Sunday, June 29, 2008

Love Birds??

are there some love birds nesting here - or should I say Love's Birds...

We pulled up to a Love's gas station and almost immediately my son said "Look!" "A bird's nest in the 'e'!" We looked up and sure enough - in the large sign on the gas station, a bird had built a nest in the letter. Didn't see the bird so I don't know if it was an "active" nest or not.

Afterwards I told the kids we would have a contest to see who could find the "coolest" thing on our trip, and it would be even better if we could get a picture of said cool object. I think ds liked the idea, since he already spotted something very noteworthy (he's usually opposed to contests as he figures he doesn't have a chance of winning).

Friday, June 27, 2008

Over the River ....

and through the woods to grandmother's house we go...

It'll be a long 18++ hours before we arrive at grandmother's house. They live around Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

The kids have taken many long distance car trips over the meager spans of their lives, so they know full well what it's going to be like - and yet they both have said they love taking long car rides.

I'm hoping I'll still be able to do a little posting while I'm in parent's have a fast internet connection :)

I am looking forward to the cooler temperatures...when I first checked the extended forecast it looked like the highest high was gonna be about 81 degrees...but when I checked today there was an 86 poking it's head up - so we'll see.

If you've heard about the wild mosquito infestations in Canada, and wonder if it's true - it is! I am not looking forward to the bombardment of mosquitoes every time we set foot outdoors. I sure don't remember them being that bad when I was growing up - guess I was just so used to it I didn't even think about them.

Lord willing, we'll be back in the hot mid-west in 8 or 9 days.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ice Cold Soda!

Have you ever noticed that the very first sip of an ice-cold soda is the absolute best?

For years I have been popping my fridge cold pop into the freezer for 5-15 minutes before I drink it, to make sure it is just slightly icy. Unfortunately there are times when I forget the soda is in the freezer and the whole thing freezes and that's no fun at all.

I guess that's why I like slushes/slushies/slurpees so much...soda that is practically frozen. One thing I'm looking forward to in our trip up north this weekend - a better variety of slurpees! When I lived there - we could get slurpees that were Dr. Pepper, Cream Soda, Root Beer, Grape, Orange - along with the usual stuff like Coke. I know Sonic sells various flavors - but those are not TRUE slurpees, so I don't even count those.

How Many More Days?

"How many more days?" is the question of the week from my son. Pretty much everyday for at least the past week, he's been wanting to know how many more days until we leave for Canada. I should have done my usual little calendar thing where he could cross off the days so I would not be asked every day.

When he found out yesterday that there were only "two more sleeps", he declared that he knew he would not be able to sleep the night before leaving.

Unfortunately, both kids and their dad, have bad coughs, so I've been feeling kind of like I'm living on a TB ward.

When the kids were babies we would usually make the 18 + hr trip driving through the night. This would guarantee (to a certain degree) that the baby would sleep for a large chunk of time and that the parents would arrive at their destination, exhausted.

Now we do the trip in two days going and one day coming home.

Throughout the long journey the kids are kept entertained with books, books on CD, bugging each other (sometimes the favorite activity it seems) and various new little "toys" that I've brought along. Having a vast array of snacks also seems to help. At least it helps me.

We stop as little as possible. When I wrote this on a comment on someone's blog one time - there was a fiery retort from someone who got all worked up about the idea of sitting too long and getting blood clots in the legs. Obviously they don't know that when my kids are sitting for long periods they are not sitting like a statue. They are constantly wiggling, kicking, moving etc. which is the reason that children do not appear to be at risk for blood clots when traveling (so the studies say). Adults can perform various "exercises" while sitting to prevent blood clots..."Every hour or so do a few minutes of simple exercises that activate the calf muscles and help push blood through the veins. One involves extending your legs straight out. With heels resting on the floor, flex the ankles by pointing your toes as far up toward your knees as possible. Then point toes toward the floor."

I'm not sure how great he risk for this really is - like many things that we are made to fear by excessive coverage in the media etc., you may actually be more likely to have an elephant drop from the sky and land on your head, than to get a "deep vein thrombosis" while driving on a car trip.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Picking Blueberries and Faux Blueberry Crisp

Faux Blueberry Crisp

Everyone seems to be talking about picking blueberries these days, so last night I decided to go out and pick some.

So I got in the car, drove to Aldi and "picked" 4 pints at $1.50 per pint. Sure I wish they were freshly picked by me (or freshly picked for me I should say)...but I'll take my blueberry fix however I can.

In our family, it's just my daughter and I that like blueberries. Very strange. I mean how could you NOT like blueberries. They are powder blue, sweet and plump.

When I got home I put away the groceries - and then took a few items back out of the fridge. I could not wait another minute to sample the blueberries.

In the fridge was about 1/2 a cup of milk soaked oatmeal (that I usually have with raspberries in the morning). To that I added some vanilla ice-cream and a healthy sprinkling of blueberries.

I called this little concoction "Faux Blueberry Crisp". It wasn't crisp, and it wasn't super sweet like a real blueberry dessert - but it was DELICIOUS! Much more healthy than the typical blueberry crisp and it only took a few minutes to combine.

