Monday, December 27, 2010

Ah....Re-Organization!

I wish I had taken "before" photos of my baking pan cabinet in the kitchen. It was a mess of pans and baking sheets in a completely random order, to the point that I only used a select few pans for fear of actually trying to locate any of the others. But it didn't even occur to me to photograph that cabinet until I finished my re-organization this morning and sat there, admiring how nice it now looked!

Are you wondering what in the world possessed me to suddenly decide to re-do my baking pan cabinet? Well, I got a 13x9 springform pan from my mom for Christmas and I couldn't fit it in the cabinet!!! So, I decided to pull everything out and see if I could possibly rearrange things to make more room.

After everything was out, I started sorting my pans (I have stainless steel, aluminum, glazed stoneware, and basic stoneware, so it's quite a mis-match collection!) by size/type. Then I got to thinking....what if I had all my bread pans together, and all my square pans together, and my round pans, and so on. I thought I would give this a try. Here is the left side of the 4-door cabinet that houses my baking pan stash:




The top shelf has my baking sheets on the left, then my Bundt-type pans. On the bottom shelf are my cooling racks on the far left, pies and angel food in the back, right behind my square pans. Springform pans (I now have round, square, and rectangular - yay!) are in the back beside pie plates, with my round pans in front of those. Here is the right side:


I have muffin pans and bread pans on the top shelf, with all my 13x9 pans on the bottom. You might notice one stoneware round pan on that bottom shelf. It's there partially because it actually FIT there, but partially because it's a large round pan that will hold about the same as one of my 13x9 pans, so in my mind, it made sense.

I love my stoneware, but I have learned over the past few months that I love my stainless steel pans at least as much. They bake great, clean up easily, and I don't have to worry about cracking them if I'm not careful! I got them from kitchencollection.com and they weren't expensive at all.

I really hope I can continue this organizing trend into the new year. I certainly have a LOT of cabinets that can use it! I also hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!!!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas Open House

I managed to finish decorating the house, and even had company over yesterday for a cookie exchange! I know last year I posted some photos of the house and how it was adorned, but I thought it might be fun to do it again this year, especially for any new readers who don't want to go digging through the archives.

Here is a photo taken from the front door as an overview of my Christmas craziness!


If you look to the left, there is a stairwell, and I have a couple of trees there:


And going up those stairs I have garland:


In front of the stairs is what my kids call the "Tom Brady tree." It's decorated in blue and gold (U of Michigan colors, Tom's alma mater) and I have a U of Michigan ornament on one side, and a Tom Brady Patriots ornament on the other.


My lovely little elf stands beside the Tom Brady tree:


From the front door, looking up at the catwalk, more garland and a huge wreath:


And on the floor in front of you:


I love my fireplace in the living room!


Here is the main tree, fully loaded with ornaments:


And a peek into the dining room:



Can you tell I love Christmas??? :-)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

It's a Perfect Day....

If your first thought was "for a little rain," I love you!!!! :-) Of course, since most of my readers probably don't know much about my favorite singer, Suzy Bogguss, I doubt any of you actually thought that. If you did, please leave me a comment and make me smile!!

Actually, it's a perfect day for being at home, a fire blazing in the fireplace, sipping cocoa (maybe even with a little bit of Chocolate Mint Irish Cream in it....), and starting the Christmas decorating process! And that's just what I'm doing. It's cold and rainy outside...so dismal. I did get out this morning before the rain got going and did some grocery shopping, including purchasing my Thanksgiving turkey. Can't go wrong with HyVee's deal where you buy a wonderful ham and get your turkey free.

Since lunch, though, we've been hauling up bins and starting to unpack them. The first tree is up in the living room, but no decorations yet. I have a LOT of decor, and it takes me a long time to decorate, which is why I'm starting early. While working, though, I've been REALLY enjoying the fire. It's a cell-phone pic, but here is one I took earlier:


So beautiful and so warm. Yep, it's a perfect day. Hope you're enjoying it, too!!!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

CSN Stores Review

I have to say that I had a wonderful experience with CSN Stores in doing my review! The hardest part about the entire process was choosing what item to review!!! They have an amazing selection of products, and I have already found so many more things I simply must have!

The process of ordering was very easy. I browsed through the various stores, made my selection, and checked out. They have several payment options to make it convenient for anyone. I decided to get some new pillows, and I selected the Beautyrest 100% Pima Cotton Extra Firm Pillow (Set of 2). I placed my order, and very shortly thereafter, I received a confirmation email, detailing my purchase and providing me with a customer service number in case I had any questions.

Three business days later, a large bag arrived on my front porch. Talk about quick shipment! The pillows were completely sealed and arrived perfectly. They don't even have that typical "chemical" smell that you generally expect from new pillows. And they are definitely soft and great for sleeping! They are very high quality product that arrived at my door quickly and effortlessly.

I can't say I had any problems at all with CSN Stores, and would most definitely recommend them. Check them out for all your holiday shopping...you won't be disappointed!!

Disclaimer: I did receive a $45 credit to CSN Stores for the purpose of doing this review. There was no compensation. The opinions expressed are strictly my own.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Holiday Shopping....Simplified and an Upcoming Review with CSN Stores!

It's hard to believe, but it's actually time to start thinking about holiday shopping. Where did the year go?? Whether you need a new dining room table for all of your relatives to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner, or just a handful of toys to place under the Christmas tree for your favorite youngster, you can find all sorts of possibilities at CSN Stores!

I have recently discovered CSN Stores and have spent quite a bit of time perusing their more than 200 online stores. I've found everything from gifts to furniture to kitchen cookware....and all sorts of things in between!

I'm lucky enough that CSN Stores is offering me the opportunity to review a product from one of their wonderful online stores! I just have to figure out which of their many amazing products I want to try. Stay tuned...I will be posting a review very soon! In the meantime, pop over to CSN and see what you can't live without....or find some great holiday gift ideas!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Rick Riordan Rocks

I am a sucker for alliteration. I guess it's the Grammar Guru in me. But even so, the title is totally true. Tonight, we went to hear Rick Riordan speak at a local event sponsored by Rainy Day Books in Kansas City.

If you don't know who Rick Riordan is, ask your kids. He is the author of the very well-read Percy Jackson series. If that doesn't ring a bell, how about the movie "The Lightning Thief?" That was based on (very loosely, I might add, and not really a very good representation) his novel.

What an exceptional speaker, and warm and friendly man who very obviously enjoys children!! From the moment he took the podium, he was eloquent and interesting and very humorous. He kept both children and adults entertained with tales from both his life and the lives of his characters. He was fascinating!

Here is an interesting tidbit: He has never seen the movie that was made from his "Lightning Thief" book. In fact, he had nothing to do with the film! Sound strange? I have great respect for his reasoning! He said that in his mind, he had a perfect image of all of the scenes, like Camp Half Blood, and the exact physical characteristics of all of his characters. He knew that if he were to watch the film adaptation, he would never be able to get those screen images out of his mind and it would ruin it for him.

I can't agree more! I have begun reading his latest book, "The Lost Hero," and found that whenever he mentions Chiron, I picture Pierce Brosnan (who portrayed Chiron in the movie). I hate that! I used to have a very different picture of Chiron, and I'm sure my mental picture was more what the author had in mind, but now it has been replaced with the "Hollywood version." I really do admire Rick Riordan for his decision not to view the movie.

