If you're looking for Olson family updates, then visit our family blog, I Love You Same.

The rants and recipes found here are solely mine.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Housewife--Stretch a Buck

"We just can't afford to travel, everything is so expensive right now. There's just no way."

I disagree.

Every time we've made a big purchase or taken a trip, I've heard from some well meaning (or jealous?) people that they couldn't possibly afford to do what we do. Now, granted we only have one kid (but, quite honestly, he doesn't add much to the travel budget), but the reality is, we all can make room in our budget for more. It's just a matter of looking closer at how we spend and where we can trim. Then put the money that you saved far away from your reaches and watch it grow.

I've known many people who spend hundreds of dollars a month on daily coffee shop purchases, expensive trips to the liquor store (we don't drink and can't believe how much people spend on this!), and have to have name brand everything. Their money is just leaking rapidly from their bank, but they usually consider these expenditures nonnegotiable. Boy do they complain, though, when they can't afford something. It makes me sad.

I feel like I live a great life. I'm happier than I've been in ages and I don't want for anything. Like watching what I eat, I watch what and how I spend. Some of my simple money saving tips for detergents and paper products are listed below. I challenge you to try just a couple of them.

  • Make your own household cleaners. I've shared my reasons for this here.

  • Generic toilet paper is a huge money saver. Think of expensive, premium tissues as literally money down the toilet. Yes, it takes a little getting used to, but seriously, keep in mind what this product is intended for.

  • Now, cheapie toilet paper is great, but keep in mind that it's not always a bargain. Know how much each brand is per sheet and how much is on each roll (and watch out for single ply, that's not always a savings because you'll use double). Sometimes cutting coupons can bring brand names down to generic cost.

  • Buy generic laundry detergents. My dad was a chemical engineer who designed detergents before he became an attorney. Usually the difference between the detergents is scent and possibly the presence of optical brighteners. Tide detergent is notorious for adding optical brighteners to their detergent, which in the short term does make your clothes look brighter, but within minutes, these brighteners actually attract more dirt than detergents without them.

  • Use the right amount of detergent. Read the label. Many times, a normal load can be done with much less detergent than you think. Often times, the bottle or box will tell you that the lowest line on the measuring device is the most appropriate measure.

  • Stop buying paper towels. They're horrible for the environment and you really don't need them. We quit using them almost 6 months ago and we do not miss them. We have plenty of reusable rags made from old clothes and towels. We use wax paper in the microwave. Because we have a high efficiency washer, I know that the water and detergent use is much better for the environment than dumping so many paper towels into it.

  • Make your own foaming dish or hand soap. Purchase foaming pumps and once their empty, refill with about 2 TB of full strength hand or dish soap and the rest is water.

  • Are you a heavy paper napkin user? Why not try cloth napkins for a month? My grandpa used to say, "Betty, bring me a towel." Thanks Grandpa! It's a great idea.

Some of these changes might be difficult to get used to at first. You might be surprised, though, when you see no difference in the quality of the products you now have. Really, what have you got to lose? Give it a try, give a few different brands a try, and you'll find the savings is well worth the change in mindset.

I wrote this entry many months ago and scheduled it to be posted today. Actually, I had forgotten about this little blurb! Funny how coincidences happen. I was just talking to a dear friend this morning and we're both worried about our respective travel plans. When I wrote this, there wasn't even a glimpse of a $700 Billion (BILLION) bail out.

She and I both agreed, though, that our lifestyle will make this latest crunch so much easier than someone who's become accustomed to a great deal of frivolous spending. We know how to cook from scratch and make do with less. Actually, our lives probably aren't going to change that much.

The future is so uncertain though. She and I both agree, the stress is getting to us and there seems no end in sight. As I was speaking to her, our neighborhood albino squirrel was sneaking across my back yard. I gleefully told her that I was watching it and she wisely said, "See, we're going to have to get back to focusing on finding joy in the little things."

Maybe, ultimately, this isn't going to be such a bad thing for our country.

Mom, When Can We Have Salmon?

This is our very favorite salmon recipe. I always make at least 3 of the marinades. One to use and two to freeze for future meals.

This recipe serves four and I could only calculate the points using all of the ingredients. Obviously, you aren't going to eat all of the marinade and leaving out the oil will decrease the Points value tremendously. Rough estimate: approximately 5 Points per serving.

Gary's Salmon

1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup orange juice concentrate
2 tablespoons vegetable oil-- I leave this out
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon prepared mustard
1 tablespoon green onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger root
4 salmon steaks (1 inch thick)
1 tablespoon olive oil-- I usually just spray the fillets with nonstick spray

In a shallow glass baking dish, combine soy sauce, orange juice concentrate, oil, ketchup, lemon juice, mustard, green onion, garlic, and ginger. Place salmon in marinade, and turn to coat. Cover, and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat.
Remove salmon from marinade. Pour marinade into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, and cook for 1 minute.
Lightly oil the grill grate. Brush or spray salmon with olive oil. Cook on grill for 5 to 10 minutes, or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Turn salmon once, and brush with boiled marinade halfway through cooking time.

You can broil this too if the snow's too deep to get to the grill (and yes, I've had this happen).

Sunday, September 28, 2008

My Favorite Day: Eleven Ten Year Old Boys--the aftermath

I think this was the last big group birthday party. Well at least until there's a milestone celebration, like 16. Perhaps I've said this in years past. When the aftermath of the birthday party is still surrounding me, it's hard to want to host another one. I think there are at least 7,000 little pieces of plastic masquerading as presents floating around our first floor. I just spoke in tongues when I stepped, barefoot, on a Lego on the way to the kitchen.
Here I sit in our family room, blogging and catching up on the happenings on Wisteria Lane. The party was Saturday, but I was too wiped out to write then, plus we had family guests that night too. Young One spiked a 102 fever the night of his party and then again Sunday night. So, I've been pretty busy and pretty tired being up all night. According to the doctor, he has a sinus infection and she's pretty sure he has strep, although he didn't test positive for it the first time around. He has a horrible sore throat and is talking like he has marbles in it. That, and the fever, are pretty sure signs for him. Oh well, regardless of what he has, he's being treated. He's home again today and seems a little better, despite not eating.

