Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Actual Conversation

Sitting on the living room floor getting ready to read a story to WHM and CAM, who had been playing dinosaurs.

WHM comes over with a Brachiosaurus and an elephant in his hands.  CAM is snuggled in on my right side waiting for me to start reading.

WHM:  Mommy, this is an elephant.
ME:  Yes, it sure is.
WHM:  Mommy, what does an elephant say?
ME (thinking he is serious):  [my best impression of an elephant's call, using my arm as a trunk.]
WHM (rolling his eyes at me as if I am an ignorant child, because he was totally testing me):  No .... Roll Tide!
ME (appropriately chastised):  That's right.  Roll Tide!  Silly Mommy!

--Jen

...and, Proof of Newton's Third Law

That's right.  For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

I now present to you WHM's room:

My favorite is the cowboy hat in the basketball net.  Awesome.

Sorry for the weird lighting. It's rainy-day dark out and his room isn't super-well-lit to begin with.  I took these with my cell phone so I messed around with flash, no flash, and these were the best I could do.


This is the entryway.  There's a "sidewalk" of books, I was informed.



--Jen

Proof of Floor

Some people ask for "proof of life" photos when there's a dire situation at hand.  Here, for your pleasure, are some "proof of floor" photos.  Yes, CAM's room has one.  Yes, I even vacuumed it.  Yes, it took me approximately three hours to find it. 

--Jen
Yes, she still has a toddler bed.  There are a lot of reasons for this.  But she'll get her real "big girl" bed this summer, regardless.


Wow. I have NO IDEA what the Minnies are doing to each other.


I even organized the books.  Kind-of easy to do when 50 of them were on the floor to begin with.  The rest of her 10,000 books are in the playroom.  The one where you still can't find the floor.

Disconcerting Thing!

Ah-hah!  I remember the third thing!  I am only partially senile!

We are members of the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga.  As part of that memebership we get a newsletter/magazine. 

Check out what we got in our newsletter yesterday:


You've got to admit, there's something inside you that chuckles when you see an aquarium hosting a seafood dinner fundraiser.   And yes, this was my third disconcerting thing.

(In the interest of full disclosure, the dinners benefit a sustainable seafood initiative "that promotes responsible seafood choices to maintain the health of our oceans."  But c'mon -- it's just funnier if you don't think about that.) 

--Jen

Oh #%$#*!#$!!!! Birthday Cake!

Remember my list?

The one where I said I would master fondant enough to make a cake and be happy with it?

And then I showed you all a tiered cake I hope to use as inspiration for CAM's upcoming birthday party?

Well, we're going to be out of town the week immediately preceding her birthday, and I woke up in the middle of the night last night (in no way related to WHM waking up screaming for his "Thomas house," which he insisted was in the car, so at almost 1am I had to scoop him out of bed and carry his crying, still-sleeping, little two-year-old curled-up mess downstairs, unlock the garage, and go in to the car just to show him that there is NO SUCH THING as a Thomas house, and that if there were, it most certainly was not in the car, at which point he FINALLY woke up and snuggled on me and told me he was tired and wanted to snuggle in his bed) realizing that I am now officially in the one-month-left-to-get-this-done window, and I've not so much as bought a piping kit or figured out anything about fondant.

Here are my assumptions:

1.  Store-bought fondant will be fine and I will be able to get all the colors I desire without having to make and/or color my own.

2.  It will be easy enough to do (both finding the fondant and working with it).

3.  I will find a good cake recipe for cake sturdy enough to hold a heavy fondant-covered cake and won't need to panic at the eleventh hour that my cake is collapsing because it's only meant for buttercream frosting.

4.  This will not cost me $100.

I think those are good assumptions, and I'm going with them.

Even so, I think there's some fondant in my future this weekend.

--Jen

Leap Blog Day -- Why I Don't Scrapbook

Not that long ago, I was learning this whole blogging thing (yes, I am still learning, but look how much I've learned in this short time!) and stumbled upon Leap Blog Day.  I decided to try it, and for your reading pleasure today, I've got a guest post from my new bloggy friend, Marianne.

Marianne is pretty awesome.  She's Irish Catholic, lives in Chicago, is married to a fireman, has three school-age boys, and blogs for Chicago Parent Magazine in addition to her own personal blog, We Band of Mothers.  If you're wondering how I knew I'd like Marianne, well, first of all, go check out her blog.  But here's a hint:  her tagline up top says, "One Chicago mom's attempt to keep an accurate log so her kids will have something helpful to show the therapists."  Seriously.  How could I not like Marianne?!

Here's here guest post today -- enjoy!  And then check out her blog at We Band of Mothers!
(Here's another incentive for my family who reads this:  later this week, I'll have a guest post on her blog, too!)

--Jen


Why I Don’t Scrapbook

Jennifer, the genius behind Redheads Plus One, was kind enough to offer me a spot on her blog for a guest post today.  A chance to write for a new audience!  An opportunity to meet new blog readers!  A gift from the blogosphere!

You have no idea how quickly the panic set in.


I started reading through Jennifer’s posts and realized yet again just how very un-crafty and useless I am.  Jennifer has martini olive ribbon.  She’s going to make something with her own two little hands using martini olive ribbon.  Imagine the possibilities.


I can’t glue, sew, or even be-dazzle.   And to top things off, Jennifer also has red-headed children.  In the predominately Irish Catholic Southside neighborhood of Chicago I call home, red hair is basically a sign of God’s favor and also a fast-track ticket to heaven.  None of my kids have red hair.  Not a strand.  Not even if you shine a red flashlight on their unsuspecting little scalps in broad daylight. 
 

All of my shortcomings got me thinking about that moment in time when I actually did try to do something crafty.  I had found a little garage sale chest that I decided to paint and personalize for my sons.  Given that I had never once visited a craft store before that point, I thought my chest turned out not half bad:

Yet as I was throwing out the bottle of glue I used to add the animals, the warning label caught my eye:
 
Do not use this glue on any item that comes in contact with children.  Do not use if you have children.  Do not use if you ever plan to have children.  Do not use if you are human. Because this stuff will KILL you.
My little blue chest was immediately relegated to the back corner of our spider-infested basement.  It has resided there for four years – unused and unappreciated.   I know I should probably just throw it out, but I can’t bring myself to do it.

It represents my best of intentions combined with the worst possible execution.