If you haven't read any of the Percy Jackson novels, I definitely recommend them. There is a great base of Mythology mixed in with a truly interesting tale of teenage misfit kids who turn out to be heroes. And if Rick Riordan comes near you, go and see him. I promise you will enjoy his talk. Tonight was a great night!!!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Tag...I'm It?

Okay, I got tagged by Beth from Two Monkeys & A Washtub today. And since I have been COMPLETELY neglecting her and her blog for some time (I'm so sorry, Beth!!), I absolutely MUST participate in the game!

Apparently I am to answer 8 questions that she asked, and then list 8 new questions and tag 8 other bloggers. Well, right now I promise to answer the questions, but I'm not sure about the tagging part. Hopefully it's okay to just start with the first part of the process?? *puppy dog eyes*

So, without further ado....here are the questions Beth has asked:

1. What's your favorite children's storybook? (even those without kids have a favorite children's story)

Mine was always "The Secret Garden." I still love it!

2. If we went out for dinner & drinks, what would you order?

Hmmmm....it depends on my mood. My go-to drink is a Seven & Seven, and sometimes a rum & Coke. But last night I was craving peach schnapps, so I ordered a Sex on the Beach; unfortunately, I am not sure what Danny's considers a Sex on the Beach, because this drink was NOT cranberry juice, peach schnapps, and/or vodka - it had pineapple juice, grenadine, and I don't even know what else. Not bad, but NOT at all what I wanted. I can guarantee you I wouldn't order beer....bleah. As for food, I tend to take FOREVER to order, and then I usually change something (think Meg Ryan in "When Harry Met Sally" sans the fake orgasm...lol). Generally, I will probably order something with grilled chicken and quite possibly a baked potato.

3. What's your favorite ice cream flavor? and why?

I love Pistachio-Almond. Why? I have no idea - have just always loved it.

4. If you had $500 to spend on yourself, where would you go shopping and what would you buy? You can't save it!

I'm going to assume I don't have to spend it all in one place. I would order a Fitbit online, because I really want one of those!! That's $99. Then I'd probably go to Hobby Lobby and buy some really cool yarn that I would never buy otherwise and some Swarovski crystal beads. Probably spend about $50 there. I would then go to Kohl's and spend the rest on clothes (I love Kohl's) and stuff for the kitchen. I'm a gadget junkie and love new stuff for the kitchen. Okay, I'm sure I've spent $500 by now!! :-)

5. Do you have any regrets or things you wish you had the chance to do over? If so, why?

Oh wow....this is a complete blog all its own, but probably something about which I would never, ever blog. There are soooo many things that I would love to do over! My kids and family are probably the one thing I wouldn't re-do!! lol

6. What sports do you enjoy? playing and/or watching? or playing/participating in back in high school?

I am a football junkie!! Give me the NFL or even some good college teams and I'm a happy girl. I have two fantasy football teams, and even though they both SUCK so far this year, I still enjoy playing. I can handle a little baseball now and then in small doses, and I really enjoy watching Gymnastics. But participating? Not me. Never have been into sports one little bit. Okay, there's a regret for you - I really wish I had learned to play some sort of sport....softball or tennis or something. I wish I could participate in a sport now, as I think that would be a fun activity and a great way to exercise and meet people.

7. If you could drive any car, what would you pick, and what color would it be?

A convertible. I don't care what kind...I just REALLLLLLLLLLY want a convertible. Color is even up in the air, but I've always had a thing for that teal-ish blue that is so rare and cool.

8. When you go grocery shopping, what's the one thing you tend to buy on impulse? You know that thing that looks so yummy that it has to be thrown in the cart?

For me, it isn't the item, exactly. It's the deal. If something is really a great price, that's what I buy on impulse. For instance, last week I was really sticking well to my list at HyVee. But then I wandered past the lunchmeat case and found sliced chicken marked down - 1 pound bags for $.99! I bought 9 of them because that was a steal!! I'm a sucker for mark-downs, even if we don't need the item!!


Well, there you go! More than you ever could possibly have wanted to know about me! And I'm not saying I won't come up with 8 questions and 8 bloggers later...just not tonight. Hey, I've already done two blog posts today. That's a big deal for me!! :-)

Jazzin' it up

Today I did something completely out-of-the-ordinary for me! I attended my first-ever Jazzercise class. I have a friend who has done it for a long time and she even works at her local location, and she talked me into giving it a try. About a month ago, Groupon.com had a special: $39 for 2 months of unlimited classes. I thought that was the best way to try it.

I have to say, it was FUN! The hour class went by so fast, and the instructor was really great and upbeat. She knew everyone by name and talked to us throughout the class, as well as calling out instruction. I was very impressed. The bad thing was that it was hard to mirror her movements, as she went FAST from one move to the next. I felt very uncoordinated and couldn't catch onto many of the movements during class. However, they tell you that it's okay to not "get" it - just keep moving, even if it's simply marching in place.

I did notice that there were a variety of levels of Jazzercise knowledge in my class, and after class, Michelle (the instructor) took time to talk to me. She told me that everyone else in the class was either a dancer (which helps tremendously in doing the movements) or has been Jazzercising for years. She told me that I did very well for my very first time (though I suspect she's supposed to say that....lol) and even broke down a few of the especially difficult combinations to show me in slow-motion. That helped a lot! Now I can do the Grapevine just fine, but there are still others that are going to take a lot more practice.

I plan to try class again on Wednesday morning, and then on Friday. She told me that different classes have different combinations, so it might be interesting. I already expect to be completely lost! :-) At least I finally got up the nerve to try something different, though. And it was a fun time. Hopefully it will stay fun and I will keep at it. I could definitely use some regular exercise!!!

In other, more frugal news, I made laundry soap today. Haven't done that in awhile, since I got a really good deal on some Purex. But I had run out, and didn't want to go pay too much for it. I forgot how good the homemade stuff smells......

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Finale


Doesn't that look yummy?? Let me tell you...it was G-O-O-D!! We had slices nice and warm and served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Mmmmmmm!! And even better is the fact that I got to enjoy this pie knowing it was the LAST of the apples I had to process! That made it even sweeter!!

All told, from my brother's unwanted apple tree, I ended up with:

8 gallons of apple pie filling
8 quarts of unsweetened applesauce
6 quarts of sweetened applesauce
4.5 quarts of apple butter
That delicious apple pie

AND, I still passed along a LOT of apples to a friend! Three large boxes found a new home, and hopefully some new recipes for another family today. I just hope she doesn't hate me by the time she finishes processing allllll of those apples!

The work isn't the most fun thing to do, but enjoying the "fruits of my labors" for many months to come is wonderful. The kids absolutely LOVE my homemade applesauce, and I use the unsweetened variety for baking throughout the year. Considering that I add nothing but water to the unsweetened, it really is a "free" item, monetarily speaking. And it really is worth the effort.

So my freezers are now absolutely packed. I used up the last bit of space today with the deli chicken lunchmeat I found at HyVee for .99 a pound. I got 9 pounds of it and popped it into one of my freezers. That will last awhile, and the kids love sandwiches and soup for weekend lunches - score!

Apple season has ended here. Next up will be pumpkin...but we gotta eat some stuff first!! :-)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sort of a Post

I posted today on Not Just Leftovers, so I think that should count! :-) Okay, maybe it doesn't, but it's been a busy day and I'm tired and going to bed. So head over HERE for today's post! Have a wonderful tomorrow!!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

An Apple a Day

...or perhaps a couple bushel a day? I know I missed posting yesterday; I didn't forget, but I was just too exhausted to post. Yesterday I peeled, cored, and sliced a LOT of apples, cooked them down and pureed them into applesauce. I put 12 quarts in the freezer. Shortly after I was done with that, I cleaned up and made dinner, then dashed off to a school Room Parent Meeting, immediately followed by a PTA Meeting (I am the Recording Secretary). It was a very busy day!

Today I finished what I am going to do with the apples. I made about 5 quarts of apple butter and one huge and very yummy apple pie. I canned up the butter and it's very pretty in the jars. I had to can 4 pints, as I ran out of smaller jars. Guess we will be eating a lot of apple butter for awhile when we open those! Tonight I made angel biscuits with dinner so we could enjoy the butter...but I made a bit of an error. I was tired and in a hurry and I followed Paula Deen's recipe. I realized about halfway into it that I had forgotten this was a HUGE recipe and I needed to cut it in half. Oops. I ended up with way more biscuits than we can eat in a day! Guess we will be having biscuits and apple butter tomorrow, too! :)

I'm just going to keep this short and sweet tonight. I will try to post the how-I-make-applesauce post tomorrow. Tonight my brain just wants to go to bed, but I didn't want to miss two days in a row since I said I would post every day. I still owe you guys a post....I will try to make it a good one!

No signature tonight, either...I'm typing this on the netbook, which doesn't have any photo files. I'm really with it tonight....lol. Have a great night!!!!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Apple Pie Filling

Lisa B. asked me about my recipes for my apple pie filling and applesauce. Today I started on the apples, but I only did one cooler full, as I have company coming for dinner tonight and much to do. So today's focus was on apple pie filling. I plan to do applesauce tomorrow and I will try to pay attention to my recipe, as I just make it....I don't follow a specific format. :-)

My apple pie filling is a bit unorthodox from what I can tell in looking at other recipes for filling. It was borne from trial and error, and it just works for me! A few years ago, I had apples from my brother's tree and I was making full apple pies, par-baking them, and freezing them for later. I got so tired of the process that I decided to try freezing a pie WITHOUT the par-baking step. I made the crust, formed the pie, wrapped it in foil, and popped it into the freezer, totally raw.

About a month later, I decided to try one of my un-cooked creations. I pulled it from the freezer and allowed it to thaw, then dabbed on a bit of butter, sliding it under the slits in the crust, and popped it into the oven. To my delight, it worked perfectly! The texture was just fine and the pie tasted wonderful...I couldn't really tell a difference between the pies I froze uncooked and the ones where I began the cooking process prior to freezing.

After this discovery, I took the pie-making process a step simpler. I made up the filling as if to put it into a crust, but then I put it in a ziploc bag instead. This way I could just make the dough and form the pie at the time I wanted to make it, which made the process longer at the actual baking stage, but so much easier on the front end doing the preparation. Since I had a LOT of apples, simplifying the prep made the most sense. As a result, I had apples that I used both for pie filling and for "fried" apples at dinner. I would simply remove a bag of pie filling, thaw it, and put it in a microwave-safe container (typically a Pyrex 8 cup glass measure). About 8 minutes on high and I had a great side dish that the kids loved and that tasted like I had just peeled them.

So, now that you have background on my out-of-the-ordinary freezer apple pie filling, here is how I do it now:

Into a gallon-size freezer bag, place the following: 1/2 c. sugar, 1/4 c. flour, 1 t. cinnamon, 1/2 t. nutmeg, and a pinch of salt. Shake lightly to combine.
Pour in 8 cups of peeled and sliced apples and seal the bag. Shake and toss to combine and evenly coat the apple slices.
Open the bag to release the air and re-seal the bag.
Freeze until ready to use.

To make the pie, thaw the filling. Lay bottom crust in pie plate, then fill with bag of filling. Dot with a couple of tablespoons of butter. Top with either a second crust or a struesel topping. Place in oven and bake at 425° for about 45 minutes, covering the edges of the crust if needed to prevent over-browning.

If you're interested, I've finished the round cooler of apples, and I have 8 gallon bags of apple pie filling in the freezer as I type. That's enough for now. Tomorrow I will focus on applesauce, and decide whether I want to freeze it or can it - I'm still not sure. Then I will make apple butter and see where I am. If I still have apples left, then I will make more pie filling. It's Apple Week at my house! :-) Happy autumn!!!!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Shake, Shake the Apple Tree

Did anyone else sing a silly song back in the early days of elementary school that went:
Shake, shake the apple tree
Apples red and rosy
Shake, shake the apple tree
Apples red and rosy
One for you, one for me
Shake, shake the apple tree

I remember singing that song with my friend Alberta waaaaay back when. I think maybe we were in first grade. Ah, the funny little memories that stay with you...

In my situation today, the apples are not red and rosy, though. They are nice and green, tart Granny Smith apples, and I have LOTS!! My brother lives about 40 minutes away and he has an apple tree in his backyard. For whatever bizarre reason, they will NOT eat the apples from the tree. I have to assume it is because the fruit is very much "organic" and tend to have patches of little brown speckles on them and some are not perfectly shaped, like the chemically-altered ones they buy in the store.

Since they loathe this poor tree and it's bountiful harvest, the kids and I drove over today to pick the tree. It's pretty tall, so a lot of shaking had to be done, as well. Apples were falling everywhere to be collected. I came home with two large coolers full, as well as 3 good-sized boxes and a large Target sack. I've seriously got some apples!!!

What does one do with such a mass quantity of apples, other than go insane and have nightmares of being buried under a pile of the little green balls? What I intend to do, and as I have done in the past, is make bags of apple pie filling and lots of applesauce for the freezer. I will also turn some into thick apple butter that I will can to eat over the next year or so. I love how the house smells while the butter cooks...and I've already had three people ask me if I would be willing to give them a jar or two. Apparently I've become a grandmother before my time....lol

I'm having company for dinner tomorrow, so I'm not sure I will get much processing done before Tuesday, but I will probably spend pretty much my entire days on Tuesday and Wednesday working with my gleaned fruit. I will likely cook my apple butter overnight on Tuesday so I can get it canned first thing on Wednesday. By the end of the week, I will have all sorts of relatively free food in my freezer and canned on the shelves. It's only going to cost me the sugar and seasonings.

Yes, these apples are sometimes imperfect, but once they've been peeled, cored, and sliced, nobody can tell the difference. And my kids think homemade applesauce is the BOMB!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Funny Thing About Blogging

I just realized that it's bedtime and I haven't blogged yet today. I did say I was going to post every day in September, so I figured I had better come up with a topic, and fast! :)

I've been a little bit amused in the past week or so. I'm finally making an effort to actually do something with this long-neglected blog, and yet I've been getting more unsubscription requests than I've seen before now! Isn't that funny? I post on my blog to increase interest and readership, and I'm losing subscribers.

Do people really subscribe to a blog to NOT get posts??? The world is a very strange place, and people never cease to amuse or amaze me. If you're still hanging around and reading my daily bizarre posts, thanks!! I will work harder to start blogging on more interesting topics. If you have any thoughts or ideas, leave a comment!!

That's it...short and sweet tonight. Tomorrow I'm guessing I will be blogging about apples. Stay tuned to find out why......

Friday, September 10, 2010

I am NOT Smarter than a Fifth Grader

Actually, there are a lot of questions that I get incorrect on that fun game show, but in this case, I am referring to the significant difference between being a fifth grader today and being that age when we old-timers were younger.

Remember when it was enough to answer a question by talking directly with a teacher? Or when writing a paragraph that was more than three sentences was considered going beyond the requirements? Life was so much simpler back then, and we still thought we had it tough in school.

Tonight, I've spent about the past two hours working on a project with my fifth grade daughter. She is applying to be in a particular club at school, and rather than just being able to raise her hand to say, "I want to join!" (that's what we did, right??), she is required to submit an application to show how creative and excited she is so she might get selected as a member of this group.

So, you might be wondering, what is it that we have to do? We have to make a DVD of her doing a mock video announcement presentation and interview for the school. I consider myself somewhat technologically savvy, but I do not have modern video equipment to make this as easy as it might sound. Rather, I have what I consider an older but still nice camera, a fairly modern computer, and your typical average DVD player.

Well, guess what? These three items might be great individually, but collectively they hate each other!!! The formats vary on each component, and trying to sync them together has been a total nightmare!! All I can say is thank goodness for Google! I tried a bunch of different searches and finally found a software that appeared to be safe that converted .avi files to files that could be read by a DVD player. So, I took the chance and downloaded it.

A test DVD was burned with some karaoke files I have stored on the computer. The files were converted and burned and with great trepidation, we took the DVD to the player. Squeals of delight were heard as the video came on the screen. It actually worked!!! Considering that this project is due on Monday, I am soooooooo thankful that we were able to make this work.

Of course, now we still have to create the video file of my daughter and locate the software on my computer (yeah, I always seem to have trouble finding them again!), convert that file and get it burned successfully. I only hope that it works that time, too. It just has to....it HAS TO!

When did fifth graders have to become technology experts and DVD creators? I have a college degree, did pretty well on my ACTs, and can even keep up my end of a conversation about red zone offenses and fantasy football....but I am NOT smarter than a fifth grader!!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Did You Know That I'm a Troublemaker??

I was actually mildly surprised to learn this today. And the saddest part about my status as a troublemaker is that the main situation that resulted in this realization was a time when I believed I was being helpful! Go figure!!

A little background on my alleged troublemaking: Our school district recently instituted a policy whereby no homemade treats are allowed during class parties. As you know if you read my blog post yesterday, I made a TON of cookies for a school function. An important point to note is that I specifically read the Official School District Policy on homemade treats. The policy is written to include ONLY treats made for the "classroom." I read it over and over and over again, and I was absolutely certain that this new policy was written for classroom treats. I know this, because that's what it SAYS!

Well, tonight I got lectured. Apparently even though the policy is specific, there is not a single non-packaged treat allowed beyond the school doors! The cookies were allowed to be served, but I was informed I was never to do that again. I would comment on the person doing the reprimand, but I do try to keep my blog family-friendly! ;-)

What's kind of funny about the whole thing is that I got several compliments on my "taboo" cookies. I even had a few scoff at the school policy. One guy told me, "screw it." lol Everyone LIKED my cookies...so there, awful school policy!!

Yeah, it's fun to cause trouble sometimes. And guess what? I'm good at it!!!! I think I will keep at it....someone has to keep things interesting around here!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Death by Cookie


Well, maybe not quite, but I am definitely sick to death of making cookies!! :) I'm very involved with a program at the girls' school called Watch D.O.G.S., and tomorrow night is the big pizza kick-off to launch the program for this school year. As my contribution to the event, I agreed to bake all the cookies for the dessert for everyone.

Yes, I am insane! I started about 3:00 this afternoon, and just finished. I baked over 350 cookies!!! I made oatmeal crispies, oatmeal chocolate chip, and snickerdoodles. Fortunately, I was able to buy the ingredients with Watch D.O.G.S. funds, but I have mixed and shaped and baked and arranged until I don't even want to look at another cookie!

I definitely enjoy baking, and my cookies are, of course, better than anything we could buy at the store, but wow! 350 cookies is a lot to tackle in one day! I sure hope all the dads and kids enjoy them. Next year, I just might think twice about offering my baking services, though! :-)

Now, I think it's time to crash! I have a feeling my dreams tonight will center around cookies!!!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Sometimes Nutrition Goes Out the Window

As a general rule, I plan dinners that have a decent level of nutrition, and a nice balance of food groups. We have a meat, a grain, vegetables and maybe fruits, and often a whole-grain bread. And sometimes we have biscuits or not-so-healthy breads when they are a better accompaniment to the rest of the meal.

But every once in awhile, it's really fun to just toss out the idea of being healthy and just have an off-the-wall, fun kind of dinner. We had one of those tonight. DH has a meeting, where he will be eating pizza. I knew the kids would be sad that they weren't getting pizza, too, so I wanted to give them a meal that would excite them. And maybe I also wanted to be told how cool I am...but that's another issue entirely. :)

So for dinner tonight, we had ham and cheese crustless quiche (they LOVE this) and.....wait for it..........cinnamon rolls!!! Barely a bit of healthy stuff in the entire meal, but it was just so much fun, and they weren't upset at all about missing out on pizza! I let those cinnamon rolls rise for about 2 1/2 hours and they were huge and fluffy and sooooo gooey. Yummmmm!!!!

Another pretty much nutritionally defunct dinner I've made is hamburgers, french fries, and strawberry shakes. Again, they absolutely loved it. And if we had gone out to a fast food place for dinner, isn't there a good chance they would have ordered a very similar meal? At least I know what exactly they were eating by making everything at home!!

So what do you make when you throw nutrition out the window and make a fun family meal? I'm definitely not suggesting that you practice this often, but just every now and again when you just want something different. I'd love to hear some new suggestions, although I'm SURE it will be a long while before I do this again. Yeah...at least a week! ;-)

Monday, September 6, 2010

The "Official" End of Summer

Labor Day. The widely-accepted symbol of the end of summer. The day you're supposed to pack away your white shoes and other "summery" attire. Yeah, I don't do that either! I figure if someone is rude enough to tell me I shouldn't be wearing something at a specific time of year, then they are even more in need of a life than I am. I will pity them. And say bad things about them when they aren't around. But I'll never admit that. Oops. :)

The weather has been changing a bit lately, and it's a welcome change. This was such a miserably hot summer that these days in the low 80s are wonderful. We even have a nice breeze lately, and I told my older daughter today that we need to start taking walks again after dinner. The weather is perfect!

As we move into fall, I know I'm looking forward to making more hearty soups and stews. I can't wait until the scents of pumpkin and cinnamon flow from my kitchen. And then there are the apples. Fall is the season of apples, and it sounds like I will get a nice bounty from my brother's tree this year. The problem is that I freeze apple pie filling and applesauce whenever his tree produces, and right now there is NO room in my freezers. I need to work on that, since he says the tree is ready, and I need to go pick next weekend. I guess menu planning is in order!! I really should get back into that habit. It's after 2 right now, and I still don't know what I'm making for dinner.

What is on your list of fall foods that you can't wait to make again? I definitely am ready for a nice cool day to serve Cheeseburger Soup in sourdough bread bowls. I will soon be buying corn chips to make Frito Chili Pies. I also love to have chicken curry in the cooler months, but haven't managed to sell the kids on eating it yet. Generally, I'm not a spicy cook, but I really like curry. And fall means more baking. It's okay to heat up the kitchen when it's cooler outside, and I love to spend hours in the kitchen creating baked treats. Sadly, we can't make anything for the school parties anymore, but I will still be baking a lot! In fact, this week, I get to make cookies for a Watch D.O.G.S. function. I'm thinking snickerdoodles and oatmeal crispies...yum!

Leave a comment with some of your favorite fall fare. And if you've posted the recipe on your blog, leave a link. I'm always interested in new tried-and-true recipes. Isn't everyone??

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Variety is the Music of the Soul

Okay, maybe not, but it sounds so poetic, doesn't it?? :-)

I was thinking earlier about my vast variety of musical likes, and decided that I had my posting topic for today! I'd love to hear from others if their tastes vary as widely as mine!

To give you an indication of just how wide the spectrum is with me, later this month I am attending a Smashing Pumpkins concert. Woohoo! Next month, I will be seeing Suzy Bogguss live and I couldn't be happier! How's that for some variety??

I would have to say that Suzy is my favorite singer. She is the one I have seen perform many more times than anyone else, and she knows me on sight. We are on a first-name basis, which I cherish. If you don't know who she is, you owe it to yourself to look her up. Her voice is angelic and perfect, and she never ceases to amaze me. I'm thrilled that she is going to be close enough that my friend, Mark, and I are going to be able to go and see her in October.

I definitely have to say that I cannot easily find similarities between Suzy and the Pumpkins. And I can't really say what I like about the Pumpkins, but for whatever reason, I enjoy them. The only other band of that general genre that I like is Bowling for Soup, another out-there oddity for me.

Other groups/singers that you will find in mass quantity on my iPod include Richard Marx and Rick Springfield. I've loved them since my teenage years, and have had the pleasure of seeing both in concert. Rick is actually coming to town this December, but I still haven't found anyone else willing to attend with me. Drat! I've met Rick a couple of times, too, at Meet & Greets; however, he wouldn't know me from anyone!

I'm also partial to 80s hair bands, but I doubt there are many who were teenagers in the 80s who don't like the beloved hair bands! Give me a little Twisted Sister or Motley Crue anytime. :-) But then I enjoy country music, too. I love Brad Paisley, Terry Clark, JoDee Messina, and Reba McEntire and am very fond of Little Big Town and Lady Antebellum. "Need You Now" was my favorite song for quite some time. Sadly, a bad experience ended up tied to the song, and now it's fallen in favor because hearing it upsets me. I hate when things like that happen!!! Why do bad memories happen to good songs??? I'm sure I will eventually get past it and disassociate the memory with the song, but right now, I don't even like hearing the song. That sucks!

So what does your playlist contain? Is it as vast and crazy as mine, or do you stick to a more specific style most of the time? I should probably also admit this....I like Barry Manilow, too! But shhhh!! Don't tell anyone!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

I'm Much Better at Caraoke

No, that isn't a mis-spelling. I consider singing in the car while driving to be "Caraoke." And I love it!! Generally, I caraoke mostly when I'm by myself, but I don't mind terribly if the kids are along for the ride - as long as they don't complain TOO loudly! ;-)

If I've had enough to drink, however, I will caraoke with anyone else in the vehicle. It's just fun, and who cares if you're off-key, especially if you're by yourself (as long as the windows aren't down and you're going completely to town, anyway!)?

But while I love caraoke, I'm still not a huge fan of karaoke, cause I suck at it! Yes, I've done it, and I've been to karaoke bars now more times than I can count; in fact, I'm going to one tonight. I just hate knowing that I am subjecting those poor people in the venue to my terrible singing. Of course, if I think about it, they have probably also had enough to drink that it all sounds fine, anyway!

I used to be able to count the number of times I had been dragged to the karaoke stage on one hand, but I think I've finally gotten past that point. Some of my public highlights.....I know I've done "Jackson" (Johnny Cash) twice, at two different venues. I recorded the second time, and I was mortified at how terrible I sounded - I just HAD to try and pull off a southern accent while singing...*sigh* I've done "Love Shack," also twice, and also at the same two venues, but in each case there were three of us singing. I was made to do "I Love Rock and Roll" with a friend recently, and I know she and I have done at least one other song, but I can't recall what it was.

I've done a bunch of songs at a couple of parties, but I couldn't begin to list them. The one that stands out is "Once Bitten, Twice Shy," mainly because that is just NOT a girl's song! I remember almost laughing out loud at having to sing some of the lines. But at the time, I was the only one in the room who really knew the song, and it's one that I really like....and I'd had a considerable amount of Coke and vodka, too.

I definitely wonder what tonight holds. I'll be there with two people I've known since I was a teen-ager, so I know two things: 1) they aren't going to care if I suck; and 2) because of this, they ARE going to make me sing! At least I know it will be a good time. I can promise one thing....I won't be going up there to sing by myself! The world will never be drunk enough to handle that nightmare!

Hope you have fun plans for this Saturday night!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Let's Just Go with Self-Improvements

September is turning into an interesting month, and it's only the 3rd! I've already blogged that I'm going to post something every day - and everyone knows that once it's out there for all the world to see on a blog, it has to happen...right?

Well, yesterday I decided on something else I want (okay, actually, NEED) to try this month: setting a tight grocery budget and sticking to it! I'm going to TRY to get by on $50 a week because we're pretty well-stocked in the pantry and freezers. These two things are both challenges for me and goals I've set. So what does that make them? Choals, or maybe goanges? Yeah, those just don't work at all! So, hence the subject line...let's just go with self-improvements...or at least an attempt at such!!

I did well yesterday at my quest to keep my groceries on track. I thought I got a LOT for what I spent. I found some awesome deals on canned goods at Hen House with the coupons that I had, and picked up some deals at both Price Chopper and Hy-Vee. I came home with 9 bags of groceries, which included 3 large packages of bone-in chicken breasts and 3 lbs of 93% lean ground beef, as well as 12 cans of veggies, 16 cans of fruit, 3 cans of Spaghettios, 4 quarts of ice cream, a big bag of grapes, bagged salad, 5 lbs. of cheese, and lots of other stuff that I won't bore you by listing, and I spent $50.51. I should have taken a photo, as it was a LOT of food!

So here's hoping I can stick to budget - and stay on the "self-improvement" track. Of course, is it really self-improvement to cut the grocery bill and blog? I guess not, but at least it sounds good!! :-) I may have to see what other goals I can set for the month....or maybe save them for October. It's so hard to believe that we're this close to the end of the year, when things REALLY get crazy! December is in three months! Yikes!!

I hope everyone reading this (if anyone even is these days!) is enjoying the hint of fall in the air and having a goal-centered and self-improving September. If you aren't, then blog about it...and then it HAS to happen...right?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Beverly Hills....

Did you notice the date today? It's 9-02-10, or, as I like to think of it, "90210." Admit it - you remember that show! You probably even watched it, whether you admitted to it or not. It was just one of those shows that everyone could relate to on some level, even if your reason for watching was just to see how ridiculous the story lines could get from week to week!!

I don't remember the show's specifics too well anymore (getting older and all that...), but I definitely recall disliking Brenda, thinking Dylan was someone with whom I would REALLY like getting into trouble, hoping for good things to happen for Kelly, and secretly thinking Brian Austin-Green was adorable!!! To this day, I still don't care much for Shannon Doherty or Tori Spelling, but I smile whenever I see Jennie Garth on something. Funny how silly things like that stay with you sometimes, isn't it?

If you've read my blog for any length of time, you are probably thinking that this is a very bizarre topic for me to be addressing. You're right! But the thing is, I've decided that I want to try and post something, anything, every day in the month of September. And today, while I'm sitting here at the computer, 90210 happened to be on my mind. So I certainly can't promise you that my posts will be interesting, entertaining, or even long, but I am going to make every effort to at least post SOMETHING! And maybe, just maybe, I will get back into my blogging spirit and start spouting such fascinating information that you will be on the edge of your seat, waiting to find out what I have to say.

Hey, a girl can dream.....

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I've Created an Over-Achiever!

For awhile now, I've considered my 5th grader to be 10-going-on-16. She's very picky about her hair and clothing and how she carries herself. It's very cute, but can be trying when I can't get her bangs to lay just-so.

The other day, she announced that she was considering joining the 5th grade choir. I was puzzled, as the child cannot sing any better than I can, and believe me when I say that I can't sing!!! So I asked her why in the world she wanted to join Choir. I got "the look," which basically says that I am completely clueless. Seriously, shouldn't I have a few more years until I start getting that look???

Do you know what my sweet daughter told me was her rationale? "Mom," she said, sounding all grown up. "I have to start thinking about my extra-curricular activities for when I fill out my applications to Yale and Harvard." Wow...how could I have missed THAT?!? Of course....what else could it possibly be????

Oh, and I probably never mentioned that she fully intends to attend an Ivy-League school on scholarship. That's just the way it's going to be.

Is my daughter merely an over-achiever? Is there even a word for someone who puts that term to shame? This girl has big dreams....and she shows no signs of backing down. She's absolutely amazing!! :-)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Yoplait Whips! Gift Pack Winner

I still can't figure out the screen-shot thing, because I get the entire page, which is not what I want. I just want to capture that little number generator. People do it all the time, so why is it so beyond my grasp?? I will figure it out someday!!

On a more positive note, I had 23 valid comments for the giveaway, and random.org gave me #14 as the winner. So, congratulations to bri!! I will be emailing you today to get your contact information.

Thanks to everyone for participating, and enjoy the gift pack, bri!!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sam's Club Gift Card Winner!!

I can NOT figure out how people manage to post that pretty little random.org generator on their blogs to announce a winner. If anyone can tell me how to do that, it would be wonderful!!!

I just picked a winner of the $25 Sam's Club gift card. Congratulations to comment #37, as selected by random.org. That comment was left by Tammy K!! Tammy, I will be emailing you today to get your information so that MyBlogSpark can send you the gift card!

Thanks to everyone for entering, and if you haven't entered for the Yoplait Whips! gift pack, today is the last day for entries!!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Yoplait Whips - The Perfect Summer Treat - and a Giveaway!


I don't know about where you are, but it's certainly HOT-HOT-HOT here! I forget the last time I watched the news without hearing about an "excessive heat warning." Right now it's 8:30 p.m. and still 89° outside. And in the middle of the country, that's generally a very humid heat, too! Bleah!!! When it's this hot outside, you just NEED a cold, creamy, refreshing treat to cool you off and improve your mood!

The summer heat is no match for a frozen Yoplait Whips! yogurt - the same whipped yogurt that´s so unbelievably fluffy and light when enjoyed right from the refrigerator. Simply place your favorite Whips! yogurt cup in the freezer overnight and you will have a chilled yogurt indulgence without the calories of regular ice cream. So, this summer, before you head outside for fun in the sun, don´t forget to stock your freezer with Yoplait Whips! (Yoplait suggests removing the Yoplait Whips! from the freezer for just 5-10 minutes before enjoying).

Yoplait Whips! yogurt is currently available in nine delectable flavors - Chocolate Mousse, Chocolate Raspberry, Key Lime Pie, Lemon Burst, Orange Créme, Peaches `N Cream, Raspberry Mousse, Strawberry Mist, and Vanilla Créme. Don't those all sound just heavenly? What a delicious way to chill out in the heat of summer!

Are you ready for the GIVEAWAY?? Read on......

How cute is that prize package?? It's an adorable Yoplait cooler/lunch box, a FREE container of Yoplait Whips and the CUTEST little set of ice cream cone-shaped popsicle molds! Who wouldn't have fun with that??? Would you like to win one for yourself?? I'd like to give you that chance!

Yoplait, through MyBlogSpark, is offering one of my readers this very prize pack (your free Whips! would come in the form of a free product coupon, however!). To enter this giveaway, simply leave me a comment telling me which of those nine delightful flavors you think you would find the most fun as a frozen treat. For a couple of bonus entries, you can do either or both of the following, leaving a comment for each:

* Follow this blog, or if you already follow, just let me know that.
* Subscribe via email or a reader; again, if you already subscribe, just post that you do!

This giveaway will run until midnight on Wednesday, August 18th. At that time, I will use random.org to select a winner. The prize package will be shipped directly from MyBlogSpark. Best of luck to you - this truly is a fun prize!!

While you are waiting to see if you are the lucky winner, don´t forget to visit Yoplait on Facebook or Yoplait on Twitter and "Like" or "Follow" the brand to keep up with their latest and greatest products.

I've also got a Sam's Club gift card giveaway going on - be sure to enter that one, too!!!


Disclaimer: Yoplait, through MyBlogSpark, provided me with an identical prize package, information, and giveaway.

Back to School with Sam's Club - A Giveaway!!



Back to school....already? Is that really possible?? I'm just not ready! For me, along with the kids heading back to the grind, things also get crazy in my life. See, I'm one of those moms who loves to volunteer at the school. One of the positions I hold at the girls' school is the Box Tops Coordinator, and at the start of the year, I have a huge contest where the class that collects the most gets a pizza party. The kids LOVE it and it raises a lot of money for the school!

Box Tops are such an important thing to save. It may not seem like ten cents is much, but when every child saves them, it's amazing how quickly they add up to huge amounts of money. I raised over $1,800 last year as the coordinator. That is truly amazing, and so many wonderful things were able to be done with that money. Schools are struggling to make ends meet, so every Box Top counts today more than ever.

I bet you have some Box Tops for Education in your pantry or cabinets right now. There are so many products that offer this wonderful benefit. Examples include:

General Mills Cereals (Cheerios, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Cookie Crisp, Total, etc.)
Betty Crocker baking mixes
Hamburger Helper
Kleenex
Ziploc Bags
Land O Lakes Butter and Cheeses
Huggies Diapers
Hefty Waste Bags
Avery Binders
....and SO MANY MORE things you use every day! For the full listing of products with Box Tops on them, please visit http://www.boxtops4education.com . While you are there, sign up for the very occasional Box Tops email. Your school gets 5 bonus Box Tops simply for your registration - does it get easier??

Did you know that Sam's Club can help you to help your child's school? They have some amazing things going on right now in connection with the Box Tops for Education program. You can head over to your local Sam´s Club from Aug. 11 through Aug. 31 and earn more cash for your school. At the Sam´s Club Back-to-School event, you can get a head start on your collection and find 6 Box Tops on participating General Mills products. With your favorite Box Tops for Education brands at a great value, Sam´s Club is your one-stop destination for all your back-to-school supplies you need to send your kids off to school with confidence!

In addition, and this is even more incredible, Sam´s Club is giving you the opportunity to earn even MORE Box Tops when you upgrade to a "Plus Membership." From Aug. 6 - Aug. 13, or while supplies last, visit the Member Services Desk of your local Sam´s Club and upon payment for your Plus Membership, you will receive a certificate for 150 Bonus Box Tops! For more information on how you can take advantage of the Back-to-School event at Sam´s Club, visit www.samsclub.com today! That certificate is worth FIFTEEN DOLLARS to the school of your choice. Those can help so much!!

And, now here is the REALLY exciting part!! I want to help you help your school and your budget! Sam's Club and General Mills, through MyBlogSpark, are offering you the chance to WIN a $25 gift card to Sam's Club to help you get all those back-to-school essentials!! You can use it for anything Sam's carries, including all the wonderful products that help support schools through Box Tops.

To enter the giveaway, please leave me a comment telling me which General Mills products you are most likely to purchase with gift card. $25 can go quite a long way at Sam's Club! For a couple of bonus entries, you can do either of the following; just be sure and leave a comment for each:

* Follow this blog, or if you already follow, just let me know that.
* Subscribe via email or a reader; again, if you already subscribe, just post that you do!

This giveaway will run until midnight on Tuesday, August 17th. At that time, I will use random.org to select a winner and the gift card will be sent directly from MyBlogSpark. Good luck, and thank you so much for supporting our educational system by saving those Box Tops!!


Disclaimer: Sam´s Club and General Mills, through MyBlogSpark, provided me with a $25 Sam´s Club gift card, an option for a Plus membership, information, and this giveaway.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Disappearance of....Me!

I actually got a phone call today asking me why I hadn't posted in so very long. You know, I can't even answer that. Time has truly gotten away from me this summer. I can't believe that it's almost over and the kids go back in less than two weeks - how sad!!!

I can't say that anything of great consequence has happened over the summer, or that the kids and I accomplished anything at all, really. We've just enjoyed relaxing and spent most of our time at home in the cool. We haven't even done the Kids Bowl Free program this year...it just never happened. I have to say, it has been an extremely nice summer and I've enjoyed just about every minute of it (just don't ask about the broken glasses/almost eye injury/hula hoop incident...really!).

There have been some other not-so-great incidents over the past couple of months, as well. One day I was getting dressed and heard a strange sound other than the rain outside. It was rain INside. Yes, there was a leak in my bedroom ceiling. Turns out we had a broken turbine in the roof. We still haven't assessed all the attic damage because of the extreme heat. I know there is some insulation to be removed and replaced. The day after this, DH was coming home from work and his car just stopped. It ended up needing a new transmission. Let me tell you, June was an EXTREMELY expensive month!! Savings has become almost non-existent after all that!!

The kids have gotten along very well this summer, which is wonderful. And I've introduced my book-loving 10-year-old to the "Trixie Belden" series of books that I adored as a child. She is devouring them just like I did. Thank God for libraries!!!

This is going to be a tough month for me. Not only do my kiddos have to go back to school, but I also have to face the big 4-0. I'm really not excited about that!!! I do have an exciting weekend planned right after my birthday, which should be a lot of fun, but 40 just seems so.....old!! I'm sure it won't be any different than 39, but I still hate the idea. And guess what I get to do on the night of my actual birthday?? It's Parent Orientation Night at the girls' school. Oh, whoopee! I'm so terribly excited about that! I wonder if I'd miss anything if I "accidentally" forgot about it....hmmmmmm.

Other than that, nothing very exciting is happening around here! Hopefully once we get back into a routine around here, I will find myself with more topics for my blog. I definitely need to try and write more! :-)

Enjoy the rest of the summer!!!!!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Splend-id Results

I managed to go five full days without any artificial sweeteners at all. And let me tell you, I was careful! I even gave up my favorite Eclipse gum!! I started to have a piece, but then checked the label and immediately threw the piece away. Aspartame is a very common ingredient! I'm thinking that five days is a good amount of time to be able to post a review of my findings.

I do have to say that I did not learn that I was having major issues from ingesting the Splenda and Aspartame. However, I did find that there WERE interesting side effects. During my time of non-sweeteners, there were two things that I definitely noticed which made a lasting impression.

First, I have not been experiencing my usual mid-afternoon crash time. Generally, around 3:00, I am just so sleepy that I have to lie down for just a short time to recharge. I just figured that was my norm and never even considered it could be related to anything in my diet. Now I believe that it is related to the sweeteners, since I frequently have coffee with Splenda in the morning and a diet soda with lunch. Interesting, eh??

And the second, and most noteworthy effect of eliminating the sweeteners, is that I have not been as hungry! I haven't had the urge to snack in the early afternoon (which was a constant with me) or in the later evenings. That's kind of nice!! I get the "munchies" often, and that has not happened on my sweetener fast. Isn't THAT something?? I've actually lost almost a pound over the 5 days without changing my diet in any way AND with eating real sugar...gotta love that!

I guess my conclusion from my experiment is that I DO experience "side effects" from the artificial sweeteners, but nothing that seems detrimental to my health in general. I have decided that I am going to limit the sweeteners, but not go out of my way to avoid them. For instance, I love my 8th Continent Soy Milk. It has less than 2% sucralose in it. I am going to allow myself up to a cup of that every couple of days, which shouldn't have an impact. On the flip side, I am going to stop drinking sweeteners in my coffee. I have learned that 1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar is perfect for me, and since it's only 24 calories, why not?? It's definitely going to save me calories in the long run from what I've learned here!

I will miss things like my Fiber One yogurt, but I am going to stop eating products that are heavily-laden with artificial sweeteners. I am sure I will find other things to fill the void that are better for me overall. The jury is still out on my Eclipse Gum. I will probably give it up, but I sure do love the stuff....

I would love to hear anyone's thoughts on the sweetener issue. Have you tried going without it and found similar results? I am glad that I tried this. It was definitely educational and I'm making permanent changes as a result. Change is good. :-)

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Splenda Experiment

Wow...has it really been that long since I've posted anything? I hadn't realized it had been quite so long, though I definitely knew I have been neglecting my blogs!

I have embarked on an interesting experiment, and I thought it might actually be something worth detailing on my blog. A couple of nights ago, I was hanging out with a dear friend of mine while he was repairing my badly-virus-infected computer. He didn't have any bottled water, but did have some bottles of G2. As he opened one, he remarked that he was not happy because he had forgotten to check the label, and there was Splenda in the drink.

I asked why that mattered, and a discussion ensued about the problems that have been linked to Splenda and other artificial sweeteners. Of course, I knew about the "has been known to cause cancer in laboratory rats" that is found on many sweeteners, but I had never really given it that much thought. Mark, however, is one to research issues, and he always does a very thorough job of learning both good and bad points.

After he explained the known side effects, and told me his own personal experiences, I became curious. I have Splenda in my coffee every morning, drink only diet soda, and enjoy many products that contain Aspertame. I have never noticed any ill effects of this eating style, but got to wondering if I really WAS having any effects. Mark told me that it doesn't effect everyone, but that some people just didn't realize they were having side effects, and that if you stopped ingesting the products, there was usually a difference within a matter of a few days.

So yesterday morning, I was making my coffee and I paused. I really do wonder if I am having any "side effects" from my regular consumption of sugar substitutes. I decided to take a few days and completely eliminate it from my diet. It's just an experiment for my own knowledge and curiousity, but I'm really intrigued to see what happens.

