Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Who Really Gets Punished?

I have to admit that when it comes to our children, I tend to lead. I suppose it makes a lot of sense because I have the experience, I read "the books" and well, I am good at it. The husband follows my lead. I have never really pushed; he has seen the fruits of our labor, so to speak, and continues to let me lead. Every now and again we come to a crossroads. This happened a few days ago. I heard him telling the boys, after seeing the destruction in the playroom, "If you mess up this room again like this, I'll close the door, put a lock on it, and you won't be able to play in here for a day!" I laughed. Out loud. He did not like this. Honestly, I really couldn't help it. It just came out and I couldn't stop it.

Today, after finding a broken toy bin amongst the carnage of toys and games in the playroom, I invoked the call of the husband and closed the playroom door. I announced, "The playroom is closed for the entire day...see you tomorrow!" The husband said, "See, that's MY idea!" and smiled. He nodded to himself as he walked on to get coffee.

Three hours later, he calls from the other room, "How's the 'no playroom' thing working out?" I shot him The Look.

I knew what would happen when idle hands are left to play. I knew this because I'm with them -All. Day. Long. I don't know if he thought they'd sit on the floor, sad and forlorn all day, lamenting about their actions and the dearly missed toys. I love my husband dearly. He is, however, a product of the old school "children should be seen and not heard" train of thought. He thought that "those kids will learn a lesson!" by having their toys unavailable. Mind you, this might, and I stress might, have worked with children who care about their toys. Our boys don't have a favorite anything. They don't really form connections to objects (besides their stuffed doggy's). Instead, our boys decided to make a nuisance of themselves. They climbed all over their daddy, wanting attention. They tantrumed and pouted and whined and cried when they didn't get the attention they wanted. They were underfoot at every possible step. I could see the tension building in the husband's face and I told him to go to work early if needed. In his mind, if children can destroy a playroom, they should be able to pick it up without any help or encouragement. Ha!

I called back to him, "It was YOUR idea!"...

Here's to another wonderful New Year!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Fat, fat, fat, fat, fat.

I cooked for days and now it's all over. The Breakfast Casserole from Alice at Savory Sweet Life turned out fabulous. So didn't the Blueberry Coffee Cake. And the Guinness Stout Ginger Cake, although my husband equated it with Boston Brown Bread -from a can. I also made a large spiral ham, roasted brussel sprouts and mashed 'taters with sour cream and garlic. My parents brought over a turkey, stuffing and butternut squash. Everything was delightful.

I ate all day. Literally. ALL. DAY.

The two-year-old decided that it was a candy-cane-free-for-all. He ate 1/2 the candy canes on the tree (his brother ate the rest). I'm not sure how many candy canes they actually ate because I found half-eaten canes littered all over the house...and on the bottom of my socks. Gross. In addition to candy canes, the delightfully aggressive two-year-old ate cranberry sauce and later on, some whipped cream. I'm pretty sure he might have eaten a brussel sprout or two, but that's it. Oh, Christmas!

The four-year-old ate sausage and candy canes. Not together, but like it would even matter.

I forgot about the Pez. They ate Pez. And the candy poop that came out of these musical animals that poop candy when you press on their heads. Seriously. Ice cream! I forgot about the dehydrated astronaut ice cream. I'm really surprised they didn't throw up. I wanted to...looking at their sticky hands and faces.

I didn't throw up. Instead, I loved their excitement and remembered eating a box of Life Savers (the kind in Christmas book format), candy canes and the like every Christmas. And the correlation made me smile.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas, Christmas

This year we are having my family and my husband's family over for Christmas breakfast. Since having three children trekking to the relatives on Christmas morning is more of a hassle than I like. This is the first year my in-laws will be coming over. Alice over at Savory Sweet Life posted a couple of delicious sounding items that I will be trying out. The breakfast casserole will be prepared the night before - such a load off preparing breakfast for 6 additional people on Christmas morning! I'm also going to be making the blueberry coffee cake. Luckily, both the casserole and the coffee cake need be baked at 350 degrees for one hour. I can pop them both in the oven at the same time. I'll throw some bacon and sausage on the griddle and walah! A lovely breakfast for all. Of course, I'll have fresh fruit. Hmmm. Maybe some cantaloupe, blueberries, honeydew...and strawberries - if I can find some good ones.
And can I just say that I paid 2.99lb for grapes the other day. I did not pay attention to the price and just let my kid plop them into the cart. Last time that happens! Sorry for the non sequitur...talking about fruit made me think of that.

Here is a picture of our breakfast buffet. Not a super flattering picture, but it works. Well, sort of.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Masculine Aprons

We do a lot of cooking together, my boys and I. We end up washing a whole lot of batter and egg covered clothing each week. I decided aprons would be a good way to go. I didn't want to put my boys in floral aprons, so I decided to make my own. I let Eli pick out the pattern...skulls with swords in their mouths. I added a pocket...not that they'll be really keeping anything in there, but who knows... These aprons also triple as capes and nifty headwear... um, really joking about the headwear, but if they are pretending to be pirates, bandanas can be worn a la Jack Sparrow. We haven't done this, but I am thinking about attaching these to the chairs, like at the right, and putting their napkins in them. I made the boys Clone Trooper cloth napkins, a few months ago, out of a set of curtains we never used. The pocket in the apron is also big enough to keep some of their personal drawing supplies. Maybe I'll make some chair covers or attachments separate from the aprons specifically for keeping their stuff in...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

TodaysMama Giveaway

There are some great blogs and sites out there with a ton of giveaway chances. I found this one today and I am absolutely blown away...$3800 worth of stuff. I didn't know that I wanted a bike until I saw this one. Oh my. I can see myself biking to the grocery store in the spring, and not feeling like I'm being judged..."she's riding a bike, she must have lost her license...DUI probably". No one around this little central Massachusetts town rides a bike unless they are in full bike gear or because they do not have the means to drive.

Mama’s Holiday Wish List MemeTodaysMama and Provo Craft are giving away a sleighful of gifts this holiday season and to enter I’m sharing this meme with you.

1. What 5 items are on your holiday wish list this year? Kindle, Peacoat, boots, kitchen cabinets and moccassins...yes. You heard me right...moccassins. *sigh*

2. What is your favorite handmade gift you have received? A sweater and hat set when i was 7.

3. What handmade gift have you always wanted to tackle? Knitting anything. I can't knit.

4. What was the best Christmas gift you received as a child? I honestly can't remember...

5. What items are on your kid’s wish list this year? Bakugan, microphone, Pokemon, Digimon. Thank you, Japan.

6. What is your favorite holiday food? Pumpkin pie, cranberry tart and homemade cranberry sauce.

7. What will you be hand-crafting for the holidays? Christmas cards, Our new Christmas stockings, a baby jingle bell toy, felt books for the boys and Dinner!

8. What is your favorite holiday movie? A Christmas Story, hands down.

9. Favorite holiday song? Silent Night and Little Drummer Boy tie it.

10. Favorite holiday pastime? Driving around and looking at Christmas lights.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

We might wash our hands a little more...

