Lori V.

Jun 232015

So far this month we have finished the last days of school, went to vacation bible school, had movie nights, had sleepovers and generally have enjoyed the first few weeks of summer vacation!  Here’s what we’ve been up to lately.

Reading Lately:

The kids and I both joined the summer reading program at the library.  They are doing great with their weekly reading goals, and love going to check out books & movies.  Jonathan has been getting the giant Lego books and then trying to build the things he sees in the book.   Natalee will read anything she can get her hands on.  I also have read a handful of books and when I dropped my entries into the bucket the other day I noticed that there are not many.  Good chances I’ll win something?  Maybe!  Books I have read lately (you can see all the books I have read on my GoodReads page).



Cooking Lately:

The kids are enjoying summer break with the regular menu of pizza, chicken nuggets, and other quick foods.  They attended VBS last week, so our dinner menu was a little wacky.  Getting off at 5, and getting them to VBS by 6 was a challenge, but, my kids are troopers!  


I also recently made an incredible cheesy-chicken rice bake that had the kids begging for more.  They finished off an entire 9×13 pan – crazy.  I will admit it was delicious, and I was able to snag some for lunch earlier this week.  It was super easy, and I will be making it again soon!   I found the recipe on pinterest, originally posted by:  Mom on TimeOut    

I did tweak the recipe a bit to fit our needs.  I didn’t measure exactly on the mayo, or the corn flakes that made the crunky topping.  As Trish mentioned in her blog, her family loved the crunchy topping – and so did my kids.  The more the better!   I did follow her directions of thawing the broccoli, although I think I need to break it up more into smaller pieces next time.  

She has a ton of recipes I will for sure be using in the future!





rizzoli-and-isles-5I was insanely excited to see that my library carried the 4th & 5th seasons of Rizzoli & Isles.   So I immediately jumped on them.  I am in line to get season 5, which is fine because it allows me to catch up on season 4.    Katie has been getting many of the Marvel comics movies from the library and watching with her siblings.  She also recently went with her best friend Alex to see Jurassic World, in 3D of course.  They were happy and giggly teenage girls when I picked them up from the theater by our house.   The kids have been watching various movies they get from the library, like Lego Batman and Scooby Doo!



What’s everyone else doing on their summer break?  Anything exciting?




Jun 182015

Columbia is full of wonderful museums like The State Museum, EdVenture and the Columbia Museum of Museum - BUT…did you know that the University of South Carolina also has a museum – and its FREE?!?!?!   Say wwwhhhaaa??

The McKissick Museum, located at the end of the historic Horseshoe (which we will discuss in another post) is home to the visitors center for the University of South Carolina, as well as some admissions offices.  But, what many people don’t know is that the 2nd & 3rd floors are home to permanent and traveling galleries showcasing our state and our university.

rudyMy kids and I have ventured to the museum early in my career at UofSC, along with my mom.  The kids loved the hands on exhibits in the Natural Curiosity exhibit on the 3rd floor.  From a large lion Allison lovingly named Rudy (seen to the left), to a very cool collection of glow in the dark rocks – they have so many neat things on display.  

Currently, they have an exhibit on  called Traditions, Change, and Celebration showcasing Native American art.  They even have a dug-out canoe (that’s hands on!!!).   The very ornate costumes are absolutely beautiful, and photos of them do not do them justice at all!    This exhibit is scheduled to be open through July 15th.

Stop by and visit them, and see what kind of fun things you can spot!



Jun 172015

This is a post about nothing, I mean really – nothing.  Its summertime, which means blogging slump!   This past few months its been harder and harder for me to come up with great content for everyone.  Which, of course makes me super sad!  I have tried to pick up a few blog meme’s here and there, but even those come and go like the wind.  I feel like I start to write a post, and then I feel like this….


So….I will do my best though over the next few weeks to highlight some local favorites here in Columbia from food to outdoorsy type stuff.

We have some stuff on the horizon – a trip to my moms to drop the kids off for Camp Grandma, Brayden’s world series trip to MB, a trip to GG’s at least once and hopefully hitting Folly Beach for the day.  

For now, I leave you with this….

