Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Update and information on "Grocery Shopping: My Personal Challenge"

A couple of you asked me for more details on my quest to spend $75 a week on groceries. Like exactly how am I doing that.

I have no idea.

I guess I do, sort of. But first, let me preface this with a few things. First, there are many, many people who do this much better than me. My neighbor, for one. They are spending a few dollars on a ton of stuff at specific stores. I haven't made it to that point yet (and don't know if I will unless I take lessons from them). I also have two girls. Yes, there are times when Ashley eats more than I could, but most of the time they don't. For example, if we are grilling chicken boobs for dinner, we only grill two. Ray and I share our portion with the girls. We might bump it up to three since lately they are asking for more just as Ray and I are putting the last bites in our mouths. But you get the point. Girls=lighter eaters than boys.

Last week I spent $86. I went over, yes, but the previous two weeks I was under, so I am still calling it a win. This week what helped was the triple coupons at the local grocery store. I still bought fresh fruit (oranges, bananas) and some "luxury" items (Audrey grabbed a bag of Pirate Booty, last time she comes with me, she brings my total up!).

Basically, I have started looking at the sale ads prior to making a menu for the week. And using coupons and trying to buy only things on sale. I have things I have to buy every week - orange juice, apple juice, milk, eggs, fruit, vegetables. I buy meat when it's on sale and divide it up into smaller portions. I cut chicken breasts up, trimming them into leaner portions and saving the trimmed off pieces for meals like stir-fry and fajitas.

I still like to cook and bake, which can get expensive. But I have been using the freezer more for my baking needs as well. I made cupcakes the other day for a playdate that Audrey had, and I froze all the extras that Ray and I did not need to eat over the course of the next few days. I am stocked up on most of my baking needs, so now it comes pretty easy.

So that is it in a nutshell. I have only been doing it a few weeks, so we will have to see if it still is working in a few more weeks.

Going to play the lottery

Ashley and Audrey were both in a mid-season dance class for the past few months. I wanted something to fill the void in the winter months, and Audrey seemed to really like ballet. Ashley did ballet when she was four, but didn't like it. For some reason now she likes it and said she even wants to do it next year as well. So bizarre. That and she says she wants to play basketball. Weird.

So for the classes starting in the fall, the dance school in our town has a lottery since there are so many kids that want particular classes. You stop by this week to pick a number which determines what time you get to go back and sign up for a class.

Ray stopped by yesterday and picked up numbers for Ashley and Audrey. There are probably over 300 numbers for each age group to be drawn. He let Ashley draw the numbers.

She drew number 1 for herself! Of course she drew something like 127 for Audrey, but I am thinking that we should really go play the lottery now.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Back to our regularly scheduled program

Ashley is finally back in school this week after what seemed like the longest track out in history despite the fact that it was only three weeks long. She had fun in camp, staying with all of her grandparents at some point in her vacation, and spending the weekend in Washington, DC with one of her best friends.

But last night was sort of weird. She went to bed early - at 7:30 - since she didn't sleep much the night before. I went into check on her before I went to bed around 10:00. She was sort of awake, kind of crying, so I talked to her and she rolled over and went back to sleep. Or so I thought she did.

About 10 minutes later, she called for me. She was really crying now, saying she couldn't get back to sleep and that she was having really bad thoughts. She ended up sleeping in our bed and wouldn't tell us what her bad thoughts were, not even this morning.

Of course Audrey ended up in our bed at some point as well, so I was squished between two little girls the entire night. But they woke up fine this morning and were excited to go back to school. I think everyone is ready to get back on our normal schedule.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tootles - The Dog

Tootles has finally earned her very own picture-worthy post.
Basically documenting all the damage she has done in our house (forgetting the rug we discarded from our family room) (oh, and the rug we had in front of the front door).

The window ledge she chews when she is pissed we are outside and she is not.The first Christmas we had her, we had a small party, and one of the kids was scared of dogs. We locked Tootles in our bathroom, and she obviously was pretty pissed. More bathroom damage.

