Friday, June 19, 2009


So, my daughter is now officially "from scholastic trammels free". At least, as far as junior high school is concerned. I know, I know, junior high graduation is a requirement and not as much of an accomplishment as high school graduation, but we are still proud of the young lady she is becoming and even more relieved that this chapter of her life (and ours) is complete. Junior high was quite the roller coaster and we're so glad it's over. One down and one to go. Hopefully, there'll be less drama for Man-Cub, him being a man.

The Graduating Class of 2009. Yup, that's it. We are a teeny, tiny school. Redheaded Snippet is in the front row, third from the left.

The Chambers Singers started the evening off right with one of the best arrangements of "The Star Spangled Banner" I've ever heard. And, speaking not just as a parent, but also as a musician and former Music Educator, I can say I have never heard a junior high music group sound like ours do. Our Music Teacher is worth every penny they are paying him and way more and I don't mind going on record as saying so. He has done amazing things with our music program. But moving on...

The Awards Presentation was first (after all the formal greetings, etc). There they all are, wondering if their names will be called.

Redheaded Snippet made us very proud. She received a Sports Award presented to the boy and girl who "have exhibited, to the highest degree, qualities of Sportsmanship, Leadership, and Physical Ability". She was pretty excited about that one.

She made us even prouder when she received the Borough Council Award, presented by the Mayor to "the student, chosen by his or her fellow students who has exhibited, to the highest degree, qualities of Leadership, Sportsmanship, Trustworthiness, Kindness, Cooperation and Friendship".

To round things out, she was also recipient of the award presented to the student who has contributed most to the Drama Program.

Walking across the stage, upon having her name called, to receive her diploma.

Officially a graduate!

The Borough Council Award

Best friend, partner-in-crime and fellow graduate

That's one proud Viking.

The next day in school (yes, they make them go back to school for a two-hour day the day after Graduation) there was another, less formal awards ceremony during which Redheaded Snippet was presented with trophies for MVP in both Field Hockey and Basketball. So, all in all, she made out really well and has been clearing out space in her room for the new plaques, trophies and certificates.

We have spent the few days since relaxing with purpose between spurts of semi-frantic activity as we prepare for our big trip to the National Futures Championship in Virginia Beach. It's a 6-hour drive and we leave tomorrow so I have lots to do, as you can imagine! We're planning on dividing and conquering while we're there so the trip is part business and part vacation. I will be carting Redheaded Snippet to all her games, practices and meetings, and The Viking will be taking Man-Cub around to various fun-filled activities. I've heard whisperings about crabbing, kite-flying, digging, swimming, castle-building, splashing, you get the idea. We're also meeting up with The Viking's aunt, uncle and cousins who live in the area, hoping to visit a few historical sights while we're there (time permitting, of course), and we've decided to stay an extra night so we can spend a day in D.C. I think we're going to be quite tired out when it's all over!

We've reserved a suite with a kitchen so we don't have to eat out all week (Redheaded Snippet specifically asked for homemade meals so she's better fueled) but I'm hoping to actually cook a few meals today and tonight so all I have to do is pack them up and then heat them up when we get there. Which means, oh dear, I'd better get to the grocery store! And the children better get crackin' on the cleanin'! The car needs to be emptied so we can refill it with all our essential travel gear and I refuse to come home to a messy house! So, I'd better get out the bull whip and megaphone and quit blogging!

Monday, June 15, 2009

What I accomplished today or How to clean your stove for mere pennies

This is gonna be dull so strap yourself in lest you be tempted to run screaming for the hills. Well, I have a feeling you'll still be tempted, but maybe the strapping in will prevent you from actually doing it. Whatever. You're all grown ups.

Oh, look at poor Mrs. Croft up there. I know, from that distance she looks perky as ever. But just take a closer look...

Now would you look at that! What a mess someone has left on poor Mrs. Croft's once clean and shiny surface! Who would cook a tasty dinner of bangers-n-mash and then leave all the grease splattered (okay, more like pooled) everywhere like that?

Heavens above. Someone really should clean this up. And I will tell you how to do so, efficiently and economically. All you need are a few simple tools, namely, vinegar water, baking soda and a preferred type of scrubbie. Paper towels are handy as well, but, well, more on that later...

So, in case you haven't by now chewed off your own limbs so you can escape, here's my preferred scrubbie (in front of my oh-so-cute Oberweiss milk bottle that Daria was kind enough to save for me and bring with her from Chicago--not sure how I'm going to use it, but oh, I'm going to). I forget who makes it but I can only find it at Target. It's got this rough-but-won't-scratch-surfaces side that works very well for scrubbing...

...and this softer, more absorbent, towel-like side for wiping. It's like the best of both worlds! What kind of lunatic takes photos of her kitchen sponge for a blog? I have truly reached the edge reason.

