Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Do you know what happens around age 6-8? Children learn how to keep secrets and they cannot be coaxed, bribed or even tricked into spilling the beans. J took Emily and Matthew shopping for my present last week and I have not been able to get a hint out of either of them- not even a slip up of the store it was purchased at! These kids are good!

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Monday, December 22, 2008

No Place Like Home

Click your heels three times and repeat after me...
There's no place like home.
There's no place like home.
There's no place like home.

Screw. That.
Home is currently bone-chilling cold and even though the summers in the south nearly melt the skin off your body and you need a gas mask if you enter a location where people might be sweating (OK, everywhere!), I am ready to trade that for these 'you have to be out of your mind to live here and enjoy it' frigid days. I know many people might be saying out loud to their screens right now "I live in climates much colder than where you are." If you enjoy it I think the cold sensor in your brain must have gotten stuck in September and you stopped registering the actual temperature outside. In absolutely no way do I find temperatures under 10°F the least bit enjoyable or even tolerable. When I take the dog outside I like for the fluid in my eyes to remain liquid, not frozen. It is a very odd sensation to close your eyelid and feel the surface of eye now cold; very odd indeed.
Even my van is revolting at the sub-zero temperatures. Last night it creaked, moaned and whined when I forced it to take me someplace warm. So maybe the tires nearly melted to the driveway last year when it was 115 in GA but it never voiced it's "van opinion" like it did yesterday. I think I agree with the van; this just sucks.
I think we need to permanently move to somewhere in the south and then drag all of our relatives with us. We'll make sure to bring them down in the winter so they are settled before the 100+ degree August hits.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Homemade laundry soap

I changed my "recipe" just a bit and started adding Kirk's Hardwater Castile and Biz to my soap. I have used about 1/4 scoop of Biz for a few years in my laundry to help remove stains so I started adding it directly to my soap, but I cut down on the Borax so there wasn't too much stuff in there.
Now I use:
1 bar Fels Naptha
1 bar Kirks Hardwater Castile
2 cups Arm & Hammer washing soda
1 cup Borax
1 cup Biz

************Original Post*****************
OK, so I don't have 18 kids like the Duggars but that didn't stop me from using an idea I saw on their show: making your own laundry soap. The links I found online made the liquid version look like something from a science fiction movie in the 80's so I opted for the dry powder version instead. It seems weird to use something "homemade" to wash my clothes instead of the standard Tide that I've used for over a decade but all the comparisons I found online seem to point to the homemade detergent cleaning just as well as Tide or other name brand detergents. It is frugal and best of all, phosphate free so I am doing one more part to earn my crunchy halo. I made one batch for our laundry last weekend and so far, so good. I made a larger batch today to donate to a shelter that is in need of laundry detergent and documented so you can learn too; aren't you thrilled?
Recipe I used:
2 cups soap
1 cup Borax
1 cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda

I used Fels-Naptha soap in our recipe. It is an old laundry soap that has somewhat of an industrial, clean smell to it. I think you'll either love it or hate it; I'm weird and fall into the middle but everyone else in the house really likes it. You can use other soaps (make sure it is soap and not a beauty or deodorant bar) such as Ivory, Kirks Hardwater Castile or Zote. Next time I will most likely use Kirks because it has a very light fragrance and I can add my own essential oils.
Borax can be found at most grocery stores in the laundry aisle although you may have to find a smaller grocery store for the washing soda and Fels-Naptha.
1. Cut up the soap into small pieces or use a grater. I used the grater on the food processor the first time and cut it into chunks this time; I think the grater worked better.
2. Grind soap into a powder using a food processor.
3. Add Borax and washing soda and mix thoroughly; I used the food processor for this too.

That is all! Store in an air tight container. Some sites say to use 1 tablespoon, some say to use 2 tablespoons. If you have figured out the secret to kids keeping their clothing clean you may only need 1 tablespoon. The clean kid fairy hasn't blessed me yet, so I use 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons per load.
This soap does not create suds, don't be alarmed when your water looks as though could not possibly be cleaning dried dirt off your children's clothing. It would be a perfect soap for HE machines.

This particular batch used 2 1/3 bars of Fels-Naptha soap, 1 2/3 cup Borax and 1 2/3 cup washing soda. The total batch was just over 6 1/2 cups of powder. Using 1 TBSP this powder would wash 104 loads and using 2 TBSP it would wash 52 loads. Total cost for this big batch was approximately $3.50.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Conglomerate of thoughts

For several days I've been thinking, "I need to blog this" and not done it so now they all get thrown into one post, kind of like Blogger Vegetable Soup. You have to eat it all; don't pick around the veggies you don't like.
Here is what we enjoyed Thanksgiving weekend; the kids were purely delighted to find a blanket of snow on our last couple of days of traveling. Me? Not so much. It only reminded me of what a long winter we have ahead of us and just how accustomed I had become to the South. Can't we just have a winter home and a summer home?

