Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Stretching Meals.....

I've always been intrigued by the thought of cooking once a week, and making enough meals to eat throughout the week.

I've tried it a few times, but my biggest concern is our lack of freezer space. I have a Rachael Ray cookbook that shows how you can use extra food from one meal and stretch it into several meals. I've tried her recipes, but her cooking is a bit too fancy for me. I messed around with a few recipes using affordable food that is easily found at the grocery store. The chicken pocket recipe is one I found on a blog, but I've tweaked it to fit our taste.

On the menu
Night One: Grilled chicken, steamed broccoli, brown rice
Night Two: Chicken Pockets, corn on the cob
Night Three: Chicken and fusilli, veggies, garlic bread

Grocery List:
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 pound whole wheat fusilli pasta (or any pasta, really)
1 Package frozen broccoli
4 ears of corn
Brown rice
1 can cream of chicken soup
Sour cream
Mayo (These can be reduced fat/fat free/regular)
Cheddar cheese
1 garlic clove
1/4-1/2 onion
2 cans crescent rolls

Night One: Prep/cook time.....1 hour
-Grill all the chicken (start early!). You can do this on an actual grill, or on the stove top. Season with salt and pepper, and a dash of poultry seasoning, lemon pepper, or all purpose seasoning.
-Cook brown rice (this is only for one night, so make only what you will eat that night)
-Steam entire bag of broccoli

Refrigerate half of the broccoli and at least 3 of the chicken breasts.

Night Two: Prep/cook time.....40 minutes
-Chop reserved chicken
-Chop onion, mince garlic, and chop reserved broccoli
-Mix together the above with 1/3 cup mayo, 1/4 cup sour cream, 1/2 cup cheddar, and 1 can cream of chicken soup
-Split your ears of corn in half and toss them in a pot of boiling water
-Roll out your crescent rolls on a baking stone (or sprayed cookie sheet) Pinch together seams, spread a scoop of filling on crescent roll, and fold over, again pinching seams and ends. You can make one large pocket, several medium sized pockets, or individual ones. Bake in preheated 350 oven for 15-20 minutes (check often!) until golden brown. You should have lots of mix left.
-Serve with half of the ears of corn

Refrigerate leftover mix and the rest of the corn.

Night Three: Prep/Cook time.....20 minutes
-Slice off corn from reserved cobs, add to reserved chicken mixture.
-Cook pasta according to directions, drain, return to pot.
-Add the chicken mixture, and a small splash of milk. Heat through and serve.
-For a side dish with this, you can do any veggie and garlic bread.

So yeah, it's a lot of poultry, but we like our "Kicken" around here.

Monday, August 11, 2008

But what do you EAT?

This question has been posed to me a few times since I've started couponing. When I boast about my great savings and how much I am bringing home, people often think it is just pure junk. Convenience, packaged food and snacks are often cheap, cheap, cheap. And the coupons issued in the Sunday papers are mostly for junky stuff. We do eat pretty healthy, but we just can't afford to eat ONLY pure/organic/healthful stuff. But I also don't want to fill our bodies with the cheap stuff (read: junk). So, what is more important.....eating healthy or saving money?

The answer (for my family anyway) is............BOTH! :)

If my focus is JUST on saving money, we eat too much junk. If my focus is JUST on eating healthy, I go over budget.

The solution is a good balance of healthy, pure foods, with a little bit of the sugary, fattening, delicious crap thrown in!

We eat lean meat (manager's special/bulk sales), tons of fresh produce, low fat dairy products, lots of water and milk, plenty of healthy snacks. We also eat unnaturally orange mac n' cheese a few times a month, chocolate every once in awhile, and last week we had ice cream for breakfast. (<----That's the cool part about being a grown up!)

So in my cupboards you will find a box of whole wheat pasta sitting next to a package of Keebler cookies.

But...it works. It really works for us. We're all happy with the fact that I can buy a whole cart full of groceries for $50. And The Hubs and I are using awesome products we've never used before. Name brand razors and shave gels, fancy shampoos and soaps. And our rears are wiped with the finest of TP. All purchased lovingly with a handful of coupons, a little planning, and just a few dollars.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Welcome to America!

So, you are thinking of coming to America? It's a magical place, really. No where else on Earth can you come to a country and become a millionaire practically overnight. You can achieve your dreams and feel free to express your ideas and thoughts.

You will find lush forests, towering sky scrapers, neatly mowed lawns in Suburbia, and warm, sandy beaches on the coast.

You will meet men and women of every color, race, ethnic background, and every moral and religious belief system. Men who love men, women who love women, and lots who love both.

You can watch child movie stars who make millions, reality TV shows about nothing, late night shows, true crime series, and any of the other programs on your 1200+ channel set.

You can drive through any town and see high flying American flags, hear the star spangled banner, vote at your local polling place, and lobby for the latest issue on the capitol steps.


I think you would be hard pressed to find a country that has this much diversity, this much freedom, this much opportunity.

Welcome to America! The land of hope!

And the land of despair.

This is America, the country where we don't give a damn about each other.

The country where a molested child is finally taken out of her home and placed into a foster home, where she is then molested.

This wonderful land of morbidly obese children, a McDonald's on every corner, and a school cafeteria that calls a packet of ketchup a 'vegetable'.

This fantastic country where babies are tossed out with the daily trash, women are raped in alleys, and a Mexican immigrant is beaten to death by rich white kids.


Welcome to America! The country where you can sue the coffee shop for making coffee that is too hot. And you can be sued over taking your neighbor's newspaper.

This is the place where the customer is always right (even when he is wrong) and customer service does not exist anymore. The place where you can pitch a fit about your burger because you ordered it without mustard; yet you can see a smudge of the yellow stuff on the bun.

This is the country where billion dollar executives live in the same zip code as homeless children.

If you come to America, please come see our crumbling schools, under paid and under appreciated teachers, and parents who won't send a pack of crayons to the classroom with their child.

On our buses you will find bullies. In our courtrooms you will find snakes. In our operating rooms you will find lawsuits waiting to happen.

This is the country where the sickly can't get health insurance. The rich can't get enough Botox.

If you decide to relocate to this amazing country, don't forget to visit Capitol Hill and say hello to a corrupt politician. Wave hi to that racist policeman over there, and don't forget to grab a donut at the overpriced coffee shop. And if that donut makes you sick? Sue!!!!

The United States...home of the pill pushing 8 year old, gang-banging 10 year old, and child-porn-watching 50 year old.

The place where we check out the daily Hollywood gossip and stalk every moment of a celebrity's life and relationships. And then make a TV show out of it.

This is the country where you can get married at a drive thru chapel, and you can get divorced a few minutes later.

This is the land of Give-Me-What-I-Deserve, and the land of I-Don't-Want-To-Lift-A-Finger.

Welcome to the place where we bitch and moan over how hard it is to make it these days. (As we drive to our 3 story houses in our gas-guzzling SUVs)

It's America. And out of all of the countries in the world, there is absolutely no place like it. If you decide to come, if you are willing to take the plunge, please be aware that you are in for a rough ride. The rewards are sweet, the injustices bitter, and the roller coaster is wild. Watch out for that good Samaritan though. It looks like he is extending his hand to help you up, but he is really trying to steal your watch.

Hope you enjoy your stay.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Tuesday Ten

Ten Reasons Why I Haven't Been Blogging Lately

1. Summer semester is over so we've been doing all kinds of summery things!
2. I have total blogger's block and can't think of one interesting thing to say.
3. Alivia is in the middle of a mid life crisis and can't figure out if she loves us or hates us.
4. The above mentioned child also is going through a sleep strike so I am tiiiiiiiiiiired.
5. My house is in disrepair from neglecting it during school, so I'ma catchin up!
6. I haven't been reading or commenting on other blogs, so I feel guilty posting on mine.
7. I have started reading for fun again; no more Biology books! But no more evening blog time.
8. I am starting to prepare for the busy fall semester AND Chloe going to school.
9. We are going on vacation in a week so I am getting ready.
10. DH has been working lots of overtime, so I hate getting on the computer when he is home.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Grocery Game-My New Binder.

Oh baby, I'm excited!!!!

With the school supply sales as of late, I found a great zippered binder on sale for $4.99. So I snatched it up and set to work organizing, clipping, sorting and putting together. And boy was it a fun way to spend 7 hours! It really was, couponing is my drug!

So, this is the front. I picked gray, a nice neutral color. I had it for only one day before little greasy fingers touched it. I think that is how they mark their territory. They just never know how many toddlers will come sniffing around their mom while she is shopping.




In the front I have a few little spots for scissors, extra paper clips, and a pen. I also have a zippered pocket where I keep my extra envelopes and other paraphernelia for my 'drug' habit.




