"I want, I want, I want ... but that's crazy"

Sunday, December 30, 2012

End of the year with bubble gum soda

So another Christmas has come and gone. I had hoped it would be a new start for me, after I applied for a job I've wanted for years and even was one of only four people called in to interview for it. Alas, I didn't get it. Somehow getting up to the interview part and then not getting a job feels worse than not getting called for an interview at all. Feels more like personal rejection. So I start a new year at my old job, miserable, broke and with no chance of going anywhere at all.

The girls enjoyed their Christmas immensely. Gin's list consisted of One Direction things: music, posters, magazines, books, clothes, purses, etc. She got them all. She's ecstatic. She's 14, and 1D is kind of her life right now. Every day when I get home from work, I'm subjected to an hour of videos she's found on YouTube of interviews, commercials and whatever else she can find featuring Harry, Liam, Louis, Niall and Zayn. Yes, I know more about those four British boys and one Irish one than any 40-year-old should ever know - except perhaps their mothers.

Munch wanted art supplies, as usual, so she got a ton of those. She's been creating nonstop. She bought a puzzle with some of her Christmas money, and she spent hours working on that. I might go for more of those. The hours required to concentrate on it and logic/reason involved must be good for her. Her new ADD medication seems to be helping her in school too. 

I got Pooh this very cool equalizer T-shirt from Think Geek. He absolutely loved it! He's 22 and, therefore, very hard to buy for, but he likes T-shirts and music, so I thought, "why not?" He and his roomies liked it so much they've pinned it to the wall of their apartment. He plans to wear it out clubbing sometime though. He'll "suit up" then tear open his shirt for the big reveal. Which is sooo what I imagined him doing. 

Book got, of course, a book and movie, along with some soft pajamas and slippers and clothes. He's a 16-year-old with Asperger's, so he's definitely the hardest to buy for.

I got myself a Sodastream soda maker and an ebook for making my own soda syrups. We've been loving that. I don't buy soda at the store anymore. Instead, the girls say, "Can you make me some soda?" Very cool! I even experimented with my own formulas. My first:

Bubble Gum soda

2 Tbs. sugar
2 Tbs. water
1/2 tsp. Lor-Ann Oils bubble gum flavor
8-10 oz. carbonated water

Combine sugar and water in microwave-safe cup. Heat for 30 seconds in microwave on high. Stir well. Let cool. Add flavor and mix. Pour into glass. Pour in 8-10 ounces of carbonated water, and stir gently. Add ice. Enjoy!

I'll get more exotic as I go along, but I wanted to see if I could use my flavor extracts that I use for making my e-juice for my e-cig. Success!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Warm Autumn Cocoa

Even though I dread the coming of autumn - because it means the end of warm weather and the beginning of cold weather - there are a few things I must admit I like about it. I love the bright orange and red and yellow leaves, even though it doesn't last very long before it's all a rather unattractive brown. I love that week or so when it seems all the leaves are falling at once, and the air is always filled with leaves raining down. I love the rustling they make as the wind shifts them all around the ground. And I love that smell. It seems odd to love any smell associated with something decaying, but that scent of the fallen leaves, especially after a rain, is somehow wonderful. Wouldn't it be nice if all decaying things could smell pleasant?

So, it's no secret that I'm not a cold weather fan, by any stretch of the imagination, but it does suit my wardrobe better. I love sweaters, and they fill about 80% of my closet.

I also love the cold weather foods - those wonderful, rich, warm comfort foods. Autumn means I can start stirring up pots of soups and stews and chilis.

And pumpkin everything. I must say, I don't object to that at all.

It also means I can curl up with a nice hot cup of cocoa. That's what I did tonight.

I wanted a cup of cocoa with a distinctly autumnal twist to it. I also wanted something low in fat, but I'm not willing to compromise richness for that. No problem. Here's what I came up with!

Warm Autumn Cocoa (makes 2 "normal" servings or one big one!)

2 heaping tsp. Hershey's cocoa
4 heaping tsp. of sugar (or equivalent sugar substitute)
2-3 T. nondairy powdered creamer (I like the extra rich kind)
1/8 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. plus 3 tsp. lowfat milk (I use 1% fat, but skim also works - the nondairy creamer keeps it nice and rich)

Heat 2 c. milk in microwave or on stove until very hot but not to boiling. Meanwhile, in a very large mug or normal size teapot, add the cocoa, sugar, creamer and spice. Mix well (do not skip the mixing or the cocoa powder will be lumpy and bitter). Add the vanilla extract and 3 tsp. milk. Stir until it forms a smooth syrup. If it's too thick, add another teaspoon of milk. Stir in the hot milk. Either enjoy your giant mug of cocoa or pour into smaller mugs to share!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Keeping busy

We're definitely keeping busy around here lately. Gin had her first cheer competition on Sunday. Both of her group's teams took first place for their divisions, so she was very excited. It was a long day for all of us. We went in to Sidney to pick up my mom, then spent about five hours at the venue before meeting up with my son, Pooh, for dinner at Noodles & Co. Mom says she's not hosting Thanksgiving this year, so Noodles & Co. was our Thanksgiving. I'm not sure, but I think that might be a crime. Good though. On our drive home, we got caught in a traffic jam for 45 minutes because of a crash on the interstate ahead of us. It happened just beyond an interminably long construction zone, so all the exits were closed, and no one could go anywhere. All we could do was wait. And wait. And wait. Yesterday, Gin had her cheer practice, so that meant leaving early and having to go back to the office with Munch while Gin was in practice. Today, I had to leave early so I could take Munch to a doctor's appointment to adjust the dosage of her ADD medication. Unfortunately, we just got a refill, and because of the restrictions on getting the "controlled substance" we can't get the new dosage for another three weeks. After the doctor we stopped by the store to pick up a few things, went out for a quick bite (stalling until after office hours so I could take her into the office with me to finish my work - I did NOT want to do an hour roundtrip to take her home then go back to the office, then another half hour home again). We spent another hour and 45 minutes in the office. Afterward, Munch reminded me I still needed some teeth for my Halloween costume (trick or treat is Thursday). Somehow, that trip into the store came out to about $50. When we finally got home, I threw on some dinner. It was a very delicious seafood bisque with lobster ravioli. Sorry, I don't have a recipe for this one. It was Bertolli. :) Tomorrow, Munch has a field trip with school, then as I said, trick or treat is Thursday. I'm taking the day off work. Munch will be a zombie, so I need adequate time to do the makeup well. Oh, by the way, she wants me to be a zombie with her. There should probably be pictures. :)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Heart heavy

My heart is breaking tonight for my dear friend who has just lost her daughter. She was just 21 years old and the mother of a precious little boy who's not yet two years old. It's so strange for me because I have two other friends who have just had babies. One had a very difficult pregnancy and just three weeks ago had her baby, after a difficult delivery during which they both nearly died. But they are now both well and healthy. The other, he and his wife found out that there was a great possibility of miscarriage. She held on and held on and two weeks ago their baby daughter was delivered. She weighed just over a pound, but she is doing so well and such a strong little angel that we are all believing now that she will prove all the doctors wrong. So it was such a shock to learn that my other friend had lost her daughter. I still don't know what happened. I'd never met her, but I know that she was a person who brought nothing but sweetness and a brilliant light to all those she touched. It was just four days ago my friend had posted a picture of a bouquet of flowers her daughter gave her, just to tell her that she loved her. I can only imagine the pain my friend must be feeling. Nine years ago, I almost lost my daughter in a freak accident. Even now, it haunts me. Tonda, Mike, Miranda and darling little Noah, my heart is with you. Holly was truly fortunate to have been so deeply loved in her too-brief time on this earth.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

I hate people

I could have written a post tonight about my friend's lovely wedding yesterday, about the end of a relationship, or about Manchester United's fantastic win over Newcastle today. I could have written about getting to work today and finding that Mitt Romney's coming to town, so my planned work day was completely shot while I had to scramble for the story, or about how my boss actually said "good job" to me about something. I even could have written about how the first freeze of the year is due to hit tonight and as of last night, my furnace doesn't seem to work anymore, so the house is quite frigid. But no. I got home from work, after stopping at the store for new furnace filters, and parked in my own driveway. I took in one armload full of things from the car and scampered about for five or ten minutes in the house before running back out to the car, parked in my own driveway and retrieving the rest of the things I needed to take in - only to look up and see that my GPS unit has been stolen. I live on a cul-de-sac. In a village of 600 people. And my GPS has been stolen from my car left unattended in my own driveway for only five or ten minutes. I hate people. I think about what kind of a person would do something like this. He can see from the car I drive (a 14-year-old Honda with 211k miles on it), from the place I live (one of a four-unit building), from any number of clues inside the car, that I probably don't have things any better in life than he does. Does this matter? No. He takes my GPS, which I need for my pathetic job at which I've gotten no pay rises in 10 years, and for my daughter's activities that have me driving all over the state in the coming months. Does this matter? Is this a consideration at all? Of course not. Other people don't matter to these people - ever. Are these things even all that valuable in the stolen goods market? No. They're only $100 or less retail. So for the $10 or $20 bucks you'll get - or maybe an eighth of pot or a few pills, he'll gladly put me out a hundred bucks that I clearly cannot spare in order to replace it. All because I thought I could leave my car unattended in my own driveway for a few minutes. The kind of person who does this sort of thing - yeah, I know people like that. I married - and very happily divorced - a person like this. A person who thinks of no one but himself. Quite simply a bad person. A pathetic example of a human being. And more often than not,someone who is quite proud to be like this. I know these people. They'll laugh about it. "Check out what I got!" Would they ever for a single moment think, "Check out what someone else lost. What someone else needed and couldn't afford to replace. What's going to cost them far more than it's ever going to profit me." No. They won't. Not for a single moment. They laugh about it and take pride in it. I know people like this. And there are far too many of them. And they have too much power in the world, because they are willing to cross those lines that decent people don't cross.

