Winter Fun

Little Guy has been a good sport all Winter long.  We've not had very many opportunities to play in the snow (though it is one of his favorite pasttimes).  It seemed that either we had no snow, or it was too bitter cold when snow was available.  On Saturday, we had a perfect snow-play day.  The temp was cold, but not awful and there was enough snow left to make a three year old happy. We bundled up and had a wonderful time enjoying some Winter play.

The bad news?  Last night he woke up with a sneezy, snotty head cold (the first of the season).  Oh well.  I'm pretty sure he'd say it was worth it. 


Cardboard Play House

Over a year ago, we acquired a large cardboard box that had previously held a dishwasher.  We had cut a window in it and Little Guy had a lot of fun playing inside it for a while.  After a few weeks, his interest waned and the box went into our basement storage.  Last week he said he wished he had a house of his own.  I brought up the box and he was very excited about it.

The 1800 matches our own house number, and
the red mailbox is very similar to ours as well.

Although the plain box had been fun, I had a feeling we could do better.  So, I cut out a second window.  Then I covered most of the dishwasher wording with brown construction paper (except the "roof" which I covered with black paper). 

As soon as Little Guy saw the improvements he said that we needed a chimney - haha!  So, we took a small-ish box, and covered it with pink paper.  I drew on "bricks" and LG and I glued on a big stack of cotton balls for smoke.

By now, I was really having fun (maybe more than Little Guy was even).  I added a big tree (complete with perching blue bird), shutters, a fire hydrant and a mail box that looks quite similar to the one on our actual house.  We also added flowers all the way around.

Little Guy did complain a little bit that the shutters don't actually work, so there may be one more project in our future!  :)
Little Guy loves getting mail, and having us 'visit' him at his house.  He now has a pretend door bell and has wedged in some of his play furniture.  I helped him make a 'home sweet home' sign and we hung it (as well as another picture he'd drawn) inside.   

This has been a very fun project, and since we had all the supplies on hand - a totally free one as well! 

The cardboard play house is great, and I think we're done with 'improvements'...for now anyway.


Valentines Day Party

Little Guy's home-made Valentine cards.
This week has been a whirlwind of Valentine Day preparations.  I had volunteered to help with the party Little Guy’s pre-school was having, and had been tasked with making ‘boxes’ the children could decorate.  I also decided this year to make Little Guy’s valentines for his friends (to save money, but also for a little variety).  We used the store-bought ones left over from last year for Baby Boy’s little daycare friends.

What spare time I had over the weekend was spent making the little cards, getting the boxes ready and planning a little something for my own Valentine as well.

Little Guy’s cards were pretty straight forward.  I scoured the internet and came away with a lot of wonderful ideas.  In the end, Little Guy decided he wanted dinosaur cards.  I found some cute illustrations of cartoon-ish dinosaurs on-line and used them as inspiration for some I drew on plain white paper.  I then added a corny little line, “You are DINO-mite, Valentine!” and “Valentine, you are Tricera-TOPS!” etc to each.  I cut around the drawing, glued it to pink or red construction paper and then cut that paper to make a frame around the dinosaur.  Little Guy then colored each one, and we attached them to little plastic dinosaurs which we’d purchased at Wal Mart for $1 each.  The end result was pretty adorable and we had a lot of fun putting them together.

For the ‘boxes’, I decided to do something a little different.  We’ve saved a lot of formula canisters over the last few years (with no particular plan in mind), and finally put them to use.  I removed the label from each, cleaned them carefully, covered the edge with duct tape (to avoid any sharp bits), covered the outside with white art paper, trimmed in ribbon, and made holes in each side where a pipe-cleaner handle could go.  These were a little time consuming, but the end result was one I was happy with – and completely free, as I had all supplies on hand.

Old formula cans from our storage room.

Monday was the pre-school party, and we had so much fun!  I was able to be a ‘guest reader’ and shared two little Valentine themed books with the children.  Then we had a snack (heart shaped fruit pizza and juice).  I watched as the teacher taught all the little ones about the letter “R” during lesson time, and then watched as they sang songs and played some games.  I adored watching Little Guy as he interacted with his friends.  He was so well behaved and very involved in everything.  He loves learning and is soaking it all up like a little sponge.

Soon it was time for arts and crafts.  This was when I was able to bring out the Valentine buckets and the children were encouraged to decorate them.  We had crayons and stickers as well as various pictures and glue.  I had drawn about thirty little Valentine robots and those were a big hit for gluing to the sides.  They were also able to color and draw and write their names.  In the end, each child had a pretty cute Valentine bucket to take home – each decorated uniquely and adorably. 

This was the sample that I made for LG's Teacher.

