"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both." ~ Benjamin Franklin

Fab Food Friday

>> Friday, November 30, 2007

I love comfort food. Food that is warm and filling.

I pulled this
Chili Pie
recipe out of a Real Simple magazine a few years ago.

It's quick, simple and so yummy on cold evenings.




1 pound italian sausage (sweet or hot), casings removed
2 t chili powder
1- 15 oz can kidney beans, drained
1- 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
3/4 c jarred salsa
1- 8.5 oz box corn bread mix
1 large egg
1/3 c milk
1 c shredded cheddar

Heat oven to 400 F.

In large skillet over medium heat cook that sausage, crumbling it, until no trace of pink remains, about 7 minutes. Add the chili powder and cook for another minute. Discard any fat. Add the beans, tomatoes and salsa; simmer for 3 minutes.

In a bowl combine the corn bread mix, egg and milk; then stir in the cheddar.

Transfer chili mixture to a 2 quart baking dish. Spreadth corn bread batter over the top. Bake until golden: 15-20 minutes. Let set 5 minutes before serving.

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It's a Kind of Evolution

>> Thursday, November 29, 2007

It’s really funny to look at some of our top box office stars and remember where they came from. Tom Hanks was a cross-dressing guy on Bosom Buddies. Leo DiCaprio was a delinquent on Growing Pains. And Johnny Depp was a baby-faced under-cover cop on 21 Jump Street.

Mmmm, Johnny Depp. He’s just one of those actors that can pull off so many roles. I loved him as the sensitive and off-beat teen in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. You really just wanted him to find someone to understand and love him. Although I’m not really sure what it said about my fair state…

I think, though, that my favorite Johnny Depp film is Finding Neverland. It’s just so far removed from the characters you are used to seeing him play. Depp plays J.M. Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan, and in this movie you see him befriend the boys and their mother that inspire the classic story. It’s such a touching movie, one of my favorites of all time.

I do have to say, though, that one of my favorite movie quotes does come from Johnny Depp in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie- “But why is the rum gone?” Just that line and I can picture Capt. Jack Sparrow staggering to the fire as Elizabeth throws another cask in. Never fails to make me smile.



With his new release, Sweeney Todd, Depp is back to his trademark dark characters- and partnering again with Tim Burton. Sweeney Todd is the story of a barber who kills his victims with his shaving razor and then has them baked into meat pies. Oh yeah, definitely Burton/Depp material.

There are some great trailers if you visit the official Sweeney Todd movie site. You can also visit Sweeney Todd on MySpace for extra info. You really need to check it out.


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Ahhh, The Things We Pay Our Lawmakers to Do

>> Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Massachusetts is considering a spanking ban. Yep, another completely unenforceable law is being brought to the table.

This is actually interesting to me as my mom's group was discussing to spank or not to spank yeaterday- from a Biblical perspective. (Don't bail on me here, this is interesting stuff) We have been reading Don't Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Plowman. It has helped me to look at discipline in a whole new way.

I'm gonna toss you a couple of verses:


"Do not withhold disclipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod he
will not die." Proverbs 23:13

"The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but
a child left to himself disgraces his mother." Proverbs 29:15

"No
discipline seems pleasant at the time but painful. Later on, however, it
produces the harvest or rightousness and peace for those who have been trained
by it." Hebrews 12:11



Now I am in no way enforcing beating your child bloody or even with any sort of device like a belt or a wooden spoon. Beating your child is not the point. And discipline should never be carried out in anger.

I know that in our house Brenna responds to a spanking. I don't just go off and spank her. She will get one warning. But if I am going to warn her I am going to follow through with the punishment. And after the spanking we talk about why she was spanked and how she should have behaved to aviod the spanking.

And it works. And, believe it or not, it works even better if I show Brenna, in the Bible, how God says we should behave. We will memorize the verse and say it through the day.

Children need boundaries. They need to know that not everyone wins. Red ink is not the enemy. And, for the love of Pete, dodgeball is fun.

**PS Want more evil conservative talk? Go here to get my take on Hillary's new commercial and here to see what I was doing on John Edward's website.

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Create A Memory

Brenna is getting old enough now to recognize holidays. For the longest time we heard "today is my birthday"or "today is Halloween". Now we are decorating for Christmas... Every day I hear, "Is today Christmas?" The concept of "one month" or "thirty days" is foreign to her.

What she does understand is that the boxes that are showing up at the door contain good stuff. "Is it for me?" she asks about every one. She loves to get mail.

So I am thinking about surprising her with one of these Letters From Santa. It is completely customizable and with 30 different letters I don't have to worry about a different one for Caelan. With a Santa Clause postmark and certification from elves... I can think of a few adults who would like this.

Santa even sends a postcard from the beach after Christmas. This is really just too cool.

PS If you know a stamp collector this would also be a great gift. The commemorative post mark is used only during the month of December and retired at the end of the year- never to be used again.

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Another Commercial That Makes Me Want to Shoot the TV

As I said before we are inundated with political TV ads. Hillary has a new one that makes me cringe.

In it you see a father telling you about his son's illness and how a bone marrow transplant wasn't going to be covered by insurance.

** Evil conservative note: Nowhere in the ad does it say what illness the child had or if the bone marrow transplant was an approved procedure or a "maybe it will work" procedure. Insurance companies won't usually cover "it may work-it may not" procedures or new technology.

Then you hear about how this man called Senator Clinton to explain his plight and the next day one of her staff called back and told him the the hospital was waiving the cost of the surgery.

The commercial finishes with him saying something along the lines of "They say she can't be trusted; I trusted her with my son's life".

Now, it's a very touching commercial- Hillary saved a boy's life (or so the assumption is). Awwww...

But can we focus on the very important part of the comercial, namely the hospital waiving the cost of the surgery.

Now you know darn well that hospitals can't go around doing free surgery or they would go out of business- case in point, hospitals along our southern border are closing due to people coming across the border for health care and not paying. (Link here and here. There are plenty more...)

So that takes us to "Hillary care". We already know that Hillary will have to raise taxes to pay for it. She has told us that. (Ourselves, we would be paying almost double per month than we are now self insuring.) But besides that...

Treatment depends on many factors:
1) your overall health (or how long you have lived, how long you can live without the treatment, how long you would be expected to live if you had the treatment)
2) take that "ranking" and insert yourself into the list of all the people needing surgery. If you won't die tomorrow you may have a bit of a wait.
3) procedures deemed unnecessary or experimental will still not be covered and you'll be paying out of pocket.

So, tell me again... What are the benefits, other than a nice "feel good" commercial?

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More Gift Giving Ideas

I've seen a few people asking for gift ideas lately. So I am going to give you a few ideas.

First off, let me tell you that I rarely pay full price for anything. When I am online I use coupon codes for free shipping, dollars off and percentage savings and free items. Always.

I shopped eToys for the girls and a couple of their cousins. I am really amped for the girls to wake up on Christmas morning and see the inflatable jumper I got them- for under $30. Brenna has also been asking for roller skates for months. I got a great price on a Dora the Explorer set with elbow and knee pads. The High School Musical Cheerleader dress up kit I got for Doug's niece is pretty cool, too. And, along with the cyber savings they have, I didn't pay any shipping.

Best Buy is always one of our wallet busters. With a teenaged nephew and, of course, My Geek plenty of our holiday dollars end up there. This year a few other lucky family members will be benefiting from our savings in the digital department. (I won't say who, but I will mention digital photo frames are on our list. As well as Nintendo DS games and DVDs).

As for myself, there is a lovely little link on my right sidebar that goes directly to my Amazon.com wishlist.

I'm just sayin'...

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Counting Backwards

As I was driving Brenna to school this morning she announced, "I can count backwards!"

This actually caught me off guard because it came from left field. We had been talking about the turning cars beside us.

She begins, "Ten, nine," good so far. "Eight, thirty, six, five, four, three, two, one."

Hmmm... I think we might need to work on this. The only reason I can think of for sticking thirty in there is because mommy is 37, a fact she has just recently learned. But sometimes she forgets the thirty and mommy is seven.

Hmmm... can't I just be 30?

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Let the Decorating Begin

Last Sunday Doug & I pulled all the Christmas decorations out of storage. So far only a few things are up: the outdoor decorations and the small pre-lit tree in the Great Room. All the other boxes are in the basement waiting to be unpacked.

