Wednesday, March 31, 2010

On Simplifying...

One of the things I like to do as I work to simplify our lives is to read the blogs of like-minded people, no matter where they are in the simplification journey. I love to read about the triumphs and the stumbling blocks along the way. More than that, it keeps me inspired to know I'm not the only one questioning the way we live and making the deliberate decision to swim against the current.

To that end, there are some blogs that really make me thing. Rowdy Kittens is one of them. This blog is written by a young married couple, Tammy and Logan, who have recently moved to Portland and have simplified their lives down to the point of being able to count their belongings. They have made very deliberate choices to get them off the merry-go-round of modern life.

A few months ago, they wrote a post about their move to Portland and their appreciation for the help they received moving. They talked candidly about their dependence on others to accomplish this move. It caused me to pause. Since their lives are so different than mine, their post(s) have caused me to have some fundamental questions about simplification, the goals of simplification, and quality of life issues. Their decision to live without a car required them to use their parents' truck, as well as the vehicles of others, to make this move. That caused me to ask, "Does simplifying create of dependency?" and, "If you have nothing, how do you contribute meaningfully to society?" Fortunately, when I posed those questions to Rowdy Kittens, they didn't take offense, as I meant none. I am truly trying to figure this all out.

Please read the original post at Rowdy Kitten and let me know your thoughts.

This was my comment to their original post.

I love that you feel gratitude for the help you’ve gotten along the way and I agree that it is the secret to successfully designing your life. I have a questions, that is not meant to sound disrespectful in any way, it is truly a sincere question. If everyone has a life of minimalism, then how would you move? I am struggling with creating an acceptable level of simplicity for myself and my almost grown children, so I recognize that I’m at a completely different place in life, but it seems to me that you’ve designed a life in which you depend on others to have the resources you don’t care to care for yourself. Does that make sense? As parents, I wonder how difficult it would be if our children couldn’t count on us. I’m not sure I’m communicating my dilemma, but it seems to me that the minimalism practiced by some requires access to the belongings of others who have made the decision to own and care for more.

Tammy responded:

@Erin – I think I understand your dilemma and you are right to a certain extent. For me the whole point of minimalism and/or small living means seeking out community. For example, I don’t own a car. So if I need one I either rent a vehicle or ask friends/family for help. If I ask my community for help, then I can repay them with kindness at a later date. (Like making them a yummy dinner, sending them on a trip, etc.)

For me I think it’s about the larger questions of how we’ve structured our society. There is a notion that you have to do everything yourself and I think that’s wrong. It leads to isolation and the overuse of resources.

Why can’t we share resources within families and our larger community? Does everyone truly “need” a car? Or a 5 bedroom home? I think the answer is no. We need community too truly connect with. We need to build meaningful relationships with friend and family members. We don’t need more stuff or cars.

If everyone lived a life a minimalism, then I would envision more “sharing” services, like zipcar. And the creation of additional community car-sharing programs, investments in public transit, etc.

As a side note, you can always move by bike. :)

Does that help? :)

Logan responded:

Hi Erin N.,

Its definitely a paradigm shift to transition to a minimalist lifestyle. We used to have your same fears until we watched a video interview of Dee Williams where she mentioned that by living with less she was able to contribute more. More money, more time with family, and more community volunteering. Everyone’s level of enough is different, however our hope is our friends won’t discount us due to our lack of possessions. Necessity always brings invention and our goal is to contribute to community, and barter for needs and services in alternative forms. The last thing we want to do is mooch off of folks with more stuff and fail to show reciprocity and gratitude. :)

First off, I am so grateful to Tammy and Logan for taking the time to answer my questions. I have been thinking of this dialogue ever since we initially had it. I've bored my friends and family with discussions about this topic until I think they're ready to throttle me. The conclusion of the 40-ish-year old group that makes up my peers is that a life led consciously ends up with all of us owning and sharing different resources and contributing various strengths to our community. Deliberately creating a life where your major contributions are cerebral might have value, but will still eventually require material contribution .

So, what do you think? Is this what simplifying is all about? Do I not understand? Is it possible to successfully have a large community where all the resources are jointly owned? Am I insane for spending so much time thinking about this? What are your thoughts?

P.S. Tammy just wrote an amazing post on the art of saying "no". You should head over and read it.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dropping the Boy Off At School...

