Saturday, November 29, 2008

In 2 weeks

Right about this time in right about 2 weeks, we'll be pulling into a certain gravel driveway, driving over a little dam and up to a house where a couple of people will be waiting. The girls will ignore the stiffness of the long drive and jump out as soon as we stop and will race to the porch into their grandparents' arms. We'll set up camp in the guest room and spend two glorious weeks hanging out with friends and family. We'll eat lots of tex-mex and Whataburger and stop often at Sonic for drinks. We'll celebrate birthdays and Christmas over and over again with cousins I haven't seen in years.

I'm ready!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

WFMW: How to get little ones involved in your Rockband family band

It's been a long forever since I wrote a Works For Me Wednesday post. Not that I've started boycotting Rocks In My Dryer or anything. I just can't think of anything interesting that would actually be useful to anyone else.


I did come up with something kinda small that might be useful to a limited group of people. At least it's come in handy for us and someone else might need it. Someday. So here it is.

Our family recently bought Rockband 2 as a fun thing we could all do together. Yes, I know it's rated Teen, but it's not too bad and we play together, so we were willing to overlook that in the interest of family fun. As of right now, Mr. at Home plays lead guitar, 8-year-old K plays the drums, and I sing.

You'll notice this leaves out 4-year-old L and we can't leave out the 4-year-old. After all, it's a "family" band. We solved the problem with one small addition to the official game instruments.

A toy electric guitar.

L's guitar is black with flashing pink lights, strings she can strum, frets she can press, and even a tiny whammy bar. Most importantly, it has a volume knob that we turn down so the sounds coming from her instrument so she can hear the song from the game. Since the game instruments are wireless, L's guitar fits right in. She rocks out with the rest of us without the frustration of trying to play a real instrument and follow the game and when she gets bored, she can put down the guitar and pull out her dolls. It's a winning situation for everyone.

For more WFMW tips, go read Rocks In My Dryer here.

Monday, November 24, 2008

What I "did not" do

MckMama, another cool blogger I recently found, does this thing every Monday where you confess all the things that you don't admit to doing. Things that of course you would never do. Today I figured I'd play along, so you get to hear about a few of the things I did(n't) do recently.

I didn't write a blog post about my fantasy to own a cool sports car and call myself a "Muscle Car Mama". Cause that would be just goofy.

I didn't yell at L in front of the body shop guy because she spilled 85% of a full cup of chai tea all over the car as we were getting out then splattered the remaining 15% of the tea all over his office floor.

I didn't spend all weekend playing Rockband and crocheting, letting all the housework continue to pile up.

And I didn't seriously consider adopting another child when someone posted this information. These kids are in desperate need of a home and soon. Take a look at the information and forward it to anyone you know who might be interested.

For more Not Me Monday reading, click on the graphic at the top of this post.

This mid-life crisis brought to you by Enterprise

Did I happen to mention that last Sunday our car was rear-ended? It was. On the way to church, no less. There wasn't much visible damage, but it seems that the other car did a lot of damage underneath the bumper. The claimed they didn't see my big red mini-van. I'll grant that the light shines blindingly over that hill, but still. My van is big! and red!

After a week of calls and dragging the van to shop and adjuster, I finally got to drop it off at the dealership body shop this morning. Have I mentioned how much I love the dealership where I bought my car? Honestly, how many people can say that? I love the service department at both locations and I've never dealt with nicer people. The body shop manager and his wife are raising the children of two different relatives because they couldn't sit back and watch those kids live in the horrible situations they were in before. These are good people.

The Enterprise guy came and picked me up and took L and I back to their office. He brought a nice little sedan, then offered to upgrade me to a minivan for $5/day. I hemmed and hawed and decided that no, the sedan would work fine for us. As he typed away, I looked out at the sedan and noticed that there were two Chargers parked next to it. dream car. I turned back around and asked the guy in jest what it would cost to get a Charger. $2/day.

No freakin' way!