There's nothing like a smack in the face to get you back into a groove. Or a science experiment.

We did the old moldy bread experiment. I wanted to show my kids how gross our hands are and the importance of handwashing.

I told Eli to grab a slice of bread and rub his grubby little hands all over it. He had been playing outside with other kids. He also used the bathroom and did not wash afterwards.

I got the other slice of bread out of the bag with tongs and placed it into a plastic bag. Eli put the grubby bread into another bag.

We squirted a little bit of water into the bags, then sealed them. This is what appeared a week later...

The green mold I've seen before. What in the world is the yellow mold?! In person, it looks similar to a fried egg - white around it with yellow in the middle. And the yellow is raised. Gross. We wash our hands almost obsessively now. My kids weren't grossed out. I doubt they had any idea, even after I explained it. I, on the other hand, wanted to take a shower.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


I have been against co-sleeping since the birth of our first son. My husband always rolls over onto me in the middle of the night, crushing my arm or punching me in the head (he says he has no idea...) so we didn't think putting a baby next to him would be a good idea. Also, we like our space while sleeping. I need to be able to move around and stretch about.

We are now 3 children happier. All have slept in cribs since 7 weeks old. This has worked well for us. We have remained happy. Our children have slept and kept ritualistic bedtimes. They are happy.

When we brought baby number three home it was just easier to have him sleep downstairs in the pack and play. The boys all share a room. There is no bathroom upstairs. The head of our bed abuts a slanted roof - it was almost impossible for me to nurse upright. And I am completely uncomfortable nursing lying down. I slept downstairs on the couch for two months until Silas started sleeping through the night.

Meanwhile, Odin, the wonderfully cuddly middle child, began creeping into bed with Daddy. Daddy thought it was terribly cute and did not discourage him. Two months later, I return to the scene and there is Odin. This was almost two months ago.

Every night we put him to bed in his own bed. And every night at approximately eleven o'clock, he wakes up. I put him back into his bed. Then, somewhere between one a.m. and 4 a.m. he creeps back out. Depending upon how tired I am, I return him back to his bed. Some nights it is three or four times. I figured the behavior would dissipate into nothingness. That's a negative.

Tonight I said, "screw it" and put him to bed in our bed. OUR bed. *groan*.

I have thought about putting up a gate at our door. But, I just can't block him, or his brother, from coming into our room. What if they really need me?

For now, I'll just enjoy that he wants to be near me...and enjoy the morning "massage" I get when he gently kicks my back and then "writes" the ABC's with his little finger between my shoulder blades.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Fall leaves, fall

Because it is Fall and because I am prepping for the birthday ridiculousness that is to come, I decided to rake the leaves, stuff old clothes with them and put them on display. I've actually never done this. When we were kids we'd make haunted houses in our basement and stuff clothes with things like stuffed animals and other clothes. This was more fun. Plus, it entertained my son and created wonderful memories.
I made the grumpiest child laugh when I showed him this picture and said, "why are your legs so big?!" ha ha ha ha ha! He looked down and started giggling, and then it erupted into ridiculous laughter, and then a wrestling match. In the beginning, we both were raking up a storm. By the end, it was just me, with a bossy kid yelling, "Momma, I need more leaves! Are you going to rake them, or what?!" Yeah, kid. I'm on it. But only because you're awesome and I love you. Luckily, it was a beautiful autumn day. He wanted to put faces on the "faces". Also, hair. So, I got the yarn. And a sharpie. I want to make memories, but I don't have the time to make professional scarecrow/fake people. He didn't quite understand why he couldn't draw a "perfect" face on it. Also, he put the hair underneath the hat so it could "be just like me". Goober. My leaf-person had a stitched-looking mouth. I was asked, "Momma, is yours scary?" A little. There was a little trepidation before sitting next to it, even though he sat there and watched me make it alongside his. Kids are funny like that. When we were done he asked if we could make chocolate covered bananas. I have no idea where that came from. Lucky for him we had dark chocolate and bananas on hand. I was in a good mood so I put a little marshmallow on the top of each. Nothing beats the smiles on a kid's face when he sees something he loves. Except, maybe, the look on his brother's face when he wakes up from a nap and sees something he loves.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Eli's Wolverine Birthday

Kid's birthday parties should be illegal. Those and high school, but that's another story. My darling little soon-to-be-four-years-old son has decided he wants a Wolverine birthday party. Wolverine, as of the X-Men, not simply the animal...that might be easier. It is not in my nature go out and buy mass produced Wolverine items. I can't. Although, I still might if time is of the essence and I feel stressed enough...I can't buy a cake with an edible picture of Wolverine on it. Plus, the Wolverine leader has decided he wants a blue-frosted cake with a chocolate-vanilla-honey cake inside. Um...yeah.

While organizing some kitchen cabinet space today I found a Pampered Chef checkerboard cake pan. Yay! Now, to find a Vanilla honey cake recipe. Maybe a pound cake? I had planned on doing cupcakes...that still might be do-able with a double batter. I'll have to make test ones soon.

Not only is the party Wolverine themed, it's Halloween themed as well. Halloween is easier and less monotonous. I think as long as I do a Wolverine theme for the boy's cake he'll be cool. The rest can be Halloweeny. I don't think I'll be able to keep this party thing up with 3 boys. I might have to go back to keeping the celebrations within the family while the kids are little. Especially with the other two boys having their birthdays less than a month apart. Oh, the trials and tribulations of motherhood...

Beef. Stew.

Beef Stew...mmmm I love a good, thick beef stew. I found this recipe in a magazine a long time ago. I can't recall which magazine, I wish I could so I could give a proper thanks.


4-5 slices bacon (I used the thickest, heartiest slices I could find)
1 1/2 lb strip steak - cubed
8oz pkg. baby bellas
salt and pepper
1/2 tsp thyme
1 tbs tomato paste
1/2 tsp dry mustard
2 tbs flour
2 c beef broth
2 carrots - sliced thinly
2 parsnips - sliced thinly
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup red wine ( I used a Pinot Noir)
1/2 lb frozen pearl onions

In a large soup pot over med-high, cook and stir bacon until crispy. Add beef and cook until seared on most sides. With slotted spoon, remove bacon and beef and put aside. Add mushrooms, carrots, parsnips, garlic, salt, pepper and thyme. Cook over medium high, stirring occassionally, for about 10-15 minutes. If cooking too quickly, lower the heat to medium.

Whisk tomato paste, mustard, flour and broth in a bowl and set aside.

Add wine and onions to the pot. Cook about 5 - 10 minutes.

Add tomato paste mixture. Simmer until thickened. Return beef and bacon to pot, cook another 3 minutes or until beef is cooked through.

The first time I made this, I was pregnant and I swear I got tipsy off the wine. The husband loves this. My kids run away. But, they usually run from anything that is mixed together. They, apparently, need their food to be simple and separate. They are not my children. More for us, though.

