Tuesday, March 31, 2009

This Seems to Happen Every March

I hit a brick wall yesterday. Honestly--why on earth am I doing this half-homeschool option with my kids? I am tired. The kids are tired. Did I mention I'm tired?

These days I feel like I am herding cars, trying to get any school work done. Miley is writing a report for her Texas studies and we need to write a bibliograhy. How the heck do you write a bibliography based on web sites. I cannot seem to find a solid answer anywhere. A big part of me wants to just make up our own system and hope she has a rocking speech to make up for any point loss. Speeches are so much easier.

Dino is still having issues with his special ed school. Not sure what is going on there but he cries every time he goes. It's heart-breaking. And now I learn they haven't been correcting his pencil grip there....so all the hours I am spending getting his pincher grasp at home feel like a waste of time. 

Spanky is the one bright spot--he loves to do the hokey pokey 'all day long'. It's a fun break and makes me wonder if that's really what 'it's all about'. Would be nice :)

Oh and I forgot Sarah! Which would be the norm here--she still sneaks into the homeschool room and gets all of her work done on her own. She gets mad when she misses something but it's not too often. I need to take her out for a special mommy-daughter date. 

Now I am counting down the days to summer, ah lazy crazy days of summer. (And when summer hits I will be counting down the days to first day of school!)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

I Just Want to Be Heard

Friday night I wrote a political post. An angry, bitter screaming political post. And I deleted it about an hour after.

This blog is not about anger. Anger isn't going to help anything but maybe get others angry--what's the point of that?

But this is my blog and I am so upset these days. I just cannot sit back. It seems like the whole country, heck the whole world, is marching in this direction that I see as completely wrong. It's been a while too. I watched a fellow Texan spend and spend. Then a new president comes in and spends and spends and then spends even more. 

And suddenly all the things I believe, my values-- God, family, country--are not 'right'. My thoughts are politically incorrect. I just feel like screaming. I've written emails, made phone calls  but it seems no one in Washington is listening. 

But last week I wrote a letter regarding the fed stimulus to my local state rep. And today I got a response. Not the form response but an 'I agree with you' and this why letter. It felt good.

I was going to show a clip of the young man from the UK berating the UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown but it was just too angry and it's not the feeling I want to express. I agreed with him but it was more a rant and I don't want to rant. I'm tired.

I found this clip--it shows a lot of radio/tv personality you can take or leave but the message, the message is the same as in my heart. If you are wondering what is really running through my  mind regarding the world, this is it:

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thrifty Thursday--If It Was Meant To Be

Many, many times I see something I want, not need, want. It could be a picture frame, a new pair of shoes or, in today's case, a colorful spring jacket.

I keep off the impulse to buy the item by telling myself, if it was meant to be, meant for me to own it, it will be there when I can afford it. And if it wasn't meant to be, the item will be gone but I will find an even better use for my money.

Last month, I found the cutest spring jacket. It had just arrived at a nearby store and it was a-dor-a-ble! Bright pink, trendy, and I did need a new light jacket but....the price was too much. We did have the funds, but at a time when you can't turn on the TV without hearing the word 'recession', I could not justify spending that much on a jacket I'd get to wear two-three weeks out of the year. (Spring is very short here in Texas.)

This morning would have been the perfect day for that cute jacket--a little gloomy, a little chilly and a little rainy. As I was getting ready for my day,  Mike even commented 'too bad you didn't buy that jacket, it'd be good to wear today'. I nodded thinking the same thing.

I met a good friend for breakfast. She was with me when I found the jacket and out of the blue said 'this would be a great day for that jacket you liked'. I nodded and laughed as I mentioned Mike said the same thing.

After breakfast, we decided to do some window shopping and stumbled into the store that had The Jacket. I wondered back to the 60% off section and right between some pretty crisp button downs and tailored blazers was The Jacket. In my size. At half the price. I beamed, picked up the jacket and showed my friend.

"You have too!" she smiled.

I texted Mike.

He said, "YES!"

And I now own that jacket for a lot less than if I had not waited. A LOT less.

Because seriously, that jacket was meant to be, on me :)

(On a side note, my friend had walked away from another darling jacket (her size was not available) at a neighboring store on the day I first walked away from mine. We stopped by that store after I bought my jacket and, surprise!, it was there, on sale and in her size!)

So my Thrifty Thursday advice, walk away from the wants. Wait and see if it was meant to be :)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Where Do You Get Recipes Menu Monday

I am what you might call a cookbook addict. Some people collect teapots, little spoons or (these days) gold. I collect cookbooks. I go on vacation and I almost always search for an odd, local cookbook. 