And Little Guy's finished bucket (you can see one of the robot drawings here as well)
When it was time for me to leave after lunch, I ended up taking Little Guy home too.  I had the whole day off after all, and the roads were icky so this saved me a trip back to pick him up.  Also, he was clearly enjoying having me there, and was quite upset at the prospect of seeing me go.  We ended up having a lovely Mommy/Son afternoon at home, decorating our house with pink paper hearts and making a special Valentine dinner for Hubby.

It was a fabulous day, and the end result was worth every minute of time spent to get there.  Spending some quality time with my Little Guy always warms my heart, and this particular day with him was perfectly priceless!


Revisiting Mr. Darcy

I’ve been going through a bit of a Jane Austen phase lately (Pride and Prejudice, in particular).  It started rather innocently enough.  I’d picked up a copy of Me and Mr. Darcy at our local discount book store, and it was a quick read.  This book is not a life changer, but it was fun and it kept me entertained while on a road trip with the family.  There is a whole world of Austen-lite fiction available.  There are prequels and sequels and based-upons.  There are stacks of re-workings, especially of Pride and Prejudice.  I’ve read a few good ones, and a few bad ones.  This particular book was okay, but I won’t tell you to run out and buy it.  The only reason I’m even mentioning that book is that the heroine in this novel kept talking about these two….

Mr. Darcy (as played by Colin Firth in the P&P BBC mini series):

and Mr. Darcy (as played by Matthew MacFayden in the Kiera Knightly P&P version):

The frequent references to these two versions of Pride and Prejudice inspired me to re-watch the DVD of the 2005 movie (oh how I love the sheer beauty of that film - it takes my breath away), and then I ordered the mini series from NetFlix and watched it too.  (I suggested Hubby might watch that one with me, but he mumbled something about pulling his eyes out with pliers, so I didn’t pester him about it).  I enjoyed watching both versions over the last week, and now think I’ll have to re-read the book as well. 

I first read Pride and Prejudice in 1987.  I was thirteen, and my Aunt Mary gave me a copy.  Even at that age, I saw the beauty in the romance between Lizzie and Darcy.  It’s one of those stories that grips you and won’t let go.  Here I am twenty-four years after that first reading, and I still adore Lizzie and her Darcy to this day.

The story is such a classic, and  I imagine they’ll be re-making and re-tooling and writing even more sequels for generations to come.   This is good news for me (and probably for you too).  It means that if/when we have a Jane Austen phase, there will always be something (a movie, a book, etc) to help us through it.  


Dinosaur Snouts & Groundhog Day

Little Guy and I have been doing a lot of “projects” lately.  They keep him busy (and out of trouble), and they give us quality time that is always appreciated. 

As soon as we decided to have children, I started to accumulate educational materials.  I had been collecting children’s fiction and picture books for many years prior to starting a family, but when we made that decision I began to branch out a bit.  By now, I have a nice assortment of books that cover most topics (match, science, art, language, geography etc) for multiple age groups.

Usually I have some projects in mind, and other times I let Little Guy pick what we will do next.  Recently he had found an activity (to make dinosaur snouts) in an old Better Homes and Gardens book that I have.  This was timely, as the January theme at his pre-school was dinosaurs, and he LOVES learning about them and pretending to be one!

For this activity, we needed two Styrofoam cups, some yarn, construction paper, glue and scissors.  I helped him with the cutting but he did most of the rest.  We learned that the yarn did not really hold the snouts on very well, but that we liked holding them to our faces just fine.  It was a simple little project, but one he really enjoyed.

Another one little activity we did recently was for Groundhog Day.  On the evening before (Feb 1), I told Little Guy all about the Groundhog, and how he was going to look for his shadow.  LG thought this was fun, and wanted to know more about groundhogs, so we looked them up on-line.  After looking at several pictures of the furry creatures, we talked about shadows and about animal homes.  Then I brought out our supplies for the little project I had in mind.  We used an empty cottage cheese container, construction paper, a Popsicle stick, some brown pom poms, glue and scissors.

I cut the bottom out of the cottage cheese container.  We turned it over, and glued green paper to the sides.  This was to be the groundhog’s burrow.  Little Guy drew some flowers to add, and we glued those to the grass.  Then we took the pom poms and glued them to the Popsicle stick.  Presto we had a groundhog!  We let him dry over night, and then the next morning (while Puxatawny Phil was stepping out of his home in Pennsylvania), Little Guy was pushing his little groundhog up out of its ‘burrow’.  This was a fun and simple project.

No matter what we end up doing, we always have fun with our little 'projects'!


It’s Never Too Late for [INSERT YOUR DREAM HERE]

There's this thing that I want to do... it's something I've wanted to do for as long as I can remember, but I always put it off.  If successful, this thing could parlay nicely into a career that I would adore.  Though I've had this dream for years and years (since childhood in all honesty), I tend to drag my feet when it comes to actually taking that first scary step.  Lately I've really been battling with myself - trying to decide how to get started and when? 