Story of my life.


(If you are interested in reading more from Marianne, please visit at either webandofmothers.blogspot.com or her Chicago Parent Magazine blog, Failing with Gusto (link to  http://www.chicagoparent.com/community/failing-with-gusto).

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Disconcerting Things

1.  WHM and CAM are on a big "don't fight, don't yell" kick.  Mick and I rarely fight -- and I mean that as in once-a-year kind-of rarely.  We have heated political and other discussions, but we're usually loud in agreement with each other, fired up about the issue at hand.  I'm pretty sure the preschool thinks we are about to get divorced and/or that they need to call DFACS.  Tonight at dinner, WHM said, "Don't. Yell. At. My. Sister."  Oy.  At least he has the brother-as-protector thing down.


2.  While I was tutoring tonight, WHM, who was in the living room with Mick and CAM, sang the entire chorus to Red Solo Cup.  Twice.  Without help.  Which simultaneously confused and cracked up my tutoring kid.

3.  When I sat down to type this, I promise you I had three things. But I am old and senile, apparently.  When I think of the 3rd thing again at 4 in the morning, I will write it down so I can edit this post later.

--Jen

UPDATE: I still have not remembered the third thing.  So perhaps that's really disconcerting thing #3:  I can't even remember the disconcerting things in my life long enough to write them down!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Paging Dr. CAM

WHM had "community helpers" day at school Wednesday.  I'm pretty good at whipping up costumes from what feels like nothing, but we don't have a lot of "character" hats in our house for some reason, and he insisted on being a fireman.  I can do a lot of things, but WHM really needed a hard hat, not a construction paper fire helmet. 

So, I called a few places on Tuesday and everyone only stocks costumes at Halloween, which meant it was off to the bain of my existence, Toys-R-Us.  I think I posted about this, how it was a frantic trip, etc. etc.  I ended up getting there and -- naturally -- they were sold out of Firemen.  Turns out that the costumes are Buy-One, Get-One-Free this week.  That was actually a huge score, so I talked WHM into being a police officer (worked well; I put him in the darkest blue/almost-black cargo pants in the universe) and CAM got a doctor's outfit.

WHM stayed in his uniform all of eleven seconds.  But here is Dr. CAM. 

Don't mind the lollipop.  After school treat.

--Jen










CAM's Birthday Dress

As you know, we're knee-deep in Strawberry Shortcake love over here.  We've been thinking about, and vaguely planning, a birthday party for some time now.  Just yesterday I picked up an Initials order and in it was the "Get A Grip Large," which now holds ALL of CAM's Strawberry Shortcake stuff.  It's pink and white and perfect.  I'll post a photo soon ... despite my multitude of blog posts, I'm being lazy today.

But look what I just bought CAM on Etsy:

Photo from Etsy.com -- I didn't ask permission, so don't steal this, okay?
I am so excited!  Best of all, CAM has no idea, and I know she will absolutely love it, and THAT's what I am most excited about.

If you're interested, the seller's name is Erin, and she is absolutely super to work with.   What I think is super cool is that all of her patterns are her own.  So this is inspired by Strawberry Shortcake (and is very well done, I think) but not a cheesy copy and it's clearly a dress, not a costume.  I love it, if you couldn't already tell! 

Check out Lover Dover's Clothing -- she has grown-up aprons, kids aprons, kids dresses, and even Halloween costumes!  Throw Erin some love!

--Jen

PW Cooks: Awesome-est Blueberry Muffins and Ravioli Three Ways

Let me start by saying to my friend Marie that I told you if I ended up making the ravioli, I'd call, and I ended up making it and I didn't call, but that was probably for the best since I was -- and am -- still sick.

So, last night, what with (a) it being the first Friday of Lent, and (b) the ingredients being in my fridge probably getting rotten, I decided -- after I'd said I would, then changed my mind to not -- to make the Ravioli Three Ways.  Except we only did it two ways.

Ravioli Three Ways

Verdict:  Simple ravioli with a nice shortcut, and definitely good.
Cook it Again:   Yes, especially the wonton-wrapper idea.
Cost Factor:  Ricotta is expensive lately, and the wonton wrappers weren't too bad.  But be aware: if we made this for guests we'd need more than one pack of wrappers. 

I'm pretty good with anything Italian that requires cheese, and this was no exception.  In fact, I've made ravioli from scratch (as in, make your own dough, roll it, cut it, stuff it) before, so I was pretty excited to try the recipe using won-ton wrappers.

And it was pretty brilliant.

Because I wasn't feeling so hot, I didn't take photos all the way through, but the mix itself is pretty basic:  ricotta, salt, pepper, parmesan, and an egg.  Mick helped me and we made a little assembly line of stuffing the wonton wrappers.  When we got about halfway through, we added the wilted and chopped spinach (I got spinach rather than arugula because it was cheaper, truth be told).

Now in her cookbook, the ravioli are beautifully translucent, fully stuffed, and oh-so-pretty. I am always afraid that my ravioli will explode in my pot, so I tried to ensure that they were not over-stuffed.  And we succeeded:  the only one that exploded was the one that actually stuck to the bottom and I broke when I tried to scoop it up.

But when we switched to the spinach mix, we also switched to using one wrapper and folding it in half to make triangle raviolis, and those were actually our favorites -- just the right ratio of pasta to stuffing, and a workable size.  The full-size wonton wrapper squares were too big, at least for the Mick-and-Jen method, to look all that pretty.

We skipped the egg ravioli, not because it didn't appeal to me (it really did, actually) but because I was feeling like junk and didn't care to be that ambitious.

So the ultimate verdict -- we'll definitely make ravioli again, obviously.  The stuffing recipe wasn't anything special, and in fact left out nutmeg which gives that mysterious depth of taste that will make people LOVE your ravioli, but our dinner last night was good, and nothing to complain about!  I mean, hey, it's ravioli.  If you've never made it before, this is a great recipe to learn from.  I made a simple marinara that we served it with, and my complaint (if I have one) is with the sauce.  Note to self:  making a sauce when you can't really taste is not the best idea.  But dinner was good and we all finished our dinner last night.  (We didn't even make a salad:  just ravioli and dinner rolls.  Yum!)

What we learned from this recipe was the shortcut of using the wonton wrappers instead of my pasta roller attachment on the stand mixer.  HUGE time saver, and definitely a keeper.