 The Squirrels at USC have their own twitter feed, full of trash can sneaking shenanigans and proclaiming their everlasting love for Chick-Fil-A.  Click on the squirrel to visit their twitter feed.





Jun 112015

So I saw these questions on facebook the other day making the rounds, and I thought it would be fun to do with Patrick.   I was fair, and also answered the questions verbally, and it was fun to laugh about over dinner.  I love doing stuff like this, and I love that he willingly also plays along with my blog ideas.  Thanks babe!   My commentary is in parenthesis.  =)

1. What is something your girlfriend always says to you?
– seriously?  (yes, I do say that a lot!)

2. What makes your girlfriend happy?
   - making other people happy 

3. What makes your girlfriend sad?
   - missed phone calls

4. How does your girlfriend make you laugh?
   - crazy work stories

5. What was your girlfriend like as a child?
   - he refused to answer this

6. How old is your girlfriend?

7. How tall is your girlfriend?
   - 5’7″   (good try, but I’m 5’6″)

8. What is her favorite thing to do?
   - read books

9. What does your girlfriend do when you’re not around?
   - read books

10. If your girlfriend becomes famous, what will it be for?
   - inventing a new planner/calendar thing

11. What is your girlfriend really good at? 
   - organizing, reminding me of stuff, taking care of me

12. What is your girlfriend not very good at?
   - going with the flow  (in my defense, I’m getting better about this!)

13. What does your girlfriend do for a job?
- Assistant to the Dean of the History Department, but I honestly have no idea what you actually do all day.    (in reality, I don’t even know what I do all day sometimes!)

14.What is your girlfriend ‘s favorite food?
   - avocados   (close, I love seafood more than any other food!)

15.What makes you proud of your girlfriend?
 -  her commitment to family

16. If your girlfriend were a character, who would she be?
  – Ariel (like the little mermaid?), Yes, because ever since you read that question that’s what popped in my head.

17. What do you and your girlfriend do together?
   - Stuff-n-things (that’s your go to answer, can you elaborate?).  Go to baseball games, go out riding around.

18. How are you and your girlfriend the same?
   - we are both parents

19. How are you and your girlfriend different?
   - She wants to plan everything, I want to plan nothing.

20. How do you know your girlfriend loves you?
   - she tells me all the time, and the way she treats me.

21. What does your girlfriend like most about you?
  – me being me

22. Where is your girlfriends favorite place to go? 
   - “home” or to her parents house.

I would say he knows me pretty well.  I plan on doing these same questions with my kids, just changing “girlfriend” to “mom” obviously!


Jun 042015

 Natalee’s first day of kindergarten and his last day of kindergarten.



Jonathan’s first day of 2nd grade and his last day of 2nd grade.



Katie’s first day of 8th grade, and close to her last day of 8th grade.



May 282015

So we are on summer #3 of having no cable, and I can say – with antenna’s and the large collection of library DVDs – we have made it work.  I actually enjoy most network TV, although I do miss things like the Food Network, and Destination America.   

I am looking forward to a few new TV shows that have recently come out, or are coming out for the summer season.


the-astronaut-wives-club-67224_bigThe Astronaut Wives Club (ABC)

I actually started reading the book before I found out this was coming out as a show.  It premieres on June 18th at 8pm.  I am very excited for it as it stars a couple of my favorites!  Joanna Garcia, who previously starred as Cheyenne Montgomery in Reba, and Wilson Bethel who starred as Wade in Hart of Dixie.  I love me some Wilson Bethel!  


Celebrity Family Fued (ABC)

We love watching Family Fued with Steve Harvey, so I am especially excited for the celebrity version to come on.  This premieres on Sunday, June 21st at 8pm.  We love watching the “Bloopers” from this show.  My absolute favorite clip from this show can be found here:

  Gerbil!  Family Fued Clip


500 Questions (ABC)

Is it trvial pursuit meets jeopardy?  I don’t know how to describe it, but I watched it for the first time on Tuesday night and loved it.   You have to answer random trivia questions without getting 3 wrong in a row, if you get 3 wrong in a row, you are out and another contestant comes in.    I’m sort of sad this has a limited run, as a 7 night “event”, but maybe we’ll see it come back?   


