Sunday, November 30, 2008

Pages for my mom's calendar

I've been busy getting this calendar together. I'm getting it professionally printed this year at Artscow, rather than do it myself, so I must be on the ball about this.

I made these pages with Kim Hill's Storyboard set and her Companion Phrases sets, both available at Scrapbook-Elements.  Some of the pages also use kits by Lauren Grier, Misty Cato & Eve Kipler at Sweet Shoppe Designs







Weekly Winners Nov 23-30

We started the week off with Havoc cutting himself while shaving. (Really. He found DH's razor. My heart is still pounding.)


Then there was Bat Mayhem Man


Using his super powers

super derek-21-2

The dinos did some arts & crafts

DSC_0367-2Havoc was an Indian for Thanksgiving


And we got the tree decorated



Visit Lotus at Sarcastic Mom for more weekly winners.

With this post I have completed all 30 days of NaBloPoMo!

Check in tomorrow to see what I am up to next!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The tree is up

We set up the tree today, which is a week earlier than usual, but we won't be here for the week of Christmas so we figured we might as well do it now and get the added enjoyment of it.

All of the traditional things went into it.

The dragging out of boxes from their long storage in clothing closets

The finding of clothing long missing because it fell behind the boxes

The mad rush to open the ornament & light boxes and spread it all around the living room & the attendant rush to prevent that happening.

The unpacking and unfolding of the tree

The hunt for the power cord

The hanging of the ornaments by the boys along with the accompanying telling of the stories behind the ornaments (we have a lot of ornaments from our own childhoods)

The correction of ornament placement (the boys have a tendency to put 2-3 ornaments on one branch)

The taking of photos by DH, with the yearly dying of the batteries (both the new Nikon D40 and the old Olympus had their batteries fail)

This is followed by DH's annual rant on the evils of manufacturers that create things that need special rechargeable batteries rather than just taking easily replaced AAs

This was, as usual, followed by the traditional cussing out of the tangled outdoor lights and its matching 'find the outdoor extension cord' game.

The new event this year was the mystery of the missing indoor lights. We have or had, 3 long strands of multi colored lights that we string around the living room. They are no where to be found.

All this took about an hour to accomplish.

Why so little time?

The tree is only 3 feet tall.

Friday, November 28, 2008

What I actually did for Thanksgiving

I admit I was planning on making reservations. But they were all buffets and buffets simply are not cost effective for my little picky eaters, not when kids 4 and up cost $10.95.  There are not enough bread rolls on a buffet to cost justify that amount. (adults were $16.95, which is about right for me and DH comes out ahead, but not sufficiently ahead to offset the $22 for the kids).

So I did,in the end, make Thanksgiving dinner.

We had a meal out of Rachel Ray's November magazine - the Thanksgiving every day section.  We had ground turkey patties with mashed sweet potatoes & gravy and salad. We also had brie and bread. True to form Havoc picked at everything and Mayhem ate the salad. Both of them ate the bread. Mayhem was eventually pressured into a bite of turkey & sweet potato.

And my mother wonders why I make reservations.

Speaking of my mother, I didn't use her pie recipe when I made pumpkin pie. Mom's recipe is - Go to Sams. Buy a pumpkin pie in the bakery.

Sam's is too far away and Safeway was sold out, forcing me to MAKE MY OWN pie.

I had 2 choices. I could buy a can of Libby's pumpkin and follow the recipe on the can (Mom used to do that before she moved near a Sams Club, so I suppose that is the 'old family pie recipe') or I could dig out the Joy of Cooking pumpkin pie recipe which calls for homemade roasted pumpkin puree.

Did I mention we only got one small pumpkin despite all the pumpkin patches & harvest festivals we went to in October?

Old family pie recipe it is!

Interesting thing about using products from different agribusinesses...they don't match up in size. Libby's pie recipe claims to make one pie, but Pillsbury's pie crust will only hold about 3/4 of the pie filling.

We had a pumpkin pie and a separate container of 'pumpkin custard'.

One more fun fact about my mom.

She didn't make anything for Thanksgiving this year.

She & my dad are currently on a 3 week cruise somewhere in the Mediterranean, headed toward the Atlantic Ocean which they will cross at the narrowest point between Africa & South America and then cruise north through the Caribbean onto Miami, arriving home about a week before we turn up at their house for the Christmas holiday. They go on at least one of these nearly month long cruises every year.

I want to be my parents when I grow up.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

I know today the whole world is putting up meaningful heartfelt posts of thing they are thankful for, but I'm not so good at meaningful heartfelt expressions with words. I think I come over sounding all cheesy, trite and a tad bit pathetic.

So let me just say I love you all and am grateful for all that is good and comforting in my life and know that I mean it from the heart. I'd bake you all muffins to show my appreciation if it were in my power to get muffins to you all.

I hope everyone has a great day!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What I am making for Thanksgiving

I envision this conversation between my sons, some Thanksgiving far in the future, when they are sitting around the table with their children & grandchildren.

Havoc: Remember the savory mashed sweet potatoes?

Mayhem: What about the apricot glazed turkey?

Havoc: the one with the cornbread & oyster stuffing?

Mayhem: No the sourdough and fig stuffing.

Havoc: Oh yeah. I'm thinking of the stuffed maple turkey breast. How about the prime rib that one time?

Mayhem: with the horseradish mashed potaotes!

Havoc: *sigh* Our mom made the best reservations didn't she?

Mayhem: Yeah, no one could dial like our mom. She was a wizard with the phonebook.

Havoc: Remember the time Dad did Thanksgiving dinner?


Together: Waffle House!!!

I don't *do* Thanksgiving dinner you see.

We go to my folks in Florida for a week every year, we alternate between Thanksgiving and Xmas. Mom controls Thanksgiving. Attempts to help or change or add anything to the menu is met with firm but polite refusal.

