Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Daddy's Girl, but Mommy's Helper...

Our first Comcast bill had an error. (Remember, we switched to high-speed internet and ditched television completely by going to Comcast.) Since Superman set it all up, I asked him to handle calling Comcast. And asked him. And asked him. And asked him. Obviously, I was asking regularly. He came in the door after work the other day and his little Buttercup looked up, smiled, and said, "So, have you called Comcast yet?"

Enough said.

P.S. He did finally call Comcast.

So, Here is the Family Room...

...also known as the Macaroni and Cheese Room for obvious reasons. The redecorating of this room started more than a year ago when we ripped up a hearth that took up all the room that is not tiled (floor to ceiling!)--it was four feet deep and it was all for that little gas-that-looks-like-wood-burning stove. Then Superman had to travel a lot for work and we stopped. I shoved the shelves in place before he got to finish the drywall and it remained that way until very recently. Now, we've added the price of orange paint to our cost, so we're still doing pretty well. Next, we'll add ceramic tile to finish up the floor. (We debated replacing the flooring with something else, but the great flood quickly changed our minds...ceramic tile came through just fine!) After that, I think we'll be done.

This is where we are so far:

This is the view from the doorway and I think I'm pretty pleased (finally) with the furniture layout. To your left is the desk from upstairs and it is my desk. (This kids used to have a desk that ran along the left wall, but we shifted everything to get my desk into this room.) The couch is where the television used to be.

My desk still has piles of stuff on it and around it that I need to a) find a place for or b) get rid of. I'm hoping I'll be able to go with b) get rid of and I've committed to myself that there will be no stashing or stuffing. I must touch the stuff and consciously deal with it.

The television was moved to the corner and placed on the corner unit that lived in our bedroom (even though we no longer had a television in there). As you can see, Superman never painted behind the shelves, so he'll need to finish the drywall and paint the newly exposed wall. While they don't look too bad in this photo, these shelves are cluttered! Seriously cluttered, so I've begun dealing with that. Same thing: a) put it where it belongs or b) get rid of it. I'm hoping to come up with some clever ways to deal with my craft stuff, while keeping it accessible. Fabric is tough! (notice the pile on the floor to the right of the shelf--all my stuff).

Finally, this is now the kids' school desk (the couch used to be on this wall and the television was where the couch is now). I love the way their school books and their computer CPUs fit inside the bathroom vanities (!) we used to hold the melamine desk top up. This desk used to be in Buttercup's room and the desktop needs to be longer for the two of them to share. For now, however, they just need to deal.

So far, I am liking the way this room is evolving. I love that the stove and television are no longer the focal points of the room. I love the way the kids can really truly clean up their school work at the end of each day. I love the way we can all be in the same room doing different things and still feel together.

I know I talked a lot about fabrics, but I decided that really wasn't the problem (which is why I couldn't make myself sew anything...I guess I knew better). Red, black, and white go really well in this macaroni and cheese room. The blinds, which came with the house, set the stage and I like red, as is evidenced by the red rug and the red accessories on the shelves, the red sewing machine covers I've made over the years, and the red throw. Now that the furniture arrangement flows, the colors seem just right. The black adds a bit of drama and the white keeps it crisp. So, what do you think? (Oh, I know many of you could live in a macaroni and cheese room, but how do you think it is coming together?)

The Dining Room is Done

...but I haven't made much progress on the Family Room....sigh.

Here is the completed Dining Room. I am really pleased and, while I'm still not 100% in favor of the current cushion covers, they're really fine for summer. I figure once I'm done with them, I'll use them on the patio to cover those cushions, so they'll get plenty of use. I'm looking to find a nice red fabric with texture or depth that doesn't look "country" or "velour". (I know what I mean, even ifI didn't explain it well.)

It is difficult to convey spatial qualities and perspective in photos, but the room feels roomy without feeling empty. Everyone feels as if they can lean back, scoot out, and generally stretch out without bumping something--even with the table fully extended (which it is not in the photos). We used the same shelves in a different arrangement and actually ended up leaving out one of the pictures. (I thought Superman would cry when he put molly bolts into the walls he'd just patched and painted.) We added the gymnast, which my dad just sent last week, and the recessed lighting lands right on her at night. We managed to keep it "dressed up" without making it stuffy by keeping the whimsy (yes, those are dinosaurs on the floor - they used to be my mom's) and mixing it throughout the room. All in all, it works for us.

Phew! Now if I can just figure out what to do with the Family Room!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Making Your Home Sing Monday!

It is Monday! Are you excited? I am! I feel like I've been on vacation for TWO weeks, even though it has actually been only one and I'm really looking forward to getting back into the swing of things. I think I'm feeling this way because immediately following our camping trip, we ripped apart our house. For most of last week, our house was in disarray and nothing seemed to get done. (Lots actually got done, but not much of the normal stuff!)

This week, however, things are pretty much back in order, with the exception of one room and I can handle disorder in one room! So, for Making Your Home Sing Monday, our house will be singing and doing the Hamster Dance! Why the Hamster Dance? Because it is this silly little tune that accompanies Buttercup's screen saver and since the room I'm working on is the family room, I'll be hearing it whenever her computer switches to the screen saver. (Plus, everyone is upbeat and silly this week because we're having visitors at the end of the week!)