But I must admit - if I had right now, a dish of real blueberry crisp and a dish of my faux blueberry crisp, I'd be grabbing for the real stuff.

Below is a picture of my girl and the cup of blueberries she picked last summer, out at the lake where I spent my summers as a child. She was so excited to be picking blueberries that she could eat!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Semantics and a Six Year Old

Yesterday dd was telling her brother about a compliment a friend of hers, paid to him.

Friend said: "Your little brother is cute! And he's even more cute when he's talking!" (maybe the cute when talking has to do with this):

The boy replied fiercely: "I AM NOT CUTE!! CUTE IS FOR BABIES!! I AM HANDSOME!!"

He was quite worked up over the "insult" paid to him.

Rice Majarete Pudding

Not too long ago we tried the Goya Corn Pudding and yesterday was the day for the Goya Rice Pudding. The rice pudding was better than the corn pudding - but still not very good.

The pudding took quite a long time to come to thicken on the stove. Thankfully I had my ever-lively stirring helper to do a lot of that work for me.

The pudding was pure white - which was pretty in its own way.

The flavor was a bit rice-ful, but mostly sugar-ful. Not much flavor at all.

No one liked it much - and no one even finished their pudding, let alone asked for more (a very good indication of the low scoring taste).

We did add some raspberries -which the girl thought added some pretty color to the stark whiteness - but even with the berries, she didn't eat it all.

So perhaps if I was on a soft food only diet with a semi-broken jaw, I would make this again. But there are so many tasty other cooked and instant puddings - that I don't foresee that happening.

And this doesn't even come close to being as good as real homemade rice pudding - using actual rice grains, instead of rice flour.

Ingredients: sugar, rice flour, salt, malto dextrin, cinnamon.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Going Home and Passing Down Memories

I’ve been thinking about my old hometown lately, as I plan for our upcoming visit.

I grew up in a town of about 10,000. It was so small that we did not even have a McDonalds restaurant (a big thing to kids). Eventually we got a Dairy Queen – that was a big deal.

Pretty much any place in town – you could walk to.

All 4 schools I attended growing up – were within very close walking distance…the high school was literally at the end of my street.

I miss the familiarity of my home town. It was nothing special when I lived there though. It had few attractions, save for the large mental hospital.

After being gone for about 18 yrs (except for visiting) - the town has taken on special meaning. Not only because of the family that is still there (or perhaps in spite of that... just kidding mom & dad!), but because that is where all the memories are.

When I go back, I enjoy just walking around town, remembering all the old places, and the memories of it all... the park with a playground that has not been updated in probably 20 years and includes the “dangerous” spinning merry-go-round, rickety metal slides and the infamous metal rocking horse that can hold 5 children (or adults!). The unusual architecture of the old Ukrainian Orthodox Catholic church that we'd walk past daily on our way to the junior high school. The houses my childhood friends lived in. So many ordinary places that have become extra-ordinary.

One of the blessings of having children is that we are able to pass down our memories to them. I want my children to see the schools I went to. I want my kids to remember the park where I played. I want them to see the house I lived in until I was 8 (and then when we moved down the street, my grandma lived there for the next 30 or so years). I want them to see the huge pine tree that was in her backyard - because I remember when it was planted and have pictures of us girls standing around it...and now it is so big our entire extended family could probably all ring around it. I want the kids to have Barney Gargles' fish n' chips, I want them to see the store I worked in. I want to point out the building that once housed the bakery we'd go to every Saturday to spend our allowance. Maybe by my kids seeing it all - I can experience it again.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Ice-Cream for Breakfast?

The other day I was reading "The Homespun Heart"...she was talking about some summer traditions and said "I even considered letting my girls eat ice cream for breakfast..."

When I realized that today was the first day of summer and that we in fact had some left-over homemade vanilla ice-cream in the freezer, I decided that's what the kids would have for breakfast.

They were a bit surprised.

I brought out my collection of sprinkles and let them put whatever they wanted on their ice-cream. They seem to think more is better.

Growing up, our biggest summer tradition was going to stay with my grandparents out at the lake - all summer!

Dad would usually drive us out there - stay awhile, and then head back home to work and finally get some peace and quiet.

Driving to the lake with 5 girls 8 and under - 4 1/2 hrs
Likelihood of at least one girl getting car sick - 99%
Likelihood of kids fighting over car space and who gets to look out who's window - 100%

Being separated from our friends all summer, and not having a television all summer (not sure which was worse!) - we never appreciated our summers like we should have. Hmmm kids not appreciating something that's good for them...

Now those summer years are some of my favorite memories. I wrote about some of those memories, and included some of the photos of the lake - here.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Worm Bread?

I don't mind warm bread - but I'd prefer not to have WORM bread.

The other day I was getting ready to make some yummy pita bread. Had added some of the ingredients when I happened to notice a little, white, wiggly, wormy critter crawling on my counter. I wasn't sure which bag of flour the critter had come from. But taking a chance - I decided to use the flour that I needed.

