Friday, October 31, 2008

Out of the Frying Pan

The last two weeks have been insane. Utterly. The insanity doesn't end, in my mind at least, until sometime this Sunday evening. No, wait, next Friday. No, November 30th. Aaagh, then it's Christmas season. Yikes.

We have had something going on every night for a while now. Many days, we've been double-booked. Last weekend saw me and Charlotte at a Fancy Nancy Soiree at the local library. If you have a young-reader girl, I highly recommend you check out this series of books. They are adorable and are huge vocabulary builders. I love a little girls' role model who is both stylish and smart :) The photo is of Charlotte and her Fancy Nancy doll, in their fancy dresses (and tiaras) getting ready for the event.

After Fancy Nancy came a Halloween party at a friends' house. Lacking a babysitter (poor planning on our part), we dragged the kids along. They had fun, but 10 is way past their bedtimes, and they both crashed hard when we got home. Sunday we went to a "Day Out with Thomas the Train" with my husband's parents and his sister's family. Again, lots of fun, and lots of exhaustion. We wrapped Sunday night up with a whole-family house-cleaning binge. Both kids did an excellent job of helping (Trystan is a pro with wiping up tables, swiffering floors, and putting new trashbags in cans..whether they need them or not!).

Monday was Charlotte's dance class. Tuesday we carved pumpkins. Again, both kids did a great job of helping. We didn't let Trystan carve (much to his annoyance), but he was a pro at scooping out seeds. Wednesday, my husband plays D&D, and the kids and I stayed home for play time. Thursday I skipped my exercise class to attend a Halloween play at my daughter's preschool. They performed The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything. Char was one of the gloves who went "Clap, Clap".

Today, on my "day off", I snuck in a workout, attempted to package a few things up for shipping (I failed to get them sent), had lunch with my husband, shopped for Halloween candy, cleaned my kitchen and started dinner. I have about 10 more minutes before I leave for daycare to join Trystan's class for their Halloween party, and to bring the kids home for dinner, costumes, Trick or Treating, and passing out candy. And they both need baths.

Tomorrow, Char starts a new session of swimming lessons, and we have another Halloween party to attend.

And, tomorrow is November 1st. For the second year in a row, I have proved myself certifiably insane. It's NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. I did it last year--writing 50,000 words of a romance novel (that sits, complete, on my laptop at about 80,000 words now). Surprised? Writing has become a nice creative outlet for me, and it requires a lot less space than sewing. And, it gives me an excuse for reading more fiction (its research, I swear...) And a good reason to go to Starbucks on cold autumn days (they have free wifi, and lots of power outlets for battery-challenged laptops). Feel free to follow my progress on my other blog, Skim Decaf Mocha With Whip. Or not :) Last year, the fiction-writing binge didn't really impact my blogging much. If anything, it enlivened it. This year, who knows.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thursday Cookbook Series-- The Joy of Cooking

There is a theme to my favorite cookbooks so far. If you've read the last two posts in this series, you may have noticed how much I love not only reading recipes, but reading the background information that leads to understanding. I prefer to learn from my cookbooks, not just cook from them.

To continue the theme, for at least another week, I present The Joy of Cooking. There have been many versions of this book, published over many years. The one that I own, as well as the Amazon link above (as far as I can tell) refer to the copyright 1975 version of the text. My book was printed much more recently, but contains the 30-year old text, and is happily absent of microwaves, Splenda, and other more modern ingredients and techniques.

This book is not pretty. There is no full-color glossy food porn. There are no color or glossy pages at all, outside of the rather plain (and photo-less) cover. Instead, each section of the book starts with several pages of expository introduction. If you skipped the recipes and just read the introductory sections, you would improve your cooking skills and knowledge.

And then, there are the recipes. Unlike the America's Test Kitchen book I reviewed a couple of weeks ago, the ingredient lists and instructions are spartan. But there are SO MANY of them. Nearly 5000 of them, according to Amazon's site. There are variations on variations on everything. And so many classics and old-style recipes, the kind our mothers might have made. Waldorf salad, terrines, nary a chipotle or EVOO reference anywhere.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love modern twists on food. But sometimes, you want something tried and true. Or you're tired of Asian fusion, 4-ingredients or less or the cake-mix fix-ups. Or just need inspiration (there must be 30 kinds of frosting alone).

Monday, October 27, 2008

Book List Update

It's been a slow month. Since my last update, I think I've only finished two books:

A Little Bit Guilty by Jenna Mills. This is a short romantic suspense from Harlequin that I picked up (or Trystan did, really) from the sale table at the library for 25c. I wasn't a big fan. The opening chapter was kind of confusing. It was 3rd person POV, starting with the heroine, and it followed her thoughts. I think the author was trying to do a little flashback and a little foreshadowing, but I just got lost. I thought it was a device because she suffers a head injury (with a concussion) early on, but the confusion continued later in the book.

