Thursday, November 19, 2009

Why Paisley?

Yeah, I added some pizazz to my poor little blog. But why paisley? It's kind of a nice mix of masculine and feminine (curvy, but also a little like your dad's law office drapes). I had an awesome paisley ski jacket in junior high (I don't ski). And I had some great paisley velvet jeans, also in junior high (I think junior high was my fashion peak). And now I have a paisley duvet on my bed. So, paisley was the obvious choice.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Lentil Stew

A few days ago we had pot roast. We'd eaten what we wanted of the leftovers, so I used what was left in this lentil stew. I got a recipe from All recipes and changed it to suit my needs. Here's what I ended up with, and it was tasty:

Lentil Beef Stew

2 cups dry lentils
2-3 peeled and cubed potatoes
4-6 peeled and cubed carrots
1/2 to 1 onion, diced
2-4 cloves of minced garlic
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 qt. beef stock
2 tbsp. cumin
salt to taste
1 12 oz. can of V8
1 15 oz. can of petite diced tomatoes
any leftover meat you'd like to add

1. Saute onions and garlic in olive oil (just for a little bit)
2. Add everything else
3. Cook until lentils, potatoes, and carrots are tender (45 minutes to 1 hour)
4. For best results, serve with corn bread. Yum!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Huh? I have a blog? Yes, a sadly neglected one.

Since the last post, we wrapped up the school year, finished t-ball (with a heartbreaking and frustrating final game for Ian), prepared for an international trip, went on said international trip, visited family and several hamburger joints in Texas, participated in a summer reading group (Ian loved The Secret Garden), took six weeks of swim lessons (Ian and Lily are now swimmers!), went to a couple parties and dental appointments (they have so much in common, don't they? favors, tasty treats, lectures about oral hygiene...), had a few sleepovers, created a complex homeschool schedule, celebrated Quincy's fourth birthday, and started soccer.

See? One run-on sentence later (at least all parts of the sentence are in agreement) and you're all caught up. I guess I really only have to post quarterly. Okay, okay, I'll try to get back to twice-weekly posts. And in case I don't, have a great holiday season!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Semi-decadal Cleaning

Many of the mom blogs I read--the ones with pretty banners, lots of readers, and actual ad revenue--are talking about spring cleaning. It is spring, and they are the type of women who clean regularly, so it guess it makes sense.

I would like to clean regularly. I know, most people who've been to my house would probably question the honesty of that statement, but it's true. If I had time, I'd love to clean my house. If I wasn't busy driving people places and teaching people things and feeding people, I'd clean my house. And then I'd yell at everyone for making it dirty again.

Because this is our last week of formal homeschooling (we'll be reading and reviewing all summer, but this is our last week of answering to "the man"), I can start spring cleaning on June 1st. I usually try to do everything at once, get very frustrated when it doesn't work out, and give up 1/3 of the way through, but this year I'm sticking to the spring cleaning plan outlined by Simple Mom.

My house is different than Simple Mom's, and some areas of my house need more attention than others (my bathrooms are just a step above outhouses), so my plan will be a little different. Here's how it's gonna go down:

Day 1: Family Room
We just did a major toy purge, so it shouldn't be too bad, and I'll enlist the kids' help (they actually really like cleaning). Vacuum and mop floor. Vacuum couch. Tidy. Call handyman about slider (I'll have to clear this one with Nathan first).

Day 2: Kids' Rooms
Because they don't keep toys in their rooms, these rooms are already in pretty good shape. Dust mop wood floors and vacuum rugs. Clean off and dust dressers. Change sheets. Clean out girls' closet and under-bed drawers. Put kids in cages so the rooms stay clean.

Day 3: Kids' Bathroom
Whew! This one's a doozy. I won't even list what this job entails. Just imagine all that goes into a normal bathroom cleaning + a litter box + lots of kid muck + residual grime from the disgusting renters before us.

Day 4: Living Room
The usual. Move furniture, dust, vacuum. Maybe I'll also hang the floating shelves I've had for almost a year and move some of the pictures around.

Day 5: Foyer
For most people, this wouldn't even be considered a room for spring cleaning purposes, but when your daughter dumps preschool sand all over the floor, a tub of drywall mud and other miscellaneous tools take up 1/3 of the shoe bench, and everyone's shoe cubbies are overflowing, the area needs some attention. I'll move everything out, vacuum, then move most everything back (after decluttering).

