About Me

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I am a very lucky woman with a husband and son who are smart, witty and entertaining. Our son, B, attended public school for two years, and then we embarked on a new adventure in the Fall of 2010 - homeschooling. We don't have all the answers, but we know B and this has been the best thing for him. I blog to preserve our stories and our memories, share recipes, vent and ramble on about our crazy, yet blessed, life. Would you care to follow along?

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Green Machine

We did not have a ton of toys growing up.  I had my Barbies but when I wanted a Barbie house, I had to make one out of boxes.  Lots of kids I knew had all the latest games and toys and Ataris but we didn't.  We had roller skates and bikes and books.  I had Barbies and dress-up clothes, my brother had LEGOS and Army guys and we went outside to play.  When friends came over, we asked them to bring some of their toys and I was always asked to bring my dress-up clothes stash to sleepovers.  Looking back, we were fine, we had enough and were better for using our imaginations.  But back then, I always looked at all the things my friends had and wanted them.  And now B is like that!  Paybacks are Hell...  @@

But the coolest thing our parents did get us, was a Green Machine.  Do any of you remember the Green Machine?  It was the coolest, pimped up big wheel, IMO.  And I don't remember my brother and I fighting over it much.  And we fought over everything back then.  He didn't like me much (who does like their little sister hanging all over them?) and all I wanted was for him to like me and to play with me.  So I bugged him about it all the time.  Poor guy!  Anywho, we didn't fight much over that Green Machine but we did not want to run the risk of it being taken away.  It was nice to be united in our reverence for the Green Machine.

Last week, B and I went to Costco to get one of their gi-huge-ic pepperoni pizzas on sale for $6.99.  If they are still on sale next payday, I think I'm going to stock up the freezer with them!  As we were walking back up to the registers, I saw THIS - totally revamped, steel frame (not plastic, like the old one) and ages 6 to ADULT!!!!!  I think my brother and I need to buy one.  We'll share custody of it or leave it at mom and dad's house and schedule playdates over there together.  I'm so excited!!!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Recipe - Stuffed Chicken Breast with Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Earlier this month, I made a recipe called No Peeking Peking Chicken with the leg quarters (the chicken legs and thighs) of a whole chicken.  I froze the rest of that whole chicken, the breast quarters (breasts and wings) and thawed them for tonight's dinner.  I cut off the wings and deboned the breast to stuff and roast it.  It was sooooooo good to eat, the house smelled so good while it cooked and it looked good on the plate (see pic above) - a trifecta!


Here are the two Breast quarters (a breast and a wing, each). 

I cut out, using a boning knife, the spine of the chicken.

Then I cut off the chicken's wings.

Using the tip of my boning knife, I cut the breast meat off of the ribs and breast bones.

The top left - breast and rib bones of the chicken.  Bottom left - I pulled out the chicken tenderloins.  Right - the boneless chicken breast halves.

I covered the boneless chicken breast with plastic wrap and pounded it flat and thin with the flat end of my meal mallet.

I made some stuffing and put it in the middle of the chicken breast. This is a lot of stuffing so that the chicken just covers it. I like it that way so that all of the chicken meat surface gets browned.  You could, however, put half as much stuffing inside and roll the breast up tighter for smaller rolls of chicken.

I placed the stuffed chicken breast in a foiled pan, rubbed it with Wegman's Basting Oil and fresh ground pepper and placed cleaned and trimmed Brussel sprouts tossed in Wegman's Basting Oil around it.  After 30 minutes in 325 degrees of a convection oven the chicken was only at 120 degrees.  The Brussel sprouts were done, so I pulled them out.  I upped the oven temp to 375 degrees and cooked the chicken for another 20 minutes.

The chicken is resting for 5 minutes to redistribute the juices and the Brussel sprouts look fabulous!

Plated up - stuffed, boneless chicken breast with roasted Brussel sprouts and canned chicken gravy. 