Mom's the Word wrote about choosing not to overlook those daily tasks that are so important to the well-being of your home and family and I'm right there with her this week. For my family, falling out of our routine is so easy to do and really so detrimental to the family rhythm. The children's moods just seem to deteriorate when we live in a fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants manner. It all starts with letting the "little" things go. Pretty soon the little things have become big things and it takes much effort to turn things around. I hate that! So, for this week, before things get bad, I'm getting us back into our routine. Bedtimes will be enforced, Superman and I are headed to the gym each morning and the family will have breakfast together each morning. Superman and Charming will head off to work and Buttercup, Valiant, and I will take care of our business: schooling, the yard, and the house. Lots of play will be happening, too, because the neighborhood kids are home and the neighborhood pool is open. Chores will be done BEFORE play...no excuses! It seems like so little, but these things make my entire household run more smoothly and my family is much happier. The truth is, it always comes back to me and I can't ignore that.

For more Making Your Home Sing Monday, head over to Mom's the Word and see what everyone else has got going on today!

Buttercup and Valiant hope you have fun watching the Hamster Dance. (Just remember, this is my reality!) Have a super week!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Be Joyful...

May your walls know joy; May every room hold laughter and every window open to great possibility.
Maryanne Radmacher-Hershey, 1995
Photo: Cute House

Friday, June 26, 2009

It's Summer...Has Your Neighborhood Been Overrun By Ninjas, too?

The neighborhood has been taken over by ninjas. Apparently, "Ninja Tag" is the name of the game and the neighborhood kids have jumped on the bandwagon. Two cul de sacs full of children raiding the closets for black/dark clothing and running around like thieves in the night. Running around in sweaters, hats, and gloves...ah, that is what summer is all about!

Valiant and Buttercup are up for the challenge.

Friday Photo Flashback

Well, I'm squeaking in under the wire, but it is still Friday, so I'm posting my Friday Photo Flashback. Alicia at More Than Words hosts this party every Friday and, so far, I'm still managing to join in the fun. (It was iffy this week as my scanner wasn't hooked up until last night and boxes still need to be located after our big rearrange.) Head on over to see what everyone else dug out of their photo boxes...it is always a treat.

Fortunately, I found one of my favorites to share with you. It speaks of the past and the future, all at once. This photo takes me back and makes me wonder where the time went. The mouth is the same and the eyes are the same, but everything else has changed. Man, those were the days!
This is a picture of Charming when he was roughly one. He was big...seriously big...he wore 2Ts and 3Ts by the time he was 12 months. Those shoes? Those were his FIRST shoes. The lion in his lap? That is "Mr. Lion", who was hand delivered by his then 15-year old Uncle M who visited (under duress--his parents took a trip to Greece) when Charming was six months old. Mr. Lion still lives with us, but is now cared for by Buttercup, who feels Charming shirks his familial duties where Mr. Lion is concerned. (Poor Uncle M had to spend time with Charming's babysitter as Superman and I had no time off and plenty of bills to pay. Not a fun trip to Southern California.) Ah, well...those were the days. Who would have guessed that sweet baby boy would tower over me a short 17-years later? Okay, we all did, but still.

So, that is my flashback for you this Friday. Thanks for sharing the trip down memory lane. I loved it.

P.S. LA: Your mom sent that outfit to Charming. Pretty "charming" wasn't it?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Dining Room - Still Working on It!

So, if you read the previous post, you know I cannibalized two leather chairs from the dining room to complete the living room. (Mr. R was kind enough to pretend to sleep after his Father's Day dinner to demonstrate just how comfortable these chairs really are. Wasn't that nice of him?)

Admittedly, the chairs shouldn't have been in the dining room, but since we turned our designated living room into our dining room, it was the only room they'd fit into.

Now, what will we do with the dining room now that we've taken those huge chairs out of it?

This was the dining room before. Functional and attractive (at least to my eye), but crowded when it came to holiday dinners and Game Night. I'm excited to have the chairs out of there, but thinking we'll be struggling with the room for awhile. This is the plan so far:

Placed this neat little table on the wall where the chairs had been, took down the wall shelves on the two walls, and shifted the buffet, the red rug, and the dining room table to be more centered in the room. Right now we're thinking that the wall with the fish picture will get two shelves back up, but the wall with the flower picture won't. But maybe I should put the shelves on either side of that picture, too? I can't decide.
I love being able to put my extra chairs in the dining room, but I don't have fabric to recover those two cushions, so my search continues (plus, I loved the fabric I made the seat covers out of, but I'm not sure I love it in the room...I think it is too busy). It just isn't working for me. What do you think?

So, this is the second room my little idea messed up. Notice all the spackle? Because of our cats (remember this?), the shelves were extremely well-anchored into the walls and removing them left big holes. Poor Superman!

The Living Room/Den - Before and After

Okay, so this was the room that got us started. It is two steps down from the main level. I wanted to move this desk out of the room. (This picture is before the couch came into the room, but gives you a good idea how much desk we're talking about.)

As you can see, having the couch in the room with the desk really gave me no room. As the picture shows, the couch was literally butted up against the edge of the desk in order to give us any room at all.

Additionally, I was making the mistake of having the fireplace corner/television be the focal point of the room because I was intimidated by the diagonal wall. (I couldn't move the television, which is in place of the non-working fireplace insert, because this is where the grown-ups watch movies. Remember, we have no television at our house.)

Pulling the desk out of the room allowed us to put the two pieces of the sectional back together. We tucked them into the corner and brought the coffee table into position. We got rid of the rug I had needed to help create a seating area before. This is the view from behind the leather chair, as you walk in from the laundry room.

Then we still had tons of space to fill and had not yet created a conversation area, so we brought the leather chairs out of the dining room (weird, but we had no other place for them) and put them in the room as well. (Sorry for the bad light...the colors in the first "after" picture are closer to true...the throws are red and the pillows on the leather chairs are tan suede.) This is the view from the top of the steps.

We're really pleased with this room so far. What do you think? We'd like some different art on the wall above the couch, but aren't spending the money on it right now. Any ideas?