Even in this day and age of having hundred of recipes at your fingertips, I love having those cookbooks with the pictures. 

I have an odd collection of favorites:

1. Anything by Jamie Oliver. Jamie is my favorite chef; he uses lots of fresh ingredients and keeps it simple. I love this combination--fresh and simple. My very favorite is this one. I make something from Jamie at least once a week.

2. Cookbooks from the church or pre-school. True, there are many, many recipes that rely on canned soups (I make my own to substitute) or a very processed ingredient (I make an acceptable substitute) but when you really dig deep, you find a treasured recipe handed down by family members made from the freshest ingredients and the right amount of love. Also, you know nothing in the book is going to be 'bad' because everyone wants to display her finest meal for the church/pre-school.

3. Wise Guys By Henry Hill. If you have seen the movie "Goodfellas", you know Henry Hill. Ray Liota played him the movie and yes, he's a real person. Now if you remember the movie, you'll remember how crazy Hill was about food and how he loved how his friend in the pen could 'slice garlic with a razor so it melted like butter when it hit the pan'. The book also includes tales of his days in the mob and with the FBI. I cannot read the recipes in this book without getting hungry.

When I make my menu, I try to grab one Jamie Oliver cookbook, one local (preschool/church/junior league) Wise Guys and one of my others (vary from famous chefs to different types of food). I look through and mark ones I like with post its. Then I bring the recipes down to seven and refer to my calender. Based on what is going on that day, I figure out when I need a left-over or if I can make something a tad more complicated. By the time the menu is in place  (I plan all meals because that is how crazy I am!), I have used maybe 3-4 recipes from the book along with left-overs and those meals that are my stand bys (salmon and greens, grilled chicken, etc.).

This is the result of this week's planning:

Monday: "Jail House Spaghetti" from the Henry Hill cookbook (called oven penitentiary sauce but the kids couldn't say that when they were little so jail house it is!) and broccollinni 

Tuesday: Irish Stew (leftover from last week--stored in freezer)

Wednesday: Roast Chicken (Jamie Oliver favorite) with swiss chard (sauteed with garlic)

Thursday: White Fish Wrapped in Bacon with asparagus (back in season!)

Friday: Five Bean Chili (local cookbook) --email me for recipe

Saturday: Chicken Enchiladas and Calabacitas (from Canyon Ranch cookbook) If you make this, add some veggie stock to sauce and use less chicken too.

So where do you find your favorite recipes?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Times When I Could Save But I Don't

Our sermon in church today was bout ripping off the fig leaf. This is in reference to the fig leaves Adam and Eve wore to clothe their nakedness and hide their sin after eating from the Tree of Good and Evil.

Our guilt is always there whether we hide it from everyone else with fig leaves or even hide it from ourselves with our own internal fig leaf.

So I decided to rip off a fig leaf for myself and all you wonder ladies who have helped me with the great money saving tips on Thrifty Thursdays--the post I completely forgot to write this week.

There are many times I am wasteful with the money God has provided for myself and family.

1. When the coffee in my pot is over 1 1/2 hours old, I dump it, grind new beans and make a new pot (and I never finish that new pot). I tell myself it's because coffee goes bad after 90 minutes. But really does it? My taste buds say yes, my mind says NO.

2. If I find an old sippy cup that has juice sitting in it for days, I throw it out. I don't want to open it and I just get another one. The thought of opening an old, moldy sippy cup makes me a little sick.

3. I buy the already cut-up fruits and veggies at all Whole Foods--the stuff that is so overpriced that I used to laugh about how anyone who actually buys that must be really dumb. So call me Dummy--I have gotten addicted to the pre-cut pineapple, the pre-cut melon, the pre-cut butternut squash and the pre-cut/peeled oranges. I love telling my kids to grab the fruit out of the fridge without doing a thing. Even though I know it would be just as easy to cut it all up when I get home with the other fruits and veggies, I buy, I don't. I call it my little luxury. 

So there are a few ways I spend when I could easily save; I know I should not do these things but I can't seem to stop. 

And now I wonder--do any of you have a thing that you just have to do even though you know you could find a cheaper way to do it? Please say yes--I don't want to be all alone here ;)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I Always Thought It Was Me

Before Spanky, I would take my three well behaved children just about everywhere. The restaurants, the mall, the library. And we would be flooded with compliments. Everything from they are so sweet and polite to you are doing a great job with them.

