Friday, October 28, 2011

I'M FAMOUS! ...well not really

As I run around like a chicken with my head cut off, trying to prep for our great Florida adventure, you can head on over to The Snarky Mom where I have a guest post today. She and I both have an affinity for America's Dairyland (as she still lives there) and understand the torture joy of working for newspapers. She needed some help filling her blog while she got her schmidt together and I was happy to help.

See ya'll in 10 days!

Thursday, October 27, 2011


It's so shiny! And the water reservoir is bigger, too.

When the doorbell rang at almost 6 p.m., Nathaniel ran to the window, 
saw the FedEx truck and called, "Coffee for Mommy!"

Smart boy.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Chopped: SAHM edition

A friend started a group on Facebook where a bunch of us could post weekly menus, share recipes and give cooking/baking tips. I try to post every week because it helps me think through my menus (usually), so I'm not running to the store a couple times a week for "just one" thing and ended up spending $100. And when I get into a major cooking rut, it's nice to steal other people's ideas for a change.

Admittedly, this week I did not share a menu. That's because everything in my fridge needs eaten by lunch on Friday, otherwise I'll have a scary, smelly, science experiment waiting for me after our vacation.

I've done it before. It's not pretty.

Monday we had leftover sausage gravy, biscuits and scrambled eggs, which took care of all but one serving of gravy and 2 biscuits and 2 eggs. Last night it was leftover chicken noodles. Mission accomplished there. Tonight is cheeseburger soup (again, leftover) and salad.

After that it gets interesting. In no particular order, here are the perishables that need to disappear before the end of the week:

Taco meat (not quite enough for 4)
one serving of biscuits and gravy (and eggs)
3 squeeze yogurt
half a gallon of milk
3 apples
1 mango
half a bag of clementines (those may make the trip with us...)
half a loaf of bread
2 hot dog buns
3 hamburger buns
4 English muffins
bag of pita (I really don't know the shelf life on those. They may survive)
appx 8 oz container of sour cream
1.5 green peppers
2 carrots
half an onion
cream cheese

I can be pretty creative to combine all of those things, but I kinda need more days and "stuff" with which to do it. I mean, there is more in the fridge and freezer that will last an eternity that can help, but I don't want to generate any more leftovers.

Maybe I should host my own episode of "Chopped" and see what someone else can come up with for dinner. And the ingredients in your secret basket are... All the crap from Bridget's refrigerator! You have 30 minutes. Begin!

Any takers?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Mama needs her coffee

Reason # 492 why I love my Keurig:

In August, I finally broke down and called customer service because my Keurig was leaking water all over my counter with every cup it brewed. This was particularly noticeable when I had a house full of people for Fun Fest and the poor thing was making like 8 cups a morning.
My Keurig and coffee mug... perfect harmony.

I waited and waited before I called because I was afraid a) they'd tell me tough luck, b) they'd tell me to buy a new one or c) they'd make me send my brewer in, thereby leaving me Keurig-less for an excruciating amount of time (ya know, like more than 24 hours).

When I called, the woman I spoke to was very helpful. We guessed it was leaking from the water reservoir, so she agreed to send me a new one at no charge.

Sweet! I thought.

I got the new reservoir in a few days and happily switched out the "defective" one.

I didn't notice any puddles on my counter (always a good thing), but one morning I decided to lift up the brewer "just to check."

Ahh, ignorance is bliss... puddle city underneath. So I sighed, grabbed a dish towel to put underneath and went about my day. I hesitated to call AGAIN because I was still afraid of a hassle. In my experience, customer service is dead.

Then this weekend was the last straw. I pushed the largest cup option to brew a nice, piping hot mug of my coveted pumpkin spice coffee... and it only brewed half a cup. I like my coffee strong, but not THAT strong, so I dumped it out and made another one. Wasted a precious K-cup. Tsk tsk.

It did the same thing again this morning (although I didn't risk the pumpkin spice this time), so I called Keurig. I explained what was happening and she promised to send me a new brewer, free of charge. I don't even have to mail my old one in first or at all! There was no yelling, screaming, crying, begging or standing on my head involved. They just need the little K-cup holder as proof and they'll mark my brewer as "defective" in their system.

I probably won't get the new one before we leave for vacation, but that just means I will have a brand-new non-leaking Keurig waiting for me when I get back.

We're driving to Florida and back with two kids, visiting the Mouse and hitting the beach. I'm gonna need that coffee.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Overheard at my house: Tacos and math don't mix

"Does anyone want lettuce on their taco?"

Blink. Blink.

I was addressing five kids, all of whom know how to talk. I got bubkis.

