Friday, June 29, 2007

In preparation

SASS: Mama, can you help me make a snowman?

ME: Well, yes, but it has to snow first. (thinking: It's 92 degrees out today.)

SASS: I know. I'm just getting ready.

Dark days no more

The air conditioner is working beautifully!

The a/c guy added freon and cleaned the coils, and I love him dearly. If I had been able to bake without suffocating from the heat, he would have gotten chocolate chip cookies. I love him that much. I think I'm going to give him a gift card to Starbucks instead though.

My bookstore and Harry Potter

As always, my bookstore is having a release party for the newest (and last) Harry Potter book. And I can't work it!

I love working events like that. Love it! But that weekend, my family is heading off to a mini-reunion, and I won't even be in town. Most people at the store are trying to not work that night because it will be insanely busy, and I'm disappointed that I can't work it. I've been looking forward to it for months, and I didn't realize that vacation and Harry were the same weekend until this week.

Maybe it's because I spent almost 5 years working in a comedy club (not on stage, but pretty much everything else), but I love the crazy-busy times. And the comedy club -- almost 200 people to seat, serve, and make happy in a two hour window, twice a night on the weekends -- yeah, busy. It's transferred to the bookstore for me, and I love working release parties, book signings, Christmas . . . .

I have a strange sort of employment status anyway. I don't have regular hours. I'm not on the schedule. I'm the person they call when someone calls in sick or when they just need an extra person. The last time I worked was April 12 for inventory. They've been saving hours so that they'll have extra for the Harry release and back-to-school, so I should be working a little more in the next couple of months.

It's a strange thing to be good at -- selling books -- but I'm really good at it. I think it's more that I'm good at recommending books though. The selling part is just secondary. My reading is so incredibly varied that I can recommend in almost any genre, and I can usually tell after a couple of minutes what kind to recommend.

We're doing a Clifford event in mid-July, and I'm working that, but I'm still disappointed that I'll miss the Harry release.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Pantry Challenge -- The Basics

PezMama had asked for more information about my Pantry Challenge not long ago. I had intended to wait to answer, as possibly an introduction to my next one. But tonight I realized that it might be best to give the basics in advance, just in case anyone wants to join me.

I can't remember exactly where or when I got the idea of the Pantry Challenge. I've been doing it off and on for quite a while. Most recently, I've been talking about it in (and being inspired by) a Flylady offshoot yahoogroup.

The Pantry Challenge is quite simple -- eat only what's in your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer, without making extra trips to the grocery store. All of us have things that just tend to sit in the pantry, somehow never getting used.

Those black beans that you've been meaning to use.
The six cans of diced tomatoes.
The Rice-A-Roni that's not your favorite, so you avoid it.
The canned chicken that makes you wonder why you bought it in the first place.

Or worse, the things in the refrigerator or freezer that can't stay there indefinitely.

The Pantry Challenge is meant to clean out and use up what you have to make room for the new things. I do it about once every 4 to 6 weeks, just so that I don't end up with a house full of things, still feeling like there's nothing to eat. And for me, it's fun in a strange sort of way. Once I'm a few days into the Challenge, I have to be more creative about what I make and how I make it. During the Challenge, I do get things like milk (we go through over 1/2 gallon a day), eggs, bread, and the like. But with most things, I just manage with what I have already.

Most of the time I set a certain time period, usually about a week, but the last time I just decided to keep going until I was really and truly out of options. It took 15 days, but that did include our usual eating out twice a week -- Fazoli's on Tuesday night, and pizza on Friday.

This last time ended up being more fun for me! I had to juggle and move things around a bit more than usual to see how far I could stretch it. I think I'll do my Challenges that way from now on -- use it until I can't any more!

So those are the basics. Anyone up for joining me in a couple of weeks? :)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Dark days are upon us

I think our air conditioner is on the blink. This is bad. So very, very bad.

One cannot live through a summer in the south without a seriously healthy appreciation for air conditioning.

Sass and I made a Target run after dinner tonight. We needed a few necessaries, and we wandered for a bit (only spending $12 though!), so we were gone for just over an hour. When we got back home, it was HOT in the house. Not hot as in "I need to turn the air up" but hot as in "Good heavens, did someone turn the air OFF?"

It hasn't gotten much better since then. It's 84 degrees in here, at almost 11:30 at night! We've hit the reset button, changed the filter, and checked the fuses. Almost no change.

I'm calling the air conditioner guy in the morning (who happens to be a friend, thankfully!) to see what's going on. I'm praying that it's something quick and easy . . . and inexpensive!

Peer Pressure, dinner edition

My friend Brenda called today.

"GIRL, my kids are bored. What are you doin' today?"

"Not a thing. Bring 'em on over."