So I've gone from Minivan Mama to Muscle Car Mama. I cruised in that black beauty all the way through Sonic and to dance class, because a cool car doesn't get you out of mom duties. I must point out that it does make those mom duties a little more exciting, though, and it's making Mr. at Home green with envy.

I have to give the Charger back at the end of week and it'll be a sad moment, I fear. It might even send me over the edge. So if my next post is how I traded in my faithful minivan for a muscle car, got a tattoo, and dyed my hair pink, you'll know who to blame.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

My very first crocheting project

I'll let you all have a sneak peek into my brain and the wacko trains of thought that run often through the open mindscape.

"Hey, those snowmen are cute but I could make it myself for cheaper. In fact, I think I've made one like it before."

"I think I'll pick up the stuff to make those snowmen. Wouldn't it be cool if I knitted the hats instead of wimping out and using fleece?"

"Knitting takes too long. Everyone says crochet is faster. I bet I could learn to crochet. I'll pick up some yarn and this little booklet on learning to crochet and see what happens. Wouldn't it be cool if I crocheted the whole snowmen? Maybe I'll pick up the white yarn, too."

"Humn, the first few steps look easy. And hey! This does go faster!"

"This is supposed to explain how to crochet in the round, but this doesn't make any sense. I'll just start and see what happens."

One week from concept to finished product. Would you like to see what I made?

Aren't they adorable? My own concept, design, and pattern. I use the word "pattern" loosely as I just kinda stitched, increased, and decreased as it looked like it needed it. You'll notice that the girl snow...person has a ruffled looking bottom which was a total accident, but it looks kinda cool. I used whole cloves for the nose, eyes, and buttons, so they smell amazing.

The boy has already found a home and the girl is designated for a friend, but it only takes a few hours to finish one. As the holiday approaches, I may have an extra one that just might be in need of a good keep your eyes open.

Better dust off those musical talents

If you're planning on hanging with my family around Christmas, you'd better come prepared with your A game. We're headed to Texas and we're packing clothes, presents, and Rockband2.

My parents are cringing as they read this. That or they're saying, "What the heck is Rockband 2?" and then they'll cringe.

Dad, remember when you promised to revenge all those years of listening to me practice my drum by buying my daughter one? Well, we did it to ourselves. Plus a guitar. And a microphone. And we'll probably buy a bass guitar before we load it all in the car next month. The best thing is that all these instruments are electronic and completely volume adjustable - yeah, baby!! It's a video game with wireless instruments that you use to "play in a band" in your living room. It's a party in a box! Don't worry, I predict you'll see a whole lot more of the scattered family members when they can hang out in your living room and live out their wildest fantasies of being a rock star. The problem might be kicking them out to go to bed.

Won't Christmas be fun?!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Quick Quotes

We went to Fuel Pizza for lunch and L and I had the following conversation...

Me: What kind of pizza do you want?

L: I want mushroom! Where's the mushroom?

Me: Really? Mushroom? It's right there. You want that?

L: Yes! Yes! Yes!

Me: Ok....

A little later....

Me: L! Why are you picking the mushrooms off your pizza?!?

L: I don't like mushrooms.

Me: But you ordered the mushroom pizza!!

L: (pause) I don't like mushrooms on my mushroom pizza.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Nothing slows you down like being sick

Monday was a little less crazy than predicted. Tuesday dawned with only one thing on the calendar - a meeting with the insurance adjuster at the "Drive-In Claims" office. Thankfully, he works with the dealership where I'd like to get the cat fixed and they'll take care of that together. If they ever get hold of the guy who hit us, that is.

After the insurance thing, L and I made a major grocery run and headed home. But the small symptoms I had been trying to ignore for the past couple of days came rushing in full force and I had to admit that I had a sinus infection.

By mid-afternoon, I was on-line looking for a doctor.