Day 6: Master Bathroom
Again, really nasty (and this is our bathroom, so I can't blame the kids or the cat, but I can still blame the renters--oh, those poor, disgusting, rightfully-blamed people). General cleaning. Bleach the shower curtain (heck, it may need to be replaced).

Day 7: Kitchen
I won't clean every shelf in every cabinet, I won't inventory every food item, and I won't move appliances. I will do dishes, clean counters, clean appliances, sort through some dishes and plasticware, and mop the floor. And then the cat will promptly scatter cat food everywhere.

Day 8: Master Bedroom
Oh, the dread. Our master bedroom is where all clutter goes to die. But it never really dies, it just sits there collecting dust. I need to dust, dust mop, change sheets, and unpack. Yes, unpack. We moved in almost two years ago and we still have boxes in our master bedroom.

Day 9: Office
We don't have a dedicated office. It's more of a catchall. A hallway. A waste of 95 square feet. But it's full of stuff and needs some major work (hence the "day 9" assignment). I need to organize the armoire, organize the filing, organizing the homeschool materials, organize the kids' art stuff, and organize the bookshelves. See a theme?

Day 10: Ketchup
Yes, I need a whole day for my ketchup collection. I'll also catch up on laundry, dishes, and filing. I'll take stuff to Goodwill and buy anything I might need (a new rug for the back door, bins, some industrial-strength mystery chemicals, etc.).

And if all goes according to plan (HUGE caveat), I'll have a lovely house in about two weeks (I'll take weekends off). Fingers crossed...

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Everyone Loves Peanut Butter and Chubby Babies

All I do is facebook. I live, breathe, eat, sleep, and poop facebook. So, as I was getting my morning fix, I noticed that today is Unite for Hunger and Hope Day (thanks for the do-gooder goading, Jay). Bloggers are supposed to write a post about ending world hunger. And since my blog is the first thing most Americans read, I thought I'd do my part.

There's nothing worse than being hungry (I know how bad I feel when I haven't had my Nesquik by 10 a.m.). And as a parent, I can't imagine looking into the eyes of my starving children everyday. Half of the world's children who die, starve to death. But that's actually a good thing--not the death, but the cause--because the problem is solvable (unlike AIDS, cancer, child abuse, or other causes of death). In fact, a French scientist developed a great product called Plumpy'nut. It's made of peanut butter, vitamins, minerals, and powdered milk; it doesn't need refrigeration; and it has a 95% recovery rate for severely malnourished children. Wow! What a product!

For $15 (my family spends twice that at McDonald's), you can buy enough Plumpy'nut to save a child. Sometimes it's hard to be moved by anonymous people halfway around the world, but imagine how grateful you'd be if someone gave you something that would save your child's life. You can help here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Happy April 15th!

I think it's our responsibility as citizens to be able to do our taxes. Sure, for some it's easier or more efficient to to go an accountant. For others, their taxes are complicated and they need professional help. But most people should be able to use a software program or just read the instructions in the 1040 booklet.

Yes, the U.S. tax code is complex, but much of it doesn't apply to average individual tax payers. And it's not like filing tax returns is a one-time deal. It's something most people do every year for 50 years or more. So, figure it out. If you have a new tax situation, learn about it. Your knowledge base will grow and what once seemed tricky (claiming income from stock sales, filing with partial-year residency in multiple states) will become easy.

And for goodness sake, don't under-withhold. Just don't do it. And if you do it, don't blame anyone when you owe money.

April 15th shouldn't be a bad day--unless you have a messy house and seven people coming over tonight. Better get to work!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Less Is Less (Work)

We always have a laundry back-up. I guess it's because we're disorganized, or because we have four small kids, or because we're busy with more important stuff, or because our washer and dryer are in the cold garage, or because the kids fight and misbehave and get into the Thin Mints when I'm out of the house for five stinkin' minutes! Well, for whatever reason, we have piles of dirty clothes. The piles get moved when we have company, sorted through when we're looking for something specific, and just stepped on the rest of the time.

We usually assess the clothing situation every night. "Do the kids have clothes for tomorrow? Are they weather-appropriate? Do we have clothes? Are sports uniforms clean?" Inevitably, we forget something, and Ian is wearing my socks, or we're drying off with hand towels (a 6'1" man drying off with a hand towel is pretty comical). After studying this problem for several months, I've noticed that we're all wearing the same four outfits (well, we're not ALL wearing the same outfits, we're each wearing our own same four outfits). A few clothes get washed, they're worn and thrown on top of the dirty pile, they get washed again, and the vicious cycle starts over.