This is an Xmas year, so the Thanksgiving 'feast' is on me. Considering just what parts of the traditional thanksgiving meal my kids are willing to eat - the bread rolls & the whipped cream on the pumpkin pie - I can't really call it a 'feast'. Oh they might take a bite or two of turkey & if I stand over them gulp down a bite of sweet potatoes. If corn is on the cob Havoc will eat some. Mayhem will pull a couple leaves out of his salad & eat them. It's hard to work up much enthusiasm to make a big meal when this is what you are facing.

I'm not yet willing to make cheese pizza or mac & cheese our traditional Thanksgiving dinner so we go out to eat. There are a number of local restaurants that put on Thanksgiving buffets or special Thanksgiving menus. Everyone gets what they want. DH doesn't have a stack of dishes to wash. I'm not annoyed that the food I made isn't being eaten and we don't have pounds of leftover turkey in the fridge. Honestly? Turkey is ok, but after one round of sandwiches on Friday or Saturday, I'm done with the leftovers.

I'm figuring it will be a special family tradition. My future DILs might thank me for lowering the bar so much. If they don't want to deal with cooking Thanksgiving, their husbands will not be expecting it anyway. If they do want to make a feast they don't have to worry about including any special items or any expectations from our side of the family.

"Oh they were great reservations honey, really.I love your reservations. But...I guess there is just something special about the way my mom made the reservations. "

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


The boys go through a shocking number of clothes in a day right now. It's muddy out and cold. So instead taking off their shirts & tees to play in the mud, they now layer on a couple of shirts, long pants, socks and jackets.

Then they somehow get mud through all those layers in about 30 minutes. These are children who shriek with horror if they get some drops of water on their shirt while washing their hands. The shirt CANNOT be worn any more. It is too WET & DIRTY with that drop of water on it.

Imagine how they react to real mud and actual dampness.

They must have changed clothes 5 times each over the weekend. I washed their clothes on Sunday but somehow their laundry basket is full again. It hasn't even been 48 hours.

Monday, November 24, 2008

I made ragu for dinner

There are times where I wish I could say "I made my mother's ragu, handed down through the generations from mother daughter. It's an old family tradition from the Old Country."

But we're Irish & German, have been here since 1780 or so, and my foremothers embraced the convenience of early modern agribusiness prior to WWII with a startling eagerness. Oh there were jars of home canned stuff in my Nan's larder when I was a child, but no one had seen her can a thing after 1951.

Tellingly perhaps, I cannot remember any of the jars every being opened, let alone eaten.

This is my family's traditional ragu.


It even says 'traditional' right on the label.

I'm rather fond of it actually. There are so few 'family recipes' in my background that I take what I can get.

But sometimes, usually around now, when it gets really cold for the first time in months, the complete lack of Italian blood in me calls out for a dish of rich meaty ragu, served over polenta. And ConAgra's contribution won't cut it.

I make this sort of ragu


I should have remembered to take the photos *before* we ate.

And before I spooned half of it into a bag for the freezer

The pot was actually nearly brim full of ragu when it was done cooking.

It's good over pasta shells, rigatoni or gnocci, and in lasagna, but I like it best over polenta.

It takes freakin forever to make this ragu but it's worth it. Most of the time is just waiting around for it to cook but there is a about 30 minutes of activity leading up to that and another 10-20 or so after. You end up with about 8-9 cups of ragu from this, which works out to about 3 dinners in my house.

You need:

2 28 ounce cans of tomatoes - crushed or whole doesn't really matter, you'll be pureeing them. Get good ones, home canned if possible (assuming you know they were canned in this century)

2 pounds or so bone in beef short ribs, trimmed of large areas of fat

1 pound of boneless chuck meat,likewise trimmed

1 pound of sausage, links or ground, your choice

1 small yellow onion - peeled & chopped

2 cloves of garlic smashed & chopped

2 carrots peeled & grated

2 ribs of celery likewise

4 ounces of portabella or crimini mushrooms, chopped

1 cup of white wine

2 strips of thick sliced bacon, chopped

a handful of chopped parsley

salt & pepper

olive oil

First you need to puree the tomatoes and then strain them, pushing them through a metal strainer set over a bowl. You want to strain out the tougher bits of skins & the seeds. Salt & pepper the tomato puree. Set that aside & preheat the oven to 300.

It a large dutch oven, about 7 quarts, though mine is a bit smaller than that, brown the sausage, breaking it up as you do. Then remove it and set it aside to drain. Pour off the excess fat, but leave a little & add some olive oil. Over medium high heat brown the chuck all over, remove it, add a bit more oil if needed and brown the ribs all over. This takes about 10 minutes or so.

If you're like me, use this time to chop & grate up all that stuff you didn't get around to doing ahead of time.

Remove the ribs, pour off the fat and wipe the pan out with paper towels, set it to medium heat then add the bacon. Stir the bacon and let it brown. Once it is browned add a bit more oil and add the onions, carrots, celery & garlic. Stir them often as they brown & get soft, about 7-8 minutes. Then add the mushrooms and parsley and stir them around for a bit. Add the beef, but not the sausage. Stir it all around well, then add the wine, turn up the heat to high and let it cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the pureed tomatoes, stir and let come to a simmer.

Put the lid on it and slide it into the oven for 2.5 hours. Put the sausage in the fridge until about 10 minutes before the ragu is done in the oven.

When the time is up remove the ragu. Remove the meat from the sauce, all of it, even the bits that have fallen off the bones. Set it aside to cool a bit. There will be a good bit of oil floating around on top of the sauce. Remove it with a spoon or turkey baster. Then puree the sauce, either in batches in a blender or with a hand blender in the pot, carefully. Once the meat can be handled (10-15 minutes) remove the bones, any chunks of fat or connective tissue and discard. Shred up the meat and return it to the sauce. Add the sausage. Stir and reheat to a simmer for about 10 minutes. Salt & pepper to taste

I usually make polenta, putting 4 cups of cold water with a cup of coarse corn meal in a pan and setting it over medium low heat and stirring it from time to time until it gets thick, then stirring it more frequently (usually in between shredding up the meat & things).It takes 30-40 minutes for the polenta to get thick enough to pull from the sides of the pot.