DIY Sock Monkey Costume - Pictorial Instructions

From left to right: Zach, Bob, Babe, Stephanie, Smith
B loves sock monkeys!  He asked for 1 the Christmas of 2009 and was so thrilled to get him.  B named him  "Bob".  We were floored at his name; It was the 1st time B had named anything with an actual name.  Up to that point, anything he'd named was a literal or descriptive name.  A brown bear was named "Brownie", a frog was named "Froggy", etc.  Then Bob got a wife, Stephanie, and they got a child, Babe.  Then a pirate named Captain Sockbeard, nicknamed Smith, joined the family as Bob's brother.  B decided Smith needed a husband, so Zach joined the family.  Earlier this month, Harold the purple sock hippo joined the family.  One of his arms fell off, so he is not ready to be photographed.  The hubs will be sewing the arm back on this weekend.

Starting November 1st of every year, B starts telling me what he wants to be next Halloween and changes his mind at least 3 times a week.  By the 2nd week of October I told him he needed to decide once and for all and there were no takebacks.  He decided on being a sock monkey.  Much to my surprise, I could not find a single company that makes sock monkey costumes for kids!  You can get them for babies, toddlers and adults, but nothing in between.  So, I had to make one.  In my opinion, the head of a sock monkey would be the most difficult part.  Thankfully, I did not have to worry about that.  Ben's fabulous godmother, knowing his love of sock monkeys, had given him a Winter sock monkey hat last year and Ben wanted to wear that as the the head of his costume.  Sold!


Hat from his fairy godmother.
Supplies I used:

  • A light grey set of sweats from Walmart.  I thought a charcoal or chocolate color would be better to match the brown in the hat, but B wanted the light grey.
  • One sheet of white felt
  • One sheet of red felt
  • A grey, long-sleeved t-thirt
  • Plain, white socks without colored heels or toes
  • Sewing supplies - pins, needle, thread, marking pencil
B wore this shirt last Fall and Winter but it's too small for him now.  I cut off one the arms for the sock monkey tail.
I cut off the heel and ankle part of a sock to use as the end of the tail.

I folded over the cut end of the sock and ironed it to hold the crease in place as I sewed it onto the end of the tail. 
The tip all sewed onto the tail.
I filled the tail with fiberfill
And sewed the tail shut.
I measured the white felt next to the tail to see how big a piece I needed for the butt. I marked my cut line with a blue cloth pencil and cut off the material below the blue line.
The material above the blue line - I folded it in half top to bottom...
...and then in half, again, side to side.  I had to use pins to keep it folded.
I used the blue cloth pencil again to mark the arc I needed to cut off to make the white portion of the butt and then cut it off.
After cutting, I removed the pins and this is what it looked like.  I could not have cut it as evenly if I had not done the folding.
The white oval was 7" tall in the middle, so I cut a 3" tall piece of red felt and cut the sides off where the corners met the white on the sides.
The I folded the red felt into 4th like I did with the white, marked my arc and cut.
I laid them out and pinned the red to the white where I wanted it.  I sewed the red felt onto the white with red thread and then sewed the white onto the back of the sweat pants with white thread.
I am a beginning sewer.  To make it go by faster, I weaved the needle 3 or 4 times through the materials before pulling the needle and thread all the way through.
Here is the butt all sewn on!
The sewn end of the tail was so long, I folded it over with a few stitches before sewing it onto the butt of the sweat pants.
The tail is all attached!
I put a pair of white socks on B's hands and marked where his thumbs connected to his hands.  He wanted to have his thumbs out of the socks to better hold his trick-or-treat bag.
I cut a little hole where the Sharpie mark was.
I cut the toes off of a pair of socks for the bottom of his legs.
Here is Bob and B in his costume. He put on the sweat shirt, as is, the sweat pants, the socks on his hands, a pair of socks on his feet and the pair with the toes cut off over the bottom of the sweat pants.
Here he is from the back.  The hubs said he should tuck the sweat shirt into the pants to better see the tail on Halloween.
Here he is scootering around at our Homeschool Halloween party yesterday.
I started on the costume around 4pm and was done by 8pm.  However during that time, we ate dinner and I took several breaks to walk around the house and give my old, hunched-over back and eyes a break.  ;o)  So it was probably took me 2 actual hours of working.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A, E, I, O, U and sometimes Y and W

When you were a child, did you learn that the vowels were, "A, E, I, O,U and sometimes Y" or "A, E, I, O, U and sometimes Y and W"?  I learned the latter.  I went to Catholic school; I don't know if that makes a difference or not, but we learned it with the "W".  I don't ever remember being taught exactly when a W was a vowel, but that's what I was taught and if you wanted to get the question, "What letters of the alphabet are vowels?" correct, you tacked on the W.  Catholic school was full of memorization so we didn't question this one.

