Tuesday, November 30, 2010
My Bologna has a second name, it's M A Y E R!
Oh, I love to eat it everyday and if you ask me why I'll say...
'cause Oscar Mayer has a way with B O L O G N A!!!!
Can you believe it? Despite the record-breaking snow we've had in the past week (more snow than we've had here in more than 100 years!), the Oscar Mayer Weiner-Mobile showed up in our town.
I knew the kids would be so excited to see it, so I asked my neighbor to give us a ride to the grocery store where I'd noticed the iconic vehicle in the parking lot. (The roads were terrible and I've been doing so much driving and felt myself crossing the line to too tired...I wasn't safe to do it...his big truck did just fine and I think he now knows we're insane...hearing us singing the bologna song had to convince him.)
I know he thought we were nuts, right up until he saw cars rolling up to do exactly what we were doing...snapping photos with the giant hot dog!
Did you know that the dash was made up of hot dogs in buns? I didn't.
No one was in the Weiner-Mobile, so we didn't get any weinie whistles (darn it!), but it was still so cool to see the remnant from my childhood!
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Notice that there was no mention of Pilgrims, no Native Americans, no football, no shopping, no turkey and stuffing.
A day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors...
As I was driving home this evening (I braved the stores with my two younger children to put together the pieces of an awesome surprise for my oldest baby!), I was struck by how truly fortunate my life is. I definitely have been blessed by many and "signal" favors. (In case you don't know, as I didn't, "signal" used this way is defined as "distinguished or conspicuous.)
No Pollyanna, just the acknowledgment that I have so much to be grateful for. Truly. My heart overflows with gratitude for the embarrassment of riches that surround me. I feel blessed to have a wonderful husband who has spent more than 20 years doing his very best to provide for me and our children. I have been blessed with a husband who has a job he loves and that allows him to provide well for us. Yes, he's overseas and, yes, I miss him, but we're not dealing with the instability caused by job loss or underemployment. For this year, at least, our home is secure and our income is stable and for that I am grateful. I am healthy and Superman is healthy and we have three healthy, able-bodied, intelligent, and, in my humble opinion, amazing children. They are a source of unending joy in my life, even as they push me and stretch me in ways I could never have imagined.
My list of blessings goes from the profound to the mundane...and I am reminding myself to be grateful for them all. These are just a few of the little blessings I've been thinking about:
Central Heat (!)
4 Wheel Drive
The Dishwasher and the Washing Machine and Dryer
The Computer I'm Sitting in Front of to Type This Post
My Local Library
The Amazing People I've Met Because of Blogging
The Turkey and Pumpkin Pie in my Refrigerator Ready for Tomorrow
The fact that my brother and his wife are living their dream and bought their first house in October.
The fact that my sister got the job she wanted and is enjoying this new time in her life.
There you have it...a few of the things that I'm grateful for this year. This is not a complete list. Not even close. I have been blessed by more than I can even express and I am so grateful for those blessings.
Why don't you give it a try? Shed the stress of Thanksgiving preparation and Christmas shopping and focus instead on feelings of gratitude for the many and signal blessings in your life. After all, our forefathers thought taking time to acknowledge and be grateful for our blessings was important enough to set aside one day a year for all of us to do just that.
From our home to yours...
may gratitude fill your heart and the blessings of the season abound.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Two years ago when we got 97 inches of snow and the plows couldn't get to our street for weeks, Superman's car could get us anywhere we needed to go. That was the first time I ever got stuck in my Suburban. Stuck. I had to get pulled out of a parking space at the grocery store because ice had formed under my rear wheels. It only happened that one time and it was happening to everyone that day...there was a guy cruising the parking lot non-stop just to pull shoppers out of their parking spaces. After that, Superman equipped my ""rig" (that's what they call it in the Pacific Northwest) with a shovel and sand, so I can get myself unstuck if I ever need to.
Anyway, back to today. I'm driving Superman's car because my beloved Suburban needs a new heater...the defroster doesn't work and when the temperatures are as cold as these, you need a defroster. We had a small blizzard last night (really!) and they are expecting more snow Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The roads were crazy this morning...snow plows were slow to get to us. I still ran my errands (and got our turkey!) with no problems. The kids have orthodontist appts on Monday and Tuesday and I have a dentist appt on Monday. Snow-covered hills are in our future, but I'm cool, because I'm driving Superman's car.