Also in the front I have an expandable section. Here I have a pocket for my weekly list paper clipped to the specific coupons I need. A pocket for extra inserts, or store coupon books, and a final pocket for my calculator.

Then I used baseball card organizers, there are 9 pockets on each page, and I got a pack of ten of them for $2. I know they can be found cheaper, but I really wanted to get started. I still need to label my pockets. I have the similar categories as my previous binder, just a few extra. I split hair care/razors/body wash into male and female categories.



Then I have extra notebook paper for my lists.



In the very last section I have a coupon organizer for my food coupons. So many of these were large or irregular shaped, plus I just have so many, I didn't want to mess with the baseball card inserts. So I found this Q organizer at Target in the dollar section, so I set to work getting it organized. Not very many categories, but really it is very handy. My categories are fridge/frozen, meat, dairy/cheese, cereal, boxed and other.


Yay! I've already used it at the store a few times and I have noticed such a big difference in how easy it is to find things. No more flipping through pages and getting flustered at the checkout.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tuesday Ten

Ten Things I Can't Stand

1. Bad drivers
2. Naptime cut short.
3. Having an empty fridge.
4. Waiting for something exciting.
5. Wearing shoes.
6. Leftovers that go uneaten.
7. Sleeping when it is hot.
8. Warm soda.
9. When DH drops his clothes next to the laundry hamper instead of in.
10. A messy house (even though I live in one every day).

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Disturbed and Amused

I recently went through Sitemeter to check who was visiting my blog. Not so much WHO....but HOW. I knew I was getting quite a few hits, but just not sure from where.

The post of mine that gets the most hits is this one.... Thank You Mom In Law which is one of the first options listed when you Google "Thank you Mom".

The second most popular post is Mosquitoes, Lawn Mowers and Whip-Its, Oh My. In this post I very innocently talked about my pleasant evening and a quick whip it that I did with my sister for the first time in 10 years. Okay, no big deal, right? Yeah, not so much. At least once a week I get a hit (heehee, a hit!) from a person searching "How to do whip its" "How do you do whip its" or "What is a whip it?" I even once got a visit from someone searching "Whip me" Oh yes, whip you indeed. So, for all of those teenage boys who have now killed their brain cells because of MY blog...you're welcome. And by the way, don't do whip its.

Also popular is The Five S's, people have stumbled upon that one by searching "What the HELL are the 5 s's?" Hmm... I think I sense a little sleep deprived testiness.

And the shocking one...my post a few days ago about The Hubs and our wedding. It seems harmless, except for the fact that I mentioned the word corset. My blog is listed among quite a few results some of which include "Latex and corsets" "Hot men in pink corsets" and many other results that made me gasp out loud. Yikes. I am sure when the man (woman?) seeking some nasty photos of corset-clad sexsters arrived at my blog, he (she?) was a little dissapointed. Raunchy pictures? No. Mommy blog? Oh yeah baby!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Meet My Family: Alivia

First, go meet The Hubs and Chloe.

Now I would like to formally introduce you to the goofball of the family. The one that makes all the noise.




Yes, yes, Alivia Mae is the crazy girl of the house, she is outspoken and loud and wild and fiery. But first let's talk about how she entered this world......

Chloe was 1 when The Hubs and I started talking about having another kiddo. We wanted to have our kids close together. We started "trying" in February of that year. Although we didn't really try, we just didn't really prevent. I discovered I was pregnant in May of 2006. Imagine my shock when I went to the doctor and discovered I was due ON Chloe's second birthday!

My pregnancy was rough. Oh baby, it was rough. I have a fractured vertabrae and problems with my pelvis. I was always in pain, my back and hips hurt so badly. I quit working and decided to stay at home (on the couch) for the rest of my pregnancy. I never really felt well, and luckily I only gained half as much weight the second time around. The pregnancy went by very slowly and I spent a lot of time researching ways to have a better birth experience. I wanted a calmer atmosphere, no drugs, mobility during labor and alternate birth positions.

As my due date approached, and then passed, I got a teensy, wee little bit frustrated. The daily phone calls from my family members didn't help either "Did you have that baby yet???"

"Umm...no I did not. I don't think I will ever have her, and I am doomed to be pregnant for the rest of MY. FREAKING. LIFE. Ahem..sorry Grandma. Nope, no baby yet."

The Hubs and I were doing everything to speed up the process which was great for him, ya know. He couldn't have been happier. Thursday morning when I was five days late, we decided that we were having a baby THAT DAY. We started out with a little roll in the hay, then went out grocery shopping. We spent several hours walking around the store to get things moving. I bought all of the ingredients to make hot chili dogs, since spicy food might move things along.

Once at home I made our hot dogs, with super hot chili, jalapenos, and pepper jack cheese. Although I didn't feel well, I still ate one. As I sat there with steam coming out of my ears and fire churning in my stomach, it hit me that the baby hadn't moved all day. I'd been so busy I hadn't noticed. I took a bath and pushed on my tummy a little to get her wiggling. Nothing, not a wiggle or bump or hiccup. I called my sister to take me to labor and delivery while The Hubs stayed home with Chloe, who was napping. I was trying hard not to freak out and panic over the child who was NOT MOVING. I was prodding her and poking her and nothing was happening. We raced to L&D, I jumped on the bed, stripped down and the nurse quickly hooked me to a monitor. The baby's heart was beating, but she wasn't moving. The nurse checked my cervix and smiled at me. "Your baby is not moving because you are in LABOR! You are having a contraction right now!"

What??? Ok, that works for me. This was 6 PM, and my doctor arrived to break my water. Over the next few hours things were very quiet. I was progressing slowly, not in major pain, very calm. Lights were dimmed, I was able to get up and shower, I even caught an episode of Wheel of Fortune. I bounced on my birthing ball, walked around the room, laughed and joked with my family, and concentrated on my contractions.

About 1 AM, I was getting so tired and I knew I was getting somewhat close. Time was going by so quickly. I got in and out of the hot shower three times in the next hour, with contractions so close together. The only complaint I have was that the hot chili dog from earlier....yeah that was not a good idea. I had heartburn from hell!

At 2:30 AM I was sitting on the soft chair in the shower when I realized wave after wave of intense pain was hitting me with barely a second to catch my breath. I stood up and very akwardly made it to the bed while calling out "Call the nurse, NOW!" The nurse ran in, checked me and lights were switched on, equipment was brought in; things went from calm and quiet (The Hubs was actually sleeping) to hectic and crazy in a matter of seconds. A group of student nurses piled in to watch the show, which I am sure was fun for them. I pushed only a few times, in an alternate position and within a few minutes...

Alivia Mae entered this world. Bright pink, a tiny bit of peach fuzz, crying quietly. She stopped the moment she was held though.




As a baby Ali was busy. Rolling, sitting, crawling very very early. When she could stand on her own at 7 1/2 months, I knew I was really truly screwed. She took her first steps at 8 1/2 months, and was running all over the place within a few days.

She is a little parrot, she will repeat everything she hears, so she *might* have a few four letter words in her extensive vocab. She is so incredibly smart, she learns very quickly. She can count to three, sings songs, and dances like there is no tomorrow. She throws and catches a ball perfectly, can climb anything, and runs like the wind.

BUT...she thinks she is way too busy to sleep and eat. She doesn't listen to a thing we say, she hits (hard!) when she is mad, she throws temper tantrums that are unbelievable, she dumps things out, and she throws things in the toilet and garbage.

She has the prettiest red hair (which she won't let me do) and the sweetest little grin (which she won't let me brush). She makes everyone laugh with her funny little quirks and mannerisms. If she hears someone toot she yells "Ooooh Nooo....POOP!"

Name: Alivia Mae
Age: 1 1/2
Loves: Books, cartoons, any sweet treat, cheerios, slurping milk off of her high chair tray, dancing, her binky, bathtime, Daddy, the vacuum, playing with her sis, and antagonizing her sis
Hates: sitting in the cart at the store, eating vegetables, riding in the car for long distances, going to bed, cleaning up toys, being told no
Favorite Food: Ice cream
Least Favorite Food: Meat
First Word: Dada
Favorite Word: Shoot

She is my hard headed, stubborn, crazy little monkey, but I can't imagine my life without her (although it might be quieter) because she is 1/3 of my heart.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Meet My Family: Chloe

Chloe is my oldest daughter, she is 3 1/2 years old. Technically she is 3 years, 5 months and two weeks. Even more technically, she is 1261 days old, counting Leap Day. Or 30, 264 hours.

But who's counting?

