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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Welcome Poppy & Apple Cider Sangria

I was downloading pics from my camera to the computer and realized just how many posts I've neglected to write about over the past few months. I'm off today with a quiet house...kids are at school. Hubs is at work. It's cold outside, so I'm none too anxious to get out if I don't have to. I'm trying to think of something to do besides crawl back in my bed and take a nap.
Just wondering what I should fix to take to Thanksgiving dinner at my brother & sister-in-law's house. Last year I made mashed sweet potatoes, green bean casserole & macaroni and cheese. I have to work Wednesday and Thursday this week which means whatever I do will have to be make ahead. There are recipes for Apple Cider Sangria all over pinterest, and I made a "test" batch last week, so I'll probably make that. Of course, with the weather being unseasonably cold for November (we Texans are used to playing football in the fall leaves in jeans and a sweatshirt on Thanksgiving Day...not temps in the 30's!), I don't know if folks will want cold spirits. I also found a recipe for sweet potato cookie pies which look tasty...a sugar cookie shell filled with sweet potato/cream cheese filling topped with a dollop of whipped cream, a pecan half and a drizzle of caramel. That's not really all that "make ahead" with the whipped cream topping, etc. *sigh* suggestions are always welcome.
On a completely different note, I am in love with a certain little critter that became part of our family on August 10, 2013. Her name is Poppy and she is an adorable guinea pig (even if she did bite my finger and draw a little blood yesterday when I was trying to corral her so I could clean her cage). Let me let you all see for yourselves...She's growing by leaps and bounds. I was kind of concerned about her and Missy the dog whose track record reveals, "does NOT play well with others."
Poppy loves her timothy hay!
Aren't her markings beautiful!
So far they get along just fine. Not fine enough for me to leave Poppy unattended with her favorite piggy-sitter, but fine enough as long as there's a cage between the two of them. She roams the house in her big plastic sphere while her cage is being cleaned. She has escaped before on a couple of occasions. She has this thing about the pillows behind the couch and in front of the fireplace, so it's pretty easy to figure out where she's gone when she gets loose. Who knew guinea pigs had such a vertical leap? She is very entertaining to watch when she gets excited (usually about a treat of some sort). She bucks like a miniature bronco and squeals excitedly while running around her cage at break-neck speed. Very amusing. She enjoys fresh fruits and veggies: apples, sweet potatoes, spinach leaves (well washed and in moderation, of course), carrots, oranges, etc. I fed her a couple sprigs of parsley which she appeared to enjoy immensely...until she started scratching her ears and rubbing her face. No more parsley for this little pig!
I took her to the vet for a nail trim & those suckers grow back fast. I guess I'll need to learn to trim them myself. Of course, she is Alisa's critter, so maybe she should be the one to trim the claws!
Let me post the recipe for the Apple Cider Sangria in case you all would like to add it to your Thanksgiving menu (and so I'll be able to get to it again since I can't remember my pinterest login info LOL). Here goes...

Apple Cider Sangria
One standard size bottle of Pinot Grigio
2 1/2 cups apple cider
1 cup club soda
1/2 cup ginger brandy*
3 honey crisp apples, cored and chopped or sliced
3 pears, cored and chopped or sliced

Combine all ingredients and chill several hours or overnight. This makes for a beautiful peach-colored beverage with fall fruits floating in it. I used one large honey crisp apple and two pears in my test batch and it yielded about 2 quarts.
*I could not find ginger brandy anywhere, so I substituted peach brandy and added some peeled, sliced fresh ginger with the fruit. This drink is only moderately sweet. If you prefer a sweeter drink, you may wish to substitute a sweeter white wine or add a bit of simple syrup (combine one part water to 2 parts granulated sugar. Microwave on high stirring every 30 seconds until sugar dissolves. allow to cool. It should be consistency of pancakes syrup. Store in airtight container) to taste.
When I make it again, I am going to substitute ginger ale for the club soda and see how that turns out! Let me know if you try a variation and how it works for you!
Until next time...

Carrot Cake as promised!

Well, I'm having a little technical difficulty copying and pasting the recipe for Awesome Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting from allrecipes.com so that I can tweak it and tell you what I did. I guess I'll just go for it and re-type the whole thing. I made some adjustments based on others' reviews that the cake was too oily and too sweet. Here goes...

"Carrot Cake a la E"
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp apple pie spice*
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 cups grated carrots (about 6 medium carrots)
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 individual cup natural apple sauce (about 1/3 cup)
4 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 8-oz can crushed pineapple with juice
3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Cream cheese frosting
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar (about one pound)
1 8-oz pkg Neufchatel cheese (or regular cream cheese if you're not worried about calories)
1 stick butter, softened (not melted)
1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees farenheit (reduce by 25 degrees if using a dark pan). Grease & flour a 9x13 inch baking dish (or 3 8-inch pans if you want a layered cake). Set aside.

Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, spice & salt. Add remaining dry ingredients: sugars, carrots. Stir in oil, apple sauce, eggs, pineapple, vanilla and nuts until well-combined.

Pour into prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 30-40 minutes.
If using 8-inch round pans reduce baking time to 25 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick into center of cake. It should come away clean if cake is done. Adjust cooking time as needed.

*apple pie spice is a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. You may use whichever spices suit your taste. Original recipe called for 1 tsp cinnamon but many reviews said it wasn't enough.

For the frosting, combine room temperature cream cheese, softened butter and vanilla in a mixing bowl and beat until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar and beat until well-blended and desired consistency. You may add the nuts to the frosting. I frosted the cake and then pressed the nuts to the sides of the cake. Frost completely cooled cake(s).
According to my family, not too sweet, not too oily but just right!
Until next time!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Hot chocolate for Fall!

Moving right along with my Friday Night Football feeding frenzy. The Hubs and I ate big bowls of hot and spicy chili before leaving for the game. And was I ever glad I did! It was cold out there (okay, so I know the 50's isn't exactly what some folks would call "cold" but remember it's still in the 70's & 80's during the day, so we thin-blooded Texans notice that 20 degree drop when the sun goes down!)
 The game was nonstop suspense! 7 to 7 in the first quarter. Then 7 to 14 followed by 7 to 21 (started to sweat just a little in spite of the cold north wind) and finally 14 to 21 at half time. We moved up 21 to 21in the 3rd quarter (I think) and made a field goal in the 4th quarter. Our opponent got the ball in the last 54 seconds of the game, and the running back was about 10 yards from scoring a winning touchdown when he was tackled and the buzzer sounded announcing "game over"! Our team beat the undefeated team 24-21 and won themselves a chance at the play offs! Woo-hoo! Go Team Go! It was so cold at the game I just knew I would need a cup of hot chocolate once I got home. The kids would probably appreciate something to warm their tummies as well. I popped a pan of sugar cookies in the oven (okay, so I cheated on the cookies. They were the pre-made break apart & bake variety from the grocery store) and went to my favorite www.allrecipes.com to see what I could see. I started with "creamy hot cocoa recipe" but tweaked it a little. I'll post mine below.

