Thursday, October 30, 2008


Happy Halloween! Here's to a good haul!

Cheap Costumes

Apparently, the economy is worse than I thought.

I know, everyone is talking about it, everyone is worried. But we haven't been. We've always lived paycheck to paycheck, without the benefit of credit cards or savings accounts or stock dividends. We've been scrimping and saving with tightened belts our whole lives. It's like we've welcomed the rest of the world to our world! So, other than the raised prices at the grocery store and gas station, I hadn't really felt the impact of the current economic crisis. Until now.

I was reading the paper and came across something rather disturbing.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. No one has gone untouched by these trying times. Remember in Les Miserables when Fantine was driven to sell her most prized possessions, her hair, and, eventually, her body because of her desperate circumstances? It seems some our best-loved fairy tale and nursery rhyme heroines have found themselves in similar straits and are resorting to prostitution to make ends meet.

Red Riding Hood. Little no longer, she's more than woman enough to handle any beast lurking beneath the blankets!
Snow White. Don't let her white-as-snow skin fool you, this girl knows how to please a man, or seven!Little Bo Peep. She knows a thing or two about tail wagging.

Alice in Wonderland. For a bite of your magic mushroom she'll tell you what really happened at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party.

These are the costumes splashed all over the front of the Party City circular included in my Sunday paper this week! They're also featured prominently in ads all over the store.

Why has Halloween become nothing more than an excuse to dress like a whore? When I was a teenager there were a few costumes that were inherently naughty, like French Maid, Can Can Dancer, Playboy Bunny. But Snow White with cleavage? Little Red Riding Hood with black fishnets? Crikey, this makes me feel old! Don't I sound old?

I am so thankful Redheaded Snippet is being a ninja this year!

P.S. It's the day before Halloween and I still do not have Man-Cub's Indiana Jones jacket settled. I went to about 6 different stores, including virtually every thrift store within reach and all I have is a tan suede jacket that's too big and may need to be dyed. Should be fun. I'm going to try tea. I'll let you know how that works.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Cheesy Onion Cornbread

Here I am, up at 1:00 in the morning again. Darn Spider Solitaire.

Anyway, there's been a request for the Cheesy Onion Cornbread so I thought I'd dash it off before I went upstairs.

Cheesy Onion Cornbread:
(This was given to me by a relative who is one of those kinds of cooks who never measures so there is a little guesswork involved--I hate those kinds of people a little bit)

-1 1/2 boxes Jiffy cornbread mix
-2 eggs
-1/3 cup milk
-1 can creamed corn
-16 oz sour cream
-1 stick butter
-1 onion, sliced thin
-cheddar cheese

1. Set oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9 x 9 pan.
2. Melt butter, add onion and saute until clear.
3. Add half of the sour cream.
4. Add half of the cheese.
5. Gradually add remaining sour cream and set aside.
6. In separate bowl mix cornbread mix with eggs and milk; add creamed corn.
7. Pour mixture into prepared pan.
8. Top with cheese and onion mixture.
9. Top with remaining cheese.
10. Bake for 35-40 minutes.

*I have had this recipe turn out different ways but the only way it's ever been ruined has been by overcooking it. Once, I served this so runny it had to be eaten with a spoon, more like Cheesy Onion Corn Slop, but everyone loved it and raved about it anyway. It's good hot, it's good cold, it's good three days old.


Monday, October 27, 2008

What's For Dinner?

It's that time again! Menu Plan Monday! Yippee!

Heavens, I almost forgot. And it's only been 2 weeks. How lamer than lame.

I know you're all chomping at the bit so here it is:

FRIDAY: Homemade pizza.
Do not be impressed with me whatsoever. The crust came out of a can, the sauce out of a jar and I sprinkled pre-shredded mozzarella and sliced pepperoni on top. How very imaginative. But it was cheap and did the trick.

SATURDAY: Hot Ham and Cheese Sandwiches and Chili.
Lobelia made these and they were perfect in their simplicity. Though that chili was not very simple. Vegetarian, beany, colorful, stick-to-your-ribs...MMMMMMMM!

SUNDAY: Chicken Noodle Soup, Salad and Crusty Bread.
I have made this soup three times in the last month. My children are officially sick of it, the Philistines.

MONDAY: Tacos.
Okay, I caved and bought a kit. In a box. It was late and I was tired. But the kids love tacos so I still felt like a pseudo-good mother.

TUESDAY: Grilled Cheese and Soup.
Don't tell the kids, we're having the last of the chicken noodle. Can you tell I'm craving comfort foods this week?

WEDNESDAY: Cincinnati Chili and Cheesy Onion Cornbread.
This is The Viking's favorite chili. I made it once a few years ago and he still talks about it so I figure I should dig it out for him again. It's ATK all the way. The cornbread is kind of a family recipe, one that we enjoy around the Holidays, but it will go so well with this chili so I'm bringing it out early this year!

THURSDAY: Burgers, Oven Fries and Salad.
I've got a great burgers recipe and it's one of my children's favorite meals. America's Test Kitchen, baby! Check it! The oven fries are also theirs. I'm making them for the first time. I just can't think of what else to have with burgers. Maybe I'll make milkshakes, too.

Several years ago I overheard one mom telling another that she always makes a pot of beef stew on Halloween and leaves it on low in the crock pot so her boys (she has like 5 of them) can come and go during their trick-or-treating and help themselves as they please. I was so entranced with the idea I adopted it on the spot. I've done the crock pot of beef stew every year since. Let me tell you, nothing hits the spot better when you're tired and cold and have eaten nothing but candy the you've had to "confiscate for further inspection" from your kids' candy buckets.