I was driving a few days ago and passed a sign I've seen a few times. Listed for places to eat at this exit is "BEEF EATERS." What the heck kind of restaurant is Beef Eaters? I mean, for real. I'm thinking I'll open a restaurant and name it "POULTRY PICKERS."

Look who showed up in our mailbox yesterday; Mr. Dave Ramsey himself (and Sharon too). How do they know we slacked off this month (OK, kind of the last 6 months)? I'm sure this card is purely calculated to make people feel guilty. Now every time I walk by the card I see Dave looking at me; almost like he's eyeballing that shopping bag and saying "Do you really need that?" Before long you'll hear me talking to Dave and saying "Really, it's for my sister, she needs it." I may just have to hide this card.

Whose idea was it to make a fake Christmas tree? Originally, way back when, who was the hair-brain inventor that thought of sticking poky green paper crap on poky wire sticks? I will give credit to the manufacturers, they have really come along way from the 'match the colored stickers to the layers of colored holes' set-up (which didn't work after a few years because the stickers fell off and then couples fought over which branch went where when finally the male gave up and huffed away while the female sat and tried to figure it out, all the while steaming and stewing and then muttering "why do I have to do this every year?") OK, so that was a long tangent but I know you grew up with a few Christmases like that too and if not, keep it to yourself.
Instead of the muttering about where the branches were supposed to go it was muttering about how I was sick and tired of stupid little green poky things and wires scratching up my skin. At least I get a nice smell after I break out in a rash from a real tree. This one gave me a rash, no nice smell and it isn't much better than my $30 Sears special that I jammed garland into so I could hide the pole. Just as I said this was it, next year we are going back to a real tree, Matthew piped up with "so, Mom, you don't care about me? Because you know I'll allergic to real trees so we can't have a real tree, Mom." I looked right at him, just as my hands were stinging with red spots all over and said, "I'll make sure you have your Zyrtec every day".

Monday, November 24, 2008


I finally made my own background! I've tried several times but this time it finally turned out right. I have successfully wasted nearly my whole day but hey, at least I have something to show for it. Now I need to fold laundry lightening fast so I can pretend I actually accomplished something with my day. I hear Applebee's has carside-to-go so I can pretend I cooked all afternoon too.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cooking your turkey

Do you buy the Butterball turkeys with the red pop-up thinger-majig so you don't have to actually monitor the temperature of your baking bird? If you find the Butterball turkeys are sold out and you can only buy a traditional, non-molested turkey with no red, plastic thinger-majig poking out of it like the outie belly-button of a 40 week pregnant lady, don't fret. I found a recipe for you today; it will take all the stress out of your turkey preparations.

Now I know it is something new, involving popcorn in the stuffing and all. But give it a try, I thought it was perfect for people who just are not sure how to tell when poultry is thoroughly cooked, but not dried out.

8 - 15 lb. Turkey
1 cup melted butter
1 cup stuffing (Pepperidge Farm is Good.)
1 cup uncooked popcorn (ORVILLE REDENBACHER'S LOW FAT)
Salt/pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush turkey well with melted butter salt, and pepper. Fill cavity with stuffing and popcorn. Place in baking pan with the neck end toward the back of the oven.

Listen for the popping sounds. When the turkey's ass blows the oven door open and the bird flies across the room, it's done.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What can you do?

November is National Adoption Awareness Month.

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:27

Thursday, November 13, 2008

No-Frill Chili

I've made many pots of chili in the years. None of them have been bad but once in awhile you get one that turns out really well. I never use a recipe and can never really recall what exactly makes the good pots of chili better than the rest, just chucked it up to luck or the barometric pressure. This time I had the brains to write it down and lucky for me, I still remembered what I put in it two days later. Since I like to spread the wealth, er, I mean knowledge you guys can have the recipe too.

