Tuesday, May 26, 2009


I have given this a lot of thought. It is just so hard to be consistent, or at least to the level I want to be at, when the kids are not in school and with summer coming, it is just not going to be pretty!! Also, this has started to feel like a job and I don't ever want that to be the case, so I am going to give it up before it gets unbearable, ya know?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Saturday's Deep Thoughts

And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years. - Abraham Lincoln

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Saturday's Deep Thoughts

People who give are never poor - Anne Frank

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I hate unnecessary drama

My three young boys go to a private school. It is not the most expensive private school there is, but it is smaller and the parents are involved and all.

The older two (who are in 5th and 6th grades) have been asking to go to the public middle school next year if the house has not sold yet and I finally broke down and am planning to let them. However, what always bothered me was that the youngest would then not have a great reason to go to the private school alone and we really liked the pre-K teacher there. I did not pre-register him, but that still bothered me almost daily.

And then there was drama. I hate drama.

The school decided that the teacher would not be invited back in the fall because she did not have her teaching certificate. Nevermind that she was actively pursuing it and was only two classes away, or the fact that she was not told there was a deadline. The school made it a lot easier not to have him go back! But now I have no idea what I am going to do with him next year. It was a great program and I am sure I will not be able to challenge him nearly as much at home. The good news is that he will be 4, so he is not legally required to go to anything. The bad news is that I cherish the time they are in school and when they are not, I do not get anything done!

There was NEVER any drama at the school until this year. I do not want to point fingers or anything, but I have a theory that, at this point, falls into the category of conspiracy-theory...

I just want the house to sell now so I can get as far away from these people as possible!!

Monday, May 4, 2009

"free" stuff on the internet - is it really free?

I woke up with a start on Sunday and thought "Oh no! I did not do a deep thought for Saturday this week." So I hope you will forgive me. It was just a LONG weekend!

My son - who is going for be 11 in a week - thinks that when something on the internet says "free" then it is. Despite trying to teach him about what else he might have to pay for and whatnot, he just doesn't get it. And this morning, that was brought home to us again.

We got the mail from Saturday when we took the kids to school because before that, we just forgot. In it was the phone bill. The phone bill jumped almost $20 this month, so we were shocked and confused! There was a charge on the bill for "enhanced voice mail" which we do not have. So we call AT&T and they tell us it was added and authorized by a third party and only they can take it off. Then, we call them and they tell us that our son added it while downloading "free" music from the internet, which was stupid. But they also asked for confirmation of your birth date and he LIED about his age. I am livid. I can totally get how they may have tricked him, but we told him not to sign up for anything and this is why! He has been asking for an "iTunes account" to which I keep saying no because he cannot be trusted and he has again proven why... I am so mad I could spit!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I am not old enough to...

This is my last age post. I was going to say "I swear..." but I will not make that sort of promise, because who knows what the future holds. It is enticing to think that I say it and then post again and you all have to respond to call me out on it, but I don't roll that way....

But I digress.

Anyway, I was just thinking that at this age, my mom was an empty-nester and my youngest is not quite 4! I have 14 more years of having them live here and if I had done it differently, I could be done! Don't get me wrong, I love them to death, but the oldest two are just at that age where they are "challenging"! (Gotta love the 'tween ages!)

I also had an anniversary over the weekend and I just keep thinking that when my own parents celebrated the SAME anniversary, I was a senior in high school and my YOUNGER brother was also in high school. All three of my kids are under 12!

I am having several moments where I keep thinking about how I compare to others. And I try not to compare myself to others very often, but this is just one of those things that lends itself quite easily to comparisons, so I do it.

ARGH! I know it can and will make me nuts, but I can't help it!!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Milestone Birthday

I had a milestone birthday over the weekend.

First of all, my birthday was on Saturday (April 25!) and I spent all day at a track meet with 2 of the kids. I did tell DH that I was NOT going to take the youngest because I thought I could just relax. And then, when I got there, I got a "job" with the track coach. I was the "runner" between the coaches. Fortunately, they did not need too much, but I was at the ready AND on the track "infield" all day. I was so happy to SIT at lunch!! And I had to get up and be showered before 6:30AM. On a Saturday. That was just not right! And then the youngest woke me up at 4:45AM. That night I was WIPED!

That day was also my anniversary and I had a dinner plan for DH and I, but man, I was wiped! I planned the frugal version on an anniversary dinner. I got something frozen and a bag of chips for the kids. DH fed them while I was out. Then he and I had takeout and a couple bottles of beer and the kids watched a movie on another LEVEL of the house. They were great about leaving us alone.

The dinner plan was a picnic with takeout and a bottle of champagne, but DH did not want to sit on the ground - he said bad knees - and he thought the champagne did not go with the meal, so it was beer. I wondered if it was special enough, but without the kids around, he said it was...

I never said what the milestone was, did I? I turned 40 over the weekend! Yikes! The good news is that I had 3 people tell me last week that I did not look 40 and I even got carded once!

To celebrate the birthday, DH hosted a low-key cookout last night and I was amazing!

I had a little angst about 40 for the few weeks beforehand. I was not worried about immediate mortality and all, but I am worried that there may be more years behind me then before me. And I also remember that when I was younger, I thought 40 was ANCIENT!

I feel like there are so many people younger than me that have dome such amazing things! I want to do something amazing too!!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

If momma ain't happy...

I did the weekly knitting group this morning and I am now so happy. All it takes is some alone time for me (NOT at the grocery store) and I am a happy girl!

I have decided that I need 3-4 hours a week to myself to be a nice person to those around me. Initially, that sounds like a lot. And maybe when the kids are home, that is not as realistic, but with them all in school, I think I can swing it. And the old saying is true - "If momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!" Normally I hate this horrible grammar, but in this case, it works!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Thank goodness!

The kids have gone back to school today after a good, but LONG staycation for Spring Break. Their last day of school was the Thursday before Easter, so it was a LONG break. The first few days were a little cold and windy, but we had friends visiting from Australia, which was extremely fun, so that was great and then when they were gone, midweek, it was nice enough to go out. We ended up going to a different park for 4 days, which was fun. They complained almost the whole time we were at 2 of them, but after, they were glad they went and "sorry" for their behavior.

So now they are back at school and all is right with the world again! I can't get anything done when they are home from school!!!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Saturday's Deep Thoughts

My favorite quote ever: What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail? Dr. Robert Schuller

And here is what he has written on Amazon.com.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Knitting in College

I wish I had learned to knit while I was in college. Although, maybe it was a good thing I did not yet know how to do it because I would have likely gotten bad grades...

My middle son (who is 10) just learned how to knit and I am trying not to push him too hard into it. I know he is really motivated by the idea of having cash (he is already talking about getting his first HS job and how much he will make after college!) so I keep telling him just that if he keeps at it and practices he can probably make things to sell in HS and college. We will see if that is enough motivation for him.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

So many options, so little time...

So I am at a career cross-roads now. (aren't we all?) I thought that this would be a great time to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up, even if I was already pushing 40 (and pushing it HARD). I was always one of those people who thought there were 100 things I would rather be doing if only this day job would go away...

My problem now is that I am paralyzed by all the potential out there. There are dozens of things I want to do or try and they are all very different from one another. So how do I choose? Obviously I need to focus on something in order to create a plan going forward and I want to do something that I love, but I am also to the point where I have put in a lot of time in my other career, so it would not be the smartest thing ever to let that all go away...

I just don't know. There are so many things I want to try and maybe if I was officially a SAHM, I could try them all, but I know that would not make me happy either so it is a conundrum!

Monday, April 6, 2009

There was so much to say today that it was hard for me to figure out where to focus my energy...

Yesterday we showed the house. It is starting to get old. No, it has been old now for several months. I know that much of it is the economy and all, but I just want to move on with my life! It has now been on the market for 10 months, and in that time NOT ONE house in our area in our price range has closed, so I know it is not just me. In all that time, we have only had 3 showings too, which is probably the most frustrating thing of all. If people were looking at it and not liking something, we could change it. But of the few people who have looked, the comments have not been bad. They are either not interested in the style or size of the house, which is not going to change!

Probably the worst part about living in a house that is for sale (and there are A LOT of bad things, but this is probably the worst) is that you feel like you cannot really "live" in the house. We did MINIMAL Christmas decorations (like nothing besides the tree and stockings) and nothing for any other holidays. And now that the weather is getting nice again, I have to work on the yard, which I hated to do before, so I have almost no motivation to love it now!

And we just got the feedback from the showing yesterday and they think it is a little too big. I had high hopes because they were here so long!! It may never end. We are not desperate to sell, but I think we might lower the price now just because we want it to be over!!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Saturday's Deep Thoughts

Sports practice after school needs to be balanced with the weekend meets (trrack) to determine if it is worth it!

Friday, April 3, 2009


I thought I was techno-savvy. I can navigate my way around a PC and I am all over most gadgets.

Then DH decided to go back to school and change careers to be a networking guy. I now know that I know NOTHING when it comes to technology. I still love gadgets and all that, and I probably know more than average, but that is where it end and I am OK with that now. It did take me a few months to come to terms with the fact that this was his expertise, but now that I am there, we are all good.

I am learning daily about a lot of things still, but most of them are applications and analysis of data (like SEO and such) and he is the guru of all things internal to a PC or a network. Together we make a great pair and comprise the whole package, no?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Twitter vs. Facebook

I hate to admit that I am on both twitter and facebook and I read them religiously and post to them quite a bit. However, to me, they have very different purposes. I know this is different for everyone, and it should be.

