Tuesday, March 31, 2009

My Housewife Handicap

T must wonder why the house is a wreck when he gets home at night. It's hard to vacuum when you have a 20 pound growth on your leg! Boy, does she get ticked if you can't stop washing the dishes right away to read "But Not the Hippopotamus" for the twelfth time. Check out the crazy, post-nap hair! Repeat: Serenity Now, Serenity Now, Serenity Now....deep breath....

Monday, March 30, 2009

Come on Barbie, Let's Go Party!

I read an article in the paper the other day that announced Barbie, the plastic princess so adored by little girls everywhere, turned 50 this month! The writer has fun discovering different designers' takes on Barbie's abode. I set the article aside to remind myself to blog my musings on this grand event, and then it got lost under my taxes.

My very first Barbie was a blonde Skipper doll dressed in a sassy red and white cowboy outfit. She was a (Christmas?) gift from my Granny and O'pa when I was 2 or 3. I loved her so much. Until one of our Irish setters took her outside. The body was never found. Somewhere I have her flirty chevron striped sundress. Poor Skipper.

When I was 4 or 5, Mattel came out with DaytoNight Barbie. Is it wrong that I remember this commercial? Day to Night Barbie was the epitome of the 80s "It" girl to me. She got to carry a fancy white briefcase to an office job every day while wearing a suit, and at night she changed into a hot cocktail dress for a date with Ken. To a 5 year old, this seemed like the most glamorous life I could imagine. I mean, she had a briefcase, people! Several years later (okay, more than several), I still think her life is more exciting than mine, but I do have a briefcase of sorts. Technically, it's a shoulder bag I got on clearance at AC Moore, but it is really pretty and my laptop fits inside. I didn't get Day to Night Barbie for my 5th birthday, but Santa did send me the Barbie Heart Family that Christmas, after I prayed obsessively for months. That was probably the best Christmas gift I received as a child. I don't remember ever being so excited over another gift.

My sister and I were equally obsessed with Barbies. We did a count once, and we had at least 42 Barbies, Kens, Skippers, Midges, etc. They all lived in a big, hand-made dollhouse that our O'pa made when our dad's sister was young. It was basically a big, white box with cabinet-type doors on the front; but it had stairs, real carpet, and curtains. Fitting 42 Barbies and all their accessories in one dollhouse is tricky, so I did what any self-respecting sister would do. I told Alison that her dolls could occupy the roof apartment on top of the house, since I had more furniture. This worked out for some time, but she turned out to be pretty smart. I now experience debilitating guilt all these years later.

Barbie was a great way for us to bond, when we weren't screaming at each other. My mom even bought Jamie his own Ken doll in hopes that we might play with our own brother. No such luck. We took the baby that Ken came with, and told Jamie that his Ken could live in another city (his room down the hall). Every so often, we'd call down the hallway that we were packing up the Barbie car to come for a "visit" to keep him at bay.

I know some parents have problems with Barbie and fears of the issues she might spark with body image. But I'll take what I've got over stiff arms that never straighten (the 1980s Barbies all had arms bent at 90 degree angles) and the same eye shadow and lipstick day after day. I liked Barbie because she had a million cute outfits and a million fun jobs (mom, doctor, nurse, teacher, astronaut, rocker chick, safari guide, surfer....)

So, in the words of the infamous Aqua hit..."Come on, Barbie, let's go party." If you invite me to your bash at the Dream House, I'll let you wear that cute little chevron striped dress. It might have a little bit of Irish Setter drool on it though.

{Did you have any favorite Barbies?}

Friday, March 27, 2009

Count Your Blessings!

I was recently inspired by a post my friend Donna wrote to stop and really think about all of the blessings in my life. Sometimes a casual word or gesture is all it takes to really make someone's day. I spend so much of my time wrapped up in my own little world of insecurities, whining, and "keeping up with the Joneses" that I often forget to step out of my little box and really see what's going on with the rest of the world.

When you sit down and do that, things really come into perspective.

One of the things I really struggle with is feeling inadequate in comparison with many of my amazing friends. Friends who always look so fit and put together, friends whose homes could be featured in Better Homes & Gardens (and not in the "before" shots!), friends who spend oodles of time teaching their kids and loving it, friends whose Martha Stewart skills put me to shame!

But when I stop to truly contemplate my life, there are sooo many blessings that God has bestowed on me. Blessings I certainly do not deserve! So today, I am making a list of ten things I am grateful for right this second, right off the top of my head. I encourage you to post something as well, or leave me a comment. On Saturday or Sunday, I'll post a link to your post or I'll just include them in my post. Today is a day to be thankful!

"This is the day that the LORD has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it!" - Psalm 118:24

1. My sweet husband who is always willing, no matter what, to drop everything he's doing to help me!
2. My two beautiful, smart, funny little girls who love me unconditionally-->No matter what my hair looks like in the morning.
3. My mom. She has made it through the loss of two husbands, and is an amazing example of a strong, Christian woman who trusts in the LORD!
4. A house to live in. It's not always House Beautiful, but it's a roof over our heads!
5. Inspirational friends. Whether you are a new friend I've met through blogging, or an "old" friend I know in my *real life,* I am so grateful for you! Your encouragement means more than I can say!
6. T's job. He might work an awful lot and have an odd schedule, but it's a secure job and it pays the bills. Can I get an Amen?
7. TiVo...this may seem odd, but God sure made the TiVo for me. I don't always get to watch TV when my favorite shows are on, so it's a blessing to me to be able to sit and fold laundry and watch The Biggest Loser and fast-forward through commercials. Yay, God!
8. Food in the fridge/pantry. It might not always be exactly what the fam was hoping to dine on, but He provides us with sustenance. Do you think that Annie's bunny crackers are a little bit like manna?
9. Creative Outlets. Hopefully without sounding too corny, I feel like He led me to blogging, in a way. I have to get up a lot earlier in the morning to have the time to do it, but for me it's worth it to have some creative time to myself. Having my own blog, even if I'm the only one who reads it some days, makes me feel like I have somewhere to express my thoughts and feelings...sometimes the hubs just doesn't get the way a girl thinks! Plus, it's a great way to catalog all the craziness that goes on in the T household.
10. Nap time--not for me...for them. It's two hours I have every afternoon to catch up on MOPS stuff, check email, wash the dishes, run some laundry, and eat lunch without someone hanging on my leg and asking for the "BaBa" book or crackers.

