Sunday, December 2, 2012

Someday, I'll Manage Pretty Banana Bread ...

Today is not that day.

In all fairness, I do have to say that my banana bread always tastes fantastic. That being said, it always turns out just a little sad. You know ... missing corners, sunken tops, ... fairly sure you can begin to imagine the sadness that is my banana bread.

You might think it's the recipe, but my banana bread seems to fall out of the ugly tree no matter which recipe I use. Tonight is no exception. In addition to the usual sunken streak down the middle, when I took the bread out of all three loaf pans, I left the entire bottom layer of the bread in the pan ... on (er, I mean off) all three loaves. The plus side? I do have a whole bowl of super yummy banana bread chunks that the kids will love. The down side? Ugly banana bread and none of us are into bread soaked in milk. (*YUCK!!*)

While I would love to make just one or two loaves of picture perfect banana bread -- just to say I could -- I guess I'd rather have tasty bread. Here's to topless quick bread!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Lessons in 10 year old Snarkiness

M is 10 and a half. Sometimes, that means that snarky comes to visit ...

Yesterday, M and snarky were rather good friends. After a while, I decided she needed to be reminded (in a positive way) why I'm the mom and she's not.

"C'mere." I said casually.

"Wha-aht?" M said as she began approaching me cautiously. (Apparently, she's learned that particular calm tone in my voice can mean there's a large surprise coming. Fortunately, she hadn't figured out what by the time she reached me.)

As M stood in front of me, she repeated, "Wha-ah-aht?" Her concern was increasing.

I just smiled, bent down, grabbed her around her legs, and tossed her over my shoulder like a sack of potatoes. (No small feat, since this daughter of mine reaches my mouth when she's standing flat-footed on the floor.)

As she began giggling and screaming, M alternated between cries of "HELP!!!" and "L, you have GOT to come SEE this!" 

I saw no reason to end the lesson there. As L came running to see what the commotion was about, I hauled M from the back end of our apartment to the living room. I deposited a still giggling daughter in front of her younger sister, and stood back to admire the new respect that was shining in both daughters' eyes.

Of course, L had to challenge me. "You can't do that to me!" Being mildly strong-willed, I decided that she needed to see that I can. So I did.

She giggled and laughed, but she's a little quieter than her sister, so there were a lot more small "Wow!"s coming from my second load. I set her down and said casually, "Bet you didn't know your mom is still stronger and faster than you, huh?" (I raced them on the way to school the other day. Guess who won?) Then I walked away. 'Nuff said ...

After I walked away and left them to their activities, I heard my girls rehashing their adventures. "Did you see that?" "I didn't know she could do that!" "Wow! She's stronger than I thought."

Mission accomplished.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Photoshoot with a Rocking Chair

My chair and I had a photo shoot ... (The chair that got a makeover in this post.)



Just because ...





Showing off its legs -- tsk, tsk! No sense of modesty ...




Chillin' in the shade ...





Beckoning with sweet temptation ... No shame either apparently.





Because one book isn't enough ...


Keeping beautiful company ...


Books and a patch of violets? What a lovely way to pass the time. Don't mind if I do.



Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Homemade Halloween Hat ...





Alright, so maybe it came with the wood already cut, and a cute spider to add, but I painted it, put the paper on, glittered the stuff, hung the spider, and added the bow, etc. AND I glued it all together. That's got to qualify for homemade, right?

I'm loving this cute little hat! And the girls are going to love when the lights go out and they figure out that most of this hat glows in the dark. 'Cause it's cool like that ...

Monday, September 17, 2012

Called the Wedding Off

Just realized that I neglected to post this. Called the wedding off, and it's okay ... Lots of beautiful things in life and plenty of happiness to pass the days ...

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Rocking Chair Re-do ...

I love rocking chairs -- you know, the all wood, old school style, rocking chairs? So when my mother offered me this:



I was thrilled! It's smallish, which is perfect for my 5'3"-on-a-good-day self. It's real wood with no funky fabric moments. Best part though? It rocks just enough. As I looked at my cute little rocking chair in my corner each day though, I realized that I wanted to change it up a bit. I just wasn't sure how.

Veering completely off the track for that train of thought ...

For some time now, I've wanted to do my house in a french country vintage style with blues and creams as two of the key colors. I just haven't had the time or the money. The other day though, it dawned on my that -- because most of my things are fairly neutral -- it would be quick and easy to change a few things and end up with exactly what I wanted.

The car is finally fixed, so I splurged on a couple of quarts of paint. (Normally, I just watch the clearance paint for the right color, but this time, I had something very specific in mind and I wanted it now.)

I've been in love with the look of milk paint and chalk paint for quite a while. Luckily for me, Pinterest (I love that site!) had a couple of great tutorials for how to use both. After comparing pros and cons, I decided that chalk paint and I are going to become dear friends. I could have cried for sheer joy when I found this link:



Of course I popped right over to Twice Lovely. I think it might be my new favorite blog. I read several posts and finally felt ready to leap right into my own furniture makeover. I knew just the piece to begin with ...

And the train jumps back on the track ...

Knowing that I already had the plaster of paris, I headed to Home Depot and found the perfect colors. As I mentioned, caution flew to the winds as I recklessly purchased a couple quarts of beautifully blue paint. Since I was making chalk paint, I needed to get some Minwax Paste Finishing Wax. (Save yourself some time and look for it by the wood waxes and polishes. Trust me ... ) After 3 coats of chalk paint -- an undercoat of darker blue and two coats of light blue -- and 3 coats of finishing wax (applied after the paint was DRY) and my chair is completely transformed.
 




Every time I look at it, my heart leaps. I think perhaps I've found the new love of my life ...





(Don't mind the piles of books and papers. They belong to the bookshelf that's also under renovation in a deeper shade of blue ...)





I have to admit that I was terrified to distress this chair. I've never distressed anything inanimate before, and the thing is, I've seen some projects where the distressing has ruined a beautiful piece. I think that distressing furniture is a lot like tweezing your eyebrows -- under-do it and it doesn't add anything to the finished product, over-do it and look perpetually and painfully surprised. Hence the fear ... I decided to give it a shot anyway. The end result? Chair love ...





