Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ringing in 2009

Rich was supposed to be working.. so no party. Last minute change and the work was moved to Friday. Too last minute to throw a party.

We are home. enjoying the quiet. One is with friends, one with a boyfriend, one at a party. We are HOME. It is nice!

2009 is almost here. Can you feel it?? What will the new year bring?

I hope it brings you all your dreams!

HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Reflecting

Now that the hustle and bustle is over with, I like to look back over the holiday and see if I'd like to do anything different next year or how things went this year that I tried differently. This year was amazing. I know my kids are older and that really helps. Shopping, wrapping, hiding gifts and keeping track of 3 kids when we went places was very stressful for me. Add in decorating, baking, cooking and cleaning. YIKES. Moms can easily get stressed. Now they help me!

Daniel put the tree up Friday before Cmas. HUGE help. I dunno when I would have gotten time to put it up. Sarah decorated it - just a few special ornaments. That was the extent of our decorations. No towels, soaps, rugs, runners, candles, lights on the house, etc. It was nice and simple. The tree is a self-lit one with white lights. It has the baby pinecones and berries on it. Very pretty even without decorations.

Baking - ?? I think Sarah baked 2 batches of cookies. Oh, we did some dipped pretzels and cheese balls for parties... but no baking to be given as gifts.

Cleaning - The kids pretty much help with that. They know it has to be done so that's taken care of. They are older, so we don't have toys laying around the house anymore. That is really nice!!

Cooking - Rich cooked a ham, I did green beans and cooked some wide egg noodles. Then we brought some other sides home from the family gathering on Cmas day. Works for me!

Gifts - this year I cut way back. WAY BACK. Let me just say that keeping a list of what you bought for whom and a running total of what you spent is eye opening. Not that my kids were showered with gifts, but I really over spent. I wanted them to have lots to open - that meant a lot of little things. Times 3 kids. Too much stuff - stuff they didn't need and stuff they never kept track of. They are older now so their stuff costs more. They also understand about the cost of things, the economy and budgeting :) I have smart kids who will be ready for the world when the time comes to leave the nest.

Engagements - We cut back on this too. Also, the time we spent at each party. Some we just didn't make. Sorry! maybe next year. We came home early from the ones we did attend. No more long, drawnout parties where you need 2 days to recoup. ugh. I sound old LOL It worked.

Wrapping - I try to wrap as I go. This year I did 2 major shopping days so I had to wait to wrap. I was able to get the kids to wrap for each other. I also took some time at night to ban them to their rooms because I needed to wrap. They either napped, talking on the phone, played games, or read. I was able to wrap at te table and spread my stuff out instead of taking it all to my room secretly and trying to wrap on the bed. No hurting back this time LOL

Memories - We were able to take things slow and have lots of laughs and remember other Christmas's. We all enjoyed the Holiday. It was very peaceful, very laid back.

Changes? I totally forgot to send out Christmas cards! I'd like to do a photo card next year - but it's not written in stone! I will keep a list again. Do all the same cutbacks.

Friday, December 26, 2008

It was just what I wanted and totally not what I expected!

Our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were just about perfect.

Eve:

Work was very slow so I was able to finish up my wrapping and getting things finalized for Christmas Day. I had one kid wrap the other kid's gift and vice versa. They loved writing the name tags LOL Silly kids!

Every year, Richard's family gathers at the grandparents and makes homemade egg nog. Everyone beats an egg white until stiff. We actually hold the plate upside down over someone's head to prove it! While we are beating the whites, Paw Paw is mixing up the other stuff. Before and after the eggnog, the table is spread with every kind of nibbler you can think of. Food is never in short supply at family get togethers.

We left around 10 and headed home. I was soo very happy to have everything wrapped and already under the tree! We were so tired.

