Loosing of Half of our Income: The Journey Back Begins

With all of the financial issues people are having these days I decided to share our story.

For almost 16 years my husband dedicated himself to building a career in a big box store.  He gave, and gave, and gave and never got anything back from them.  They put us through more hardships than you can shake a stick at including not giving him time off when his dad died, forced relocations without compensation, always having to work the overnight remodels, a forced commute when we couldn't sell the house, bankruptcy, foreclosure, and they turned him down for a promotion because of their own stupid rules even though.  He really deserved it, was requested, he would have done well at it too and they were ready to give it to him before they realized his store hadn't made profit sharing 11 months before that. You didn't dare say anything to them because of a fear of losing your job, they fired people for really stupid reasons.  (And then they wonder why they can't find employees willing to do into management with them?)  Talk about stress!

His job paid well and he doesn't like to start over all the time.  He liked the job for the most part until the latest boss arrived and made his life a living hell.  After several years of the same treatment and no changes occurring even when he told their untrained personnel manager (who didn't report this to corporate), he couldn't take it anymore and he quit without having another job in place.  It was such a hostile work environment I really couldn't blame him, though it would have been nice to have a plan in place before it happened.

Since it was ruled that he quit (even though we tried for hostile work environment) there was no unemployment either. Because his job paid well I didn't need to have a job prior to this happening.  (Except for when they made our tenant move from the home he was renting from us, or the time they made us pay hundreds more in commuting when he was "promoted" with no pay raise, or the time they didn't make profit sharing so we had no way to pay off the credit cards we had been relying on to pay for his commuting expenses.)  That made it really hard to struggle through several months of having no income at all.  Thankfully, we had finally gotten enough of a handle on our budget because of our past trials that we had been able to save some money which got us through the jobless period.  I applied for food stamps and badge care right away even though they had treated me extremely rudely the last time I had been in the office.  Our mortgage company set us up on a forebearance plan that allowed us to pay $25 each for both our first and our second mortgages so our main expenses were paying for gas (to see his mom who was failing in health as well as driving for interviews and such) and my car payment.

Now, we need to adjust to living on less than half of what he made last year.  This is where the real struggle begins.  With a couple of months of work at his new employer in place we are really hitting the budget juggle hard.  We have a brand new car that I bought a little over a year ago, a house payment, 2 kids, 2 cats, and we live in the country about 12 miles from town.

So far his new employers have agreed to pay for his gas, we have applied for a loan modification, and are getting the food stamps and medical assistance that we were getting over the summer though we get much less in food this month and now have to pay a monthly payment for our insurance.  We have many more changes to try to do too in order to come up with a balanced budget as well.  Hopefully we will be able to refinance the car to bring that payment down, I am praying that our mortgage company works with us so we can keep our home with a much more affordable payment, we found a less expensive phone plan, and I will be looking around for cheaper insurance.  I also applied for energy assistance though I have yet to hear back about that.

We have already cut WAY back on energy usage, we rarely ever eat out, we don't exchange gifts with adults so we only have the 2 kids to buy for, we don't attend away sporting events unless we can hitch a ride with someone else who is going, we never go anywhere except to buy groceries or the occassional splurge allowed because we sold something, we never buy anything unless it is either used, practically free (those mail in rebates can come in handy sometimes!), or off the 90% off clearance rack (Man, I have had to wear some very ugly clothes because of that one!).

I will fill you in on some other changes we do as time progresses.  Right now I guess we are still on the forebearance program at the bank until they tell me what my loan modification payment is going to be.  I have been through this process before.  You have to pay EXACTLY what they tell you to (not a penny more or a penny less) by the due date or they will kick you right off the program.  It can be extremely stressful for sure!

Wish us luck and prayers for us would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you for stopping by to chat with me. Please leave me a message. I'd love to hear your thoughts! Cindy

Unexpected Benefits from Tough Circumstances

My husband has never not worked since he was 16 years old.  After he graduated from college he worked even harder.  We got married when he was 23 and he has worked very hard ever since to be the provider for our family.  He started out working 40 hours a week, but most jobs require more than that.  With the recent job situation his employers had decided not to give him a raise in ten years, so he began working more and more each year to give us enough money to live on.