I'm still planning on making a different pillow for this, but for now, I even like this one with it.

Things I love:

*The distressed finish

*The variability of this color -- when it's really light, it's the color of the sky. When there isn't as much light, it's a peaceful, muted blue

*The texture of the chalk paint and finishing wax -- both in appearance and feel

*The splash of elegant color this adds to the room without overwhelming the space

Things I learned:

*A half-batch of the chalk paint was enough to do a full coat of paint on both the rocking chair and the book case and its shelves with a bit leftover.

*Chalk paint is one of the easiest projects I can think of. NO prep is required. (Okay, fine ... if your piece is dusty, you may want to take care of that, but seriously -- this stuff adheres very well to just about anything I've tried it on, including the spray-painted ceramic vase I painted over.)

*Finishing wax is really easy to use, but a bit time-consuming if your piece has a lot of scroll work or detail.

*I'm more in love with chalk paint in real life than I was when I saw it in pictures.

*I'm really happy with the do-it-yourself version which, by the way, is far less expensive than the real version. (A quart of the real stuff will run around $50. Since I had the plaster of paris -- which runs about $5-$6 at Walmart, the DIY half-batch cost less than $3. Even adding in the plaster of paris, one half-batch would have been about the same cost. You can't tell by looking at it that I used any of my plaster. My little quart of paint ran about $11 and will be enough for 4-5 half-batches at least ... ) I'm not sure I'll ever try the real deal, but I will definitely mix up my own for several more projects.

*Finishing wax is a bit stinky. I did apply it inside, but I kept a window open during the process. 

*A new chair in a pretty color can make you see the world differently. (My L said that looking at our chair is "like looking at the sky. It's so pretty!" Maybe this will temper any seasonal depression that may come. We've got our own piece of sky in the living room ... )

Linking up with:

The Girl Creativemaking monday marvelous linky party
Sumo's Sweet Stuff

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Pancake Make-Ahead Mix Follow-up

The girls were dying for pancakes on their first morning back to school. Since I'd made pancake mix recently, it was an easy request to fill. (See this post.) The pancakes didn't turn out half bad considering. (I wish I'd taken pictures, but well ... ) I did use coconut oil instead of vegetable oil, and I added in a little vanilla -- 'cause that's what I do ...

Things I liked:
* Super easy
*Quick to throw together
*Loved the whole wheat flour in it
*Had a great flavor -- especially with the vanilla
*Made a lot of pancakes

Things I'd change:
*Add less liquid -- my batter turned out really runny -- REALLY runny -- which isn't a problem if your skillet is hot enough. It just makes for thin pancakes. I like them a little sturdier. I did use skim milk, but we'll have to play around with it. The plus side of the thin pancakes? They'd fit great in a toaster if you froze them to reheat later. (Even if you'll never have a perfect circle ... )

Random notes:
*If you add wheat flour in, like I did, your pancakes will be a bit darker. My daughter thought they looked burnt at first because they were so brown, but it was just how the wheat affected the color as they cooked.

Would I use this mix again (even if I didn't have a whole jar of it? ;) Ha, ha ... ) I would. It's got a good flavor and was easy to use. I figure that we'll tweak things to try and get the consistency that we prefer at our house, but other than that, it was nice to have around!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

More Make-Ahead for Healthier Meals

Okay, fine ... I'm not just putting together some make-ahead stuff for health reasons (although that is a big factor. I believe that I've mentioned that I'm a firm believer in the fact that if it's homemade, it's almost automatically healthier than the store bought version?) Really, I'm most interested in preserving my own sanity. There. I've said it ... It really is rather self-serving. My classes have already begun. The kids are starting their classes next week, and I'm beginning work the week after. In addition to that, I'll be starting observations for my teaching levels any time now as well. That being said, the fewer trips to the store and the more prep work that's already done in order to put meals on the table, the more likely we are to avoid malnutrition and palate boredom.

Yesterday, I decided it was time to make some mixes to keep on hand. So far I've made a batch of tortilla mix and one of pancake mix. The base recipe is here. She has some darling labels that you can attach to your jar. Some day, I might print them out. I've found though that I'm perfectly content using a black sharpie marker to write what I want right on the container. (Cream of Soup is a good example of my stellar labeling skills. I know, you're jealous, right?)

For the tortilla mix, I did have to up the shortening amount. She had a half cup listed for the whole batch. I made a half batch and used about 1 1/4 cups of shortening to get the right texture. This amount was proportionally more in line with the tortilla recipes that I've made in the past. I haven't actually cooked with it yet, but I'm optimistic.

I decided that I really wanted to have at least some whole wheat flour in my pancakes, so I used three cups of freshly ground whole wheat flour and 5 cups of white flour. If we like it, and it's not too dense or dry, I may up the proportions to half and half. Since I've never tried the recipe before, I didn't want to make any really drastic changes.

In addition to the tortillas and pancakes, I decided that perhaps we needed some brownie mix. (Chocolate, lots of chocolate ... ) I used this recipe.



The only change that I made to the mix was to include four cups of whole wheat flour and five cups of all-purpose flour.  The initial bite was a bit startling -- simply because you can taste the wheat flour. It gives the brownie a hint of graham cracker flavor. After the first bite though, once I realized what that flavor was, it isn't distracting at all. (At the moment, I'm thinking that I'll reduce the whole wheat flour next time, but who knows? Perhaps, we'll be so used to it by then that we'll just leave it in. The other plus side is that the wheat flour makes the brownie feel more filling.)

Trust me when I say that this brownie mix makes a lot. Don't believe me?