What are you looking forward to?




May 252015

Memorial Day in our home this year will be spent traveling home from seeing my family, especially my brother before he deploys.   However, very close to my heart and in my thoughts will be two special people I had the honor and privilege to know.   While I do not discount the countless other families who were affected by conflict and war, by the loss of a child, a husband, a father, brother, sister, mother, wife – these two individuals are close to my heart.


Frank (Capt. “Puj” Hooks) – a pilot in our squadron in South Carolina that made the ultimate sacrifice in June 2004.   His loss deeply impacted Matt, and all the Marines of 115.   My best memory of Frank was the DVD we unexpectedly got in the mail one day during the first deployment Matt went on.  They had made us a “we are halfway home” DVD full of photos of all the guys from the squadron.  It was a silly DVD, but so special to all the spouses.  Frank was married to my sweet friend Cindy – whom I admire for her beautiful spirit.



Second is Clarence Adams.  Clarence was 3 years ahead of me in school  (me a freshman, he a senior) when I decided to run indoor track.  He then decided to take me under his wing and teach me to throw shot put.  So, he taught me and I did it.  I wasn’t that good, and didn’t stick with it, but he was always encouraging.    He always had a smile on his face, and was loved by so many at Varina.   Clarence died in Baghdad, Iraq in September 2004.  He was the father of six, and devoted husband.  




While for many it’s a day of picnics, BBQ’s and the unofficial start of summer, it is also a VERY real holiday to remember those who have fought and died for us to have the ability to go to the river or beach, watch a parade in peace and have a picnic.   Please take a moment today and remember them, their families and their sacrifice. 


Note – photo of Frank courtesy of Cindy Morrison, and photo of Clarence courtesy of  Iraqwarheros.org.  This post was originally posted on 5-28-2012.


May 202015

Three baseball seasons together….its funny when you stop counting years and start counting by other things…like how many Christmas’ we have had together, how many baseball teams Bray has played on.  This was our 3rd season of Carolina baseball, and sadly – we went to the fewest number of games (3) this year.  Work, baseball, kids activities and Patrick’s work travel schedule all got in the way. 

However, we made up for it last weekend by going to both Friday & Saturday’s final games of the season for Carolina.  Sadly, we lost to LSU both nights (we did win the 1st night of the series), but – we still had a great time!   Carolina Stadium is one of the best atmosphere’s I have ever experienced.  For the most part, everyone is super nice and there is not a bad seat in the stadium at all!   The first night we started off sitting on the berm, and then we ended up snagging some empty seats over off the 3rd baseline.  The 2nd night, we anticipated sitting on the berm (staff get free tickets, usually on the berm), but this time we got put into actual seats!  We were right on the 3rd field wall section and it was great!  Only downside is the scoreboard/video board is behind you.

We do have one silly thing that we seem to have always done – we wear the same exact thing to each game.  I have a tshirt that spells CAROLINA across the front in rainbow letters, and Patrick has a well-loved Garnet polo with a Gamecock on it.   I told him I was going to take a photo for my blog and put all 3 photos together from past games to show how “I” have aged.  He laughed and said “good save”.  The sun was not on our side in taking the photo the last night, so I apologize for the glare!    The hair may change, but the love is still going strong!  



May 122015

This is part repost & part update of a post I did last summer.  At the request of my “board girls”, I am updating it for them!

I used to be such a good couponer.  I had a binder full, I could plan out shopping trips, and get a ton free (remember the free boxes of Frozen Limades?).   Then….I got a full time job, and life happened, and kids got into sports and well – I did what I could, but not to the level I used to.

I miss being able to open my pantry and see a stash of paper towels I got for free, or go to my laundry room and see 15 bottles of detergent I got for pennies.   

Couponing has evolved from simply cutting coupons out of a newspaper on Sunday.  You can get them online, and even on your smartphone.  They come in the mail inside of magazines, and direct mailers from the companies.

Here are some of my favorite places to get coupons and or savings!