Buy a large jug of white vinegar. It costs maybe $2 and some change. Buy a plastic spray bottle at the dollar store. While you're at it, buy three or four so you can scatter them about the house for all your cleaning needs. You can even color coordinate them if you like (I've heard of people who do that, you know, purple for the powder room/laundry room, blue for the upstairs bathroom, red or green for the kitchen, but that's just what I hear). When you get home and you're ready, fill the bottle(s) halfway with vinegar. Then fill it(them) the rest of the way with water. You may also add a few drops of your favorite essential oil if you'd like to mask the vinegar odor or enhance the spray with your favorite scent. I use lavender oil in mine. About 7-10 drops.

I probably should have mentioned this, but while you're at the store, pick up a Gargantu-pack of baking soda. Don't worry, you'll use it. It's great for cleaning, scouring and deodorizing. Keep some in a handy container near the sink. I keep some in an old sugar shaker that used to be filled with maple sugar. The sugar is long gone, but the shaker is perfect for my baking soda. This shaker lives on a plate next to my sink with my vinegar spray and my squirt bottle filled with dish soap. I clean everything with vinegar and baking soda.

Including Mrs. Croft. Just spray whatever you're cleaning with a few robust bursts of vinegar water. It's a natural disinfectant, is great for cutting grease and even works well to deodorize a mattress cover in the event of a bed wetting accident.

Now, you can do this step first, sprinkling before spraying, but I prefer to dampen the surfaces first...but sprinkle some baking soda on top of the vinegar water. You know what happens when vinegar and baking soda meet, right? They get all excited and effervesce. This actually makes a great home kitchen science lesson for children. It also makes for a great, "Potions Class", activity during a Harry Potter-themed birthday party if you put the vinegar in an old-looking vial labeled, "Dragon Tears", and the baking soda in a stoppered flask marked, "Bicorn Horn Powder", and tell them the concoction is a powerful Love Potion. Just don't let them actually drink it.

So, once you've got your Love Potion all bubbly, get to scrubbin'. Baking soda is a natural abrasive but it dissolves pretty quickly in the vinegar so it isn't too harsh.

You don't take photos of yourself while doing menial tasks like scouring your stove, do you? This was no easy feat, I assure you. And, apparently, sticking one's tongue out part of the way is essential for efficient scrubbing. The Viking says I do this whenever I'm concentrating. He thinks it's cute. I think it makes me look simple.

Doesn't it look better already? But we're not finished yet! Those grates and drip pans need a good cleaning and the baking soda residue needs to be wiped off.

I usually take the opportunity to give my sink a thorough going over whenever I do the same for the stove. The drip pans and grate go into the sink and, for good measure, I throw in the kitchen sponge and its holder as well. I fill the sink almost to the top with hot water, add a cup of bleach and then let it percolate for an hour. While that's going on, I finish the stove top with more vinegar spray and some paper towels (paper toweling, as Martha Stewart says). Of course, Viva paper towels are without equal, but my budget doesn't always allow for their purchase and today, I was out of even the inferior brand-which-shall-not-be-named towels I had been forced to buy and had no choice but to use several napkins to wipe the stove down. Just spray and wipe, spray and wipe. The vinegar is a good baking soda detector as it bubbles up whenever it encounters the stuff. So, wherever it bubbles, spray some more and wipe it down.

Once the drip pans and grates have finished their hour in the bath, give them a wipe with the newly clean and disinfected scrubbie, dry them off, then return them to their proper places. And voila'! look how clean and shiny she is!

I've been scrolling back and forth from the before shot to this one trying very hard to detect a difference and I just can't find it. Which is kind of disheartening, but it doesn't really matter because I have seen what the photos don't show. I can sleep peacefully tonight knowing in my heart of hearts that Mrs. Croft is clean.

And that (among a myriad of other, lesser chores and tasks) is what I accomplished today. For mere pennies.

You may untie yourself and pour yourself a good, stiff drink.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

15 Years of Wedded Bliss

No matter how I try, I cannot read that without it sounding snarky in my head! I'm so jaded!

Today is my 15th Wedding Anniversary. My wedding day still remains one of the three happiest days of my life (the births of Redheaded Snippet and Man-Cub being the other two) so it's fun to reminisce. Tonight we're going out for dinner and Mom and Daria are taking the children. Yay! Which means I need to run to CVS for nail polish remover and a razor. You know how it is. So I must fly. But I have included a short collection of Me-and-Him photos for your viewing pleasure.

This is a rare honeymoon shot. We went to St. Thomas. The Viking's family is friends with a woman who owns a resort there. Yeah, she owns it. So she offered to let us house-sit for her while she was on vacation as long as we didn't mind waiting three weeks to go on our honeymoon. First, where do you vacation when you live in St. Thomas? Second, heck no we didn't mind! It was beautiful!

