Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Mondays are long days. First there's school/work. The kids have about half an hour to work on homework and have a snack before they are whisked off to dance class for three hours. They typically use the 30-40 minute car ride to nap. We get home at 8:30. Yes, long day.

Dinner on Monday's can be tricky. By the time we get home, there's not much time to make anything. The solution? Hamburger Helper was our helper for a while. Blech! Greg was in charge of making it ~ having it ready for us when we got home. Then everyone complained about having it so often (don't blame them). What's almost the same as browning ground beef for HH? Browning ground beef for tacos! So that was added to our list. Oh, and let's not forget chili dogs.

This week's Monday night was a mess. I didn't go grocery shopping this weekend. I had been summoned for possible jury duty today. You can't call until after 6 pm the night before, though, to find out if they do need you and what time to go. Once I got called for jury duty & spent hours making sub plans only to find out that I was not needed. Now I do those sub plans after I call the day before. So, it was likely that I was going to have to go back to school at 8:30 to write sub plans and get things together.

So I called the jury duty hot line thingy and found out that my badge number (so official) was not needed today, but I would be receiving another summons at a later date. This made life easier, but what about dinner? On the way home Greg asked what was for dinner. I told him it was probably potluck because Stephanie asked for cereal. On the drive home I was STARVING! My stomach was starting to have that feed me or pass out feeling. I wasn't thrilled about the prospect of cereal for dinner.

When we pulled in the garage I smelled something delicious. I was thinking my neighbor was trying a new recipe. She's a non-cook and trying to change her ways. I walked to the mailbox and back and was tortured by the lovely aroma. I nearly knocked on her door and invited myself for dinner. Good thing I didn't, though, because as I walked in my own house the aroma became stronger. What? Greg made beef stroganoff for us ~ his specialty. This is the only meal he makes that does not involve ground beef or questionable meat products. This is his forte.

He went shopping after work. He made rolls from the freezer that have to rise. He baked a pie (with a little help from his friend Sara ~ Lee that is). He bought celery, which is the only item that made it on the list so far from last week. He said if the list had had more on it, he would have bought that too.

So, we sang praises to Daddy as we ate our weight in beef stroganoff, rolls, green beans, corn, and apple pie a la mode. Afterwards we rolled our tired selves to bed. I'm still a little full.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

joke time

Today we have another joke, courtesy of Stephanie and her potty mouth friends.

Q: If you're American outside the bathroom, what are you inside the bathroom?

A: European!


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

i gave him an artichoke

I love artichokes. Not necessarily the marinated kind in the jar - even though they are fine in a recipe. But a steamed artichoke dipped in melted garlic butter. Oh my! It may be just an excuse to have melted garlic butter, but whatever.

Recently, Greg and I had a discussion about artichokes. When I say recently I don't mean yesterday or the day before. This was probably weeks ago. Anyway, he's vegetable-reluctant. He doesn't like many of them. Over the years he has broadened his horizons. He agrees that romaine lettuce is better salad material than iceberg. He is almost ok with some asparagus once a year. He loves the broccoli salad that I make but won't touch steamed broccoli with ten foot pole. It's a challenge. I told him he'd probably like artichokes. I described their velvety texture accompanied by a taste that is almost sweet. He gave me that affectionate look that can only say, "You are nuts, woman!"

Last night, I didn't sleep well. I woke up several times. I had many strange dreams. One of the strangest might have been when I dreamed that I sent Greg off to work with a steamed artichoke for breakfast! I gave him a quick tutorial of how to peel off the leaves and scrape the meat with your teeth. No garlicy butter for him though ~ too messy in the truck. When I woke up from that dream I had trouble separating reality from dreamland and was worried that he'd starve for breakfast if he didn't like the artichoke!

Never a dull moment around here, people!

Monday, March 23, 2009

a coach for the lady

The kids were having a grape snack this weekend.

Heather shows me this pumpkin, I mean grape. Pretty cool, huh?

She asked me to take a picture of it and put it on my blog. She knows how amazing and exciting reading material this will be for all of you. That girl knows good stuff when she sees it.