A couple of years ago a friend of mine and her family moved across the pond.  When her children told her they had learned "A, E, I, O, U and sometimes Y and W" at school, she was surprised.  She had never heard about the W.  She questioned the teacher about the W and was informed, yes, W can be used as a vowel at times, no the teacher could not give her an example of when the W is used as a vowel but it can be and that is what the school teaches.  My friend asked Facebook land if anyone else had heard about the W and and it was an almost even split of friends who had or had not heard of the W.

Well, my friends, I am giddy with excitement to inform you - I have a W example!  Dun-dun-DUUUUN!  Get back up off the floor, close your mouth and read on.

Part of B's Language Arts work today contained this rule: "If a one-syllable word has two vowels, the first vowel usually stands for the long sound and the second vowel is silent." (Sonlight Language Arts curriculum)  After the rule, examples are given - flute, rope, doe, row.  Row has a little foot note "1" next to it and the footnote reads, "1. The letters Y and W are sometimes considered vowels."  So, in the word "row", both the O and the W are vowels.  According to a previous week's rule, "If a one-syllable word contains only one vowel, that vowel usually stands for the short sound."  Examples are ask and nap.  So, in the word "row", if the W was a consonant, than the O would have a short sound and the OW together would be pronounced "ou" as in "outstanding" or the exclamation most of us say when we feel pain.  However, we pronounce the word "row" as "roh".  Therefore, according to the grammatical rules, the W in this word, as well as in the words "throw", "thrown" and "bow" (the hair ribbon or package decoration, not the curtsy) is a vowel.

You have no idea how excited B and I were to finally find a justification for our "...and W"!  We tripped over each other, running to the hubs and kept speaking over each other trying to be the 1st one to tell the hubs the news!  He got it, he was appreciative of us clearing it up, but he did not exhibit the appropriate amount of excitement.  *Insert huffy breath*  But I know a certain someone over the pond who will finally get some closure with this news.  ;o)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Best. Husband. Ever.

My husband is all-around awesome.  He's selfless, generous, loyal, dependable and the funniest person I know.  He gives me whatever I want, he rarely complains, never puts me down and works a harsh schedule to ensure that B spends at least half of his waking hours with his dad all week long.  He cooks, he cleans, he deals with all the throw up in the house b/c I just can't and he is a First Aid guru.  He knows when I need a break and makes sure I get it, whether I want to admit it or not.  He's been the "bad guy" toward my family and my boss when I wanted to, but couldn't.  Like I said, all-around awesome.  But this past week, his 15th wedding anniversary gift to me inducted him into the Husband Hall of Fame.

In June, a friend of mine shared this blog post by The Bloggess with me.  I had never heard of The Bloggess but my friend said the post was hilarious and I had to read it.  She was right.  You should click on the link and go read it now, so you'll understand the rest of my story.  When the hubs got home from work, I read it to him and he thought it was as funny as I did.  Since our 15th wedding anniversary was 4 months away, I told him we had to get ourselves a giant metal chicken, our own Beyoncé.  He laughed and said, "That would be something, right?"  I took it as a blow-off, but I never stopped wanting a Beyoncé.

The hubs has struggled all Summer to keep the lawn mowed (I know this sounds completely off topic, but it does play into our story, so bear with me.).  We've received an unusually high amount of rain that grew tall grass that didn't dry enough between rains in order to mow it.  The front lawn of our house is a steep hill and it's difficult to push a mower up and down it.  And we have a corded electric mower.  It's great that it is a mulching mover so there is no bagging.  But it takes a long time to mow when you have to stop and move the cord out of the way when you finish every pass of the lawn with the mower.  The hubs wanted to get a lawn service but I did not think we could afford one.  A couple of weeks ago, the hubs decided to call a lawn company he had seen in the neighborhood.  Turns out the owner lives in the hood and his rates were much more reasonable than we thought.  Since there are not too many more mowing that need to be done this season, we decided to hire them.  After everything the hubs does for B and me, I was very happy that we could do something for him.