A rare shot of the elusive, lesser-known, hairless-faced variety of Viking. He had to be clean shaven for a firefighting class he was taking. He has had some form of facial hair since I have known him so this was a weird period in our lives. I felt like I was living with some strange man the whole time and was so glad when the goatee came back!

Our trip to Gettysburg. He was being silly and making me laugh by sucking in his gut excessively much. And snap!

Oh yeah. This was that time we dressed up as Dog the Bounty Hunter and his wife, Beth, for Halloween. That was a lot of fun. And I always feel compelled to mention those are not my real bosoms. And look at cute, little Man-Cub as Robin Hood in the back there!

Chillin' at a picnic table out in Lancaster, Pa. Do people even say chillin' anymore or am I just showing my age?

One of our more recent shots, taken while visiting The Viking's brother in The Poconos one October. It seems every time I decide I'm going to cut my hair, I look at this photo and think, "Hey, maybe I like my hair long..." But maybe my long hair only looks like this in the glorious October Pocono Mountain sunshine.

Anyway, Happy Anniversary to me and my Viking. We've certainly made good use of our wedding vows: richer, poorer, sickness, health, better, worse, until one of us kills the other. It's been quite a ride and after 15 years, I still wouldn't choose anyone else for my partner.

Off to buy beautification aids!

Friday, June 05, 2009

Big Sigh of Relief

Whew! Okay, the play is over and now our schedules begin to wind down a bit. There are still plenty of end-of-year events coming in the next two weeks, but things will be better than they have been.

The school's production of Aladdin went off without a hitch last night. There's Redheaded Snippet during curtain calls between Aladdin and Princess Jasmine (with their true identities concealed as I don't have permission from their parents to display them all over the Internet).

These are kind of blurry, but they're the only performance shots that made it.

The Viking got video of all of Redheaded Snippet's scenes, but it's still in the camera and I don't know how to get it out (maybe I should try rubbing the camera?) so that will have to wait.

The cast did a great job and, more importantly, had great fun doing it.

Despite my initial misgivings, I was so happy with the way the costume and makeup turned out.

I managed to do some research online and I think this is the best makeup job I've ever done, if I say so myself.

Here, Redheaded Snippet and the girl who played Aladdin are signing autographs. A swarm of little girls were pressed up against the stage with pen and program in hand--they were so cute!

She says she might want to be an actress someday. I think she's got the talent for it and I know she's got the ambition for it. But I also think she's got the wrong set of morals for it. In that she has them. High ones. As her mother, I don't want to think about her going off to New York or Hollywood. But, I recognized the performer in her at a very young age and that's why I've worked hard to make sure she's got a good head on her shoulders and a firm footing on solid ground to prepare her for whatever lies ahead.

Boy, where did that profound moment come from? None of that now!

Before I run off, I feel the urge to share a few more things:
1. Today is my birthday. I'm 37.
2. Daria is coming home from Chicago today. Perfect birthday present.
3. The Viking arranged for several of my dearest friends to come over tonight to play with me! Lobelia, Mrs. Nugent, Mrs. Brown, hopefully Susie Q, my Mom and a new friend I haven't mentioned before are all coming over and we're going to play games while The Viking plays bartender and waiter for us! Even more perfect birthday present!
4. One blot on this day: Dharma and Co. can't be here. But they will be here in about a month so I will do my best to wait patiently and enjoy myself tonight!

That is all. I must go make some preliminary preparations for my party!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Wanna Peek?

Genie costume is finished!

The play is Thursday and the first Dress Rehearsal was tonight. So, here are some shots of the costume with only minimal makeup done (keep that in mind; makeup for the performance will be worlds better)!

Is that braid amazing, or what? Mom was a genius, snapping it up at that yard sale

What's really weird is the braid doesn't match Redheaded Snippet's hair color exactly. There's not a trace of red in it. But it matches closely enough that nobody seems to notice.

Here's the bodice, completely homemade by my Mom. It was a pain in the neck. The fabric, bought because it was on sale, was impossible to work with, has no give, and splotches easily. The trim came from an old genie costume made from an even older dress (I think you may remember that, Dharma).

The bottom half of the costume, also made by Mom. That light blue fabric was no picnic either: anyone who came within 8 inches of the stuff found themselves instantly covered in glitter and it was gummy; it totally gummed up two of Mom's sewing machine needles and I had to make an emergency Walmart run to get her a new pack.

Somehow, while this looks very nice, it doesn't look quite ostentatious enough to me. I had pictured her looking a little outrageous and not as pretty. But she loves it and so did her director.

She was sick and tired of me taking photos by this time. I made her pose but couldn't make her look happy about it.

But she came through after all. There you have it, one homemade genie costume. She has to be at school in full makeup and costume at 7:30 tomorrow morning. Which means I have to get up at 6:00 to get her done in time. Which means I really should be in bed already!

Good night!