Friday, September 25, 2009


We have grapes. I have no idea what kind. I assumed table grapes, but they are a little seedy. So, are they wine grapes? I don't know. They are very tart. The wonderful husband climbed a ladder and picked bunches and bunches from where they hung. I brought the grapes to my mother's house, fully prepared to make grape jelly there while she corralled the children. She, of course, took over and made the jelly herself. Five cups of prepared juice, seven cups of sugar and one box of pectin later, we've got jelly. The boys and I had soynut butter and grape jelly sandwiches today. We loved it. It tasted nothing like store bought grape jelly. It tasted nothing like grapes. It was still tart and reminded me of cranberry sauce from a can. I don't really know what to think about that...
The husband mentioned something about taming the vines, creating a trellis or something and harvesting them. So, of course, off I go on the world wide web. Search, search, search. All the pictures of grapes were professional photos or photos of beautiful grapes. For some reason I was unable to find pictures of "wild" grapes that were poorly taken care of because someone just moved in and didn't really know much about them. Well, I became informed. Sort of. I found out that I should "Prune the vine so you will maintain a balance between vegetative growth and fruit productions. Where a vine is underpruned, (too many buds left) the vine will produce many small clusters of small grapes that may fail to ripen properly. If the vine is overpruned, (too few buds left) the yield will be low and the vegetative growth excessive. To "balance prune" a vine, the number or buds left is adjusted according to the amount of one-year-old wood removed in pruning." This is probably why the grapes are so small. This site also says to prune in the dormant season - March. But, in my eagerness to have bountiful grapes, I went out today and cut back all the pricky bushes surrounding the vines, cut back all the dead leaves, vines, branches and grapes and I'm pretty sure I annoyed the husband. "It's for the vineyard", I said. I got a raised eyebrow and then watched the back of his head shake.
He'll see next year when I'm selling jugs of wine by the side of the road, making my millions...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Body Painting

While Summer has left, the memories have been preserved for years to come. We recently painted our house. While we were busy painting, I needed something to occupy my almost-four-year-old. He wanted to paint. We let him help paint the house, but that didn't hold his attention for very long.

And it was probably best that we redirected his artistic tendencies...

I gave him acrylics and a piece of wood. I suggested he use his feet, but he used his whole body instead. The husband had to walk away. He cannot stomach the mess and craziness of it all. I loved it. This was such a great activity for him. We've done painting activities like this before, but this one can be saved forever. Or at least until it falls apart. I have plans to slather a water sealing solution over the whole thing. It's in my garden right now. He glued some seashells to it once it was done drying. It will serve as a lovely piece in my vegetable garden for years to come.

For that day, though, it served as a homemade Slip and Slide...

playgroup menus

I started hosting a weekly playgroup. I love having other moms over. I love having children running around amok. I love the variety of personalities and age differences. I love playing hostess. I ran into a snafu, if you wish, in planning the lunch. Snacks I can do. Cookies, fruit, breads. It's all yummy. My kids don't like lunchmeat. I refuse to serve mac and cheese from a box to guests. We have nut allergies, so no pb & j's. Last week I served Sweet and Sour Sloppy Joe's. Yum. Onion, garlic, red peppers, ketchup, bbq sauce and ground turkey/chicken. It's so easy and delish. Everyone BUT my kids ate it. This week, I made the mistake of going with a craving to relive my honeymoon and make a Costa Rican dish I haven't made in years. I didn't have 2 ingredients, but made it anyway. I ate it. No one else did. Oops. The kids tried it, but it was too spicy for them. Something that I didn't take into consideration while making it. I should have known as I was measuring out the Tabasco sauce. Also, it tasted nothing like the wonderfully flavorful Gallos Pintos I had every morning in the mountains of Costa Rica. Next week, maybe I'll just make grilled cheese and tomato soup...from a can.

bandaids and boo-boos

"Ow, Mommy, I have a bleed!!!" Is what I hear from the backyard. I lean towards a window and look outside. My two-year-old is pouring forth the drama over a bloodless scrape. A performance he has learned from his older brother, and thinks he has wittingly perfected. "A bleed", of course, is a boo-boo. Apparently, if you bleed, even the littlest bit, the world is over. However, if you apply a bandaid to it, the pain is gone and the world has been saved once again!

Depending upon my mood are the bandaids given out. If I'm extra cranky (that's crankier than usual) I will tell my poor children to move on with their day, bandaids don't make the pain go away and "I told you so..." regarding whatever act that caused them to get a bleed. If my meds are working correctly, my children will get a whole box of bandaids applied all over their bodies. In addition to those, the husband will decorate medical tape with skulls and crossbones. And if we've been drinking heavily, they get to paint and color on their bodies all they want.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Letterboxing Again!

I am in love with Letterboxing. Letterboxing is like a treasure hunt, but better. If you have not heard of this, click on the title above or go to http://www.letterboxing.org/. Go to the site anyway. It's amazing. I love this quote from the website, "LETTERBOXING is an intriguing pastime combining navigational skills and rubber stamp artistry in a charming "treasure hunt" style outdoor quest. A wide variety of adventures can be found to suit all ages and experience levels." I started doing this with my family last summer. We went on a few hunts and then life interrupted...again. I've been keeping it in the back of my mind recently. Then I found that there is a location within walking distance to my house. I took my son there today. I underestimated how close to us it actually was. His little legs made it, though. He only asked me to carry him once.
Here is the what you do. You get a notebook. I bought one of those "fancy" black, hardcover artsy books at Barnes and Noble. I wanted something my children can look back on and enjoy. I really, really like the brown leatherbound ones, but I'll stick to the one I have while my kids are still little.
Then you make a stamp. I use a store-bought one right now. I didn't want to go through the process of making a stamp only to use it once. And I wanted my sons to have a hand in making their own. Eli's almost four now and has decided what he wants his stamp to be. The husband is going to help carve it out of an eraser. Yes, and eraser. I love Letterboxing so much.

You also need a stamp pad and a pen or marker...something to write with.
Go to the website and search for your state and area. You'll most likely find Letterboxes in your area. Let's assume that you do. Click on one and read the directions. Print them out, unless you have a photographic memory. Then, off you go!

Follow the directions. When you get to the spot, which could be anywhere...literally, anywhere (we've been in parking lots, woods, stone walls, next to water)...find the "box". Sometimes it is a box. A plastic container to keep the elements out. Sometimes it's a Ziplock bag. Some are smaller than my palm and some are the gallon sized Ziplock. The box may be hidden under leaves, in a hole in a tree, in a stone wall. Once you find it, you need to leave your stamp in their book and their stamp in your book. You also write the date you visited the box, your name or some sort of "code name". You can also leave a message about the experience...was the box easy to find, was there poison ivy, did you need bug spray?...
My boys love pirates and anything pertaining to treasure (thank you David Shannon), so getting them to go on a treasure hunt was easy. To make it a bit more interactive, since they cannot read, I draw out the directions in a treasure map format. I think I may yellow the paper with tea bags or something like it. Perhaps I'll seal it with wax or ribbon or put it in a bottle, like it washed up on shore. Or maybe I'll seal it in a work of art...a la The Goonies. Make sure that you put everything back where you found it and keep it hidden. Also, if the box is broken or something is missing, you can email the person who hid in via http://www.letterboxing.org/. I also take pictures of each trip and put the pictures in our Letterboxing book. I also write a little something about the trip. It's fun to look back on. If we ever manage to get out of this state and go on a vacation, we can most likely find a letterboxing site on the way or nearby our destination. They are everywhere. Have I mentioned how much I love Letterboxing? I LOVE LETTERBOXING.
As far as homeschooling...map reading, physical education, reading, writing, mathematics...they all fit. AND some of these only take a few minutes to find, so you have time to do everything else you planned that day.