"There's gonna be seven boys at my house Friday! 'Cause I'm having a friend over and my brother's having a friend over and then there's our dad and our dog..."

Right. That's not quite seven, but...

"So nobody wants lettuce on their tacos?"

Same kid: "Oh I do."


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Overheard at my house: excited bovines

The upside to having two chatterboxes is that I hear some pretty entertaining things when my kids think I'm out of earshot.

Take this gem between my 4-year-old and my friend's 7-year-old.

"Holy cow!"

"I'm not allowed to say that."

"What? You're not allowed to say 'Holy cow?' Who's not allowed to say 'holy cow?' Why not?"

"My mom said, 'That's enough.'"

Yes, I'm a mean mommy. I got tired of hearing 'Holy cow!' when I told him we were out of Apple Jacks, when he found a lost (for 5 minutes) toy, when the dog needed to go outside, when it was lunch time, when it was time to leave the house for any reason, when I needed to do laundry, when the mail arrived, when the paper got delivered, when the school bus came...

You get the idea.

We did lift the ban momentarily after we told the kids we're going to see Mickey Mouse in a little over a week.

"Oh my  uh... my!"

"Buddy, you can say 'holy cow.'" Hubby told him.

"Really? Holy cow holy cow holy cow holy cow holy cow!"

There. I bet he feels better.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

In my head today...

Way back when in the middle of the summer, I got to cover The Band Perry at the county fair. I admit I was annoyed by "Hip to My Heart," their first single. "If I Die Young" is too creepy to say that you love it, but it's a good song. No other acts sounded up my alley, so I bit.

It didn't disappoint. I was tapping my toes and singing along anytime they pulled in a rock cover. They brag that they grew up on Rolling Stones and Loretta Lynn, and their sound reflects it.

Fast forward to my birthday, when I got an iTunes gift card. Their album was the first that I bought and I LOVE it. The only problem is that I end up singing the same song for days on end. Today? "Independence."

So I had to drag y'all down with me share. Enjoy.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Applesauce '11

I was a spoiled kid.

I mean, yes, I got a lot of "stuff" (being an only child and the youngest grandchild), but I also never tasted store-bought applesauce until I was an adult.

It was a sad day.

Nana wasn't the greatest cook, but baking and homemade goodies were her specialty. Someday I'd like to be half as successful in the kitchen as she was.

I am bound and determined to give my kids a little bit of what I grew up with - complete with homemade applesauce every fall. And winter. And spring. Sometimes summer, if we're lucky.

First, we do something I never did, which was pick the apples off the trees. Well, we were a little late this year, so the apples were pretty high. Hubby manned the picker pole and the kids fetched the apples and put them into the bucket.

I like this system, mostly because I just get to supervise. I did check for soft and brown spots since it was later in the season, but even a few questionable ones managed to sneak through. They don't have to be pretty to become applesauce.

After we got more apples than seemed wise, we headed home. In past years, we've let the kids watch and eat the peels, but we opted for the "wait until they're asleep" sprint this year. Too many monkey-like tendencies, in my opinion.

So here's how we started.

A mix of Jonathons and Cortlands. Probably worked out to be 50/50 on each batch, so a nice combination of tart and sweet.

Here's the set up...

Hubby mans the peeler-corer-slicer, mostly because I get frustrated trying to line everything up and the suction on the bottom doesn't hold it to the counter any more. He ends up cranking with one hand and holding the dang thing down with the other. I take off the bottoms and the tops and quarter each one to make it cook faster and then man the pots.

I only own one huge pot, which I need for the hot water bath (on right), so I use two large pots for actually cooking the apples down. 

One pot held a bag of apples. I forgot to take a picture. I was trying to quarter and check all the apples Hubby was peeling and dump them into the pots and put a little water in and stir and stir and be sticky from my fingertips to my elbows. I didn't want to stickify my phone.

Take my word for it, I couldn't have fit any more apples into the pots if I tried.

Here is one (of five) pots after cooking down.

Next came my new favorite part of the process... two words for you: immersion blender! I had one on my Christmas list after attempting to use a potato masher on waaay too many pots of apples last year. OW. The stick blender was so cool! Stir and whir and voila!

Doesn't that look yummy? I combined the two pots I was cooking simultaneously and seasoned with a little sugar. "Little" being about a cup for a 8 qt. pot-full. But it all depends on your apples and personal preference.

There. That's better.

So into the sterilized jars they went to hang out in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes. Then they lined my counters while I finished the remaining batches. I love the popping sound the lids make when they seal.