Told ya ... (Yes, the bowl really is nearly as big as my 8 year old ... )

The brownies (of course we had to sample the chocolate first!) turned out to be exactly the texture that I was looking for. I subbed in coconut oil for the butter, just because ... They cooked up with a crispy, crackly crust and are chewy (almost gooey) on the inside. For us, this recipe is a definite keeper. I did only cook them for 27 minutes instead of the 30-35 minutes that the recipe called for, but they passed the toothpick test perfectly. This may just be the recipe that gets us through the girls' preteen and teenage years. ;)



Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Beating Breakfast Woes -- Homemade Oatmeal Packets

School mornings can be iffy ... Iffier still is breakfast on a school morning. Last year, while I was trying to find things that would entice little ones out of bed earlier (without forcing me to get up any earlier than I already had to ... 'cause I'm lazy like that) I stumbled across this recipe for instant oatmeal packets. L has an oatmeal obsession, and even M likes the instant packets that you buy. At that point, it was worth a shot. Who knew it would be such a hit? The girls love that they can make their own oatmeal (add water and cook it) all by themselves, and I love that I know exactly what is in their breakfast, and it's something healthy and filling. Suddenly, kids were having oatmeal for breakfast and for snacks. I felt a little guilty for only making one variety ... (I just added some cinnamon and raisins to the core recipe.)

Now that we're about to start school again, it seems like a good idea to have something easy on hand for school mornings. Oatmeal is the order of the day. (No, seriously ... it's about the only order to this whole day so far ... Hence the reason I'm still wearing Minnie Mouse jammies ... I'll get dressed -- eventually ... ) On the plus side, I now have a breakfast basket that's loaded with 40+ instant packets of oatmeal. And get this, I actually learned from the last time I made them, so this time we have SEVEN different varieties. Who says that oatmeal has to be boring?

Because it's a pretty simple recipe, it's easy to assembly-line it ...

You can make these in reusable containers (tried it, it works great ... only catch is that you need to either add more water or cook it for less time. Not sure why, but the liquid absorbs more and faster in the tupperware-style containers.) I prefer the little zip-up snack bags. They're just the right size.

Fill 'em with oats. (The recipe calls for quick oats, but I always use plain old regular rolled oats. They work fine ... )


Keep on adding ingredients one at a time -- powdered milk, salt, and sugar (this one's optional, so adjust it to your own tastes ... )

Some of the things that I've found helpful:

*Move the bags you've filled with your current ingredient to a different spot on your counter. (Yup, I'm that forgetful. Moving the bags means I don't have to shift them around trying to see if I've added something to that bag already. Trust me, some days it's just easier not to overtax the brain cells ... )

*If, and only if, I'm feeling very particular about my measurements -- this recipe is pretty forgiving -- I've found it's easier if I set a heavy(ish) knife across the top of my container to scrape my measuring spoons on. It just makes things move a bit quicker.

*Measuring salt can be a pain when you're doing it repeatedly, say, oh, forty-two times -- even when you have a nifty little dash-sized measuring spoon that's just the right size. I tend to be too lazy to deal with it, unless I abso-100%-lutely have to have an exact measurement. I've been known to A)

Measure the first one and dump it in my *CLEAN* hand, and then just fill my hand to the same spot with subsequent measurements

or B)



Find a small bowl and fill it with some salt. Then you can just scoop it out without worrying about pouring.

Although you could stop there and have the kids add things in when they heat their oatmeal -- peanut butter or maple syrup can be good -- I usually keep going. Today I made the following varieties with freeze-dried or regular dried fruits:

Blueberry (blueberries, a smidgen of allspice, and some cinnamon)
Raspberry 
Strawberry
Strawberry Spice (I just added strawberries and cinnamon to the base recipe for this one)
Apple Cinnamon (apples and cinnamon obviously, but I think that I also added a little allspice ... overtaxed brain cells ... )
Craisin (cinnamon and Craisins)
Raisin (raisins and cinnamon)





Since my kids were toddlers, we've used a "Breakfast Basket." (I realize that it's neither a basket, nor is it made of breakfast. As I've said, we try to simplify things around here to make it easier on the brain cells.) It's a place where the kids look first when they want to take care of breakfast for themselves. It allows them some freedom of choice while still controlling portion sizes and what they can eat.



Currently, it's all oatmeal, but I'm hoping to make some granola bars and homemade pop tarts for the freezer so they'll have a few more options. At any rate, starting the school year off with something in place for breakfasts makes my life a little easier ...

Monday, August 13, 2012

Yup ... They've hit that age.

Puberty ... Those dreaded years that make little girls and grown women cry. It's the equal opportunity pity pill. In some ways, perhaps it's even the bridge to the generation gap. (Feel free to stop reading right here. It's going to be one of those kind of posts.) 

Little girls weep because:

"I don't  KNO-OWWW!"

Hormones rage.

Life isn't fair and equal.

Their moms said "No!" ... and "I don't think so." ... and "Don't you dare!" ... and "Did throwing a fit get you what you want?" ... and finally, "Go sit on your bed until you've calmed down, and then we'll talk." (I know ... Meanest mom EVER!)

Their siblings are breathing their air ...

Or looking at them with eerily crossed eyes ...

Or ignoring them entirely. (It's a tough life when the hormones take over ... )

Grown women weep because:

Their daughters have dissolved into weeping lumps of tears and woe.

The kids' raging hormones wreak havoc on adult hormones.

Life isn't fair and equal ... and they are realizing that teaching little ones such an important concept is much, MUCH harder than it sounds.

Their daughters alternate between mimicking short & very mobile brick walls (although the brick walls may perhaps respond more often) and tryouts for the wailing banshees of folklore revived.

Their daughters said "No!" ... and "I don't think so." ... and "Don't you dare!" ... and "You can't make me!"

As moms, they then had to think so ... and dare ... and make them.

Their conscience occasionally chimes in with a little voice that says "Did throwing a fit get you what you want?"

Their daughters are breathing in the same (and apparently quite limited) oxygen ...

Or looking at each other with crossed eyes ...