1 pkg. ground beef (I used 1.6 lbs but would have bought up to 2 lbs. Just don't try making it with 3/4 of a pound; chili needs meat.)
Diced onions (You can be fancy and dice your own if you'd like, I'm lazy and buy the frozen variety)
1 pkg. Williams chili seasoning (seasons 2 lbs, hence the reason you need nearly 2 lbs of hamburger)
2 cans Bush's mild chili beans
1 can Bush's seasoned kidney beans
(I have no idea what they are seasoned with, the can looked good.)
1 can petite diced tomatoes (because I don't like chunky tomatoes, if you do get bigger chunks)
1 15oz. can tomato sauce
***These 2 cans need to be pureed in a food process or blender before adding***
1 can fire roasted tomatoes
1 can Mexican style stewed tomatoes

Brown your meat with the onions and then drain the fat. While the meat is cooking puree your tomatoes. I pureed one can completely and I pulsed the second can so it wasn't tomato juice. Pour into the pan along with the seasoning and other cans of beans and tomatoes. Make sure you throw your can graveyard into the recycle bin.

Here is where it gets tricky. We had a couple of errands to run and I knew if I left the pot of chili on the stove without stirring it would turn black on the bottom and we'd have black flakes of chili floating around (don't ask how I know this.) So I decided to try out the oven proof pans I've had for 7 years... in the oven! I turned it to 300° and placed the pot (with a lid) in the oven and left the house. I really didn't know what to expect when we returned; I've never baked chili after all. The solids sank to the bottom and the juice rose to the top but one quick stir and it looked like chili again! The oven somehow changed the consistency and made it really delicious; J said it was his favorite chili ever.
I only recommend baking your chili in oven proof pans (and lids). If you put a lid in the oven that has a plastic handle it will melt; this goes for crockpot lids as well; take my word for it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Bakery Outlet

For those of you that don't know me well, or don't know my buying habits at all: I do not buy Hostess snack cakes, or Little Debbie or anything else that is generally cake stuffed with some sort of white whipped sugar. In fact, my Mom had to introduce my children to the Ho-Ho and Twinkie during a visit last year. I secretly loved hearing my kids say "Nana, what is a Ho-Ho?!" Of course they loved the Ho-Ho's and twinkies; who doesn't? Thankfully they did not start begging for snack cakes on my next grocery store trip.

Last Friday, Jacob was home from school because he didn't feel well. He slept until noon and then woke up feeling recovered so we went out and got some soup for lunch and headed to a furniture store (one thing better than chocolate snack cakes is new furniture.) Right next to the furniture store was the Hostess bakery outlet. Mmmm...I love me some bakery outlet goodies. I used to buy all of our bread at the outlet and would occasionally pick up the bag of powdered donuts for the kids. Don't bother pointing out that powdered donuts are just as bad a white goo-filled snack cakes; I won't hear of it. So when we pulled into the outlet parking lot Jacob got excited and said "Mom, can we get some powdered donuts here too?"

Well, this bakery outlet was lined with an entire row of every Hostess snack cake made and I was having a particularly sweet tooth day. I stopped myself at 4 boxes and tried to make myself feel better by buying two things that were Lite or Low-fat. I only looked at the nutrition label once and that was on the low-fat crumb cakes; 90 calories per cake. I instantly felt better and stopped looking.Jacob and I shared an individual package of Ding-Dongs in the van before ever leaving the parking lot. I also had to pick up one of the fried fruit pies so the kids could try it; again they had no idea what it was. When J got home we talked about eating them as a kid and how delicious they were with the sugary glaze on the outside and the crunchy shell. Well, there is a reason that kids remember them fondly; it is the one thing that gets left for the kids because they taste nasty to adults!

To make this story even better we went back to the furniture store the next day so I could show J the table I want. He saw the bakery outlet and after hearing my stories of the towering snack cake pillars he needed to see too. We left with two more boxes of snack cakes and a gallon of milk. At least we came away from the bakery store with one healthy thing in two days. I am now soliciting all the neighborhood kids to have snacks at my house so I can clear the closet of these snack cakes injected with whipped high fructose corn syrup goo.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Love, Peace & Hair Grease

In addition to collecting the neighborhood's goodies I have collected their germs as well. The creative juices just don't flow when the sinuses are full; so instead I'll post our groovy pictures from Halloween. We also had cousins here for the weekend for an extra special treat.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Testosterone Overload

What happens when you have 5 grown men and 2 young boys in one house? Your newly remodeled bathroom ends up being a duck's new home.

OK, so it was only a decoy and we got a good laugh out of it; one guess as to which male in the house put the duck in the sink.

John, J's dad, finished his journey on the Missouri river this last weekend and we hosted a few people that wanted to be with him during this time. We also got to meet Abe, who traveled part of the river with John. You can read about John's journey here. He was even a local celebrity! I contacted a news station here to see if they would be interested in the story and they immediately said yes; you can view his news story here. The kids are now set on taking a canoe down a river and camping overnight.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Take an Aleve and call me in the morning

That should have been the theme to the work that happened here yesterday. We are having visitors this weekend so the pressure is insurmountable to get the house ready. Let me tell you now, it will not be ready. It will be very close but not completely done.