But she has definitely become part of the family. It's been about 1 1/2 years since we rescued her, and she is now gets really upset when she thinks someone is hurting one of the girls, especially Audrey. I had to put her in the garage last Sunday when Audrey had a playdate with one of her friends.

Let's just hope the damage remains minimal.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Bad Morning Will Hopefully Turn Into a Much Better Day

I think Audrey is 1)getting slightly spoiled by being the only child and 2)needs to learn to go to bed at a decent time at night.

Ashley is spending time with my Dad and Stepmom (and her cousin Morgan whom she loves...) so it is just me, Ray and Audrey. Audrey has taken over Ashley's seat at the dinner table. We are not sure how that will fly once Ashley gets back, but we will cross that bridge then.

So spoiled, yes by all the attention from Mommy and Daddy. And bedtime? The past two nights it was 10:00pm before she went to sleep. Grr.

So this morning was not fun. She battled me on getting dressed. I left her alone in her room while I got ready to leave, thinking she would get over it and be okay when I came back.

Well, she wasn't. She was still crying, still not deciding on the two choices I gave her. I eventually got her pants, socks and shoes on and got her hair combed (screw brushing the teeth) and took her to the van.

Yes, without a shirt. I brought her two choices with me and got to school where she finally decided on what to wear. She had calmed down, but then of course was SUPER clingy in her classroom. I hung around with her as long as I could - then her amazing teacher took over and gave Audrey lots of attention while I stood in the hallway watching. I had somewhere to be at 9:00am, and it was already after 8:30am.

So any tips on dealing with the "getting dressed" battle would be greatly appreciated. I hate that battle. I normally chose all of the girls clothes on Sunday and put them in their weekly closest organizer. Ashley, thankfully, could care less. Audrey? Sometimes gives me the battle like she did today.

And I had even laid out her favorite High School Musical t-shirt, so I don't get it. I surrender.

Cool products and cool links

Here is my weekly cool products and links for this week:

1. The Shoulder Pillow - I can't tell you how this would have helped me on my trips to Disney where inevitably Audrey fell asleep in our arms while standing in line for a ride. Or how it would have helped me when Ashley would only take a nap on some days by me holding her. This would make a perfect shower gift.
2. Meeting Mr. Wrong - I should have posted about this a really long time ago. This book is by this fabulous author. A great, funny, good read. Add it to your book club reading list. Add it to your vacation reading list. Just add it. And then, you should read her blog. Go buy her book.

3. Two great websites for elementary school aged kids - Starfall.com and Softschools.com. They were recommended by my daughter's teacher and are great for reading and math skills. And if your kid likes playing on the computer (as well as your iPhone) as much as mine do, these are great additions.

On my soapbox...

I normally don't post stuff like this, but in last week's news all we heard was "AIG, blah, blah, blah, bonuses, blahblahblah, taxes, bonuses, AIG, blahblahblah".

And what was lost in all of that was the fact that the Treasury is printing money, money, and more money.

I won't pretend to understand the raminfications of this, but I will pass on at least a video depicting the trend of printing cash as provided by Glen Beck.


Off my soapbox.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I am playing the coupon game

As I mentioned before, I am sick of the talk of the economy just the same as the next guy. I was thankful for college basketball this weekend just to get the tv off the news and onto some sports.

And as I don't know anyone personally that has been laid off, being a state employee has its risks, and the possibility of me losing my job due to budget cuts is always there, regardless of a really bad year or just a bad year.

So I decided to take a challenge with our groceries. And you can tell me that my challenge is ridiculous or stupid, but to each his own. We normally would spend around $100 a week on groceries for our family of four. Sometimes $120, but rarely less than that. And it seemed that we were always running to the store between "big" trips to get a few more items, thus adding to the total.

My goal is to spend less than $75 a week on groceries.

Last week? I spend $58 on groceries. This week? $68.

I am winning, yipee!

And I am not going without. We have some expensive tastes in our house. Ashley really likes the organic poptarts; I am a huge fan of having fresh produce in the house. This week, to make it harder, we needed things like vitamins for the girls and dish washing detergent.

