So long Zeros – We’re Ready for the 10’s!

It’s that time of year again…time to say farewell to this year and usher in the new one. A new decade in fact.; the 10’s (if that’s what we’re calling them.) Was it a whole ten years ago we were all running around worried about potential Y2K disasters? Yep, 1999 was ten years ago. I recall when that Prince song came out in the 80’s thinking that 1999 and the year 2000 were so far off. And speaking of the 80’s I actually remember NYE 1979 as a kid; I was watching a show and the Village People were singing a song about being ready for the 80’s. Apparently now stuff from the 80’s is considered retro. Much like when I was a kid 50’s stuff was considered oldies. Now that I’ve confirmed my antiquity here and depressed myself a little with that little trip back in time, let me get on with my point.

Like many other people I’m sure, I’m hoping this new year and new decade bring many positive changes. So many have experienced the various trials and calamities of the economy and we were certainly no exception. However, necessity is the mother of invention and thus we’ve actually been led into a brand new venture that we’ll be sharing with you. We’re looking forward to announcing the details here shortly after the New Year so stay tuned.
Here’s to a happy New Year!

I should be so lucky

You may recall in my numerous posts about weight loss my mentioning that the Hubby currently has me beat in this department. I don’t know exactly how he did it, but he managed to drop somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 pounds. Meanwhile, I’m still struggling to lose the rest of my weight. But that’s beside the point. Hubby’s weight loss resulted in dropping a pants size. Well, technically it was more than one pants size, but we all know when men gain some weight they refuse to go up a size and just squeeze into their current pants hoping to lose the weight at some point. So, all his pants were too big. And because he also didn’t want to rush out and buy pants in his new, smaller size he decided to just use a belt. Of course, he needed new belts because the old ones were too big. So this brings me to his recent business trip. During the airport security portion of his check-in he set off the metal detector with his new belt. This resulted in having to remove the belt. Can you see where I’m going with this? That’s right, his pants fell down. Right down to ankle level while bending over to remove his shoes. Apparently the removal of one’s belt, shoes, keys, and laptop out of the bag is not only a huge hassle under normal circumstances, it’s downright impossible while trying to hold your pants up. It’s also hilariously entertaining to the other passengers waiting in line. Frankly, I can hardly see straight to type this I’m laughing so hard and I wasn’t even there to witness it.

But of course, the real issue here is my intense jealousy over my husband’s ability to even have this problem in the first place.

Christmas Cuteness and Holiday Happenings

I’d love to share with you all a witty take on The Night Before Christmas complete with amusing anecdotes about last minute gift wrapping, baking, and housecleaning mixed with holiday merriment, but since I didn’t have time to write it (what with all the last minute gift wrapping, baking, housecleaning and holiday merriment) I thought I’d share some pictures of the season.

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For those regular readers and friends and family who are aware of our usual Christmas Tree tradition, I thought I'd let you know that for once we actually found a tree we liked that was tall enough and cut it down this year. Yes, it's a Christmas Miracle.

Also, Teenager is especially festive sporting a Rudolph-like pimple on the end of his nose, however he refused to allow a photo and my pleading “Come on! It’s for the blog!” seemed to make no difference to him. Teenagers.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Non-Soliciting Solicitors

I may as well hang a sign that says “Please solicit our home - I’m begging you”.
What is it with door-to-door salespeople/solicitors of various descriptions ignoring the basic “No Soliciting” request? I love the various excuses for why their particular activity is not “soliciting”. The “free” offers, the surveys, fund raisers, donations to charity requests and our personal favorite, religious recruitment.

One of the new things seems to be offering to clean your carpet for free—one room—I suppose just so you’ll realize how filthy the rest of it is and be willing to have the whole house cleaned right at that point. I enjoy it when the free carpet cleaning guys come around now because they have no comeback upon hearing: “Oh, I’m sorry, we have no carpet- it’s all wood floors.” Ha!

But we do get annoyed at the myriads of supposedly non–soliciting solicitors who show up despite our sign. Over the years the hubby and I have discussed various possibilities for an effective No Soliciting sign.