I love my insurance company. They have a really nice search engine for local doctors online. I also discovered that the closest office to our zip code is an express walk-in office, which was perfect for getting drugs for this stupid sinus infection. On the way there, I passed two other urgent care/express offices with big signs. The one I was headed to was small, hidden in a little office complex, and was brand-new. So there was no one else waiting. Can you imagine? I just walked right in, got the prescriptions that I needed, got over to Target to get the prescriptions filled, and was home in just over an hour. Not too shabby.

I am determined to kick this infection out of the house quickly. How am I planning to do that? Rest! I have spent the entire day in bed. K did her school, L has been playing, they've watched a movie, gotten their own lunch, and played legos. K even made chai tea for both of them. There have been no arguments, no yelling, and no screaming. They made me cards and L declared herself my servant and brought me a glass of ice water. They seemed to need a quiet rest day as much as I did. L has been a bundle of frenetic energy and K has just been mean for the past several days and I think they were just wound up a little too tightly.

While it's been nice, in a few minutes I'm going to get up, take a hot shower (hey, doctor's orders), get dressed in nice clothes, and join the land of the living for the evening. Our HOA has it's first meeting tonight and I promised to attend. Tomorrow it's back to laundry, housecleaning, and Bible Study where it's the last lesson in our current study. Can't miss that.

Monday, November 17, 2008

You just can't avoid it

No matter what I say or how hard I work to avoid it, the busyness of the holiday season creeps in until you're drowning in a full calendar without any warning.

I hate full calendars as a general rule. I prefer to keep it down to just a few scheduled things per week and have plenty of time open for last minute stuff. I do love to go and do and hang out with friends and I've found that having a busy calendar makes it so much harder because you've always got scheduling conflicts. As a result, I say no to a lot of activities and commitments and we're all much happier.

And then comes November.

And then December.

I've been trying to figure out when we can make a trip to Texas to visit the family and I'm having trouble finding a significant stretch of open days where we're not committed to 1001 different things. Mr. at Home is teaching, basketball is starting, we have concert tickets, K has a birthday party, there's a field trip, and a million Christmas parties for friends and groups of which we're a part. We don't have to do it all and we *won't* be doing it all, but there are enough "we really can't miss" events that it's overwhelming just looking at it.

Last week was the first hugely over-scheduled week (the girls were up late every. single. night.) and I survived because I kept telling myself it was just one week and the next one was much more quiet. Unfortunately, life intervenes. First thing in the morning, we'll be taking our car to the dealership because we got rear-ended on the way to church Sunday morning and by dinnertime, the check engine light had come on. After that, I have to make a run to the store to buy some chocolate for a friend whose son is having surgery in the afternoon. I have sat in that hospital waiting room myself while my own child has been the one with her life held in the surgeon's hands. I have to a least stop by for a few minutes.

Then L has dance and it's parent observation week, so I will be staying and cheering her on. We'll swing back by the house to pick up the rest of the family, drop Mr. at Home off at his uptown office, and we'll go commandeer a table the library so K can finish her schoolwork. At 3:30, we'll go to the hospital to deliver the chocolate, then it's back to pick up Mr. at Home, do a quick dinner, and he has to go back out to BSF while the girls and I collapse on the loft floor to watch a movie and unwind.

Thankfully, the rest of the week is still empty, but I have a feeling it won't stay that way.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A few things we're enjoying right now

Since there's not much/too much going on for me to put together an entire coherent post on one thing, I'm bringing a list today. So here are some short nuggets of goodness that are a big hit around here right now.

1. General Foods International Coffee, Sugar Free Chai Latte mix - My mom said we had to try it and after a bit of searching, we found it, brought it home, and discovered that it was the "sugar free" variety. I am not a big fan of sugar free as it generally means they used an artificial something or other that has an aftertaste. It also uses instant tea mix, which was a major strike against it. But we decided to try it anyway and this stuff is GOOD. The girls and I are loving it.