Monday, October 1, 2012

'Found' time

I ended up catching a break today and getting an early respite in what had promised to be a rather nightmarish week. Our staff sports guy is out starting tomorrow to have knee surgery. In our office, that means the news editor will be doing his job. So my fellow copy editor/paginator will be be doing the news editor's job. Which means I'll be doing both his job and my job, in addition to the job of the reporter who's out on maternity leave. And the job of the webmaster who was never replaced. All that's still on. So what was my break? Well, on top of all that, my editor (who has lost all grip on the reality of our staffing situation) assigned me to cover a trial that was scheduled to start today. Trial coverage means I can't do ANYTHING else. My fellow copy ed even had to post the news stories to the web last night, since I'd be out of the office today. He did it wrong, but I honestly don't care. Anyway, the trial was was dismissed. It's a civil case that will be refiled this week, but at least it's a reprieve. I was glad, because it meant I was able to leave work early and thus will be able to get my daughter to cheerleading practice tonight.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


Friday, my annual trip to the BMV was painless enough. I walked right up to the counter with no waiting to renew my registrations for my car and Pooh's. I had to renew my driver's license too. I always have this crazy eyed sort of look in my driver's license photos, but at least this one's not too terribly bad. I took the time to do hair and makeup for once. I figure if it's THE photo of me for the next four years, maybe I should attempt to make it look a little less crap. The image here is as lousy as you would expect a cellphone photo of a driver's license photo to be, but I assure you, it's not bad for capturing the last day of my 30s. 

I even took the eye test and passed without my glasses, so according to my driver's license, I don't have to wear them for another four years, Of course, I always wear my glasses when I'm driving - pretty much only when I'm driving. I just bought a new pair from Zenni Optical just for the occasion. They're pretty cool. Right after I received them, though, I got an email telling me that Zenni was having a 2-for-1 sale. Well, I couldn't pass that up, could I? I ordered two more pairs just last night for less than $20 total, including shipping. Is it any wonder I recommend Zenni to EVERYONE I know who wears glasses? Today's the last day for that, so if you want the deal, jump on it!

When I arrived at work Friday, this is what I found. The whole notion of decorating desks for birthdays is a relatively new concept, and I think I like it. It's a whole lot better than what we did before - which was ignore our coworkers as much as possible. The cute little pillow there is a gift from my news editor. It says, "New shoes cure the blues." Yeah, I'm kinda known for my shoe thing. You'll also notice two Doctor Who t-shirts (and underneath, what you can't see is a Doctor Who calendar as well), courtesy of my bf, who's our staff photographer. Very cool selection on his part.

Saturday was my actual birthday. I spent half of that sleeping. Pooh did stop by for a visit - mainly to pick up the new registration for his car, but it's always nice to see him. He's planning his outfit for the Daddy Daughter Dance he'll be escorting his sister, Gin, to. (She'd much rather go with him than her father.) Pooh said he'd take her as long as he could wear a bow tie. He's also considering suspenders and a tweed jacket. If he can find a fez, he'll be in heaven. (Yes, that's a reference to the 11th Doctor. I've got the kids hooked on it too.) Gin's all for it. The dance is a fundraiser for her cheer squad.

Speaking of Doctor Who, I've got Munch convinced to wear a gas mask for her Halloween costume this year. Instead of saying, "Trick or treat" when she rings the doorbells, she'll be saying, "Are you my mummy?" LOL! Awesome!

Anyway, after Pooh left, I took the girls out to dinner at Applebee's for my birthday. I had a gift card for $25 that I'd gotten for my points at MyPoints.com, so dinner was only 95 cents plus the tip. Not bad. I do so love getting free stuff, and MyPoints is one of my favorites, because it's so easy and has the best rewards.

I stayed up too late rewatching episodes of Shameless (U.K.), so I only got about 4 hours of sleep before I got up to watch the Liverpool v. Man United match this morning. We won after a decidedly sticky first half and Gerrard scoring first for Liverpool. Nailbiter, squeaky bum and all that. Still, the thrill of the final victory wasn't enough to keep me from stealing another hour of sleep before I had to go in to work today.

I'm off for the next two days though. I took the days off because my ex-fiance and his wife are visiting from Australia. I'm soooo sleeping in tomorrow.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A real weekend ... and a yummy snack - Chocolate Banana Smoothie

After a ridiculously long week - I was designated replacement for a reporter on vacation, in addition to my own work - I was glad to have a real weekend for a change.

I got up Saturday morning to watch my beloved Manchester United beat Wigan 4-0. It wasn't the blow out it sounds like though. The match was scoreless for the first half, and then when the second half came around, it was Paul Scholes - our veteran, our legend, playing his 700th match with United - who finally broke the drought. After that Chicharito (Javier Hernandez) sank one, then we had two new players making their home debuts, Alex BΓΌttner and Nick Powell, each score. It was a good start to the day.

When the match was finished, the girls and I took a little trip to Troy for the Taste of Troy event. We got to try lots of yummy goodies from the local restaurants, and that always gives me good ideas for my own kitchen.

Munch spent the night at her dad's last night, but Gin didn't want to. We picked her back up today and did our weekly shopping.

This week's menu, tentatively, includes the following:

* Mini meatloaves and roasted potatoes

* Steak and baked potato (the girls love steak and it struck me that I almost never serve it. After seeing the prices at the grocery today, I was quickly reminded why. But this will be a little indulgence.)

* Buffalo chicken wraps (we had some buffalo chicken ravioli at Taste of Troy, and it gave me the idea)

* Beef and cheese quesadillas

We picked up a rotisserie chicken from the deli to eat tonight, accompanied by a nice salad.

And I threw together this little treat - kid-friendly and healthy snack that's great for after-school peckishness without spoiling dinner!

Chocolate Banana Smoothie

1/2 very ripe banana (the riper it is, the sweeter it is)
1-2 T. chocolate syrup (like Hershey's syrup)
2 T. vanilla yogurt
1/2 - 3/4 c. skim or lowfat milk (depending on how thick you/they like it)

Pulse in blender then run on high for about a minute or until smooth. Makes 1 generous serving.

Sooo simple, yet soooo good!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Unspoken comments

In the tradition of the unsent letter, I have the "unspoken comment." This would be that thing you shout at your computer when reading a comment thread on a story online. 

Tonight's unspoken comments:

1. It's not being arrogant if you're right. 

2. Ignorance is the absence of knowledge. Stupidity is the refusal of knowledge.

There, now I feel better.

Oh, and today's household tip:

After using the fabric steamer, give it a couple of minutes to cool before you attempt to wipe the lint off the faceplate with your T-shirt. (typed with one hand while the other is pressed into an ice pack)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Uncertainty settled

I got a new landlord friend on Saturday. He says he wants us to be friends, and he hates the term landlord. This finally ends the uncertainty I've been living under for the past nine months.

You see, I've lived in my townhouse rental for 10 years now. The building was owned - long with several others - by a local, quite elderly man and managed by his sons. One son was friendly enough, but the other I must admit I found intimidating. He NEVER smiled. The father I saw the week I moved into my home and never again after that.

The father died last Christmas, and I had no idea what they family might choose to do with the rental properties. For months, I heard nothing, then finally, one of the sons called to say that his mother would be selling. Where would that leave me?

Well, it's finally sorted now. My rent has gone up by $50 a month, but I expected that. However, many repairs that needed to be done for a long time were completed by Sunday. 

My garbage disposal died a couple of months ago. We've learned to live without it, but the sludge buildup caused the drain to be slow, so each cycle of the dishwasher had the steaming hot water backing up into the sink. We kept the plunger in a permanent position in the kitchen. On the advice of his real estate agent (dammit), the new landlord removed the disposal (he did ask if it would be ok and was willing to replace it, but I went along anyway - we can live without it), and he replumbed under the sink. The drainage is clear now. Works for me.

My upstairs toilet has been out of commission for about nine years now. He replaced that so we finally don't have to trek downstairs in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.

The combination shelf/clothes rack in my daughter's closet collapsed a couple of months ago. He replaced that immediately.