I know, I know, that's a day too many, but I was excited about the beef stew. I am always excited about beef stew.

Well, I'm off to bed. I've been squeaking by with 6 hours of sleep each night and it's catching up with me.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Last Week of October

Why do I feel like every time I sit down here to write, I am just too tired to do it properly?

I guess it's that time of year when our schedules get fuller and fuller and our lives start that breakneck roll toward New Year's Day. Every year when school starts I feel like I'm on a sled scootching toward the crest of a huge hill, sliding slowly but surely toward the edge. Then Halloween hits and, whoosh, I'm plunged down on a rapid descent that takes my breath away and makes my stomach do flips, going faster and faster, flashing past Thanksgiving, then Christmas, and coming to a sudden and sprawled stop in a snowbank just past New Year's Eve. And that's when I slowly get up, check for broken things, brush myself off, sigh and go, "So, now what?" And the slow climb begins again.

Halloween is in less than a week. And I'm just not ready. I think I say this every year, but this year has me worried because I've kind of left things to the last minute. The costumes aren't very demanding this year so I think I've slacked off a bit. I just need a sash (preferably red) for Redheaded Snippet's Ninja costume (she decided to dress up after all) and a fedora, whip and leather-like jacket for Man-Cub's Indiana Jones. Oh yeah, no sweat. WHERE AM I GOING TO FIND A LEATHER JACKET?

(This is the actual jacket and fedora worn by Harrison Ford in the actual movies as donated to the Smithsonian Institute, by the way)

At least I know what I'm going to be doing this week. No sitting around picking my nose and wondering, "Woe is me, what ever shall I do with my time," for me this week! I will be striking every consignment, thrift and second-hand store within a 20-mile radius. I just need a jacket that LOOKS like it could be leather. And it can be black OR brown. Even if it's CLOSE to the right style, Mom can probably alter it for me. After all, it doesn't truly feel like Halloween without a little sewing assignment for my mother. But without that jacket, I don't think anyone will know who Man-Cub is supposed to be.

Last night we had our annual Halloween pre-show with Lobelia and Lenny. It very nearly rained rivers, but we slopped out to a local farm and got our pumpkins and hot cider (even a few Winesap apples to boot). We made soup, hot ham and cheese sandwiches and chili, and Lobelia even found time to make a Dutch Apple pie. The kids took turns taking naps and playing the Wii and we all took turns holding and entertaining Vantastic. At one point, the boys were asleep and Redheaded Snippet was reading quietly on the couch, chili was simmering, the men were occupied elsewhere, and Lobelia and I simply sat at the kitchen table reading the paper and scanning coupons. It was weirdly peaceful. And so nice. The evening culminated in a great flurry of cutting, scooping and carving all the pumpkins we had chosen. We had to leave before Lobelia had finished hers, but all the others turned out really well and even got some window time before the night was through.

One truly frightening thing that happened last night was our discovery, upon our arrival home, that I had left the oven on all day long. I don't know if I have an alternate personality who is hell-bent on blowing up the house or what, but I just don't seem to be very safe in the kitchen lately! First the flambee incident and now this. The Viking looked rather weak in the knees when he realized what I had done. I had made cinnamon rolls for breakfast (don't look excited, they were from a can) and in the mad rush to get out of the house on time, I forgot to turn the oven off. I'm not sure what The Viking was more upset about, the prospect of the house blowing clean off its foundation or the gas bill we're going to get next month. I am a very bad girl.

But today is a new day, the start of a new week, HALLOWEEN week. My favorite aunt and uncle are visiting from out of town and we're having homemade soup and salad for lunch here at our house today. I'm making the soup and Mom is bringing the salad and bread. I might make homemade rolls anyway, but we'll see how the next few hours go. The weather has dawned clear, bright and crisp, exactly as it should be the last week of October.

Can you believe that? The last week of October already? It just got here! One more week and I'll be culling through Thanksgiving recipes! And changing the look of my blog, yay!

Redheaded Snippet has a play-off game this Tuesday for which the team gets let out of school early and I get to take Man-Cub out early to go spectate. Once the last week of October hits they schedule the games earlier so they don't wind up playing in the dark in case they go into overtime. Fine with me, I have no problem taking my kids out for early dismissal. In fact, I kind of like it; makes it feel like a Holiday. We'll be bundling up in our woolliest winter wear for this game--but I think I'll leave the peppermint out of the hot chocolate this time!

Oh well, it's time to start the soup. And things need to be tidied, swept and cleaned. Until next time...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Butcher Block Flambee

Intrigued? You should be. And it's a good one. This could only happen to me.

So, today I decided to make hot chocolate. Not hot cocoa, but hot chocolate. There is a difference. I could tell you what it is, but why don't you look it up yourself? I'm feeling a little lazy.

I made hot chocolate to take to Redheaded Snippet's hockey game (we won 5-0, btw). I have a recipe that I really like and is really easy to make. There I was, happily measuring and stirring when inspiration hit! Peppermint extract! I could add a little peppermint to the hot chocolate. Genius!

So, I got the little bottle of pepperminty goodness out of the cupboard, took the cap off, and set it on the counter to grab a measuring spoon. Now, there was a paper bag sitting on the counter as I had just made bacon shortly before, had used the bag to set the bacon on, you know to soak up the grease, and had suddenly decided to make the hot chocolate before taking the time to throw the bag away. But that didn't get in my way, I just set the uncapped bottle on a clean part of the bag.