Christmas morning always means hubby cooks bacon and sizzlers cut into small pieces, drain, then add a can of hominy. MMM, it's a tradition that his dad and his grandfather did. Our kids love it and every year they ask if it will be fixed. While Rich was cooking, I picked fresh oranges and juiced them! MMMM

The kids were so patient. They ate and helped clean up and then we gathered around the already divided gifts to open. We start with the youngest and one at a time open gifts. It really stretches cmas, we are all able to see what the gift is and watch the expression on faces. They laughed so much at the name tags. We normally get a gag gift from Rudolf for the stockings, but this year Rudolf was very generous and gave gift cards.

Everyone was excited with their gifts. I have to say, Richard did a wonderful job at my gifts. He really does know me :) A Christmas Story played in the background all day while we puttered around, had some friends stop by, family stopped by and we took naps! Ahhh...

Around 3 we headed back to Richard's grandparents for gift sharing there. His grandmother crocheted 27 scarfs! All the girls got one. She did an awesome job on picking colors! Mine is kid of a teal blue. Very pretty!

More food, more laughs, lots of memories, some sad times for those who are no longer with us... bittersweet. But more memories were made.

It was a very scaled back Christmas with lots less stress and lighter on the budget. It was very nice to sit and relax and enjoy the holiday.

I hope to repeat it again next year! I hope your Holiday was all you wanted, and then some.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas Eve!

Merry Christmas from our house to yours!

May you make be safe and happy, remember those who have left us and snuggle to the new additions in families. May you make memories to last a lifetime and never forget the real reason for the celebration.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Presents, pies and having a day off?

Amanda - this is for you!

Cheeseburger Pie

Tomorrow I am off. Yeah! I have a zillion errands to run and a doctor's appointment for Daniel.

I'm off to wrap!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Keeping it all together, sisterly shopping.

Every year I try to get a little more organized. I pick something to focus on and add it to my routines. Slow process? Maybe. But by adding one thing slowly it tends to branch out in other areas. So I'm not really adding one thing.. I'm making a changes that have a ripple effect.

Last year it was keeping a Calender for the family. A real calendar. Writing everything down and looking at the calendar every week to help me make my menus by seeing how much time I had available for meals and who would all be there, plan my shopping by purchasing gifts and cards beforehand, and just keep me aware of what is going on in everyone's lives.

So far so good. Even the kids have learned to write down important things - parties, tests, field trips, projects due and even items needed! Whoo hoo. See the ripple effect working??

I use to have a palm pilot. I am a gadget nerd and wanted one so darn bad. I loved organizing. I had a shopping list, meal plans, gift list, addresses, appts., etc. You name it, it was in there.

Except, I hated using it. Honestly. The screen was so small and the print was even smaller. It was not fun to use. It was cumbersome and more work than I wanted to put into it. Blah!

That's when I started using binders. I have a binder for coupons, one for recipes, and one for my home. My home one keeps my list of daily and weekly activities. It also houses my list for evacuations, maps, phone numbers, and other important information. I also keep a Holiday Guide in there. My menus for Tgiving and Cmas are in there and the shopping lists of things I need/have/purchased for the meals is tucked in there. I keep a decorating list with the room and what goes in it. Simple stuff like: Kitchen - cmas towels, Cmas pot holder, candles, rugs, soap. This way if anything needs to be replaced I can circle it and at the end of the season I know instantly what I need to replace. This year I added the list of presents purchased and amounts. It's nice to see it all in a list form. See. Organized! You can make it as complicated and drawn out as you want, or simply stick to the basics. Simple works for me.

Back to the Calendar. I used my palm mostly for keeping things in sync. I could see at an instant when making appt which day worked best and knew when to make appts. This year? GRRR. More times than not I had to call and reschedule or tell them I'd call them when I got home after checking the calendar. Guess what? Exactly. I never called back!! ACK! Not good.

