Thursday, December 31, 2009

A not-so-fond farewell

. . . to 2009. It wasn't a very good year and I'm glad to see it go. There were family problems that were difficult, a hard move this past summer (we have too much "stuff"), a scorpion in the house, unexpected dissolutions of marriage, ill health in the extended family, and other yucky stuff.

That is not to say there was no good, because there was. We ended up in a house we love in a city we love. Our children are healthy as can be. Have I mentioned we have a swimming pool and dh has swum in it every month we've been here? Oh, only a dozen times you say? LOL I finished my first bed-sized quilt this year. I added another part-time job I do from home which involves my favorite commute--from the kitchen to the dining room office.

But as my friend Sara's mom said at the end of 1968, "Good riddance!"

I'm looking forward to a year with visits from old friends, the high school graduation of my youngest big kid, the baptism of my twins, a couple of sons' starting college, the continuation of dh's job that he loves, and watching my children grow. Bring on 2010!

Monday, December 28, 2009


We had a good Christmas this year. A little drama that I'll detail to anyone who doesn't know that *I* want to know (that is to say I'll tell any of my regular readers what it was, but I'm not mentioning it to anyone else), but other than that, a great holiday.

My brother and his wife visited us from southern California and my son Kevin was home as well. This was the most we've had in a few years and it was nice. We had lots of good food and good talk.

My big present was a Scooba and it works well. The only quibble is due to the arrangement of my sink and dishwasher and the shape of the bottom of the dishwasher door, it doesn't clean right in front of my sink/dishwasher very well. That's an important area that I want cleaned!

The weather has cooled off, but we are still enjoying highs in the 50s (10-14C). Dh called just a few minutes ago to tell me our old neighbors from Gallup may come for a visit this weekend. The high today there is 29 degrees. I'll bet they need a little vacation!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Peacocks, girls, and polar bears

Today was the first full week of Christmas vacation and I thought there was a little too much computer/television going on so I told everyone to get dressed and we'd go to the zoo. There were lots of decorations there, many of them "Sponsored by Girl Scout Troop XXX," etc. Here are my girls:

Our zoo has a number of peacocks running around the giraffe and savannah areas, including this beautiful albino peacock:

Kind of a contrast, huh?

The female lion was very interested in the girls. Of course there was glass there, but they were only about three feet apart:

Next is the polar bear part. No, not the polar bears at the zoo, the polar bears in my back yard! Dh said he is going to swim all twelve months this year and since the water is darned cold (that's 59F (15C)on my instant-read thermometer stuck into the pool water which doesn't sound that cold, but it IS), I told him he ought to wait until Kevin got here so they could egg each other on.

In this picture you can see the bare tree behind Kevin. He was getting ready to dive in.

Here he was already out and dh was screwing up his courage to jump in:

Does he look cold or what?

Kevin did a great dive here although it certainly looks like he was headed for a belly flop:

And the final glory shot (look at those rosy faces!):

As long as dh doesn't expect ME to go in with him in January, we are in good shape. :-)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Ds is coming today!

17 y/o ds called this morning from the airport in Spokane, Washington. He had left home at 2 am so his father could get back home in time for church meetings. I called him back at a little after 7 am his time and woke him up. I could just imagine his laying out on the airport floor, covered with his coat and using his backpack as a pillow. Anyway, he's in the Phoenix airport right now, cooling his heels as he waits for his final flight here. Can't wait!

Friday, December 18, 2009

A store theft

And no, I'm not talking about all the great deals I get! Last night Grama watched the girls so dh and I could go to the Church cannery for a service project to benefit the local food bank. Then we did a little Christmas shopping. Dh wanted something at Walgreen's so he was looking at the back of the store while I was getting some cereal near the front. I saw the assistant manager come up to a young black man in a hoodie and ask if she could help him. I knew from the way she was talking that she suspected him of something. I was down an aisle when I heard her shout. There was no gunshot or anything like that, just quiet. When we checked out she told me he had picked up a CD player, then a large package of batteries and just walked out with them! She said she tried to grab them out of his hands and he told her to leave him alone and ran out of the store. She said she had actually broken company policy by trying to take the items away from him and wasn't going to call the police or do anything other than let the manager know in the morning. She said it is a common occurance in that store.

So sad.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Teacher gifts

Last night I put together gifts for the girls to take to their teachers on this, the last day of school before Christmas. I don't think gifts are a necessity, but considering how my girls wear their teachers out, I think it's a good idea.Each large bottle contains a small can of Nexxus mousse, a bottle of lotion, a Burt's Bees lip balm, a highly scented candle with a box of refills, and candy. I hope the teachers like them!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What happens when you don't take a sneak peek or you get tired

I wasted money today and I hate waste.

Walgreen's: I ordered Christmas cards from and they were $19.48. I got a nice discount on them and the double set included two free pens I wasn't expecting--gold and silver photo writing pens. The problem came when I decided to finish using some Register Rewards TODAY instead of waiting until tomorrow. I spent a hair over an additional $25 which, had I spent that tomorrow would have generated a $5 coupon to use like cash on a future purchase. I knew I should have waited, but after a somewhat negative experience at Walgreen's last week, I just didn't feel like coming back again. Dumb. Never let feelings get in the way of saving money your family can use for something else.