Here comes the good part. Reaching for the bottle to measure some into the pot, I accidentally knocked it over (I think I was looking at the measuring spoon to make sure I had the right one instead of where I was reaching). The peppermint extract flowed from the bottle all over the paper bag and into the flame of the stove burner and, being 87% alcohol, went up in a most impressive whoosh of flame, setting the entire peppermint extract-soaked paper bag on fire. Flambee!

Fortunately, being a fire fighter's wife, as well as an idiot who can't seem to work a toaster oven without setting it ablaze, I am well-trained in kitchen fire procedures and protocol. Thinking quickly, I grabbed a large, heavy skillet lid and set it on the flames to smother them. Crisis averted. Sure, there are scorch marks on the beautiful Butcher Block countertop, but I didn't have to put my husband through the humiliation of having his very own fire department come to his house to put out a fire started by his silly wife accidentally flambee-ing her countertop, and I still have my eyebrows so I'm not complaining.

Oh, and there was just enough extract left in the bottle to flavor the hot chocolate perfectly. That was some delicious chocolate--Flambee!


I generally like to avoid religion and politics on this blog. It's not that I don't have strong opinions on either, nor that I simply don't care, cause, trust me, I do, but rather that I prefer not to dive into those murky depths in this particular forum.

However (you knew there was a "however" coming, didn't you?), I think there is a distinct difference between religion and faith. I know "faith" is used these days as a synonym for religion, but I don't use it or think of it that way. My faith is about what I believe, what I put my trust in, what is at the core of me and my life. Religion is all about man's attempt to get to God. I am not interested in man-made methods of finding God. I've seen where my own attempts have gotten me and they were indeed like chaff in the wind.

My faith is the result of God Himself reaching down to get to me. Not because of anything I have ever done or will do--there is nothing I can do to make Him love me more or less--but simply because of who I am. I am His. It's all I ever was and all I ever will be. And that's enough. I have hated Him, blamed Him, cursed Him, walked away from Him, doubted Him, questioned Him, underestimated Him, and ignored Him. I have deserved nothing but to be abandoned by Him. Yet He is there always; waiting, welcoming, forgiving, loving, patient and faithful. You can ask how I know this. I can't tell you that. I just know it to be true. That's why it's faith.

Obviously, as this is what I base my life on, it's going to show. You can't hide what you're made of, even in a blog. My relationship with God flavors everything I do, think and say; I couldn't hide it if I tried. So, to you it may seem I'm talking religion, but what I'm actually talking about is relationship.

I started this explanation so I could let you know where I am coming from when I say that God is trying to do something and I have been getting in the way. I have been struggling with my Bible study class in the worst way and feeling like such a failure. I don't get my lessons done, I haven't done any of the Verse Memorization, I'm so rebellious when it comes to Verse Memorization, I don't spend time in the Word each day like I know I need to, I have children whose behavior baffles and embarrasses me, I waste scads of time, have outbursts of anger, use foul language and allow fear to paralyze me. I have been ready to quit the class and crawl into my hidey hole each and every week. I am so not getting it right.

Last night was particularly bad. I was literally trying to think of a non-dramatic way to duck out of class and never darken the door again. And as soon as the last, "Amen" was said, I had my coat on, my stuff packed, and was four steps from the door.

That's when God caught me. Two women, two of my favorites in the class, unwittingly "cornered" me. One was Mrs. Sassy, our teacher, who came over to see why I had looked like I was being led to the scaffold all night, and the other had had the misfortune to sit next to me and overhear everything.

I was complaining about my failure again and how it was time for me to quit and the woman next to me turned and said, "Please don't say that! I love that you're here and I love hearing the things you have to say! When you walk in the door each week, I'm not kidding, I want to clap my hands and go, 'Yay!' You don't say much, but when you do, you always say so much! You always say exactly what I'm thinking and what I've been trying to put into words and don't know how!"

I was absolutely floored and started to cry and wound up pouring my heart out right then and there. I pulled my dainty little hankie out of my purse like a maiden auntie and cried into it like a child. And as I mulled over my neighbor's mind-blowing comments, I realized something.

I have been so incredibly self-centered. All this time I've been so concerned about me, me, me. What if I can't get it right? What if I sound dumb? What if no one agrees with me? What if everyone is smarter/more mature/funnier/more profound than I am? What if I can't make friends in this church? What if I this? What if I that? It's all been about me. I sat through that class last night sulking because I didn't get to share the prayer request I'd been rehearsing all day. How childish and selfish!

My neighbor's kind words were like a jolt out of the blue. They shocked me. This is a woman who I consider to be the straight-A student in the class, whereas I have considered myself the dunce. She is kind, funny, vibrant, and she loves God with every fiber of her being. Secretly, I have really looked up to her. To have her saying those things about me just blew my mind. But her words also kind of jolted me back to reality. God is at work here, not me. If she was touched by anything I've said, it's not to my credit, it's to God's. And if God can use a selfish, silly brat like me to affect a mature, obedient woman like her, He can use anybody to do anything.

You know what? I think that was just the perspective I needed to prepare me for meeting with my new SIDS Mom friend (I'll have to think of a blog name for her so I can stop using that horrible title for her). I've been so overwhelmed at the thought of getting it right when I talk to her because I've been so self-centered about it, focusing on what I can do instead of what God can do. I was about to get in God's way by trying to rely on my own wits and strength which are, clearly, woefully inadequate.