He's also going to replace the patio door, because a few years ago the wood core rotted out, and it's been taped closed ever since. He's looking for a replacement handle for our outside water spigot as well. One of the sons removed that "for the winter to prevent it freezing" several years ago and never put it back. We've had a sprinkler in the garage for hot summer days that the girls have never been able to use.

The new guy's very nice (I'd gotten that impression when he did the initial walkthrough, but now it's completely confirmed). He said, "You've been here a long time and we want to keep you happy." That's awfully nice, isn't it?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Let's get a little crazier!

It was easy for me to forget that my schedule had actually been in a bit of a lull over the past three weeks - what with me being busy about every single second, and all. But in reality, Gin was on a break from cheerleading practice because of maintenance at the gym, and I haven't been going to workouts because of excessive work and illness.

Break time's over.

Last night marked Gin's return to cheer practice (so, I leave work half an hour early to race home to get her then run her back to practice). I sat through that for an hour, because I'm still not quite up to full health. There was a parents' meeting afterward. We went over the competition schedule, which will have me driving her all over the state over the next several months. We also got into fundraisers and upcoming parties - all of which mean more dates in my calendar and fewer hours in my days. 

Somehow, after the parent meeting I still managed to come home and make the honey garlic chicken I'd planned. It turned out GREAT! Many yums received from the girls!


Sorry I don't have a real recipe for it, since I kind of threw it together, but here's the basic process:

Honey Garlic Ginger Chicken
1 1/2 to 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into about 1-inch cubes
Vegetable oil
Toasted sesame oil
Seasoned salt (Lawry's is best)
Soy sauce (Kikkoman recommended, always. Their low-sodium is VERY good too.)
Ground ginger
Garlic powder
Fresh ground black pepper
Small can of water chestnuts, drained 
(I'll note that I wanted to add roasted cashews, but the girls don't like those. I think it'd be AWESOME!)
Instant rice

Saute the chicken in a large skillet or wok in a small amount of vegetable oil until nearly cooked through. You don't want it QUITE done, because it's still got some cooking left to do. Sprinkle lightly with a little seasoned salt while cooking.

In a separate pan, cook rice according to directions ( I made a total of three cups: 1 1/2 c. each of rice and water).

When chicken is about finished, drain most of the liquid. Sprinkle in a few drops of toasted sesame oil. Add water chestnuts and stir to warm. Generously sprinkle with garlic powder (probably about a teaspoon or so). Add a good portion of ground ginger (also probably a teaspoon or so). Generously drizzle with honey (I'd guess it was maybe a third of a cup...ish). Generously drizzle with soy sauce (but don't overdo it and make it too salty - I'd guess I used less than a quarter of a cup. Aim low and add if you need more.). Add a couple twists from the pepper mill. Stir together.

Taste test the liquid and tweak to your liking. When it comes to a jolly boil, mix about a teaspoon of cornstarch with about a quarter cup of water in a cup and stir until there are no lumps. Pour into skillet and stir quickly and thoroughly to mix it with the liquid. Let it return to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer until the sauce thickens and clarifies - just a couple of minutes.

In the mean time, add a little garlic, ginger, soy sauce and honey to the rice to LIGHTLY flavor it. Not too much. 

Serve the chicken mixture over the rice and top with some crispy chow mein noodles.

Tonight's dinner was tacos. You don't need a recipe for that, right? :)

Monday, September 3, 2012

A cheaper option

Sometimes I come across a product that's so good or such a great value that I have to share it with my friends. This is NOT a paid post and I am not being compensated in any way for this - it's just a great deal.

We've been dealing with a flea infestation in my house pretty much since we adopted our kitten, Colleen, as I mentioned in an earlier post. We had the same problem when we first adopted our older cat, Cookie. They had fleas but were too young for the commercial flea treatments available (pretty much all of them say not to use them on kittens younger than 12 weeks), so the fleas were able to get a foothold in the house.

With Cookie, I used Capstar and Program to resolve the problem, and they worked great - better than great. After getting rid of his initial flea problem as a kitten, we never had another for the eight years after - until little Colleen joined the family. (I'd stopped treatment on Cookie for financial reasons.)

For a quick overview, Capstar, whose active ingredient is nitenpyram, kills the fleas your dog or cat has NOW. It starts to work within 15 to 30 minutes, and the fleas just fall off. It's not a long-term solution. It only lasts for 24 hours, but repeat doses can be given. What it's for is to get rid of the fleas on them NOW. For the long-term flea control, after eliminating the initial infestation, that's where the Program comes in. Program is a once-a-month treatment whose active ingredient is lufenuron. It works to ensure that fleas that get on your dog or cat can't breed. One flea isn't a problem - it's the 60 eggs every female can lay every day that's creates the problem. The two medications can safely be used together.

Well, the only - and I mean ONLY - problem with Capstar and Program is that they are quite pricey. When I was searching for treatment for Colleen, the cheapest I found were $20 (plus shipping) for six tablets of Capstar and $35 (plus shipping) for six tablets of Program. And that was a deal in itself, nearly all sources had the Program at closer to $50. 

In searching for the best deal, I came across something even better - something I hadn't even considered before for pet medications - generic alternatives. I use generics all the time for people medication, so why it hadn't crossed my mind for my pets, I have no idea.

What I found is from a company called Little City Dogs. I suppose it's not technically a generic but rather the same medication - the same dosage of the active ingredients - for considerably less cost. I was able to purchase 12 capsules of the Capstar alternative and 12 capsules of the Program alternative for a TOTAL COST of $37.50, INCLUDING shipping. That's six doses for each cat - a six-month supply. You can't even get that awful, ineffective flea control at Walmart for less than that. 

I bought mine through Amazon, and in reading the reviews, I had no doubt they'd be as good as the originals.  I've since received them, and I can confirm - they work. 

So, if you've found you love Capstar and Program, but you don't love the price, now you have a cheaper option that's just as effective. Glad I could help. :)

(By the way, you still need to treat your HOUSE in the case of an infestation. If you can flea bomb safely, it's highly effective. I can't, because we have aquariums, so I went with the more environmentally and pet-friendly approach of diatomaceous earth.)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Nail-biting and other pleasant things

Geez, it's only 3:30 in the afternoon, and I've already had a full day - or so it seems.

I woke up to my alarm this morning and frowned for a moment before I realized, "It's match day!" Then I smiled and turned off the alarm, started up the computer and headed downstairs to make a cup of coffee.

I got pretty lucky on my video streams today, as I was able to find a quality stream to allow me to watch the Southampton v. Manchester United match in its entirety, with only a couple of minor blips. 

It was a nailbiter, for sure! Southampton scores first, which makes me cringe. Then our new boy, Robin Van Persie ties it up for us. Then they score AGAIN. That's not supposed to happen! We're UNITED, after all, and they're just Southampton. I mean, COME ON! So I spent a good deal of time in squeaky bum mode, even though there was plenty of time to go in the match. 

My son Pooh showed up about this time, so I chatted with him as he stood at my door, but, sorry, United is on. I'm watching the match. :)

Van Persie tied us up again. Then finally came through to put us over the top. We shouldn't be finishing a match against Southampton with a scoreline like 2-3, but in the end, a win is a win is a win, I guess, so I won't complain too much. And a hat trick for Van Persie looks mighty nice, too. 

Well, as soon as the match ended, I devoted my attention to the boy, who had apparently only come for a visit so he could retrieve his old TV for his apartment. Sorry, boy. Seems he'd put it into the garage, for some unknown reason, so when we did our clean sweep of the apartment about six weeks ago, it got hauled to the dump. 

We got to chat for a while anyway. He told me he's met a nice girl and showed me her picture. She's tiny little thing who stands about a foot shorter than he is. I had to chuckle. He said he showed the picture to my mother earlier and she immediately noted that the girl appeared "a little dark." He said, "Yes, Nana. She's Filipino." My mother has come to accept interracial dating (she had no issue with my dating a Jamaican), but she does feel the need to point it out, for some reason. With me, when I showed her Peter's picture, she said, "He looks like he's black." I replied, "Yes, he's Jamaican." She said, "Oh." Then there was no more concern at all. She was actually very supportive of the relationship and very sympathetic when it ended. My mom's funny that way. Her upbringing has not been entirely purged from her, but she's consciously chosen to broaden her mind considerably.

Pooh told me that this girl's very nice and a step up from the loon he was interested in before. That loon actually introduced the two, then became irate as she said the two of them were trying to replace her. That loon had a boyfriend anyway, so I didn't exactly appreciate the way she was stringing my son along. It seems last night she texted him 23 times, threatening to kill herself in a number of different and graphic ways, while her boyfriend slept on the couch. When my son finally responded to her and said he was sending the police over, she told him she wasn't going to do anything to herself and if he told anyone, she would "destroy" him. How very arch-nemesis of her. Loon.