Hot cocoa
1/3 cup cocoa
1/2 cup granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1 t. instant coffee
1/3 cup boiling water
3 1/2 cups milk

In a 2 quart saucepan combine cocoa, sugar, salt & instant coffee. Add boiling water and bring to a gentle boil, stirring constantly for two minutes. Slowly stir in milk and heat, stirring occasionally until heated through but not boiling. Serve with marshmallows or whipped cream if desired. Makes four servings.

The original recipe called for 3/4 t. pure vanilla extract, but I forgot it and it tasted fine without it. The original recipe also called for 1/2 cup cold half & half divided evenly between four mugs before adding the hot chocolate. Maybe that would have cut the sweetness a bit, too.

I think if I make this again, I'll try reducing the cocoa to 1/4 cup and the sugar to 1/3 cup and see what happens. Or perhaps adding 4 cups cold milk vs 3 1/2 cups. The above version was still very sweet in my opinion even after drinking it with sugar cookies on the side. I'll keep you posted. Until next time...

Almost Homemade Chili

On this my first day off in an entire week (see older post, "Oh me, oh my" for more on that), I woke up excited about (1) a day off, (2) carrot cake, (3) high school football, and (4) fall weather.
Earlier this week the Hubs went to the grocery store for wings (Wings are one of his favorite "meals" parked in front of whatever sport just happens to be on television. I would complain, but at least he only spent $10 in the grocery store deli vs $20 at Wing Stop for less food. I've learned to choose my battles! LOL). Anyway, while he was cruising through the store he spotted a carrot cake on sale for $4.99. He was tempted to get the cake but his will-power (read: voice of wife angel on shoulder) kicked in and he left it there. Just the power of suggestion, however, remained with us both. Hmmm...carrot cake does sound good. I was at the grocery store getting the last couple of items needed to make a homemade carrot cake (like grate-able whole carrots vs the baby carrots I had in the frig) when I was called in to work. So, this being my off day, I whipped out the box grater and shredded carrots and sifted together flour & cinnamon...you get the picture. I'll share the recipe I used a little later (in my next post after I actually taste the cake and make sure it turned out okay).
Today was also Friday as in Friday night high school football. I wanted something besides fast food for dinner before the game. A big pot of chili sounded just right. Before I started the carrot cake, I started a pot of chili so it could simmer while I baked the cake. I usually make chili by "feel"since it can be adapted to suit anyone's taste; however, I'll try to recall what all I used this go round.

Almost Homemade Chili
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 stalks of celery, thinly sliced
1/2 of medium bell pepper, diced
2 cans (14.5 oz each) diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cans (15.5 oz each) chili beans**, undrained
1 T. chili powder
2 t. ground cumin*
1 t. dried oregano
1 t. garlic salt
1 t. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 to 1 t. black pepper (to taste)*

In a large skillet, brown ground beef with about 1/2 of the chopped onion (I do this because I dislike the smell of raw meat when it's cooking). Drain.
Spray a dutch oven (large pot) with cooking spray and add remaining chopped onion, garlic, celery and bell pepper. Cook over low heat until onion is translucent. Add ground beef and remaining ingredients to large pot. Mix well and bring to a boil stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer 45 min to an hour. Top with a dollop of sour cream, shredded cheese, fresh chopped onion or sliced green onions if desired. Serve with corn chips, corn bread or crackers.
*I sometimes use about a tablespoon of whole cuminos and black peppercorn mix in place of the ground cumin & black pepper when I have them on hand. Not a substitution for the faint of heart (or tongue!)
If you prefer a thicker chili you could always drain one or both of the cans of tomatoes and use the juice for another recipe. **You may like "western-style" beans or plain pinto beans instead of the chili beans.
This is easy to turn vegetarian, too. Just add a drained can of whole kernel corn and rinse a can each of a variety of beans in place of the ground beef (black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, etc.). Diced zucchini added with the onion, garlic, celery would be tasty, too. Bon apetit! Until next time...

Friday, November 1, 2013

Oh me, oh my!

Well, folks, I labeled this "All Saint's Day" but in reality it's already Nov. 2. Oh well. Talk about a day of ups and downs...and good food to balance it all out.
Let me begin with work-related saga, if I may. Last week I worked 12-hour shifts on Tuesday, Friday, Saturday. This week's schedule was supposed to be Sunday, Thursday, Friday. On Monday my job called saying that they needed a nurse to cover 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. I explained that it would put my in overtime, but they must have been really desperate because they said that was okay. I ended up working 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. On Tuesday the Central Staffing Office called stating that there was a "need" on my floor again. And again, I explained the OT thing to them. They called my floor manager and then called me back saying that it was approved. So, off to work I went again Tuesday for the 7 p.m. shift. I was sent home at 11 p.m. No worries on my part. I still have a day off between my last two days to work this week, right? Note, I have been at work every night at this point since last Friday.
My telephone rang at 9-something Wednesday morning. Can you guess whom it might have been? Do the initials CSO ring a bell (look six lines up if they don't). There was again a "need" on my floor for 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. or 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Seriously people? Is there no one else answering their phones or what. I explained the OT situation yet again but offered to take the 3p-11p shift if they really needed me. The CSO said they would call my floor to get it approved. I received a call back from a nurse on my floor saying, "Thanks, but no thanks. You stay home and get some rest. We're about to discharge several patients and we'll just keep our fingers crossed that the rooms don't fill up. Cool. I planned to enjoy my one day off and bathe the dog, order Mama's pizza for dinner and watch Modern Family with my family. At 5:50 p.m as I was scouring the aisles of the grocery store for hot cocoa mix and tea bags, I received a call on my cell phone from the charge nurse on my floor asking if I was still available for the 7p-7a shift. Again I say to you, SERIOUSLY?1?! At this point I'm wondering if I am being a Team Player or the Team member being played, but as I just wrote a substantial check for senior graduation announcements, cap & gown, yearbook, etc...I shuffled home, wolfed down a slice of pizza, jumped into my scrubs and scurried back out the door to work. The nurse who had called me earlier to say stay home and rest thanked me profusely for coming in. As a favor she took me off of the schedule for Friday. So my OT wouldn't be as substantial, but every little bit helps. I was telling all of my patients as I met and examined them that I would be their nurse until 7 the next morning. Want to guess what happened at 11 p.m.? Charge nurse wrote me right off of the schedule since I was overtime. I handed off my patients to a nurse coming on at 11p.m. and I went home early again. I thought to myself, I'm not going to know how to work a 12 hour shift by the time I get back on track. Dang!
Bear with me, I'm getting to the conclusion of this saga...So, yesterday (Halloween-trick or treat!) I donned my scrub top with ghosts & bats & jack-o-lanterns and set off to work for my originally assigned 12 hour shift. I got a little nervous as I saw that we had several empty rooms. If more patients didn't appear from surgery or the ER there would be no way to justify having a full nursing staff. I picked up my patient assignment and went to meet them all. I dared not say that I'd be with them until the morning. Sure enough at the stroke of 10:30 (shift change) I surrendered my patients and was sent home early.
This morning I did the math. I ended up working 12+8+4+4+4 hours this week. That's only 32 hours!! Not only did I not get 1 minute of overtime, I didn't even get all of my regularly scheduled 36 hours. With the three extra trips back and forth to work I lost money and time! I was angry with myself for not figuring that out beforehand and insisting that I stay for my entire shift last night. I passed on this revelation to our timekeeper and my unit manager. I'll definitely speak with my manager face to face when I have the opportunity. I explained that I wasn't trying to be greedy by accepting the OT, but I thought I was helping my unit and being a "team player." I guess not. It's never a good thing to work short staffed-not for the patients or the overextended staff. Now I see why people call in at the last minute and don't think twice about it. They have probably been burned in the past, too. I'm going to bring this to management's attention. Hopefully, this will not happen to me or my coworkers in the future.
I'm going to end this post right here because it's longer than I originally thought it would be. I'll start a new post for tomorrow. Good night. Until next time...