Obviously, someone has a sense of humor, as this is the sign that greeted us upon our return back to Charming's dorms.

The kids helped their big brother carry his stuff back up to the dorms. (You don't want to know what Buttercup said about the dorms...truly. It is a bunch of boys living together.)

See you later, Charming...have fun these last six weeks!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Making Your Home Sing Monday - Unplugged

It is Making Your Home Sing Monday and our home has been humming right along. Nothing has changed. This past week, we enjoyed having Charming home from college for his spring break. It was really nice. We also celebrated Buttercup's 11th birthday. Now, this week the neighborhood kids have spring break and my home-schooled children have spring break right along with them. I'm taking this time to breathe. Seriously...just breathe.

How does this relate to Making Your Home Sing? We've deliberately unplugging. I'm like MTV, just not as cool! Seriously. Have you noticed that the frequency of my posts has declined? (Oh, please say you have!) Well, anyway, even if you haven't noticed that I'm posting less, I have been posting less. I'm spending more time sewing and taking care of the greenhouse/garden. Getting up and getting out.

So, what have we been doing instead of sitting in front of the computer/game system/television? Well, last weekend we had the opportunity to volunteer on a home improvement project for someone who really needed help. (You can go here if you want to see more about that.)

Saturday evening, we started Game Night up again. I missed it, the kids missed it and craft night was too chaotic. It was fun.

Yesterday, we did quite bit of yard work, getting the backyard ready for spring. (Valiant even mowed the back lawn.)

And today we invited a group of our homeschooling friends to our home for lunch and for play. The kids played outside for a while and then, yes, the kids did play Rock Band, but they played together. (We were hoping for a weenie roast and s'mores, but the weather foiled our plans.) The kids had a ball, the moms enjoyed the time to chat, and before anyone realized it, 1 o'clock became 5:45 p.m.

And that, my friends, is how we're making our home sing. We're trying to give more of ourselves and worry less about things. We're trying to interact in real life rather than living a life full of parallel play with one child on a computer, one child on a game system, and me watching a documentary, reading a blog, or whatever. Tra la la...that is our song!

Have a happy week...I know I will.

Head over to Momstheword to see what everyone else is doing to Make Singing Homes!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Friday Photo Flashback (Okay, not really)

Does it count as a flashback if it was from Thursday? No, I didn't think so, but I wanted to share some pictures from Buttercup's little birthday celebration, so I will!

She didn't want a cake, so this is our not-really-a-cake cake including the silly bear candle holders Aunt Katie sent.

This is my girl with her best friends from the neighborhood, M and L...aren't they all just the cutest?

So, I know I cheated, but hey, I can do that! Head over to More Than Words so see what everyone else came up with for this week's Friday Photo Flashback. I can assure you than most people went a little farther back than Thursday!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Shoot Me! 12 of 52...

Late posting, but for a good reason! Yesterday was Buttercup's 11th birthday and I was busy with her...glad to know I am getting better at leaving the technology alone and living my life. I did not neglect my Shoot Me post this week, however...

This is the view from my dad's new back yard. We've been heading over to his property to help with the various things he needs done before he arrives and Wednesday was so beautiful, I actually thought to bring my camera as well as the kids and the dogs.
This is me with the view behind me. If you look carefully, you can see Daisy in the right lense of my sunglasses and Lucy and Buttercup in the left.

How is this for homeschooling? Valiant was cheerfully doing his math workbook in the gazebo. I guess the world really is our classroom.

Finally, me with the kids...this was the best of the three shots we took...all of us cut off somehow.

There you have it...week 12 is put to bed! Yay, me! Head over to Carin's place and see what everyone else was doing this week. It is always a fun time.

Shoot Me! It's time to stop hiding behind that camera of yours. Your family is missing you in the picture. So it's time to post a picture of YOU (yes, you) every Thursday with your child, your spouse, your friend, your dog, or even by yourself. Just get in the picture, you'll be glad you did! And just jump in now with 1 of 52, you can do it!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Tails of Mickey, Miss Mous-elline, and Sam-I-Am

(or "Buttercup Has a Huge Heart)

Have I told you we've had construction going on near our house since September? I don't think so. Did I mention that the neighbors have spent the last two weeks ripping out huge bushes that filled their backyard? No, haven't talked about that, either. Honestly, I haven't put a lot of thought into them. (Okay, that is a partial fib...the neighborhood did try to stop the construction of eight four-story apartment buildings, but that is a different story.) Anyway, on to my tale...or maybe I should say, "tail".