I’ve thought about simply spelling it all out:

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But then I realized I need to make exceptions for Girl Scouts and their delicious cookies as well as some religious organizations because frankly, hubby loves the debates and it gives him something fun to do.

Then the hubby comes up with more strongly worded ideas such as:
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I however have come up with a more productive idea:
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And if that’s not enough to make them turn and run:
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Your chance to own an original piece of artwork

So here’s the deal folks: little guy recently brought home this painting from school:

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and where most “artwork” he does is a scribble here and there, I looked at this and thought it was pretty creative. I’ve seen things in art galleries that actually looked like they were done by a three year old at pre-school, so I turned to the hubby and said jokingly that we should auction it off on eBay. He of course laughed and he’s still laughing. But then I thought about all the ridiculous crap people actually do sell on eBay; about this time a couple years ago it was the postcards from Poland prank. There are numerous items people claim are “haunted” or contain the spirit of their dear departed Aunt Matilda that they want to unload. And it seems like every time we turn around we hear about yet another grilled cheese sandwich or piece of toast containing the image of Jesus or the Virgin Mary. So why not? At this point, it’s more or less another one of my hair-brained ideas and I know this. If you want to take a look at the eBay listing it’s here. The auction ends two days before Christmas. The hubby says if it actually sells “it will be a Christmas miracle”.

Christmas Decor gone Awry

The Hubby and I go through the same dialogue every year when he goes to hang the lights on the house. Basically, it involves several minutes of me saying; "Be careful! Don't fall off the ladder!" and him saying; "Yeah, yeah, yeah" "I'll be fine!" So when a family member sent the following "Christmas Decor" photo we cracked up.

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Diversity from a Toddler's POV

Little guy was busily playing with his cars and the various people he likes to load into the vehicles to go for a ride. When we saw this particular carload we cracked up; a pink Jeep filled with a dragon, a blonde, a dog and a Gnome. Honestly, it does not get any more diverse than this!
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Averting your Eyes for the Thighs

Has this ever happened to you? Let’s say your thighs are not your best feature. Let’s say you are the “pear shaped” sort who gains your weight in your hips/thighs rather than around the middle (apple). Now let’s say you gained an inordinate amount of pregnancy weight and it all went to your thighs. Okay, maybe a tiny bit formed a small “muffin top” but the vast majority; thigh city. And by "city" I mean they could claim to be their own city, each of them. So, you are forced to buy bigger pants because you know, you have to wear pants. And it goes a little something like this; enter dressing room, take off existing pants and close your eyes because you do not want to see your thighs in the “funhouse” mirror complete with fluorescent lighting and the extra special rear view you get from the mirrors at all angles. So you do this little thing where you say quietly to yourself “Don’t look, don’t look, just don’t look!” And then, because it’s like a train wreck type scenario, you look.

Being Thankful

As I was thinking about writing a being thankful type of post a lot of various emotions came up. First of all, although I think instinctively most of us know there is always much to be thankful for, in a world today with so much negative going on, particularly the economy, we might have to look a little harder. Of course the biggest things are obvious. To me (and I’m sure many others) its family; no question about it my spouse and children are the biggest things I’m thankful for.

As far as the rest of the list, I’ve had to learn to take a different look at things. This actually ties in with something I’ve been thinking of a lot lately. I think a lot of people tend to look toward the things they wished they had and look right past the things they already have. I know this is something I do and I’ve been trying to be much more conscious of this and modify my thinking. It’s easy to make a mental list of the things we want and do that old “I’ll be happy when I have this” thing. I’m not simply talking of material things here, but events occurring and other intangibles; “I’ll be happy when this finally happens”, etc. I’m incredibly guilty of this, I fully admit it.