I was working on this week's menu and I wasn't sure if Mom might want to have dinner with us tomorrow (since it's Labor Day and we're both off work, for a change), so I gave her a call. We'll be having dinner there. And Tuesday evening I have to work to cover a meeting, because our regular reporter is off. That means I only cook Wednesday and Thursday this week. Wednesday will be honey garlic chicken and rice, and for Thursday, Munch has requested tacos. Mom kept me on the phone for an hour (there's no such thing as a short phone call with her), so I gave Pooh a one-armed hug as he headed out to go get ready for his date with his new girl. 

All this, and I haven't yet left the house. On my way out now, so I must get ready. I'm taking Munch to her dad's for the night (Gin doesn't want to go), then Gin and I will be doing the grocery shopping. Still plenty of time in the day. Who knows what might come up?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Thursday night relaxing time

By request, tonight's dinner was my Super Simple Chicken and Noodles (recipe here). It's a pretty quick repeat, but I'm not complaining since it's "super simple" and I had no plan made out ahead of time.

It's Thursday, which means I get to not feel all stressed out because I don't have work in the morning. I work Friday evenings every week now. I get the kids off to school then I get to go back to sleep. It's nice that they're now old enough that they can spend a Friday evening at home alone (when I don't have to be sure to be there hovering over Munch to get her homework done.)

I called our stringer at work today to ask her about the bichon frise - it's her parents' dog. I asked if they might be willing to wait a couple of weeks for a positive answer on whether or not we want to take him. I have to find out if I'm going to be priced out of my apartment now that I'm about to be under new ownership. If we're staying, we'll probably take the dog. It's really just too good to pass up. Well, I'll have to meet him first, of course. 

Since my night is pretty much settled already - except for jumping on Munch's head every five minutes to get back to her homework - I think I'll get started on next week's menu. Btw, anyone got any good suggestions for recipe sites for easy, kid-friendly meals? I almost always alter the recipes significantly (so far, every one here is an original of mine except for the cabbage rolls), but I do like the recipe sites to give me ideas.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Monday dinner (belated): Mini meatloaves and roasted potatoes

I had no time to post Monday's dinner (see previous post), but this is the second time I've made mini meatloaves since I started my little food adventure, so I wanted to get the recipe up.

Mini Meatloaves

1 pound lean ground beef
1 egg
15 crushed Ritz crackers (can you tell yet that these are my preferred "filler"?)
1 T. Weber roasted garlic and herb seasoning
1 T. worcestershire sauce
1 t. soy sauce
1 T. chopped dried onion
1/3 c. ketchup
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. fresh ground black pepper

1/3 c. ketchup
1 T. brown sugar
1/2 T. soy sauce
1/2 t. ground ginger

Heat oven to 400F. Mix meatloaf ingredients thoroughly with hands. Divide into four even portions and shape each into a small loaf shape. Place on baking sheet covered with foil and sprayed lightly with olive oil.

Mix glaze ingredients in a small bowl and brush evenly over meatloaves to desired thickness. (I like a lot on mine.)

Bake 30-40 minutes or until glaze is nicely browned and loaves are cooked through.

At the same time, you can bake your potatoes.

Herb-roasted potatoes

4 med. russett potatoes, well-scrubbed, diced small and rinsed
Olive oil
Weber roasted garlic and herb seasoning
Seasoned salt (Lawry's is always the best)

Toss potatoes in olive oil, sprinkle with seasoned salt and seasoning. Toss together and season again until seasoned as desired. Spread in single layer on baking sheet. Bake at the same time as meatloaves. Turn pan and stir once about halfway through. They'll finish at the same time.

This meal is BEGGED for by the girls - especially the potatoes!

Remember, I'm cooking for myself and two girls, ages 14 and 11, so you might need to adjust your proportions to suit your family size.

Meh, figure something out

Colleen the kitten was spayed on Monday, so she was a world-class grump for that evening and the next. Being a kitten, though, she bounces back quickly, and though she still tires out quickly and isn't quite up to full speed yet, she can't seem to resist playing. 

Oh, and it appears her mama might be pregnant again. I'll be taking her to the shelter soon. It's time to get her out of the baby-making business.

I got a call Monday afternoon from my landlord saying my apartment building has been sold (four townhouse units). He said the bank appraiser and his brother would be by Tuesday to take pics, so the rest of Monday was naturally spent in cleaning.

Monday evening, I made mini meatloaves with roasted potatoes for dinner. Tuesday was paninis. (I'll post recipes separately). Tonight, Munch decided she wanted to use up the rest of the meat and bread and have another panini, so Gin and I each just had a baked potato after wandering around the kitchen going, "What do you want?" "I don't know. What do you want?" Etc., etc. Being sick and having my weekend shot by work meant no menu plan and, therefore, no grocery plan. It's kind of a "Meh. We'll figure something out." sort of week.

Oh, and I've got an opportunity to get - for free - a three-year-old male Bichon Frise. I'm tempted. It's probably not the greatest idea when I don't know what the status of my housing situation will be in the near future. I'll probably wait it out until I get a more definite idea and then decide on the dog. Tough decision though. (The girls, naturally, vote to get the dog, no matter what!) 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Another non-weekend

After arriving home at 2 a.m. from work last night/this morning, I tried to start up my computer, only to have it tell me that it couldn't start. I tried to run the startup repair upon prompting. Fail. Try again? Sure. Fail again. Try something else? Ok, how about a system restore? Fail. Again? Fail again. Third try? Finally, I was able to get it started. In the meantime, I'm reading an ebook, and by the time it finally starts up, it's 5 a.m. and I forget why I cared to get on in the first place. All I could think was, "Don't let my computer be dead!" Whew! Thank goodness it survived.

But I had to set my alarm for 8 a.m. My plan was to drive into Sidney at 8:30 so I could be at the animal shelter by 9 to do the paperwork to get our kitten in to the low-cost spay and neuter clinic Monday. $60 - not so low, really, but better than full price.

When my alarm went off, I was able to do some quick mental figuring. Isn't it funny how that happens? I figured, the Manchester United match starts at 10 a.m., so it will be over by noon. The shelter's open until 1. So I can go back to sleep, get up for the match and leave immediately afterward. That would put me in Sidney by 12:30. That was what I ended up doing.

On the drive in to town, my mother called to tell me that her dog was sick, so I shouldn't let the girls play with her if I dropped by. Not a problem. We weren't going anyway. She mentioned too that my stepdad just ignored the poor thing, saying, "Well, what can I do?" They've had that dog for more than 16 years, and technically, she belongs to him. I can't imagine just sitting back and watching her suffer. The girls' mouse died this week. They've only had him for a couple of months, but I couldn't sit and watch him suffer. We had him humanely put down. 

While at the animal shelter, I instantly fell in love with the sweetest, most beautiful big old mutt I'd ever seen, but fortunately my good sense kept me from bringing him home with us. We simply don't have the room for a dog that size, and with two cats, two fish tanks and a frog tank, we don't need more pets either (although, the mouse will probably be replaced. Since we have all the equipment and supplies, it's a matter of $1.69 to replace the mouse itself.)

The girls and I stopped and had lunch out, which we haven't done in quite a while, then made a quick trip to one store for some last-minute school supplies and another for some food (good staples purchased during a one-day sale). 

Tomorrow, I have to work, so I have Monday off (hence, the ability to take advantage of the spay and neuter clinic). I have to have the kitten in to Sidney between 7:30 and 8 a.m., so I have to leave home by 7 a.m. Some day off that is.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thursday dinner: tuna casserole

I have been sick all week, and it's not been fun. I'd already had Monday afternoon scheduled off work because it was the opening match of the season for my beloved Manchester United, but I was feeling awful by then already. I ended up leaving work Tuesday and Wednesday because I still felt terrible. I'm a bit better today.

Anyway, the menu got a little wonky because of it. (I also have now missed two weeks of spin classes. When I get back to the gym, it'll be like starting over. Ugh.) After making the stuffed meatballs, I said we'd have to find a use for the leftover sub buns. No problem. Last night was pizza subs, made with jarred pizza sauce and whatever toppings we wanted, topped with shredded mozzerella and popped under a low broiler.

Tonight, it's a family favorite: tuna casserole. I don't know how something so simple tastes so good, but tuna casserole night is never a disappointment. Here's my version:

Tuna casserole

1/2 of a 16 oz. bag of extra wide egg noodles
1 can of tuna, packed in water
1 can of cream of celery condensed soup
1/2 can milk
1 t. Weber roasted garlic and herb seasoning (I seriously use this stuff ALL THE TIME)
1/2 t. garlic powder
15 Ritz crackers, crushed
Italian seasoning

Cook the noodles in boiling water per directions on the bag. Meanwhile, in a 2 quart casserole dish, combine  drained tuna (No need to drain completely dry. By the way, I drain the juice into a dish for my cats. Happy kitties!) with soup, milk, seasoning and garlic. Mix well. When noodles finish cooking, drain well and gently fold into soup mixture. Top with crushed crackers and lightly sprinkle some Italian seasoning over the top.

Bake at 400F for about 25-30 mins. or until top is browned as desired.

Makes 4 servings.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tuesday dinner: stuffed meatballs

I was far too sick Monday to cook, but I managed to pull myself together enough to make dinner on Tuesday. Monday's plan was stuffed meatballs, so that became Tuesday's dinner instead.