On Motivation...

I've been listening to Dr. Laura for years and years. Before her, I listened to Dr. Toni Grant. When did I do this listening? When I was lying on the beach getting a tan. Seriously. We only got AM at the beach and so I listened to talk radio; first with my mom, and later when I'd come to the beach by myself. If you don't listen to Dr. Laura, you've probably formed opinions based upon what you've heard about her, soundbites taken out of context, or some combination there of. Basically, she is a proponent of personal responsibility and the idea that if you've chosen to have a child, caring for them is your highest priority. Anyway, I don't get to listen to her much because I don't drive around much these days, but I do read her blog.

I thought you might like this...The Search for Motivation is a Hopeless Quest. What do you think?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

It all started with a simple idea...

Seriously. Then it grew and grew and grew.

Superman and I talk a lot about a lot of things during our vacations. This vacation was no different. One of the things we talked about was how I missed have an area in our house that was devoted to conversation, an area where work didn't get done. In our California house, our living room (not a formal room) served that function and it was a calm room. Here in this house, we didn't have such a room because the room that served as our living room also had a big desk in it. So, during our vacation, I mentioned to Superman that I'd love to get the desk out of the living room. He agreed (!) and we started talking about what we could do with the desk. "Hey, we could put in the family room (the macaroni and cheese room) and you could use it there!" That lead us to the questions of a) what we could do with the desk I was currently using for crafting, etc., in the family room and b) what would we do with the kids' desk. "I know! We can put my desk in Buttercup's room and take her old desk (two inexpensive bathroom vanities topped by a sheet of melamine) and bring them to the family room to be the kids' new desk." That still left the questions of how we would place the furniture in the family room, what we would put the television on, and how we'd arrange the living room without the desk. To make a very long 36 hours short, our final plan ended up requiring us to rethink and rearrange: The Living Room, The Dining Room, The Family Room, Charming's Room, Buttercup's Room, and Our Room. Oh, yeah, and Superman will be spackling and touching up paint in four of those rooms, too!

All because I said, "I'd really like to have a room that functions like our old living room functioned." Seriously, why can't I be quiet?

(Pictures to follow!)

Back From Vacation and Overwhelmed at Home!

Those of you who expected me back blogging on Monday did have your days right. We've been running since got home and all tell you I'll about it today and tomorrow. First though, let me tell you about our vacation. You might remember, we spent a week camping (but not roughing it!).

Well, it didn't go as we'd anticipated. This is what the weather was like as we drove into Idaho.

This is what the weather looked like as we drove into the campgrounds. (Superman even said bad words when he was trying to get us set up in the torrential downpour...it was really NOT fun.)

We did get some clear skies, however.

We were able to roast hot dogs and marshmallows.

The kids were able to play in the river.

But, by the end of the week of mostly rainy weather, despite my very best efforts, the trailer was a mess!

Thank goodness for 1) the trailer, 2) the awning on the trailer, and 3) that the picnic table fit under the awning of the trailer. We ate a lot of meals inside, but we ate a lot of meals outside under the awning. The kids had a ball and actually found things to do. Superman made it 2/3 of the way through Atlas Shrugged and is chomping at the bit to get back to uninterrupted reading. I read a ton of novels, and the kids GOT ALONG WITH EACH OTHER! Charming even drove up for Game Night on Saturday. How cool is that?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day

Well, the family is still camping and the kids and I are going to be taking Superman to McDonald's for breakfast on the way home from camping. (Then we'll take him out to dinner, but he doesn't know that!)
In the meantime, this is a Father's Day present to my dad...a picture of us, taken on our first Christmas together. For years I would talk about "when we got Daddy". Boy, was I lucky. Now that I'm older, I know that this was our first Christmas in our new house (we moved in three days before Christmas and Santa still came! A daddy, a new house, and Santa Claus...really what else does a little girl want?

Dad, from me to you, Happy Father's Day! I love you!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday Photo Flashback - Father's Day Edition

It is Friday Photo Flashback time. As always, I urge you to join Alicia and the rest of us as we pull photos out of photo albums (and from boxes!) to share our memories from the pre-digital age.

I'm still camping, but I didn't want to miss the party, so I found an extra special photo to share with you all. I hope you like it.

My photo this week is a Father's Day-themed photo. This is a picture of me, my baby brother, and my Dad. I was not-quite 7 and my brother looks to be about 4-6 months old (he was huge!) and my dad was so old...he was all of 27! Even though I was not his biological child, my dad has always loved me as if I were. Through "hiring" my bicycle seat to working on my first car to telling me he loved me when I really screwed up, my dad has always been there for me. No, he's not materially generous and he can be pretty gruff, but through thick and thin, he's always been there...having faith in me. Isn't that was dad's are supposed to do?

So, there you have it...my Friday Photo Flashback photo. Thanks for letting me walk down memory lane with you. It put a smile on my face, that is for sure.

Don't forget, if you want to see what everyone else is doing, head over to Alicia's at More Than Words...it is always fun.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Chocolate Crumb Bars

Late Sunday afternoon we were invited to an impromptu barbecue being held by some neighbors. Fun! Wait! We're loading up and getting ready to head out on a 7-day camping trip...I have nothing to bring to this barbecue. "No problem," my neighbor tells me, "Just bring a dessert!" Um, okay, but I have nothing in my refrigerator that isn't going camping because I knew I'd be gone for a week! Well, I ran to my cookbook/notebook and looked for a recipe that would use only things I had and could be ready in one hour and 15 minutes or less. I stumbled across a recipe for Chocolate Crumb Bars and, in so doing, lucked out!