I have opened one of those boxes; the box with the Christmas lights . I always open that one with trepidation before I actually need it. I just never know what kind of mess I may find.

Of course I try to get all the lights wrapped neatly before storage to cut down on swearing the next year but it doesn’t always happen. Then there is the ceremonial pre-lighting to check for burnt out bulbs. And, always, there is the entire strand that won’t light because one bulb is bad. Which leads to the individual removal and checking of every bulb… And at least one broken bulb.

I know I’ll be buying at least one new string of lights this year. I’m going to invest in LED Christmas Lights. They may cost a bit more but to my way of thinking it will be worth it.

• LED lights have a one piece construction- no little bulbs escaping the string to be stepped on later.
• LED lights last twice as long (50,000 hours compared to 25,000)
• LED lights are 90% more efficient
• No fragile glass bulbs

Now, I like the fact that LED holiday lights are efficient and they last twice as long but the real selling point for me is that those little LED mini lights won't injure the girls. Caelan puts absolutely everything in her mouth and I really don't want to hear the crunch of glass coming from her vicinity.


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It Had to Happen

>> Tuesday, November 27, 2007

After the last few days there was just no way to avoid it. It was just getting too difficult to handle.

Yes, I am talking about static. Specifically hair static. My poor girls both have my hair- lots of it but rather fine and very prone to static in the winter. Which is why I always cut my hair during the winter.

Caelan is lucky as she doesn't really have enough hair to make much of a statement yet. Brenna, on the other hand, looks like she has been the static exhibit at the science fair.

Today we were at the grocery store and the girls were "driving" the plastic car that is so conveniently attached to the shopping cart. Now I'm not sure if you are aware of this but plastic conducts static. So after a few minutes Brenna's hair was literally standing on end and clinging to the plastic. Much like this:
Ya know, that kind of reminds me of Bill the Cat... Anyway, a rather rude teen aged stock boy ever so kindly asked me if I knew what my daughter's hair looked like. I just laughed it off and said something about static being awful and wheeled my cart away hoping that he wasn't eying my daughter as some sort of science project.

So tonight after dinner and before bed Brenna got a new do:

Of course the static will get ahold of this, too. But at least there is less of it to deal with.

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Places to Go; Things to Do

I love to travel and explore. And whether my journeys take me over the river or over the ocean really doesn't matter. Beauty lies everywhere.

Once upon a time, almost in another life, I visited Canada. I lived in Minnesota at the time so it was kind of a given that you went to Canada at least once. Of course the trip wasn't really for me- I was kind of a tag along with friends. As a tag along you don't get to do what you want. So I left Canada not really getting a feel for what it could offer.

I do remember the beauty, though. An when I saw Tremblant Montreal I was reminded of my desire to one day return and have a truly great experience.

I am in love with the personal cabins and the gorgeous surroundings. It just looks like a great place to get away with family for some peace and relaxation. And there is a spa opening soon....

Oh, yeah, this really looks like my kind of place.

And another "place to go" is added to my ever expanding list....

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So... Was on John Edwards' Website

>> Monday, November 26, 2007

OK, I know that caused many of you to pause.

Now that you have let that sink in let's move onward. I was laughing and Doug asked, "What?"

"I'm on John Edwards' website." I replied.

"Glutton for punishment?" Doug asked.

Well, no, not really. I really feel the need to know what people are using as talking points. I actually hit this website because of a commercial that has been running here the past month or so. In it he states that the Democratic party needs to grow a backbone and "stand up for the working men and women" because, without the Democratic party, these people have no voice.

That commercial has rubbed me wrong since it began airing here in Iowa.

Aside: I know that many of you have no idea what I am talking about as you aren't inundated with the political malarkey we are so early in the campaign cycle (starting like last December).

Anyway, this commercial really rubs me wrong because John Edwards has his facts wrong. The Democratic party does not wield the power. Neither, in fact, does the Republican party. The power is wielded by the people. As in "We The People".

The politicians work for us and it's about time we remembered that and began holding them accountable. In this age of Internet and instant news it is easier than ever to know what our representatives are up to, what they are sponsoring and whether they are following the wishes of the people who hold the power- their constituents.

The power of change belongs to us. Not to a politician who is, honestly, only looking to further his or her career and agenda.

So, on to why I was laughing... On the right side of the front page of his website you see this:

Now, this leads me to believe that fighting global warming is pretty high on his "to do" list. So seeing this right next to it gave me pause:

Because a road trip doesn't seem to be quite the thing to do, quite frankly. And since John is fighting for the "working man", who doesn't have the money to buy a Prius or carbon offsets, I would have to guess that many of those who would join his "road trip" would be burning straight gasoline in their automobiles with internal combustion engines.

And that, quite simply, is why I was laughing.

Of course, they could ride horses. Which actually would be worse as the methane emissions are worse for the environment. Which brings me to a more important question, and the one time I will probably ever side with PETA- if you are really concerned about global warming, John, will you become a vegetarian?

In a groundbreaking 2006 report, the United Nations (U.N.) said that raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined. Senior U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization official Henning Steinfeld reported that the meat industry is “one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems.”

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Because I Can't Seem to Remember When It Matters

SO… I was in Target the other day and completely blanked out on what my printer is. Completely. Couldn’t tell you the brand or any of it’s functions.

If I hadn’t been so distracted by the craziness of life lately I would be worried about that disease where you forget stuff… You know…. Well, crap, what’s it called?

Anyway, I came home and logged into Cartridge Finder and with their very easy to use format found the right ink and the best prices while I was sitting right in front of the printer.

Now if there was only a site that could tell me what to buy for Doug's grandmothers for Christmas...

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Help! My Skin Needs You!

Last summer the skin care regimen I was using suddenly quit working. I was experiencing strange almost eczema-like breakouts on my face. I quit those products and began using the most mild dermatologist-recommended products I could get over the counter until I could get in to see a dermatologist.

Now, I went to a dermatologist who could prescribe meds as I was having an eczema outbreak on my hand. She prescribed Retin-A for my face. I was to work up to using it daily.

I didn't notice any problems, except for a little dryness, until I was using it every day. Then my skin broke out like never before. And it was also so "fresh" that the tiniest scratch from Caelan resulted in a bleeding wound. It was disgusting.

So I quit using it.

I am considering going to a dermatologist that also does skin care procedures. No drugs but I am sure they will want me to buy many high priced items- and maybe get a little botox.

What do you swear by? Remember, I'm getting to a "certain age" so I need stuff for laugh lines and crows feet.

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More Shopping Yet to Do

I’ve been shopping the last few days. Now, before you assume anything, I was not one of the 20,000 people at the mall at 12:01am on Black Friday.

Nope, I slept until Caelan woke me (shortly after 6am) and did some online shopping with the girls’ grandmother for their gifts. The majority of my shopping has, in fact, been done online.

Only a few names remain on my list: my mother, my father and both of Doug’s grandmothers.

All of these people are difficult to buy for as they don’t really need anything. And I just went through the pain of buying birthday gifts for Doug’s grandmothers… I am completely clueless as to what to get them for Christmas.

I’ve been searching CollectiblesToday.com for ideas. They have lots of great stuff. I’m considering something from their “inspirational” group for one grandmother. I’m trying to think if the other grandmother collects anything… I think she might like some of the Thomas Kinkade stuff.

I'll have to peruse the Christmas Gifts for Mothers though... I still have no idea what my mom might like. And I'm surely not going to list it here- she checks in daily!

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It's All Fuzzy

Well crap. It seems that my eyes have changed significantly in the past couple of days. Everything seems ok when I have my contacts on, but when I put on my glasses- which are the same prescription- it feels like I am looking through hazy water.

I have a nasty astigmatism that prevents me from getting LASIK and the other eye surgery options that have been offered to me involve quite a bit of downtime; which I don't have the luxury of right now.

So I suppose I will be making an appointment with an optometrist soon. Grrr...

My skin, my teth, now my eyes. I'm falling apart, I tell ya. APART!

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Add Another Item to the List

Yesterday we took full advantage of Doug not working to organize the garage, bring in lawn furniture for winter and pull the Christmas decor from the attic.


Which is all well and good- except it showed me this:



Yikes! The floor is awful. Yes, yes, I know it's a garage. And I wouldn't be so bothered if it hadn't been painted once upon a time. Why people do a half-a$$ed job the first time around I just don't know. But now new garage floors are on "the list".

