Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Where Did the Summer Go??

You'd think that having the summers off would ensure I'd have plenty of time to keep up with my blog, but somehow the days just slipped right into one another.  I have no excuses other than I have been veging out in front of facebook, shopping online (more on that later), catching up on cleaning, and who knows what else.  I have been staying up way too late and need to get myself back into a normal routine.  We have done a lot of running around but nothing too productive.  Every summer I tell myself that I am going to take the girls to the pool, library story times, parks, picnics and other fun activities, but like all the other summers of summers past, I didn't keep my word.  Pool visits: 0 (unless you count the blow-up pool out back), story times: 0 (but we did go to the library once), park visits: 0 (does our backyard count?), picnics: 1 (on the beach), zoo trips: 1 (our membership expired).  Sighhh....am I a bad mommy??  I guess out trips to Siesta Key, Disney World, Amelia Island, and Atlanta; extra snuggles in the morning; walks around Easton; splashing in our 10 foot pool; and watching the girls play so nicely together all count for something right?

"So what about this shopping online thing?" you might be wondering.  Well, I have been introduced to a few Persnickety resale pages (thanks a lot Amy B!!) and had the opportunity to buy a few things as well as sell some stuff...ok more buying than selling.  (I also got $110 for clothes I took to OUAC.)  After looking at some of the cute dresses out there, I decided that I could make my own, since that is all the girls want to wear these days.  I bought some inexpensive fabric and made a few pillowcase dresses for them in addition to buying some more quality fabric online for next spring and summer ($225 worth...shhhhhh don't tell my husband!)  But, I can get multiple dresses for both girls out of it and won't have to buy any clothes next year.  OK, so maybe I'll buy a few things. :)

Was I frugal this summer?  Nope.  As a matter of fact, I have been terrible.  Daycare costs start back up next week, so I need to get my butt back into saving mode!  Hmph....it's been fun PayPal!

How's my No Yelling commitment going?  Another fail, my jar still stands empty.  I can't seem to get to ten straight days and have to start all over.  Guess I'll just toss the summer out the window and start over.  Tomorrow begins another new day.


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Blueberry Muffins and a Tip for the Day

Last week I bought a huge container of blueberries thinking I would freeze some, but they were so good I never got the chance to freeze any of them.  The girls have been begging to make muffins so that's what we did this morning!  They were simple and sooooo yummy!  They weren't too sweet, which is how I like them, and the texture was perfect.  And yes, I put a few chocolate chips in some of them just for the girls.  :)



Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins (Adapted from a foodnetwork recipe)

1 cup whole wheat (or wheat pastry flour for less gluten)
1/2 cup white flour (or pastry)
1/2 cup rolled oats, plus more for sprinkling
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs
1 cup blueberries
Turbinado sugar, optional, for sprinkling
Chocolate chips for an extra treat 

DirectionsPreheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with muffin liners.
Combine the flour, oats, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a large bowl. Whisk together the vegetable oil, sour cream, brown sugar, vanilla and eggs in another bowl. Fold the sour cream mixture into the flour mixture until just combined, and then fold in the blueberries (don't worry if there are a few lumps).
Divide evenly among the prepared muffin pan. Sprinkle with oats, chocolate chips and/or turbinado sugar if using. Bake until the muffins are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 24 minutes. Cool in the pan for a few minutes, and then 

transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Hint: Toss your blueberries in a bit of flour before adding to the mixture to prevent them from sinking to the bottom!


Tip of the day:

So we have been noticing quite a bit of scratches on our floor, which drives me crazy but cannot be prevented with two little kids in the house!  I was talking to the owner of the flooring company and he suggested using almond oil to hide the scratches.  (Now, these are small, hairline scratches, not gouges.)  I bought some at Whole Foods yesterday and decided to give it a try.  I applied a small amount with a paper towel and then buffed it out with a microfiber cloth.  It worked...the scratches just disappeared! I was so excited, I went around to every piece of wood in my house and let the oil work its magic.  My piano, which had fingernail scratches above the keyboard and lid, looks brand new and there is no evidence there was ever a scratch.  It's amazing stuff!   



(As of post time, no yelling!)

Friday, July 19, 2013

Success??

Well, not exactly.  I was finally able to harvest two things from my garden: a cucumber and one blackberry...yes just one.  Something keeps finding its way underneath the netting and just as they start to turn black, they are gone!  The cucumber was delicious; Big Monkey ate half of it herself but the blackberry was sour.  It needed to stay on a few more days.  I am having a hard time knowing when things are ready to be picked.  My entire lettuce patch is finished and I wasn't able to get anything out of it.  Every time I tasted a leaf it was bitter. It is now too hot for lettuces, so I will have to wait and try again in the fall.  On another note, my melons are doing great and it looks like I have a few more that will develop. We can't wait for those to be ready!
This is all that is left...