After amassing piles of data (literally) and conducting a thorough analysis, I've concluded that we all need fewer clothes. The kids will have seven warm-weather outfits and one cold-weather outfit for spring and summer (we recently bought their spring/summer clothes and I'm in the process of sorting their winter stuff). All their other clothes will be given away or put away for a younger sibling. I have tons of clothes that I will only wear if nothing else is clean, but if I keep my acceptable clothes clean, I won't need the "emergency" clothes ("Quick, grab the stained Yosemite t-shirt--it's a laundry emergency!!"). And Nathan can't possibly need 20 junky work t-shirts and 30 pairs of holey socks.

I hope that this simplification will improve the laundry situation, and if it doesn't, at least the piles will be smaller.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Resolution Report

Well, we're almost 1/4 of the way through 2009, so I thought I'd revisit my resolutions.

1. Running: I haven't even laced a running shoe, loaded an ipod, or put on a sports bra. Zip. Zilch. Of course, it's not too late to start. I just have to find a time to run that doesn't involve me getting up at 5am (more assaults happen right before dawn than at any other time--no kidding).

2. Finances: We have a budget. We mostly live within that budget. We have the money to pay off the credit card, but with 0% interest until August, we're waiting (the money is happily sitting, unspent, in savings). I have the names of a few local lawyers for a will and trust. And... I still have nine more months to finish the rest of this goal.

3. Homeschooling: My materials have been moved from a heap on the kitchen counter to a bookcase in the office. There is still more organizing to do, but the situation is greatly improved. I researched and ordered all of Ian's curriculum for next year (I can't order Lily's until she is officially enrolled). We have joined one homeschooling group and are planning on joining another. And I am going to set aside a good chunk of time this summer to plan our next school year (long-term goals, shorter-term goals, and a daily schedule). I'm getting there.

4. Entertaining: Our house is a dump. I know that is my standard excuse, but really--two cats, four kids, a busy husband, and a frazzled Adrienne--our house is a dump. We are making incremental progress and we have ideas for some quick fixes, but I can't see us entertaining before late summer.

5. Excessive punctuation: I think I've had this one covered for awhile. Maybe I just added it to my 2009 resolutions so I would have some sense of accomplishment.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

BFF or Kitty Enemy #1?

In cat society, it must be perfectly acceptable to loudly wake up another cat and insist that it play with you because that's what Jack did to us every morning. Sometimes it was 4am, sometimes 6am, sometimes it was when one of us would accidentally cough and remind him of our presence and our desire to be tortured. While Jack seemed utterly content being the king of the castle, we thought he would like a friend. We certainly wanted him to have someone else to pester. So we got Newton.

Newton and Jack had a rough start--lots of hissing, hiding, scratching, and sulking--but they were licking each others' butts by the end of the first week, so we thought everything was gonna work out just fine.

Well, we were wrong. Jack picked on Newton incessantly. He hunted him. He hissed and shooed Newton away from the communal food bowl if he didn't think it was Newton's turn to eat. Newton's only reprieve came when he hid inside the huddle of laundry baskets in the living room.

We thought Newton deserved a better life (he was becoming skittish and jumpy), so we sent him to live with the crazy cat lady. Otherwise known as the little old lady from Pasadena. Or Grandma.

Now Newton lives with Nathan's mom and her cat, Silver. He and Silver have a playful, yet equitable relationship, and we can visit whenever we want.

If anything, our two-cat experiment showed us that Jack is not a cat cat, but a people cat, and that suits us just fine.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Chewy Mama?

I just read a list of attributes of crunchy moms and I thought I'd figure out where I am on the crunchy spectrum.

Birth without medication? Once, but it was by accident.
Breastfeed? Yup, but I weaned around a year.
Co-sleep? Sure, for the first few months, then get out of my bed.
Babywearing? Does the Bjorn count?
Cloth Diapers? No way.
Recycle? When it's convenient.
Grow a garden? We're getting there.
Spank? No.
Circumcise? No.
Medicate? In moderation.
Immunize? Most definitely.
Long hair? When I'm too lazy to cut my hair.
Wear make-up? Rarely.
Organic? Nope.
Homeschool? Yep.

So there it is. On the crunchy spectrum, I think I'm chewy. I'll take chewy. It's moderate, but not kooky (I've been kooky). And the best kind of cookies are chewy.

