Monday, January 31, 2011

Coupon Crazies


I've been bitten by the coupon bug again.  It seems like my desire to scout the deals ebbs and flows and right now, I'm in coupon mode.  Double coupons make my heart sing.  And triple coupons?  Well, let's just say that triple coupons make me want to break out into song and dance. 

The grocery store near my gym doubles up to .99 coupons daily, but on the first day of every month, they double up to $1.99.  For reasons beyond my control, I haven't been able to partake in this exciting day since they started doing it back in the fall.  Tomorrow, even though it's a school holiday and I'll have to bring along my unwilling shopping partner, I'm going.

I don't even care that we're supposed to be pelted with freezing rain tomorrow. Nope, I'm bringing my allotted 20 coupons and scoring some deals. 

It takes a little work to figure out what coupons to use.  The grocery store, Bloom, is sort of pricey so some items, even with a doubled coupon, are often still more expensive then what I could get at the commissary with a non doubled coupon.  However, Bloom has Sabra's hummus (my favorite) and the commissary does not.  It's on sale this week and I have a $1 coupon.


There's nothing like some cheap Greek olive Sabra's hummus to cheer a girl up

Numbers are definitely not my thang and even though math is required, double coupons make my heart and (inner nerd), very happy

Coupon planning has kept me busy this weekend, which is good.  I kind of need the distraction.  Craig made it to Little Rock, Arkansas yesterday and spent the evening with his grandma and dad.  He didn't give them advanced warning that he was coming and thankfully he didn't give his 83 year old grandma a heart attack when he wound up on her front porch.

Today he's driving to his final destination, deep in the heart of Texas.  I hope he doesn't pick up line dancing and chewing tobacco!  I told him when he comes home for two weeks of leave, he better not be wearing a 10 gallon hat and a big belt buckle.  If Craig starts listening to country music, then I'll really know he's been Tex-ified. 

Not that there is anything wrong with Texas.

I'm smart enough to, you know, never mess with Texas.  I've actually  been to Texas before.  Twice.  Once I met my mom, sister, aunt and cousin in Dallas for a girls weekend and the second time we drove from Georgia to Little Rock and then down to Texas (the same place Craig is going) to visit a friend.  It was lovely.

The sky is really big in Texas. 

Anyway, we're settling into our old routine.  In a way, it feels like Craig never even came home.  When he comes back, it feels like he didn't leave and when he goes, it feels like he never came home.

It's sort of weird.

I've already reorganized our closets, giving Craig all white coat hangers and me all green.  Then I threw away a bunch of old plastic food storage containers and gathered a pile of things to donate.

Double coupons and decluttering:  it's how I cope


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Her Airness

If you asked Caroline if she wanted to go to a ballet class, she'd give you a disgusted, bewildered look; the type of look one might shoot you if you were caught kicking a puppy.  I don't know what makes one girl a girly-girl and another girl someone like Caroline.  Is it nature or nurture?  It may be my fault because I never put her in dresses and never played up the whole 'princess' thing, but honestly, I think, no...I know, that Caroline is exactly who God intended her to be.

She's a tender hearted, messy, dirt magnet, activity loving girl who likes Webkinz, math and cats and doesn't complain if I put her in pink, but would rather die than wear a dress.

Works for me.

Since we're in between the fall and spring soccer seasons, we thought we'd give basketball a try.  She played once in Kindergarten; her coach was 8 feet tall and from another country.  Because he was twice the size of the 5 year olds and had a very thick accent, the kids didn't learn much. They had fun, though.  I suppose that's what is most important.

Even in third grade, basketball is just for fun.  No score keeping allowed.  But you know as well as I do that the kids keep score. 

So does the coach.  Unofficially, of course.

One might think that an only child, who doesn't always have to share, would be a ball hog, but on the contrary, Caroline is quite the sharer.  She passes the ball more than she shoots, but every team needs a playmaker, right?

She is actually more defense minded and shadows her 'man' quite proficiently.  I'm surprised that number 45 didn't elbow Caroline by the end of the game.  I know I probably would have!

Caroline's team, the Hot Shots, has blown away the competition in each of their three games:  52-4, 78-4, 60-4. 

Clearly, they're having lots of fun.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

It's Never Easy

Caroline is a real trooper and handles separation from her dad with ease, but this newest situation has hit her harder than any other. 

She's not exactly falling apart, but she is a little extra weepy. 

As you can guess, Craig left today.  He hung around for Caroline's basketball game and a quick bite to eat before getting in his packed-to-the-gills Civic and heading westward.

But, in usual Craig fashion, he couldn't leave without first stopping to frantically search for his watch.

If it's not his watch, it's his wallet or ID, phone or phone charger.  He has a gift for misplacing things.  Of course, he'll tell you it's because I move his things, but those are bold faced lies.  ;)

There really isn't much else to say.  The first day is the weirdest and before long all three of us will each settle into a routine and it'll begin to feel less strange.