I use facebook primarily for friends in real life or people I went to school with or whatever. I use twitter for people I have not met, but based on their interests or mine, would maybe like if I were to ever meet them or even lived near them. The good thing about this is that I have varied interests and while there are not many people with the same combination of interests as I have, there are a lot of "specialists" out there with one of my interests and they will talk about it in great detail!

This may not work for everyone, but I do think it is important, at least for me, to keep these two areas separate, and this method of doing that works quite well for me.

I think of both groups as my friends, which I know might be pathetic, but it works out well that I know that I might run into one group of people and have them recognize me.

Does it change what I write? Not yet, but it might. I know that a lot of people might put stuff up on a site where they don't know people that might sound more critical then they are in person, but that just isn't me.

Do you twitter or facebook?

Monday, March 30, 2009

More fondant...

So two weeks ago I made a cake and covered it with fondant. The post is here. Yesterday, I made another cake and used the leftover fondant.

It tasted amazing. I wanted to make a cake from scratch, so I made the chocolate cake on the box of Hershey Cocoa. It turned out OK. It called for two 9" round cake pans. I only have 8", but I figured it would be close enough. Well, it went over. Thank goodness for a rimmed baking pan below it in the oven. It tasted great, but did not end up looking pretty... It also stuck in the middles of the pan, despite a generous amount of non-stick spray in the pan. Not sure what is up with that. But I did get to eat the part that stayed in the pan, so it was fine by me! When the batter got done, it was really runny, which the recipe said, so it was not a surprise to me, but I was not sure how it would end up cake. Maybe that is why it stuck. I do not know, but I am not sure I will make it again if it matters what it looks like, but I might if only taste matters! Yum!

Then I covered it with icing. Crumb coat only. You know what that is, right? Really thin layer, on top and sides and a little more between the two layers of cake.

After the crumb coat of icing, I put the whole thing in the freezer for 20 minutes or so. It could have stayed in longer, but I did not have all day... When it was "chilled", I took out the leftover fondant and covered the cake with it.

It was not any easier to work with this time, so maybe I have the wrong recipe. It did still taste amazing. And it was much thinner this time, which is closer to what it is supposed to be, so that was good.

It was easy enough to roll out. I put it between two layers of waxed paper to make it easier to move. That went well. But when I tried to put it on the cake, it broke exactly where the paper was. (I had 2 sheets of waxed paper on the top and bottom.) Since this was just for the family, I just pushed it together with my fingers, but I would NEVER do that on a cake for others. I guess I just need a new recipe.

In the end, it tasted amazing, which was good since it was for the kids. But a new recipe is calling out to me...

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Saturday's Deep Thoughts

There is nothing that can't be cleaned with a broom and a shop-vac.

Friday, March 27, 2009

More on podcasts

I know I have already said how much I love podcasts, but I thought I would go into it in a little more detail here.

I am spending ALL my spare time (and much of the time that is not spare) catching up on old episodes of the podcasts I love. The beauty of how I am using my software to manage my subscriptions – ok,iTunes – is that I do listen to the new ones as they are available, but the time it takes to do that and listen to all the old ones means that I always have those dang headphones in my ears! I need a good long roadtrip…

What it has shown me, though, is which podcasts are the most important to me because I found that I caught up on old episodes and only get new ones now of the few that I LOVE. I am listening to the oldies now of the ones I sort of love and the other ones have new episodes rotting on my playlist. When this whole experiment is over, I can easily find out what is not worth even keeping around by the order in which I listened to them.

I would love to share with you the ones that I love, but unless you have the same interests as I do, (which is highly unlikely!) I am not sure you would also love them. But I will share some of them nonetheless. I love ManicMommies, Munchcast, and Stuff You Should Know. I sorta love anything from the quick and dirty tips network, so I am listening to the Mighty Mommy, The Public Speaker, The Get it Done Guy, the Nutrition Diva, the Small Biz Tech Girl, and the Money Girl. All the others are languishing on my ipod.

I will admit there are a few things I keep on there to keep the kids occupied when we are out and about, like the couple of songs I have on there from Blues Clues, Diego, and the Naked Brothers Band. (Yes, I have a toddler and a couple of pre-teen boys!) I do keep a few things for them, but the vast majority is all mine.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Fingerless Gloves

Last week was the first day I wore my fingerless gloves out and about and I noticed two things, besides the fact that I love them. First of all, they are kinda big. Secondly, I feel like I am homeless with them on. You know how all the stereotypes of the homeless on TV or movies have them in gloves without the fingers. I felt that way with them on today. I did end up wearing them into a store, but wondered if I even should or if they would be watching me extra hard. I figured the rest of me did not look homeless, so I ended up feeling pretty safe, but that moment of doubt is really awful.

Monday, March 23, 2009

He is hot-blooded!

One of my son's is more hot-blooded than the rest. He has been trying to get away with wearing shorts for a week now. It is warmer, but by no means WARM! Ever since that day where it got to 70 here (when he said it was 90!) he has been trying to wear them every day. As we talk about a potential move when the house sells. one of the places we talk about is much further south and I think the thing he is most looking forward to is wearing shorts more often or maybe even all year.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Saturday's Deep Thoughts

Although I know I am in the minority here, I like Spring a lot and LOVE summer. This time of year is just what the doctor ordered!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Chocolate-covered marshmallows

Once again, I made up a recipe, but it turned out amazing. Who doesn't love chocolate and marshmallows? Together – all the better!!

I melted chocolate, the same chocolate I melted for the chocolate-covered strawberries, so I am sure anything would work. Besides, it is made up, so you can make it up however you wish!

I covered the larger strawberries with the melted chocolate. Before I covered the marshmallows, I put a piece of foil on a cookie sheet and then covered that with a cooling rack, so if anything went through, it would land on the foil and the marshmallows would not sit in it.

Anyway, I drizzled the melted chocolate over the marshmallows and then, while the chocolate was still wet, sprinkled the chocolate with sprinkles, or jimmies.

The chocolate did not cover the marshmallows, but the ratio of marshmallow to chocolate was pretty good. I did these for the kids for valentine's day and used red jimmies. The kids loved them. They always eat the marshmallows when we have them anyway, so this worked out great! They even snuck them when no one was looking, so I know they enjoyed them!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Testing my use of fondant

So I made dessert again this weekend and it turned out good. Again, no picture, because the kids dug into it too quickly...I made a yellow cake from scratch and then covered it with fondant. I wanted to figure out how to make fondant and if I could use it. The kids have birthdays coming up and I wanted to see if I could do it for that.

Bottom line - I can, but it is HARD!

So I made the cake, two layers, and let them cool completely. Then I made regular icing and did it between the layers and a crumb coat on top. For those who may have not done a crumb coat before, it is a super-thin layer of icing on the cake. I did the top and sides because apparently the fondant needs something to stick to. Then - and this was new to me - I put the cake into the fridge to chill it. What a great idea! I think I am even going to do that for regular icing from now on. It was an amazing solution.

Then, I made the fondant. I was so confused by it. Fondant is like a dough, so I went to knead it and the recipe said that if it was sticky, it may need more powdered sugar. I also read that if it cracked, it was too dry. So I went to knead it and it was sticky still, but just a little, so I went to roll it out and it cracked. It was like the fondant had multiple personality disorder!

I rolled it out once and it fell apart. I rolled it out a second time between waxed paper, to make it easier. It rolled out OK, but I was unable to get it on the cake. Then, I rolled it out again, also between waxed paper. This time, I was able to get it on the cake, but it was much thicker than fondant is supposed to be.

I left it, because at that point, I was not going to do it again! However, I have decided that although it tasted good, I am going to keep looking for a recipe so I can try it again and see how much of the frustration was caused by my inexperience and how much by the recipe!

So then the issue was how to decorate it! I was just testing it, so I did not have an occasion that would drive the theme or decorations, but I did not want to leave it plain. I had yellow gel food coloring, so I tinted the rest of the icing (from the middle and crumb coat) with the yellow in a zip-top bag. I ended up making a smiley face, which the kids thought was the Wal-Mart symbol...

Again, it tasted amazing and we are still eating off of it, but it made a coating that was too thick, so I am going to try it again.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The never-ending load of laundry,,,

I realized the other day, as I was doing laundry, that I do not mind so much the putting of the clothes into the washing machine, the moving of them to the dryer or even the taking them out of the dryer. But I absolutely HATE the folding and putting away, which depending upon the load, might be more than half the total time spent on that load. So I started just folding and putting away one load per day. So far, I have not ever gotten too far behind and on any given day, it is not too overwhelming. I realize that it might not be possible for every family to just finish one load per day (we are a family of five) and I also know that on the one day a week that I do all the sheets, making the beds is in addition to the one load that I put away. The older kids (2 of them) fold and put away their own clothes too. (Not the way I like it, but hey, it is done and it is theirs!)

On days when I have loaded the washer or dryer or both, then the job is pretty easy and I can fill up the machines or not. On days when there is nothing waiting in the dryer or washer, the job takes longer, but it still gets done.

I urge you all to try "one per day" or "two per day" on whatever your most dreaded laundry task is to get caught up and to stay on top of it...