I beamed and believed them. Secretly, I would notice the mom who did not have the kids under control. The child who was throwing food on the floor, the child who managed to rip all the books off the shelves in the library. Surely, the child needed guidance. Surely, it was the mom. Kids are blank pages we help to fill.

Then I had Spanky. Dear sweet Spanky. Spanky is that child the other parents look at in shock. At 14 months, he learned he could drag a chair across a room and get access to everything. He threw my iPhone in a pool, he enjoys running to the altar during church service, loves to hit anyone who disagrees with him, and, recently, has been on a quest to make my new carpet look not so new. And he is winning by the way.

After Spanky,  we stopped going out to eat and opt for take out, books are ordered via Amazon (small price to pay right now) and almost all clothing is courtesy of JCrew.com (men's, women's, and children's inc. shoes). 

Yet I did nothing different. I did the same parenting I did with the other children. I use the same reward/punishment system yet the outcome is anything but the same. So maybe kids don't come as a blank template waiting for our help. Maybe some come with the pretty flowery soft templates and others are more loud and geometrical. Perhaps, it is not as much a parent that determines a child's temperment, rather the child comes with his own ideas. And some children, even if raised by Mother Theresa are going to start smacking their brothers at the altar during communion. And some who, even if raised by the most self-absorbed mom on the planet, vow to fight world poverty before out of diapers.

I can't tell you why. If I knew, I am betting I'd win some Nobel Prize or something. Kids are different and it has nothing to do with the parents. It took Spanky to prove that to me.

Now when I see the mom struggling with the little girl who emptying ever sugar packet on the floor, I give a smile of support to the mom. I know how she feels. And I thank Spanky (and God for giving me Spanky) from the bottom of my heart for teaching me this.

Monday, March 16, 2009

My March Madness Menu Monday

I love sports and my absolute favorite time of the year is March. This is because the NCAA Basketball Tournament includes the most exciting games you see all year! If you haven't watched the tournament before, please I beg you, just watch one game starting this Thursday. I promise you'll have a great time :) And I'll be your best friend if you cheer for this team!

Now since I will be busy watching basketball games the latter half of the week, I am going to focus on easy meals and my freezer that I stock with left-overs.

Here's my plan:

Tuesday: Irish Stew--kids hated the dish I made last year so we are going authentic this time--and sauteed kale with garlic

Wednesday: Grilled Salmon (weather is supposed to be good, if not, I'll saute it) with a simple salad * Note--Not Copper River as you can't get this right now sadly :(

Thursday: Take-out (first night of the tournament--thinking really greasy, really bad for you--Buffalo Wild Wings? Or Snuffers?)

Friday: Cinci Chili (left over from freezer) and spinach salad

Saturday: Panini sandwiches (thinking pumpernickel with pepper salami  and swiss cheese) with some left-over fire roasted tomato soup

Sunday: Stuffed Turkey Burgers with sauteed swiss chard

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Thrifty Thursday--That One Product

We all have one. That one product we love. The product that can save us time and money. The product we can't live without. It could be that perfect skirt that goes with everything you found on a discount rack at a Last Call Neiman's sale. It might be the great bread you get from your bakery after 4 for half price. Whatever it is, you feel good buying  it, and your wallet does too!

My product is Bon Ami Cleaner

Yes, a cleaner. I buy it for $1.75 at Whole Foods and it lasts me about 6-8 weeks. What do I use it for? Pretty much everything: the counters, the stove, the sink (all things stainless steel), the toilets, the pots and pans, crystal, fine china, dishes that didn't make it to the washer, the kitchen table, the tub and the shower. And again it lasts me at least SIX weeks!

Growing up, I remember my mom always had the golden 'hasn't scratched yet' can by the sink. She used hers for all the dishes and the counters. I always wanted to be like the other kids with the spray cleaner and not the hot wash cloth with the Bon Ami powder. So when I went to school, I tried the spray. My first issue was the smell of the spray--Bon Ami has no perfumes; then there were all the chemicals that damaged some things--Bon Ami has no chemicals, and finally the price--well duh Bon Ami is much cheaper.

So I went back. And I haven't looked backed since. 

And that my friends, is my very favorite product. I am not receiving any endorsement from the company--I just love this cleaner!

Now it's your turn. What product can you not live without? The product that saves you money and makes your life easier?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

That post we all seem to write sooner or later

It took me a little over a year but I am now joining the masses with a post I have read at least 100 times in the past year.