Stuffed Meatballs

1 lb. lean ground beef
10 Ritz crackers, crushed
1/4 c. milk
1 egg
2 t. Italian seasoning
2 t. dried chopped onion
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese

4 sticks string cheese (mozzarella), cut into 8 pieces each

20 oz. tomato sauce (this was left over from Sunday's stuffed cabbage, but you can use a whole 28 oz. can)
1 T. sugar
2 t. Italian seasoning
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. onion powder

Combine beef, crackers, milk, egg, 2 t. Italian seasoning, chopped onion, 1/2 t. garlic powder and Parmesan cheese until well mixed. Take about a tablespoon of meat mixture and wrap around a piece of the string cheese, then roll into a small ball. You can make the meatballs larger if you like them that way. Place on a baking sheet lightly sprayed with oil. Continue with remaining meat mixture. Makes about 30 1.5-inch meatballs.

Lightly brown meatballs under broiler. 

Meanwhile, combine tomato sauce, sugar, Italian seasoning, garlic powder and onion powder in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and simmer for about 10 mins.

When meatballs are browned (don't worry if the cheese "pops" out of some of them), remove from oven and reduce temperature to 400F. 

Use a slotted spoon to transfer meatballs to a 2-quart baking dish. Pour sauce over meatballs. Bake uncovered for 20 mins.


This was saucy enough that Gin and I had ours over spaghetti. Munch doesn't like spaghetti, so she had hers on a sub roll as a sandwich. Of course, that meant finding another use for the sub rolls. Another dinner....

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sunday dinner: Garth Brooks' mother's cabbage rolls

So, last weekend at my mother's house, mom, the girls and I got onto the subject of food - naturally - and Gin mentioned that she would like more things with cooked cabbage. ... Yeah, I know, right? But I mentioned that really the only way I like cooked cabbage - other than in the form of saurkraut over some bratwurst - is the cabbage rolls my mom makes. She dug out the recipe, so that had to go on the menu.

This particular recipe I don't claim as my own, or even my mother's. She found it years ago somewhere, touted as the recipe for cabbage rolls that Garth Brooks said his mother made for him. I looked it up online and saw it appear in a few forums, but I didn't see an "original" anywhere, so I thought I'd go ahead and list it here, too. If objections happen to come down the pike at some point, I'll be more than willing to take it down, if there are copyright issues or something. I'd love to credit the original source, but I don't know what it is.

Garth Brooks' mother's cabbage rolls

1 head of cabbage, cored
8 c. water
2 T. sugar
1 T. lemon juice
1 T. vinegar
2 bay leaves (I failed to pick any of these up at the store, so I sprinkled some basil into the water. It sounded good.)

8 oz. can tomato sauce (I was shopping from memory, so I got a 28 oz. can instead. The leftover will be used in tomorrow's meal.)
1 c. beef broth
1 T. sugar
1 T. vinegar
1/2 t. cinnamon (this makes all the difference in the world!)
1 bay leaf (again, I didn't get any of these, so a little more basil here for us)

1 1/2 c. cooked rice
1 T. sugar
1 t. salt
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. ground black pepper
2 lbs. lean ground beef

For cabbage: Heat water, sugar, lemon juice, vinegar and bay leaves in a large stock pot to boiling. Add cabbage; return to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10 mins. Drain well. When cool enough to handle, carefully separate leaves.

Meanwhile, for sauce: Combine tomato sauce, beef broth, sugar, vinegar, cinnamon and bay leaf in a medium saucepan. Bring to boiling (gently - tomato sauce splatters when it boils!). Reduce heat. Simmer uncovered 20 mins., stirring frequently.

Preheat oven to 350F.

For filling: Combine rice, sugar, salt, cinnamon and pepper. Add beef and mix well, but don't overwork. (Overworking ground beef mixtures will make it tough.) Shape meat mixture into 12 small logs and roll up in cabbage leaves, folding in sides to leaves to enclose filling. 

Place cabbage rolls seam side down in a 13x9x2 inch baking dish. Pour sauce over rolls. Bake, uncovered, for 45-50 mins. 

Makes 6 servings.

I remembered to snap a pic before I dug in! I split open the cabbage rolls and pour some of the sauce inside. The side dish is roasted potatoes, which is just russet potatoes diced and tossed in olive oil, then seasoned with seasoned salt and Roasted Garlic and Herb seasoning (a staple in my house.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tuesday dinner: Super Simple Chicken and Noodles

My one-day weekend left my schedule messed up, so Monday had to be my shopping day. Since that's also Gin's cheer practice day, it meant running to the store at 6:30 p.m. for the week's food. By the time we got home, dinner was frozen pizza. I also didn't have the week's menu prepared, so we kind of had to do that on the fly.

Tonight, super simple chicken and noodles with a side of asparagus. Believe me, this meal ALMOST couldn't be any easier.

Super Simple Chicken and Noodles

1/2 a 16-ounce bag of extra wide egg noodles (these were left from a previous week, so don't look for a future recipe to finish the bag this week, as I'd usually do)
1 can chicken breast (I used the small can, but you can use a big one, if you like more chicken)
One can condensed cream of chicken soup (if you can find the cream of chicken with herbs, it's even better!)
Half a can of milk

Cook egg noodles in boiling water per instructions on the bag. Drain. While noodles are draining, put chicken (not drained), soup and milk in pot and stir together thoroughly. Return noodles to pot. Stir gently and warm through. Season to taste.

That's it!

My daughter liked it so much, she said she wanted it for her birthday meal. That's not true, of course. When her birthday rolls around, she wants to go to the sushi restaurant. But still, that's a pretty good review!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

One day weekend

I get a one day weekend this week, and probably next, thanks to a coworker vacationing and another on maternity leave. I wish I'd known last weekend, since I felt like I wasted at least one whole day of that one too, and I was looking forward to a real one this week. Oh well.

Cramming it all into one day started with getting up to take Gin to her strength-training class, which is required for her to use the Wellness Center at the Y as a teen. I'd rather sleep in after working Friday night, but at least I finished work early and was able to get home at the relatively decent hour of midnight. (We spent the next hour sprinkling the house with diatomaceous earth to eradicate the flea infestation the cats have brought home.)

While Gin was at the Y, Munch and I went down to the farmers' market (I'm never in town when it's open, it seems.) We made a good haul: watermelon, bell pepper, onion, half a dozen ears of corn, peaches, some candy apple jelly and a loaf of blueberry banana bread (very tasty!). That only took half an hour, so we followed up with a trip to Goodwill. Munch got three pairs of jeans (one new with tags). I got a shirt, and I found a pair of Juicy Couture shoes new with tags that I couldn't resist picking up for Gin.

The rest of the day will be spent doing dishes and laundry, changing the water in the fish tanks (which is overdue) and making up next week's menu. I plan to shop for groceries Monday, after Gin finishes with cheerleading practice, since I have to work tomorrow. Rearranging an already hectic schedule is kind of a pain in the backside.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Back-to-school blues? No! Shoes! :D

This post brought to you by Famous Footwear. All opinions are 100% mine.

FF-BiggestVictory-GIF_300x250(1).jpgI've already got one kid out of the house, but I've still got a 14 and an 11-year-old girl at home, so this time of year means ... back-to-school shopping. It's time-consuming. It's expensive. It's DULL. But wait... it's also NEW SHOES! 

With three girls in the house (I'm counting me), we do love shoe shopping. And Famous Footwear is making it even better for us. They've got all the current styles even my oh-so-fashion-conscious 14-year-old (she takes after me!)  and the cute stuff my 11-year-old still wants. And right now for back-to-school, they've got an even-better-than-BOGO deal! (BOGO = buy one, get one) It's BOGO plus 15% off!

Just print the coupon and redeem it at your favorite Famous Footwear store to get 15% off plus buy one pair, get one pair half off through Aug. 18. Don't miss out!

BOGO + 15% off Famous Footwear Coupon

So that means, one for Gin and one for me - plus 15 percent off. And one for Munch and one for me - plus 15% off. Oh, they might need more than one pair each. That's OK. The coupon's good for up to 21 pairs of shoes. :)

Can it get any better? As a matter of fact, YES. If you're a member of their Rewards Program or join while you're there, you can use the other coupon to get 20% off, instead of 15%! The Rewards Program is FREE and offers 1 point for every dollar you spend in the store or online. Points can be accumulated for certificates up to $100 a year (you know how I love loyalty rewards programs!) You also get a discount offer for signing up and other discounts and perks as a member.

I knew there HAD to be a reason to smile at "back-to-school" - I'll call it "back-to-NEW SHOES!"

