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Monday, April 12, 2010

Guess What?

"For everything spoken by God is possible." Luke 1:37

On Friday morning I took a pregnancy test and it came back positive. I sent Big Daddy a picture of the test with the message, "Guess What?"

Since Friday, I've experienced every imaginable emotion from absolute joy to terror. I am told this is normal. I'm sceptical. I get excited and then the fear comes in giant waves and then I'm overwhelmed with gratitude and then I am nervous again. I feel utterly insane and I can't figure out what to do with myself. So I pray and then I work on my puzzle and then I talk on the phone and then I wander through the house. I set up an appointment with a doctor for tomorrow and while I was answering a bunch of questions, all of a sudden the nurse said, "How old ARE you???" All I could do was laugh, because it was a relief to hear someone finally say what I'm sure is being mumbled behind my back.

This morning I sat still and thought about Elizabeth, from the Bible. She was the mother of John the Baptist, and when Gabriel came to tell Mary that she was going to have Jesus, he used Elizabeth as an example of how God has a plan for us, even when think it's impossible. I have to keep reminding myself that Big Daddy and I made a conscious decision to trust God, and to let God decide if we should have a kid. God decided.

A friend once told me that the hardest prayer of all is, "Thy will be done," because when we truly surrender to God's will we give up all dellusions of control. I get to decide to eat three meals a day like I am supposed to. I get to decide to walk 15 minutes a day. I get to decide how much fear I am going to get in before I ask God to remove it. These are my responsibilities. The rest I can put in God's hands or I can wrestle with until I'm absolutely certifiable. Today I choose to trust and surrender and to remind myself that, "everything spoken by God is possible."

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter Fun & Other Spring Things!

Big Daddy and I had the family over for Easter yesterday and other than a little scheduling snafu, it was a nice time. We had ham (made in the crockpot of course), baked potatoes, green beans & asparagus, home-baked chiabatta, and a lemon raspberry mousse dessert. The girls and I decorated eggs that I had blown so that I could save them as decorations for next year.

Spring has hit me in a lot of new ways this year. We've returned to church and that has opened and filled my heart in unexpected ways. I got very emotional in church yesterday and was overcome with the recognition of grace in my life. I've also started spring cleaning and attacked the master closet with a vengence. Today I cleaned the fridge and eventually I suspect the garage and I will have a show down.

I also began reading a book on marriage that has opened my eyes to the experiences we've gone through in the past six months in discovering things about ourselves and each other that have been surprising. While I think we've had a relatively easy go of it, it's still a huge change from dating and being engaged to being husband and wife.

Big Daddy and I are going to get a membership to the recreation center so that we can begin to take better care of ourselves and have a place to go swimming this summer. Money is going to be tight for awhile as we clean up the wreckage of some single decisions and mistakes so I'm taking steps to make some plans for the Spring and Summer so we can have fun while making responsible decisions as we go and grow forward.

The other thing that I'm going through is that a long-term friendship of mine is changing and I don't know what's going to happen and I'm learning to sit still and trust that what is supposed to happen will. Without going into too much boring detail, I have a friend that came into my life at a time when I really needed a friend and in the beginning we had so much fun! We don't live in the same town, so we met places and came to visit and sat up most of the night talking and we laughed and played and it was truly wonderful. Over the years things changed and we changed and the friendship has become more and more challenging for me. It feels like our friendship is this puppy we got together and it was so cute and we were so excited and everything that happened was adorable. And then the new wore off and the puppy came with responsibilities and my friend was happy to play with the puppy and teach it tricks and pet the puppy and I got to clean up after the dog and take care of the dog and feed the dog and take the dog to the vet and I'm just not in love with the dog anymore. Last week, things came to a head and my friend let me know that the puppy wasn't behaving (expecting me to do what I've always done) and I got mad and left the dog with my friend and I don't know if my friend is going to take care of the dog or give him away and what I've discovered is that there was a time when I needed to take care of the puppy because I needed that responsibility. Then I took care of the puppy because I was afraid my friend wouldn't. Now I'm not willing to take full responsibility and I'm having to find out if my friend is willing or able to participate and that feels rotten and irresponsible and a little mean. I wish I had handled this differently. I know my friend is feeling very blindsided by all of this and I am struggling with guilt because I didn't feel like I should have to say, "Hey, the dog chewed up a couch cushion," so that my friend would recognize that something needed to be done about the couch cushion and the dog. I have always thought that was common sense and I'm learning that responsibility isn't necessarily an innate skill. So I'm doing a lot of writing and some praying and I'm having to step out on faith to accept that God is providing for both of us no matter what the outcome of this situation is.

It's a time of new beginnings in a lot of areas of my life and I am grateful for things that have been dormant and are beginning to sprout again. I am also learning to accept that there are things that need to be cleared away as well. It's all a part of the big scheme and today I'm content to trust the Master Designer and the master design.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring Cleaning!

Well Easter is hippity hopping around the corner and that means the whole fam-damily will be at our humble abode so it's time to get some cleaning going so we don't have to waste any fun-time cleaning house. I have had a side biz cleaning houses for the past four years and worked for a nationally known maid service for several months prior to that. I learned a few tricks and tips along the way so I wanted to share my favorite products and hints to make housework a little less of a chore.

The first tip I learned that saves a TON of time and elbow grease is: let the cleaning products do the work. I don't know how many hours are wasting scrubbing away soap scum but it's not necessary if you clean regularly and if you use the right stuff. I am a huge fan of the Lysol kitchen, bathroom and toilet cleaners. They smell good and they really work PLUS there are coupons in the paper regularly. When you're cleaning counters or the tub, spray them down and then work on something else for a few minutes. Let the cleaner do its job before you start wiping. If the first wipe down didn't work, respray, walk away and wipe again. Seriously, what's cheaper: cleaning products or chiropractic care?

Use cleaning rags. Paper towels are good for a quick wipe up but they're not the best tool for cleaning an entire house. I buy micofiber cloths at the dollar store and wash them after each cleaning. I use the blue ones for window cleaner and the yellow one for funiture polish and the rest of them are free game. I've also used some white shop towels from the automotive department with good results only I've had a hard time finding them lately.