J left work early and finally at 11:00 pm, having nailed in the last board and placed the furniture. we headed upstairs to bed. The alarm went off 3 times this morning and each time I could literally hear the bones moaning and cracking as J went to turn it off. I got up a bit later and I think it took me 5 minutes to make it outside the bedroom door. Needless to say, we won't be putting in another day of flooring like yesterday without some sufficient recovery.

Now, look at all this glorious bamboo flooring! I need to go buy one very large rug because I'm an OCD wreck about things scratching the floor. This might be a long 3-4 years! Oh, and I actually unpacked our decor this week. I had grown so accustomed to the minimalist look that I almost thought the room look cluttered with decor.

Just for comparison, here is the living room when we found the house. I am still deciding what kind of curtains to place on the huge wall o'windows; suggestions are welcomed.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Boy toys

What is the difference between little boys and big boys? Little boys throw little sticks and big boys throw big sticks.

Oh My Rally

Today in St. Louis we had 100,000 people rallying for Obama; it was simply awesome. We had more people here than at the DNC in Denver! I'll upload our pictures later but for now here is a picture from news sources.

OK, now for our pictures.
Even though there were 100,000 people there it was a well behaved crowd and went very smoothly. We didn't even get stuck in any traffic on the way home!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Laundry room

It is unfortunate I don't have a true 'before' picture of the laundry room. You can barely see it in photos that were taken of the kitchen when we purchased the house but nothing that shows the laundry room in all its dim glory. Imagine this: wood paneling on the bottom half of the walls, dingy yellowish-white on the top half, wood shutters on the bottom half of the window and 90's vinyl flooring. Make sure you make it look really dated and dim in your imagination; don't give it any benefit of the doubt.

Here is what we did: painted the paneling white, painted the walls tan, removed the wood shutter and put in white blinds and the biggest change of all- new tile floors! The only thing left is installing new base moulding; that will come when we are finished with everything. Welcome to 2008.


I just have to share my school girl giddy this morning. Since the Presidential campaign started St. Louis has been visited several times by all candidates. I keep telling J if Biden or Obama visit again I want to go; I mean really want to go. Good things come to those who wait, right?
I learned this morning that there will be a rally for Obama at the Gateway Arch on Saturday. I've already RSVP'd; I wonder what kind of cheesy sign we can make.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Camera pictures

Without a memory card the camera will hold about 4 pictures on the internal memory. I have had the same pictures on the camera forever because I forget they are there and never download them. I finally got around to it this morning; let me show you what I found.

The picture from the Sears Tower in Chicago that I wasn't able to download before. They almost give you the impression that they really like each other.

Emily and Matthew found a fun place to play during our last move in June.

A picture of Emily when she was in the hospital in 2005; this is an old picture! Emily had a piece of wood buried in her heel that had become horribly infected. She had to have surgery to remove the wood and clean the infection. Four days in the hospital was not fun!

Momma needs new shoes

J changed the oil in the cars a few weeks ago. He didn't have enough empty jugs for the used oil so it was sitting in the open oil pan in the garage until we were able to get the kids to guzzle more milk. Honestly, it was kind of forgotten about....until last weekend. J was searching for a tool in the toolbox and I was standing there talking to him; I raised my foot and stepped down on the very edge of the oil pan. Oil poured, splashed and splattered everywhere. It is a very weird, cold feeling as oil soaks through your sock and shoe.
I felt bad for making such a mess and he felt bad for leaving the oil and ruining my shoes. He ran to the grocery store (thank goodness for having one across the road!) and bought 2 large bags of kitty litter; it wasn't enough. Later he went to the parts store and bought the oil soaker-upper stuff and was told by the clerk that he was lucky he wasn't divorced. HA! I just want some new shoes.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Hodge Podge

First, we finished the bathroom this weekend; our little vacation slowed that timeline but overall it only took us 5 work days for the remodel. Two of those days were full weekend days and 3 were a few hours after work for J. We got a much smaller vanity, updated the light fixture (I installed that!) and a smaller mirror. The bathroom feels so much bigger, but the toilet looks a bit out of scale now. It almost looks like a white porcelain throne sitting there.