All day yesterday, I checked labels and carefully made choices. It wasn't too difficult, but I was sad to learn that Fiber One Yogurt is sweetened with Aspartame. That's off limits for at least a few days, but I will survive. At least my beloved VitaTops are naturally sweetened, as are most of the snack bars in my cabinets. It isn't taking much time at all to read food labels, as I do it frequently anyway.

I'm not ready to draw any definite conclusions yet, but just yesterday I did notice a few things. I didn't have my usual mid-afternoon crash where I have to lie down for 10-20 minutes in order to function. This is rare for me. Also, I didn't snack as much as I normally do. That one really interested me, as I am generally very "munchy" in afternoon. After lunch, I wasn't even hungry at all until around 3, when I had a light snack. Then I was fine again until dinner. Weird, but in a good way!

So now I'm on day 2, and so far, so good. I will post again with results of my little experiment. It's actually fun, and I'm glad I'm giving it a try.

Friday, April 30, 2010

The Perils of Email

That might sound a little strange; after all, everyone loves email, and it's a fantastic communication tool, right? The problem with email, though, is its extreme (and sometimes borderline fatal) impersonal nature.

In the past few days, I've had some major issues with email. It's gotten to the point that I've all but decided to give up on emailing someone I know. A few days ago, it was early in the morning and I sent a quick note to a friend to give her a hard time about something. I meant for it to be joking, but I wasn't effective at conveying the teasing at 6:15 a.m. As a result, she thought I was really upset about something and this made her very upset. It took a phone call and a lengthy discussion to straighten it all out.

I got through that almost unscathed, but then another issue with email came up. I was bothered by something, so I sent an email to my friend just to vent about the situation. Somehow a minor point that I made in that email became the focus of the email in her eyes and instead of her reading the email as something that was concerned me, she took it as me being concerned about something SHE was doing and became very defensive and upset with me. What a mess!!! I had a difficult time straightening that out, and it was emotionally exhausting!

When you're reading words on a computer screen, you really can't begin to know what the person who typed them was feeling at the time. You don't know the "tone" that you would hear in a voice, and you can't see any body language that might be helpful in understanding. As a result, feelings get hurt and messages get conveyed that were never meant at all! It used to be that a few "lol"s would clear up that things were supposed to be funny, but that beloved "lol" is so overused in email and chat nowadays that it means virtually nothing at all anymore. Honestly, the last time you typed "lol," were you TRULY laughing out loud?? I didn't think so!

So what is a person to do in order to avoid these pitfalls that come naturally with the onslaught of emails that we send and receive on a daily basis? I don't really have the answer...I'm really still a bit saddened over the problems I've had lately. I think the first idea is to pick up the phone when it's something serious. Some topics really shouldn't be fodder for email discussion. Never forget that email is not only impersonal, but far from private. One keystroke can send your words, which might have been meant for one person's eyes only, to a whole host of others. Can you afford to take that chance?

I bet you can think of a time that you were hurt or offended by something in an email. If you didn't clarify the sender's intent, maybe you inadvertently misinterpreted what he or she was trying to say. The best thing to do is ask, so you can know for sure that you are understanding things correctly. Yes, emails can be carefully worded and read by the sender to ensure they said what they meant to say, but somewhere between the sender's mind and the reader's eyes, things can get completely out of whack.

I know this post really has nothing to do with anything about which I've blogged in the past, but the topic has been on my mind since these problems occurred, and I thought sharing the frustration might be at least a little therapeutic for me. If nothing else, maybe you'll think twice before sending an email next time you're upset or need to talk something out. There is no underestimating the power of a more personal touch.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Just Another Pleasant Valley Sunday....

Here in status symbol land... In case you don't know, those are lyrics from an old Monkees song. Yes, I used to love the Monkees! In fact, when I was in the hospital after having my now-nine-year-old daughter, the very first morning of her life, I laid in my hospital bed holding her and sang "Daydream Believer" to her. I used to watch the show as often as I could and had the classic crush on Davy Jones. Such a sad peek into my past. :-)

I actually had a dream the other night about blogging. I guess that was a sign that I should put up a post for a change. I've just been so insanely busy that I haven't even had time to think about blogging. Tomorrow is a big day, and once it's over, I head straight into planning another event. The house concert with Bill and Kate Isles is tomorrow and I am so not even close to being ready for it. I still have so much more cooking, baking, cleaning, and setting up to get done! It's a LOT to accomplish. I've never taken on such an event in my house, and right now it looks like we will have 30-40 guests - yikes!!!

Once I survive this event (assuming that I will...lol), then it's head-first into planning a Kickball Tournament at the girls' school. This is the first of its kind and DH and I are in charge of the whole thing, which is frightening in itself. The good thing is that the kids and staff seem to be really excited about it; this is wonderful! We opened up the competition to 8 teams, and already have 4 signed up and have paid their registration fee - yay! It should be a fun event for the kids. We're getting a trophy to display at school with the winning team on it, and I think I'm making chocolate trophies for all the kids on the team. How exciting to get to eat your trophy! :-) They will also get ribbons to commemorate the win.

I guess I should really get back to my "catering" for tomorrow. I'm making all sorts of snacks and desserts for the concert guests, and there are many things left to do. I'll have time to take a breath about 10:00 tomorrow night. Wish me luck until then!!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Beginnings


How often do you find a post about gardening that is linked to Rick Springfield? Never? Yeah, I thought so. :-) But I just can't resist mentioning the great Rickster, as his very first album was titled, "Beginnings." I used to own said album, but somewhere over the years and the many moves, it's been lost or destroyed. So sad! It even had an error on the LP for the title of one of the songs. Instead of "Mother Can You Carry Me?" my album said, "Mother Can You Marry Me?" That always cracked me up! But, I digress....this is, after all, a gardening post, right?

The photo above is of my garden. It's significantly smaller than what I attempted to "farm" last year, but I think it will be more than adequate! It's still about 500 square feet. When I got up this morning, it was a grass-infested mess and I was feeling a bit overwhelmed about getting it ready to grow (hehe).

This morning, however, I got out my handy-dandy cultivator. We bought it last year, but it had never been out of the box. After studying the instructions, I thought I could handle it, so off to the garden we went. It took me a little while to get the hang of it, but then it became great fun to turn those irritating grass patches into mulched soil! I spent almost 2 hours out there between tilling and moving mulch around. DH had made mulch out of all of our fall leaves and piled it in there - it made quite a heavy layer of nice mulch that I turned into the ground.

As a result of my labors (and my sore back and arms that I know I will feel even more tomorrow!), the above photo is what I have now. It actually looks pretty good! And I think I have just enough mulch. The newspapers we laid down last year to prevent grass and weeds are a bit annoying, as I thought they would have decomposed more by now, but I'll deal with them. I almost feel like I have the beginnings of a modified lasagna garden. Whatever you want to call it, it's going to work for me!

I'm hoping tomorrow to do some planting. My inside seedlings have taken off like wild and are already outgrowing their tiny pots after not quite 2 weeks. Crazy! I also need to buy tomato plants, as I've never had luck bringing those up from seed. What is nice is that I learned today that a mall gift card we received for Christmas (to a mall we never visit!) is actually good at anyplace that takes American Express. Woohoo!! I'm going to use it tomorrow for garden stuff! That will at least help a little.

I will keep everyone posted as to the progress of my garden this year. I'm hoping for a more successful season than last year, and I'm also going to be using a lot of the seeds I received from Hometown Seeds. So far, so good...I will keep you up-to-date. Happy gardening, all!!!!