Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year's Eve!

Happy New Year's Eve! Hope 2011 gets off to a good start for you! As for me, I'm starting off 2011 with a clean house, a brand new oven, and my cold is on the wane. It doesn't get any better than that. Well, it could but I'll be happy with what I've got. Happy New Year!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Mixed Bag Holiday

This Christmas definitely had its highlights and lowlights. First, I was sick as a dog with the worst cold I've had in a while. Then, two days before Christmas, my oven decides to die. All I could think of was the thawing turkey in the fridge, the potatoes, the green beans, and the cheesecake squares that needed to be the oven...for Christmas dinner...and we were hosting the in-laws. I did not swear half as much as I wanted to. My poor husband saw what it truly meant to have his wife flip out. Fortunately, it was his day off, so in an act of desperation, I asked him to go to Sear's just on the off chance that there would be a gas oven in stock. It was 1:30pm on December 23rd. We were scheduled to go to one of our church's Christmas services at 6:30, but we had to be there an hour early. This gave him less than four hours to find a parking space at the mall, hunt for, bring home, and set up a gas oven, get ready for church, and drive to church. How did he do?

Fortune may favor the bold, but I also think that luck favors the desperate. He found a primo parking spot in front of Sear's - a near-miracle for this time of year. He walks into the Sear's appliances department, tells the sales person what he wants, and then is told, "Sorry, we don't have that in stock." Then, perhaps in a moment of pity, the sales person tells him about another home furnishing store in the area that usually has a good selection of in-stock items. My husband then drives to this store, lays out the specs to the sales person only to be told, "You're in luck. We have it in stock." Score! It's almost 3:30pm when he comes home with the new oven. Buying it is one thing, getting it inside and setting it up is another; but it got done with time to spare. Ta Da!

All in all, it wasn't so bad and I lived through it. I am trying very hard to be grateful. It's difficult because we spent money that we didn't really have. On the flip side, I have wanted this oven for almost two years. (Maybe the old oven finally couldn't handle my hostility. :-) It has the burner knobs on top, which will make it intentionally difficult for my youngest son to reach; and it has double ovens. Luckily, it was also on sale - to the tune of nearly $500 off the original price. Also, since my husband worked on Christmas Day and will work on New Year's Day, that means overtime pay. We can put that money toward paying off the oven. When all is said and done, it should be paid for by the end of January. My new oven got put to good use on Christmas Day and I love the double ovens. I really wish I had been feeling better because I would have been a better cook. The turkey was a little dry and even though I made plenty of gravy, I felt bad. I decided to remedy that this evening by making some homemade leftover turkey pot pie goodness. Oh yeah, I love leftover turkey. It's hard to be grateful when you can find so many reasons to complain. I will choose to be grateful even when I don't want to. And I am grateful for turkey pot pies cooked in my new oven.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Wishing a very Merry Christmas to you and your family. May the peace of Christ fill your hearts now and always!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tis Better to Give...But What?

Contrary to my previous post, I am not a Grinch. I admit that the secular commercialism of Christmas bothers me more this year, but I love Christmas and I love giving gifts. When it comes to buying gifts for my youngest son, however, I am often stumped; and not just for Christmas, but also for his birthday. My oldest son is fairly easy to shop for: video games, Legos, any Nerf artillery-the usual stuff. My youngest, son, well...not so easy.

It's very difficult to articulate my dilemma without sounding like I'm whining. (Yes, I would like some cheese with that whine, thanks for asking. I wouldn't mind some wine with my whine either.) I'm filled with a tearful sense of dread as I look at all of the toys on the shelves and think, “What do I get an 8 year-old who is not really 8?” My second thought is, “No clue.” The obvious music toys? Check. Preschool toys? Check. Preschool musical toys? Got those. It's getting to the point that as I look at the preschool toys I realize that there is nothing really new. How many original toy pianos, toy cell phones, blinking doodads, and talking whatzits can there be? It's nice that Toys R Us puts out a toy guide for special needs children and I say “Bravo” for their effort. However, it's still difficult for me to shop for him and I think a large part of my problem is that I'm subconsciously comparing him to typical 8 year-olds. I have a niece and a nephew who are also 8, and shopping for them is a totally different experience...let's just say that I'm not in the preschool toys section.

In years past I would take him to the toy stores in mid-November and let him explore the toy shelves to see what he would play with. Whatever held his attention is what I would buy. This year was no exception. Stinky the Garbage Truck was a big hit this year. He stood in front of the display for almost 15 minutes pushing the buttons that would make Stinky talk as well as do various other bodily function noises. He laughed the entire time. At $59.99, the cost for Stinky was a little out of reach this year; even when the store slashed the price to $49.99, I couldn't justify it. So, I trolled Amazon and found a smaller version of Stinky: it has the same voice as the larger version but none of the robotic features. Since my son also likes to play with daddy's bass, we decided to get him one of the hottest toys this year: a Paper Jamz guitar...with the amp accessory. My only fear is that he likes to chew paper so I'm hoping he will have more fun making music with it than eating it. I foresee alot of music being made on Christmas Day.