This past Tuesday, B and I went on a homeschool field trip to a local farm's Fall festival.  When we got back home, I parked in the detached garage off the alley behind our house.  As I exited the garage into the back yard, I was pleasantly surprise to see that the lawn mowing crew had visited us for the 1st time.  The back yard looked great!  We walked into the house and I said to the hubs, "Did you see the lawn guys came?  Doesn't it look great?  Happy anniversary!" I laughed at my little joke; since he is the breadwinner he actually gave himself the gift of lawn service.  The hubs said, "You should go look at the front yard; it looks even better."  I walked to one of the front windows, looked out and said, "You're right.  It looks great, too."  He said, "You really can't appreciate it through the screen.  Go outside and look."  I thought his request was strange, but I decided to indulge him and opened the front door.  This is what I found:
Knock-knock, motherfucker
My. Very own. Beyoncé.  She wasn't made out of rusted old oil drums.  She wasn't five feet tall.  She wasn't painted green, blue and pink.  But she was the most beautiful gift I'd ever received.  And guess what?  My 9 year old son painted her!  This is an original, family creation!  Here's a close-up shot so you can appreciate B's creativity:
This was taken on my kitchen table and that is where she lives.
I shut the door so the cats would not get out, ran to find the camera and yelled, "If someone steals Beyoncé while I'm looking for the camera, there's going to be Hell to pay in the neighborhood!"  B leans over to the hubs and says, "Mama will be running through the neighborhood yelling, 'WHERE'S MY CLUCKIN' CHICKEN!'"  LOL!  After snapping pix of her at the front door, I brought her inside and could not stop looking at her and smiling.  And I'm fully up to the responsibility that comes with Beyoncé.  She will be ringing doorbells and bringing perspective to unsuspecting people in the Washington, DC area and I will keep you up to date on her escapades.

I can't believe he actually did it; he actually got me my own Beyoncé.  I love that man!

Best.  Husband.  Ever.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Schweddy Balls



Have you seen the classic Saturday Night Live "Schweddy Balls" skit with Alec Baldwin?  If you haven't, go here.  Do not read the article; just scroll down halfway and watch the video.  It is hilarious and one of the funniest SNL skits ever.  Go on, go watch it and then come right back here...we'll wait...

Welcome back!  Was I right or was I right?  Hilarious!  Now, on with my blog...

I heard earlier this year that Ben & Jerry's was coming out with a limited edition Schweddy Balls ice cream flavor for the holidays.  It brought back memories of that hilarious skit and I started giggling to myself.  Then I forgot about it, to tell you the truth.  I don't venture into the ice cream aisle often and when I do, I go straight for the store brand section; I do not peruse the many flavors of all the brands in the aisle.  But then I saw the article that you just did not read online.  OK, now you can go back and read the article.  I'll wait again; I am a patient woman...

Alright, now that we're all on the same page, I'm going to give my opinion on this "controversy".  After reading over half of the article, I was impassive.  There's always someone who doesn't like something and "wholesome" or "family valued" or "Christian" people and groups have been getting louder and more extreme over the last few years.  Nothing new there, and I was impressed with the attitude of Ben & Jerry's regarding the issue.  I don't know anything about the One Million Moms and I was not interested in finding out.

But I did start to care when Monica Cole, Director of One Million Moms, said that the group felt obligated to step forward and prevent Schweddy Balls from gracing grocery store shelves "...especially given that they (OMM) did not step forward with their concerns about its "Hubby Hubby" flavor, a play on its "Chubby Hubby" flavor and created to recognize same-sex marriages."  I cannot STAND people who call themselves Christians yet quite publicly and loudly act anything but Christ-like towards their fellow human beings.  I have said it before - you don't like same sex marriages?  Don't get one!