Now that the bathroom is finished, take a look at my laundry room. Geesh, can't we just sit and do nothing?! We ripped it apart Sunday, I removed the luan Monday during the day and J cut and cemented the backerboard last night. It is drizzly today so I doubt we will be able to start tiling this evening; I'm sure I can find another project to work on instead. See the lovely hole in the wall to the left of the window? We hear that the original owners had a black lab that scratched huge holes in the drywall so they put up wood paneling to cover it. Sometime later someone removed paneling from that location and installed 2 cabinets with a countertop. We removed those to put in the tile and ewww, that was nasty. Black dog hair that is at least 4 years old isn't a pretty sight to find.

While driving back from Chicago I saw the "Maverick Steakhouse;" I had to take a picture. I wonder if they do things different from mainstream steakhouse practices; instead of steak and potato, you get steak and boiled eggs. They probably figured out that mainstream steakhouse followers don't really care for steak and boiled eggs so I'm sure they have abandoned their own practices and now serve steak and potatoes. You have to do what the people want to stay in business, right?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Greencation: Days 4, 5, & 6

Sunday- We slept late in our dark, quiet room and then caught the bus to the Museum of Science & Industry. I was slightly bummed that we didn't get there until 11 but quickly realized that they didn't even open until 11. The place is HUGE and we knew there wasn't any way we could possibly see everything before they closed at 4. The most awesome part of the museum is their new Smart Home; a home that was built with sustainable and energy efficient materials. Guess what?! They used bamboo floors in the Smart Home! We got so many great ideas but unfortunately our home is 14 years old and we won't be making it as environmentally friendly as the Smart Home. J and I did gather many ideas that we would love to incorporate into a future house though.
With so much to see and so little time we grabbed a snack in the food court. If you ever visit the museum, make the food court your definite stop for lunch. They had many different choices including a full taco bar. We were in a hurry for our Smart Home tour so we all split a chicken finger meal and kept on trucking.
On the way back to the hotel we stopped and ate at Chipolte. We said we wouldn't eat somewhere that we could eat at home while on vacation but it was right around the corner and we were all tired.

Monday- The one place Emily wanted to go in Chicago was the American Girl Place. I had waited until the last day to take her because it just worked out best. Imagine my surprise when I got online Monday morning and found out they were CLOSED. They were moving across the street so they shut down the store for 2 days- Monday and Tuesday. It absolutely broke my heart to tell her they were closed. She has listened to two of her friends talk about their breakfast there and the doll salon for weeks now so she was so excited to go.
But, Emily and I were up and out of the room by 9am to try and salvage the shopping day. We took the subway over to the Magnificent Mile and found the Lush store. She had a good time sniffing everything but eventually the bath bombs started fizzing inside her nose. I was able to turn her day around with a bath bomb and a set of pajamas; my daughter knows the good things in life.
The boys took the bus over to the
Field Museum and had a good time looking at all the REAL mummies and other interesting artifacts. Emily and I joined up with them around noon and viewed all the creepy mummies as well. The kids really liked Sue, the most complete T-Rex dinosaur ever uncovered.
Mid-afternoon we took the train over to Ed Debevic's (where they are mean to you). We had gotten so many "you must eat at Ed's" comments that we walked in the rain to eat (up hill both ways too). We should have ate there on the weekend because 4pm on a drizzly Monday is not a popular dining time. We were eventually the only ones there and honestly, we should have had Chicago pizza again.

Tuesday- So sad; it was time to check out of our hotel and return to the reality of life. But first we walked to get some breakfast at The Corner Bakery and then walked over to Millennium Park. It is full of cool sculptures and beautiful gardens. The pictures of the kids in the mirror is a giant mirrored sculpture that is supposed to resemble a drop of mercury. Once you know that and look at it, it DOES look like a drop of mercury!
We lost the valet ticket for the car but unfortunately they were able to locate it with our last name and room number; no Lexus for me today.
The hotel we stayed in was The Silversmith. It was lovely and fancy and quiet and all those other things that my house isn't. I hid all the Italian toiletries each day so the housekeeper would leave me more; I now have a few weeks worth of lotion and shampoo! I usually don't let housekeepers in the room while we are gone but I figured if I wanted more good-smelling lotion I would need to compromise on my routine a bit. We were on the same street as an elevated train line so we could hear that but it wasn't that bad and it was very convenient having a stop right outside the hotel door. We were within walking distance to Millennium and Grant Parks, the Sears Tower and shopping on State St. I would definitely stay here again but I would definitely go through again as well. We paid approximately $60-$80 less per night by booking through

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Greencation: Day 3

Yesterday was a long day, very long. I finally gave up around 8pm and begged to come back to the room. The kids were enjoying the night and weather was beautiful but my head was pounding so hard I felt like I had a percussion show going on in the right hemisphere of my brain.