Pile some polenta on a plate, scatter some provolone & mozzarella over it and ladle a big helping of ragu over that.

It's seriously hearty. Make no plans after dinner.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Weekly Winners Nov 16 - 22

Our leaves went brown very quickly


So I said the heck with it and played with photo effects


Mayhem's got a little captain in him


Jurassic Bathtime


We also had a light dusting of snow briefly on Thursday

snow-1-2 Visit Lotus at Sarcastic Mom for more weekly winners

Saturday, November 22, 2008

8 more days of NaBloPoMo

So far I am doing good. I made a promise to myself this year when I decided to do NaBloPoMo again - no memes or themes, apart from Weekly Winners. If I was going to do this, I was going to do it with my own ideas, not posts prompted by others. Plus only one post allowed about how hard NaBloPoMo was getting & how I had no ideas to post. I was going to come up with 25 posts of my own creation, 23 of which had to be about something other than NaBloPoMo. I wanted to do the month of writing (NatNoWriMo, or something like that), but I'm not ready to commit to that much writing yet, so I compromised with this structure.

I'm feeling pretty good about it. All my posts so far, apart from Weekly Winners have been ideas of my own devising and I was blessed that they came to me relatively easily. I have a several sheets of a notepad filled with topic ideas that will last me through November and farther.

One is an idea to live tweet our 2 day drive to Florida next month and then do a post about it. Problem is I cannot type worth crap on a regular cell phone and it'd take me 10 minutes to type "entering South Carolina" while I figured out how to get the S and C to be uppercase while the rest stayed lower case.  The battery on my current cell has just about given up entirely on recharging but I don't know if my desire to tweet our trip justifies the cost of a phone with a QWERTY keyboard.

Then again, maybe I'll just save those ideas for 2009 blog fodder and instead do the 25 Memes of Christmas.  I'm not sure I could actually pull that off though because we'll be on the road 4 days that month and 4 more days will be Weekly Winners. 

Maybe I could do the  25, 24, 21, or so, Memes of Christmas.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Weighty Matter

I am a comparison grocery shopper. I have a Safeway, several Food Lions & a Walmart available to me for groceries. One of the Food Lions is grossly overpriced, but if I need to be in that area, south of my house, it is the only option except the Amish market. I do my best to avoid this Food Lion for anything but Hornsby Crisp Apple Hard Cider. It is the only Food Lion that carries it, the others only carry the regular Hornsby Apple Hard Cider.  Safeway and Wal Mart do not carry hard cider, neither do the Amish. Cider is my favorite beverage so you can imagine I must plot my grocery shopping with care, stocking up on what is available & what is best priced at each store as I visit them in rotation.

One week finds me getting my baking needs, butter & bulk grains with the Amish, a quick run in to overpriced Food Lion for several 6 packs of cider and anything advertised on sale in the paper that I need at the time (they have to honor the sale prices but everything else in that Food Lion costs on average 15 to 40 cents more than the other 2 Food Lions only 20 miles away). Another week has me in Safeway buying items only available in Safeway, like prepared pesto sauce and the things that are cheaper in Safeway, then I swing by the Food Lion in the next shopping plaza and pick up things only available in Food Lion, like flat bread and the things that are cheaper in (normal priced) Food Lion, plus whatever is on the best sale at either place, assuming it beats Wal Mart. 

I pass both Safeway and Food Lion on my way to the gym so stopping at both is no hardship.

Once a month I head to WalMart for the stuff that is always cheapest at Walmart. 64oz & up bottles of juice, gallons of milk, laundry detergent, dish washing liquid, bottles of wine. It's heavy lifting shopping. I buy maybe a dozen things and it takes me 4 trips to unload the car. I'd love to spread the weight around to other shopping trips but Ocean Spray 100% Cranberry Pomegranate juice 2 for $5! V8Fusion $2.98! Ocean Spray is at least $3 on sale at Safeway and I never see V8Fusion for less than $4.98 anywhere.

My arms are killing me. I bought 5 bottles of juice, 2 gallons of milk and a huge thing of All liquid detergent. They are still piled inside the door waiting for me to recover from the long walk across the yard.

Oh, and a car battery, because mine keeps dying on me. I had to get a jump start from someone this morning because it died on me while I was waiting to put Mayhem on the school bus.  But I at least I didn't have to carry it inside.  DH will be putting it in my car this weekend.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I've been busy

I've been scrapping a lot this week.

But I can't show you what I have been doing yet.

I can say that Traci Reed has something great coming this weekend at SSD and Kim Hill has some really nice stuff coming to Scrapbook Elements at the end of the month.

I've also gone through my crochet patterns & have some holiday ones in the works. Right now I am crocheting fruit & veggies to sit in my fruit bowl now that fresh local fruit season is over. I also have a snowman in a couple different sizes to do and I am making little poppets, one of each of us, for xmas tree ornaments. though I am still deciding on how to do the hair. And of course Mayhem is still nagging me about the crochet dinosaurs he wants.

I've sorted through the toddler bedsheets for the quilts, the ones I made, the ones I bought, plus the additional kiddie fabric I bought intending to make into sheets. I'm going to go with large patchwork squares, strip pieced together, which should go fairly quickly & let the boys pick their edge colors. I may just sew the top to a large fleece rather than do the quilt layers.

Of course I can't do any of it until DH gets rid of all the hardware he has piled up on my sewing & cutting tables in the junk room.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Xmas gifts

Havoc has been talking about some of the kids in his class and some on the bus who have little MP3 players.

Kindergartners with MP3 players....oh-kay.

I thought I was a few years away from this. Not so much the kids having the MP3 player as taking it to school & back.  My kids are always losing and or breaking things so the idea that I might give them some expensive electronics to take out of the house & away from my help just never crossed my mind.