I didn't tell the kids.

The pita bread turned out as wonderful as usual, and only I knew of the possible secret ingredient.

So today I've been cleaning out the cupboard. Throwing away some items that are already opened and possibly hosting some company. I have seen 2 or 3 little worms. I've placed numerous packages of rice/beans/flour/pasta in the freezer - and hoping any extra "ingredients" get taken care of that way.

I thought I had been careful. Many years ago during the first yr or so of marriage I had the same problem - so that has made me more diligent in avoiding such things. When I buy bulk baking products they usually head to the freezer for a few days to ensure any critters or eggs or whatever - are killed. But I guess I've gotten a bit sloppy in my old age...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Tale of Custard the Dragon!

Here is one of our favorite poems/stories. A year or so my dd memorized it.


By Ogden Nash

Belinda lived in a little white house,
With a little black kitten and a little gray mouse,
And a little yellow dog and a little red wagon,
And a realio, trulio, little pet dragon.

Now the name of the little black kitten was Ink,
And the little gray mouse, she called her Blink,
And the little yellow dog was sharp as Mustard,
But the dragon was a coward, and she called him Custard.

Custard the dragon had big sharp teeth,
And spikes on top of him and scales underneath,
Mouth like a fireplace, chimney for a nose,
And realio, trulio, daggers on his toes.

Belinda was as brave as a barrel full of bears,
And Ink and Blink chased lions down the stairs,
Mustard was as brave as a tiger in a rage,
But Custard cried for a nice safe cage.

Belinda tickled him, she tickled him unmerciful,
Ink, Blink and Mustard, they rudely called him Percival,
They all sat laughing in the little red wagon
At the realio, trulio, cowardly dragon.

Belinda giggled till she shook the house,
And Blink said Weeek!, which is giggling for a mouse,
Ink and Mustard rudely asked his age,
When Custard cried for a nice safe cage.

Suddenly, suddenly they heard a nasty sound,
And Mustard growled, and they all looked around.
Meowch! cried Ink, and Ooh! cried Belinda,
For there was a pirate, climbing in the winda.

Pistol in his left hand, pistol in his right,
And he held in his teeth a cutlass bright,
His beard was black, one leg was wood;
It was clear that the pirate meant no good.

Belinda paled, and she cried, Help! Help!
But Mustard fled with a terrified yelp,
Ink trickled down to the bottom of the household,
And little mouse Blink strategically mouseholed.

But up jumped Custard, snorting like an engine,
Clashed his tail like irons in a dungeon,
With a clatter and a clank and a jangling squirm
He went at the pirate like a robin at a worm.

The pirate gaped at Belinda's dragon,
And gulped some grog from his pocket flagon,
He fired two bullets but they didn't hit,
And Custard gobbled him, every bit.

Belinda embraced him, Mustard licked him,
No one mourned for his pirate victim
Ink and Blink in glee did gyrate
Around the dragon that ate the pyrate.

Belinda still lives in her little white house,
With her little black kitten and her little gray mouse,
And her little yellow dog and her little red wagon,
And her realio, trulio, little pet dragon.

Belinda is as brave as a barrel full of bears,
And Ink and Blink chase lions down the stairs,
Mustard is as brave as a tiger in a rage,
But Custard keeps crying for a nice safe cage.

LunchMakers Pizza Fun Kit

Being that we homeschool, my daughter obviously does not need to take a lunch to school. But for quite some time she has been asking me if she could pleeease buy one of these cute little lunch kits.

I figured they were unhealthy and too expensive for the wee amount of food in the kit, but I finally gave in when we found them on sale for about $1 a kit.

I wish I had taken a picture of the microscopic amount of food included, but to have this little lunch kit make more sense, we took it to the park and had it for a picnic lunch...and I was too lazy to run back into the house for my camera once I realized I didn't have it.

I have no idea how this small amount of food could possibly work up to the 360 calories listed on the nutrition facts. 120 of those calories were from the Hawaiian Punch.

Inside were two small pizza crusts - about the size of a silver dollar. OK - they were a bit bigger - approx. 3 1/4 inches in diameter at the largest (as well as I can remember).

Also included were: some pizza sauce (way too much for the small crusts), shredded cheese (maybe a tablespoon full), a mini candy bar (about the length of a thumb) and some Hawaiian Punch. The biggest serving was the Hawaiian Punch.

Both kids loved their little lunches. I'd say they loved the novelty of their lunches. Surely they could not have felt full after consuming their "lunch". I'd say it would be enough food to nourish a toddler, perhaps.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ginger Root - Homemade Ginger Beer

A few weeks ago we brought home some ginger root. It's been sitting on the counter for so long - that I finally decided that yesterday was the day to do something with it b/c I was tired of seeing it.

We first peeled off a bit of the peel and each had a micro-taste of the pure ginger. I was surprised at how potent it was! Just that little nibble caused a burning sensation in my throat.

I cut up the ginger root and then shredded it up in the food processor. I then dumped it all into the blender with some water and 1 cup of sugar. Well 1 cup plus a bit, since the boy volunteered to add the sugar and he added "a bit more" for the sake of his sister, he said.

