Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Tea Rose

A friend of mine pinned this book and wrote that it was on par with the Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher. Since I love epic novels and enjoyed the Shell Seekers I repinned it.

I liked it but I didn't love it. Having said that I was glad to find out that it is actually the first of a trilogy, and I definitely plan on reading the other two. While the first book is complete in it's own right, I can definitely see how it would be possible for the story to progress.

The story starts off in London in the late 1800s and tells the tale of Fiona Finnegan. She is a poor teenage girl living with her family in a rough area of the city. She works at a tea factory but she and her boyfriend (who works as a produce seller at the local street market with his family) dream of someday having their own shop together. Given the time period and locale, Jack the Ripper is part of the story, but in a way that I felt was forced at times to add more drama and tragedy to Fiona's already rough life. 

I have to admit the story was pretty predictable, but I think that kind of went with Fiona's relatively naive character.  The first part of the story is a rapid series of tragedies that befall Fiona, and it felt like the author was rushing to get Fiona to New York which is where the majority of the story takes place.  Fiona sets off for New York in the hopes of connecting with her uncle and starting a new life there.  On board the ship she meets a man named Nicholas Soames who is also trying to start a new life after experiencing his own hardships and tragedies. They become friends and he is an important of her life from then on. 

Fiona becomes stronger and more ambitious as time goes on.  Women of this time period were stereotypically meek and were not expected to have any ambition besides finding a husband who can provide for her.  Fiona meets a lot of resistance as she strives to reach her goal, but at the core she has good friends and family who believe in her and support her.  

While the book ends in a believable way, I have peeked at the descriptions for the next two and do look forward to reading them after the others I picked up at the library today, probably starting with this one.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Forever Young by Rod Stewart

This was played in the season finale of Glee, and I thought it very appropriate

I have loved this song since it was first released and still remember the video of Rod riding in the back of some old pick up with a little kid.  I always thought it was a sweet song, but the first time I heard it once I had kids, I started singing along and really thought about the lyrics.  It made me cry.  Parents of older kids always tell you to cherish the young days as they go fast, I can already see myself writing this out to each of them somehow for their highschool graduation, maybe just in a card, or maybe in some kind of frame. It says what I think most parents feel but may not be able to express as eloquently (I know I couldn't). Either way, now I get goosebumps every time I hear it.

May the good Lord be with you
Down every road you roam
And may sunshine and happiness
surround you when you're far from home
And may you grow to be proud
Dignified and true
And do unto others
As you'd have done to you
Be courageous and be brave
And in my heart you'll always stay
Forever Young, Forever Young
Forever Young, Forever Young

May good fortune be with you
May your guiding light be strong
Build a stairway to heaven
with a prince or a vagabond

And may you never love in vain
and in my heart you will remain
Forever Young, Forever Young
Forever Young, Forever Young
Forever Young
Forever Young

And when you finally fly away
I'll be hoping that I served you well
For all the wisdom of a lifetime
No one can ever tell

But whatever road you choose
I'm right behind you, win or lose
Forever Young, Forever Young
Forever Young ,Forever Young
Forever Young, Forever Young
For, Forever Young, Forever Young

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Recovering from a busy weekend

Saturday morning I finally took Little Hugger to Land of Nod to order her bed. On the ride up I warned her that even though we were going to pay for it today we may have to wait weeks for them to deliver it. I forgot that being in Chicago, the warehouse is local, and they're going to deliver it next Thursday. So not only does she get her bed before first grade starts, she'll get it before the last day of Kindergarten. She was eager to get bedding too, but I managed to convince her we should look elsewhere too. Land of Nod has really nice stuff, but it is expensive.I'm planning on a trip to IKEA before the bed is delivered.

I let her pick where we went for lunch, and lucky for me she picked my favorite pizza place - NY Slices - the closest I've found to NY style pizza in this area.

This weekend was our 12th anniversary. We went out for dinner Saturday night as that worked better with the rest of our plans. We had some gift certificates to Lettuce Entertain You so rather than going to the same old steak place, I picked Cafe Ba Ba Reeba. Sangria and tapas seemed like a good way to kick off summer.

After dinner we went to a nearby bar for a couple of beers and then back home where we had a bottle of champagne that had been chilling in the fridge for I don't know how long waiting for a worthy occasion.