The Third Circle by Amanda Quick. Yes, another Amanda Quick. And another of her Arcane Society books (one of the Regency ones). It was good, much like the rest. And a fast read--finished it 4 days after I picked it up from the New Books shelf at the library.

And now, I really must finish some of the books I have actually purchased (I"m in the middle of 2, and not loving either one).

I haven't been posting non-fiction books that I've read this year. In part, because most of the non-fic stuff is reference that I don't read cover-to-cover. But I'm thinking that I'll do a roundup of everything in that category by the end of December.

General Fiction - 7
Contemporary Romance - 9
Sci Fi/Fantasy - 5
Historical Romance - 6
Women's Lit (Chick Lit) - 3
Total 30 books

Friday, October 24, 2008

My Little Pumpkins

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about our tie-dye t-shirt party. I'm finally posting pictures--at least of our kids in their shirts. Charlotte was in charge of her own fabric-painting, as you can clearly see.

We wore our shirts to the pumpkin patch last weekend. The kids had a blast picking out pumpkins, and Trystan flexed his little muscles and actually pushed the wagon full of pumpkins for quite a while.

No, we didn't buy the giant pumpkin. Three large-sized ones is going to be more than enough to carry. There is an outside chance that a few giant-pumpkin seeds snuck home with us, from one of the many smashed pumpkins laying about. But, the chances of us actually convincing one of these monsters to grow is about nill. A single plant would probably take over the entire back yard, if we didn't kill it. Ah, but we can dream...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Thursday Cookbook Series -- The Cake Bible

Last week, I introduced my favorite all-around general cookbook. This week, one of my favorite specialty ones.

I bought my copy of The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum from a used bookstore, sans dustjacket. Lucky for me, there's another full-color photo of that yummy chocolate cake inside the book.

This book has dozens of wonderfully detailed recipes for baking and decorating all types of cakes. Beranbaum lists all ingredients by weight as well as by volume, a technique that I have found produces superior results (especially weighing flour...). She covers every type of cake, filling and icing that you could imagine, often with several variations. She also details how to size up several basic cake flavors for large or multi-tier cakes (wedding cakes). Not that I've ever had the opportunity to make a wedding cake, but it's nice to know how it works (no, just doubling or tripling a recipe doesn't work!)

But better than the recipes are all of the Understanding sections. The author gives good information on the chemistry of baking, explaining how ingredients work in different recipes (e.g. all-purpose vs cake flour, baking soda vs baking powder, etc), and how she came up with the techniques for some of the cakes. There is a rhyme and reason to the order of opertions in recipes, and I love learning the "why" behind them.

I think my favorite part is flipping through the photo section in the middle, drooling over the chocolate cakes, and the golden cage (made of hard caramel!). And of course, it helps that she has a recipe for a Charlotte! (It's a cake, as well as a princess....)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


I have serious thing for donuts. So serious, in fact, that I'm quite picky about them. I don't eat them hot. I don't eat them stale (Second day? No Way). And I rarely eat the boxed supermarket kind--you know, the Dolly Madison or Entemans or whatnot. They don't taste stale, but they don't taste fresh either. Now, when I was pregnant with Charlotte, it was a whole 'nother story--I used to eat those mini chocolate-covered donuts by the sackfull. (Apparently, that's one of my husbands occasional guilty pleasures, and darnit if his taste buds didn't possess my soul while I was carrying his offspring....lucky for me, Trystan seemed to share *my* taste buds)

Nearly every Saturday morning, Charlotte helps me make breakfast. It normally involves something with flour--pancakes, muffins, cinnamon rolls, etc. But somewhere along the way, we inevitably introduced her to donuts. There is a very cute family donut shop not far away called Tony's Donuts, that has mouth-wateringly delicious sugar-filled offerings in a quaint, 50's diner atmosphere. We probably eat there once every other month or so. I'm a fan of their icing-filled, chocolate frosted donuts. Charlotte always picks something with sprinkles. Trystan will eat whatever you put in front of him, plus beg bites of everyone else's.

We can't (well, shouldn't) indulge in the real thing all that often. So I found an alternative. I bought this donut pan a while ago (free plug for I've bought many many things from them over the years!). About the size of a muffin pan, it makes 12 reasonable-sized donuts in the oven. Baked, not fried!