In other news, we had FedEx Dave and his daughter over for lunch yesterday. Our front entry tile had a whole bunch of black shoe prints from the kids tromping their filthy feet inside while playing outside. It was very important, afterall, that they come skidding into the house with their fake crocs on to get money for the ice cream man. Those things leave horrible shoe prints. I didn't want to mop it ~ I'm lazy ~ and since it was their mess, I decided they could clean it up. I gave them each a wet rag and told them to clean each and every square of tile. Down on their hands and knees, Stephanie proclaimed she felt like Cinderella. I wonder if this grape will get her to the ball on time.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

the last day

Yesterday was our last day of weekday track break. Monday we go back to school. So what did we do?

I made cookies. I don't make cookies often enough in Greg's opinion. I've been trying not to buy cookies because store cookies are more expensive and have a bunch of preservatives. I'd been promising this batch the whole break. Sorry, honey. Better late than never?

Heather played babies while Stephanie watched t.v. See that white lump on the couch? Stephanie is under that blanket.

I did the dishes. Miracles never cease!

The kids played in the backyard ~ swinging and blowing bubbles. But not before there was a little clothing drama complete with tears. Stephanie could not find any play clothes bottoms. All she managed to find was some sweats and some pants that didn't fit right. I told her to go through her drawers and pick a pair of shorts that are too small for school now. Heather offered Stephanie a pair of her play shorts and reported a few minutes later that Stephanie said they looked hideous (never mind too small). Huh? Last time I checked the fashion police are not coming in our backyard to approve of your swing set ensemble. We finally found a suitable pair of shorts. They may or may not have been in the dirty clothes hamper.

The kids made mini pizzas for lunch and ate outside. This is a fun lunch for them to make. They are usually very meticulous about placing their ingredients on the muffin.

I made these bandana skirts for the girls from this tutorial. The tutorial says they are for girls age 2-3. I just made the contrast layer at the bottom longer to fit the kids' height and these probably don't gather as much as a younger child's might. They were pretty easy to make. They will be nice for spring and summer. I'm thinking about making up a few more for the shop.

I also managed to make dinner, talk to Greg, read a little, read a few blogs, and catch up on a few television shows. All in all, it was a good day.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

what do they have to say about me?

Many moms in blogland are conducting the following interview with their kids. For fun, I did it too. I typed just what they said. My comments are in parenthesis.

1. What is something your mom always says to you?

H: I love you. (Aww.)
S: Read. (We had a big discussion about her reluctance to read just last night.)

2. What makes your mom happy?

H: When I do what she says.
S: Me reading. (Still on her mind.)

3. What makes your mom sad?

H: When I don't follow the directions.
S: When I don't listen.

4. How does your mom make you laugh?

H: By tickling me.
S: By being funny.

5. What was your mom like as a child?

H: Pretty.
S: Like me. (Except for the reading part, it's scary how right she is about this.)

6. How old is your mom?

H: Something in the 40s. Or maybe just 40. (Really? Because just yesterday you thought I was a dinosaur!)
S: 40 (Yesterday, you thought I was just about ready to file for social security.)

7. How tall is your mom?

H: Taller than me.
S: I don't know.

8. What is her favorite thing to do?

H: Paint and scrapbook and sew and shop.
S: Craft and read and sew.

9. What does your mom do when you're not around?

H: She sews.
S: Craft, read, and sew.
(I'm sensing a theme, here.)

10. If you mom becomes famous, what will it be for?

H: Sewing.
S: Crafting

11. What is your mom really good at?

H: Scrapbooking
S: Crafting, sewing, and reading

12. What is your mom not very good at?

H: Going down sidewalks with tractors. (She's right. I nearly tipped a bobcat while working on the back yard a few years ago. Everyone thought it was hilarious!)
S: Being early. (Sadly, so true.)

13. What does your mom do for a job?

H: Teach kids.
S: She's a teacher.

14. What is your mom's favorite food?

H: Chicken wings. (Yes, and....)
S: Ice cream. (Yes, and....)

15. What makes you proud of your mom?

H: That she does things for me.
S: That she had me. (That made me proud too.)