Well, as we all know, working more and more every year is only sustainable for so long.  He had been working the equivalent of 2 full time jobs at one employer, between the hours he put in at work and his commuting time and it just wasn't worth it any more.  We never got to see him, he had to take care of everything at his work because his boss was lazy, he wasn't able to get a decent night's sleep, he was usually so busy he skipped meals eating once per day, he was getting scheduled so he only had 4 hours to sleep between shifts, and it was just getting out of hand.

Lately we have been exhibiting some health issues.  While they don't sound incredibly serious and most people just write off things like fatigue and sleeplessness as aging, I think it is something more.   I am convinced that he has adrenal fatigue, I have hashimotos, my son is pre-diabetic, and so far our daughter seems unaffected.  It is amazing that my research points to all of these issues having the same root causes and treatments for these issues.

I think quitting his job is a way to get him out of an impossible situation that he would have never left if his boss hadn't been such a total and complete ass.  That is the biggest benefit I can see from this situation.  If you add to that the fact that we now feel free to cut back in so many areas we never felt completely comfortable giving up before, we are doubly blessed.  Having so little has taught us to do without so many things that we refused to let go of.

Cheesehead is slowly recovering after changing some long standing bad health habits that he picked up because of his hectic work schedule and the unrealistic expectations that he put upon himself.  I am glad to help him to become the person he was meant to be. I will use all of my years of study and knowledge to help our family along this path to better health.  I will keep you informed of what we do and the progress that we make.

Our first steps are to cut back further on drinking soda, eat less simple sugars and processed foods including gluten containing foods, and keep to regular schedules including meals and sleep times.  We have also been visiting a chiropractor as well.

Thank you for stopping by to chat with me. Please leave me a message, I'd love to hear your thoughts! Cindy

Pay Down your Debt and Live a More Fulfilling Life

Years ago I used to shop for my entertainment.  We went to movies and ate out, hired a babysitter, the whole 9 yards.  I bought new clothes because I wanted to impress people with my good looks and I wanted my kids to dress nice so they could make friends.  I bought foods made by other people because I didn't ever have the energy to cook anything myself and it was a fast and easy alternative.  While that stuff was nice I always felt unfulfilled.  I mean, I was working all the time, I had no energy for my family, we never had any money, what was the point?

The last several months have been rocky while my husband has been unemployed, but it really has given me a lot to think about.  It has helped me to think about everything I have done to help us to save money, to hone the skills I have developed over the last eleven years.  Would it have been nice to have another income to fall back on?  Sure!  But we're making it, and you can too.

Eleven years ago I quit my full time job and I've never looked back.  Yes, ocassionally I look at my friends who live the kind of life I used to live and feel a tinge of jealousy.  Really most of them say they envy me, and why wouldn't they?  I set my own schedule, I never have to miss one of my kids' performances during the school day, we have plenty of food, I have time to pursue my hobbies, and we were even able to save some money for a rainy day.  How did I do all of this you ask?  I had to give up a lot, but I think it was worth it.  Read on to hear some of the things I did.

1.  Cut the cable.  Seriously, who needs to pay $100 a month to have shows to watch all of the time when there are plenty of free things to watch.  There are only so many new shows anyway, do you need to pay all of that money to watch reruns?  As an added bonus I have a lot more free time than I ever did before since I had to get my money's worth.

2.  Eat in.  Really it's not hard to throw a few things in a crock pot or roasting pan and just let it cook.  Make extra when you prepare meals and package them in freezer containers or can them for a quick meal when something unexpected comes up.  I know there are places I could take my family of 4 and easily plunk down $50 for one meal.  Do you know how many groceries I could buy with that same amount of money?

3.  Have a staycation.  Sure, it is fun to go exotic places and brag about your trip to Disney land but it costs a lot of money to fly to your destination, eat out, rent a car, plus the hotel stay.  Think about all of the money you could save by checking out places close to home, some of them may even be free!  All of the memories with money to spare!

4.  Lose the home phone.  With the prevalence of cell phones think about how many phone calls you get at home anyway.  Does it make sense to pay $40 per month for another phone when you always have one in your pocket anyway?

5.  Forget the data plan for your cell phone.  Yes, I know it's hard not to check facebook while you're out and about, but is it honestly worth the extra expense when you can just use wi-fi to do the same thing?  Money saved $100 per month.  Apparently smart phones "require" you to have data so I had to take the $15 package but that still saves me $85/month.