But what about the recipes? I use muffin or quick breads. I have a bookshelf overflowing with cookbooks with everything from banana bread to blueberry to chocolate chip muffins. I just mix up the batter like normal, and spoon or squeeze it into the rings of the pan (for better control, pour the batter into a large-sized ziplog bag and snip off one corner, like a pastry bag). Bake according to the muffin recipe, just not quite as long. The pan doesn't hold a full 12-muffins worth of batter, more like 6, so have a muffin pan handy to hold the excess (or be smarter than I was, and buy 2 donut pans).

If you're feeling indulgent, you can ice or glaze your creations, or just eat them as they are.

Easy glaze: in a ziplog bag, place a scoop of powdered sugar (about a cup). Drizzle in some vanilla (maybe 1/4 of a teaspoon), and a little bit of milk (1-2 teaspoons to can always add more if its too thick, or more sugar if its too runny). Zip it closed and hand to the nearest toddler to mix/shake/mash/throw. After 5-10 minutes, retrieve the bag , snip a tiny bit off one corner, and drizzle over your donuts.

For other flavors, try substituing other flavor extracts for the vanilla, adding instant coffee granules (great on a chocolate donut), or leave the extract out and mix the sugar with orange, lemon, or lime juice. Try adding a spoonful of your favorite jam to the glaze. Warm up your favorite jam/jelly and use it instead of the glaze. Or, dip the donuts in melted butter and then in cinnamon and sugar. Chocolate glazes are always good--look for a basic chocolate cake-icing recipe (or use the canned stuff if you have some leftover). Sprinkles, nuts, and coconut are entirely optional!

Darnit, now I'm hungry again.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Spam Trends

I'm not sure whether to be happy or offended, but lately I've noticed a trend in my junk email folder. It used to be full of ads for, ahem, anatomy enlargement. Now I'm apparently in the market for Christian dating services.

Then again, I haven't opened any of the messages. Maybe those "Christian" dating services require me to enlarge nonexistant bodyparts first...

Don't cry over spilled milk...

We did our grocery shopping this weekend everywhere except the grocery store. Produce came from the farmer's market at our local pumpkin patch (and was fresh and cheap too). A few basics came from Target. And milk came from Sam's Club on our monthly diaper run.

In case you hadn't heard, Sams (and Wal-mart and others) are carrying a new kind of milk jug. The new jugs are a little taller and more square than a traditional jug, and are supposed to be more stackable and reduce the weight of extra cartons when shipping. In theory, they're better for the environment and potentially cheaper too.

For our purposes, they should work out fine. The jugs are a little skinnier than typical jugs, and they fit tightly in the fridge. That's nice, since we buy two gallons a week (one whole milk, that Trystan finishes solo, and one 1% for the rest of us). I had to adjust the fridge shelf by a little less than an inch to make them fit, but that's not too bad. After all, I run a tight ship in my fridge (which, with foodie tasts and a hungry family of 4 is feeling increasingly cramped). I think they're about the same height as a 2-liter, as I always have to adjust the shelves to fit those when we have them.

They are harder to pour, at least for the first couple of glasses. I think the spout on ours sits a little higher than the jugs in the picture (photo from the net, not from our fridge). Ours might be a slighlty improved design. The plastic seems heftier than the old style, but we recycle all our plastic, so I hope it's not an environmental negative. The weight and design will make it harder for Charlotte to help herself, which she's been wanting to do lately (with a half-empty traditional gallon, she can pour her own drink without spilling).

Overall, I'd give the new gallons a positive assesssment. Not overwhelmingly positive. But slightly more positive than neutral. Were fridge space not so tight for us, then I probably wouldn't care one way or another.

Is anyone else seeing these around? What are your impressions?

Monday, October 20, 2008


Mommy guilt comes from many sources. This weekend, its from Halloween costumes.

I like to sew. I've been doing it since I was 11 or 12, when I begged for a sewing machine for Christmas (and actually got one!). I have made many, many Halloween costumes over the years, for myself, my younger siblings, my husband. But to date, I've not made a single one for my children. It's not for lack of desire--I have at least 2 patterns for toddler-sized costumes, and have spent time every year surfing the pattern company websites for ideas.

And then reality kicks in and I chicken out. Why spend $30 on materials that I won't have time to sew, and will need to spend another $25-30 buying a premade costume. I fully intended, once again, to make at least Char's costume. We have 2 hand-me down but very nice costumes that will both fit Trystan (a dragon, and Simba), so there was no need to sew something new for him. Char wants to be Tinkerbell this year. And, lo and behold, I have a pattern that includes Tinkerbell, and goes up to a size 4. Perfect.

I intended to take her fabric shopping on Saturday, but she ended up having a small stomach bug. Shop till you puke is not really my preferred method. I siezed upon the excuse to abandon the idea of sewing her costume. Yesterday, we bought her one at Target--from their toy dress-up section and not the costume section. It was the right size (Target's Halloween aisle was clean out of anything in a size 4). Plus, it looked nicer than the costume section version. It will be a lovely addition to her dress-up box after Halloween.