Remember that overwhelmed feeling? It's gone. My perspective has been realigned, my priorities are back in order and my pride and stubborn will have been subdued. For now. I know this week is still going to be a tough one and I'm sure it will still be painful to talk to my friend, but at least I know I will not be alone. And whether great good or great ill comes out of it is out of my hands. Which is a very reassuring thought.

Overwhelmed no longer, instead I'm reassured.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Puddles of Drool

So, this morning, I'm waiting for Redheaded Snippet in the orthodontist's office (one more month to go, the child still isn't wearing her rubber bands properly) and I'm gleefully flipping through November's issue of Country Living magazine. I never buy this magazine as it's just way above me in the cost of the mag itself as well as the looks they feature. Maybe if they came out with a Little Better Than White Trash Living magazine...

Anyway, I never buy it but I do love to look at it. So I'm looking away, inwardly scoffing at the obvious wealth stuffed between the pages and I see something that stops me cold. Wanna know? You won't find it interesting in the least. But I am telling you anyway.

I know what you're thinking, and THEY'RE NOT RAIN BOOTS! They're WELLIES! Or maybe WELLYS (I've seen both spellings though I suspect the former is correct). Don't tell me they're rubber boots or galoshes. They keep your feet dry in wet weather and look darn spiffy while doing it!

Aren't they beautiful? I love them. I have been wanting a pair for so long and these just made me drool. I know, I'm a simple girl with simple tastes. But not so simple because DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH THESE COST?

Again, despite your obvious disinterest, I'm going to tell you.

L.L. Bean sells their version for $59.

A pair of these, supposed original Hunter Wellington boots will run you $115. I guess because you get to say they were hand made in Scotland!

These kicky pink ones are more reasonable at $35.95.

These are pretty cute and come with a matching tote for $49.95. Still doable.

These are good for a laugh and are only $29.95. Moo!

But these are a little weird, even though a) I do love me some chocolate and b) the price is right at $24.67. I think I'd always be eating chocolate in the rain if I had these.

These are too much in EVERY way! Purple! Paisley! Fur-lined! $69.95!

But these? These are stupendous! Hands-down the winner! I crave these boots! I don't care how much they are! How much? $49.95. Not bad when you're getting a huge pile of AWESOME for your money!

And that was just a sampling, my friends. Go ahead and do a search on Wellingtons, Wellies or even just Rain Boots on Do it, I dare you! You'll be astounded and amazed!

So now if anyone needs to know what to get me for Christmas, besides a super-duper, easy-to-use digital camera so I can post photos again, I've given you a couple of good ideas. After all, Christmas is only ____ days away!

You're welcome.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Whatcha Eatin'?

I've just been wiggling in my seat waiting for this! It's Menu Plan Monday!

Let me just say I think having something special (even if it's just a little special) to look forward to on a Monday makes a world of difference. Yes, the alarm clock still seemed a wee bit more sinister, Man-Cub still begged for an extra day off (like it's in my power to do that), the dog still got the rest of the pumpkin bread off the counter and ate it in the night (took all my self-control to not brain her with the tea kettle when I discovered it), and it was frickin' freezing in here this morning, but who cares? I get to post my weekly menu!

Why on earth do I get so excited about this? I don't like reading menus, mine or other people's. Don't get me wrong, I do it, but I don't get excited about it. Now, reading people's grocery lists, that's a different story. For some odd reason, I like reading those. I even said I was going to write a book that was simply a compilation of people's grocery lists. Everyone thought I was nuts. I let it go. Or did I...?

Okay! FOCUS! I think it's because of the sense of accomplishment, okay? I've completed one of my required weekly tasks and I get to prove it. Also, I used to be absolutely terrible at menu-planning and now, while not stellar, I'm much better at it.

Without further nonsense, here's it is (and I don't know how to fancy it up font-wise or anything, sorry):

Friday: Pizza! We never do this, but The Viking wasn't home, I was crabby and Redheaded Snippet had a couple friends over

Saturday: Chinese Take-Away. Me still crabby, no food in house.

Sunday: Broccoli-Potato-Cheese Soup. Somehow this doesn't sound nearly as delightful as it was. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Monday: Spaghetti, Garlic Bread and Salad. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. A house staple; one that's easy and economical. I do make my own sauce, though.

Tuesday: Amber's Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup. I know I've blogged about this before. I couldn't wait to make it again. Also some form of crusty bread product.

Wednesday: Meatball Sandwiches (made with leftover homemade sauce from Monday) and Salad. Found a bag of meatballs in the freezer I'd forgotten about. And I always have a bowl of sauce leftover that goes bad in the fridge. No more!

Thursday: Cobb Salads. Never got to make those last week as we had enough leftover something for me to avoid cooking another day. But I still have all the stuff. Bonus!

This all reminds me I need to take that chicken out of the freezer for tomorrow. And I sure hope those meatballs aren't freezer-burnt.

Well, I need to take a nap. I couldn't sleep last night because it was so cold and The Viking wouldn't let us turn the heat on yet. He's holding out for November 1, I think, and is still campaigning hard for that wood-burning stove in the corner of the living room. He's willing to get rid of the piano for it! Whaaaat? That's crazy talk, right there! He found Man-Cub and I in the kitchen huddled around the open door of the oven this morning and said, coaxingly, "Just think if we had that wood stove, all you would have to have done is thrown a log in the fire." Like it's just that easy. And with everything else I have to do in the morning, let's add "build a fire" to the list!

Right. Now, where's that hot water bottle?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Just a Nightcap

I really should be in bed, but I just had to post a quick update or I know I'd sit down here tomorrow morning trying to remember stuff from the weekend and I'd get all frustrated and just procrastinate by looking around for Thanksgiving bits to put in my layout. Cause it's just around the corner, you know.

BUT ENOUGH ABOUT THAT! Cause you know right after that comes....NO! I WON'T SAY IT!

Um, yeah. I'm feeling better. Turns out all I needed was a couple of days of feeling really depressed and sitting around in my pajamas, even taking the time and effort to change back into my pajamas which I actually did a few times. Oh, yeah, and for my period to arrive. As soon as that happened I felt worlds better which makes me wonder how much of my funk was caused by grief and how much was hormones.

I actually think it was kind of the perfect storm. Take the time of year, add to that the 10th Anniversary, throw in a box of talking to a fellow SIDS survivor, and soak the whole thing in female hormones marinated in thyroid drugs before subjecting it to almost 48 hours of dealing with Man-Cub in rare form without the help of The Viking who was away doing a job (don't worry, he's not in the Mafia, it just sounds like it) and you've got me in my dirty pajamas and plaid robe lying on the couch alternately weeping and staring into space while dirty dishes and litter accumulate around the room.

I really don't intend to make light of it. It was really bad; worse than I've been in several years. I'm very thankful it was short-lived. But it just goes to show you never get over something like this. It can flare up at any time for any reason.

So, this morning, I made up for lost time a bit. I undid the damage of the previous two days, finished the "potions display" on the hutch in the dining room (trying to find a way to obtain photos), made a loaf of pumpkin bread, did the grocery shopping and made Broccoli-Potato Soup from scratch. It's more like Smoky Broccoli Potato Cheese Soup. It kind of tastes like a baked potato topped with broccoli, cheese and bacon in soup form. In other words, delicious. And perfect for this frigid fall night. The Viking built a fire out back and ate his soup and later smoked his pipe in front of it. He walked back in the house like a man in a dream.

I didn't get the amount of laundry done that I wanted to, nor did I clip all my coupons, sew the button on The Viking's pants or do any ironing. But that's all in good time. At least I got all our groceries and got a head start on the linens for tomorrow.

*Yawn* I'm ready for bed. My nose is numb, my fingers are cold, my toes are icy. And the flannel is calling me. Until tomorrow then!

Thursday, October 16, 2008


I don't know how else to describe how I'm feeling. I'm not afraid or particularly nervous, just overwhelmed.

The Viking and I lost a son to SIDS ten years ago this month. Recently, a friend of The Viking's told him of a couple in his church whose 4-month-old son died of SIDS just three short weeks ago. He asked if he could give them our number. We said of course.

The mother called me tonight.

We talked for an hour.

The four of us are getting together next week.

And I am overwhelmed.

I feel such sympathy. I know how shattered this woman is, how numb she and her husband are, how impossible the road ahead of them seems. And I know how terrible the road ahead of them is. I know what it's like to have to walk around and pretend to be normal when you feel like you're hemorrhaging inside. I know what it's like to wish you could go crazy because it would bring some relief. I understand why people start drinking, gambling, or shooting up after the death of a child. I know why most marriages don't survive it.

But I also know how my marriage was strengthened because of our son's death. I know what it's like to stare your worst fear in the face and not only survive, but come out the other side stronger, wiser, more compassionate and more mature. I know joy, not just the happiness we chase so tirelessly and fruitlessly. I know perfect peace; peace that makes no sense but comforts perfectly. I know hope, not positive or wishful thinking. I know the benefits of perseverance and the refining purity that comes from suffering.

I feel such sadness. While I may not feel the pain anymore, I still remember it vividly. And talking about it always brings it to mind, especially this time of year. Our son died during the last week of October so I always get wistful and a little weepy right before Halloween. And this year marks the 10th year since we lost our precious babe so I'm even more vulnerable. Already I've been crying a little more than usual. He's been on my mind so much lately.

I also feel a huge responsibility. Someone is reaching out for my help. Someone is hurting terribly and greatly in need and I have the opportunity to help them, simply by sharing my story. Simply by understanding and knowing. The notion that my suffering can be used in some small way to bring comfort, even healing, to someone else who is suffering is incredibly profound; a tangible example of something good coming out of something bad. I am honored and humbled by the very thought.

I'm just...overwhelmed.

Being Pecked to Death by a Chicken

Confession time. I'll let you in on a little secret. Well, secret may be a wee bit too strong of a word. I don't think anyone who knows me would be surprised at all by this, but...

...I don't really like children. There, I said it! And I kick puppies and park in Handicapped spaces just for spite and throw my garbage in the Salvation Army donation buckets at Christmas time! Give me a break!

I don't have a dislike of children, and I certainly adore my own, but I'm just not one of those "kid" people. I've never been good at talking down to kids or being all cutesy and enthusiastic. In fact, I always talk to children like they're grown ups, but with words they understand. Must be why people say my kids are so articulate. Anyway, I realized this about myself when I was a senior in college majoring in Music Education and teaching piano lessons to children to pay my bills. I know the exact moment it happened, too, in Music in the Elementary Schools class, as I was sing-spelling my name while accompanying myself on a toy xylophone. It was like I finally came-to, stared at the mallet in my hand and shrieked, "WHAT AM I DOING???"

Needless to say, within the week I changed my major to Vocal Performance and have never once regretted it. All this to say, I don't particularly do well with children. But there are exceptions:

Like this one:

My niece, Baby Bee.

And this one:

My nephew, Vantastic.

And then there's this one whom I am not even related to, but love like I am:

Cindy Lou Who, daughter of my dear friend, Mrs. (Councilor) Nugent (of kitchen-organizing fame), has come for a visit today. She is the most charming little thing, doesn't tolerate cuddling and pecks you to death with questions. I never thought I would love a kid this much if I didn't have to!

She used to come over every week, but now it's just every now and then. I miss seeing her and her mom all the time so today is a nice treat. We're going for a ride with my mom, then hitting A.C. Moore (squee with me, will you?) and if we have time, baking something pumpkin-based. I don't know, bread, muffins, pudding, cookies, SOMETHING! And, I swear by my pretty floral bonnet, tonight I am lighting all the candles I have spent days arranging artfully about the house, settling down with a mug of hot chocolate and a portion of whatever I've baked this afternoon, and pretending it hasn't been 80 degrees all week!

October is half-over already! I've got to soak up as much Autumnness as I can before it's gone!

Right. Time for me to be off.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sign Me Up!

Today must be the day for joining blogrolls! At least for me! I've been busy! And I've found a few new toys to play with! But I'm not selfish, I'll share them with you.

Okay, I'm a day late (so what's new) but I simply cannot wait until next Monday so I'm jumping in last minute on this marvy Menu Plan Monday! I've actually found a place where they want you to post your weekly menus! They ask for it! They expect it! I already do this every week but now I get to inflict it on others. A-Hee!

So, without further ado, here is my debut MPM (I plan my menus on Thursdays so the menu starts on Friday)

-Friday: Out to dinner with friends
-Saturday: Out to dinner with family (yeah, busy weekend)
-Sunday: Chicken Corn Chowder made with leftovers
-Monday: Nachos (don't judge me, it's a family fave)
-Tuesday: Marinated Pork Loin, Potatoes Gratin and Steamed Broccoli
-Wednesday: Gyro Burgers and Greek Salad
-Thursday: Cobb Salads

It seems too good to be true, but that's it! That's way too easy! Do I need to post links to the recipes or something? Cause I could probably do that!

I probably shouldn't be this excited...

You Saucy Minx!

In my ramblings around the Internet, looking for ways to improve my blog as well as find new favorite victims to prey upon--er...I mean blogs to read--I have stumbled across The Secret is in the Sauce. Now, the title caught my eye because I like the word saucy. I just do. Its...well...saucy. And you don't hear it used a lot here in the States.

Apparently, this is a website dedicated to the support and promotion of ordinary every day bloggers like me! Who'da thunk it? The details are still a little sketchy, but I'm pretty sure you just add a pretty button (see right) and explain why the button is on display, then you link on up!

So I'm in! This could be cool, right? Right.

Gee, I hope I'm following all the rules and don't get kicked out...then again, you have to deal with getting kicked out of a few things here and there when you're saucy (I'm just kidding, please don't kick me out Saucy Girls)!

Getting Settled

Please take me back!

Can I still have my old room? I've brought all the essentials with me. I'm still trying to decide if I'm going to copy all the posts written on what turned out to be my temporary new blog and teleport them here. I'm really not sure there's anything earth-shattering enough to warrant that. But I might be anal-retentive enough to do it anyway. We shall see.

So, we're back to school after the loveliest of 4-day breaks. Man-Cub handled himself rather well, considering. In fact, he has been much, much better lately! I think it's because a very wise, very kind and very sassy older woman in my Bible study suggested he might be strong-willed. First, I love that sassy older woman. I want her to be my surrogate grandmother. Only she's not old enough. Maybe an auntie then. Second, I have always known Redheaded Snippet to be strong-willed (what she put us through in her toddler years still makes me shudder to think of it), but the fact that Man-Cub could be as well totally slipped by me! I felt so idiotic!

Of COURSE he's strong-willed! Why did I never see it before? I experienced the proverbial light bulb moment when Mrs. Sassy suggested it! I guess I missed it because he didn't assert himself when he was younger, waiting instead to unleash his diabolical sabotage on us after he'd lulled us into a false sense of security. And, just so we're clear, that's pronounced, "dye-uh-bow-LICK-ul sab-oh-TAY-gee."

Well, I am pretty strong-willed myself (my children don't get it from any place strange and I admit I will be apologizing to my mild-mannered husband for the rest of my life) so I dug in my heels and went looking for fortification. After a bit of letting my fingers do the walking, Internet style, I found myself bolstered, refreshed, and ready to rumble. Mama now has a new attitude and a new plan. So far it's working pretty well, but I'll let you know in about 11 years how we've fared.

So, the Halloween decorating is still inching along. The porches are...done? I say it hesitantly because I'm still eyeing them critically and finding things I want to switch around. Maybe it's too cluttered. Maybe the colors are grouped wrong. Maybe it's too monochromatic. Maybe I need to just sit out there with a pumpkin latte and lose myself in the color of the leaves. Yes! That's the one! Some of the cobwebs have fallen down--AGAIN--and are making me crazy! The devilish stuff simply WILL NOT stay where I want it to. But all I have to do is wave a hand in front of it and it finds a way to permanently adhere itself to my cuticles. I don't even want to think about taking it down in a few weeks. Because THAT'S when it will drape itself beautiful all over the places it refuses to now.

Moving indoors, I've finally reclaimed my dining room table. I vowed last night that I would clear it and I did. I moved all the stuff into the living room where it is now crowding the coffee table, but the dining room table is clear! I'm still stalling. I have a major blockage. The big problem is the piano. It's my biggest display area, and while I'm thankful for it, it provides decorating dilemmas for me each and every season. Part of the problem is I was able to decorate with candles up the wazoo one year because I had a Halloween party and Daria lent me all her cool candle holders. But then, of course, she took them back. And ever since, nothing I ever put together can come close to the majesty of that year. Where's that pumpkin latte?