But then I found a $9 1GB MP3 player that has 4 buttons. OH! OKAY! See, I'm not up on the technology at the lower end of the price & size scale. Last time I went looking for a player it had to have at least 40GB and play videos (and not be an iPod because while I will surrender to Google running the online world I am not surrendering to iPod controlling the music & video world. Plus the software uses to damn much RAM) So I had no idea you could get them that cheap & easy to use.

I though getting Havoc one for Xmas and loading it with the music of mine that he likes plus a new kiddie CD of his choice, would be a nice gift. 

Then feature creep began.

Maybe get one for Mayhem too (though it stays in the house).

That adds another $9

Havoc can read short words & Mayhem knows his letters. So since they really can't read a text screen it is unnecessary. But I'd like it to have one. They will be able to read eventually and understanding frequently seen words is a matter of pattern recognition. I'm only putting about 20 songs on the thing, not the 500 it can hold. So I think it would be helpful if they had a text screen saying the song title.

I've just added $5-10 to the single player costs.

Plus I want to put some kiddie audiobooks from the library on them. They like listening to them in the car & on the CD player in the house. 

I'm going to have to convert the library CD tracks or make sure the player can play that format and it will definitely need to be able to have folders to keep the book altogether & not mix in the music with it

I've added another $10-20 to the player cost.

Then I remembered my audible account. Audible has kids books and I get 2 books a month for $17 (legacy account, I've been with them since 2002). I could get one book for them & one for me every month. Audible is not compatible with all players.

I've added another $25-35 to the cost of the player

Lets talk about headsets for a minute.  The ones that come with the player are either easily broken headsets or adult sized unpadded earbuds. Ear Candy earbuds with sizeable pads are $15

I somehow went from one $9 MP3 player to 2 $65 minimum MP3 players.

I decided this probably was not going to happen. I have about $175 left in the Xmas budget and I want to get my folks a digital photo frame - a nice one with 256mb of built in memory. I figured I'd keep my eyes open on Black Friday & maybe I'd find a cheap MP3 that met some of my feature creep and hopefully get lucky on frame

Then I found this while browsing current sales at Deals of America. It's a refurb but it meets all the feature creep, plus it's 2GB & shows photos. I checked at SanDisk and I can download the manual & software (not included) from them free. I then found a View Sonic photo frame with 256GB, that sells for $130-180, for only $95. Free shipping on both!

So that is done. 

Now I just need to find Mayhem a cheap, small, not too noisy remote controlled dinosaur. I've seen them for about $20 some places.

I'm monitoring DVD prices. I want to get Wall-E and Kung-fu Panda. But I want to pay less than $15 each for them, right now the cheapest is $19. I'm also watching Wii games.  I know Wii Music and the various Lego games are not going to come down enough for me but I live in hope.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Conversations Not Worth Continuing

1. Mayhem & I are at the store today. I was getting light bulbs, because our bulbs pop en masse rather that one at a time and there were only 2 bulbs at home. Mayhem was asking about the types of bulbs and what lights needed new ones. Then he says

"wW need a one in our room too Mama"

me: "I didn't notice that last night"

Mayhem: "it got popped out last night. not broken, just popped out"

something about that statement made me go hhmmmm....

me: "so how'd it get popped out?"

Mayhem "it got whacked by the long neck dinosaur when it went flying by."

There are so many places I could go from there I couldn't decide on a starting point and decided to just drop it.

FYI...bunk beds and small bedrooms with ceiling fans can cause unexpected 'issues'

2. Mayhem & I are leaving the gym. He'd been in the playcare area for a little over an hour.

Me: So did you have fun?

Mayhem: I had a good day

Me: That's nice

Mayhem: Yeah, I didn't hit anybody today

Not knowing whether to go with "how often do you hit people?" or a discussion of the difference between attainable goals and setting the bar too low I decided to drop it.

3.  I'm folding laundry and Havoc comes in and says.

"Do we still have those round green sleds"

Me: yes, they are in the shed

Havoc: Do you think daddy will help me put an engine and brakes on them? Maybe some wheels too and a seat. least he has thought ahead to needing brakes

Monday, November 17, 2008

Girls Day Out

I went with a couple of GFs yesterday on an outing.

We drove an hour to go to Wegmans.

Wegmans is a totally cool, huge grocery store & I enjoyed being there enormously because we just don't get much variety here with Safeway & Food Lion, especially in produce or in prepared food - like stuffed flank steak, you just need to cook.

The 3 of us did some regular grocery shopping plus bought stuff for a big dinner our 3 families had that night.  I spent $125 and came in considerably lower that the other 2. But I only bought 2 bottles of wine.

As much fun as I had there & as much as I am looking forward to going again - when did going to a different grocery store become an exciting & fun thing to do?  This is now the wild thing I do with my GFs.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Weekly Winners Nov 9 -15

I took my new camera and the boys for a photo shoot around the yard








These guys came along too. Havoc took their picture


Visit Lotus at Sarcastic Mom for more Weekly Winners

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Separation Anxiety Strikes Again

We have all the bunk bed parts. Last night we went over how we were going to assemble it today. The boys talked about the merits of Batman sheets versus Spiderman sheets while I shook out the various fleece blankets they have to see what would fit a twin bed and what was too small. I'm going to have a large lot of toddler fitted sheets to offer on eBay. I mentioned this to DH and Mayhem suddenly became concerned. "You give away my truck sheets?" I explained the sheets won't fit on the new mattresses so we won't need them any longer.

Mayhem threw himself on his bed (with truck sheets) and sobbed "BUT I WUV MY TRUCK SHEETS!!!"

Oh dear.

Deciding to go with the 'ripping the bandaid off quickly' approach, I told him that when the bunk bed were set up, we would be removing his toddler bed and wouldn't need it or the sheets so we will be giving them away and I tried to remind him of how excited he was about the bunk beds and Batman sheets.