Fry's: I wanted the Sara Lee frozen pies in the ad. $3.49 each and buy three, get $3 off. $2.49 each is a fine price for a very good pie. Except I just saw the ad for *tomorrow* and Sara Lee frozen pies are $1.99, no tricks or shenanagins. I should have known better.

By going on the Internet it is usually possible to view the following week's ad. This site has the Walgreen's ads for a week or two in advance and that is how I know I could have gotten the extra $5 coupon by shopping Wednesday or Thursday. I think I could have viewed the Fry's ad as well.

I'm weary. It's hard work figuring out all these ways to get what I want without spending too much. I'm going to take it easy the rest of the week, then start next week refreshed.

For a little inspiration check out The Grocery Cart Challenge. The author's goal is to feed her family on $60 a week. I don't have any particular monetary goal, but I like to see what she gets compared to what I have purchased. I recognize the Hunt's spaghetti sauce this time but she got a better price than I did. Hers was 69 cents per can and mine was 88 cents. Of course we use it for spaghetti and lasagna, but most of ours goes on our Friday night pizzas.

So . . . I'm resolving to improve my research and get those bargains!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Where did the pictures go?

My camera is giving me fits again. I had some pictures from my recent Chinese Steamed Buns dinner as well as our Friday Night Pizza dinner. When I went through them I found they were very out of focus so I deleted them.

I'd like to say those are my buns, but I'd be lying. I honestly tried to get a pretty little crimp like that on the top of mine but in the end I just folded the round of dough in half and made them like half moons. Tasted just as good as the pretty way.

All it was was regular bread dough wrapped around a meat/onion/Asian seasonings mixture, then steamed in an improvised steamer for 10 minutes. Very tasty.

Friday's pizza was much like this:

That and a 2 liter bottle of soda did it for my family.

Today was clean up day for the girls' room. I honestly thought they would take all day to clean it but we were done in a little over an hour. Their room has a small ell and I was finally able to get all of the toys in that little area. It's about 4 x 6 feet and thanks to a large and a small book shelf, nearly everything is up off th floor. Now if I'd just get the gumption to empty the last four moving boxes piled in there, it'd be in good shape. I washed the sheets from all three of their beds, dried them in the sun, and the girls will slide in between fresh, crisp sheets tonight in a tidy room. Lucky girls.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Breakfast: from my tree

I'm so happy to have citrus trees because I've never had them before and I really like citrus. The grapefruit rind was still greenish but the fruit was good. I'm sure the longer they stay on the tree, the sweeter the fruit will be. There are a couple hundred on the tree so I'm glad they just continue to get better. When we moved in here in June there were still some delicious ones left on the tree.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Finished a Christmas project

My neighbor is always so nice to my girls and me that I wanted to make something for her 6 y/o ds with whom my girls love to play. I picked up the flannel fabric for this on the day after Thanksgiving and cut and sewed it over a week's time. I love how it turned out.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Free Christmas music downloads
On Black Friday I had to wait almost an hour at the cutting table at Joann Fabric. Conveniently, the easiest place to wait was at the pattern table where Butterick patterns were only 99 cents each. I ended up with a pattern to make reusable grocery bags. A week later I saw dh throw away a pair of his chinos and realized I could probably make a bag out of them. I rescued them from the trash and yesterday sewed this up. Kinda looks like . . . a pair of pants, doesn't it? It works fine, although the next time I make it I'll make the side openings a little bigger. I can put my hand through the handles, but it takes more effort than I prefer. Neat to make something useful out of something headed for the trash, huh?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Busy again!

I thought today would be a little slower-paced than yesterday and it sort of was. I did have about 1 1/2 hours to lazily watch TV.

Firestone told me to wait at least a day before taking my car back to the state inspection station so after my mammogram I stopped in and picked up some tamales dh ordered and then went for the inspection. Failed again. I drove directly from there to Firestone because I had a guarantee it would pass at no additional cost to me. I took the guy's offer of a ride home and settled in to watch 18 Kids and Counting featuring the Duggar family. Nice family.

After the girls got home we took the safety net off the pool and I skimmed it and brushed down the walls and the bottom of the shallow end.

I tried to get the pool circulation and filter to start up but only dh knows how to force it to properly start. Sometimes I'm lucky and it starts and sometimes I'm not. Today wasn't one of those lucky days, alas, so I had to leave it for dh.

Then the girls and I walked the mile back to Firestone and had to wait about half an hour for the car. I guess they had to replace the intake manifold gasket. Okay, I'll bet gwp is the only one who knows what that is. I sure don't. Anyway, dh said their not noticing that the first time (and therefore not charging us for it) probably saved us $200-300. Since the car finally passed the on the third try, I guess it was worth my aggravation.

Naturally by the time I got the car back it was too late to take it to the DMV to register it. Next week is crazy busy so I won't get back over there until at least Friday. I thought I was so organized to start on this on December 2 and as it turns out although I'm frustrated, it's a good thing I got started early.

Pizza tonight since it's Friday. I got the dough started when I got home and it's rising now. Since we are working hard to finish off a ten pound ham, it probably isn't a surpise that it will be ham and pineapple tonight. Yum.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

My busy, money-saving ways

Today I had about 2 1/2 hours to run errands and I was busy!