Did I tell you we've only 2 weeks (less actually) until Halloween and I haven't started on Man-Cub's costume yet? I haven't even set foot in a Goodwill yet! Shocking, I know! It's just because I have only the one costume to do and he's being Indiana Jones. Pretty easy. All the costume shops have the fedora and whip for only $15 so all I have to do is come up with brown pants, white shirt, brown boots and some kind of facsimile of a leather jacket. A fleather relic bag would be a good touch, but I'm not sure my skillz are up to the task and Lobelia has already declared she isn't helping me (selfish cow--j/k!). I will probably descend on Goodwill this weekend.

In renovating news, boy, it's been a while but now there is actually something to report, we have resumed talks about installing a fireplace-type device. It has always been our dream to have a fireplace. Of course, I would love to have this one:

But as a magical castle somewhere in Scotland is a wee bit out of our budget, we'll have to make do with something more cottagey. And inexpensive.

Aye, and there's the rub. You cannot put in a fireplace and remain on the inexpensive side of things. I am sure this old house was originally built with a fireplace, but it is long gone and we're not even sure where it once stood. And this house screams for a cozy hearth! When we mention we'd like to put one in people tilt their heads to the side and say, thoughtfully, "Don't you already have one?" as if they have vague recollections of seeing one in there. That's when I go a bit lathery and spit, "NO! You see? Our house was MADE for one!" And that's when The Viking leads me away to get a cold beverage or something.

Anyway, every year when Spring comes we sigh and say, maybe this year we can get one. But we never can. This year, a friend of The Viking's has offered him a wood-burning stove. Now, that is an interesting option. Interesting, but perhaps not satisfactory. We are still debating it. The Viking wants to take it and install it now. I am not so sure. Yes, yes, it burns wood, it will help with the winter gas bill, the house will smell like I've always wanted it to, we'll step outside on cold nights and say enviously, "Oh, who has lit a fire" like we always do only we'll be able to answer smugly, "Oh, it's US! Tee hee!"

BUT. I think wood-stoves are boderline ugly. And I don't know how it would fit in with our home's decor. I always associate them with more rustic, cabiny looks and I don't picture our home that way. PLUS. Where would we put it? The Viking wants to put it in the corner where the piano is.

Obviously, we'd have to move the piano. And, to where? And how? And to where? Also? Having a stove off in the corner like a naughty child might just be weird. Can we just put it off to the side like that? I just don't know. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad. But I'm kind of worried that once we get the stove in, The Viking will be satisfied enough with it to abandon the fireplace idea, and I am never going to not want one and he will get what he wants and I won't. Wow, that's childish.

Anyhoo, if something IS going to be installed, it needs to be installed soon because Winter's a-comin'. And it's going to be a cold one. And gas ain't cheap. And wood is free. Usually.

Right. I feel I am stopping this whole thing a bit short, but finding all those photos took way longer than anticipated and I really must go and strip beds, do laundry and FINISH THOSE DANG DECORATIONS! The morning has flown by! Until next time...

Monday, October 13, 2008

Good and Tired

It is 9:30 on a Sunday night and I am tired and cranky, heading rapidly toward bitchy, so I'd best be brief.

It's been a long, rather nice weekend, but I am in desperate need of some down time in which to decompress. We've spent lots of lovely time this weekend with some of my favorite people, but, as an introvert, even the most delightful social activities drain me after a while. I need to be alone and quiet in order to recharge. I'm going on three days straight of being constantly with people and it's beginning to show. I'm planning on taking a bubble bath or locking myself in the bedroom with the laptop as soon as I'm finished updating this.

I'll just share some highlights:

Wednesday I made the best chicken noodle soup I have ever, ever tasted! I think I mentioned I was trying the recipe I found here, did I not? Well, it was absolutely decadently scrumptious and instantly declared a new favorite by the entire family. That's right, the entire family. We all sat shoveling it in, making grunting piggy noises! We had it as leftovers Thursday night and everyone was so excited! Then the next morning, Man-Cub came down for breakfast and asked hopefully if there was any of that soup left. I am going to be making it constantly this winter! If you like chicken soup, I urge you, urge you, to go and try it!

Friday we had off from school. Oh for joy! Getting to sleep in while wrapped in flannel is my idea of heaven on earth. I've literally been falling asleep and waking up with a goofy smile on my face. Friday morning, Redheaded Snippet and Man-Cub woke to find, taped to the computer monitor (Snippet's) and the tv(Man-Cub's), individualized lists, printed in specially selected kicky fonts detailing the chores they were required to complete before certain privileges would be dispensed. Which meant I awoke to the sound of Man-Cub crying in my bedroom doorway with his list in his hand. I assure you the tasks were age-appropriate and in no way more than they could handle. But my children were scandalized. You would have thought I had asked them to whitewash the fence, dig a well and shear the sheep. But I remained resolute and they got their work done. The house looked great!

Friday afternoon, I went and checked out a Dollar General store. I've been hearing good things about this place, mostly from blogs run by other bargain-hunting moms with decorating addictions, so I decided to see what all the fuss was about. Aaaaaand, I have a new favorite place to shop! I was so very impressed, I wound up spending $50! Most of it was stuff we need, like deodorant, flossers, granola bars and pot holders, but I did pick up a bunch of unnecessary items as well. Scented candles for a $1? And not icky smelling ones, but ones that actually smell pretty good? A vinyl, flannel-backed tablecloth (okay, it's no oilcloth but beggars can't be choosers) for everyday for only $5? Sunglasses (mine were all scratched) for only $6? A pack of six stretchy plastic spiders for $1? Two hankies for $1? This is my kind of store!