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Saturday's Deep Thoughts

I often wonder why I can stay up until who-knows-how late and survive on a few hours' sleep, but get me up early with the SAME AMOUNT of sleep, and I am dead to the world all day. Why is that?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Gifts for the Decluttered

Since I have gotten rid of clutter, I do not want to contribute to anyone else having extra clutter, so my gift-giving has changed a lot in recent years.

Of course, the specific gift depends upon the occasion, but I do love me a food gift! I am a huge fan of food gifts because they are great to get (who doesn’t love chocolate?) and they do NOT contribute to extra clutter. Be very wary of the food gift in a tin or other decorative container. Most people feel like they have to keep the container and it just becomes more clutter, which is not a good thing.

I do the same Christmas gift for everyone on my very small Christmas list. (Non-family, that is. Friends, neighbors, coaches, and teachers of all sorts get the same thing and it is very well-received!) You should pick something you know you can do well or can make multiples of or you are known for. The same holds true for adults for birthdays. Kids still love to get toys and so I do that for them. *Sigh* I wish they understood the clutter they were creating!

For a few ideas, you can check out the following recipes:
Pretzel Turtle Bites (these are so good and so easy!)
Chocolate Cocoa Mix (and who doesn’t love this?)
Peppermint Bark (Very festive!)

If we all could do this just a few times a year, think of all the extra stuff that others would not have to organize (and that would not be in our landfills someday! This is organized and green!)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Pocasts ROCK!

I have discovered that you can listen to audio, MP3s, whatever, on any budget at any time.

Let me start with the fact that I do have an iPod, which I love. I know they are a little price-y, but my kids, who I do not trust with anything over $50 have a cheap old MP3 player from Christmas last year and it works great! In fact, theirs has a digital voice recorder and I am a little jealous of that. And I think that was $15 or so. So, like I said, anyone can listen to audio.

My first iPod was old. (Yes, I have had 2.) I did not think I was an early-adopter, but I must have been, because my old one is the model before what they now call “classic” and I cannot find it anywhere, even online! It had the buttons just under the screen (not on the wheel) and it was black & white only. I had that thing for 4 years and it worked great that whole time.

When I got my first one, I loaded it up with all my CDs and proceeded to almost NEVER listen to music on it. I highly recommend audio programs. When I was gainfully employed and had discretionary money, I had a subscription to audible.com, which was awesome. There are two levels of subscriptions and I had the higher one, which was 2 book credits per month for about $25. It was an amazing deal. Most books only require one credit, although really long books might be two. You can also get a lot of newspapers, magazines, radio shows and other things.

I love listening to books on my iPod. Now I can see why kids like to be read to so much! I did that almost exclusively for years. I listened to the music a little, but not much. I listened when I was waiting (for the kids, at the doctor’s office, wherever), working out, knitting (I know some knitter have mastered the ability to read a book and knit, but I have not!) and when I was trying to sleep at bedtime. There are so many times and places where an MP3 player is just easier to take out or even listen to than a book. It has gotten to the point where audio actually puts me to sleep so if I am having difficulty sleeping, I just put on my headphones and a podcast and fall right to sleep!

I even chose books based on whether they were available on audible. I wrote down recommendations from magazines and friends and if they were not on audible, they just did not happen. I always had a backlog of books to listen to, but it was like that pile next to the bed (you know you have one!) and took up a lot less space.

Then, I became a SAHM and it got interesting. I did not want to spend the amount every month on books. (In addition to the $25 deal, I think they also have a $15 deal for one book credit per month.) That is when I got really into podcasts, which are free! Think of podcasts as blogs you can listen to. Some of them are audio, which is great for in the car or in bed or whatever. I also like to listen to them when I get out of the shower and am getting ready for the day. But I also have a few video podcasts that I subscribe to as well.

Let me define “subscribe”. I use iTunes, which is not common for those with anything other than an iPod. So this may not apply to everyone, but when I subscribe to a podcast using iTunes, it is free AND when a new episode comes out, it is automatically downloaded to my PC, which I love. I am perhaps the most forgetful person ever, so without this little feature, I would forget a lot, probably until I had nothing left and then I would spend a full day downloading everything I missed.

Video podcasts do eat up battery life, but with something that is rechargeable, it is not as big a deal. Video also requires an MP3 player that supports that medium. Not all MP3 players do that. I mentioned my first iPod above and it did NOT support video. Now I have a nano (not the new one, but last year’s model) and I love that it supports video, but if it did not, there are plenty of audio podcasts that would be just great and I have plenty to listen to, so I am sure I could fill up my time with just audio. In fact, I have the ability to listen to/watch both and I’ll bet I still do 80% audio.

I do not know a lot about finding them without an application like iTunes to consolidate them, but within iTunes, you can just find podcasts and put whatever your interests are into the search bar. The problem I had was narrowing it down to what I knew I could listen to before the new ones came out.

I am also a little anal-retentive, so when I find something I really like, I listen to all the old episodes to get “caught up” so I have a few that are current only (news and such)and many where I have listened to all the old episodes I could get my hands on.

This may not be for everyone, but it is a great way to do more than one thing at once, which I know every mom wants to do!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Should kids get an allowance?

I have waffled back and forth on this, even while the kids get one. I have no idea if I am doing it right or if you should even do it. It is so hard!

For the past few years, my kids have gotten an allowance and the more I read, I think I am doing it wrong.

I will back up. When I was a kid, I never got an allowance, but I always had money, albeit not a lot until I got a job at age 16. DH also never got an allowance, but he did not want for much. His family was not wealthy, but his parents went a little nuts at Christmas very year so he always got big items that he really wanted that way. He also worked from the time he was 16 or so, so he always had that money to get the stuff throughout the year.

So when the kids were young, we decided that they should get an allowance when they were over 5. We started out giving it to them weekly and found that we always forgot or had no cash or whatever. So we went to monthly a few years back. That works pretty well. We give them twice their age per month. (We were doing half their age per week and this was a good approximation.) The upside is that they get a raise on their birthdays, which makes them look forward to that month even more! I mean, they always look forward to their birthday, but more cash, forever, is a good thing too. We always pay them on the last day of the month and think of it as their “salary” for being a part of the family.

We have always done deductions for things that they know not to do, just to make it painful for them. But it seems they no longer care about that either. Since they do not physically have to hand over the money, they do not seem to care. I am at the point where I want to give it to them and make them actually pay me. The problem with this is that they are likely to spend it as soon as they get it, meaning they will forever be asking for an advance against next month and that has bitten us in the butt too.

I have read not to tie it to chores, but to let them practice spending and budgeting. I have read not to give them an allowance at all. I have read so many things that I can no longer read much more. (I actually read an article in a magazine about this LAST NIGHT which reminded me how little I know about this and how frustrated I am by it.)

For example, in an effort to make them more responsible for turning off the lights, I have given them each 5 light switches upstairs that they are responsible to turn off before school and bedtime, taking off $0.50 for each if they are not turned off, thinking I could nag less. But it has not worked and has only resulted in taking away most of their allowance last month.

I would like to get to a point where I was given them a set amount of cash for their own clothes, shoes, and school supplies too, but I am fearful that they would just spend it on crap and then go to school in rags. Why does that bother me so much?

And when we have a little less disposable income, the allowance amount went down too. The kids have to know what it feels like to get by on less, just like everyone else.

So we do give our kids an allowance, and I think the amount is OK, but I am not sure we have all the answers yet in the implementation, so I welcome as much feedback as I can get!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

New shoes!

What woman doesn't love a new pair of shoes?

I just joined a new (for me, anyway) shoe club at shoedazzle.com. For those not familiar with it, you answer a few questions about your style and each month a team of stylists pick out 5 pairs for you. They will ship to you any of those five pairs of shoes for $39, including shipping. You can also opt out of any month you choose to. I have not yet received my first pair of shoes, but the concept is amazing and I love shoes and I need a good excuse to get a few good pairs again, so this might be it.

I seriously like the idea of a stylist picking out shoes for me - mostly because they might be shoes that look amazing but that I never would have picked out for myself. The question is whether I can get past my fears and purchase shoes online that I may not have picked out myself or even LOVE them without wearing them with something. We shall see.

Saturday's Deep Thoughts

Why is it that kids grow up so fast one minute and not fast enough the next minute?

Friday, March 6, 2009

EASY Turkey

This is not a recipe per se, but cooking a turkey in those plastic bags that you cook the bird *in* are TO DIE FOR and so easy. If you do not have a plan for the actual bird yet, pick a box of these up at the store. They come 2 or 3 bags to a box and, like I said, are SO easy! I know that many of you have found this out already.

Simply empty out the bird (and many people forget to do this, so PLEASE don’t) and then follow the instructions on the box based on the size of your turkey. They juice stays inside the bag and bastes the bird, the skin gets some color, and it turns out perfect for me every time. (Those juices make the BEST gravy, but that is another story!)

Now, if you love the skin (and I do – DH and I FIGHT over it every year) you might want to lose the top of the bag or even the whole bag for the last 30-60 minutes of cooking so the skin can really get crisp. (Taking the turkey out of the bag is tricky unless you have 4 hands, so an extra body might be helpful here unless you are a freak or have figured out a trick I have not yet.) But I know some people do not care about the skin. And although that boggles my mind, if that is the case in your house, you can leave it in the bag the whole time!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Closet shelves

One of the best things ever, and I do mean ever, is the built-in shelving in my closet. My house is currently for sale and it will be one of the FIRST changes I plan to make to a new place.