16. If your mom were a cartoon character, who would she be?

H: Minnie Mouse
S: Minnie Mouse
(Except Greg thinks Minnie Mouse is a hussy ~ always showing off her bloomers & all. Wait, maybe he'd like that.)

17. What do you and your mom do together?

H: We go shopping. And we go to the museum. (Amen, sister.)
S: Stay home and have pajama days and have fun. (Amen, to that too.)

18. How are you and your mom the same?

H: We both have brown eyes.
S: We 're related to each other and she had blond hair when she was a kid. (I had blondish hair for about two seconds, then it turned brown.)

19. How are you and your mom different?

H: You have kind of black or brown hair and I have blond hair.
S: She's a grown up and I'm a child. (And don't you forget it!)

20. How do you know your mom loves you?

H: Because you smile when I do things for you.
S: Because she takes care of me & she feeds me and if she didn't love me she wouldn't do anything.

21. What does your mom like most about your dad?

H: That he worked on the back yard so it can be pretty. You like most about him that he has a big heart.
S: He's funny. (But not as funny as me.)

22. Where is your mom's favorite place to go?

H: Arizona
S: Disneyland
(I guess they were thinking 'big trip' because I'm surprised neither one of them said shopping.)

What do your kids have to say about you?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

back in time

The other day Heather asked if we could go to the museum ~ "you know, the hands-on kid one?" Yes, I know the one. We've been before. But I picked a different one this time.

Today we went to a museum that focuses on the history of our region. Inside the museum there is a timeline of history with artifact filled displays. The kids got to grind corn and try to play some primitive Native American kids' games. In typical teacher-mom fashion, we didn't just check out the stuff, I made them read ~ out loud ~ about what we were looking at. They didn't mind a bit.

Then we moved on to the period housing. There is a street of houses that have been moved from various areas of the county to the museum grounds. They have been furnished with appropriate period furnishings. One house even had furniture belonging to the actual owners of the home. There were houses from 1905 to the 1950s era. More reading here too.

One of my favorites was the 1940s house. As soon as we walked in I was transported back to another time. It smelled just like my grandparent's house in Texas. Heather announced that it stunk. Not so. It had the smell of history, old books, and bittersweet memories to me.

Stephanie wanted to know if I would have lived in a 1940s-style house when I was a baby. I huffily patiently explained to her that I am not that old. I explained to her that my father was born in the 1940s. I also told her that when we saw a period house that I would have lived in as a baby, I'd let her know. There wasn't one.

The sign described that during World War II people sacrificed and made do. Instead of buying new furniture, they slipcovered what they had. Sound familiar? The rooms were small ~ the house was small. But the "people" they staged in each house looked happy. Well, the woman in the 1905 one-room home with a wood-fire stove and trundle sewing machine did not look thrilled. I showed the kids the sewing machine and explained how it works. "Wow, that must have been hard!" Yes, their life was hard. Insert the lecture talk about how easy we have it these days.

Love that fabric! Maybe I'll slipcover the couch in the front room with something like that. I'm sure Greg won't mind.

I asked the kids if they had to live in one of the houses on this street, which they would live in. We all agreed that we'd live in the 1940s house or 1920s house that was remodeled in the 40s and decorated with the 50s style. Those were the only two that had an electric washing machine!

There was a train depot. Heather was amazed at the size of the trunks. Where did they put these huge trunks in their small, small houses when they were not traveling? Hmmm.

There was even some "ghost town" buildings. This contraption was sitting outside the jail. Was it a torture device? In the heat the summer did they put the worst bad guys in there to rot?

The end of our time was spent outside & we started getting a little hot and maybe a little cranky. I showed Stephanie the covered wagon (minus the canvas) and told her to remember how small it is when her class talks about the wagon trains coming west. I told her that each family's possessions had to fit in the wagon. They had to leave much of their things and furniture behind. That left little room for people so they had to walk ~ on a day like today (84 degrees out), in a long dress, with petticoats. She was dismayed at that to which I told her to stop complaining about how hot is was at that moment. Such a great mommy!

Heather wanted to know if I had to do that when I moved here. I screamed told her, "I am not that old!" I told her that the wagon trains happened well over 100 years ago, and no, I was not in fact part of a wagon train.