And now, on to ...

Awesome-est Blueberry Muffins

Verdict:  Very yummy and a nice, light texture.
Cook it Again:  Probably, but sweeter.
Cost Factor: the two big costs are the yogurt and the blueberries.

I was looking forward to this recipe, because everyone who'd made it raved about it.  They weren't wrong!  Everyone loved them (except WHM, who decided he only wants to eat Cheez-Its today), and the sauce was a neat twist that was especially yummy.

The recipe was neat in the sense that it called for yogurt, and although I don't care for yogurt in general, I don't mind it in food, so I was okay with that.  It also was very easy, and made a perfect 24 muffins, no scraping the bowl to make it work.  (It did call for buttering the muffin tins instead of using paper, but with my helpers, we used paper muffin cups.  I'm not sure how they would have been without the papers but they certainly were fine with the papers, and CAM and WHM enjoyed setting the papers in each cup.)

My only complaint is that I like to err on the side of sweeter muffins, and these were not.  I won't say they had no sweetness to them, but I'd have preferred them to be sweeter.  Mick said the same thing; they are good, and flavorful, but not as sweet as he expected.  So, I'm quite sure we'll make these again, but we'll sweeten 'em up a bit.

Believe it or not, for as frequently as I make muffins, this is the first time I've ever put the turbinado sugar on top.  And we keep the sugar in the house, because I use it in my tea!  I am in love with doing this and will never again skip it!

YUM!!


--Jen

Friday, February 24, 2012

Can't. Stop. Laughing.

We may or may not have a pile of laundry taller than WHM at the foot of our bed. 

But if we did, Mick would probably tell the kids more than once to get out of our room and stop playing with the laundry.

And then, when he and I were putting new sheets on WHM's bed*, Mick might have yelled down the hall to CAM, "GET OUT OF MY ROOM!"

And then WHM might have come to Mick and said, "Daddy, that's not nice.  Don't be angry.  Don't yell at CAM.  Say you're sorry."

And Mick might have said in response, "I wasn't yelling at CAM."

And WHM might have insisted, "Say you're sorry."

And Mick might have said, "I am sorry that you think I was yelling at CAM."

And WHM might have pressed on, "No, say sorry to CAM."

And Mick might have said, "I'm sorry that you think I need to say I'm sorry to CAM."

And I may or may not have bent my body over the bed rail and put my head onto WHM's bed to prevent the kids from seeing me laugh, because that would undermine Mick, but because of my cold and my completely stuffed head, I may have looked like I was sobbing and sounded like a dying hyena.  And CAM may have then finally stopped playing with the laundry just to come and ask, "Mommy, why are you crying?"

And WHM may have told Mick to say "sorry."

But I'm still so busy laughing at the whole thing I can't say for sure what happened.

--Jen


*a two-person project whenever possible because both sides of his bed have those bed rails to prevent him from rolling off, and so you can't just lift the mattress to tuck the corners or else both bed rails lose their opposite-side-of-the-bed "tie-down anchors" and all hell breaks loose and it takes an hour to make a bed for a two-year-old.

An Award?! Me?! (Blushing)


So, I have this awesome, fabulous, tall, beautiful, smart, funny, amazing, friend from law school who blogs.  Her name's Miss Kriss, she’s been blogging for a long time, and I love, love, her entire life blog.  I used to have to go to her page every day to check what was new, but I finally joined the technological age we’re in and set up Google Reader on my phone … which is where I spend 99.999% of my email/facebook/etc. time.
  
I get a Google Reader alert earlier today, and lo and behold, Miss Kriss gave me an award! 

Totally made my day, Miss Kriss did.  (And it’s not the first time – she’s pretty awesome like that.)

Here's how it works - upon receiving the award, you are to: 
1) Link back to the person who awarded you
2) Answer all of the award questions
3) Award as many bloggers that you think are worthy of this award and make them aware of it.



What is your go to makeup brand?
Hah!  As if I live a life enough to have this anymore.  Honestly, my go-to is the tried-and-true curved brush black-brown Cover Girl mascara that comes in a blue tube.  Yes, it’s that sad that I don’t even know what kind of Cover Girl mascara!  Anyone who knows me knows I don’t wear much makeup anyway:  mascara and lipstick, and in the winter sometimes some blush.  That’s not because I am a minimalist by nature – the truth is, I don’t know how to do my eyes.  I would looooove to have glamourous eyes!  I have pinned a good dozen photos saying "wish I could do this."  But I have no clue.  So, there it is:  I have very, very fair skin, and green eyes, and I am closer to 40 than 30, and I have never learned how to do my own eye makeup.   

This, but with the curvy brush.

In a cruel irony, I have to wear mascara or else you can't even see my eyelashes, and given my coloring, black mascara makes me look either goth or dead.  So I go easy on the make-up.   

I would LOVE to learn how to do my eyes like this:


Or this:

Or this:


I really, really wish I could do my eyes like any of those beautiful redheads.

In college I went through a YSL phase (apparently YSL makeup is made for redheads; who knew?!), but that faded away.  I’ve had people tell me I ought to use Bare Minerals, but the way I see it, until someone teaches me how to use the stuff, there’s no need to buy it all. 
So, my go-to make-up brand is, sadly, Cover Girl. 

What was your favorite fashion trend of 2011?
I love boots.  And jeans.  And sweaters.  And a jeans with boots and a sweater.  So I'd say, my favorite trend of 2011 is that casual-but-put-together look.  Is that a trend, or just a thing?  Don't know.  Still working on it!

What is your favorite dessert? 
Flourless chocolate cake.  I am very, very, VERY much a dessert girl, but if this is on the menu it is without question what I will order.  With a nice glass of cab or merlot, or even a red blend, thankyouverymuch.

Don't even tell me this doesn't look amazing.  A good flourless chocolate cake is dark and rich and decadent and has a texture not quite a cake, not quite a mousse, definitely not a brownie, but smooth and creamy and thick, if that makes any sense at all!  I had a pave au chocolat in France, once, and that came pretty darn close.  Oh, those French and their baking.


What is your favorite color?
Usually I answer this with blue or green, but the truth is that I love yellow stuff, and the room I had as a little girl was yellow.  And when I changed it, I changed it to pink.  So, really, blue, green, yellow, and pink are all good.  And I am most definitely on a pink kick lately.