I still don't love it...but I've definitely decided that 4WD is my new best friend. But my Suburban is still my BFF.
P.S. They're predicting record cold temperatures tonight. Since it is -3F right now (9:30 p.m.), I'd say they have a good chance.
Monday, November 22, 2010
And there, my friends, was where the similarity to our typical winter prep ended.
If Superman had been in charge of insulating the windows, he would have picked a day, started applying the insulation to the windows, and been done with the entire house in two hours.
Me? In two hours, I got exactly one room done. One! Why? Because when I went into the bedroom to do our window, I had to move the bed (I'm not as tall as Superman). When I moved the bed, I saw the fur from the cats who sleep under the bed, so I had to vacuum. When I vacuumed under the bed, I saw the fur at the bottom of the curtains (from the same cats) that are normally behind the bed, so I had to clean the curtains that are behind the bed. Then I noticed that the blinds were dusty and I couldn't seal up the window without dusting them (right?). I noticed that the wooden cornice was dusty, so, of course, I had to dust it, too. Finally, the ceiling fan was a little dusty, so I dusted it. I talked with a neighbor on the telephone (she didn't need to use my mixer after all). In the end, I did get the plastic up on my window and only my window.
Oh, and while I was doing all of this, I made a loaf of banana bread. (I'll give you the recipe tomorrow...it is terrific.)
I have nine more windows, minimum, to do. So, at this rate, and taking into account Thanksgiving, I should have the window insulation up in a little less than two weeks.
Two weeks vs. Superman's two hours. Some things are better done by men...at least my man.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Tomorrow the kids and I will be adding the plastic to our windows. (Skeptics take note: Adding window insulation helps get rid of drafts and lowers heating bills...even if your home is relatively new.)
We've tried a number of different brands, but have come back to 3M Window Insulation kits for consistent quality and sealant tape that does lift off at the end of the season.
Bedtime when the temperatures drop sees a line at the microwave, too. Why? Because we all have bed warmers. I made these bed warmers a few years ago and now we swear by them.
Each is filled with rice and a little bit essential oil. You put them in the microwave for 1-3 minutes and they become radiant heat packs. I made pocket warmers, a bed warmer, and two other warmers that I'm told by Superman and Buttercup are "neck warmers". Now, I don't know about you, but my neck never gets particularly cold...I was planning on using them as foot warmers, but, hey, I can be flexible. Anyway, everything was made out of scrap fabric: the two solid color ones were made out of the extra sweatshirt material I had from making those nightgowns I told you about, the pocket warmers were made out of leftover fabric from little gift bags I made, and the bed warmer is from flannel I had leftover from making Buttercup some pajama pants. These are really, really cool and if you tend to be cold, I highly recommend taking the ten minutes to make one or three.
The kids new winter coats and snow pants are ready and waiting...those kids keep growing, darn it. The mittens and scarves have come out of storage.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
"Hey, Mom, we should have porn for dinner!"
"Yeah! Purge Our Refrigerator Night! Get it?"
Oh, yes, I get it.
Now picture said teenager guffawing as he had obviously tickled his own funny bone.
Well, they say that winter drops in to Wonderland overnight. Last
night, it arrived! As soon as the sun goes down the temperature drops
noticeably and continues to drop quickly overnight. Last night we
definitely down in to the 30's. I am going to have to put together a
list of winter clothes to send. Wish me luck in my comfy tent!
Monday, November 15, 2010
Well, each day I continue to get more adjusted to my new environment. I
am not sure that I will ever grow to say I love this place, but each day
gets a little easier. Believe it or not, one of the hardest things to
get used to is walking around on all the rock! The entire camp is
covered in several inches of river rock. The best way I can explain
this is to say it is like walking across the beach in flip flops. You
kind of sink your feet kind of twist and you kind of lose traction. It
is really weird and can be really tricky in the middle of the night.