So there's my list for today. Maybe it's not the deepest, most emotional list of things I am thankful for, but it's just a few of the things I feel like God has blessed me with.

{What about you?}

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thrifty Thursday: It's Chic to be Cheap! {6}


I wanted to share some of my recent yard sale/consignment sale finds this morning to prove to you that you can find some great bargains out there...sometimes you just have to be patient (and dig). Remember, one girl's trash is another girl's treasure!

I was on my way to a MOPS leadership conference when I spotted a yard sale at a nearby church. I had plenty of time, so I stopped in, and I'm so glad I did. I got the dress and the pants for 50 cents each! The dress will fit Natalie this Spring, and I think it will look so cute with a big white hairbow, white ruffle socks, and her Mary Janes. The pants are pink cordouroy and it's hard to tell from the photo, but the green gross-grain ribbon at the bottom has pink polka dots! They are too big for her now, but they'll fit just in time for preschool in the Fall!

Another local church hosts a children's consignment sale twice a year, and it's probably my favorite local sale because of the fab-u-lous prices! I picked these up for Natalie, as well as several adorable top and capri sets and a little "birdie" capri set for Michaela Byrd. I love little girls in sun dresses when the weather is right, and the rick-rack on the yellow dress is too sweet. I consigned a few items this year so that I could shop early, and I'm so glad I did. They don't regulate the "shop early" hours very well, so the church rec hall was filled with people, I'm certain not all of whom were actually consignors.

The other sale I like to go to is probably the most popular one in the area. It's like crack for mommies. I T put up 20 of those plastic "yard" signs around town so that I could shop an hour earlier than the regular volunteers (suckers!). This was really important to me this year because while this particular consignment sale is huge and you can find some good deals, the lowest they will mark something is $4.00. I've found some outrageously priced items before. Last year, I saw 20 moms pass over a Gymboree top, pants, and sweater set that was priced at $40. Absolutely adorable, but I ain't forkin' over $40 for something that will inevitably be covered in dog hair and/or ketchup. With the economy trouble looming over us, I wanted to be there early enough to grab the cheapest items of the best quality. It was crazy to see some of the mothers literally yelling at their husbands and kids to "go,go,go" run across the store area and snatch up different items. Along with a $6 bag full of Fisher Price Loving Family people and accessories, here are just a few things I picked up for the girls.

J'adore "ruffle bottoms!" The ruffles on the seat of the little purple outfit are what made me pick it up. Michaela Byrd will also look too cute in the little navy & white watermelon "crop" top and shorts.

I tried not to pick up anything that was more than $4 or $5. The navy and white polka dot set will be so cute on Natalie...I think it may have been $6, but I couldn't help myself. The purple and pink "ensemble" is actually two pairs of little cotton capris with pink and purple tees. $5, I think! Great play clothes for a three year old!

Natalie is a child after my own heart--she also loves flip flops, and has been asking when she can have a pair. When I spotted this little Gymboree halter top and short set, I knew she'd love it. The top ties around the neck with a blue ribbon, and while I am not all about "bedazzled" clothing items for children, the bottom of the top has a few teeny tiny little *diamonds* for some extra flair.

More cute capri sets!

This was the most expensive set I bought for Natalie. $12 for five pairs of Target's Circo brand play shorts in excellent condition WITH five or six tops that mix and match. Those shorts run $4 a pair at Target, so I felt justified spending the money.

My girls are now completely outfitted (more or less) for Spring and Summer! There's a bunch more I didn't take pitcures of because frankly, I was getting tired of it, and Michaela Byrd was hanging on my leg. They still need Easter dresses (okay, not really...I could recycle some other dresses they have, but I'm fighting the urge to splurge!), Michaela needs some white Mary Janes, and Natalie could use another pair of sandals since that's all she wears all summer, but I think I did good! I could easily run into The Children's Place or Gymboree and buy the same brand-new outfit that 357 other little girls in town will be wearing, but where's the fun in that? There's something to be said about the thrill of the hunt...who says men are the hunters?! Haha!

**Can anyone else tell me why the bold and italics won't turn off, no matter how many times I "uncheck" them? It's hurting my eyes....Sometimes I hate Blogger!**

{Anyone else find any cool bargains recently on clothing?}

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Whatcha Cookin' Wednesday?

By today's standards, I was a young bride. I was 21 on my wedding day, and T was 22. One of things about being married that I most looked forward to was having my own kitchen and learning to cook. Mimi (bless her heart) is an amazing mom, but the highlight of her culinary skills is her delicious spaghetti. My dad was a fabulous cook, but he passed away when I was 16...an age I was more interested in the boys in my classes than learning my way around the kitchen. Since my diet consisted of rice cakes, lettuce, and carrot sticks between 1996 to roughly 1999, this worked out well for me. I could make spaghetti, brownies, and bake frozen garlic bread, and that was about it! So when T and I got married, I clearly didn't know much about cooking. It turned out that the very first meal I cooked for him after we were married ended up being his favorite meal ever.

At one of my wedding showers, my Granny gave me a copy of Campbell's Classic Recipes. Hoping for some inspiration, I remember thumbing through it until I came to a recipe that I thought he'd enjoy. "Easy Chicken & Biscuits" is not health food...it's comfort food at its worst. This is a meal I make very rarely because just looking at it can clog an artery or two, but T requests it often. In our home, it is simply known as "Chicken Casserole."