Sunday we had some friends over for a barbecue. We grilled kebabs and had potato salad. For dessert, I made brownies and the flag strawberries which didn't turn out as cute as the picture because I overcooked the chocolate but still tasted good.

We had set up a kiddie pool in the backyard for the kids to play in which worked out well as it was 90 degrees. They all had a blast and one of the neighbor boys came over to join the fun.

Our friends have a little girl who is just a couple of months older than our Little Man. She's already potty trained and we're still working on it with Little Man.  At one point the kids all went upstairs to chill.  Little Man needed to use the potty, so I took his diaper off and stayed upstairs while he went.  He peed on the potty and then ran into his room where the little girl was reading.  He squatted down next to her (bare-assed) and said very excitedly, "I peed on the potty".  She briefly looked up at him, and then went back to her book.  I guess she wasn't impressed.

Monday we all got up early to head down to the parade. My husband and daughters were walking with Indian Princesses and I walked with my son and my women's group. There weren't a lot of people, but my son had fun throwing candy to all the kids. The route was about 2 miles long, and he managed to walk about half of it, before sitting in the stroller. We headed home for a while to relax (and forced Little Reader to take a nap because she was so tired from the day before) before heading to another BBQ. This time I made the berry tarts arranged like a flag. They were a little time consuming but not difficult and turned out well. They also happened to be the only dessert at the barbecue so were appreciated.

There were about 16 adults and a bunch of kids. Some good friends of ours and other were neighbors of our friends. The kids all had a great time playing in and outside.  Overall a very successful (but exhausting weekend).  I had hoped to finish my book, but I was too tired to get very far. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

White Out

Last night Little Hugger wanted to make a spine label for her new binder of drawings. Before I noticed what she was doing, she pulled a Sharpie out of my pencil cup and started writing on the paper right on our white Corian counter. She got 3 letters into her name before I stopped her. All 3 letters had bled through. First I tried with vinegar that didn't work, then Windex, again no luck. Then as I was going up to get the hairspray, Little Reader asked, "Why don't you just put White out on top of it?"

Um, no. Luckily the hairspray worked.

Friday, May 25, 2012

As with most people in this country I will spending this weekend attending and hosting barbecues, walking in a parade, and furniture shopping.

I'm still trying to figure out the menu for our barbecue, but plan on trying some of these fun desserts I found on Pinterest. 

Since we're going to one barbecue and hosting another I will probably make 2 of the 3 not sure which, although when I was pasting all the pictures Little Hugger stopped by and gave her opinion, "Not to be mean, because they all look yummy but I think the flag ones are better cause flags are more Memorial Day-ish".  She has a point.  
Along with the fun though I do think it is important to remember those who died serving their country, and also honor those brave men and women who are still overseas.  A few years back, I discovered  It's a website where active military stationed abroad submit requests for care packages.  Some times they are real specific down to brands of toiletries and snacks, other times real general asking for anything to remind them of home.  There are quite a few rules of what you can and cannot send and lots of guidelines about how best to prepare the packages.  Important note: When you ship to an APO or FPO which all these military addresses are you only pay domestic shipping, so not worry that you'll be paying a fortune to send a box to Afghanistan.  Pick up a flat rate Priority Mail box and fill it up.  As the ad says, if it fits, it ships.
We've sent a few packages over the years and I always have the kids help me pick our recipient and help with the shopping.  They also write letters and send drawings.  Most of the time we have received thank yous, but not always (and that's fine, soldiers are busy staying alive.)  Either way, I know that the packages are appreciated.  
So somewhere in between barbecues, parades, and whatever else you have planned for this unofficial start to summer, take a little time to check out the Any Soldier website, pick a soldier using whatever criteria you want (there are tons of ways to sort), and send off a care package.

Spring Break Wrapup

It's been a busy but fun week.  My daughter's were off school for the past 10 days and we had a little staycation here in Chicagoland.

Monday we went to the Skokie Exploritorium.  It's a great place for my middle daughter - 4-5 years old is the perfect age for this place.  My little guy is a little too small to use the climbing area which is the main attraction (although he would love to).  My oldest is outgrowing the place, but my 5 year old LOVES it.  We had her birthday party there last year.