I think that I am going to like this job and think that this is where I
will be for the remainder of my time here in the Middle East. Here is
kind of an overview of what I will be doing. The company I am working
for won the contract to provide IT support for the Tactical environment
in Wonderland. It turns out that there are two environments in the
theatre: Tactical and Strategic. My old buddies, International Thieves
and Thugs have the contract for the Strategic environment. The basic
difference between the two is that Tactical focuses more on the NATO
Training Mission in Wonderland and the immediate war fighting needs at
the forward operating bases. The majority of the people we support are
working towards the goal of developing an effective military and police
force for Wonderland. So in a nutshell, we do whatever it takes to get
the job done. Everyone here is expected to pitch in to help complete
the mission whether that means pulling cable, building servers or
answering the phone.
The only real problem that I see is that we are dependent upon resources
controlled by International Thieves and Thugs. They are still working
out the ground rules for playing nicely together so I hope that it gets
resolved in the near future. One could hope that my old buddies get
bounced out on their ear. Just a thought...
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Saturday, November 13, 2010
I am going to try this new blog feature to see how well it works!
Well, I would like to pick up my mail, but I really do not have any
place to put it right now. My living arrangements are quite sparse at
the present time. I am currently living in a tent that is capable of
holding about 100 people. Imagine a huge tent with 6 rows each row
containing 8 bunks. Since I got here on Thursday, there have only been
about 40 people in there. Last night at 3:20 AM, the other 60 people
arrived. I know this because it sounded like a hoard of elephants
started running through the tent in a wild rage. Actually, it was just
60 exuberant soldiers that just rotated off a FOB. You can blame them
for being excited.
I basically have one bunk in this whole building that I use for my
space. There are no wall lockers or anyplace to unpack or store things.
So essentially, I am living out of my bag still. Living within that
whole concept of only 100 items is real easy in this environment. The
less you have the better. Hopefully, I will be moved to more permanent
arrangements within the next couple of weeks.
I hope this get posted!
Love you all!
(Oh, and my first thought after reading this? 100 snoring men in one tent? Seriously? How does anyone get any sleep? Oh, and what about showers?)
Friday, November 12, 2010
Have you ever done this? It is so funny.
This is the song was Number 1 on the day I was born:
"Winchester Cathedral" by the New Vaudeville Band was Number One the day Superman was born. The kids? "Believe" by Cher for Buttercup, "One Sweet Day" by Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men for Valiant, and " All the Man I Need" by Whitney Houston for Charming. Oh, and "Another Day in Paradise" by Phil Collins was Number 1 the day Superman and I tied the knot!
Want to do it yourself? Head over to Josh Hosler Number One in History to find out. You just plug in the Month and the Day and scroll through the years. It is that easy.
This is part of what I wrote back then:
"I love the way lip gloss looks, I love the way lip gloss feels. They are so much lighter and smoother than lipstick.
My lip gloss addiction is more acceptable in polite society than the addiction I had in the 80s...eye shadow that matched my clothes! Lip gloss is more forgiving, too, as lip gloss faux pas don't stand out the way blush or eye shadow mistakes do. You can be daring with lip gloss and try pink, even as you'd never wear pink lipstick. Pink gloss can be a hint, a shimmer, a tinge...you aren't commited to a slash of color...you can ease into it.
So, there you have it..."My name is Erin and I am a Gloss-a-holic". "
I still chuckle when I read that.
Two years later, I have a lot less make-up and lip gloss than I did when I wrote that post (simplification even met my make-up drawer), but I still love lip gloss. Seriously.
A few days ago, we headed over to JCPenney to pick up a catalog order (if you have tall kids or a tall husband, JCPenney is our go-to store for talls). I negotiated in advance with Valiant so I could spend a few minutes in the Sephora store. I love Sephora...all the colors, all the textures. (Oh, how I missed Sephora when we moved up here...sigh...this Sephora in a JCPenney has only been here a year and I still get giddy when I think of it.) I couldn't leave without some lip gloss, right?
I bought these adorable keychain lipglosses by Bare Escentuals. The air here is so dry in winter, I always have something on my lips and I love that I could attach these cuties to my keychain (one at a time). They're about 2" long. There are three sheer, shimmery colors: a pinkish, a brownish and a goldish. Honestly, I just love them.
So, now you know the truth. My name is Erin and I'm STILL a gloss-aholic.