Oh, and it's virtually free.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Giving Up Paper

Over the past year we've been making the transition from paper towels and napkins to cloth. Yes, a year. We probably could have stopped cold turkey, but I didn't want to go into withdrawals. I started out by switching to the paper towels that are perforated into smaller segments, to use less. The husband had a hard time using less...king of ripping off several sheets to clean up a small mess. I swear there was feet of paper towel trailing behind him at any given time. A paper towel-like windsock of sorts, if you will. I bought more dish/hand towels. I bought some cloth napkins to see if we liked them. They were hard to get used to, especially for gross messes...and little kid hands. We always just wiped the kids' hands and faces with paper towels. If one got dirty, you just grabbed another...the paper towels, not the kids.
I have found, though, that napkins of one color show stains very easily. Greasy bacon, buttered biscuits, ketchup, bbq sauce... Our once pretty napkins look like something I'd normally throw away. But, the point is to reuse, so I keep them and use them. They are clean...they just don't look it. Target.com has some napkins in cute patterns. Mikabu, although a bit too pricey for me to load up on them, has really nice embroidered organic cotton napkins for kids. They are also made in America...always a plus! My favorite is the parade ones...gotta love animals all getting along. Cute. Molly, at the purl bee, posts directions for making your own. Hers are pretty fabulous. If I ever get the time, I'll make some. That might mean bringing the boys to a fabric store while I try to pick through rows of fabric...maybe i'll order some online. Okay, wait, I am totally interrupting myself...I just did a web search and found these Fabkins. How have I not heard of these before?! They have six different prints. The fruit ones are my fave because they are striped...less likely to show stains. They are reasonably priced and come in packs of five. And how great is it that Fabkins was started by two moms? I'm all for grabbing hold of a need and making a name for yourself.
Sidebar...I keep thinking of my million dollar idea only to find it's been done. ugh.
I think I need to make a list of things I want to do by the end of the year and add "make napkins" to it. That, and "make a volcano cake". Yes. Lately, while I am falling asleep, I have these strange "visions" of things I can do. Making a volcano cake was last nights. I wanted to make it for my son's fourth birthday, but he vehemently opposed it. He simply wants a Wolverine birthday cake. Um. Sure.

Old Sturbridge Village

Here is a place just about every school in Massachusetts visits on a field trip. I'm pretty sure I went there every year in elementary school. The only memory I have of the place is rock candy. Today we visited and I'm pretty sure I gave my boys that same memory. But I now have very different ones. Old Sturbridge Village hosts a homeschool day twice a year. Today was one of those days. They reduced their price from $20 to $7. How can you beat that? They hosted a vast array of activities throughout the day. It was a beautiful day...I couldn't have asked for a better one. We packed a lunch. I decided against the soynut butter and jam sandwiches and threw a pork roast in the crock yesterday and tossed some bbq sauce over it. We brought pulled pork sandwiches, carrot sticks, apples and leftover chicken tenders from yesterdays lunch. We dropped off the baby at my mom's and left an hour later than planned...but doesn't that always happen in my house?
We played Les Graces, or Flying Hoops. The boys loved it. Odin got distracted by the slate blue turkeys roaming around, but Eli and the husband played for a little while. We churned some butter, posed for pictures, visited the Cooper and the Potter. We ate lunch on the Common, watched the muskets being fired, bought some pistols and rock candy, milked a fake cow, made a tin candle holder and smelled a variety of herbs in the herb garden. Oh, and don't forget the baker and the candlestick maker...sorry, no butcher. There is much more to do than what we did. The husband and I plan on visiting without the children. Much as we love them, they have no interest in listening to someone talk about something they simply cannot fathom, like "a hundred years ago..." The boys love their pistols and ran around shooting one another all day. These are the first guns I've bought the boys... After I read an article on PBS.com, I am not so reluctant to give my child weapons. Not that everything you read is right, but it makes sense. I make them fight now, pit them against one another. I'm joking...sort of.

Monday, September 14, 2009

House Transformation

We've been here almost a year. We're one family member more. We have a five-year plan and a more realistic ten-year plan. We have been fortunate enough to be able to do some moderate adjustments over the past year. We have begun to paint the house...finally! I love our home. It's small, but it's all we need. As beautiful as big homes are, they are just not for us. For one, I can't see me cleaning any more home than what I have. I also believe that smaller homes can make the family closer...not just physically but emotionally! We have one t.v. The boys, all three, share a small room. When one isn't there, the others wonder where he is.

It's great being close-knit. I'm not saying that in a large home a family can't be close. I just like the close-proximity and the feeling of emotional closeness our home provides us. The shakes are cedar, so the ones that are in good shape will last forever, if we take care of them.

It was white and old. The paint was peeling. There were blatant holes in the siding. The yard was overgrown and covered in reptiles, amphibians, insects and arachnids. Okay, so turtles, snakes, frogs, earwigs, spiders... still creating a little wiggy feeling when walking across the lawn. We mowed and cut back all sorts of foliage. I put in a garden and threw down grass seed. The husband put up a fence and built a new bulkhead door. We put in a sandbox, threw in some yard toys and added a gazebo - which acts more as a storage shed than anything else. I refuse to keep my stuff in the actual shed...rodents, rodents, rodents... the things ripped up our double stroller. I am anti-shed...which actually appeases the husband.

I love the home we have made for our family. It still needs a lot of work. It will take time, but we have a lot of it ahead of us, so it's all okay.

Yay! Pumpkins!

I love Autumn. It's my favorite season. When we planted our pumpkin seeds, I did not expect the pumpkins to take over the garden and spread out into the yard. The most amazing part is getting to watch the pumpkins grow, which I had never seen before. I always bought pumpkins from a stand or apple orchard. This has been truly fabulous and I will never buy pumpkins again. I love seeing the look on my children's faces as they witness the growth and changes of the pumpkin. We picked the first of the orange pumpkins the other day. My son was so excited. I let him pick the pumpkin, but he needed help because the stem is all prickly. The lone pumpkin is sitting in our front yard. The first great sign of Fall.