I watched the movie 'Julie and Julia' last week, and it inspired me to do something (in addition to just thinking about doing something- which I do a lot).  I was inspired not because I want to be a food blogger or cook French food (I don't); but because the movie reminded me that Julia Child started the career she's world renowned for - later in life.  This was a nice reminder for me, because sometimes I get bogged down in the "well, I've come this far and not done it - why bother?" mindset.  I need to shake that for good.

So, I was thinking about Julia when I remembered Laura Ingalls Wilder also was a 'late bloomer'... and that made me do a few Wikipedia searches to see what other inspirational stories I could find.  Now, I'm only 37, so I am not yet in their ballpark, but I still find this type of success story to be very motivating. 

Here are some examples of 'later life' success which I found via that on-line search:

  • Julia Child didn’t begin to collaborate on her first cookbook until she was in her 40s, and hosted her first television show at 51.
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder was 63 when she started writing what would later become the first in the “Little House” series.
  • Henry Ford introduced the Model T automobile when he was 45 years old. At the age of 60, he created the first car assembly line.
  • Tim Zagat of the restaurant guide fame, was 44 years old when he started the Zagat Restaurant Guide.
  • Grandma Moses wouldn't create the paintings that would make her famous until she was 76 years old.
  • Colonial Sanders was 65 when he started the first Kentucky Fried Chicken.
  • Raymond Chandler was 51 when his first novel “The Big Sleep” was published.
  • Ben Franklin was 46 years old when he experimented with electricity using his kite. At 47, he won the Copley Award (an early version of the Nobel Prize). Also while in his 40s, he invented bifocals, the catheter, and the Franklin Stove. He was elected to the Continental Congress at age 69. At 70 he signed the Declaration of Independence, making him the oldest signer. When he was 77 years old, he negotiated the Treaty of Paris, which put an end to the Revolutionary War. At 81, he signed the U.S. Constitution.
  • Sir Alexander Fleming - a British doctor and scientist specializing in the study of bacteria, was 47 when he discovered penicillin.
  • The average age of the men who have served as President of the United States is 54 years and 11 months. The youngest was Teddy Roosevelt, age 42, the oldest, Ronald Regan, who became President 16 days before his 70th birthday.
I found the above image - as well as a lot of goal setting ideas here.
I'm setting some goals today.  I'm starting with baby steps.  I know that attaining any goal means hard work and episodes of failure, but what do I have to lose?  I'll never forgive myself if I don't at least TRY. 

Wish me luck.  :)

Some motivational quotes (also found via an internet search) which I liked:
“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” –Walt Disney

“Don’t wait until everything is just right.  It will never be perfect.  There will always be challenges, obstacles and less than perfect conditions.  So what.  Get started now.  With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident and more and more successful.” – Mark Victor Hansen

“Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” - Thomas Alva Edison

“Perseverance is a great element of success. If you knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody.” - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Mis-Adventures in Grocery Shopping

We shop for groceries twice a month.  Yes, there is the occasional quick trip for milk or baby food that happens on an off day, but our big cart-filling grocery run comes around every two weeks.

I adore grocery shopping.  Hubby likes it too.  He typically does the bulk of the shopping but at the end of January I said I’d like to do it.  He agreed.  I went.  I came home with many reusable bags filled with all the stuff that we typically buy.

Last night (armed with the knowledge of what had filled those bags only one week ago), I initiated the following conversation:

Me: “What would you like for dinner?”
Little Guy: “chicken nuggets.”
Me: “You just had chicken nuggets, how about a hot dog?”
Little Guy: “Okay.”
Hubby (from the other room): “We don’t have any hot dogs.”
Me: “Yes we do.  I bought them last week.  Buns too.”
Hubby: “Yes, we have buns.  No hot dogs though.”
I began to search the refrigerator, but sure enough no hot dogs were to be found.  I was racking my brain, trying to remember if I’d changed my mind at the store, and put them back?  Surely not.

Meanwhile, Hubby had retrieved the receipt.  Yes, I had purchased hotdogs.  Eureka! I was elated (for a moment) because this proved I hadn’t been imagining things.  I truly had purchased hot dogs, but where were they?  I continued to dig through the contents of our refrigerator and freezer while he began to scan the rest of the receipt.  “What’s this?” he asked, pointing to another item he didn't think we had.  “Ham steaks” I replied.  “And this?”, he indicated another entry.  Slowly I closed the open doors.  “Pork chops.” I said as realization dawned.

“Maybe I left them in the car?” 

He went out to check my car, and quickly returned with the missing bag.  A bag full of MEAT purchased over a week ago.  Of all the bags I brought home, of COURSE it was this one that never made it into the house.  Bags of pasta and canned goods – check.  Dry breakfast cereal and granola bars – check.  Pudding cups and peanut butter – check.  Bread and crackers…well, you get the idea.  I only had three bags of items that wouldn’t have survived outside, and I had left one of them behind in the car.