But what does make it better is watching for things you really need that is on sale. And I am a HUGE proponent of freezing. I freeze everything as normal recipes are most of the time too much for my family (aka two adults, a five year old and a three year old who eats like a bird).

And no, I am not running to multiple stores, although I know that is working for some I know. I am just not that dedicated, but I am sure I could save even more if I did.

To cut our monthly grocery bill from around $450 to $300 would be a huge advantage on our part. So what can I buy with that savings? Just kidding....(sort of).

Friday, March 20, 2009


I have a friend who started her own photography business in I'd say the past year. Early last fall (I think that's when it was), we dressed the girls up in white dresses and headed to a local park.

For two hours, Patty followed the kids around and ended up with some amazing pictures of them.

So last weekend when it was just me and Audrey, I had her come and do some of Audrey. You can check out her site for samples of her work, and under Galleries and Children, you can see some of Audrey (and Ashley from our previous session). In the Relationship and Family gallery, you can also check out some pictures of us.

I only wish I could take pictures this well!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Right now, I am sitting in a hotel room, laptop in my lap, watching Lost.

Luxury, I have it.

Okay, not really luxury. I am in some sort of smelly hotel in Boone, NC. The television is kind of crappy, and I am too lazy to get up and plug my computer in and I am pretty sure I will lose battery soon.

But still. I got to eat dinner without taking Audrey to the bathroom because she is at that stage where two minutes into dinner she decides she needs to go potty. I didn't have to battle with baths, bedtimes.

But then again, I didn't get to read the girls book, I didn't get to smell them after their baths. I didn't get to give them a goodnight kiss.

So yea, this may be luxury in that I get a bed to myself without a dog and a certain 3 year old showing up around 4:00am, but I miss my family. And I am happy I get to go home tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Bad Word

There are certain words that are "bad" in our house, beyond the obvious.

I don't like to hear "stupid" or "hate". Audrey is picking up on these things as I have pointed out to her she shouldn't say those words.

Then she asked me if "America" was a bad word. Huh? At first, I didn't get it.

And then I realized what she was talking about.

I often say "God Bless America" in place of dammit.

And now she thinks "America" is a bad word.

Monday, March 16, 2009


I wish I could erase last week, but actually I kind of feel like I did with the sickness and medicine-head and snot and headaches I had all week. I felt like a sloth not going to the gym or doing the Shred DVD and two nights going to bed before the kids did.

And I didn't get a chance to really hang out with Ashley before she headed off to Myrtle Beach for a long weekend with the grandparents.

And Ray was gone all weekend too, spending time with the guys on the street attempting to play golf in 40 degree weather.

So it was just me and Audrey all weekend. Saturday was, well, cold and wet. She had dance class and we went to lunch and the library. Then we hit Old Navy with our 30% coupon and money from the asthma clinic to buy some much needed pajamas for Audrey and socks for Ashley (and maybe, just maybe a shirt for me. But just one.)

So the nap that should have happened was really a five minute cat nap in the van when we were almost home. Needless to say, after dinner she was toast.

It was only 7:00pm, but she had been yawning for about an hour already. We were home, I was going through the mail while Audrey attempted to wind down while watching Max & Ruby.

And then she wanted a lollipop. I told her no, she had already had one from the chinese restaurant where we picked up dinner. That was not what she wanted to hear. Crying, laying on the floor crying, being carried up the stairs to her room crying, crying in her room while I tried to calm her down crying. I finally gave up after attempting to put on her pj's and just holding her.She wanted none of that. I told her that I would be in my room if she wanted me. And I left her room, closed the door, and laid on the floor to wait for her.

I only had to wait a few seconds. She came right out, still crying, and into my arms. I took her into my room and into one of the chairs. I held her close and rocked her. It was 7:28pm. By 7:34pm, she was sound asleep.

In those few minutes, I had time to think about how I was not going to get pjs on her, whether or not she will need to pee in the middle of the night, how I really missed Ashley and Ray.