What is it about kids not eating that gets us moms all worried? It's not like he's wasting away, it's just a couple days of bomb pops and white grape juice. He'll survive. But, I digress.

Back to the party. The original guest list had about 25 kids, but we had to pare it down. This was such a great group. Of course, there was a clinker or two (but only briefly), and for the most part, they were really well behaved.

Here are some highlights:
  • The Red Team demolished the Green Team at laser tag. However, I was informed that there were several malfunctioning guns on the Green Team, so there had to be a rematch. I believe all the subsequent games were ties. I may have the colors wrong, so if I discuss this later with Young One, I'll just play along. I have no idea what team was the supreme ruler of the universe, but I do know, they were sweaty, giggling, and grinning after every game.

  • The Darth Vader cake did semi-permanently stain their mouths black. They loved it! Mission accomplished. Thank you Magic Byerly's Cake Ladies

  • If you pull hard enough on the ticket dispensers in the arcade, more come out, but to use the word of the week, it's totally "random".

  • The automatic climbing wall thingie was driven by body weight. Most could make it go, but of course we had one that couldn't get it to move and one who's body weight kept it at warp speed.

  • If you pull on the controls of the bumper cars a certain way, it makes an extremely horrendous sound. If you all do it at once, the odd dude running the ride will call you all Asswipes. Well, not so the kids can hear it, but I heard it enough to find it extremely funny. Poor guy. That job must be hell.

  • Eleven boys and not even one armpit fart noise the entire time. I think this is a record.

  • Eleven boys and only one slight injury--a couple of skinned knees.

  • Eleven boys can go through an 18 whole miniature golf game in less than 10 minutes. I think I owe the poor little girl and her awestruck parents that were ahead of us a pony and a couple of t-bone steaks. They were relatively good sports and were seriously stunned by the force and speed with which our group played.

  • Eleven boys with marshmallow guns will make your front yard look like a snow storm passed through. I bought the guns wholesale on ebay. Cost was about a buck a piece, so much cheaper than making them.

  • Birds don't like marshmallows. Bummer. I think the squirrels do though!

  • My van smells like feet, I can't get the song I Like to Move It out of my head (it's required birthday party cd play), and I'm still smiling at the kid who told me he hasn't had this much fun since Christmas.

Apparently, according to some of the other moms, I've been voted the cool mom. I've never felt more honored. I do enjoy them all and have always loved to hang with the kids. They're so honest and kind and don't carry all that stuff that adults do.

Young One has awesome friends. They're a great mix and his best friends are just amazing. These kids! I can see them several years from now as big guys, wearing Axe cologne and going to the prom. I actually can envision them driving (shudder) and going through teen angst together. I can see the men they're going to be. What a great bunch. Polite, fun and funny, cute, and kind. I hope they never change.

I'm off to Google "how to get feet smell out of your van". Oy.

The Housewife--Pest Fighter

You know those little fruit flies? Those little, almost invisible pests that surround your fruit bowl and give you the willies?

Well, I fought them this summer and won!

I found an inexpensive way to trap them. It's so easy and it actually works. And best of all, it's extremely inexpensive. Can I say one more time, it's inexpensive? Well, it is.

Take a pretty glass or jar. This is going to sit on your counter, so you might want to take a moment to try to find something that actually looks good. I use an old jelly jar, with faceted sides that my aunt gave me some of her famous Strawberry Rhubarb Jam in! Fill it about 1/2 full of cider vinegar. Add a couple of drops of liquid dish soap. Stir. Cover with plastic wrap and poke a few holes in the top. Place near your fruit basket and watch the little buggers collect in the jar.

Vinegar also has deodorizing properties, so it will help freshen up your kitchen. Empty and replace contents as often as necessary.

Wanted to give a shout out to Absolutely Bananas for the inspiration for this entry. Her hilarious post about fruit flies and spiders got me smiling!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

In Gratitude

Paul Newman died last night. I'll forever remember him for this quote:
"I have steak at home, why go out for hamburger?" Newman told Playboy magazine when asked if he was tempted to stray.

That's what I was looking for and that's what I found. A steak man. You won't see my guy hanging around the bars looking for a stray.

Thank you Paul for giving me this quote to base my search for a husband on. It didn't steer me wrong!

We'll miss you Paul. Thank you for your legacy. Peace and blessings to your family.

Sometimes Letting Go Means Letting it Be

So, I have these days where I make mad dashes from the computer to my errands or from keyboard to household jobs. Today is one of those days. As I was vacuuming the stairs I was thinking so deeply about parenting (while rocking out to Pink on my iPod) that I just barely missed getting clobbered by the vacuum cleaner as I stretched beyond the limits of the reaches it's hose attachment thingie. With a rush of adrenalin and the need to get these words down, here I sit.

No, my life didn't pass before my eyes, but I did think that at Parent Night tonight I could have had a black eye or that I could very soon be in the market for a new vacuum cleaner!

Anyway, as I was cleaning the carpets, I was thinking about how sometimes, we as moms don't allow our spouses or partners to just parent in their own way. I'm guilty of this. I know how Young One likes his eggs, Dad just couldn't possibly do it the same way. Dad can't possibly match clothes. (well, this is most certainly true in our home, but they're just clothes.) What message does this send our kids? Not only does it teach them to be inflexible, it also creates an environment where you, as mom, are the be all end all. The, "here, just let me do that" takes away from your kid more than it helps.