I do not use drawers at all. I have a dresser in my bedroom, but it has DH’s socks and DS’s pajamas (he is 3) in it. Most of my clothes are hung up. What does not hang (socks, undies, sweaters, jammies, etc) are on these shelves. Also, the smaller items (socks, undies, bras) are all in clear plastic containers, labeled.

I used to think I was a little anal retentive for doing this and I now I know I am and, unfortunately, it is more than just a little. That is good news for most other people, but not-so-good for my family!

Cupcake cones!

Yesterday I made cupcakes in ice cream cones and they turned out amazing!

I had to take a dozen cupcakes to school because they are having a mini "cakewalk" at school today during music class.

I read a ton of reviews online after I decided to make these.

I know you can bake them right in the cones and a lot of people do it. However (and this is a big however) the one thing a few people mentioned is that it CAN get soggy if baked in the cone. If I was going to serve them immediately or at a birthday party, I would have just baked them in the cone, BUT I knew I was going to drop them off at school the day before they would be eaten. So I just baked them regularly and then jammed them into the cones. This was to solve the soggy issue, and it also allows them to look imperfect, to boot. I love that! And mine did come out a little imperfect.

I did also look up a recipe for buttercream frosting on my favorite recipe site - say it with me - allrecipes.com

I made a half a batch of the frosting, put it in a gallon zipper bag, smooshed (technical term) it towards one corner, cut off that corner a little bigger than normal, and then put it liberally on top of the cupcakes that had been added to the cones. I ended up using about 2/3 of a cupcake in each cone because more just didn't fit. I added the frosting in a spiral, making it look like soft serve ice cream. On top, I wanted something to look like a cherry, but wanted it to be more like candy, so I got to stoll down the candy aisle of the store, looking for something that was red-ish. I ended up buying a box of strawberry milkshake malted milk balls. So it is a cupcake in a cone, topped with icing and a malted milk ball.

Now I knew I would be doing a lot of stuff and making the icing from scratch and since I had a boxed cake mix in my pantry, I just used that to make the cupcakes. I used a Duncan Hines Devils Food Chocolate Cake and it turned out amazing!

So then the issue was how to transport them to the school... I am usually pretty creative, but I was stumped. I went to my knitting group that morning and I was sure that one of them would be able to help me. I was SO right! Someone in that group used to be a preschool teacher, so she had a great solution! Her suggestion was to use the lid of a shoe box with holes cut into it for the cones. Then when it went back onto the show box, the cones would go to school nicely. My dilemma was that I had no shoe boxes, so we decided that any box would work! So I found a box that I thought would work, I used an exacto knife to cut 12 holes in the bottom of a box, then when I was done and knew that I had all the circles out of the box, then I taped up the top of the box so that it was stable. It worked like a charm!

I never did figure out a good way to cover them without totally smashing the icing, so I just let it go, knowing that they were going to be eaten the next day.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

making valentines

Every year, I say I am just going to buy valentines for the kids and then every year I end up seeing something cute or having a great idea myself and making them. It always takes longer than I anticipate, but in the end, they turn out great and I hope the kids have great memories of making them and giving them out.

So this year, I intended only to make them for the oldest (who is 11 and in 6th grade) because he has a small class and between kids and teachers, there were only 10 required. Let's hear it for a private school!

So I found these adorable fake ipods in the Family Fun magazine and since my oldest is a boy and his class is all boys, I wanted to steer clear of anything too mushy and this seemed like the perfect answer. Then, when my middle son heard about it, he wanted them too. Now, he has a larger class (5th grade) but I wanted the teacher and the other kids and moms to know I was crafty, so I thought “What the heck?” And then, since I was going to make them for the older 2 kids, I figured I HAD to make them for the youngest, although the pre-school kids would not really be into the ipods, so I made a modified version of this other one I saw in the same issue of the magazine.

All told, I ended up making 50 valentines by hand and helping with 2 covered shoeboxes to hold them. I did finish by the Wednesday before, so I was done a full day in advance.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Organizing craft supplies

Before I put my house on the market, I did a lot of crafts. Since the house has been for sale, not so much. Anyway, I am not a big fan of things made specifically for organizing craft stuff because my stash tends to grow and most things are not that scalable.

This requires that you have shelves. Putting up shelves is pretty cheap and easy, so if you don’t have any yet, it is pretty cheap to get the wood and brackets from any home improvement store.

Once you have shelves, the clear plastic “shoe” boxes have worked great! I label each one and have a ton of them, but the beauty of the clear plastic boxes is that I can add to it whenever I feel like and if it gets smaller (as if!) then I can use the boxes for something else. You could use any size boxes too, as long as you pick a size you can use for something else. Because I am phycho about this stuff and a little anal retentive, I picked two sizes (one big and one small) and but all my boxes in one of those two sizes. Since I only use one size for this stuff, I know they will all be the same size and sit on top of each other very well. Having just one or two sizes makes storage of the empty boxes (as if!) easier as well.

I have each box labeled. I am sure you could use hand-written labels if you wanted to, but I use label-maker labels, because I like the way they look and they are all consistent. Never underestimate the power of a good-looking label! I was initially very skeptical of the labels, but I am now a firm believer.

Good mom???

I am an awesome mom! I wish there were an emoticon for an evil laugh, because I would totally put it here. I have my moments and today was one of them...

I made cupcakes. I have to take a dozen to school tomorrow afternoon because the music class is doing a mini-cakewalk. I am not quite done yet, but I will be by tomorrow afternoon, when they are due to the school.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Saturday's Deep Thoughts

Maybe you noticed (or not!) that I had no deep thought for this past Saturday. That was intentional and I was not really feeling it, so I thought it was better to not subject you to something half-a$$ed.

I do not knit socks

I do not knit socks. There. I said it. I am a knitter. I am not a great or experienced knitter, but a knitter nonetheless. I have been knitting for 5 years and have given quite a few knit gifts to friends and family. However, as a knitter it is hard to admit this, but I do not get the whole sock thing.

I know it is heresey for a knitter to admit this, but I cannot fathom spending so much time knitting something and then putting it on your own (or someone else's) feet! I understand that they might be quick and portable, but I just do not get it. I have absolutely no desire to make socks. I know that a lot of knitters LOVE to make socks. Maybe I should try it. Maybe then I will like it. But I doubt it. I have so many things I want to make and that are already in process, I have a hard time thinking I want to spend valuable knitting time on socks. And I say “socks” as if it were “the plague” or something else distasteful...

Maybe I should finish one of the 4 UFOs (knitter for “UnFinished Objects”) that I have already started. The thing is that I LOVE using larger needles because projects can typically get done faster. That is also one of the reasons I love felting. An experienced knitter will know what I am talking about, but for the rest of you, it is the act of INTENTIONALLY shrinking wool. You know how you have done or heard of someone washing and drying a sweater in the machine and it coming out half as big. There is a process whereby knitter do that on purpose. I have always done it with purses and bags, but I also have seen patterns for many other items. In that process, you knit something in wool and knit it about 1.5 times as big as you want the object. Then you put it in the washing machine (please read how to do this for real if you ever want to try it because I am not putting in all the details) and air dry it. The finished product is beautiful and the process of felting will generally hide some mistakes (another reason I like it a lot, I guess) so I have one thing on the needles right now to be felted.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Organizing Clothes

This is kind of hard to do as a mom who has to get other stuff done, but if you keep up with it, the effort is minimal and well worth it. If you do not keep up with it, it may take hours every once in a while, but keeping up with it will make it much easier!

The only stuff that should be HANGING in the closet or in the dressers is stuff that fits RIGHT NOW. It may not make sense as a mother, but the ability to know that everything in the closet fits is HUGE and makes many things much better.

The stuff that is a little too big and will fit soon should be in a container – I use a clear plastic thing – on the floor. When he needs clothes or we are ready for a change in sizes, you can either hang things a few at a time every time you are in there or if you do it all at once, it will take just a few minutes.

The stuff that is too small can go in another container – also a clear plastic one – on the floor. I do use the same container for things that are too small and too big because I am a little anal retentive and I like them to match. When stuff that no longer fits comes to your attention, you can just fold the stuff and throw it in the box. When the box gets full, you know to get a new one. If you get rid of stuff regularly, you can put the containers into which you want them to go permanently there instead. For example, if you give all your clothes that are outgrown to someone else and you give it to that person in garbage bags (my disposable container of choice!) then you can just put those on the floor instead of the containers and as your child outgrows something, you can just put things in there.

This works for any age child and makes sure that the seasonal clothing change is no big deal.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Organizing your finances

The best thing we have ever done is establish a budget. Most people think that having a budget means you are cheap or don’t spend any money. This is not true! Having a budget just means you know where your money goes each month! Ours is very detailed. We have line items for the kids allowances, food, household supplies (hygiene, cleaning), mortgage, entertainment, utilities, everything! When we did it originally, it was a pain to do, because I set it up in Excel with all the formulas to subtract what we spent as we went through the month so we knew how much was left. We also had expenses subtracted from income so we knew each month how much cash was left over. We also had line items for savings and taxes, so we could move it each month to somewhere safe so that when the time came, we would have it.

It is not about being frugal, although once you know where everything is going and how much is actually going there, that might be a byproduct… Each month, for example, we know that we spend about $400 on food, so that is our monthly food budget. The way we have it set up, we can go over by a little or under by a little, but we would expect that over a three-month period, the budget would be pretty close or even under. (Another thing I did was do quarterly formulas so that every three months it takes the budgeted amount minus the three months of actual so we know this. I am anal retentive that way!)