This recipe is one of those Very Best Baking recipes that come to me via email from Nestle. If I see a recipe that piques my interest, I print it out and put it in my notebook to be made at a later date. Obviously, I kept overlooking this one because I printed it out on 4/28/2005 and have never tried it!

Chocolate Crumb Bars

1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) semi-sweet chocolate chips , divided
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk (I've started stocking this in my pantry-thank goodness!)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts, optional (obviously, I left these out)

PREHEAT oven to 350° F. Grease a 13 x 9-inch baking pan.

BEAT butter in a large mixing bowl until creamy. Beat in flour, sugar and salt until crumbly. With floured fingers, press 2 cups crumb mixture onto bottom of prepared baking pan; reserve remaining mixture. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are golden brown.

COMBINE 1 cup chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk in a small, heavy-duty saucepan. Warm over low heat, stirring until smooth. Stir in vanilla extract. Spread over hot crust.

STIR nuts and remaining chocolate chips into reserved crumb mixture; sprinkle over chocolate filling. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until center is set. Cool in pan on wire rack.

Cut and serve like brownies.

Well, I whipped them up quickly and had them at the neighbors right on time. We had a terrific time and it was fun start to our vacation. Plus, I discovered a new recipe that I liked! A win-win all around.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Cleaning with the help of your digital camera...

I know many of you are participating in Momstheword's Summer Cleaning Frenzy and, while I'm not joining the frenzy, I still wanted to come to the party, so I thought I'd share one of my favorite tips with you.

How many times have you had this conversation with your children?

You say, "Honey, go clean your room please."

Child says, "I did it already."

You say, "Okay, you know I'm going to check it, right? You're sure you cleaned it up, right?"

Child says, "Yes, Mommy, it is cleaned up."

You check and it is not cleaned up. They insist they didn't see all of those things that are glaringly obvious to you. You get frustrated, they get frustrated and it never seems to change.

Did you know you can use your digital camera to help end the constant battles about "cleaning your room"? Seriously. Think about it, photos show everything! They show that you didn't vacuum when you got that awesome picture of cat doing some weird thing, or the group of kids being goofy; they show that you hadn't cleaned your counters off before carving pumpkins...basically, everything you skim over shows up in pictures. So, why not use that? That is exactly what I decided to do.

After battling for the umpteenth time with my children regarding what constitutes a clean room, it occurred to me that they just didn't see their rooms with a critical eye, so when they would tell me they'd cleaned it up, they truly meant it. They didn't see the stuff they left out, because their rooms are filled with things they love, have un-finished activities, piles of stuff waiting for them to come play with. How could I get them to see the things I was seeing, without coming in and nitpicking and bullying to get the job done? (Here is where the inspiration comes in!) Thinking of how often I'd seen "clutter" ruin otherwise good pictures, the next time they insisted their rooms were clean, I had them take pictures of each of their rooms and we put them up on the monitor. Shazam! It worked like magic...in a picture on the monitor, they could see their rooms the way parents do, the way their friends do, and realized that what they saw and what we all saw was completely different. All the little stuff they would leave on the floor when I asked them clean up was clearly evident in the photos. They didn't need me to say anything. They could see it for themselves. They were actually eager to clean their rooms to match their internal visions and were very eager to do before and afters. When they were done, we took more pictures and they got to compare the before and after and really "got" it.

I am not certain you can clearly see in the before and after of Valiant's room, but the floor is clean in the after, the bed is made deliberately, and the clutter has been disposed of.

So, use your camera to help you get things cleaned up. You can also use my favorite trick for decorating. Take a picture to see if you like the decor or furniture arrangement in the picture. What you might describe as homey could, in real life, turn out to be just plan messy. Conversely, what you might think is not enough might turn out to be just right! And furniture arrangement that has you stymied might become clear in a photo. (The third picture? That was after I decided the room would flow better if I switched the dresser and the desk. I was right...it feels much bigger now. Oh, and it has his new duvet cover!)

The greatest thing about this trick? You don't have to print the pictures...when you're done...hit "delete"!

Happy Birthday, Nana!

Today is Nana's birthday!

Happy Birthday, Nana!

"Nana" married my dad 21 years ago this summer and she took on more than she realized when she signed up for this. Post-divorce families are no piece of cake. (This is a big deal, because her own family has its own share of drama.) Because we were older when she married my dad, she didn't try to be "mom"...instead, she made a unique place for herself in our family. She keeps my dad happy and keeps our family connected. She softens his gruffness and mellows his crankiness and keeps their household running smoothly. She manages my dad and he's happier for it. She makes sure birthday cards make it into the mail and makes sure my dad knows how old we all are. She tries to help without taking over. (She even helped me pick out my wedding dress 20 years ago--it really was gorgeous.) I'm sure she doesn't realize how much we appreciate all she does, but the truth is, she's helped us through the rough spots.

So, please help me wish "Nana" a happy birthday! Leave her a comment and I'll be sure she sees it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Stay At Home Mom Contract...

My friend, the author of Generation's Gone By, wrote a Stay At Home Mom Contract back in 2006. She reposted it a few days ago and I had the privilege of reading it. Even though it is now three years old, it is still totally relevant and she told me I could share it with you here. It impressed me so much. Please head over to her blog and let her know what you think of it.

The Stay at Home Mom Contract with her Family by Generations Gone By.

1.) I will only work an 8 hour day. If that means I have to take a 2 hour nap with my 2 year old every afternoon, so be it. My day will not start before I have had my morning caffeine. Don’t wake me up to get it!

2.) I will take a one hour lunch break. If this means that I sit and read my email for 50 minutes and the gobble down the hot dogs left on my children’s plates, so be it.