Chicken Casserole, the Casserole formerly known as Easy Chicken & Biscuits

*The recipe calls for Campbells soups, but let's get real here...sometimes you gotta love the store brands!*
1 (10 3/4 oz.) can condensed cream of celery soup OR 98% fat free cream of celery soup
1 (10 3/4 oz.) can condensed cream of potatoe soup
1 cup of milk
4 cups cooked, cut up vegetables (honestly, I grab a bag of frozen carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli and throw it in uncooked, along with a can of unsalted corn and/or lima beans and it turns out fine--and easier!!)
2 cups cubed, cooked chicken (I usually just cook 3 chicken breasts and cut them into bite-size pieces)
1 package Grands biscuits

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a 9x13 pan, mix soups, milk, vegetables, and chicken.
Bake for 20 minutes or until hot.
Stir. Arrange biscuits on top of mixture and cook for an additional 15-18 minutes or until biscuits are golden.
Serve and wait for your coronary to kick in.

7 1/2 years after our wedding, I truly enjoy cooking, just not so much for T, which makes me sad. In my defense, he is pickier than our three year old, and there is a long list of ingredients he can't stand. At the top of that list is cheese, which breaks my heart because not only is cheese an ingredient in just about every casserole known to man, but it is just plain delicious! With the exception of pizza and Cheez-its, he really won't touch anything else with it.

I have considered starting a dinner club just so I can have an excuse to put together some meals with different ingredients. It is sooooo boring to cook in our house! I console myself with the fact that I at least have a shot with my girls to make them adventurous eaters! I'd like to find a balance between cooking meals that T enjoys, and cooking some meals to expand their horizons a bit. Is it wrong for me to want to cook some things that I would enjoy? Any advice?

Enjoy...this is certainly comfort food--good for one of these chillier nights before Spring sets in!

{Bon Appetit!}

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Gourmet {3} ::On Second Thought

A Second Review of La Maison en Desordre
by Michaela Byrd, age 14 1/2 months

I found myself in the 'Burg again recently, and I had my assistant make a reservation at the P Street Cafe. After reading my last tepid review of La Maison en Desordre, the very kind manager of the P Street Cafe offered me dinner on the house to make up for the horrendous experience I suffered through my last time in the 'Burg.

This car, Ferrari's latest model, is my pride and joy.

As fate would have it, my car got a flat tire near L Avenue, which is where La Maison is located. My worthless assistant refused to answer my phone calls (I am quite sure she was watching Olivia on my TiVo), so I found myself at La Maison en Desordre during the dinner rush hour.

Dialing my lazy assistant

Even after our previous altercation, the chef at La Maison welcomed me with open arms. I suppose it's not every day she has a famous food critic dine with her. Because they were short-staffed that evening, the wait was longer than I anticipated. The chef offered me an appetizer while I waited, which I gladly accepted. To my horror, the appetizer turned out to be...

Lima Beans. A vile scourge of the taste buds.

I took one taste and threw a big huge hissy fit.

Preoccupied with preparing the main course, the chef ignored my request for a more suitable hors d'oeuvres, such as prosciutto herb gnocchi with fresh spinach, pine nuts, asparagus, and Parmesan cream.

It was when I took matters into my own hands that I discovered the delightful little hors d'oeuvres bar tucked away near the Kitchen door. I decided to help myself, and I am truly so glad I did. La Maison's chef has been holding out on me. I am seriously rethinking my previous review.

This delightful appetizer, called Eukenuba, featured a pleasing texture and a delightful crunch. The flavors seemed to explode in my mouth. A small, furry waitress lurking nearby looked hungry so I shared some with her and made a mental note to have her portion added to my bill. Curiously, the chef was angry when she saw us munching at the appetizer bar...I really can't say why. Perhaps she prefers that the wait staff dine after hours.

After such a delicious experience, I couldn't comprehend how she could expect me to digest the main course; a mind-numbingly boring presentation of chicken, rice, and strawberries. Honestly, do I look like I dine in the play zone at McDonald's?
That said, I plan on stopping by La Maison on Desordre the next time I am passing through the 'Burg. The chef's Eukenuba recipe is incomparable.
The rest is for the dogs.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Goin' Steady

I have huge news. Huge. Shocking.

This is bigger than my sister being diagnosed with Hyperverizonitis, ya'll! Are you sitting down?

My. Nannie. has. a. Boyfriend.

This wouldn't be so shocking except that Nannie will be 98 years old in May, and he's a younger man. We're talking late 70s, maybe mid 80s! Nannie called my mom to tell her all about their first date yesterday. My mom can't remember his name because she was in a daze, so he shall heretofore be known as Young George.

The last time Nannie came up to Virginia to visit, Young George offered to give her a ride and meet my mom halfway. I remember thinking how nice Young George must be to give my little old Nannie a lift. Young George is a widower, so perhaps he was feeling lonely and thought it would be nice to help. I am personally very grateful to Young George for his service, because the thought of my Nannie on I-95 terrifies me. She insists on driving herself around her dinky little town, and is regularly involved in *incidents.* During one of these incidents, a tractor supposedly leaped out of a ditch and hit her. She pays out of pocket for the damages so that her insurance doesn't find out, and I would not be surprised if she paid off a cop or two. When questioned about the dents and dings on her newish car, Nannie pulls the "old senile woman" card and pretends like she doesn't hear you. So, thank you, Young George. You surely saved many lives that day.

I'm not sure how they met. It could have been in her Sunday School (A weekly Senior Citizen convention! When we took Natalie to visit once, I don't think the church's nursery had been at capacity in years), or he might be a neighbor. Nannie is head-strong and stubborn, and determined to stay in her own house for as long as she pleases. She lives there all by herself, and has a cleaning lady that comes a couple of times a week. So it's nice to know that Young George may be around to keep her company. Perhaps they can take a walk to the mailbox and back...with Nannie's walker, that's like accomplishing a half-marathon!