That's right, I said hankies. I decided a while ago to give hankies a whirl. I became entranced with them for some odd reason and loved the romantic notion of pulling a dainty bit of embroidered fluff out of my (vintage) purse with which to dab my eyes, mop my brow or wipe a smudge off a child's face. When I saw them 2/$1 at Dollar General, that was all I needed. I sprayed a whiff of scent on one and stuck it in my bag. And it was good thing too because I was rather weepy in church today and it came in real handy! I felt so ladylike with my fragrant piece of linen clutched in my hand! Later, at the pumpkin patch, I felt the need to dab the dampness from my skin and remembered my handkerchief with a flash of excitement. Again, so handy!

More on the pumpkin patch in a mo'. Friday night we went out with new friends. They live in town, both their girls are on the hockey team and their oldest is Redheaded Snippet's best friend so we get to see them a lot. They are wonderful, laid-back, late-night kind of people who use good sense and sharp eyes to raise their kids. They took us to a Columbian/Cuban place in Philly. The food was amazing and the time just flew by. I really do think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Saturday I was able to make just a tiny dent in the Halloween decorations. I really am over-thinking this task. You just pick things up and put them where they look festive, right? WRONG! In my case, you stand at the table for 11 minutes, trying to decide which piece to place first. You pick one up, walk in the direction of the place you want to put it, but change your mind, turn around and put it back on the table. Repeat with different items about 7 times. Then give up and go check your email. Then whine to husband about "decorator's block" which is ridiculous because, clearly, I am no decorator. Progress has been made as of the publishing of this post, but we still haven't been able to reclaim the dining room table.

Saturday night we had a family dinner to celebrate my father's 60th birthday. He didn't a big to-do so we decided to send him to visit Dharma and Baby Bee in Chicago and take him out for a nice dinner that hewould thoroughly enjoy. Now, a quick word about our typical family dinners: EGOD usually railroads every one because she won't eat anywhere but an Italian place. And for some reason, my parents accommodate her (probably because she can be a real witch--and not in a good way--when she's pissed about something). This time, however, I was determined that my father would get to decide where hewould like to eat and EGOD could just go eat a hat. I asked him what he wanted and he said lamb so I decided to find a good Irish pub.

Long story short, we found a pub that turned out to be fantastic in every way: food was fabulous, ambience was nice and authentic and everyone had a great time. And I got all the credit! I ran interference for my dad with EGOD so he had a thoroughly relaxing and delightful evening. There was lamb, steak, ribs, lots of beer and even a shandy for me, something I haven't had since I was in England. We got to spend the evening in Philly, we sat in an alcove with a refreshing breeze blowing in on us, Lobelia and Lenny were there with Vantastic and it was just about the perfect evening! Dharma, Vance, Baby Bee and Daria couldn't be there on account of Dharma's pregnancy, and The Viking was doing a job in North Philly (sounds like he's in the mob, doesn't it?) and didn't make it, but otherwise, it was perfect!

Today, I got to spend time with my new boyfriend. Have I mentioned him? Perhaps not. It is a bit embarassing. It's a May-December relationship, you see; he's quite a bit older than me. His hands are gnarled and worn, but he still knows how to use them believe you me! His hair may be grey, but his technique is flawless. I just can't say enough about him!

I speak, of course, of the divine Jacques Pepin, Master Chef and King of the "What's Cooking" block of cooking shows on the NJN network on Sunday afternoons in the Delaware Valley. The Viking and I watch his show together and we just shake our heads in amazement at the wonder that is Jacques. Even Redheaded Snippet has started saying, "WWJD: What Would Jacques Do?" whenever we have a culinary dilemma. Today, The Viking walked in on me glued to the television in rapt silence while Jacques whipped up a lamb stew in about 12 minutes flat. Don't even get me started on the lobster rolls. Do you know what I think my favorite thing about Jacques is? He drinks wine from a tumbler. Oh yes he does. How can you not love that?

After my afternoon tryst, we packed the station full of kids (Redheaded Snippet brought two friends home from church this morning) and headed to our favorite farm for apple picking! The weather was just so agreeable we decided on the spur of the moment to do it! We were planning all sorts of appley delights in the car on the way over only to discover upon waiting in the longest line I've ever seen to go pick your own produce that they were out of apples! I guess the trees were all picked clean? We were so disappointed! But, since we were there, we decided to pick pumpkins instead. We cautioned the kids to only pick one as we have plans to go pumpkin picking for real with Lenny and Lobelia in two weeks and, of course, Redheaded Snippet picked out a 42 lb pumpkin and, of course, The Viking let her have it. It took the Snippet and her two friends to carry it. And it cost twenty-six stinkin' dollars! We're going to need a chainsaw to carve it!

After our party in the patch, The Viking agreed to help me with the Halloween decor. Thanks to him, both porches are done! Yay! I didn't get any photos because we finished after dark and I got cranky and tired, but I will get some soon, and will get The Viking to help me post them. We slung cobwebs all over the place. It looks good and creepy. Now all I have to do is finish the inside of the house.

So, now the house is tidy again, the weather is crisp enough that the tip of my nose is numb, my porches are done and we have another day off tomorrow! I shall sleep blissfully indeed tonight!

Now, where's my flannel?