Tuesday the little man had his feeding group, but first we made a stop at the Fire Zone. As usual the drop-in times are one hour sessions, which is plenty as the place is not very big, but my little guy loved it, and had fun showing his sisters around. They all enjoyed the presentation by the firefighter at the end.  Very silly but still informative.  Feeding group went well, but I have to say I'm a little disappointed that they aren't pushing things further.  He seems to be at the head of his class, eager to do what he is asked, while the other kids are more cautious. 

Wednesday was our best weather day so we headed to the Morton Arboretum.  We've been members there since last summer, but unfortunately haven't made it back since then.  We started off in the Children's Garden and then drove around a bit, had a picnic, and then to the daffodil grove and then stopped at one of the ponds.

Thursday my son's feeding therapist came to our house.  My daughters were eager to be a part of everything he did. We tried working with hummus this time, something not sweet to give him something else to try.  He was pretty good in the beginning but shut down pretty quickly.  I'm not sure if it was because we were all watching him, or because he just didn't like the new taste. I did tell her my concerns about his feeding group, and she agreed, but felt confident that he would be making the transition to table food very soon. That afternoon we took my husband to the airport for a golf trip with some friends to Myrtle Beach.

Friday we headed downtown to the Shedd Aquarium.  If you go, bring a stroller so that you can use the accessible entrance as the line at the main entrance was down the block.  At one point they even stopped letting people in as they were at capacity.  I've never been to a museum that got full, but I guess that can happen during spring break.  We got in around 11:00 and visited the wild reef where the sharks and other tropical fish are. This was our most expensive day (about $75 for the 4 of us, plus parking), we brought our lunches but I couldn't find an indoor spot to eat, so we ate outside in a tented area.  There is a jelly exhibit going on right now, which is interesting but not very big. 

The polar play area was a lot of fun for them, seeing the belugas and dolphins from down below, putting on penguin outfits and playing on the rocks

Saturday, we went to the Children's Museum, and finally after all that fun, today was errand day.  My husband is still out of town so I had to take the kids with me on my weekly shopping trip.  Adding a stop at Sports Authority to pick up soccer equipment for my daughter and lunch at Potbelly's, it all took 4 hours.  They did pretty well , but were definitely starting to lose their patience at the last stop, but at least I'm done for the week. 

Happy Blogoversary to Me!

It's probably one of the silliest words around, but I figure now is as good a time as any to take stock of my little slice of the Internet.

In the past year my page has evolved and I've read and followed a ton of other blogs. Some gave me ideas on how to make my blog better, some made me laugh, some gave me inspiration for other aspects of my life (recipes, crafts,etc).

I will probably never be disciplined enough to write everyday or have a schedule for the week. I recently realized that I have been neglecting the original intention of this blog - keeping a true journal I need to include more posts about what we're doing so I don't forget. My memory is horrible, and I don't want to forget the funny, sweet silly moments with my family. I still haven't written anything about my kids' birthdays two weeks ago.

I don't do giveaways and don't think I ever will. Never say never. I haven't done paid reviews and doubt I ever will make any money off of this and that's fine. That's not my goal.

This blog has been therapeutic for me. Sometimes I write things and don't post them publicly. Just the act of writing things down helps. I often find myself (especially when I go to sleep at night) starting to compose stuff in my head. Sometimes it's worth actually writing in the morning. Sometimes not.

In some ways it is my Internet based "command center". I haven't found a good place in my house for one yet, so I keep my project list and recipes here. Part of the reason I write book reviews is so that when someone asks me for a book recommendation, I'll actually be able to remember my opinion of the book.

I am thinking of making some changes to this blog once school lets out and I have more time. It's a learning process but I'm enjoying it.

Nanny Returns

I read the original Nanny book back when it was first published. Grayer's dysfunctional parents infuriated me then, and they only get worse as he grows up.

This book fastforwards to Nan being married and moving back to New York after living overseas for a number of years. Grayer's parents are as useless and uncaring as ever and one night when Grayer gets in trouble he reaches out to Nan to help him. Just as she did when he was a toddler, Nan comes to his (and his younger brother's) rescue. Over the course of the book the parents marriage falls apart and their dysfunctional relationship with each other and everyone else in their lives reaches new levels of crazy.