6.  Check your phone usage.   Unlimited talk and text? Wow, those plans sure are expensive aren't they?  Why pay $45 per month to have a smart phone with unlimited talk when you only use 300 minutes?  I'd rather add a line to an existing plan for $10 a month.  That's a potential savings of $35 per month!

7.  Quit buying frozen and prepackaged foods.  I'm not going to say this isn't a tough one.  It's great to just go to the freezer and zap up a dinner in the microwave, but you pay a lot for that convenience.  With a little planning you could make your own and consume less chemicals and preservatives at the same time.  (Have you ever looked at those ingredient lists?  Yikes!)  Next time you cook something make twice as much and freeze half of it for next time.  Don't forget to label it!  How much you save depends on how many of these you buy, but I know a family lasagna costs about $10 at Walmart compared to a little bit of flour, milk, and salt to make noodles, (or even $1 to buy noodles) a few tomatoes and herbs out of the garden, and some shredded cheese so the same meal would cost us about $8 less.  Not too shabby.

8.  Make your own home remedies.  I'd be lying if I said I have never struggled with this one, the family took a lot of convincing to get on board.  Obviously there are still going to be times when going to the doctor is a must.  Essential oils can be spendy, but they last a long time, a little goes a long way.  You can use them to make your own cleaning products, soaps, lotions, scented candles, and aroma therapy products too.

9.  Turn down (or up?) the thermostat.  Really a few degrees don't make a big difference in your comfort, but it can really help your wallet save a lot.  Usually we run our air all summer, this summer we have only used it for the hot and humid days choosing to use ceiling fans most often instead.  That has saved us about $50 per month.

10.  Grow your own.  Yes, I realize we can't grow our own oranges here in WI but if you can grow something that is normally an expensive part of your grocery budget you can end up spending pennies for things that can end up costing several dollars at the store.  Buy the rest when it goes on sale.

11.  Take advantage of the sales.  We love bacon in our house.  Who doesn't?  But at $5 per package we couldn't afford it very often.  That's a one pound package.  So it cost $5 for one meals' worth of bacon.  Then I learned that there is a butcher who sells their ends and pieces of uncut bacon for $1 a pound when it goes on sale.  So we could buy 10 pounds for what we could buy 2 pounds worth of packaged bacon for?  Sign me up!  Good thing I got the meat slicer for Christmas a few years ago.  We stock up on our favorite products when they go one sale and freeze, can, or dehydrate the extras for future use.

12.  Buy generic.  I used to be a big coupon shopper, but these days I find even with coupons it is way less expensive most of the time to just buy the store brand.  Most of them are just as good as the brand name, except Pepsi.

13.  Make your own.  Yup, you can.  Recipes abound from making your own soap, deodorant,  lotion, shampoo, body wash, face cream, moisturizer, laundry soap, toilet bowl cleaner, you name it you can find it on the internet.  Of course some of them require more work than others, but start slow and find others who make the same things you do.  Compare notes to find the best recipes.  Instead of paying $5 for one bar of soap you can spend that much for enough olive oil to make a couple of batches of soap.  If you don't want to store it all they also make great gifts, which you also won't need to buy!  Double bonus!!

14.  Fix your clothes or repurpose them.  A pair of pants is expensive.  I have seen many people throw them away because the got a hole in them when a simple repair job could have saved you from having to pay another $20 (or more!) on a new pair.  Grease stains can easily be brushed away if you cover them in baby powder, pants that are too short can become great shorts or even bags.  There is so much you can do with this "garbage"!

Thank you for stopping by to chat with me. Please leave me a message, I'd love to hear your thoughts! Cindy

Gluten Free Bread Products and Flour

First, I would like to welcome anyone who may have been directed here through Heather's blog.  I didn't know that you would necessarily be interested in my back story since you don't know me, but feel free to browse around.  My blog is an eclectic mish mash of gardening things, cooking, family stuff, crafts,...  Whatever I feel like writing about.  You can see by the dates of some of my posts I don't keep up on my posts as regularly as Heather does.  I hope that you find my information useful.  I share my knowledge randomly with no real order or thought to it really, but I think that may partly me a function of my lack of clarity in thought recently.  It is my goal to be more purposeful in my posts and share my journey back to health and wellness.