Sunday, August 4, 2013

5QF-Sunday edition : )

Well, well, well...or should I sing, "Oops! I did it again!" I worked Thursday night and slept through five question Friday. When this happens, I feel compelled to answer the questions anyway and end up "blogging" on someone else's comment section. So...I decided I'd go ahead and answer the questions any old way. Better late than never, right?

1. What is on your Summer 2013 bucket list?
Get to the beach and get some sand between my toes...which I just did last weekend. I plan to post more on that a little later! We still need to use our tickets to the planetarium and I owe my daughter a date at the bowling alley. Finally, we would like to visit a water park. I'd better get busy...August is here, and that means summer is almost over!


2. What is the most useless item on your child's back to school list?
We're sort of outgrowing the whole back to school shopping supply list. Once my kids hit high school they got "lists" from individual teachers with requested items on the first couple of days of school, so no "back to school bargains" for moi! Never liked when the teachers asked for each student to bring 3 boxes of Kleenex or 12 dozen pencils on day one. Where do they store all of that stuff? Doesn't an overabundance of supplies encourage waste? The kicker is sending all of that loot on the first day and still having to replace stuff after Christmas break!

3. What is the one reality TV show that makes no sense to you?
I do not watch reality shows, period. Is there anything real about them, seriously? Give me a good old sitcom any day over any reality show.


4. What is one movie you can watch over and over again? Why?
Oh Brother Where Art Thou and The Little Mermaid because they both have awesome music I love to sing along to (read: I have the soundtracks memorized).


5. What's your favorite back to school tradition?

Sadly enough I don't think we ever really established a back to school tradition in our little family. I do not particularly enjoy shopping for clothes and stuff, but my kids get really excited about it, so I try to be a good sport. School supply shopping is a nightmare for us non-shopoholics...no matter how early we shop, someone is always out of one or two items on the list (or those items haven't been stocked yet). This warrants another stop somewhere else where the item is not on sale, but you're hot and tired (this is August in Texas, after all!) and just want the pain to end. There's always some weird item like pastel colored 3x5 notecards that are only available at one of the smaller drugstores where "sales" come in the form of rebates so you have to pay up front and then fill out paperwork and save UPC symbols ,etc. to get your 50 cent savings *sigh* I have exhausted myself just thinking about all of that.
I guess my favorite tradition was taking a picture of my kiddoes on the first day of school with their ear to ear smiles, super-size backpacks and new lunch boxes and sneakers. My kids grew weary of that by mid-elementary school when it was no longer "cool" for mom to escort them to their classroom (carrying grocery bags full of aforementioned five boxes of Kleenex, 12 dozen pencils, and other miscellaneous supplies) and snap a picture of them with their homeroom teacher on the first day of school...c'est la vie, right?

That's all for now, my friends! Gotta get my snooze on for work tonight. I love my job. I wouldn't, however, be too sad if they called and cancelled me tonight : )
Until next time...

Friday, July 26, 2013

Summer Squash casserole

In a few hours I'll be heading to the beach. You would think I'd be packed or packing or sleeping or something productive like that instead of blogging, but what can I say? In preparation for the impromptu trip (the hubs and I figured this is the only weekend we're all going to be off together for the rest of the summer so we'd better just go for it!) I was trying to "clean out" the frig. I had a couple of yellow squash and a couple of zucchinis and about half of a rotisserie chicken on hand, so I went in search of some kind of casserole dish to incorporate it all. I originally found <this recipe> at www.allrecipes.com for Cheesy Zucchini Casserole. It sounded good, and I had everything needed so as not to have to warrant a "quick trip" to the grocery store (which sort of defeats the purpose of finding a recipe with stuff you have on hand). I was about to write a review with my "modifications" but then decided to post it here because it was almost a new recipe. Here's my version...

Eastlyn's Cheesy Summer Squash Casserole

2 yellow crook-neck squash, sliced or diced-your preference
2 small zucchini, sliced or diced-your preference
3 cups Italian foccacia bread, cubed (I made mine small <1 p="">
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 small purple onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
cajun seasoning to taste (optional)
two eggs, beaten
about 2 cups leftover chicken, shredded or cubed (I had 1/2 of a rotisserie chicken)
2 cups shredded cheese, divided use (I used Mexican 4-cheese blend)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, toss bread cubes with melted butter; set aside
I "blanched" my sliced squash/zucchini in boiling water for 5 minutes then placed it in ice water before draining off the liquid. I don't really think this step is necessary as the squash was really soft after baking...so you be the judge!
I sauteed the onion in about a teaspoon of butter just until translucent to "take the edge off."
Now, combine the buttered bread cubes, squash/zucchini, onion, seasonings, eggs, chicken and one cup of the cheese; stir until blended.
Spray 9x13 inch pan (or 2-quart casserole dish) with nonstick spray. Pour squash mixture into pan & spread out evenly. Top with remaining cup of shredded cheese.
Cover and bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
Remove cover and bake an additional 15-20 minutes until cheese is lightly brown.
Allow to cool slightly (about 10 minutes) and ENJOY!
**Tips: If you use plain bread, you may want to add a bit more seasoning, like maybe a teaspoon of Italian seasoning or fresh basil with the melted butter. White, yellow or green onion would probably be fine in place of the purple onion as well. I'll bet monterrey jack or straight cheddar (or any combination) would work, too. I wonder if I could try this in the crockpot to avoid turning on the oven? I'll try it and let you all know!**
Now, I really do have to go and pack and sleep! Until next time...

Five Question Friday ALREADY?

Has a week already zipped by and I missed it? My, how these summer days fly by! I think I have thought about blogging something each day this week, but alas, when I logged in my last post was 5QF from last week. Shame on me! It's raining outside...a nice steady gentle sort of rain. You know the kind that's great for sleeping (especially when everyone else in the house is sleeping in when you come home from a 12-hour shift at work!), and that's just what I plan to do after I link up with Mama M at My Little Life. First things first, people! *smile* Here goes...

1. What is your best secret cleaning tip?
Ha ha ha ha. That is some punchline, I tell you! Oh, you mean that was a serious question? Well, let's see. I could tell you all sorts of "do as I say not as I do" scenarios, like establish a routine and do a little every day to avoid having a nightmare task ahead of you when company says they're coming. Share the responsibilities. I tried breaking it down to a series of daily tasks once upon a time ago, but it never really took off with the family and I got tired of feeling like "Cinderelly, Cinderelly..." Went something like this: Monday-mail & money (sort, recycle, shred, pay bills, etc.); Tuesday-Toilets (scrub) and towels (wash, fold, put away); Wednesday Wash (the rest of the laundry); Thursday-errands & grocery shopping (not much rhymes with "Thursday" but we get our grocery ads on Wednesday around here). Friday-floors (sweep, mop, vacuum). If you need additional help, just ask the Fly Lady!