He wasn't having it. He is now distraught at the idea of giving away his bed, let alone his sheets.  But let me be clear - he wants the bunk beds and Batman sheets, he just doesn't want to get rid of the toddler bed & sheets.  He thinks I should just keep them in the spare bedroom, leaning against a wall, so he can look at them. He doesn't want them to go away forever and cries at the very thought.

This is new. Two months ago we went through their toys, sorting out what to keep, what to donate and what to toss and he was right in there, sorting with the best of them. There were some things that were his 'favorite' that he didn't want to go away forever, but the vast majority of toys he was able to view objectively - I have outgrown that, I don't play with that, that is broken, I want to keep that.  He's never been the sort of child that had to carry a lovey around. Unlike his brother, who has a blankie and a bear, Mayhem never developed a particular attachment to any one item. He is randomly affectionate to all the toys, taking dinos, race cars, dump trucks, stuffed animals and trains to bed with him at various times.

I'm trying to be sympathetic about it. I remember having attachments to inanimate objects when I was kid. So I can empathize with him. But at a certain point sympathy becomes enabling and I can never tell what his reaction to my sympathy is going to be. Sometimes it calms him down and sometimes I can tell he is forcing himself to be upset. I'm just hoping this phase passes quickly.

I've decided instead of eBay I am going to keep the patterned sheets and rework them into a couple of quilts for the boys (many of their sheets I made & some are store bought, there should be plenty of fabric). I'm going to call the family shelter in town & see if they need a toddler bed, a couple of mattresses and the solid sheets. Maybe if Mayhem sees where the bed is going he'll feel better about it.


I have received some awards recently.  I'll be talking about them & passing them on soon!

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Personal Low

I went to the library yesterday and I checked out a mere 4 books. They told me I only had 9 other items checked out. This is the least amount of books I have had out of the library in over 2 years.

Mayhem and I go to the library nearly every week. If Havoc is out of school he comes with us. Yesterday I went alone, which explains the 4 measly books. I get 3-6 books every time. Mayhem gets 2-4 books and a couple of videos. Havoc gets the same if he is with us, otherwise I pick out a couple books for him. On average I leave with 10 items every week. During the summer I leave with as many as 22.

We return the books we have read whenever we go, but we never read all of them in a week. Then we check out more books and they move the due date of the last batch to the new batch. Next week bring back a few more, maybe some from the past week, maybe some from the previous weeks. All the outstanding books are then moved to the new batch's due date. Repeat, week after week, unless a rare hold request has come up. At any given moment there are at least 20 library books and videos in my house and only a quarter of them have the correct due dates on them. I've had as many as 50 items out at once. I'm not sure how I got down to 13.

It was about 3 years ago that I realized that book buying was taking a huge chunk of our budget - especially the kids books. I had a hard time cutting them out. Books are good for you, they are educational, interesting, mind expanding, entertaining, wonderful things! How can you spend too much on them? It's like saying you have to cut vitamins out of your budget. You need vitamins. You can't just stop buying them. But a huge chunk of the budget is a huge chunk of the budget and out it had to go.

It took me awhile to warm to our library. You could tell how it's resources ebbed & flowed over the years by publication date. For instance it has childcare books from the 80's and 90's, including the Dr Sears Sleep Book edition that recommends putting babies to sleep on their bellies, but nothing from 1997 to 2002 (which was when I was looking for sleep books). But come 2004 suddenly there are all these recent childcare manuals. It is the same in fiction. I moved here in 1997, so the majority of my library experience was during the lean years, before the housing and therefor tax dollars boom. I just stopped visiting it after the end of 2002, it held nothing I was looking for. But toward the start of 2006, when I decided to stop buying so many books, I returned and was pleased to see tax dollars at work in a nice stock of new or recently published books.

The children's' section is still rather run down and bit out of date but they have a huge number of kids books and who cares if the covers are worn, Thomas the Tank Engine never loses it's appeal. Ever since then we've gone to the library at least twice a month. I don't think there has been a point since late 2006 when there were no library books in the house.

I'm just really surprised there are only 13 at the moment. Surprised and relieved because when I was looking for books to return yesterday I thought I'd misplaced a bunch of them.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Letter to My Mortgage Company

To you desperate people in the refi and home equity department:

Please share notes about customers. Please read the customer history. It will save us both endless amounts of time, money and the lives of several trees in bulk mailings, if you would just do a little looking around before contacting me.

I realize it drives you home equity people nuts when you see that, according to your records, I have over $75,000 in equity in my house. That's equity I could be paying you interest on! And I have the audacity not to have contacted you asking to have my debt load increased. You feel you are doing me a favor by contacting me and telling me all about how I could borrow against that equity and pay off high interest credit cards or remodel the house or pay for the kids college.  There are a couple of problems with this pitch. Please, make note of them in your customer database.

First, those high interest credit cards of mine that you are so worried about? There is one, and it would cost me more in fees to you to get the loan than I actually owe to the card itself.

Second, remodeling my house would be a SERIOUS undertaking requiring more than the equity you believe I have.

Third, my kids aren't even in grade school yet. College loans are a bit premature

Last and most important, what you don't know is that I already have a home equity loan. With another company. I actually only have about $30,000 in equity and no, I have no interest in cashing it out. You really ought to talk to the refi department. They seem to have more information on me than you do.

I also know that I am driving you refi people nuts because I have a $40,000 home equity loan with another company and you desperately want me to be paying that interest to you. (Why do you know about that loan and your home equity department does not?) But the thing is I have a great low rate with you all (Why don't you know that? You should know that. You are my mortgage company after all.) and a great rate with the other company (I've told you that on more than one occasion), so refinancing my mortgage to include the HELOC at a higher rate makes no sense. Please make note of that in your database.