(The Mighty Hunter at rest)

On Saturday (yes, the same Saturday of the trailer/automobile drama), Sam-I-Am became fascinated with the refrigerator. Seriously enthralled. Now, don't get me wrong, I really love my keeps my food cold and provides us with ice on demand, but we've had this refrigerator seven years, so I probably take it for granted. Sam, on the other hand, planted himself in front of the refrigerator and watched it...all day. Uh oh, I thought to myself, I'll bet there is a spring mouse under the refrigerator. No mouse appeared and life went on. Sam kept watch all through the day and into the evening. We just stepped around him.

In wee hours of the morning, I was awakened by the plaintiff meowing of Sam. "Look at my toy! Look at what I am sharing with you!", he mewed. It was 4 a.m. and I didn't care...I just raised my head and praised him, and thought I'd go back to sleep. Alas, it was not to be. Buttercup was awakened by Sam's boasting and went over to look at his catch, WHICH WAS ALIVE! Yes, the mouse, which Buttercup named "Mickey" was alive and quickly ran into Buttercup's bedroom...somewhere. I told her we'd deal with it in the morning. (People, it was four o'clock in the morning! ) Morning came and I fully expected that Sam would have found Mickey and dispatched him to mousy heaven. It didn't happen that way...Buttercup found him, Sam tried to help her catch him, she said, "No" and Mickey lived through the day somewhere in her room.

Sunday night...3 a.m...Sam is fascinated with my closet. Either he's discovered a love of fashion, or he's found Mickey. Crash, bang, skid, slam...

(to be continued...)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


How do you handle stress? What about unexpected mishaps? Do you rant and rave? Do you throw things or slam things down? Or, are you like me? I retreat inside myself even as I work through whatever it is. I spend time in my head and find it difficult to balance all the demands on my energy. The past few days have been stressful for me and I just couldn't blog...I was too busy trying to make things even out and regain my equilibrium. I'm finally getting there and thought I'd share a bit of my weekend with you.

Charming called me Thursday and let me know, "Ooops! Spring Break begins on Saturday and my plans fell through, so you need to come get me." Um, okay. (Don't get me wrong, I was happy to have Charming come home, but I wasn't prepared.) Charming values his independence since he's been away at college and our decision to let him stay in the trailer over Christmas break made for a wonderfully relaxed time for us all. The problem? The trailer wasn't ready! After Charming headed back to the dorms in January, we winterized it. Ack! Okay, okay, no big deal, right? Well, it seemed like "Murphy" was visiting our house. Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. I needed to pull the trailer forward 6 feet to have room for the rear slide-out. We needed to hook-up the sewer line, the water line, and get the heater running. So, let me tell you how it went:
We discovered the trailer had a flat tire. Um, okay. We can inflate it; Superman has a compressor. No, we can't: the valve needs to be replaced and the compressor is leaking air and won't build pressure. Okay, Mr. R has a friend who can get the tire repaired quickly and Mr. R has a compressor. All good, right? Um, no. The hose is frozen and we can't dump to the sewer hook-up without water. We lay the hose out and get the thing thawed. Waste is dumped and water is hooked up. Then we go to hook up the water to the rest of the trailer and can't find the various caps we need. Superman put them someplace "very obvious"...Valiant is tearing the trailer apart trying to find them. Without them, we can't hook up the water. Finally! The very obvious place? Inside the microwave! Of course they were...why didn't I look there first? Silly me!

The tire comes back and is put back on the trailer and we're ready to move Charming's car, so I can have access to hook up to the trailer and pull it forward.

Except Charming's car won't start. Okay, okay...this is to be was parked for three months...we plug in Mr. R's battery charger and wait. Finally, the charger reads enough of a charge that we can start the car. Thankfully, it started right up. So, Charming puts the car in gear and...


the car won't move! It won't go won't go backwards. The car won't go.