I've not given up the sewing-for-Halloween idea yet (darn that Mommy guilt that won't leave me alone). I'm thinking she needs a trick-or-treat bag. Now, if only Mommy Guilt came with a time-turner...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Welcome Google Searchers....

It's strange to me that of all the crazy assortment of things that I write about on this blog, the posts that get the most hits from search engines have to do with 1) ultrasound results or 2) collecting a urine sample from a baby.

1) About the urine sample thing. I've now been in the position to experience (as the mother) collections from both boys and girls. Let me tell you, until they hit potty training stage, neither gender is fun.

As I posted a long time ago, for a baby girl, doctors can sometimes attach a collection bag around the genital area. When she pees, it goes in the bag. I think this method isn't the most sterile, so it probably depends on what kind of a test they're going to run--might be fine for a dipstick kind of thing, but probably not for an actual culture (where they watch it for a couple of days and check what kinds of bacteria grow).

For a boy, about the only method is a catheter (unless you're really lucky and catch him mid-pee). The doctor threads a very tiny tube up the ureter (yes, the pee-hole at the end of the baby boy's boy-parts!) and up into the bladder. There is a balloon somehow used through this tube up in tehe bladder to force the urine down the tube and into a waiting vessel. This eliminates contact with the outside skin, and allows less contamination. They will do this to girls, also, if they need to. From my own c-section experiences, the process doesn't hurt, but it feels really strange and annoying, and the baby will probably cry at first. My son Trystan had to have a catheter in place for nearly 2 weeks after one of his surgeries, and there were no bad side effects (swelling or bleeding or anything like that) once it was finally removed. Cringe-worthy, yes, and the worst part is having to watch it done to your baby.

2) Ultrasound results. My son had both a dialated kidney and a 2-vessel cord show up on his ultrasound. I cannot reassure another parent with a similar diagnosis that "its nothing" because its not nothing. It's definitely something. Trystan's story can be found in posts here, here, and here (and probably a whole lot more that I haven't linked--start reading around November '06). In his case, his dialated kidney was caused by one kidney being larger than the other--now at 1.5 years old, he has one good kidney (the larger one), and the other "kidney" is little more than a small amount of tissue that doesn't do much. The kidney was larger because it was doing the job of two. All he needs is one good kidney, so this is the least of our worries with his health (far below even routine ear infections and colds!)

The two-vessel cord (or single umbilical artery or several other name variations) was an early sign of his eventual diagnosis with VACTERL association. Sometime during early development (in the first trimester...probably within the first 4 weeks of pregnancy), something went wrong with development of his umbilical cord. Instead of 2 arteries and one vein, he got one artery and one vein. That made my pregnancy a high-risk one, where I had twice-a-week non-stress tests for the entire third trimester to monitor his heartrate and activity levels. Like most of Trystan's "problems", he sailed right through, strong and active. He does have heart defects--a VSD and an Anuerism in the Sinus of Valsalva. The Anuerism will require surgery, likely in the next year. But neither defect has ever caused him a day of grief so far (lots of echocardiograms, but that's all). And while the heart defects are related to the umbilical cord problem (and to the rest of his symptoms), they weren't caused by it.

If you're a parent facing any of these issues, welcome and I'm sorry! None are any fun! If you feel up to it, stay a while and browse around on my blog. Especially if you're expecting, have scary stuff show up in ultrasounds, and are fearing the worst. I hope you will find some hope here. Trystan is a special kid--smart, funny, absolutely adorable (don't believe me after hearing about all these "defects"? Check out some photos). I should videotape his giggle to share, it's that infectious and heartwarming. Sometimes the best things in life just require a little more effort on our part, that's all.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Thursday Cookbook Series -- America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

This is the first post of what I hope will be a new series.

I've mentioned before that I love to read, and that I love to cook. Who would have guessed that I own a lot of cookbooks? Smartypants.

I thought I'd share a few of my favorite cookbooks, ones in my own collection at home.

This week: The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.

The book is a spiral notebook bound edition with a little of everything. If you're a fan of Cooks Illustrated Magazine (as I am, and will probably mention that again), or the America's Test Kitchen PBS show, then you may recognize many of the recipes.

Their recipes are explicit and detailed, and easy to follow. The ingredient lists are in order of use (a huge pet peeve of mine), and their instructions are clear and detailed. The biggest complaint might be that they're too long! Almost every recipe is a full page long, with helpful photos where necessary. Best of all, everything I've ever made from the cookbook has turned out perfectly the first time.