The finished product:

A total of 34 jars of homemade applesauce. Only one didn't seal, so the kids and I happily polished that one off today. The rest are in the pantry keeping our 30+ jars of pickles company.

It's gonna be a yummy winter. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sad day for motorsports

I was all set to chronicle our adventures in apple picking in 35 mph winds and marathon applesauce making session tonight, but my heart and mind aren't in it. 

Like many Sundays, we filled it watching sports - football, baseball, and of course, racing. 

I was happy to hear that 2011 Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon was racing today at Las Vegas and I was pulling for him. He didn't have a full-time ride this year, and I think it was a shame. The only benefit from an idle season was that he hopped into the broadcast booth and showed his enthusiasm and his personality for Versus. 

The sport is inherently dangerous, and the perfect storm happened today: too many cars riding too close going too fast. One mistake led to 15 cars being collected in a mess of twisted metal, fire and billowing smoke. 

Hubby and I sat on the couch transfixed. It was hard to pick out which car was Wheldon's until it had already been covered with a yellow sheet, which broadcasters blamed on trying to keep the pieces together. It also made it harder to see that the car was flat; the part of the car normally behind the driver's head was gone.

As time ticked away on the red flag, I had a sinking feeling that word from the hospital would not be good. If he had been OK, it would have been a priority to get word back to everyone at the track.

Instead, the word was not good. 

As a mother and someone who has lost a loved one, I think I feel things differently now. I hugged my children extra tight tonight, knowing that Wheldon leaves behind two little boys who will never get another good night hug from their daddy.


Rest in peace, Dan. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I Heart Fall

I love fall. Or autumn, as my know-it-all preschooler now tells me daily.

I love warm sun and cool breezes.

I love the colors of the trees.

I love the crunch of leaves underfoot.

I love football.

I love that I can have windows open to go to sleep and not wake up feeling like someone ran over my sinuses with a Mack truck.

I love walking outside on a cool morning (it's been known to happen. Sometimes it's just to the mailbox. Whatev).

I love warming up with a mug of coffee, tea, or even better - apple cider!

I love taking the kids to pick apples at the orchard and making enough jars of applesauce to feed an army (or my kids through the winter. Same difference).

I love picking the perfect pumpkin.

I love wearing jeans and hooded sweatshirts.

I love warming the house up by baking.

I love anything made with pumpkin, especially pumpkin spice lattes.

I love freakishly warm fall days like we've had in the last week, when the mercury rises to almost 80. I banished the kids to the out-of-doors all week because I know it won't last. In fact, today was it.

I may cry when it starts raining tomorrow.

There are only three things I can possibly think of about fall that I DON'T love: the smell of burning leaves, the random rogue tornado, and the season that follows it.

Don't get me wrong, I like LOOKING at snow. I like skiing. I want a white Christmas.

But I don't like having to drive in it.

I don't like Hubby has to drive to work in it.

I don't like that we won't see a county plow on our road all season.

I don't like 2-hr delays or cancellations, because I have a 4-year-old who loves school.

I don't like being stuck in my house for weeks on end with my children. We all get a little squirrelly.

I don't like being cold all.the.freaking.time. Coffee consumption goes WAY up.

And if those pesky weather people are to be trusted, it's gonna be a doozy of a winter.


Let's hope it doesn't start next week.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Crazy sports weekend

Anyone who knows me knows I try to do everything. I hate to say no. It applies to every aspect of my life, although now that I have two monkeys in tow, I do recognize their limits. But not my own.

ND Band
In June, we got information on how to apply for Notre Dame football tickets. (Yay alumni status!) We picked Air Force, a game that we thought wouldn't be 95 degrees or 35 and snowing, and one that we could get up to four tickets for (ie not a premium game. USC, for example, we could only get two). Lucky for us we got them, and asked another couple to join us.

Fast forward a few weeks from getting the tickets and planning the day, another friend texts me that she won the chance to buy four Colts tickets at work. We were the first people she thought of to join them. Flattering, but once I realized it was the day after our ND game, I got a little flustered. With one football game already a definite and me hoping to go to the Colts-Steelers game (alas, I did not) AND our trip to Florida at the end of the month, I didn't think our checkbook would speak to us if we did everything, never mind how we would feel after all the running.

But they asked us first. And Hubby can't turn down football tickets. I'm pretty sure it's in his DNA. And I would have actually had to say "NO." Huh-uh.

Touchdown Jesus!
But what to do with the monkeys? One quick call to Granny, who hadn't seen them in a while and was itching for some time with them, and we had a plan to meet halfway on Friday after school and do a kid-swap. That meant in addition to two football games, we also had a date night that didn't involve finding a babysitter. We went for a bike ride (which was WAY more fun before he started doing triathlons) and then went out for a late(r) dinner at the "new" Japanese steak house in town. We came home and watched baseball on DVR.

The Notre Dame game was something, especially since they shellacked Air Force (didn't see that one coming). I had fun and so did our friends, so I see doing it again next year. But it was a loooong day. After the game, our friend called her mom - who was watching their kids - to let her know we were grabbing a bite to eat before heading home.

But you ate before the game, her mom said.

"Mom, that was eight hours ago..."

We finally got home and should have gone right to bed since we needed to be up early to head to Indy, but we didn't. Shocker.

See this guy? Not
what you'd call a happy
The Colts game was fun, except for that whole "they can't win without Peyton Manning" thing. Luckily there was good people watching. We were sitting behind two women who were dressed like they did something unspeakable for a living. Tank tops, bras showing (when did THAT become acceptable?! I so don't get it) and leggings that were probably painted on. And their assets were anything BUT real. They had no idea what happens in a football game, so they kept turning around to ask Craig questions. A guy a few rows down pretended to take a picture of his son, but was really getting a picture of them. Classy.

A few seats down was Mike Ditka. Or his twin. I kid you not. If I had a little more guts, I would have sneakily taken a picture with my phone, because I know no one will believe me. He had the mustache, the sunglasses, the slicked back hair, everything. Who knew Ditka was a closet Colts fan?

We collected very hyper and overly tired children from Granny and Grandpa's house, and after another long drive home, we watched baseball on DVR. Another late night.

I loved it and I'm sure we'll do it again. Just hopefully not both games in one weekend. I'm looking forward to a hot date with my pillow tonight.

...After we watch baseball.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Family photo shoot

We had family pictures tonight. I like to think I'm a pretty good photographer, but the one thing I can't do well is take pictures of myself. Luckily I have a great friend who has her own business and enjoys corralling my howler monkeys and trying to force Hubby to smile.

She picked a local park and the kids were quite wound up, so there was a lot of running, yelling, adults fearing kids were going to fall into the water, stick and rock throwing and oh yeah, a few smiles. We even taught Steph how to play "Pooh sticks," but Leah and I didn't win.

I even remembered to have pictures of JUST me and Hubby. Steph sat the kids down on the ground near her so there was no fear of them running off, hurting themselves or otherwise distracting us from smiling and looking pretty. It was their job to make funny faces and make us smile.

Now I can't wait to see the pictures to know if it worked!

Last year's family photo. Wow, the kids have grown...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Car Dealership Fun

I went to the dealership to pick up my still-broken rear seat in the minuscule chance they might be able to force it open, thereby making it a seat again. They couldn't.

There must be a run on tan leather van seats, because they have to come direct from the manufacturer and could take 2-3 weeks, minimum.

Last week when we were there, I commandeered the TV and put on Disney to keep the howler monkeys at bay. This week, I didn't expect to be there long, and there was an older couple already watching the Game Show Network. Hmm. What to do.

Oh right... use the cute and innocent balloons the service manager gave us as weapons. After chasing each other around for 30 minutes, you'd think they'd take naps in the car on the way home.

Heck no. They were holding onto their balloons, waiting for round two.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Car after car

We are a teensy bit hard on our cars.

It dates back to the first car of Hubby's that I knew, a '92 Thunderbird. Actually, it wasn't just us, LIFE was hard on the T-bird. It had 180,000 miles on it by the end. Every part that could break did, at least twice. It was a two-door red boat and the doors weighed more than the rest of the car, so the hinges regularly failed. The passenger side handle was broken, so when the hinges went, Hubby had to lift up and close the door from the outside for me. Of course, it had automatic seat belts, so if the door didn't close tight, the seat belt wouldn't engage. My seat vibrated unnaturally for the 6-hour drive from Milwaukee to Indianapolis when gosh-only-knows what was broken and Hubby wanted his dad to help fix it.

I regularly cursed that car. I wanted it to come to a swift and painless end. I was close.

The weekend of his college graduation, Hubby and I were returning from signing our new month-to-month lease on an apartment when some yahoo decided to ignore oncoming traffic and turn left into us. We were fine, but the T-bird was far from it. The car was fixable, but since the odometer made the insurance adjuster's eyes bulge, he totaled it. 

Now I mentioned the month-to-month lease because Hubby didn't have a real job yet and I did. (Technically) So we were planning on living on my reporter's salary (HA! and savings) until something panned out. A new car was decidedly NOT in our budget. After years of wishing for its demise, I needed it to survive two more months before Hubby got a job and we moved to Indiana. 