The obvious one – printable coupons from Coupons.com.  Cilck & print – super easy!!!

ibottaNext comes iBotta.  This one takes a little work AFTER you have done your shopping.  iBotta is an app on your phone that allows you to scan the product, and then upload your receipt and they will give you cash back for buying the product and doing things like sending a tweet (often worth 25¢) or liking the products facebook page.   iBotta allows you to cash out at $5 earnings, and use it towards cash (via paypal), or Starbucks or other gift cards! 


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Next comes SavingStar.  This one is a “no brainer” for the most part.  Just sign on, add the coupons to your store cards (Bi-Lo, Food Lion, CVS, etc).  And it will add the savings to your account (it will NOT come off at the register).  For example, a few weeks ago they had a “Get 100% back when you buy a York Peppermint Patty”.  I bought one, and got 99¢ credited to my account.  Like iBotta, you can cash out with this one!   **UPDATE**  Some stores require you to scan the receipt for this one, and are no longer automatic based on your store cards.   Be sure to check this one weekly to make sure you have all the new items added to your card.  Some offers are $5 when you purchase $25 or more of a certain brand, and these can be purchased over multiple shopping trips.



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CellFire.com - online coupons that allow you to add coupons to your Kroger (or affliate) store cards.  They come off at the register when you purchase certain items.  They often also have freebies to load to your Kroger (or affliate) store.   **UPDATE – if you have a Kroger close by, be sure to add coupons to your store card from the Kroger.com website.  While you cannot combine those coupons with paper coupons for the same item – this is a good way to use coupons and not have to worry about taking paper coupons to the store.  Also, Kroger often has Friday Freebies, where a completely free item can be added to your card!

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Checkout51.com - another like iBotta, that requires a little work after the fact, but has good results.  They routinely have “get cash back when you buy milk” – any brand of milk.  Just scan the barcode on the milk and the receipt and they will credit your account with the offers you pick.  I like this one because they have a lot of “any brand” offers, where you can buy any brand yogurt, milk, fruit and get money back.  Currently, they also have offers for Kashi, Dove, King Arthur Flour, along with about 15 others!  Again, you can cashout with this one (at $20).



SnapByGroupon.com - another like iBotta & Checkout51 that require you to pick your offers, and then scan your receipt.  They too often have “any milk” or “any yogurt” offers.  They sometimes have alcohol offers as well!  Currently they have cash back offers on Redd’s Apple Ale, BeechNut Baby Food, Oranges and a few magazines as well!   



Walmart Savings Catcher –  This one is a total no-brainer!  I mean, you scan 1 thing and it does ALL the work for you!   Step 1 – buy stuff at Walmart, Step 2, scan the bar code or QR code at the bottom of your receipt with the Walmart App (alternatively, it looks like you can also enter receipt information online to your account and it will do the same thing).  Step 3 – Walmart scans competitor ads on eligible products and if they find a lower price, you get the difference back in either a Walmart gift card OR Bluebird Card (Amex pre-paid).  You let the money just sit, adding a little at a time and it would be a great thing to save for Christmas!  Last week, we bought some crackers that were priced at $2.50 at Walmart.  The same crackers were on sale at Food Lion for $2.00, so we got 50¢ back into our Savings Catcher account.  We don’t shop at Walmart too often, so this will never be a big money maker for me.  However, get into the habit of scanning every single receipt (up to 15 per week), and you never know when you’ll get a little back!


For those that like to shop online!  




If you have a .edu email address, you can get Amazon Student Prime Membership for half of the normal amazon prime cost.  This is GREAT for those that like to shop through amazon!  

You get it free for 6 months, and then after that it is $49 a year!



EbatesThere is also ebates.com, which gives you cash back (from 2% to 25%) for shopping thru them for online purchases.  Some examples are Kohls, 123InkJets.com, Macys, Groupon and tons more!    I have been a member of ebates.com for about 6 years, and as of today have gotten back roughly $600.  They sent out money 4 times a year in “BFP – Big Fat Payments” either through paypal, or check.  Money earned Jan-March 31st comes on May 15th.   Its a fun little surprise each quarter to get that BFP!  

If you sign up through my link (((CLICK HERE))) you will get a $10 cash bonus when you make your first purchase of $25 or more!  So easy to do!!!