As we were leaving, the kids told me they had a great time and thanked me for taking them to the museum. Whew! I was a little concerned about taking them to that museum, because it's not as hands-on as the other one. I tried to make it interesting for them, though. I'll just go start working on my acceptance speech for that award now.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

a bright spot in dim days

In these dark economic times, it's important to look for the light of hope. Right? One way to combat the demons of rising prices is to use coupons. I try to use coupons whenever I can. Whenever it makes the most money sense. Have you ever wondered how much money you save when you use a coupon? Sure, it's printed on the receipt, and sometimes it seems like such an insignificant amount. But in the long run ~ how much of an impact do coupons have on your overall budget? I don't know either. 

So for the rest of this year, I'm going to keep track of my coupon savings in the side bar. I have my last two grocery receipts, so I'll start there. I'm tracking only coupons ~ not bonus buys. Store generated coupons (printed at the register or sent in the mail) do count. The coupon savings amount is printed at the bottom of the receipt. You try it too!

Monday, March 16, 2009

sweet tea

My parents both grew up in Texas. I lived there for a while as a kid. I grew up drinking sweet tea. No other would do. I still love sweet tea. 

I honestly don't know how my mom made it. I don't ever recall seeing her make it. But I do know how to make the best sweet tea. And because I'm so nice & generous, I'll share with you how I do it.

Start of with setting a smallish pot of water to boil. I think the one I use is 1 quart. Pour in a little under a cup of sugar.

Who are we kidding? Pour in the whole dang cup. Wait for the water to boil, stirring occasionally. The sugar will melt with the heat. What you are making here is essentially a simple syrup. No grainy sweet tea going on here.

We all know that watched pot won't boil, so busy yourself with getting the tea bags ready while you are waiting. Use about three regular size tea bags or 1-2 family size tea bags. I use Lipton. I'm sure other brands have perfectly fine tea bags, but this is one of the times I stick with the brand name.

See there? That water came to a boil while you were busy. The sugar should be all melted at his point.

Turn off the heat & put your tea bags into the hot water.

See, the water is already getting darker. Now, walk away. Don't rush this part or you'll end up with a weak-sugar-water excuse for tea. That's no good. Let the tea bags steep for a good while ~ ten minutes or even a little more. The water will be far darker than you think it should be when you come back. 

Fill your 2-quart pitcher about one-third full with ice. 

Remove the tea bags & pour the tea over the ice. I was going to snap a picture of the pouring, but the pot was getting kinda heavy and I was having a hard time aiming through the view finder!

Add more water to fill the pitcher up the rest of the way.

Stir a little to finish dissolving the ice.

Pour yourself a tall glass, sit on the back porch, and do not think of all the house work that needs to be done.

Right about now some of you are scratching your head in wonder. Where's the ice? Isn't she making iced tea? Yet there's not a speck of ice in her glass. Well, this is one more instance where I ride that crazy train ~ I don't like ice in my drinks. If it's already cold, the ice just messes things up. If a soda is not already cold, I will use ice. But otherwise, totally not necessary. I even prefer for water and iced tea to be room temperature. 

Sunday, March 15, 2009

scared for her mama

I'm on track break. Teachers on track break or summer break in my district have the opportunity to substitute to earn extra money. I was scheduled to sub for a 5th grade teacher this past week. Stephanie expressed her concern for me and asked me how I was going to handle 5th graders when I couldn't handle 4th graders. (I taught 4th grade for 8 years until I switched to 2nd grade just a few years ago.) I told her that it wasn't that I couldn't handle the 4th graders ~ I just chose not to anymore.  I relayed my conversation with Stephanie to Suzanne, who then told Kevin ~ the 5th grade teacher. He left me a note to tell Stephanie that he's afraid every day!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

always a work in progress

We rejoiced last year about this time when we were able to finally plant seed in the back yard.

We hollered even louder when the tiny blades of grass made their first appearances.

But the back yard isn't really done yet. We still have rows of planters waiting for plants. We still have little projects planned here and there. 

But yesterday one of those projects got crossed off the list. We started this herb project a little while ago. We bought the pots, filled them with seed, and watched them grow. They grew and grew. Then over the winter some died.