We regularly browse their lists of pan sauces for chicken, steak, or pork; last weekend we had their rosemary and sea salt focacia with our dinner; the cinnamon rolls are to die for. They cover all major categories, from appetizers to grilling to cakes and steaks. Most of the food isn't frou-frou, just good family favorites.

Honestly, if I could only own one cookbook, this would be the one.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Time warp

Anyone know what happened to 101.1 Movin (WMVN) in St. Louis? All of a sudden they're plaing Christmas music. I know that KEZK does that every year, but only between Thanksgiving and Christmas....

It hasn't been that long since 101.1 switched from The River to their Movin format. Are they switching again?

Maybe if I listened longer I might hear a radio announcer say something and give me a clue as to whether the switch is permanent or a symptom of a bigger issue. But really, there's only so much Bing Crosby I can take in early October.

And does anyone else actually miss The Mall (it was on 104.1). So I'm strange, but I actually liked the 3pm Bon Jovi fix every day...My husband preferred its previous incarnation as The Rock (OK, so that was like 10 years ago).

Monday, October 13, 2008


After Trystan's clinginess on Thursday morning, I was not surprised to get a call from our daycare. Annoyed. Disappointed. Frustrated. But not surprised.

I told too many people that I had about 2 hours of "flex" time on Thursday afternoon to myself, and was taking Friday as my day off for the week. Trystan must have heard too. I had a lot of things planned to get finished. Instead, I snuggled with my son for two days.

He ran a 101 degree fever for nearly 24 hours straight, untouched by either ibuprofin or tylenol. He also puked all over me Thursday. Twice. Early Friday morning the fever broke, but he remained grumpy all day.

Friday was supposed to be a day for getting odd jobs done around the house, and making a dent in a large pile of mulch scheduled for delivery. The pile, a 3-cubic yard pile, didn't arrive till nearly 4pm, so I guess I wouldn't have done much mulch moving anyway.

By Saturday, Trystan was much better. All 4 of us went outside to work in the garden. I trimmed back all of our irises while my husband took the first shift of hauling. We got to meet our new next door neighbors, who moved in about a week ago. They have a 3-year old son, who came over and played with Charlotte and Trystan for a while, under my husband's supervision, while I did shift #2 of the mulching. After lunch, I got a shower, put Trystan down for a nap, and then worked on indoor chores (laundry, dishes, floors) while my husband finished up the pile.

Our garden beds all look much nicer now, especially the long one on the side of the house that has never been fully covered before. This is the first year we've had the stuff delivered, instead of buying it in bags. But that side bed alone took 2-3 trunkloads of bags, and we have beds across the front of the house, and several trees that need it. The mulch looks like good, dark composty stuff too.

Overall, the weekend turned out pretty well. The weather was beautiful. I got several things checked off the to-do list. We even had time to go out to dinner with friends, to spend a couple of hours at the park, go to church, and I went shoe shopping. I wish more weekends worked that well.

Of course, I'm exhausted today.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Morning people

I am not a morning person. I'm not much of a night person either. More of a middle-of-the-day kind of gal. Say, 9-3.

Anyway, mornings are hard for me. I have a routine, and I like to follow it. It doesn't require thought, or choices (except to decide what to wear, which is bad enough). It definitely doesn't require conversation. Things are better that way.

I get up. I shower. Contacts in. Clothes on. Makeup on. Pack my lunch. Leave.

Well, that would be my routine if I didn't have children. Children do unpredictable things. They ask questions. They interrupt. They move things. They require me to think. And they can't stick to a timed-schedule to save their lives.

Its very uncharitable, and very un-mommy-like to resent my children for being themselves. But I'm human and it's not quite 9 yet. And I didn't sleep well last night (Does Fitz's Root Beer have caffeine? Last time I take that chance after 9pm...).

This morning, Charlotte and I got in a fight about a bagel. My husband had already left for work, the one day a week that he has an early meeting and I drop off kids at daycare. Mostly by herself, Char got the bagel toasted and spread with cream cheese, and we had about 10 minutes before we needed to be in the car and driving. My lunch wasn't packed (or my breakfast...I never get to eat at home before work), and I hadn't had so much as a sip of water since last night. She tried to insist that I cut her bagel into tiny, bite-sized pieces. I suggested that she just pick it up and bite into it. But she didn't want to get her face messy.

About then, Trystan threw his oatmeal bowl on the floor, and wanted out of his booster seat. He was covered in oatmeal. While I'm trying to tell Charlotte to just eat her bagel or she will have to leave it (in an increasingly loud tone of voice), Trystan was refusing to let me wash his face and hands and tummy and hair in the kitchen sink, and ended up smearing oatmeal all over my clean shirt.