*Dropped Mom off at her meeting
*Mailed a package at the post office
*Returned some sweat pants to Target that I bought for my mom that didn't fit and bought two reams of paper. Printing coupons sure uses up paper. Well, that and three daughters who can easily draw on five pieces of paper a day (each).
*Went to Albertson's--three packages of frozen veggies and three boxes of Betty Crocker instant mashed potatoes for FREE with coupons and a couple other things for a very low price.
*Walked a quarter mile or more from the crowded parking lot into Costco to pick up a prescription
*Ran by the Church because there was supposed to be gospel study there but there were only a couple of cars there so it must have been cancelled.
*Went to Walgreen's where I bought close to $50 worth of things and came out with as much in my wallet as I had when I went in if you count the Register Rewards that are good on my next visit--trust me, there will ALWAYS be a next visit and I always have $5-20 worth of Register Rewards in my wallet.
*Picked Mom up from her meeting
*Returned to Walgreen's because--DUH--I forgot to pick up a prescription there.

Whew! After that I headed home and unpacked everything and put it away. I had some spaghetti Carbonara and Mexican corn for lunch and settled in for a couple hours of work. Work was relaxing because it is Friday in Korea and everyone is in a good mood on Friday.

Dinner is cooking itself in the slow cooker. Beans and ham. I'd make cornbread to go with it but we are out of cornmeal and I forgot to get more. My next obvious choices are muffins or biscuits. Biscuits are more of an anomaly in our house so I think I'll go with them.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Clues as to what I didn't do today

I had almost all morning free today and had a flash of brilliance--get the minivan registered TODAY instead of waiting until the end of December when time runs out. I looked online to remind myself exactly where the DMV is, then called to find a place to do my vehicle inspection. Found out you can only go to the state-run place that is . . . conveniently on the street leading the the DMV. I gathered the van's title, former registration, and insurance card and set out. I easily found the inspection station, read and noted the big sign that said it was illegal to bribe an official and pulled in.

These pictures will show what happened next:

That was the Firestone place I took my van to so they could do something to the engine to make it pass inspection and next is the uninspiring choice of refreshments they offered. Not much for a non-coffee-drinking Mormon girl, was there?

And last, this is a self-shot as I walked the mile home from the repair place.

I have my van back now and my credit line has been reduced by a little over $500. That's not Loonies or Aussie dollars that aren't worth all that much, that's in Greenbacks, folks. ;-)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Perverse pleasure

One of the techniques I use to get excellent bargains is to use coupons. For those who haven't used coupons in a few years, you may not know the Internet coupon business is a big business in the US. You can print coupons from the Internet for lots of things on your shopping list. The disadvantage is you have to pay for the paper and ink. The advantage is you can often find a coupon for something you want to buy RIGHT NOW and don't have to play the guessing game of figuring out when a coupon may show up in a magazine or in your Sunday paper.

A sheet of coupons I printed out this morning:

Notice those scissors? A sewing expert will recognize them as Gingher knife-edge fabric shears. You know, the kind that you don't even cut the pattern paper with? Those are the scissors I use for cutting out all my coupons. And why would I do that to a pair of expensive fabric shears? Because I have another identical pair I use for fabric, first of all, but mainly because these ones belonged to dh's first wife and it brings me perverse pleasure to use them to cut out all my paper coupons. They are great scissors!

Monday, November 30, 2009

WINDY today!

I've lived in some howlingly windy places, but thank goodness, this isn't one of them. We've had story weather for a couple of days though and now I'm remembering what wind is all about.

This picture out my office doesn't really show the wind though!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving American Style


Mashed potatoes
Cranberry sauce (two varieties, one homemade)
Homemade rolls
Pie (three varieties, one homemade)

It's 5:20 am and my oven is baking three pies. Much more great baking to come . . . .

Friday, November 20, 2009

Stop Acting Rich . . . and Start Living Like a Real Millionaire."

I've read a couple of reviews of this book and it looks like a winner.
By Liz Pulliam Weston
The neighborhood you choose can have a powerful impact on how rich you become and how wealthy your children will be.

The richest neighborhoods in the US
But the link between where you live and how much you're worth may be different than you expect.

So says wealth myth buster Thomas J. Stanley in his new book, "Stop Acting Rich . . . and Start Living Like a Real Millionaire." Stanley is on a mission to change how Americans view money, starting with the blockbuster he co-authored in 1996, "The Millionaire Next Door."

Too many Americans are what Stanley calls "aspirational spenders" -- people who spend money to make themselves look richer or more successful than they are.

But their "hyperconsumption" effectively torpedoes any chances they would have at accumulating real wealth, which typically requires spending significantly less than you earn and investing the difference.

In his latest survey of millionaire and nonmillionaire households, Stanley ranked more than 200,000 U.S. neighborhoods for wealth, then followed up by surveying select households, more than half of which were millionaires, which Stanley defines as having $1 million in investments, excluding their homes.

Here's what Stanley found:

The neighborhood in which we live influences a lot of our spending. The more expensive the house, the bigger the mortgage tends to be, and the more we'll spend on heating, cooling, insuring and maintaining the place.

But we also feel pressure to match our neighbors' spending on cars, vacations, furnishings and other trappings.

The "keeping up with the Joneses" mentality means the fancier the neighborhood, the less wealth we may accumulate, Stanley said. The opposite is also true: When our surroundings are more modest, we tend to spend less, regardless of our incomes.

"The propensity to spend," Stanley said, "is directly related to the typical home price in that neighborhood and to the price you paid for the house."

Interestingly, most of the people Stanley surveyed who lived in $1 million-plus homes weren't millionaires.

"They may have a big mortgage," Stanley said. "They don't have a lot of money."

In fact, Stanley found that three times as many millionaires live in homes worth $300,000 or less than live in homes worth $1 million or more.

"People who have a tendency to accumulate wealth live in neighborhoods that are easy to live in," Stanley said. "That's a hallmark of an accumulator."

Whom you hang out with matters. The ideal neighborhood, Stanley said, would be populated with engineers and teachers, two professions he found were associated with higher-than-expected levels of wealth accumulation.

Educators were especially good at turning sometimes below-average incomes into above-average wealth, something Stanley -- a university professor for 20 years -- credited to the culture in which they work. Frugality and saving for the future are valued in many teaching settings, he said, and that culture can have a profound effect.

"Work with frugal people, and you may become frugal," he writes. "Associate with colleagues who are astute investors, and you may become wealthy one day."

Our neighborhoods influence our kids' future wealth accumulation, too. Stanley asked his survey respondents a simple question: Growing up, were they better off or worse off financially than most of their neighbors?

People who perceived their childhood family's income as below the average for their neighborhood tended to become aspirational spenders and below-average wealth accumulators, Stanley said. They spent more to compensate for childhood feelings of somehow being "less than" their neighbors.

"They said things like, 'I went to high school with kids who had a lot more money,'" Stanley said. "They're making up for that scar."

By contrast, those who felt their families were in the upper half of their neighborhood's wealth hierarchy were more likely to be accumulators, rather than spenders.

"They're not looking for ways to consume to make up for the past," Stanley said.

Most millionaires have just one house. Many people associate a second or vacation home with having arrived. In Stanley's surveys, though, 64% of millionaires had never owned a second home. The net worth of second-home buyers at the height of the real-estate boom was actually considerably lower: a median of about $380,000, Stanley estimated.

Houses cost a lot to run and maintain. Stanley postulates that money-savvy millionaires find one home to be enough and prefer not to pour money into a property they may not use often -- or might feel pressured to use more often than they want to.

A mere recession won't change Americans' spending habits. Actually, this wasn't a survey finding but is Stanley's own assessment of the long-term impact of the Great Recession on our likelihood of accumulating wealth.

Yes, people have cut back their spending because of job losses, less access to credit and the desire to build up savings, Stanley said. But that cutback is likely to be reversed as the economy improves, he said.

The richest neighborhoods in the US
"It's not going to change the fabric of people," Stanley said. "Our whole (economic) structure is based on hyperconsumption."

Liz Pulliam Weston is the Web's most-read personal-finance writer. She is the author of several books, most recently "Your Credit Score: Your Money & What's at Stake." Weston's award-winning columns appear every Monday and Thursday, exclusively on MSN Money. She also answers reader questions on the Your Money message board and helps middle-class families cope at Building a Brighter Future.

One of the teachers I knew in our last town probably was the "richest" in terms of savings and plans for the future. Her husband had a good job as well, but wasn't extremely well-paid. However, they lived modestly and other than having several children in college, there wasn't an obvious sign of wealth. Dh and I both admired them.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Through the magic of YouTube . . .

I decided to watch some old movies I remember watching a number of times in grade school. Two innocuous ones:

The Red Balloon
Paddle to the Sea

and one I can't imagine showing to grade school children today:

An Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge

A little baking day

We're running out of bread plus I don't like the way my last batch turned out anyway. It came out like the bread your mother made back in the 70s (right after she made a batch of homemade granola). You know--only half raised and pretty crumbly. The problem last time was I used more whole wheat than usual (I usually use 70% ww and 30% white) and I didn't knead it the extra time I should have. Then when I went to get out my two long baking pans I couldn't find one and I ended up substituting two smaller pans for that one and it was just too much pan for the amount of dough I had. It all tasted fine, but the texture and size wasn't what I'm capable of. I make very good homemade bread.

Today I ground about 6-7 lbs of wheat into flour and used the proper amounts of my ingredients. Well, I looked at the leftover rice on the stove and thought, "What the heck?" and threw that in as well. You never know what might be in my bread, but I promise it is always delicious!

If my batteries hadn't died as I was getting ready to take pictures, I'd have some pics of the operation. Maybe later if I can get them to recharge.

In a little while I'm going to make some chocolate chip walnut banana bread. I'm probably the only one who will eat it so I might as well make it the way I like it.

Last baking project for the day will be some pizza crust dough. We're having the LDS missionaries over to join us for our usual Friday night pizza dinner, so I'll multiply the batch a bit to accomodate them.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

John Allen Mohammed is dead

The Washington DC sniper is dead. The adult one, at least. He was put to death by lethal injection last night in Virginia, USA. He got off very easy and I support the United States's/Virginia's decision to punish him by death.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Guess what I can do?

I can access my email account from my cell phone! I know, I know, this is such a yawner for techies, but understand I have a standard flip cell phone and while I do have "web access" on my account, I've never been able to access anything without buying an app. Um, no. But today dh had a company picnic and while I was watching the girls play I started noodling around on my phone. Lo and behold, I was able to (eventually) read my email! I don't think I can respond from my phone, but just accessing it will be great. Don't need no stinkin' Blackberry.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

How to have a cheap Thanksgiving

Haha, I think my only two readers are Australian and Canadian (and an occasional Korean for good measure) but I thought I'd post this anyway. I'm enjoying this blog which is called $5 Dinners. I haven't tried any of her recipes yet, but am getting ideas . . . .

Thanksgiving – Your Plan Ahead Guide
by Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom on November 4, 2009

Thanksgiving is my favorite meal of the whole year. I love every part of it…

the colors of the trees outside
the piles of leaves in the street that await the leaf sucker-upper
the rock bottom prices in the grocery stores
the insane number of coupons that are released during November
the fantastic Thanksgiving deals that can be found matching up coupons with sale prices
the many fragrances that fill the house as the oven roasts the turkey and bakes the pies

It will be a bit different for us this year. With a very small newborn, I couldn’t imagine preparing the whole feast, as I’ve done in years past! So we’ll be feasting with family. And if I can manage to whip up a side dish, I will!

I wanted to share a few reminders on how to reduce the overall cost of your Thanksgiving meal.

1. Plan. Rework the plan. Finalize the plan.

Make a plan. Dig through those recipe cards, browse the magazines. Make your plan. But only pencil it in!

Then rework your plan as time gets closer and you see things on sale, or another recipe you’d like to experiment with.

On Sunday before Thanksgiving, finalize the plan and get to work! By then, you’ll have seen all the products that are on sale, what the lowest prices are and you’ll be able to carve the plan into stone.

2. Prices.

From my experience in years past, the LOWEST prices on all the Thanksgiving favorites…like green beans, sweet potatoes, pecans and walnuts, cranberry sauces, etc…are found during Thanksgiving week. And possibly the week before.

It’s a tricky game to play, but if you have a plan and you see something on your list for 60-75% less than regular retail price the week before Thanksgiving, go ahead and get it. Or wait and hope it’s still on sale for Thanksgiving week. But if you wait, it might not be on sale the next week. Trust your instincts.

3. Coupons. Coupons. Coupons.

Over the next few weeks, there will be an insane number of coupons released both online and in the newspapers. Many of which are for the most popular products used during the Thanksgiving meal.

Clip them. Use them. Match them with the products on sale!

4. Turkey Prices.

Watch those circulars. I already see whole turkeys advertised in my store for $1.49/lb. But I know it will be half that price come Turkey Day!

Shop around. Pay close attention to all the store’s prices in your area.

How big of a turkey should I get? Rule of thumb: 1 lb. per person attending your feast. Depending on how much meat you need/want for leftovers!

And don’t forget…this is a great time to get an extra turkey, perhaps a smaller turkey breast, that you can cook up in the slow cooker and use the meat for multiple meals. Prices won’t be this low until Thanksgiving 2010!

Enjoy your feast! And revel in the fact that you spent as little as you could on your Turkey Day Feast!!!

What other tips do you have to share for saving $$$ on the Thanksgiving meal???

I laugh when I see the pre-made dinners the grocery stores offer, or more expensively, the restaurants. What the under-$50 dinners offer is so easy to make at home, and so cheap, that I shake my head that anyone would bother with them. I'd say if you were arriving in town on Thanksgiving Eve or Day to visit your aged parents, or if you had had lots of illness in your home, it might be a good idea. Otherwise . . . pfffftttt. I can make those kinds of dinners for about $15-18 and not even break a sweat. Anyone can. I do not make fancy Thanksgiving dinners, although I'd like to some time. NO appreciation for "special" meals here, so I seldom bother. Well, dh appreciates something a little special, but he is highly suspicious of anything new so it's hardly worth it.

So far I think our guest list includes my mom (of course, since she is staying here with us :-) ) and a young mom and her little dd. Her dh works for the Border Patrol and will be working. American Thanksgiving guest lists tend to be fluid with additions and subtractions up until we sit down to eat, so let's see who we actually end up with!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy Halloween!

I have only a couple of pictures of our Halloween celebration due to camera battery problems. The whole celebration was really drawn out and started with a "Fall Fiesta" at the girls' school a week ago Friday. It was a PTO fundraiser carnival and was well done. I volunteered for a half-hour shift to man one of the booths and that was fun. I'll do it again next year. My favorite booth was the "fortune teller" with her little "plant" out talking to everyone in line to find out all about them. I wondered if the girls realized how the fortune teller knew everything and sure enough, after the party C said, "You know how that fortune teller knew everything about me? That girl asked me and she told the fortune teller!" The girl was actually very cute and self-assured and it was fun to hear her grill the people waiting in line.

Next was a Trunk or Treat put on by our ward. It was at a fabulous estate not too far from our house, but worlds away from us, if you know what I mean. It was put on by the ward Activity Committee and I think they did a bang up job.There was a pumpkin carving contest so I had C draw her design on our pumpkin and I cut it out. We roasted the seeds and I was surprised at how good they were.

Friday S was sick and stayed home from school so we made cookie dough. After school I rolled it out and the girls did the cutting out and we baked a bunch of cookies.

They were very tasty.

Saturday night was finally the big event. Our neighbor asked us to come over and go around the neighborhood with her and her 6 y/o son. She had really nice gift bags waiting for each girl when we got there. She likes to decorate and shop and has treated my girls to nice little gifts in the past.

An aside, and I should label this, "Oh, my virgin lips!" The neighbor asked me if I wanted some apple juice to carry around while the kids Trick or Treated. I said sure so she gave me a plastic Halloween goblet of juice and ice. It tasted good and she gave me a refill. I set it down on a side table and her son immediately knocked it over. I got it cleaned up and saw she had refilled my glass. I took a sip . . . and thought I was drinking cough syrup! Nasty, nasty tequila and Diet Coke and it was hers, not mine!! Blech. How could anyone WANT to drink alcohol? It really tasted awful! Honestly, that is the first time I've ever had a sip of an alcoholic drink and I hope I never do again.

So in my drunken state we set off (JK, it was probably no more than a teaspoon of drink). We walked around the neighborhood for about an hour and fifteen minutes, until the girls said they were tired. Hey--when your kids say they're tired of collecting CANDY, it's time to head home.

Halloween lasted a very long time for us this year and we enjoyed it all. Lookin' forward to next year.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I'll bet you didn't have THIS done today!

This is one of the pleasures of living in a warm climate--getting your palm tree trimmed every year. It wasn't overly expensive (about $40) and was a lot of fun to watch. The tree guy had a set-up like a mountain climber around him and a chain attached to that. That's what he used to shinny up and down the tree. He had a small chainsaw on a lanyard attached to another waist strap. That was so 1) he couldn't drop it on anyone below him and 2) should the palm fronds collapse on him from above and cause trouble, he would have his chainsaw close at hand and could cut himself free.

Apparently it had been about three years since the last trimming. We'll get it done annually. We'll probably get some other work done on various trees on our property. We have a huge mesquite tree in the front yard that needs some TLC but it's kind of expensive to have it done. We'll have it done eventually as money becomes available.

The last picture shows some of what was on the ground after the trimming was done. :-0 The guy cleaned it all up while I skimmed the pool. Unfortunately the pool is right next to the palm tree and the wind was blowing so a lot of tree bits fell into it. He used his blower to blow the surface of the water and that pushed many of the pieces to the far end where I was able to skim them out. I skimmed for more than half an hour, then put the net back on and I was bushed! I think I need to exercise a little more often. ;-)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Paperless birthdays

Here is the blog of my friend Kerri. In it she talks about cutting down on disposable supplies for her daughter's birthday. We do it one better in our family. Instead of reusable gift wrapping, we use NO gift wrapping! Don't worry that my children have no fun though, we HIDE the gifts and make a treasure hunt to find them. :-) I started it when my big kids were little and my younger children have never had it any other way. I make slips of paper with a clue to each location, plus some fillers. The kids don't know if any given location will have a gift and a note or just a note. All gifts from relatives are incorporated into the treasure hunt as well as gifts from Mom and Dad. Heaven help me if I ever decided to wrap birthday presents!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Bulgogi and a triumph

BULGOGI (Korean Beef Dish)
1 lb. London Broil
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. sesame seed oil
2 cloves garlic
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. sugar
Slice the beef thin. Mix the above ingredients and marinatethe beef in this for 20 minutes or longer if time permits. Cook the beef in a frying pan or for a better smoked flavor, cook it over a barbecue grill.

One of my students told me she liked to add slivers of onion so I added that after I mixed everything. This recipe didn't create the strong flavor I prefer, so I might try something different next time. One thing I did was cook the meat in a small pan on the stove instead of quickly stir frying it. That let me cook it with no additional fat, but since some of the water steamed out of the meat and didn't evaporate, I think it diluted some of the flavor. It was still delicious. The side dish was cucumber with seasoned rice vinegar and I had a glass of orange juice with it.

The triumph came from one of my students today. She told me she was an honored guest at a dinner last night for a group of foreign diplomats. On a moment's notice she was asked to make a short speech to the gathered audience . . . in English. I'll bet her heart about stopped! She repeated her speech to me and it was short, to the point, and just wonderful! I felt like a proud parent and actually had a tear in my eye. She told me she kept thinking of me and hoping my power of English would be with her. :-D

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Disabled workers

This past week I had the interesting experience of having two disabled people assist me in professional situations. The first was when I had some blood drawn at my doctor's office. The tech who came and got me and drew the blood probably had spina bifida. She had a cool walker she used and made a little joke about her "go cart." In her case, I thought having this disability did not have any impact on her ability to do her job.

The second disabled person I encountered was later that day. I went into Walgreen's to see if they had any seasonal flu shots available. I asked the clerk behind the counter near the door and he looked at me and gave an unintelligible answer. I thought he just didn't hear me so I kind of pantomimed getting a shot. Turned out that was just the right thing to do as he just pointed toward the pharmacy section. In the end there were no innoculations available, but I came back to the counter with a couple of small purchases and realized the man was wearing a badge that said, "I AM DEAF AND BLIND." He really was deaf and seemed to have very limited vision. Everything went fine until there was a coupon that didn't ring properly. Then he had to call for a back up. It seemed like he was able to handle routine things all right but not when complications arose.