2. What is your favorite food to snack on during movie night?
Popcorn and ice cream...sometimes whoppers or m&m's if I'm in a mood for candy


3. If it was up to you, what would you have named the royal baby?
I probably would have just dropped the George and gone with Alexander

4. If you could be any Disney character who would you choose?
Ariel was the first Disney character to pop into my head. I would just love hanging out under the sea with Sebastian the crab and singing all of those great songs from The Little Mermaid.


5. What's the most important part of a healthy relationship?

Communication! Say what you mean and mean what you say. Say "I love you" often (if you mean it); listen as well as speak, etc...

My eyes are past "getting heavy" so I must go and let them rest for a while. Thanks for stopping by. Until next time...

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Five Question Friday, a day late!

Well, amidst all of the excitement over Alisa's birthday and trying to figure out the fondant icing business, I forgot all about Five Question Friday! Until today that is. I jumped around and visited some of the participating blogs then decided to answer the questions myself. Even if I am a day late (and a dollar short...c'est la vie!) Here goes...

1. What is one thing you have too many of in your house?
According to my mom (and I agree that she is right), I have way too many dishes. I don't think I even have enough cabinet space for them all. I love my crystal serving bowls for special occasions and my Corningwear for every day use and my chips and dips set. The thing is, I use them! It's not like I have a bunch of stuff that I never use taking up space...well, okay, maybe the wooden cheese and cracker tray with the glass dome lid doesn't get used so much...

2. Did anything go not quite as planned on your wedding day?
My main agenda on my wedding day was to relax and enjoy it however it turned out. So much stress and planning goes into making a wedding special, but you never know how things will unfold. As my midwife told me years ago...you can plan your plans, but you can't plan the outcome. That said, we had a couple of bloopers which make for a good laugh as we watch our wedding video...
We forgot our marriage license and had to send the boyfriend of one of my bridesmaids to retrieve it. In his hurry (and in the light rain) he took a curve too fast and scuffed the paint on the bumper of his truck. Ouch! He saved the day though. Next, as the hubs and I were getting in the limo after the ceremony, I noticed that he was wearing his mother's 3-rose corsage instead of his single rose boutonniere. I wonder to this day what his mom was wearing? Finally, one of our lectors read the wrong reading. He caught himself and was flipping back and forth trying to find the right place. I think he finally got it, but I honestly don't remember!
I'd say thing went pretty smoothly, especially compared to some of the stories I've read while 5QF blog-hopping!

3. What is your favorite summer smoothie recipe?
I recently bought a "Nutribullet" so my son and I have been whipping up "smoothies" pretty regularly. My favorite is a handful of baby spinach leaves, vanilla yogurt, banana and assorted berries to fill the cup. I use a little water or juice to "liquify" it all. Sounds & looks kind of gross (remember red & green make brown!), but tastes great. I'm going to try throwing in flax meal for added er uhh "benefits" like April at THIS is what it's all about

4. What is the weather like where you are?
Today's high 95, low 73, chance of storms, 53% humidity. Last year this time we were in our umpteenth day of 100+ degree temps, so I'll take 95 with a chance of rain!

5. What is your favorite book to read to your kids?
We loved Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. We also had lots of Sandra Boynton books. I for one love the bug-eyed silly animals doing everyday stuff that rhymed. My daughter especially loved "mother-baby love" books: Time for bed and Guess How Much I Love You come to mind.

That's all for now folks! Gotta get some shut eye before I head for work later. Until next time...

happy birthday alisa

I can't believe my "baby" is 15 years old! Wasn't it just two weeks ago or so that she was two tiny handfuls all snuggled in my arms close to my heart with a nursery closet full of pink frilly stuff? *sniffle, sniffle* Alas, that was then and this is now. She won't snuggle in my arms, but she remains close to my heart...always.
Today, she's a beautiful young woman headed to her sophomore year in high school, learning to drive, excelling at everything she attempts...academics, dance, percussion She is creative and "artsy" and has an eclectic eye for fashion and design. She loves her iPad and spends hours playing candy crush and other games as well as scrolling through board after board on pinterest and pinning stuff. She loves babies and small furry creatures and non mainstream music. She's also used her iPad to make some fantastic videos of her youngest cousin Maycie. Very talented that daughter of mine is! I love her. 
I thought I would try to think of something really profound to say about raising daughters or kids growing up but it's all cliche so I'll just stick with how very much I love my girl forever and for always. That never gets old!
Here are a couple of pics from our dinner with my daughter's godparents and their family that was visiting from Louisiana plus some local friends...
 My first attempt to work with fondant icing...talk about a sticky situation!
 Alisa and her purple ombre layer cake
 Back row: Nicole, Lauren Aaron; middle row: Alisa, Victoria, Cierra, Sheridan, Ciel
Front: Sydney
 Happy Birthday to you,  Alisa!!
 Yum! layers of purple goodness...

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

June/July Celebrations

Every time I log on to my computer I'm reminded of all of the occasions I've missed blogging about. Just before leaving for my scrapbook retreat I downloaded pictures from 4th of July (this year) and our trip to New York with the school band at the end of April. As I was hunting for the pictures on my computer, I came across pics from a couple of years ago. Did I ever develop any of the photos? Have I already scrapped some of them and they're stashed in a pizza box somewhere in the "craft room" (aka, "multipurpose" or "catch-all" room)? I thought I might feel just a little better if I took a few minutes to at least post a few of the pics before I retire for the night. There will be more to come as I become more organized in the very near future!
The Hubs grew up always requesting caramel cake for his June 18th birthday. I have searched high and low for a recipe similar to his Aunt Zeda's recipe. I found this one at Betty Crocker's website. The cake looked like a caramel cake, but the icing just didn't quite do it for me. You can read my review if you click on the link. The cake part was good, but I'll keep looking for a better caramel frosting!
Here are pics from the 4th of July impromptu get-together at my parents' house. I say impromptu because mom literally called me the day before the holiday and asked if she should grill some hot dogs and burgers and have everyone over. Umm, no, not really. She wouldn't accept that since she was feeling a little guilty about skedaddling out of town for our scrapbook retreat on Friday July 5. Then she asks what I want to bring. Umm, nothing 'cause I have lots to do to get ready for said scrapbook retreat AND I had to work 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. on the night of the 4th. Anyway, we did end up getting together. I did end up making potato salad and a very patriotic five layer cake with whipped cream icing that slid all over the place inside the cake holder on the way to mom's...
 Me and the baby niece, Maycie
Cousins: Aaron, Xavier, Alisa, Micaela (Aaron's sig-o), Maycie & Leyla
 The slip-sliding away cake. It tasted great even if it was a little worse for its travels!
T'Lani's patriotic mini cupcakes. We did have real food, too, just in case you're wondering LOL!
I'll save the New York pics for a separate blog. Until next time...

Do the mashed potato!