And I wondered if this was the last time I would rock Audrey to sleep. And that made me sad. I tried to remember the last time Ashley was rocked to sleep, and I couldn't. I am sure at some point she had a night like this where holding her was the only way to calm her down, but I couldn't find that one night in my memory.

And I really wish I could.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

I am always looking to cook...

I no longer post weekly at the Triangle Mom2Mom site, but I do get to post monthly about food.

And I really do love to cook even if my family does not return the love in the form of eating what I make.

So this recipe, I thought, what the heck, give it a try. Ashley loves carrots, and who doesn't love a cupcake?

Carrot Cupcakes with Sour Cream Frosting
Makes 24 cupcakes.
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup Sour Cream
1 1/2 cups grated carrots
1 8 oz can crushed pineapple, undrained
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375˚F. Line 24 muffin cups with cupcake liners and set aside. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients, spices and sugar, mixing well. In a medium bowl, combine eggs, oil, sour cream, carrots, pineapple (I left this out, Ray is supposedly allergic) and vanilla extract, mixing well. Add wet mixture to dry mixture, stir just enough to combine ingredients. Fill muffin cups 3/4 full of batter. Bake in the center of the oven until light and golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20-25 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove from muffin cups to wire rack to cool completely.

Sour Cream Frosting

4 Tbsp butter, softened
1/2 cup HP Hood Sour Cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
2 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar

In a medium bowl, mix together all ingredients, except powered sugar, until well combined. With an electric mixer on slow, add confectioners' sugar, beating until smooth. Decorate as desired.

Friday, March 13, 2009

I have THREE children (well, really four if you count Ray in the equation...)

So yesterday I was working from home. At some point, I was upstairs doing laundry or something, and I heard our dog Tootles yelp and whine. I didn't think anything of it as she often whines when we are upstairs during the day (we only let her upstairs at night after multiple bathroom accidents on her part).

I go back downstairs, and she is laying on a pillow on the floor, which is sort of odd and she is normally a permanent fixture on the back of our couch. I go back to doing some work and think nothing of it.

And then I go to walk her. She is slow to get up, and when I try to put her harness on her, she yelps like I hurt her. Not good. She labors through the walk, not running in parts like she normally does.

I call Ray when I get back inside since I was about to leave to take Ashley to piano and he was coming home to get ready to take Ashley to Myrtle Beach. He takes one look at her and decides she needs to go to the vet. A call was made, but they couldn't see her until this morning. They gave us an emergency number to call just in case.

Ray and Ashley leave, and Tootles isn't doing much better. A friend stops by, and she whines and walks all crooked to her (Tootles is a dachshund). But after sitting in my lap for about 10 minutes, she jumps up and runs perfectly normal to her food bowl.

Well, huh. Did she pick up some drama tips from my girls or what?

I carry her upstairs at bedtime, and this morning, she promptly jumped off my bed and went down the stairs. Then she jumped on our couch, which is a pretty big feat for her as it requires her to take a big start from across the room.

I really needed to be at work this morning, so I called the vet and they said that she probably just hurt her back somehow yesterday and resting it last night helped. They said we could bring her in anytime next week to have her checked out. (Plus, I still have my head cold and sounded kind of bad on the phone with them, so I am thinking they didn't want me to come into their office and get them sick...).

So yea, dog = another child to stress about. Thankfully she seems okay, but unfortunately since we rescued Tootles, we aren't sure of her age or her history.

Nice start to a completely cold, rainy weekend. And then I let Audrey paint my fingernails last night, and forgot to take it off. I look lovely today.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Good thing we got all of our outside time this past week...

The weather is turning colder and wetter over the next few days. Which really blows. I was getting quite used to 80 degrees and wearing short sleeves.

And it really sucks because Ashley is going to Myrtle Beach this weekend to hang out with my Mom and Stepdad, and the weather there isn't going to be much better. Luckily, my Mom has already thought of some indoor things to do.

I am slightly getting over my head cold. This one really knocked me out. I was in bed asleep before 8:00pm last night. I was so asleep that I had no idea that Audrey had climbed in bed with and had fallen asleep with me too. She likes Mommy and Daddy's bed a little too much....

