Monday, July 25, 2011

Spring Cleaning...on the hottest weekend in July

We didn't want to do much to leave air conditioning this weekend, with temps over 100 degrees! So, of course, we decided to clean out the refrigerator. We were inspired by this picture we found on Pinterest (if you haven't tried pinning, you are missing out!)

This is what our fridge looked like before. Think we could find much of anything in there? nope. We decided we wanted to use containers (like in the picture), so measured everything first. The key measurement was depth. If you get containers that are too shallow, you will constantly lose stuff behind them. Then we went to Walmart and got some containers that could work.

Next, we took out all the food, and threw away anything scary (we did find a sauce bottle that expired in 2005!!). Then we took out all the drawers and shelves and while DH cleaned most of those, I got in the fridge with clorox and cleaned the heck out of it. Only when everything was sparking white, did we put shelves and such back in. We had to replace the produce drawer, as the kids had broken it years ago.

Then we tried to organize the food we had. We had LOTS of yogurt and LOTS of cheese (the kids could probably live on an all-dairy diet). So one bin went for yogurts, and another (smaller) bin went for string cheese and other single-serving cheeses. We put the rest of the cheese (good "mom and dad" cheese, shredded cheese, etc), back in the cheese drawer. We have a "toppings" bin with "shaker" cheese, sour cream, bacon bits, tomato sauce and ketchup. Lunch items (cold cuts, lunchables, etc) went in the small drawer. The other big bin has "dinner" items - things I am defrosting, have ready for dinner that week, left overs, etc. Produce goes in the bottom drawer.The top has sort of anything else.

Then we organized the door shelves. They were crazy. We consolidated, threw out much, and tried to organize as best we could (international sauces, bbq sauces, salad dressings, etc).

And here is the big reveal. Not the best pics, I apoligize (iPhone), but gives you an idea. And yes, ASAP I will be switching out that top blue bin for a white one. Makes me crazy, but the white ones we bought didn't fit on the top with the built-in water dispenser. I had this blue one sitting around, and it fit. But I will switch it out for a white one as soon as I can.

We made the kids come in and oooohh and ahh over the clean fridge. Lets see how long it lasts! Hopefully we will all find it easier to use and will keep it like this!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Ways of the Universe!

We have quickly been reminded that the universe always has ways of even-ing things out. Just 2 weeks ago we made our last daycare payment. After 9 years of daycare payments, we are finally free. Think of the money! Well, the universe quickly took care of that.

First, our car died. Totally died, leaving me at work stranded, when I was supposed to pick up all three kids and get two of them to piano lessons. Not so much. Turned out it was the alternator and battery. And the bumping noise we had been hearing was the brake rotors, which had also worn bad patterns in our relatively new brake pads. $1400 and we were golden.

The next day the painter we had hired to deal with our porch finds termites in the posts. Joy.

Then, the truck has the A/C die this weekend. Not looking forward to that estimate.

So just when we thought we would get some of that credit card debt paid off, the universe acts to suck up any money we were saving.

I shouldn't be surprised.

I also shouldn't complain at all - we are very lucky, and have more money than we deserve. But still!!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

How To Store All Those Cool Ideas

Have you heard of Pinterest? It is soooo great! It is a place where you can store all the great ideas (recipes, crafts, decorating, gifts, etc) that you find online, and categorize them and make them easy to find! You can also see what others are "pinning" and "repin" their stuff too! I love it, and has really freed up all my saved internet pages and "starred" google reader stuff.

For example, here is a link to my "crafts I want to try" page -

I also have categories for recipes, pretty to look at, kids crafts, cool ideas, etc. It is a great way to keep all those ideas in one place! I highly recommend it! You have to get on a waiting list for an account, but it is usually about 48-72 hours. Go here to get started,!

That's what works for me, click here for more Works for Me ideas!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Get Your Day Started Right

I am back on WW. And I am actually following the program, so that's always good. ;) The hardest thing for me was breakfast. I was having a light yogurt every morning, and while it was low it points, it also made me hungry by 10am.

At my WW meeting, someone mentioned oatmeal. Now I have NEVER been a hot cereal type of gal. My grandmothers both had cream of wheat every morning and I thought it tasted like paste. I put all hot cereals in that category. But I was desperate, so I figured i had nothing to lose. I went straight to the top and got steel cut oatmeal. Not instant- the kind you have to cook nearly an hour.

But man, does it work! I eat some of these, and I am full for the whole morning. I can't believe it. They are really tasty too! I make a full batch and night, and then divide it into 4-6 containers. Then I just heat it up at work in the morning for 1 minute in the microwave, add a tiny bit of chopped walnuts and craisins, and I am good to go!