Anybody out there remember how to do the mashed potato? Okay, I admit to being old enough to remember music from the 60's that referred to a dance called the mashed potato, but I have no idea about how to do the dance itself. That said, this post really isn't about a dance at all. It's about the side dish!
Years ago when I had just graduated college (the first time around) and I was in between apartments, I stayed with my friend Kathy for a couple of days. One night she fixed real honest-to-goodness mashed potatoes. No offense to my mom, but we mostly had mashed potatoes that started as white flakes out of a brown box when I was growing up. It could be that Mommy dear at some point in time did make us real mashed potatoes from scratch and my siblings and I complained that we liked the stuff out of the box better. I don't remember, but it could have happened. I have a couple of kids of my own now who have such warped taste. At any rate, Kathy was flabbergasted that I would think of eating mashed potatoes out of a brown cardboard box when "real" mashed potatoes were so easy to make.
Fast forward to this past Sunday night. My son's friend "T" joined us for church Sunday evening. On the way home we were talking about "what's for dinner?" It was already late so I was thinking of quick and easy. T mentioned that he love potatoes in any form or fashion. That got me to thinking about mashed potatoes to go with chicken tenders, cream gravy and mixed vegetables with broccoli thrown in for good measure. Here's the recipe I came up with with ingredients I had on hand:

Mashed Potatoes
3 large baking potatoes
2 quarts water (give or take...enough to cover the cut up potatoes)
1 T. Salt
2 oz cream cheese (I used reduced fat neufchatel)
2 T. butter or margarine
1/2 cup milk
salt & pepper to taste

Scrub and peel potatoes. Cut into eighths. Rinse in cold water. Place in large pot with enough water to cover potatoes. Add 1 tablespoon salt.
Bring potatoes to a boil. Reduce heat to med-high and cook for 10-12 minutes until potatoes are soft but not mushy. Turn off stove.
Drain potatoes and return to pot. Return pot to warm burner and cover with a lid. The residual heat will help "dry" any excess moisture from the potatoes.
Add cream cheese, butter or margarine and 1/2 cup milk to pot. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
**Remember you boiled the potatoes in salted water when adding additional seasoning to taste**
Beat with mixer or mash by hand with a potato masher until all ingredients are well-incorporated.
Yields about 6 servings of fluffy, flavorful goodness known as mashed potatoes!
Add some fresh chives, bacon bits and shredded cheese after whipping up the potatoes for "fully loaded mashed potatoes"!
Bon Apetit, mis amigos...until next time!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Time to call in the Professionals!

Well, folks, I've gone and done it! I couldn't be happier with my decision. I contacted a couple of professional organizers in my vicinity on Friday, and I'm waiting to hear back from them!! I have blogged over and over about the cluttered state of my house. I posted pics of shame and horror on a website I don't even remember the name of now in the hopes of embarrassing myself into action. I have made pacts with friends to commit to cleaning one area at a time and be accountable to one another until the transformation was complete. (That only lasted about a day-LOL!) I have repeatedly turned down offers of help from family members who enter my house and shake their heads in sympathy. I have endured even the youngest of extended family members berating my (lack of) housekeeping abilities ("E, your house is a mess. You need to clean this table off!). I have listened to my own mother threaten to report me to every cable television show that deals with conquering clutter in a very big and public way...e.g., Clean Sweep, Extreme Makeover, etc. I have survived the sting of sarcasm as the clutter has careened further and further out of control (the truth hurts!): "So, I see you've made a lot of progress since I was last over..." I'm tired of living in what Fly Lady calls CHAOS (can't have anyone over syndrome). I am finally saying enough is enough!
If I am to return to school (which really isn't an if since it's mandatory if I want to keep my current job), I need ORGANIZATION! I cannot possibly work full time and be involved with the kids' school and band activities and go back to school even part time with my house in the state that it currently is in. Why have I waited so long, you may ask? It's what it always boils down to: Money, money, money. Once upon a time ago I had money and my house wasn't cluttered. The hubs and I were "DINKs": dual income, no kids. Then along came child #1 and two years later child #2. The air conditioner went out, the fence needed replacing, the house needed painting, etc. Then were single income, dual kids. Then 9/11 happened and our one income changed drastically as the Hubs works for American Airlines. Our debt ran amuck. I went back to school for nursing in the hopes of taking some of the pressure off of the hubs. Can YOU imagine working 40 to 60 hours per week and still coming home to a spouse clutching bills in both hands with in arms crossed and foot tapping saying, "We need MORE money, Honey, like yesterday!!" So now, we are DITTs: dual income, two teenagers. I'm afraid our lifestyle of "managing amidst the mess" will carryover into their lives once they leave the nest. I secretly hope it turns them into complete neat freaks. I don't have many regrets in life, but I do regret that we were not the "kool-aid house" on our block. Before I had kids I dreamt of being the mom who had all of the neighborhood kids over for slippety slides across the lawn, cookies and milk after school, friends over for dinner and sleepovers and movie night or game night. I dreamt of hosting family get togethers during the holidays and throwing dinner parties with friends just for the heck of it. Alas, I honestly cannot remember the last get together I hosted in my home although I believe it was Aaron's First Communion around 2004. Sad but true, folks.
Now, from some of the fees I've seen online, I know I'm looking at several hundred dollars to "makeover" my house. I understand the "concepts" of keeping a tidy abode. My ultimate goal in life is to have a place for everything and have everything in its place (that ranks just after getting to Heaven and hearing the voice of God tell me, "Well done, good and faithful servant. Now, come on in!). In order to have a place for everything I must get rid of stuff. One must have systems and routines in place to maintain the organization. We have systems in place now; they're just counterproductive--like bringing in the mail and piling it all over the kitchen table or collecting recycle-able paper in bags and boxes by the laundry door but never remembering to load it in the car and drop it off at the school or library until it is overflowing and blocking the doorway. Another system: dirty up every dish in the kitchen and let them stack all over the countertops and both side of the sink until the task is just too daunting to tackle and then run and grab fast food instead of cooking a meal. Yeah, we have systems all right!
The way I see it, I spend hundreds of dollars per month on groceries that may or may not get eaten because I throw out food every week that folks around here are just too lazy to prepare or warm up. And I spend hundreds of dollars on clothes that wind up on a certain teenager's bedroom floor. If I can redirect those funds and curtail the shopping (which only adds to the "accumulation of goods" I call clutter 'cause new stuff doesn't have a place of its own) then maybe, just maybe I can "afford" my professional organizer. I'm so excited, and I just can't hide it! I'm about to lose control (in a positive way), and I think I like it!! Until next time, my friends...
The following are only for the strong of heart...one rule applies: "Don't judge my junk!"
This is that "recycle station" I mentioned before
The "former" formal dining table. It's actually much worse now : (
 Ashamed to say this is my bedroom! I think I did finally relinquish rights to the 1980's linen blazer with shoulder pads LOL!
 This is my side of the bathroom counter. The hubs has about 1/4 the space but it's no neater, SMH...
Alas, the kitchen. These pics were taken over a year ago but on any given day...sometimes it's better, sometimes, it's worse

Good Sunday Morning to You!