And since Ashley will be gone with weekend, Audrey and I are going to have a Mommy/Daughter day. What is easy about Audrey is I can tell her what we are doing, and she goes along with it. Ashley, on the other hand, would protest if it wasn't somewhere she didn't want to go. So I am thinking some shopping at Old Navy, the library, and out to eat is our plan.

She really loves being an only child sometimes...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I made it ALL the way through winter...

And now I have a head cold. I guess it could be worse, I know a few people with the flu, and supposedly some really nasty stomach thing is going around. I have used more bottles of Purell this winter on me and my kids.

I will survive this. My threshold (and all the females out there shake your heads) for the common head cold is pretty high. I can still function with slight whining. I may go to bed extra early and get out of doing the dishes for a few nights, but that's about it.

I also have a pretty high threshold of pain, and I am pretty sure I have passed that down to Audrey. She went back today for a follow-up on the asthma study she is in, and they went ahead and took a blood sample (two complete vials) for allergy testing.

Per instructions from the nurses, she was on my lap with her legs in between mine and me holding her non-blood drawing arm. They got her ready and stuck her and she barely flinched and didn't cry.

That's my girl. She whimpered a little bit, but that was it. She was excited to go back to school to show her friends her band aid.

Monday, March 09, 2009


Finally, the cold weather is mostly behind us. Seriously, last week we had all four seasons in one week - snow to summer temperatures. We mostly spent the entire weekend outdoors as much as we could.

But I have to tell you about my Friday night. I go to the gym a few nights a week with a neighbor and good friend of mine. We go around 8:00pm normally, workout, enjoy the steam room and/or sauna, shower, and put our pjs on and go home. We haven't been on a Friday night, but since Ray had some work to do and the girls played outside and didn't do movie night, I went with my friend to the gym. We left around 7:30pm, stopped by Old Navy for a little shopping, and then off to work out.

The gym was mostly empty, and we got done with our workout and steam room time around 10:00pm. So we headed to the showers. There was only one shower of about 20 or so showers occupied.

And it was occupied by TWO women. Yes, showering together.

Let's just preface this with a couple of things. First, I have no problem with lesbians or gays. More power to you. Second, the showers at the gym? Kind of gross (I don't like touching the walls in them) and small, as in not really room for two women to be in it together.

I think there is a time and place for you to take a shower with your best friend/lover/whatever. And I don't think that includes the gym where there are other individuals trying to get their showers and what not done. It's bad enough there are women walking around the locker room without clothing when they really, REALLY should have clothes on.

So, an interesting night at the gym to say the least. Anyone else ever experience this?

Friday, March 06, 2009

What would you do?

I can finally breath a sigh of relief. The weather has become warmer. We actually walked to the bus stop this morning (yes, I am lazy if not pitiful when cold...). Tomorrow's high is supposed to be 78.

Today should be Ashley's last day before tracking out for three weeks. We have grand plans for track out - one week of YMCA camp, a long weekend with one set of grandparents, and a few days with another set of grandparents. We are also taking a few days and seeing some the museums I took for granted while living in the DC area for so long.

But today isn't her last day. Because of the snow day on Monday, she is supposed to go to school on Saturday. It's a half day, and we have been informed by a note from the teacher there will be curriculum taught on that day. It's not that I don't believe that, it's just report cards are being issued today, and it's the start of a three week break. Even if stuff is taught, I am pretty darn sure Ashley wouldn't remember it.

Ashley has dance class on Saturday mornings, and she only has 5 dance classes left. Two of which she will miss due to trips and weekends with grandparents.

Dance class or school, dance class or school?

Thursday, March 05, 2009


You guys seemed to enjoy when I posted random links I had found on the internet a few weeks ago, so here are some more:

1. The Secret Recipe Blog - want to recreate some of your favorite dishes from restaurants at home? Check this blog out. And no, it's not the same when you do it at home. Yes, you will actually have to do the dishes.