Yes, that list. The one that seems to grow longer every month we live here. Maybe when we move in 20 years my house will be just the way I want it!

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So, It's Been A While...

>> Sunday, November 25, 2007

How is everyone? I knew I hadn't posted in a few days... But since Thursday? Wow! That's why I was suffering withdrawls!

The round of out of town guests invading my home and birthday celebrations out of town has ended- just in time for Christmas celebrations to begin.

The Geeks will be venturing east next weekend to take in Prelude to Christmas at the Amana Colonies. I've said it before; we love the Amana Colonies. It's a great "mini-break" for us. Any Iowa bloggers over there that want to meet up on Sunday for lunch- or a chocolate break?

Also next weekend, before we leave, is my SILs baby shower. I'll be co-hosting but it will be at my other SILs house so we can get out of town by 4pm.

Next Friday is the last day of "Iowa Bribing". I've had a pretty good response so far but would love to have more- click here to see what I'm giving away and how to (easily!) enter. I'll be drawing Saturday morning.

Well, it's timeto get the girls to bed and I am still hacking like a pack-a-day smoker. I suppose I should visit the doctor again... Gah! I just want to be better already!

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More Phishiness

>> Thursday, November 22, 2007

I told you the other day about a phishing email I got - supposedly from Regions Bank.

Well, I got another one today regarding an "important notification about myAmazon.com account". Apparently:


We recently noticed one or more attempts to log in to your account from a foreign IP address. If you accessed your account while travelling, the unusual login attempts may have been initiated by you. However, if you did not initiate the logins, please visit Amazon.com Inc. as soon as possible to verify your identity.

This is a security measure that will ensure that you are the only person who can access your Amazon account. Thank you for your patience as we work together to protect your account.


To get started, please click the link below and login to your account:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/yourstore/ref=pd_irl_gw/ie=UTF8&signIn=1


Best Regards,
Amazon.com Inc. Security Center


Funnily enough, the email address was not Amazon, but instead this: Amazon.com [lvvtgf@yahoo.co.uk]. Yep, 'cuz Amazon is gonna use a Yahoo address...

Just a heads up to all of you. Things can get busy during the holidays and if you buy online like I do emails like these might just freak you out. Trust your junkmail filter and be sure to use your spyware and virus protection.

Happy shopping!

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Happy Thanksgiving

I am baking a pumpkin cheesecake and hoping that the weather will hold so Grandma can make it to our house.

Otherwise... We'll have potatoes,salad, cheese & crackers and cheesecake.


An Irish Blessing for you on Thanksgiving

May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life's passing seasons
bring the best to you and yours!
*updated to add my little rant*
I heard a host on the Today Show say that "Thanksgiving is about food, family and getting ready to shop tomorrow". Now I remember why I don't watch those shows.
As I was driving to the grocery store for a few items I forgot yesterday it occured to me that what she said probably rings true for many. And that made me sad.
And, as I stewed over it more, I realized that in order to celebrate Thanksgiving you must have someone to thank; that someone being God.
The pilgrims came to the "New World" to escape religious persecution. When they arrived they thanked God for their safe passage.
The pilgrims wouldn't have survived the first year if they hadn't been befriended by an Indian named Squanto. When the rest of his tribe lft the area he chose to stay with the pilgrims. (I am, of course oversimplifing the life of Squanto, there is a great piece on him here.)

Many pilgrims died that first winter. If not for Squanto it would have been many more. After the first harvest the pilgrims gave thanks to God for their bounty. Bounty that today would be even below the level that most of our poorest citizens would be thankful for.
But thankful they were, to God, for their survival and their home.
And thankful we should be, today, to God for our freedoms, our prosperity and our families.
It would do everyone good to remember that. Because as we forget we lose our motto: In God We Trust.
For another great read check out Bob's Lost Iowan Diary.

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Dear Readers

>> Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I made a mistake. I had a post with an address to send a card to a recovering American Soldier. It was pointed out to me by Renae that I didn't do my homework on this one.

Due to people who would like to injure our soldiers' minds, bodies and spirits any mail labeled "A recovering American Soldier" will be destroyed.

So I will ask you to mention Soldiers' Angels and ask your readers to help remember all our soldiers this year.

A couple of posts down I told you about a company that donated holiday cards and blank cards to Soldiers' Angels for their care packages. Of course most of us don't have that kind of resource.

But there are many ways to touch the life of a soldier- you can "adopt" a soldier, join one of the many teams, make a donation or shop in the Soldiers' Angels store.

You can also support the USO by making a donation or volunteering.

Sorry about this mistake and please, at this time of the year for giving thanks and spreading joy, please don't forget our troops.

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Caelan Has The Right Idea

Caelan has been practicing for her big walk through the airport pulling her own luggage:


Looking outside today, I don't blame her a bit for wanting to fly off somewhere:

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Support Those Who Support Our Troops

>> Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Gallery Collection, a Corporate Holiday Cards Company has donated a greeting card to every soldier with a holiday message. The card also expresses their thanks. Also included with this card is a blank card and envelope for the soldier to use to write to a loved one. These cards will be included in care packages sent to our troops by Soldiers’ Angels.

By making this donation The Gallery Collection has helped Soldiers’ Angels to offer our troops the support they need to feel from all of us.

If you would like to contribute to this cause please visit Soldier’sAngels.org and make a donation.

And if you need to send holiday cards, check out The Gallery Collection, the Corporate Holiday Cards Company. Because and company that will make such a donation to support our troops certainly deserves our support, as well.

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Things are Getting Phishy

I got a new one today...

Supposedly from Regions Bank. Apparently my online account has been restricted and I must restore it by logging in and verifying my available credit.

One problem... I don't have an account with Regions Bank. Never have.

So I used their "contact us" button and told them that I have no account.

Hmmm, do you think they'll call me back?

I have to say, the phising website is a great knock-off. And I have to say that Vista, for all it's been knocked, does a great job of telling me when I'm on a phishing site.

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Local Legends

I grew up in a small town in the southwestern part of Iowa. As with any town there were many urban legends and myths.

In a cemetery south of town was a stone marker. And when I say stone, I mean it was a stone, not a monument. The stone highly resembled a part of the male anatomy. It was said that the wife had it placed at her husband’s grave because he was a d*ck.

At the cemetery east of town was the “crying stone”. It was said that you could hear the lover mourning the death of her beloved. Some said you could even see her kneeling at his grave.

But the scariest place around was “Hooker’s Farm”. Legend was that a man went crazy one night and killed his wife and daughter- by hanging them in the barn from hay hooks. Now, if you’ve been near a farm you have probably seen these hooks. Nasty looking things- kind of like the hooks you hang big slabs of meat on at the butcher’s.

The legend said that, if you went at night and messed with the house shots would be fired outside, from the direction of the barn. And if you left one thing out of place it would be put right by morning.

And I know plenty of people who would swear to that as fact.

My experience with “Hooker’s Farm” happened one night when I was out with friends doing the only thing there was to do in that town- cruise around and drink cheap beer.

Suddenly the car stopped. No sputtering, it just stopped. Turning the key wouldn’t even get a “click”.

The harvest moon was full in the sky and we could see a lane ahead lined with trees. One of the guys thought he recognized where we were- he thought we were close to his aunt’s house. So he and another friend set out while the rest of us waited in the car. And we waited. And waited.

By this time we were beginning to worry. They had been gone an awful long time and the lane wasn’t that far away. Panic began to set in as every rustling bush became a psycho killer and every screeching owl became a terrified scream.

The happy buzz of the beer wore off and tension began to build as the minutes ticked by. The one remaining guy, who was left to “guard” us girls, was doing his best to retain his “macho” image. The girlfriend of one of the missing had begun to whine. I was sitting quietly, just watching… Waiting for someone to come along. We weren’t that far from town, surely a car would come by soon.

And then, suddenly, the air was filled with the sound of gunshots and screams of teenagers. The girlfriend began to cry with hysterics. Our “guard” began to shout at her to shut up “before they start shooting at us”. He began pumping on the gas pedal and turning the key. Still nothing.

Suddenly there were figures coming through the fields and out of the dark. “Start the f*cking car! He’s shooting at us!”

And, suddenly, the car started. Just like that. The guys jumped in screaming, “Turn around, I think he’s chasing us!”

And as we sped back toward town the guys told us that the lane had led to a house they knew; not the aunt’s house but “Hooker’s Farm”. Seeing a light in the house they thought that someone might be out to test the legend and they could get some help. As they approached the gunshots began. Tripping and pushing each other they ran- not really caring if the other was beside him.

I learned a lot about my friends that night and came to realize that, under stress, people act much differently than you expect. As the fear mounted we all thought only of ourselves.

I did come to learn, many years later, that “Hooker’s Farm” wasn’t actually haunted, although a man was hung in the doorway of the house. The land passed down through his family. The family watched over the house and as the legend grew and kids started going out there for thrills the current owner would wait in the bushes with his shot gun. As kids entered the house he would shoot the gun into the air to scare them. His wife, hearing the shots, would walk through the adjoining field and together they would put the house to rights.

That legend would make a great movie. I saw the trailer for The Mist by Stephen King the other day, which is what reminded me of this. In the trailers you get the idea that people become different when placed in a scary and dangerous situation.

Not so much as horror movie, The Mist seems more a psychological thriller, albeit one that will probably elicit a scream or two.


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But I Didn't Want Company

>> Monday, November 19, 2007

Doug's grandmother (not the one who just had the birthday party last weekend, but the one who is having a birthday party this coming weekend) called me today.

Grandma: "What are you doing Thursday?"
Me: "Not leaving the house unless we go out for Chinese food."
Grandma: "I thought you might want to come up here for Thanksgiving dinner."
Me: "We have been so busy and Doug has been working so much that we just want to stay home and relax. And we'll be up there on Saturday."
Grandma: "I could come down there."
Me: "I'm not fixing a turkey."
Grandma: "I can cook it and bring it down."
Me: "Let me talk to Doug."

And Doug says: "Let her come down. She's a good cook."
Me: "OK, but I'm telling her that I don't want a house full of people. No aunts, uncles or cousins."
Doug: "OK."

So Doug's grandmother is bringing a turkey, dressing,cranberry sauce and a pumpkin pie. I will be providing appetizers, potatoes, green bean cassarole and a pumpkin cheesecake (new recipe).

So much for a relaxing day...


If anyone else comes I'm locking the door.

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Yes, I'm Sensitive

I just made our 6 month dental appointments. We are a couple months late. It’s not that I have a fear of the dentist, it’s just that so much of our old dental work- I’m talking work that was done when we were kids- is getting so fragile and beginning to break. So dental visits cost a fortune.

Case in point- two of my molars have rather large silver fillings in them (I grew up on a farm, drinking well water, no fluoride, 'nuff said) that are beginning to crack. This has caused them to be very sensitive to cold.

I’ve tried toothpastes to help with the sensitivity but none seem to last. Recently I tried Biotene.

I actually only tried it because I received a free sample. I had given up on anything working and was resolving myself to waiting until January.

I was totally surprised that it actually worked! Instead of acting as a “band-aid” to my problem, it actually seemed to “bond” to my teeth and provide relief that lasted.

And I loved the fact that it is low-foam. It always bothered me how much toothpaste would foam out of my mouth. I felt almost rabid. And it would tend to dry the corners of my mouth and cause irritation. I hated that.

I also really liked the taste. Kind of fruity, but not overly sweet. Very nice.

If you find yourself needing a sensitive toothpaste I highly recommend Biotene. It really does work.


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What To Do...

The girls just went down for their naps. After the last 4 very busy days they both need to catch up on their zzzzz's....

I just took a batch of layered pumpkin muffins out fo the oven. Mmmm... My house smells like pumpkin pie.

And now I sit at my desk, which is piled high with paperwork that needs filed, debit slips to enter into Quicken, a birth announcement that I must send a card for soon... and software that needs transferred from my "old" laptop to my "new" laptop so the old one can go in for a big check-up before the warranty expires.

And since all that is just sitting there, waiting for me to attack it, I will show you, instead, a photo of my new laptop bag.

I had initially planned to make my own bag but I couldn't find a pattern I really liked- or one that fit a 17" laptop- and creating my own pattern was a task that I really didn't feel like taking on any time soon.

So I Googled "stylish laptop bags" and came up with... not a lot. Then I remembered Etsy. I don't go there alot because I could easily spend hours just surfing through all the great hand-made items. And I found Janine King Designs. She's been creating bags for 15 years and has a 100% positive feedback. I am definately thinking of getting one of her iPod/phone cases for my new video camera (after I measure it to make sure it would fit).

I love this bag and highly recommend Janine King Designs if you need a stylish bag for anything... Maybe I'll give one away sometime...

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Planning to GoGo Shopping?

It will happen in just a few days. I am , of course, speaking of the biggest shopping day of the year: Black Friday.

Locally one of our malls will actually open for shopping at 12:01am that day. Most other stores will open at a more “traditional” time- about 5am.

Thankfully most stores have an online presence and will offer the same savings online as they do in the stores. You can be sure that I will be skipping the crowds as much as possible and using online coupons.

I have a list of online coupon sites that I use. Most recently I added GoGoShopper.com. I used it this morning to find Target coupons.

The nice thing about GoGoShopper.com is that they have coupons for department stores like Kohl’s, Macy's and JCPenney- as well as coupons for online only stores.

Go ahead and do what I did: add GoGoShopper.com to your favorites links under “Savings: Online Coupons & Codes”.

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An So Another Week Begins

How is it Monday again? We were so busy all weekend... It's not fair! I need a break!

Yesterday was a full day- beginning at 2:30am for me. Yes,2:30am. I woke and noticed that Doug wasn't in bed. He was working. Yep, working. On a conference call with 8 other people. Yes, it's insane. Thankfully he is paid by the hour.

He came upstairs and then my coughing began. I took some medicine and went downstairs so Doug could rest. Unfortunately every time I tried to lay down I began coughing. Which meant no laying down...

About 6:30am I took a shower and got dressed. Caelan woke; she and I made a Panera run for some breakfast pastries and went to the church to set up the nursery.

By 8:45am we were on the road, heading for Tama County and Doug's great-grandmother's 85th birthday party. It was an all day event. Church... Luncheon... Open House... Family back to GGma's house. We "escaped" the open house and had a rest at GGma's house before the rest of the family showed up.

We were home about 8pm. Exhausted.

On schedule for this week: household shopping, preparing for Doug's dad and his wife to arrive, I must start my Christmas shopping...

Oh, I'm sure there's more. I just can't think what right now. Must wake Doug & Brenna and begin my day.

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So Tired

>> Saturday, November 17, 2007

I am still battling this bronchitis/walking pnemonia. I am exhausted. I don't recall ever feeling this tired and brain dead.

Tomorrow we have to drive about an hour and a half for Doug's grandmother's birthday party. It seems like it will be an all-day event, beginning with church, followed by a family luncheon and then an open house.

I'm really not sure how well Caelan and I will hold up. We're both still cranky and under the weather.

But, like I said, I'm tired. It's 8pm, Doug wants a haircut then I am going to bed.

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Curiously Fun Stocking Stuffers

I love getting mail. I'm not really sure why, but it is one of the highlights of my day. Yes, it's sad, I know. Especially since our mail usually consists of junk and bills. Once in a while I get a magazine and lately I'm getting lots of Christmas catalogs.

But today... Today I got goodies. Which came in very handy as Doug's niece has been here a couple of days and she and Brenna are beginning to get on each other's nerves. Yea! Distractions!

The first thing I pulled out of the packet was a Smencil. This was a big hit as it smelled like grapes. I thought it was pretty cool because it is made from recycled newspapers. It even came in it's own little tube so you could stuff it in a stocking easily.
After dinner we tried the colored flame candles. The girls really liked picking out the colors.
But the favorite, by far, was the fake snow. This was incredibly cool as it was just a little packet of powder. We added water and "POOF!"- fluffy white snow. Lyric really liked it as she has never seen the real stuff before.

I can't even tell you how neat this stuff is. If you freeze it you can build a snow man (or a blob, in Brenna's case). It would also look great around those little village decorations. And it's non-toxic. Which is good because Caelan thought it was Dippin' Dots.

You can also find useful products- like a USB LED Desk Lamp. Some great stuff over at VAT19- go check it out!

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So I Am Walking Past Godiva...

>> Friday, November 16, 2007


Did the title get you?
Well, here's what got me-



A lovely biscuit with dark chocolate truffle.

Oh. My. God. Absolute bliss.

It's a really good thing I don't live closer to that mall.

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It's Exploded

I used to have the greatest skin. I had no problem with pimples as a teen, or even in my 20s. As I reached my 30s things began to change and I was noticing more blackheads and painful cysts. A little bit of research and a few product changes and I was back to normal.

But now, after the birth of my lovely daughters, I am noticing that my skin just cannot find a happy place. I went to a dermatologist. She prescribed Retin-A. And now my skin is worse than ever. It’s dry and dull, rough with blackheads and the cysts have appeared as if conjured from the zit faerie.

Acne.com is a resource I found for all things acne: types of acne, causes of acne and myths.

They have a great section on adult acne and lists of treatments. I’m thinking I’ll be doing more research and concoct my own treatment again. Not even a dermatologist knows my skin as well as I do…

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Fab Food Friday

If you like brownies and coconut macaroons (a couple of my favorite things!) I have the perfect recipe for you!

Black-Bottom Coconut Bars



This recipe came from Everyday Food.

Chocolate Base
1/2 c unsalted butter
1/2 c sugar
1/4 t salt
1 large egg
1/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 c all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)

Preheat oven to 375. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving a slight overhang; butter bottom and sides of foil; not overhang.

Place butter in a large microwave safe bowl; melt in microwave. Add sugar and salt; whisk to combine. Whisk in egg, then cocoa and flour until smooth. Spread in prepared pan.

Bake just until sides begin to pull away from pan, 10-15 minutes (do not overbake). Let cool slightly while preparing coconut topping. Keep oven on for topping.

Coconut Topping
2 large eggs
3/4 c sugar
1/2 t vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 (7 oz) pkg sweetened shredded coconut; 1/2 c reserved for sprinkling

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs with sugar and vanilla. Gently mix in flour and coconut (except 1/2 c reserved).

Drop mounds of mixture over chocolate base; spread and pat in gently and evenly with moistened fingers. Sprinkle with 1/2 c reserved coconut.

Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 25-30 minutes. Cool completely in pan. Lift cake from pan, peel off foil and cut into 24 bars. Store in airtight container 3-4 days.

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For Those "Other" Gifts

>> Thursday, November 15, 2007

I have people on my Christmas list that I don’t really know very well. People like our investment advisor… My chiropractor (who I can’t live without) and his staff… The teachers at Brenna’s pre-school… And personal clients of Doug’s who we need to thank for their business.

People this important to our livelihood, comfort and children deserve a thoughtful gift, something that conveys our thanks.

I usually turn to iGourmet for one of their holiday gift baskets. I actually received one of their gift baskets a few years ago – it was cheese - and was so impressed by the quality of their products that I ordered some for my boss. He was such a difficult guy to please- and he loved it! Since then I have used iGourmet often. And I always get a great “Thank You” from everyone I send them to.

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Right Now

Brenna is sitting at her computer playing a Blues Clues game.

Caelan is sitting on a box from IKEA- a stand for my Wishblade with drawers and castors so it will roll- that has yet to be opened and constructed. Beside it sits another box from IKEA- a bookshelf to replace the one I currently have. About the same amount of space but it's divided into 8 cubes- to the joy of my organized self.

It is shortly after 2pm. Almost nap time. I could really use a nap. My sickness and the pills to knock it out are really taking a toll on me.

But... my brother-in-law and his daughter will be here sometime between 4-8pm. I need to do a bit more cleaning (I did get the bathroom bleached to get rid of the cat ick) and make myself presentable. A Target run would also be good. And, since tonight is usually our small group night for church I don't have a menu plan- hence no food for dinner.

The piles of stuff that needs done... but isn't getting done... is beginning to weigh heavily on me. I really need a day just locked in my office with no interruptions.

Hmmm... Maybe Saturday? Here's hoping...

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Christmas Traditions of Old

I love to learn the lore and traditions of times past. Especially around holidays; it just makes them feel more special.

I found an interesting bit about Christmas Pudding the other day when I was randomly bouncing around Christmas sites.

The traditional pudding has 13 ingredients, in honour of Jesus and his disciples. Making the pudding should be a family affair, with each person taking
a turn to stir. Be sure to make a wish as you stir from East to West, thus
representing the Wise Men on their journey. And remember to toss in a lucky coin
as you mix. Whoever finds it on Christmas Day will supposedly find wealth and
happiness. Any coin will do, although tradition recounts threepenny bits or a
sixpence if you were really lucky.


For a great presentation you would douse it with Brandy and bring it to the table in flames.

Of course noone makes Christmas Pudding anymore- unless it comes from a box. Ugh.

If you want a traditional Christmas Pudding there is one company that has been creating them since 1899- Matthew Walker. It's the next best thing to home-made.

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What Did I Accomplish?

>> Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Let's see... Looking at my list from earlier... Not much.

The carpets are clean and the bills are paid.

And I am exhausted. I so hate being on medication. The codine is kicking my butt.

Ah, well, tomorrow is another day.

OK, maybe it's really not. Maybe it's just a repeat of every day played out over and over. Like Groundhog Day.

When I get it right can I please move on???

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Itchy Feet

I mentioned a few posts ago that Doug & I plan to sell our house when the girls go off to college and buy a nice loft. Where we may buy that is completely open for discussion right now. Our ideas change on a pretty regular basis.

Obviously there are places that I won’t own property- like a cliff overlooking the ocean in California (duh!) or on the southern border of Texas (well, really anywhere in Texas), Arizona or New Mexico for obvious reasons (OK, they are obvious to me).

Before we got married we toyed with moving someplace new for both of us and really beginning fresh. One state that we discussed at length was Colorado. It’s got that wild-west feeling in some spots but is so completely urban, too.

Every so often I get “itchy feet” and check out the Colorado real estate market. Just to see what’s going on there. Because maybe we could buy a little condo or townhouse early…

Hey, it could happen.

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What Next?

Let's see...

The carpet cleaner will be here at 4pm, I need to get things picked up.

Doug got paid today, I need to pay bills.

I still haven't cleaned the bathroom that the cat used for the past 4 weeks. It's hideous. It will be a bleach cleaning with a few items just being thrown out.

Dishes need done.

So does more laundry.

I could really use a nap.

And the items I purchased at IKEA need to be put together so I can get organized again.

Oh, and after the carpets get cleaned I need to move the guest bedroom from the basement to the 2nd floor. The girls are rooming together now and Doug's brother will be arriving from Texas tomorrow.

Hmmm, I really feel like I am missing something...

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I'll Go Faux

One of my friends loves those home makeover shows. They fill her TiVo. Her absolute favorite is Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. I think she secretly hopes that they will come, destroy her home and replace it. Well, I guess we all kind of wish for something along those lines.

Me, I just wish for new Blinds. We currently have wood blinds in our basement and bedroom. They are so heavy it’s like playing tug of war every time I want to open them. But I do like the way they look. So, of course, I’ll keep them until they begin to deteriorate. But once they do, I am so getting faux wood blinds. I’m guessing they will weigh less… And they won't warp or crack with the changes in temperature and humidity.

Just one more thing added to the "Changes I want to Make in the House" list. Doug will be so pleased.

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Entertaining Laundry

>> Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Well, the washer and dryer arrived this afternoon.

I didn't realize just how entertaining they would be...

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Monthly Bribing

I am so far behind on everything this month that I just didn't get around to creating anything for Scrap Bribing. But I do have a great give-away...

If you live in Iowa, are a displaced Iowan or just want a bit of Midwestern reality I have two subscriptions to Our Iowa magazine.

I recently heard about this magazine and was interested because it is actually written by Iowans and people who actually love this often overlooked and under appreciated state- where we do not grow potatoes.

Head on over to the website and check it out. I think you may be impressed, possibly amused. You may even feel a bit nostalgic.

Now, as for the winning...

3 ways to win:
1) Leave a comment
2) Write a nice little post about me on your blog (with some linky love) and I'll enter you twice. Don't forget to let me know!
3) On that nice post be sure to tell you readers to let me know they came from your blog. If they mention you I will enter both of you. The more people who drop your name the more entries you get!

Usually I run this contest from the 20th thru the 30th. But because I am so absent minded right now I am going to open it up early. Which means more time for you to send readers my way!

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Watch this...

Watch this if you did anything remotely computer related in 1994 and at least know the premise to 24. It had me nostalgic, I tell you, nostalgic....


But wait, there's more. You must be a geek and older than 35 to really appreciate this one.


Okay, since we are on the subject of video games, here's some game requirements I would like to see too.

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Gifts for The Person Who Has Everything

I haven’t started my Christmas shopping yet. I just realized that the other morning when I woke at 3am with a coughing fit.

I pride myself on being organized and lately I haven’t been. I am behind on absolutely everything. Doug’s grandmother’s birthday is this weekend and I haven’t even thought about what to get her. To be quite honest she is impossible to buy for and gifts seem to be very important to her- sometimes it seems like it’s not so much the thought that counts. Last Christmas I got her coasters that you can put photos in. I took photos of Doug and the girls, put them in, wrapped it nicely… And I got a card that said “Thank you for the gift. It was unusual.”

I felt like she had completely snubbed my gift. I’m not even sure she knows it was coasters. Luckily his other grandmother loved hers, so I felt a bit redeemed.

Ugh.

I came across this website today; JacarandaStyle has some of the most unique gifts I have ever seen. The blue and white ceramics are gorgeous and the jewelry is exquisite. I am so in love with their cuffs.


All the items are made in South Africa and a portion of every item sold is donated to the Ethembeni School in South Africa (www.ethembenischool.org) which serves 300 physically disabled and visually impaired students.

Gifts you can feel good about giving. Of course it’s too late for me to order for this weekend. Otherwise I’d be getting one of the ostrich egg tea light. Now that’s unusual…

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Three Bottles of Woolite



Yep, that's them, my new "toys". Full of bells and whistles (ok, actually buttons and, well, buttons). I can't wait to steam something. Sad, I know. But I have to get caught up on regular laundry first.

The only downside... I bought 3 bottles of Woolite a week ago (regular, darks and colors) and can't use them because they aren't for high effeciency washers.

Three bottles of Woolite... Going to the first person who wants 'em.

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Kitchen Upgrades

It’s no secret that there are things I want to change in my kitchen. Of course I won’t toss out good appliances- but once they need to go I will begin replacing them with what I want.

High on my list is a new cooktop. The one I currently have has only two heating elements for pots and pans and a grill/griddle feature. Sometimes there just isn’t enough room to make two things at once.

Next would be a double oven. Perfect for those holidays- or if I just get on a baking binge. My in-laws got one last year when we were down for Thanksgiving- I gotta admit that I was impressed.

Of course a refrigerator is on the list. A new side-by-side model, hopefully with more freezer space than I currently have. Hmmm, maybe the one in the basement will go out first and then I can move the one in the kitchen downstairs and put a new one in the kitchen. HA! Two chances for a new fridge!

I’ve also been thinking about a trash compactor. It would look so lovely under my counter- and it would save me from having to walk all the way to the trash can when I’m baking.

Abt Electronics has everything I would need- even the trash compactor accessory. They have everything you could need for your home- and then some. They also offer free shipping and financing and have a 30 day low price guarantee.

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But Nothing Looks Good

I haven't had much of an appetite this past week due to what I now know is a case of bronchitis and walking pnemonia. Ugh. So I must take a liquid cough syrup with codine and a pill. And I must take the pill with food.

That poses a couple of problems. First, nothing looks good. Second, I haven't been to the grocery store, other than to pick up medications and do a quick run-through so the fridge wasn't completely empty.

So... I grabbed some yogurt and string cheese for the girls as snacks, a pumpkin pie because I thought I would be likely to eat it, and a bag of Chicken Viola for dinner tonight as I know I won't want to cook.

In the past 16 hours I have had two slices of pie, each with a pill, and about a pot of tea. Blech.

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Our Future

Doug and I have begun discussing what we will do when the girls are off to college. Yes, I know they haven’t even entered kindergarten yet, but it pays to plan ahead.

First, I have told Doug that we will not move again until we downsize. Our home is big enough and we have plans for a 4 season porch where the deck currently is, a craft room below that and a new deck that doesn’t have a suicide drop onto concrete.

I plan to have the house paid off in 20 years and hopefully the value will have increased by then. We will sell it, buy a nice loft somewhere and buy a big freakin’ RV to roam the country.

Our plans include a semi-retirement for Doug at that time. In perspective, we will still be relatively young, in our mid-50’s. We plan for Doug to be able to go wherever work may take him or to even work from the road (we will, of course, have super internet capabilities).

If our plans work out we will need more than just our simple will, we will need to contact estate planning lawyers. The last thing we would want to do is leave the girls with a big mess that could cost them more in taxes than our estate may be worth.

Estate planning isn’t just for the incredibly wealthy. Morristrust.com has some great informational links. They also have offices in Arizona and Nevada and offer a free consultation.

Like I said earlier, it pays to plan ahead.

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Take With Food

>> Monday, November 12, 2007

Today was too crazy.

My day began about 3am when I woke with a coughing fit that just wouldn't stop. I couldn't catch my breath, it was dry and hacking and was making my head ache. I dragged myself to the basement so as not to disturb Doug any more and caught up on my SVU and TiVoed repeats of travel shows.

After waking Doug and getting him off to work I napped until the girls woke up,coughing. As they ate breakfast I called their doctor and made appointments for them this afternoon, called the vet and left a message for him to call me back, made an appointment to have the carpets cleaned (more on that and the vet in a minute) and then called my mom.

Mom asked if I had gotten my washer and dryer yet which led to a long and tedious story about how the store with the big yellow tag has accepted the payoff of our credit card- almost two weeks ago- but won't release the credit so I had yet to get my washer and dryer. Which then led to a story about how my mo won't shop at the big yellow tag and an offer to put the washer and dryer on her Lowe's card (interest free until Jan 09). So we met her at 11:30 and I will have my new washer and dryer tomorrow. Whirlpool Duet Steam in "Aspen".

After a quick stop at McDonalds we were off to the girls' doctor appointments. They have both had a nasty cough the past couple of weeks and Caelan had begun to run a fever yesterday. Can you say ear infection? Yep, Caelan has double ear infection and Brenna just has a single. For the next 10 days my children will be drugged.

Nap time!

The vet returns my call. Cleo, my 13 year old tortoise shell manx, has been being treated for a UTI the past month. Unfortunately it hasn't helped. There was still blood in her urine and she had quit eating and I don't think she was drinking very much either. When the girls and I were gone over the weekend she sprayed some of Caelan's clothes that were in the hallway and also a washcloth in the bathtub.

The carpet cleaner comes on Wednesday. I made an appointment to take Cleo into the vet at 6:30pm.

Now, since the girls were both diagnosed with ear infections and my symptoms mirrored theirs I planned to visit Urgent Care as soon as Doug got home. I got there at 4:20pm. It was packed. People were signing up and leaving to do other things and then coming back for their turn. It was crazy. Luckily my turn came quickly (in an hour) because some people weren't there when their names were called. After an exam and a chest x-ray I was out the door at 6pm with a prescription for meds to take care of my bronchitis and walking pneumonia.

Home to pick up the cat and away to the vet. A long discussion with the vet... I can't afford or justify the amount of money it would take to find out what was wrong with Cleo (I had already spent $400). She seemed, to him, to be failing and euthanizing her just seemed to be the kindest act. So I petted her while she was given the drugs. It's difficult to go in with a pet and leave without one. Even if it was an annoying cat.

Then to the store to get my drugs and a few things for tomorrow. Because I'm not leaving my house tomorrow.

I'm not getting out of my warm lounge pants and big sweatshirt tomorrow. In fact, tomorrow begins now. I'm going to take a bath, put on my pjs and go to bed.

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Got Wood?

I am forever trying to figure out how to keep my wood floors looking their best. With two toddlers and a dog it ain’t easy.

I found this flooring website that is full of information. On the right side of the page is a great list of tools including : How To Clean Hardwood Floors.

Terrific, give me the info…

Let’s see; area rugs- check. Broom- check. Hmmm, buffing. I haven’t done that in a while. Protectors on the chairs and table- check.

Here’s something interesting:

Do not use ammonia cleaners or oil soaps on a wood floor, as they will dull the finish and performance of your floor. These products will also affect the ability to recoat your floor later.

