all had a great weekend!

Time...Flying...............By......

I feel like time is just flying past! It's already August. I am in disbelief.

And my baby, my tiny little pumpkin head baby boy....will be a SENIOR in high school in a month. Ugh. I can't believe it.


Andrew is a master guitar player now...not typically on a small pink guitar. He's like a young Eddie Van Halen. Eddie Vedder? Young Eddie something. It's been a great hobby for him, and now the student has become the teacher and he is teaching this darling young girl. Having a skill like playing guitar is a great one because you can sit down and play on a street corner in Times Square and earn some money, or find young students who are children of your moms friends, like this sweet freckled face:


I realized the other day I am logging over 25 hours of volunteer time this month! That's a lot. A LOT!!


I really like my hair lately. This might be my new favorite length.


I feel like the days just run together. This is my life: Wake up, 30 minutes to get ready for work. Work work work the whole day through. Come home, make dinner. Eat, clean up from dinner. Do random house chores or run errands. Get on treadmill for 60-90 minutes, shower. Watch a tv show while fiddling around online with something or other. Go to bed. Wake up-repeat.

And with that, I'm off to the treadmill. Hope you all had a great day.

Kroger Family of Stores Giveaway Givin' It To You...One Brownie at a Time.

Here's a great giveaway AND a chance to put money in your pocket AND a chance to help your schools!

Are you all aware that the Kroger Family of Stores includes Kroger, Ralph´s, King Soopers, City Market, Dillons, Smith´s, Fry´s, QFC, Baker´s, Owen´s, Jay C Food Stores, Hilander, Gerbes, Food4Less, Pay Less Super Markets and Scott´s Food & Pharmacy?

That's a lot of stores! You must have one of those near you right? And if you do - you must want to have a giftcard to spend there, right? Of course you do.

Kroger Stores are currently having an "Add Up the Savings" Event, from August 8 through August 21, where you can stock up on your favorite General Mills & Kimberly Clark brands. Just buy 8 participating items from any Kroger store, you´ll receive $4 off of your purchase. Some of the great participating brands include: Cheerios, Yoplait Yogurt, Pillsbury Cookies & Biscuits, Kleenex, Huggies, Betty Crocker Brownies, Cottonelle, and Lucky Charms.

That's $4.00 back in your pocket.
AND - in addition to this, you can take advantage of the special Bonus Box Tops Offers and get a jumpstart on helping the participating school of your choice this year.

All you have to do, if you haven´t already, is register at www.RewardYourSchool.com. Once you register, you will automatically receive 5 Bonus Box Tops just for signing up! You will also receive custom offers for Bonus Box Tops for purchasing participating products.

These great offers are:
Buy any 4 Box Tops products and get 10 Bonus Box Tops
Buy any 8 Box Tops products and get 25 Bonus Box Tops

The offers you select will then load onto your Kroger Shopper Card to be redeemed once you purchase the items. It´s extra easy because there´s no clipping! Just remember to scan your Kroger Shopper Card and the Bonus Box Tops will automatically go straight the participating school of your choice. It's even easier to help out with box tops now! Love this!  **HURRY -this ends on August 21st**
 
But first - a Giveaway!!!
 
I have a $25 gift card to any Kroger family stores for anything your little heart desires.
 
To Enter:

Leave a comment telling me which you would choose if you had to choose one thing to eat for breakfast the rest of your life: Pillsbury Biscuits, Cheerios, Yoplait yogurt, Betty Crocker Brownies or Lucky Charms. You have to choose one! Even if you don't eat breakfast-you will be forced to eat breakfast every day and you have to have one of these items. Which is it going to be? (I think everyone who knows me will know my choice is the brownies....a small one of course!)

Extra entries:
Leave an extra comment if you follow/subscribe to my blog.
Leave an extra comment if you blog about this giveaway (and leave the link to the giveaway post).

Giveaway closes on August 25th at midnight.

Winner will have 72 hours to respond to my email. Please make sure you have a public profile or leave your email address in your comment. If I can't contact you-you can't win!! (this happened with my last giveaway!!)

Kroger, Kimberly Clarke, General Mills and MyBlogSpark were wonderful enough to sponsor this giveaway and provide me with the same gift card - which will go towards my backpack project and maybe a box of brownies!!

CSN- Rocking the Dining Room Furniture Daily

I hate my dining room table. I really do. It's a round, generic, light wood one with four chairs. I hate it. There's nothing really wrong with it - but the chairs aren't soft, I don't like the light color wood, it's not glamorous (to match my glam lifestyle), and it's round. I don't want a round table. Not now, and probably not ever again.

I think we can all agree that rectangular is where it's at....right? RIGHT?? Yes.
OR even better--a large square!!