Mr. R to the rescue again! (First, he had to give me a hard time about not being able to change gears...ha ha ha.) To make a long story short, the emergency brake rusted to the rotor when Charming parked it and wouldn't disengage. Mr. R had to remove the tire and the entire brake assembly and then bang the heck out of it with a hammer to break it free. Finally, he got it going and we got the car moved, the trailer moved, the slide out extended and Charming had a place to sleep. (It was a good thing that Mr. R didn't have anything he wanted to do at his house, right? I bought him a huge package of steak to say thanks!)

So, what do you think? Would you be pulling out your hair? I didn't, but I really did start to feel pretty overwhelmed. This was an arena where I didn't know anything...I've always counted on the men in my life to handle vehicles (I'm not particularly mechanical, but that doesn't seem very helpful when stuff like this is happening) and I spent a lot of time wondering what I would have done if Mr. R hadn't been around or able to help and I didn't like the answers. I think I have more thinking to do.

For now, however, things are falling into place, and I'm not feeling so out-of-control. That is good enough for me.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Shoot Me! 11 of 52

Okay, so it is Friday night so I'm a day late with my Shoot Me post, but I have decided it still can count. I took this picture on Monday, when Baby Kaleb came to play at our house. (Babies make terrific props, don't they?)

In this picture, he was still curious about he camera. Buttercup and I were having fun playing with him. He is a modern baby who Skypes to his daddy overseas every morning, so the camera's orange light didn't faze him.

Unfortunately, he quickly grew bored with being a model. Can't you tell?

It is amazing to see that this baby looks so much older so quickly. Taking pictures makes you really see it. Remember this picture? It was only two months ago.

Sorry this post is late, but I've actually been busy (who knew?). It is not too late to see everyone else's posts. Just head over to Forever in Blue Jeans and check out the pictures.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Blog, Interrupted!

I anticipated a different blog post for Wednesday morning, but this little guy spent most of the day at our house on Tuesday. A worthwhile diversion, don't you think? Baby K and Buttercup bonded over a bottle. She was in love. Being the baby of the family, she hasn't spent a lot of time with babies and was really nervous when Baby K started hanging out at our house. It was good to see her warm up and jump in. Valiant played with Baby K on the floor (yes, on a blanket) and was, as always, smitten. Having said that, both kids headed for the hills when I discovered a poopy diaper! Hey, what can I say? They're kids!

P.S. Happy St. Patrick's Day! Kiss me, I'm Irish! (Duh! My name is Erin!)
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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sewing Results...using my Serger

Remember when I told you last week that I made six pairs of pajama pants? Well, I thought you'd like to see some of the results. (Charming's pajama pants are already with him, so I can't show them to you, but these are the other ones!)

I found some absolutely adorable fabric for each of us: Frogs on Camo for Valiant (not too babyish), Silly Monkeys on Aqua for Buttercup (fun without being too girly), and Sheep on Baby Blue for me (something to count when I have insomnia?).

I did a few things differently this time, as I am trying to improve my skills. After seeing a blog post at Prudent Baby on using a serger to do neat things (Jaime even did a video to make sure it was clear!), I decided to try some fancy stuff (fancy for me, the still-a-novice seamstress). First, I used the serger to make a waist band by folding over the waistband and creating a channel for the elastic. (I used the technique she used to make the "finished" hem at the end of her folds were just big enough to create the channel for my elastic.) This is a departure from what I normally do, which is roll my fabric twice, sew the "hem" and then struggle to get the elastic in the channel created by hemming the waist.

For the girl pajamas, I added two openings with my button holer and used grosgrain ribbon for the tie. See? Here are the button holes before I opened them.

Then here is a pair with the ribbon tie at the waist band. Yeah, I know the ribbon won't hold up well, but I thought it was a pretty touch and I can always use the extra fabric I have to sew ties that match...or I can add elastic and sew a bow in place where the button holes are.

Finally, as flannel shrinks so much, I left the legs of the pajama pants unfinished except for a rolled hem stitch. When they've been washed and dried a number of times, I'll go ahead and sew a proper hem. In the meantime, the edges won't fray in the wash and everything still looks neat.

If you're interested, I used McCall's Easy Stitch n Save #3006 for the adult pajama pants (basically all the pants, but Buttercup's) and for Buttercup's I used Simplicity It's So Easy #4039 (sizes 7-16). This is the last time I'll be able to use this pattern for her...does anyone want it? I'll put it in the mail to you if you'd like.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Making Your Home Sing Monday

Momstheword says, "Every day you are doing something to make your house into a home for yourself and your family (if you have one). ... what are you doing or going to do today to make your home sing?It can be an attitude or an action. Motivation, our attitude, baking, encouraging our husband or children (if we have either one), organization, cleaning, saving money....the opportunities are endless."