Then this gem of a quote just sums up the ridiculousness of this organization's efforts: "The vulgar new flavor has turned something as innocent as ice cream into something repulsive."  Maybe Mrs. Cole needs to read what she said a few times and then consult a dictionary before being interviewed again.  Here is the definition of vulgar, according to Dictionary.com:




vul·gar

 [vuhl-ger]  Show IPA

adjective
1.
characterized by ignorance of or lack of good breeding or taste: vulgar ostentation.
2.
indecent; obscene; lewd: a vulgar work; a vulgar gesture.
3.
crude; coarse; unrefined: a vulgar peasant.
4.
of, pertaining to, or constituting the ordinary people in asociety: the vulgar masses.
5.
current; popular; common: a vulgar success; vulgar beliefs.

And the word "taste" in #1 above has nothing to do with the buds in your mouth.  There is nothing "vulgar" about the new flavor of ice cream, Mrs. Cole.  Even if someone tasted it and did not like it, they could not properly use the word "vulgar" to convey that.  You are of the opinion that the name of the flavor is vulgar.  And now I have changed my impassive opinion about your stance on the issue.  I just looked up your site and see that in addition to bringing to light the "vulgarity" occurring in our local freezer sections, you are campaigning companies to pull their advertising during Dancing With The Stars because the show aired a definition of "transgender".  There is nothing more I can nor need to say against you and your causes.  Your hatred, ignorance and misguided desire to keep future generations hateful and ignorant as well, speak for themselves.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Star Wars Jedi Training Academy Birthday Party

After sharing how I did B's LEGO Building Party for his 9th birthday, I realized I should also share what I did for his 6th birthday - a Star Wars Jedi Training Academy.  And it was a sleepover.  Once again, thank goodness for the Birthday Party Ideas website!  I was actually worried the boys would not enjoy being at B's party as much I enjoyed planning it. I mean I had so much fun planning and thinking and buying; it was amazing. I did not think I was that kind of party planner. I always thought this kind of attention to detail was the talent of a girlie-girl. You know?  Like only a more feminine woman than me could plan a party.  But I did it.  And each boy said several times that this was the best sleepover and the best birthday party they'd ever been invited to.  Now I know that meant until the next one they were invited to, but I took the praise anyway.  ;o)


First of all, I cannot take credit for the invitation.  I sent a computer geek friend of ours some pictures of B and the wording I wanted on the invitation and he created this masterpiece.  So, I cannot help you with the DIY on this.  But let's face it - in today's word, we all know at least one computer geek and if you cook for them they will make you an invitation.  :o)


So, this is what the front of the invitation looked liked...


And here's the inside of the invitation.  The wording says:


A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… 

A boy of destiny was born. The Jedi Council named him B and knew that he was The Chosen One. In the 6 years that followed this youngling’s birth, he has been trained in the ways of The Force. Now Padawan Benjamin’s time has come to complete his training and become a Jedi Master. The Council has decided you are worthy to train alongside him. If you are ready to face your final tests as a Jedi, have your mothership (or fathership) deliver you to: 

Dock #{our house #} of landing bay {name of our street} on the {name of our city} moon of planet {our last name}. 

The Jedi Training Center will begin boarding at 4:30pm on Saturday, October 4, 2008. 

Your intense training will include an overnight stay. Should you accept this challenge, please ensure that you pack the proper overnight provisions and schedule a transport to collect you at 9:30am Sunday. If your home planet is unable to survive without your protection that long, your transport should collect you at 7:30pm Saturday. 

To prevent the location of the Jedi Training Center getting into the hands of The Dark Side, please leave your Jedi uniform at home. Travel in civilian clothing that is weather appropriate for venturing outside. 

“Look forward to seeing you, we do. May The Force be with you.” 
Master Yoda




Added this bit in the invitation - "If your home planet is unable to survive without your protection that long, your transport should collect you at 7:30pm Saturday." in case there were any boys that did not feel comfortable spending the night.  However, they all spent the night. 


We had another dad help us out with the party and he spent the night, as well.  We were so glad he was there to help, too!  I made Jedi uniforms for us adult party attendants and all the kid out of brown and black felt.  Here is me in mine.  As each child arrived, I stowed their overnight gear and had them put on their uniform.  The Star Wars soundtrack was playing in the background.  A friend of mine had given me some big Star Wars cups that were leftover from her son's last party and each child got to pick out which cup he wanted. They drank from the cups while they were here and then took them home with them.