Friday, March 20, 2009

School Budget Cuts

I just finished reading a Steve Lopez column about LAUSD budget cuts, and it's pretty grim. Schools are facing serious program cuts (reading specialists, enrichment programs, p.e. teachers, etc.), and parents are being asked to open their wallets.

In upper middle class communities, school foundations, endowments (yes, some public elementary schools have endowments--crazy, huh?), large fundraisers, and major giving campaigns can make up the difference. And some schools are forgoing the niceties (no more silent auctions or big ticket raffles) and just asking parents for a set amount. (In the case of Ivanhoe Elementary, mentioned in the Lopez column, it's $1000 per child.) Schools in wealthier areas will likely be okay because parents have the time to be involved and the money to pony up, but schools in lower-income areas will really suffer. The Lopez column says that needier schools will get more money to make up for their inability to fundraise, but I doubt they'll get $1000 per child.

How will these budget cuts affect my kids? Well, they won't really. We aren't in LAUSD (we're in Glendale stinkin' Unified by geography, but we're at a charter school by choice), but public schools statewide will feel the pinch. Our charter school will probably see funding cut, and our instructional funds might be reduced (we currently get $1800/year/child), but even if they were cut in half (they won't be), we'd be fine. I just ordered about $900 in curriculum for next year (I had to spend the rest of this year's funds--use it or lose it), and it was work spending even that much. I bought ALOT, and it's really good stuff.

It's amazing how well you can educate your child with very little money. Which really means that it's amazing how much education money is spent not educating (less than 60% of LAUSD's budget is spent on teachers). Of course, no one pays me (yeah, yeah, knowing that my child REALLY understands long division should be payment enough). And I can't use our instructional funds to maintain my facility (my run-down house). I know not everyone can afford to homeschool (live on one income). BUT, if you can swing it, AND if you can tolerate it, you can give your kids a top-notch education without the stress of the drop-off lane, the headaches of homework, or the injustice felt when you see "toilet paper" on the school supplies list.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I'm Back!

It would be great to say that this site was down due to overwhelming traffic, unprecedented ad clicks, and a nearly-done deal for a seven-figure purchase by a well-known website, but I was just busy.

In the last two weeks we've had several Dr. appointments (nothing serious and no more babies, just a bunch of stuff came up at once), Ian and Lily both started t-ball (two practices each every week until the season starts when the Saturday practices will be replaced by games), we had the annual preschool fundraiser (mandatory volunteering--isn't that an oxymoron?), Nathan and I organized what ended up being a very stressful JPL tour for 50 homeschoolers, our washer broke (trips to the laundromat, scheduling and waiting for the repairman, shopping for a new washer, waiting for the washer delivery), and I spent at least three days in Girl-Scout-cookie-induced coma.


Now that I'm back, I'll post more regularly. I have several posts in the queue (in various stages of edits--yes, I really do edit), so if you just hit "refresh" every 30 seconds or so, something new should show up in the next few days.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Funny Kid Things

OK, this post is mostly for me, but it's my blog.

Last night Quincy said that meat is healthy because it comes from people (""To Serve Man": It's a cookbook!").

This morning Q was chanting at Phoebe (much to her delight), "You will be dead when the tiger is dead." He said it probably 100 times in ten minutes. Deep, little dude.

On the way to school, Lily told Quincy that she wanted to be a doctor because she wanted to be French. Nathan asked her why she wanted to be French. She said, "Because I want to have a lot of money." Rich. She meant rich.

Yesterday, Ian's doctor said we could leave as soon as the nurse brought us the visit summary. Ian asked, "What's a summary?" Lily replied, "It's a boat that goes underwater." Who hasn't confused a summary and a submarine?

A few days ago, Lily was begging me to put on a Hannah Montana tattoo that she got from a preschool classmate. I told her that I didn't like Hannah Montana because I thought that she taught little girls that they should be pretty and not smart. Lily threw a fit and then said, "But she isn't even here, so how can she teach me anything?!" She made a good point, so we compromised. She threw out the tattoo with HM's face on it and I put on the butterfly tattoo after cutting HM's name off.

Ian and Lily just had their birthdays, so of course it's time to start planning next year's party. Ian has decided that he doesn't want a theme cake next year ("I'm too old," he said.), but Lily definitely does. She wants a human body cake with red frosting for the oxygenated blood and blue frosting for the deoxygenated blood and a big cut with blood (frosting) squirting out. I'll bet that Ian won't go within ten feet of that cake.