While the story between Grayer and Nan works, the parallel story of her new job as a consultant to an elite private high school is undeveloped and choppy at parts. She's brought in a time that the school is dealing with a scandal. It's as if the authors use this story line to bash all wealthy New York people. I'm not sure what happened to the authors to make them this bitter, but that's the way it seems to me.  While I realize that money and privilege can make people do ridiculous things as they get caught up in keeping up with each other, even these people seem over the top.  It reminds me a bit of Bonfire of the Vanities where I couldn't empathize with any of the characters as they were all horrible people.

The book was fast paced but the ending seemed a bit rushed, and I feel like Mr. X's story was never completely tied up. That part of the book just kind of ended.Overall it was still a fun book, but like most sequels, didn't live up to the original.  Supposedly the first book was based on the true experiences of the authors when they worked as nannys for wealthy New York families.  While I could see the reality based fiction in the first book, this book seems more fabricated. Which is fine since it's fiction, but in this case it's often choppy and not always plausible.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What Are You Going to Be When You Grow Up?

Little Man: Mommy, when you grow up...
Me: What do you mean when? I am grown up.
Little Man: No. I mean really grown up. When you are really grown up I want you to be a pilot.
Mommy: Why?
Little Man: Because then you can fly me anywhere I want to go.

Sounds good to me. Maybe I will be a pilot when I grow up :)

Not So Organized After All

The beginning of this week I was feeling super productive and organized. Monday I decided that to cut down on my screen time I need to earn it. However much time I spend doing something productive (like cleaning house) I get that much screen time. Monday I vacuumed and washed all the floors upstairs. Took me around 2 and a half hours, so later that afternoon, I updated my blog and cleaned up my email (and played a bit on FB and Pinterest).

When my daughter came home she commented on how clean everything smelled :)

Tuesday I did loads and loads of laundry, and got caught up on my weekly projects which I had fallen behind on. Feeling pretty good about myself again. Spent the evening uploading birthday photos and ordering prints so I can get our albums updated.

This morning I ran a bunch of errands and was just getting ready to go pick up Little Hugger at school. I was about to head out the door when the phone rang. I decided to ignore it as I wanted to get to school on time. Then my cell rang. It was the school. My daughter was waiting for me in the office. I had forgotten that today was Wednesday - early release day. Oops. Not so on top of things after all. Luckily she didn't mind and was all smiles and hugs when I got there.

After lunch, Little Hugger and Little Man cleaned up the playroom while I cleaned up our basement bookshelf. One more weekly project checked off - a little late, but better late than never. Feeling better again now.

I'm still behind on my blog but slowly chipping away at stuff I want to write about, and finally figured out how to post date a post so if I do manage a real productive day, I'm not publishing everything on the same day.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Week 21 Menu

Sunday - Chicken Penne - made this for the first time after finding it on Making It Feel Like Home - it was great, kids even liked it :)
Monday - Basil Spaghetti with Tomatoes - something I found on Pinterest that failed
Tuesday - Asian Chicken Wraps - messy but yummy
Wednesday - Pecan Encrusted Fish - I've made this before and it was good, unfortunately I haven't found any good fish yet this week
Thursday - Wiener Schnitzel
Friday - Spaghetti & Meatballs
Saturday - out

Weeknight Spaghetti & Meatballs

1 lb ground beef
1 egg beaten
2 cloves minced garlic
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup beef broth or dry red wine
28 oz canned tomatoes
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 pinches dried oregano
3/4 lb spaghetti

Cook spaghetti according to package directions.

Combine meat, egg, garlic, Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs and pepper to taste in a bowl.  Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and drizzle in oil.  Roll small balls and drop into hot pan.  When all the meatballs are in the pan, give it a good shake and cover.  Cook for 8 minutes, giving the pan a good shake frequently to keep meat from burning.  If balls are browning too quickly, reduce heat a little.

Add broth or wine and let reduce for 1 or 2 minutes.  Add tomatoes and red pepper flakes, then oregano.  Simmer until pasta is ready.  Toss pasta with sauce and serve with garlic bread and grated cheese for topping.

From Rachael Ray's Kid Food

Monday, May 21, 2012

Quiet - The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking

I have always been considered quiet, as I have very little patience for small talk.  I hang back in new social situations and look for people to approach me, and I am a terrible mingler.  I always feel that if I leave one group to join another that the first group will think I am rude.