Yesterday Greg finished building the shelf on which they are supposed to sit. We'll put flowers, or something pretty underneath the shelf. 

He spent hours cutting, staining, and building their new home.

I did not help with this project because I was busy getting my hair "stained" and cut. Heather helped Daddy with this project. She held the boards while he screwed them together. Daddy said she was a good little helper. She alternately helped and rode her bike & scooter ~ all while still in her Halloween-theme pajamas. Hey ~ we rock over here.

Stephanie spent much of the day in bed yesterday with a cough and a fever. Bless her heart.

Now that they have been lifted up, I can see the pots of herbs from the kitchen window, as it was always intended. Now maybe when I am cooking, I won't forget I have fresh herbs in the back yard.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

new in town

These gals are new in town. 

They are in the shop, just waiting for someone like you!

They can go anywhere ~ blouse, jacket, purse.

The possibilities are just endless!

Monday, March 9, 2009

such a good meal

Make that two good meals - but hang on for that thought.

Saturday I made something new in the crock pot from this book. It was so good I have to share it with you. 

Lemony Roasted Chicken

1 (3- to 4-pound) whole chicken
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons butter
juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon of fresh parsley
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

Rinse chicken and pat try with paper towels. Remove and discard any excess fat. Place onion in chicken cavity and rub skin with butter. Place chicken in slow cooker. Squeeze lemon juice over chicken. Sprinkle with grated lemon peel, salt, and thyme. Cover and cook on Low 6 to 8 hours.

**I don't know where exactly the parsley was supposed to go. The recipe didn't say. I just left it out.

Okay ~ before you get all weirded out that you have to use a whole chicken because it's a pain to clean and cut, let me just tell you that if you've cleaned a turkey - same thing. Also, you don't have to worry about cutting anything because the meat just falls off the bone! So yummy and tender. For a side dish I cubed potatoes and mixed them with a little olive oil, thyme, rosemary, and lemon pepper and let them cook in a pan. Everyone in the family loved this meal. 

Then there was too much chicken for our family to eat, so I just saved the rest. Then last night I cut/shredded it up small. Add some sliced onion, a little taco seasoning (tablespoon or two), and some green taco sauce. Instead of green taco sauce, you can use a small can of diced green chiles. With a pat or two of butter I warmed that in a skillet until the onions were cooked and the chicken was hot enough. Then we had chicken for our quesadillas. These turned out way better than the ones I normally make. 

Let's talk value ~ I got a two-pack of whole chickens for just under $10. Froze one. So the one I used cost about $5 and it made two meals. Meat for two meals for $2.50 a meal. There's actually even a little bit of the chicken left over. Quesadilla for me for lunch! Depending on the size of your family, you may not get the same value we did.

Let me know if you try this recipe. How did it work out for you? What will you do with your left over chicken the next day?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

a year can be a really long time

We want to save money for some of our family goals. We have looked for ways to cut spending. We've managed to lower our phone bill, cell phone bill, and cable bill. Each savings was not monumental ~ but added up together and spread over time, it can be substantial. That was fine. That was good. But not good enough.

So we issued ourselves a great challenge. Ready? Sit down.

We are not eating out for an entire year. I know. Shocking, right? For those of you who know me well know that I love to go out to eat. Especially Mexican food. Oh, this will be tough. Greg says for him it's not such a great sacrifice because I make better meals than most he eats in a restaurant. Aww, thanks, honey. I do like to cook. But I also like to have someone else cook for me from time to time ~ once or twice a week. I told him whether we eat at home or out, he gets his meals cooked for him. I only get mine cooked for me when we go out. He understood my perspective.

So, we started our No Eat Out Year when we returned from Disneyland. It's been over a month and we've done well. 

There are some necessary exceptions to this rule:
  • If we go out of town, we will obviously have to break the rule.  We did have to cheat on our challenge when we went out to town for Carter's birthday. 
  • When the weather gets hotter, Greg will have to eat lunch out. If not, he will bake himself in the metal FedEx oven. He will need a break from the agonizing heat. It's just not safe.