This is something that I've been working on for a long time. Well, since Young One was born, anyway. I'm a bit of a control freak. I'm really good at reading people and knowing what they need or what they're thinking. I can multitask and anticipate needs really well--that's why I was a great nurse. My docs never needed to ask for a thing. Now Hubby isn't this way, but that doesn't mean his methods are inferior. It just means that they're, well, different. And different is sometimes, more than I'd like to admit, better.

So, every day, I'm letting go of more and more of the control. Young One demands it as he's very independent. I honestly can't remember the last time I made him breakfast (except for weekend treats). He usually is really good at picking out his own clothes. He cleans his own room when the clutter gets deep enough on the floor. He needs me more on a different level than he did when he relied on me for physical needs. And he needs his dad to do things for and with him, just because he needs a strong role model who goes about things differently than dear old mom.

Letting go means letting it be. By that, I mean, sometimes you just have to let things slide in the interest of promoting independence or letting a different point of view rub off. That doesn't mean it's going to be easy, but sometimes you just have to remind yourself of what's more important. Is it more important that his clothes match perfectly or is it better to foster that sense of self that he chose them himself? Is it more important that the eggs are soft scrambled just the way he likes them or is it better to discover a new way of eating eggs, like the Daddy Omelets that were so popular in preschool?

We moms aren't the be all end all. It's what we do now that will make them want a relationship with us when their older. If we do everything for them our way all the time, what will they do when we set them free?

I'm so lucky. I get to work at home, and my job is making a Home for my family. I have a spouse who respects the fact that my job insures that he can do his. I don't need to justify my days to him. He doesn't worship the almighty dollar, wanting more, therefore wanting me to get a "real" job. He knows that I already have one. Our partnership isn't always easy. Being a control freak, I'm pretty certain that I make it difficult for him, but I'm working on it. Thankfully, though, we balance each other out. So, appreciating that he lets me be, makes me want to let him be and that sometimes means, letting go.

Tonight is Parent Night at school and I'll get to see all kinds of parents, some new and some that I've known for years. Most of us are kindred spirits, but there just might be more from that mom who at Meet Your Teacher Night just had to get in there and micromanage her kid's school experience (God help him and our teacher!). Let it go, sweetie!

I wrote this a couple of weeks ago and just now scheduled it to be published. As I'm setting it up, what comes across my computer screen, but this quote:

"The worst thing you can do for the ones you love are the things they could and should do for themselves." John Wooden

Well said.

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Peek Into the Scientific--Are you a Super Taster?

Very interesting (insert hand rubbing and mad scientist laugh here), I'm one of 1/4 of all humans. I'm a SuperTaster! Now, before I get all excited and buy some tights and a cape, let me give kudos to Elastic Waist for getting me clued in to this phenomena. Actually, I'm both a Super Taster and a Non Taster, which basically says I'm a middle of the road taster. Well, this is based on a simple quiz that you can find at Waist's blog or by clicking here.

I guess you can take a test to find out what you are, but I'm just not dying to have scientific proof of my taste status. This is really interesting. I would bet my iPod that my son is a Super Taster. I'm so proud! No, actually, he has very strong taste preferences and can't handle anything overly spicy. Biting into a raw onion will throw him over the edge. Perhaps it's just as I've thought in the past--that he just is young and still HAS all his taste buds.

Anyway, I wanted to share this study. Quite interesting. Thanks BBC!

The Debate is ON

Bring it on.

Watch. Learn. Read between the rhetoric.

Busy BEE...................................................F or He really is McDreamy the Beefcake Doctor

I've mopped myself into the family room, having no place to go. I love it!

My To Do List is, not quite half done, but I needed to build in a break to this busy day. Weatherman Dave predicted an 85 degree day today. It's getting close to that and breezy. Just perfect for floor drying weather, so I don't have much time to sit.

Thanks to TiVo, I'm getting a glimpse at Grey's Anatomy during my break. So, the season premier starts with a Dream about McDreamy. Ugh. I'm somewhat disappointed. I could smell the "it's a dream" long before it was revealed. Yuck. The episode is getting better, but I just wanted to whine a bit about their delve into the obvious to launch it this season. We're not that dumb. It could have begun better.

I'm worried that this is the beginning of this show's demise. I've worked in a hospital and sometimes it's quite funny to me the conversations they have while working over an operating site. It's really not that dramatic. In fact, a lot of medical procedures are downright silent. Many of the births I assisted with were completely silent. The only thing I can say they do have right is the hanky panky in the sleep rooms. I remember one particularly letcherous OB doc who loved to make inappropriate comments about joining him. He also had a fear of lawsuits and was a horrible doctor because of it. Wouldn't transfuse a patient with a Hemoglobin of 3.2. I wish medical shows would give a greater cross section of doctors. Slip in an ugly one or one who is seriously incompetent. Show the doc that has major BO or the one who always has coffee on his tie. Please, share with the world the doc that cries at his deliveries and sings the babies happy birthday (yep, he's real). We nurses might tend to believe them a little more. And maybe the public would get a clue that they aren't God and that you have to be a consumer when it comes to your medical care. Just like crappy plumbers, there are crappy doctors.

Anyway, I knew it was going to be a busy day. Every boy that Young One invited to his party is able to come!! We're so very excited, but it means a lot of work, even though we are heading to a super fun kid nirvana for the actual party. I've been cleaning, because they're dropping off and picking up here (and there's always those few moms that end up hanging out after the party--or the nosey one that will end up in Young One's bedroom). I had to run and get the cake, finish cleaning, bag the favors, finish cleaning, and tonight we're having a family fest of picking up the yard, since it was left in shambles after taking the pool down for the season last weekend. Did I mention that I need to finish cleaning? I would be less anal about the cleaning and picking up, but a dozen boys in the house, means definite aftermath--even in the short time that they'll spend here. So, I'm trying to put away anything that can't be destroyed--especially the massive Lego sets that Young One loves. And hoping that the weather will be dry enough tomorrow that they can hang out in the yard.