Or ignoring their mothers with great determination. (It's a tough life when the hormones take over ... )

On the plus side, while puberty delights in exacerbating already frayed nerves, it also seems to bring with it a greater sense of responsibility. In the midst of hormonal angst, new visions of what these girls (and their poor mothers) will become begin to emerge. The same hormonal changes that bring such emotional drama seem to smooth off some of the rough edges, leaving stirrings of empathy and understanding in the wake of the emotional storms. Little girls show increasing signs of maturity. They, more often than before, recognize and internalize the consequences of their own choices. In their moments of clarity (admittedly, these are sometimes obscured by the less lucid moments ... ) these girls are more teachable. During those same moments of clarity, it seems that -- at times anyway -- the mothers, overly excited to be talking to somebody instead of at them, are more willing to teach. It seems that, in the midst of all the weeping, there are occasionally tears of joy. 



Monday, July 23, 2012

One of my favorite go-to meals ...

Pasta is one of those great dishes that's really flexible ... and forgiving. (Just as long as you don't overcook it, you can do just about anything to pasta and it's delish! Just no soggy, overcooked pasta ... trust me on this one.)

Perhaps one of my favorite pasta dishes takes no planning at all ...


Cooked pasta, a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and some Italian seasoning. Depending on our mood, I like to add halved grape or cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, perhaps some bacon, and maybe even some minced garlic or onion. Add some salt and pepper to taste and you've got a reasonably healthy, very filling meal.

Tonight, I was craving a little more though. Mind you, since it's a migraine kind of day, I wanted something that has a lot of flavor with very little effort. Enter this:


Sauteed mushrooms and spinach with onion and garlic. Super easy, a great way to get some veggies in, and a side dish that both the kids will eat ...

Getting Married Again ...

That's right! It sort of snuck up on me as well. I've written a bit about that here.

While I'm a bit nervous about trying again, I'm pretty excited. This sweetheart of mine treats me well and makes both my daughters and me very happy. He isn't perfect, but then again, neither am I. He is a good man, and that's enough. I'm rather looking forward to spending eternity with him. :)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Bread Crumbs or Croutons?

Who knew that slicing bread was a skill I needed to teach my daughters?

Apparently the bread knew, but it wasn't telling ...

I did hand my daughters the serrated knife and say, "Make sure you use this knife. It will work best." Famous last words, I know, but they were so insistent that they could do it themselves. You've seen what the bread looked like before.

Here's what it looked like after my L got through with it ...

"Mom! Most of this loaf isn't any good for toast anymore." 
What you don't see is the sad little quarter loaf that's hiding off to the side. It's lonely. Seriously ...

It seems that in my daughter's rush to prove how independent she is, and in my utter ignorance of the need for specific instruction, I neglected to tell her that you can't just jam the knife down, but that a serrated knife works best when you slide it like a saw so that it can cut the bread. Another one of those things they don't tell you in the parenting instruction manual. :)

Luckily, for the bread, I rescued it as L was about to throw the whole crumbly mess away ...


Although I haven't decided yet if it's destined to be reincarnated as croutons or bread crumbs, it did live to be eaten another day, and I finally managed to show L how to really wield a knife.

Monday, June 4, 2012

A fake British accent?!?

M came marching out of her bedroom. (You know, the bedroom that she is supposed to be in? The same bedroom in which she should be winding down for the evening ... ) On her head was perched a striped birthday hat. My 10 year old burst into a near perfect British accent while saying, "Please, Ma'am. Can you spare some grapes? I couldn't even afford some food. All I could afford was this little cardboard hat ... "

Two thoughts:

A) Where the heck did the girl learn to talk with that accent?

B) We might need to discuss priorities ... a cardboard hat vs. imminent starvation ... hmmm ...

More Funnies for the Journal ...


L's taken to praying every night that I'll meet somebody nice to date and marry ... (Lest you think that this obsession dominates my daughters' thought processes, she has also taken to praying that I'll be able to find a good teaching job when I am ready.)

The first night? "Please bless Mom that she'll meet somebody nice who will be good to us to marry and date." 

The second night? "Please bless Mom that she'll meet somebody nice and good to date and marry." (At least the order of events has been corrected.)

The third night? "Please bless Mom with somebody nice and kind to date and marry."

The fourth night? "Ugh ... Oh yeah, and please bless Mom that she'll meet somebody to date and marry. Oh, and please bless that he'll be nice and kind."

Apparently, she was hoping for much quicker results. ;)

**********************************************************************

At the tail end of May, our home teachers -- two kind men from our church who stop in for a visit occasionally to make sure that we are well and happy, etc. -- stopped in for a visit. That's about where the normalcy ended ... 

One of my home teachers (in age somewhere between my parents and my grandparents) asked if I am dating anyone. I laughed. (You have to understand, apparently there is something in the water, because a great many people trying to subtly bring up this topic lately.) M looked at them in all seriousness and said, "She gave that up." L followed that up immediately with, "But we keep praying that she'll meet somebody nice." M finished it off with, "She gave that up a while ago. What was it, like five months ago or something, Mom?" Yeah, it was that kind of day.

After looking slightly dazed at the girls' verbal onslaught, the same man that opened the can of worms said, "No, I have a reason for asking! There's this nice young man that we know. I still have to check with the boss and see if she thinks it would be a good idea for you to meet him ... but he's just a really nice young man." ("The Boss" would be the wife ... ) It seems that they met this fellow in the course of one of their service opportunities.

My other home teacher apparently had the same concern that was hovering in my own mind. He turned to his friend and said in a firm and purposeful tone (think of your grandpa saying "Now hold on just a minute!") "Just how old is this man?" After he found out that the fellow is just a few years older than me, he relaxed a bit and said, "Yup, you just go ahead and clear it with the boss lady ... "

*************************************************************************



Funniness to Remember ...

*You can read these or not, but they're funny moments we've had in the last few days. Since part of the reason I blog is to maintain a record of our lives, I wanted to include them here. The girls are hitting that fantastic preteen phase, and I figure that the more laughs I can go back to relive, the better.* 

Measured the girls. Apparently we measured M wrong last time, since today she measured at the mark lower than the most recent one. (About a centimeter different ... ) L was giggling maniacally, saying over and over, "You shrunk!" 