It really isn't as dark, and yellowish as the picture shows.

Then I blended it for about 30 seconds to a minute and then let it sit for a few hours.

Into a glass filled with ice, I added about 1/3 cup of club soda and about 1/3 cup of the ginger solution (strained). It smelled just like the Jamaican Ginger Beer that the boy loves to buy. He LOVED the homemade ginger beer. I thought it was pretty strong in the ginger department - not something you could slug down rapidly. But it was tasty in small doses. The girl liked it but not as much as she likes the store bought variety.

I think I should have used less water and made it into more of a ginger syrup, before adding it to the club soda.

The boy drank the most and probably would have drank as much as I would have let him have. As mentioned, one of the reasons it was the best day of his life, was due to us making the ginger beer.

Monday, June 16, 2008

"One of the Best Days of My Life"

The boy just came in from a bike ride with dad. One never knows what a child's disposition is going to be when they walk through the door. I was happy to hear "You know what - today was one of the BEST days of my life!" And then he went on to tell me why - a few of the reasons were:

"I did better in swimming." (on week two of his swim lessons)
"I did better on the hills." (just lately has he begun riding his bike on the street with dad)
"I had some ginger beer." (which we made today)
"I had some pita bread." (which I made today)

It was pretty encouraging, as a mother, to hear that two of the things on his list involved something that I did and specifically something that I made to eat/drink.

Sniff Box

I've always been intrigued with Altoids candies. A good part of that intrigue is due to the cute little tins and the fact that they are "Curiously Strong".

The other day I came across a new flavor - Creme de Menthe. The Curiously Strong Peppermint and Spearmint, Ginger, Licorice and Cinnamon have all been tried. I haven't liked any of them very much. But I continue to buy them. Good for clearing out the nasal passages (and the brain), and of course for freshening breath - yet strong enough that I'm not tempted to eat a bunch like I would with regular candy. Altoids fall more into the category of "medicine".

So anywhoo - when I saw the new brand I just had to buy it. The "Creme de Menthe" name made me think they'd be kind of creamy/minty like those little butter mints that you can actually eat just like candy.

I was wrong. These taste very similar to the regular peppermint variety. I can barely eat one.

The boy loves the smell of them. He asked if I would give him the tin when it was empty so he could have it as a "sniff box". A sniff box? What you don't know what one is? Doesn't everyone have a little box of yummy smells that they carry around and pull out at intervals to sniff? Hope this doesn't mean he's a candidate for "smokeless tobacco" :)

And I have to admit - I enjoy opening the box and taking a sniff...that alone clears out the nasal passages.

One other item that I like to just randomly smell when I come across it, are cloves. I guess I could use an empty cleaned out Altoid tin and fill it with cloves - then I could have my own little sniff box.

Any items you like to sniff at random? Legal substances only ;)


Quinoa is an ancient grain that comes from South America. "It was one of three staple foods, along with corn and potatoes, of the Inca civilization. Quinoa was known then, and still is known with respect as the Mother Grain."

Previously when I've read about quinoa, I was scared off a bit by the fact that it had an unpleasant taste and needed to be washed and rinsed before cooking. The quinoa I bought was pre-washed and required no rinsing. The quinoa could be cooked just like rice, in a rice cooker...or in a pot of boiling water. I choose to cook it in a pot.

Inside the box was a little recipe booklet and some additional information on quinoa. The instructions state that "when done, the grain appears soft and translucent, and the germ ring will be visible along the outside edge of the grain." For some reason I thought it was cool seeing the little germ ring...kind of a little curl.

Plain, the quinoa did not have much taste. Similar in taste and consistency to things like couscous or bulgur. The girl really liked the flavor - the boy thought it was mediocre. I left some plain for them to sample and then followed the recipe in the booklet for the "Mexican Quinoa With Pinto Beans" (revised greatly due to the fact that I didn't have the required pinto beans...used black beans, didn't have bell peppers either).

Friday, June 13, 2008

Have You Seen One of These Babies???

I'm all for having hand dryers that actually dry your hands. But what about hand dryers that practically remove the epidermis from your hand? When you place your hands underneath this dryer, you can see large portions of your skin being pushed back in waves!

Now let me state that I do not USUALLY bring a camera into a public restroom. I happened to have it in my purse because we had been doing other things earlier in the day - and so I still had it with me.

Make sure you are wearing earplugs before you place your hands under the XLERATOR. Make sure you hold onto any little toddlers that may be standing beneath the XLERATOR because they might get blown away. It is that powerful. Actually, if you are not holding your toddler's hand BEFORE you activate the XLERATOR - you will be soon. It's just another one of those toddler tormentors that make small children afraid of public restrooms. Similar to those crazy automatic flushing toilets that are so loud and forceful that they make a poor little kid fear that they are going to be sucked right into the toilet (and b/c toddlers/young kids are so small the sensor to flush may be activated repeatedly while the child is still on the toilet...enough to cause Junior to regress back to diapers until he is 13).