Menu Plan Monday

Menu Plan Monday - September 14, 2009

Sunday - breakfast - pancakes, bacon and fruit
lunch - smoothies
dinner - at parent's house

Monday - breakfast - muffins and fruit
lunch - homemade chicken nuggets, avocado and tomato
dinner - hamburgers, baked beans and baked potato

Tuesday - breakfast - toast and fruit
lunch - bbq pork loin on rolls (cooked in crockpot day before)
dinner - Crockpot Autumn Rice casserole (thanks, stephanie! and she's right, it does
taste like a bowl full of fall.)

Wednesday - breakfast - frozen pancakes (left over from Sunday)
lunch - meatball pizza quesadilla
dinner - sweet and sour sloppy joes, fruit salad

Thursday - breakfast - oatmeal and fruit
lunch - ham and cheese w/crackers, carrots and dip
dinner - sloppy shepherd's pie

Friday - breakfast - waffles and fruit
lunch - tomato soup (yes, from a can) and salad
dinner - Italian sausage and roasted red peppers, homemade bread and mango

Saturday - breakfast - cereal and fruit
lunch - Kid's choice (will probably be macaroni and cheese...from a box...blegh)
dinner - Lasagne and caprese salad

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Preschool at home

We started preschool last week. My son is almost four. Why start an official preschool? Well, he's starting to read and normal preschool activities bore him to tears. To start off the week I brought out sponges in the shape of the letters of the alphabet. Let's sponge paint! Nope. He spelled out M-O-M and then wanted to do worksheets. So, we did work sheets.
The second day, we did more worksheets and I read to him from an early reader book. The Now I'm Reading series All About The ABC's is what I'm using to help teach reading. I also use the Preschool Planner from The Mailbox. I also am a subscriber to their Preschool Magazine. It has some really great ideas. It's a magazine/site geared towards teachers with ideas from teachers and education professionals.

I had the first two weeks all planned out with activities and worksheets and themes and letters and numbers and shapes... On day three we began painting the house. No school happened. Day four and five passed by. We took the weekend off. "Off"...as if we had been working so hard...

Yesterday was a holiday, so we celebrated our labor and that of those who came before us and rested. Today we got back into the swing of things.

I bought a dry erase board. I also printed out a list of beginning sight words like "a, at, the". We started today with "the". It took a few tries before he caught on to just looking at "the". He really wanted to recite the words that came after "the", in trying to "read" the story. I wrote "the" on a large index card. I had Eli write "the" on the dry erase board.

My plan for tomorrow is to use another book and have him find "the" in the text.

I'm utilizing phonics, sight words and anything else I can combine into our lessons. Whatever seems to work for him I'll use. He's eager to learn and sucks in information like a sponge.

A couple of years ago I bought a CD-ROM set from Einstein Prep. I'm not sure if they are still in business. I can't seem to access the website. I also saw that the company is on MySpace when I did an internet search for the company, but there hasn't been any activity on the account since 2008. In any case, my son likes the CD-ROM's. The interactive games help him to learn phonics. The first cd has introductory math on it, which he enjoys as well.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Cucumber Pickle Spears

I got this recipe from my friend, Dawn. This is her mother's recipe. I have never tasted anything like it. I usually adjust the amount of garlic and dill depending on how I feel that day. I just shove the stuff in. The jars look really pretty with the dill springs and garlic against the walls of the jar. I give them as gifts a lot.

4 lg. pickling cukes (about 1lb.)
2 tsp. salt
3 large dill sprigs
1 garlic clove, halved
1 c white vinegar
1 c water
1/4 cup sugar

cut cukes into quarters. Place them into a bowl, sprinkle with salt and toss to coat. Cover and chill for 2 hours.
Drain in colander, rinse under cold water and drain well.
Pack into hot, sterilized Ball jar or whatever canning jar you prefer.
Add dill and garlic. Set aside.
Combine vinegar, water and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Pour over cucumbers in jar. Cool completely, then cover. Marinate in fridge for 5 days.
Will keep up to 6 weeks in refrigerator.

Menu Plan Monday

Sunday - breakfast - pancakes, sausage and fruit
lunch - leftovers
dinner - Costa Rican beans and rice (Gallo Pinto)

Monday - breakfast - eggs and biscuits w/jam
lunch - soynut butter and jelly sandwiches, cantaloupe
dinner - mini meatloaves, steamed carrots, peas and sweet potatoes (left over from
the other night)

Tuesday - breakfast - yogurt, granola and fruit parfaits
lunch - chicken and cheese quesadillas w/ salsa and avocado
dinner - stir-fry chicken w/veggies and udon noodles

Wednesday - breakfast - pancakes (frozen from sunday) and fruit
lunch - bologna and cheese sandwiches, homemade pickles and grapes
dinner - chili and cornbread

Thursday - breakfast - cereal and fruit
lunch - chili over hot dogs, buns
dinner - crockpot chicken pot pie

Friday - breakfast - toast and fruit
lunch - hardboiled eggs, fruit, crackers and cheese
dinner - homemade pepperoni pizza

Saturday - breakfast - oatmeal and fruit
lunch - grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, homemade pickles, potato chips
dinner - seared steak w/olive relish, homemade bread and steamed veggies

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Of No Importance

Just found out Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise are filming next week at the Worcester Airport. I am not a fan of Mr. Cruise, but I would still be a little starstruck if I saw him crossing the street. Probably too much so to run him and his high horse off the road. I have to admit that I am a bit enamoured with Ms. Diaz. How someone so...smiley and Hollywood beautiful can pull off being so goofy and "the girl next door"- ish, makes me smile...no matter how forced and fake it may seem. She tries to perform outside her comfort zone. She has been in a variety of roles and still manages to draw a fan base.

Plus, not much goes on around here. Camera crews, celebs and drama is worth driving out to Worcester for an afternoon.

I'm above autographs, but not zooming in on their faces with my telephoto lens from my car and snapping a few shots. Maybe I could be paparazzi...

Monday, August 31, 2009

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

I got this fabulous recipe from For the Love of Cooking. I love butter. This recipe did not use any butter. Instead, it calls for vegetable oil. I don't know about anyone else, but I love the look of a stick of butter in a recipe much more than pouring oil into it. I was a bit nervous about the outcome. The recipe also uses yogurt, which I never have used in baking before. How completely wonderful.

Here's the recipe:

1 3/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup of vegetable oil
1/2 cup of vanilla yogurt (I used low fat)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large, very ripe bananas
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a muffin tray with cooking spray. In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, white sugar and brown sugar until well combined. In another bowl, mix the egg, oil, yogurt, vanilla and mushed bananas until mixed thoroughly. Slowly combine the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients without over mixing. Add the chocolate chips and fold them into the batter. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until golden brown and a tester inserted into the muffin comes out clean. Cool on a rack then serve with butter. Enjoy!

I used the skeleton muffin tins I had bought for my son's pirate-themed birthday party. Then I added extra chocolate chips on the "faces" of the muffins. The kids absolutely loved them. Eli ate two and Odin had one. These muffins are about the size of one and a half regular-sized muffins. These were dense, flavorful and just simply yummy. Thanks, Pam, for posting this wonderful recipe on your site!