I just love "the arts"! This past week I took in a movie with the Hubs. We went to see The Lone Ranger which I had been looking forward to ever since I saw the first preview several months back. I guess I wasn't expecting it to be as silly as it was, but then again Johnny Depp was playing Tonto and it was a Disney film...should've put two and two together. It was entertaining and Armie Hammer with those oh-so-blue eyes was easy to ogle look at for 2 hours and 29 minutes. Then, I took my mom, my daughter and my 8-year-old niece to see a live musical at Jubilee Theatre in Fort Worth. While we were downtown on a Friday night, we popped in to Barnes & Noble bookstore to peruse a copy of the book on which the play was based. Then we stopped by The Original Cupcakery where Sasha enjoyed a very chocolate-y cupcake dressed in fluffy buttercream icing and chocolate cookie bits on top. Alisa chose a raspberry cupcake with champagne buttercream and sparkly edible glitter. I sampled them both, and I must admit they were both quite tasty even though I'm not usually that much of a chocoholoic!
I am looking forward to using the tickets to the symphony that I "won" at the silent auction for the high school band just before school let out. Finally, the local Museum of Art has an interesting exhibit featuring artwork related to the Harlem Renaissance. I'd better get on that because I think there are only a couple of weeks left.
For now, I'm going to sleep where visions of sugar plum fairies can dance in my dreams. Last night was a good night at work, but I'm exhausted nonetheless. Until next time...

Friday, July 12, 2013

Five Question Friday-12 July 2013

Welcome back to Five Question Friday! I'm excited that Mama M is back and 5QF is back in business this week. For details on how to participate and a "clean" copy of the questions to paste on your own blog, hop over to Mama M's blog My Little Life. Now, here I go...

1. Would you rather pay for house cleaner or spa day?
I'll take both, please! The house cleaner can come while I'm away at my spa day LOL! If I had to choose one, I'd say the house cleaner...definitely more of a necessity around here. In fact, I'd probably have to bribe the house cleaner with a day at the spa for after she finishes cleaning my house. 

2. Who plans what gifts you get for holidays, you or your spouse?
This is a source of contention in my household (or maybe it's just me)...the hubs and I discuss what to get for whom. I sketch out a budget (very loose use of the term, mind you) and then I usually do most of the shopping, exhausting the budget. Then, the hubs swoops in on Christmas Day with really expensive gifts for the kids (expensive like flat screen televisions for their individual rooms ::angry eyebrows:: does anyone else think that gift is wrong on so many levels?) that were NOT on the list and NOT included in the budget. So, I guess the answer to the question is I plan, he adds to it.


3. How many hours of sleep do you get? Do you need more?
Well obviously not enough given my temper flaring from the previous question! Just kidding. I work nights and my schedule is inconsistent so I sleep whenever i can for however long I can...the more hours the merrier! On any given night that I'm not working I usually get about 6 hours of sleep. When I sleep during the day in anticipation of a work night, I get anywhere from 4 to 6 hours. On my days off, I sleep away half of the day and then get back on my night sleep schedule without difficulty.


4. Do you like your hair long or short?
Short = Easy and I love easy, so I'd have to go with short. However, I'm currently in the process of growing out my hair au naturale so it's getting long (or should I say "big"). Styling "in between, natural" hair is a double edge sword. There are more options: afro, twists, braids, flat iron straightening, etc. but it's a lot more work that wash and go short hair where the only "styling" option is which headband or hair clips to wear.


5. When was the last time you were pulled over and what was it for?

The last time I was pulled over was several years ago. I was still working at Parent's Day Out and "Officer Jack" had visited the school to talk about community helpers with the preschoolers. Then a couple of weeks later Officer Jack pulled me over for expired tags. Oops! I had the new tag in my glove box. I was just waiting for to get my vehicle inspected so I could change out both stickers at the same time. Officer Jack reached in my driver's side window, peeled off the old sticker in one fluid motion and stuck the new one on...problem solved, no ticket necessary!

Well, that's it for now. My mom, daughter, niece and I are heading to a play this evening, so I need to get a head start on dinner preparations and all of the "what to wear" business as well. Thanks for stopping by. Have a great weekend. Until next time...

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Time to tackle the table

Well, actually, it's well PAST time to tackle the table.  Let me tell you how bad it is (::insert audience yelling, "HOW BAD IS IT?!"::)...It's SOOO bad that I cannot take a "before and after picture" because I think my camera is buried amongst the piles of stuff on the table. Yes, it's that bad, folks! What motivation do I have to take on this project after so many weeks months years of clutter accumulation? A scrapbook retreat at Bailiteal Farm this weekend! Now, how am I supposed to scrap with no camera from which to download pictures? Of course, any scrapbookista (I know it has that red dotted underline indicating a misspelled word but it's a newly coined term-as in I just made it up right now-and I haven't had a chance to consult google dictionary or whatever to make it official so bear with me...but I digress) would know I have tons of pics of stuff that haven't made it into a scrapbook from previous retreats, so there really is nothing to worry about. Let me just briefly describe the evolution of my participation in scrapbook retreats...
Some 16 years ago (I only remember this because my daughter was a newborn when "The Scrapbook Store" opened within walking distance of my house. One day I ventured in and was mesmerized by endless racks of color coordinated paper, albums, rolls of stickers, six foot tables covered in butcher paper with works in progress. I thought I had died and gone to heaven! Shortly thereafter, I was introduced to Creative Memories by my friend and fellow blogger NickiWoo. For those of you who are not familiar, Creative Memories is to scrapbookistas what Pampered Chef is to kitchen gadget gurus...fun stuff that comes right to your home for demonstrations and sales. You tell two friends and then they tell two friends and then they tell two friends, and so on and so on....
Some years later (my kids were now preschoolers on my timeline) Robin, my friend and coworker at Parent's Day Out, mentioned a scrapbook retreat...a weekend getaway at a bed and breakfast in the country where everyone gets there own six-foot table for workspace, you bunk in different themed rooms in the various houses on the property, breakfast and dinner are served in the dining room of the main house and lunch comes to the "workspace" kitchen in the form of something delicious in a crockpot and sandwich fixins. There's also a counter full of snacks to share. Essentially, we eat and scrap and sleep all weekend long. We share ideas and supplies and ooh and aah over each other's creations and new gadgets and watch chick flicks and laugh until we cry or cry until we laugh or whatever. What a weekend!
The first time I went, I rode with Robin. The two of use loaded down her suburban with boxes, bins and bags of photos and scrapbook supplies. You would have thought we were moving away from home we had so much stuff. The B&B provides wheeled carts & dollies for unloading cars. I hit every half-price paper and sticker sale for a month before the event. Success was measured in the number of pages one managed to complete throughout the course of the weekend. I think my high was 60-something pages.
Nowadays, I gather what I can find (I usually don't do much scrapping between retreats) and toss it in the car. I'm just so glad to get away from the "daily grind' that I don't even mind if I only get 20 pages done. It's the food I don't have to prepare myself or serve to others who sometimes complain and don't appreciate it. It's the snuggling under a ceiling fan and down comforter in a bed all to myself with a "noise machine" to drown out the train that passes through town in the wee hours of the morning. It's the comradery (comaraderie? both give me the dotted underline, but you get the idea, right?) and creativity and freedom to do whatever...scrap, sleep, eat, sit and stare into space...Did I mention a massage therapist visits the B&B and you can treat yourself to 30-minute increments of massage therapy for a very reasonable fee?
I should be organized like Robin. She has her pics for her three kids all organized in zip lock bags and already has the pages/paper and coordinating accessories at the ready-birthday, school field trip, family vacation, sports events, Christmas, etc. She cranks out page after page and brings her kids' volumes of albums all up to date in the course of the weekend. I just stick pics of events on pages and decorate them and then store them in pizza boxes (my favorite pizza joints haven't gone so far as to charge me for the 12x12 inch pizza boxes that so nicely store completed pages awaiting placement in an album). The good thing is I get pages done. The downside is I never had a "completed album" to show for it...
Anyway, this was supposed to be brief, and I have a table to declutter so that I can find my camera so that I can get to pictures to download, so that I can organize my stuff for the retreat all within the next 48 hours. And if you give a Pig a pancake, then she'll probably want some syrup...yadda, yadda, yadda!
Until next time, friends!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Where did my Monday go?