It's a good thing the dryer isn't the type where you can change the position the air is blowing. Someone positions it up, instead of down, and when grandma and her wig goes to dry her hands, you can imagine the scene.

And speaking of public restrooms - in the same way that I am happy to have any means to dry my hands other than my shirt, I am always glad when there is actually a soap dispenser that is both working and full of soap. But yesterday when I used a public restroom (or washroom as we called them in Canada) - there was a bar of soap by the sink. I couldn't use it. You can just picture the germs swimming around in the damp outer layer of the soap bar. Thankfully I had disinfectant wipes AND instant hand sanitizer in my purse to use.

Goya Pink Beans

My daughter has always been crazy about the color pink. To her anything is beautiful as long as it is pink.

The other day we came across a can of "Pink Beans", so naturally we had to buy them and taste them.

The flavor was pretty much like all other beans (the only bean that I've tasted that tastes a lot different than the rest, is kidney beans).

There was a bit of a disappointment when the girl spotted the beans and saw that they didn't look very pink. I agreed. We ate them anyway.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Return of Wendy's!!

A couple of years ago all the Wendy's Restaurants in our city, closed :( It was a big disappointment to the kids and I...for no other reason than the delicious Frosty!

Last year when we were in New Mexico we spotted a Wendy's and had large Frosties for a meal.

About a month ago we were out driving and we were stuck at a red light waiting for the turn signal. Thankfully the wait was a bit long b/c as we were waiting we happened to look across the street to where the old Wendy's Restaurant was. And surprise! surprise! The Wendy's sign was turning!! And there was a sign that said "Grand Opening" and there were people there!!!

We were excited!

Yesterday after swim class the kids asked if we could get a Frosty. When it comes to such things, I'm a bit of a push-over. We went.

It was about 11 AM and it was very busy!! Seemed like an over-abundance of workers in the kitchen and behind the counter as well. We ordered our 3 Frosties and I went to fetch some spoons. The spoon area was empty. I asked for a spoon. "We are all out of spoons." I was told.

Now I don't know when I have last been at a restaurant of the Fast Food Variety when they have been out of a staple item like spoons. "She's gonna want her money back too." I heard one of the ladies say. "You can drink it with a straw," she added. They found me ONE spoon. If I had wanted to drink it with a straw it would be a milkshake and we were not there for milkshakes. I took the spoon for myself and gave the kids a fork and a straw. They didn't care, they were just happy to be back in the land of Frosties.

Do You Have Trouble Saying "No"?

If so read this - "Planned Neglect - Saying No To Good Things So We Can Say Yes to the Best". I came across this via a new blog called "No Cross, No Crown".

Somehow we feel like we need to say "yes" to all the good things people ask us to do, because, well, they are good things. But if the new "yes" causes us to neglect the old "yes-es"...then it's not really a good thing for us.

"Whenever we say yes to something, we’ve found that it’s not just the new thing itself, it’s the new contacts, the new networks, and all the new requests that come out of them. We love people, and we enjoy making new friends. And yet, it’s also true that while we’re grateful when God brings us new friends, we are not actively seeking them, because as the years go by we have to work harder just to stay in touch with our old ones. ...There are only 168 hours in the week no matter what we do (and during a third of those we should be sleeping!) If we have X number of people to make time for, they have to come out of the same small pie of available time, and pretty soon the slices of the pie get smaller and smaller. You end up having dear friends who no longer get a sliver, because it’s been divided so many times."

I'm not sure what I think of his comment about not seeking out new friends...I think there is a fine line between actively seeking out new friends and as the writer mentioned "God bringing us new friends". I'd say "God bringing us new friends", has a very wide scope. A new neighbor moves in next door, you get a new cubicle mate at work, a new family begins attending your church, you begin talking with another mother at the park, you meet some interesting folks at a family camp...those all sound like they could be "God bringing us new friends".

"Rather than a large number of causes that we have tiny little investments in, better to have a much smaller number that you’re wholeheartedly engaged in, giving your very best."

While some of us have trouble saying "no" - others have trouble saying "yes". Both can be equally a problem.

We purposely have chosen to live a simple life that is not filled to the brim with activities. It probably helps that we are introverts (well my dh and I - can't say the same thing about the kids). Yet we need to be open to the opportunities that come before us and weigh the value of them, and be willing to do them.

Saying "yes", may require a sacrifice. A sacrifice of our time, of our talents, of our money, of what we'd rather be doing...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Being Saved From Myself

My dh has been out of town since Sunday, which means since Sunday, meals have been scarce around these parts.

I have a sneaking suspicion, based on my years as a single woman, and based on the days my dh has been gone, that were it not for him - we'd probably be living off McDonalds meals, bags of potato chips and soda. The floors would be vacuumed once a month whether it was needed or not. Making beds would be optional - since why bother making a bed that is only going to get messed up approx. 12 hrs later?