Making Your Home Sing Monday is simply a way to get yourself to focus, even for a moment, on the power you have to design your own life. To deliberately fashion a home for yourself and your loved ones that suits you all. To be conscious of the effect you that have and can have on the atmosphere in your own home. That is some powerful stuff. Have you ever thought about it? Truly? Have you looked around and thought about how you are contributing to the mood of your home? I think a lot of us tend to look outwards when we're trying to solve a problem. After all, isn't it much easier to blame your husband or your kids for whatever isn't right in your house? You know you work so hard to take care of the home. Do you stop to think that how you think about that caring is as important as the physical effort you put into it? Honestly, I know a lot of people who don't... Don't take ownership for the disharmony in their homes... Don't take ownership for the messiness of their homes... Don't take ownership for the unacceptable behavior of their children...

Taking ownership isn't easy. Taking ownership daily is even more difficult. But the rewards are boundless.

Do you watch Biggest Loser? You know I do, right? Last night I was watching it via (you know about, right?). If you watched any of this season, you know that Miggy was an entirely unpleasant woman until a week or so before she was sent home. She was belligerent, hostile, and so negative. Truly. The only redeeming quality she seemed to have was her dedication to her daughter (even as you wondered if that was, in fact, a healthy thing). Anyway, she was sent home at the end of episode 7 and was transformed. Truly transformed. She was almost unrecognizable as the same woman. Why? As she put it, she had been so negative in her life, so filled with negativity, that it impacted everything. Since leaving the "ranch", she started meditating and "releasing the negative energy" and living her life with positive energy and it showed. Oh, don't get me wrong...she still has quite a bit of weight to lose and her life isn't perfect, but her entire countenance has been transformed. She herself described it has having an "unbelievable impact" on her life and it showed. It was actually awe-inspiring to witness.

So, what does that have to do with Making Your Home Sing Monday? Well, after wallowing in some negative energy myself (getting sick and staying sick does that to me) and feeling it weigh us all down, I've decided to stop it...right now...this moment...and I've decided to choose the positive. Just as I'm no longer yelling at my kids (and, boy, do they think me very quiet is scary!), I'm not going to harp on things. Our lives are good lives (notice I didn't say perfect) and I am going to make sure we operate from a position that recognizes that. Yes, chores have to get done, bills have to be paid, tasks are looming in front of us, but how we view them, the words we use to describe them and the manner in which we fulfill our responsibilities can be transformative.

So, this week, my home will still be humming right along, but we're kicking the negativity to the curb and we're owning the atmosphere in our home. (Oh, and the sunshine isn't hurting our efforts, either!)

Saturday, March 13, 2010


Last night the kids and I sat together and watched the live-action version of Speed Racer. I know it is cheesey, but I really enjoy these movies that are just like the cartoons that inspired them. I'm not looking for world changing...I'm just looking to have fun with my kids.

Anyway, I pointed out that Trixie is played by the same girl who plays Wednesday in The Addams Family: Christina Ricci. After ooh-ing and aah-ing that they'd known she looked familiar, Buttercup asked how old the actress was when she filmed this movie. I responded that I thought Christina Ricci was about 30 or so. She paused and responded with, "Wow, those make-up artists did a good job." Really? "Yeah, you can't even tell she's so old...she looks young!" Um, okay.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday Photo Flashback

It is that time of the week again. The time when Alicia at More Than Words encourages us to dig through our pre-digital photos and share them with you all. This week, however, I will be ignoring the pre-digital part of the request. Why? Because we're still in Buttercup's birthday month (she's turning 11 in two weeks) and I've had a digital camera since she was three! (Okay, also because I'm bored of pictures of me, don't have any of my ancestors, and really like going through the ones of my kids!)
Forgive me?

We got our first digital camera for this trip to Disneyland in May of 2002. We actually stayed in the Paradise Pier Hotel (thanks to the generosity of my step-brother who just so happens to work for Disneyland!) and spent two days at Disneyland and California Adventure. As you can tell by the photos, I'm not much for California Adventure. My heart belongs to Disneyland.