The blogging world is taking too much of my time.

It's true. I have tried to keep up with my blogs and be sure to comment on other blogs. I even had a great stretch of being able to reply to every commenter on the blog. And then Mike started working all the time, school got more intense and Spanky decided to train for the 'messiest kid in the world' award. 

I've been slacking. I look at my list of blogs and want to read each and every one. Then the second I start, the phone rings, something crashes or a child needs me right then. And the fantastic post that put such a smile on my face is left alone on the screen. I hate not having the time to leave a comment. I know they aren't suppose to be a huge deal but I love to leave comments, even more than getting one. It's my way of reaching out and padding someone on the back for congrats, prayers or just friendship.

Sadly, reaching out to other bloggers and blogging itself has turned into almost a chore. I vowed from the start if blogging lost its fun, I would stop. But I really did have fun.

So I am going to make a few changes. I will be posting a little less, unless I really have a lot to say, and trying to comment a little more. I am thinking I might spend one day posting and commenting on different days.

I don't know if it will work but I am going to try and I am going to do my very best to make blogging fun again!

Monday, March 9, 2009

A Slightly More Organized Menu-Monday

Monday again. Crazy weekend. Our new carpet has been the death of me. I want so badly to keep it clean and the kids, well Spanky, do not. Since we got the carpet, Spanky has dumped 3 cups of water, sprayed an entire can of spray starch all over it, dumped a mug of coffee on it, and (the piece de resistance!) took off a poopy diaper and threw it contents all over the room. Joy.

Well enough of that venting. Here's this week's menu (with links to the recipes!)

Monday: Tender and Crisp Chicken Legs with Sweet Tomatoes (note: this does include fresh tomatoes which are pretty bland right now--I don't usually cook tomatoes now but my kids love this dish and the cherry tomatoes looked pretty good. The potatoes in the recipe are mentioned as optional but feel they are a must!)

Tuesday: Bacon-Wrapped Sea Scallops with Baby Bok Choy (easy--wrap bacon around sea scallops, season with s&p, saute in olive oil over med high (approx 2 minutes per side--slight brown color), remove and saute baby bok choy in the *blush* bacon grease.

Wednesday: Rigatoni with Eggplant, Sweet Tomatoes and Buffalo Mozzarella (soft buffalo mozzarella is a must for this one)

Thursday: Fire-Roasted Tomato Soup and Salad with Grilled Cheese Sandwiches (simple meal as it is a GNO for me ;) The soup is from left-overs and just needs to be reheated)

Friday: Poached Salmon with Sauteed Kale (saute kale with sliced garlic in olive oil)

Saturday: Date night--kids get a pizza (woo-hoo)

Sunday: Turkey Meatloaf with Red Pepper Sauce and Cheesey broccoli (Cook broccoli over stove and add grated cheese to complete this total comfort meal!)

And that is this week. If you'd like any tips on any of these recipes (or a substitution suggestion), feel free to email me.

Friday, March 6, 2009

One of the Things I Want to Change About Me (update)

I had a hair appointment earlier this week. After my highlights, the colorist told me the hair stylist was running late due to an appointment showing up late and 'would I mind waiting a little bit'?  Of course not! Figuring I had a good 75 minutes before I had to pick up Spanky, I was in no hurry. So I sat with a towel on my head and waited, and waited. And then when I saw she was done, I smiled.  Until of course she started on the late client's eye brows.

I then started to get annoyed. It was going on 20 minutes and there was going to be no way I would be able to get a hair cut and decent blow out. I went up to the front, asked for a hair dryer and fixed my hair, with just enough time to get Spanky.

I drove away livid. Not only did this person show up 30 minutes late for an appointment, the salon did not seem to care that she was late. And in the words of our last president, "Late is rude".

So true. Before kids and even with just one child, I made sure to leave early and get to every appointment on time. Because being late is not only disrespectful to others but also makes you look 'sloppy'. 

Then I had a second child, a third and finally a fourth. And honestly, I am lucky to be less than 15 minutes late for anything (church, playdates, school...). I have tried just about everything to get us to locations on time. I pack up the day before, have all shoes hanging in a rack by the back door, clothes laid out. I even give myself 5 extra minutes per child for getting in the car. 

Yes, I try to leave 20 minutes earlier than I need to yet, I am still late! 

Getting ready yesterday, I noticed something. Getting my kids in the car is just like herding stray cats. They aren't motivated, have other goals than being somewhere on time, and are basically in their own little worlds. 