M's response? "I must have used too much hot water ... " It seems that she thinks we shrunk her in the wash.

*******************************************************************************

Earlier today the girls were using M's haunted house (a fourth grade project) to play with their Littlest Pet Shops. L came up with a story line, "Pretend these two got poisoned -- this boy and this girl." 

M's response? "That's still copyrighted."

L? "nuh-uh ... " 

M? "Yeah, it's off of the Haunted Mansion. Remember, the boy poisons the girl?"

********************************************************************************

M: Mom, why aren't you dating?

Me: You have to meet people to date ...

M: (shaking her head and heaving a great sigh) Okay, I'm just going to say it. I really want a step dad. Okay? I just do.

Me: Oh, you want a step dad ...

M: Why don't you just do that online thing? PLEASE do the online dating thing, PLEASE?!?

*******************************************************************************



Wednesday, May 9, 2012

That's My Hair?!?

First, let me just preface this post by saying that taking pictures of my head? Not actually a talent I've been blessed with, so keep that in mind ...

I've been using the baking soda mixture/ apple cider vinegar mixture on my hair for about 2 1/2 weeks now. I love it. I've found that it allows me to go 3-4 days between washes -- and yes, my hair still smells, feels, and looks clean at that point. The best part is that my hair seems to be healthier. It's not so dry, even with straightening it after I've washed it. Also, it's actually quicker for me to wash my hair this way. I went into this method knowing that it doesn't lather, so I've found that I don't mind it a bit.

Today, I decided that while I was towel-drying my hair, I'd scrunch it a bit -- just to see the results. This was what happened.

It's a little fuzzy. Told you that I'm not so good at taking pictures of my head, but you can kind of see the waves. This was while my hair was wet.
I decided to leave it -- just to see if it would last. It's been torture not to play with it or even to keep scrunching.  Part of me thought about putting some gel in just to see if it would help, but I really wanted to know what my hair has decided its capable of all on its own, so my hair's still product free ...

This, my friends, is what it looks like dry ...

Ugh, weird angle on the neck and shoulders, but you should be looking at my hair anyway. ;)  Still full of gentle waves ...
Another shot from the front:

Again, the lighting is horrible, and it's kind of hard to tell from the front -- and with my shoulders hunched up to hold the camera -- but it's a general idea.

I know that it doesn't look like much, but seriously I've had STICK straight hair my whole life. To get some nice waves without any product and less than five minutes of effort? Bring on the summer!

Although I never asked my kids to try this new hair regimen, they've both weighed in on the process ...

L told me that it seems a little crazy to wash my hair with baking soda and vinegar, and that she thought she'd stick with shampoo. But, my little eight year old likes how soft and clean my hair is (she can't stop playing with it ... ) and has done her darnedest to match it with her shampoo washing. She now combs her hair meticulously and goes out of her way to keep it clean. For a kid whose hair snarls if you look at it, she's managed miracles. She's a determined little thing once she sets her mind to a task.

M, whose hair turned super-greasy when she turned 7 1/2, informed me that she wanted to try the baking soda and vinegar. Her hair, for the last couple of years, has been so greasy that within a few hours of washing, the grease is reforming. After sleeping on it, it's untenable. We washed it with the baking soda mixture and followed it with the vinegar rinse. Night and day difference! Her hair was clean and soft. Better yet, there was no trace of grease. Her hair looks, smells, and feels healthy. She wanted to see how long it would work, so we kept track. Her hair didn't show signs of being dirty -- in appearance, smell, or touch or even by the return of the grease -- until the 5th day out. We don't normally let it go that long, but she wanted to "test" the difference. (No worries, she's still bathing ... ) As we were walking to school the morning after we washed her hair, my M looked at me and said, "MOM! This stuff is AMAZING!!" This daughter of mine prefers the baking soda mixture. I have to admit, I can't argue with that. It's done wonderful things for her hair. She's been using it for two weeks now, and it seems to be effective.



Monday, April 30, 2012

And on the next day ...

Just a quick update on yesterday's hair experiment ...

No need to wash today. Ended up straightening my hair yesterday since I wasn't sure the waves would wear well. Woke up, brushed through my hair, and it looked like I'd just styled my hair. My hair still smells clean, is super soft, and ultra manageable. No grease to speak of, but my scalp and hair aren't nearly as dry as they've been. The usual cap of frizzy curliness is still absent. There are a few pieces that can't seem to decide if they're going to frizz, so they're hovering a bit higher than the rest of my hair, but it's not very noticeable.

So far, so good ...

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Might as well ... *Insert shrug here*

Lately, my hair has been just A*W*F*U*L. It looks like straw on the bottom and it gets greasy and yucky on the top. Not only that, but my stick-straight hair has all of a sudden decided that it missed its calling and randomly bursts into beachy waves. But only when it wants to, and then, I can't do anything with it after. Add to that the fact that this wonky, back-and-forth weather has made my poor, dry scalp more poor and dry than usual, and you have one very unhappy head of hair. (I haven't been too thrilled with it's split personality either.)

For some time, I've wanted to try the "No Shampoo" thing -- just to see what the results would be. **DISCLAIMER -- I'm not one of those people who believes that life begins and ends on the natural train. I think we all have things that work well for our own lifestyles. At the same time, for me personally, I feel that if I can find things that work well for me and/or my family, without all the extra chemicals, then why not? There are some things that are just fun to try. ** I finally decided that today's the day. I've decided that I'm going to keep track of some of my thoughts and results here, so that when I've given it a fair shake, I can decide if it's for me.

I found a blog: Beautiful Somehow She's already done this for 30 days. After reading through her account of every, single day, I figured that I'd try the proportions that she came up with after some experimentation. So, this is what I started with:

A scant 1 Tbsp. Baking Soda mixed well with 1 cup of water.
1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar mixed (in a different container) with 1 cup of water.