I have mixed feelings. People with disabilities have the same right to work as people without disabilities. Do I have the right to have someone help me in a quick, efficient manner? Whose rights prevail? The rights of people to work and the rights of businesses to hire whomever they wish? Or my rights to the best service? Or something in between? I'm a compassionate woman and I wasn't bothered by the slow-down in service by the second employee, but I wonder if other people would have been?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Mesa Arizona Temple

Today our ward had a temple trip to the Mesa Arizona LDS Temple. We don't have a temple in our town or even in our general area and we want the church leaders to know we in our town are willing to drive to Mesa and are a temple-going people. So please build a temple in our city! Here is the beautiful Mesa Temple: Here are some basic statistics about the temple:

Announcement 01 October 1919

Groundbreaking 25 April 1922

Dedication 23 October 1927

Rededication 15 April 1975
It has a beautiful 1920s style and was built during and just after the time the Cardston Alberta temple was being built. I has more than 60 LDS Stakes in its temple district, which would explain why there are 2 new temples which will be built in the Phoenix area in the next several years. That will help relieve the congestion in and around the Mesa Temple.

Here is a link to a FAQ to answer questions people have when a new temple opens near them:,11264,1904-1,00.html and here is a link to a page that tells the purpose of temples:,11298,1897-1,00.html

And if you are a Korean speaker/reader, here is a link to a page about doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Korean. Since I don't read Korean, I can't post the specific link for information on the temple but if you look around the site I'm sure you'll find what you are looking for. And here is the LDS Church site for Koreans.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Suggestive billboard in Korea

I read this article in the Korea Times today. If you want to see the bilboard they are talking about, click on the link.

Cover It Up, Bring It Down Or Be Amused

By Oh Young-jin, Shim Hyun-chul
Staff Reporters

An oversized billboard with two young models in a suggestive pose greets people when they climb out of a subway exit in Myeongdong, central Seoul.

A man passes a big Calvin Klein billboard in Myeongdong, central Seoul, Monday. The billboard is becoming a landmark of sorts for its size and a suggestive pose in it but obviously, people are divided on its moral correctness.

/ Korea Times Photo
by Shim Hyun-chul
In the picture on the billboard, a male model fully exposes his well-toned torso while sporting a pair of jeans. A female model embraces him from behind with her left leg over the male model's flank. She appears to be topless and, obviously, the picture was taken to suggest she is scantily clothed, if at all.

This billboard is for a Calvin Klein outlet which specializes in jeans. The U.S. apparel firm has two other outlets in the area,one selling underwear and the other jeans.

The billboard is becoming something of a landmark and is conspicuous in an area where people of all ages can be found. So The Korea Times asked passersby for their opinion on the eye-catching fixture. They were asked, simply, "What do you think?" in order to prevent any interference in the formation of their response. Here are some of their reactions:

Female Chu Ja-hye, 19: "At first, I felt embarrassed but, seeing it so often, I feel nothing out of the ordinary."

Male Jang Ji-woo, 19: "I take it as an advertisement concept. They cover what they have to, so I say it's OK."

Kwon Sun-mi, aged in her 20s: "It's sensationalbut I disregard it because it's an advertisement."

Female Han So-r, 20:"Nowadays, there are no borders that can't be crossed as far as advertisements go. Not bad."

Female Lee Mi-sun, 20: "It's too sensational by Korean standards. It's too provocative."

Chang Un-yong, in her 30s: "It is one of many overly sexualized advertisements. I feel it burdensome."

Han Bok-ja, in her late 40s: "It's overly sexual. I feel too embarrassed to look at it. The line should be drawn somewhere."

Male Kim Young-min, 49: "An advertisement should be about catching people's attention with a fresh idea, not just by taking off clothes."

Female Yoon Hae-yong, 76: "I don't know how young people take it but I don't approve of it."

Adam Lipper, 23, an American living in Korea for 14 months: "I want a pair of those jeans."

Kim Young-jin, 31, a Korean-American born in the United States and living in Korea for three years: "I wonder what effect such advertising has on young people, particularly in terms of body image and self esteem."

The Korea Times asked a PR officer at
Calvin Klein Korea for specifics related to the advertisement. He promised to
respond, but failed to do so. ― ED.

I don't like advertisements that rely on sex to sell. As the one person said, "An advertisement should be about catching people's attention with a fresh idea, not just by taking off clothes." However, I must say my favorite response was, "I want a pair of those jeans." LOL

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ready to send

Today the girls and I sat down and finally wrapped all the Christmas gifts for dd, her dh, and her ds. (If you are a new reader, that means dear daughter, dear husband, and dear son). Since I really doubt dd reads here, I'll go ahead and say what the presents are.

Dd's main one is a small scrapbook I made for her with wedding and baby pictures (her baby). I didn't have many pictures, but it was a labor of love for her so she can have a keepsake from this important year in her life. I also got her a shirt I think she'll like. I got her dh a nice polo shirt. He's tall but slender so I hope it isn't too big while I was trying to get the length for him.

The main star of the gifts is the quilt L (PeskyPixies) made for her own grandson that she didn't get to give to him. Her grandson has the same first initial as my grandson so she generously asked me if I'd like to have the quilt to give him. Did I ever! She does beautiful work and mailed it to me from Australia! How much love is that? Here is the inscription area on the back. Isn't it sweet? That's my handwriting on the blue rectangle and hers on the rest. She didn't really scribble on the bottom part ;-) , I just didn't want to broadcast her name around the globe.I'm really excited to give my grandson this quilt because of all the love for two grandsons that went into it.