I just have not been able to get into the mode of cooking proper meals this week. The kids of course haven't complained - all I need to do is keep them stocked up on ice-cream. When I was a single working woman I remember many days when my meals would consist of: Cheez Whiz on toast for breakfast, with a Coke...lunch if not eaten out at a fast food place like McDonalds, would be a bag of salt n vinegar chips and some Coke. Supper would probably be something like rice with a side of Alphaghetti. I haven't even felt very hungry come meal time - which probably is part of the reason the meals have been rather mediocre this week.

Actually it hasn't been all that bad. And I imagine, should my husband die someday and I be left a widow, the house would not fall apart and my kids would not get scurvy. But it's been good for me to have another adult living with us...not just for my sanity sake - but to be accountable to. To keep me from letting things slide a bit too much.

To make up for it all - and since I know my dh is tired of eating restaurant food - I am baking some whole-grain bread and homemade chicken/rice/lentil soup for supper. Fresh fruit for dessert :)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

We Hopped to IHOP

Well actually we drove to IHOP.

Can you believe this is the first time the kids have ever eaten at a restaurant for breakfast?? Usually when we travel we bring granola bars or muffins etc. to eat for breakfast b/c it just seems like a time waster (not to mention $ waster), to eat at a restaurant.

We are not on the road today (except when we were out walking during the early hours) - but I decided since dad is out of town (and probably enjoying luxurious breakfasts) and our schedule is off track anyway, that we'd do something totally different. So we went to IHOP.

The kids had French toast w/bacon and hot chocolate. I had some kind of skilled meal...seasoned potatoes, cheese, mushrooms, onion, and green pepper topped with 2 fried eggs...also came with 2 pancakes and 1/2 a biscuit. Plus I had de-caf coffee.

It was a lengthy, relaxing breakfast - something I'm not used to, so that was a treat. The girl really enjoyed it all. The boy less so. He thought there was too much syrup on his French Toast blah, blah, blah.

For the three of us, with a tip (which the girl was so eager to give since she said her food was soooo good) - it came to about $20. A lot more than I normally pay for breakfast. But in this case, we were paying for the "experience", the "memories". Can you make an IHOP breakfast into a memory? It was special for the kids because it was something we never do...and probably won't do again for a long time.

I thought the food was great (didn't eat it all)...the coffee wasn't hot enough. I would have added a bit more zippiness to the potatoes.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Yan Yan - Japan

Yan Yan is snack from Japan. These are little stick cookies that you dip in chocolate. This chocolate delight cost about $1.00.

The girl found this treat and bought it for herself. She was kind enough though, to give a taste to her brother and I.

The cookie part is plain tasting, but dip it in the chocolate and it's could pretty much say that about anything dipped in chocolate.

What is fun about this little snack is that each stick has a saying on it like "Gallop Away" or "Eat More Carrots."

As you might imagine, it's all pretty messy. Especially if you want to get all the good chocolate left at the bottom when the sticks are all gone.

Friday, June 6, 2008

If You Give A Boy A Doll....

Being that ds has an older sister, and a rather "strong" one at that - I wondered how he would be as he grew older. Would he want to play with her dolls and other girl toys? He has no brothers to play "boy stuff" with - so would he be stuck playing dolls and "house" with his older sister?

Well for one thing - dd didn't/doesn't play with dolls much. She goes through periods where she does, like this week for instance. But it doesn't usually last very long and then she is back to her favorite activities - crafts, reading and computers.

You know some folks worry about giving dolls to their boys or trucks to their girls. Or giving dolls to their girls and trucks to their boys. Well what happens when ds gets a hold of a doll? Is he the dad or is he the mom? Does he hold the baby doll gently and rock it? Does he feed the baby?

"They are called spike shooters!", the boy announced showing off his new toy. Two long nails from dad's workbench, poking out the sleeve of the doll's shirt. "It's a defense thing."

Now that sounds like a great self-defense come no one else has come up with it. A woman is walking alone to the parking lot...suddenly a man appears and she feels threatened. No fear - she has spike-shooters!

Well the fun and games only lasted until sister saw what he was up to. She did not want her doll involved in any form of violence...

Pioneer Woman's Crash Hot Potatoes

Last night the kids and I made some "Crash Hot Potatoes" courtesy of Pioneer Woman's cooking blog. You can find the recipe here - and you really need to try it. Super simple.

They were WONDERFUL! Ds, as you may know by now, has always detested potatoes. He helped make the potatoes last night (we called them "Smashed Potatoes" b/c in order to flatten them we placed a large heavy can in a plastic bag and smashed them!) and at supper he remarked that "hey you know these potatoes are GOOD."

Then this morning when I was on the computer he asked "Where is that blog that had the good potatoes?" Well, well, well.

Now I did make some adjustments to make them more calorie friendly (less oil plus cooking spray) plus I sprinkled on an Italian herb mixture.

So now that you know what side dish you need to have for dinner tonight...head on over to the Pioneer Woman and she'll show you step by step how to make these delicacies. Her potatoes look nicer than mine - so if you have a potato masher - use that instead of a can :)

Frugal Friday - Getting Your Money Back

I haven't posted a Frugal Friday tip for some time - but when I rec'd an email this morning, I thought I'd go ahead and post this tip.

