Saturday, June 30, 2012


Today was one of those random days where you sleep in, set out for lunch around 11:30, and the next thing you know, it's 6:45 and you're still out and about running errands as you think of them. 

It was a good day!!  Mick was a trooper, too!

While we were at lunch, we realized WHM's Alabama hat is just crossing the threshold into being too small. (Where were we on this observation, oh, I don't know ... last week, when we were in TUSCALOOSA?!?!?!?)

Anyway.  There are college-sports stores at the Mall, and Mick decided to brave it as a family. The Mall.  THE MALL.  On a Saturday afternoon. Of a holiday weekend.  When it's 105 degrees out. (Yes, 105.  I exaggerate a lot, but this is fact.)  I think the heat was getting to him, but I was glad for the chance to scope out a new hat for the little guy.



For goodness' sake, there was a line to get into Old Navy!*

(For the record, we didn't go in Old Navy.)**

We managed to walk the entirety of the mall both upstairs and downstairs and still missed one of the sports stores -- and we struck out on getting WHM his new hat.  (Not to worry.  This excursion was as much to kill time as it was to find a hat.  We had no real agenda today and it was hot out.  We'll have a new hat in no time, fear not, my fellow Tide fans.)

Anyway, I never really understood the phenomenon of why people flock to public places when it's so hot out, but as our 12-year-old a/c units are chugging along unable to keep up, and our power bill last month -- you know, back when it was a frigid 80 every day -- was astronomical, I kind-of got it.  I wouldn't do it, but I can at least now understand why people would leave their home a/c at 85 and hit the mall.  (Hey, we did it accidentally today, but we still did it. Of course, our thermostats are set at 72, but the house is still a less-than-delightful 80!)  That wasn't quite what our plan had been, but it was clearly what half of Georgia and about 37 tour buses' worth of people thought.  It was mayhem!  And the roads around the mall were just as bad. 

Catty side note: I have never seen people waiting around for the lounge chairs at the mall, but they were today.  In droves.  Ick.

It's hot out. 

And now that we were gone all day, all my daytime projects -- like, you know, packing!! -- get to get done tonight.  At least I can pack with a ponytail and an ice cold glass of wine.  Not a bad day at all!


*for K.C.
** also for K.C.

Discovered Photos: American Girl and Kindermusik

I have a little point-and-shoot camera I keep in my purse, and the past year or so I've not been very good about downloading the pictures from it -- mostly because I mostly use my other camera.  But because it rained some while we were at Disney World, we broke out the little purse camera and so yesterday I finally got my act together and grabbed the pictures from it.

In doing so, I found these little treasures -- a few snapshots from CAM's last Kindermusik class before Christmas (2011) and CAM and her KM girlfriends at the American Girl Cafe -- I think in February 2012.


I hope they always love each other this much.

The look on WHM's face just cracked me up when I saw this.
p.s.  Normally, WHM wouldn't be a part of CAM's class, but on occasions when Mick wasn't home, WHM of course tagged along.

Friday, June 29, 2012

101 Things #7: Take the kids to Disney World -- DONE!


Do you hear that?  That's the sweet sound of perfect contentment.  We did it!  We took the kids to Disney World Saturday morning (thank you to Courtney and her DW friends who got us in free!) and it was every bit as amazing as we'd hoped it would be.

But, like yesterday's post, let me back up here and give you the details.

Courtney used to work at Disney World, and has moved to Orlando to return to Disney.  She still has friends there, and if you don't already know this, friends can get you ParkHopper passes.  These are good friends to have.  HOWEVER, because of moving Courtney and Dom and the potential (which was realized) for truck troubles, we did not want to tell the kids we were going to take them to Disney World -- in case, for whatever of countless possible reasons, it didn't or couldn't happen.  There are a lot of things I don't mind sharing with the kids, and I am not exactly the world's biggest cynic, but I was NOT going to break their hearts on this one if it all fell apart.  And besides, the surprise would be fantastic.

But it didn't fall apart, we made it safely to Orlando, and despite being exhausted, Saturday morning we all got up and showered and headed over to Magic Kingdom.  (Thank goodness we went Saturday, too, and not Sunday, because Sunday was the start of hurricane Debby and it's been wretched weather every day since we left.)  Mick and the kids and I followed Courtney and Dom.  Although we passed more than a few signs with Mickey and the kids saw Cinderella's castle in the distance, we'd told them that we were following Aunt Courtney and Uncle Dom because we had to run some errands.  When they asked if we were going to Disney World, we just told them that Aunt Courtney used to work there and is going to work there again, and we just thought her errands must be close.  We didn't let on whatsoever, and the kids are still young enough to be so sweetly gullible!