What is your middle name?
Suzanne.

The last song you listened to?
Well, WHM was just in here singing the theme to Thomas and Friends, but if you’re talking real music, I honestly don’t remember.  I can tell you it was country, though, and I am sure that I was singing along, whatever it was!

Dogs or cats?
Dogs.  I despise cats.  Cats are only good to give me something to hate since it’s not nice to hate people.

Something you haven't told anyone (on your blog) yet?
I’m pregnant!

Just kidding.  I am most certainly NOT pregnant. 

I am, however, looking for a job, and that’s news to my blog followers, I think.  Anyone know of anything good out there?  Especially if it can get us back to Tuscaloosa or New England?



Now, to whom shall I bestow my little award?  I'm giving it to the person who (besides Miss Kriss) really made me interested in personal blogging, my friend Jackie.  Jackie blogs at Life is Too Short {to be taken seriously}.  We met in law school -- where she was the wife of one of my classmates and first law-school friends -- and have been friends ever since.  She's crafty and funny, and a stay-at-home mom to two kids who are very close in age to my own two kiddos.  She came and visited me in the hospital when WHM was born and that meant the world to me.  So, here you are, my dear!   Have fun!

--Jen

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Kids and Budgets

While CAM was in school today and I should have been taking WHM to Kindermusik, instead, because of this awful cold and my fear of having a full-on sneezing and coughing fit turn into a choking episode (it happens to me, especially when the heat's on and the air is dry), I decided to skip KM for everyone's sake and sanity. 

Instead, WHM and I dropped off CAM at school, headed to the wash car (yes, "wash car," not "car wash") and the bank .... and then in a fit of spontaneity, headed to a local consignment sale.  Not the one where I am presently consigning -- we'll hit that one tonight.

We did okay, but more importantly, when we were done, WHM asked to go to Chickafay, and because I was feeling kind-of okay (despite sounding like death), instead of going to the one that is at least sort-of on the way home, I took a left instead of a right and swung through the church (yes, I know where it is) and grabbed a bulletin.  You know, since yesterday was Ash Wednesday and all, I figured it might be nice to find out mass times and maybe, I don't know, take our kids to see their church.  We even went in, got some holy water and said some prayers, WHM and I.  And then, well, heck, we were just sooo close to TJ Maxx, that after our lunch date at Chickafay, we ran over to TJ Maxx.

These are what I wanted to buy:



This is what I bought instead.

Yes, these are Thomas the Tank Engine undies.  Size 2T-3T, if you're wondering.  Briefs, not boxers.

Now I know some of you are thinking, "oh, another predictable 'look-how-kids-have-changed-me-yada-yada-yada' post." 

Nope.  Not even close.  More like, look-how-this-whole-staying-home-and-being-broke-because-the-economy-sucks-for-the-bravely-self-employed-like-my-husband thing has changed me.  A pair of shoes costs almost nothing!  In any other moment in time those puppies would have been mine without a moment's hesitation to even contemplate -- not super fancy, not super expensive by even a remote stretch, but super cute!  (For what it's worth I love patent leather, even if it's fake, and have been on a mad quest for nude shoes for over a year.  Oh well.)  But these days, our budget is a lot tighter than it used to be, and instead ... well, I went with the more practical approach.  We went with Thomas undies.

Because this is what we have recently gotten on our notes home from school:

First ...


And then a few days later ...


So I'm thinking that the potty-training loot was more important than shoes.  Today.  We'll see what tomorrow brings. My feet are crying for those shoes, and if they cry loud enough ... well, maybe the eventual savings the potty training will yield will justify the cost of the shoes. 


--Jen

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Update on Projects: #2

I know, ages ago I also promised you an update on the little thing I had going with cork.  Turns out that one isn't done yet, after all, despite my best efforts.  More on that one eventually.

In the meantime, this little half-beauty below has been an on-again, off-again project since August.  I'm still not perfectly happy with it, but I think it's at least close enough to call finished for the time being.  I'm pretty confident there will be more tinkering with this one in the future.  I have crimson ribbon I want to incorporate either as a hanger or a bow, and I fiddled some with that, but not enough to like it enough to keep it ... so this is still a work in progress.  Hopefully I can take Mick's advice and decide what I like in time to sell a handful of wreaths like this for Football Season.  (Strangely, I felt the urge to capitalize there.)


I've actually got two more wreaths in the works -- I'm on a wreath kick, apparently -- but after that I think I'll be done with wreaths for a while.  Maybe.

--Jen

Update on Projects: #1

I was in bed last night unable to sleep because of this stupid cold, and so I decided to check out the blog and re-read some old posts.  Whereupon I realized I've been leading you on.  I keep promising to post photos of completed projects, and never posting them!

Well, here's one I did recently.  (And by recently, I mean this weekend, because apparently you can't get heart-shaped wreath forms between Christmas and Valentine's Day.  I had to wait out the craft Nazis to get mine last week. But it worked out well because I got lucky and the felt was half off!)  It's hard to tell here -- poor light, of course -- but the color is a deep Alabama crimson.  I'm not a big fan of red.

Would you believe this little thing took over a yard of felt?! 

I seriously need a little circle cutter, because I cut about 500 felt circles by hand.  I would say it wasn't bad, but the truth is I could only do so many at a time.  (I didn't trace the circles onto the felt first because I didn't want pen marks to show, so I held my little template as I cut.  That meant that it wasn't my cutting hand that got a cramp, but the template-and-felt holding hand, from necessarily being in such a contorted position over and over again!)  Here's how it would go:  we'd put the kids to bed and find something on tv. I'd sit on the couch with Mick and cut circles until either (a) my hand hurt or (b) Mick declared it was time to go to bed.  And that would end the night's cutting. 

What do you think?

--Jen

Welcome to Lent

Check out our dinner.  Easiest fish recipe ever.


Accompanying it is leftover homemade mac-and-cheese and something green -- probably snap peas, since we had broccoli last night.  I'm sparing no expense on dinner tonight, let me tell you. 

--Jen

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Another CVS Score

A few weeks ago I posted about a Pampers deal at CVS that I was able to combine with manufacturer's coupons to do pretty well out of pocket AND earn $10 in CVS ExtraBucks.  At the time, I said I was going to put the $10 right back into another pack of diapers, effectively getting it free.  I ended up not having enough manufacturer's coupons, though, and I figured I was okay enough on diapers to wait out the ExtraBucks.  (It pains me to buy diapers without a coupon, so waiting out the $10 was a better deal for me.  Trust me.)