Chloe was born on a freezing cold January day in 2005. I was currently 3 days overdue, miserable, gigantic, nervous, terrified, and frustrated.

My contractions began around 9 PM on a Monday evening. I was vegged out on the couch, I had barely moved from the sofa for three straight days I was so tired and miserable. On the tube was a marathon of Made episodes on MTV. The contractions made me uncomfortable, but I just wasn't sure if it was the real deal or not. The Hubs had to get up at 5 AM to go to work, so he gave me a quick kiss on the head and went to bed with a cheerful "Wake me up if you have a baby!" The next three hours were spent getting in and out of the bathtub, timing contractions and drinking water. Still unsure if it was the real thing, I called my doctor. "Drink another glass of water and call me in an hour." I still was feeling crampy, a little uncomfortable, but not that bad yet. I was grinning to myself at how strong I was. This labor thing is no biggie! But then I started to panic a little thinking I was about to pop a baby out on my living room floor. I went and woke The Hubs and said "I think it's time." And did he jump out of bed, throw together our bags and herd me out the door?

No. He sleepily asked if I was okay, then resumed snoozing. I spent another hour timing the cramps, cleaning the kitchen and reading horrible stories about childbirth-gone-wrong on the Internet (caution: not advised!!!!). Finally at 1 AM I was feeling ready, pretty certain I was in active labor. I shook The Hubs a little harder and demanded he get up. When he realized I was serious, he set to getting us out the door. We were in the middle of a harsh winter, it was snowing heavily and very icy outside. He ran out into the pitch black night to warm up the car and I sat inside and rejoiced a little more about how easy-peasy this childbirth thing was going to be.

I wish I had some great story about getting stuck in a snow bank and delivering our child in the warm car while the rescuers dug us out. But the truth is we drove one block over to the brightly lit hospital, where we were informed I was not even in real labor. We settled in for a long night/day.

The next three hours we walked all over the hospital, I was given induction medication, we called our family.

The next three hours I cried about how hungry/exhausted/in pain I was.

My water broke.

The next three hours were full of hard contractions, terrible back pain, lots of visitors.

More contractions. Pain medication that made the world spin and made me throw up.

7 PM...I hadn't eaten in 24 hours, I hadn't slept in 36 hours, my body was battered and bruised and I just wanted to give up.

2 more hours of pushing with all my might.

A doctor's threat "Julie, if you don't push this baby out in the next five minutes, we are going to have to do a C section"

6 minutes later...........

Chloe Joy entered this world. A perfect 8 pounds 9 ounces, thick, dark red hair, deep brown eyes, and wailing her little lungs out.

Chloe is my quiet girl. She had a speech delay for several years, and even now she is soft spoken. Shy and reserved at first, then happy and full of life when she is comfortable.



Her hair falls down her back in thick, auburn locks. Her eyes are the exact shade of dark chocolate and they twinkle when she is happy. She delights in ordinary things, and is very easy to please. Very rarely does she misbehave, she sleeps like an angel every night. I get so much joy in watching her play, she has such a rich, vivid imagination. She falls asleep every night with a stack of books in her bed and walks out of her bedroom in the morning with yet another stack. She is so sweet, she "lubs ebbybody so much!" and says the silliest things. She brings so much light and laughter to our family.

On the other end of the spectrum, she hates change. She doesn't like to leave a place if we've been there for more than a few minutes. She also gets frustrated easily. Wants to do everything by herself. Fights with her little sister. Cries easily. Sometimes too shy and quiet, she would rather sit on the sidelines. Gives up easily. Is super picky.


But the sweet and sour all combine together to make this fantastic, well balanced, beautiful and happy little girl that I am incredibly proud to call my daughter.

Name: Chloe Joy
Age: 3 1/2
Loves: Books, music, cartoons and movies, her cousins, the park, ice cream, fruit, bathtime, drawing, the Library
Hates: getting dirty, bugs, taking naps, tags on her clothes, plain milk, getting her hair brushed, sharing her toys, sparklers
Favorite Food: Apples
Least Favorite Food: Cooked vegetables
Favorite cartoon: Dora
Favorite Book: I'm a Big Sister
Favorite Color: Pink

Enjoys long walks, running errands with Daddy, quiet time with Mommy, making up stories, all holidays and family get togethers, riding her trike, blowing bubbles, going for ice cream, and dressing up like a princess.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Grocery Game Binder

I've shared a little bit about how well the Grocery Game is working for me, and how I shop. I thought I would post pictures of my binder system for organizing my coupons. This system works well for people who do not want to spend a lot of money on their system. Many grocery gamers spend a ton of money on zip up binders, organizers, etc. That didn't make sense for me, as I am trying to *save* money, not spend it!!

To create a system of your own, you will need:

A binder, a simple basic one will do just fine
Paper clips
Envelopes (standard size, not big ones)
Tape
Notebook Paper
Scissors
A pen/marker



First, figure out how many categories you will need. I started with 6 and added more, I now have a total of 18. I found that the more categories I had, the fewer coupons per envelope (therefore less digging to find the right one!)

My categories are: (I'll explain these more in a bit)

Weekly Qs

Store Qs

Baby & Kid Items

Girly Stuff

Medicine

Household & Paper Goods

Body Wash, Soap, Lotion

Razors & Deodorant

Tooth Care

Hair Care

Laundry & Dishes

Cleaning Supplies

Meat, Dairy, Cheese

Refridgerated & Frozen

Cereal

Dry Boxed Food

Sauces, Condiments, Spices

Other Foods

Next, label your envelopes, then cut off the top flap (the triangle with the sticky on it). Then use tape (or glue or staples) and attach your envelopes to a piece of notebook paper (two to each sheet). Make sure the opening is facing out so you can slide your coupons in. Make sure to use a paper clip on each envelope to hold your stack of coupons in. If you drop your binder or tip it upside down, your Qs will not fall out (I learned this the hard way as I watched a hundred coupons flutter away across the parking lot!).

This is how mine is set up.

Front pocket...my shopping lists, extra paper, a pen, extra paper clips.

Middle....my envelopes, labeled, Qs sorted by expiration date and paper clipped in

Back: (nice little paper clip marks LOL!) Extra coupon inserts, a bundle of food coupons (fast food, pizza, etc)

Ok, so more about my categories. In my first envelope I have the weekly coupons. Once I receive my list, I go through and pull out the coupons that I will need for that week. I also grab any coupons that are going to expire that week, bundle them together and put them in my Weekly Q section. I also clip together the ones for each store since I go to several.

My store Qs are coupons that are exclusive to a store but ones I won't use that week (ex: a Walgreen's only coupon that expires next month). This envelope also includes register rewards and catalinas. These are coupons that are printed at the grocery store checkout (some are for a dollar amount off of your next order, free items, percentage off, etc).

The rest of the categories are pretty self explanatory. At the beginning I lumped them together (just one envelope for personal care) because I did not have very many coupons. As I have collected more coupons I had to expand the categories, they got way too full.

My binder goes with me all the time since I might be running to the post office and decide to stop in at Target suddenly. I usually leave it in the car and grab it when I go into the store. As I shop I place my binder in the front of the cart and grab coupons as I need them. If I have a kiddo in the front of the cart, I leave it in the back but refer to it often. Does it make it harder to shop? Sure. But I am willing to sacrifice a little time and convenience for a little more dough in my pocket. Often I shop by myself on Sunday mornings while The Hubs watches the childrens, which makes it a little easier.

So, that's the basics. I have several hundred coupons organized in my binder, and that is after only 4 weeks. Some weeks I use 3 or 4 coupons, some weeks I am handing over a stack of 30 Qs to the cashier.

One more note.....each Sunday I get my paper with coupons. I cut out the Qs, sort them by category and then add them to my envelopes by expiration date. At that time I can pull out the ones that are about to expire. These will all be right at the front of the stack, so it is easy to keep track of them.

Yet one more note...As I walk through the store I will grab an item on my list, then pull out the coupon for it. I put it aside with a paper clip on it. As I shop I will add the Qs I have used to the paper clip group, so once I am at the checkstand I can just hand over my stack of coupons that are organized. This way I am not fumbling around trying to find the correct one as my cashier is standing their impatiently.

This may work incredibly well for you. And it might not. I have received some odd stares from people wondering why I am shopping with a binder full of coupons. It may seem nerdy, but I am laughing all the way to the bank. My binder full of these little snips of paper...yeah it is worth hundreds of dollars. Just last week I used 20 coupons worth over $100. Boo yah!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Meet My Family: The Hubs

I haven't really talked about my partner in this blog very much. Probably because I wouldn't want my husband to find out about him.


I joke!