Sooooo... this year my sister and I did an all day shopping to get things done! It was this Saturday. My sister is a born organized and loves order and decluttering. I am more laid back and go with the flow. My sister was the one who told me about keeping a family calendar last year. We ordered calendars from Flylady. Ahh... soo wonderful. BIG boxes to write in... lined boxes... and best off --- the calendar was PAPER; not that slick-coated kind that won't let you write. I loved writing on my calendar. I have a thing for WOODEN pencils. I loved the feel/sound/look of the lead marks on the thick paper. I know, I know... strange. But it's a quick that I just LOVE. Besides, my sister knew exactly how I felt - she has the same quirk. :)

So we were shopping and she informs me we need new calendars. She's right! Surely there are some in town and we don't need to order from Flylady?? We headed to Books a Million. We were feeling all the calender pages, looking for big enough boxes with lines.












Now I have one to carry with me and can see at an instant if there will be a problem before scheduling things. I just "sync" to my main calendar when I get home.
AWESOME!
I am feeling so much more organized. My sister and I pretty much finished our shopping. I have a few stragglers to buy for, but I"m thinking hubby can pick those up for me.
Now, I just have to wrap it all! Bring on 2009! I'm ready and waiting.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MY HUSBAND!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RICHARD!


And it snowed on his bday :) Pictures later!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Snow

We are awaiting snow. Okay, flurries. But it is as close to snow as we will get.

I have a fascination with snow. I always have. It's magical. It is. Really.

My aunt lived in Colorado for most of her adult life - the other part was spent in Boston. She Loves the snow and cold weather. My grandmother decided it was time to leave the hot south and go for some cooler weather. She moved to Colorado with my aunt. She enjoyed many years of beautiful snow.

My grandmother developed Alzheimer's and dementia. She wanted to come home to die. She didn't want to be buried in the cold ground of Colorado. She wanted to come home.

She returned to Louisiana to live with my uncle (her son). She kept telling my aunt (uncles wife) she was ready to die. My aunt would remind her it was not her choice.. but God's. My grandmother often spoke of a man who would come in the house... and angle babies who appeared in the top corners of the rooms. The angle babies told her they were coming for her after her Bday to take her home. Her Bday was December 4. My grandmother passed away December 17. We buried her on Cmas Eve. (we were waiting for out of state family to arrive). As we were all sitting around reminiscing about her life and how much she meant to each of us, the talk of "signs" of knowing your loved one is okay in heaven came up. My grandmother and I both loved frogs. My aunt said she had gotten her "sign". She was seeing frogs all over. There was even one in one of the plants at her funeral!! I said if it snowed on Cmas THAT would be my sign. My brother laughed and said I would have to be commited if it snowed on Cmas and I infact did get my sign. We all had a good laugh at that one.

All day on Cmas my family was calling to say it was snowing at their house. They all exclaimed, "Your sign is here!" No, it wasn't my sign. I didn't see the snow. I was really disappointed. I REALLY wanted a sign. I began to look for anything to become a sign. I needed to know she was okay.

It was around 10pm and we were getting ready for bed and I was coming to accept I wouldn't see my sign. Oh well. At around 10:20 my daughter asked what that noise was. We raced outside! SNOW!! It was snowing! SNOWING ON CMAS DAY!

I immediately called my aunt in Colorado. The tears began and my aunt said I finally had my snow! MY SIGN! I looked at my watch... it was now 10:25.. the time my grandmother is believed to have passed away.

The sign was there.... and I will never forget that night :)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Lists of lists

It's kind creepy when you meet people online and find out you have a lot more in common than more of the people you have known all your life!

Heather is one organizing woman. She's given me some great ideas in the short time I have known her. The longer I read her blog, the more I find we have a lot in common. One of those things is Lists. I love lists and love making lists. I especially love scratching things OFF my list. Read her latest post and find out about her love for lists and my list below will make more sense.

apples
carrots
cabbage ?
onions - 2
bananas
*canned meat
jasmine rice
chili - 1 can
croutons
mayo!
*pickles
tomatoe soup - 2 cans
breef broth
*canned fruit
*cereal - 3 boxes
pancake mix
*batteries
stroudels?
burritoes
paper plates
*toilet paper
chips
bread
pies - apple
cheese - sliced, block
eggs
milk
eggnog
lunch meat
*breakfast sauage

* = coupon
? = check the price

I did buy other things on my list because they were on sale. I did really well. I saved 30.00+ dollars in coupons and loyalty card savings. My final bill was 135.00.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Traditions

Do you have Christmas traditions? Starting new ones?