It's the wee hours of the morning on Tuesday now, and I have to wonder where in the world my Monday went. One minute I was making my way home from work and anticipating a nice nap after dropping off my daughter at band camp (yes, preparation for the 4th of July parade has officially begun). The next thing I know said daughter is waking me up saying, "Get up, Mom, it's almost nine o'clock!" What? Huh? Nine in the morning or nine at night? Huh? Was I drugged? tortured? What's going on? Wait a minute...I slept through Margarita Monday! Aww man!

Now that it's a new day and the fog of sheer exhaustion from working all night and not getting to go straight to bed upon my arrival at home is lifting some, I do recall some of the events from yesterday. I felt all energized until I got within about a 1.5 mile radius from home; then I felt super tired. I dragged myself indoors greeted the dog, who desperately needs a bath, gave her food and water and let her outside to tend to her business. I texted one of my friends to see if she'd be interested in $2 Margarita Monday since I'm finally off on a Monday and it's not a holiday, etc...I then logged on to the computer and decided to gossip a bit with my SIL via e-mail while I waited for 11:15 to roll around. La dee dah! I scrolled through facebook a bit, pinned some stuff on pinterest although I don't know exactly how to get to stuff I've pinned or maneuver that website just yet. By now daughter is up and washing dishes...because her Dear Dad told her to since his leg is hurt and he can't stand at the sink & do it himself for now. Daughter asks me to fix her a croissant breakfast sandwich...how can I refuse when she's washed dishes? It's almost 11:00 and this will give me something to do to stay awake...
Fast forward 40 minutes, I dropped off daughter at band hall. She did not know the pick up time. She said she'd call me when they were done. I drove back in the direction of home, contemplated a brief stop at a discount shopping center to look for more scrubs on sale, and thought better of it.
By the time I was into my REM sleep, I missed the first call from my daughter at 2:15, but I heard the phone ring 30 minutes later to let me know she was waiting to be picked up. Where's her brother? Where's her father? the quiet house held no answers. I dragged myself puffy, itchy eyes and all out of the bed and threw on clothes. The hubs was parked in the driveway (no doubt trying to get to the next track on his book on CD). As I'm about to back out, his car door opens (blocking me from backing out unless I want to take off his car door and take him out in the process). It is taking him FOREVER to get out of the car and out of my way (I was a little cranky to say the least). When he finally does emerge, he is limping like I don't know what. It was the kind of limp where he is not  able to bear weight on one of his legs at all. I mean the elbows are bobbing up and down with every effort, but I don't have time to investigate what in the world the man has gone and done now. Daughter has been waiting for over half an hour to be picked up, so I am off.
I return home to the hubs sprawled across the bed half asleep. He asks if his ankle is swollen. He said he mis-stepped getting on the bus from the parking lot to the terminal at work this morning and it just kept getting more and more difficult to stand on his right foot as the day went on. I confirm that it is indeed swollen and poke around on it a bit to his sudden intakes of air through his teeth. I get the Ace wrap and ice and tell him to prop it up. He needs to have it x-rayed. He's asking about Tylenol or Advil but I'm already slipping off to sleep and cannot answer.
Next thing I know it's almost 9:00 p.m. and my daughter is at my bedside urging me to wake up. She asks who Dad is talking to. Umm, 30 seconds ago I was dead asleep in my bed and your dad is in the living room. I know moms have super powers and such but how on earth am I supposed to know to whom your dad is talking? Turns out he's not really "talking" to anyone. He's running fever, shivering, mumbling. I heat a can of chicken noodle soup and give him a couple of Advils. I re-wrap the ankle, replace the ice bag and prop the foot higher on an extra pillow. Why didn't he go to urgent care for an x-ray before they closed?1? So, I guess I know what's in store for me today...a trip to Urgent Care Clinic, drop off daughter at band camp, pick up daughter from band camp, drug store for a prescription of some sort, all of the other errands I didn't get around to running yesterday, etc.
Well, it's early yet. The son is about to head to band camp (early version for leadership and the newbies). I'm going back to bed for a bit...Until next time!

Friday, June 21, 2013

I sing because I'm happy!

It's here again, folks!  Five Question Friday hosted by Mama M at My Little Life (www.fivecrookedhalos.blogspot.com). Feel free to click on her hame or link to get all of the "rules of engagement" and then join in the fun. You may also answer any of the questions in a comment below as well if you're just passing through.

1. Have you ever been robbed and how did you handle it?

Gosh, I guess I'm very fortunate in this regard. The only time I was "robbed" was when I was in elementary school. Someone broke into our house through the garage door and stole my pineapple shaped bank (not Sponge Bob related but a little mouse standing next to a big pineapple bank...Lord only knows where that thing came from way back when) full of quarters. I was naturally upset but didn't lose much sleep over the incident as I was a child and did not equate the loss of my bank with the loss of security my folks probably felt at having had someone break into the house.
2. What do you do at a kids function when Parents don't behave? Meaning they are the ones being impatient and rude.

I fume on the inside but rarely say much out loud. I wish I could speak up sometimes, but it never has been my nature to "rock the boat" so to speak. I shake my head and conclude "no wonder kids behave the way they do."
3. Have you heard of a potty party? Will you/have you had one for your child(ren)?

I am beyond the potty training years, so I'm not familiar with the whole "potty party" business, but it does not sound much like something I would have done even if it had been around when my kids were small. A couple of potty training videos from the library and a jar of m&m's on the bathroom counter did the trick for us.


4. How young do you think kids should be when they start taking swim lessons?

We have an in-ground pool at our house, so both of my kids were in swim lessons before they could walk. It totally depends on the child, though. My daughter was not as comfortable in the water as my son, so I tried a couple of different approaches with her.