This isn't anything new and in the grand scheme of military life, this isn't even the hardest thing anyone has had to face. 

It's never easy, but we will survive.

Friday, January 28, 2011

This Is Not The Best Day Ever

Be warned:  I'm going to whine. 

School is canceled again and to make matters worse, Monday and Tuesday are teacher workdays.  For those keeping track, this means a seven day weekend.

Seven days! 

If you could see my face, you'd be able to tell, without any uncertainty, that I'm wholly unamused.   My sanity level is directly related to the amount of time the kids spend in school and NOT in my house. 

It's tragic, I tell you.  My life is tragic.

For the 10 and under crowd, these last three days have been one big snow party around here.  And quite obviously, our house has been dubbed the party house.    They play in the snow, come in, slam the storm door, dump their wet clothes all over my floor, demand a snack and make a loud, obnoxious mess.  And then they repeat.

On top of all the hot chocolate, string cheese and popcorn, I've served, I've also fed 2-3 of Caroline's friends lunch for the past three days.  Honestly, I'm okay with that, because mac and cheese or sandwiches with fruit is easy and cheap and I do have to feed my own kid, regardless.   However, it's become sort of expected and that I'm not a fan of.  But, I'll continue to do it because kids need lunch.  Besides, if I don't feed them lunch, they'll just eat all my snacks, anyway.

Caroline has the hospitality gene I sorely lack; She's a 'y'all come in now' kind of girl and I'm more of a 'get out of my house' type of person.  I haven't exactly recovered from last weekend's slumber party festivities, which could account for some of my irritability.

Me?  Irritable?  No way!

Speaking of last weekend's festivities, remember the leak that led to giant holes in our basement and bathroom?  The dry wall guys were supposed to come on Wednesday at 8 am to do their dry wall thing. 

They didn't come.

I got up at 5 am and went to the gym at 5:30 on Wednesday morning to be home in time to greet them..  And they never came.  5:30!  I went to the gym at 5:30--in the dark!  I don't run at 5:30.   And yet, I did.  For what turned out to be, no good reason at all.

Quite unexpectedly, the dry wall guys are here now; they arrived this morning, completely unannounced.   I was at the gym when the came, but Craig was home with Caroline.  When I arrived home, their big van was blocking my driveway.  I had to park in any icy parking spot, which really made me very unhappy.  I'm not proud of this, but I admit that I huffed and puffed a little bit.  With quite the melodramatic flair, I slung my groceries on to the icy stairs, grabbed the snow shovel and proceeded to break up (read:  beat the bloody daylights out of) some of the ice around my car to make it easier to back up later on.  You should have seen me banging on the ice.  Talk about anger management issues; those clumps of ice didn't stand a chance.
On top of that, as I was hacking at the ice, Caroline came over and in her sing-songy voice asked me to make lunch for her and her friends.  If looks could kill,  Craig and I would be childless right now.  Eventually, I calmed down and made lunch.  And now, on top of all the tragedy I've dealt with today, four loud kids are in my house playing board games.  Couple  that with the two dry wall guys, who are making a huge mess, and you've got one on edge blogger.

Oh, and Craig is leaving tomorrow. 

He keeps delaying his departure, to buy us a little more time, but the fact is, he has to be at his new duty station by Monday night.  The inevitable can no longer be delayed, I fear.

Yep, it's not the best day ever.

All I want to do is bake to relieve some stress, but I don't have anyone to bake for anymore.  I mean, I could bake for us, but then I'd eat it all and I'm not really in the mood to start a fresh cycle of self loathing. 

I just don't have the energy to hate on myself right now.

Holy crow, did someone sprinkle some extra drama in my coffee this morning, or what?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Favorite Flavors

It's not exactly a secret that I adore chocolate.  As much as I enjoy a good hunk of dark chocolate, preferably one that is smeared with peanut butter, if asked to pick my favorite sweet flavors, I'd dump chocolate in favor of something in the toffee/caramel/brown sugar/butterscotch family.  Warm and sweet, buttery and slightly nutty.   Of course, if you dip that toffee in chocolate, I'd have absolutely nothing to complain about.

It's a mystery, really.  I mean, I love chocolate; chocolate and I go way back.  But if I had to choose between a chocolate and vanilla milkshake, I'd pick vanilla. Mocha or caramel macchiato?  Macchiato, please.    Hot fudge or caramel sundae?  Caramel wins handsdown.  But when it comes to brownies and blondies, I'd probably choose a brownie. 

I'm a woman of many contradictions.

I had one last chance to supply Craig's co workers with some tasty treats before he leaves at the end of the week. :(  Taking inspiration from the baking supplies I had tucked away in my pantry, I decided to celebrate my favorite flavors in this week's offerings:


and caramel

Yes, those caramel bits look a little like chickpeas,

but I assure you, they're caramel.