 In the Wheat Belly book Dr. Davis says to eliminate pretty much ALL grains.  Well, judging by my list from Wednesday's post I am sure that you can see that would be a near impossibility.  There is NO way I could get the rest of the family to abandon ALL grains in favor of veggies and meats almost exclusively so we are taking a baby step by eliminating wheat.

I have greatly reduced the wheat we have been consuming over the course of the last month or so.  While I haven't seen a significant drop in weight the needle on the scale has budged a little so it has given me hope that the more I do toward that end, the more the scale will go down for me.

What are some of the things we have done so far?

1.  I have begun coating our baked boneless skinless chicken breasts in potato chip crumbs or rice flour instead of the usual flour, bread, cereal, or crackers I have used in the past.  It is similar to fried chicken, very tender and oh so good.  I even use chicken that is boneless and skinless and it is still tender and juicy with a crispy coating.

2.  My battered fish has used my own home made gluten free flour mixture in place of the regular flour that I would have used before.  This flour has also been used in place of many other recipes I already used in the past without making any other adjustments.

3.  I also use my gluten free flour to make my own gluten free bread.  The flavor lacks nothing, but it is a bit more dense than flour I have used before.  I am still working on tweaking it to make the best bread possible, but aside from the bread seeming like it should raise a bit more I have been very happy with the loaves I have produced

4.  I have made pizza crust from cauliflower.

I plan on doing more in the coming days and weeks, but sometimes our busy schedule prevents me from experimenting much.  That, and someone else likes to cook too (though I suspect that this person is just trying to avoid me making too many healthy dishes).

Now, on to the recipes!!!!

Baked Chicken Breasts-  Soak chicken in milk (I like to use milk kefir as well which imparts a slightly tangy flavor) to make it more tender using a baggie to allow meat to be immersed in milk.  Several hours is ideal but at least 30 minutes.  Mix 1 c flour alternative (if you are using potato chip crumbs you may need more than that) with 1/2 t salt, 1/2 t pepper, 1/2 t Italian seasoning and mix well.  Remove chicken from milk and dredge in flour mixture, them place in a greased baking dish.  Bake at 400 for about 30 minutes or until juices run clear.  Bone in takes a bit longer, boneless takes less time.  It also varies depending on the thickness of your meat.

Beer Battered Fish-  2 eggs, 6 oz beer (allow to go flat), 1 c flour substitute,1 t baking powder, 2 t baking soda, 1 t salt, 1 T oil (whatever type you are frying it in), 1/2 t pepper, a splash of lemon juice, and a sprinkle of milled flax seeds.  Combine all ingredients together.  Dip fish into batter mixture and cook in  fryer preheated to 350.  Fry about 5 minutes until golden brown.

Gluten Free White Bread-  use 1 1/4 c water/milk/milk kefir, 3 c flour substitute, 1 1/2 t salt, 3 T sugar, 2 T butter, 1 1/2 T dry milk, 1 1/2 t yeast, sprinkle flax seeds.  Mix, knead, let rise, and bake as you would any other bread.  This will not rise like the gluten filled flours do

Pizza crust- Use a head of cauliflower, cut florets off and grind cauliflower in food processor, steam until soft, and allow to cool.  Place in a towel and then squeeze the liquid out of the cauliflower until it is dry.  (This is the step I missed last time and it turned out a bit soft and mooshy, and stuck to the pizza pan.)

Measure out 3 c (or close to it) and place the cauliflower into a mixing bowl. Add cheese.  1/4 c parmesan, 1/4 c cheddar cheese (or any cheese you want really but at least 2 types really enhances the flavor of the crust), 1/2 t each salt, dried crushed oregano, dried crushed rosemary, garlic powder, and onion powder, mix then add an egg to hold it all together.

Once your crust is mixed you are ready to bake it!  I think I will try to use my baking stone next time, but whatever you do, make sure to grease the pan or you will loose some of your yummy pizza to the pan.  Spread out your crust evenly on your pizza pan or baking sheet.  Try to have it about 1/4 of an inch thick if possible.  Bake at 450 for approximately 10 minute, until golden brown.

Top your pizza with desired ingredients )I made my own from tomato paste, but we'll talk about that another time! Bake an additional 5-8 minutes (or until your cheese is melted to your desired color) then serve.