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wednesday's dinner: Upside-Down Nachos

I had to work Tuesday night, so I didn't have anything on the menu. The girls stayed at my mother's enjoying a fine pot roast while I got to spend the evening at the Board of Elections office covering what turned out to be a rather dramatic special election. It should have been dull. There were only two issues on the ballot. Here's one of them: My story

Anyway, since we all got a break from Mexican for a night, it was OK to use up those leftovers with tonight's dinner:

Upside-Down Nachos

Leftover 1/2 pound cooked and seasoned ground beef from Monday
Leftover 1/2 can seasoned refried beans from Monday
Taco sauce
1 c. shredded cheese
Another 1/4 of that onion from Monday, chopped finely
Shredded lettuce
Sour cream
Jalapeno slices
Tortilla chips (baked ones make for a healthier meal)

I'm cooking for three, so I divided the beef, beans and cheese into three microwave-safe bowls. Add a tablespoon or two of taco sauce to each. Stir well. Microwave each on high for about a minute, stirring every 15 seconds.

Remove from microwave and top each bowl as desired. Top with crushed tortilla chips and eat with a fork or spoon.

This keeps the chips nice and crisp and eliminates the mess!

You can see the only new ingredient is the tortilla chips after Monday's meal, so it's almost like getting two meals for one!

Oops, I forgot to take a picture again. I ate it too quickly!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Dinner: Mexican Pizza

My hectic summer schedule (which shows no signs of slowing for autumn) has prompted me to start making up dinner menus for the week. We've been at this for a few weeks now, and it's been going well.

The advantages are: 1) having a clear grocery list that eliminates random shopping and buying extraneous stuff - keeps the grocery bill down; 2) organizing the evening so I know what I'm making as soon as I finally get home every day; 3) home cooking more meals and avoiding having so many "convenience meals," although we still throw some of those in there, because we actually like them; 4) bringing more variety to dinner.

Since it's working out so well, I thought I'd share a few success stories and recipes, because who doesn't like recipes and easy, kid-friendly meal ideas, right?

This week began with a Mexican Pizza, a variation of an earlier one I'd had on the menu that was a huge success with the kids (and me, too!) I didn't take a picture, but I'll try to do pics with later recipes!

Mexican Pizza

1 Boboli or other prepared pizza crust
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 can refried beans
Taco seasoning (I have a huge container of this I keep around for adding a kick to all kinds of things)
Taco sauce
1 c. shredded Mexican blend or cheddar cheese

Shredded lettuce
Chopped onions (about 1/4 of one large, sweet onion)
Sour cream
Jalapeno slices

- Preheat oven to 425F. Brown and crumble ground beef; drain. Season with taco seasoning according to directions. (I brown a full pound and reserve half for Wednesday's meal.) Warm refried beans in microwave (I also save half of this for Wednesday.) Season with a little taco seasoning to taste. Spread the half can of refried beans over crust. Spread some taco sauce over beans. Evenly distribute beef over taco sauce. Evenly spread cheese over beef. Pop in oven for about 15 minutes or until cheese is throughly melted and crust is browned as desired.

- Remove from oven and add remaining toppings, or slice into servings and allow each person to add toppings as they wish.

Easy peasy and everyone loves it!!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Feeling normal

My summer schedule hasn't slowed down one whit, so I've been AWOL from here again, but I find that I don't mind at all. I'm even beginning to enjoy it. (The schedule part - not the being absent from here part.) It just doesn't feel like chaos now. It's ordered, and there's something comforting in that. Monday is Gin's cheerleading practice, so Munch enjoys time in the pool while I make use of the gym. I had a session with my personal trainer this week - I worked on my legs. I was worried it would make me useless for my spin class Tuesday, but I managed. My glutes are achy today though. Tuesday is my spinning class. If I can get out of work early enough, the girls like me to come get them, so they can swim. But most of the time, I just go straight from work. I'm finding that I enjoy it as a way to end my work day. It sort of makes all that go away. Last week, the instructor turned out the lights and turned on the black lights. That was fun, and I found that in the dark, with just the glowing whites around, somehow I felt stronger through it. Today was exhausting though. I barely made it through the first standing hill, and I sat through the second. Wednesday is Gin's cheerleading again. Mondays and Wednesdays I leave the office an hour early to drive the half hour home to get the girls then straight back, so she can go to practice. This week, I'll probably spend some time on the elliptical while Munch swims again. She's happiest there. Thursday is spin class again. On Fridays, I'm on the night desk at work, so I leave home about 1:30 p.m. to head to work. I get Munch off to her reading class (she has summer reading in July on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings), then I go back to bed and sleep as long as I can. When I get up, I have a cup of coffee and do some yoga before work. On Saturday, the girls usually harass me to take them swimming (that indoor pool is a DREAM), but if I can fend them off until it closes, I just stick to my yoga routine then some time on my stair climbing machine. Sunday is yoga and the stairclimber for me, since the club is open for adults only. If I don't have the kids, I might take advantage of that, but it's too enjoyable just spending some time at home alone for a change. This past weekend, I took the girls to swim Saturday, while I did some time on the elliptical then joined them in the pool. They went to their dad's at 6:30, so after I dropped them off, I did my grocery shopping to free up Sunday. Since they didn't come home Sunday until 7:30, I was able to sleep in a bit, have some breakfast, do my yoga and the stairclimber, take a shower, give myself a pedicure, get some laundry done, and still managed to just kick back and read for a while in my nice quiet house. Yeah, it's feeling pretty normal to me now, and normal is a whole lot better than chaos.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Faster than expected

I was facing a very busy schedule today, but oddly, every single thing went faster than expected, so I'm home at a reasonable hour with time to cook, do some laundry and do my yoga too. I went to work and got through posting the day's stories to the web pretty quickly. After my boss came out and handed me a new assignment that's officially an ongoing whole new job, I was in no mood to hang around any longer. I'd already requested the afternoon off, and with 10 comp hours to my credit already, I decided to leave at 11:15 a.m. I surprised the girls by coming home early, and told them to get ready to go. We have a stray who had kittens in our garage 10 weeks ago. One of them injured her foot last week. Infection had set in, and I wasn't about to watch her die a slow, agonizing and completely unnecessary death, so I resolved last night to take her to the vet. Fortunately, my short morning meant I could do it today. We got the kitten ready and I took the girls in town - along with the kitten - and dropped them off at the park while I went to my dentist's appointment (the original reason I took the afternoon off.) I was supposed to get my crown put on. They numbed me, did all the prep, then discovered fractures in the porcelain of the new crown. So they put the temporary back in and now I have to wait another three weeks to get the crown. They did go ahead and polish up three rough teeth my previous dentist had left me with, at no charge, so that was something accomplished with that trip. I returned to the park earlier than expected, and the girls decided they were hungry. We couldn't go to the vet until 4 p.m., so we had plenty of time to go pick up some food and sit at another park for a while to wait. At 4, I didn't know how long to expect to be at the vet's, but without an appointment, I expected a wait. So I dropped Gin off early at the YMCA for her 5 o'clock cheerleading practice. Munch and I took the kitten to the vet, and we were out of there in 11 minutes! The vet pulled off the dirt that had caked into the infection on the kitten's toe and determined the best bet would be to take off the tip. He said it could heal on its own, with some antibiotics, but with the bone sticking out (yes, it was) healing would be difficult and slow. I told him to go ahead and take the toe. He asked if I wanted to have her shots done. Since she's a stray, he said he didn't know how much I'd want to put into her. I told him, "Go ahead. After all this, she's pretty much adopted." So, I guess we have a kitten now. Munch and I went back to the Y and took a tour of the facility. We got our approval for financial aid, but I didn't bring the letter of verification along with me, so I couldn't complete the membership today. Who knew I'd have time?! So we'll get that Wednesday. After that, Munch and I went out to buy a new little litter box (our current cat Cookie's box is too big for the little one) and a few other things at the store while we waited for Gin. While we were there, Gin called from practice and said she had a headache, so we picked her up early too. It seems I can really get a lot done when I leave work early.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A little Sunday down time

I'm making a point of relaxing this Sunday morning. I slept in for a while, waking at 10:30 a.m. (that seems to be the limit of my "sleeping in," as I wake up by 10:30 regardless of how late I've stayed up). I have about 10 minutes left of morning now. My summertime hectic schedule has continued unabated. Last weekend, the girls and I took Book to the Columbus Zoo for his birthday. It rained most of the day, but that didn't prevent all of us having a good time - or all of us getting some moderate sunburn. We drove home during some horrible thunderstorms, which fortunately I was skirting the edge of most of the way. That was bad enough. It definitely tried my nerves. This week, Gin had her cheer practice on Monday, then the girls spent the afternoon with my mother on Tuesday. They got to swim, and I got to stay at the office until 9 p.m. finishing a special section I was building for the paper. I was very proud of how nice it looked and got lots of praise from everyone - except my boss, who response was something like, "Meh. It looks fine." Typical. The girls spent Tuesday night at their dad's and went with him swimming at the city pool Wednesday. (I got to take them over there though. No problem. I'm not busy or anything.) Then I picked them up there so Gin could go to her Wednesday cheer practice. Thursday was relatively normal and painless. We got to have an actual dinner at home. Friday night, I worked. I work every Friday night. Then yesterday I took the girls and dropped them off for their brother's graduation party. After I picked them up, the girls and I went to see a movie. MiB3 was lots of fun for all of us.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Past and future