Buttercup got it into her head that she had to give Cinderella flower petal and so we waited in the long line to see Cinderella and Buttercup did, indeed, give Cinderella the flower petal.

Do you see it? It is purple against Cindy's blue glove. She was so nice about it, too. (Yes, I know it was her job, but she did it well...Buttercup was so proud of herself because she just knew Cinderella LOVED her present.)

In Toon Town, we went to Minnie's house and she was there to visit with Buttercup. Look at the look on Buttercup's face. Isn't is adorable? Now look at the looks on the boys' faces. Can' you see how thrilled they are to "visit Minnie"? Bwahaha...I'm such a mean mom!
Look at my men, in line for the Autopia cars...aren't they an attractive group? Hard to believe that was eight years ago already and the oldest is graduating from college this May, the younger one is as tall as I am, and Superman is 10,000+ miles away from us all. Sigh.

Buttercup couldn't drive the car by herself, but she was excited to hit the road.

As you can see she had a blast...Superman took this shot as we were exiting our car. She's too cool for school, isn't she?

That is it for this don't want to know how many pictures I took in two days at Disneyland, but trust me, I haven't even scratched the surface. I could bore you for hours with this pictures, but I won't. Hey, Alicia, I double checked...I do NOT have one of those front of the park shots funny is that?

Don't forget to head over to Alicia's to see what everyone else dug up for Friday Photo Flashback this week. I know it always puts a smile on my face and makes me realize that pictures really do matter.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Shoot Me: 10 of 52 - Working the the Greenhouse

Ack! I can't believe it is time to put myself in front of the camera again already. With everyone busily humming along, we haven't seemed to have an opportunity to take any group pictures, so we're stuck (again!) with me holding the camera at arms length and snapping a shot. I keep telling myself this a good way to get used to having my picture taken...sigh...I'm getting better, but still not there yet!

I've been working in my greenhouse. (Do you remember that Superman built this for me for about $150 including the two milk house heaters?) I thought you'd like to see that my purple petunias made it through the winter! (Woo Hoo!) They're hanging up in the greenhouse and waiting anxiously for the nights to warm up so they can be placed outside. (Ignore the dirty hair - I did shower, I promise. Also, ignore the door to my garage in the background...I need to put a spring on my greenhouse door so it will close behind me.)

My seedlings are popping up and I'm getting more ambitious and have decided it is not too late to plant a few more.

Head on over to Carin's place (Forever In BlueJeans) to join the Shoot Me party. Jen at Our Daily Big Top has reached 52 of 52! An entire year...kudos to her!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Chocolate Chocolate-Chunk Muffins

With Superman gone, I'm not baking as much. Firstly, he's not here to take Friday Delight to work with him every Friday morning, so I'm not scrambling to come up with yummy office treats for his oh-so-willing Guinea pigs. Secondly, he's just not here, which leaves only the 3 of us to eat anything I make. While the kids would be more than willing to eat any treat I whip up, I am trying to keep their diet somewhat sane, so my baking has been cut way back.
This recipe from Brown-Eyed Baker has been sitting on my recipe stand since I first saw it on February 10. (She posted it in January, but I was a bit behind in my blog reading.) Anyway, I've been waiting for an opportunity to make it. An impromptu gathering last evening gave me the perfect opportunity. As I anticipated, these muffins were good...seriously good. I didn't change a thing...the recipe was terrific just the way it is.

Chocolate Chocolate-Chunk Muffins
from Brown-Eyed Baker
(makes 12)

¾ stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (see note)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1¼ cups buttermilk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan or fit with paper muffin cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.

2. Melt the butter and half the chopped chocolate together in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from the heat. (Um, yeah, about this step: I just used my microwave and melted the chocolate on the low power worked just fine.)

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the buttermilk, egg and vanilla extract together until well combined. Pour the liquid ingredients and the melted butter and chocolate over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Do not overmix the batter. Stir in the remaining chopped chocolate. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.

4. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold. (Mine stayed in the oven too long and were a bit dry. Certain unnamed children forgot they were the ones tasked with pulling them out of the oven because I was stepping out...oops!)

Note: The bittersweet chocolate was difficult to find in my area and while I did find it, I think you could easily substitute semi-sweet for it. You'll end up with a sweeter muffin, but my neighbor Mr. R doesn't care for dark chocolate and wanted these muffins to be sweeter. His wife, who loves dark chocolate, thought they were very chocolate-y and wouldn't change a thing.