Making Beef Salami

I had originally discovered the potential wonders of homemade salami when I visited Tammy's website. I had every intention of making her salami, but in searching for Morton's Tenderquick, I found a recipe on the Morton's site. I also found out that Morton's does not sell Tenderquick anywhere near me...not in a 50 mile radius. So, I had to order it online. The 2lb bag was $4.49. Not too bad. However, the shipping was ridiculous...$9 in shipping and $2 in handling. *sigh*

I only used 3 tsp... not sure how much meat curing I'll do. I had a hard time finding the liquid smoke, but it's only because I had no idea what it was or where to find it. It was near the gravy. I suppose that makes sense. It was only a couple of bucks at Market Basket. When I began, the husband was confused. I'm sure he heard me, but he kept saying, "WHAT are you making?"

I had to finally walk away from him.
I mixed all the ingredients together:
1 pound of ground beef
1 teaspoon Morton® Table Salt
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Few drops liquid smoke, if desired

Divide in half. Shape each half into slender rolls about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap in plastic or foil. Refrigerate overnight. Unwrap.Bake on broiler pan at 325 degrees F until a meat thermometer inserted in the center of a roll reads 160 degrees F, 50 to 60 minutes. Store wrapped in refrigerator. Use within 3 to 5 days or freeze for later use.

I didn't divide it in half, I just made it longer. And I forgot to use a broiler pan...I used a baking sheet. It was a little greasy, but I blotted and squeezed - gently - in a clean dish towel.
I sliced the salami and put it on my salad. I didn't make an antipasto, as I had planned. It was just a simple salad.
I was expecting a salami taste. It didn't have that at all. It was good, but I kept expecting a Genoa taste and it wasn't happening.

The kids didn't like it. They made faces. I was surprised that it did have a salami look to it, sort of. And the outter "shell" was hard like salami. If anything, it was an interesting process. I doubt I'll make it again. I do want to try to make traditional salami in a beef casing, hung to cure for weeks. I just have to figure out where I'll hang pounds and pounds of meat...

I also want to try the Morton's recipe for Canadian Bacon. There's nothing better than bacon...Canadian or not. Plus, I have almost 2lbs of curing salt left...mmmm, sodium nitrate. yum.

Menu Planning Monday

I've menu planned for the entire month...we'll see how that goes.

Here's what's going on for this week:

Sunday: Breakfast - pancakes, bacon and orange slices
Lunch - antipasto salad with homemade salami
Dinner - Steak, mashed potatoes, broccoli

Monday: Breakfast - banana choc. chip muffins
Lunch - grilled cheese w/tomato soup
Dinner - Pork chops, homemade applesauce, rice and green beans

Tuesday: Breakfast - toast and cantaloupe
Lunch - homemade chicken tenders, avocado and tomato
Dinner - Zucchini Parmesean and salad

Wednesday: Breakfast - pancakes and strawberries
Lunch - homemade mac and cheese
Dinner - honey soy chicken wingettes, sticky rice, stir-fried veggies

Thursday: Breakfast - oatmeal and cherries
Lunch - chicken salad sandwiches, carrot sticks and string cheese
Dinner - Sweet Potatoes, honey-wheat rolls, and leftovers

Friday: Breakfast - homemade waffles and mango
Lunch - honey-wheat rolls w/jam, fruit salad
Dinner - farmhouse chicken, sugarsnap peas, biscuits

I'm new at this, so I'll post recipes a little later...it's been a hectic morning...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Destroying the Look of Joy

They come in droves. The little things your children do that you wish you could record. I sure do try. I have a digital camera with the video option. I have more pictures of the past 4 years than I do of my entire life. In trying not to be the mom who takes a million pictures of her first-born and then slowly loses the desire, or mind, to take ones of the children who follow, I have taken a ridiculous amount of each child. And the videos. I have videos of my children doing nothing. Seriously. They're just sitting there, looking back and forth from the camera to the television. I have video and corresponding photos of every holiday, birthday, event, trip, vacation and visit. They are all on my computer. I uploaded everything to a photo site to see how much it would cost to print them out. As it stood a month ago, the tally was $130. I've been on two mini vacations since.

This blog serves as my memory keeper of sorts. Perhaps when it is chock-full of humour - what I consider humour - I'll have it turned into a keepsake of sorts for my children. But, they are boys, will they even care to look back at that sort of thing?

Back to the little things children do and say. It's bath time. Eli and Odin are in the bath. I give them toothbrushes because they want them. They drink the bathwater anyway, so what's a little scrubbing the teeth going to hurt? I leave the bathroom for a moment. I can hear them giggling. I return and Eli charges out of the bathroom and emphatically says, "Momma, I washed my body all by myself (I'm smiling with encouragement) and then I put my toothbrush in the water (still smiling) in the toilet!!!" The smile is gone, my hand reaches up to the waving toothbrush and I huck it into the trash. The look on his face was priceless; like I just killed his dog. "But, momma, how am I going to brush my teeth in the morning?" I simply asked him if he would stick his face in the toilet and drink it. He giggled and said, "No, that's gross, momma." I gave him the "well, what do you think a toilet water soaked toothbrush is like" look. I don't think he quite understood because he looked into the trash as if he was going to retrieve it when I wasn't looking. I informed him that I'll get a new toothbrush for him...an ugly, non-character one that does not light up or make sounds. That'll teach him.

Let's segue, or not...

I write what I'm thinking, feeling, etc. It's rarely researched, unless I Google something quickly while it comes to me and add it in just as fast. In reading my blogs, I have noticed that I start off on one topic and somehow move over to something seemingly unrelated. That's how I talk, too. I interrupt myself constantly. When I try to return to the previous topic, I forget what it was. Most people just shake their head and walk away. They probably should.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mommy, How Was Your Day?