Char pouted. And tried to get a knife out of the drawer (her 3rd for the bagel preparation). I took it away. She threw a tantrum. I tried to hand her one of the other 2 bagel knives (one that had a better chance of actually cutting the thing, and that lacked a sharp point). She pouted in the living room. I went upstairs to change my shirt. I changed Trystan's shirt. Trystan screamed and insisted that I hold him so he could snuggle. He's becoming more and more sensitive to emotions every day, and is beginning to get upset when the rest of us are upset.

Gah. I packed my lunch one-handed. Charlotte ate half her bagel (uncut) and nicely put the rest in the fridge. Both kids were calm and content by the time we got into the car, at least 10 minutes later than I wanted to leave.

I grouched all the way to work, resentful that the kids can't just do what they're told without arguing, and guilty that I'm not calm and patient and motherly in the mornings.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


I had a bad dream last night. I dreamed that our house caught on fire. I woke myself up out of it about 5 minutes before my alarm went off, and that really didn't help my mood for the day.

I guess its no surprise that I'm dreaming of fires. Over the weekend, we went to the local fire station open house, and toured firetrucks and the station. Charlotte got to learn about dialing 9-1-1, and the kids came home with plastic hats. I got an oven mit with some slogan about preventing cooking fires.

And then, while waiting at Char's dance class last night, the lobby TV was tuned to one of the "news" stations. Several loud guys were debating just how fast our economy was heading for a depression. One of them was advocating buying non-perishable food now, so that it would be on hand when the dollar crumbles--either to eat or to exchange for other goods.

Yikes, no wonder my subconscious is freaked out about losing our home. Financially, we're fine, btw. In fact, outside of our mortgage, we have no outstanding debt. Nothing on credit cards. No student loans. No car payments. Just mortgage. And a relatively safe, secure one at that (we were never one of the high-risk, 0% down ones, and we're 8 years into payments...)

In any case, I put my passport (which had been floating around the top of my desk--I don't know why) and a few backup cds into our firesafe this morning and locked it shut.

Monday, October 06, 2008

How little could you spend on groceries?

I've posted before about trying to control our grocery budget. We still spend way too much money, so this isn't about a miracle fix.

There was an interesting article in the Post-Dispatch on Sunday about a couple of poeple who attempted to eat for a week on $25.38--the amount of foodstamps that a disabled person would receive.

I was intrigued to see what the various people bought with their money. One guy eschewed vegetables and fruit in favor of ice cream. One, a chef (I think), bought flour and eggs for making his own pasta. All three participants relied heavily on pb&j.

It got me thinking what I could come up with for $25.38. Heck, with flour, oatmeal, eggs, brown sugar, butter, peanut butter, and jelly, I'm 90% of the way to a large variety of yummy home baked goods. Add some yeast, baking powder, and cinnamon and I could make my own bread, cinnamon rolls, my favorite jelly muffins (maybe I should post that recipe..its very kid-helper friendly), oatmeal cookies, peanut butter cookies, pizza crust...The list is really quite large. I guess salt wasn't in the shopping list, but I'm assuming that any desperate baker could filch salt packets from a fast-food store. White sugar would be better in some recipes than brown, or maybe some of both, but I could work around it. I like to bake with wheat flour (I use 1/2-1/2 wheat-white in a lot of normal recipes), so I know I would miss that, and it's more expensive than white flour.

For protein, but peanut butter does ok, and some folks afforded chicken breasts (though a whole chicken might be cheaper by the pound). Vegetables can get pricey, but for one person, a couple of onions, carrots, celery, and a bell pepper can do quite a lot. Actually, that sounds a lot like the chicken soup I made over the weekend.

None of the folks went for (cheap!) rice--bought in bulk and steamed, it's filling (even the long-grain or brown stuff is cheap when bought dry). Dried beans are also filling, and full of protein. With some dried red beans, a can of tomatoes, onions and bell peppers, and about 1/3-1/2 pound of ground beef (plus spices...which could get pricey), I could make enough chili to last me 2-3 meals. Eggs are also a cheaper source of protein (though they get more expensive every day lately).

If I had my family's support, I would be willing to try the challenge, if I had access to my pantry full of spices :). I think it would be hard to talk my husband into pb&j sandwiches every day, and to not drink soda (which would be a big budget buster). But for 4 of us, I could totally feed us, and feed us well, for $100 a week. I think.

Funny, I say that, and yet I still complain that we spend more than double that on groceries....

Also, after thinking through all of this, I have come to a realization. The next time we donate food to a food bank, I'm totally including spices. I can't imagine a kitchen without at least cinnamon, some basic herbs, and good chili powder.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

T is for Trouble

At 18 months, I think Trystan has a much wider vocabulary than he uses on a regular basis. Several months ago, he went through a "needit" stage. He's dropped that one now. Lately, he's been using a baby sign for "more". He has also learned a new, and useful, verb "Got". As in "got cookie". He also has been working on hard k sounds--stinky, cookie, cracker, yucky, etc. 2-syllable hard-k words, I guess. And he pronounces each syllable clearly and distinctly. Especially "cookie" :)

He doesn't say "s"'s yet. He says "shoe" but it sounds like a strangely swallowed "gue", and sock is "ock". Similarly, the soap that he requests in the bath was "hope", but he knows how to wash himself once he gets a handful of suds. He knows many body parts, but won't perform on demand. Casually mention "tummy" in conversation and he rubs his. Ask where his nose is and he laughs at you. And he calls my eyes "gla", which refers to my glasses. Or maybe he just knows that I wear my glasses first thing in the morning, because he usually says "gla" while I'm laying in bed and he's trying to convince me to make breakfast.

I've mentioned it before, but Trystan is an independent, self-sufficient kind of guy. Its simultaneously funny and frightening, how he will help himself to food from the pantry, or move a chair over so he can climb on top of things. This week, he moved a chair over to the stove so he could watch his daddy cook. Luckily, all hot pans and hot burners were at the back of the stove that day.

Last night, he dragged a chair to the back/arm of one of the couches, so he could climb up and over the arm of the couch. Yesterday at the doctor's office, he climbed onto the exam table completely unassisted. He was showing off for his pediatrician, who walked in just then with a gasp (I was helping Char at the time and didn't have a grip on him).

He's so little for his age, that his climbing skills look a little supernatural to the casual observer. As do his problem solving skills. His "high chair" is not a stand-alone high chair, but a booster that's strapped to one of our kitchen chairs. He can't get enough of a foothold to climb directly into it (though not from lack of trying). What he can do is to use an empty chair to climb onto the kitchen table, and then lower himself into the booster.

We're lucky that he hasn't figured out doorknobs or the gate at the top of the stairs yet. He is remarkably agile on stairs, to the point of attempting to crawl up and down them carrying large objects. He's way too short to walk stairs yet. He also hasn't attempted to climb out of his crib. I'm dreading the day that he does, because he's going to be dangerous wandering around the house at night once he's set free (his bedroom door doesn't shut quite right, so closing him in isn't really an option).

He can unscrew caps on bottles and tubes of things like toothpaste, and works zippers with ease (and my purse is no longer safe, even on top of the counter). He loves to sweep and swiffer floors (yesterday, he practiced taking a swiffer cloth on and off). He is trying to learn how to get dressed. He tries very hard to put shoes and socks on himself and others, and can put necklaces, shirts, etc (like our clean bras and underwear from the laundry) over his head. I ought to have a photo of Trystan with 3 pairs of his father's underwear around his neck somewhere....

I think he might talk more if Charlotte weren't such a jabberbox. But he's busy absorbing all of her conversation skills. They have a new game lately--she says a word and he repeats it (and they both giggle). So far, Charlotte sticks to words Trystan knows, like "stinky". If the tables were turned, I'm sure Trystan would be prompting his sister with all kinds of fun vocabulary.

He is, after all, quite the mischief-maker

Friday, October 03, 2008

Book List update

I have finished two more books recently, though I've started at least 3 others. It's a bad sign when I can't get past about the first 30 pages without picking up something else. One of the duds might get finished--it wasn't bad, just not as compelling as other options. I've really slowed down this last month on my reading. Either I'm missing books from my list, or I have only finished 2 books since early September when I last posted. Again, probably due to the partials that I never finished.

Persuasion by Jane Austen. I realized recently that this is the only one of her 6 novels that I never read. Like the rest of them, I enjoyed it immensely. My only dilemma here is whether to call it "historical" romance (as its historical to me, the reader) or contemporary (as it was contemporary to the author, I belive). I'll go with historical. I don't have a separate tally column for "classics" :)

White Lies by Jayne Ann Krentz. Another of her Arcane Society books. I think chronologically it comes before Sizzle and Burn, which I read a couple of weeks ago. Of the two, I like Sizzle and Burn better--the plot moved faster, there was more suspense, etc. This one was almost more "romantic cozy" than "romantic suspense".

General Fiction - 7
Contemporary Romance - 8
Sci Fi/Fantasy - 5
Historical Romance - 5
Women's Lit (Chick Lit) - 3
Total 28 books

Update: No, I didn't write this at 4am this morning. I tried (unsuccessfully, again) to have it publish at 4:40PM this afternoon. doh!