Growing up, my mother always corrected people who called me shy, because to her shy implied being afraid of new people and situations, being meek, which was not the way she saw me.  She and my Dad are introverts too so she saw my quietness as a positive attribute.  I didn't need a crowd of friends to feel validated.  I had a few core friends, but was also perfectly happy being by myself.  I remember going on long bike rides by myself after school.  My extroverted sister thought I was strange, but Mom never questioned it.  I realize now that that was part of finding what in this book is called my restorative niche - more on that later.

I had seen this book advertised a few places, and debated reading it for a while before I did.  I rarely read non-fiction and when I do it's almost exclusively biographies.  I wasn't sure that I would learn anything new from this book and since I have a hard time making time to read, wasn't sure if it was worth my time.

But the more press I saw about it, I figured I would give it a read.  I had to wait a while for a copy to become available from my library and just finished it.  I enjoyed it and did learn a bit about myself.  I took a Myers Briggs training class during my first job out of college, and no surprise was labeled an introvert according to that test.  While that label seems a little better than shy, and less timid than quiet, I liked some of the others used in this book instead.

There are numerous scientific studies and other theories cited in the book, the main one being that introverts are "high-reactive", meaning that they tend to react more to stimuli.  As babies and toddlers, they would cry or pump their arms and legs when presented with new stimuli.  Low-reactive kids were more quiet.  There's a lot of science that I won't get into that explains why this is the case, but basically the brains of the high-reactive kids got more excited (possibly almost overwhelmed) by the stimuli.  One theory that was extrapolated from this was the "orchid hypothesis". Low-reactive kids may wilt easily, but can also grow strong and magnificent if given the right conditions.  High reactive kids are likened to dandelions as they can thrive anywhere.  Personally, I'd rather be compared to an orchid :)

High reactive people also tend to be more sensitive than others.  Not just sensitive to how they are treated but also to how they treat other people, or how they see others treated.  They notice subtle differences in their environments and the people around them, that others may miss.  I know this is the case for me.  Often after a social situation I'll talk to my husband about how someone reacted to a comment directed at them (positive or negative).  He usually doesn't notice, and often if the comment was negative says I am over thinking the situation.  Which brings out the guilt that highly sensitive people feel.  If I feel like I have done something to hurt someone else's feelings I feel bad about it for a long time, often even after that person has assured me that no offense was taken.  I still feel bad about something I did in middle school to get the attention of a boy a mutual friend and I liked.  I embarrassed her greatly and still feel guilty about it despite a quick rush of excitement because he talked to me.

Also I get mentally tired from going to parties sometimes.  If we are with a group of friends, I have fun, but if it's a networking event for my husband or a place where I am meeting a lot of new people, I tend get overwhelmed.  It feels like work.  I now realize that's part of my high-reactive nature, processing all these new stimuli. Twice while my husband was in training he was sometimes on call on holidays.  One year he was on call for Thanksgiving.  I purposely didn't tell any friends that I was going to be alone, and spent the day on my own, walking around a very quiet downtown.  I window shopped along the closed storefronts, and really had a very nice day.  When I went back to work, people asked what I did.  When I told them some felt guilty and said that they would have included me, had they known.  Honestly, I would have been miserable.  Going to a full bustling home where probably the only person I knew was the host, would have been introvert hell.  Whereas ten years later, I still remember that Thanksgiving as a great day. 

When we moved to our new town 8 years ago, we didn't have any kids, but were planning on starting a family.  Our block was very welcoming and everyone in town told me that it would be easy to make friends, especially once we had kids in activities and school, because you meet a ton of people.  While it's true I have met a lot of people, I don't really feel like I have a lot of friends.  Part of that is my adult interactions tend to be at dropoff/pickup and basically means a lot of small talk, which I don't like and don't feel I'm particularly good at.  I'd rather have a meaningful conversation about something.  I feel like a lot of these conversations are people talking at each other, and waiting for their turn to speak and not really listening to what the other person is saying.