So how do you handle things that are once or twice a year and not each month? We just take what we would pay a year and divide it by12 for the budget. So, for example, with car insurance, which we pay twice a year, we know that those monthly budget amounts should be $0 for most of the year and go way over budget when they are actually due, but we know that and the other budget amounts can either make up for it that month, or we know that we will still be under budget for the year. You can also put aside the amounts on the monthly budget so that when the payment is due, the money is saved and available. Some people swear by cash in envelopes for this. We have not gone that far, but have thought about it for a few things!
There are a ton of websites that have articles on budgeting. I recommend geezeo.com (which has great articles) and wisebread.com (which has a blog and forums too!)

We did not do it for years and I know it is hard to set up and keep up, but it is SO worth it! In the time since we have had it set up, we were able to switch responsibility for finances from me to DH with minimal work because it was all right there. We also had job changes and all we had to do was change the income line. From there, it was easy to see what expenses had to be eliminated or reduced when the income went down or when the income goes up, which expenses stay the same (utilities, mortgage) and which you can increase (savings, allowances).

In this economy, it is even more critical to get a handle on where the money goes. Studies have shown that most people severely underestimate what they spend. It is like estimating your calories. You don’t count a bite here and a bite there, but they all add up. Similarly, a dollar here and a dollar there is no big deal, but they add up!

One of the things that DH and I had trouble with was telling each other EVERYTHING we bought. So we agreed on a certain amount (less when we had less money) and it is our “monthly allowance.” Each month, we get to spend that much on whatever we want to spend it on. So for DH it is video games or magic tricks. For me, it is pampering or knitting supplies. But that little amount goes a long way in making me feel like I have some control over my own money and even though we have budgets for most of it, this is unbudgeted MY money!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Go read me elsewhere

I feel so validated! My profile is on Gina Chen's blog today, which is part of the Syracuse Post Standard. You should go check it out as I am sure you all want to know much more about me! :-)


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Magazine subscriptions

Most people, myself included, have way too many magazine subscriptions. I know that reading a magazine is a lot easier than reading a book, but if you must read a magazine, there are a lot of better ways to go about doing it.

First of all, I cannot give up all my magazine subscriptions, so I did keep a few, but made sure that they are the magazines that I LOVE!

Secondly, you can read the content of almost anything you really like on the web now, so it will not clutter up the tables next to your couch or bed and heck, it is green too!

If you absolutely must read the paper magazines, then see if your library gets them. If not, is there a process for requesting them to get it? Do they need it to be requested by a certain number of people before they get it? Do you know that many people and can you enlist others that you know to make the same request?

And if you do not need to read it every month, would you be better served by getting the magazines one at a time at the checkout? I know that does not seem to be cost-effective, but it is like getting a huge container of something. If it goes bad or you do not use it all, is it really a good deal? Similarly, if you do not really enjoy a magazine but just read it because it is there, is it really worth getting it in the mail?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I am a Meat Grinder

I grind meat. There. I said it. I don't do it to everything, although I guess I could. I do still buy ground beef and have had ground chicken and turkey so seldom, it is embarrassing...

Sometimes, though, pork loin goes on sale at a nearby store (and I am in a small town and there really are only 2) and when that happens, I buy a couple and cut up the pork myself, although I could probably ask the butcher to do it... Anyway, I digress.

When I get a pork loin, I usually cut it up into a couple of roasts (Yipee! Less cutting!) pork chops, and some ground pork. I have a great meat grinder attachment for my KitchenAid stand mixer that has more than paid for itself over the years. Last week, I made sliders with the ground pork and the kids thought they were amazing! I used dinner rolls as the little buns and made mini-burgers. Then I grilled them on my new toy – the Cuisinart Griddler Gourmet. They were amazing. I also got a good recipe I am going to try tonight for a nacho casserole. It calls for ground beef, but since it is mixed in with all that other stuff and seasoned with taco seasoning, I am going to substitute pork and I am sure the kids will never know the difference. I had a pound left over from last week, but this recipe calls for 2 pounds, so I ground up another roast and now I have 3 pounds. So after this recipe, I think we are having those sliders again for lunches soon!!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Board Games

I am loving the show "Mission: Organization" on HGTV and have recently taken an idea from that show and done it at home.

The kids are always losing all the parts from board games or just taking them all out of the box and using them as toys. It drives me nuts! But one thing I saw on there was that if the box did not have any information on it (like directions or something like that) then throw away the whole box and put everything in a zippered container. It also said that if you do keep the box, take all the pieces and put them in a zippered container so that if they drop it, only the zippered container and the lid fall out. So inspired!

Of course, she had super-cute zippered containers, but it works just as well, and I did it with, plastic storage bags!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Saturday's Deep Thoughts

Why is it that the minute I clean up, the kids are right behind me making a huge mess? I feel like Mr.Incredible when he says "No matter how many times you save the world, it keeps getting in jeopardy. Sometimes you just want it to stay...saved..." I always compare it to shoveling snow in a blizzard.

I can't live without my digital camera!

I know that not all of you may have converted to the world of digital photography yet, but if you have not, WHY NOT?? I love that it is instant gratification for me. I take a ton more pictures than I would have with a traditional camera and I do not worry about “wasting” film, because I have not. If I do not like a picture, I keep it on the camera (although you would not even have to do that) and download it, look at it on my screen, pretty big, and if I still don’t like it, just delete it there. Done and done!

I take pictures of the regular stuff: my kids, my family, family events, etc. but I also take pictures of things I would never have before, like recipes, the recipes in process, things around my house ,etc. When I take them, I can download them NOW or wait until the next time I am downloading pictures.

I even got a spare little camera to keep in my purse. I never wanted to be without my camera again, so I have the pretty nice one at home, but a decent one in my purse, and honestly, I use the one in my purse even around the house now! Learning all the bells and whistles of two cameras is a huge pain, but I know how to use the little one great now and I feel more ownership for it than the “family” camera, so I tend to use it more.

If you have not yet taken the dive into the world of digital photography, I challenge you to do so soon. It does not have to be more complicated and actually, it is easier for me! Taking the film someplace else to be developed and getting nothing back but the actual pictures meant that it didn’t happen nearly as often as it should and I did not have copies of pictures I loved!

If you have taken the plunge into the world of digital photography, take a few pictures this week of something you would not normally photograph. If you hate them, you can delete them. But you just might find that they are some of your best pictures ever!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Beauty of a Timer

I am sure you have heard this a hundred times, but it really does work and I challenge you to do it just once this week. If you are not convinced it is the best thing ever, then you can stop doing it, but I will bet that you will keep at it because it works and makes things so much easier!

Next time you have a task you have been putting off or that is unpleasant or whatever, just plan to do it for 15 minutes and set a timer. At the end of that 15 minutes, you are DONE with that session. It is that easy. If you have a large tasks (like cleaning out a closet or the basement or whatever), a few of those 15 minute sessions will get it DONE. My biggest issue used to be that I thought I had to start and finish something in one session, so I would wait until I had several hours to do something (and who has that? Ever?) or there was a deadline looming (like you have to clear out the basement for a house showing – was that too personal?)

If you have a little more time, you can set the timer for 30 minutes, but any longer than that and it is not a timer-based thing. If you have more time than 30 minutes, then set your timer for 30 minutes and use the rest of the time for doing something fun for you all the while congratulating yourself for getting that much closer to finishing an unpleasant task.

So I have a new task and I know that I can do it in about 2 hours. Rather than wait for 2 hours to do it, I know that I can do it in 8 sessions of 15 minutes each. So if I do it every day, I know that in about a week, I can have it done, which is a great feeling, even before I have done anything!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Organizing Your Blog-Reading

I know it may seem counter-intuitive to organize your blog reading. I spend WAY too much time reading blogs, to the detriment of other things I have to do, BUT if you are going to read anyway, I LOVE using Google Reader to read them.

Every time one of the blogs I am “subscribed” to through Google Reader is updated, it comes through on my reader. It is super-easy to manage the list and delete things I no longer have time for want to read too.

If you already have a Google account, it is even easier, but anyone can get a Google account, so not having one is no reason not to use this amazing tool. Once you have an account, I just used the search engine to find the reader. Obviously, it was the first thing that came up!

I cannot get it to bring up a blank one because it knows who I am and always pops mine up, but you get the idea. On that search page, there are other pages that are interesting too, like the official Google Reader blog, the way it works, etc. If the idea of subscribing to each blog and RSS feed individually just makes you tired to think about, then think about using this tool. It might not make you read fewer blogs, but it will make reading them and scanning them for interesting content just a little faster.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Organizing small video games

Our two older boys have a Nintendo DS Lite. And, sadly, so do I. There are a few games for it that I know they would never want so I got it so I could play it when I want to. DH loves it too and it is “ours” now, as opposed to the two that are “theirs”. One of theirs is white and the other is black, so we can keep them separate. We were early adopters, so even two colors were hard to come by. Now, of course, there are a half a dozen colors to choose from, but when we got them, needless to say, there were not. In fact, I think ours was pre-ordered before it even came out because we saw a game for it we really wanted. We are so geeky!