I use McCann's Irish Oatmeal. You can buy these oats at many grocery stores, but I have found them cheapest at Trader Joe's. Having a filling breakfast really works for me! For other works for me ideas, visit We Are That Family.

Monday, June 13, 2011

B Turned 7!

We are entering the "odd years" with our kids, and by August they will be 9, 7, and 5. B's birthday was this weekend. She is in love with the Disney movie "Tangled", so that was our theme. She actually had three parties - #1 at school (10 minutes, max - i brought in donuts and juice - they sang); #2 at out house with family friends (had the fancy cake, did a few of the activities with the kids); and #3 her official with the friends she wanted to invite party (about 7 girls from school - whole shabang: fancy cake, 2 crafts, 1 game, lunch, movie, and favors). It was actually all fun, although I really needed to start working on all of it earlier than a few days
before. I had been planning it way before that, but just didn't get around to actual prep til way to late!

My favorite thing was the cake. I found several versions of this online, and put my own spin on it. I used Entemann's pound cake, a dowel, and mini chocolate-covered Krispy Kreme's. I love a cake that is no baking, and just assembly! B loved it. This is the second one. B insisted I add the little picture of Rapunzel (that I just cut out of paper). The "house" on the top is a cupcake, with a ice cream cone on top. The braid is just icing, as are the vines and flowers.

We used everything we could find on the Disney Family Fun website, and the kids made the Pascal party blowers and paper lanterns. We also played pin the flying pan on Flynn Rider, after using a projector to blow up the printable on the website.

For favors, the girls were given one of these necklaces I made with bottle caps, and a box of colored chalk (Rapunzel loves to paint and draw, and uses chalk with little kids in the village).

All in all, a very fun party. A little nuts, but still fun. At the grown up party we even launched a real "floating lantern" with fire. But we were scared and attached some yarn to keep from burning down the neighborhood. It didn't go up very far with the string weighing it down, but it was still cool.

And now my little B is 7!!! I can't believe it. She is 100% girl, very witty, and incredibly witty. I can't wait to see what the next year will bring.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Spring Break - part 2

When we left Columbus we made a small stop. I am a HUGE sucker for random Americana. World's largest ball of twine? Awesome! Foamhenge? Can't wait to go. So we had to stop and see the world's largest picnic basket that also happens to be an office building! I know! so cool! It is the headquarters of Longaberger - a company that makes baskets, of course. Is this awesome or what? People WORK in here. I LOVE it.

After indulging my weirdness, we continued on to Pittsburgh. Let's start by saying Pittsburgh was awesome! There is no RV park near the city, so we were about 25 minutes outside. Found the greatest hole-in-the-wall restaurant, for some great food! If you ever end up in Washington, PA - go there! On Friday morning we went on a ride on the Dusquene Incline. The kids loved it! There is a small museum on the top that shows the pulley system that makes the whole thing work - very cool. Then we headed to the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh. I grew up outside of Boston and am a total snob about children's museums - but this is probably the best one I have ever seen! We could have been there for 2-3 days, easy. To say it is interactive is an understatement. We spent a few hours in the garage - where kids can build stuff, make simple electronic circuits, use levers and pulleys, climb, etc. The also loved the Attic, and Mr. Roger's Neighborhood. K and I could have spent all day in the art studio. It was just really great.

Saturday morning we went to try some famous Pittsburgh pretzels. The place was a little take-out joint in an adorable area called Southside Flats, but man those pretzels were great. There were no tables, so we had a fun tailgate in the back of the pick-up. Then we headed downtown to the Carnegie Science Center. Yet another fabulous museum. The kids really like the special shows (one on electricity and another on fire), the robots, and the submarine!

Soon, it was time to head to the park for the baseball game. Despite a short rain delay, we had a great time. The Pirates stadium is fantastic. Right on the river, with views of many of the bridges. I had an amazing pulled pork & pierogi sandwich on a pretzel roll (with onion jam!). And the kids were thrilled when 2 of our own Washington Nationals Racing Presidents ran with the pierogis in between innings.

On Sunday, it was Easter. That crafty Easter bunny somehow managed to hide eggs in a travel trailer, due to rain outside. So although it wasn't the longest Easter Egg Hunt, the kids still had fun. We went to a small church for services, and were treated to a very nice Bell Choir.