I have tried bribes, goals, but for the most part nothing seems to work. So I am going to ask my lovely, bright blogger friends--how do you get the kids moving and in the car?

Oh and I am not annoyed with the late girl at the salon. For all I know, she had five kids. Not that that's an excuse....

Quick Update: The salon is knocking 20% off my next appointment and the staff did apologize. Since this is the first time, I am willing to give them a second chance and enjoy that discount!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Thrifty Thursday--The Household Shopping Edition

Something that really manages to get me in trouble is running to Target for 'one little thing'. I always seem to come back with that one thing and then some. Does this happen to you? No? Then you must share your secret with everyone!

The only way I can avoid the 'one little thing' shopping trip is to group all my purchases together. I give myself a set time once a week to run out to Target and buy all my items and vow to not return until the following week. My necessities include the items I am not actually out of but those important items (like toilet paper and dishwashing detergent) I might be running low on. Not only does this help with keeping me away from Target, it keeps me at ease knowing I am not going to completely run out of a key item. Running out of toilet paper in a family of six is a very scary thought!

So what do you do to keep household shopping in check? Does bulk help? Coupons? Please help us out here :)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Menu Monday--A Meal Short and a Day Late

Last Friday, we got new carpets and rather than having my kids run around all the loose nails and harassing the installers (even though it would have made great blogger fodder!), I brought all FOUR to the grocery store with me.

I avoid bringing all four with me at all costs. Even though I make sure they are well fed and get a snack from the bake shop upon arrival, they are still filled with demands. And even if you have the most organized shopping list on the planet, four screaming voices in your ear can really mess with your head.

So we paid (much more than usual thanks to my very sorry bargaining with the children), went home and realized--oh we forgot:
  • salmon
  • almonds
  • oranges
  • chicken sausage
  • whole wheat pastry flour
So Menu Monday is missing a few meals and including my emergency left-overs I try to save for these special times. I could go back to the grocery store but then I know, I will buy even more extras and will more than likely have to bring at least two with me. And then there's a real chance I will forget the items again. So I will stick with what is in the house.

Let's start with last night's meal:

Monday: Chorizo with kale and cannelli beans (this is it--just saute all three with some Hungarian paprika and serve)

Tuesday: Chicken Parmesan (because we could not eat it last Friday due to the carpet craziness)

Wednesday: Carry out (was meant to be fish night but that is not happening now) 

Thursday: Tuscan Soup (left-overs from last week in  freezer)

Friday: Cincinnati Chili

Saturday: Salmon with some type of greens (if I remember to get it!)

Sunday: Fajitas

So there you have it. My Monday menu--a meal short and a day late.

Next week, I go to the grocery store with one child and will hopefully remember to review the shopping list but I make no promises.

Monday, March 2, 2009

We ate, we laughed, we drank, we laughed more.

This weekend I attended the DFW (Dallas-Fort Worth for you non-metroplexers!) blogger dinner at the Grand Luxe in the Galleria. 

I have to admit when Holly and Elaine told me there was going to be around 30 people, I got a tad anxious. OK, I got really really anxious. My hands were literally shaking when I was putting on mascara while getting ready. It felt like I was going on a first date (something I haven't done in almost 14 years!). What if I said something lame? What if my outfit was out of style (I was wearing knee high boots and purple--too fall/winter for the end of February?)? What if I drank too much wine and started blubbering like a complete fool? What if a chair broke when I sat down?

I was a mess.

And then after a real fun ride up to the restaurant with fellow small town bloggers, I felt a bit more at ease. The ladies were so nice in the car. Surely the dinner would be just as fun.

Bloggers started showing up quickly--CanearlChristina, Leslie, Dorsey, Ally, Mary Anne and so many more. And the first thing I noticed? The DFW bloggers were a super attractive bunch. Everyone seemed to sparkle :) Dress varied but seriously every single person just looked great! It was like a mini-fashion show.

But even more interesting....the bloggers themselves. I 'knew' some of the bloggers from their blogs and I have to say I always found them interesting but let me tell you...real life, their real lives are far more interesting. Everyone was so kind, so witty, so just fantastic!

I had such a good time that I almost completely forgot about taking pictures! I did take a few but they really were not very good so I am going to refer you here and here for some fab shots of the evening.

And all in all, for 'first dates', this dinner was incredible and I cannot wait for a second date. Even though I must admit, I drank far too much pinot but did not break any chairs ;)