Every year my grandmother bought PJs for the kids. Now she gives me the money and I take the kids to pick them out. We celebrate on my side of the family a few weeks before Christmas. This way, they wear their new PJs on Christmas Eve and on Christmas day my pictures are of them in new PJs and not some ole mix-matched sleep shirt and pants :)

We swap gifts with my side of the family a few weeks before Cmas. We usually have a big gumbo, potatoe salad and lots of finger foods.

Christmas Eve we go to hubby's grandparents' house and make homemade eggnog. Christmas Day we return to their house at 3 to swap gifts. (We are changing this tradition!)

We usually drive around and look at Cmas lights. The kids and I picked a night when hubby was working... we got Hot chocolate and rode around. It was really nice. My parents use to take them when they were small. They would go eat pizza and then ride around and look at lights. They haven't done it in a long time.

We gather with hubby's mom and brother/family one weekend too. We usually have finger foods and then swap presents with them.

On Christmas morning my husband cooks his famous Hominy Breakfast. He cuts up bacon and cocktail sausages and cooks them. Then he adds a can of Hominy and cooks until heated. The kids love this! Hubby's grandfather made this for him when he was growing up. And now he continues the tradition.

My parents usually come over on Cmas morning to see what Santa brought the kids. My mom brings a tray of goodies.

I recently heard about the following and want to do it so bad! Get a nativity scene. Take Mary and Joseph and place them around the house each day as they make their journey to Bethleham. On Cmas Eve place everyone except baby Jesus and the wise men. On Cmas day place Jesus in the manger. Move the wise men around the house as they "journey" to see the baby Jesus! They arrive on January 6, the Ephinany, also celebrated as Twelfth Night here in the south!

Our favorite tradition when it comes to opening gifts: Everyone picks a spot and puts their gifts beside them. Once everyone is settled we start with the youngest person. They announce who the gift is from and then open it. This gives a chance for everyone to see who got what and from whom. It also gives you a chance to look at your gift until it's your turn again. We thought NO WAY would the kids go for this - but they do and love their time in the spotlight! This started on my side of the family. It worked so well my kids insisted we do it at the inlaws. It kinda stretches present time too.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Times are changing...

Now that Tgiving is over it's time to turn our eyes towards Christmas. What do we see? Or, HOW do we see it is more the question. As my kids get older the sparkle kinda fades. They are excited for Cmas, but not like when they were much younger. The suspense and magic of Cmas is gone. No more giggles of santa and reindeer... no more mall santa visits and wide eyes at Cmas lights. The anticipation of Cmas was so intense when they were younger. Now it seems to be rush, rush and what on earth to buy them? How can I show them the Cmas spirit? How can I set the example?

Each year I say I'm going to cut back. Each year I do. This year seems especially easy. I want to ENJOY the Holidays. I want to have good memories..start my own traditions... have good times.. and not be rushed. Some things cannot be helped, but the majority can! But how?

Since I have been married to Richard, we spend every Cmas Eve at his Grandparent's making homemade eggnog with rest of the family. Let's see.. there are... 35+ people... who gather and do this every year. Some cannot make it, sometimes people bring friends, sometimes old friends stop by. It's something my kids look forward to every year. They love it! Then Cmas day we return at 3 to do the name drawing and gift swap. This is 5 additional gifts added to my list. It's not the money, it's the stress! The family is so large I don't know everyone. Nor do I know their likes and dislikes. Who wants a gift that was bought in haste? Do you find yourself grabbing any ole thing you can to say the gift is purchased? I also find it harder and harder every year to get the gifts purchased and wrapped. Then, on the receiving end, I have to find place in my home for the gifts I receive. I am trying not to have clutter and STUFF. Stuff is.. well.. just stuff. It adds stress to my life. I'm grateful they bought me something.. but really.. we are all adults and can really go out and buy whatever it is we need and want. Right?