All in all, a great adventure! Fun time had by all and kids can't wait to go back to COSI and the Children's Museum in Pittsburgh!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Preserving Memories

Someone was asking me about this the other day, and I thought it would make a good idea to share. My mom died 7 years ago, and I still miss her nearly every day. ( I swear, a week or so ago one of the kids did something, and my first thought was to call her up!) But one thing I did when she passed continues to bring me happiness.

Several months after her death, my Dad and I went through her clothes. I pulled out 5-6 outfits, that really spoke to me. Some were just casual clothes, but they really reminded me of her. A few were special outfits (like the dress she wore to my wedding). I found a woman online who agreed to make a quilt out of these random pieces of clothing. I'm sure you could find someone on Etsy who would do it in a heartbeat. It was only a few hundred dollars, but I love it. The fabrics don't go together - either in color or pattern. It was really an eclectic group. But it came out fantastic, and now hangs in the entry-way of my house. I LOVE it. It reminds me of my mom everyday, and makes each day a little brighter.

So if someone special in your life is gone. Think about something simple like this. It works for me! For more works for me ideas, visit!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Spring Break - rv/baseball style

So last month (ok, in April) we went on Spring Break. We took the RV and went on an adventure to see 3 major league ballparks. (when we got the RV we decided we wanted to try and bring the kids to see every MLB ballpark before K graduated from high school). Weft on a very rainy Saturday and headed to Cleveland. The game on Sunday was thankfully not rained out. It was a beautiful, albeit windy and kinda cold, day. And the Indians won. Big Man LOVED all the mascots - especially the racing hot dogs. We also took the kids to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Other than some ok local pizza, that was it for Cleveland.

On Monday we drove to Columbus, dropped off the RV with some friends we would be staying with, and headed for Cincinnati for a Reds game. Only 30 hours later, and what a change. The weather was GORGEOUS - sunny and in the high 70s. We had fun at the game, although the Reds played TERRIBLY. We did like the park - and got to enjoy some Cincinnati Chili, as well as the best hot dog I have ever had - called a "Beef and Swiss". If you ever get to the Reds park (which site right on the river), get one of these. You will not regret it!

We spent the next few days in Columbus. What a fun city! We visited the Columbus Zoo (of Jack Hannah fame), which is amazing. They have polar bears and grizzly bears and lots of cool animals. These bears were fighting inches from us! (several inches thick of plexiglass, but still!) It was very cool. We also went to Spaghetti Warehouse, which was B's favorite, and to Graeter's for some AWESOME ice cream (banana cream pie!). We spent a whole day at COSI, and could have been there for several days. K road a high-wire unicycle, and did the awesome Adventure in to the Valley of the Unknown (a cool scavenger hunt mystery). The other two loved the Oceans exhibit, KidSpace, and the Space exhibit. Very impressive museum!

Rest of the trip in a few days!................

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Little Chefs

When K turned 9 at the end of April, she wanted a cooking party. (Well, first she wanted a pool party, but thought of it too late and all the indoor pools were booked). It worked out great, so I thought I would share what we did.

First, we kept it small. She invited 8 girls from school, and only 6 were able to come. Awesome!

Second, we kept it simple. The girls were "making" three dishes. We did pizzas, smoothies, and cookies.

Third, we had tons of fun!

When each girl arrived, she was given a chef's apron off (ebay - $2 each), a small rolling pin ($1 each), and a chef's hat ($1 each). We had written the kids' names on both the hat and the apron in fabric marker. They could then spend 15 minutes of so decorating them more.

Then they washed their hands, and came and sat at the kitchen table. They each got a pile of flour and a lump of dough. On the table were bowls of sauce, cheeses, and pepperoni. Once they rolled out their dough and made their pizza, I put it on the pizza stone to go in the oven. If I ever do this again, I will figure out a way to label them, because it was hard to tell whose was whose when it was done. Ditto for the cookies later!

We cleaned that up, and then the girls lined up outside the kitchen. They came in two at a time (I had two blenders) and helped put together their smoothie. We had vanilla yogurt, mango, orange and apple juice, frozen mangos, bananas, strawberries and raspberries. We also had big straws and fancy drink umbrellas. The smoothies were a HUGE hit. The girls loved trying the different flavors and combinations.

They ran around playing a bit, then the pizza was done. The girls came in and ate, and then we had our one organized game - feel the shape. I bought this 101 cookie cutter pack, and we laid about 50 of the cutters on a table with a sheet over it. The girls had to reach under the sheet and try and determine the shape of the cookie cutter without looking. Each girl could get up to 5 cookie cutters.