I yell at my kids. I also make excuses for yelling at my kids. I didn't always yell. I was one of those moms who was praised and envied by others for my calm demeanor. I took classes in behavioral therapy for a job I once had. I worked as a behaviorist. I know all about positive and negative reinforcement, ignoring behavior, yadda, yadda, yadda. What I didn't know was that when you start potty-training your child, you can lose your mind. I lost mine. My first-born was ready, or so I thought, at 2. He showed interest. He could communicate effectively. He could remove his clothes and keep dry for more than an hour. He also peed on the floor, the walls, the rug. He pooped in his underwear...a lot. During one of his first experiences in a public restroom involved his curious little mind making him lick the public toilet. I screamed. I almost fainted, I think. It was really all a blur. Once he used the potty appropriately, I didn't understand why he would urinate all over the floor the next time. I had read about children being afraid of being separated from their poop and having an issue with the potty. He had no signs of that. All I could see was a frustration-inducing child who knew better. Once I started yelling, there was no turning back. It's completely ineffective. I know this. It didn't and doesn't happen daily. I never, ever, belittle my children. I do not name call or shout insults. I simply raise my voice to ridiculous levels. I'm not proud of this. I'm actually pretty embarrassed. It's easier to say this over the "interweb" than it would be to a mommy at a playgroup.
Then, he turned three. The back-talking started and tantrums. The books talk about the "terrible two's" and children throwing ridiculous tantrums. He never did that, until he turned three. Now, he is almost four and makes faces while I'm trying to talk to him. I don't believe in corporal punishment, but sometimes I'm thinking it's looking more and more appealing. I'm sure it'll be in style again at some point. There's a twenty-year cycle for things in fashion, right?
This brings us to my middle child. I had decided that I wouldn't even think about potty training until he was two-and-a-half. That was until he was eighteen-months-old and wanted to use the potty. I let him and he peed in it. Then, I let him take the reigns. Right after his 2nd birthday he took off his diaper and refused to wear one. He wanted Big Boy Underwear. He got his wish. He still has accidents, especially if he's engaged in something else....and in the house. He can go hours when we're out and about, but at home, it's like he pees every time he blinks. I believe our living room carpet feels like the sprinklers got tripped...they haven't been. It's pee. Amazingly enough, I don't yell at his potty accidents. I do yell when he dumps his grape juice on the couch or smooshes the baby's face with his hands. The baby is 2 months old...I am just not capable of calmly reacting when the children are jumping off the edge of the couch into the middle of it while the baby is resting peacefully on the Boppy... Or while they fight over the baby, physically, pulling on his limbs... Oh, I wish I was one of those calm moms. They take Valium, right? (Mommy's on Valium, so ineffectual...)
I'm working on the yelling. It's really not so easy to keep your cool. I found this blog in the New York Times. It's true...the topic of yelling at your kids isn't talked about all that often. Mommy's talk about how not to yell and alternative solutions. They scoff at those who yell. They all seem so calm, cool and collected at the playground and in the store. Meanwhile, I'm ripping my child across the playground, threatening toy removal and time-outs. Not really, but it seems that way, even if I'm just sitting there. I've thrown a toy or two across the room, yelling that it's going in the trash. I, too, always apologize for my erratic behavior. In making mistakes, and I sure make tons of them, I want to teach my children that they will be made, it's okay, and apologies - heartfelt ones - follow those mistakes. There isn't a lesson to be learned by my yelling at them to get out of the kitchen because they are underfoot and I've got hot food, utensils and pans all over the place. I'm working on it...

Fall/Winter Menu Planning 2009

Menu planning sounds a bit excessive. It sounds a little rigid and too organized. I'm doing it. I've planned out dinners on a weekly basis before, with each week differing from the last. This new way is partially in thanks to Laura from I'm an Organizing Junkie and in part to another mommy blogger...but I can't for the life of me remember her name. When and if I ever come across her blog again (I forgot to bookmark it), I'll be sure to post a link. I have planned out the entire season. I have not necessarily used foods that are seasonal. I have incorporated things I have frozen or canned, like zucchini, applesauce and jam. I had planned on having tomato sauce, but we know what late blight brought...
I have also decided to plan out all three meals and snacks. We are usually a family that figures out what we're eating moments before we consume it. There have been times where I have printed out a recipe, last minute and based on ingredients only, prepared it and by the time I am ready to toss it in the oven, I then notice the cooking time - 2 hours! That happened last week, and it turned out that I did have a dinner ready for the next day, but it didn't even taste that good! :(
I decided that any more than a month's planning would drive me crazy. So, I have planned out an entire month and will rotate the menu. I have incorporated some pricey favorites and some cheap and easy recipes.
Sidebar - I have almost eliminated cereal from our diet. While the fiber is good, sometimes, a box of cereal is easily $3 to $4. With four of us eating cereal, it goes fast. We usually had 4 or 5 boxes of cereal opened, for variety. Many times it would get thrown out because it just wouldn't get eaten.
I bought a waffle maker. I absolutely love it. It's made by VillaWare. The UNO Farmyard Waffler. I bought mine from Amazon for $29.95 and it is completely worth it. I have been buying waffles in a box for years now. And they're not that tasty, just convenient, I suppose. This waffle maker is fabulous, and it has the cutest waffle shapes ever. My kids love them. The recipe in the accompanying booklet produces delicious waffles. The husband loves them. He then recanted stories from his childhood about his mother's delicious waffles, until she opted for a whole wheat recipe that apparently ruined the waffle experience temporarily. As long as you follow the directions, the waffles come out of the maker as yummy as promised. This digression is apparent, but a bit relevant. We will be having waffles for breakfast. I can even sneak some whole wheat into them, and maybe some flax seed or wheat germ. We will be having waffles for snack and probably lunch and dinner. Not all the time, but it will save money...a lot of it. I'll post my menu plan once I can transfer it from Excel to Word. Grrr.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Eggplant and Zucchini Parmesan

Next summer, I'm hoping for this recipe to cost me very little. If planned out right, all that would need to be bought is the cheese and eggs. The rest will come from my garden or will already be in my pantry. If you are lucky enough to have a garden, a cow and some chickens...I want to be you. Seriously.

2 medium sized zucchini
1 eggplant
olive oil - keep the bottle handy, the breaded veggies soak it up fast
3 cloves garlic
1 cup crushed vegetable crackers (I can't remember what kind I use, I recycled the box - it's
green though, if that helps)
*instead of veggie crackers, you can use bread crumbs, other crackers, etc. Just add Italian
spices to give it a kicky flavor.

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
couple of eggs, maybe 3
pasta sauce ( I use Prego...I like the sweetness of it)
bag of grated Parmesan
bag of mozzarella ( could be shredded or slices...doesn't matter)
fresh basil
fresh oregano

1. Cut the zucchini and eggplant into rounds about 1/2 inch.

2. Put the zucchini in a bowl of water and put in the fridge. Walk away for at least 2 hours.

3. Salt the eggplant, place in colander. Put the colander over a bowl to catch the water.

Walk away for 2 hours.

You're back, yay!

4. Drain zucchini. Keep in the bowl. Add Eggplant to the bowl.

5. Beat the eggs and pour over the zucchini and eggplant. mix, shake or stir. Just make sure
the veggies get covered with the egg.

6. Put some oil in the pan (I use a wok, but use whatever you have), add the three cloves of
garlic. heat it on medium. (just leave the cloves in the oil for a blast of flavor. Yeah, I said,
"blast of flavor".)

7. Mix flour and crushed up crackers (should be very fine, like bread crumbs)

8. Coat egg-covered veggies in the cracker mix. (You can do this before you heat the oil and
have them set on a plate or you can do it while you fry...up to you.)

9. Fry the veggies to a golden brown...couple minutes on each side. Discard the garlic when the frying is done.
10. Place the veggies on a towel to absorb the grease. (I don't use paper towels, so I use clean
dish towels. Use old sheets for all I care...just sop up the grease)

11. Now it's time to layer. Spray a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray, or grease with olive oil. Go
ahead, use lard.