3.) I will take a one hour break each day to exercise (no, vacuuming is NOT exercise). This makes me happy and healthy.

4.) I will not work on housework after 5:00 p.m. Anything I do for or with my family after that time is done as MOM, not as a working stay at home mom, and is not considered work. (I will remind myself of that daily)

5.) I will take vacation days. This means that 10 days a year, I will NOT clean house, do laundry, run carpool, or feel obligated to pick up your dirty clothes. (I pick the ten days)

6.) I also get Christmas day, New Years day, my birthday, Mother’s day, Valentines day, Easter, and the first day of school OFF. This means that I don’t do laundry, vacuum, dust, mop, make beds, (and if I so desire-cook) on these days. This is in addition to my 10 days off a year.

7.) From this day forward, I will NOT consider Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Band, Cheerleading, Baseball, etc. part of my job description. These will be fun things I do just for my family. And I can choose to not attend with no guilt if it is one of my off days.

8.) I will no longer be required to cook 5 different meals for 5 different people. Anyone over the age of 5, who does not like what I cook for dinner, may feel free to cook for themselves. I will announce the meal plans one hour prior to eating and anyone who doesn’t like it, can make their way to the kitchen at that time. If more than 20% of the family does not like what I am cooking, they can fix mine too.

9.) I will no longer be required as part of my job description to be a martyr. If you want me to feel bad because you got an F on a project, because you didn’t tell me until 2:00 am on the day it was due that you needed poster board, you are barking up the wrong tree. This mom will not feel guilty about things that are not her fault.

10.) I will not work weekends. Saturday are my fun days to be with my family and I will not clean on those days unless I want to (I probably won’t want to). I will cook meals if #8 above is obeyed. Sunday is the Lord’s day and I will dedicate myself to a day of rest and restoration of my soul. This means that I will not feel obligated to settle argument between siblings. Go see your dad.

11.) I will from this day forward only feel obligated to transport children who understand that my car is not a toy box, nor a garbage can. You do not have to have a toy in hand to ride in a car, nor do you have to throw your hamburger wrappers in the floorboard, for the hamburger to taste good. When you get out of my car, take that which belongs to you with you. After 24 hours, anything left in my car becomes my property and I can throw it away without guilt. Yes, this means your gameboy.

12.) Children over the age of 5 will be expected to keep their own rooms clean. This means YOU!. No, my job as stay at home mom is not to keep your room clean, it is to teach you to keep your room clean. While we are on it, the Bible says “Raise a child up in the way he should go.” It does NOT say wait on a child hand and foot until his/her 18th birthday.

13.) Once a child reaches the age of 10, I am no longer obligated to throw HUGE expensive birthday bashes and invite all their friends. I will discreetly put $100 into your savings account to be spent however you want and I will take you and one friend out to dinner at the restaurant of your choice- even if it is Chucky Cheese. Cake and ice cream will be provided, and I may even buy you a nice gift.

14.) Any child who irritates me in the car will be given a chore to do once he/she gets home. If you don’t want to irritate me, sit quietly and keep your hands to yourself.

15.) All children must go to their rooms at 8:00 pm and preferably to bed. This is Mom and Dad time, and NO ONE may interrupt. I don’t care if mom is in her bed watching TV and dad is in his office playing Tomb Raider. This is our time, let us decide how to use it.

16.) I will no longer be required to drive anyone anywhere as part of my job description. If I choose to do so, I will, but if not, especially if it is during my free time, you will have to look elsewhere for transportation. Did I mention that Dad owns a car? If you want to improve your chances of me saying yes, ask at least 48 hours in advance. And see #11 and #14 above.

17.) I will not consider spending intimate time with my husband as part of my job description. That time is for fun and can be done on my vacation days as well as normal work days.

18.) I will not feel guilty about anything anymore. My children are healthy, happy, well loved, well clothed, and are doing well in school. This means that I don’t feel that I have to serve homemade cookies at parties, make Halloween costumes, or have a perfect house. It just means I can enjoy my family, because they are enjoyable to be with.

19.) I will only agree to do things I feel called of God to do. This includes PTO, Girl Scouts, field trips, etc. If I don’t feel led to do these things, I will not agree just because that is what stay at home moms do. When I do, I feel guilty and then I don’t enjoy them. From this day forward, I will learn to say No and say it often.

20.) I will love each of you equally and with all my heart. You are a wonderful family and I am proud to call you my own.

Now I don't know about you, but I've been doing this a long time and I still found things I needed to work on in this contract. Number 15 needs to be implemented in this house. It is counter-intuitive, but parent time seems to diminish as your children get older. I need to fix this.

So, take her wisdom, apply it to your own life, and see what you can come up with. This is one contract we should all sign. (And don't forget to tell my friend at Generations Gone By
what you think...I think she was pretty nice to let me repost this for you.)

Family Portrait!

Stick Figure Family at FreeFlashToys.com
Make your Stick Figure Family at FreeFlashToys.com

Okay, is this too cute or what? Generations Gone By had this posted last week (her family is equally as gorgeous) and I immediately stopped doing anything productive to go create our stick figure family. Aren't we a handsome family?

Head over here and create yours for free...you'll be glad you wasted the time!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Carrot Cake for Game Night...

With dark grey clouds going by all day and the temperature hovering near 90, it was sticky here Saturday--the house hit 84 at 3:00 p.m. I even made Superman's day and kicked on the air-conditioner, figuring I won't be able to get the house cooled down by Game Night without a little intervention. Since the air was on, baking for Game Night wasn't a big deal, even though I should have done it first thing in the morning. So, what did I decide to make? Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting!