(On a sideline, every patient on this episode is "crashing"--sheesh. Now, I'm kind of wishing for the floor to get dry.)

(Oh, they just redeemed themselves with a humorous "I'm having your baby" scene. That was nice.)

Busy days like this demand a simple supper. And for me, that usually means using my crock pot. Tonight's dinner is Busy Beef, cause I'm Busy and I have exhausted my creative juices when it comes to naming recipes. This recipe is so simple, it's almost not a recipe. I've made it with pork too and that's delightful. Serve on toasted buns with BBQ sauce and/or Cole Slaw, sweet potato fries are a great side if you've got the time, otherwise just grab some baby carrots and toss a salad. It makes a ton, so I always freeze the leftovers for even easier future meals. I bet we end up having it for dinner tomorrow night too!

Busy Beef

One Chuck Roast--oh about as big as you want (or a pork roast)

A can of your favorite beer--not dark beer, but I suppose it might be good too

As much minced garlic as you can stand--I just scooped a huge serving spoon of it and covered the top of the roast with it.

Now, if you're really organized and pulled together, the night before: put the roast in a zip bag and dump in the beer and garlic. Let sit in the refrigerator overnight. Or, if you're like me and were so tired last night that you just wanted to sit on your butt with your boys and watch Survivor, put it together in the morning.

Did I tell you about my tin foil trick, that I learned from some wise blogger (sorry, I can't remember who)? In the morning, place two large, flattened foil balls in the bottom of your crockpot. Place the roast on top of the foil. This will drain the fat to the bottom, while still allowing the roast to cook to fall apart goodness. If you weren't organized the night before, just dump the can of beer over the roast and then top it with garlic.

Cook all day on low. Remove from crockpot and let stand. While roast is standing, remove foil balls and discard. Skim fat from collected juices. Shred meat and drizzle with juice. Serve on toasted light buns with coleslaw and BBQ sauce.

I haven't figured the Points Value for this, sorry, too busy!

My Favorite Day--Laura Ingalls Wilder Territory


“Well, I’m a more of a Mom than you are,” I said and then I pushed her into a conveniently placed mud puddle which somehow happened to be in the hall outside the school library.

I was having a conversation in my mind with a particularly perfect mom. She’s at school every day volunteering, gets up (or claims to) at 4 am to run and do butt lifting exercises. Her kids are all named to sound like cereal (Quisp, Crunch, and Shredded Wheat) and they all play soccer, while in the chess club and the student council. They wear matching sweaters in their Christmas photos. She drives a massive SUV and has her roots retouched every two weeks. She’s a professional mom, a competitive mom, and I can’t stand her. I think it’s the way that she inserts snippets of her perfect-hood into the conversation. You know the type, “Oh, my sons would never eat fruit snacks,” as if my son was doing crack. And, it's fruit leather, you idiot.

A couple of weeks ago, my son told me that one of her kids eats his own boogers and the other one cries at school a lot. I secretly rejoice in the first bit of information and get teary eyed over the second.

Mompetition. Mom Competition. I hate it. Maybe it’s just a woman thing. When I talk to my husband about this, he just snorts and gets a blank look on his face. I honestly don’t think there’s anything like this in the Man World. I mean, they have full contact sports where they can work it out. Or they have that ability to call each other an asshole without the threat of it turning into a month long snit fest.

The thing about Mompetition is that it gets inserted into conversations, casually and before you know it, Moms are one-upping each other right and left. I once broke up an almost sure to be fist fight that started with one mom talking about how busy they are (certain Mompetition fightin’ words).

A wise woman once said to me, “When you have one child, they take up all your time. When you have a second, they both take up all your time. When you have more, they take up all your time.” No mom is more busy than another. And, come on ladies, our kids are all not perfect. Quite honestly, I just love hearing about the struggles so much more than a litany of little Johnny’s goodness. I find it refreshing to talk to other moms about how our kids assert their independence or how they, as all humans do, mess up.

Want to start a really interesting conversation? Ask other moms what their child’s most recent learning experience was. Rarely will women start trying to one up each other showing off their kid’s mistakes. In fact, there just might be a bit of relief in sharing some really real experiences.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Cinderella Pumpkins

I think Fall is my favorite season. I love the first chill in the air and bringing home a few pumpkins and funky looking gourds to decorate with is a definite thrill for me.
I fell in love with fairytale pumpkins a couple of years ago. Their deep orange and red colors are gorgeous and they look just like the pumpkin that Cinderella's Fairy Godmother turned into her coach.
My mom used to sing this song with me when I was a kid. Brings back fond memories!

Salagadoola mechicka boola bibbidi bobbidi boo
Put 'em together and what have you got
Bibbidi bobbidi boo!
Salagadoola mechicka boola bibbidi bobbidi boo
It'll do magic believe it or not
Bibbidi bobbidi boo
Salagadoola means mechicka booleroo
But the thinga mabob that does the job is
Bibbidi bobbidi boo
Salagadoola menchicka boola bibbidi bobbidi boo
Put 'em together and what have you got
bibbidi bobbidi bibbidi bobbidi bibbidi bobbidi boo!
Once again, I'm having formatting difficulties. I've attempted to get the spacing right in my posts, but lately Blogger just won't cooperate. I'll try to see if I can get this figured out. In the meantime, realize my Type A personality is having a major fit right now.