Yup, that's it ...
The first line is the "shampoo." The second is "conditioner."

I used about half the Baking Soda mixture first.

How the heck do I do this? Do I start with my hair wet or dry? After some soul-searching (okay, may--be I didn't put that much thought into it) I decided to start with dry hair this first time so I could tell if I'd managed to get my whole head. I started with a bit at a time and worked it through my hair. When I found dry areas, I'd pour a bit more on and work it in. I did this until my whole scalp and all my hair had been tended to. I made sure to work it over my scalp as well. I only used about half the mix, so I still have some for next time.

Thoughts? 

* I was surprised that it felt like I had shampoo in my hair. Even if I'd started with wet hair, it would have been easy to tell where I'd covered.

* My hair has been so awful lately that even working shampoo into it has been difficult. My fingers get all tangled up and my hair clings to them like vines. This was actually different; it didn't take long at all to work it through, and my hair wasn't fighting me every step of the way.

* The stuff washed out easily -- far more quickly than regular shampoo -- and my hair was smooth and soft after. Hmm ...

* Hair smells clean. Passes the squeak test too ... (When I was little, my mom always made me "squeak" my hair so she knew that it was clean ... )

Next came the Apple Cider Vinegar.

Ew! I can't believe I'm about to pour vinegar on my head! She says that the smell doesn't linger, but it's got to linger. Ugh! I'm going to smell like a salad. And she uses this stuff as a leave-in conditioner?!? Deep breaths ... deep breaths ... Here goes. I started with the ends -- like the other blogger suggested -- and worked it through. Because I have a dry scalp, I figured that it wouldn't hurt to work some of the vinegar mixture into my scalp as well.

Thoughts?

* Whoa! There's the sme ... oh, wait! Now it's gone ...

* My hair is REALLY soft!

* My hair that has a never-ending skull-cap of frizziness has no frizzy layer on top today.

* It combed out BEAUTIFULLY straight.

* My hair has more volume on top and is tamer on the bottom.

* I could brush and comb through my hair with ease. My hair is super smooth. Hmm ...

* I decided to scrunch my hair just a bit before I let it dry -- just to see ... I was a bit shocked to see that not only does it have a beachy wave thing going, but near the front, it's formed itself into a few really loose ringlets. We'll see what it looks like when it's completely dry. I may yet have to straighten it before church.

Conclusions?

For now, I'm pretty happy. Even if I get one day of decent hair out of it, it's probably been worth it. I'm not embarrassed to go out of my house, and my head doesn't smell like I doused it with Italian salad dressing. Not a bad start ...

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Learning to make smoothies ...

I've always enjoyed smoothies, but it took me a VERY LONG time to add them into our breakfast rotations. I was laboring under the misapprehension that one can only create yummy smoothies if one has a recipe. So very wrong ...

Not long ago, I finally realized that it didn't matter so much. I decided to just start making these yummy drinks anyway. It's been a lot of fun! The kids like them lots, and I like that they're relatively healthy and filling. Today, we made a smoothie that surprised me with its deliciousness, so I wanted to make note of it here so I can find the ingredients again some time.

Straw-Melon Smoothie

Dannon Oikos Greek Vanilla Yogurt
Skim milk
Frozen strawberries (I used a bag that I froze using the sugar-pack method a while back ... )
Frozen or fresh golden honeydew melon
Wheat germ (optional)

Blend until smooth. Delish!!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

APRIL FOOLS!!!!

My 10 year old and I were talking the other day as we meandered through the grocery store aisles.

M: Mom, I REALLY want to prank my teacher on April Fool's Day, but she says we're not in school on April 17th.

Me: (Long, drawn out, dead silence ... )
Me: (Bursting into laughter ... ) Honey, your teacher already pranked you. April Fool's Day is April 1st.

M: AWWWW, MAN!!!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Yeah, some days are just like that ...

* On the plus side, when my daughter broke her glasses (again ... ) today, it was a fairly clean break, and we might be able to super glue them back together until I can get her some new ones.

* On the plus side, it only took a little bit longer than I planned and I was only slightly less prepared than I expected for my midterm.

* On the plus side, the cop who pulled me over on the way home tonight was REALLY cute, and REALLY nice, and he only cited me for 5 over. Let's just leave it at that ...

* On the plus side, Mr. Super Cute and Nice gave me tips on where to go slow so I don't get caught speeding, and he told me what speed he wouldn't let me get away with.

* On the plus side, the 5 over is apparently a minimal fine and is low enough that the ticket won't affect my insurance premiums for my really expensive paper weight, ... er, I mean the garbage trap ... oops! I mean my car.

* On the plus side, I enjoyed hugging my daughter goodnight when I got home until I impaled myself on the post of my own earring -- while it was still in my ear.

* On the plus side, the earring post pulled out of my neck fairly easily.

* On the plus side, there was only a little blood.

* On the plus side, my neck has a big numb patch now, so I don't feel a thing.

 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Softly Weeping ...

Softly weeping, I mourn ...
I mourn for the pain, and the loss of my family and friends who are left behind. 
It is these who will bear the flag -- they who will carry the standard through the next generation. 
It is their burden, and their sorrow that I mourn for.


Softly smiling, I remember ...
I remember the joy, the brightness of the lives they've shared with me.
My heart lifts as I think of the beauty of our time together.
It is the beacon of joy that reaches through the gloom, past the veil, and into my being. 
They are the light in my life.


Softly treading, I step ...
Forward, into this beautiful new life that awaits me. 
Tentative steps on the same path of progression -- echoes of eternity, here and in mortality.
Echoes of the steps my loved ones still take.
Though separated by distance and time, through our steps we are still inextricably linked.


Softly weeping, I glory ...
I glory in the overwhelming beauty of God's plan for me,
In the knowledge that, just as I once blazed a trail through mortality for my loved ones to follow,
I am walking a path to God's glory, an example to my posterity.
I weep with joy; I glory in His goodness, and I look forward with hope and longing ...
They are still mine, and they will come ...