As I face an uncertain future (isn't it always, though?), I find myself thinking a lot about the past lately. I think about the opportunities I had and the opportunities I could have had but never pursued. I wonder where I'd be right now if I had. I remember having so much potential. My career choice was a mistake. I know that. I could have been anything, done anything. My marriages were certainly mistakes. There's no question there. My first husband was on impulse and was meant as a means to escape. Instead, it just left me more trapped with fewer choices left to me. It lasted only five months, but I knew it was a bad idea even before I said my vows. I just thought, maybe, I could pull it off. My second marriage was far worse. He was unworthy even to date me, but I fell for a charm at first and then had this overwhelming need to fix him. That's pure foolishness at the outset. It was pure misery. I've been thinking about the ones who got away, too - the ones I loved and the ones the ones I thought I loved, the ones I might have loved and the ones who loved me. That uncertainty of a possibility never pursued, a connection never made but for a little more effort on either side. I wonder if he thinks about me as much as I think about him. I wonder if he thinks about me at all. And I think about where I am now. There are other possibilities - some real, some imagined. Some as unlikely to come to fruition as the sun is to orbit the moon. Some ... maybe ... possible after all. And many more likely to result in more failure, more rejection and more regret. It's not the uncertainty that keeps me paralyzed but more the knowledge, the absolute certainty, that the doors I attempt will be closed to me even though I know that I could succeed if allowed through.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Summertime, and the living is easy

Oh so NOT! Summer has officially, or unofficially, arrived, as the girls have finished the school year, and the days' temperatures top 90 degrees. We've found very little time to get out and enjoy those days though. Of course, there's my work - my long days' journeys into nights for many, many nights. We've got another vacationer out of the office for the next two weeks, so naturally, the pile on my plate has grown. It's not so bad at the moment though. I've certainly had worse. We also haven't gotten the call about the inspection for my house yet. "Within the next week or two" has stretched well beyond, and we're finding that keeping up with the clean is nearly as hard as getting it clean in the first place. No surprise there. We've never had time. Twenty large bags of garbage made their way to the curb over our two-week cleaning spree, and we had at least eight bags of clothes that went to the donation box. We've provided a new wardrobe for an entire family with just what was hiding in our closets and under our beds and at the bottoms of our drawers. Schedules have grown even more hectic as Gin has joined the YMCA cheerleading team and has practices in Sidney every Monday and Wednesday. That means I have to come home, pick up the girls, go back to Sidney (a 25-minute drive each way), wait for two hours then drive home. We've had one so far. The first practice of the month is open for parents to watch, so Munch and I sat through Monday's practice, then we came home and ate a very late dinner - we were finishing up at 11:30 p.m. The other practices I figure I will take Munch with me and go back to the office during practice. I'll have to sort out just how early I'll need to leave on those days, so I'm not building up too many hours. There's the additional expense as well - $40 per month, $5 for each extra tumbling class (offered as an option after each regular practice), $84 for uniform (that could be MUCH worse) - competition expenses will come later, too. In addition to the cheerleading, Gin has joined the school's volleyball team, so there are practices during the day for her. The regular practices are at the school gym, but conditioning is at the Versailles YMCA, which is a three-mile bike ride each way for her. She won't get to many of those, as she's babysitting for a neighbor a few days each week as well. The girls are also keeping up with their summer reading program through the library. Munch will also have the summer reading program through the school coming in July. She's also supposed to have tutoring sessions this summer, but I haven't gotten around to setting those up. We may just skip it, as I've got her repeating the entire fifth grade curriculum with a homeschool workbook during the summer, and when she gets through that, she'll start the bridge workbook for the transition from fifth to sixth grade. She was promoted to sixth grade, against all odds. She ended the school year with one F - in math - as well as three D's. She's gotten her diagnosis for ADD from a neurologist now though, so we can get her back to the pediatrician to start treatment. Gin made the honor roll, again. Munch is also continuing with her dog walking each day, and the neighbor she does that for has asked if she could help out with some light housework for some additional money. Munch cleaning? That's a good one! Gin's offered to do it instead. She says cleaning relaxes her. I'm exhausted already. And Gin is a crazy powerhouse. :)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Thanks for hitting my mailbox ... seriously

The girls headed out the door yesterday to go to school, and a moment later, Gin popped her head back into the house to tell me that someone had run over our mailboxes (the four units of my building have four boxes on a single post.) I went out to look at it and saw that the post had been completely snapped in two and the boxes were on the ground. Great. So I finished quickly getting ready for work and headed out. I called my landlord when I got there, and he informed me that it was my neighbor, who'd called him about an hour ago to let him know that she'd backed over it. "While I have you on the phone....." Those words are never followed by anything good, have you noticed? "Mom's decided to sell the apartments." The owner of my apartment died on Christmas Day. I was wondering what was going to happen with my place, but enough time had passed that I thought I was safe. You see, his sons had been managing his properties ever since I moved in 10 years ago. I thought maybe they'd just go on doing so. Apparently not. So he told me that they'd be coming through the apartments for inspections at some point within the next week or two. I'd be given 24 hours' notice. Problem. I've been living in this apartment with my family for 10 years. Almost no maintenance has been done on the place since I moved in. Our white walls have never been painted (was in my lease that I wasn't allowed). The wheat-colored carpet has taken 10 years of life with a family. And I work insanely long hours, so obviously housework falls behind. Of course, I've been even busier the past couple of weeks - not even getting home until about 9:30 each night. I haven't had a whole day off at home in months. And this coming weekend, Gin has a cheerleading clinic and tryouts that will take several hours on Saturday, and Sunday I'm working from 2 p.m. to after midnight. I'm off Monday, but I have a dental appointment that will take at least three hours, not counting the driver there and back, which is another hour. So when am I supposed to get anything done? It's certainly possible that they could accept the wear and tear on the place as normal 10 years' worth of wear and tear, but even so, they could still have me leave just so they could fix up the place before the sale. Even if they let me stay, my rent will go up, surely - if not with them, then with the new owners. I'm the only tenant they've had straight through the past 10 years, so I'm the only one who hasn't had a rent increase. Previously, they've just increased the rent for new tenants. So I'm paying less than anyone else. No rent increase in all this time seems nice, but I'm making $6 per hour less now than I was 10 years ago when I moved in. I had a much better job then. And since the price of everything has gone up dramatically in that time, in real terms, I'm living on about a third of what I was back then. I. Am. Screwed. Still, if my neighbor hadn't backed over the mailbox, I wouldn't have known a thing, and I'd have 24 hours' notice before the inspection. So...thanks for that.

Monday, May 14, 2012

So now what do I do?

Another season of the Barclay's Premier League has ended, and though it did not end quite as I would like, it did have me transfixed right up until the last minute. Manchester United were written off to win the league title just before the last match of the season, but during that match, QPR led Manchester City against all odds, so the possibility of retaining the title was renewed right up until the last minute when Sergio Aguero scored the winning goal in the "other" match. Even at our final whistle, we stood a chance. It is somewhat satisfying to know that if QPR had just managed to hold on to that draw, we would have won on points, while City's win was achieved merely on goal difference. A second-place finish by only a hair's breadth is not too damn bad. And truly, what an exciting way to end the season. My only problem is this: Since football is such a big part of my life, what am I to do now that the season's over. Let's see. Tonight, I take Gin to her cheerleading clinic while I go back into the office. Tomorrow is Gin's awards ceremony for school and Munch's book fair. Wednesday is another cheer clinic and evening at the office. Thursday...hmm...nothing yet, other than work until probably about 6 or 7. Friday - working the night shift from 2 p.m. till about 1 a.m. Saturday - another cheer clinic and tryouts. Sunday - work the night desk same hours as Friday. ..... Ok, so I might have a little something to do.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Rare day

It's a rare day indeed in this household when a financial surprise is a good one. Today was one of those rare days. My daughter checked the mail after I arrived home from work and handed me an envelope marked from the child support agency. I pay child support for my son, Book. I used to receive child support for my son, Pooh, but he's 21 now, so that stopped long ago. I had a debit card for Pooh's support, onto which the state deposited my payment each week. I had a total of $4.77 left on it when Pooh turned 18, which I just never ended up using because, you know, it's a debit card, and it was $4.77. I never felt comfortable saying, "Here, use $4.77 on this card and then I'll pay some other way for the rest of the cost." So I just left it sit there. Apparently, that card has expired, or was due to expire soon, because I received a replacement in the mail today. I remembered, "Oh yeah, it had a couple of bucks on it so they sent a new card. Oops." I called and activated it like a good girl, and after I selected my PIN, the automated system told me my balance - nearly $1,300! What?! Well, I logged into the account online and discovered that my payments did not stop in May of 2009, when my son graduated high school. They continued on through the end of the year, during the summer and then while he was enrolled full-time in college. He left after the first quarter. I'd be rolling if he hadn't, because apparently the payments would have continued as long as he continued, uninterrupted, as a full-time college student. I suppose it can be forgiven that I was entirely unaware of this fact. I never opted in for any type of notification on the account, because the debit card was a brand-new thing just before he graduated. Until then, I'd been getting checks. I also had another excuse - I was completely useless for about three months after his graduation day because it was on that day that I was unceremoniously and without warning dumped - via text message - by the love of my life. It made for some entertaining blog reading for him and his new girlfriend for a while. Now, I've got this money I didn't know I had which has been languishing in a non-interest-bearing account for three years. What to do with it?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Monday lethargy