So she did. They came and played and laughed for about two hours, during which I was making my not-so-famous, but quite yummy, chicken salad.

Brenda and I had already had a food discussion earlier. She was planning to make chicken and dumplings for dinner and had planned to use (gasp!) bullion cubes for her "stock." Oh, no. No. No. No. That's not right.

I had cooked my chicken in the crock pot overnight, and I was only planning to freeze the stock, so I offered it to Brenda instead. (It's one of those crazy things I do, but yes Michael, I do use it.)

So when Brenda got to my house, conversation naturally turned to food preparation. One of the first things I asked was, "When is your mama's garden going to start producing!?!" (I've had a craving for fried green tomatoes.) Sadly, not yet, but hopefully soon. I love those fried green tomatoes, and I haven't had any since last year, when Mrs Vira's garden got going. We talked tomatoes and squash and snap beans and sugar snap peas and more.

And we talked chicken salad, since I was in the middle of making it. I gave her the rundown of the recipe, which is really just more of a guide, like all of my made-up recipes.

Tonight I called her to see how the dumplings turned out, since she was using my stock.

"Oh, please. I gave up on the dumpling idea. You'll never guess what I made instead. Chicken salad. And potato salad and sugar snap peas. All of that talk made me do it! The dumplings can wait for another time."

Friday, June 22, 2007

Little bits of today

Sass, on finding a penny:

I found it on the ground, all alone, with no one to care for it.

Spyder, on The Battle for the Castle:

I'm not all that crazy about this book. (pause) I'm not going to finish it. Why do I feel like I need to finish it? Life's too short for me to spend it reading books I don't like.

Sass, after being told to pick up the popsicle wrapper she left on the floor:

There are too many rules around here! I'm leaving town. Where's my purse?

Spyder, on the comments people say to him and Sass:

So why do people always say that I'm smart and she's cute? Why can't I be the cute one sometimes?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

He makes me laugh

SKEETER: How do you spell "luncheon"?

ME: L-u-n-c-h-e-o-n

SKEETER: You're sure? I was going to spell it l-u-n-c-h-i-n.

ME: (laughing) Yes, I'm sure.

SKEETER: Oh, I guess my version is just the redneck spelling.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

This and that

Things have been so busy lately, and I can't seem to settle my mind into a decent post, so I'm all for bullet points at the moment. A smattering of is currently rumbling in my brain:
  • I'm going to have to buy another car. I detest the thought of it, but I think I'm at a loss. My poor old car has had its share of woes recently. Our SUV is having transmission issues (again) and the sedan is simply old and decrepit. What's worse is that we need to get a decent vehicle before our vacation at the end of July.
  • Spyder is rereading the Harry Potter series, and (unlike before) I let him continue with book 5, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. We've had long conversations about the emotional overtones, and he knew what to expect, but we're continued with our discussions as he read because it IS such a dark story. He's about midway through book 6 now, and he'll probably be finished with that by Monday.
  • Spyder has taken a small break with Harry Potter this evening, and he started recording books using his Readio software. He did Dinosaurs Before Dark tonight, and he wanted to do The Knight at Dawn, but it was too late at that point. I'm sure he'll be up and recording before church tomorrow though. We've had it for a couple of months, and I never could get him interested in it. Today he went into it full-force. Typical Spyder behavior.
  • Skeeter is starting a new job at the beginning of July. It's not really a new job though. He's been a contract employee for the past 7 months, and the company has decided to hire him directly. It's been a strange transition, but he's pleased with it. It will require us to move in a couple of years though, and I'm a bit sad about that.
  • The new job will give us dental insurance once again. Sweet blessings! Spyder is roaring toward orthodontia, and I wasn't looking forward to it.
  • The pantry is very close to being empty. I bought a few things tonight, and I should be able to last next week with those few items and what we have now. After that, it will be time to scrub out the refrigerator, then shop.
  • Skeeter played in a golf scramble today, as part of a company team, and he won a "Roadside Assistance Kit." Considering the car woes, I laughed loud and long over that. It actually a very nice kit though, complete with jumper cables and the like.
  • Skeeter and I completely emptied Sass's room tonight. So far, I've got two boxes and three bags for the thrift store in the trunk of the car. And that doesn't include the four bags I took earlier today. It's taking me a lot longer to put things back into her room than I anticipated, but I think it's because I'm culling things. I'm being pretty thorough with it, and I'm only putting back what I know she plays with.
  • My homeschool group had a curriculum sale today, and I didn't go. You can't imagine how I had to restrain myself. But really, we have what we need for next year, with two exceptions, and I asked a friend if she'd look for those two things. I knew that if I went, I'd find loads of things that I want but don't really need. So I avoided the temptation. It was harder than I expected.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Just a little helpful hint

If you're the type of person who likes to talk with your hands, maybe a Bluetooth isn't really for you. Especially when you're walking around the grocery store. When other people are nearby.