If Young George is a gold-digger, he will be profoundly disappointed. With the exception of my drunk aunt (not to be confused with my perfectly lucid, Texan aunt who is Blair's mom), no one tells Nannie what to do with her finances. She is a "tight-fisted hand at the grindstone," and nobody tells her what to do with her "monies," as Natalie would say.

Let's just hope that Young George has good intentions and is looking for companionship. As long as he doesn't tire of hearing the story of my grandfather's ship sinking at La Havre in the War, he should be fine. Maybe they can watch Matlock together before they go line dancing, which is Nannie's current passion.

At any rate, I think this is a good thing. My grandfather passed away in '95, so she's been all by herself for a long time now. My own mom, who's been widowed twice, rolled her eyes good-naturedly and sighed.

"My 98 year old mother has a date!" she moaned.

Now she knows how I feel! My Nannie's got more romance than I do! (heehee)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Spend Less Saturday {5}

I was so thrilled this week to learn that I am not the only mama who is unafraid of purchasing a few used toys here and there! 

Since we seem to be on a dollhouse theme here, another one of my frugal finds was a much older Fisher Price Little People dollhouse a year or so ago. Natalie had just recently turned two and really seemed to enjoy pretend play, so when I spotted this dollhouse at a local church's yard sale, I knew it had to come home with me. $6 for the house and all of the accessories: furniture, the family, and a car. If you've ever looked on Ebay for these old Fisher Price play sets, you know they can reach upwards of $40-$50. 

Another little girl played with a Fisher Price dollhouse once upon a time. (Moi! My 2nd birthday party)

For me, finding the house was a big deal because I remember playing with my own Fisher Price
 toys as a child. I saved my find as a special surprise for potty training, and she was so excited about it. And for only $6, I don't feel bad about packing it up for another year or so and then reintroducing it for Michaela Byrd to play with. 

The point is, know what you're looking for, and be patient! 

I ended up finding the old Fisher Price "city" last Spring, and the seller even threw in the old Little People camping set--got it all for $5. Natalie was thrilled to play with it. I just had to look through stuff at more than one sale to find such a bargain!

That city made a great "extra" for Easter last year!

It seems that my friends are also bargain hunters! 
My good friend, L, wrote:
{Several years ago, I scored a new (plastic but not cheapy) tea set that sang "I'm a little teapot" when it was "poured." The kids loved it. It was in like new condition and I got it for $4- AND it came in the box still!! It retailed for $20 at the time. And- another time I bought a new tool bench and create it set from Little Tikes for the kids and had it delivered by the lady selling in on ebay for $70 UNDER retail!! Can you believe it? I get so excited about a total "score." It must go back to my hunter gatherer genes.}

I can totally relate to the thrill of the hunt, L, but you know that! There's something exhilarating about finding something I know my kids will love and knowing I didn't spend a fortune on it!

My bloggy friend, Amanda, may very well be my twin separated at birth. Which would be weird seeing as how we have the same name. ("This is my brother Darryl. This is my other brother, Darryl.") She wrote:
{So, I too bought my kids some rocking second hand toys and games for Christmas. My hubby thought it was just plain wrong. But I am convinced it is GENIUS. My 3 year old got a like- new kitchen that she has played with every day since Dec 25. And my boys got a fabulous electronic air hockey table that keeps a digital score...they love it and never once noticed it was used!}

Amanda, you ARE a genius, and your rockin' blog proves it. I get the best ideas from your posts...so inspiring! (If you haven't read anything on "Imperfectly Beautiful," get over there now!)

Tracy whose son is Natalie's foster child, also enjoys a good deal, even at risk to her health! She wrote:
{I love to find good deals in the toy dept at ROSS, but you have to be willing to sort through disasterous shelves while taking your life into your own hands as the toys fall on you.}

Watch your head, Tracy! We can't drill you for teaching ideas if you get a concussion at Ross!

And finally, my friend Meri admitted:
{I completely stink at finding cool things at great prices. I am usually the one selling the good stuff at a cheap price because the kids have ignored it for forever...just ask Katie D. I am pretty sure she owns a lot of our toy box from 2 or 3 years ago.}

Meri, I could tell you to just keep looking and be persistent, but you've got four boys, for crying out loud! I just might take on that challenge if you tell me what you're looking for...and buy me a mocha at Caribou Coffee. Hehehe....

Hope you come across some fabulous, frugal finds this week! I'm STILL on the lookout for a wood desk for the addition...need something for my crafty stuff, sewing stuff, and laptop. No luck yet, but I'll keep digging!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Have You Caught It Yet?

...SpRiNG FeVEr, that is!

I didn't even realize that today is the first day of Spring, until I was watching a preview of the late news after Grey's Anatomy (poor Izzie!) last night. I was wearing my slippers, a robe, and had a wool blanket draped over my legs. I am really 87, and not twenty-faux. 

With a blustery wind blowing this morning, it's kind of hard to feel a Spring Fever coming on. I might have a slight temperature. My daffodils always bloom early, and the ones that weren't destroyed by the BigSnow create a bright, sunny pop of color against the barren wasteland that is/was my front flower bed. 

{Here are the things I love about Spring}:
*Flowers! (Hydrangea, Daffodils, tulips, roses, peonies, and azaleas are my favorite. I like flowers best when they are outdoors...I just seem to kill them-or they commit suicide- when they come into my home.)
*Flip flops! (I am not *allowed* to buy any more flip flops, but that doesn't stop Mimi from bringing a pair or two over as a nice Spring present every so often. Plain, with ribbons or flowers, polka dots, paisley, I don't care...I just love 'em)
*The color palette! (I'm a sucker for the pretty, bright yellows, blues, greens, pinks, oranges, and purples I'm seeing everywhere)
*Warmish weather. (I. hate. hot. Unless I'm at the beach. I don't mind a breezy, sunny Spring day though. Who would?)
*Easter! (I haven't bought an Easter outfit in more than several years, but I sure do love picking them out for my girls. It's almost a challenge to find two matching dresses that are sweet and girlish without looking like tulle threw up on them. I also love filling up Easter baskets. The chocolate rabbits are pretty great too.)