Here are the pictures of the front. I wasn't going to post them just in case dd really DID look here, but I want to show it off.L sent me the quilt in a huge postal bag that made the trip here completely unscathed, so after wrapping up the gifts I just popped them right back into the bag, changed the To:/From: addresses and will take it to the post office tomorrow. Very low stress.

I must make one mostly-unrelated comment. The quilt is lying on the safety net covering our swimming pool. I don't have a clothesline, only a drying rack, so when I want to dry big things like towels and sheets, I lay them out on the pool net and they dry in a jiffy. :tappinghead: Smart girl, aren't I? LOL

Sunday, October 18, 2009


As you might have noticed from some recent posts, I've taken up the hobby of couponing. Simply put, it's matching coupons with sales to get the absolute best price on food and household items. We are swimming in snacks, cereal, and personal care items at the moment. Who knows what will be next?

I was pretty happy to get my hands on two or three extra copies of the Sunday coupon inserts today and I didn't even have to buy them. I was out visiting and someone had access to several Sunday papers and saved them for me. Good deal for me as there are a number of coupons there this week that will be helpful.

I think when dh met me he was kind of bewildered by my shopping habits (look for great deals, have plenty of food on hand), but I recall he said his goal was to keep me in the manner to which I was accustomed so he just let me do my thing. Smart guy that dh, huh?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Good news for us!

Dh has older children from his first marriage and has paid child support as long as I've known him because his youngest was under a year when his first wife walked out on him. That child is a freshman in high school so the end is in sight, but we got an early graduation gift in the mail yesterday. Because dh's xw has moved to another state, the CS order was moved too. The child support order was reviewed and for various reasons, was changed. It was cut IN HALF!!! That extra money in his paycheck will go a long way toward the things THIS family needs.

I'm doing the happy dance here!

Last night dh took the girls on the Stake Daddy-Daughter campout. Cool, huh? We've never seen anything like that done. Around here mid-October is the perfect time for such a thing. It was 97 (36C) degrees here in the valley today (only 2,500 feet here) and about 50 degrees (10C) last night at 7,800 ft where they were. What did I do? I took myself to Taco Bell, brought all the food home and watched chick things on TLC, then went to bed and read. In the morning I slept in, got up, straightened the house, and went shopping. What more could a gal ask for?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A bit accomplished and no one likes my food

I'm accomplishing things here and there. I listed something on eBay, I worked for my new second job 4 hours today (it's a here-and-there kind of job, not regular), everyone is staying clean and fed, the girls are doing their homework, I'm working my regular part-time job, and I'm investigating vegan cooking (!) so I'll have something to feed my mom when she settles back in here at the house. Not that my mom is a vegan, but with vegan cooking I can avoid the milk her IBS won't allow her to consume any longer. Other than straight meat and fruits/vegetables, I'm kind of stuck for ideas. I really like casseroles but most casseroles have either white sauce or cheese incorporated into them. Can't do that, but there are all kinds of ideas on vegan cooking sites. I really don't think dh or the girls will like the ethnic foods I'm finding there, but I will try some anyway. In fact, I'm tired of the children complaining about what foods I serve them. Dh is smart and doesn't complain, but I'm almost to the point of stocking up on chicken nuggets and letting the girls eat them for every meal. Phooey.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Less than $20

I did a little shopping today. I see nice Christmas gift baskets for the girls' teachers this year. :-)

I got:
4 bags of Halls Refresh cough drops
3 Chapstick Effects lip balms
2 halloween party cups
2 Vaseline Infusion lotions
8 Skippy peanut butters
8 Quaker chewy granola bars
4 halloween pencils with character erasers
3 boxes of Barbie/Dora the Explorer BandAids
4 cans of Campbell's Cream of Chicken soup
2 boxes of Kashi Go Lean Crunch cereal

. . . and as the title says, I spent less than $20. More like $16-17, I think, but I'm too lazy to crunch the numbers.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

My little Sleeping Beauty

S was busy building things in the living room and this is what I found:

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Evening walk around the neighborhood

The girls and I walked around the neighborhood after dinner tonight and I realized the houses and landscaping are completely different from any other place I've lived and I ought to take pictures of them. Even though I live in the southwest United States, when I think of "southwest-style houses" I think of Santa Fe-style houses.

Santa Fe-style tract house

I don't really know what the style here is called but I call it Arizona style. So here are some sights in my neighborhood:

This is a car parked at the side of a house that you see when you come into the subdivision from one side. It's an interesting car but I'm sure tired of being greeted by it.Here are S and E in front of typical landscaping. Lots of cacti, huh?
This is looking down the street. There are a LOT of cacti around here as well as Mesquite trees. The Mesquite trees are attractive but they drop stuff on the ground year 'round. Well, at least June, July, August, September, and October, the months we've been here. I'm kinda guessing it continues all year.These two houses have lots of native landscaping. I especially like the second one.

Dh and I both love all the palm trees, (or "pom pom trees," if you ask the girls) and although this variety isn't a towering kind, we think it has the prettiest canopy:Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home (note to self: MUST get to those weeds):