Since wood naturally expands when it is wet, never wet mop or use excessive water to clean your floor. Large amounts of water can cause the wood to swell and may cause your floor to crack or splinter.



So I guess I shouldn’t use the Murphy’s Oil Soap? Darn, I thought that was what it was for. Unfortunately I have no idea what treatment was on the floor when it was laid. I'm thinking I may have it stripped and the polyurethane reapplied.

Does anyone have a great wood floor cleaner? I'd love to hear about it!


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It's Good To Be Home

After our very tiring experience at the Mall of America on Saturday I was a bit hesitant about shopping at IKEA the next day. Luckily I had my list and knew *about* where everything was so I could get bin numbers to pick up the big items. We were able to zip through within and hour and fifteen minutes. And I only got a few things that weren't on my list. Even so I spent over $400... It was a big list.

Then it was lunch at Panera with my good friend Sheri and her daughter. Brenna loves to see her daughter and we were able to enjoy lunch. Of course there is never enough time to really dig in and talk about everything. Hopefully we will get to spend time together around Christmas.

The drive home was L O N G. Four stops for potty. Of course two of them were false alarms, but you don't tell a 3-year-old no.

Needelss to say, we all collapsed into bed early and slept hard.

It's good to be home.

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Buy it Right- At Home

Everyone knows that the internet is invaluable when it comes to researching cars. You can find out everything about a vehicle from the number of owners to whether it has been involved in an accident. But have you ever thought to sell car online?

I actually have- three times. The first time I was preparing a major life change and cleaning house, so to speak. I had broken up, for the last time, with a guy I had been seeing for years and wanted to get rid of the ’67 Mustang that he talked me into buying as a project. I sold it in 2 days to a 15 year old boy and his father. I’m sure it was a better project for them than it ever was for me.

The second time I sold a practically new Jeep Wrangler. I bought it not long after I moved to Iowa. Then Doug and I decided to get married and start a family and there was no way I was putting a baby on a seat that was held on with pins. It sold in less than a week.

The third time I sold an early 70’s Jag that Doug had purchased with the grandiose idea of having restored. Unfortunately it was impossibly expensive. I sold it auction style.

So I don’t find myself shying away from sites that deal in people selling used cars. I think it’s a great way to get a vehicle and cut out the middle man mark-up.

And since you can now get news and reviews, industry advice, vehicle histories, insurance and secured loans at the same site you buy the car from you can get the right car. Right at home.

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Just A Word of Advice

>> Saturday, November 10, 2007

Do NOT go to the Mall of America on a weekend between Halloween and New Year's.

The girls and I stopped in there today and it was INSANE! (So much for the recession) I have never seen it so busy- and it was my "main mall" for 10 years! All the ramps and parking around the building itself was full- we had to park in overflow by IKEA. We could barely walk through the halls.

I'm not sure how it happened but Brenna honed in on Friends 2B Made almost as soon as we walked in and she walked out with a new "friend" named "Pretty Girl". I have to admit that it is a very cute store. Like Build A Bear (it's parent company) you choose your "friend", stuff it, style it, and create a certificate. Brenna especially liked the salon chairs, hair dryers and curling irons.
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After that things just went downhill. No restaurants in the MOA take reservations and wait times (at 2pm) were up to 2 hours. No kidding. Of course that was at the theme restaurants like Rainforest Cafe and Bubba Gumps. The lines were super long in the crappy food court, too.

Luckily the California Cafe, a more "fancy" restaurant, had no wait. And the food there is actually good. The kids meals come in a bento box. It's great presentation.
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After lunch we made a run through Nordstrom so I could special order a couple of bras (apparently 32H isn't a popular size) and Hot Topic so Alex could make the trip worthwhile.

Now we are relaxing in the hotel room and waiting for some of my friends to visit.

IKEA is on schedule for tomorrow- then the drive home.

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Classic Games

Brenna is very into games right now. She got a Backyardigans board game for her birthday that she likes to play at least once a day. And Candyland is great fun; she loves to get the character cards- even if they take her back to the beginning. Chutes and Ladders is still a bit too cluttered for her to play easily, but she likes to try about once a month.

And while a couple of the games I mentioned are “classics” there are few games that truly stand the test of time. I’m talking centuries. Checkers, chess and backgammon all began as games of strategy and war. And all are still played by millions around the world.

Of course the boards have become virtual as people play online with opponents from around the world….

Recently BackgammonMasters.com All in One Game Lobby became available in 12 languages: Chinese, Portuguese, German, Arabic, French, Hebrew, Japanese, English, Greek, Turkish, Spanish or Danish. This makes the software globally user friendly and allows thousands of players to play simultaneously on a single multi-language platform.

Most of the content on BackgammonMasters is available in the same language as the download allowing players to learn to play, get tips and stay up to date with promotions and events.

If you don't speak one of the languages listed- don't despair! More are on the way. As are additional games such as Poker, Perudo and BlackJack.

Want to know more about backgammon online? Visit BackgammonMasters.com, the most famous Backgammon site on the World Wide Web.

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And We're Off

>> Friday, November 09, 2007

The girls and I are heading north tomorrow morning. We are taking my young cousin Alexandra who has begun playing "Mother's Helper" for me once a week. It's a role that was held the past two summers by CoffeeGirl but during the school year it's just impossible to do as she lives half an hour away. By the time I picked her up I would have to take her home.

Alex is coming with us for two reasons: 1) I can't shop with the girls in tow and there are a few places I have to go (mainly Nordstrom for another bra and IKEA) and 2) I am having my friend G's new squeeze design a website for my little travel blog. If I don't have someone there to watch the girls I won't get anything done.

In speaking with Alex yesterday I found out that she has never been to the Mall of America. It's like I'm taking her to the teenaged mother ship. Her friends found out that she was going up- and not with parents- so she is currently enjoying elevated status as "the babysitter who gets to travel".

If you are checking in let me invite you to take in some of the stuff that has been going on around here:

I've got a new blog buddy. Stop at his place and say hello.

That pumpkin swirl cheesecake that I make all the time... Here's the recipe.

My birthday was the other day... Here's how I spent it.

And my washing machine burned up.

Yep, it was a busy week. Hopefully that will keep you entertained until I come back. Have a great weekend!

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It's Never Far From My Mind

Doug is self-employed. Before we got together he set up an S corporation which, while a great move, requires additional paperwork that must be sent to the IRS prior to the tax deadline of April 15.

If you have recently set up an S corporation or are thinking about it make sure you do your homework and know what you need to do to keep it all legit.

Because while it can really save you- both money and your personal life- it can be confusing. Trust me-I’m still learning.

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Great Minds and All That...

I received a nice comment and a great intro on the site of a fellow Iowan the other day.

Iowa Bob is an Iowa native currently living in California. He's conservative but has lots of liberal friends and even some liberal readers so his posts are well thought out and very eloquent.

He is realtively new to the world of blogging...

So, dear readers, go on over, say hello and tell Bob that Jody sent you.

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How to Take a Bite Out of the Big Apple

When I travel I always look for savings. I often find it in the form of a CityPass.

When Doug and I ventured to London we bought a London Pass. It gained us free entry and the ability to skip the queue at many attractions we visited.

We did the same thing while in Dublin. With a small child in tow skipping the queue was essential.

Did you know there is a New York CityPass? And if you purchase now, during the winter special, it is valid for 3 months (from December 15-March 15). Instead of a card, the New Your CityPass is a 26 page booklet with admission tickets for The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum and the American Museum of Natural History. Also included is a trip to the top of the Empire State Building and a sightseeing cruise.

To help you get your bearings a small map is included that marks the location of each landmark. There are also coupons for souvenirs, a 15% off certificate for “Bloomies” and a 15% savings at any restaurant listed in the booklet.

The New York CityPass will save you 50% off admission and help you skip those long, long lines. The cost is $65 for adults and $49 for kids ages 12-17. Any time you can save money and time it’s a win-win situation. Trust me.

Doug and I are museum and gallery people so this booklet would be a definate "must get" if we were to visit the Big Apple.

If you have plans to visit New York this winter you will definately want to check this out.


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Fab Food Friday

I know I have been inundating you with lots of pumpkin recipes lately. I can't help it! It's fall and we really like pumpkin!

So I am bringing you another!

Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake



The recipe is from Kraft. So is the photo as the last one I made was kind of shiny and didn't photograph well. To see one that I made-along with some other goodies- click here.