If you are unhappy with a product - let the company know. You can write them or email them or telephone them. Sometimes you can return the product if it is unsatisfactory - but it's not always convenient. When a product has been opened and partially used - a refund may be even more difficult.

Case in point. We were out at Target when my son, clad in his "foamy shoes" (as we call them), announced he had some popped blisters that were paining him. He had on bare feet in his shoes. So I pulled out a couple of bandaids and fixed him up in a jiffy. About 5 min later the bandaids were falling.

But fear not - we were at Target and so I headed to the pharmacy area and found some bandaids that were waterproof and advertised as stronger than regular bandaids with some duct tape like qualities that make them stick better. Sounded like just what I needed. Bought the bandaids, got to the car, put on the bandaids and within a few minutes they were unstuck!!

I was not going to drive back to Target to see if they'd refund my money - too much of a hassle. But when I got home, I found the website for the bandaids and sent an email, detailing my troubles. The super stick bandaids - were not so sticky.

I got an email this morning from the company, apologizing and saying that a reimbursement (which I had not requested) was on it's way.

So - if you are unhappy with a product - write a letter. Send an email. Be pleasant and courteous and outline exactly what the problem is. I have done this a few times on various items and usually have received my money back (usually in the form of coupon - like "good for up to $5.00 on any of our other products).

For more Frugal Friday tips - head on over to Biblical Womanhood.

The reverse of this has also worked - if you find a new product that you are crazy about - let the company know and free samples or coupons could be on their way.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Monster Munch - Pickled Onion Flavour

Monster Munch Pickled Onion Flavour -Baked Corn Snack.

The picture of the cute monster and the bag filled with hands (belonging to the monster???) made this sale for me. I was a bit apprehensive that the kids would want to try something "pickled onion" but I think they were also interested in a snack called "Monster Munch".

The boy was quite eager to try - the girl less so. The boy loved it. The girl less so. "Too sour!" When has "too sour" bothered her before?? Well after continual tastings - the small snack was finished and we all agreed we really like them.

The hands are light and puffy and crunchy and taste very similar to a salt n vinegar potato chips.

This snack cost about $1 and is made by Walkers of the UK. You know these UK snacks come in much smaller sizes than similar USA treats. If you have a problem with snack portion control (as do I) - buying these tiny bags will help. Except if you buy 7 of the bags to make up for the small size and then proceed to polish them all off in one sitting.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

eBay Rant

I know this is an old topic - I'm sure it was blogged about a lot when the change first came into effect. eBay does not allow the sale of
  • Solutions manuals for teachers, teacher(s) manuals, instructor manuals are prohibited

  • A hardcopy of a teacher’s edition of a math book

Since I had not tried selling any curriculum for a long time - I had forgotten about this new rule. And actually I thought it was only the answer keys for tests that were no longer permitted.

So anywhoo - I recently listed a teachers edition of a math book and it was pulled. The frustrating thing is that I found NUMEROUS teacher's editions listed...only thing is they were not called teacher's edition.

I mean were there that many kids buying teacher's answer keys on eBay? Thing is - if the kids really want the answer keys they can just go and buy them from the supplier!!! You want a Saxon Math answer key - go to Saxon's website. Sure it will cost more - but the guy who wants it can get all his buddies to pay a portion and it'll end up practically free. Saxon doesn't check to make sure you are a teacher buying the guide.

And really - why does eBay allow a lot of other questionable materials - like say restricted movies and things of that realm? They have no proof a child isn't going to buy the stuff. I just did a search and eBay sells bottles of wine. How do they know a child isn't going to buy that wine?

Sapote Fruit

Is it just me and my Rorschach inkblot thinking, or does the seed holes and lines look like some kind of alien face? Or maybe an insect. Or the scrunched up face of a toothless old woman?

Not surprisingly - I had never heard of a Sapote Fruit until I saw it at the world food store. It looked like a large kiwi or a small, smooth potato. I did not have my produce book along with me, but the store had one and I was able to check ahead of time whether or not this was something we might like. It mentioned tasting like "maple syrup". I snatched up the sapote fruit!

The sapote reminds me so much of kiwi. The outside color, the shape and the skin. Cutting into the sapote is like cutting into a kiwi - the skin is super thin. Half-way through you hit an obstacle of a couple of large seeds. Seeds are easily removed.

My first thought of the flavor was "Super sweet!" The texture was similar to a very ripe pear.

Dd said, "Real sweet - does taste syrupy." But she didn't eat much so I know she didn't really like it.

Ds said, "Bleah...a little like pear and a little bumpy."

I finished off all 3 sapotes (not all in one sitting mind you). They did taste better after they had been in the fridge overnight. It was a bit odd to be eating a fruit that tasted like syrup.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays - Grapefruit Spoon Uses

We have a set of grapefruit spoons but the problem is we don't eat cut grapefruit very often.

But, I have found these spoons with the serrated front tip to be useful for other things such as: eating kiwis, sapote fruit and hardboiled eggs (when the egg is an egg cup).