Fast forward to today.  I needed DayQuil and tissues, and CAM eats Lucky Charms like they are going out of style but we ran out this weekend.  Conveniently, all of those things are on sale at CVS.

I tutored from 3:00-3:30 (should have been 2:30-3:30 but he was late and I am a stickler about time when it's late because of being a high schooler, not late because of stuff out of his control), frantically changed CAM out of her ballet outfit, and made a mad dash to CVS.  (Why the mad dash? Because I am also tutoring at 5, but in my head I'd converted that to 4:30 so I was freaking about leaving at 3:45.)

Note:  In this mad dash, I made the cloudy-headed decision (see above, re: counting time wrong) to not fuss with coupons.  Bad idea, because this could have been an even better story.  

In any event, I ended up with:

1 large bottle of DayQuil ($6)
2 boxes of Lucky Charms ($4 total)
3 boxes of Kleenex Tissues ($2.64 total)
Total cost with tax: $13.40

I paid a whopping $3.24 out of pocket after they calculated the ExtraBucks.  Had I used my -- sitting on my desk, not even in my car folio yet -- $2 off DayQuil and $1off 2 Lucky Charms, I would have spent less than 25 cents on this little haul.

I know that some of you are thinking, "why don't you call CVS and see if they'll adjust the receipt if you bring in the coupons."   Good point, but remember, I feel like garbage and have two kids in tow, and that's an awful lot of work for $3 and the pride of saying I paid 24 cents for the stuff I got earlier.  Those same people are also thinking, "why didn't you run to the car to get your coupons to begin wtih?"  Good question, and you know me well.  The answer is that both of these coupons were new and sitting on my desk at home.  So, even if I'd left the cash wrap, taken both kids back out to the car, retrieved my coupon folio (which, by the way, is always in my car) and rifled through it, there were no coupons to get.  They were sitting, as yet unclipped, on my desk, where they were waiting, ironically, for me to get back from CVS.   However, I may go back and get another DayQuil and two more boxes of Lucky Charms.  I don't have another ExtraBucks to cash in, but that would still be a good savings on food and medicine that we'll inevitably use sooner than later.  Or maybe not ... because if you buy two DayQuils together, you get $3 in ExtraBucks so buying them in two transactions will make me feel like I am losing out on $3 ... and the coupons are only worth $3 ... so I'll be canceling my savings ... Oh!  I'm giving myself ajida!

Anyway, $3.24 for all that isn't too shabby, and I promise that I'll try to do better next time.

--Jen 

A Complaint About Cold Medicine

While we're on the subject of weirdness tickers, I am allergic to Nutra Sweet.  I can taste it immediately, and it makes my eyes tear and I get an instant headache.  I've been that way forever.  I can also smell it.  So, for example, if I'm sitting in a lecture hall and someone four seats over is chewing Extra or Trident, I can smell it -- not the gum itself, but the sweetener.  It's bizarre, isn't it?  (When I was pregnant, I could also smell Mick's Diet Coke all day long.  It led to some wicked arguments, because it would make me sicker than I already was.   He could have had a DC the minute he dropped me off at class, and four hours later after he'd had garlic and sardines and peanut butter and whatever else to mask it, I'd still smell the God-forsaken Diet Coke in his breath.  The whole phenomenon was awful.)

Although I am allergic only to Nutra Sweet, I can taste (and usually smell) the other artificial sweeteners just as instantly.  And they all taste awful to me, and I need an immediate and substantial chaser to get the taste out of my mouth.  Like a sandwich, or a Snickers bar -- something to eat, not drink, and something that requires more than just a bite or two to finish.

Well, here's the point of my story:  I am fighting a nasty cold right now, and finally last night around 10, I broke down and asked Mick to run down to the kitchen to see if he could find some medicine -- Nyquil or something similar -- for me.  He happened to have Mucinex in his travel bag in our closet, so he gave me that.  And wouldn't you know it, the darn stuff has artificial sweeteners in it?!

Here's where I get pissed, and pardon my language, but why must they assume that if we're sick that we want artificial sweeteners?  It's not as if we're choosing DIET cold medicine; we're choosing cold medicine.  I can handle the harsh taste of cough syrup, but I can't handle the awful taste of the artificial sweetener.  I realize I am a distinct and severe minority, but I don't understand the need to make medicine sugar free.  Either leave the sweetener out, or use sugar!   No one is drinking Mucinex because it tastes good, and switching the artificial sweetener for none or sugar wouldn't change that.  Really.

So I was in bed and had the Mucinex, and then had to follow that with the only thing I randomly had handy -- about 8 Sour Patch Kids. 

The good thing is that the Mucinex worked (although only for four hours); the bad thing is that the Sour Patch Kids didn't, and I woke up still tasting the sweetener.

Grrrrrr.

I can't stand this new "everyone is on a diet" thing in our country.  You can't find regular whole milk anywhere except the grocery store anymore, and now even my cough syrup is diet.  I'm pretty confident no one got obese because they had whole milk in their cereal or Mucinex every four hours for a few days...

Now I need to decide if the Mucinex worked well enough to try it again, or if I'm going to switch to something less awful tasting.

And that's enough with the grumpy posts today.  Thanks for reading!

--Jen


Air Freshener Defect

Well, maybe not a defect, but definitely a phenomenon with me. 

I understand completely the idea that after a while we stop smelling scents as strongly as we did originally, so although we may have an air freshener in our house that is still working at 100% we don't notice it anymore.  Likewise, we don't notice our own perfumes after a little while, and so forth.

I have that problem, too, but that's not what I'm talking about here.

See, I tend to think all air fresheners smell like whatever the scent is we are trying to mask (most often, stinky diapers or a stinky bathroom).  No matter what Febreze or AirWick or Glade or Lysol or whatever else brand I find, I can smell the Tahitian Rose or Clean Cotton or Hawaiian Beach or Rainy Mist in the store and think, "Yes!  This!  This is the one that will forever smell this good to me!"  And we get home, I spray it once, and it stops smelling good.