The Housewife--Stretch a Buck

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know I'm a huge fan of homemade cleaning products. Most are much better for the environment, but my favorite thing about them is how cheap they are. Saving money in this way helps me to stay at home, doing this job I love, and helps us to spend our money on more worthwhile things.

When I was a Mompreneur owning my own business and drowning in an overwhelming amount of work, I just didn't have time to tackle the really big cleaning jobs. Now, back at home full time again, I'm back to hitting those big jobs on a more routine basis. One job that I don't really mind, since we got new windows a few years back, is washing the windows. OK, do you really want the truth? I can only do about half of the outsides of the windows, so it's not that bad of a job. D gets stuck with the rest of them! The tilt-in casement windows that we have are so easy to clean and I just love seeing such a small amount of work reap such instant benefits.

Now, don't get this idea that I'm the type of person that is thrilled to clean windows. As I reread over the above, I'm starting to look like a June Cleaver housewife. Trust me, that's not me-- I don't have access to Valium or starched aprons. I do get a great deal of satisfaction, though, making a HOME for my family. It's something that was really missing while I was working full time plus on the business.

So, as Home Manager, CEO of the Family, Domestic Goddess, and Queen of the Clean Latrine (I'm running out of titles here, forgive me), I try to stretch dollars and leave less of an imprint on the environment. I make most of my cleaners and I've got to say, they work much better than any of the ones that I used to buy.
Here's my Window Wash. It's great on all glass and costs, literally pennies, compared to Windex--which is mostly water anyway. Best of all, it makes Windex look like Sissy Serum. It works so much better and leaves sparkling glass and windows.

Window Wash

1 cup water
1 cup rubbing alcohol
1 TB ammonia
Use a completely clean, preferably recycled!!, spray bottle. Make sure that you label it. Use as you would any glass cleaner.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Eye Candy

I get a kick out of these ladies at Mennonite Girls Can Cook. So far, I have only successfully lightened up a couple of their recipes. One of them, their Blueberry Scones (pictured above), were great and very WW friendly with a few tweaks. Their food photography, which as most of us know is so very difficult, is excellent. I applaud these women. They are such talented cooks and good to the core people. Love em!
Be sure to view on a FULL stomach. I honestly think that even looking at the pictures will make you gain.

As D says, "Don't lick the screen."

Falling for Mums

I read somewhere once that aside from your bathroom, your front door and it's surrounding area is the only place that guests really get the time to really look around without you knowing it. I think I read this when we were newlyweds and only had an old plastic trick or treat pumpkin from my childhood for fall decorations. Oh the shame of it. Looking back on it, I bet the neighbors thought we were really cute, with our shabby pumpkin and our sad attempts at landscaping in, what was for us, foreign territory (Oklahoma--where I was able to keep alive Tumbleweeds, a Trumpet Vine, and a Ficus tree that I still have.)

It is true, though. You've got nothing else to do once you've knocked or rung the doorbell. It gives you time to notice a lot. It also is the first feeling that you get from a home, that first impression, and whether or not it's a welcoming place.

We're front porch people. We love to hang out on the front porch and chat with the neighbors while Young One rides his bike or plays with the other kids. We're so fortunate to have such wonderful neighbors. They're like having really great extended family members that live close by. I like to hang out on the front porch. If it's nice out, I'll take a book or a magazine, but more than anything, I just like to sit on the rocker and watch the world. It's a great place to pause a little and just enjoy some sunshine.

I love to decorate my front porch. Nothing major, just some seasonal flowers and maybe a few doo dads. Sometimes I'll feature a quilt or a something decorative, but for the most part it's flowers (well, in the winter it's greens and winterberries!). This Spring I adored my Pansies. This summer, the Petunias were a bit lacking. Sorry, Petunia fans, but I've never been a real lover of them. They were an impulse buy at the garden center clearance event and were really sad and decrepit by the end of July.

Thankfully, the mums arrived in early September and as soon as school was back in session, I dashed to our garden center and wandered the aisles, kid free and enjoying some really fantastic alone time. The kales and ornamental cabbages were gorgeous and reminded me of the winter flower beds of Oklahoma. I was there for the mums, though. I usually buy a big bushel basket filled with mums, but this year, I decided I wanted to plant my own early enough to enjoy their growth (and to get rid of the sad Petunias). The four inch pots were just packed with buds, so for much less than my usual bushel basket, I was able to fill my window box and my two old washtubs that I keep on the front porch.

I think they're really beautiful this year. And because my baskets and other pots are still nice, they just add to what was already a great place to hang out.

You deserve a warm welcome home too. What are you doing with your front porch, front door, or entry way to make everyone welcome?

The Five


Hawaii by James Michener

I've never read any of Michener's work and now, at the end of this 1130 page, ultra-fine print book, I feel as if I just run a marathon, but, my feet don't hurt. I've invested 3 weeks of my life with this book and I'm so glad I did. I enjoyed it and I'm so glad I read it after visiting Hawaii. What I kept thinking while reading it, though, was this man wrote dozens of books this long, with this much research. How in the heck did he do it? This book got right to the heart of many of the questions I had about the islands and the people that lived there. It explained so much about the history of the island and finally got me to understand why the people are so unique. When we were there, I didn't feel like I was part of the United States at all. I felt like I was in a foreign country with just a hint of America thrown in. This was a great read, but it's an endurance read, not a vacation book. I definitely have to read something relatively fluffy next.

On a side note, I bought about a dozen Michener books at the request of my mom at a library sale. You can't go wrong paying $3 for a huge shopping bag of books, but perhaps there was a reason that the Michener books were all still there! :)


Just my iPod, nothing new. And public radio for news and chat.


Homemade chicken broth simmering on the stove.


Hot cinnamon oatmeal with dates, raisins, and pecans. That's REAL oatmeal, not that sissy prepackaged stuff.