I do miss eating out. But I just keep thinking about all the money we are not spending by not paying someone else to make our meals. We do have a couple of gift cards from Christmas, so when I don't think I can stand it any longer or for something really special, we will use those. 

Keeping with the frugal spirit, Greg decided he will tackle his own truck maintenance. Now this is a sacrifice for him. He doesn't enjoy working on cars like his dad does. He does not like the feel of oil or grease on his hands. Sawdust? Dirt? Different story. No oil.

He bought a book and did some research on pricing. This morning he headed out to the auto supply store to buy the supplies he needed to change the oil, coolant, gas filter, air filter, and serpentine belt. We save tons with him changing the serpentine belt alone.

He bit the bullet and crawled under the car. He got oily. He washed his hands 67,000 times.

As he finished each task, I asked him to rate its difficulty ~ 1 being easy and 10 being hard. Nothing rated over a 5. There was even a 2 and a 3 in there. These stellar ratings even came after the hood with the faulty hydraulic arm came crashing on his head before he even got started. He anticipates that most things will be a solid 3 next time.

He was not especially amused with me and the camera though. He tried to hide his face while double checking his manual. But in my charming presence, he couldn't hold back his smirk too well.

To provide moral support (and get some vitamin D therapy) I stationed a chair on the front walk and worked on some crafting. I think I got a little sunburned. 

So folks, No Eat Out Year might be a loooong time. You might hear whining a time or two. I do not promise to be cheerful about it all the time. But who knows ~ maybe we'll feel up to extending our challenge beyond the year.

In the meantime, you are welcome to come over for a meal. I'll be cooking.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

light again

Tonight we spring forward.  Goodbye daylight savings time.

Tomorrow it gets dark an hour later. Hello light!

Glory hallelujah!

Mother Nature is warming her sweet Earth ~ the northern half anyway. The trees are beginning to blossom. Renewal surrounds us.

We'll have a few strawberries soon.

Maybe the sweet little birds will come back to this nest they made a couple of years ago. That summer we saw them flying in and out of this tree. We didn't realize until the tree lost its leaves that they had built themselves a home. They are welcome to come back.

Real flowers will dot our back yard and bring their intoxicating fragrance.

Instead of just our fake flowers.

Everything is new again. Promise floats among us and we are ready to breathe it in.

Friday, March 6, 2009

taking a nap vs. going back to bed

Tuesday was the first day of my track break. When Greg came home that afternoon he very accusingly asked me if I had taken a nap.

Me: Define nap.

Greg: Anytime your eyes are closed and you are not conscious.

Me: Then, yes, I took a nap. At 5:00.

Greg: (looking at the clock) It's not even 5:00 yet.

Me: 5:00 AM

You all know that I get up with Greg at 4:15 and totally whine about it to make his breakfast & lunch and send him out the door. Yes, I am aware of the feminist movement. Yes, he realizes he's spoiled. Yes, when the boys at work find out they are quite jealous and want me to call their wives. Yes, when the girls at my work find out they order me not to tell their husbands.

Anyway. While I am working, I stay up and use the hour before I have to start getting ready to do dishes, read, do crafts, read blogs, etc. When I am not working I stay up half of the time and go back to bed nap half of the time. The thing is that when I take that early morning nap I end up sleeping too long. How could that be, you say? If I sleep more than 8 hours at a time I'm groggy & achy for much of the day. I don't want to do much else than sleep or sit on the couch all day. I can totally get by with 6-7 hours sleep. Eight hours at one time is a maximum. So, generally it's just better if I stay up.

Greg told me later that the 5:00 AM could just be considered going back to bed. 

But how much time has to pass before going back to bed becomes just a nap? Cuz this morning I either went back to bed, or took a 6:00 nap. After I'd been up a little while I decided I wasn't ready to be up after all.

Then this snuggly little monkey comes to get warmed up. She's always up before Stephanie. She's an early riser.

Stephanie is not an early riser. Freight trains and earthquakes do not wake this child up. She will sleep 12 hours if given the chance. 

Let's back that picture up a little:

We have plenty of beds in this house. Still, they sometimes choose to create make-shift "living rooms" in their rooms and camp out.