Now, for the flour substitute I've been using.  It is really delicious and hard to tell it isn't regular flour though you need to be careful when making rising crust items.  I'd suggest reading some gluten free baking books if this is something you want to learn more about.  When just used in place of flour for coating meats I don't think it matters much.

I used my wondermill to make my own flour from products I had on hand since the gluten free flour is so expensive to purchase.  I think I will do a cost comparison post in the future...

1 c rice flour
1 c oat flour
1 c potato flakes
1 c tapioca flour
1/4 c cornstarch
3 1/2 t guar gum

Use cup for cup the way you would use your normal flour possibly adding a small amount of extra fat in your recipe.

Thank you for stopping by to chat with me. Please leave me a message, I'd love to hear your thoughts! Cindy

Why try Gluten Free?

Earlier I wrote a post about doing a gluten free trial and some of my thoughts as well as a few things I have read about gluten from various sources that all had a very similar message.  Cut the wheat to improve your health.  It will allow your body to do what it was built to do which is to heal itself when things go wrong with it.  I told you I would discuss with you the reasons for our gluten free trial later this week, so here it is.

We actually have many contributing factors that I think reflect much of what is going on in the rest of America as well.  Brain fog, inability to loose weight, joint pain, hypothyroidism, prediabetic, IBS, low energy levels, bladder issues, ADD, headaches, acid reflux, depression, I could go on and on.

I have been trying to lose weight for years, but I haven't successfully been able to do so since 13 years ago before my daughter was born.  Did I suddenly forget how to exercise and eat healthy?  Well, if you listen to the medical community that is the obvious fact.  I have been told to quit eating so many cookies, to be more active, eat healthier foods, and on and on.  I don't know about you, but I hate being lectured about things I already know.  It's even worse when you are trying to do these things but no one believes you and judges you to be a fat, lazy slob.  They have looked at my food journals and basically said I was lying and I must have forgotten to write down a bunch of food.  Seriously.  Then the medical community wonders why WE have so little faith in THEM?

My son has been a 3 sport athlete for 4 years.  At first the weight just fell off.  Being so active and lifting weights brought about a bit transformation in him.  But he totally stalled out when it came to weight loss for wrestling season this year.  None of our prior weight loss ideas has helped him a bit this year either.  What happened?

I could go on and on giving the back stories behind all of the symptoms listed above, but I think you get the point here.  I have been thinking and thinking about this and it just doesn't add up.  Is it the chemicals and preservatives in processed foods?  Overuse of prescription medications?  What gives?

Several years ago I began by cutting out the ready to eat processed foods that we used to buy from the store.  I began canning, dehydrating, and freezing foods that I grew myself or bought on sale and in season from farmers and grocery stores alike.  It does make more work for me, but it has helped some with things like ADD, but it hasn't completely solved all of our issues.  I continued to search for answers to our health dilemmas.

While studying natural remedies to replace some of the prescription and OTC medications we have been taking I kept coming up with the same information.  Our bodies have natural abilities to heal themselves.  Not that we will ever be able to stop everything completely, but it is a nice goal to wish for.  I began to wonder though, what was stopping my body from reaching it's full potential to heal itself?  The search continued.  I began seeing a chiropractor which has helped to increase my energy levels and clear the brain fog, but I still haven't been able to achieve much in the way of weight loss.

Now comes in the gluten free option.  I read the book Wheat Belly which I saw both on Dr. Oz and a few of my friends were trying it and seeing great results.  That book dealt with EVERYTHING on our list, plus others that weren't even on there.  Wow.  I think it's worth a try.  I mean, after examining our regular diet I noticed that we ate ALL of the no-no foods on a regular basis.  ESPECIALLY wheat.  Really.  Wow.  I never imagined that could cause so many issues, but it really does make sense.  When you overload so much on one particular category of foods, I suppose that is what you get.  I just can't help but wonder why wheat is in everything we eat.  I guess I'll be making MORE of our own stuff.

So, what did we like to eat before going gluten free?  Well, some of our favorite meals include burgers, chicken dumpling soup with a loaf of bread, grilled cheese and tomato soup, spaghetti, pizza, brats, breaded chicken baked in the oven, battered fish, ...  Notice what they all have in common?  Yup.  Wheat in every item there.  Guess who's in for a total meal make over?  Yup.  That's my next post.  So far we have tried a few items that I want to share with you.  I did manage to lose a couple of pounds so far so things are moving in the right direction for me.  Once I can get the rest of the family to jump on the bandwagon it won't be so hard to resist the temptations they keep presenting.