Floor cleaner is widely debated and people tend to feel a great loyalty to the one they like. I tend to mix it up. I use Murphy's Oil Soap, Fabulouso (seriously, that stuff smells GREAT!)  and the Lysol 4-in-1 pourable. I alternate with each cleaning. For those of you who have fallen in love with the Swiffer I'm probably not going to change your mind, but I love the shmop. This is a tool I used when I worked for Merry a nationally known cleaning company, and it really is a great way to take care of hardwoods, marble, or tile floors. You can buy several covers for it (that can be popped in the washer after you're done). I have the microfiber, a terry cloth one and the wooly one although I misplace the covers often. I love that the covers can be taken off to rinse as needed without bending or wringing. I fill my kitchen sink with mop water and drain it when I'm done. No buckets required.

For dusting I do like the Swiffer duster, although I hate shelling out for the refills. I've used various fuzzy things with varying degrees of success but I do like the satisfaction of seeing all the grunge on the dusting pad. As far as furniture polish goes Liquid Gold is the best. It costs more than the crummy kind and it should. Lemon oil is good if you use it right but it's a bit tricky. The same goes for window cleaner. I use that kind in a can, the light blue one. I know it's not the most environmentally friendly solution but it leaves the fewest streaks and one can goes a long way!

As far as tips and tricks go, here are my top ten:

1. Shampoo removes soap scum. Put it on a sponge or rag and lather up the shower walls and the tub then rinse. This is a great use for cheap-o shampoo you don't like or the little travel bottles from hotels.

2. Start from top to bottom and move from left to right around a room. Dust ceiling fans before you start on the rest of the room because if you don't you'll find you've redistributed dust in places you've already cleaned.

3. To avoid retracing your steps 6000 times, take all your cleaning products, rags and trashbags into a room with you. Make a cleaning caddy, it makes it easy to tell what you need and saves you from running laps around the house as you clean.

4. Floors should be done last. Get an extension cord for your vaccuum cleaner if you have to unplug it half a dozen times.

5. Cleaning time is cleaning time. There is a reason I can clean most houses in two hours and it takes me days to clean my own. When I start sorting mail or reorganizing closets, I've lost focus on my objective. Use cleaning time to clean.

6. When in doubt, throw it out. There is a danger zone we clutter bugs get into where everything we find has potential. There are clothes that wind up in my closet floor over and over again because I wash them and hang them but after putting them on I immediately decide that I don't like the fit or the color and I drop it in a pile. If I wear a pair of shoes that hurt my feet, I take them off and drop them directly in the trash. I do not donate them because I don't want to saddle anyone else with painful shoes. If I don't throw them away immediately I will convince myself they're not as bad as they are and I'll trick myself into another day in miserable shoes. It is important to make sure that you own your stuff rather than letting your stuff own you. When you can't find what you need because you've accumulated an unreasonable collection, it's time to let some things go.

7. Clean as you go. After I get out of the shower, I will spray down the walls and rinse it right then. It's an easy way to keep things neat. It takes no time to swab down the potty while I'm waiting on my hot rollers to heat. (This is especially easy if you keep some toilet cleaner under the sink.) The same goes with wiping down a mirror once a week in the morning. If you stay on top of things as you go, you limit the hours that need to be devoted to big cleaning projects.

8. Purge as you go. With a chef for a husband, we have more kitchen stuff than any two human beings can possibly need. I can justify three crockpots because I use them regularly but the 50 mismatched plates are a bit much by anyone's standards. Coffee cups tend to breed in our kitchen as well. I take an honest look at our inventory regularly and food that has been in the pantry for months on end gets donated. Items that are used rarely are stored on the high shelves while daily use items are put on lower shelves. When we got a convection/toaster oven as a wedding gift, the toaster left the kitchen promptly. We don't need two tools that serve the same purpose. The same goes with produce that's looking puny, I either find a use for it immediately or I throw it out before I have a science fair project in my fridge.

9. Play the commerical game! On lazy days when we're watching TV I will declare it a commercial game day. The rules are that when commercials come on Big Daddy and I both have to do one quick house cleaning task. During a commercial trash can go to the outside can, clothes can be transferred from the washer to the dryer, at least half the dishwasher can be unloaded, counters can get wiped down...well you get the idea. I also play this game when I'm reading a book, where at the end of each chapter I have to do one chore.

10. Soak instead of scrubbing. I am scrubbing adverse. When I have baked on stuff inside my crockpot, I fill it with water and a little dishwashing soap and turn it on low so the stuff can bake off just like it baked on. If you drop dishes in a soapy sink right after dinner there's really no scrubbing to do. Pots and pans work the same way too.

Bonus: Use air fresheners, candles and Fabreeze to keep things smelling nice even when there are dust bunnies hiding. I've found that if I buy fresh flowers I am more likely to clean because I want to have a pretty place to put them. Make the bed no matter what, it makes a room look more put together and encourgages you to hang clothes rather than draping them in your favorite lazy spots.

Happy Tuesday all, time to get shmoppin!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tuesday's Creation

These are some birthday cards I made. The colors are more vivid than it appears by my photo and there are also some sugary sparkles on the cupcakes that aren't very visible. I used my Cricut to cut the diecuts and then outlined them with a thin black marker to give it a more handmade look. The background of each card is a page from one of the books we use in my recovery program that I watercolored. (I'm making the cards to share with friends when they celebrate their recovery date anniversary.)

I love making cards and having some stockpiled because it's often challenging enough to get ourselves together without adding a run to buy cards, gift bags and tissue paper on celebration days. I also like to give handmade mostly because I can. It's a win/win, I get to enjoy my time making cute stuff and people really seem to appreciate the effort (and well, it's cheap too! The card blanks cost pennies and the rest of the stuff I already have!)

Today is Saint Patricks Day and as it is my first with this fine Irish sirname, I am going to boldly go where I've never gone before: I'm cooking corned beef and cabbage. My husband is delighted and I am not nearly so sure, but I'm using a recipe from Taste of Home. If you don't know about ToH and you like good food, you need to check it out. I fell in love with the magazine years ago because it had recipes from real people to make real food like the stuff at a church potluck. All the other magazines had recipes that required pans I didn't have, and spices I didn't have and ingredients I'd never used to make stuff that I wasn't sure I'd really like. So I'm off to fire up the crockpot and figure out what kind of yummy fun I can get into before Big Daddy gets home!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Make Stuff!