(Superman...I'm so winning this bet. I told you she'd be girly after year with me. Bart Simpson is out and lip gloss is in. Tough break!)
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Are you ready?
Here goes: When you decide to homeschool, your children will see you for exactly who you are all of the time.
You won't get to run all your errands while your kids are in school and be ready and smiling with a plate of cookies and glass of milk when they walk in the door at 3:30 p.m. Your kids will be with you through it all.
Rude sales clerk? Your kids will be watching how you handle it.
Washing machine and dishwasher break in the same week? Your kids will be watching you handle it.
Procrastinating instead of cleaning the house, working in the yard, paying the bills, or prepping the curriculum? Your kids will be fully aware of what you're supposed to be doing instead of what you are doing.
So, what does this all mean? In my case, homeschooling my children has actually made me become more the person I like to think of myself as being. Why?
Well, we all know that we behave differently if someone who matters is watching, right? My kids' opinion of me matters. My children hold me accountable during those times when I might let myself slide. Since I'm teaching them to be discerning, respect and admiration have to be earned, that applies to me, too. (Trust me, with an adult, a teen, and tween, I'm definitely answering for my actions.)
The unvarnished truth? It can be a total pain in the butt. You know those times that you want to chuck it all until later and throw yourself on the couch with a good book and some sinful snack? I can't do that unless I am willing to give them the same opportunity.
Imagine this conversation:
"Mom, what are you doing?" asks a child.
"I'm tired of housework...I'm just going to read this trashy romance novel (oops! I mean high-brow treatise on the government of Hungary prior to WWI) and eat some caramel corn." I whine in response to the question.
"Cool, I'll read a book about animals and share your caramel corn, okay?"
"No! You have important stuff to do. Fractions MATTER. You must stay focused and stay on task. Don't procrastinate just because you don't to do something. You'll be glad when you've conquered them." I respond loftily.
"Oh, so housework doesn't matter? Cool…I'll stop cleaning my room…"
Think it couldn't happen? Oh, with my kids it definitely could. No question about it. I want the respect of my children and, yes, dare I say, their admiration. (They have mine.) The above scenario plays in my head whenever I have the urge to throw in the towel. If I have to answer for my actions, I think it through a little more.
Still, there are those time I just want to stop for awhile. (I know, I know, you can't relate. Still, work with me here.)
I don't give in to the urge to throw myself on the couch without negotiating with them first:
"How about we work for another 45 minutes, then we all take a reading break?" I bribe, desperate to get some mental time-off.
"I don't have book! I finished my last one," plaintively cries a brown-eyed child. "We have to go to the library before we take a reading break! I can't NOT read."
"Okay, well, I have a bit more to do if we're going to head out. What if we work for another hour and fifteen minutes and then head to the library," I respond, already giving up the idea of NOT finishing the housework. I like the library. No, I love the library. Another half hour will have all my housework done and they'll have finished typing, spelling, and math.
Two hours later, we'll head to the library because I'll have gotten into the groove of my work (including math discussions and science discussions) and wouldn't want to stop when I was so close to being done and the kids will have finished all of their school work because they wouldn't want to stop so closely to be done. Fresh bread will be cooling on the counter (because if I had an hour and a half, I might as well make some loaves of bread). The kids will feel happy because they've finished their schoolwork for the day and I will feel happy because I crossed stuff off my list.
See what I mean? The kids made me do everything I wanted to do just by being there…and it happens like that every day! You need to be prepared for this phenomenon if you are considering homeschooling…it is a bit unnerving at first.
Oh, and the reading on the couch? It will happen in the evening after we get back from the library with a bag full of books and after we had fresh bread with our dinner. After all, I need that couch time.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
As for me, I found blogging for the same reasons...my oldest child was headed off to college and it was clear he'd not be living at home full-time after he finished. Suddenly, it was clear, this job I've loved so much had an expiry...and that was something I'd never spent much time thinking about. I was also hungry to learn new things...things about cooking, gardening, and home-making in general. It has been two years now that I've been blogging and I'm beginning to think my transition is almost complete.