If I had to pick my favorite shape, it would be a large square. And it would be a dark color. And if I had to pick a favorite table, it might look something like this (note the super comfy fabric covered chairs!):
I think most of us bloggity-blog bloggers have heard of CSN Stores by now? And those of us who have-know it's an awesome website with anything you might have ever wanted, and a bunch of stuff you didn't know you wanted.

One of their stores is all dining room furniture - anything you could ever imagine a dining room to look like-will be featured there.

My favorite feature of CSN stores is that you can narrow down your listings based on a gazillion different criteria:

Shopping can't be any easier than that, right? Right.

This is the table I will have in my outdoor patio in my french villa where I will vacation with my French boyfriend, Pierre:

Love it. Could you pass the grey poupon, Pierre? Thanks Lovey. How is your omelet? Mmmm, mine is great too.

But in real life--in my current house (with no Pierre), I would like this gem:

One of the things I really love about this style is that it's perfectly square and so there is no head of the table seat!! I'm all about equality and this table is fair for anyone and everyone. Love it. I love this color too!
We all have dream tables, right?? This isn't weird, is it?

Check out CSN Stores if you haven't already. You really will love them.

What makes them even more wonderful is that they have offered me a gift certificate to help towards my school backpack project and it is much needed, as I am still quite far from having the number of backpacks I need - less than two weeks to go!!!

Weekend Wrap Up - Making Grilled Pizza is Awesome!

What a great weekend! 

Saturday morning I volunteered at the NW Childrens Outreach in Portland again. The woman who runs the center is one of the best humans I have ever met in my entire life. We had a great conversation after everyone left and I brought her to tears and she brought me to tears and it was just so amazing to meet someone who is so in tuned to helping others, someone who feels the weight of it on their shoulders and struggles with it, someone who believes that people are people-it's that simple-and people should help each other and be good and kind. I just adore her and look forward to many more projects with her. It's so rare that you meet someone that is such a kindred spirit-it's like a hug for your heart.

Saturday night I had a Boboli pizza party, hosted by HouseParty.com. Boboli provided the crusts and some goody bags for us. I provided the toppings and the drinks, and I was really surprised at how much it cost me for just the toppings! Cooking from scratch can be expensive! I just don't have things on hand that I would need for this - like goat and feta cheese. I have never bought those before in my entire life. Anyway - it was a great party, a really fun idea and they were awesome!

I learned how to cut basil correctly at the cooking class last week, so was excited to give it a try. Have I mentioned I've never really liked to cook? It's true. However, once in a while like this is not so bad! My friend Alison came over to help with prep work and was a huge help and it was actually really fun to do more than just open containers of food and heat them.

Once all your ingredients are ready (it took us an HOUR for two of us!!), you prepare the crusts on the grill to heat them up. Just brush them with some olive oil and heat for two minutes on each side.

Then you grab your heated boboli and head on back inside to add your favorite toppings.
Alison and Natalie (who was very excited to make her very plain cheese pizza)

My pizza was all kinds of goodness: pesto, chicken, spinach, roasted tomatoes, garlic, mushrooms, peppers, onions, and 3 kinds of cheeses. DELICIOUS!!! The best pizza I've had in a long time!!
Lovely Amy had a lovely pizza as well:

After the meal, we played some games I know of from Minute to Win It. I love the games on the show--don't like the host, don't like the audience being so LOUD, but love the games! One we played was Cantagious. You have three full cans stacked in one hand, three empty cans stacked in another. You have to switch the stacks from one hand to the other without using anything but your hands. So basically you are making one tower of six cans and then switching them to the opposite side where they started. It started out pretty hard:

...but it's not once you figure it out. Give it a try! It's fun!

We also played this game where you have a plastic bottle of water that is 1/3 full of water. You have to toss the bottle into the air, it has to do a flip and then land right side up. It really was hard, only a couple people were able to do it.
Poor Ali tried for like 20 minutes (or it felt like it anyway):
We tried to see if flipping them really high made a difference - didn't seem to.
Fun game!! Go try it!!


It was a fun weekend overall. I highly recommend cooking pizzas on the grill!! They tasted really good and was much better than turning your oven on in the summer! And it's fast - we had our pizzas ready in 12 minutes from start to finish!

Anyone ever try grilling pizza?
Now is a good time to try it!!!

Today I woke up exhausted (I had a couple people at my house until after 12:30am) - but still managed to get my treadmill time in before my volunteer project. I did some shopping for my school backpack project - Fred Meyers had folders on sale for nine cents!!! - and then made a delicious chicken dinner with Andrew, after which I promptly fell asleep for an hour. Then I got back on the treadmill (it's my double day) and now I'm off to bed! 

Hope you all had a great weekend as well!

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