12. A layer of eggplant/zucchini first. Then toss on some Parmesan - just a sprinkle across the
layer of veggies. Layer on the mozzarella. I like it cheesy, to make the husband happy about
the lack of meat. Then spoon on some sauce. Depending upon how saucy you like it will
determine how much you use. I usually use 1/3 of the jar for each layer. Then, I put the rest
of the sauce in the fridge for something later on in the week. Throw on some fresh basil and
oregano. Repeat layers. After the 2nd and final layer of sauce, add some more mozzarella. I
usually go through a 1/2 bag of Parmesan and a bag, sometimes more, of mozzarella.
13. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until cheese is all melty and yummy looking.

14. Let cool a bit and dig in!

This dish freezes well. It can be frozen before you bake it or after. There's a lot of room for personal choice here.

I know he loves me because he lets me eat first...

A long time ago, a friend told me that she knew that her boyfriend really loved her because he let her eat first. Now, I took it as he waited for her to take a bite before he dug into his meal. However, that was a terribly wrong interpretation. They were borderline broke and he let her eat first and then he had whatever was left over. I laugh at this now because they were 20-something and the relationship ended less than a year later. However, as a parent, I find that I let my kids eat first all the time. Once I get a meal on the table, I set out the kids' plates. Then get whatever I apparently forgot to get: a drink, another utensil, a napkin, etc. By the time I have done this and begun to serve myself something else is being requested. The husband, and do I love him dearly, serves himself and happily sits and eats while I rush around. I do not have much of an issue with this, except now the children ask ME to help them out, even if the beloved husband is sitting with the children in his lap. I finally get to eat when the children are finishing up. This doesn't happen every day or at every meal, but it is an often enough occurrence for me to notice it. Sometimes I find that if I'm rushing around in the evening, and the husband is working late, I'll eat after the kids are off to bed...and it's usually cereal.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

$5 Dinner $250 giveaway!!!

Yup, that's right... $5 Dinners is hosting a fabulous $250 Grocery Store Gift Card Giveaway! Of course, I entered as many times as possible. Who couldn't benefit from $250?! In addition to remake my pantry, I need items to stock it with. I'd love to be able to take advantage of sale items in bulk amounts and not have the purchasing costs affect my weekly budget. So, if you want a chance at free groceries, enter, enter, enter!!!

Friday, August 21, 2009

August 22, 2009 Deals

Holy Cow! I think this is the best deal so far... Ann Taylor is offering a $20 off a full-priced purchase, in store. There isn't a minimum purchase price. If you can find something for $20 it's free. How sweet is that?! Thanks to the Deal Seeking Mom for letting us know about it. It's always great to get free stuff. I need some new v-neck t-shirts and Ann Taylor has some for $24. $4 for an Ann Taylor tee is such a great deal. Definitely worth making the 1/2 hour trip.

The new CVS flyer, sales beginning Sunday, August 23, has Playtex tampons on sale for $2.99. Combine that with the $1 off coupon from Smartsource and you're paying $1.99 for a box of tampons, 18ct or more.

Shaw's has pork tenderloin on sale for $1.79/lb. However, if you live near a DeMoulas Market Basket, pork is regularly that price. I bought a 7+ pounder. I also had the butcher there cut it into the slices I wanted. It's nice being able to do that.

I have been wondering whether getting a BJ's Wholesale Club membership would be worth it or not. I went and priced out a few things. Their pork tenderloin was $2.29/lb. Um, no thanks. A loaf of Pepperidge Farm 100% Whole Wheat bread was over $3. At WalMart it is $2.50. Again, no thanks. However, Bisquick is about $.90 per lb. at BJ's. Bisquick is $1.33/lb. at Market Basket. Aunt Jemima pancake mix is $.80 per lb. at BJ's and at Market Basket it costs $1 per lb. However, for my family, the cost of the membership, plus the gas it would cost to make the extra trip, would probably work out to be the same. Interestingly enough, BJ's used to allow a one-day pass for people to come and check out the prices and the store. The pass required you to pay the sales tax only. They don't do that anymore. You can get a pass, however, you have to pay 15% on whatever you buy. If you do have a BJ's membership and buy Aunt Jemima's pancake mix and/or syrup, Smartsource has a coupon for $1.50 off. Happy Shopping!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Blackberry Jamming

For years my father cut back the brush growing rampant in the backyard. One year, he let it slide a bit. By the end of July, there were blackberries everywhere. This is the first year I've decided to make jam. I wore long pants and a jacket despite the ninety-degree heat. I doused myself with mosquito repellent and headed in. My mom had picked all the berries in the front, so I needed to brave the bugs, tall grass and thorns. It was completely worth it. In my quest to cut my family's expenses, "free" jam is a big help. We eat jam on biscuits, English muffins, toast and in soy nut butter sandwiches (my kids are allergic to peanuts). A half pint of blackberry jam runs about $2.99 at Market Basket, the cheapest of the stores in my area. I grabbed my canning jars that I usually use for applesauce, some liquid pectin, a bag of sugar and the berries.Lucky for me, my two-year-old decided to help and was completely sated in mashing the berries. He's at the age where helping mommy cook trumps anything else going on. Can't say the same for my almost-four-year-old. I digress.
The recipe in the box was simple enough. Word of caution: the instructions specifically say that if you change the sugar amount (lessen or use a sugar substitute) the consistency of the jam will be affected. I had planned on adding less than the recommended amount, but didn't want to end up with syrup. We mashed the berries and ended up with 8 cups. Then, we added the sugar. 7 cups of sugar per 4 cups of crushed berries. Goodness gracious that's a lot of sugar. The whole 5lb bag was added to the 8 cups of berries. It almost nauseated me. Then it was off to boil. With the powdered pectin, the mixture is all boiled together. The liquid pectin requires you to add it after the sugar and berries have been boiled. I'm glad I read the directions instead of using an online recipe I had found that didn't specify powdered or liquid. That might have been tragic and instead of pictures of my son mashing, I would have posted a picture of me crying...
I didn't sieve out any of the seeds. I like seeds. I like a lot of seeds. Plus, I just wanted it done.

After bringing the mix to a "rolling boil" (I like that phrase), I added in the 2 liquid pectin pouches, stirred quickly and let it boil for another minute. Then I skimmed the froth off the top, which was a lot easier than I anticipated. It just sort of sat on top and slid off very easily. I ladled it into the jars, leaving a 1/4" to a 1/8" of room at the top. I put the lids and rings on the jars. Then I processed them for ten minutes in a pot. I don't own a canner. Maybe one day I'll buy one.

For years I have simply used a large pot. I pulled the jars out of the pot and let them cool. Now, they sit on my kitchen counter. I have no idea where I'm going to store all my canned goods. I will probably turn the cabinet that now holds all our summer bbq'ing supplies into a pantry cabinet of sorts. My fabulous husband will gladly move it from outside to the basement. He loves when I ask for his help.
Interestingly enough, while picking the beautiful berries, I noticed the detail of the bushes...and they looked very familiar to me. Then I remembered. They are the same plants I have been cutting down and pulling out of the ground in my yard. I have blackberry bushes! I was so excited to know that next year, hopefully, I will not have to leave my yard to gather berries for the winter.