 They just played inside and jumped around in excitement until everyone arrived. Then we played "Who am I?"  I taped a picture of a Star Wars character on each child's back and they took turns asking questions of their fellow padawans and using their Jedi powers of concentration to figure out who was on their own back. They gave each other some great hints and were so happy for each other when they guessed correctly. In the middle of the game, we heard Darth Vader's breathing coming from upstairs. I looked up the stairwell and Darth Vader was coming down the steps. I screamed, which scared the kids. They followed my gaze, saw Darth Vader and ran away in all different directions screaming at the tops of thier lungs! It was HYSTERICAL!! As soon as the hubs got to the botom of the stairs he had to take the mask off; he was laughing so hard at our reactions and he was sweating like crazy under it.  I bought a Darth Vader mask and cape at Party City since the whole costume was too expensive, and the hubs just wore black pants and shirt with them.  After the "Who am I?" game was over, we headed outside for the obstacle course. 
My 6 year old baby!
I got a Yoda backpack off of eBay and each child wore the backpack for their turn through the obstacle course, just like Luke Skywalker did in The Empire Strikes Back. So, each child had to do: 

1. 10 jumping jacks
2. Spin around 5 times
3. A forward roll (on a blanket)
4. Run and jump over the Degobah Swamp (green towels)
5. Keep a balloon in the air for 10 seconds using a lightsaber
6. Pop 5 balloons with their butt. In 4 of them was a blank piece of paper and the 5th balloon had a picture of Boba Fett. They had to pop the balloons by sitting on them in order to "capture" Boba Fett before he flew away with frozen Han Solo
7. Hit a mylar balloon of Darth Vader with a water gun 5 times. The balloon was 10' off the ground, blowing in the breeze and was tied to a Geoffrey Giraffe balloon (B got his free one in TRU the day before) so you had to be careful not to hit Darth's hostage, Geoffrey, with the water


The kids were great with being patient during everyone else's turn. They cheered each other on and jumped in to help when asked, like when one boy was too light to pop balloons with his butt or by stomping on them with his foot and when another boy did not want to pop the balloons himself b/c he was scared of the noise. Then the kids just battled with the lightsabers while I got dinner on the table.

The foods I served for dinner and breakfast were: Chewbacca Chips with Kenobi Queso; Vader Veggies and Degobah Dip; Baked Mustafar (baked ziti that looked like the lava planet in Episode III); Galactic Garlic Bread, Wookie Water; Tattoine Trail Mix (popcorn, pretzels, raisins and M&Ms); Palpatine Pancakes; Bespin Bacon; Skwalker Sausage and Jedi Juice (OJ). 


Click on this tutorial blog post to see how I made the cake.


After dinner and the Death Star Cake I made, the kids got into their PJs and we watched The Empire Strikes Back. Then they all laid down in the living room to go to "sleep".  Most of the kids were asleep by 11pm.  B, of course, was up at 5:30am and the rest were up by 6:30am. Another Star Wars movie was put on to distract the kids while I got breakfast ready. They so wanted to go back outside to play but we would not let them out until 9am out of respect for the neighbors. 

When their parents arrived, they got their goody bags on the way out the door.  A couple of weeks before the party, a friend called and alerted me to a ton of Star Wars things at the Target Dollar Spot, so I got some goody bag things there to add to the items I had bought off of eBay. Each child got to keep their uniform and there was a graduation certificate in their bags signed my the hubs and me
.

I don't know who had more fun, the kids or us adults. When I was putting the goody bags together a few days before the party, the hubs "chastized" me for going all out. He said we would never be able to top this party and what the heck was I going to do next year? At the time I told him I didn't think I could do this kind of party again. B could just invite one friend to do something special the next year. But after that party I was hooked and I knew I could and would do another themed party again.  


I'm sorry I don't have the amount of money I spent on this party like I did with the LEGO one.  It could have gotten really expensive if I bought all new stuff from the store instead of making things and searching for bargains and buying gently used items.  Whatever your budget, you can put together a great children's party they can enjoy and you can be proud of.