Monday, February 16, 2009


About a year ago, I discovered Fiber One bars. They looked great--chocolatey, carmelly, delish--and the box said they had 35% of the daily recommended fiber! They were awesome. The kids loved them, Nathan gobbled them up, and I snacked on them constantly.

Then came the gas.

We all got it, but we didn't initially associate it with the Fiber One bars. But I got curious. Just how did General Mills pack nine grams of fiber in such a small bar? So I googled "fiber one bars" and I found an internet community devoted to and reviled by the bars. Number one topic of internet chatter? Gas.

Most everyone on the message boards agreed that the bars tasted really good, but some thought the accompanying gas was too big a price to pay for something yummy. I also found out what provided the fiber (and the gas): inulin, a dietary fiber that is naturally found in onions and some other veggies and often added to processed foods. In ingredient lists it is often listed as "chicory root", a common source of inulin.

Inulin is healthy. It is a probiotic, it boosts calcium absorption, and it is great for diabetics because it isn't absorbed and isn't counted as carbohydrate intake. You just have to be careful how much you eat and how much you feed the kids.

Now I always check labels when a product's fiber content seems too good to be true. And we still occasionally eat Fiber One bars, but now we call them "fart bars".

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Regulation #5

Recently, I saw an upper-middle class woman on HGTV bemoaning the fact that she would have to deprive her daughter of the good life (a ridiculously large house, a cell phone, her own car, etc.) because the woman was losing her job.  

On the flip side, I visited Alcatraz in December and bought a charming magnet with the inspiring inscription: "Regulation #5: You are entitled to food, clothing, shelter, and medical attention.  Anything else you get is a privilege."

These two extremes got me thinking--what do we owe our kids?  Beyond the three hots and a cot, what really matters?

Traditions - They help kids form memories, and I'll even argue, values. For the past few 4ths of July we've gotten the kids in their p.j.s, let them pick out candy at 7-11, and watched the fireworks from our car on the Ocean View Blvd. overpass.  Sure, it's a non-traditional tradition borne out of laziness (who wants to park six blocks from the high school, walk with four kids and lawn chairs, and then pack in with thousands of other people?), but the kids have a blast and learn that sometimes the best solution is the unconventional one.

Education - It's not about just making sure the kids are in a good public school or that they go to college, but that they're really learning (kids aren't crock pots; you can't just turn them on and get something warm and juicy eight hours, or 18 years, later).  For us this means homeschooling, but it might just mean talking to teachers or doing special stuff at home.  (When we had problems, we tried marching into the principal's office and kicking some bureaucratic butt, but her butt was surprisingly kick-resistant, so we left the school.)

Sense of a bigger world - They need to know that the world is much different outside of La Crescenta (far fewer RVs per capita).  They need to see and experience some good and bad stuff from the bigger world. We frequently talk to our kids about slavery and injustice (in little kid terms--no genocide pictures), and after Nathan yelled at the "Yes on 8" supporters on the freeway onramp, we explained the intolerance of Proposition 8 (this made their "No on 8!" cries during our carpool with the little Mormon girl a little awkward).

Security - They need to be able to grow and develop without (much) scrutiny and know that they can always come home.  But I think it's perfectly reasonable to tell your three-year-old that buttoning the top button is dorky unless you're wearing a tie.  And clip-on ties are dorky unless it's a bow tie.  And bow ties are dorky unless you're under 10 or over 70 or just "quirky" (and quirky in quotes doesn't mean gay, but gays can be quirky, and since my mother thinks this is offensive, I'll also say that middle-age white women from Orange County can also be quirky).

Family - Siblings are the best gifts you can give your kids (extended family is great too, but sometimes you can't really choose to give that gift).  It's no secret that I like large families, and I'll even go out on a controversial limb here and say that one-child families aren't great; only-children are missing out.  Sibling relationships can be the most rewarding, challenging, frustrating, and long-lasting relationships of our kids' lives.  Plus, kids need siblings to help them decide on nursing homes when mom and dad get too old, feeble, or irritating.

Basic skills - They need to know how to do it themselves, whatever "it" may be.  I don't care if my kids take their cars to mechanics or hire plumbers, but if they can't do their own taxes, mow and edge the lawn, and write a complaint letter, I haven't done my job.  I'd also like them to be willing to try anything.  Never made a wedding invitation or cut your husband's hair with clippers?  Try it, it's surprisingly easy.  (And while hair isn't very forgiving, husbands are.)

Much of my list could have a tangible or monetary component (extensive travel, expensive lessons), but all can be provided with very little money, and the results are priceless.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Bare-ass Jack

Despite my allergies, my not needing another poop-maker in my house, and my general indifference toward pets, we got a cat.  I guess I agreed to a cat because they are less work than dogs (muddy paws, house training, barking, regular walks, etc.) and because I thought I was depriving my kids of some basic rite of childhood (they also have never had Twinkies, but it's not like kids are walking around our street with Twinkies on leashes).  And they are really enchanted with the cat. Unlike finding Phoebe in her crib covered in vomit after I had ignored her cries at 3am, getting the cat was a high point in parenting.

So, his name is Jack.  Or Bare-Ass Jack (he was bitten by a spider and the vet had to shave his butt to look at the bite).  Or Captain Jack.  Or, when he keeps us up all night wanting to play, Jack-Ass.  

Anyway, he's cute and friendly, and cuddly, and Nathan takes care of the litter box and the nail trimming, so I guess I'm okay with Jack.  But I'm still not a cat person.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


I come from a long line of breeders.  My mom only has two kids, but she is one of five.  My grandma and grandpa on my dad's side are one of five and one of eleven (funny stories come out of families that large).  My dad has just one brother, but between me and my uncle's two daughters, we have fifteen children.  Going back just two generations (to my grandparents), I have well over one hundred relatives, not counting in-laws (I'm trying to do a count in my head, but I'm quickly losing track).

So maybe that explains why my daughters love babies so much.  Maybe they are genetically destined to have kids.  Some little girls love stuffed animals, Barbies, My Little Ponies--Lily and Phoebe love babies (real and plastic).  Lily is absolutely drawn to babies in that smoochie- boochie, chubba-dubba, cutie-patootie, grab-their-cheeks, pick-them-up-and-drop-them-on-the-tile-floor kind of way.  And Phoebe hugs any doll with baby features and deliciously chewable parts.  (She also loves the big, plastic Incredible Hulk, but I'm convinced that she knows deep down inside he's just a big misunderstood baby in need of love--she's pretty smart.)

Nathan has a theory (totally unproven, unfounded, and a little screwy) that people have families with similar numbers of kids as the families they grew up in, so, with four kids, he's hoping for 10-16 grandkids.  I am hoping that some of Lily and Phoebe's baby love results in grandkids.  Then again, maybe Lily will raise alpacas and Phoebe will be drawn to muscular men with bad tempers.  

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Cooking with Costco

Occasionally, I like to browse the Costco website just to see what's new (long-stemmed red roses), what I'd like (a seven-person spa), and what I can't afford (a $9200, two-story children's playhouse--it's pretty awesome).  Today I was looking at their optical services because Quincy needs glasses.  Somehow I navigated my way to the Costco Connection (their in-house magazine) page and found a wonderful collection of Costco-produced online cookbooks (seven in all!).  They are each about 200 pages and filled with gorgeous pictures and simple recipes.  And the pages load, zoom, and print quickly.

Here are just some of the recipes I found:

Breakfast Bruschetta with spiced ricotta, grapes and walnuts
Salmon Patties with cucumber yogurt sauce
Harvest Apple Slaw with cranberries and pine nuts
Pistachio and White Bean Chili (this will be a hard sell for Nathan who's a chili traditionalist)
Butternut Squash Risotto
Catfish with basil lemon sauce
Nectarine Pound Cake

I can't wait to dig in.  Maybe I'll add some of the recipes to my Strange Dish Party menu.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Huh? Dinner? What dinner?

Since January 1st, we've been on a pretty strict budget and eating almost all of our meals at home.  There's just one problem.  I hate meal planning.  I love having planned meals, but I hate planning them.  My family is tough to please.  We keep going back to the old (boring and often unhealthy) standards--spaghetti, pizza, mac and cheese. Occasionally, I'll try something new, but that usually ends in disaster (ask me about the African Peanut Stew).  So I've been looking for an easier way to plan meals.