No, I've been with The Hubs for 5 years. We met one hot and steamy night (no really, it was 105 degrees outside!) when I was set up on a blind date with his roommate. His roommate was a no show, for reasons I can't remember now. The Crush and I hit it off right away, we sat up and talked for hours. When I left I thought for sure that it would be a fling, a little one night summer romance, I did not think we were going to end up together.

We saw a lot of each other that summer but were not exclusive. My best friend started dating the no-show-blind-date-roomie (who was really a good guy) so I found myself with The Crush more often. I was going into my senior year of high school, he was living on his own, working and going to school, I was totally hooked. A summer fling turned into a semi-serious relationship, then a steady relationship, then a full blown lovefest. We had a lot of fun together.

In March of 2004, after 7 months of serious dating, we started tentatively talking about tying the knot. My parents were not delighted (yet) since I had big college plans. We decided to move in together after I graduated high school, and then set a date.

I graduated high school in May 2004 (yes, I'm a young'n!) and went out that night to celebrate with The Boyfriend. We had big dreams and ideas about our future.

Two days later, during a routine gyno check up (birth control refill) I discovered that I did not need birth control, no siree. I was expecting, knocked up, great with child, preggo. Pregnant. I could not believe it. That was the start of our family.

We decided to get married that summer. I wanted to be married before I had a baby, and I wanted to do it before I was really showing. We set a date for two months down the road.

Our wedding was simple. (Read: Cheap!) About 100 guests, nothing too over the top or fancy. My little tummy was mashed down and squeezed into a tight corset (poor baby!) and I think I looked pretty decent (except for the giant scarlet P). The Hubs looked quite dashing.

Our honeymoon was spent camping. You knew that mosquitos and firewood are totally romantic, right? Sure. We go camping every year for our anniversary too.

So that's it. Our family grew from 2 to 3 to 4 in just a few years. And the road to where we are now has been rocky, bumpy and dark. But it has also been thrilling, joyous, and laughter-filled.



All About The Hubs:

Real Name: Tony

Age: 25

Occupation: Operator at a box making company

Enjoys: All kinds of sports, outdoor activities, computers, his kiddos

In high school he: was a sports freak. Star of the football, wrestling, and track team. Enjoyed snowboarding, fishing, dirt biking

As an adult he: Fishes as much as he can, likes to golf, is pitcher for the city's baseball league, likes to tinker around with computers, enjoys working out

Best qualities: Is fiercely protective of his girls, works very hard, fun-loving, strong, great cook and grill operator, smart, bilingual

Worst qualities: Total slob and packrat, can be pretty anti-social, he's a bed hog, selfish sometimes, major selective hearing issues, rarely finishes projects

Can't wait to: Buy a house, have a son, win the lottery

****

So, that is The Hubs. Even though he forgets dirty socks on the floor, leaves the toilet seat up, steals my blankets, and forgets Valentine's Day......I love him.

And when he is crawling on the floor giving horsie ride after horsie ride, wrestling with his beautiful daughters and laughing as they squeal and jump on him.....I love him.

And when he makes a nice dinner, gives me a back rub, brings home flowers, and watches the kids while I sleep in.....I love him.

And when it feels like our marriage is not a calm, tranquil sea, but a hurricane with howling winds and blustering storms.....I love him.


Tuesday Ten

Ten Things I Have To Do Today

1. 3 loads laundry, bringing my two day total to 11 loads.*
2. HOMEWORK!**

3. Put together two packages to mail out tomorrow.

4. Clean my living room and kitchen.
5. Pay online bills.
6. Vacuum.
7. Clean my bathroom.

8. Shower. ***

9. List kids' clothes on Ebay.

10. Clean girls' room.


* The Hubs decided to clean out our closet. It was very scary. You see, we are total slobs, and we both have an insane amount of clothes, most of which we never wear. The discarded and unworn clothes were taking over our closet floor. The Hubs threw them all into my laundry pile, which soon became a mountain, and I am washing them all, then sorting them to take to charity. Since I am sure they don't accept wrinkled clothes *rolls eyes*

**I am going to try to squeeze in two hours of schoolwork at naptime, and two hours tonight and then maybe I'll be caught up. Sigh.

***Shower is on my list today because it is desperately needed. I usually shower every other day, which is all fine and dandy. But my showers consist of jumping in the water (sometimes scalding hot, sometimes ice cold) and spending exactly 5.8 seconds washing hair/body before I am wrenching off the water, and jumping out to make sure Ali hasn't knocked the house down. I need to take one of those wonderfully productive showers where things like shaving and exfoliating happen. Oh the bliss.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Line Sirkit

A few years ago I worked as a customer service representative at a large, world-wide computer company. I don't really want to say which one it is, so for the purposes of this blog entry, we'll go ahead and call it Hell.

I first started at Hell during the summer of 2006. The group of newbies I was hired with were in a training class every day. For the first week we spent our days in a classroom, learning applications and procedures. The next week we were put on the phones, taking calls from irate customers who had all kinds of computer issues. Not technical ones, just customers needing help tracking their Hell package, or exchanging their Hell Computer.

My very first phone call. I was incredibly nervous to take the phone call, but I lined up my notes in a neat stack, did a quick review of my opening script (Thank you for calling Hell, my name is Julie, how may I help you today?) and accepted the first call.

Now first of all, I was so nervous I stumbled over my opening lines and could feel myself blushing furiously. All during training we heard all kinds of horror stories about furious customers, bomb threats, screaming callers, and complicated issues. I just knew that my first call would be a doozy.

And it was.

The lady who was calling Hell that day was incredibly polite. Oozing with sweetness and Southern charm. And when I say Southern, I mean Southern. Picture the deep swamps of Georgia, then go a little further South. Little more. Little more. Yep, that's where she was from. Very, very strong accent, a lot of ya'lls and yes'ms. She spoke incredibly fast and I was getting very flustered as I was sorting through the information I had on my notes and scrambling through the complicated computer system.

I took a deep breath and asked her to please explain the problem again. She, again very politely, said "No probm ma'am. The som'n som'n line sirkit and ya'lls som'n som'n, k ma'am? So I kulled the please and ya'lls...." I was lost. I calmly placed her on hold and then took off my headphones and shot a panicked look around the room. I found my trainer and explained what was going on.

"I can't understand this lady! She's talking about a line SIRKIT or something? Help!"

I got back on the phone with my trainer by my side and asked the woman to repeat the problem slowly, explaining that I could not understand what she was saying because of her accent. She laughed and again blathered on about a line sirkit with little pause for breath. I was near tears now. I started to think she was talking about something related to the circuit board, which would be a technical problem. I started to direct her towards Hell's technical support team, but she insisted it was not a technical problem.

This went on for about twenty more minutes. Her talking about line circuits, and me confused and unsure of how to help her. I asked her if she was talking about a computer part. She said no. I asked her if something was wrong with her computer. She said yes. I asked her how we could fix the problem. She said "I need a new computer because line circuit."

Wait, line circuit?

Then very sloooowwwwlllly she said "Ma'am lass nigh' there was a big stome (storm). There was thunner and LINE and all a suddn, LINE CIRCUIT. Now my computer's broke."

"Ooooooh, there was thunder and lightening and lightening struck it?"

"Yes'm. Line circuit."

I think this is where my deep loathing of the word ya'll was founded. Hearing that word sends shivers down my spine. It reminds me of the day I cried over the southern woman calling Hell's customer service about her line circuit.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Snack Attack

I have a hard time getting my kids to eat healthy snacks. Technically, it is me that has a hard time putting out a healthy and easy snack. It just seems so time consuming, and much easier to just unwrap a granola bar.

Last Sunday I started "Snack Bags". So far the system is working INCREDIBLY well, I don't know why I didn't think of it earlier.

I took a box of the small size snack bags (the ones that zip, not the ones for sandwiches) and our haul of produce and snacky type items I had purchased that day. Then I set to dividing it all up.

Here are some examples of our snack bags:

-3 or 4 carrot sticks, a few broccoli trees, a few cucumber slices
-A handful of grapes, 1/4 of a sliced peach, kiwi chunks
-2 slices of cheese, a handful of grapes
-1/2 of a sliced apple (A little bit of lemon juice to avoid brownness), cucumber slices
-5 ritz crackers, 2 cheese slices
-A scoop of dry cereal
-2 graham crackers, 1/2 a banana

And on and on. Together, Chloe and I cleared 1/2 of a shelf in the fridge and filled it with the snack bags. She had a great time helping me prepare them too.

Throughout the week, when it is time for a snack, both girls can grab a bag then sit down and eat. I can also snag a snack bag on my way out the door for school. No clean up, no preparation, no fuss, no junk. Although I did throw in a couple of "special" bags which aren't the healthiest, but once those are gone they are gone. I think this will help Chloe learn the value of eating healthy and having an occasional treat.