Political propaganda. Birthday invites, favors, and thank you notes for Young One.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

In Gratitude

I'm sitting here waiting for some word on my Great-Aunt's condition. She's started bleeding again and I can't even think straight worried about what will happen to her. I just adore her daughter, who is handicapped and relies on her mom for companionship and care. Arrangements for C's care have long since been set in stone, in the event that Marilyn dies or needs to go into a nursing home. But, I just worry about my little cousin and how she is handling all of this. I know, it's got to be rough. I hate being so far away.

I've been chatting with friends on the phone and looking through old vacation pictures. My mom gifted me with the love of travel-- and sometimes with trips themselves. I've been so lucky to be able to take trips, but it's almost always been because of hard work and sacrifice.

So, here I sit, gazing at pictures from our last major trip to the Big Island of Hawaii. It was a very healing place for me. I learned a lot about myself on that trip and gained a great deal of peace while gazing at the island's valleys. I don't think I'll ever go back there again, at least with flights what they are now, I know it will be a long time before we take a trip like that.

Today, it's with gratitude that I post these peaceful pictures. Hopefully, some of that peace will rub off of on me, cause I'm stressed.
I keep accidentally turning comments off, I have no idea why or how. So, thanks for the emails. You guys are great.

So, Maybe I Really am Successful at this Weight Loss Thing

I'm on Cloud 9. Have you ever thought about that strange phrase? I mean, why isn't it Cloud 9 or Cloud 10? Hmmm, I'll have to Google that. It probably has to do with the number of times a guy called a girl before she said yes to a date. Or the number of times a dog barked at midnight. Or someones locker number. Or their shoe size.

Anyway, I went to the doctor the other day and I'm still celebrating my visit with him. He said that I'm right on as far as weight loss for the time I've been on this journey. He said no more than 4 pounds a month. Between 2 and 4 pounds a month and I will keep it off. Any more than that and odds are, I won't be successful in the long run.
He told me that he was proud of me. And I took to that comment like a kindergartener on their first day of school.

I've been discouraged from time to time and keep reminding myself that it's not about that scale number, but in many ways it is. As many sizes as I've dropped, I still occasionally beat myself up about that damn number. As good as I feel, not getting winded going up one, two, three, even ten flights of stairs--but that number, THAT NUMBER can sometimes bring me to tears. Not long, wailing, woe is me tears, but just a smarting, passing, drop or two. Enough just to piss me off and resolve never to do it again and then I do. That number, though, is what we measure our success by, it's what we update our friends with, it often blinks repeatedly in neon in my mind.

So, basking in the words of my doctor, maybe I am getting this right. Slow and steady definitely does win the race and I just had somebody with MD next to his name state that as a true medical fact. It feels great. So what if I may not reach my goal for X number of weeks (and we all know we do that math equation periodically. If I've lost this much weight in this many weeks, how many weeks will it take me to get to goal?) Maybe I'm actually doing this right!

Monday, September 22, 2008

I'm Obsessed with Gwyneth's Exercise Routine

I feel like Gwyneth let the cat out of the bag when she visited with Oprah last week. I mean, I knew in my heart of hearts that she wasn't JUST naturally gifted with that body, but a part of me wanted to believe that she came to it by NOT working at it. Turns out, she's got to work just as hard as the rest of us. Perhaps harder, since she's scrutinized so closely and has to have her picture taken on the red carpet--most certainly with her arm raised tempting flappy arm jiggles that are the curse of all women.

I'm sitting here with a back injury, having survived a very painful weekend of recovery. I'm missing my workout, but I know I'd be crazy to try in my shape. So, instead, I'm sitting here, obsessing about Paltrow's workouts. Six days a week, in an 80 degree room, she is tortured by a pint-sized blond, about half her height, for two hours. Now, granted, her body is her job, her saleable goods, if you will. She has to do this or she'd lose out on her livelihood. Flashing back, I can still see those two blondes sweating it out and looking absolutely gorgeous, with their glistening faces stripped of all makeup.

Me, I'm not a pretty exerciser. I'm quite sure my face oddly grimaces during exercise and I have been known to try to punch the TV screen as my mistress of pain taunts me to do just 100 more hamstring curls. I don't think I will ever be beautiful while working out. It's just not in me. I don't want to go to a gym. I want my workout time to be solely for me and every time I hit our community center, I end up chatting with so many people that I don't focus on the real reason I should be there. I'm content to wear my ugly workout clothes, almost worn through yoga pants, have un-brushed teeth and bed messed hair and hit my basement "gym". (Well, it's really my laundry room and I've been known to do aerobics while adding bleach to my whites as they tumble clean. And I did once get motion sickness while watching my front load washer while doing lunges.)

Gwyneth, why did you have to share this with us? I mean, yes, I guess I can identify with you a bit more, but, a part of me still wants to hate just that little part of you. The gorgeous part that glows while doing cardio. I know you can't help it that you come from such a gorgeous gene pool. Next time, could you curse or burp or something?
Keep on, keepin' on.

Blue Plate Special

My mom hated hot tuna. She wouldn't make tuna noodle casserole, so I was a young, newlywed with twenty seven bucks in my checking account and a few days until pay day before I tried it.

I'm not a fan of any of the Helper, pre-fab casserole mixes that seem to take up a great deal of our grocery aisles. Tuna Helper almost frightens me. For the price of one of those boxes, you can make several, healthier casseroles without all the added processed food. Personally, I don't think it's good to eat food that you can't pronounce, so I avoid these boxes like the plague. I'm certain that one day, they'll figure out that many of the diseases that affect our world come from a combination of those food chemicals.