I still love reading blogs and learning new things, but I don't feel as if I'm working through things anymore. I don't feel as compelled to write it all down, to sift through it all. With Superman overseas, I know my blog will continue because he loves reading about all the things we do around here and I have fun sharing it with him, but I suspect my blog will become even more random.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'll completely understand if this is not what you're looking for in a blog...a little of this and a little of that.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Yesterday, when I was browsing through Better After, I saw her post about CraigsEasy. As she described it, CraigsEasy is a free tool that allows you to search Craigslist with ease. I was skeptical. I can never find amazing things on Craigslist, though, and thought that I'd give it a try.
All I can say is "Wow". Seriously wow! All you do is add this little CraigsEasy button to your browser bar (there is a video with clear instructions) and then head to Craigslist like always. Put in a search criteria in Craigslist and then hit the easy button and, viola, pictures of everything that meets your search criteria...you just scroll down and look at the pictures and if you're interested, then you click on the description to go to the listing.
Too easy, don't you think?
Give it a try. You'll be pleasantly surprised.
Apparently, that is NOT a urinal. It is a TOILET!
You squat over it to do your business.
(For those of you who didn't get a chance to see what he posted, here is the picture below.)
Monday, November 8, 2010
One of the things I've been thinking about (and talking with my kids about) is this article I read. It is all about a Seattle family who is allowing/encouraging/supportive of their five year old son wearing tights, tiaras, and dresses. The mother wrote a book call "My Princess Boy". I'm struggling with this (not that it is my problem/situation/concern, you understand, but it joined the mental fray) because I understand her desire to make her son feel okay about who he is, but I'm not sure that what she is doing is actually helpful. I don't know. What do you think?
Oh, and as a random tip...one of the blogs I read suggested spraying the inside of your toilet paper roll with perfume (as a way to use up old perfume) to freshen your bathroom every time you turn the roll. Not a bad idea...I used the perfume I had and worked well. Weird, I know.
Buttercup has taken to wearing leg-warmers on her arms as sleeves. Since I saw a number of sleeve tutorials last year, I guess she's not the only one. Who knew? I still think it is odd, but, hey, at least the gag gift my sister sent me last year is actually getting used.
Why do you think the beneficial side-effect of gaining one hour during "fall back" only lasts one day, but the detrimental side-effect of losing one hour during "spring forward" seems to take a week to get over?
Finished an apron for Valiant...he barbecues and cooks and wanted one of his own, so we picked out fabric and made it happen. Unfortunately, it took me 5 months to make it happen, but it is done.
Are you going to try to do hand-made gifts this year? I am...I've been thinking a lot about what to make for whom...now I just have to make it happen.
Superman has been flying all over parts of the Middle East....he took a picture of a floor urinal and posted in on his blog. I'd never seen one before, but still, I'm not sure it would be something I would have blogged. Boys are so weird.
Enough rambling...my oatmeal raisin cookies are ready to come out of the oven.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
"When a man is willing and eager, the gods join in."
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Come on, admit it! You know you laughed.
This cartoonist absolutely "gets" cats...and their owners. There are a few more movies...if you liked this one at all, you'll appreciate the others, I promise.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
My boy, Charming, has impressed his father and me by making pasta from scratch! Yep, if I did nothing else right, I raised a young man who is cooking from scratch, really from scratch. Anyway, below is the post he wrote on Superman's blog, sharing is success and posting some of his questions.
Can any of you share your knowledge and help him? As you can read below, he's having a few issues and doesn't quite know where to go now. Even if you can't help, I think pasta from scratch is worthy of a pat on the back, don't you?
Thanks a lot!
(Written by Charming and taken from 365 and a Wake Up)
So this is my first moderately successful attempt to make pasta. As you can see, it certainly looks the part. And I'll be completely honest -it was totally fun to make. So here's what I learned:
1 - Don't put the entire ball of dough through the machine at once. It can't handle it, and you'll end up tearing your dough. The recipe I used called for two cups of flour and three eggs and I had to divide it into three pieces to get it to go through right.
2 - Pasta dough is soft, especially when you've rolled it out all the way. It's also very fragile, and that pasta you see up there actually mushed itself back together simply through its own weight. Be sure to separate your pasta strands.
3 - Boxed pasta is apparently seasoned. Either that, or however I made my pasta turned it very, very bland. Soft and tender, yes, but bland.