Normally I would have noticed sooner, but that particular day was a fussy one for Baby Boy and when I was maybe half done with putting away the groceries, I stopped to relieve Hubby of baby duty.  He then, took over for me in the kitchen.   Had I been the one to put everything away, I surely would have noticed and headed out to the car that very afternoon.

Hindsight and all that.  **sigh**

I looked it up, in case you are wondering…the “danger zone” for meat is any temp between 40 – 140 degrees.  If it sits out for a mere twenty minutes in those temps, bacteria begins to multiply. 

If we were having a normal winter, we might have gotten away with the meat being outside (okay, maybe not for a week).  But instead of the sub-zero temperatures we usually have in January/February, we’ve enjoyed three different days of 40 or above (two days reached 60 degrees) in the last week.  That “danger zone” was definitely in play. 


Though the frugal gal inside me was screaming, "NOOOO!" ...into the trash it all went.  I’m just thanking my lucky stars there weren’t any big meat sales.  I’d only picked up a few items since nothing was all that great of a bargain on that particular day.  Another thing to be thankful for (look at me living on the bright side!) is that this didn't happen in summer!  Can you imagine the stench that would come with meat left in a HOT car?  I shudder at the thought.  Yuck again.

So after we’d figured it all out and $15 of our hard earned money was sitting in the trash can…we ate some hamburger steaks with veggies and cornbread.  Little Guy ended up having a good dinner (in truth much healthier than the first one I’d suggested), and we enjoyed our dinner too.  Hubby didn’t say anything at all about my screw-up (he’s awesome like that), but I have a feeling he’ll do the grocery shopping again for a while. 

And that’s okay with me.

Note: Yes, we eat hot dogs (on occasion), and yes I know what they are made of.  :)



not my noodles....image from Bing search
Recently I made noodles for the first time.  The recipe I used had been in my possession for probably ten years.  A dear lady who I worked with back in the 1990s had given it to me after sharing a batch at a pot-luck luncheon.  I adored them, and begged her for the recipe.  I had every intention of making them much sooner than now…but for whatever reason hadn’t bothered to do it.  When I came across the recipe in my little metal box last week, I was sadly reminded that the lady who gave it to me so long ago, had passed away a couple years back.  I decided it was high time I gave her noodle recipe a try.

The recipe is pretty straight-forward and was easy to whip up.  For some reason though, I made the process more complicated than it needed to be by rolling the dough out on wax paper.  I guess I thought that the paper would help the noodle dough not to stick.  It did help with that (a bit), but when I cut the noodles – I also cut the paper (into noodle sized strips of course).  Pulling the noodles off of the wax paper strips was not fun.  Also, it turned what had been pretty uniform noodles into big messy pile of misshapen lumps. 

I had very little faith that the blobby dough before me would ever pass for noodles.  A less optimistic (and/or less frugal) gal might have tossed them out and given up, but not me.  I laid them out as best I could and let them dry.

Earlier in the day I had cooked up a fryer chicken, de-boned it and put it in the crock pot with broth, carrots, onions and celery.  By now the house smelled a little like heaven.  I wasn’t sure how the noodles would do when added to the soup, so instead of dumping them in the crock-pot, I put them in some boiling water on the stove top.

And then, a miracle happened.  The mangled strips of dough began to look like… noodles!  Hurrah!  I did a little happy dance as they started to bob and float in the boiling water.  Once I was sure that they were not going to dissolve or turn to mush, I drained and moved them into the crock-pot.  About forty-five minutes later, I dished up plates of yummy mashed potatoes topped with homemade chicken and noodles. 

Yes, the carb count on such a meal is crazy high… I.DO.NOT.CARE.  Never has there been a better comfort food than this. 

The noodles still looked odd – only some having a regular noodle shape - but they tasted wonderful!  Worth every moment of effort put into making them, I think they were maybe the tastiest chicken and noodles I’ve ever eaten!  Maybe they really were the best ever, or maybe I only thought that because I was enjoying the “fruits of my own labor”…. I’m not sure.

What I am sure of, is that I’ll be trying that recipe again.  I didn’t remember to take pictures, but pictures wouldn’t have done them justice anyway (trust me on this).  I am including the recipe below.  It’s super easy and I think it’s fairly standard as noodle recipes go….but here it is:

Luetta’s Homemade Noodles
4 eggs
3 T cold water
1 tsp salt
3 T soft butter
2 c. Flour

Beat eggs.  Beat in water and salt.  Stir in flour and butter.  Roll out then as desired and cut with sharp knife.  Let dry at least 30 minutes before cooking.

{this moment}

Inspired by SouleMama to share one moment...via a single photo - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember...
first sip of hot chocolate....ever!


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