As a mother of 3 young kids I often talk about needing time to myself.  While my husband tries to help me, it often means me leaving the house while he stays with the kids.  Now that I understand more about the high-sensitivity I realize that's not really what I need.  I need to find what is referred to in the book as my "restorative niche.  The place you go to return to your true self".  There are many times I wish I could just have my house to myself and just do whatever I want (or nothing at all).  When my husband was in training he used to have to take in house call, so while some nights I would meet him for dinner, we would part ways in the evening and he would work/sleep at the hospital and I would go home to a quiet apartment.  That's no longer the case. I'm not saying I want him out, but I do enjoy my quiet nights when he is on the occasional business trip.  Luckily as my kids are getting older, it will be easier for me to have free time during the day.  I often feel like the reason I snap at my kids, is that I haven't had that time to recharge.

Overall it was an interesting book, and I think more so as it was written by an introvert who includes stories about her own experiences.  I found myself taking notes along the way, and thinking about passages I had read throughout the day. While most of the conclusions drawn by the scientists and psychologists cited in the book were not new to me, the reasons behind why I act the way I do were. I would recommend it to the introverts out there or extroverted managers/parents to introverts to help them understand how we all tick. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Finally Slowing Down

The past two weeks have been crazy with birthdays, dance recital prep (2 separate days for pictures and dress rehearsals) and soccer. The recital was yesterday, and my little dancers did well. We will now have our Saturday afternoons back as well as not having to race around like crazy on Tuesdays.

School let's out June 9th and camp starts the following week. I need to have Little Man toilet trained by then.

He's doing pretty well but hasn't pooped in the potty yet. Since we're always on the go, he ends up having a diaper on for a fair amount of the day, which doesn't help. Now that things are slowing down and the weather is better, we can be home and outside more. I've promised him a trip to the Exploratorium if he does it. I'm hoping by the end of the week he'll have done it.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Starting to Feel a Tiny Bit Better Financially

My husband got a bonus this week and while it won't make any dent in our bigger problems it will let us do a few things we've been wanting to do, but couldn't afford.

- Finally move Little Hugger from her toddler bed to a twin bed.
She's six and barely fits when fully stretched out. Of course I kept telling myself that no one sleeps completely stretched out, so she was fine, but that was just rationalizing. She's been asking for a big bed, and I promised that she would have it by the time she starts first grade. Now we can hit that goal a little earlier :) I know what we want to get - the Petite Marguerite bed from Land of Nod. We need something without a real footer since we have low old windows and this will be be perfect.

She has a bookshelf and dresser from their Fresh Scallops line, but unfortunately that was discontinued a while back.

I just want to wait til Memorial Day weekend, in case there is a sale. Nothing bugs me more than buying something and then seeing a sale or getting a coupon shortly after.

- Moving Little Man out of his crib and into the toddler bed. I can't wait to get rid of the crib. As with most dropside cribs it has been recalled (although retrofitted so it wasn't dangerous) so I can't pass it on to anyone but may try to use it for some of the cool things I've seen on Pinterest. Also his room is a mishmash of decor - Elmo and safari. I'd like to make it something he likes. Probably Cars or Thomas, the question is whether he will be able to choose one.

- Getting new tires for my car. Boring but necessary. I was hoping to put this off for a while longer but since I'm driving on the spare we'll be heading to Costco next week.

- Paying off the car repair on my husband's car from last month that we had to put on a credit card. He came sputtering home and the car had to be towed to the dealership the next day. $1200 later it's running well. After 8 years, we finally made the last payment on it this month, so hopefully it'll be good for a little longer.

- Buying some new clothes for me using the money my parents gave me for my birthday but I felt too guilty to spend when we could barely afford Christmas.
I have 3 pairs of jeans that all have holes in them. My t-shirts are mostly stained or too short. My go-to spring jacket is stained. I'm a mess. I got all this cool jewelry from Lia Sophia a couple of months ago and while I love it all, I hardly ever wear it as my warm weather clothes is not jewelry worthy. I've scheduled a day off for myself in June, and plan to do some shopping if I don't find some things before.
My hair is way too long after not having been cut since last January - yes a year a half - but that will have to wait. At this point it's so long I've started telling people I'm growing it out for Locks of Love. It wasn't my original intention, but since I'm just an inch or two away from their minimum length I might as well do it.

- Buy tickets for my in-laws to come visit this summer.
They always come out for Christmas and then we try to go there or have them come here another in the summer. They live in California and unfortunately can't afford to buy their own tickets so we have to. It's still cheaper than visiting them. If we went there, we would have to do Disney, etc. If they come here, we can go some fun places, but mostly just chill and have family time.