I had some baby carrots that were getting old and I decided soup wasn't going to happen any time soon, so Carrot Cake it is! I found this recipe sometime last year at Everyday Food Storage and think it is fabulous. It is quick and easy and has always turned out well...I like that in a recipe.

Carrot Cake
from Everyday Food Storage
350 for 40-50 minutes

Ingredients and Directions for Cake:

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9 x 13 pan.

In mixer or with a hand mixer, combine:
2 C. Sugar
1 1/2 C. Vegetable Oil (or applesauce)
4 Eggs beaten

In a separate bowl combine and add to above:
2 C. Flour
2 t. Baking Soda
1/4 t. Salt
2 t. Cinnamon

Fold in:
2-4 Cups finely grated carrots (I used 4 cups this time...you can definitely see them in the cake.)
3/4 C. broken nuts (optional) (ick!)

Bake at 350 for 40-50 minutes, till it pulls away from sides of pan. (Set the timer for 40 minutes...mine is always done in 40 minutes.)

BEST EVER Cream Cheese Frosting

1/2 C. (1 stick) Unsalted Butter, softened (I always have salted on hand, so that is what I use.)
4 oz. Cream Cheese, softened
2 C. Powdered Sugar (confectioners' sugar)
1 t. Vanilla Extract (Oh, please--1 T is so much better!)

Combine all and mix until smooth and creamy. Spread on cooled cake--serve. Refrigerate any uneaten portions--yeah, like that will happen. (Remember, this is cream cheese frosting.)

Everyday Food Storage uses recipes from food storage ingredients. The recipes they feature are very forgiving and very adaptable. I like recipes like this that use items from my pantry rather than specialty items. Chances are that if I have the ingredients on hand, I'm more apt to try a new recipe...I just tend to stay away from the exotic because it is just not practical for me to keep the ingredients on hand.

P.S. Don't forget I'm camping this week. If you have questions, the earliest I'll see them is Thursday, but I will answer them...I promise.

Making Your Home Sing Monday - Camping Edition

Making Your Home Sing Monday for us this week is all about taking our trailer out after a long winter's nap. We winterized it in late September and the cover came off in April, but that was it!

By the time some of you will be reading this, I will have pulled out of my driveway and hit the road for our long-awaited and much-anticipated first camping trip of the season. Sunday we plugged in and cooled the refrigerator and freezer, put the sheets on the beds, cleaned the little bathroom, wiped down all the surfaces and mopped the floors. Then we loaded up the pantry and refrigerator, put clothes in the bathroom (the shower is tiny, we use it for our clothes!), make sure we have band-aids, bug spray, Benadryl, first-aid ointment, sunscreen, etc. The great thing about using a trailer is I don't have to worry about packing a cooler and managing food in such a ways as to prevent spoilage. Once you get a rhythm and know how your family will use it, it makes these trips fun for even the mom!

Today, I need to run to Walmart to get marshmallows and chocolate bars (s'mores, anyone?), as well as milk and eggs. I froze two loaves of bread at the end of last week, so that's covered. The last thing in the car? The hamster. Yes, I'm serious...I'll tell you about it later in the week, but please know that we are the only people I know who camp with their hamster...sigh.

But what about our real home? What will be going on here? Well, Charming isn't enamored of camping and, at 18, he's opting to stay home. That means I don't have to worry about who will care for the garden and the menagerie, who will pick up the mail and the newspaper, and all the other worries that come with leaving your home for any period of time. I've changed the sheets, vacuumed and dusted, and cleaned the bathrooms. I love coming home to a clean house and I told Charming that is what I'd better walk into when I come home. (I actually said, "Keep the chaos contained to your room, please. If that fails, please know I'm stopping in on Thursday and I'm home for real on Sunday, so prepare accordingly!") He's excited to have the entire house to himself and I'm leaving with fewer concerns on my mind knowing he's watching out for things. Now, I just hope he remembers to water everything that needs manual watering and feed everything that depends upon us for food.

Finally, what about my blog? Don't worry, I've got you covered. I'm posting a terrific recipe from Game Night and I've got a little tip tomorrow for those of you who are joining in with Nan's Summer Cleaning Frenzy (and those who aren't, too!). The kids and I have done a cute Father's Day present that I'll post this week (so Superman can't see it!) and other fun things to share...I don't want you to miss me too much. Actually, I'll be popping in on Thursday because we're driving back into to town to witness and celebrate Mrs. M's college graduation. We wouldn't miss it for the world.

In the meantime, head on over to Momstheword and see who else is joining in with Nan's Making Your Home Sing Monday party this week. This week, Nan is talking about managing your own expectations for your home life. Norman Rockwell pictures were just that: a picture...a moment in time captured. No life is always that way and trying to make yours that way just leads to frustration. Someone once told me we must have unhappiness so that we can recognize happiness when we're blessed to have it. That is so true. Head over to Momstheword to hear what she has to say to help you manage your own expectations. It is just so important.

Oh, yeah, what are we singing this week? 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall, of course! (Pretty funny, when you think about it...we don't drink!)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Food for Thought...

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

-- Plato

Photo:"Road to Bliss" MACAA - 2008

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Homemade Corn Dogs? Who Knew?

Yes, you read that correctly: Homemade Corn Dogs made by me! I was so surprised at how easy it was...seriously, if you have family that loves corn dogs, you need to try these. For my first try, I wasn't quite Hot Dog on a Stick, but everyone was thrilled and said I need to keep making them. I used this recipe from Hillbilly Housewife and I did use the trick of pouring the batter into a glass jar rather than trying drag the hot dogs through a bowl.

Seriously, it was the easiest thing ever. One batch made all these corn dogs!