Written by Jaymie Reynolds


I'm so thankful for the beauty of those who touch our lives. What a blessing to feel their impact in our homes. The gift of Christ-like example that they have given will echo through the eternities.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Moral of the Story Is ...

to be careful where one takes their car for maintenance and concerns. I cannot recommend Willey Ford as a reliable place to do business. The quality of my interactions with them has been less than ideal. It has also been rather costly.

On the other hand, I've had great experiences in the past with Quality Ford in Tooele. It's worth the drive to have the work done thoroughly and correctly.



Car Drama, Part II ...


                                                                                                                                  February 28th, 2012
Willey Ford Service Department
1800 South Main
Bountiful, Ut. 84010
801-292-4433

Dear Willey Ford Service Department,

                This letter is in follow-up to my original letter dated February 24th, 2012. Per my conversation with Brad Nielson on Friday, February 24th, 2012 I drove my vehicle to the Willey Ford Service Department yesterday morning. As a result of that conversation, Willey Ford loaned me a vehicle to drive while the service technicians looked at my car to determine what is causing it to malfunction.
                At 3:00 p.m., I received a call from Mike Anderson. He informed me that sometimes, the valves in the engine slip, and that one of the valves in my engine had actually dropped out. He stated that this is what has been causing the misfire in cylinder two. He also stated that this code is coming up because there is zero compression in that cylinder because of the dropped valve. He verified that the engine has a lot of noise coming from it as a result of this problem.
                Mike informed me that since the valve dropped, the entire engine likely needs to be replaced. He stated that the bid for this service is $3500-$3700. He also mentioned that they may be able to tear it down and rebuild the engine, but that it would cost $560 just to take the cylinder head off to see what is actually damaged. He mentioned that since the cost to replace the engine would be higher than the value of the car, I might want to consider just buying a new vehicle.
Mike also stated that when a valve drops, it does so instantaneously and that it would not have been the cause of the problem on the last visit. This was stated after he had previously told me that the valves on these vehicles have been known to slip. He also asked if the car had been making this noise when I brought it to them before. I explained that – while not as loud as it currently is – the noise had been present both before and after my previous service visit. I also explained that one of the reasons that I had asked them to check my car was that my vehicle was making the same jerky, chugging, shuddering that it is now. When I asked what Willey Ford was willing to contribute to these costs, Mike referred me to Brad Nielson again.
                A short time later, I called your dealership. When I spoke with Brad Nielson, he informed me that the only real option is to replace the engine. He did say that perhaps it would be possible to locate a used engine to decrease costs a little bit, and that the dealership would be happy to apply toward those costs the $286.96 that I had paid on my previous visit to your service department. Upon consideration, and as this is a very small fraction of the amount I have been quoted to fix the damage caused by a less than thorough inspection during my service visit on February 10th, 2012, I have opted to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau consisting of both my original letter and this follow-up.
                I am disappointed in the lack of ownership shown toward this error. When I brought my car in before for similar, albeit not as drastic, symptoms, a more thorough effort should have been made to correctly diagnose the problem. Had this extra effort been made, the current damage may well have been avoided. Now, the exacerbated problems have rendered my car unusable. My employment has been placed in jeopardy, and I am facing the possibility of being unable to meet my financial obligations. This damage has been caused through no fault of my own, and I feel that it should be repaired at no cost to myself.  If Willey Ford is unable to repair the damages caused by their negligence, they should have the integrity to replace my vehicle with one, comparable in reliability to what my vehicle was prior to the onset of these problems. Again, in the future, I will look elsewhere for my service needs and I will refer friends and family to other dealerships where I have previously received excellent customer service. Thank you again for your time.

Car Drama ...


                                                                                                                                                                February 24th, 2012
Willey Ford Service Department
1800 South Main
Bountiful, Ut. 84010
801-292-4433

Dear Willey Ford Service Department,

                I am writing to you concerning my service visit on February 10th. In the past, I have had great experiences with the Willey car companies. I have often recommended them as a great place both to purchase vehicles and to have service done on those vehicles. Because of the quality of service I have received through Willey Honda, I felt that Willey Ford would be a reliable company to do business with. On the 10th of February, I came in to have my car serviced. The check engine light was on, and my car had been running rough. The technicians who worked on my car diagnosed it with a misfire on cylinder #2. They changed the spark plugs and wires, stating that this was causing the problem. I was charged $286.96 for these services. Although I was in your building for three hours – and the wait time seemed a bit excessive – I was satisfied that the problem had been resolved.
                I was dismayed and a bit surprised to see that my vehicle was still running rough and was still making unusual noises, but the check engine light was off and the service advisor that I spoke with said that the problem had been fixed. On Tuesday, February 21st, my check engine light came on again. My car refused to start and was making a terrible tapping sound. When my father and brother opened the engine, they found that the timing belt had slipped and was beginning to crack. The tensioner and water pump also needed replacing. On top of these concerns, the code that was coming up was a misfire on cylinder #2, the same problem that, less than two weeks before, I had been told was resolved.
                I am frustrated that these issues – the timing belt, the tensioner, etc.—were not noticed during my service visit on the 10th. I am more frustrated that they have been contributing to a concern that was supposed to have been resolved by your technicians. In addition, the original problem for which I brought my car into your shop persists. Now, because these issues went unnoticed, my vehicle is barely functioning. I am a single mother. I work part-time, and I am a full-time student. I depend on having a reliable vehicle to help me take care of my family and meet my obligations.  The negligence that occurred during my service visit has not only damaged my vehicle, but has threatened the financial well-being of my family. The amount of money that I paid for your services equates to nearly half a month’s rent. In addition, my ability to get to my place of employment has been severely compromised. Not only has this hindered my ability to provide for my family, it has threatened my ability to improve our situation in the future. If I cannot attend my classes, I will not be able to graduate from school this spring.
                I hope that Willey Ford will make this error right – either by fixing my car to a high standard at no cost to myself or by replacing it with a reliable vehicle. As things stand, in the future, I will no longer recommend the Willey car companies to my friends and family. I am an avid social networker – I actively participate in both blogging and facebook – and regularly use these avenues to share my experiences with others. Willey Ford will not be a company that I recommend; rather, I will send friends and family to other dealerships where I have had positive experiences. I am enclosing a copy of this letter to you. I will also forward a copy to the Better Business Bureau. Thank you for your time.