The games are small, but if the kids had their way, they would just be strewn all over the house and dropped wherever they were last used and that drives me nuts! So I wanted a cool way to keep them neat and organized and since we got ours pretty early, there were no cool ways to keep the games organized, even then. What we got instead, was a small case that was made for SD cards. It is PERFECT for DS games. Each one has slots for 3 on each side for a total of six each, it zips up nice, and when closed, looks like this:

It is quite small. Since I went out last night and found a few games used at Game Stop (another great place for games) I need to go get another one now. The downside is that the kids seem to lose the actually game cases, so I cannot sell them used anywhere, but for the ones I have kept the cases and books for hidden somewhere, it has worked out great.

In fact, I have kept the “adult” games (which are not adult in content, but the ones we like to play) separate from the kid games with these too. We have one for kid games and one for grown-up games and that way, when I do deem it appropriate for them to play games, I can just give them the kid one and not worry about my own games quite as much. NICE!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Saturday's Deep Thoughts

Every year I say I am going to buy valentines for the kids' classes and have yet to do so. And now the oldest is almost 12 and in 6th grade. What is wrong with me?

Friday, February 13, 2009

What do you do with all thost digital photos on your hard drive?

What should you do with all those photos – digital and non-digital?
I am sure that many of you do not want to scrapbook your photos. It is just so time-consuming!! But you do want to be able to enjoy your photos, both digital and film-based photos.

Printing them is the first step and I highly recommend it. Film-based photos come back that way, making it an easy thing to do. But keeping them in the envelopes from the developer is NOT the way to enjoy the pictures. Keeping them in a cardboard box is also not a good way to store them. Printing digital photos is a little more effort, but there are many places that will do it for you. Some people like to do it themselves (which is great, but perhaps not for a huge amount of pictures) or any developer will do it for you. They do you no good on your hard drive. So while having them on your computer is great for posterity and all, it does nothing for you here and now.

Even if you do not want to scrapbook them, you should keep an album handy and each time you get pictures back, take a few minutes and add them to the album. Most people think that the backlog is so huge that they do not want to even start. However, it is never going to get easier and you will never have the huge chunk of time you think you will to do the whole thing, SO you should just start from where you are now and do it going forward. Every time you have a few extra minutes and this is a priority and on your list, then you can chip away at the backlog. The best part about starting right now is that you can go shopping and find an album that you like and just start using it!

Here is where I have to admit that I am a scrapbooker. But even I got way behind. Now some people like to do things chronologically (ME!) and some people do not. The way I got “caught up” is that for all the years I had digital pictures, I used snapfish to create a hardcover book of them, ne per year. This was not cheap, but it gave me a great deal of satisfaction! There are many sites that do photo books, I just happened to use snapfish, so use whatever site you want to. I did mine just before Christmas and also used that site (saving on shipping!) to buy a few photo-based Christmas gifts, especially for grandparents and other relatives. They are not as pretty as my regular scrapbooks, but they are DONE and there is a surprising amount of templates to choose from. So now if I could just get 2008 done…

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Organizing your digital photos

Do you have digital photos and files all over the place on your PC? Probably the best thing I ever did was to keep all the photos in one folder on my PC. As a bonus, I can synchronize them with my video ipod, but it is based on what folder you want to copy over, so having them in one place makes them easier.

I have a folder on my PC desktop called “Photos.” In addition, below that, I have a folder for each year and one for the actual photos that I am scanning right now. Yours might be different, but one for each year just makes it easier and it is how I think. Within each of those folders, I have folders by date so that when I download pictures, I just create folders for the date that I am downloading pictures. I always start with the year and then the month and then the date, that way I know they will get sorted to the right order.

I would also recommend that you back up your pictures often. Many people keep them on an external hard drive. However, if that is your only copy, that is still risky. An external hard drive is a good idea, but hard drives fail. Do you really want to lose those photos? I typically put them on a CD every few weeks. The right method for each person might be different for every person, but you have to do *something* to back up your photos.

And just to be safe, after I copy photos to my hard drive, I also put them up on an online site. I use photobucket or flickr. And this way, if my hard drive ever fails between a backup, I know that I can re-create my photos, because they are online.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Funny story…

When I was pregnant with my third child (which ended up being a boy, but that is a whole other story…)I had my other two with me at the bookstore, who were 6 and 7 at the time and someone who worked there asked me if this was an “accident”. First of all, NO! Second of all, it was none of her business what the ages of my kids were. And lastly, SHUT UP! Some people have no filter, they just say everything they think. I am all for the filter. Everyone should have one and use it!

I had forgotten how funny this was until I saw a contest about the rude things people say about parenting on twittermoms.

Although I don't use them, I also think that care.com is a great idea! I am thinking of moving into a new area and I think this will be a great resource!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Over-the-door shoe organizer

I love the canvas over-the-door shoe organizer! I have them behind the door of a lot of different closets. In each closet, they have a different use. They may not all work for you, but I am sure one or more of them will work, and if just one works for a few people, then I have done a good thing. They all have clear storage where the shoes are supposed to go and a little hint – there is not a singles pair of shoes in them in my house.

I have one behind the door of my office. It holds all the extra office supplies. So the extra ink cartridges, staples, post-its, thumb tacks, pretty much everything but paper fits, so they are all filled to the brim.

The one in my mud room closet has all the pairs of gloves, mittens and winter hats in them. Love that! I put the kid ones a little lower and they can get them out themselves and put the away, because I don’t care how neat they are when they go into the pockets.

I have one in the kids’ upstairs linen closet with all the “spares” in it. It has extra shampoo, toothpaste, soap, light bulbs, you name it. They are always running out of stuff in their own bathroom and now they know where to get things to replace them.

I have one hanging in my oldest sons’ closet for his collectibles. Sometimes it has Pez dispensers, sometimes fast food toys, and sometimes collectible cards. Keeping up with their toys is beyond me, but with something like this that shows off the collections, I don’t have to come up with something new for each collection.

Like I said, I love tem and when I see them next on sale, I am going to get several more. I can think of a few other places for them. And I might start with what I know and love in them, but who knows what will end up in them eventually…

I do not have one near my kitchen yet, but I have been wondering what to do with all the frosting, tips, jimmys, nuts, and other small baking supplies and if I could find a place for this, I might have found it. Maybe you will have better luck than I have had in that area.

And I do not have one in my bathroom, but I think I need one with all the extras, like the kids have!

I also do not have one near the computer, but I think that one with all the thumb drives, disks, and other computer paraphernalia would be great.

And lastly for now, I do not have one near the bed, but if it had lotions, a booklight, a magazine or two, etc. I would love that.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Snickerdoodles! Yum!

I did dessert again on Saturday night and as always (NOT!) it was absolutely fabulous.

First of all, I am addicted to podcasts. I listen to them as much as I can and subscribe to so many I can’t even listen to them all before the new ones come out! The good thing about subscribing (which I love) is that when new eipisodes come out, they just get downloaded automatically. I use itunes and an ipod, which may seem like a cop-out to some, but it is what I have and know, so it works for me. If you want to use itunes, here it is.

One of the podcasts that I watch (and I get about 90% audio and 10% video and this just happens to be video) is Martha Stewart. It appears from the intro and all that it is the same as the Martha Stewart On Demand from cable, but the podcast is plenty for me, and it is just one segment out of the whole show, so it is perfect for me! And the podcast makes me go to her site if I see something I like, so if you want to go to it too (and she has a blog too which I of course, follow) then go to (link) MarthaStewart.com.

So back to the cookies. The video I saw and recipe I got from Martha was for snickerdoodles. I made them on Saturday and they were amazing. I did not have shortening, so I just substituted butter and it turned out great! It was so easy and if you want to do something EASY and maybe get the kids involved, I would highly recommend this recipe! Sometimes, getting the kids involved is more mess than I have the energy to clean up, but if you have the energy and want to involve the kids, there is a part where you make the dough (which is easy and this is NOT the part I would get the involved in, but if you want to, they can do it!) And after you make the dough and form it into balls, you roll it in a cinnamon-sugar mixture. This is perfect for the kids to do!

I had tried them a few years ago with a different recipe and they did not turn out well at all, but these looked amazing and tasted even better! I will definitely do them again, and soon. (I do need to buy more cinnamon first as I have none left after this recipe!)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Saturday's Deep Thoughts

Now that I lost weight, I can wear all the stuff I wanted to wear in my 20s, but now I am too old to wear any of it. I am not quite 40, but chasing it down, so tight little short skirts *finally* do not scare people (due to the weight - they might for other reasons!) and I am too old to get away with it.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Usernames and passwords in Word

One of the best things I have ever done to keep track of all those usernames and passwords is to store them in a Word document. Now I am sure there is some IT security expert who will tell me how easy it is to hack into my computer, but honestly, there is so little there it would hardly be worth it and it is the lesser of all of the evils!

I know you are supposed to remember all the usernames and passwords, but I do not have a great brain. Who can remember all of that?? I even try to stick to just one or two usernames and passwords and still, I have a hard time remembering them all. If nothing else, I forget where all I have registered online and where I have not – yet! So many sites now require you to be registered to do anything, even read it!

So, like I said, I know it is not foolproof, but it is safer than some on the alternatives! I keep all my passwords and usernames and list of sites for which they are used in a Word document on my desktop. If I wanted to be really fancy, I would call it something else, (a trick!) so no one would know what it is, but I figure if someone really wants to get my information, they are going to get it, no matter what I call it, so I do not even bother to do that.

There are online sites that store them all for you now, but honestly, that seems to me like more of a pain. I know you can get to them from anywhere and all that jazz, but even with the best security, I do not want my information “out there”, if you know what I mean. I am not a freak about security, but that just seems really unsafe, even to me.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

To bang or not to bang…

And you thought this blog couldn’t get any more trivial…It’s gonna!