So, we parked and we started walking to the trams, and if you've ever been to Disney World, you might be in the parking lot, but you're still not close to Magic Kingdom, and it didn't feel quite real yet.  Still, that's where we told the kids where we were and what we were doing, and although their reactions weren't quite YouTube freak-out-level, they were pretty excited.  Even so, we were in a big sea of a parking lot.  They didn't get it, and it was cool to see how that changed...

... we rode the tram to the ticket booths, and from the ticket booths, we rode "Shiny Dinah" (what WHM called the monorail -- Shiny Dinah is a much-loved character from Kindermusik book we have) over to the park entrance.

See for yourself:
image from

image from

And here, my friends, here is where the kids got it.  WE ARE AT DISNEY WORLD!!!!!

The view as the monorail arrived.

Main Street, USA right after we caught a dance.

Requisite family photo.  I promise I do not have a paunch, but I sure did pick a bad shirt!  Yikes.
 First thing we did?  Ride a carousel, of course!

 Next up?  Merida and the BRAVE exhibit!

Here is Merida telling CAM they must surely be sisters.  Her crazy feet and knees are a nervous habit.  CAM was truly beside herself.  A. Real. Princess. Said. We. Are. Sisters!!!!!!  I seriously had tears in my eyes.  It was every ounce of amazing, and if our day had ended there, that would have been fine for all of us.

I am pointing out crayons, not casting a spell.  I promise.
 OKay, so at this point,  WHM was downright grumpy.  (Look at the picture above.  That is NOT his happy face.)  He was exhausted and hadn't yet eaten, it was hot and muggy, and we'd only ridden a tram and a monorail and some carousel we could ride in the mall?  What kind of Disney World is this?!  We went straight to lunch -- and thankfully, that transformed him.  Mick and I had been afraid that WHM was going to be awful all day, but as it turned out, the kid needed a little food and air conditioning and he was back to happy.  Yep, he's my son alright!

Much happier, thank you!

We tried really hard to balance interests between CAM and WHM, so after Merida and lunch, we did the race cars. 
waiting our turn to drive the race cars

CAM rode with Aunt Courtney. 

WHM rode with me, and although he wasn't allowed to (or able to) drive, we pretended he was driving.  

Here's Mick, bringing up the rear of our little entourage:

We redheads also did the tea cups -- Mick and Courtney don't do spinny rides -- and then made our way across the park to Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear.

Yes, Mom and Dad, I guided them to a blue-ish cup especially for your sake.  :)  (I really did!)
WHM wasn't too excited to actually talk to Buzz, despite being the driving force behind waiting in line for 30 minutes to see him!

Here's CAM showing us she can ride the roller coaster!

Space Mountain, here we come! 
We also rode other rides throughout the day, waited in lots of lines, caught the 3pm parade ...

Mommy!  Cinderella!

Who's next?!  Who's next?!

The lighting is terrible, but this is Ariel -- who waved specifically to CAM and showed her how they had the same hair!  Another magical moment!
 ... and then made our way back through the park with two exhausted kids and an exhausted Mick, just in time to catch a show at the castle and the afternoon fireworks.  I love these photos of everyone watching the show.

Yes, we were kind-of far away, but we could see and hear perfectly, believe it or not.

Just like Mommy.
 At this point it was late in the afternoon, WHM hadn't been able to ride too many rides (he was too short, and we thought it was selfish for him to constantly have to wait for us), and we decided it was probably time to head home.

On our way out, though, we stopped by the Theater.  We thought we were waiting in line to see a real show -- but it turned out we were waiting in line for a meet-and-greet with Cinderella, Belle, and Sleeping Beauty!!

CAM was beside herself.  And guess what?  Cinderella told CAM that THEY could be sisters, too!  Sisters with TWO princesses?!  CAM talks about it every single day. 

I can't believe I am sisters with Cinderella!!!!!!

Hey, these princesses aren't my thing.  Can we go home now?

On the other side of the theater, we were able to wait in another line to see Mickey and Minnie.  It was fabulous!  Here's our family photo.