My checkbook isn't in jeopardy, but I still love to save a buck, so I try to stretch the food budget as far as I can. This recipe is a lightened version of the classic Tuna Noodle Casserole. It's delicious, inexpensive, and relatively good for you. I like to serve it with a big tossed salad and some steamed veggies.

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Serves 8, 1 cup servings at 6 WW Points per serving

12 oz uncooked egg noodles--Ronzoni makes this even lighter than the Points I've stated above, I like to use their macaroni or broken spaghetti
12 oz water-packed tuna fish, drained
2 cup button mushrooms, sliced
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
16 oz fat-free sour cream
1/2 cup fat-free mayonnaise
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp parsley, fresh, chopped
1/2 tsp table salt, or more to taste
1/4 tsp black pepper, or more to taste
1/2 cup shredded reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese, or reduced-fat Swiss cheese

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Cook noodles according to package directions without added fat or salt; drain and transfer to a large bowl. Fold in tuna, mushrooms and peas.
Whisk sour cream, mayonnaise, mustard, parsley, salt and pepper together in a separate bowl; fold into noodle mixture. Transfer to a 4-quart casserole dish; top with cheese. Bake until top is golden and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Yields about 1 cup per serving.

If you have lots of leftover vegetables, make sure they're well drained and add them in. They do not affect the Points value.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Something's Fishy

In honor of Sarah Palin's visit to our great state today, here's a fish recipe. Dig deeper. Read McCain/Palin records. Are they what they want you to think they are?

Fast and Easy Oven Fried Fish

Approximately 3 WW Points per serving

1 1/4 pound Tilapia filets
3 TB Dijon mustard
1 cup corn flake crumbs

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place corn flake crumbs onto a plate. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Paint one side of the fillet with Dijon. Press Dijon side of fish into cornflake crumbs and place on baking sheet. Bake about 10 minutes or until fish is opaque and flakes easily.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Disgusting, Enough Said

Brought to you by conservative groups American Values and Focus on the Family. Look and you will find, they did sponsor this product and sell them at their recent Values Voters Summit.
The back of the box features Obama in a turban.


Let's Cut to the Chase

I wish I could take credit for this and, unfortunately, I don't know who wrote it. It came in an email from my brother and I will credit the author as soon as I find out who it is. I just can't believe people won't look beyond their conservative stands to see the hypocrites that are running on the Republican ticket this fall.

If you grow up in Hawaii, raised by your grandparents, you're "exotic, different." * Grow up in Alaska eating moose burgers,-- a quintessential American story.

If your name is Barack you're a radical, unpatriotic Muslim. -- Name your kids Willow, Trig and Track, you're a maverick.

Graduate from Harvard law School and you are unstable. Attend 5 different small colleges before graduating, you're well grounded.

If you spend 3 years as a brilliant community organizer, become the first black President of the Harvard Law Review, create a voter registration drive that registers 150,000 new voters, spend 12 years as a Constitutional Law professor, spend 8 years as a State Senator representing a district with over 750,000 people, become chairman of the state Senate's Health and Human Services committee, spend 4 years in the United States Senate representing a state of 13 million people while sponsoring 131 bills and serving on the Foreign Affairs, Environment and Public Works and Veteran's Affairs committees, you don't have any real leadership experience.

If your total resume is: local weather girl, 4 years on the city council and 6 years as the mayor of a town with less than 7,000 people, 20 months as the governor of a state with only 650,000 people, then you're qualified to become the country's second highest ranking executive.

If you have been married to the same woman for 19 years while raising 2 beautiful daughters, all within Protestant churches, you're not a real Christian. If you cheated on your first wife with a rich heiress, and left your disfigured wife and married heiress Cindy the next month, you're a Christian.

If you teach responsible, age appropriate sex education, including the proper use of birth control, you are eroding the fiber of society. If, while governor, you staunchly advocate abstinence only, with no other option in sex education in your state's school system while your unwed teen daughter ends up pregnant, you're very responsible.

If your wife is a Harvard graduate lawyer who gave up a position in a prestigious law firm to work for the betterment of her inner city community, then gave that up to raise a family, your family's values don't represent America's.

If your husband is nicknamed "First Dude", with at least one DWI conviction and no college education, who didn't register to vote until age 25 and once was a member of a group that advocated the secession of Alaska from the USA, your family is extremely admirable.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Lunch Anyone?

Like these Bento boxes? Yes, some people have way too much time on their hands, but I can just imagine what Young One would do if he had this for lunch (well, he wouldn't eat most of it, but he'd have legions of fans surrounding him, shouting, "COOL!"

I grew up in a small town and while I can't say I'll ever live in one again, I have to admit, there were some things that were so much better than where I live now. One of them was school lunch. Our Lunch Ladies (and yes, they deserve the capital Ls) were fantastic. One of them came in every morning before dawn and made, from scratch, enormous cinnamon rolls. When we would stagger in the doors and fumble to our lockers, we were greeted with their sweet cinnamon scent. I used to split one with my friend Jennie. We'd munch on it during chemistry class (taught by a man who should have retired years ago, who I'm sure laughed at us as we thought we were getting one over on him).

Lunch was also fantastic. There was the standard line, a fast food line with hamburgers, a salad bar, etc. For the most part, everything was homemade. Oh sure, there was the standard government surplus crap that each school is required to utilize because their budget is so tight, but we definitely could find fresh fruit, vegetables, and variety.

Flash forward to my son's school, which in comparison to many surrounding schools has a really decent menu. BUT, it still has a long way to go. We teach our kids everything. Why is nutrition taught, but not really modeled? One of the things that we stress at our house, as hokey and silly as it sounds, is "Did you eat a rainbow today?" Meaning, did you eat a diet varied in color. Try finding a red carb (well, besides that questionable pasta that comes out at Christmas or red velvet cake, which I think could be rationalized as a vegetable. Chocolate is technically a bean, right?) I started asking Young One this when he was really young. He now rolls his eyes when I ask him, but I still think it's a very important and valid question.