In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” (Acts 20:35)

Friday, December 17, 2010

What About the Whole Year?

Ordinarily, I love cliches – those well worn sayings that sound so trite and annoying. (Rose-colored lenses, anyone?) However, there are a couple of cliches that are getting on my nerves and I hear them and see them a lot this time of year:

Putting the “Christ” back in Christmas.
Jesus is the reason for the season.

The question I ask is: The season? What about the whole year? I guess my real problem with these statements is that I don't see people's actions matching the sentiments behind them. All sarcasm aside, what exactly do these mean? Because quite frankly, they sound like marketing slogans. Let's start with the first one. What does it mean to put the “Christ” back in Christmas? If decorating an evergreen tree, fighting the retail shopping madness, and sending Christmas cards are examples of what it means to put the Christ in Christmas, then I think Christians have a problem. And I say this as a Christian with a decorated, albeit artificial, Christmas tree in my home.

The next one: what does it mean to say that Jesus is the reason for the season? For me, the problem with this one is that I am bombarded with conflicting images: Santa Claus, presents, Christmas trees. Even the nativity displays seem like one more holiday decoration. The cynic in me says that the reason for the season is to boost retail sales. If Jesus truly is the reason for the season, how do Christians show the world this truth? There is no where in the Bible that says Christians are obligated to celebrate Christmas. Yet, out of tradition, we do. There is nothing wrong with tradition as long as tradition does not become a substitute for our relationship with God.

This holy season is about the birth of God's plan of salvation. It is about Immanuel. God with us. Christmas is about the best gift that was ever given...from God to us. In my opinion, we should celebrate this now and the rest of the year, by doing what Jesus asked his followers to do: Love your neighbor as yourself. May the peace and love of Christ be with you now and always. Merry Christmas!!

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Monday, December 13, 2010

BFD - December

I wish I could say that our BFD meals were carefully planned menus. They aren't. They are more like a smorgasbord. Truth be told, our BFD menus are comprised of whatever sounds good at the time. December was no exception. I used to do BFD once a week, but I fell into the rut of always making French toast or pancakes.  I decided to do BFD once a month so that I could put a little thought into it and try out new recipes. This month's BFD:

Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting
Sausage and Egg Casserole
Four Fruit Compote
Store Bought Hash Browns (for the kids)

It really is worth it to make your own cinnamon rolls. They are cheap and easy to make and your house will smell so good while they are baking. The hard part is waiting for the dough to rise – twice.  You need to find something to do during that 2 hour time frame. Even rolling out the dough is not that big of a deal. If you have a stand mixer, then you have no excuse not to give it a try. If you don't have a stand mixer, then you might have an excuse. The recipe's instructions are for a bread machine, but you can mix the dough in a stand mixer with a dough hook for about 7 minutes. Cover and let rise for an hour. Instead of the ¾ teaspoon of cinnamon called for in this recipe, I used at least 1 Tablespoon of cinnamon. Then I sprinkled about a handful of brown sugar over the cinnamon mixture and rolled up the dough. I also added 1 Tablespoon of cream cheese to the frosting for the heck of it. If you are tempted to bake these on a cookie sheet, don't. They will turn out hard and crunchy. These rolls are best baked in two round cake pans or a 9x13 glass baking pan.

The beauty of this sausage and egg casserole is that you can assemble the ingredients the night before. Then when you're ready, add the flour mixture and bake.  I assembled it in the morning and let it sit in the fridge until it was time to bake. I used ground pork sausage, but I think I'll try crumbled bacon the next time. I think you could also forgo the meat altogether and add some olives and use up that zucchini that's lurking in the fridge. I didn't use Monterey Jack cheese because I think its too plain. So, I bought a bag of shredded Tillamook “Mexican” blend cheese, which is really just Pepper Jack and Cheddar cheese.

The fruit compote was pretty good. I was skeptical because truth be told I prefer just fresh fruit, but I wanted to try something new. I spooned the compote into individual glasses (yes, they are mini martini glasses) and topped off each serving with Zoi Honey Greek yogurt. Holy Toledo, this yogurt is so good that I may never go back to regular yogurt. For all of my Washington-Idaho-Nevada-California-Oregon friends, I got this at Winco. This yogurt has the smooth thick consistency of sour cream. Double yum! Well, 2010 BFDs are over and I have 2011 stretching before me. Hard to believe this year is over already. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Holiday Cheer

Add a little cheer to your holidays and all through the year.