And finally, a few photos before we left the park.

Outside the theater.  Aunt Courtney and her favorite redheads.

The gang of us!  Dom stayed home to recover from his all-nighter. We missed you, Uncle Dom!
 If you are big Disney-goers, then all of this amazing-ness this is nothing new to you, and of course we all know the reputation Disney has for doing a top-notch job at everything and really making your experience magical, but I'll tell you what -- I expected the characters to be gracious, but never in a million years expected all the stray cast members who would walk by and just ask us how we were, how we were doing, told CAM she looked like Merida, or complimented the kids on their hair, or their buttons, or asked how their ice cream tasted, or ... well, any of the countless things they did to really engage with us at every turn.  It truly was magical, and CAM and WHM will remember this day forever.  It's one thing to go above and beyond; it's quite another to try to describe what they do at Disney World.

Thank you, Courtney, for jumping through hoops to make it happen!


p.s.  we have literally hundreds more photos.  I have a few things to do to update this post, but I will spare you all the pain of posting every single pic. 

So, about that Sangria...

Pioneer Woman Sangria

Verdict: Not bad!  Some kick, but still sweet.
Make it Again:  Maybe??  I'm not a big sangria person.
Cost Factor:  CRAZY EXPENSIVE!  $67.26 and I only used half the wine it called for!

I am one of those people that can take or leave sangria.  Generally speaking, when most people think, "oh, I could go for some sangria," I'm okay with a nice, crisp glass of wine instead.  (I suppose you could say that I prefer my wine straight up!)  Although it's not at all fair to say I was dreading this recipe (like I did the gazpacho), I was not particularly looking forward to it over any other recipe, either.  It was just something to try.  I joined a cooking club, and that's what we do. 

And it was easy enough to make, and in the end it wasn't bad at all, but I was pretty put off by how expensive it was to make.  (No offense to whomever picked the recipe, mind you!)

The recipe calls for grapes, orange, lime, apple, and 1.5 L each of red wine and white wine, some sugar, and a cup each of orange-flavored vodka and orange-flavored rum.  If I had actually purchased all the wine, it would have been $90 to make this.  $90!!!!!  (I am quite sure I will get fussed at for having an overly-negative post, but in my mind, if I'm spending $90 on a wine concoction, I'd prefer to spend $90 on a very nice bottle of wine, thankyouverymuch.)

To save at least a little bit, and because I wasn't sure whether we'd even drink it all, I halved the amount of wine it called for.  Unfortunately, you can't buy half a cup of grapes, so I still ended up with POUNDS of green and red grapes.  Now, granted, we love grapes, but that's still a LOT of fruit to finish in this house, and I'm left hoping they won't go bad.  The orange, lemon, and lime and apple were fine.  But unfortunately, you also can't buy flavored liquors in flask-size bottles, so even after asking for help at the liquor store and finding the most reasonably-priced stuff possible, it ended up costing $29.66 for the two bottles of vodka and rum, two bottles which we may never otherwise use.*

*point of fact:  thinking the same thing, Mick actually Googled some recipes that use these, and found at least one that he was able to make last night.  He sat and enjoyed a cocktail of his own.  So maybe they're not wasted after all, but the truth is that but for this recipe, we'd never have bought these particular liquors.

Everybody ready to go.  See my new go-to wines there?  I am in love with Apothic wines!
Okay, okay, so we could have modified this and made it less expensive.  But I really try whenever possible to make the recipes as they are written.  (Except when they call for things like zucchini or squash, in which case I don't care how it's written, it's not happening!)  And the truth is that there are a gazillion ways to make sangria and the whole point was to try this specific sangria. So ... I made it.  (I was really, reallllly hoping I'd like it, since it cost me two hours of tutoring!)

In all seriousness, I might have preferred sitting down and eating this bowl of fruit while drinking a crisp glass of white wine. But I am not a spoilsport, even if I am a little whiny today.  Wine-y.  hahahah.  Get it?  Get it?! 
I had no idea how much space the mix would take, so I mixed it all together in a giant soup tureen, and planned to pour it or ladle it into my pitcher later.  (I didn't want to end up with an overflowing pitcher!  That turned out to be some good thinkin', because we went right to the brim of my pitcher!)