After talking with a few family members over Tgiving and discovering we were all pretty much feeling this way.. the decision was made that the KIDS would draw names between them. Once you graduate high school you are no longer a kid. The adults will make a donation to the "kitty" and then it will be decided thru a drawing where the money will be donated. There are many kids who will not have a Cmas simply because their parents cannot afford one. Why not help a child have a Cmas? Or help the many organizations in our own town help others? Helping each other... sharing.. giving... from the heart.. isn't that how it should be? Then the kids can swap gifts and teh adults can relax and visit and ENJOY the day. It was to the point where I was not looking forward to going to Cmas at the grand-inlaws.. too stressful.

I am so happy the family has decided to do this. Each family will also be able to collect money all year at home and next year for Tgiving we will bring the "kitty" to the grandparents' house. That way it can be donated a bit earlier. I have been hinting at this for a few yrs now. It finally sunk in. Yeah!

I haven't decided if I'll give each kid a jar for their own collecting. I can either give them a quarter for the jar when I see them doing something nice... or they can fill it with money they find while we are out and about. The one who collects the most in their jar may get a prize? We shall see.

I also tried getting the office staff to adopt a name off the tree in the lobby.. they looked at me like I had a third eye! Guess they REALLY want a gift... *sigh*. Oh well.

I told my sister NOT to buy anything... I'd rather her spend her $ on her family and ENJOY the holiday... We can celebrate bdays instead.. that way it's spread throughout the year and it don't hit all at once.

What are you doing different this year?

Monday, December 01, 2008

Bento Boxes - Healthy eating - Wasting less

I must live under a rock. I recently was reading Amanda's Blog and she was talking about some kinda contraption called a "bento". A few clicks of google and my desire to learn anything and everything bento began.

Bento is the Japanese word for lunch box. Neat! I cannot find any here in town - trust me, I tried - so I set out to find something as close to it as possible.

At Dollar Tree I managed to find the Hello Kitty pencil box that kids were using as a make-shift bento. It was cute, green and a buck. I had to have it. It will make a great snack bento.

At Bed Bath & Beyond I found this nifty container. It has a web site you can join with message boards and exercise and food trackers.

At Ross, I picked up a Vac-u-seal container. This puppy is neat! I may have to go back and get some more. You lock down the sides and then press in on the lid. The vacuum is formed! There is a dial with numbers on the release valve so you can "date" your food. How neat is THAT?!

My kids are use to my crazy obsession with anything new that I learn about. I love to research and learn. I wanted a bento, but also wanted to Americanize it. In doing so, I also discovered lap top lunches. Cool! Right up my alley with the less waste and all. If I still worked outside the home, I would snag this box up in a heart beat.

You may be thinking if you don't work outside the home, why would you even consider a bento?? I love containers and organizing. And I love saving money. Bnto obsession fits the bill. During the holiday shopping frenzy, the kids and I get hungry. We keep a knife in the truck and some napkins from the fast food places. We will buy a block of cheddar, a summer sausage, crackers, some spicy mustard and a drink. We head to the truck and nibble away. The kids love this picnic. And every year when they spy the first summer sausage all they can do is talk about our picnics.

This year I will be even more prepared. I will get all the picnic supplies and pack them in my make-do bento boxes. I'll get some grapes and cherry tomatoes too. Oh, and toothpicks to spear the foods. What a great way to spend some time together, eat healthy, save some money and cut back on waste.

All kinds of times the bento would come in handy was running through my brain: Car rides, at the park, shopping in general, on hikes, field trips, running errands.

Let's face it, with obesity in our nation, we could use all the help we can get. This is a great way to help with portion control too. Eating should be enjoyable to the eyes and the palate. Some bento creators are so artistic. Let your imagination run wild.