Just a suggestion.


The person you hit -- twice -- tonight during your riveting, gesture-filled conversation about James Bond.

PS: Don't worry about the milk. The nice person working in the dairy section let me get a different container.

Green and white, again

Tonight's dinner was mostly green and white as well, although slightly prettier. :)

Today I made a pasta salad using chicken, cucumber, sugar snap peas, and cheddar cheese. Oh, and of course, pasta. I served it on a bed of baby spinach. Normally I use olives and sweet red pepper, but I'm out of both at the moment, and a Pantry Challenge is all about making it work with what you have on hand.

I did go to the store tonight to buy a few necessities -- milk and eggs and ice cream. Oh, I know the ice cream isn't really a necessity, but we'll pretend it is for today. :)

Monday, June 11, 2007

Dinner tonight: green and white

I'm in the midst of a Pantry Challenge -- cooking from what I already have stocked in the pantry or freezer.

Tonight was (not surprisingly) stir-fry! Normally, I try to make the dish a bit more colorful, but in working with only what I had already, that's how it ended up -- green. Broccoli, sugar snap peas, and sweet peas from the freezer; bell pepper from the fridge. I didn't even have any brown rice to go with it, so I had to use the white.

And let me give you a little secret to making really good Asian stir-fry at home -- toasted sesame oil. Good stuff! The flavor is like no other oil, and it gives the stir fry a great taste. If you think that your Asian dishes just don't taste quite right, try using the sesame oil in place of whatever you usually use. It's expensive but definitely worth it. I use it for all of my homemade Chinese and Thai dishes.

And I'm pretty sure that stir-fry isn't normally served with mini corn muffins, but hey, I'm a week and a half into it, and I'm feeling the challenge. :)

Sunday, June 10, 2007

You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown

Last night Skeeter and I took the children to see You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown. They LOVED it!

We have the soundtrack, and the children absolutely love it, especially the song "My New Philosophy." What's even better about that particular song is that it's sung by Sally and Schroeder, giving it a girl and a boy part -- perfect! They sang the whole scene along with the performers, although (thankfully) they just mouthed the words rather than belting it out like they usually do.

Snoopy came into the audience during his "Rabbit Chasing" number and sniffed Sass, who thought it was just the funniest thing ever. Even today, her favorite part was when Snoopy sniffed at her. :)

I've mentioned in passing that it's important to me to be able to give my children opportunities to see live performances, and it seems that each time we attend one that desire becomes even stronger. I'm happy to report that both children sat through the two hour performance with no wiggling and no talking, aside from the occasional "Oooh, that's on the CD!" or "He's funny!"

Now I'm on the search for the next one to attend!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Sass as Clifford

My Sass is quite a creative little one. She made this Clifford (the Big Red Dog) mask for herself before bed a few days ago. I only knew she had done it when she came out to model.

How cute is she?!?

Monday, June 04, 2007

What's on your list?

Jules at Everyday Mommy has posted what's at the top of her Netflix queue. Since we're movie hounds (see the two previous posts!), I'm following her lead. We have 397 titles in our queue -- no I'm not exaggerating -- but I'll only list the first 10.

You're welcome.

We have the 5 at a time plan (one is specifically for Sass & Spyder's queue though). We currently have at home:

The Journey of Natty Gann. I saw it when I was a teen. Loved it then, loved it when we watched it this weekend. It got sent back today.

The History Boys
. Skeeter and I saw the trailer for it a while ago, and it seems like one we'd like.

The Recruit.

Jeeves and Wooster. Based on the PG Wodehouse novels, Hugh Laurie (currently of House fame) and Stephen Fry star. Very English, but incredibly funny, mostly relating to the idea of "society" and "class."

The next ones in our queue are as follows:

Rivers and Tides.

The Reduced Shakespeare Company

English Punctuation: The Standard Deviants.

The Heart of the Game.

Tell Me Why: Americana & Beginnings

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.

This week is Vacation Bible School at church though, so I doubt that we'll have much movie-watching time.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Easily amused, updated

After an hour and twenty minutes of browsing, Skeeter decided to watch Strange Brew, which was (unsurprisingly) one of the first ones he discovered.

In an interesting bit of irony, it's also one we have on video in the other room.

Easily amused

I've introduced Skeeter to the "Watch It Now" feature in Netflix. I wonder if this was a wise decision on my part.

He's spent the last hour browsing the movies that are available to watch RIGHT NOW! ON THE COMPUTER! NOW! WITHOUT WAITING!