2. Kung Fu Panda - Funny, funny movie. Very cute, good message - can it get any better?

3. Rain - It hasn't rained around here in ages and it's been falling for the past two days. Yea!!

4. Golden Oreos - I know, don't mess with a classic like Oreos. It's a sacrilege. BUT. The folks at Oreo took their awesomeness to the vanilla side with amazing results. These things are delicious! And they go great with #1.

5. Sugarhouse Ink - I have officially ordered my Christmas cards. Ok, I have begun the ordering process. I sent in my order and my pictures and the lovely woman who runs the company is going to make my photos look awesome, adjust the card layout so that it will accomodate three photos instead of just the one it was designed for, redo the colors used in the design so that they match the colors in my photos, *and* send me a proof to make sure I like it before I pay and they print. All this without charging me extra. Talk about service.

6. Natasha Bedingfield and Taylor Swift - One day I was browsing around YouTube and found the video of Taylor Swift's "Love Story". The girls came up and demanded that I keep looking for videos of "that girl". I finally just bought them Taylor's first album and "Love Story" and put it on my iPod along with a couple of Natasha's songs ("Unwritten" and "Pocketful of Sunshine"). We've been listening to/singing along with them in the car often and the girls love them. Two days ago, "Love Story" came over the radio and Mr. at Home was amazed that L knew every word to a song he'd never heard.

7. Southern Christmas Show - Every year this enormous craft show happens and we try to make a trip over there to wander among the booths and look at the amazing stuff people make. We pick up a fruit cake and a Christmas gift or two, but mostly the girls and I just walk and take it all in. We're going this afternoon and K is so excited. This is the first year I won't have a stroller, so we'll just have to see how Miss L does because it's a whole lot of walking and a whole lot of "no, I won't buy you that." But there are beautiful displays and a collection of tiny dollhouses to look at, so it ought to be okay. Oh, I just heard the unmistakeable clink of money being taken out of the girls' allowance jars so it looks like they're planning to spend it today. Better theirs than mine!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

If you give a mom some new recipes...

If you give a mom some new recipes, she'll pull out the little binder that's supposed to hold her recipe collection. She'll sigh yet again over all the papers stuffed between those covers in any old way. She'll think of all those time-consuming failed attempts at organizing those papers. Then she'll remember this post over at Rocks in My Dryer and she'll be inspired. She'll tweak the idea just a bit, pull out her scrapbooking supplies, and this is what she'll create.

Isn't it beautiful? It's a binder that I made a cover and spine for out of all those papers and doodads I have left from my scrapbooking days. Inside there are 100 page protectors. I pulled out all those recipes I've clipped, copied, printed, and begged from friends and family over the years. I didn't bother retyping or copying them all onto full-sized sheets of paper. I organized them into categories and if they were on small papers, I simply taped them to bigger sheets and put them all into the notebook in sections. Then I made colorful title pages for each section out of heavy cardstock so that it's easier to see those when I'm looking for a particular recipe. The whole process took a couple of hours and its *done*. No longer will I have to dig through an unorganized file to find my great-grandmother's recipe for homemade ice cream or worry about losing the yellow sheet where my mom wrote out the recipe for her italian cream cake. It's all organized and easy to find and use and I am one happy, happy cook.

My new recipe

Tonight we're having a recipe swap for the ladies of our Sunday Bible Study class. Almost 20 of us signed up to bring our favorite dishes to make the perfect holiday meal. When the sign-up paper finally made it around to me, there were a ton of ladies already signed up for dessert and appetizers. There were several main dishes and salads already spoken for, but there were plenty of spaces left for side dishes. It looked like I was bringing a side dish. The only problem is that I didn't have an obvious go-to recipe for a side dish and I had to write down what I was bringing on the sign-up sheet. Oh, what to do?!? So I wrote down "sweet potatoes" and hoped that I'd be able to find something fabulous between then and the party.