All that will only leave a little for an emergency fund until the next bonus, so I don't really want to use it for paying down credit cards, but I still have to look at all the numbers closely, and see if we can do a little. At least this also brings us to the FICA cutoff a little earlier so he'll be taking home a little more with each pay check.

If nothing else, I am starting to feel a little better that we have now reached the point where I will be able to pay all our bills on their due date, and that is a relief, as that was not the case last year.

Also now I really do plan on getting back on It didn't really help much with a negative cash flow. It would just depress me more. Now I plan on keeping bill money in our checking account and "fun" money in a separate account and an emergency fund for unexpected stuff. I've done a lot better these past few months and haven't resorted to credit cards for anything other than the car repair.

If we can't afford it without credit cards, we can't afford it period.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Week 20 Menu

This week is going to be a bit crazy for dinner as my daughters have their dance recital this weekend, which since they aren't in the same class unfortunately means two different nights for dress rehearsal (at about 6 pm, about 20 minutes away).  

Sunday - Ribeyes with Roasted Potatoes
Monday - Chili Cheese Dogs
Tuesday - Rigatoni with Grilled Beef - first time with the recipe but seems like a good way to use up Sunday's leftover Ribeyes
Wednesday - Crockpot Chicken Parm My daughter loves chicken parm, so when I told her we had to have crockpot two nights this week, she asked if I could find a chicken parm recipe.  I haven't had much luck with chicken in the crock, but hopefully this will work 
Thursday - Bee Bim Bop
Friday - Crockpot Fried Rice This will be another first time recipe, but a good way to use up leftovers from the night before
Saturday - Chicken Penne - a new recipe I found on Making it Feel Like Home

Bee Bim Bop

This recipe is modified from a book my daughter read in school but I don't remember the name, but she was very excited to try and make it.  It's a Korean dish that has many variations, this is mine.

2 cloves garlic minced
5 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp wok oil
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 lb tender lean beef - sirloin tip
Diced veggies to stirfry - I use peppers, baby corn, carrots, peas, and sometimes cashews.

Make white rice per package instructions. Mix marinade ingredients. Slice the beef into very thin slices and put in marinade. Beat the eggs. Pour a little oil in a wok and add the eggs once the oil has warmed up. Rotate the wok quickly so the egg flattens out. Cook on medium heat until you are able to flip the pancake. Flip it and finish cooking, then remove from pan and set aside. Once it has cooled a little, cut into strips. Stirfry the vegetables one at a time. As each one is finished cooking, set aside and keep warm. Add more oil as needed.  Finally put the wok over medium high heat and add the beef and marinade. Stirfry for about 2 minutes or until desired doneness.

Serve by putting the rice and all the ingredients separately on the table and each person takes what they like. Mix together and eat. It's a bit more labor intensive than other stirfrys, but i like that each person uses the veggies that they like, rather than the kids picking around the stuff they don't like.

Week 19 Menu

Sunday - Chicken Tarragon with rice
Monday - Cheesy Pasta Bake
Tuesday - Crockpot Pulled Pork
Wednesday - BBQ Chicken - no real recipe for this just chicken breasts in BBQ sauce, baked in oven and served with tater tots and corn.
Thursday - Bacon Sloppy Joes
Friday - out
Saturday -Leftovers

Quick and Easy Tarragon Chicken

1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
1 lb chicken tenders
3/4 cup white wine
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp dried tarragon
3/4 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in oil on a saute pan over medium heat.  Add chicken and cook until lightly browned.  Remove and set aside.  Add wine to the pan.  Bring to a boil.  Stir in mustard, tarragon, salt & pepper.  Whisk in cream and boil until mixture thickens about 3 minutes.  Return the chicken to the pan, turn in sauce to coat and simmer a few minutes more until chicken is tender.

From 365 Ways to Cook Chicken

Saturday, May 12, 2012

First Lost Tooth

Friday morning I was walking my kids to school, and Little Hugger said her tooth was really loose, and she seemed pretty nervous about it. I took a look and saw she was right, it was barely hanging on. This is her first loose tooth so I reminded her that if she lost it at school the nurse would give her a special tooth necklace for it. She got excited about that.

I picked her up at 1140 and we went home for lunch. I served her her usual (salami sandwich, apple, fruit bar and milk). I made my lunch and say down all the while talking to her about her day. Then I noticed a gap where her tooth had been.