Great for scrape-cleaning the seeds out of squash and melons too.

For more Kitchen Tip Tuesdays - head on over to Tammy's Recipes.

Chinese Black Rice

Chinese Black Rice is also known as Emperor's Rice or Forbidden Rice. Legend states that at one time this dark rice was reserved for only the Emperor. Some say the stories may only be a marketing ploy - and if that's the case, it worked for me! Purple has always seemed to be a royal color and since this rice cooks up to a deep indigo color - that would make sense. Just like the purple potatoes were supposedly saved for the Inca Kings.

Black rice is considered a "sweet rice" with a "deep nutty flavor" and is typically used in desserts. Hmmmm how about some black rice pudding??? I might try making some with the leftovers (my recipe for quick rice pudding is...leftover rice, milk, cinnamon, raisins, sugar - mix together and pop in the microwave).

The rice package said to rinse the rice before cooking and when I did - I was surprised at how dark purple the water that came off the rice was. I tried taking a picture - can't really see that it's indigo - just looks kind of black.

The rice cooked up nicely and was fairly sticky and chewy, which I really liked. I think it must have been some sort of psychological effect of eating something black and sticky - but I kept thinking I could taste a hint of black licorice!!!

I think this would have looked better mixed in with some white or brown rice so that you could see the actual grains and a nice contrast, rather than just glops of indigo. I'd also like to try cooking some white rice in the rinse water of the black rice to see if the white rice would end up light purple - which would be fun.

The kids really liked the rice - probably because the other starch at the meal was a buckwheat concoction that no one seemed to like (my daughter and I really liked the buckwheat the first time we had it...this time I mixed in some diced onion and garlic and it just didn't taste very nice).

Dd said the rice was "Wonderous". Ds said "Good - but not as good as white rice." And he agreed that there was also a hint of black licorice.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Mother Goose - Not a Nursery Rhyme

My dh recently purchased a bicycle. He's been having a lot of fun with it and went for a big ride tonight.

When he came home he announced that he had had his first "accident".

He was riding through a deserted industrial area when he spied a family of Canadian Geese...mama...papa...and about 6 of their goslings (assuming they were all part of the same family - guess mama goose could have been babysitting...or the two adult geese could have been sister geese with 3 kids a piece, going for an evening swim, finally giving in to the begging of the goslings) crossing the street ahead of him.

Not wanting to reenact a scene from Alfred Hitchcocks "The Birds", he began to slow down and moved over to the curb to avoid the family. Good idea. I can imagine a bicyclist / goose accident would not be very pretty. Feathers and fingers flying everywhere.

Even though my dh was a safe distance from the geese, sensing danger, perhaps thinking this was some kind of new-fangled horse, mama goose rears up, flies into the air and attacks my husband! He was already right up against the curb, so the goose hitting his leg caused him to lose his balance and fall off his bike!! And before he could get up, the goose was getting ready to attack again!

He quickly got up and assumed the I-am-bigger-than-you-look-at-me-flap-my-giant-wings position and scared off the goose before the repeat attack.

Canadian Geese can be pretty big and heavy and have rather menacing beaks. Thankfully they have webbed feet with no claws.

Unfortunately just as the attack took place, a car drove up behind. I say unfortunately b/c you know how when something like this happens - the first thing you hope is that NO ONE was watching. "Are you OK?" asked the woman in the car. Well at least he had a witness to the fact that he was attacked UNPROVOKED. Otherwise there could be a flock of Canadian Geese activists trying to pass a law that bicyclists must not come within 500 yards of a known Canadian Geese habitat.

Dh is now sitting at his computer with a bag of frozen peas on his swollen knee (from the fall not the attack).

Majarete - Corn Pudding

We all love Mexican food! Well let me re-phrase that...we all enjoy American-Mexican food.

I don't remember having eaten much Mexican food, until I married almost 13 yrs ago.

When the perfect food - hamburger and french fries - is already around, why would I try something else?

I found this box of majarete (corn pudding) in the Mexican food aisle at the world food store. A cooked pudding, sprinkled with cinnamon, sounded and looked very least that's what I was hoping. The pudding cost about $1.00.

The pudding was super easy to make - just add milk and cook until thickened. Dd took on this task cheerfully. I became a bit apprehensive when she said "this smells funny...I hope this is a sweet pudding."

Well being that the first ingredient was SUGAR, I'd say so. The rest of the ingredients are: cornstarch, cornmeal, salt, calcium carragheen, artificial flavor, artificial color.

The pudding took less than 10 minutes to make...I put a small portion in each bowl (thinking no one would be too crazy about it) and sprinkled them with cinnamon.

I tasted it, and didn't like it. It wasn't that it tasted nasty - just not what I was hoping it would taste like :) It tasted like cream-style canned corn put through a blender and made smooth-ish, with a generous helping of sugar added.

Ds didn't like it, "horrible - terrible - too much corn...actually it tasted like corn mashed up."

Dd said, "Yummy!!! Corny. It wasn't very sweet." She had two helpings.

If you'd like to try making your own majarete from scratch - here is a link to a recipe.