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


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:

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Goin' to Disney!!

Look out Land of Magic; here we come!  Yes, tomorrow we are heading to Disney!  This is a total surprise to the Monkeys, so keep it a secret!!  The girls have been asking to go to Disney for so long and we keep telling them that when Big Monkey is 8 we will go.  It is a conversation they want to have multiple times a week.  We are only doing Magic Kingdom and staying 2 days/2nights, just enough for the girls to experience the best part.  Other than the hotel room on the way down to Florida last week, these two Disney nights are the only nights we have to pay for on our three week adventure, thanks to amazing family and friends who are opening up their homes to us.

While in the Disney store one evening, one of the girls picked up an autograph book and said she wanted it.  I told her what it was and said maybe we could get one in a few years when we go to Disney.  Autograph books from Disney range from $8.00 for a basic, plain book to $18.00 for one with space for photos.  I decided I could make my own that were so much cuter at a fraction of the cost.  All the materials were $18.00 and with that are enough materials to make two autograph books and even a little scrapbook once we get back.  All the materials shown are from Michael’s craft store.  I found a pack of chipboard with holes already punched and rings included. 

First, I traced the covers on the pink paper, cut them out and glued it onto the chipboard. 

Then I found a template for the mouse ears online and traced it onto shiny black paper and glued them onto the pink paper. 

Next, I put the Disney Memories tag on (it came as one piece),

Followed by tying a cute pink polka-dot bow for Minnie. 

I used a Walt Disney font in word a printed an O and A in white against a black background, cut them out with an Exacto knife and glued them onto the mouse.  

I then punched holes in multiple sheets of the polka-dot paper, placed it face down inside the two covers and put rings through them.  

The rings are temporary; once we get home and add our pictures I plan on loosely tying the black, yellow and pink ribbon through the holes to make it a bit fancier.  I cannot wait for the girls to see their books and experience a whole lot of magic!  

Monday, June 10, 2013

Schools Out!

Wow, I finally have time to breathe!  School is officially over, my room is packed up, and I’m looking forward to fun, 3-week vacation. School for the Monkeys is also officially over; they get to go once a week as part of paying a holding fee, which is heavenly.  It gives me a chance to have one day out of the week to clean the house.  The end of the year always has me stressed trying to get, papers graded, grades done, room cleaned up, cum files organized and reading assessments recorded in folders, plus think about what kind of gift to not only get for my kids but also my own kids’ teachers.  This year, my teaching partner, Amy, and I decided to make something for the kids that would cost us next to nothing and once we were finished, I decided to stay on the frugal side with the Monkeys’ teachers as well.  Amy had a great idea to make a special magnet for the kids to put in their lockers next year. (They will be big fifth graders and get to use lockers for the first time.)  She found a fun website, Tagxedo, where we could enter in words and it forms them into a word cloud.  We had the kids pass around notecards with their names on them and each child came up with a word or short phrase that described that person.  We chose a peace sign cloud because we have been talking a lot about getting along and peace topics this year.  We printed them on card stock, laminated them and added magnet strips to the back.  The kids loved them and couldn’t wait to bring them back next year for their lockers.  Unfortunately the last day was so crazy, I didn't get a picture of them.
These were so much fun that I decided to make one for each of my girls’ teachers.  The girls helped me come up with words and we framed the final product in colorful frames.  I also threw in a box of stationary note cards (I love having notecards around as a teacher!).  The frames were a hit!  I spent $4.99 on the frames and the cards were also $4.99.  So, total I spent $40.00.  Much better than what I have spent in the past.  This website will be used a lot this coming year!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Chicken Envy and New Products