I'm struggling to make it through my Monday at it's not yet 10 a.m. Granted, Mondays are never easy, but the return of the insomnia makes it especially difficult. Saturday night I even had a glass of wine, which normally helps, but I lay in bed until probably at least 4 a.m. unable to doze off. Naturally, I couldn't fall asleep and had to get up early in the morning. OK, I suppose I didn't HAVE to get up, but it was a 7:30 a.m. kickoff for the Man United match Sunday morning, and I can't miss that. Well, I did miss kickoff, but I managed to drag myself awake before the first half hour had passed. Almost wish I'd slept through it….. Last night it struck me that I was just suffering for no good reason as I again lay in bed until the wee hours. I took a sleeping pill, but it was quite late by then, and any sleep I managed to get (which was still far too little) is not offsetting the additional lethargy brought on by sleeping pills taken too late.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Another sweet deal

Hey, so you all know I'm a total shoe hound, right? I'm also cheap, cheap, cheap! No, I'm FRUGAL. I economize. In short, I hate to pay full retail for anything. I love a deal, so here's a good one I wanted to share. Check out these sassy, fashionable boots at a whopping 74% off the regular price! So what's that come down to in cold, hard cash. Just $26. Yes, it's true. :)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Share the excitement

So, it's a little bit depressing when you have something exciting coming up, and there's no one around to share the excitement with you.

I'm at work. I'm going to see The Fray in concert tonight. (!!!!!!!) I'm surrounded by sexagenarians (and up) who don't even know who The Fray are (yes, I used the British practice of a plural verb for a collective noun. I prefer it. Sue me.)

In other news, the neighborhood stray who adopted us as a kitten has had four new little ones in my garage. Born April 15, I'm sure it was very taxing. (I truly apologize for that horrible, horrible pun - but I'm not deleting it anyway.) There are three tuxedos and one calico. Very cute. Sign up now, and get your own in six weeks. :)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Somewhere .... out there

I was concerned Sunday night when it started up again. I was lying in bed, exhausted, staring at the inside of my sleep mask and waiting for rest to finally come. Somewhere around 5 a.m. Monday morning, it finally did. Unfortunately, my alarm sounds at 6:45 a.m., so there was little true rest to it.

It's been a long couple of weeks. Or months. Or years, really. But particularly, the last couple of weeks have been tiring. It seems every time I come in to work I find that another coworker is off for one reason or another, and I'm always the one asked to fill in. The choice is obvious, really. I can do more in the same time than anyone else in the office.

I'm not being arrogant. Frankly, I wish it weren't so. It's terribly frustrating. I watch my coworkers half-ass their way through the day, and it's fine with the powers that be. Me? I can't even force myself to slow down to their speed.

I've gotten fed up, to be sure. I am tired of always having the extra work piled on me because others aren't putting in the same effort. And to make it worse, not only are they doing it *slowly*, they're not even doing it *well*. I have high standards. I expect perfection, or something approaching it. They're not even *trying*.

And with all this, I make less at this job than I did 10 years ago when I started. That's less outright. $1 less per hour than when I started 10 YEARS AGO. Adjust that for inflation, and it's practically criminal.

I've put out my resume again. There's a nice job I'd very much like to get a call on this week. If not, I'll keep looking. I never stopped, really, but I hadn't been all that active at it. There's something out there for me somewhere.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Traditional signs of spring

Spring has arrived! I know because the following traditional signs are here:

1. The daffodils are in bloom. I don't have any around here, but I've passed them in my car on my way to work.

2. There's an annoying fly buzzing around in my room.

3. Munch is now wearing the same skirt for four straight days. Previously, she wore the same pair of pants for four straight days.

4. The backside of the wing mirror on my car is covered with a layer of dead bugs.

5. It's gorgeous outside. I'm still hunched over my computer holed up in my room. But the curtains are open. And it's hot in here.

6. I can no longer stop at the pet store after the grocery to look at the fishies because all of my frozen items will melt.

7. I'm lookng forward to Manchester United winning the Premier League title - but dreading the season ending and not having my footie anymore. :(

8. I have to dress in layers, so I can take them off on my way and from work and pile them on in the office where the A/C is set to "meat locker."

9. I've come to accept that I can no longer put off shaving my legs. Well, not for much longer...

10. The hot dog and root beer stand is open! - which I take advantage of on opening day, then ignore for the rest of the season.

11. When my daughter disappears for hours at a time, I now assume she's at the park instead of at the neighbor's house playing with their dogs.

12. I can no longer sing at the top of my lungs in the car, because the car next to me has its windows open.

13. I've swapped my comfy fuzzy jammie bottoms for my comfy cotton knit jammie bottoms.

14. I'm looking at the grill thinking, "Mmmmm, I should get some charcoal and fire that baby up." But I don't.

15. I go through the store looking at all the hot summertime clothes and think, "I'm too old for that."

16. I go through my closet looking at all the hot summertime clothes and think, "I'm too old for that" - and give it to my daughter.

17. I wake in the morning to the sound of birds chirping outside my window and say, "Shut up, stupid birds."

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Urgh! It's here.

Sometime back in October or so, I started getting emails from Accuweather warning me that this was going to be a winter to make history. The gist of it: brutal cold and snow measured in feet. Usually, the warnings say one or the other - brutal cold and not much snow, or tons of snow but not as cold.

Anyway, I never look forward to winter, but this ominous forecast I was definitely not wishing to see come true.

Then at the tail-end of October, we got a sudden burst of snow. We knew it wouldn't stick around, but it hinted at an early beginning.

Then ... nothing.

Well, nothing as far as "winter" was concerned. We had rain and wind some days; we had sun and warmth some days. In fact, it was quite as "autumnal" as weather could get for the midwest. And it kept going, and going, and going.

Christmas came and went with the background of a dead and brown landscape. The temperature hovered around 40 degrees most days, and the rain continued a couple of times a week.

Then this week, the warnings came back to my email. The temperature would drop 20 degrees in a day. The snow would fall.

The temperature did drop. It's been quite cold and bound to get colder. The snow did fall, but it didn't accumulate to any shocking degree. It's primary danger was while it was actually falling, making the roads slick and visibility poor.

But this, I know, is just the beginning. It's a late beginning, but it's the beginning.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Walgreens and Express Scripts: Now I get it

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Walgreens for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.


For several weeks, every time I'm in my car, I've been hearing radio commercials from various pharmacies saying, "We still take Express Scripts." I've wondered what this was all about. Now I know.
It seems that Walgreens' contract with Express Scripts expired at the end of last year, and Walgreens and Express Script attempted to negotiate a new contract, but the negotiations were unsuccessful. As of Dec. 31, the contract expired, and, therefore, Walgreens is now excluded from Express Scripts' provider network. All Walgreens pharmacies and Duane Reade pharmacies in the New York City area are affected.
Having read Walgreens side of the story, I've seen that they negotiated in good faith with a genuine effort and desire to help their customers be able to have the lowest  health care costs they could. Walgreens did not seek an increase in their reimbursement rates, but Express Scripts wanted to dictate all terms of the contract  - including discouraging customers from taking advantage of Walgreens 90-day refills, in order to boost their own 90-refill mail program. Isn't it all the same? Well, no. Walgreens offers many 24-hour drive-thru and personal service with a community pharmacy - not an impersonal mail-order service. These differences matter.
If you're a loyal Walgreens customer and you see an Express Scripts logo on the back of your health insurance prescription card, then you are likely affected by this change. Take your card to your Walgreens pharmacist and find out. 
You might be angered to find - as too many customers have - that your relationship you've valued with your pharmacist has been potentially damaged by the actions of a company that's seeking to maximize its own profits at the cost of your health care service. Express Scripts, which serves as a middle man between insurance companies and pharmacy providers, has seen its profits grow at more than twice the rate of its peers in the industry.
If you want to keep your relationship with your Walgreens pharmacist - or begin a new one - Walgreens is offering special rates to keep your prescription costs as low as possible with membership in their Walgreens Prescription Savings Club . For the month of January, the cost of an annual membership is only $5 for a single member and $10 to cover the whole family (you, your spouse, immediate family AND pets). The regular rate is $20 for a single or $35 for a family membership. The club provides savings on more than 8,000 brand-name and ALL generic prescriptions, as well as discounts on flu shots, pet medications, nebulizers and diabetic supplies.
Follow Walgreens on Twitter and "like" Walgreens on Facebook to keep up on all the news and see what Walgreens is doing to help save on your health care costs.

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