List Plan It, a site that sells lists for everything from grocery planning to family planning has a list for organizing the 21 meals that you keep in regular rotation.  Of course I'm not going to pay for the list, but I'll gladly take the idea.  If I can come up with 21 meals, with some new stuff thrown in for variety, hopefully we won't get bored and fall back on our evil Baja Fresh ways.  Here what I have so far:

Grilled Chicken
Skillet Burgers
Tuna Noodle Casserole
Beanie Weenies
Smoked Sausage with Potatoes and Green Beans

And now I'll rely on my vast readership to help me fill out the rest... anyone who submits five meals that I know my family will eat (veggie-heavy meals and Mexican are almost always shunned) will be invited over for dinner.  And I promise it won't be Eggos in baggies.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Reverend Strange

Sometimes people ask me what I'm going to do when the kids grow up ("Uh, rejoice?  Take a shower?  Sit down and eat a full meal without interruptions?  Throw away the sippy cups?  Be responsible for wiping only my own butt?").  And I don't really know.  Maybe law school, maybe teaching, or maybe I'll realize that running a household of six is a pretty busy job and I'll stick to that.  Meantime, I've become an ordained minister.  Yep, an ordained minister.

I thought long and hard about it.  I dug deep... and then I clicked the "Continue with Ordination" button.  I was warned that I was about to change my life and that I would be set apart from my peers, but I got my free online Universal Ministries ordination anyway.  While I can't rule out a life of religious service (heck, I lived in West L.A. and I had put that just above "sex change" on the scale of improbability), I only became ordained to save my sister some cash.

Courtney is getting married in March and, after much discussion (arm-twisting and heavy pressure from Mom), has agreed to have a small wedding.  I haven't been asked to preside over the ceremony, but if I am asked, I'll be ready.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

And Now, a Little about Me...

One of my friends on Facebook asked me to complete a list of 25 random facts about myself, and here they are:

1. I want to be able to park in my garage someday.
2. I was a nanny for six months (the kid wiped boogers on my car seat--he was 9!)
3. I bite my cuticles until they bleed (I've done it since I was three).
4. I love parentheses.
5. I went to UCLA because it was close and cheap (I have no Bruin pride).
6. I love office supplies (when I was a kid, I bought "While You Were Out" pads with my allowance).
7. I've had plastic surgery (hint: my ears used to be perpendicular to my head).
8. I'm afraid of large bodies of water (even the Shamu tank at Sea World kinda creeps me out).
9. I drink Nesquik almost everyday.
10. I don't care about body hair (mine or anyone else's).
11. If anyone ever tried to prank me with a snake, I'd never speak to the person again (this includes my husband).
12. I taught my kids to call breasts "boobs" because that's what I call them.
13. If I am ever terminally ill, I'm going to buy the biggest tank of a car, outfit it with paintball guns, and shoot at all bad drivers (it will scare the hell out of them, damage their cars, but inflict no injuries).
14. I never go barefoot.
15. I would like to write a screenplay.
16. I think I am good at roulette (I know, it's a game of chance, but trust me, I'm good).
17. I talk to myself--a lot.
18. I love London and would move there in a heartbeat.
19. I often and rudely pressure other people to have children because I enjoy mine so much.
20. I dream of taking on "the man" (City of Glendale, Just Tires, etc.) in a court of law and winning.
21. I've been to a World Series game and an NBA finals game.
22. Bad grammar really bothers me.
23. I hate dusting, but love vacuuming.
24. I met my husband at a "Bring a Stranger" party.
25. I played "Stairway to Heaven" and "People Are Strange" at my wedding.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Lazy Parent's Breakfast

Awhile back, the kids and I had to drive Nathan to the airport very fast (dude thought he could make his 9:00a flight, including parking in Lot C, leaving our house at 7:45a during rush hour... wasn't gonna happen) and we didn't have time for a proper breakfast.  Of course the kids wouldn't starve, but I would have to listen to 90 minutes of complaining in stereo.  Boom, Eggos in baggies, done!  They loved it, and thanks to my, uh, assertive driving, Nathan made it (driveway to skyway in 50 minutes).

The leggo-my-baggie trick saved my butt again on a preschool morning. Quincy was taking his sweet time with breakfast (by "sweet time" I mean at least 45 minutes of talking, whining, and  smearing--there's nothing sweet about it) and I'd already promised him waffles after he finished whatever other nutritionally-deficient carb he was eating. When I told him that it was too late for waffles, he lost it.  Boom, Eggos in baggies, done!  He cheerfully ate his waffles in the car, totally forgetting that he was going to preschool (his personal hell).  