Now, don't get me wrong:  I am not saying that they don't mask whatever stink.  Really, now, whatever stink it is, it's not that overwhelming, and I'm offended you'd think so about me and my housekeeping!  No, it's just that I will smell that our latest-and-greatest air freshener has been sprayed, and my brain somewhere equates the air freshener to the poopy diaper, and the air freshener literally smells like diaper to me.   And it's not that my brain has associated the two, as if to say, "Febreze Tahitian Fruit is only to hide Poopy Diaper, so sniff extra hard for the poopy diaper."  Not at all.  Febreze Tahitian Fruit smells to me like poop.  Really.  You could spray it in the middle of the grocery store, and I'd think someone tooted.  Canned, sprayable Febreze Fart.  It's awful. 

Just this morning, Mick sprayed the master bathroom (not the "water closet" part, just the main bathroom, which is as big as the bedroom I grew up in) with our latest Febreze.  And as it wafted over to where I was snuggled under 99 covers in bed, all I could think was, "where is that diaper?!"

Just about The only thing that works for me are Yankee Candles.  I have NO IDEA why that is, but it's true.  The only scents that retain their "scent, not stink" to me are Yankee Candles, and it doesn't matter what flavor; they stay true. 

I know this is weird.  And it drives me crazy, because (a) we waste a ton of money on air fresheners that only end up smelling like diapers to me, and (b) we can't exactly burn candles in every room.

Sigh.

Weirdo ticker just got another notch.

--Jen

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Ferris Bueller Conversation

We watched this as a family this morning.  All in our pj's, having a nice lazy Saturday.

At the scene where Cameron accidentally sends his dad's Ferrari through the back of the garage, here's the conversation:

MICK:  You know, it was one thing watching this when I was 16.  It's another thing now.
ME: Why?
MICK:  If that happened, I think I'd kill him.
ME:  No you wouldn't.
MICK (joking):  I think I would.  I'd push him right out through the back of the garage with the car.
ME:  No, you wouldn't.
CAM:  You watched this movie when you were SIXTEEN?
MICK:  I did!
CAM:  And you STILL reMEMBER it?! 
MICK:  I do!
CAM (in awe):  Wooooowwww

ouch.

--Jen

Friday, February 17, 2012

I Need A Project ...

... to use this ribbon.



Seriously, suggestions are welcome.  I need this ribbon in my life.

--Jen

Oh, Pinterest

No, this isn't a post about how addicted I am to Pinterest. (I am.)

Nor is it a post about how Pinterest is presently the #1 site driving web traffic to and from anywhere.  (It is.)

Nor is it a post about all the Pinteresting things I've done.  (I have.)

Instead, it's a post about how sometimes, following a link stops me dead in my tracks.  I mentioned earlier today that I have a few wreaths in the works.  I was on Pinterest just now and saw a St. Patrick's Day wreath similar to one I am presently finishing (though mine is not St. Pat's -- it just uses the same technique).  I wondered where the person got the shamrock wreath form, so I clicked through.  Eventually, I ended up on a blog called Spare Time Sanity.  And after clicking around for a little while, I clicked on the "About Me" tab.

And ... had my breath taken away for a moment.

The blogger (she didn't give her name) is a work-from-home Mom to a two-and-a-half year old, and is -- she says is -- married to a wonderful man.  She's been married for five years.  But her husband was killed on his way home from work two and a half years ago, so she picked up crafting to stay sane.

What?

Yep, you read that right.

And all I could think, and can think, is how incredibly lucky I am. 

We've had a rough week over here, and it's been a little disheartening, but let me tell you, my problems are minor. MINOR. And I don't want to be preachy, but clicking on that little "About Me," I definitely did not expect to see what I saw; I especially didn't expect it to be so succinct --and yet nameless -- and those two things are what really hit home for me how sad it is, and how sad and lost I would be without Mick.

So, there we are.  From a quirky search on Pinterest, I ended up entering two contests, pinning about 20 things, and clicking on the blog of a woman who misses her husband every day.

Have a good weekend, everyone.  Sorry for the sad post --I just needed to get it out.

--Jen

Best Waffle Recipe Ever

The kids and I made waffles this morning while Mick was out and about, and I thought I'd share our fabulous, amazingly easy recipe. I'd post a photo, but we ate the evidence.

These waffles are light and delicious and just the tiniest bit sweet.  The recipe is about as simple as anything you'll ever make -- and the waffles keep great in the fridge or freezer, too.  A lot of times I'll double this (it makes 5-6 waffles) and we'll have waffles all week for breakfast before school.  We just take them out of the fridge and throw them in the toaster and they're perfect.

Here you go:

Best Waffles Ever

2 eggs, separated
1 3/4 cups flour
1 3/4 cups milk
2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 tsp baking powder (yes, that's a Tbsp and a tsp. But whatever)
1 tsp salt

Beat the egg yolks in a medium mixing bowl. 
Stir in the milk and oil. 
Add the dry ingredients and stir until big lumps disappear.  (I use the same whisk I used for the egg yolks and liquids and just kind-of fold.  Takes 20 seconds, really.)
Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold them into the batter. 
Bake and serve.

Yep, that's it.  It's seriously easy, folks.  Just make sure you're using a regular waffle iron and not one for Belgian waffles, because this batter is a little too light to work for the deep-pocketed Belgian waffles.

Enjoy!

--Jen

Great News!

I always let myself get stressed by the state of CAM's room and the playroom right before I know I have to do something about them because they're to the point of being unsafe.  I get miserable.  And then, I ask Mick, "do you think you can help me?"  And he always says yes.

So, my great news is that Mick is going to help me clean both of those fire hazards today or tomorrow.

Seriously, it's a good thing private homes don't have to pass fire inspections.  The rest of the house is actually okay, but CAM's room and the playrooom -- well, you saw the playroom.  Imagine that the few remaining toys that were on shelves or in tubs were also dumped out, sprinkle in a good dozen Thomas and Friends wooden trains (especially under the bed), and continue to imagine that then you covered it all with stuffed animals and blankets and said you were "having a campout."  That's what CAM's room looks like these days. 

Also, I've been a wreath-making fool the past few days and once I finish them, I'll post photos.  Stay tuned. 

Oh -- and we're going to be finishing off the last few recipes from the Sweet as Pie Cooking Club, so I'll be posting about those this weekend, too.  I've heard good things, and it's a three-day weekend here, so we're going to cook up a storm.  Or so I tell myself.