Then it was back in the kitchen, where they were given a lump of cookie dough (premade by pillsbury) and tons of sprinkles and decorations. Again, wish we had somehow labeled whose cookies were whose! There was also frosting when the cookies were done. The girls had a blast with this (and despite a few tears over cookie-owner confusion), and loved their designs.

They each left with their outfits, rolling pins, and cookie cutters.

It was a big hit, and everyone had fun!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


So, K turned 9 recently (details on her fun party soon). And we are trying to give her little bits of freedom. Last year, I raved about this book. So I am trying to do it (give my children the kind of freedom I had). I mean, my parents used to throw us out of the house with a "see you when the streetlights come on" and that was that. Now my kids have to beg to be allowed to walk around the corner to their friends house without me. Ridiculous.

So yesterday, we arrived at our friends' luau party about 6 (suburban) blocks away (with one busy street on the way). They had a slip & slide and we didn't have suits. I proposed to K that she could walk home and get them. She was psyched. I handed her the house keys, and she set off. I was half convinced she would get home and be afraid to go into the house by herself. But after about 15 minutes, she was back. She ran up, all excited, and said, "mom! I did it!, but 2 things... Is it ok that I drove my bike back? (sure!) and I forgot Big Man's suit, can I go back and get it?" Great! She was so excited, and quickly did it again, and was fine.

We are thinking we will let her go to the library by herself this summer to get out books. We live literally 3 doors from the library. She will have to cross one busy street and a large parking lot, but otherwise very close. She is excited about this idea.

Baby steps people, baby steps.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Spring (undies) Cleaning

So last week I was at Target buying socks for my girls. I have no idea what in heck they do with all their socks, but they got to a point where they didn't have any more and we were about to go on vacation. (nevermind that they ended up leaving their suitcase behind and we had to stop at Walmart and buy them all new clothes...) While I was there, I noticed that Target had cute women's cotton undies on sale - some on clearance. I bought myself 5 packages.

When I got home I went through my underwear drawer and threw out all the yucky pairs of underwear. You know the ones. The undies of last resort. They don't fit right, they may have rips, or they are just old and ratty. I threw them all out. I ran the new ones through the laundry,and voila! I had a whole drawer of underwear that I liked. And that fit. And that I wasn't ashamed to wear.

And it cost me about $20. I STRONGLY encourage you all to do your own Spring (undies) Cleaning! No more through picking through the drawer for the pairs I like. Now I like them all. I know underwear is not something I normally put a lot of thought into, but this is a little thing that could make your morning a bit brighter!

It works for me! For more Works for Me Ideas,

Monday, May 2, 2011

What is a Soldier to Do?

Heard an interesting story last week on NPR about soldiers returning from war who feel lost. Often combat soldiers return and feel stressed and confused about their role in the non-combat world. Well, a few returning vets realized that these soldiers have specialized skills that could be used for humanitarian relief at quick notice. The created a group called Team Rubicon, which "bridges the critical time gap between large humanitarian disasters and conventional aid response. We provide vanguard medical care by fielding small, self-sustaining, mobile teams of specially skilled first-responders."

What a FANTASTIC idea! Why not utilize the training and abilities of these soldiers and let them help in times of crisis? Team Rubicon does just that. I think its a great idea. It is just getting off the ground, and is in need of donations.

Listen to the story, and I'll bet you will be equally driven to give.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Tourist in Our Own Town

We are lucky to live in a very picturesque, historic area that is ripe for tourists. But, like many, we tend to ignore all the feature available to us. So thanks to Groupon and Living Social, in the last few weeks we have acted like tourists.

We took the Old Town Trolley (tour bus) around town, seeing all the sites. We only got off at a few stops, but had a great time. We stopped at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and saw lots and lots of money! The kids thought it was very cool. Then we walked down to the Jefferson Memorial and hopped back on the trolley. We took it past the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, White House, etc. Then we hopped on the other trolley and took it up Embassy Row to National Cathedral. It was a random Friday when the girls didn't have school, so the Cathedral was not crowded at all. We took the elevator to the top and enjoyed the view. We stopped by and saw some of the amazing stained glass (including the cool moon rock space window), and then played hide-and-seek in the Bishop's garden. Then we took the trolley back through Georgetown to our car.