A couple of days ago, I actually started looking. Did you know there are all kinds of things you can do with the humble sweet potato? From soups to desserts, it's pretty overwhelming. A sweet friend of mine, Angie, said her mom liked a Paula Deen recipe, so I searched and added that one to my "favorites" stash. Then the vote went to the family.

Orange or apricot?

Sliced or mashed?

Marshmallows or not?

Unfortunately, none of my "favorites" fit the winners of the voting. So after some thought that included the fact that I really didn't want to do any more searching, I decided to...ahem...*tweak* one of the recipes I already had. So Paula Deen and I have "collaborated" and come up with an AWE. SOME. recipe I call

Orange Sweet Potato Bake
By Paula Deen and Valerie Stranathan

3 cups cooked, peeled and mashed sweet potatoes (about 2 large sweet potatoes)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup orange marmalade
1/3 cup melted butter
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. ginger
¼ cup heavy cream or half and half

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup walnuts or pecans
1/3 cup all purpose flour
3 T. melted butter

Mix all ingredients for bake except the cream. Beat at medium speed. Then add cream and mix well. Pour into a 2 quart greased dish.

For the topping mix all ingredients together with a fork and sprinkle over the top of casserole.

Bake for 25-30 minutes in a 325 degree oven.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A recipe for a neighborhood


1 copper fire bowl
1 bundle of wood
1 fire starter block
1 lighter
1 bag of marshmallows
5 roasting sticks
6 folding camp chairs
16 flyers

Post flyers on the doors of each occupied home in the neighborhood and drop a couple at the sales office. Take all other ingredients to the cul-de-sac and set them up appropriately. Once darkness falls, build a fire in the fire bowl. Wait a few minutes and watch as shadowy figures come out of the dark carrying their own chairs and drinks. Sit around the fire with your neighbors and get to know each other as you scoot closer and closer to the fire because it's getting colder. Makes one close-knit neighborhood.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Nothing profound

It's been quiet around here lately, probably because the grown-ups have been sick with colds. The kids are just fine, thank you, which is great since they've outlawed kids' cold medicine. I thought we were over the worst of it until I had a relapse yesterday evening, but I got 10 hours of sleep last night plus a 3 hour nap today, so hopefully my immune system is strong enough to kick the last of the germs out on their little germmy hineys.

My brother is engaged. Did I tell you that? He and his fiancee are planning their wedding for next August. Outdoors. In Texas. Please start praying now for a freak cold snap. I totally agree that since weddings only happen once in a lifetime (yes, that's the way it's supposed to be), you should have the one you really want. But a cold snap would be most welcome. And this will bring the number of special family days - birthdays, anniversaries - in August to a number just below infinity. At least it's easier to remember. If you can't remember someone's special day, just send the card in August and you're probably right.

(For those who are planning to send me a gift, my birthday is in December. Just so you don't miss it.)

Let's see, what else....

I lost my calendar which contains my life for the next year. All my appointments, birthday reminders, field trips, special events. I was torn between panic over losing all that data and joy at the thought of getting to select another planner (I know, I have issues), but then I found my calendar stuck under a half-finished pumpkin coloring sheet. It did remind me that I need to update my online calendar so if I do really lose the paper calendar, I still have the information.

Speaking of on-line, I think I've decided to do this year's photo album on snapfish. I finally ordered last year's album so I could archive those photo files and clear some space on my hard drive. I did the book on iPhoto and it's beautiful and it's wonderful to have a bound book. I just decided to do a little browsing and decided that I like the themes available on snapfish. I've been putting the book together and have gotten all the way through our mission trip a couple of weeks ago. I love how quickly the on-line books go together versus the scrapbooking method, even though I do miss the scrapbooking parties and weekend retreats and getting to pick out and use all those neat papers and accessories. I found a book yesterday about breaking free of all those unrealistic mom expectations and it included *scrapbooking*. Sheesh! It's such a phenomenon that we now need self-help books to help us get away from the self-imposed stress of it!

Oh!!! I think I hear the UPS truck!! I think they found us!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election?? Who cares! Look at these pictures!!

On Friday, I took the girls to a nature preserve a few miles down the road where we tried to take some portraits. It was awesomely, amazingly beautiful, but the pictures mostly turned out fuzzy or washed out.

Sigh...I have a new camera at the top of my Christmas list.

Today, I made the girls dress up again, charged the battery on Mr. at Home's fancy camera, and we headed back out there. And I am SO GLAD we did. As beautiful as it was Friday, the color and amazingness had multiplied a hundred fold. It was just indescribably gorgeous.

We redid the pictures we tried to take on Friday, but before I had gotten off one shot, I fell over backward. No really. I fell over backward. I tripped and instinctively grabbed the camera, which kept it safe, but I sacrificed my elbow. Of course, I didn't let that stop me and we kept shooting. The girls were in good moods and spent most of the time laughing and giggling and they took some fabulous pictures. Since I'm planning to use at least one for our Christmas cards, you don't get to see them all, but I'll share some. So when you get frustrated by the one-sided election result coverage, just come back and gaze at these pictures and feel the stress just flow disappear.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Visual Interruptions

Today, I am sharing some of the cuteness and beauty that is assaulting my vision today. This is your fair warning to click away before you simply get sucked in.

First is little L. If you've been reading this year, you know about the multiple hair cutting episodes we've experienced with her. Thankfully, she's moved on from cutting her hair and she's been anxiously awaiting the day when her hair is long enough to "have braids". This morning we decided it was time to try and L was sporting french braids for a few hours. She was so happy!

Second, it's fall here. Really fall. The leaves have reached their peak color and while we were driving around running errands, I could barely drag my eyes from the trees to the road. So I...ahem!..."borrowed" Mr. at Home's nice camera and took some pictures from our backyard so I could share a little taste of the beauty around here.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Tinker Picture

I still haven't put the rest of the house pictures up on the website, I know. I'm working on it!
Ok, I haven't actually *worked* on it. The pictures have just been sitting here on my hard drive and I just haven't uploaded them and written the post. It's a lazy thing. And I still haven't got any intention of doing it tonight. I made the poor decision to clean the oven for the first time (which makes a lot of stinky smoke) when I had a headache starting. The headache is settling in to stay and I'm headed to bed. But I wanted to leave you with a little teaser.

This is our cat, Tinker. And this is one of the places she likes to sit. I still don't know how she manages the jump to and from this ledge to the loft wall, but she does.

Holiday Decorations and clearance

It's that time of year. The time of year when you're switching holiday decorations more often than you have to clean out your fridge. That is, of course, if you actually decorate for the different holidays. My mom does. She goes all out and has all kinds of holiday stuff all over her house. It's really cool looking, but way too much work for me. My holiday decor is much more...understated, but I do have to admit to buying some Halloween decor a couple of weeks ago.

We were Cracker Barrel and they had all their Halloween decor half-price. Half price! And I found the most perfect thing - a kitchen canister in black with a silver lid, which was perfect for my new kitchen with the black counters and stainless steel appliances.

It seems the weirdest thing to be in "seasonal decor". I mean, how many people change out their *kitchen canisters* each season? The only thing that made it Halloween was that it was black. I've been looking for new canisters since I first saw my new kitchen. This black one was exactly what I've been looking for. So I grabbed two (one for sugar and one for flour) and they now grace my kitchen counter. The only problem was that they're both the same size, so I made some bows of different colored ribbons to tell them apart. Aren't they (spooky?) pretty?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Congratulations, Mr. at Home!

As of today, the first of November, Mr. at Home got a promotion!! He's a now a senior whatever-they-call-him-this-week, which means that he's finally getting the title (and pay grade) that goes with the work he's been doing for awhile. It means he doesn't have to change jobs or responsibilities *and* he still gets to work from home a lot. I gotta love that!

Congratulations, Mr. at Home. You deserve it!