--Jen

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Why Publix is Better than Kroger

It's a nasty, rainy day.  Just cold enough to be dank, if that helps you imagine the scene here.

I was so, so lucky to be able to go kid-less grocery shopping this afternoon.  I don't mind taking them, and in fact I enjoy having the kids with me and we have a ton of fun grocery shopping.  Usually.  Sometimes they act like, well, monsters.  But on rainy days, it's just FASTER to not have to buckle and unbuckle car seats as I stand outside getting soaked, so I was especially appreciative of Mick's presence today.  I had to get certain things at Kroger and certain things at Publix.  The two stores are essentially across the street from each other.   But this was a two-store trip, so the fact that I could dash around on my own was glorious.  (The fact that I get excited about going grocery shopping alone -- maybe not so impressive, huh?)

Photo credit:    http://dacula.patch.com/listings/publix-food-pharmacy-5   last visited 2/16/2012

I went to Kroger first.  Cashier and bagger were both nice, even if -- as per usual -- the groceries were bagged in a completely haphazard pattern completely counter to how I had specifically loaded up the conveyor. (I know, I'm anal.  But I do these things for a reason. Like, all the delicate breakable/squishables together, and all the cold stuff together, all the cleaner stuff together ... work with me, you know this makes sense.)   I loaded up the trunk of my car and started to walk the cart to the little cart corral.  There were two Kroger people gathering and sorting the carts.  (Yes, sorting.  Kroger has four types of carts. It's pretty awesome, actually, if you get into that sort of thing.)  As I walked with mine towards the corral, one of the girls was walking towards me. We made eye contact, and instead of reaching to take my cart, she went into the corral and let me wheel the cart right up to her. 

Photo credit:   http://www.weingarten.com/retail/property/0694-120/    last visited 2/16/2012

 Kroger points: 0  Publix points: 50

(It's an arbitrary system, but the point is that Kroger loses. Big.)

Now, don't get me wrong -- the girl was pleasant enough if I were in NY and thanked me when I brought my cart to her.  But that's the point: I brought my cart to her.  At Publix, by contrast, even if I politely decline having them walk me to my car and load it for me, if I were to be walking with a cart and a Publix associate saw me, no matter how far away I was it's almost a certainty that the Publix person would walk to me and take the cart from me and put it away.  And wish me a nice day.

Just sayin'.

I don't know how Publix finds the right sort of people who just know what courtesy means, and/or how they train their associates to know what that little extra is (although I did once-upon-a-time see a thing from Publix that said they don't hire people and train them to be good; they hire good people and train them to work in a grocery store).  But whatever they are doing, they are doing right.  Publix and Chickafay ("Chick-fil-A," in WHM-speak) just have courtesy down pat.  Plain and simple.

Even if I actively can't stand one of the cashiers at our local Publix.  But that's a different story.

--Jen

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Valentines

Most of you already know this, but last year was CAM's first year in preschool.  For Valentine's Day, I sent in simple, fun, store-bought cards, and I didn't even think to include candy or treats.  I was mortified when I saw what she came home with, and how if she'd been any older I would have embarrassed her to no end!  But I just didn't know I was supposed to send in a goodie bag!  This year, I knew I had to up the ante; but I've also discovered the joy of Pinterest.  So I was doubly fortunate this year, to be able to do something crafty and cute AND avoid the "loser Mommy" status.

WHM, who only has school on Mondays and Wednesdays, had his Valentine's party on Monday.  He came home with THREE "Pinterest" valentines!

Check them out:



Don't mind my alien-looking thumb.

I've already shared the fishbowl with you.  It's the one we made.  Both WHM and CAM brought them in for everyone in their classes -- a fishbowl that says, "I'm glad we're in the same school," with four Swedish fish.  The one that says, "I dig you" is a plastic shovel (the kind you usually find attached to beach pails), and the bag is filled with Valentines M&Ms.  (I actually debated making this one but wasn't sure where on earth to find plastic shovels without the pails.  It was also pinned a TON and I was afraid that two of us would make it and send it in -- and I would have been right!)  The third one has a rubber duckie and a bag of Cheez-Its, and the tag says, "You quack me up."  So cute!

So Mick and I eagerly awaited CAM's party yesterday, to see what Pinteresting Valentines she'd come home with.  As best as I can tell, only hers!  All but three of hers looked store-bought.  (But they most certainly did all come with candy and goodies ... these are not slacker moms, just busy moms!)  My favorite is actually the decorated doily -- it's very old-fashioned to me, almost Victorian, and I love it!  The purple one below is construction paper cut and folded to look like an owl, and it says, "You're a hoot!" and has a pencil attached. 


Another thing I decided to do was to save all of WHM's goodies from Monday.  When CAM came home yesterday, I put both kids and all of their Valentines at the kitchen table and let them have at it.  No restrictions, they could go to town.  I figured they were excited, and I'd rather have them eat whatever candy they wanted all at once, than to ration it.  They were thrilled! It was like Halloween, with each of them digging through their bags to see what they liked best.  The big winner?  Both kids were really excited by Fun Dip.  Who knew?!

Mouths full.  Of course!

--Jen

Would YOU Want to Clean this Playroom?

I am guessing not.  I don't want to, either, which is why it's looked like this -- or been on its way to this state -- for well over two weeks now.

The good thing is the kids are very good about putting stuff in the playroom when I ask them.  The bad thing is they put it just inside the threshold of what actually constitutes the playroom.  Putting it away?  Entirely different prospect.  (To be fair, CAM will put stuff away when there is, you know, someplace to put it.  She needs the jump start of starting from tidy.  That's where I come in, and I've just been in denial.  WHM will also put stuff where I tell him to put it, most of the time, if I am very specific and happen to see that he's putting stuff in the playroom.)

Here, for your enjoyment, our playroom. And don't worry:  when I do finally commit to attacking it, it will only take about an hour or two.  It's not tragically bad.  Except that it is.




--Jen

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Dinner!

Tonight's haute cuisine brought to you by the letter L for Laziness.

Also the letters K for Kraft, T for Tyson, and G for Green Giant. 


Okay, so it might be evidence of quite the juvenile palate, but we all enjoyed this dinner tonight!