This was a bit time consuming when I put them together last Sunday. But I just tried to remember it will foster a bit of independence in Chloe (since she can get her own snacks now) and will eliminate me giving them junk because I am too tired to cut up fresh veggies. We are also reusing the snack bags, I just give them a quick rinse and put them aside for next week.

Tuesday Ten

Ten Things That Make Me Deliriously Happy:


1. Climbing into a neatly made, freshly washed bed.

2. Air conditioning.

3. Reading through a big stack of books with my 3 year old.

4. Naptime.

5. Rocking and cuddling my girls before bed.

6. Putting the kids to bed and relaxing with a brand new fiction book, a comfy pillow, and an ice-cold soda.

7. Unexpected money.

8. Tivo.

9. Popping popcorn and watching a movie with The Hubs on the weekends.

10. Getting an excellent grade on a test.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Grocery Game Update......Week 3

Mary Ann asked for an update, so I am happy to give one. Although pretty soon you might be begging me to just shut up already; once I start talking about the Grocery Game, I have a hard time stopping.

So first of all: My totals for this week were good. I went to two different stores, spent $60 total and my house is bursting with stuff. I got several items for free, and several more for nearly free. It was really great!

Second of all: I am really getting my system down. I've figured out which cashiers are the nicest, what time of day is best to hit the store, how many papers to buy, and how to organize my coupons. More on that later.

I also wanted to address the fact that the Grocery Game is NOT for everyone. If you
a) stick to organic, fresh, healthy foods
b) don't want to clip coupons or
c) don't have the time to grocery shop

then you are not going to find a lot of success with the program. It's not like the list is filled with junk, but you will definitely find more convenience foods than fresh foods. Although I have had several kinds of produce on my list each week (watermelon, kiwis, grapes, etc) and a few organic items. But not enough to feed a whole family. If you don't have the time/energy/motivation to clip coupons and grocery shop, you might have a hard time as well. I currently spend about an hour each week clipping and organizing, and an hour-ish grocery shopping.

BUT....even if you don't want to do it for the groceries, you should consider adding JUST a drugstore like CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, etc because you can really get fantastic prices on home and beauty products (some even free). It may be worth it just for that reason alone! And don't be afraid to try a store you don't usually shop at. The main grocery store on my list was Albertson's, which I do not usually shop at. BUT...they have great rock bottom prices, a good coupon policy, and mostly friendly cashiers and managers.

Ok, so now more on how I do things.....

-I buy four newspapers. I also get 3 additional coupon inserts from family members, and can usually find one or two sitting on an abandoned table at Starbucks or McDonalds. Each $1.50 paper has anywhere from $20-50 dollars of coupons inside.
-I go shopping on Sunday morning, and I tend to go to young male cashiers, or friendly older ladies. They just seem to get excited with you when they see your final total and your full cart.
-I have a coupon binder I use to organize and sort all of my coupons (more on that tomorrow....). I take it with me to the store so I can have all my coupons at my fingertips.

This weeks totals:

Shelf: $150
Out of Pocket Price: $60
Savings: $90 or 60%

Man Beans

Some kids don't like veggies. It's a fact. Some moms worry about this, some moms don't.

One of my monkeys really enjoys vegetables. She likes carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, etc, she mostly likes them raw though. The smaller monkey hates veggies, but hey whatev. I try to plan my meals with lots of veggies and make them tasty.

But the hardest part of my vegetable mission is getting The Hubs to eat something green. He really does not like vegetables. He will eat them occasionally, but he is more of a meat and taters kind of man.

Last week we had green beans, just boring ol' ones from a can. The girls and I like beans, so we just eat them plain. But The Hubs would rather stick a sharp knife into an electric socket than eat plain green beans.

So I butched 'em up. Fried some bacon and cut it into thick chunks, added that to the pan, a splash of Tabasco sauce, lots of salt and pepper, then drained off the water and sprinkled pepper jack cheese on them. Seriously, it looked disgusting, so don't think I am recommending this for a tasty side dish. But he ate it. He ate all of it (after a gentle scolding from me).

It's a sad day when I have to smother healthy food with fat/cheese/spice for my husband to even glance at it. Meanwhile my kids had finished their plain portions and were asking for more.

After washing the dishes and heading to bed, I laid there wondering if I was his mother or his wife. After a little contemplating I decided that I was NOT his mother because that would be just...well...sick.

Beans, beans the magical fruit,
The more you eat, the more you toot.
The more you toot, the better you feel,
So lets eat beans for EVERY meal!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Burgers, Fries and a Shake

Tonight we indulged in big, fat, juicy burgers, a generous helping of fries, and thick, sweet shakes. It was the yummiest meal I've enjoyed in a long time.

And the healthiest.

Yes, you read that right. Our entire dinner tonight was nutritious and DELICIOUS!

Burgers:

-Lean ground turkey, a small sprinkle of salt and pepper, and McCormick's burger seasoning
-Done just like regular burgers, shape turkey into patties, cook over grill, or on stovetop. I just used a big skillet and cooked ours inside since it is rainy today.

Fries:

-Sweet potatoes, washed, peeled, and cut into fries. Shake in a bag with seasonings (I used a little bit of seasoning salt, crushed red pepper, black pepper) and a few sprays of cooking oil (The original recipe calls for oil, but I subbed non stick spray and found the results were great!)
-Laid out on non-stick sprayed cookie sheet and stuck in 350 oven for 45 minutes, turning once.

Shake:

-1/2 a bag of whole, frozen strawberries. 2 cups of skim milk, blended together. More or less depending on thickness preferences.
-I also add a scoop of sugar free strawberry jam, which adds just the touch of sweet strawberriness!
*You could totally add in bananas, kiwi, peach, etc.

Extras:

Reduced fat cheddar atop our turkey delights, fresh baked whole wheat buns from our grocery store's bakery, thick slices of juicy tomato, and fresh, crisp lettuce leaves.

Seriously, I was in heaven. Super super yummy, not dripping in fat and calories like it would be from a fast food joint, and the kids dug into their plates!

**Another Kid-Friendly Tip: Deconstructed burgers. Seriously! Neither of my kids will eat a burger if it is in traditional burger form (ya know.....bun, meat, bun) so I deconstruct. They get half of a hamburger bun, cut into chunks, 1/4 of a patty, again in chunks, some shreds of lettuce, a slice of cheese, and chopped tomato. Ketchup on the side because when you are a kid, everything pairs well with ketchup. They eat way more than they would if they were looking at just half a burger on their plates.

So seriously, if you are looking for a healthier alternative to the burger/fry meal, you gotta try this! The shake adds just the touch too, it made the entire meal a real treat for my whole family.

Lastly, because of my new Grocery Game skills, my entire meal costs $9 (everything was sale, clearance, or couponed!), so $2.25 per person. Try that at your local restaurant!!!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

99

It's blogging tradition to post one hundred little factoids about yourself on your 100th blog post. Since I don't like following rules, I am posting 99 things about myself on my 99th post! I can't believe it took me a year and a half to blog one hundred times. I kept taking long breaks and I messed with the 'flow.' Ready?

1. I was four months pregnant when I got married.

2. I was only 18 when I got married.

3. Everyone thought we wouldn't make it more than a year.

4. We will celebrate four years this summer.

5. I have a broken back, literally.

6. My doctors don't know how I fractured my vertebrae.


7. I was 3 days overdue with my first pregnancy, and 6 days overdue with my second.


8. I didn't experience heartburn until I was 19.

9. I thought I was having a heart attack.


10. My hubby and I were friends with 6 other couples when we were first wed.

11. 5 of those couples are now divorced.

12. My best friend was 9 months pregnant at my wedding. I was 8 months pregnant at her wedding.

13. I hate my name.

14. I read a new book every other 2 days.

15. I often stay up until 1 or 2 AM reading.

16. Last night I read a 250 page book in one sitting.

17. No, I don't consider myself a geek.

18. I sleep alone since DH works graveyard shift.


19. When he sleeps with me on the weekends, I feel cramped even though we have a king sized bed.


20. My first kiss was during spin the bottle.


21. My first real kiss was behind a church.

22. I went to church five days a week during my junior high years.

23. I went to Disney World in 6th grade with a group of friends. We won a creative acting competition and got to compete at Nationals.

24. That was my first time on an airplane.

25. While I was gone my sister got engaged.

26. I have one niece and one nephew, and one more nephew on the way.

27. I would be terrified to have a son.

28. If we ever have a boy, he won't be circumsized.

29. If I won the lottery I would have as many kids as I could.

30. I rarely listen to music.

31. I drive a Durango that gets horrible gas mileage.

32. Every time I fill up my gas tank I nearly vomit.

33. We live in a 2 bedroom apartment approximately the size of a cardboard box.

34. Our rent is DIRT. CHEAP.

35. I enjoy cleaning the bathroom.

36. I've never spanked a child.

37. I was an honor student by day.

38. And a total party girl by night.

39. I didn't shoplift as a kid or teen.

40. I've shoplifted as an adult.

41. I'm allergic to bananas and all kinds of metal.

42. I've never been stung by a bee.

43. I might be allergic to bees.

44. I was assistant manager at two different jobs by the time I was 16.

45. I dated the same guy from 8th grade to 11th grade.

46. He just recently got out of prison.

47. I was friends with pretty much everyone in high school.

48. I have been in too many car wrecks to count.

49. I was voted "Most Likely to Wreck the Driver's Ed Car" in junior high.

50. I hopped a curb in the driver's ed car 2 months later.

51. I still have problems figuring out left from right.


52. I had an eating disorder for many years.


53. I think NASA and the space program is a waste of time and money.


54. I could easily eat hot and fresh French Fries for every meal for the rest of my life.


55. The smell of pickles makes me sick.


56. I decided to use my children's real names on this blog.


57. I am going to school to be a high school geography/social studies teacher. Or an English teacher.

58. Although I really want to be a high school counselor.

59. I went on vacation with my family to Northern Idaho when I was 4 months pregnant with my first daughter.

60. I threw up on the airplane.

61. I haven't been on an airplane since.

62. I had severe post partum depression after my second daughter was born.

63. I have thousands of freckles.

64 . I tried to count them once and got to 200 just on one leg

65. I get sunburns really easily.

66. I love to cook and bake.


67. I enjoy doing homework. And taking tests.


68. I love love love scrapbooking.


69. My favorite number is 11.


70. I am a total homebody.


71. I feel guilty all the time over stupid little things.


72. My favorite two TV shows are Friends and ER.


73. My sister is my best friend.

74. I am the complete opposite of my sister.


75. I grow my nails long.

76. And then go on a biting frenzy and chew them down to nubbins.

77. Although I told everyone I wanted to have a boy, I really wanted my second child to be another girl.

78. I have really intense dreams.

79. I know a little bit about a lot of things.

80. But I know nothing about cars, science, technology and electronics.

81. I type 85+ words per minute.

82. I'm a HORRIBLE housekeeper.

83. When the kids spend the night with my in laws or parents, I sleep until noon.

84. I have a bleeding disorder, my blood does not clot properly.

85. I have been life flighted before.

86. I love learning about other cultures.

87. I am a Democrat.

88. I am a total cheapie, I never buy name brand things.

89. I love yard sales, but not when I have to drag my kiddos along.

90. I can name 140 of the world's countries in five minutes.

91. I love watching documentaries.

92. I'm scared of change.

93. My favorite holiday is Christmas, followed by Thanksgiving.

94. I am named after my paternal grandmother.

95. I'm a total procrastinator.

96. I worked at Dairy Queen through most of high school

97. I gained sixty pounds during my first pregnancy.

98. I am addicted to sunflower seeds and caffeine.

99. I rarely wear shoes.

Thanks for reading! Cheers to 99 more!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Great Grocery Game Experiment

I've been hearing about the Grocery Game for awhile now. At first I thought it was a game show like Supermarket Sweep. Remember that show? I just loved watching the people racing around the stores piling expensive things in their cart and solving peanut butter related riddles.

But after asking a few questions and utilizing my brain (read: Google) I discovered that the Grocery Game is a coupon/sale tracking program.

Eh...not for me. First of all, I shop cheap (say that five times fast!). Really, I stalk the clearance sales, we don't do name brand stuff, and we go without luxuries (who needs that silly old TP anyway?). So when I checked out the message boards on the Grocery Game website, I was still skeptical. Most of the coupons and sales were on name brand items, and some of the boasted savings just didn't seem, well, believable.

But it was only a dollar for a four week trial so I decided to grudgingly fork over a buck (I'm serious, I really am that cheap!) and try it out.

********

How it Works:

You get a list of stores in your area (drug stores and grocery stores). Each week you receive a list of all of the sales in the stores, both advertised and unadvertised. Teri (the creator) matches up the store sales, the store coupons (which you can get in weekly fliers) and manufacturer's coupons (which you can find in the Sunday paper, or through coupon clipping services).

What you have to do:

When you get your Sunday paper, clip the heck out of the coupons. You can also buy extra papers, or beg some off of your neighbors/friends. Print out your Grocery Game list, organize your coupons for the trip, and head to the store. After you have picked out your items, hand your cashier your coupons, pay and leave. Simple as pie, right? (Mmmm....pie!)

Why it's so fantabulous:

Without the grocery game, you go to the store and find a store brand toothpaste on clearance for 94 cents. That's a fantastic deal, so you snatch it up!

Now, with the grocery game, Teri already knows that toothpaste is going on clearance, AND she knows that there is a $1 coupon in your Sunday paper. So you get a tube for free. BUT...then you ask for your neighbor's and your grandma's coupon inserts and get THREE free tubes of toothpaste so you can stockpile for the next few months.

********

So, after reading the rules and going through my list, I had a pretty good idea of how it worked and what I needed to do. I also dug through my grandparent's huge stack of used papers that hadn't gone out for recycling yet. I scored dozens of coupons from past papers, some really valuable!

This week I got:

1 box cereal

4 laundry detergents (32 loads each)

2 boxes pasta

2 power toothbrushes

2 full sized bottles of dish soap

3 boxes of kleenex

All of these items were name brand.....total cost: $12.50!! This is such a huge savings because the laundry soaps alone are twice that amount (original cost).

Sooo...needless to say, I'm hooked. I really think this is going to help our family significantly this summer, what with me having to sell my kidney so that we can fill our gas tank.

If you want to join (please do!) go here and look around. The message boards have a lot of great insight too. If you decide to jump aboard, feel free to use my email as a referral (jewels099@hotmail.com).

(I just looked back through this post and discovered A LOT of parentheses (I love these things!). Sorry 'bout that!)

(Stay tuned next week for my second week of savings!)

(Bye!)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Crawling into my well lit cave......

Last week I aced my first Biology test, I'm talking aced.

Once the euphoria wore off and the confetti settled, I realized that I was really screwed. See, the moment after we finished that difficult test? Yep, we jumped right into the next unit which consists of blah blah meiosis blah blah and then the chromosome blah blah (at least that is what the three hour lectures sound like).

So for right now I am finishing up assignments and lab sheets, studying for a test, working on a big project due Monday, and researching all kinds of biology-related-crud on the internet.

My head is swimming with words like bacteriophage, RNA polymerase and aneuploid. Somewhere in there I am trying to figure out babysitters-vacuums-dishes-laundry-bedtime-bathtime-dinner-storytime-errands-etc. Yeah, things are crazy around here. (Although I've only threatened to throw my ten pound Biology textbook at The Hubs once today, so things are looking up!)

So I will be MIA for at least three or four days, maybe more. I really need to get a good grade in this class to keep my GPA up for more financial aid next year. College ain't cheap!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Insane Pregnancy Moments

Don't let the title fool you, I'm not knocked up, and I don't plan to be in the next 3 years or so. My two crazy monkeys keep me busy enough!

No, my family and I were reminiscing tonight about when we were pregnant, and some of the silly things we did. My sister is 7 months pregnant and is a tiny bit emotional. When I say a tiny bit, I mean a tiny bit. She also reads this blog and I really don't want to tell you how emotional she is because I am afraid it might make her bawl hysterically, so we just won't go there, k? Love you sis!

As we were talking about how funny it is that we have cried over cheeseburgers, or threatened our husbands with divorce over a dirty sock left on the floor, I had to laugh at my best(worst) irrational pregnancy moment.

I think I was in the ninth month of my first pregnancy, very large and uncomfortable. I was spending my days napping, half-heartedly cleaning, talking to my sister for hours on the phone, napping again, and watching hours of terrible daytime TV. Then, ten minutes before The Hubs would be due home, I would scramble around throwing away the empty chip bags and candy wrappers. Yeah, it was a pretty sad sight. I still can't figure out why I gained sixty pounds in that pregnancy. Hmm...

One day I was sprawled on the couch watching Oprah, when the commercial break began (pre-TIVO days...how did we all survive???). And it hit me...I wanted muffins. I wanted muffins NOW. I jumped up (or rather..awkwardly twisted and turned my large body off of the couch) and waddled raced to the kitchen. I fumbled around in the cupboards, scrambled through drawers, and finally found what I so desperately needed. Two boxes of muffin mixes, one apple cinnamon, the other blueberry.

Now, the serious problems started. They both sounded equally delicious, but I knew I couldn't make them both. I also knew I needed to get them in the oven so I could have a fresh plate of hot muffins waiting for The Hubs when he got home. After spending an eternity changing and re changing my mind, I finally picked apple cinnamon and set to work whipping up a batch. The house was soon filled with the heavenly aroma of baked apples and sweet cinnamon. I sat cross legged on the floor watching the muffins sloooowwwlllly rise. The moment they were done I yanked them out of the oven and burned my hand slightly trying to get them out of the muffin pan and onto a plate. I was salivating, my eyes were glazed over, every bud on my tongue was screaming "I NEED A MUFFIN NOW!"

I can still feel the agony, the pain of having to wait five minutes for the muffins to cool. The first muffin was still steaming, but I couldn't wait. I think I went into a bit of trance, my memory is a little fuzzy, but one second I was delicately biting into a moist muffin, and the next second I was surrounded by a nearly empty pan and a large amount of crumbs.

I panicked and counted the last of the muffins. Four. Four? FOUR??? I ate 8 muffins in one sitting? Ok, this is not such a big deal, The Hubs will come home and enjoy the last four muffins, problem solved. But wait, he is going to see that there are only four muffins left, which means he will see that I ate eight of them.

If you have ever been pregnant, you might see where this led me. Obviously, I needed to either A) eat the last four muffins or B) throw the last four muffins away. This way The Hubs would never even know they existed, and therefore would not see that I was a total hog. The thought of throwing the four muffins away really pained me though, I just couldn't do it. So I ate them. The last few had to be nearly forced down, I was stuffed so full, but they were still soooo good.

Ok, great. The pan is washed and put away, the crumbs are swept up, everything is fine. I stepped outside to get some fresh air and walked back in to discover that baking smell I mentioned before? That wonderful sweet scent? Yeah, the house reeked of it. I could smell it from the door, it was very obvious someone had just baked something wonderful.

At this point I started crying. I just knew that The Hubs would walk in and say "Oh, you made muffins. Oh, they're gone. You ate twelve muffins. You ate TWELVE muffins?????" So I did what any irrational and emotional woman would do. I made the second batch.

And then I ate one out of that batch, just to make it look believable. Because I knew he would be suspicious if there was a fresh batch of muffins and I hadn't tried one yet.

When The Hubs came home, he gave me a quick kiss and headed for the muffin plate. I held my breath wondering if he would notice the scent of cinnamon that didn't match the blueberry muffins, or see a smudge of apple residue on my face. He grabbed a muffin, muttered "Thanks." then went to take a shower.

That night I cried myself to sleep. Partly because I was upset with DH for not praising me more for my muffin efforts, partly because I knew I was being silly. And partly because I was stuffed so full of muffins I thought I would explode.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Ay-yi-yi!!!!!!

Today I made our vegetarian meal of the week, and it was gooooooood!!!!

I made homemade Mexican pizzas, and it confirmed my decision to go vegetarian rather than vegan, as my pizzas were ooey gooey with cheese.

Cheese = Happy!

I made a version of these last year, but was not happy with them, so I just kind of winged (wung?) it with my own recipe. Very very delish!

Mexican Pizzas

8 Flour tortillas
2-3 TBSP oil (I use canola), divided
2 cans (or one large) fat free refried beans (I use Rosarita)
2 cups reduced fat cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup fat-free sour cream
1 cup salsa, any kind
1 red bell pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
1/2 head lettuce, shredded or chopped small
1 small onion, chopped (optional)
2 tomatoes, chopped (optional)

Ok, so first add refried beans to a small saucepan, heat on low and stir occasionally. They just need to be warmed. Next, heat your oil on high in a frying pan. You really only need enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Add your tortilla, fry on each side for 1-2 minutes. Stay close though, as these can burn easily. When tortilla is crispy and browned, remove from pan and put on cookie sheet, place in a 200 degree preheated oven. Fry additional tortillas (Add more oil if needed) and add to oven. This keeps them warm and prevents sogginess.

When tortillas are done, you can start building your pizza base. Pull the tortillas out of the oven and turn heat up to 350. Start with one tortilla on bottom, spread the warm refried beans on top, add a small handful of shredded cheese, then top with second tortilla. It's best to push them together so they are thin, but use a hot pad holder because they will be warm. Place the pizza base back on the cookie sheet (You can maybe fit three pizza bases on each sheet) and place back in oven. These take 5-10 minutes so while they are crisping up, prepare your toppings.

Chop the lettuce, tomato, onion, bell pepper, and grate your cheese. We skipped tomatoes because we weren't in the mood for salmonella, but next time tomatoes will add the perfect touch.

Ok, so once pizzas are out of the oven, spread the top with a spoonful of sour cream, then spoon salsa on top of that. Then add a small handful of onions, bell pepper, tomato, another small sprinkle of cheese, and lettuce on top. Feel free to mess around with the order, or omit/add anything you like. They are your pizzas, ya know?

Then I like to use a pizza cutter to split them, it makes the pizzas easier to eat. And ta da! Delicious, not all that bad for you, and sans meat...perfect meal. The only small criticism I have is that the pizzas got a little bit soggy while they were waiting for toppings, so I think next time I will fry them a little longer.

We served ours with fresh jicama. Now, I am not really a jicama person, in fact I have only had it once before, but The Hubs ate jicama as a child quite a bit. He peeled and sliced them, sprikled a little fresh lime juice over them, and added a small sprinkle of chili powder (not on the kids' plates, although both of them like spicy foods). Perfect combination of sweet, sour, and spicy.

My kids really enjoyed this, but I did omit salsa from theirs. I replaced it with ketchup, because both of them will eat anything they can dip. They both gobbled up their food and asked for more jicama, so I was happy.

Try this, and let me know what you think!!!!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Anger

Last night Chloe was REALLY pushing it with bedtime. She needed a drink, then she wanted another story, then she got up to tell me that her bed had a crumb in it and it was hurting her. This girl can stall like nobody's business.

So after about half an hour of catering to her every whim (I joke!) I firmly told her "If you get up again, or ask for something, you are going to lose your cartoons tomorrow." That really got her and she rolled over with her eyes closed.

I retreated to the living room where I spread out my notebook, Biology notes, textbook, and notecards and started studying. After a few minutes of quiet, broken only by the rustle of my papers, I was startled by Chloe at my side. I opened my mouth to tell her how upset I was and she put her little hand on my shoulder and said "Mommy, don't be angry. I want to say I love you and goodnight!"

I had to laugh though, hearing "don't be angry" out of her mouth was just too cute, she has never said that before. Then I walked her back to her room, gave her a kiss and a cuddle and tuck her back into bed where she went right to sleep. I am 99% sure that when she came out to the living room she was intending on using another stalling tactic, but changed her mind when she saw how "angry" I was.

After she went to bed I still had a little grin on my face. She is so witty and sweet. But the grin faded after a bit when I realized just how significant that emotion is. Anger. The word itself sounds harsh and mean. In her three year old mind, anger means Mom is upset that she won't go to bed. Or she is angry at her sister for taking her toy. Or angry at the pedal on her trike that she can't get to rotate fully. I've always tried to acknowledge her feelings, while also teaching that she needs to control herself. It's okay to be angry, but it is not okay to push Baby. It is okay to be mad, but you cannot yell at us. Etc. Etc.

So in the past year that the topic of anger has come up, I think we've done a good job in helping her express and control her emotions. And even though she feels mad several times a day, how wonderful that her anger is still innocent.

She hasn't yet experienced real fury. And she probably will, sooner than I imagine. But when is anger truly justifiable, when is it real?

In grade school when a classmate humiliates you?

In middle school when your best friend blabs your biggest secret?

In high school when that same best friend steals your boyfriend?

I can think of only two instances in which I have felt true fury, felt so completely out-of-control and filled with rage. Both times the intense emotion was a mask. A cover up for the grief.

In high school I was very close friends with a boy named Garry. Our friends all hung out together, he was the funniest guy. We partied together, we talked in the hallways, my close friend was his girl friend. Everyone in school knew him, just an all around cool guy and class clown. On January 9th, we were all shocked to hear that someone in our town had killed himself. He was a sibling of one of our friends, and quite a bit older than us. The news shocked our small town. That night I spoke with a friend on the phone and said "Can you imagine that happening to one of our friends? I don't think I would be able to handle it."

Five days later, on January 14th, I left school and went to my boyfriend's house. We called Garry to come hang out and when his father picked up the phone he was sobbing. When my boyfriend became alarmed and said "What happened????" Garry's father revealed that he had just walked in on Garry, he had killed himself.

It happened so quick. I was laughing and talking and then my world shattered and then the next moment I was walking out of the house, almost in a trance, to where Garry's girlfriend worked. I walked into the resteraunt and grabbed her hand. I was crying and couldn't choke out the words I just sobbed "Garry....Garry". It was one of the worst moments of my life.

It didn't happen that night, or the next. It was the day after his funeral that the anger hit. I was furious. Furious at some stupid boy who thought his problem couldn't be solved. Furious at a God who would allow so much suffering. Furious at myself and furious at everyone else who didn't see it. A fit of rage that left me exhausted and ragged, and feeling well beyond my 16 years, because no one on Earth could possibly feel that much pain and hurt.

The fury slowly subsided, the pain ebbed away, and the memories started to fade. Long periods went by and sometimes I thought I had forgotten what his face looked like. But I still feel a little ache, a tiny pull at a once angry heart.

Last night, after Chloe was back to sleep, and I got up to get a kleenex, my thoughts turned to the second time I felt true rage, just over two years ago. Two close friends had gone partying, they were driving too fast on too dark roads and they were too intoxicated. Even now, if I close my eyes I can hear the tires squeal and hear the screams and then hear the sickening crunch, even though I was nowhere near the horrible scene, or the lifestyle.

I worked with Bree, I partied with her, we confided in each other, we even raced our cars against each other. We went skinny dipping, we walked through the county fair laughing and joking, and we spent many sleepovers together giggling and whispering. When I decided to move away, get married and start a family, she stayed behind and continued the party life. Sometimes I envied how carefree she was (especially when I was spending my nights changing diapers). We still saw each other occasionally, and laughed over our days as crazy girls. She was so beautiful.

I knew Shanel for many years. We went to school together, hung out with mutual friends and laughed together. I still have a videotape that we made in fourth grade, so young and innocent. When I watch that tape I search her face for some clue, some hint that she wouldn't live past 18.

The fit of anger was similar, but so different. I was older, I was a little more distanced, and too familiar with grief. But I couldn't help feeling furious with Bree. What a stupid decision to make that cost her everything. It took a very long time for the anger to fade. Now I wonder if I spent too much time feeling furious, and not enough time remembering and loving.

Last night, after the second round of Kleenex's, I had to smile again at Chloe's words "Don't be angry Mommy." Her little grip on my shoulder and her half toothless smile, her bedhead and her nighttime stalling, her middle-of-the-night wakings, and naptime antics......they remind me that too much time is wasted in anger. Is it all sunshine and butterflies and rainbows? Of course not. But I cherish this time when three year old 'anger' still means a dropped popsicle or a stubbed toe.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Brooke's Best Bombshell Brownies

I discovered this recipe several months ago, and it is hands down the best thing I have ever made from scratch. I can whip up homemade noodles, I can bake a good cookie, and my cakes are light and moist......

But never before have I been able to make a really. great. brownie. I've made them all, really. Dense, fudgey, eggless, cake-like, burned around the edges, raw in the middle, flat, huge, you name it. Some have turned out good (usually the ones that originate from the box) and some have set my smoke detector off. But I really wanted a knock-your-socks-off brownie, one that was chocolatey and rich and had just the right amount of crust on the top-one that didn't require complicated methods to create. So when I googled "Best brownie recipe" at the beginning of this year, I was not let down. I discovered this recipe from All Recipes (with glowing reviews), then found that I had all of the ingredients in my cupboards.

After the brownies came out of the oven, I had an attack of the Can't-Wait-Syndrome. You know the one where you have a smoking hot dish of something that is supposed to be 'cooling' but is really wafting it's delicious aroma all over the house? And you know you shouldn't get close to it as it is about 5746 degrees hot, but you really, really want to sink your teeth into it? Even though it is about to burn off most of your taste buds? Yeah, I had that.

But these bad bombshells are worth waiting for. So dense, so fudgey, so so chocolatey. The best part is that they get better as they sit, so when you sneak out of bed at 3 AM to have a tiny snack, you will not be dissapointed. Your kids might be though, when they wake up in the morning to find you sitting on the kitchen floor, licking the crumbs out of the empty dish.

Here is the link to the recipe, you can also read the hundreds of five star reviews, some from expert chefs vowing to never try another recipe. My suggestions will follow the recipe.

INGREDIENTS
1 cup butter, melted
3 cups white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9x13 baking dish.

Combine the melted butter, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each, until thoroughly blended.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Gradually stir the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture until blended. Stir in the chocolate morsels. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared baking dish.

Bake in preheated oven until an inserted toothpick comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove, and cool pan on wire rack before cutting.

*Some of the reviewers have suggested substituting this insane amount of sugar with 1 1/2 cups brown, and 1 1/2 cups white sugar. Not sure what it does for the calorie factor, but it does cut the sweetness a tiny bit for those without a raging sweet tooth.

*Another suggestion is to add 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts. Adds just the right amount of crunch.

*If you don't like big chunks of chocolate in your brownies, you can also sub the chocolate chips for mini (also try peanut butter chips...yum!) or use your knife to chop up your chips before adding.

*And lastly, a brownie or five, goes great with a super tall glass of ice cold milk. Or a scoop of vanilla ice cream if you are feeling wild.

Ok, so there you have it. As I am writing this a batch of brownies is in my oven and I am just starting to smell that "Come eat me" scent.

One more thing, even though this recipe sounds incredibly fattening and heart-disease-causing, it only has about 250 calories per serving. Ok, that is a lot if you are dieting. But really, it is not *that* much. You probably shouldn't eat the entire pan, but it's okay to indulge a little. Brooke said so!

By the way, I totally picture Brooke as a beautiful, 105 pound woman who can eat whatever she wants. Or she could be a 460 pound man who parks his recliner in the kitchen next to the oven, I don't really know. All I know is you have to try these brownies. Really, you do.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Parade of Fools.

Our annual 'Western Days' parade was last weekend. The parade is meant to celebrate our Western heritage, and each entry in the parade is supposed to be Western themed, so lots of covered wagons and horses and cowboys.

The past few years the parade has slowly become a little more, well, parade-like. As in, more marching bands, cloggers, local business floats, and candy being hurled at young children.

It wasn't really cold, but it wasn't warm either. Jackets were definitely needed.


We arrived at the parade a little too early, so both kids were restless. Chloe threw a huge temper tantrum because she wanted to sit in baby's stroller. You can see that I am very tough and never give in to her whining.


Meanwhile my mom held Alivia, who did pretty well until 2 minutes before the parade began. Major meltdown time.



Because I live in Idaho, The-Hicksville-State, we saw a group that had entered their mud covered trucks in the parade. For the sole reason of umm...showing off how dirty they were? The group does a lot of 'muddin' and I guess they wanted to show the city how classy and cool they are. Don't believe me?


And I am not even joking, there were about 10 trucks in a row that would rev their engines and fling mud as they paraded down Main Street. 80% of the drivers had a mullet and no shirt, and I am pretty sure I saw several cans of beer nestled in their laps.

It was sad. Just sad. Even worse was the group of pot-bellied rednecks lining the street that cheered "HELL YEAAAAAHHHH" as the trucks passed.

Chloe loved the horses, but was completely shocked that they were allowed to poop in the middle of the street. Every other minute she would check to make sure the poop was there, and loudly proclaim "Ewww, that's nasty. There's poop in the road. Look at that! Poop there. The horse pooped, look, look. Ewwww!" But she was secretly delighted.

After the parade we walked across the street to the city park to enjoy the food booths (hush puppies, mini donuts, elephant ears), then we all laid down and nearly died from the overload of sugar and grease. It was great!

The best part of a busy parade?

Coming home with exhausted kids.



Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Why My 1 1/2 Year Old DOESN'T Rock!

First check out why Chloe rocks and doesn't rock the house.

And why Ali has some major rockage going on. Now here is why Miss CrazyGirl doesn't exactly rock my world.

-She has slept through the night four times in 16 months.

-She is on a MAJOR food strike.

-She hates milk.

-She tosses food all over the place.

-She throws blue-in-the-face, kicking-and-screaming tantrums several times a day.

-She jumps up in the middle of diaper changes and takes off running.

-She bites. HARD.

-She says "Baby..NO NO!" while she is doing something naughty (throwing her pacifier in the trash, pulling all the wipes out of the container, dumping out a basket of toys, etc).

Yeah, I should probably stop now, this could go on for a while.

But she is cute!