For my final contribution to brownie-palooza  I went against my firm 'no nuts in brownies' stance to make  caramel-pecan brownies.

I love the shiny, crackly top.

Mmmm, ribbon of caramel.

These were pretty tasty.  Again, I don't really like nuts in brownies, but because the pecans were mixed with my beloved caramel, I gave them a chance.  I'd probably still prefer to just have a nice ribbon of caramel, sans pecans, but these weren't for me, so it doesn't really matter.

Next up:  oatmeal toffee white chocolate cookies


What are your favorite flavors?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Royal Redemption

Remember these tragic Christmas cookies?

You know, my maiden voyage into royal icing territory that didn't end well?

The cookies that were not only ugly,

but tasteless and gave me heartburn too? 

You may not remember them, but I sure do. How could I forget?  These cookies have been haunting (haunting!) me for well over a month.

Well, I'm happy to report that I've been vindicated.  Hallelujah, I've been redeemed!

Victory over my royal icing woes has never smelled, nor tasted so sweet.

Honestly, I'm not 100% sold on the sugar cookie recipe I used, but it is miles above the first one I tried.  No heartburn, thankfully.

I rolled the dough thick and under baked, but they still were a bit too crisp for my liking.  However, after a few days, the cookies did soften. 

These are still far from perfect, but my hand was so much steadier this time.

You have no idea how badly I wish I could fix the smudge on that lower right petal.

I suppose, however, that the joy of my victorious rematch with royal icing shall be enough to help me forget about that smudge.

There is still work to be done to perfect my cookie art,

but for now, I shall relish my purple cookie success.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Eight Is Too Much

Caroline's party started out innocent enough. 

How is it that every 'small' party ends up bigger and bigger by the time the party day rolls around?  Her original party of five jumped to a party of eight, which doubled (well, not literally) the fun....and tripled the chaos.  It's okay, birthdays only come around once a year. 

Thank goodness. 

I'm not sure if I could handle more than one of these shin digs a year, which then makes me feel like a total wuss because moms of more than one do have to deal with such things.  And then  I think about my sister in law who is pregnant with baby number eight.  Caroline's one night slumber party is my sister in law's every day reality.  I probably shouldn't complain, should I?

Anyway, as all good parties should, ours started off with a table full of food.

Fruit + skewers to make kabobs.

and drink umbrellas for the unpictured fruit smoothies.

Come to think of it, a lot of what happened during the party went unpictured.  It's hard to serve food, clean up messes, control (or at least try to control) the masses AND take pictures at the same time.

Before we ate make-it-yourself pizzas and stabbed fruit with wooden pokers, the girls painted their initial letters.

and then they painted each other.

Food was eaten, messes were made, kiwi ended up on the bottom of two of the girls feet and then some loud and obnoxious games were played.  One involved a dark basement, flashlights and blood curdling screams; the other was 'beach themed' pictionary.  Oh, and a scavanger hunt, with clues put together by Caroline and Bailey, to find the hidden coconut. 

And then there were presents.

and cake! 

Caroline doesn't like to be sung to.

And this is where the pictures really stop because by the end of cake time, I was nearing the point where I felt like crawling in a sound proof hole.

But before I could actually lose it, we made paper flowers.   And I swept up little tissue paper pieces.  Twice.  Because we started upstairs and somehow the floral party moved downstairs at one point.

And then there was Just Dance 2 on the Wii and some DVRd Disney Channel shows.  Oh, and then we noticed the drippy ceiling.  The girls had hot chocolate and popcorn while I tried to find the source of the water drips and emailed our landlord.

By 11, I begged the girls to quiet down, but they didn't. 

They had a pillow fight instead. 

At 11:20 they started to color and I crawled up to my bedroom, exhausted, defeated and praying I wouldn't wake up to a flood in my basement.

The girls finally fell asleep around midnight; I followed soon after.  We all woke early, ready to eat a nutritious breakfast of doughnuts.  Shouldn't every birthday slumber party end with doughnuts in the morning?  Except, one poor party guest woke with a headache and a low grade fever; her mom came to get her, leaving her twin sister here to eat the doughnuts I snuck out to get from Dunkin Donuts. 

Like I said earlier, Craig wasn't here for the party because he was visiting his friend who lives 70 miles away.  It was all okay, except I did place one stipulation on the whole situation:  Craig HAD TO be home by 8:30 am with doughnuts.  Otherwise, he'd be subjected to the wrath of one very unhappy girl.  That would be me, not Caroline. 

Gladly, Craig came home earlier than expected, but without the doughnuts, which was actually okay because he was home by 7.  I was really quite happy to escape to pick them up myself.  A few moments of silence, the intoxicating smell of the inside of a Dunkin Donuts and a large coffee were calling my name. 

All in all, the girls had a good time.  That's all that matters, right?

But next year? 

Next year, I'm not throwing a party  I'll remember that eight is most definitely too much.