Do you really think people are going to take on tens of thousands of additional debt in this economy? The government may be bailing you out of your fiscal irresponsibility, but no one is going to come rushing to pay off my debts if I overextend myself.

I realize you don't make notes so you both keep calling and calling and sending mailer after mailer, promising fast turn around, low fees, great rates but the thing you all are not understanding and should be able to see in your database record for my account history is:


You never have and you never will. Despite the fact that I have paid 118 out of 123 mortgage payments to you, on time 100% of the time, you will not give me a loan. Those 5 payments were made to 3 other companies who would. You have bought my mortgage, on 3 separate occasions, as part of package deal from those companies. You did give me a no cash out refi once, that got me the great low rate I have. But you will never ever give me cash, not even to roll in closing costs.

This is why

back 009

That is my house. My earth bermed, sod roofed house. It gives your underwriters fits that the company holds the mortgage in the first place and sends them into paroxysms of horror at the very thought they might lend me MORE money against it. It's unusual, they think it is hard to value (trust me the county tax assessor has no problems with that), there are no comparable properties in a 50 mile radius (That have been appraised in the past 18 months. There are comparable properties but we unusual home owners don't sell very often and since refi-ing is a PITA we don't do that much either.) It is, to your underwriters, practically unresellable and entirely too risky (unlike those sub prime loans to unqualified borrowers, oh but hey, they were buying normal homes, so that makes it ok I guess).

Since you won't stop calling or mailing me, please put this photo in my file. Attach a .jpg to my database entry. Make sure it pops up immediately after my number is dialed in the system so everyone can see what they are dealing with before any of us waste our time in fruitless 'cash out' conversations.

Better yet, save a few trees, and yourself a few bucks and just stop mailing me and calling me. You are not going to lend me any money and even if you were- I don't want it.


The no cash out homeowner

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Coming Down with Something

Last night about 10pm I got very cold. Very very cold. Not really shaking with chills but I just couldn't get warm. I went to bed in long johns under 3 blankets & kept waking up every hour or so with my muscles aching from being clenched with cold while I slept. This went on until about 3am when suddenly to was too hot to stand & then it was cold again & then it went away and I slept for a few hours. I felt ok when woke up but then about 5 minutes later I had to get back into bed because I was shaking & felt weak in the muscles. I have no fever and now I feel pretty good, just a bit cold, despite wearing a shirt and fleece pullover. But I don't trust my muscles enough to take Body Pump today. There is a chance I'd feel warm & good after class and there is a chance that halfway into it I'd have to leave because I can't lift anything. I don't feel achy, but I feel the potential to be achy if you know what I mean. I may do some WiiFit after Mayhem goes to school, just get the blood flowing & see if that helps.

Mayhem was up half the night too. He was stressing about a toy he found on the bus. He's been having some kind of separation anxiety lately that focuses on objects. Monday he was in tears in Safeway because I wouldn't let him have a grape he dropped on the floor. "But it was my favorite grape" he cried. Then all day at random he'd mention "I really miss my grape" and sometimes cry. He found this tiny rubber penguin on the bus yesterday & we told him it probably belongs to someone who is missing it so he has to ask the bus driver if anyone has reported it lost. About 5 minutes later he starts sobbing "but I wuv my penguin. I don't want to give him away." and was inconsolable for about 15 minutes. The rest of the night he'd be playing or reading and just start crying about how he's going to miss the penguin. He didn't mention the penguin in the middle of the night when he joined us, but he was very clingy. This morning he lays down with me and just sobs about the penguin. I told him if the bus driver said no one had asked about the penguin he could keep it. That cheered him up some but he is still very worried he might have to give up the penguin. I feel so bad for the little guy. He seems almost heartbroken about it.

ETA - The bus driver said no one mentioned a missing penguin to her and told Mayhem he could keep it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lack of Customer Service

DH lost his wallet Friday. In that wallet, along with his license & credit cards was a list of our checking account numbers.  The bank got right on it and set us up with new accounts and by Sunday everything was transferred to these new accounts and all our auto transfers and BillPays were transferred as well.  They just transferred the new account to my check card rather than issue me a new one. That is about 85% of our bill payments taken care of with no effort on my part. Thank goodness.

However there is that other 15% - those few accounts who for whatever reason are direct debiting our checking account or who were given DH's check card number to debit.  Problem is I have no idea how some of our accounts are billing us (my card? his card? direct debit?), and since the new accounts were opened I have no statement history to go look at and see. So I have to call them.

Our long distance company saved me the problem by calling me (they had DH's now canceled card), but it was an auto message so there was no human being to talk to.

A portent of things to come.

Does anyone like voice activated response systems over the phone? You know the ones where instead of pushing 1, you have to say (or shout) ONE.. ONE... ONE DAMN IT!!! in the phone to get to the next option where you have to shout NO & YES a bunch of times and then try and phrase your problem "I need to update my billing information" in short enough syllables the system can recognize it and you find yourself shouting OPERATOR!!! OPERATOR !!! over and over again in the hopes of getting a live human being? Those systems? The ones you cannot use if you have small kids in the room because while the system can't seem to hear you saying THREE with your mouth on the receiver it can hear your 4 year old across the room demanding a snack and it responds "I'm sorry I didn't understand, lets try again" repeatedly.

Let's just say I have issues with voice response systems.

I had to call 4 of them! With one account I finally got through to a person who listened to my problem, said "oh you need the billing department" and then put me back into the voice response billing system!

But they are all fixed now. I think. I'm sure I am forgetting someone but I can't figure out who it is.

I'm sure they will let me know.

Monday, November 10, 2008


I've been shopping a lot lately. One of the boys' Xmas presents is a bunk bed. We've been planning this for awhile & putting some aside for it because GEEZ! bunk beds are expensive and that is without the mattresses. I tried Craigslist but any decent looking used one was as much as a lower end new one & I wasn't really seeing any reason but style behind the costs of the higher end ones, especially since I wanted a simple light colored wood one that could convert to 2 beds. And mattresses! OMG! it's like you can have $80 crap mattress or a $300 decent one. Admittedly we spent $1100 on our queen sized Comforpedic, but we don't have bed wetting issues. Nor do we jump up and down on them or use them as springboards for superman leaps. I just want a good solid mattress that will stand up to years of boys. Once we're safely past the bed wetting I'll get them some memory foam covers for the mattresses. 