5. What makes you happy?

So many little things in life make me happy, it will be hard to narrow them down. Does anyone remember the "Happiness Is..." song from "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown"? Click <here>; to go back down memory lane : ). I will try to name a few things that make me happy...music is one: simply listening (to all different kinds) or singing along (much to my children's chagrin). Ice cream, just one dip is all I need (every day, that is). The smell of good stuff cooking or baking in my kitchen. Ever throw something in the crockpot before church and then take a nap when you get home. You wake up and the whole house smells wonderful AND dinner is almost ready?! Happiness! Also, naps make me happy. Free stuff makes me happy...I've won three small items on blog give-aways and I felt oh so happy to receive them! Reading comments on this blog makes me happy. Commenting on others' blogs makes me happy. Watching my kids grow up and succeed at stuff I never would have been brave enough to even try makes me happy. Stuff that turns out right...from a new recipe to a craft or project. Finally, hearing from friends makes me happy. Everyone is so busy, so it's not all that often that we make the time to pick up the phone and chat, but even a little FB message or birthday greeting or Christmas card...any contact at all makes me happy.

Let me go see what everyone else is up to. Here's hoping you all have a happy weekend! Until next time...

Monday, June 17, 2013

Happy Belated Father's Day Men-Friends!

I guess this is a belated Happy Father's Day post since it is Monday after all. I hope all of you men folk who happen to be fathers (or uncles or brothers, etc who impact the lives of the younger generations) enjoyed your special day.
My dad wanted a rain barrel of all things, so I checked online and ventured out to Lowes in search of one on Saturday. They had a wide selection featured online. All Lowes had in store, however, was a "half whiskey barrel" planter...not quite the same thing, folks! This was the conclusion after much debate amongst the employees about what exactly a "rain barrier" actually is. Barrel people, barrel...you know, like a barrel of monkeys or a barrel of laughs? I left and went to Home Depot instead.
At Home Depot, they had two options. One looked like a large tan trashcan. There was dirt on top of it and it looked like it had weathered a storm or two in the lawn & garden section...not exactly gift-giving material! When we pried off the lid, there was indeed garbage inside of it and the "parts" (spigot and hose) were missing. Why oh why would you keep "inventory" like this on the floor with an information tag on it as if selling it were an option? So, that left one choice really. It was some type of poly-resin material that resembled a wooden barrel. It had the spigot, filter screen and instructions, and it was wrapped in a large plastic bag. I took it. I delivered it to dad a day early so he could have it up and running before it rained again.
I delivered my BIL's birthday cake to him and picked up Mom's eye drops from Costco. By the time I dropped off the eye drops, a proud Papa had his rain barrel propped up on cinder blocks with the gutter raised to just above the rain barrel screen filter. Now, to wait for rain...
Father's Day itself was pretty uneventful (much to my poor sister's chagrin). Our family has a tendency to wait til the last minute to "plan" things, you see. Talk of what to do for Father's Day actually began earlier in the week, but "talk" is about as far as anyone got. No one really volunteered their homes...mine's a mess, my brother's A/C is out (and that is a big deal in June in Texas, let me tell you!); my sister's busy with her kids' sports, et cetera, et cetera. My SIL suggested that everyone just do their own thing. That idea was poo-poo'ed as soon as it was voiced. My sister took the reigns and declared we would go out to eat at 3:00 on Father's Day...location TBA. I wanted somewhere with reservations because I hate being hungry and waiting around for hours to be seated. Naturally, no one accepts reservations, but they do "call ahead seating" where you call about an hour before you want to dine, they add your name to the list as if you were already present, and you get to wait that hour at home or doing whatever you need to do before showing up at your designated time. No further plans were firmed up until my sister called me at two o'clock yesterday to see what the plan was. I had no idea as I had mentioned earlier that we (my immediate family) probably would not be joining the crowd. I know there's something about celebrating all of these occasions on the day designated to celebrate; however, I  hate the crowds and waiting and rushing to eat because others are waiting to be seated...My sister was frustrated because she had not heard from our younger brother or his wife who originally had been part of the plan and on and on the story goes. Long story short...my sister and her family ended up eating at Abuelo's with my parents. We stayed home. I baked Mike a "golden caramel cake" and picked up hot wings for him to eat while he watched Game 5 of the Miami Heat vs San Antonio Spurs basketball play-offs. It was a good day, overall.
Mom called about an hour ago  to report that the rain barrel is full thanks to a storm that blew through the area at about eight o'clock this morning. Happy watering, Papa!
I'm off to finish up some laundry and make my bed so I can crawl back in it in preparation for work tonight. Until next time...

Friday, June 14, 2013

Drea-ea-eam, dream-dream, drea-eam!

Welcome to Five Question Friday, folks! I can't wait to get started so I can then get some shut eye. Yes, I worked last night then stayed after a bit to check work-related emails. Finally, I received a request to please stop by the dollar store to get car wash supplies for the Band carwash fundraiser tomorrow. I am beat, I tell you, but it's been so long since I've received a comment on anything I've sporadically posted over the past couple of years, I thought that participating in 5QF just might do the trick and get me at least one comment. 
Hop over to Mama M's blog to get full instructions and to copy and paste the questions to your own blog. Once you complete your post and answer the questions, return to My Little Life and add yourself to the "link" so others know you're participating. You can check out other peoples' answers, too.

1. What do you appreciate most about your children's Dad?
Oh my goodness, is this a trick question? Sorry, there I go answering a question with a question. Let's see...I love that he's "Easy like a Sunday Morning" (although with two teens in the house and me working every other weekend, Sunday mornings are anything but "easy" nowadays). Back to the Hubs...He works hard for his family. He loves his kids and wants them to have the desires of their hearts. The kids may beg to differ because he's not a "touchy-feely" kind of dad, but it's so true! He picks up my slack (that in and of itself is reason enough to appreciate the man...I got a lotta slack!). Did I mention he's not a picky eater? Double points for trying new dishes after I've spent endless hours perusing new and exciting recipes online. Triple appreciation points for eating what is set before him without complaint (most of the time). I can be a little high strung and his calm centers me.

2. Do you always wear your seat belt?
Always, always, always...except once a few months ago. I must have been really distracted because it's usually an automatic reaction (and because "Buckle Up, Texas, It's the Law!"). Hop in car, buckle seat belt, crank engine, check that everyone is buckled, put car in gear and go! When I realized halfway down the block that I had not fastened my seat belt, I felt prickly heat on the back of my neck, my mouth went dry and I almost panicked. I felt like I was in that dream where you show up for school with no pants on...

3. Do you dream and do you remember them?
What a segue! Must I say, "Speaking of dreams"...? Evidently, I remember some dreams better than others. I cannot say that I remember the stuff I dream about most of the time. Sometimes, I dream and specifically try to remember it so I can share it with whomever was starring in it. When I try to remember/explain the dream I end up sounding a little cra-cra! I try to determine if the dream was just that bizarre or if my re-telling of it was lost in translation somehow...

4. What is one thing you swore you'd never let your kids do before having them, that you have now changed your ways about?
During my babysitting years growing up I sat for a family whose father constantly said, "My girls will never behave like that. My girls will never do this or that, etc." It got old quick, so I refrained from saying what my kids would never do. If I just have to think of something to answer this question I'd have to say, "Give in to demands for more and more electronic stuff." How many game systems could one kid possibly need?

5. If you could be granted one wish, what would it be?
World peace is about all I'm good for at this point. I wanted to think of something really profound and meaningful, but I'm so tired that my synapses are misfiring. Peace is a good thing though. Let there be peace on earth...and let it begin with me!
Ok, your turn! Until next time, friends...