Since we knew the weather would be warmest on Saturday we opted to do the outdoor activities that day. We got up and walked to Sears Tower. Half way there I realized I had left the memory card for the camera inside the laptop so we had one picture we could take on the internal memory of the camera; we had to make it a good one. I had to take and delete about 4 pictures before I got one with all the 3 kids looking forward. I will have to add that picture once we get home because I don't have the cable with us.

After the Sears Tower we walked back to the hotel to retrieve the camera card and sunglasses. I knew a headache was a certainty if we did not get my sunglasses. We jetted off on the subway to find a traditional Chicago pizza place. The kids thought the subway ride was uber cool and groaned when it was time to get off after only 3 stops.

We ate at Giordano's and it seems most other tourists think 2pm would be a great time to eat lunch, just as we did. While waiting, Matthew found the naked lady statue; J and I were placing bets on how quickly he would find the topless statue and it was quicker than both of us had thought. He climbed up and said "MOM, take my picture!" The gentleman next to him thought that was comical. The pizza was very good but so filling and heavy that we just wanted to go to bed afterwards, not walk another 4 hours. We fought this urge heavily but only because three people under 5' tall were ready to ride on the trolley.

We took the trolley out to Navy Pier and enjoyed a boat ride on Lake Michigan and a ride on the huge Ferris wheel. Matthew played comedian again when he jumped up on a wooden box and said "MOM, take my picture while I pretend to be a supermodel" while posing with one hand on his hip and one behind his head and pouty lips. A group of several adults cracked up laughing and we could still hear them laughing after we walked away. I did not get a picture of this; I simply grabbed my son by the waist and carted him off knowing these adults are wondering where my six year old son learned to pose like a supermodel. We'll send him to your party for entertainment, but we charge a steep price.

I had to take a picture of this concession stand, even if the two girls working thought I was a crazy, lunatic tourist. We have donuts (in fact, I had a tasty one for breakfast earlier in the day) and funnel cakes. Now, the one thing those two have in common is being a wad of dough dropped into a 400 degree vat of grease and then usually covered in something even more fat laden such as sugar or "fruit" topping. This concession stand doesn't sugar coat (ha, pun intended) the truth; you will be getting a paper basket full of nothing else but good 'ole Fried Dough. That just cracked me up.
We found a table at the end of the pier and enjoyed the evening for awhile and I got these pictures of my handsome boys and beautiful girl. We were going to try and stay for the fireworks but I couldn't last any later than 8pm.

We've seen more weddings this weekend than I usually see in half a year. We've seen a German wedding complete with fully dressed priests, a Chinese wedding complete with dancing dragons and an extremely wealthy wedding, complete with 49 BMWs, 38 Mercedes, and 52 Lexus'. OK, OK, I'm not sure that is the exact number but only because we hopped on the poor-man's trolley (FREE) and left Navy Pier before the procession ended. This wedding reception included security; complete with the secret service black suits and earpiece communication; it was very entertaining for us to people watch at this particular event.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Greencation: Day 1 & 2

After a day of packing and running around, we loaded up the newly fixed Civic (thanks FedEx for the wreck and the money to fix it) and took off on our "Greencation." We decided to really do our vacation as green as possible we should pile 5 people and luggage for said 5 into the Civic Hybrid and drive to Chicago where we are staying downtown and using only public transit.

So here was the scene prior to leaving Thursday evening. It all fit...barely.

The kids were ready to take off on our vacation even though they were sitting hip to hip and shoulder to shoulder. I was skeptical on how long this enthusiasm would really last. To my surprise we made it the first night (2 hours) with giddiness from all three kids.
Tidbits from the first night:
- We saw a set of fresh burn-out marks on the road and Matthew piped up: "That is a spin-out and I know how you do that. You put one foot on the stop pedal and one foot on the go button at the same time and keep it that way; then it makes a squealing noise and leaves the marks." I then turned my attention to J who gave me a look of "I have no idea how he would know that, I would never take part in that sort of activity." Then Jacob says "Yea, and its really fun too."

- We encountered every animal poo stench there can be while driving for 2 hours in IL. My city-grown children did not appreciate the odors of true nature.

Today we toured Abraham Lincoln's restored home in Springfield, IL before continuing our trek to Chicago. The kids loved the tour and remembered several things about the period from our trip through Callaway Plantation. While the history of President Lincoln and his home are very interesting, the tour of Callaway Plantation was much more informative and educational. I encourage anyone who might be in GA and have an opportunity to tour the plantation to definitely do so.