Hillbilly Housewife's Corn Dogs*
Makes 12-14 corn dogs...click here for her website.
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/3 cups corn meal
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1 to 1-1/2 pounds hot dogs
  • flour for dusting (about 1/2 cup)
  • Hot Fat for Deep Frying
  • Popscicle sticks
In a large bowl combine the milk, eggs, oil, sugar and salt. Mix it very well. Sprinkle in the baking powder, corn meal and flour. Stir it all up to make a slightly thick batter.

Take your hot dogs and dry them off on paper towels. Dust the hot dogs with flour, coating them completely. The cornmeal batter won't stick to the hot dogs unless they are coated in flour. The batter just slides right off of the wieners naturally slick outsides. Shove popscicle sticks into the flour coated hot dogs. Set the hot dogs aside.

While all of this is going on, it's a good idea to get your hot fat to heating up. You want the temperature to be about 375. Allow the fat to preheat so it is almost smoking by the time you are ready to add the corn dogs.

Now, to coat the floured hot dogs with batter you have two choices. You can swirl the hot dogs in the bowl of batter until they are coated, and then drop them into the hot fat. If this is a little difficult I know of an easier way. Scoop some of your corn meal batter into a narrow jar or cup which is as tall as your hot dogs are long. Fill the jar or cup about 3/4 of the way full. Dip your hot dog into the batter while you hold onto the stick. Swirl the hot dog to coat it evenly. Be careful or the batter will overflow. Raise the wiener above the cup and let any excess batter drip off. Quickly place the battered dog into the hot fat. The fat will bubble up and cook the outside of the batter, making the corndogs the exact same shape as the ones you buy at the store.

Only fry a few corn dogs at a time. If the corn dogs crowd each other they don't fry very well. I only fry 2 or 3 at a time. Turn the corn dogs when the bottom side is well browned. Use tongs to remove the cooked corn dogs from the fat. Allow them to drain on paper towels. Repeat the process, coating and frying a few at a time, until all of the corn dogs are cooked. Refill the narrow jar or cup with batter from your bowl as necessary. Continue until all the hot dogs are coated or until you no longer have enough batter to coat the hot dogs efficiently.

If you don't want to waste any unused batter, it can be dropped by small spoonfuls into the hot fat, and fried until brown. Serve these along side the corn dogs.

If desired, you can make small corn dogs by cutting hot dogs into thirds, or quarters. Poke a toothpick up into the end of the hot dogs. Coat and fry them as described above. These are nice for fancy days, and for kids parties. Provide plenty of ketchup and mustard for dipping.

This recipe makes about 12 to 14 corn dogs.

*(I know some of my friends are just now getting the hang of reading blogs, so I've posted the entire recipe and Hillbilly Housewife's superb directions in their entirety above. Just remember, this is not my recipe...I'm just sharing a treasure I found!)

So, there you have it...how to make homemade corn dogs. I say again, "Who knew?"

Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday Photo Flashback

It is that time again. Friday Photo Flashback.

The time when we dig through old boxes of photos from the pre-digital era (aka The Dark Ages) and share certain choice photos with friends and family and perfect strangers. How fun is that? Obviously, I think it is pretty fun, because here I am, doing it again!

This party is hosted by Alicia at More than Words and I hope you'll head on over to see what everyone has pulled out of their photo boxes to share with us all.

As for me, this is a picture of me the summer following high school graduation as I pose with my first love: my first car! I loved that car...it was so cheerful, fun, and fast (sorry, Dad! I know you adjusted the throttle so I couldn't go too fast, but still, I had to push it.)...it took me to the beach, to flirt with boys, and to work and school. That car was freedom. I don't think I can overstate how much I loved that car.

The other things that caught my eye when I looked at this picture? Man, I was tan...really, really tan. Wow, I guess I've always liked long skirts (look, that was LONG for 1981). Oh, yeah, and I thought I was super fat back then...I wish I could go back to her and convince her she wasn't fat...sigh. Finally, I'm barefoot. I was always barefoot. My mom and I used to get in arguments because she'd tell me that I couldn't drive barefoot (I did...I just put shoes in the car in case I saw her before I got out!).

So, that is what I'm sharing with you today...a picture of my first love.

Don't forget to head over to Alicia's to see what everyone else is sharing...it will put a smile on your face - I promise!

Friday Delight - Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies with Chocolate Filling

I found this amazing recipe from Bunny's Warm Oven and have been counting the days to Thursday so I could make it for Friday Delight. Superman's team is in for a treat this time, that is for sure. This recipe was so easy, I couldn't believe it. Even if you decide to forgo the chocolate filling, these make fabulous stand-alone peanut butter cookies and they're flourless.

So, from Bunny's Warm Oven to yours, these are definitely worth trying!

Flourless Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies
Fine Cooking (sourced by Bunny's Warm Oven)


2-1/2 cups smooth peanut butter, at room temperature
1-1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
2 large eggs
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

For the chocolate filling:

10 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)
4 oz. (8 Tbs.) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

Substitute semisweet chocolate for the bittersweet in the filling for a sweeter kick.

Make the cookies:

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350ºF. Line four cookie sheets with parchment or nonstick baking liners.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer), beat the peanut butter, brown sugar, and baking soda on medium speed until well blended, about 1 minute. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix on low speed until just blended, about 25 seconds.

Shape level tablespoonfuls of the dough into balls about 1 inch in diameter. Arrange the balls 1-1/2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Do not press down. Bake one sheet at a time until the cookies are puffed and crackled but still moist-looking, about 11 minutes. Transfer the cookie sheet to a rack to cool about 10 minutes. Using a spatula, move the cookies to the rack and let cool completely. Repeat with the remaining cookies.