I have spent the last year growing out my bangs. It was not fun and definitely not pretty. I spent many months with my hair pulled back in a headband when the bangs were not quite long enough to go behind the ears yet or whatever.

I admire the bang-less look on so many people and thought I could do it. Many people make it look so great and so easy, right?

I was wrong.

I have now had all my hair the same length for two months and I cannot stand it. I do not think it looks nearly as good and, as someone chasing 40 (but not yet catching it!), I do not think I should be exposing my forehead as much as I currently do.

I am glad I gave it a try and I will now not wonder what it might look like, but I am not going to stick with it just because I am stubborn. And trust me, I thought about that. I figured that I had spent a year doing this, so I was going to stick it out. But then I figured that there was no use looking like an idiot if I didn’t have to. I mean, more of an idiot...

Don’t get me wrong, it is not awful, but it is HARD and I do not think even on my best days bang-less, it looks nearly as good as it could if I had bangs.

This was a hard decision and I labored over it for much longer than I should have, given that it was about my HAIR! But once I made the decision, I felt much better about it and didn’t even mind putting in the effort to do the bang-less hair quite as much. I think it was the thought that I knew it would end soon.

So I leave for the beauty shop in less than an hour and I cannot wait!

My Desk

So right now, my desk is a mess. I have piles everywhere and the fact that I am organized and I teach others to be organized too means that this drives me nuts! It is OK to fall off the wagon once in a while if you know you can get right back up and get up when you need to.

I think that part of the issue is that I bite off more than I can chew. And I do that a lot too. I think I can do much more than I really can! Sure, I could do it all if I devoted hours to it and did nothing else but that. And it just might get to that in the next week if I cannot get it done the regular way. But this is real life and between all the other junk that needs to get done and me staying sane, it takes a lot longer to do anything than I plan.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Knitting fingerless gloves

They look cool, so I thought I would give it a try. I was going to just make up a pattern, so I had no idea how much yarn it would take or what size needles to use.

I found I had 2 skeins of a pinky bulky wool, so I decided to use that. First of all, I love pink, second of all, wool would be warm, and thirdly, two skeins seems like it would be enough. I spent the first several minutes wrapping one skein of yarn into a ball to make it easier to work with. That seemed to go well. I know, I know, that was the easy part, but it started well, right?

So I went through my knitting bag and found I had 3 sizes of double-pointed needles, which I would need to knit this in the round and not have a seam, which sounded like a good idea: 4, 8, and 11. I started with the 8s, which after looking at a few patterns, seemed like a good idea. I cast on 24 stitches (also gleaned from a combination of a few different patterns) and started. The double pointed needles were a little unwieldy and everywhere, so I yanked it out and decided to do it on straight size 9 needles and have a seam. I did 2” in a 3 x 3 rib and 7” (total, including the first 2”) in a stockinette and then saved off 6 stitches on either end of the thumb hole. I saved those stitches off with a piece of scrap yarn and did another 4 inches in stockinette on the remaining stitches for the hand. When I was done, I bound those stitches off. I then went back to the thumb, which I had to do in two part because they were not next to each other (which I would do next time). When I finished the whole thing, I stitched up the sides so I had a complete glove. It looked great. Then, I tried it on. The body of it and the thumb fit great, the fingers/hand, not so much. The thing was so tiny on the finger part, that it smooshed (yes, the technical term) my fingers together and I knew I would never wear it like that.

So much for my fear of doing two the same!

I started over. I decided I needed more stitches and bigger needles. So I cast on 36 stitches with the size 11 double points, thinking I would try it again. They were still unwieldy, but I just went a little slower and did it. After casting all the stitches on to a single needle, I split them among three needles, putting 12 stitches on each of three double pointed needles.

Again, I did 2” of a 3x3 rib and then stockinette to the thumb hole. To the thumb hole, I did 7” total again, including the 2” at the beginning. Then, I put 9 stitches on a stitch holder for the thumb. I knit another 4” in stockinette stitch. Then I cast off the stitches with a size 13 straight needle. I thought that casting off with a slightly larger needle might help with the “too small” issue I had before. After it was done, I went back to the thumb hold and put those 9 stitches back on 2 double pointed needles. I did another 2” and cast it off, also with the slightly larger straight needle. When it was done, it looked great and even though it was almost 11:00 PM, I woke up my husband to make him look at it because I was so proud of myself!

They were perfect for me, but another adult tried them on and they were too big for her, so you might have to play with it a little bit. Since it is stretchy, I might do the next pair with only 30 stitches, instead of 36.

I love it. It looks great and I am so excited to have it done. Now, to make another one so I have a pair – that might be a challenge. But I am so excited to wear them that I might be able to do it pretty quickly! I think I could have done the whole pair with one skein, but with the first one issue, I am close to the end of the ball, so I will make a ball out of the other skein and use that one, since I do not want a knot in the middle of the glove. But I will "frog" the other one and use the yarn for something else. It is so purty!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

February Resolution

So these were my resolutions last month - preliminarily

January – Writing life more organized
February – House cleared of all the clutter and ready to sell (I am almost there but need another sweep, so it is perfect for a short month!)
March – Closets cleaned and spring/summer clothes out and washed
April – Birthdays for the year in one list and cards bought or made for them all
May – Christmas list made (at least for extended family and friends)
June – Get my body more toned
July – Inventory knitting needles and yarn
August – Get kids organized and ready for school at least 2 weeks in advance
September – Inventory Halloween and Christmas decorations, put them in separate and appropriate boxes
October – Halloween costumes for the kids cute and appropriate for the weather
November – Christmas cards done and sent
December – Christmas shopping and wrapping done at least 14 days in advance

January is not quite done, but close. I am all ready for February. And I have not yet sold the house or moved, so the resolution is the same!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Saturday's Deep Thoughts

The remote is too complicated, which is why we got the ONE simple one, then it broke and we were lost!!!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Menu Planning

Menu planning is the key to making dinner work for us. It might not be for everyone, but I cannot imagine why it would not work for anyone!

Every Sunday, we plan what we are going to have for dinner each night until next Sunday. It makes the time before dinner so much less stressful. Who has not thought at 5:00PM “What am I going to make for dinner tonight?” And most of the time even if I can think of something I want for dinner, I usually don’t have all the right ingredients. (Sound familiar?) We may not make the planned meal on the planned night, but if we make a change, it is just a swap, so we have all the stuff and we know what we are having in advance still.

The other good thing about planning in advance is that it makes budgeting and spending less at the grocery store so much easier. And who does not want to spend less at the grocery store? Especially with prices what they are now? You only have to buy what you are going to need and use, rather than just what you *might* use or want. We have saved so much time and money with this method. I have been doing it for 3 years now and it makes huge difference. It makes it so much easier when you have some other issue going on. When we don’t do it (because there are some weeks where Sunday just gets insane) we can definitely see the difference. The stress and daily visits to the grocery store tell the story.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


If there is one thing that an organized TV-watcher loves, it is organizing even that aspect of her life. And I have done it. I use my DVR so much now… For lack of a better term, I will call it Tivo, because that is what it is, but it can be any service. I just happen to have Tivo and we call it that…

I will admit now that I went into the whole Tivo thing kicking and screaming several years ago. We were definitely early adopters on this thing. My DH really wanted it and so I gave in but thought I would never need it or want it. Let me just tell you, it has completely changed the way I watch TV! I hate to admit that I love it, but I do!

First of all, we almost never watch live TV anymore. Even a show we like that we want to end at about the right time (American Idol, Survivor) we typically start about 20 minutes into it, so we can skip all the commercials and just watch the show. I am sure that I am an advertisers’ worst nightmare, but oh well. I have learned that we can watch a 30 minute show in 22 minutes and a 60 minute show in 40 minutes. This is how much non-show TV we watch every hour, folks!

Then there is the Season Pass Manager. Anyone who has one might know what I am talking about, but first of all, you can pick programs you like or want by name and never know what time or channel it is on. It is already better than a videotape or a VHS. The other thing is that it will record all or new episodes that you want, not just a single episode. The best part is that you can then prioritize the shows that you want. My husband and I still do not agree on how you prioritize items (and we are not going to go over that argument again…) The worst part is that when you change the order or anything on the season pass, there is a 10 minute wait.

Having this DVR has completely changed the way I watch TV and I like it a lot! When I first got it, I was all excited about maybe being able to pause live TV, since we had young kids. But what I had planned to do and what I actually do is much different.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Mystery of Pee

I know it doesn’t seem like it should be a mystery, but I have been toilet training my youngest forever now. It has been 18 months, which is way too long. He has been pretty good for the last 12 months or so, but still makes me wipe him (GROSS!) and does not have perfect aim yet when it comes to using the toilet for #1. (I am trying to be politically correct, but it is so hard!)

Anyway, he hits is more often than not now, but there are times when our half bath off the kitchen smells like a truck stop. Or a frat house. Or a gas station. You can insert your own worst experience in a bathroom here. But I know that when it comes out it is just barely yellow and after a few days, or sometimes even a few hours, there is a dried on bit of DARK YELLOW gunk on the bottom ledge of the toilet, near the floor, but not on it. I could not figure this out for the longest time. You may be in the same place as I am. So after a few weeks, I asked my husband, somewhat rhetorically, what this could be. Lo and behold, he actually had an answer.

When the kid pees and misses, it goes to that spot. And this is the part that eluded me. THEN THE WATER IN IT EVAPORATES, leaving the darker yellow gunk. Who knew?

All I know is that I will be so excited when everyone pees in the toilet and makes it and I don’t have to sit in pee. And since the older ones are too lazy to always lift the seat, that might be when they all move out of the house! (I have actually sat on a wet seat twice in the last month. EWWWWWW!)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Beverage Center

Do you love coffee in the morning? Well, really, this works for just about any beverage, but coffee sounds so much better, doesn’t it? And lately I have been really into iced coffee and this is perfect for that!

Many of you have probably done this already and do not really think of it as organizing, but it is! I did not do it for years and am now kicking myself for not thinking of it earlier! (Or reading about it somewhere and just doing it!)

I keep all my items for beverages together in the same cabinet. (Picture here)

That sounds rather obvious, but for so many people it is a matter of “do what I say and not as I do” here. I keep the coffee maker just under that same cabinet. I also pre-set the coffee maker the night before to start at 6:15AM so that it is done when I get up at 6:30. That is such a cool feature. Washing it out and refilling it for the next day is part of my dinner routine. It works so well. I keep the dry coffee, the artificial sweetener (in a cute crock!), the non-dairy creamer, and the coffee cups that I use in the cabinet just above the coffee maker. It is so easy to find everything, even when I am dead-tired in the morning!

And since that is my “beverage cabinet” I also keep all the tea bags there, as well as the dry Kool-Aid, Crystal Light, and anything else that does not need to be refrigerated that is associated with drinking. (Not THAT kind of drinking, but I am sure you could put that there too. Should I be worried if mine will not all fit there?)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Saturday's Deep Thoughts

It seems as if the people who love self-help books the most need them the least. Is that because they have read a lot of them and made themselves better or is it because those kinds of people want to be just a little bit better and those who really need them know that it is a lost cause?

Thrift Stores

Volunteering at the thrift store, which I do for 2 hours a week, is the best thing ever for someone like me. It is like perpetually organizing someone else’s closet! I am sure I am the only one who loves being a “sorter” in the back room. It never seems to end and people keep bringing stuff in, but I love it! If I can do it while listening to my ipod, all the better!

I originally started to do it because it would make me go in there and I wanted to get cheap jeans for the kids, who get holes in the knees, even as pre-teens. I don’t get it. But I digress. Anyway, I originally just wanted to get jeans, but I ended up finding so much more, mostly name brand stuff, for like $2 each. I could not beat it. I am now wishing I had been doing this for years now because I could have saved a lot of money!

Anyway, back to the volunteering thing. I just finished my third stint there and I am still loving it. I would think if the novelty was going to wear off, it would have done it last week or this week and it has not! So if you really like organizing your own closet and that of others, like kids or other family or whatever, then I highly recommend spending just a little time working at a thrift store. The management there will be so grateful and it will fill, at least partially, your need to organize someone else!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Making Laundry a Little Easier

I am a big fan of Real Simple magazine. The new one – the October issue – came out over the weekend and I read it right away. There was a great section in it on the readers’ greatest organizing tip, which I thought was great! The actual article could not be found on the website, but here is something very similar.

If you have never been to their website, I highly recommend it, because there are tons of great ideas and articles and you might just find something you like or need, even if you weren’t looking for it. The website is here. I could spend all day just reading stuff on that website, but I have to actually get stuff done around here. It is so sad that I have to actually do work! (As the washer runs and the dishwasher is on and the countdown to getting my youngest at preschool is on…)

But for an original tip, I thought I would share what has mostly worked for laundry. I say “mostly”, because the kids are still driving me nuts, but less so now.

For the adults, we have two laundry baskets in our closet. No hampers. At all. Our closet is, thankfully, a walk-in, but this tip would work with almost any-sized closet. Like I said, we have 2 baskets in out closet, one for lights and one for darks. This is the most I could get anyone to sort anything, ever, so it works for us. “Darks” includes our green towels, but if we had lighter towels, they would go in there. Needless to say, that basket fills up a lot quicker. When a basket gets full, I wash it. It is already sorted and in the basket. It could not be easier!

For the kids, they each have a laundry basket (smaller than ours) in their rooms and there is one in the bathroom upstairs (their bathroom). When it gets full OR every Thursday (at least), they are to bring those baskets to the laundry room. I still have to remind them most Thursdays, and sometimes they are overflowing, but there is no excuse for them anymore. The reason we went to the laundry baskets in their rooms was that they were constantly arguing about whose stuff was whose in the laundry. While they still do that a little (and claim the other threw it in their basket, etc.) I can easily say to them, “If it was in your basket, then you do it!” and be done with it. I have also said to them that if there is NOTHING in the bathroom basket but towels, I will do it. That almost never happens, but the ideal situation is that clothes get taken off in their rooms, towels get used and discarded in the bathroom, and there are no towels in their personal laundry and no clothes in the bathroom. Like I said, almost NEVER happens, but that is the theory and what we are striving towards. Maybe by the time they leave the house at age 18, that will happen!

Laundry still sucks and it is never-ending, but with a simple system in place, it is a little better than it could be.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I have been thinking about what I want to do with my life as the next chapter and honestly, I am paralyzed with fear, I think. It was easy in my other job to call things “out of reach” and not think about them because even then, there were so many things I wanted to do. But now that I have the opportunity to actually do one, I cannot pick one yet. There are so many things still and many of them are not related at all.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The house is for sale. Wanna buy it?

Selling a home is hard. I know that most people know this already, but when your house is not actively for sale, it is easy to forget how hard! My house has now been for sale for just over 6 months. During this economy, the time frame is not too huge (yet!) but the worst part of this is that during this time, I feel as if I cannot LIVE in my house. I want to do things to the house and yard, but I do not want to spend any money on the house now. We typically have the scariest yard during October and especially at Halloween. However, this year, we did nothing and it was disappointing. Our fake headstones gather dust in the garage. It is so frustrating!

Sunday, January 18, 2009


So the school called this morning and said my youngest, who is 3 and in preschool had a “play-doh accident”. My first thought was “Can you have a play-doh accident?” and then I thought maybe he ate it or shoved it up his nose… But no. There was this play-doh toy that is like an extruder with plates that slide on and off the front of it. I am sure many of you have it at home. Heck, we have it at home! So I went into the school to look at his fingers and they were a little banged up, but being the third BOY I have had, not a big deal at all. They problem they were having is that he refused to use that hand, for anything. For a few hours, that is perfectly normal, even for him. When I have a nail break off too low, I avoid using that hand for days!

How did it happen, you ask? When we have one at home, it is odd that he would do anything like that at school, right? I asked the teachers the same thing. Apparently he was playing with it and put his fingers into it (who knows why, but I have learned not to ask the WHY question) and another little boy closed it on his fingers. He is also 3 and my son’s BFF at school, so I am sure it was an accident, so I am not worried about it at all.

He had a small cut, but it was so small you could barely see it! It was not a big deal. So he stayed at school and since he only does half-days anyway, I was back in 2 hours to get him.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Saturday's Deep Thoughts

I have been thinking a lot about why I like to mess around in the kitchen so much and I think I have finally figured it out. When I make something for the family, especially something sweet, I feel like I am taking good care of them and doing something that makes them happy.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Cuisinart Griddler

A Christmas would not be complete without some kitchen gadget finding its way into my life and this year was no exception. And it makes it easier to “experiment” in the kitchen which is good for both you and me! I wanted a Cuisinart Griddler and that was really the only kitchen thing I wanted. And yes, I did get it!

Let me go back and say that I was already thinking about pulling the old George Foreman grill (I tried to find a link online but I guess mine is so old that they don't even make it anymore!) out of storage (sorry, George!) but had not yet. With the Foreman, I loved that it grilled stuff and drained off the fat. I did NOT love that it was SO hard to clean. That problem is mostly solved with this Griddler because it has plates that are removable and dishwasher-safe AND the top does not close on a hinge, per se, but sits on top of whatever is cooking. It is like the best of both worlds. I do love it.

So on Christmas morning, we made pancakes for breakfast. I did not want to spend all day cooking so I found a recipe on, guess where? Of course, allrecipes.com for pancakes where you just thrown all the ingredients into the blender. Blend it up, and cook it. (It has been so long since I made it that I cannot even find it on the site, but I know it is there!) I loved the concept. The kids loved the taste. It had a lot of sugar in it and it was kind of sweet. Like I said, the kids loved it. It also might be great for a sweet fruit topping or whatever. But when you are adding syrup, which is already sweet enough, it was just a little too sweet. I will tweak this or find another one soon. But they turned out great!

And then the next day we had leftover ham, so began two days of paninis for lunch! I made ham & cheese paninis twice in it with the grill plates. It was amazing. The day after Christmas, we had planned to make burgers, but the outdoor grill was covered with snow, so the Griddler came to the rescue and we had them indoors. They tasted amazing and cooked super-fast, what with cooking on two sides at once, however, the Griddler could apparently not drain the fat fast enough on these uber-greasy burgers. The plates were really dirty (gotta love that dishwasher-safe thing!) and even under the plates got greasy and when I tried to clean it the next day, it would NOT come clean. I might be stuck with a dirty thing forever. The good thing is that the plates look wonderful, so no one knows about the dirty insides but me. However, it just really bothers me that it got so messed up on the second day!