You might be wondering how my "orange" was the past couple of days.  Well, I can say that I went the last  FOUR days without yelling!  Oh, wait, does it count that the kids were with my parents three of those days?  Hmm...that's kinda like cheating isn't it.  Guess my jar still sits rather empty :(  BUT, I did go yesterday without elevating my voice above a three!  I caught myself a few times and took a deep breath and repeated in my head, "They are just little kids, they are just little kids" and was better able to handle correcting them in a calm way. Let's hope I can earn another orange "love bead" today.  What do you do to keep your calm in those frustrating moments with your children?


Update: This afternoon I went to Hobby Lobby, picked up these oranges beads and made a bracelet to remind myself to think before I yell.  (All beads were half off by the way, so I only paid $1.99 for the strand.)


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Trying to See Orange

In my last post I announced that I am going to take the Orange Rhino no-yell challenge.  My initial goal was to go 10 days without yelling.  Day one: fail. Raising my voice has become such a natural response that I don't even realize I am doing it until I am halfway through my rant; by then, why stop??  I figured I needed something to remind me of my goals; a big part of me is very visual.  So, I went to a craft store and bought some orange beads.  I bought smaller ones to count the 10 days and then larger ones to add to a jar for every 10 days I go without yelling to count up to 365.  I thought it would be a great reminder, but I still found myself yelling today as the beads were out of sight most of the day being in the kitchen.

Good idea? Yes, and I will continue with it, but I need something that I can carry with me at all times, a bracelet maybe.  I made another realization tonight: Yelling has become a way for our girls handle their frustrations too.  My yelling is a tantrum, of sorts, when things don't go my way, and my beautiful girls are becoming yellers too.  That makes me sad.  I have also noticed that I tend to yell at them when I am frustrated at the mister; we are running late and he is loading the dishwasher, the girls are whining for a snack while I'm getting dinner and he's on the computer...that is when I snap at them.  If it is just between the girls and I, I can usually handle the whining and fussing in a calm manner.  I can't blame him totally though.  I find myself snapping when we are running late on school mornings.  Are we late because of something one of the girls has done?  No. It's usually because I hit my snooze button five too many times.  If I can just get myself to stop and think in the moment and really realize why I am frustrated, it would make all the difference.  Hmm...how many times have I told that to O: Stop and think before you do something?  Looks like I'm also a bit of a hypocrite.  This whole yelling thing is now a family problem and is a lot bigger than I thought.  We (yes, the mister is a yeller too) have a lot of work to do in this household!

I was at the doctor the other day, getting blood drawn for my thyroid and I discussed these issues with the nurse practitioner.  She asked what I did for stress relief and I had no response.  I do nothing for just me.  My every day is dedicated to making everyone around me happy: my kids, my students and my husband.  Ask me who I am and I will tell you a wife, mother, daughter and teacher.  While I am proud to be these things, I need something added on that just involves me.  So, I joined a gym.  My plan is to swim one or two days a week and then get back into kickboxing, which I love, and maybe even try my legs at a hip-hop class (on a day I feel like being embarassed!).  Losing the mommy guilt will be my biggest challenge in involving myself in these activities. My workouts will have to be after work, which will require me to leave the girlies at school longer than usual, or during the weekend when I should be making up lost time with my girls from being away from them all weeklong.  But, as has been told to me a million times, a mama needs to take better care of herself in order to better take care of her family. So, I am biting the bullet and going to try to shove my guilt aside to do something for myself.I'll keep you posted. :)




Thursday, July 11, 2013

Open and Honest

Lately things have been a little disappointing around here.  To start, my garden is not moving in the direction I would like it to.  I have ONE cucumber that has successfully grown; the rest just emerge and then turn yellow and shrivel.  I had lots of little baby watermelons and cantaloupes but only one of each has truly grown.  Tomatoes on the other hand are doing OK.  Still no zucchini and bugs are getting my blackberries. Boo!







Second, my lifestyle has been far from frugal!  I'm a little embarrassed by how much money I have been spending on clothes for the girls and other random items.  There's a little clothing company, Persnickety Clothing, that has the most adorable clothing for girls, made here in the USA.  There are very expensive, but over the July 4th holiday the entire spring line went 50% off.  Well, I couldn't control myself.  Then, the girls just had to get new shoes to match their outfits.  Again, another little boutique company, Joyfolie, who's shoes are made in the US.  But, I am recovering and trying to get myself back on track.  I prefer not to advertise what I spent last month :)