With this economy there is a general decrease and downgrading in pretty much everything across the board within our family and of course many others out there. It becomes even harder to deal with this when you realize that not everyone is taking a similar hit. I have a hard time when I see all around me folks who are, for example, still able to take vacations. We haven’t had one of those since before the baby was born and even then the last one did not qualify (Let’s just says when you’re 8 months+ pregnant in the heat of the summer almost nothing qualifies as a vacation unless it involves significant pampering and a pool. And the pool was closed. I don’t think I need to say more.) Yes, we wish some things were different. We’d like to be able to take a vacation. We wish things were different with our extended families and that there was more of a connection and closeness. I wish I did not have to squeeze through the laundry room on the way to the garage like a gopher trying to get out of his hole. And we could really use a new refrigerator. On top of that I’m bemoaning the incredibly unfortunate timing of a year of decreased income and two cars that both need tires. Right before Christmas.

But I need to get back to my point; that whole being thankful thing.

As much as I look at others who are doing better and wish for things we do not have and perhaps never will have I’m strongly reminded that of course there are those that are doing worse than we are and do not have the things we have and perhaps never will.

I guess it comes down to a balance between it could be better and it could be worse.

And just being thankful.

Though I still struggle to lose, I am thankful that I have managed to maintain my weight. Because I could be even bigger if I wasn’t watching it.

Though we wish for many things to be different or better about our home, I am so thankful to have it. Also, the new pantry helps a lot and I am extremely thankful for that! I am also thankful for the food in it.

Even though it’s really a stretch financially, I am thankful for being a SAHM even with all its sacrifices and struggles.

Though I may be less than thrilled with this whole getting older thing; I am thankful for the wisdom and experience my forty-one years have brought me. I would not trade my forty-something mind even for my twenty-something body. (Well, on most days anyway.)

I am thankful for friends who truly care.

And this list is clearly not in order as I’ve saved the most important for last:

I am thankful for a husband who is truly my Prince Charming.

I am thankful for my miracle baby who has rounded out my life and brought excitement and joy into everyday living.

I am thankful for my firstborn son who has grown into such a fantastic young man who makes me so proud.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Seventeen

This week, my firstborn turned 17. It would be an understatement to say “where has the time gone?” Just the other day I was excavating various items from the room formerly known as our office and ran across my old 35mm camera. This camera was first purchased when I was pregnant with Teenager and used up until I finally went digital. It still had film in it and I was excited/worried to see what might be on that film if it was even still good. So, the other day we got the pictures developed and there was my little boy at his sixth grade graduation. That was nearly five years ago. He was a lot shorter, had a much rounder face and a "little boy" look to him. That look is gone now. Replaced with acne, an occasionally shaved face and a whole lot of TT (teen ‘tude). I’ve already waxed poetic on my Teenager in Reflections on Diapers and Driver’s Licenses but let me expand on that a little. Without going into too many specifics, this kid has been through numerous absurd custody battles on top of parental neglect and mistreatment. He’s managed to come through it all pretty well-adjusted. He’s a really good kid; so much so that I frequently get compliments from other parents as to how polite, well mannered and sweet he is. Despite the inevitable TT he still manages to do his chores and make us proud with good grades. He’s a source of entertainment with his random parody skits of his parent’s quirks and humorous behavior. And I can’t forget to mention that he’s such a good (& proud!) big brother to the little guy. Little guy just adores his “buh buh” (as he calls him) and really looks up to him. Little guy is fortunate to have such a great role model to look up to and I know these boys will continue to be close throughout their lives. Of course I can imagine when little guy is twenty-something and Teenager is thirty-something I’ll still be calling Teenager and saying; “are you watching out for your little brother?” and I have no doubt he still will be. Happy Birthday. We love you, son.
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Conversations with Little Guy

In the pre-dawn hours of this morning, little guy got into bed with us for snuggling before we had to get going for the day.  The following dialogue took place:

LG:         Daddy, I scared!

Daddy:   Why little guy? There's nothing to be scared of.

LG:         Yes! Ober dere....see?

Daddy:   What? What do you see?

LG:          A bat! I scared!

Daddy:    There's no bat in here! There's nothing to be scared of.

LG:          *pointing to my black bra dangling from the dresser knob*  

                   See!  A bat!

Daddy:     *laughing*  Oh! That's not a bat, that's just mommy's bra.

LG:            Oh! Ok. Mommy's bat bra.