I made a deal with myself that I'd do one creative thing each day of Spring Break and yesterday I hung the pictures Big Daddy and I displayed at our wedding. It was a little tricky finding an arrangement I could live with since it wasn't symetrical but this one works for me. The letters are metal and I found them at Michaels for $1 each. This is the little nook right by our master bedroom and I like that the one color photograph is the picture we took right after we were pronounced husband and wife. The other pictures are pictures we took on various fieldtrips when we were dating. A family friend came to me during the wedding and wanted to know who our photographer was for these photos and I cracked up. All of the pictures were taken on my little pink camera and all but a couple were taken by us. Big Daddy and I have a system where one of us holds the camera at arms length and shoots the picture. It's become a signatue style and it amuses the heck out of my sister. People will see us taking our own picture and will offer to take photos for us and nine times out of ten I delete the pictures after they walk away. I like the head shots better, especially when we can tilt our heads and my double chin isn't the focal point of the picture. I edit our photos using the editing program associated with flickr most of the time although I now have a cheapy disc I got at walmart or office something that I use as well. I like to print my pictures in black and white or in sepia because it allows me to tie together photos from different times and places without worrying about color schemes.

Monday, March 15, 2010

My Creative Life and Girl Scout Cookies

One of the challenges of being me is that there are a dozen things I want to do at any given moment and none of them are the things I need to do or have to do. Lately I've been journaling and doing creative writing a lot and when I'm in the zone with that it's so good and I love it so much and I want to do it forever (like the first box of Samoas) and then one day several weeks in for some inexplicable reason I need to paint something (time to open the Thin Mints!) only actually I want to paint everything! so I head to Michaels for $60 in painting supplies and I'm going to paint forever, I am a painter, woo hooooo and then a book comes in the mail and nevermind the six books I have lined up waiting patiently, no I've got to read and read and read and read (mmmmm Tag-alongs!). I've always been like this and it's been the source of a lot of frustration and confusion for me because when my brain tells me this is it, this is your thing and you are going to do this thing forever and you are going to be great at it I believe my brain and I purchase things like I'm going to love it forever and I talk about it like I'm going to love it forever and frankly I know it makes me look like a big flake when someone asks me about the big fat forever thing before last and I have to say, "Yeah, I'm not doing that anymore." It took me years to realize that these things are cyclic and the good news is that I really don't get bored and the things I like to do come back time and time again. It's like having these wonderful wealthy friends that come to visit having just returned from someplace exotic. When they are visiting, we stay up late and play show and tell and I'm so glad they're back and just when we fall into a comfortable routine they're packing their bags to head off to Istambul and the phone rings and it's another friend who's at the airport and wonders if I can pick her up (Trefoils, where have you been!?!).

This week is Spring Break and I've been looking at crafty blogs for two day straight. I've found some amazing stuff I'd like to try my hand at. I've still got the mantle decorated for Valentines Day and it needs to be redone. I'm going to try my hand at a spinich stuffed pork loin tonight. I've got a new writing book that has my brain working on story ideas all the time and our garage is a complete disaster. The closet is over run and every piece of clothing in there needs to defend it's worth because Captain Pack Rat here is getting frustrated with trying to find something to wear to church. I bought a sewing machine at Christmas that I'd really like to learn to use better and the Book of the Month club just sent me an email telling me my book is on its way. The list just goes on and on and on and somewhere in this big casserole of things I love and things I love to do is a career.

Speaking of careers, you should check out this color test that tells you various careers that would be a good fit. Big Daddy and I both had creative as our strong suit but his second strength was in organization and mine was in persuasion. It's weirdly accurate and it only takes a minute to do. Hey, now that I think about it, perhaps I could persuade Big Daddy to organize our closet!

So I'm going to challenge myself to do one creative thing each day of Spring Break and I'll post it on the blog and posting the blog doesn't count as my one creative thing. Hopefull I will use this time to live a little more mindfully and a little more gratefully. My dad used to have a quote on his desk from Benjamin Franklin. It read, "Do not waste time, it is the essense of life." Amen!

Here are some of the ideas I fell in love with:
butterfly art
fake cupcakes
tea wreath
omg cute flipflops
collage on canvas

Monday, March 8, 2010

Orange Chicken, Leprechaun Green & Out of the Red!

Tonight I made another yummy crockpot dinner that was pretty easy. I made Orange Chicken, fried rice and asian slaw. To make fried rice you just cook some regular old white rice and let it cool. (I use the boil in bag stuff.) Heat olive oil in a non-stick skillet. Take one egg and whip it, whip it good and throw that on the oil cooking it quickly and breaking it up as it cooks. Then throw in the cooled rice, a handfull of frozen peas and carrots and quick fry it until it's all heated, then douse in soy sauce. Keep the rice moving until everything is hot and well mixed. Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste. My asain slaw is even easier. I take bagged slaw mix and throw it in a bowl. Then I take a handful of slivered almonds and throw those on a cookie sheet to toast. While the almonds are toasting I douse (apparently douse is the word of the day) the cabbage mix with asain vinegrette (mine is that salad spray stuff, only I didn't spray it, I dumped it.) Then top with toasted almonds. Done. Here's the recipe for the Orange Chicken:

1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken, cut in 1-inch chunks

1/2 cup flour

olive oil, for browning the chicken

1 teaspoon salt

6 ounces (1/2 can) frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
3 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons ketchup

1 pinch of red pepper flakes for a little heat (optional)

The Directions
Use a 4 quart slow cooker for best results. Dredge the chicken pieces with the flour, and shake off the excess. Go ahead and throw away any remaining flour, we won't need it. Heat olive oil in a large skillet on the stove and brown the chicken on all sides. There is no need to fully cook it, just sear it enough for the flour to stick and get a nice coating.

Plop the chicken pieces into your slow cooker. In a small mixing bowl, combine the orange juice concentrate, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, salt, and ketchup. Taste. If you'd like the chicken to be a bit sweeter, add a touch more sugar. Pour sauce mixture evenly over the chicken, and toss gingerly to coat.
Cover and cook on low for 6 hours, or on high for 3 to 4. Serve over rice.