On the drive in the kids were looking at the skyscrapers and Emily asked if the Sears Tower really scrapes the sky and that is why it is called a skyscraper. Matthew chimed in with "yea, I used to think that is why they called them skyscrapers too, Emmy, but that was when I was a little kid, and then I learned about it." Ouch, that wasn't very nice.

We are in a very nice hotel; I'll write more about it later. Our kids are tripped out by the "FANCY" hotel and all the things that go along with it. They are adjusting to sights and sounds of downtown Chicago. Our hotel sits directly in front of an elevated El track so if you are outside when it passes you can't hear each other talk. Jacob told us later that all the sounds were giving him a headache and he thinks it is just too busy. This might be a long 4 days.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Weekend Tidbits

It is never a dull weekend around this house; I long for the "boring" weekends when we decide to touch up some painting or plant a couple of new bushes.

We took down the dreaded fluorescent light in the kitchen that has been tormenting me for the last three months. Last weekend we put up a new chandelier in the dining room, here are a picture of each.

Sunday morning we were going to get an early start on the wood floors hoping we can get the majority finished before our vacation this weekend but impulsively decided to re-do the half bath instead. We figured the mess would be better tracked across plywood sub-floor instead of finished wood floors. Man, were we right!

Here is the bathroom before, slightly. It originally started with carpet (BLECH!) but we pulled that out about 6 weeks ago and we've kept a big rug on the floor to soften up the look of plywood. We demo'd the bathroom which registered an 11 on the EWWW scale. Notice the tub of Lysol wipes; we used an enormous amount of these because the water was shut off. The builder decided to skip the $5 shut-off valves on the faucet plumbing making it necessary to cut off the water to the house until we were able to install those. We demo'd quickly so we could make a trip for the shut-off valves otherwise we would all be bathing in antibacterial wipes and relieving ourselves in the forest behind the house. Did I say we did the demo very quickly?

We now have a toilet on the patio; it makes for such a nice "getting back to nature" experience. I wish we could always have such tranquility while pooing. If the project goes on too long I might just fill it with potting soil and plant some bulbs in it for next spring. It would complimented nicely by some daffodils.
The bathroom floor is now covered with backerboard and ready to tile today. I predict the bathroom will be finished by Thursday.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Dinner Review

A couple of weeks ago while grocery shopping I picked up a boxed dinner kit that looked tasty. We tested it out a few nights ago and I will definitely buy it again. For 30 minutes I thought I might actually be sitting in Romano's Macaroni Grill with terra cotta tile floors rather than plywood sub-floor. My daydream quickly ended when a server didn't come around and pick up my dishes; instead it was time to clean up the mess myself. Luckily, I have a manly man that doesn't mind getting his hands wet and usually helps with clean-up.

I had been meaning to tell my sister about this boxed dinner because I thought it was something she would enjoy. Yesterday while talking to her she says "We had a pasta boxed dinner last night that was so good, it was actually like I went to the restaurant." I immediately knew we had eaten the same thing. Sure enough, she was also talking about the Creamy Basil dinner kit.

We will be trying out the other varieties now that we know they actually taste better than a box of pasta and sodium.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Please stay silent

Some commercials are better left off the TV. This morning I watched a commercial for Midwest Hemorrhoid Treatment Center. I just have to say it is a bit odd to see a gathering of people enjoying a backyard BBQ while the announcer is talking about hemorrhoids and internal coagulation. BLECH, what?! The word coagulation reminds me of the milk spit-up you have run down your back 20-30 minutes after feeding your young baby.

The best part, they end it with a sweet jingle "Don't suffer in silence." No really, we want to hear all about it the next time you are invited over for dinner.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


I'd like to take this opportunity to thank my Dad for teaching me how to push the lawn mower at a young age. How did you know we would eventually buy the largest lot in the subdivision in an area that has had over 50 inches of rain in 9 months making the grass think it has been fed with speed laced water? Really, mowing 1/3 of an acre twice weekly with my push mower is nearly enjoyable. I've now passed on my lawn mowing knowledge to Jacob who actually seems to enjoy it, for now.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Kid Style Politics

Last night we were watching the National Service Forum on MSNBC. The kids were piled in bed with us because I was reading to them during the commercials. We asked if they knew who the guy on TV was and they all answered in unison "McCain." Wow, I was impressed; we are raising little political junkies. I asked if they knew his first name and Emily replied with "John." Again, I was somewhat impressed.