I have to admit that I am a bit jealous of a coworker of mine who lives in the country and gets to raise chickens.  The good thing about this is that I have access to fresh eggs!  If you have never tasted a fresh egg, and no I do not mean the day you purchase a dozen from the store, you must seek some out! When you crack open an egg, what color is the yolk...yellow?  Check out the color of Miss Soozie's eggs (that's what the Monkeys call them).  The photo actually doesn't do these yolks justice.  They are a bright orange (the way they should be) and boy are they yummy!  One may not think a farm fresh egg tastes all that different from store-bought, but it does.  This was my dinner last night :)

What's the best part of going to Whole Foods?  Ask the Monkeys and they will tell you, "The samples!"  I have to admit I like that about them too, especially when they have a rep from Snowville Creamery giving out samples of the chocolate milk.  I never buy it because it's so expensive, but it's heavenly!  One thing I do not like about it, is all the open foods they have and the thought of all the germs swarming around them.  One afternoon an older woman grabbed a shrimp off the buffet, ate it, and threw the tail back in the pile of shrimp...no, I am not lying.  Talk about gross!  Then there are the people who treat the sampling stations like it's their lunch.  Ok, off topic... So the other day when we were there, a couple was giving out samples of Rooibee Red Tea.   This is a South African company who began marketing their teas in farmer's market and are now making their way into grocery stores.  We tried the watermelon mint and peach; they weren't too sweet and had a great, mild flavor!  (The Monkeys even loved them and begged for more.) Everyone else must have loved them too, because we got the last of the watermelon mint and cranberry pomegranate.  The only flavor left in the store was unsweet.  The couple giving out the samples were actually the parents of the company's CEO.  We chatted a bit and I learned that the company has really struggled to make it's way into  chain stores and is now quickly taking off.  Kroger is one of the company's newest retailers, so if you are a tea drinker, check this one out!

Finally, my new floors are making their way in!  Here are a few pictures of the family room.  I love the distressed look, because I don't have to panic over the first few scratches that are guaranteed to come quickly.  They are on to the kitchen tomorrow...I cannot wait!


Sunday, May 26, 2013


No, I haven't gotten eaten by my students, but I have been super busy with them, hence the reason for my absence.  This time of year is always crazy busy with assessments, trying to get caught up on grading and squeezing in any last minute instruction that I haven't gotten to yet.  I am quite pleased to say that I am in pretty good shape this year.  I haven't had a whole lot of time to devote to other areas of my life other that trying to enjoy my free time with my own kiddos.  My garden is coming along, however, my tomatoes are a bit weepy, my lettuces haven't really grown that much and my strawberries haven't emerged yet (bought them as roots in a package, so maybe that's my first mistake).  On the upside my zucchini, cucumbers, watermelon, cantaloupe, peas and blackberries are all looking good!


Last fall I was dreaming through the Pottery Barn Kids catalog and came upon an awesome lunch box (Planet Box) that contains a metal insert that has multiple compartments and small lidded containers.  It would eliminate the need for baggies and washing multiple glass containers every day.  However, with a $70.00 (yes, I typed that correctly) price tag, I decided I could handle washing a few containers.  Well, last night we were at the mall, and I decided to stop in PBK (I had a $50 gift card) and wouldn't you know, there were a few Planet Boxes left that had been marked down to $48.  I know, not really a bargain, but when I think about the money I will save over the years on baggies, time saved on dishes (the insert is dishwasher safe) and benefits to the environment, I think they will be worth it.  So, got two of them.  I also found these "lunch skins"--dishwasher safe, reusable snack bags.  Olivia is quite excited to start Kindergarten so she can use her new lunch bag.  I'll let you all know how it works out.

Today I went to Whole Foods again, yes, I know....but I wanted to get everything I would need snack-wise to take on vacation with us.  The girls picked out all sorts of nuts, seeds and dried fruits for trail mix and other healthy snack items to take along.  I managed to stay under $200.00, and I shouldn't have to go to the grocery again for the rest of the month.  I also managed to make my weekly loaf of bread and another batch of pitas yesterday.  I can't believe I ever thought I wouldn't have time for bread making...it's so simple and so much healthier.  Anyone tried it yet??