There you have it folks, my secret identity revealed.  Now if you'll excuse me, I just saw the bat signal and I need to go fight crime.

29 Steps

My regular readers are aware of my quest for weight loss and shaping up; something I've referred to as Operation Fit [back into my pants]. In recent months it has not been going real well. Not only do I have a hard time sticking to the way I should be eating (watching calories and primarily following the Weight Watcher's system) but a lack of strenuous enough exercise has also been an issue. Recently, I've decided to take things more seriously and so the last couple weeks have been an improvement. I've done much better at following the WW plan and I finally did have a loss this last week, so I am proud  of that. The hubby and I have managed to make it out 3 days a week for our approximate 2 mile walk at 5:45 am, so that's fairly good, but really not enough. I've been going over the options as to what else I could do to amp up my workouts. I've never been the "join a gym" type. I know too many people roped into huge contracts paying $$ per month that rarely if ever go and I feared I would just be one of them. Plus, paying anything  additional at this time does not seem feasible. I like the idea of a home workout with a personal trainer, but that costs more than a gym and just isn't in the cards financially. So, I decided to "use what I have".  Behold the 29 steps:
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These things go up our very steep hillside and were created one summer by the Hubby and his father as a way for Teenager to walk out the back and on to school. It's been suggested that this could be a great work out. So, this morning, being a school holiday, I left little guy and Teenager playing while I headed out the back to attempt my new workout. It's amazing how a person can find ways to procrastinate. First, there was the casual stroll up the hill to check out the garden 034

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Next I tried the walkie-talkie set up to keep in touch with Teenager. Then I discovered to my dismay an assortment of trash that had been littered just outside our fence. After I was finished with my trash pick up duties, I got a call on the walkie from the little guy, who adorably stated he missed me and could he please watch some TV? Then I decided it was time to get down to business. I cleverly devised a rock counting plan to keep track of my laps by placing a rock in a line for each total trip up and down the steps. In my head I was wondering how many trips to take for this first time out. Should I try 3? No, that's not very many. How about 10? Probably couldn't make it without passing out. Ultimately I decided 5 was a good number to shoot for 027but I actually made it to 8! 




Here's a view from the top:
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Note the four-legged welcoming committee waiting at the bottom.
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I really, really hope I can keep this up and eventually have my thighs thank me. And by thank me I mean get smaller. Because right now they are "thanking me" with muscle spasms.

Scary

Last year was little guy’s first walking Halloween (he learned to walk in November of the previous year so he just missed it!) However, last year he could not say Trick or Treat or even a reasonable facsimile. This year, he said Trick or Treat clear as a bell and followed up his being treated with a Thank You and then….wait for it folks.... this little boy who’s been very speech delayed for so long, said so people could understand, “Happy Halloween”. This is BIG! I mean, it was such a huge moment when we heard him say it and it was so totally unexpected. As I was beaming with pride I nearly wanted to shout; “Look, you don’t understand, this little boy could not say a handful of intelligible words a very short time ago!" Of course, he added his usual touch of hilarity by also stating; “Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas!” because he seems to be a bit holiday-confused.

To add to the amusement of the evening, he walked up to a teenager, dressed in all his gory best and seated by his front door handing out candy and asks him; “Are you a scary guy?” Then upon seeing a mom dressed as a witch he stated very clearly; “You are scary!” And speaking of scary, this might also be a good time to share with you all the fact that just a few short weeks ago little guy could not clearly articulate the word “scary”. He was fascinated with the life-size animated figures at the Halloween stores; aka “scary guys” which since he was unable to pronounce "scary guys" came out as “gay guys”…so for the last month leading up to Halloween he would constantly say “Let’s go see the gay guys”. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Here’s a couple Halloween photos of the Teenager and little guy.

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This just in.....

So, it's a regular old Monday afternoon. Hubby arrives home from work and is playing with little guy who's been just dying to see his daddy. I hear chatter in the back ground as I'm busily typing away working on some writing projects. I think of something I need to share with the Hubby and look up from my computer to see this:

 

 

 

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I think I've made my point.

Halloween: Evil or Fun?

I’ve listened with interest as I’ve heard various opinions about Halloween over the years. I understand that there are some folks that don’t “celebrate” it, and hey, that’s fine, whatever works for them. But I do have to admit to a little eye-rolling when I hear some folks ranting about how “evil” Halloween is. Okay, I understand its origins may be what bother some people, but honestly, do the majority of the good folks out there really celebrate Halloween in questionable ways? I just don’t think so. And for those that do stupid things, I think most would agree that they’ll do those things whether they have a “holiday” for them or not.

I love Halloween. Always have. I loved it as a kid and still do today and enjoy seeing my own kids celebrate it. I am not into the super-scary, blood and gore type stuff at all but there’s a cute ghost candle sitting on my sideboard and some other slightly-spooky-in-an-adorable-way décor items around my home. I’m not over here throwing eye of newt in a cauldron and chanting spells. Although frankly, if it helped with weight loss I might consider it, but I digress.

I don’t know, to me Halloween is one of those things that I think people take way too seriously when they say things like; “Oh, we don’t do Halloween, we don’t want to invite evil!” I think anything can be evil if you let it. Even so called “good” things…heck, all you have to do is take a look around to see that…but that’s another topic. I guess I’m of the opinion that Halloween is one of those fun little joys in life; much like chocolate, coffee, the occasional glass of wine and Sunday brunch. You know, the little things that add to life and make it that much more worth living and I’m all about life’s little joys. Especially after spending a good deal of my young adult life being deprived of life’s basic little joys and told those things were “bad”. I’ve come to the conclusion that much of what folks lump into categories of “good” or “bad” are what we make of them, not what someone tells us. Now, if you’ll excuse me I have some potions, er, I mean brownies to whip up.

Oroweat Bread Review & Giveaway!

If you hope on over to my review page you'll be able to enter yet another giveaway! This one is for Oroweat breads and I've given two great sandwich creations complete with Weight Watcher's points!

Pumpkin Patch Fun & other Amusements

Every year our family looks forward to our pumpkin patch trip and it's our tradition to dress the boys in their pumpkin patch shirts/outfits and take photos amongst the pumpkins. Our very first "family of four" trip took place when little guy was a mere 8 weeks old.
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(Oh my gosh, they both are so little!)
Here they are this year:
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As with most holidays, I've had a lot of fun finding themed outfits for the little guy and usually come up with something cute, though sadly the pickings get slimmer the older he gets. Ironically, Teenager's favorite color is orange and he's happy to throw on an orange shirt for the event.

Back when we used to actually buy our pumpkins at the pumpkin patch we noticed a couple problems with that; A) we were getting them too late in the season (I like to have them outside the front door the beginning of October) and B) they were really expensive. With this economy and that whole stay-at-home-mom gig I've got going on we decided last year to just look for the best pumpkin price at one of our local markets. We saved a tidy sum doing this last year and so this year we thought we'd go one better and plant our own. Here's the thing about that; I heard somewhere that they didn't need to go in the ground until June and told hubby to hold off last Spring when we planted the rest of the garden. Well, it's late October and this is what our pumpkin patch looks like.
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As you can imagine, I hear daily about how he "should have planted those pumpkins earlier." Oops. Sorry Honey!  So, needless to say, we bought our pumpkins--but we found some good deals on them! Anyway, onto the Pumpkin Patch trip (but not to buy pumpkins). We went to a Pumpkin Farm this year that also has a huge flower farm, a corn maze (that got a little blown over in some recent high winds) and cute animals.

Here's a little slide show:



And finally, I must share with you the most amusing part of the trip. Along the way we noticed the following "tractor crossing" sign.
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Then as we drove by several wineries we noticed a different tractor crossing sign and simply had to take a picture.
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Unveiling More of the Mystery Behind the Mayhem: Boot Camp

Twenty four years ago next month I entered Basic Training for the United States Air Force. Looking back, waaaaay back, the whole thing seems very surreal to me. Had I remained in the military I could have been retired as of four years ago. My time was short, but full of events I’ll never forget.

The day I left for Basic Training I was armed with one rolling suitcase, a duffel bag and a full Samsonite cosmetic case. Yes, it was ridiculous. Even more than ridiculous was the fact that within that luggage was wax I brought along foolishly thinking I would somehow be given the time and opportunity to wax my legs! Remember the old movie and TV show Private Benjamin? It was kind of like that. I can still recall the outfit I was wearing….it was the 80’s and that was very apparent in my large shoulder padded blazer, black Esprit pants and leather Madonna style boots. (The older me wishes she could have told the younger me; “Throw on some jeans and a pair of tennis shoes; you’re going in the military for crying out loud!”) I was 17 years old, the very youngest in my squad. This was pretty rare and was only allowed because I had already graduated high school having skipped a year and I had my mother’s consent. I remember the woman that was the oldest; 36 (the oldest they took) and thinking; “Wow, that’s old!” (Of course I passed 36 five years ago, and no, it’s not old at all.) I was a young, naive and incredibly sensitive girl. It was against my character to do this sort of thing which became even more apparent when I arrived and we were asked to scrub the shower with our toothbrushes. There I was doing this task, I kid you not, in a full length, white, fluffy bathrobe. It just doesn’t get any more impractical than that, folks. I recall being lined up as some gruff, high ranking guy came through our squad bay asking us to recite something along the lines of: “I, Airman so-and-so, blah blah blah.” I could not get the term “Airman” in my head for some reason and my mind fixated on the common rank I knew from television, movies and such; Sergeant. I was blasted for “promoting myself” when I stated; “I, Sergeant so-and-so…..” That man really rattled me and I cried. Not the smartest move on my part. But I told myself then and there that I would simply have to toughen up. And so I did. I never broke down like that again during my military stint. Looking back I feel pretty proud that at 17, being the obviously prissy, overly sensitive girl I was, that I could make it through Basic Training. I even shot expert on the M16 along with being one of the fastest to take the thing apart, clean it and put it back together. (A skill I no longer use in any capacity.) I recall with amusement when we were issued our military style eyeglasses; black plastic horned rim beauties that were called “BC” glasses (that stood for Birth Control). Ahh, the memories! It was a very challenging time though and made even worse by the fact that I entered my training right before the holidays. I spent Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s on a cot in a squad bay. At age 17. As irony would have it, I’ve actually spent worse holidays than that since then, but that’s of course another story. I remember envying one of the girls in my Flight; her name was Shae. Shae was a girly girl like me (though vastly more attractive) and wore this perfume that I absolutely fell in love with. It was a new one that had just come out back then; Estee Lauder’s Beautiful. It remains to this day my favorite and my “signature” scent. And it reminds me a time over two decades ago when I donned a fluffy bathrobe to scrub out a military shower. Here’s a blast from the past photo for you all: this is my actual cot in my squad bay with my overflowing suitcase sitting on top.

 

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Conversations with Little Guy

The fact that our little guy will now actually have even somewhat of a conversation is remarkable in and of itself. We are pleased with his progress with speech and are beginning to hear more and more from him all the time. The following brief exchange was one of those "have to share" moments. We were asking him about our animals names; the dog, Murray and the cat, Chloe.

Us:  Little Guy, what is our Doggie's name?

LG: Murwy.

Us: Good job!  Now what is our Kitty's name?

LG: Cat!

 

I guess the combination of "chl" was way too much to ask for at this point!

Now that little guy is learning more and more words and even knocking out a few sentences look for more upcoming episodes of "Conversations with Little Guy"!  As always, he's sure to entertain.

Medieval Toddler Time Out

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A close up view of the little guy in "jail":

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And while I'm sharing a couple Ren Faire photos, doesn't this one of the Teenager pretty much say; "My parents dressed me up in this ridiculous costume, dragged me to this stupid Faire and now I have to pull my little brother in this wagon all day." Yep, that's about what it says all right.

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Putting the "fun" into daily life

I recently stumbled across this video and wanted to share it with you. Isn't it interesting to see how making something fun can make such a positive difference?

It's sort of like playing "Where's Waldo?"

 

Take a look at this photo and see if you can tell what is happening and spot the main character(s).  Since everything looks so camouflaged I thought it would make an interesting puzzle of sorts. Scroll down for the story/explanation.

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Our cat Chloe is seen in the far left hand bottom corner. She's waiting for something to occur with the neighbor cat who is perched on a fence board in the far right hand upper corner. This is the same cat who was spotted a few months ago on our hillside by our dog Murray. Apparently, this cat is not afraid of confrontation.

Not just another one of my hair-brained schemes

Around here it's been noted that I have occasionally frequently come up with some elaborate, zany, far-fetched ideas (otherwise known as my "I-Love-Lucy" ideas) which generally involve things that the Hubby is less than enthusiastic about providing assistance for. My latest plan revolved around getting the boys pictures taken; something we do each year, generally in the Fall. This year I wanted to do something interesting and unique but also classic looking. So my idea was to have them sit amongst piles of classic literature and other old and classic looking books. When I pitched this particular brainstorm to Hubby he did some eye rolling, along with a fair amount of griping about how much of a pain this was going to be. Because in order to accomplish this, we had to pull out all of our books that fit this look (newer, glossy looking books were not going to work) and even borrowed a bunch from a dear friend. When all was said and done we had a couple hundred pounds of books to haul to the photo shoot. Once this was discovered by the Hubby there was a significant increase in the griping. To accomplish our task we used our two large rolling suitcases filled with the books and rolled them into the photo studio. We basically had just enough people to do this; Teenager and Dad with the two suitcases and me pushing the little guy in the stroller. It took quite a bit of "set up" work to get everything together, but in the end we were very pleased with the outcome. We were originally going to go with a black and white or sepia tone but ended up with a "retro" tone which is like a cross between black and white and color, leaving some color but overall toning down the look.

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Now that this year's photos are over Hubby has already started worrying about what I'll come up with for next year...he's just hoping it doesn't involve renting a trailer and live animals.

Cash Envelope Budgeting System & Giveaway

Edited to add:  To buy Cash Budget Organizers click the picture below. The Giveaway has ended.

Cash Budget Organizer with Cash Budget System by SimpliSave


With the economy the way it is, many folks are having to make various financial adjustments. We decided it was time for a renewed effort regarding that dreaded “B” word; Budget. We’ve chosen to try the cash envelope method of budgeting & spending. I’d heard about this for some time now, but never got around to implementing it. First of all, the idea of carrying around a fistful of envelopes filled with cash did not appeal to me, nor did losing the rewards points on our Visa not to mention the convenience. Of course, that convenience and those perks come at a price if spending gets out of control. I was shocked to see what credit card interest rates currently are now for even those with great credit! So, we’ve devised our own personal take on this system and I’ll share it with you it here. The first part was discovering a better carrier of cash than paper envelopes. I learned that several crafty individuals create and sell cash organizers for just this purpose. In my search for the perfect one for us to use, I ended up with two and have decided to do a Giveaway for one.

Now, for those who’ve not yet heard of the basics of a cash envelope system of budgeting basically it goes like this: You figure out your budget based on your income and expenses. Then you decide how much you have to spend in each of the categories, label the envelopes with the category names and place the appropriate amount of cash in each envelope. Generally, this is done on a weekly basis, so for example you might withdraw a certain amount of cash on a set day each week and “load” your envelopes. The idea is that once the cash in each category is gone for that week, you are done spending in that category. Now, I personally don’t see the point of putting cash in envelopes for things like the electric bill, etc. So for all the set amount bills each month that have to be paid, we’ve opted to have the amounts directly withdrawn through an automatic payment plan. We’re talking about things like rent/mortgage, power, water, trash, insurance, etc. Then we decided to have those bills paid on autopay and through our checking account or our bank credit card [where it was an option] in order to continue to earn some rewards. Because these amounts are the same each month, we know how much to immediately pay from our checking account in order to cover those “charges”. We’ve decided to discontinue using our credit card for anything other than the autopay bills and gas. The reason for gas is because it’s pretty hard to “splurge” and go crazy buying gas and there’s a significant convenience issue in paying at the pump vs. going inside with cash so overall we felt this one charge was smart. So, this leaves categories for things like groceries, household items, entertainment, dining out, clothing and misc. We’ve decided to use the cash system on these categories. Coming up with amounts for each of these was a little challenging. What we ending up doing was to look at what we’ve been spending, decide on a reasonable amount to “shave off” of that total and came up with a new, reduced total. The savings can then be used for other things such as paying off debt, savings and other financial goals.