2. Go-Girl - Female Urination Device - Um, yea. But really? I totally could have used this every month when I was pregnant and had to pee in a cup at my doctor's office and every month forgot how to pee in a cup and ended up peeing on my hand.

3. Spoonflower - I kind of take for granted the fact that I am on the computer for 8 hours a day and may or may not peruse the internet for some of that time. Like Etsy. Great site, I assume that everyone knows about it, when really, most people don't. (I have purchased this for me and this was one of Ashley's favorite Christmas presents) And Spoonflower? If you are looking for some different fabric (I am about to partake on a journey to make curtains for Ashley and Audrey's rooms), check this site out.

4. Gina's Weight Watcher's Recipes - A great recipe site. I have made the empanadas and I am going to try the cauliflower fritters this weekend.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Economy = Suckage

I am honestly tired of hearing about how bad the economy is. What if all the news channels changed their ways and discussed how the economy is moving up, and things are getting better? Would just the spoken word of it change things, make someone's perspective of the world change? Would positive thinking make things better?

Yesterday, I learned about one friend getting fired and another acquaintance being laid off from their job. And when I called Ray yesterday to tell him I was on my way home, he said he was running to the bank to deposit the rent check from our renters we had received in the mail. Because our renters are having issues of their own and every month we wait to see if we will get that check.

And if we don't? Believe me, I have googled "what happens if your house is foreclosed", which brings up 601,000 hits. One article I read stated:

"If you're in danger of falling behind on your mortgage, or if you're already late, you may be skeptical about your lender's willingness to help. And if you take the advice we personal-finance types typically offer -- call the lender as soon as possible and ask for help -- you could find yourself stymied by the lender's bureaucracy or even told to come back when you are really behind in your payments. The homeowners get a response of, 'Don't bother us. Come back when you're two months behind'".

Which is kind of scary.

So, positive thinking. Ray is doing well with his new business, which I may have failed to mention here. He no longer works for Kellar Williams but owns his own broker firm, Dream Living Realty. My job, where it is not totally secure, is okay for now. We have been told there will be no raises next year (our fiscal year runs June - July) and they will cut benefits before they cut jobs.

And in honor of Dr. Seuss' birthday, a positive thinking quote for the day:

"Don’t cry because it is over. Smile because it happened."

Of course, teaching that to a three year old may be hard, but hey, who said life was easy?

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Back to the daily grind...

For the first time ever, Audrey told me she did not want to go to school today. This is from the child who everyday at drop off pretty much runs away from me to play with her friends. No crying, no pushing me out the door like the teachers have the other kids do, no grabbing onto my leg begging me to stay. She goes to her center and starts playing.

I am guessing she enjoyed our little snow day yesterday, which was nice. I took pictures to document our day (at some point I will post them). Ray went into his office, and we had a day with just us girls. Ashley, unlike the last time it snowed, had no desire to go outside. Her and Audrey "built" a campsite in my bedroom while I cleaned out the dress-up closet. We also went through all of our kid movies and matched movies with cases and discarded the cases which some how no longer had movies. We made some shamrocks and had breakfast for dinner.

So Audrey was still a little whiny by the time we were loading up the van to take her to school (Ashley was going in 2 hours late...). And how did I get her stop whining and get excited about school? She got to eat rice cakes in the van on the way there. Seriously, the way to her heart is through her stomach by the form of rice cakes or fruit snacks, which I honestly think are laced with cocaine. We got to her school and she was fine.

Again, not how I wanted to start off the month of March, so it had better get better from here.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Not How I Wanted to Start March

There are a few inches of snow on the ground, and Ashley's school is closed. Her makeup day? This Saturday. And then she is off for 3 weeks for her track out since she is year round. My office is opening at 10am and Audrey's school is actually opening at 9:00am.

So yea, not the way I wanted to start my March. I wanted to start it with warm temperatures, Ashley continuing to learn to ride her two-wheeled bike, and getting Tootles the dog to lose some weight by taking long walks around the neighborhood.

It had better get warm soon...

UPDATED: My office and Audrey's school is now closed...YIPEE! Snow day for me!