--Jen

p.s.  Yes, Dad, those are brussels sprouts drenched in butter sauce.  Delicious.  And maybe still a teensy bit healthy -- that is, if the butter didn't trump.

Public Service Announcement



I don't think there's much more to say.  I'm sure as I find funny images about this ridiculous font, I'll continue to share them.  Just to help spread the word and all.  (Don't know what comic sans is?  Oh, just one of the most over-used (and unprofessional) fonts in the history of the universe!  I'd show you a sample here, but fortunately Blogger is smart enough to not offer it.)

--Jen

Pinterest Idea -- But I Need Help

I saw this ages ago on Pinterest, and have searched and searched since then to find a wall-mounted wine rack in this style.  We have not one, but two, perfect places in our house to do something like this, if only I could find a wine rack.

So, dear readers, if any of you should stumble upon a wine rack similar to this one, please let me know where.  I promise to show you the final product!

Original photo credit: http://itsrusticliving.blogspot.com/2011/09/red-or-white-towels-that-is.html

--Jen

UPDATE -- I clicked through the original blog, and nested in the comments, someone had posted a link to where to find this on Amazon.  So much for needing help; what I needed to do was read!  If you're interested, it is here.

Monday, February 13, 2012

We Accessorize in This House

See for yourself:

Bought these for CAM today.  Even though she was wearing long sleeves, she wore them almost all afternoon and evening!


Safety goggles, check.  Tools anywhere nearby, not so much.



--Jen

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Valentines, PW Lasagna, Word Wall, and Ribbon

I could split this into multiple posts, true, but I am tired and decided to put it all here.   Tomorrow I might edit this and break it up, so read it while you can!

FIRST -- yesterday we got to go to the Container Store after a wonderful lunch with WHM's godmother Angie and her husband (who we all adore) Nick. (He's not technically WHM's godfather because they weren't even engaged... yet ... when we asked Angie to be godmother!  But WHM has a pretty fantastic godfather -- who now is also married -- so the kid kind-of has two amazing sets of godparents!)  The Container Store is my favorite store in the whole wide world.  Really.  And I have been trying to think of a way to store my ever-increasing ribbon supply, and wanted a chance to just go and walk around and look for inspiration and ideas.  I've seen a ton of ideas on Pinterest but none of them really appealed to me.  I had to do this walking around a little speedier than I'd have liked because all four of us went and for some strange reason the kids go NUTSO in the Container Store, but I did get what I came for.

Here is what I found:

This was in the kitchen cabinet organization section.  A cup stacker.

Here is what I turned it into!

It hold four tiers of ribbon, and the two outer prongs are good for loose remnants. 

Of course I have much more ribbon than just this, and I have to buy another cup stacker, but I'm thinking for $5, this is pretty great!  I love the caddy handle, too!

SECOND-- next project.  Last year, I sent CAM to school with a class set of the store-bought Valentines.  You know, the kind with any character you can possibly imagine, and you pull apart the cards, fold them, and put little stickers on.  Valentines.  Simple.  What we all know and love.  Well, CAM was (and still is) into The Cat in the Hat, so we bought and sent those in and had a ton of fun, the two of us, picking out who got what card.  And what happened?  SHE WAS THE ONLY KID WHO DIDN'T SEND IN GOODIE BAGS.  Seriously.  Where was THAT little gem in the parents-of-preschoolers handbook?  It wasn't a freaking birthday party, it was a valentine! I was so embarrassed.

Anyway, this year Pinterest helped me with some crafty inspiration, a neighbor lent me a Cricut cartridge that I don't own, and my Cricut and I got busy.  (Actually, these were insanely easy and the perfect project with which to start learning how the old Cricut works!)  CAM helped me, too.



Aren't they cute?! Even with the handwritten message I think they came out great.
 These little beauties are two cuts of card stock, four Swedish fish, and a gift bag tied with a silver twist-tie.  I tried to print the saying ("I'm glad we're in the same school, Valentine!") and then cut the "water," so it would look even more put together, but I have been fighting a bug all weekend and the truth was that I was just too lazy and tired to fight that battle -- and I was seriously ready to check these off my list.  So I hand-wrote them, and CAM signed the back of each one.

THIRD--  I've also been promising you I'd make and tell you about the PW Lasanga.  Mick and I made it today -- half-assed it, if you don't mind my sayin', and pardon my language.  But I wasn't feeling well, so I didn't really prep very well.  As in, I asked Mick to cook up the sausage and completely forgot that we also needed ground beef ... so he ended up cooking up frozen ground beef.  And I didn't feel like chopping garlic, so we used a healthy scoop from the minced garlic in the fridge.  And I didn't remember to keep the mozzarella out when I put almost all our cheese in the freezer last night, so we had to fight frozen mozzarella.  And we didn't have fresh herbs, so I had to use dried parsley and basil from my spice cabinet.  And yet, believe it or not, this is a delicious, hearty, definitely-will-make-it-again lasagna!  Strangely, it calls for cottage cheese!  But if you didn't know it, you'd never know it, so don't let that sway you.  (Fact:  I've never had cottage cheese that I've been aware of, until tonight.   My parents don't like it so we didn't have it in the house when I was growing up, and the appearance of it always scared me away a little as a grown-up.  But I tried it tonight when I was cooking and it's really quite bland.  And it's absolutely delicious in this lasagna!)  Another strange thing:  the recipe calls for grated parmesan.  As in, shaker cheese in the green refrigerator-door canister.  We had hardly any left, and even less after Mick shook it up and the cap blew open and half the remaining cheese landed all over me!  But that's just the powdery cheese on top.  Inside, I used fresh parmesan.  (Hey, if there's anything you can count on in this house, it's that I always have fresh parmesan and romano cheeses and likely enough cheese of any kind to make any meal you might want to make!)


We didn't take any prep photos, but this is the after.  Not the best picture you've ever seen, but this lasagna is 100% YUMMY!!!

And, finally, the last thing I wanted to share:  we're practicing sight words with CAM, and this is our new "word wall."  It's sloooooow going so far.  But we're getting there. My goal is to have her reading at least simple books by kindergarten.  She is interested, but only in small doses.  I don't want to pressure her, but I think we need to get on the stick a little over here.  So we're making a game of it with the star sticky notes and some other fun ways to practice.


Okay, that's it.  I'm exhausted and really want to beat this stupid bug, so I'm going to bed!  Have a great day!

--Jen