Then I asked if they knew else was running for president and Emily answered again, "Iraq Obama." I told her his correct name just as Obama was entering the stage. She said "I think he's better and will be a better president." I asked her why and she said "because he's not old like that other guy."

Gotta love kids.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Inevitable

5.5 inches of rain in 2 days,
.3 acres of mud and grass
1 six year old boy.
Gustav dumped his remnants last week and Ike will be here at the end of the weekend. I hope he knows how to do laundry; I expect help with these mud stains.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


This weekend's major project was refacing the fireplace with slate. There were several smaller projects this weekend as well but this one took center stage. Meme came to visit this weekend too; it is always a delight to have her here. Thank you Meme for all your wonderful help!

The fireplace before any work:

First I coated the brick with a layer of thinset to try and even the surfaces, then J started in with his precise measuring and cutting. The hearth was done first followed by the vertical surround the next day.

This is after all the tiles have been set; the only thing left to do is seal the stone and then grout.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Friday night lights

Police, ambulance and fire truck lights that is. While lying in bed late Friday night I heard a crack and some rumbling. I asked J if that was thunder and he said he thought so. A minute or so later I heard commotion and noticed cars in front of our house. Nope, no thunder here, just a car that mistook the house across the street for a McDonald's drive-thru. I don't think he got any fries with that but maybe the police were nice and supersized his handcuffs. The gentleman that hit our neighbors house supposedly passed out from coughing (per his wife) but he'd had enough alcohol to warrant a sobriety test right in the neighborhood street and a chauffeured trip to jail. During his short unconscious spell he drove over a 10 foot bush (starting to resemble a tree), up a slight hill and straight into the house. If he had turned the wheel the other direction he would have driven straight into our front door.

Within minutes every neighbor was in the driveway and people were calling the owner because she wasn't home. After 15 minutes or so a cop rang her doorbell and she answered the door. She slept through the whole thing! By this time there were two firetrucks, an ambulance and four police cars lining the street. What a sight to wake up to!

The floor and more

You would think an entire weekend of work would yield a lot of wood floor installed. Nope, the websites really are accurate when they say you can install about 200 sq. feet per day as a DIY job. J got the rooms measured and the first row of flooring adhered on Saturday. That was time consuming but I guess if we want straight rows it was worth it.
We worked for seven hours on Sunday and installed approximately 180 square feet of flooring.

Day 2 finished the rows across the front of the house up to the stairs. J had a difficult time installing the last couple of boards in front of the staircase.

Day 3 brought the wood into the dining room; it is now a little over half way finished. We also put a few more rows down in the formal living until J had to earn his money with IT help. OK, he doesn't actually get paid to help family members with IT issues but he loves me so much he does it for free. Gotta love him.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Tribute

Today, we salute you, Mr. Kitchen & Bath Vinyl Installer. You showed up for work on day #187 of construction ready to show this house who's boss.
You brought the biggest air compressor on wheels and the mother of all staple guns. This was "Man Work" and the wimpy tools simply wouldn't do.
After all the thin plywood was cut to fit and laid this kitchen floor was smooth as butta. To make sure this floor wasn't going anywhere you started adhering it to the subfloor. Of course, you knew that one inch staples meant they needed to one inch apart, at a maximum; you were weren't getting fired today.
So away you went all bent over stapling 48279 staples into this smooth kitchen floor. Just a few staples along each seam would not be enough action for you, this floor needed to stay for eternity.
While nothing can compare to the feeling of the kickback of the gun or the poof of air that it sends towards you, blowing your greasy, blond locks, we really know you were just trying to impress the other construction crew with your massively powerful staple gun. You made sure everyone saw just how deep it drove staples into the floor "Hey Chuck, look at this staple; now you see it (ka-wham) now you don't." You followed up with the brand name and store name where you purchased your massively powerful staple gun so everyone could be like you.
Oh, but you are a special one Mr. Kitchen & Bath Vinyl Installer; there won't be anyone that can ever copy your level of staple expertise. Your work will be forever cursed admired in the years to come.

Now that I was able to semi-joke about this removal of our vinyl floor in the kitchen I will tell you somewhat of our experience. I mentioned that grouting sucks, well grouting is a mere inconvenience. Ripping up the thin, layer splintering, staple ridden plywood under vinyl sucks. What sucks more is sitting on your duff for a couple hours each night after the kids are in bed pulling out the 27328 one inch staples left in the floor. The other 20951 staples were designed to rip your hands to shreds as they stuck out of the plywood while being pried up from the floor. This has taken the gold medal of "worst project ever" from the cabinet painting project who now proudly wears the silver medal.