Friday, March 2, 2012

High Drama in 4th Grade Decisionland ...

At the dollar store with M today, she was trying to decide what to spend her birthday money on. When she saw something particularly appealing, this is what I heard:


Should I buy it? I just don't know! Should I buy it?!?


Yes!!


No!


Yes!!


No!


ACCKKK! I'm at war with myself!!!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Kids' Dad is Getting Remarried Today ...

and for me, it's a day of very mixed emotions. There's a part of me that is leaping for joy; he's someone else's concern now. He can no longer try to dominate or control my life. Best part? He is finally forced to quit asking me things like, "Do you miss me at all? Would you go out with me if I ever became free again?" etc. By virtue of the fact that he is making lifelong commitments to someone else, he is forced to completely relinquish our former relationship (which is, for the situation, exactly how it should be.) Now we're parents -- nothing more. There's a great deal of peace in that thought.

There's a little part of me that is small enough to be unable to wish them happy. That part of me watches their relationship and thinks that perhaps, they're a train wreck waiting to happen. (But then, who am I to judge? Obviously, so were we ... ) Most of the time, the logical, more Christlike part of me reasserts itself and points out that this may just be my own "Nineveh" moment. You know, the part where, like Jonah, I'm sitting on the hill waiting for the explosions that never come? Mind you, unlike Jonah, I've got better things to do with my time than to sit and wait for bad things to happen to other people, or to even waste effort hoping that they will, but there is still a part of me that is small enough to resent the fact that because of him and his choices, there are a lot of very difficult elements in my life -- that same part that hurts a little that, in theory, he's going to give her the life that he should have given me.


Most of me, though, really wants things to work out well for them. Even that little Jonah-like part of me wants things to work out well for them. It would be the very best thing for my kids at this point, and I'd give just about anything to see some great things happen in my kids' lives. Quite frankly, my kids need this marriage to work out well. They don't need to see another dangerously dysfunctional marriage. They need to see that marriage can be grand and glorious and comfortable and safe. They need to see their dad being the kind of husband that he should be, so that when the time comes for them to marry, they will look for a man who is kind, who has integrity, who lives his beliefs, and most of all, one who will treat them as they should be treated. So, while it's a mixed bag -- what marriage isn't? -- I find that I can, with all sincerity, say, "Congratulations! Best of luck ... "

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ham and Beans -- Slow Cooker Style

Between work and helping to chaperon the school's musical rehearsal, I knew that today was going to be long and crazy. So, I wanted dinner to be warm, hearty, and -- most importantly of all -- ready when we finally arrived back home.

A while back, I pinned this recipe on Pinterest. (Seriously, I love that site a bit more than I should, but oh, what beautiful things it's done for my world!) Ham and beans sounded like a quick, easy, inexpensive meal that would meat all of my requirements, and I actually had all the ingredients on hand. (I did sub in some leftover spiral cut ham instead of a ham hock or bone ... mainly because that's what I had.)

Hours later ...

After walking in the door and being greeted by a delicious smell, I sampled dinner. It was good, but just a bit bland for our tastes, so I tossed in a bit of cayenne pepper, some basil, and some season salt. (I have a bad habit of just eyeballing these kind of things ... ) After cooking for another 45 minutes or so, it was perfect.

We paired it with a bit of cornbread. I had some jiffy mixes that were needing to be used -- I know, ick! but, I mixed in a bit of brown sugar, one drained can of corn, and a heaping, large spoonful of ricotta cheese. It was pretty dang good!

My favorite part about this recipe? You don't have to soak the beans. I put them in around 10:30 this morning -- dry as a bone -- and they were done by about 6:00. Perfect for a busy day ...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Woes of a Redless Valentine's Day ...

Sitting in the hall helping with math facts for M's class. She marches up to me with a look of desperation on her face. 
"Mom, do you have ANYTHING red in your purse that I can wear?"  
(After a quick search ... ) "Nope." 
M says, "Not even red lipstick?!?" 
(Thinking to myself -- since when have you EVER seen me wear RED lipstick?) "Sorry ... " 
"Ugh!!!! (insert dramatic arm-flailing & eye rolling here) I looked in my backpack, and all I have is a nasty pair of dirty red valentine socks." (stalking dramatically back into class.)
I sit pondering why on earth she has nasty, dirty socks still in her backpack ...
(Bouncing out of class with a look that is one part disgust, one part twinkle-eyed mischief, and two parts smirk) M flings her arms, drops her shoulders, and says, while shaking her head, "*Sigh* What kind of mom doesn't even have RED lipstick in her purse?"
(Umm ... that would be me.) "Apparently, this kind of mom ... "

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Dear World,

I'm serving notice; my ability to laugh at myself has been severely tried these last eight days. (I'm pretty sure that it's currently broken ... ) Between the zipper incident, the cement stair fiasco, missing the step at the mechanic's & giggling like an idiot because I was already so nervous, miraculously dumping my very large stack of music in front of the whole primary, forgetting to play the final verse of the opening hymn in sacrament meeting (while the chorister kindly waited for me to figure it out ... & waited ... & waited) and then being fabulous enough to apologize -- OUT LOUD -- before finally playing said verse, mangling the bass line of the closing hymn, and spilling the choir director's sheet music all over the peddles of the organ -- so that I got to figure out how to crawl around under the keyboards picking them up while trying not to expose myself to the already slightly shocked mature people nearby, I think that I'm done.

If you would like to avoid severe retaliation upon the next incident, I kindly suggest that you back off and let me breathe.

Sincerely,
Not laughing anymore ...

P.S. The smiley face shaped wounds on my right knee? Not funny ...