My approach to the holiday food and festivities is this, “The holidays come once a year, so enjoy it.”  Seriously, there is nothing that kills the holiday cheer more than when someone complains about all of the calories in the holiday food.  My desired response to the complaining is, “Oh shut up! It's not like you eat like this all the time, and nobody's asking you to eat the whole damn pie or drink the whole damn carton of egg nog!! Sheesh!”  My usual polite response is, “Well, the holidays come once a year. ” (smile)

Now, I will admit that I can stand to lose a few pounds.  But...there are some things that I bake/make/eat/drink once a year.  For example, candy canes; fudge; Tom & Jerry's; peppermint mochas; turkey with all the trimmings; peppermint bark; pumpkin pie; and of course, egg nog.  I will further admit that these are not low-calorie foods.  They aren't meant to be.  Neither are they meant to be eaten all of the time.  They are special foods that are reserved for that special time of year called the holiday season. I say 'holiday season' because these foods are typically consumed between Thanksgiving and New Year's.

Warning: Sarcasm ahead.

So, if you are one of those people who like to complain about the calories in the holiday food and gaining weight during the holiday season, do yourself and the rest of us a favor: don't. Please complain in silence as you prepare your salad with fat free dressing complemented with ice water and a lemon twist. Nothing says "Merry Christmas" like a twist of lemon. Or don't complain at all. Instead, be grateful  and enjoy God's provision in the form of family, friends, and special holiday foods. No one is suggesting a gluttonous appetite – all things in moderation. And if you gain a pound or two, what's the big deal?  You have the rest of the year to work it off. By the way, the "cheer" in the byline does not refer to rum or brandy (although it can); it refers to an attitude of gratitude which cultivate a loving, cheerful heart. MeRrY ChRiStMaS!!

Monday, December 6, 2010

You Sound Like Your Mother

We've all done it.  We've all said something to our kids then smacked ourselves on the forehead and cried, “Doh! I sound like my mother!” We vowed that we would never say that to our kids.  We were determined not to turn into our mother. We promised ourselves that we would be different. It sounds good, in theory, but in practice...

Kids say the darnedest things.  They also do the darnedest things.  So, once we have children, we find ourselves saying things that we never would have dreamed of saying B.C. (before children).  For example, these are just a few of the things that I've said around our house:

  • (sniff, sniff) For the love of God, stop giving the dog cheese!
  • Soap and shampoo are not optional.
  • No, you do not get clean by just letting the water run over your body.
  • Sometimes you need to wipe more than once.
  • Quit picking your nose.
  • The cat is a live animal not a toy.
  • If you don't want it for dinner, you can eat it for breakfast.
  • Why do you have a pencil in each nostril?
  • Well, shove a wad of toilet paper up your nose to stop the bleeding.
  • No, no, no. Rocks are not food.
  • Sure, you can play...right after you do your homework.
  • No, sweetie, that's the cat's food; we don't eat that.
  • Yeah, I guess it is lucky that the bird crap matches daddy's car.
  • When was the last time you went potty?

To be honest, I don't remember my mom saying any of these to me...except maybe the one about eating my dinner for breakfast.  Maybe I am original.  Maybe I did keep my promise after all.  Oh, wait a minute; just the fact that I even had to say any of this stuff doesn't exactly attest to my stellar parenting skills. Doh!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Cheapskate Skivvies

Add a dash of sense of humor and a pinch of lightheartedness.

It absolutely galls me to have to spend $65+ for underwear. I'm sorry I didn't mean to be so blunt. I should use one of the more delicate terms like lingerie or intimate apparel.  No, wait a minute, I don't buy anything close to resembling lingerie.  I mean underwear.  Anything cotton or cotton blend = underwear.  Anything lacy and polyester/nylon/spandex = lingerie.  Too bad there's no cotton/spandex blend.  The last time I splurged and bought undergarments, it cost me $65. And we're talking for the Playtex and Hanes no-frills basics – the women's equivalent to tighty whities.  (OK, maybe not that bad.) If you want to see the difference between “underwear” and “intimate apparel” head on over to Nordstrom and see what $65 will get you.

“Holy crap, Minivan Mom!  Is there no frugal alternative?” Sadly, the answer is, “If there is, I haven't found least one that's acceptable.” I do realize that I have several choices:

  1. Shut up and buy new undergarments;
  2. Fly free;
  3. Check the thrift stores for “gently used” garments;
  4. Accept hand-me-downs from friends and relatives.

Option 2 is not really an option; it's a last resort. Maybe it's my snobbishness or my squeamishness, but options 3 and 4 don't appeal to me. I don't know why, I mean I have worn thrift store clothes and hand-me-downs. But undergarments are so...personal. It also seems to me – and I'm just blowing smoke here – that the elastic in undergarments is more delicate.  Consequently, the uh, support in used items would not be sufficient. That leaves me with option 1. I guess I better zip my mouth and open my wallet. All in all, this is really nothing to get my undies in a bundle over.  Perhaps I should just put on my big girl panties and get over it. :-)


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