Review: this actually tastes like the orange chicken I get from the local chinese place after it's been in the fridge overnight. Of course cooking something in the crockpot doesn't leave it crispy, but the flavor of the sauce is very true to take-out.
Last weekend Big Daddy and I went to the North Texas Irish Festival at Fair Park and it was really neat. We rode the DART rail and did some primo people watching. There's definately a sub-culture of people who go to fairs, festivals and other outdoorsy event things and the vibe at the Irish Festival was definately a new one for me. I'd really not experienced large numbers of men in kilts, and we're not just talking about people who were dancing or vending or playing the bag pipes, oh no my friend, we're talking about dudes just hanging out in their Ooops I Did it Again skirts. I have always been pro-kilt (no really, I think it's seriously sexy in an edgy nerdy classy kinda casserole) and when Big Daddy started looking at them, I was on it! We didn't buy, but I'm going to be shopping for one because if the man was just playing around, he pulled the wrong chain. Besides, Big Daddy has great legs!
I have paid off three nagging debts in the last week and I am feeling super good about my credit situation. I have never had an excess of credit so the negative things on my credit report are things that I have either decided to be a jerk about or things I've had trouble chasing down. The coolest part is that everything I paid out will be coming back to me over the next month or so, which is a really cool thing! I have been working on a better outlook and attitude about trusting God and doing what's right just because it's right and I have been very blessed by the changes that I thought would be far more uncomfortable than they proved to be.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Our Weekend of Japanese Fun!

Now I can do the reveal on our Valentines Day plans. On Friday night Big Daddy came home to a six pack of this:

The funny thing about that is that B.D. drank two and a half bottles and then dozed on the couch. The dozing was obviously unrelated to the beer but it just about drove me insane that he would sleep while he had half a beer left. I found myself arguing with him in my head, if you want two beers drink two. If you want three beers drink three. This two and half business is just wrong! Eventually I woke him up and told him to drink the other half. I didn't have any desire to drink the stupid thing, I just needed him to drink the stupid thing right! More confirmation that I need twelve steps and he doesn't. :)
We watched this: (Our review: skip it. The middle piece was just over the top wierd and kinda soured me on the whole thing. We don't mind subtitles but this was just a little too artsy and a little to challenging to stick with through for the long haul. The shame in it was that I liked the third piece the best and almost gave up before I got there. Big Daddy's review--Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz)

I had planned on renting different movies than I got. Blockbuster has really shaved down their stock and I was surprised to find that two of the movies widely regarded as classics were not available. I was hoping to get Seven Samauri and Shall We Dance (NOT the Richard Gere remake). Soooooo, if you're planning a theme night plan ahead on the movies because unless the DVD is relatively new, they probably don't have it.

 We ordered takeout from here:

And snacked on these:

The theme thing was a lot of fun, and Big Daddy was amused at my commitment to it. I informed him that we weren't going to look too closely at whether something was truly Japanese or actually Chinese because there was some overlap and it was intimidating enough to wander around the world wide web and the big asian grocery store without a tour guide. Speaking of grocery stores, I went to Asia World Market for some of my supplies. If you live in P-town you really ought to check out this place:
I love foriegn grocery stores (except for the meat department because I don't like food with faces) and this place is always buzzing with activity. The store is clean and filled with all kinds of stuff I find fascinating. There are also little shops around the big grocery store like a teapot shop, a cell phone store, a cosmetics place, a crepe shop and a store that sells asian kitch stuff.  Tomorrow I'll introduce you to my very favorite asian grocery store. More Valentine adventures tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


As a surprise for Big Daddy I went and picked out new cell phones for us. I was very sneaky about it and was far more excited to get big Daddy a non-hooptie phone than I was about my updated Blackberry. I am not in love with the Blackberry but I am relieved that there are very few changes from the old one to the new one. Learning a new phone is a pain for those of us who didn't teethe on technology. It took my forever to learn to text. I didn't quite figure out predictive text right away so my early texts were amusing. A friend used to say, "It's not just a text it's a puzzle!" I would have loved to go the full nine yards and spluged on iPhones for both of us but who am I kidding? I'm unemployed. We went with free and free.

Big Daddy is funny with new electronics because he's even less tech literate than I am. He bought an answer tone rather than a ring tone and couldn't figure out why he couldn't hear it when his phone rang. I installed Tetris on his phone too and I figure after all our add-ons, I suspect we successfully turned two free phones into a pending $700 phone bill.

I have gotten two pressies for Big Daddy's Valentines Day surprise. I know he's getting nervous that I'm plotting and scheming because it seems like he's going to wind up in trouble if he lets me pamper him. The truth is I've been fussy lately and have felt very guilty about the way I've taken my moods out on him, so I'm excited to get to give him a weekend that's all about enjoying himself.

We had our annual Superbowl pizza extravaganza on Sunday, and while there's always a turnover in personnel in our circle of friends, we still had a good turn out and a lot of fun. Spider Pig was a welcome addition to our festivities and I hope he'll become a regular. Stalker brought a new girl and I really like her, which never seems to add to the longevity of his relationships, but I do really like her. It was so funny, while I was getting my new phone set up it rang and the name on the phone was "Stalker" and the girl behind the counter looked very nervous and said, "Do you want to answer that?" For those of you who don't know, Stalker is my BFF from Waco. We met because he was calling me to speak at this thing and the first thing he said to me when he called to ask was, "I've been stalking you for two years trying to meet you and get your number." My response was, "I'm the kinda girl who's flattered by that." We've been besties from about that moment on.

I just got an email from my algebra prof reminding me about my test so that seems like a sign that I should get back to my homework! More later, and love to all!

Thursday, January 28, 2010


It's a rainy Thursday and I have plenty to do and very little inspiation to do it. I feel like I need a GPS to navigate my daily life. Most days I feel like I wander from room to room trying to figure out what I went in there for. It's probably the insomnia. I'm not one of those people who doesn't sleep at all. My body gives out eventually but I'm not getting a full night of sleep right now and I'm a bit loopy. I've got half a headache most of the time, I start a thought and get lost, I copy my algebra problems down wrong and then argue with the math program because I just know my answer is right and I bounce from one idea to the other without really getting anything done. I've done this pretty much all my life and it seems to be on some schedule. It's also self-perpetuating because I don't sleep enough so I caffeinate so I don't sleep enough so I caffeinate...I should probably see a doctor about it, but to tell the truth I've got friends who take sleep meds and I think that solution is worse than my problem. Those things have some funky side-effects!