The Giveaway:
One lucky reader will receive their own cute cash carrier (pictured above)to get them started on the system. To enter, please leave a comment below. The “theme” is your favorite budgeting & money saving tips. If you don’t have a tip to share, that’s fine, just leave a comment to be entered. Oh, and as always tell your friends to read SAHM: Surviving Assorted Home Mayhem! Receive one additional entry by either blogging or tweeting a link to your favorite post at SAHM: Surviving Assorted Home Mayhem. Are you a new reader and don't have a favorite post yet? Take a look at some of the selected favorites along the left side-bar to get started. When you link to a post (on your blog or Twitter or both if you'd like) leave one additional comment below letting me know. Contest entries will open now and run through Oct 14th. At that time I’ll select the winner through random draw, contact them through e-mail (make sure you have an e-mail address on your comment!) and mail them their organizer. Good luck and happy budgeting!

Grasshopper & Hibiscus Pictorial

Now, there's a blog title I never thought I'd write. Hubby took some stunning photos and I was going to use one for a Wordless Wednesday post, however I could not pick just one! So here you go:

(click photo to enlarge)

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Adventures in Natural Cupcakes: From “Ick!” to “Aww!”

As my readers know, last month we celebrated a very special birthday (little guy turned 3!) with a fun party and gourmet cupcakes from a local cupcakery. I got to thinking perhaps I should attempt to make some gourmet-ish cupcakes myself. I try to be as healthy as possible though we are not afraid of the occasional treat. But even when we have treats I like to keep them reasonably healthy. Lately I’ve decided there is just no need for all this artificial crap (flavors & colors) and I’ve been determined to eliminate it and find natural alternatives. So, in my quest to make reasonably healthy, natural and gourmet-like cupcakes I’ve had some interesting experiences. First of all, I discovered a delicious and all natural cupcake mix from my favorite store, good ol’ Trader Joe’s.

This vanilla mix makes a delicious cupcake!  cupcake mix

With half the battle conquered, it was on to the frosting. I wanted to keep the fat and calories down so I attempted to use a reduced fat butter cream recipe. First of all, it did not work for décor purposes as it was not substantial enough to pipe and just laid there in a glob (Sadly, I did not take photos of this monstrosity.) Secondly, it also apparently contained a strange ingredient which caused the Hubby to break out in hives. Then I found a regular Butter cream recipe used by the folks at the famous Sprinkles cupcakes. I ended up slightly reducing the sugar and cutting the entire recipe in half and it was still plenty to use for a dozen cupcakes. I also used this vanilla which I highly recommend:

vanilla

The next trick was to get it colored naturally. I ordered a natural food coloring from my local health food store with very disappointing and frankly rather disgusting looking results. Combined with the fact that I did not have the proper size round tip to pipe the frosting on the way it should be and I ended up with this:

cupcake mistake

Scary, isn’t it? It looks a little an albino earthworm crawled on top.

So, I did some research and found a different natural food coloring and TA DA! The perfect pink! (I haven’t tried the other colors yet.) I still have not been able to find the large round tip so I decided to simply use the large round opening of the coupler itself with no tip and it worked much the way I wanted it to. To top off the cupcakes, literally, I found naturally colored sugar crystals as well as delicious naturally colored Sunspire chocolate drops in beautiful pastel colors. This is the end result:

 cupcake success cupcake

We recently celebrated my Mom’s 81st birthday with these and I was pleased with the taste and looks. Move over, Martha!