Thank you for stopping by to chat with me. Please leave me a message, I'd love to hear your thoughts! Cindy

Gluten Reduction Trials

It seems no matter where we look these days, we are being bombarded with all kinds of health messages from a variety of different sources. Among the loudest of messages is how bad the present day genetically modified wheat products are.

You see, back 65 years ago wheat was taller and had less of an effect of blood sugar.  It didn't have things in it that caused you body to attack itself and it didn't contribute so many difficulties with our autoimmune systems.  Our health agencies did studies on the old wheat showing us how healthy it is for us and promoted it's use in our food products.  At the same time, more companies started making more and more quick and easy products for us to eat on the run.

As more and more manufacturers have vied to add wheat products to their food lines, they looked to make it less expensive and easier to grow.  This scientific manipulation to make plants more productive, less susceptible to diseases, and the injection of pesticides into the DNA of these wheat seeds has changed the structure of this once good for you food.  It has been made into something that many people are either afraid to eat or they simply can't eat because of all of the health consequences they get from consumption of modern day wheat.

I find it strangely coincidental that there has been a sharp rise in autoimmune disorders such as type 2 diabetes, hypothyroidism, and celiac disease since the increased use of manipulated wheat in our food products.  What happened to increase cancer rates?  I have a hunch that it is a combination of several factors including (but not limited to): more processed foods, less home made goods, less food variety available because of the increased usage of wheat, more greed from corporations willing to poison us in order to make a profit, and more corruption in the political climate of our country.

What should we do to lessen the impact of wheat?  Eat less of it!  I know it is hard when you look in the center of the grocery store and all you see are food products loaded with wheat but with a little effort and label reading you can find products that do not contain it.

The hardest part for me has been having to give up so many of my favorite foods.  Doughnuts, cereals, bagels, noodles, creamy soups, cookies, cakes, burgers, sandwiches, pancakes, breaded meats,...  Should we eat the same thing at every meal without thinking about it?  How many of us would sit down for every meal and eat the same thing over and over?  Would you?  I mean if you were supposed to eat beets at every meal how long would it last?  Wheat is so easily disguised and blended into all that we eat.  It could almost be considered an invasion into our food supply if you think about it.

In the coming days I will share with you our reasons for cutting back on our wheat consumption as well as some recipes that we have tried.

Thank you for stopping by to chat with me. Please leave me a message, I'd love to hear your thoughts! Cindy

Making your own Extracts

Last fall I made some killer vanilla extract.  Not only was it easy, but way cheaper than the pure vanilla extract.  $9.08 for 2 oz of Watkins pure vanilla extract?  Are you kidding me?

I know what you're saying, the materials needed costs more than the extract does, but really it's just barely more expensive.  My bottle of vodka was $9.99.  Those materials can be used to make so many things as well, like more extracts.  As an added bonus, I knew what was in it too.

After my easy success how could I not try to make other extracts?  After all, I already had the vodka and so many other ones can be made with stuff you already have in your home.  Some of which most people even consider trash!

I did several different experiments using this so called garbage.  I used lemon peels to make lemon extract, grapefruit peels to make grapefruit extract, orange peels to make orange extract, and the pineapple skin to make pineapple extract.  I also made walnut and coconut extracts.  Following are the procedures I used to make them.

For my citrus extracts I placed about 1/4 cup of peels (minus the bitter white pith) into a half pint canning jar.  Added a 1/2 cup of 80 proof vodka and let sit in a dark place (in my kitchen cabinet) for a couple of months.  Don't forget to shake daily.

I had WAY more pineapple than I needed so I just filled the jar loosely with pineapple skin scraps and topped with vodka and followed the same procedure.

The nuts I used 1/4 cup of nuts cut finely chopped and 1/2 cup vodka.  Same procedure as above.

I think my next experiments are going to be almond and mint extract!

My friends have also asked me how I use these extracts.  I use them mostly in baked goods such as pies, cakes, pudding, flavoring frosting and ice cream, etc.  I bet they would also be great in a drink like coffee, tea, cocoa, or home made soda or in jellies.

Thank you for stopping by to chat with me. Please leave me a message, I'd love to hear your thoughts! Cindy