I've been working on my game plan for Valentines Day weekend. I've picked a country as my theme and everything I've chosen to do can be tied back to that country (loosely). I started with a food choice which dictated the country and with a little wikipedia and a little google I found places to go, things to see, films to watch, things to read, a traditional game we can play and and even arts and crafts! I'm excited about it because I definately thought out of the box on this one and I hope that Big Daddy will enjoy it enough that this might turn into something we do from time to time. One of the neat things about living in a big city is that we have access to lots of resources and cultures and I don't take advantage of that nearly as much as I'd like to.

I got two more crockpot cookbooks and last night I made a chicken and green chili enchilada casserole (btw I used pepper jack cheese and halved the recipe) and it was KILLER. It didn't even turn out the way it was supposed to (which was my fault, not the recipe) and it was still tight. Word. (I just had a flashback of my dad trying to use the 80's lingo and making me cringe. Ah live and learn I tell ya.) So the new plug is for NOT YOUR MOTHER'S SLOW COOKER COOKBOOK.

And finally, my mom called and is planning a little program for her sorority based on the uses of vinegar. She wasn't sure where to start to find things on the internet (bless her heart, google baffles her) so I googled for her and man oh man there's a ton of info out there! Who knew!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Cha-Ching Shopping!

Boy has my world changed! I love Monday mornings. The alarm went off at seven and I sat in bed and drank coffee until almost nine. Then I started in on the Super Clean Plan. For those of you who don't know, the Super Clean Plan is something I found online that suggests that if you do seven simple things every day, you won't have to do the great overhaul mega-clean. Big Daddy and I did the SCP during the week between Christmas and New Years and it was really nice to spend maybe twenty minutes each morning doing chores and having the rest of the day to play. Like most things I did it just long enough to prove that it worked and then got lazy, but I'm back on the wagon today...

So what are the seven things? Well first I need to give credit where credit is due, this came from my crockpot hero Stephanie Dea who has another blog on top of crockpot365, called Totally Together Journal. There's some good stuff in there. Anyway, I've stalled long enough, here's the list:

Number 1: Make Beds Right Away

Number 2: Do One Complete Load of Laundry

Number 3: Empty All Garbage Cans

Number 4: Keep Your Kitchen Sink Empty

Number 5: Clean Up After Yourself and Help Children (husband?) Do the Same

Number 6: Bathroom Wipe-Down

Number 7: Before Bed 10-Minute Clean Up

I know that doesn't seem magical, and what the heck difference does it make if you empty the trash cans daily or as needed, and a couple of bowls in the sink isn't the end of civilization,and if I had time to do all this stuff my house wouldn't be out of control thank you very much...I know. I know. I know. I also know that the success of any methodical plan is not that each step is life altering, it's the discipline about doing things daily that makes the difference. My experience is that if I will make the bed the minute I get out of it, my day is off to a good start. There are lots of people who have always been bed-makers, and I salute you. I have resisted making my bed for four decades. I just didn't get it until I started doing it. A friend put it this way: messy bed=messy head. I know the two shouldn't be connected but I'm lazy and I collect clutter and I truly believe in my heart of hearts that most things are more important than housework, but I can't argue with the results. When I started making my bed and putting away my shoes, my life got better.

After I got the SCP started, then I checked my Grocery Game list to see if I need to go to Kroger today. If you have not heard of THE GROCERY GAME and you buy groceries on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, you really really really need to try it out. I am not even playing.

So here's the dealio: The Grocery Game works on the principle that you should buy groceries when they are at the best value and stockpile them instead of buying things when you need them and paying whatever the store decides it costs. Now obviously you can't stockpile produce but the list does lead you toward items that are the best value so that you buy oranges when they're marked down fifty percent instead of the apples at full price. I subscribe to the list for Kroger because that's the store I'm most comfortable with, but they have lists for Albertsons, Tom Thumb and Walmart. To get maximum value, you need to use coupons, and the key is to use the right coupon at the right time. I know you're thinking and I've got time to deal with coupons? Is she crazy? It's easier than it sounds and it can make a HUGE difference in your grocery bill. Let's say it takes you an hour to clip coupons and plan the list, but you wind up saving 40% on your grocery bill. If you save 40% on a $100 grocery bill, you just got paid $40 an hour. Hmmm not bad eh? The way I do it, is I have the Sunday paper delivered to my house. I don't get the daily paper, just Sunday. I pull out the coupons (RedPlum, SmartSource and Proctor and Gamble put out coupons regularly), I write the date on the front of the first page of the coupon book in sharpie so I can see it easily and stuff it in the front of an expandable file. I do not clip anything until the grocery game tells me to and I purge old coupons when my expandable file gets full (it's rare to need a coupon that's more than a couple of months old because they expire and put out new ones every few months). The Grocery Game List comes out on Sunday and is good through Tuesday, so I check the list on Sundays or Mondays. The list has the item that's on sale, the coupon to clip (listed by date and section, for example if the list says .50 (s 1/24), that means it's a fifty cent coupon from the SmartSource section from January 24) If there's some really good deals I print the list and clip my coupons, if not, I don't. Some weeks if it doesn't seem worth the effort I just go to Sprouts on Wednesdays and buy meat, veggies and dairy and skip Kroger all together. Here are some examples from my list this week: Hormel Pepperoni is on sale at Kroger and if you use the coupon from yesterday's paper, it's free. How about bottled water at 70% off or Dry Roast Peanuts at 72% off. This isn't even a great week but by using the color coded list (green is free, blue is a good value and black are things your should buy only if you need to) and stockpiling so that you buy green and blue items because you have a stocked pantry, you can save a fortune! I can't imagine having kids and not taking the time to save money, if you're paying full price for cereal or fruit snacks or yogurt or toothpaste you really need to give this a one month free trial. I'd suggest having a couple of weeks of coupons saved before you do the trial, and hey, tell them jenhud13atyahoodotcom sent you!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Aren't-aren't I going to be me?