Me: When did you lose your tooth?
She looks at me in surprise and a little scared: What?
Me: Your tooth. It's gone.
She starts feeling around for it in her mouth, and doesn't feel it. It's gone.
Me: It was still there when I picked you up?
Her: Yeah.

I looked around for it, and sure enough it was gone, she must have swallowed it. I don't think I've ever known anyone to swallow their loose tooth, and of course she was very concerned that the tooth fairy wouldn't come if there wasn't an actual tooth. I assured her the tooth fairy knew, so no need to worry but we even printed out a picture of her gap tooth smile to put by her tooth box later that night. We forgot to put the picture by the box that night but sure enough the tooth fairy came. ;)

2 Funny Moments

I am really behind on this blog, but had two little moments from today I didn't want to forget.

I took my 6 year old to her final pre-recital dance class today. In the car, I asked her if she was excited for the recital, she said she was.

I asked if she was nervous at all. She responded, "No, which is good, because one day when I'm a prima ballerina everyone will be looking at me, but it'll be no big deal cause I'll be used to it"

Earlier in the day we had her birthday party and were opening the friend presents. She was particularly excited about opening one present as the girl who gave it was rich.
Me: How do you know she's rich?
Her: She always wears really nice dresses.
Me: Well, that doesn't necessarily mean she's rich.

She opens the present. Two very cute dresses and a Cinderella storybook dressup toy.
Her: See, she got me a lot of nice stuff. She's rich.
Me: Those are very nice gifts. They were very generous.

Then I notice the gift receipt in the bag. TJMaxx. All of a sudden I feel we should be shooting a commercial, with the ending slogan - She's not rich, she shops at TJMaxx :)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Sign the Apocalypse is Coming...

SI has their version of ridiculous sports related things, here's one that's not sports related.

Yesterday I was at watching my daughter's soccer game, and there was a little girl (probably 2 years old ) there with her dad. The little girl sneezed and ended up with a really messy, snotty nose. Dad did not notice as he was watching the game. I handed the little girl a tissue.

Then Dad looks over sees the girl and asks where she got the tissue. She points to me, he thanks me. Then he says to the girl, "Should we update your Twitter account and tell about the nice lady who gave you a tissue?" and then he took out his phone.

Really a 2 year old has a Twitter account? Sure I occasionally post things my kids say on FB, but my kids don't have their own accounts. I am curious how he wrote it, am I mentioned somewhere with #snottynose?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Week 18 Menu

Sunday - Chile Rubbed Pork Tenderloin
Monday - Salmon Penne with Mushrooms
Tuesday - Lemon Oregano Chicken with Rice - didn't turn out that great so I won't bother posting the recipe.  I was just trying to use up some fresh oregano that I forgot to use on the Tenderloin.
Wednesday - Pork Fried Rice - I don't have a recipe for this, was just trying to use up the tenderloin.
Thursday - Chicken Cordon Bleu
Friday - Tortellini Alfredo
Saturday -Out

Chile Rubbed Pork Tenderloin

2 pork tenderloins - about 1 lb each trimmed of fat and silver skin
2 tsp olive oil

1 tbsp packed brown sugar
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp black pepper

In a small bowl combine the run ingredients, mashing with a fork to mix thoroughly.  Coat the tenderloins with olive oil and then season evenly with the rub.  Allow the tenderloins to sit at room temperature for 15-30 minutes before grilling.  Prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat (350-450 F).  Grill over direct medium heat until the outsides are seared and internal temp reaches 150 degrees.  (Approximately 15-20 minutes).  Remove from the grill and let rest 3 to 5 minutes, and then cut into 1/2 inch slices and serve.

From Weber's Time to Grill cookbook

Chicken Cordon Bleu

4 boneless chicken breasts
4 thin slices ham
4-6 slices of Swiss cheese
1 egg
3/4 cup bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pound chicken to about 1/4-1/2 inch thickness. Place a slice of ham on each piece of chicken. Add a slice or two of Swiss cheese depending on size of chicken. Roll up and secure with toothpicks.

Dip in egg and roll in bread crumbs. Melt butter in a skillet and brown the outsides of the chicken (just a couple of minutes each side). Then place all chicken in a baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked all the way through