Yes, I make this quite a bit. Yes, it's that good. Don't let it scare you! It's quite easy! I promise!


25 NABISCO Ginger Snaps, finely crushed (about 1-1/2 cups)
1/2 cup finely chopped PLANTERS Pecans
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
4 pkg. (8 oz. each) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
1 cup sugar, divided
1 tsp. vanilla
4 eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
Dash ground cloves



PREHEAT oven to 325°F. Mix ginger snap crumbs, pecans and butter; press firmly onto bottom and 1 inch up side of 9-inch springform pan.
BEAT cream cheese, 3/4 cup of the sugar and the vanilla with electric mixer until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed after each addition just until blended. Remove 1-1/2 cups of the batter; place in small bowl. Stir remaining 1/4 cup sugar, the pumpkin and spices into remaining batter. Spoon half of the pumpkin batter into crust; top with spoonfuls of half of the reserved plain batter. Repeat layers. Cut through batters with knife several times for marble effect.
BAKE 55 min. or until center is almost set. Cool completely. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight. Cut into 16 slices. Store leftover cheesecake in refrigerator.

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Sew, Where Do You Shop For Fabric?

>> Thursday, November 08, 2007

I really enjoy sewing, not that I get to do it much. But when there is something I want that I just can’t find (a bag for a 17” laptop that isn’t ugly) or that I don’t want to pay an insane amount for (Brenna’s bedding or our Renaissance costumes) I will find the time to sit at my machine.

Much of what I make uses home interior and upholstery fabric. It’s heavy, crisp and easy to use. Unfortunately my resources can be limited and if I am spending time to make an item that is perfect you can bet that I am going to make sure I have the perfect fabric.

Sometimes I get lucky at my local chain store. But if I can't find what my mind has told me I want (and I am picky- just ask my mom about shopping for fabric for Caelan's bedding) I turn to the internet. I love this site for designer upholstery fabric. Pages and pages of beautiful stuff. And I can usually find what my heart is set on.

Sew, what's your favorite fabric resource when it has to be perfect?

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I Feel Icky, Oh So Icky

Well, I "celebrated" my birthday by taking a hot bath with vapor bath (alternating daughters as they both have a cold, too) and climbing into bed early.

Very exciting, I know.

Unfortunately I woke today with the same headache I went to bed with. I dug out the super-duper sinus pills, and when Caelan took her morning nap Brenna and I cuddled in my bed; Brenna watching Blues Clues and me sleeping.

As I woke in my medication-induced fog I noticed that my headache had gone. Yippee! I never would have guessed that my hacking-cough cold was a sinus thing as I had no runny nose and I could breathe. Thankfully An Iowa Mom mentioned that her daughter was given sinus meds for a cold that sounded similar to mine.

Of course I am keeping up the meds- which puts me at a disadvantage to life. I feel about as sharp as a spoon and as necessary as a spork.

We bought Ratatouille the other night. I wonder if I can get the girls to relax and watch it with me?

Yeah, I'm dreaming, I know. It's the drugs.

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The One Where Brenna Tells My Age

>> Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I got a lovely new toy for my birthday. Yes, it's my birthday. No, we're not doing anything special. After all, I did get to pick out a new washer and dryer last night.

I think I have mentioned before that all my siblings and their assorted broods gather together for family birthdays. We will band together to get a gift that we tend not to buy for ourselves. For both of my brothers we bought Nintendo DS, for my SIL we bought lots of pregnancy massages, for my BIL we bought a RC truck (no, I don't get it, but it was spendy). And I got a Flip Ultra.

Here is my first video- Brenna sings Happy Birthday to Mommy:


I love this thing! It's tiny- not much bigger than my cell phone- has 2x zoom, plugs right into the laptop; plus I can edit the videos and the software resizes them for internet sharing.

Did I mention it's under $200? Seriously, a great little camcorder for fun or travel. I highly recommend it. BTW- it's available in great colors like pink, lime and orange. FUN!

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Show You Care

Our family has been very blessed in the fact that no one close to us has died of a terrible illness. We are healthy people and hopefully we will have the fortune to remain that way.

But just because something doesn’t effect us doesn’t mean that we are oblivious to it. Alzheimer’s is one of those diseases that I have cause to think about quite often- as I seem to forget things quite often. I blame it on “mommy brain” but I worry, nonetheless.

And while finding a cure for Alzheimer’s is very important I think that we, as a society, tend to overlook the fact that there are many out there who are suffering this disease now- and there are many, many out there who are caring for these people, whether they be their own loved ones or someone else’s.

A good blog-friend of mine recently lost her mother to Alzheimer’s. She was the main caregiver. And although she didn’t discuss it much you could tell that it was a very trying experience for her. She would have days when her mother was somewhat lucid and the glimmer of hope that would spring in her heart would be extinguished so quickly – almost like a light being turned off- by a simple comment or action.

I cannot imagine the heartbreak that must have followed every day as she watched her mother’s life disintegrate before her eyes.

Finding quality care for a disease this complex can be unnerving, to say the least. And if you know anyone who provides that kind of love and support this holiday gift can show how much you thank them- in more ways than one.

The Hearts of Care jewelry is not only beautiful, but proceeds benefit the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.

There is also a DVD available to help you, or your caregiver, provide effective care in a comfortable setting- the home. Because we must remember that there are people suffering now who need help that science can’t provide.


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Fire!

>> Tuesday, November 06, 2007

It's not like I really had anything planned for this afternoon. A little rest, some laundry, grocery shopping...

What I really didn't count on was my washing machine catching fire during a spin cycle.

Now, before you worry, nothing was harmed. Well, except for the washing machine...

So, there we were, enjoying a late lunch when I smelled something burning. "Hmmmm," thought I, "I have nothing baking."

And then, just a moment later the kitchen was filled with smoke. And I had clothes in mid-spin in a washer half full of water.

Great.

I text Doug "Fire!" knowing that is about the only text he will respond to and begin pulling very heavy, very wet clothes from the machine to drag to my sister's house.

Yes, great fun was had there as I did my best to keep boy toys with small parts away from Caelan. Brenna, of course, wanted to play a video game and was very upset when I told her no. Oh, yes, it was great fun.

And more fun will follow as later we venture out to the store with the big yellow tag to buy a new washer/dryer set.

Yes, I'm getting a new dryer because if I don't it will catch fire next week.

I need a nap...

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Alone Again

Well, the "church ladies" are gone. I have a few biscotti left, some coffee and water for cocoa or tea. Make yourself comfy.

We packed lots of boxes full of goodies for the charity and the kids had fun in the basement watching Cars and playing with toys.

Since the girls and I are heading north this weekend I am contemplating the purchase of a third cell phone for babysitter use. I've thought about it before- especially when CoffeeGirl would take Brenna to the park. Our upcoming visit to the Mall of America is really making me think very seriously about it as I know Brenna won't want to shop with me and will be with my teenaged cousin. I want to be able to reach them- so I can find them.

I considered walkie-talkies but I'm really not sure they would work so well in the MOA. So I'm thinking maybe one of those kid's phones that can only call a few people and have no extra features.

With our family plan it will cost about $10 per month, pretty nominal for peace of mind to my way of thinking.

Anyone have any advice or thoughts?

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Heading Out

The girls are I are taking my young cousin and heading north this weekend. Yep, it's a girl's weekend as Doug will be chained to his desk the entire time- and that can make for a frustrating time for me. The girls know he's home and want to see him so I spend much of my time corraling them and fighting tantrums.

So, to make thing easier, we are heading up to Saint Paul to see some friends, get necessary items from IKEA and hit a few stores at MOA.

I lived in St. Paul for 10 years but since I've been gone almost 4 years, now, there are changes I've missed.

I found this interactive site that has over 500 travel and Hotel Guides. Much of it is custom written by people who have "been there, done that".

On the right hand side of the page is a handy city guide. St Paul's page also has a blog where people can input info. It's full of restaurants you probably won't hear about- except from the locals.

It's a good site to visit for ideas- especially if you want to get "off the beaten path" and experience a city like a local. The only problem I see with it is that many cities are missing. For example, St. Paul is listed, but not Minneapolis. Iowa City is listed, but not Des Moines.

Still, it's a good resource. And I expect more info will be added. I'll definately add it to my travel bookmarks.

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