Jenny: Do you ever dream, Forrest, about who you're going to be?
Forrest: Who I'm going to be?
Jenny: Yeah.
Forrest: Aren't-aren't I going to be me?

My sweet husband cannot flip channels and see FORREST GUMP and not watch a snippet. He quotes the movie often. Apparently Big Daddy feels some connection to a huge-hearted man who can't stop thinking about a flaky broken girl named Jenny. I have no idea what that's all about. It's one of those little things that he does that just melts my heart. He's sweet that way.

This weekend I was reminded of why I married Big Daddy. We didn't do anything amazing, but we did ordinary things with a lot of love. The nicest thing about our weekend was that everytime there was a pause Big Daddy would ask what else I'd like to do. Let me tell you about the big romantical events: we went and got my car inspected and we listened to comedy clips on my mp3 player together and laughed hysterically as this kid stared at us wondering what the heck was so funny. We went to Bed Bath and Beyond for a Turbo Snake because someone keeps clogging the bathroom sink with hair. I don't know who she is, but she's driving us crazy with the hair balls. Then Big Daddy went to Barnes and Noble while I checked out the Dollar Days sale at Michaels. We had lunch at El Fenix (Big Daddy had never been there! How do you live in DFW for years and miss El Fenix???) and did a little shopping at a store a couple of doors down. I am being vague about it, but if you live in P-town I'll let you figure it out that part of the field trip. Then we came home and watched Sunshine Cleaning and ordered Chinese. We talked a lot. We laughed often. We hugged and kissed and enjoyed each other. I'm new at this married thing but I've been married long enough to realize that it's easy to get busy with work, school, chores and facebook and forget to really talk and really listen. It's good to slow down and enjoy each other's company.

Today Big Daddy did some work and I started my algebra homework. I discovered that after several years my recall of pre-algebra II is hazy at best. I got a bit overwhelmed when it took me over an hour to do five problems. I had to pause and pray because I was freaking out wondering how in the heck I'm going to eat this elephant sandwich. Once I got my anxiety down, I realized that the challenge is that I'm going to have to practice and learn and I will get better and I will get faster if I just take the time and do it step by step, one problem at a time. One of  the things I struggle most with is my instinct to quit when things don't come easy for me. I also have trouble with asking questions, simple questions, because that mean girl in my brain likes to bully me about looking dumb and embarassing myself. I'm beginning to think that the most important thing I can learn this semmester is that the mean girl in my brain has no idea what she's talking about.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Back to School Fun

I started back at community college today and I pulled a classic blooper. I looked everything up about my class: building, room, prof and time I just forgot to look up um....where the school is. So I was twenty minutes late to class. No big deal. I also asked for directions to the building which may not seem like an accomplishment to some, but I have a hard time asking for directions, obviously. It helped a lot that they were giving away free stuff at the information table. I got a pencil, a highlighter, a calendar and a donut (no time for coffee). I LOVE free stuff. Then after class I headed to the campus bookstore to get my Spanish book and supercode and the line was waaaaay out the door and I decided I could wait. On the drive home I decided to stop by Half Price Books and on a whim I looked to see if they might have my Spanish book there and would you believe it, they did and it was the right edition and the CD and supercode was in the book. On campus the book was $110. I got it for (drum roll please) $9.98!!! I was so excited I went to Office Max and bought new highlighters and three notebooks and some mechanical pencils off the clearance rack. I may have to pay for a new supercode but even if I do it's still half the price of the cheapest used book I could find online without the code included. This seems like a very lucky day for me and I'm going to ride the wave of enthusiasm and print off my syllabi and put all my due dates in my new free calendar. Yippeeeeeee!

I have begun mapping out my Valentines Day surprises for Big Daddy and I've decided to start with a theme for all the activities. I'm keeping the budget low and the creativity high. I've got two meals planned, a game, an arts and crafts project (I've got two ideas and I don't think he'd hate either one!), an activity, two movie choices (although I'm still researching on that) and a gift idea. I'm also working on decorations and a creative way to share our itinerary. I found some pretty fun date ideas here if you're looking for some inspiration. The nice thing is that date ideas can easily be modified to include friends and/or kids. I decided to eat out for lunch and eat in for dinner. There are three benefits to this idea: 1. Lunch is less expensive than dinner 2. We can avoid the crowds and a potential wait and 3. If we find ourselves feeling a bit romantic...well you know....

I'm off to start my homework!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sleepless in South Padre

Big Daddy and I came to South Padre Island for the weekend and it's definately been a weekend of ups and downs. Friday we had a great day and really enjoyed the conference and each other. Saturday was a different story with a computer screw up I got obsessed about and "I don't know what do you want to do?" dead time with no way to really get anywhere. It was supposed to rain all weekend so we weren't expecting to be outside and we didn't really pack for for beachcombing. I spent hours trying to make my netbook interface with my Rhapsody account (including forty-five minutes on the phone with a lovely Indian gal doing tech support where at the end of the process we were at exactly the same spot as I was in before I called tech support) while Big Daddy played channel pong among the Saints game and various Cartoon Network shows and some realllllllllly painful action hero movies. Well, believe it or not, I got myself all in an emotional lather and had a mini-meltdown over something that made me very weepy and indignant. I never actually identified the root cause of the weepiness or the indignance but I did share about the feelings. Poor poor poor Big Daddy. People kept coming up to him telling him what a lucky guy he is to have snagged such an adorable bride and I'd literally just released him from room 306 in Hotel Hell. He's a very gracious man.

We wound up ordering a late night pizza and we had a picnic in our hotel room and we had a good talk before Big Daddy headed off to sleepyland, solo. I've been doing my insomnia routine lately and it's no fun for anyone involved. I didn't bring a sleep aid on this trip so I'm watching reruns and listening to my sweet sleepy spouse saw the proverbial log. There's a point when I'm too tired for Sudoku or Scrabble but not tired enough for actual sleep, and that my friends, is the dark night of the spirit. In the past I've used my insomnia runs as an opportunity to work on my writing but since we're in a hotel room and I like to hand write my first drafts I'm a little stuck tonight due to lighting conditions unless I'm willing to sequester myself in the bathroom.

So it's been fun Port Isabel, but I'm heading home in the morning. It's been real and and it's been fun, but it hasn't been real fun. I'm looking forward to a quiet afternoon nodding in and out on my couch while Big Daddy *quietly* cheers his Cowboys to victory. Sweet dreams my non-sleep deprived friends, I'll see you after I've had a few more winks.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Okay before I start any other blather, I really have to tell you about the sweet potatoes I made last night because they were killer. All I did was take two sweet potatoes and scrub them well. Then I took some butter and gave the sweet potatoes a massage. Then I mixed together 1 teaspoon of chili powder, 1 teaspoon of cumin and 1 teaspoon of sea salt (or kosher salt or what ever kind of cheffy kind of salt we have) and then I cover the sweet potatoes in the spicy stuff. Then I wrap them in waxed paper and nuked them for about eight or nine minutes (until I could squeeze them and feel the give). I cut those bad boys open and broke up the insides a bit with a fork and then I put lime juice inside. No butter, no fat grams, just lime juice. I really expected Big Daddy to give me a pat on the head for busting out the spices and getting an inch or two out of my comfort zone, but what I didn't expect was how freaking good it was going to be. Chef ate it skin and all while I just sort dragged each fork-ful through the chili seasoning. The lime juice just gave it this extra zing but you really don't notice that it's lime juice. It made the sweet potato sweet potato-ier. I busted out a little pork loin action and the daily tossed salad and doooood, when Big Daddy looked at me and said that was deeeeelish, I looked right back at him and said "I know."

For anyone who may not know, Big Daddy is a chef and while he will sputter and hem and haw about what he does right now and where he does it, make no mistake--from the tippy top of his big old mellon head to his tore up from the floor up feet, that man is a chef. Now a lot of people think that makes him a prissy eater or a kitchen snob--he is neither. He likes whatever he doesn't have to cook and we've got the same folgers coffee and uncle ben's rice mix that everyone else does. We shop at Kroger and Sprouts and occasionally very occasionally we go to Whole Foods and Market Street for something special because it's just too painful to spend two weeks in grocery bills on one meal. I can't remember anything I've made that he has not been kind about but cooking every day is a lot of pressure! I have trouble getting everything done at the same time or I get a little too ambitious and I wind up multitasking and over cooking a thing or two. There are LOTS of times when I'm completely uninspired and if I don't pay attention we'll eat pork four nights in a row or I'll do something mexican flavored for days and days and days. Then there's the battle with left-overs, I say it's a bonus if you eat stuff more than once, but Chef has a really hard time watching food go in the disposal. It causes him physical pain. All this to say that I feel inadequate in the kitchen often and I face that inadequacy five days a week. That is what I choose to do because I want to be a killer cook and the only way to become a killer cook is to practice practice practice.

I was never the house wifey type. I never made beds or stayed on top of the laundry. I cleaned when I felt like I had to and any request by a potential house guest was met with a very hesitant, "Well, I guess so." So this married thing and this stay at home thing is a completely new planet for me. For the first year and a half we were together, Big Daddy and I played show and tell as we got to know each other, but I already knew the things I was showing and telling. These days, I'm finding there are things I didn't know about myself that are being reveled through our relationship. It's a little alarming at times to realize that I am completely exposed with him and while I've always been a fairly open book, I've never been this open. I was talking to a girlfriend about it today and she said, "Oh yeah, you'll be learning tons of things you didn't know about yourself and each other for years (and years and years and years)." All I could think was, God I hope so.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Some days are like that...even in Australia

I don't know if you're familiar with ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE HORRIBLE NO GOOD VERY BAD DAY but it's a great kid's book that I think about often when things get off track. The first line of the story is, "I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there's gum in my hair."

Here's my version: I had trouble sleeping last night and I hadn't had a latte so it was just my brain chewing on my face. I woke up late which makes me feel guilty because Big Daddy goes to work at five in the morning and the fact that I slept five hours after he left the house makes me feel like a jerk. I was supposed to hang out with my friend Suzie today but by the time she called I was feeling guilty about sleeping late and the fact that I've been procrastinating on fixing my messed up schedule for school and if I don't make myself do it today, I may leave it all screwed up and then feel sorry for myself. Then I started working on fixing my schedule and finding my books for next week and for some reason that whole process just sends me into a giant emotional twist. I LIKE being in school, but getting in school is a whippy-doodle! It feels like I'm in a giant maze and there are information desks all over the place but the people at the information desks may or may not actually know more than you do. So at one point I have six websites open trying to accomplish one task and then I realize that I have the screen on my netbook set too large to see the button I have to hit to approve the program that will show me the document I need. So I change the settings on the netbook but I have to reboot for the settings to take effect which means I've got to get out of and get back into the six sites all over again. This process continues and then I start pricing the text books, and don't even get me started on that! Wow. So by the time I get all that done, Big Daddy calls and I'm weeping. Poor man. He really doesn't understand why I cry after everything is okay and I don't have any good explanation for that either so we just wind up with him slowly explaining to me that there's nothing to cry about and I let him know that I KNOW everything is okay but I'm still having feelings. I know he thinks I'm crazy and I'm not entirely sure he's wrong.

So now it's almost three o'clock and I feel like I'm just starting the day. The kitchen needs cleaning and there's laundry in the washer and dryer. I planned menues for two weeks and I really want to make dinner but I don't have any idea if I can get the meat cooked in time if I start it now. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Big Daddy would be happy with sandwiches tonight but I have this recipe for sweet potatoes with chili cumin and lime that I really want to try but the pork is frozen and I'm still sitting on the couch!

Perhaps it would be a good idea if I reboot as well. I should probably completely shut down, say a prayer, and start again with that happy little windows da-da-da-ding! I'll try it and let you know how it goes...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Eat, Play & Love

Tonight I'm making three-cheese broccoli soup from my new favorite cookbook, MAKE IT FAST, COOK IT SLOW. The only problem with it is that I could smell the broccoli cooking from the garage so our house smells a little like dirty socks. Good thing I've got my LA-TEE-DA! I've just been raving about how easy this crockpot cooking is although there are several dishes that I will alter a little when I make them again. Stephanie warns that every crockpot is a little different and you have to get to know how yours works. I also tend to try to make smaller versions of the recipes since I'm cooking for two (and we have a tendency to eat for six if we're not careful) and I'm sure that makes a difference in cooking times. I'm looking forward to the soup. I got a couple of round bread loaves on clearance at Kroger today so I'm going to try to make bread bowls (does anyone else see a giant mess in my future?) to make it look a bit more like dinner. That being said, you should really try out some of the recipes on the blog or buy the cookbook. It really is a super easy way to make a dinner that tastes like it took more effort than it does!

I meant to get into my craft room and start working on my mantle today. I am a crafty girl and I change out the display on my mantle every six weeks or so in celebration of various holidays and seasons. I have three 12X12" frames that I put scrapbook pages or scrappy type decorations in. I change out the nick-nacks and I hang a banner beneath the mantle. The only problem is that I didn't get my New Years stuff made in time and I think I'm a little early for Valentines Day, so I'm thinking maybe just a Warm Winter Wishes kinda thing...I'll post a pic when I decide. Since I didn't get to make any crafty stuff today, I'll share my new favorite videos--I just love these, they completely crack me up. These are definately my homies. Word.

Big Daddy was smoov trippin when I was checking these out Saturday morning. I pulled a little knitta pleeeease on him and he be all up in my bead box, yo. ;) If this made you laugh, go here and watch the third video on the page, I'm sorry but Old Dirty Crafta is just too funny.

Speaking of videos, we're watching THE WIRE on Netflicks and while it took me awhile to get sucked in, I'm totally hooked and really wish I'd gotten the DVD in the mailbox before the mailman came today instead of after. I'm reading OLIVE KITTERIDGE right now (it won the Pulitzer this year) and it's really a good read. It's a series of connected short stories (which is cooincidentally what I always said I'd have to do to trick myself into writing a novel) and the writing is delicious. It's the kind of book that makes me ache to be a serious writer and makes me sad because I'm just not that good. Sigh. Other than that I'm just doing the housewifey thang which I never thought I'd love, and getting ready for my fifty-seventh first day of school. I really must be setting a record for the longest stint in community college without actually completing even an Associates. Time to talk back to the voices in my head: I love to learn and I'm excited to have an opportunity to do things differently. I love to learn and I'm excited to have an opportunity to do things differently. I love to learn and I'm excited to have an opportunity to do things differently...

Monday, January 11, 2010

How to Heart a Husband???

This morning I nuked the leftovers from yesterday's coffee and sat on the couch to google Valentines Day ideas for Big Daddy. This is our first married Valentines Day and I really want to do something special without blowing the bank because there's really no bank to blow. While I'm a pretty creative person, I rarely come up with an original idea. Nine times out of ten I borrow inspiration and tweak it to fit my taste and my style but this morning I found myself getting frustrated with the same old ideas I've seen hundreds of times: chocolate covered strawberries, rose petals on the bed, candle lit dinners and the ever popular do-it-yourself massage. I'm not saying those things don't have merit, I'm just saying that none of that seems like something Big Daddy is going to do backflips over. I just don't know many men who wish their gals were sending them flowers more often. Romance is something women crave. Guys like fun. Right? So what's something Big Daddy would really enjoy doing that wouldn't involve plane tickets or a second mortgage on a house we don't even own?

So here my guidelines for planning a special day for Big Daddy:

1. As simple as it sounds, I want to do something that is all about HIM. At Christmas I noticed that almost all of his gifts were things he needed and would use but there just wasn't a whole lot of fun in those packages. I am probably the worst about deciding what he ought to want (like nicer clothes and better shoes) instead of really considering what he would truly enjoy.

2. I want to plan something we haven't done. When Big Daddy and I were dating we went on lots of fieldtrips we enjoyed. I know he likes going to museums and great restaurants. (No REALLY, he does!) I think it's cheating to revisit those same places for Valentines Day.

3. We need to stay out of the way of the hot spots that will be over-crowded and over-priced because it's a holiday. If I were Oprah Winfrey I'd be buying All Star Game tickets and booking my table at 560. The limo would be a given and Big Daddy would be grinning from ear to ear without any worries about how much I spent but I don't live on that planet.

4. I know it's cliche, but it IS the thought that counts. I don't have a lot of money but I do have time to plan something that will let him know how much I care about him. Sometimes big "I love yous" come in a lot of little packages.

5. Consider the "WOW value." When I was younger and broke, I subscribed to a newsletter called "The Tightwad Gazette." I learned a lot about how to save money on the small things so that I had the money for big things. One of the most important ideas the newsletter taught me was about "wow value," and how that value is different for different people. If carrots taste the same whether I buy them at Whole Foods, Kroger, or Sprouts, why would I buy my carrots at Whole foods when they are on sale at Kroger? If I save twelve dollars shopping at Kroger for most of our food, I don't get in a twist when Big Daddy wants to spend twelve dollars on pate at Market Street. Along those same lines, if the pate from Market Street makes him happy why go to a restaurant and pay twice as much for half as much pate unless the ambiance and service is worth the pricetag? If I save money on one or two ideas that are still thoughtful and fun, I can indulge a little more on a gift that he'll really appreciate. The other thing I learned about frugality is that being careful with how money is spent doesn't make one endlessly cheap, it provides opportunities to be more generous!

6. Get personal. The most important thing I need to do really think about MY man and really think about what would make him feel spoiled rotten. As I've been writing this I've been thinking about ideas he's run up the flagpole that I've never saluted. I need to remember that romance is showing him that I hear him, I know him and I love HIM. I need to take some time to think about the things he loves and incorporate those things into my master plan. Perhaps it's time I explore sushi and anime or consider bowling and baby backs because romance isn't just leather or lace, flowers and candles, or chocolate and wine--it's learning a new language and finding a new way to both show him and tell him that HE is the man I love.

I don't have a master plan yet, but I think I'm on the right track. The first thing I need to do is make sure that my plans don't interfere with any plans he will be making. The good news is that this year Valentines Day falls on a Sunday so if we need to, we can do a his and hers days without a problem. If you have any great ideas to share PLEASE leave a comment!