The finished product before it marinated.  It really does look pretty, doesn't it?!
In the end, I had some girlfriends over to sit on the back deck and catch up last night, and we all enjoyed it -- both the catching up and the sangria!  The sangria has a little bite from the vodka and rum, and it is sweet because of the sugar.  The sweetness balances the punch just right, and makes it a very easy drink to gulp down.  Did I just say that?  No, we ladies sipped.  Definitely sipped.

The whole concoction marinated overnight from Wednesday to Thursday, so the fruits were a little too potent for me, but we still drank the pitcher dry... of course, we might have drunk MD20/20 bottles empty, too ... we're just cool like that, and it's summer and we were gossiping venting catching up.

So what's the ultimate verdict?  Would I make it again? We have the liquor now, so perhaps, but as I said earlier -- I prefer my wine straight up.  I already buy wine that I enjoy drinking; why mess it up with fruit I won't eat?  If we were having a party and I wanted to be festive, I might whip this up, but I don't think I'll make it just to sip and watch tv. 

And there you have it.  We made all the recipes this month, and every single one was tasty.  Not a dud in the house! Hooray!


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Sometimes ...

... when you're having a bad, bad, day and all the world seems to exist to bring you down, someone reaches out in an unexpected way and makes everything in the universe right again.

The mom of one of CAM's best little girlfriends is teaching at the kids' preschool this summer, and she took the time to send me this little note last night.  Both the note and the fact that she took the time to think of me and send it along definitely served to make everything in the universe feel right again.

Thanks, Stephanie.  You made the entire day amazing!

Hey girl, I just wanted to take a minute and say that you are doing a wonderful job raising your kiddos. You should be a very proud mama of the two of them. During chapel today, those precious ones brought tears to my eyes as they cuddled together while singing about how much they love Jesus. Such an incredibly special moment and I loved getting to see it!!


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

PW: Gazpacho

I am happy to say that we made BOTH of our final recipes tonight.  Since the sangria is actually waiting 'til tomorrow for us to enjoy, I'll post more on that tomorrow night.

PW:  Gazpacho

Verdict: Yum!  Surprise, surprise, surprise, we like gazpacho!
Cook it again:  Yes!  Although there's very little cooking.
Cost factor:  Really not bad.  "Pantry" items and some fresh produce.

Okay, kids, I am not going to lie.  I was kind-of (and by kind-of, I mean, completely) dreading this recipe.  I had in my head that gazpacho was green and cold and icky.  NOT THE CASE AT ALL!

I read the recipe pretty thoroughly before I committed to actually making this one this month.  And I learned something:  Gazpacho is not cooked soup that is served cold.  Instead, it is a soup that is made and served cold -- more like a blended-up salad, if you will.

Now, why I had it in my head that gazpacho is green, I don't know.  Maybe it typically is?  Anyway, this one is not.  It is a tomato-based soup and really almost looks like a salsa.

The only cooking is to cook up some hard-boiled egg and shrimp for garnishes. The recipe calls for the shrimp to be grilled, but because I forgot to defrost the shrimp, I just grabbed about a dozen or two and boiled 'em up.  (Mick and I were the only ones who'd eat them, anyway, so it was kind-of good that I didn't defrost an entire bag of shrimp!)

You chop up half a red onion, a cucumber, two stalks of celery, two cloves of garlic, three Roma tomatoes, and some zucchini. Because I don't eat zucchini, I just upped the cucumber and celery.  With the exception of the onion and garlic (and Mick bought elephant garlic last time, and I used two cloves of that, so ours was a wee bit garlicky, to say the least -- not that we mind!), you reserve half the veggies and put the rest -- including ALL the onion and garlic -- in a food processor.  You add two cups of tomato juice, some vinegar and sugar, salt and pepper, however much Tabasco you want, some olive oil, and then blend away until it's, well, soupy! 

Now here's some advice if you haven't already made this:  I have a 9-cup food processor, and this mix went over the top of the center piece, which meant in turn that I had to pick up the ENTIRE machine to pour the soup out.  Otherwise, once I picked up the bowl from the processor, the soup would have run down the center opening of the bowl.  Hopefully you know what I am trying to describe here.  The short version: if you don't have a gigantic food processor, mix your soup in a blender; it's easier and not as messy.

Anyway, once you've got your soup in a giant bowl, you add the rest of the veggies and two more cups of tomato juice, and serve with garnishes of avocado, egg, and shrimp.

It was DELICIOUS!  It was a little heavy on the red onion and the garlic, but not enough to make Mick or I think it was anything other than a relief big hit!  We definitely plan to make this again!


The Twelve-Hour Six-Hour Trip

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip...

No, ours wasn't supposed to be a three-hour cruise.  However, Mick and Dominick did load up the trailer Thursday night in the 10,000-degree, 100% humidity weather, and we were supposed to leave our house by 6am Friday to head down to Florida.

The Plan:

Leave by 6, arrive in Orlando somewhere between 2 and 3.*    Unload, shower, go to dinner, take the kids to see Brave in Downtown Disney on opening night.

What Actually Happened:

But let me start at the beginning.

Last month -- maybe the month before? -- Mick's truck went kaput.  We thought it was any of a number of things, but as it turned out, it was something with the connection with the #2 Cylinder.  Mick's become very adept at working on his truck and was able to find a whole slew of chat rooms, bulletin boards, and so forth that all said what to do.  Still, he was not very confident with his truck would do on this trip, and so pulling the trailer was a big deal.  Before we loaded up with C&D's stuff, Mick did a few test runs with the trailer and all seemed well.  Anyway, just put it in the back of your head that we were all a little on edge about how the truck would do.

We left at 6:40.  Only 40 minutes late, but poor Dom had pulled an all-nighter.  Yikes. 

But once we got on the highway, we seemed alright.  Evidence:  sleeping kiddo.

WHM is prone to getting carsick if we leave early, so we've taken lately to traveling in pj's with the kids, and not eating breakfast (or even brushing teeth) until we take our first break.  That has helped quite a bit with "the yuckies."
We got to Perry, Georgia (about two hours south of us, maybe two-and-a-half) and BA-BAM!  Something went!  We lost A/C, power steering, and pretty much everything.  (Note:  try not to lose power steering when you're towing a trailer.  It's pretty tricky.)

In all seriousness, despite this, we had an angel looking out for us.  How can I possibly say that, you're wondering, I know.  Well, for a few reasons.  First, because we were literally two exits from a Chevy dealership.  Second, because we were able to safely pull off the highway and limp into a gas station, and finally, because it was:
a nice area
a station with a little lounge area
and, the people were nice!

Here are the kids wondering why we've stopped.  The turn-off from the highway woke them both.

The people at the gas station were downright wonderful.  They told us the nearest Chevy dealership and Mick got on the phone with them, and before he could get off the phone, it seemed as though the tow truck was already there.  Mick headed off with his truck, and Dom and I stayed with the kids (well, and the trailer, which the gas station folks had been kind enough to let Mick drop in the parking lot)

Breakfast.  The kids asked if they could have ice cream.  Why not, right?!

Oh, forgot to say.  We got the kids dressed and brushed their teeth before Mick drove away with the tow.

After about an hour (four scratch-tickets, two milks, two ice creams, a banana and some Thomas on my phone later), Mick called and came and got us with a loaner from the dealership.  As it turned out, the serpentine belt snapped.  Of all crazy things to happen, that it was (a) only a belt, and (b) an easy belt to fix, (c) not a million dollars, and (d) something they had in stock, reminded us we really did have an angel with us!

While they worked on the truck, we went to "Cwakah Bawwal," as WHM says. (Say it out loud.  You'll get it.)

By the time we finished our breakfasts, the truck was ready and we were able to get back on the road.

It really wasn't a bad drive, but of course we were all exhausted, ready to be there, and we still had to make periodic stops for food and fuel.  We finally got to Orlando about 6:30.  It was raining and about 90 degrees out, and the rain wasn't helping the humidity.  Think: sauna. 

We unloaded the trailer -- everything up four flights of stairs -- and by the time we were done, it was clear there would be no movie-going.  

That's okay, though ... we had a busy and fabulous day planned for Saturday.  Stay tuned!


* If you are wondering how I can call it a "six-hour trip," normally from our house the drive should be somewhere between 6 and 7 hours, depending on traffic and how liberally we stopped.  Back before kids and when I'd do the drive alone to see my old college roommate, I would usually make it in closer to six hours.  Because we were towing a trailer, Mick has frequent I-drank-too-much-Diet-Coke breaks, and we have the kids and they need to eat and stretch their legs and stuff, we knew it would take longer.  We just grossly underestimated how much longer.