This weekend we went to Mount Vernon (with a family friend). It is less than 20 miles from our house and I don't think I'd been there in 15-20 years!!! It was a lovely day and we had a great visit. They even provide a kind of scavenger hunt map for kids!! The house itself is very impressive, and we learned some fun things. (Did you know George Washington wanted to make the house out of stones, but it was too expensive, so he did it in wood planks, had them cut to look like stone blocks, and mixed the wet paint with sand to make it feel like stone?) The new museum and visitor's center were very impressive. The kids all loved the cool holographic head of George, who seemed to follow you around the room.
So playing tourist in our town is what works for me! For more works for me, visit Works for Me Wednesdays!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Swingin From the Trees

Doesn't this look so cool? They are hotel rooms suspended in trees. I think it looks awesome. Not only do you get the cozy treehouse feel, and the amazing views - but they are suspended, and so sway in the breeze! It is in Vancouver, Canada, and not that expensive. I would love to try it some time. The only downside is that the bathroom is in a separate building. But you know what, I'd deal. I need to find a reason to get to Vancouver and try this out!!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Our Daily Bread

K is such a picky eater. We have tried everything. We have cooked together. She LOVES to cook, but won't eat what she has made. We have bribed and begged her to eat things. She does, but hates it. Now the kids at least follow the 3 bites rule (you must eat three bites of everything on your plate), but getting her to like new foods is a constant battle.

To try and find something we could work on together that she would like, I bought a bread machine. But I have yet to take it out of the box. Instead, I bought "Artisan Breads in 5 Minutes a Day". K loves bread. So on Monday night we made the basic dough. Then, the following night, we took some out of the fridge (the basic dough makes 4 loaves) and baked it. YUMMY!!! It was so delicious. K loved it - the whole family loved it! We ate the whole (small) loaf! And I am returning the bread machine!!

This book is genius. I can't wait to try more recipes!!! I highly recommend it.

Lose Yourself

Sometimes it is good to let go of who you think you are. I am an overweight, out-of-shape middle-aged woman. But I don't always have to act that way!

Last year I blogged about going to ski for the first time. At the time I had just turned 42 and weighed about 180. I wasn't in great shape, but I was doing pretty good. I was excited to try skiing. I took a class, and got a few good runs on some green (easy) slopes. I was feeling great. Then I took a wrong turn, ended up on a harder slope and totally freaked myself out. I just couldn't get past my fear. I went up a few more times, but was pretty much petrified.

This January we went on a skiing weekend with some friends again. Now I am 43, have gained about 25lbs from last year, and not in shape at all! We had a great weekend. But I only skiied one day, and was still somewhat scared. I had fun - but was VERY stiff. I pretty much locked my legs in position and was thrilled when I made it down the mountain in one piece. I paid for it with very achy legs. But the girls had made some progress in skiing and we didn't want to let it go.

So on Sunday we went to a local mountain to ski. DH had hurt his leg playing softball, and didn't ski. Some great friends offered to help me with the girls (one of which had never been on the ski lift, and we weren't sure how she could ski). We had a BLAST! And I got my skiing mojo back. I decided to pretend I was in shape and could ski just as good as anyone else out there. And I had fun. I still only went on easy trails, but was not petrified. We even went on a very easy blue (medium) trail. And I had a good time. I never fell down. I felt like I could actually do it! We are actually trying to see if we can fit one more day in skiing this season!

It felt like a bit of an epiphany for me. Just because I am a middle-aged, fat, out of shape woman, doesn't mean I have to act like it! If I believe in myself, I can achieve - and have FUN doing it!

Couldn't have had a nicer weekend!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I am still here

I am still here. Work has been INSANE, and I am feeling overwhelmed. But I am still here. We are all good. Hope to be back soon!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Great Kid's Book Find

Of course we have read dozens of Dr. Seuss books over the years. But I had never before seen the "Cat in the Hat's Learning Library" series. These are rhyming books in Dr Seuss style that actually TEACH something. They are great!! They have them on LOTS of topics - space, insects, the human body, mammals, etc. The kids love them and I have actually learned some stuff too! I highly recommend. We bought about 8 so far, and will probably end up with the whole library. I may even buy some for my children's classrooms. Amazon has them for about $9 - a little pricey for a kids book, but ya gotta love learning with rhyming! lol!

These Work for Me! For more Work for Me tips, visit:

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year

Things I am so Thankful for:

  • My Immediate Family ( my DH and my 3 amazing kids - as crazy as they make me, my life would not be as blessed without them!)
  • My Family (my MIL - who we literally couldn't live without! my Dad, whom the kids adore, and we don't see nearly enough; and my brother and his family; whom we never see, but I want to interact with just the same)
  • My friends (who are my rock and my village whom I could not live without)
  • Our jobs (both me and DH, who have suffered NONE from the recession)
  • Our health (we are lucky to have all around us healthy)
  • Happiness (provided by amazing friends and family)

May 2011 provide you all this and more!