We look at his school hot lunch menu together every month. He takes a look at it alone and circles the things that he thinks he'd like to eat. This does two things for me. First, and foremost, it gives me an idea of how many lunches I need to make this month (and shop for.) Second, it gives me a chance to look at what things sparks his appetite and gives us a chance to talk about good nutrition. Through him, I've learned that the pears are always hard at school, that the chicken nuggets bounce, and that chocolate milk once came out of a kid's nose when he laughed. A quick email to the nutrition director worked out a solution to the pear problem (order them earlier, please), an order to avoid anything with the word nugget in it was issued, and I topped his chocolate milk story with one about a kid who could pull a spaghetti noodle through both nostrils.

Our school does offer whole wheat pizza crust, but when you offer pizza up to 9 times a month for lunch, does it really matter if you add a little whole wheat to the crust? I know it's a balance of what kids will eat and what the budget can allow, but studies show that there are less discipline problems and better learning occurs when good nutrition is offered at school lunch. We, as parents, have to demand that our kids aren't fed by the lowest bidder. In our state, and many, our school lunch supplier also supplies prisons with their food. I, for one, would be willing to pay more to get better options for my son. Amazingly, when you put those options in front of the with the age old "appetizer" of hunger, they eat them.

As I write this, I'm realizing right at this moment, my son is sitting down to his lunch. I know, that I can't control whether he eats what we packed or not. Sometimes, I'm surprised at what comes back home and what gets eaten. It's great knowing, though, that once it's in front of him, he usually eats most of it and having some control over it, feels good.


All, part of the journey, I know, but the scale went in the wrong direction this week. I'm sure it's because of massive muscle gain, right? ha!

I keep telling myself that a box of springs isn't going to rule my life, but it is very discouraging to see almost a pound gain, when it takes almost 2 weeks for me to take that much off!

Back at it, though. I'm not gonna quit.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A What's for Breakfast Food Find

Coming in at only 60 calories or 1 Weight Watchers Point each, these Crumpets are a staple at my house. When my grocery store's supplier wasn't able to get them for a couple of weeks, it was not a pretty picture. They're a great base for peanut butter, honey, or both. And topping with my Great Aunt's homemade jam is just delightful. I almost always toast them and have used them as the bottom of an open faced ham, egg, and cheese sandwich.

Well Meaning Words

I didn't want to tell a lot of people that I had joined Weight Watchers online. It seems that once you tell people you're trying to lose weight, you get all sorts of unsolicited comments or advice. I suppose it's not unlike any other major life challenge. When we were struggling with infertility having many miscarriages, I remember one well meaning woman who said to us, "Well, we believe in siblings." Um, OK, thanks.

That's really the only answer you can give, for the intent behind the words really is good will, even if the delivery doesn't make it that apparent. A smile, and a thank you, accomplishes exactly what you'd like it to. It shuts them up. Sometimes, too, the uncomfortable silence that follows the thank you is enough to give them time to think about what they said.

We all put our foot in our mouths occasionally, so it's easy to forgive these little snippets. We can't take them to heart or dwell on them. And it's in your best interest not to make it a big deal. I've found that what I've thought about myself at my lowest points, is usually worse than anything anyone else can say to me. As far as any of the advice, it's usually quite laughable. What's important is that you take from it what you need and toss out the rest. Everyone's weight loss journey is different. If there was one well meaning comment or solution that would work for all, we wouldn't be where we are today.

In Gratitude

~For a cold, which gave me some time to pause.

~For my mom, who is my greatest cheerleader and biggest supporter.

~For a husband who doesn't need much recognition, but who deserves it.

~For my son, who is growing up, but not away. I have to love him, but I choose to like him more and more each day.

~For a slow roasting chicken and zucchini bread in the bread machine filling my house with homemade goodness.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

You're Still My Little Sweet Potato

I put myself through nursing school by working in nursing homes as a nursing assistant. It was brutally difficult work, but I just loved my people. Working in long term care, you get to know the residents and their families. Working as intimately as I did with my patients, I found the best way to preserve their dignity was to get them talking. I learned so much from these people. One, in particular, rings in my ears repeatedly. He was the father of a local celebrity and their family was absolutely delightful, and very dear to me. I'll call him Charlie.

Charlie greeted me every morning with a slightly confused smile. As I helped him get up for breakfast, dressing in what was, by far, the most dapper wardrobe of the facility, he would touch my cheek and say, "You're still my little Sweet Potato, aren't you?" I'm not quite sure if he thought I was someone else. My hope is that, it was me he was speaking to.

Charlie was a man of few words, but he's the man that taught me what I think is the best life lesson I've learned thus far. He said to me, "No one gets to the end of their life wishing they would have worked more." Now, isn't that true? I miss him. I doubt that his family would remember me, I tried very hard to be invisible there, knowing that their time with him was precious. I hope, though, that I was a comfort to Charlie. And, that I really was his little Sweet Potato.

My Little Sweet Potato Fries

Serves 6 at 2 Points per Serving

3 large sweet potatoes, scrubbed within an inch of their lives. Do not peel!
Nonstick Cooking Spray
Sea Salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray two cookie sheets with nonstick cooking spray. Cut sweet potatoes in half, lengthwise, then into 1/4 inch thick steak fries. Place in a single layer on cookie sheets. It's okay if they overlap a little. Spray with nonstick cooking spray. Then dust with sea salt and pepper. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until tender and browned. Cook longer for crisper fries.

You may season with any seasonings that you love. Cajun spice is nice.

Taking a little time to play with words, to play with food, and just to play!