OK, so making pasta was totally cool. I'll admit to being a little hesitant after my first try, but after making sure I properly kneaded the dough, let it rest, and put it into the machine as manageable chunks, it was really actually ridiculously easy. Literally, you just pop it in the machine and it gets long and skinny. Two cups of flour and three eggs equated to a sheet of pasta easily twelve feet long by six inches wide. Now, with that said, I found the pasta just a tad bit chewy, so I think I'll stop at the second-to-last thickness next time.
I find that I can't "do" Halloween anymore. No, seriously. I love getting the kids all "costumed up", decorating the house with pumpkins and kitties and not-scary ghosties, but when it comes to trick-or-treating (or the oh-so-silly harvest festivals), I hit a full-stop. My conscience kicks in and screams "this is wrong". No, not for religious reasons.
For basic values reasons...
I find that I can't, in good conscience, hand out tons of candy to kids when I think it is so terribly bad for them. Day in and day out we are bombarded with information about and images of obese or overweight children. How can I possibly be celebrating them by handing them fistfuls of candy (or encouraging others to do so)?
I've thought a lot about this. Really. I've talked to others about this and a few things become clear: When we were kids (back when the dinosaurs had recently given up control of the earth and Thomas Edison was close to inventing the lightbulb), candy was not a daily treat. No. In fact, I think Halloween and Easter were the "candy" holidays. Oh, you might have gotten a little bit in your Christmas stocking or a little Valentine's treat, but that was it. Teachers didn't hand it out for behaving (don't get me started) and moms didn't keep it at home for us. Nope. For the average kid, candy was a "once in a blue moon" treat, which is why trick-or-treating was so amazing. Candy...lots of it...over-flowing...we had stars in our eyes. We also knew we wouldn't being seeing candy again for a while.
Fast forward a number of years (okay, a lot of years) and candy is ubiquitous. Teachers hand candy out to students for all kinds of things. Parents think nothing of the little bag of M&Ms or whatever on a daily basis. Candy is everywhere, all the time. And our children are suffering. A lot.
So, for me, I just can't do it. I can't give out candy.
This year, we did our 2nd Annual "Dress-up" for Halloween and I took the kids out for a fancy-ish dinner in their finery and then we went to a movie. They loved it. Buttercup spent two weeks putting the finishing touches on her outfit, I pinky-promised to wear a dress (and did), and Valiant wore dress clothes, too (no tie...it was supposed to be fun!). Even Charming joined us for the evening. I got us home far past the time last trick-or-treater would have been ringing my doorbell (not answering on Halloween makes me feel horrible). I know it is not perfect, but I think we're going to fine tune this new "tradition" and make it a keeper. It works for us. (I know it would be more difficult if my children were younger...costumes are just so fun and I don't know how I'd explain why we didn't dress-up...maybe we'd begin hosting a party for families...I just don't know.)
So, what about you? How do you reconcile it all? Or do you think I'm making much ado about nothing? Tell me, what do you think?
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
So, if you've got a pressure cooker and you like making popcorn, you should give it a try...oh, and notice that I don't put the weight on the top when I make the popcorn. As you can imagine, I won't be buying a new popcorn popper.
Oh, and if you're interested, I use 2-3 tablespoons of oil and 1/2 cup of popcorn. Another common item with a new use...I love it!
Monday, November 1, 2010
I was unwilling to buy enough towels to keep up with our usage. Even assuming I do laundry every day or every other day, we're talking 3 to 6 additional towels at any given time. Three days of workouts means I need 9 towels. Who wants to go buy 9 towels to take to the gym? Not me, that's for sure.
Then I remembered the towels I still have from our pool and spa days. Perfectly good beach towels. (Yes, I still have them, I just couldn't get rid of perfectly good towels.) The need for gym towels gave me a perfect use for these towels.
Lickety split, I cut them in thirds, and serged the raw edges. Just like that, I created three gym towels from each beach towel. One for each of us, for three days.
Have you ever thought about that? I hadn't, but once I did, I couldn't let go of it. I needed to find a solution and simply labeling each side of the towel was as basic as I could get. (Now, if I had an embroidery machine, I'd embroider little patches and sew them on my towels...wouldn't that be cute?) In the meantime, a marker works just find.