Oh yeah, and I have to buy sheets, blankets and comforters too.  And rubber mattress covers. The boys sleep in toddler beds still. We are ill equipped for the change over.

I found a bunk bed I liked that was $100 more than I had intended to spend.  But when I took the boys to jump on mattresses at Mattress Discounters (you know, to try them out) the manager sold me 2 mattresses for $100 off. (Possibly in the hopes I'd remove the bouncing demons from his store that much faster). The mattresses will be in Thursday. The bunk beds had a delivery date of Nov 13-19. But I received word that 4 of the 5 boxes are at the store for pick up now.

I'm dubious. Items arriving before the earliest delivery date? 3 whole days before the earliest delivery date? These things don't happen. They are either broken, or not my order. The only reason they might possibly be my order is the box that is missing is the top guard rail. So I can take the bunk bed home, assemble it, but no one can sleep in the top bunk until the rail arrives...probably on the 19th. That I can see happening.

So Friday DH will pick up the mattresses and what has arrived so far of the bunk beds and we will assemble them Saturday. Or rather HE will assemble them Saturday. I will be taking the boys to Wal Mart and Target in search of bedding.

I bought a bag for the camera from Stitch Wicked on etsy.

She does custom bags but I was so overwhelmed by the amount of fabric on eQuilter that I couldn't make up my mind, so I bought one of her already completed ones. I am hoping the fact that it is grey will offset the unmanly small floral print for DH.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Weekly Winners Nov 2-8

I got a new camera on Tuesday, a Nikon D40. I immediately started taking photos as soon as the battery was charged.

The coffee station/bakers rack in the kitchen was immediately available


Then I moved around and zoomed in on the cookbooks


And the coffee pot


And the coffee mugs



and the coffee canister


I think someone was in the smiley stickers

toys 11-5-2023-3

Probably this guy


The sleeping cat warrior....




Visit Lotus at Sarcastic Mom for more Weekly Winners

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Tagging, lots of tagging

Not the "you're it" kind, but the labeling kind

I have ACDSee Photo Manager. I've had it for almost 2 years now I think. I think they have upgraded a couple times since I bought it but I'm happy with what mine does & would rather spend the $35 upgrade on digi supplies.

That's what I use it for most - tagging digital scrapbooking supplies. I have about 28GBs of digi scrap stuff (which is NOTHING in some digi circles, I know people who are maxing out 250GB EHDs with stuff) and I have it all neatly organized in folders by type and everything is tagged in ACDSee so I don't have to keep opening all those folders in search of the elusive doodled star shaded slightly blue that would look perfect on my layout. I just click the tags for doodle & star and up they all come.  I did intend at some point to go back and add the 'blue' tag but I'm good with how I have it now.

What I had not been using the Photo Manager for was um..managing my photos.... well,that would be too obvious now wouldn't it?

I have a very good visual memory and a pretty good one for dates so if I was thinking of using a photo of Mayhem in his yellow jacket down by the river, I'd probably go right to the Nov 04 folder, or possibly the Feb 05 folder, but I'd find it fairly easily. I can remember just about all my photos, if not specific expressions, general location activity & feel. But Havoc was born 6 years ago and that's a lot of photos.

It's even more photos when you add in my 365 Project this year which focuses on the boys' play. Then there are the random photos which seem to have really exploded in number this year. Oh, and I got that new camera Tuesday?  Yeah, I've taken almost 200 photos since then.

Fortunately I had decided a couple weeks ago that my memory was not able to keep up any more and had started tagging photos, beginning with 2002 and working forward.  I just finished 2005 today.

Right now I am just tagging broad topics - inside play, outside play,Florida, Xmas, who is in the photo (in general) and some regular locations including the park, the river & this


It's our old lawn tractor. It had broken down & been replaced by the time this photo was taken in Oct 04.  Yet it remained in the yard  as a climbing toy and photo prop for almost 2 years.  It is in so many photos I had to give it it's own tag.

Once I get everything tagged generally I'm going to go back at get more specific about what is going on, like painting, the sandbox or wrestling. I have a large number of 'scenery' photos.

I kind of have this thing about data you see.  I really like data. Especially highly detailed data. It makes the data geek in me happy to be able to pull up all the photos of Havoc, with cousin Connor, on the tractor, in the snow, in 2005.  It just took me awhile to connect data with photos. Now that I have I wish ACDSee would create graphs and pie charts so I could create a visual breakdown of photos taken of Havoc in the leaves vs photos of Mayhem in the leaves by percentage as compared to each other and to the total photos take overall over a 3 year period.

I don't know what I would do with the info, I just want to have it. I'd like to be able to say "You know overall 8% of the photos I have taken since Havoc was born are of him in the leaves. 17% of all photos taken in 2005 were of Havoc in the leaves." Absolutely no one, not even DH, would be interested in knowing this, but I'd still like to know it. Preferably in pie chart.

It's times like this that I miss my Access databases.

Friday, November 07, 2008

I have one heck of a husband

I just recently spent $400 on a new camera.

The camera did not come with a bag & it needs a bag.  I'm sure we'd all agree that you don't just toss a $400 camera on the seat of your car and go.

You put it in a camera bag first, then toss it on the seat.

The bag should have various pockets inside and out for holding cords and other lenses. It should be sturdy & well padded. And it should be cute.  A $15 pleathor bag from Wal Mart will not do, unless you are very crafty and can make a slipcover to go over it.