Thursday, October 02, 2008


It's about 9pm, and the kids are (mostly) in bed, and I suppose I could work on my whole re-joining of civilization thing by finding out if the VP debate is televised, and by actually watching it. And yet, I'm in our home office in my pj's, surfing--and, I have about 1/4 of a book left to read and it's beginning to call my name. That reminds me, I should post a book list update. Tomorrow.

So, even as I wonder out loud why I have no idea what's going on in the world, I find myself apathetic towards making much effort to find out. Maybe its just politics. The problem isn't that I'm not interested. I almost always vote--always in the major elections, though I don't always bother with the primaries, or with the local ones that are held at odd times of year. I do follow local events--Maryland Heights sends out a newsletter every couple of months that I read cover-to-cover, and I usually catch the weekend Post-Dispatch (I have grown up. I now read more than just the comics and the sale ads).

The problem with a lot of debates and political coverage is that I don't take months to make up my mind about people. My first intuition about someone is usually the one that proves itself true. In just a few words here and there, I get a fairly good impression of what the candidates stand for (in a general sense--no one will ever agree with me 100%, down the line, on every issue), and whether I'm going to retain a favorable impression of them should they be elected. And if I take a lot of time to make a decision, then I end up waffling and stalling and confusing myself and stressing out. Much better to make a decision and stop thinking about it.

What is going on under my little rock right now? My kids are growing and developing. They both got shots today at the doctor's office. Charlotte insisted right up until the first needle penetrated her thigh that she was not having a shot. After lunch, she threw up. I could blame it on a hot car, and too much ice cream at McDonalds (a treat after the doctor visit), but as Trystan puked last weekend and I spent the last 24 hours with my digestive tract on fire, I'm thinking stomach flu.

Charlotte has finally cracked the 30 pound barrier (by a whole half-pound). If she continues to throw up on her carseat, she may find herself with brand-new high-back booster in lieu of another horrendously messy cleanup job on her toddler carseat (really, at some point, it's just not worth it to try and hose the gunk off the straps) Trystan had fallen off his growth curve a bit at the beginning of this year (shortly after his colostomy reversal, which makes sense), but has regained it. He's still barely on the 5% line for height and weight, but he is tracking almost identically to Char at this age, so I think he's fine. Little maybe, but that's genetic :)

My stomach was much better this afternoon (about 36 hours in), so I went ahead to my step aerobics class this evening. I had been taking a "ballet sculpt" class but it got re-scheduled for a different night. Step aerobics is earlier in the evening, but if I can't quite make it after work, then there's always the eliptical machines. It's more challenging than the other class, by a huge amount And probably about time. Except for a brief spell of bike riding right before conceiving Trystan, I haven't done a lot of regular exercise that included cardio since, oh, 2003. Yoga, pilates, walking, and that ballet class don't pump your heartrate, and I'm spotty at best at getting on the equipment at the Y. It feels good.

Its now 9:30, and both kids are quiet. My book is still calling. My stomach's not quite 100%. And my energy has just bottomed out. Time to call it a night!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Kitchen Organization

Over on Rocks in My Dryer, it's Works For Me Wednesday, the Kitchen edition. She's collecting tips for kitchen organization, and I thought I'd share a couple.

First, I saw the author's own post about her new recipe organization. It sounds very similar to my own, but more complicated! Seriously, she re-typed all of her old recipes in Word..that's way too much work for me (and way too much room for error). And I would lose all the lovely hand-written recipes that I received from one of my bridal showers, including my husband's grandmother's fudge recipe, in her own hand. Hmm...maybe I should post the recipe....or make some :)

I bought a 3-ring binder to store all my recipe cards in. I then found, in an office supply store, plastic sheets meant to store photos--I think I bought 4x6 and 5x7 ones, plus some full-sized plastic sheet protectors. The recipe cards slip into the photo pockets (and you get 2-5 or so per page, depending on size), and are nicely protected from wayward splatters by the clear plastic. No re-typing, re-formatting, etc necessary. As a bonus, the 3-ring binder itself has photo pockets on the cover, so I put my most-used recipe cards (my favorite chocolate chip cookies, my mom's coffee cake, etc) right on the cover. I don't even have to crack the book to cook.

My other tip of the day is as much child-proofing as kitchen organization. Don't put a lock on your kitchen sink cabinet, expecting it to keep kids safe from dangerous chemicals. Pets, maybe, but kids have opposable thumbs. Under our kitchen sink, I store kitchen towels, trash bags, dishwasher soap (we use the individually-wrapped tablet kind), flower vases, etc. All chemicals worse than dish soap are on a high shelf in our laundry room. That way, the only trouble Trystan gets into is pulling out too many kitchen towels.