Those are worthy uses of Eggos in baggies.  But what if Mom was too tired (or lazy) to clean off the table after dinner and then too tired (or lazy) to do it before breakfast?  Boom, Eggos in baggies, done!  For the kids, it's like camping in the family room.  And for me, it's a super easy (or lazy), minimally messy solution, provided the hot waffles don't melt the Big Lots baggies (hey, I breastfed--they can ingest a little plastic occasionally).

Hmm... maybe I'll try MREs for dinner.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Strange Bucks

Many personal finance blogs I read say that kids should get an allowance even at a young age so they can learn how to manage money. Some suggest $0.25 per chore, others say $1 per week per year of age, and a few just write that the amount should be small, but meaningful. Even giving my three kids (the baby would just eat the money or hide it under the couch) $1 per week per year of age would have me handing over $60 per month.  That's real money!  That's DirecTV money!  And while my children's financial future is probably more important than Mythbusters, Dexter, and Designed to Sell, I knew there had to be a cheaper solution.

So, after many failed attempts at motivational tools (from sticker charts to "if you behave, maybe I won't yell at you") and a discussion with the kids, we've started printing our own money.  Each Strange Buck features a family member's picture; we have 1s, 2s, 5s, 10s, 20s, 50s, and 100s (because we have a big family and we couldn't leave anyone out).  Sure, Phoebe's cute face won't fool the cashier at Albertson's (the lady looked at me like I was a total idiot), but it will get Ian to put away his folded laundry and unload the dishwasher.  

Here are the basics:
Each chore is worth one Strange Buck (gotta keep it simple).  Strange Bucks are redeemable for rewards (trips to the library, 30 minutes of computer time, a dance party--it was Ian's suggestion, etc.).  Strange Bucks can be awarded randomly for good citizenship or revoked for violence against siblings.  Stealing others' bucks is bad news.  Lost bucks are just lost (too bad, so sad).  Kids may combine bucks for rewards or give each other bucks out of kindness.

We'll see how it goes.  We may have to refine our monetary policy or abandon it entirely and go back to trading in whiskey and puka shells.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Bring a Strange Dish Party

My husband and I met eight years ago at a "Bring a Stranger" party.  All invited guests had to bring a stranger.  Nathan and I didn't know anyone (heck, I didn't even know the guy who brought me).  He noticed me right away, but didn't talk to me until I was sitting on the beer cooler and he was thirsty.  It's a great story, and we would like to give other people the chance to meet their soul-mates at our house, but probably not this year.  However, I have an idea for a similar party.

I would like to host a "Bring a Strange Dish" party.  I've been amassing interesting recipes for awhile with no way to use them (I can't see making red lentil and bulgur balls with green onions and cumin for my family on a weeknight), so why not have a party?  Anyone interested?

I would make four or five dishes that sound good, but that I've never made, and each of you would bring one untested dish.  It could be fun. It could be a disaster.  It will be memorable.  And who knows, maybe you'll meet your soul-food.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


I don't take a hard stand on New Years resolutions.  Sometimes I make them, sometimes I don't; this year I decided to take a stab at a few.  I have come across many philosophies on resolution making: only make one; make several, but expect to let a few go; be easy on yourself; stick to them or you'll fail; be specific; be general... I'm just going to throw 'em out there and hope a couple stick.

My 2009 Resolutions:

1. This year I am going to try (sorry, Yoda) to start running again with the hope of running a 10k or even a half marathon (Disneyland has one that sounds fun) by the end of the year. 

2. I am going to organize our finances (budget, goals, inventory for insurance purposes, will, etc.) and pay off debt (except mortgage and student loans).

3. I am going to get better organized with homeschooling (creating a defined area in our house for my materials, planning curriculum purchases, making long-term goals, joining clubs, etc.) because this year I've just been winging it and next year will be tougher with Lily in the mix.

4. I want to entertain more in 2009.  We always make excuses about why we can't have people over (most excuses involve the sorry state of our house) and as a result, we've become pretty insular.  And we aren't invited to others' houses very much anymore (we've fallen off the social radar).  I'd like to have one theme dinner party, two regular dinner parties (can be BBQs), and start an annual party tradition (our house could be THE place to be for National One-Hit Wonder Day, September 25).

5. I'd like to use more parentheses, semi-colons, ellipses, and m-dashes.  They really are a great way to show that you have a healthy respect for good grammar, but don't care enough to edit your freewheeling thoughts.