Tuesday, Tuesday, Touch Your Shoe Day!

Well, I have some finishing touches to do on my pajama pant project, but I wanted to share with you something I've been dying to show you. As you know, Superman is overseas for almost a year (he'll be back in December) can read about his adventures here. I've been sending him care packages with some regularity... Food stuffs, books, pictures, etc. have been going out via those Flat Rate Priority Mail boxes every few weeks.

To make things even better, however, Mr. M kindly arranged to have a foot locker of stuff transported APO to APO for me. I was so excited. I packed it full of some stuff I knew Superman would like: an xBox (duh!), some more food stuffs, a blanket I made for him and a special surprise. It seemed like they took forever to arrive and I couldn't show you this until Superman saw it. He finally has it, though, so I can share it with you!

This pillow is made from two sweatshirts I had made when the kids were little. The first was made when Valiant was roughly 1 and the second was made when Buttercup was probably the same age. Given that Valiant is now 14 and Buttercup is fast approaching 11, you can imagine that the sweatshirts had seen better days. When I realized how much Superman was missing the kids, I was struck by inspiration and a pillow form, a little red bias tape (not to girly) and some time at the sewing machine and I had something he could take with him anywhere!

What do you think? A hug from home is priceless, isn't it?
P.S. If you want to make up a sweatshirt for your husband, this is what I did:

Bought a sweatshirt, found an embroidery shop (they're all over the place) and went in with my plan in mind. The ladies worked with me to get just what I was after and, lickety split, I had a cute sweatshirt. A few years later, I was back at the same shop getting a new image to include our new baby. Pretty simple, isn't it? They weren't expensive at all and Superman treasured those sweatshirts and now he still can.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Making Your Home Sing Monday - Just Humming Along

It is 9:44 PM Monday night and I'm just now getting to my blog post...that should tell you how busy I've been keeping myself. It is still Making Your Home Sing Monday and I'm jumping in at the 11th hour! My sister sent me an email a few hours ago asking if my home was singing. It is, I promise.
Attitude is everything. I guess you can say that or hear it enough. Nan asks us to do this exercise of "Making Your Home Sing Monday" to remind us to stop to think about how you and your attitude determine/steer the attitudes of everyone else in your home. We try. I know we all do. Every week I read about the commitments to home that all of us make. Even so, sometimes it takes a little bit of sunshine to help you line everything up. The plague (okay, the really bad cold) has left our house. Everyone is finally feeling well and, to help us right along, this past weekend was beautiful! Absolutely gorgeous. Warm (in the high 50s and I heard rumors of low 60s) and bright. I spent hours in the greenhouse tending to baby plants. I heard the neighbors out doing yard work and I got the kids out with me to do some preliminary yard work, too. We even cleaned up the garage!

I was inspired, so I kept going: I cleaned out more stuff from the "black hole" and made a few trips to Goodwill. We had people over again for Craft Night/Game Night. (This week it was two moms talking while the kids played.) I even got out of the house to have dinner with Mrs. M and her kids last night.

My point?

A terrific weekend set us up for a wonderful week and we're planning on taking advantage of it. I woke up in such a good mood and nothing has shaken it. I think we've truly turned the corner with dealing with Superman's absence and have settled well and good into a new rhythm.

I've been able to stick to my "no yelling" challenge and the kids have responded so well. Me? Yell? I know...difficult to believe, but I do. I mean, I did. For the past four weeks, I've privately challenged myself to stop yelling. The change in our home is palpable and I feel badly that I've not challenged myself to do this sooner. Homeschooling is easier when I manage my frustration with intelligence rather than escalating.

Oh, and as I was heading to Goodwill to drop off even more stuff today, I saw a very good-looking young man standing on the street corner by the university. We thought, "Hey, that is a good-looking young man...I wonder what he's doing?" So, I had Valiant give his brother's cell a call and discovered that Charming (yes, he was the young man standing on a street corner!) was heading out to get his taxes done, so we picked him up and took him with us and then kept him all evening. Is it kidnapping if it is your own child you pick up off the street?