Stupid T-bird. 

The T-bird's replacement was a Mitsubishi Montero Sport. We didn't hurt that one too badly, although my father-in-law DID forget we were parked in the driveway once and back into it. Think that one hurt his checkbook more than it hurt us.

I got my soccer mom mobile, a Subaru Outback, not long before I got pregnant with Nathaniel. I loved that car. When Leah was on the way, we sold the Mitsubishi and bought a mini van. Hubby got my Outback. I loved the van, but I had no problem taking his car when I'd go to work or out with friends. 

That is, until one night when I was running late to a meeting. I wasn't as cautious or observant as I should have been and it got me this: 

But I walked away with only bumps and bruises. Anybody who gives me grief about owning foreign cars, see above. That new commercial where the guy says, "A Subaru saved my life"? 'Nuff said.

So we borrowed my in-laws truck for about a month while we sorted insurance things out and car shopped. Hubby wanted a car that we would both like, but since we couldn't wave a  magic wand and bring back my Outback, there was no pleasing me. So he settled on a Mazda CX-7 and amazingly enough let me drive it. Brave, brave man.

Now my van has 67,000 miles on it and is acting a little squirrelly. The motor on the rear seat failed once, and was "fixed" under warranty. Allegedly. It failed again this summer and wouldn't go back to a seat after being stowed. The extremely helpful people at the dealership told me I needed a new motor and then failed to actually have the part when I dropped it off for an all-day fix. 

I got the van back, seat still broken, and put off calling another dealer because I knew it would be a headache to get fixed. In the meantime, I put a cooler into the back (with the seats stowed) and forgot to put the plug in. Water seeped EVERYWHERE. We dried it out the best we could, but once the next dealer took the seat apart to try to check the motor weeks later, he found that the inside was corroded and covered with mold. 


The same week of the water incident, Hubby backed into the dumbest stop sign at a local grocery story in his car.


So we procrastinated some more. 

With our history in mind, I took a look at my van. I can count on one hand the number of times it's been vacuumed out in almost 3 years. I started feeling guilty. So I took one layer of dirt off with the shop vac this afternoon while the kids played. If the car is still running in the morning, I may wipe down the dash, doors and seats too. 

Hubby would like our cars to last more than two years, so I need to keep her happy.

My FIL suggested calling our insurance to see if they'd cover new seats, so instead of being out like $4,000 for JUST my van, it's only our $500 deductible. Times two, of course, for the new bumper on the Mazda. 

I think we might have a rate increase coming our way...

Monday, October 3, 2011

Back in the saddle

I'm baaaack!

Don't get too excited, I didn't go anywhere fun. Nobody was serving me fruity drinks with umbrellas in them while I sunned myself. In fact, that would be the exact opposite of the last six crazy weeks.

Even the most sarcastic and snarky person hits a funk sometime. It may or may not have had something to do with a certain birthday last month. I turned thhh... thhh...iiirr.... oh just ask my 4-year-old. He can't count to my age, but gosh darnit, he knows how old I am. Thanks go to my bestie's husband on that one. Good thing he's always gonna be a year older.

I'm not unhappy with my life, but that looming milestone had me thinking, "Okay, now what?"

We've been in the same house for a long time now. I am still convinced this lovely abode was designed by monkeys, but I have the kind of neighbors who will gladly loan a ride if I need it, ingredients for baking, ketchup when I forget to stock up for a cookout, tables for garage sales, kids to entertain my own and teenage daughters to babysit. And they're pretty awesome to hang out with too. The house would have to be falling down around us for me to move right now. And even that would give us a chance to improve what we don't like and still stay put.

With a few department shifts, Hubby has had the same job for even longer. But the economy sucks, so it's not like a) he's looking or b) he could find anything better. And c) see house argument.

So I've been feeling kinda stuck. I'm not sure what to satisfy that nagging feeling, and I turned away from what kept me sane for the last year - blogging. I shouldn't have.

My early birthday incident at the state fair - in addition to giving me literal nightmares for weeks - served a different purpose. Before that, my blog averaged 40 hits per day. When I shared my story about the Sugarland concert, I got 205 hits. Everyone I know who reads the paper (or doesn't) told me they read the blog/newspaper article and was moved. I forgot in all my school board meetings and fluffy business features that I do, in fact, have a gift with words. I can't waste it.

I may never go back to my old job, but that doesn't mean I have to put down my pen and walk away forever. I don't know how it will factor into my "next step," but that doesn't mean that it won't. I have to just learn to be patient and wait for the right opportunity to find me.

In the meantime, I'll be right here.