I've been listening to the commentary he's giving (unintentionally) as he's reading the titles. He's an absolute riot, and I think he has more fun reading the titles than actually watching the movie.

I keep hearing:

SUPERFLY!! Badass!

Oooh, Good Boy. Cute movie. We liked that, didn't we?

The Chamber. Don't think I've seen that.


Even Dwarfs Started Small. Interesting name for a movie.

Last Temptation of Christ.

Modern Marvels! There are several of those.

Hey! The Natural History of the Chicken. Oh, never mind. How bizarre. Someone is going to spend an hour watching a documentary on the chicken?

The Twelve Dogs of Christmas? I wonder what that's about?

Blackula! Oooh, how cool!

He Died with a Falafel in His Hand. What's a falafel?

Hey, what are you doing? You're writing everything I'm saying?!? Freak! Stop making making fun. I'm the only husband you've got. Hey, Pagemaster.

Oops, I've been discovered, but at least he's easily distracted by more titles.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Preconceived notions

I just love Hathor. I don't always agree with her, but she makes me challenge some conventional wisdom and decide whether her view is right for us.

The above cartoon, however, is absolutely spot on for me as a homeschooling parent. When someone (a stranger, a family member, a friend, doesn't really matter) finds out that Sass and Spyder are homeschooled, the first question almost always is "What about socialization?"

The snarky part of me that Hathor shows always groans and thinks, "Not again!" I have to assume, however, that the person asking is truly curious to know how children who don't go to a traditional, mainstream school "socialize," so I always answer honestly and politely. But considering how often we're asked about it, I wonder if people really do believe that we homeschoolers live in a box.

Let me preface this by mentioning that every family is different. Every person you ask will have a different answer. As for us, we have many, many opportunities to "socialize" with others.

Perhaps it's hard to imagine for someone who isn't a homeschooler, but "socializing" isn't a problem. My standard answer is, "We attend church. We are part of a group of homeschooling families that meets regularly, and Spyder is in Scouts." If the conversation continues, I mention the specifics.

We attend a relatively large church -- about 500 members or so -- and we participate fully. The children attend junior worship or regular service, as well as the Awana program. They both have several friends from church. With one exception, all of Spyder's church friends go to school, either public or private. When time permits, we have regular social activities with these friends.

Additionally, Spyder is in Cub Scouts, and he regularly attends meetings and social activities. Sass is beginning Brownies this summer, and we'll have similar meetings and activities for her as well.

The children also attend art class on Wednesdays, which started out as being only art class, but it's turned into a wonderful class/playdate with the other students. Sass's class is from 2-3. Spyder's class is from 4-5. But the classes are held about 30 minutes away from our home, so we simply stay for the hour in between. Most other parents do this as well, so we generally have anywhere from 10-14 children playing before or after his or her class.

We're also members of a wonderful homeschool group which meets every other Friday for a playdate. Moms chat, and children play. It's a fantastic time, for the moms and the children.

Sass is a member of an American Girl club within our homeschool group, which is a kind of history club based on the American Girl books. We meet once a month to discuss one of the characters, her books, and her historical context. Occasionally, we have a field trip. The next one is to a plantation.

Sass and Spyder both take a class for homeschoolers once a month at the science and history museum, which they absolutely love. We also go to the children's museum regularly, and they make fast friends there every time. We also have field trips at least twice a month. Just this past week we went to a paint-your-own pottery studio with our homeschool group.

We have a couple of close friends within our homeschool group, and we have impromptu playtimes with them at least a few times a month. We also attend a variety of live theater and music performances, as well as wandering around the botanic gardens and art museums.

Sometimes our schedule gets so full that we have to pull back from some of these activities, simply so that we can spend a bit more time at home, doing what we need to do. It's not unusual for us to have 4 or 5 outside activities per week, and it's easy for Spyder (in particular) to feel like we're doing too much.

But really, aren't many of these the same kind of activities that all children have? Scouts, playdates, zoos, museums, and the like aren't exclusive to homeschoolers, nor are they only found within traditional school activities. It seems that both groups tend to forget that.

Skeeter got his first taste of answering the "socialization" question during Space Camp. When they found out that Spyder was homeschooled, it was the first thing they asked. Considering where they were and what they were doing, that really surprised me. The other campers were with Spyder. They ate together; they took classes together; they even slept in the same bunkhouse! That's socializing to me. If the person who asked had taken a moment to think about it, he could have answered his own question.

The more I think about it, the more I believe that we all live in boxes -- boxes that are defined by our notions of who we should be. We all have a tendency to place our personal boxes around others, and they don't always fit.


Always be happy. When people are in a bad mood, the last thing they want to do is hang around with happy people.

-- Kermit the Frog, from "Before You Leap"