Make the filling:

Melt the chocolate and the butter in the microwave or in a medium heatproof bowl set in a skillet with 1 inch of barely simmering water, stirring with a rubber spatula until smooth. Remove from the heat and set aside until cool and slightly thickened, 20 to 30 minutes.
Assemble the sandwiches:

Turn half of the cooled cookies over so they are flat side up. Spoon 2 tsp. of the chocolate filling onto the center of each cookie. Top with the remaining cookies, flat side down. Press gently on each cookie to spread the filling almost to the edge. Set on the rack until the filling is firm, 20 to 30 minutes.

Erin's Notes: These cookies don't spread much, so you can place them relatively close together on the cookie sheet. I used my handy-dandy Pampered Chef scooper and didn't smoosh the cookies down at all. Next time, I would smoosh them just a little. All in all, these were a quick and easy cookie that yields a worthwhile dessert treat that gives you credit for working harder than you did!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Just in case you thought I was the only one...

...to attempt creative things in this house, look at what Buttercup made! Isn't it adorable...the legs actually move because of the rivets (thanks, A, I really need to return your tool...I never did the project I was originally thinking of, but it came in really handy today!).

We saw these at Design Sponge (Aunt Katie aka loveaphid brought them to my attention) and I thought they would be fun for Buttercup to tackle. She did this completely on her own, with the exception of attaching the legs...that was difficult. This first one was with cardboard that was a little to thick, but now we have some that is cereal box-thick, so she's eager to do another one.

Head of to Design Sponge for step-by-step instructions and a free pattern to download and to see her wall of horses...it is a stampede!

Making Breakfast...

One of the side-effects of me joining the gym with Superman and working out with him at dark o'clock is that I am making breakfast for everyone before Superman leaves for work. This is a huge departure for this family. While Buttercup isn't sure she likes waking up for breakfast, Valiant is an early bird like his father and he's loving it. Charming is willing to make the sacrifice as he's discovered the realities of fending for yourself.

Yesterday, I made pancakes from scratch. Now, you have to understand something. Six years ago, when a friend of mine mentioned that she had nothing in her refrigerator so she pulled out the flour and made pancakes, I had her rolling on the flour when I inquired how one could make pancakes without pancake mix. Sadly, I was completely serious and that, my bloggy friends, was the beginning of my journey. I had to learn how to cook, if for no other reason than to spare my children the embarrassment of making such a faux pas. I've come a long way since then, but every time I think of pancakes, I am reminded of how little I knew.

So, in case one of you out there doesn't know, this is how I make pancakes these days (although I'm dying to try a new recipe for buttermilk pancakes I saw on Hatch...I have no loyalty to my recipes!).

Erin's Pancakes
adapted from a recipe Karen gave me
Makes 6 - 8 pancakes
(When Charming is home, I triple this recipe. When it is just the two little ones and me, I leave it alone.)

1 egg
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1 cup milk (for thicker batter, use less milk)
1 T. sugar
2 T. vegetable oil
1 T. vanilla
1 T. cooking oil
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

Combine all. Cook on heated, lightly greased griddle. (I heat my electric griddle to 350.) Serve warm.

I use a squirt bottle to pour out my dough...it is easy to regulate the flow of the batter and it keeps in the refrigerator overnight. Any extra pancakes I have left over, I put on wax paper on a cookie sheet, then I freeze them, then I put them in a plastic bag and store them in the freezer. The kids can pull them out and microwave them for a quick breakfast.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Is it normal...

...that my daughter is the best burper in the family?

...that my children were cheerfully singing a version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in June that included this line: "Rudolph, with your nose so bright, I'll mount you on my wall tonight..."?

...that my oldest son ate 14 pancakes at breakfast...and he counted them?

...that the more I go to the gym, the more I want to bake?

...that I like Nacho Cheese Doritos in my tuna sandwich?

...that the comments of some blog readers provide clarity that I don't get from people standing right in front of me?

...that I don't miss working at all? (I do miss going to lunch and dressing up every day.)

...that I need the reality of leaving the house to keep me getting up at a certain time everyday, even though I know my day is so much better if I just get up?

...that I'd much rather read a book than watch television or a movie?

...that I can't play video games?

Work in Progress Wednesday...

It has been a few weeks since I've updated you, so I thought I'd share a little bit of what I've been working on these days.

Remember this? I asked you all for some advice because I was stalled. (You'd think after boldly painting my room macaroni & cheese orange that I'd be able to go from there, but it just didn't work out that way.)

I took all of your comments and advice and bought all of this fabric to make pillows for this room. So, I ended up with the citrus-y colors. They seem to go best with the fun theme I'm working towards. Do you like the colors I picked based on your recommendations?

I think these will make awesome pillows and tie everything together without being too much. (I love the floral on the brown background so much, if I'd found it earlier, it would have become my dining room chair covers!)

A few months ago, I saw these at a super-clearance table at Lowe's...they were two dollars and I was sure I could find a use for them, so I bought two. So, what do you think of my blow-dryer caddy?

(Yes, I might have gotten rid of the hot rollers of yesteryear, but I still blow dry almost every day! That piece of equipment needs to stay handy.)

Now I just need to figure out what to do with my 'extra' one...any ideas?

Finally, I did turn the ruined pajama pants into pajama capris and, at the same time, cut the sleeves off a long-sleeved shirt so that Buttercup can wear it this summer...according to her, it is "...even cuter now, Mom! Thanks!"

Really, what more can I ask? She's thrilled with the few things I've learned to sew for her and, so far, she's liked the modifications I've made to turn winter shirts into summer shirts. (Remember the tank tops? They've turned out to be favorites.) Phew...I'm pleased at how willing everyone is to be my guinea pigs as I learn a new skill.

So, what have you been doing this week?