Friday night I cut out six pairs of pajama pants - yes, six! - and today I got them ALL sewn. Did I mention no one in my family is short--Charming has a 37" inseam, for goodness' sake. That makes for a lot of sewing! (Okay, I have to do the ribbon ties on the waistbands for two pairs, but I was able to send Charming home with his two pair.) I blame Andrea at The Train to Crazy for all this sewing. She has this Make It/Wear It sewing challenge going on and I didn't quite commit to participate, but I've been heading over to see what everyone else is doing and I just couldn't resist. My fingers were itching to get to the sewing machine. So, my back hurts, my arms hurt, and my neck is tired, but I have a huge smile of accomplishment on my face.

So what am I doing to Make My House Sing this week? Honestly? Nothing. Nothing is broken, so nothing is changing. We had a terrific day and we'll just be humming right along this week. Sometimes, you just need to stop and be grateful for where you are right in this moment. Life is good, even if it is not perfect.

P.S. I guess I wasn't the only one inspired by the weather...Momstheword's post is about Spring Cleaning! It must be in the air!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Food for Thought

Life is like a game of cards. The hand that is dealt you represents determinism; the way you play it is free will.

Jawaharal Nehru

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Choosing a Career based on Color Preferences...

How About Orange posted this silly "Color Career Counselor" Career Test. Imagine my surprise when I found it to be scarily accurate. (They also made me sound pretty boring, but, hey, what can I say?) Did I mention I worked for Citicorp as for 10 years before I got to be a stay-at-home mom?

Want to do something fun? Click over and find out what you're suited to. Come on! You know you want to. Do it...and then come back and tell me if it was even close.

Oh, and I shared my results with you below. Those of you who know me IRL might get a real kick out of them.

Best Occupational Category



Self-Control, Practical, Self-Contained, Orderly, Systematic, Precise, and Accurate

These conservative appearing, plotting-types enjoy organizing, data systems, accounting, detail, and accuracy. They often enjoy mathematics and data management activities such as accounting and investment management. Persistence and patience allows them to do detailed paperwork, operate office machines, write business reports, and make charts and graphs.

Suggested careers are Administrator, Secretary, Printer, Paralegal, Building Inspector, Bank Cashier, Private Secretary, Statistician, Operations Manager, Financial Analyst, Bookkeeper, Medical Records Technician, Developer of Business or Computer Systems, Clerical Worker, Proofreader, Accountant, Administrative Assistant, Banker, Certified Public Accountant, Credit Manager, Store Salesperson, Actuary, Dental Assistant, Business Education Teacher, Food Service Manager, IRS Agent, Budget Analyst, and Underwriter. (For most of the 20 years I worked outside the home, those were the jobs I had.)

Your very careful, conscientious, conservative nature gives others the confidence to trust you with handling money and material possessions. Structured organizations that have well-ordered chains of command work best for you.

Suggested Organizer workplaces are large corporations, business offices, financial lending institutions, banks, insurance companies, accounting firms, and quality control and inspection departments.

2nd Best Occupational Category

You're a DOER


Emotionally Stable, Reliable, High Energy, Practical, Thrifty, and Persistent

These adventurous types prefer action-oriented, concrete problems rather than dealing with thought-provoking, ambiguous, abstract dilemmas. Fields of interest include mechanical, construction, and outdoor careers. They might also enjoy working with machines, tools, and equipment to repair or build something.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Friday Photo Flashback!

How does this happen? I think I'm doing well, have things in order, and then I realize I'm a day behind. Sigh. Anyway, it is still Friday, so I'm doing my Friday Photo Flashback and that is that! Alicia at More Than Words is the lovely host of this meme and, with her encouragement, many of us are digging through the archives of our lives to revisit times long past.

As February is "Boy Birthday Month", I've spent the past month sharing pictures of them. Well, March is the girl's birthday month, so I'm going to share some pictures of my Princess Buttercup. This week? Proof positive that she is a water baby.

Clothes? Oh, they don't get in the way. Oh, and that was my shower the little sprite snuck into!
Getting Daddy in the bath fully clothed? Way too much fun! He knows good tricks! Look at Valiant...doesn't it look like he's saying, "What is up with this?"

Buttercup, however, thought the shooting water trick was way cool!

P.S. As to why Superman is in the bathtub fully dressed, I can't remember. He was a very fun daddy when the kids were little and this kind of behavior was pretty typical.