{Here are things I do not love about Spring}:
*Preschool and MOPS will be ending soon. (These are my two lifelines during the school year. I can actually run some errands on Mondays and Wednesdays without a three year old whining about walking instead of riding in the cart. This is, of course, nonsense because the second her little feet hit the aisle, she is driving me nuts helping me by dumping stuff in the cart. The end of the MOPS year is sad because not only is it a fabulous two hour break from my *amazing* children twice a month, but I get the chance to converse with grown women about topics that do not involve Cinderella or granola bars. Summers seem to be busy for everyone but me...the word "vacation" is not in T's lexicon. The girls and I are stuck at home while our friends travel to magical, fantastical places with names like "Nagshead" and "Myrtle." We used to have a condo to visit until my drunk aunt started shacking up there, but that's a post for another day.)
*Showing skin. (If I were writing this 10 years ago, I'd be blogging about the cute bikinis I found at Macy's to wear at the beach or the shorts I found on sale at Express. I think if I were to don a bikini at this point, I would emotionally scar myself and others for life. I like jeans and sweater weather. My paleness could rival Twilight's Edward, and if you saw my great-aunt Vera, once an avid sunbather, you'd know why I don't tan anymore. Albino-white legs poking out from capris just don't make me feel sexy.)

So, I haven't caught the fever just yet, but I'm getting there. I think that perhaps dragging our meager Easter decorations down from the attic will inspire some Spring Fever, but for now I'll curl up in my chair and watch this week's TiVo'd episode of The Office

Happy Spring! Have you caught Spring Fever yet?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Thrifty Thursday: It's Chic to be Cheap {5}

Today's Thrifty Thursday post will feature an item that was 
::{ThE BeST $15 DoLLaRs I EvER SpENt}::

I've spent a lot of money in $15 increments in my twenty-faux years, so it's really saying something to give this item a place of honor in my shopping trophy case. Drum roll please.....(scroll down)

So what? I bet you're thinking. An old 90's dollhouse with a couple of accessories out front? Let's take another look, shall we?

With the exception of a couple of new people, the dining room set, and the home office, I got the dollhouse and all the accessories for only $15! I walked into a local children's consignment sale to buy some Spring clothes for my kids early last year. I was shocked to see that baby marked for such a low price. The new Fisher Price version sells for close to $200, I am told. This one is clearly not new, as evidenced by the missing trunk door on the car, and the fact that the kitchen table's candle no longer lights up, but I felt like $15 was a steal. I knew it would make the perfect Christmas gift for Natalie, and so it stayed hidden in our downstairs shower (which no one has used in two or three years...it's the cleanest spot in the house!) for months. I really struggled with the idea of her *big* gift being used, but I came to the conclusion that that was just crazy talk.

To my three year old, this was not an old, circa early 90s, used toy. It was the highlight of her Christmas. If you don't believe me, look at the expression on her face when she saw it under the tree on Christmas morning:

As evidenced by the plethora of playthings in our home, I don't have anything against new toys, but they sure can be pricey! This is a picture of her *big* gift from the year before. No, that's not Natalie. I don't have a picture of the actual toy because it is in the attic. Get my drift?

Kids lose interest in things so quickly! I can't even count the number of toys or books she just had to have, and they now lie in the black hole I call "Toy Box", or they have been secretly donated to less fortunate children who will no doubt also quickly lose interest in them. After that fabulous, thrifty purchase, I will never look down my nose at consignment sale or even yard sale toy purchases! That's not to say that I won't ever buy a new Christmas toy again (cause I love me some new stuff!), especially as they get older, but this was just too perfect!

If you don't have children, you are probably wondering why this was money well-spent, as opposed to the mink coat I got for free from my grandmother's closet. Unless Natalie enjoyed spending time in the closet, which she does not, the mink does not occupy her attention for a period of time longer than to ask if Granddaddy killed that coat. That house keeps her occupied for several (non-consecutive) hours every day, I'd bet. That time is gold. Sometimes, Michaela Byrd will even sit under the dining room table (commandeered for play now), waiting to scavenge any stray "baaaaybeees" who might fall from their perch. 

It's also been fun to work in the kitchen and hear her playing. The dollhouse mommy seems to do a lot of yelling. Ahem. 

Cost of dollhouse: $15 (plus a few disinfecting wipes)
Cost of extra people: $10 (Valentine's Day gifts)
Cost of time so that Mommy does not lose her sanity: PRicELeSS

The crib mobile lights up and plays
 (annoying) music.

You can change the picture on the TV, and it even came with three (enormous) VHS tapes....Get with the times, people. It's all about the Blu-Ray now! 

This picture shows the obvious differences between the old (right) and new (left) versions of Fisher Prices' Loving Family. The old people are chunkier, and quite frankly a little alienish looking. Natalie definitely noticed the difference. 

Natalie named the bride and groom (she took the bride's skirt off, as she clearly prefers the more casual capri look) after Matt and Kate, her uncle and aunt that got married last November. Matt and Kate are allowed to enter the dollhouse now, but there was some major segregation going on after the first time I put them in there. She threw a huge fit the first time she saw that I'd set them up in the kitchen (sometimes I play clean up the dollhouse after she goes to bed), and shrieked, "Matt and Kate will never eat in my dollhouse! Never!" For some time, poor Matt and Kate had to sleep in the car in the "driveway." This is where Matt and Kate have to sleep now:

Poor things...they are newlyweds and they have to sleep on opposite sides of the roof. 

So, do you have any stories of toys, books, or games that you bought for a song and that your kids seem to love more than the $40 car set that broke after two uses?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


My oldest, Natalie, succombed early to a family disease...


I think it might strike Michaela Byrd as well, but the jury is out.

Any time our mailbox is graced with a child's birthday party invitation, I hear the same question.

"Will 'dere be cake?" If there is, and if it is chocolate, you've made her day.

Come to think of it, she looks for cake at just about any formal (or informal) occasion: weddings, barbeques, school parties, MOPS meetings, trips to the grocery, you name it. 

Cake, ice cream, cupcakes, muffins, cookies...I feel very grateful that she seems to have been blessed with a metabolism from her father's side of the family. Sweets are a rare thing in our house (for the kids, hehe), reserved for special occassions. I like to offer a sugar free popsicle or sugar free (chocolate!) pudding as a reward for eating all of her vegetables and making a real effort with the rest of the meal. As of yet, she has not noticed any difference between those treats and the "good stuff." She thinks Jell-O's sugar free chocolate pudding is heaven on earth!

My mother (Mimi, she is called in our house) is a real handicap in my efforts to steer my kids away from Chocaholism. Because she sneaks little cookies and pieces of chocolate to Natalie, the child has reverted to behavior that mirrors Pavlov's dogs. When she sees Mimi's car pull into the driveway, she rips the front door open.

"Hiiii, Mimi!" she shouts, as Michaela Byrd bounces up and down beside her. "Do you have any "tweets" for me?"

Mimi is somewhat perturbed that her presence has come to signify a showering of desserts, but it's her own fault, I think. 

I was feeling some major cabin fever yesterday, so when the girls finished their dinner, I asked if they'd like to run to Baskin Robbins to get some ice cream to bring home. Of course the answer
was yes (from Natalie. Michaela Byrd was busy figuring out a way to scale the sideboard to reach the dog water), and after an hour of getting shoes and coats on, finding my coupon, loading them in and out of the car, and spooning half melted ice cream into a cone, we were done with our ice cream adventure. Natalie held up her hands. 

"Are my fingers clean?" she asked. They were smudged with chocolate ice cream. 

"No, let's wipe them off." I said, getting up from the table to grab a wet paper towel.

"Noooo...but I licked them!"

There you have it. That could totally be my Thrifty Thursday post for this week. Who needs paper towels when you can just lick your hands clean? Plus, it's thrifty 'cause you are saving some for later. Right.

Let them eat cake! (I think she and Marie Antoinette would have gotten along just fine) First experience with cake. It's so wrong, yet so right.

I don't know who this kid is, or how her picture got on my blog. Her parents should be ashamed of themselves for letting her eat cake like that. 

If I had a goatee, I'd want it to be made out of chocolate too.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Lord Loves a Cheerful Giver

My girls spend a good part of the day playing alongside of each other...not so much with each other. This is mostly because Natalie is three and Michaela Byrd is one. Natalie likes to play with her dollhouse; Michaela Byrd likes to see if she can sneak into the darkened bathroom and play in the toilet. Not exactly playmate compatible. 

When they do play together, it's such a brief and fleeting moment that I usually feel the urge to grab the video camera and capture the rare occasion for posterity. Their minute-long playdates usually end in shrieks (both girls) and hair pulling (Michaela Byrd--she fights dirty). I am looking forward to their teenage years with the greatest anticipation. Excuse me while I go fix a stiff drink.

What? It's only 3 pm?! Never mind then....

So you can imagine my pleasure when Natalie announced the other night at dinner that she would like to share a piece of bread with her sister. I glanced at Michaela Byrd, who was happily drinking her sippy cup, zoned out in a milk-induced coma. She must have looked famished to Natalie.

"Here," she said, reaching across the table to hand me the piece she had so lovingly selected.

I looked down at my palm. It was empty. Except for a crumb so miniscule, Bill Nye the Science Guy would need to bring his microscope in for us to see it.

"Um, thanks." I said. Clearly she was worried about Michaela Byrd filling up on those carbs. Clearly.

Hey, it's a start!

Can you see it? 

Monday, March 16, 2009

All in the Family

I don't use Facebook very often because I am lazy and don't like clicking around all over the place to stalk my friends. I logged on last night and had a most pleasant surprise! My cousin, Blair, sent me one of those instant message thingies. He is a very busy college student at Texas A&M, and I am sure he had much better things to do than message me...like finishing off the last of a six pack. At any rate, I smiled when I saw his name pop up.

My brother and sister and I like to call him "Blayah," because that's how his name sounded when our grandparents said it. Granny and O'pa were/are both from Virginia, but somehow adopted the Texas twang after all their years of Air Force moves. Blayah is the youngest of the four cousins, therefore I feel entitled to pick on him as I feel led. As my blog's readerhip has apparently expanded to include the college crowd, I know he'll see this. Perhaps I should also start a series on "it doesn't matter which major you pick because no matter what kind of job you get and how much money you make, your kids are going to bleed you dry."

Anyways, chatting with Blair brought back all kinds of memories. Because he is an only child, he was willing to follow along with just about anything we said. One of my earlier memories of our Texas visits was when we forced invited him to take on a role in our annual Christmas play. Jamie, Alison, and I did the same play every year for our parents, and it usually involved my brother making several quick changes from his Santa Claus costume into an Elf outfit.

The plot roughly revolved around two children who go to the North Pole to convince Santa not to cancel Christmas. They help the elves make the toys, and Christmas is saved. Hilarity ensues. (Don't try to steal our idea. It's copyrighted...probably by someone else.) We decided to make things easier on Jamie that year, and convinced Blair that he would be the perfect elf. Poor Blair couldn't have been much older than three or four, and I don't think he really knew what a play was, much less an Elf. He forgot his lines and kept saying "Let's play da play" over and over during our rehearsals. As the director and star of the show (I was always the star), this was somewhat nerve wracking to me, but our parents all found it endearing. Speilberg wrote in and requested a screenplay version, but we had other projects in the works at that time.

The other reason I loved Blair was because he lived all the way in Texas while we lived in Virginia. Because he is six years younger than me, and lived so far away, it was especially easy to pick on him because he didn't have the advantage of knowing all my tricks. You'd think Jamie, just a year older than Blair, would look out for his cousin, but he wanted to be in on the hazing. I guess he figured he'd been through his fair share. At some point, we got him to believe that an army of the "Brain Washers" from space had invaded San Antonio. I'll never forget the glee I felt when Blair ran screaming from my dad, who we recruited to play the part of someone who had been brain-washed (I think I got my teasing streak from my dad). I am a mean person.

Despite our run-ins, Blair grew up to be a normal person who is not on medicine for psychotic episodes. He must be pretty normal because he just got engaged to Lauren, who I secretly refer to as "Texas Barbie" because she looks just like my perfect Happy Birthday Barbie from 1987. No matter how much your family traumatizes teases you, you can still turn out to be perfectly fine.

Blayah, if you read this, leave me a comment, or I'll send the Brain Washers....Isn't family great?


Saturday, March 14, 2009

{10 ThInGS I LoVE...}

{...AbOuT My HOnEy, T!}

In honor of today, his 30th birthday, I want to do a little list of some of my favorite things about my hubby of 7 1/2 years!

1. He knows something about everything! This is astonishing in and of itself, as the last book I remember him reading was O'Reilly's Culture Warrior two year ago. He does not usually like to read unless the item features pictures of guns, sports, or motorcycles. I think his knowledge comes from the fact that he is able to listen to just about anything (except for instructions regarding his children) and remember it. This came in handy in college, and it comes in now during his marathon Fox News/History/Discovery Channel viewings.
2. He's kind of a looker. I've had a crush on him since I was 4 or 5 years old. I was always mesmerized by how cute he looked on the soccer field. --Now I sound like a boy-crazy 14 year old.
3. He is generous to a fault. It's his birthday this week, and he took the proceeds from a Gunbroker.com sale he made to buy me a new laptop!
4. He is handy! We couldn't live in this house if T wasn't a handy guy! So far, he has chopped down enormous trees rooting up our driveway, mulched the side yard, drywalled the Living room, made a Dutch door, turned a broom closet into a custom desk and then into a new coat closet, installed light fixtures, a new front door, built a closet in the bathroom, installed flooring, made built-in cubby bookcases, installed attic stairs, and countless other things that would have left us broke by now!!
5. He is a great breakfast cook. The man can fry up a mean slab of bacon! His pancakes are perfection.
6. He is patient.
7. His girls' faces light up when they see him!
8. He has a great work ethic. He is a wonderful bread-winner, and loves to take care of us.
9. Even though he is shy, he is a great leader. He leads by example, as he has learned from his dad and his boss, R. The guys who work for him ask for his opinion on all kinds of things. One of the delivery guys recently fessed up that his girlfriend was considering having an abortion. T talked to him without making the guy feel bad, and even went so far as to say that we would be willing to adopt the baby if they couldn't care for it. Something T said must have registered, because the mom decided to have the baby.
10. He is selfless! He is always willing to drop his plans at a moment's notice to help someone out.

T would be really embarrassed if he knew I wrote this! He knows I have a blog, but he doesn't read it so far as I know. At 30, he is much much older than my twenty-faux years (hehe), but I love him anyways.

What's the one thing you love most about your significant other?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Gimme a Break!

I found this gem in the editorial section in our local paper, published on February 14, 2009. Novelist Kate Dolan found a humorous way to update the description of the "Proverbs 31" wife. Whenever I want to feel really bad about my wifing/mothering skills, I read Proverbs 31. Okay, okay....I know it's supposed to be inspirational, but sheesh...

Kate Dolan's take gave me a smile. Hope it starts your weekend on a laughing note!

Verily, doofus, give thy Proverbial wife a break

Several years ago, our Bible-study group examined "The Proverbs 31 Woman." For those not completely "up" on their Proverbs, let me explain that the 31st (and final) chapter of Proverbs describes, at length, "a wife of noble character."

The author endows this wife with seemingly superhuman virtues and skills. She makes cloth not just for her family and her household, but as a going retail business. And that's just for starters. She also plants a vineyard, imports food, feeds the poor, and instructs the household. The writer notes that she never sleeps or even rests. No wonder!

I got tired just reading about her workload. My reaction: There is no way one woman could do all these things. But one woman in my Bible-study group had a different take. Instead of seeing all the things in the verses that we cannot seem to be able to do, she looked at things she already did for her family and saw how they fit into the pattern of the "noble wife." That is certainly a more encouraging approach.

Still, there are a lot of verses about "grasping the spindle" and "making linen garments" and other things that most American women just don't do much anymore. So I thought I'd update the verses a little to help a suburban wife of the 21st century relate to the ancient wisdom. Here goes:

A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth more than a Nintendo system with Rock Band and Wii Fit all bundled together.
Her husband trusts her with all the credit cards and the remote control.
She brings him excellent credit ratings all the days of her life.
She selects volunteer cutting assignments from the kindergarten teacher and works with eager hands.
She is like merchant ships, bringing in food from the store with the best coupon deals that week.
She gets up before the clock radio kicks on; and microwaves sausage patties for her family.
She considers a lottery ticket and buys it; out of her Bunco winnings she enters a basket bingo and wins a birthday gift for her mother-in-law.
She works out at the gym vigorously; her arms are strong enough that she doesn't have too much of that hanging flab when she raises her forearms.

She sees that she's getting a good return on her 401(k) rollover, and her lamp always goes out at a reasonable time (but she can turn it back on if the kids need something or the dog starts whining).
In her hand she holds the steering wheel, and grasps the box of Cheez-Its to hand out to the kids in the carpool.
When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for she has arranged to go in late for work on days when schools open on a two-hour delay.
She makes her bed most days even if no one's coming over.
Her husband is respected at the city sports stadium, where he takes his seat among the season ticket- holders.
She makes allergen-free brownies and sells them at the bake sale; and supplies the Scout troop with sodas for the party.
She is clothed with strength and dignity, or at least sweats that are clean, with not too many paint spatters.
She can laugh at the ridiculously high heating bill.
She speaks with wisdom, and can faithfully instruct her family on how to change the bag in the vacuum cleaner.
She watches over the affairs of her children text-messaging each other in the same room and does not eat anything from the Cheesecake Factory.
Her children arise and, though they call her really bad names, at least they're up in time to get ready for school.
Her husband praises her (from his seat with the season ticketholders): "Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all."
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who has read this far in my bad paraphrase deserves to be praised.
Give her the reward she has earned: A rest. (In other words, that's the end.)

{Amen, Amen!}

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Things Are Lookin' Up!

Bad News: 'Puter is completely fried, never to return. So sad.
Good News: Our friend MSB was able to retrieve a ton of stuff off my hard-drive...I have 5 CDs full of stuff to download onto...

{The New Laptop!}

Her name is Blanche. She has Windows Vista (I don't even know how that is different than XP, but that's what the box says), and is white.

T went out yesterday evening and came home to surprise me with a new Sony. He and Natalie popped out of the doorway yelling "Surprise!" (Natalie yelled "Supwise!" and kept wanting to "Supwise Mommy" for the rest of the evening) I'm still using his right now, but when he gets home tonight, he'll help me upload the discs onto the new machine. I am praying that MSB was able to get everything from my old computer.

When that happens, I'll be able to get back to blogging, and more importantly...reading what you guys have been up to! I have had some major withdrawals, not being able to check out my favorite blogs...I seriously had a twitch going on.

I can't wait to get back to reading all of your fabulous blogs, and I am really looking forward to doing some writing again. It's so much fun to have a creative outlet in blogging! Missed you all!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Dark Day...

Good morning, readers! I hope (both of) you are having a great start to your weekend. I am not, which is why I may have to wait until tonight to post my Spend Less Saturday piece. I'm using T's laptop right now, and he's going to need to take it to work in a little bit.

On Thursday afternoon, I spilled water on my laptop keyboard with my purse. *REALLY* dumb move. Was trying to run out the door to the grocery and as I ran by the computer, my enormous bag knocked my Nalgene bottle over and spilled some water onto the 'puter (as Natalie likes to call it).

I won't lie to you. I had some conflicting emotions in that split second that it happened.

Do I drop the baby and save the laptop, or do I gently set the baby down on the floor as my beloved 'puter fries?

I chose the best of both worlds. Michaela Byrd was deposited not-so-gently on the kitchen floor and in my haste to save the laptop, a little bit of water might have trickled down her neck, which scared her. While she screamed, I screamed inside my head.

Why me?!

Everything I have is on that laptop. Thank goodness I follow my own advice and probably 98% of my pictures are on discs, which is good. But I can't get to my work files, music, MOPS stuff, nuthin.'

T was surprisingly okay with it. This could be because he spilled Pepsi on his old laptop once (or twice) and the baby spilled water on his new one once when she was on his watch. So he can't say too much. 'Cept his always worked, or were under warranty. Sigh.

We let the 'puter dry out for over 24 hours, but it is a goner for sure. T's friend, Matt, says he can get stuff off the hard drive for me (yay!) and will attempt to check out the power source to see what he can do, but it looks like my early birthday present will be a laptop.

The good news is that we scoped them out at Best Buy last night, and the Sony closest to mine is about $500 cheaper than what I paid for mine 3 1/2 years ago, and it's a better laptop too. She's beautiful, but she's not the same as my good ole' laptop.

Happy early twenty-fauxth Birthday, Amanda. I will never again keep any sort of beverage next to my electronics!!!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Thrifty Thursday: It's Chic to Be Cheap {4}

Today's edition of Thrifty Thursday will be about saving money on household products by going GENERIC (a dirty word in some houses!). I have a big reveal for ya'll. I discovered an *aMaZiNG* deal on tissues! This winter has been rough on my family, and we go through tissues a lot. We ran out at some point, and that's when I discovered this thrifty choice: (scroll down to see)

Ta-Da! White Trash Tissues!

This is really so versatile, people. You can dress it up a little and place it on a cake stand or hang it by pretty ribbon from your cabinets. For very special occasions, a Waterford crystal bowl really enhances the soft whiteness of the paper. You can even keep it casual and go the old-fashioned route, and rip it right off the dispenser. Good-bye, Kleenex...Hello, Charmin!

In all seriousness, I have found that our Costco membership is turning out to be a good thing. I used to buy the Target brand paper towels, and we'd go through a roll almost every other day or so. The Costco brand, Kirklands, lasts days longer and is more heavy-duty. The same thing goes for the Kirklands brand of toilet paper. T is super picky about toilet paper...must be a guy thing. He hasn't said a word since I switched to buying tp from Costco, and I've noticed we are replacing the rolls far less often...although this could be due to the fact that Natalie has learned what an acceptable amount to use looks like.

Other things I've recently purchased in a generic brand:
~ Parent's Choice Little Puffs (Plus Calcium!): they come in the same little canister that the Gerber baby puff snacks do, but are way cheaper. Michaela Byrd has not shown a preference for either.
~ Target's cheese slices: much thicker slices than regular brand sliced cheese
~ Wal-Mart taco/chili seasoning packets: same taste as the expensive brands. a good buy when I just need it to add some flavor to a meal.

Is there anything you've found that is better to buy *Generic*? (dirty word again!!) Is there anything you won't buy in a store brand (it was formula for me, once I started my girls on it)?
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