So off to Etsy I went in search of a cute camera bag of the right size. I was a bit startled by the prices but after looking at bags in Wal Mart and thinking about just how I would sew fabric to it and how long it would actually take and how much fabric I would go through before I was finished because me & scissors do not get along & I'd be sure to botch the cutting at least once, I decided that while I can't spend $90 on a bag, $60 was reasonable.

I explained this to DH. This is where he came through as a man in a million.

It would have been entirely reasonable for him to go into the bedroom closet and say "You need to buy a WHAT?" while looking at the dozens of tote bags, purses, backpacks, briefcases and insulated cooler packs on the closet shelves. I have a bit of a *thing* for things to put things in. I have many many things to put things in. I have a half dozen straight up backpacks, each with different pocket configurations. I have 4 very nice leather briefcase bags, most of which can hold a laptop, but that doesn't stop me from owning 2 laptop bags as well. I have about 8 sturdy canvas totes, 5 insulated cooler packs in various sizes, a huge beach bag, a picnic basket and more purses that I am willing to admit to. (I will admit 90% of them were purchased when I was childfree and employed)

So, exclamations about how if there is one thing I really do NOT need, it is another bag, would be justified from him.

But no.

He says "You should get the right bag for the task honey, just nothing too floral in case I need to carry it sometime."

Isn't he the best?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Another odd thing

There are all these random odd things about my kids' school that probably aren't odd, I just don't understand them.  My latest is school lunches. Buying lunch was never an option in my 12 years of Catholic schooling. The school I went to for the first 8 years didn't have a lunch room let alone a cafeteria. You brought your lunch and you ate at your desk.  The high school had a lunch room and a cafeteria that served breakfast to people who qualified for free breakfast, but no lunch. The school was in the middle of town though and you were free to leave and go to the deli or McDonalds. (I'd like to see that happen today) So I have zero experience with cafeterias.

Lunch is $1.70. Havoc buys lunch on random days if they are serving something he likes  - tacos, chicken sandwiches or hot dogs usually. I can't just hand him $2 to stick in his pocket. I understand that. Trusting a bunch of 5 year olds not to lose their lunch money or their change would be foolish.

I have to put the money in a baggie or envelope, write his name, his teachers name and 'lunch money' on it, plus the amount. Ok, I assume this is in case the baggie falls out of his backpack. What I don't understand is why I can't get the baggie or envelope back. We have a huge change jar and don't ever have much cash on us. Havoc takes $1.70 exactly in loose change every time. So he never gets change back. Maybe if I gave him $1.75 he'd get the bag back with a nickel in it?

It's really a matter of waste management to me. I've sent in about 20 baggies since school started. 20 baggies with Havoc's name, the teacher's name and lunch money on it. What are they doing with them? Do they throw them out? Why can't they hand him back the empty bag? Though honestly I am not entirely sure he gives them the money himself. Possibly the teacher collects the baggies and hands them in when the class goes to lunch.  But still, it has his name on it. How hard is it to hand them back?

I've been concerned about the baggie waste for awhile now. Are all these kids bags & envelopes ending up in the trash? Is my kid the only with a baggie? Why isn't there some way for me to send in $20 and have 18 lunches prepaid and save 18 wasted baggies? It seems I can only prepay if he is going to buy lunch every single day, not at random, like he does. The next county over uses prepaid cards the kids swipe. Parents can go online and add money to it with a visa. So this morning, just to see what happened, DH wrote "Please return this bag" on the baggie.

Here the odd thing. We got a baggie back. It was Havoc's baggie. But it WASN'T the one with "Please return this bag" written on it, it was a previous one. What, are they saving them up? Are their piles of baggies sitting around with kids names on them? Are they going to send them home at Xmas break to be used next year?

I want to send a note into the teacher asking about it, but I don't want to be 'that odd woman with the baggie hang up' either. I am going to have to call the school. There has got to be a way to pay ahead on the lunches eaten at random & that info just never reached me or I missed it.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Been playing with the camera

I took some shots while waiting for the kids' bus yesterday afternoon

Very clear photos, unretouched


I'm liking the macro setting


and the no flash setting seems less inclined to blur


Do I need to wash my coffee maker or what? This is embarrassing.


I'm liking the in camera editing too. This time of year the flash is needed inside and given the light wood cabinets, light wood floors, light wood furniture and the yellow living room walls my photos are already inclined to have a yellow hue even without the flash



retouched in camera only


Overall I'm pretty pleased, though it will take me some time to get used to looking through a viewfinder again. I've been looking at a display screen for 6 years. 

Put the camera up to your face and look through the little window? Seriously? People do that?

I also need a cool bag for it. I'd thought one came with the package I got but I read that wrong. WooHoo! bag shopping!!!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

what a good day so far!

It took me all of about 60 seconds to vote. There were 20 cars in the lot but they must have belonged to the people manning tables by the roadside and the dozen or so folks working for the precinct. It seemed a bit overstaffed to say the least. I showed them my ID, noticed DH had voted earlier (#112), got my card (#306, I didn't realize there were 300 people in my precinct, let alone they would have voted already) and made my 3 choices (we only had President, Senator and Representative to elect this time. No bond issues or anything). It took me longer to tweet about it than it did to do it.

I hadn't realized Nader had made it onto the ballot here, nor that the Constitution Party candidate, Chuck Baldwin,  had made it either (and why are they listed as Independent Greens?) They managed to put someone up for Senator as well.

Then I went and got a bacon chili cheese dog, which took much longer to get than it did vote. You want to talk lines? Stop by the General Store at lunch time.

But the really really big news is this:

While taking Mayhem to the bus stop I passed the UPS truck headed toward my house.  I very nearly made a U-turn and chased after him. But I stuck to my duty to get the kid on the bus and go vote.

Looky what the Big Brown Truck of Joy left for me


My long anticipated, and saved for, DSLR!  The battery is charging now and I'm getting ready to read the manual instead of reading blogs.

The orange light is supposed to flash while the battery is charging, right?