Finally, I am really disliking the mother I am becoming.  I am now confessing that I am a yeller, and not proudly!  For some reason I am more so in the summer than during the school year.  Being around the girls all day is stressful and they get tired of each other too which leads to lots of bickering.  My patience runs thin and I find myself instantly snapping.  (Thank God I am not a stay-at-home mom!)  Big O has been especially testy lately and the poor thing thinks I don't love her.  She is truly the sweetest little thing until she gets an idea in her head. I can tell her household rules over and over until I am blue in the face, but she doesn't seem to process them.  She will be in the middle of doing something she knows she shouldn't and I will calmly tell her "hands off" or "walk away" while she continues the behavior.  I repeat myself more firmly and still no response.  I finally raise my voice to a yell and she will snap out of it and begin screaming, "Why do you always yell at me??" and begin crying.  Did I not just ask her politely two other times??  I have tried timeouts, giving choices, taking her lovey away, behavior charts, modeling positive behaviors--nothing is working!!  (I accept all and any suggestions a more brilliant mama/papa has, because I am about to commit myself to the loony bin! )  I also think a lot of my yelling comes from other stressors that really don't have anything to do with the girls, which is horrible!  A while ago I across a website, The Orange Rhino Challenge (www.theorangerhino.com), and longed to become this mom who doesn't yell.  The creator of this site has gone beyond 365 days without yelling at her 4 boys!  I have been wanting to take the challenge for some time, but for some reason I have been hesitant to.  Is it because I LIKE yelling?  No.  I'm not sure what it is; maybe a fear of failing or maybe it's because yelling is the only successful way of getting through to her.  It's not easy admitting that you are a yelling mom...a BIG-time yelling mom.  But, I think I am now ready for the challenge...I have succumbed to the guilt.  If I can go an entire school day without yelling at somebody else's kid, why can't I go a day without yelling at my own kids.  Makes me sad.  So, I begin my challenge: 10 days without yelling.  10 days doesn't seem like that much, but I'll struggle to go one day!  Wish me luck!

Monday, July 1, 2013

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Before leaving for Florida three weeks ago, my garden was becoming quite a disappointment.  My blueberries never flowered, my raspberry plant never leafed, the tomato plants weren't growing and were turning yellow, and my strawberries never came up.  The only things that were doing somewhat ok were the cucumbers, zucchini, and melon plants but they still weren't anything to brag about.  We got quite a bit of rain while gone and my wonderful neighbors watered on days we didn't get rain.  Boy was I shocked when we got home!  If you remember, I posted these photos a little over a month ago, and to tell you the truth they weren't much different three weeks ago:
Zucchini (right) and cucumbers 
Watermelon and Cantaloupe

This is what I came home to:
Zucchini, cucumbers, lettuces
Cantaloupe and Watermelon

Tomatoes sprang back to life

Baby watermelon!
Baby cantaloupe
Cucumbers (looking a bit more like caterpillars)
Every few weeks I feed them a liquid plant food but other than that I haven't had to put anything on them.  My only concern is my zucchini.  It is flowering but once they bloom, the flowers die and fall off, not seeming to produce any fruit.  Anyone know anything about zucchini?  

Hopefully in the next few weeks I will have some lettuce and blackberries to harvest.  Happy Gardening!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Disney on the "Cheap"

Well, we are finally home and trying to get back into the "normal" swing of things, if that is even possible.  The girls had a fabulous time in Disney and were totally surprised. (Doug and I also greatly enjoyed the magic.)  Watching the joy and amazement on their faces with every new ride and character brought so much thrill to us.  As I stated in a previous post, our two days in Disney was the only big expense on our vacation.  Our ten days in Siesta Key were spent at a relative's condo right across from the beach and the five days in Amelia Island were spent with very good friends.  We are lucky to have such wonderful family and friends all over the place.  Our two days at Disney (not including food and other small purchases) cost roughly $875 in a value resort.  This seems like a lot of money for two days but since our other stops were free, we had no problem spending the money, and it was totally worth it!  We discovered the key to doing Magic Kingdom cheap is to bring in your own snacks and drinks and plan it so you only have to eat one meal in the park.  We ate breakfast at the hotel and filled up on fruit we had brought with us, then ate snacks around 11, followed by lunch at 3:00.  Dinner consisted of more fruit and healthy snacks.  The girls were so excited and busy they didn't even really want to eat.

We stayed in the new value resort, The Art of Animation, and it was fantastic!  Our room was filled with all things Ariel; the girls were in heaven.  The pool was clean and loads of fun.  I would highly recommend this resort if you are looking at getting a value.

If you are planning to head to the land of magic, make the most of your trip by getting fast passes to popular rides.  We got them for Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain, Ariel's Under the Sea ride and Peter Pan's Flight.  We lucked out the second day because of storms in the area.  Outdoor rides were closed for several hours, which sent a lot of people home.  Once they reopened, there were very little lines!  Another thing we did was focus only on one area of the park at a time.  We crossed off the things we didn't care to do on the map and once we rode a ride, we crossed it off the list.  We did Fantasyland and most of Tomorrowland on the first day and took care of everything else the following day.  We were warned that summer months are very crowded and try to avoid going then, but with that being the only vacation time we can take, we were left no choice.  We were quite shocked that the park really wasn't that crowded at all!  Wednesdays and Thursdays are supposed to be the best days to go to avoid large crowds, maybe because most people begin their vacations on Monday and always hit Magic Kingdom first? Don't get me wrong, there were a lot of people, but nowhere near what I expected.  Maybe it helped to go the first part of summer too.  Regardless, we had a wonderful, magical time; I was sad to see the time go so fast.  I just hope the memory of this trip stays with the girls forever.

A few photos of the resort: