Sunday, November 30, 2008

Random Savings

In the continuing thread on saving money, I've discontinued using products after they run out. My mom keeps me in a steady stream of Bath & Body Works products, so I don't have to worry about dry skin. Everything else is up for experimentation.

I discovered foundation and powder are a necessity at this point in life - though I don't wear them every day. I'm a mom to two children under 4. If sleep isn't an option, then make-up provides that "happy" glow that apparently can't be faked.

One thing I can live without: conditioner! I stopped using when it ran out. I am a conditioner snob, and don't want to put certain drying chemicals on my head. I faced my elitist views on haircare products, and realized that the choice would be more $18 conditioner, or none. None seems to be working out fine. I got a hair cut and asked if it was obvious I had stopped using conditioner all together. She said she couldn't tell the difference. I miss the smooth, silky feeling conditioned hair has while it is still wet, but the truth of the matter is that is exactly how it feels after putting in some good smoothing gel. So, America - now you know the truth about my head. I am unconditioned.

I also combined all of the 3/4 used shampoos into one bottle. I had four bottles like that. I think I might have some kind of complex, like a "I don't finish bottles of shampoo" complex. Actually, I think I just buy before I run out and get so excited about the new bottle. What I like about the mixed bottle is the layers are separated a little bit, so every few nights the soap is really sudsy because the Ph is different (I think). Anyway, it is like have four new bottles in one. Maybe there is a market for that product -- ReNEW shampoo or something like that.

I'm sure the "what I can live without" experiment has only begun, but so far it's fun!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Ode to Hickory Farms Beef Stick Summer Sausage

The taste of the holidays is turkey and ham,
Slow-cooked roasts and rolls with jam.
But in my book no holiday is complete
without the beef stick from Hickory.
Dipped in mustard, or straight from the sleeve,
the perfect h'ordeurve for Christmas Eve.
190 calories in just two ounces
But whose counting anyway? My middle just bounces.
Oh Beef Stick Summer Sausage, you're the taste of the season.
Life without you lacks purpose and reason.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Leftover Pumpkin Pie Filling

Thanksgiving is over, but the leftovers remain. I baked two pumpkin pies, but was dismayed when so much filling was leftover -- the can said it made two pumpkin pies, but I think it easily could have made three. I only had enough pie crust to make two pies, so I shoved the leftover filling in the fridge until I could figure out what to do with it. Here are my options:

1. Pumpkin Pie Cookies -- Peggy Deland says they are delicious. The recipe sounds dangerously free of measurements to me, but I like to live on the edge.

2. Pumpkin Pie Creme Brulee -- I suppose I would have to cook the filling first? Sounds yummy though...

3. Pumpkin Pie Pudding -- I love pudding. It's my favorite memory from the Pullman Regional Hospital (other than the girls). This from a Yahoo Answers thing: "Butter a small oven-save dish, pour in the batter, sprinkle the top with sugar if you want and bake it with the pie.Or, you could just cook it on the stovetop, stirring constantly over low heat, until it thickens and pour it in small serving dishes. Put it in the fridge until it sets up and serve "pumpkin pudding" with or without whipped cream on top."

I suppose it isn't the worst problem to have, deciding what to do with leftover pumpkin pie filling. Which would you choose?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Last Day of Work

I can hardly believe it! I finished up at work today, and now what am I? A world traveler? A stay-at-home mom? A bum? I’m not really sure what I’ll be, but when I wake up tomorrow I won’t be a secretary anymore, and I’m excited to see what life looks like from a new angle!

When I graduated from high school, I felt like the future was horizon in every direction with an endless array of opportunities spread before me. Life, while good, hasn’t had that feeling of possibility for a little while now. At the present moment, it is energizing to start thinking about life in that way again.

My office had a farewell party last night, which I will hopefully post some pictures of eventually. It was the beginning of the “lasts” in Pullman, which are difficult. Having lived here since 2001, and this being the only home our kids have had, it is surreal to imagine waking up some day in December and not being able to connect with our network of people anymore. In the past 7 years our family has been changed and influenced by so many wonderful people. I want to take them all with me.

I guess this is the ever-present battle between roots and wings – it can be difficult to have both at the same time.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thirty Hour Work Week

I spent about a year and a half working thirty hours a week. Now that I am working full time (almost:), I understand how beneficial the thirty hour work week was for my young family. A thirty hour work-week reduced my pay by about $400 a month, but now I know that had anyone offered me $400 to work an additional 40 hours each month the answer would have been "no".

When you work 30 hours a week, you actually work 32.5 hours a week thanks to a mandatory 30 minute lunch break. When you work 40 hours a week, you are actually away from home for 45 hours a week because there is a mandatory unpaid lunch hour in the middle of your day. By giving up 10 hours of pay, you get 12.5 hours of life back to spend in any manner you desire -- definately worth it to me!

Working from 8:30am to 3:00pm I spent zero hours in traffic each day, I went grocery shopping after work when the stores were empty, I leisurely made dinner and ate with my family. I participated in a book club as I lacked "mother guilt" for spending so little time with my children. I pursued my hobbies and took time to do things by hand. Every weekend was kind of like a long weekend.

When I work until 5:00pm, I don't get the kids home until 6pm, and then it is a mad rush through dinner, baths, story time, and bed time by 8pm. After leaving so many things undone all week long, you spend your weekend playing catch-up with the laundry instead of playing with your kids. On top of that, the irony is that there was nothing that I got accomplished in 8 hours that couldn't have been done in 6 on most days. The two extra hours to spend with your kids and keeping up with daily chores makes a huge difference in quality of life for everyone involved.

In an era where unemployment is steadily rising, when companies are laying off competent workers to make ends meet, I wonder if it would be possible to make an argument for the 30 hour week.

Friday, November 21, 2008

High Quality Online Learning Resources

I have been searching for books, workbooks, and activities to take on the ship for Abi. I am trying to find some affordable resources that are at her level, things that encourage her to read. Today I stumbled on a site that I really love! Starfall has a series of online books and materials that are all free. Clicking on “The Starfall Store” takes you to a page with paperback books for purchase, many of which are less than $1. However, almost all of the stories are also available online for free as books that you click through. Abi loves watching things on the computer and these online books will allow us to keep the entertainment luggage to a minimum. I love that the books focus on multicultural themes. Many of the stories feature real pictures from other countries, cultural folktales, and true stories.

Can you read with me?

Abi has a new fascination with books. In the night, she wakes up and picks loads of books from her bookshelf to “read” in bed (in the dark). In the morning she takes a stack of books to the bathroom, shuts the door, and “reads” books aloud on her stool. She reads to her sister, she reads in the car, she reads at the table. It seems that every activity can be accomplished with a book in hand. Abi listens carefully when we read to her, and has started memorizing short stories. She repeats each page word for word, so satisfied with the thought that she can read now. I love watching her grow into this new skill.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Marking the Day

Today is the 3rd year anniversary of my father's death. In some ways I feel some pressure to mark the day by doing something. I think that's holding true to western/modern approaches. We must do something, some activity, something meaningful on the day to come to grips with the passing of a loved one. But I'm never sure what to do. There is no grave to visit, I live nine hours from my family, and I'm living regular life, working, picking up the kids, cooking, eating, cleaning, playing with my two daughters and trying to have a conversation with my wife without being interrupted every three seconds. In not knowing what to "do" I feel somewhat like a failure at marking the day. On the other hand, not a day goes by when I don't think about my father and life with and without him, who he was, and who I am becoming. I definitely miss him and when I think about what would best commemorate who he was, I think about who I am becoming. My dad was a loving, patient, reflective and ethical man who loved his family a lot. So today I'm going to think again about the good qualities of my father and what he has passed on to me, and if he would be proud of the way I am living my life, how I work, and how I love my family. If you knew my father you would know that today would be a good day to buy a mint mocha from Starbucks, go on a walk, navigate to a new place using a map and/or a bus schedule, check the weather online, and play some chess. I think I can at least do one of those things, but I'll remember my dad wasn't one for feeling compelled to "do" things, he was more into "being". I wish he could be here now and if he was I think he would just want to be together. It wouldn't really matter what we did.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Chicken Skin

I took Lily to the doctor today -- we waited a long time. I read a magazine that promised I could lose 10 pounds by eating fast food every day. I felt really good about life, until I realized how terrible that would be. However, the same magazine managed to leave a good taste in my mouth.

Yesterday I marinated four split, skin on chicken breasts in a delicious Tandoori sauce. Yogurt, lemon, wonderful spices -- HEAVEN. The recipe called for split, skin-on chicken breasts. I obeyed, despite the fact I have grown up in a world that tells me the delightful, oven-crisped skin of chicken is the equivalent of eating a stick of butter.

Friends, I read in the October issue of "Health" magazine that roasting a whole chicken in the oven is a wonderful way to have a meal that lasts through several re-creations, and as an added bonus removing the skin from the ENTIRE chicken saves 100 calories. 100 calories people. 100 calories is 10 sticks of gum. It is one of those tiny little snack-packs

Thank you Health magazine. Tonight, I am having my Tandoori chicken breast, crispy skin and all -- and I'll have dessert too!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Clean Shower Curtain

Sorry to anyone looking for a blog full of carefree adventures -- it takes a lot of preparation to be carefree and adventurous. For now, it is just ordinary, daily life adventures. Today's exciting revelation: shower curtains can be resurrected! Luke was embarrassed because we have guests coming the next two weekends and the shower curtain was growing pink mold. I didn't want to buy a new shower curtain, and suggested explaining the mold, you know, like "Hey, welcome to our house. Normally, we would buy a new shower curtain but we're moving soon. Hope you don't mind!"

Luke is classier than I am, so we eventually came to a compromise -- we would clean the shower curtain. Folks, this is easy! I'm posting the directions below, and I hope you have as much fun cleaning your shower curtain as we did!

To remove soap scum and mildew from plastic shower curtains and liners, fill the washing machine with warm water, 1 cup of white vinegar and your regular laundry detergent. Add the curtains, along with several old, light-colored towels. Run through the complete cycle and rehang curtain immediately.

On a side note, I've been trying to get some mud stains out of a white sweater of Abi's. I tossed that in with the curtain and it actually came out! I don't know if it was the vinegar, the warm water, or the plastic, but it works for me!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Moving Truck...and other shameless plugs

It's official -- after two days on the phone and some wheelin' and dealin' by Luke and I, we've got the moving truck scheduled. In the process, I stumbled on a website that I think rocks! If you are ever about to purchase something, go to first! People post codes for coupons, and you just enter the name of a store you want to shop at and see what comes up. When I was buying stuff for a baby shower, I put in "Babies-R-Us" and got a code for an automatic 20% off my order. As I've browsed I found coupons for airline tickets, hotels, and almost any retail store. Especially if you are about to purchase something on-line anyway, it makes sense to check and see if you can find a code to use before you check-out.

There is more than just coupons though. When I put in the names of the moving companies we were considering, there were some instructions for getting your cost lowered. Not a coupon per se, just a strategy of using the phone to make your reservation, getting your second-favorite mover down to a low price, and then seeing if your favorite mover will match it. In the end, we saved $70 off our first quote, and got to keep the truck for three extra days.

In a coupon-related note, if you are in the market for disposable or cloth diapers, or really anything for a baby/toddler, consider going to Despite the diaper-specific name, the store is really more like a Babies-R-Us. My daughter's daycare gets a discount for every new customer that enters referral code PCCC. The code gets you an automatic $10 off your order of $50, plus free shipping. I thought they just carried disposable diapers, but they actually sell all kinds of products for kids for very reasonable prices. Once you place an order, you'll get a referral code that will save you money when people use it. How awesome is that!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Vacating Instructions

We just received instructions for cleaning our apartment when we move out. There are a few from the list that have me worried...


"Upon termination and vacation, restore the premises to their initial condition, except for reasonable wear and tear." For the record, I think everything about the time Abi tried to color her wall red was reasonable -- she was just learning how to color at the time. And the door I damaged when I tried to pry it open after she locked me outside in my underwear -- I think we can all agree that any effort to pry open a door when you are locked outside in your underwear is "reasonable". Surely we won't have to pay for that.

-Remove ALL personal contents from unit (including cupboards and closets) As we work on this task, I am noticing that many of our "personal contents" are being removed straight to the least it is removed from the unit, right?

-Wash windows inside and outside. I can do inside. Outside...umm, we're moving in December. We can see through our windows. I hope that will be good enough.

-Clean all blinds; launder and iron ALL curtains and replace. I'm one step ahead on that one - I took down the blinds and curtains when we got here. They are zip tied and ironed in a a closet because I hate cleaning blinds.

-Strip, wash and re-wax all vinyl floors (including under range and refrigerator). I had to google "strip and wax floors". For the record, much of what came out of that search was not appropriate for children. I did learn that the liklihood of me ever stripping and waxing a floor was somewhere near 0%.

Everything else I think I can handle -- cleaning the oven, the light fixtures, the walls, carpets and cupboards are not above my cleaning repertoire. However, I believe none of those things have been done more than once during our three years in this place! I think we should probably move every 3 years for the rest of our lives. That way the oven will get cleaned, the cupboards and walls wiped down, and the closets emptied at least once every three years. When we buy a house and settle down someday, I am going to ask my landlord to send us this list every year!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


One big question we have had as we plan our journey is what in the world we should do about car seats. In the states we can rent a car seat along with our rental car without too much hassle. Once in country, most places can be accessed by mass transit and car seats won’t be necessary. It is only where taxi travel is the norm that a car seat would be necessary, and the thought of lugging around two car seats all day in developing countries that may lack seatbelts in taxis seems a little much. So, I stumbled across this on Amazon:

Is this thing for real? It looks like it would only work for Abi because of the weight/height requirement.

I would love to hear from anyone that has ever traveled with young children in the developing world. Would something like this work?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Halloween 2008

Halloween was fun this year! Luke and I went political. I was an ideology, "The Change we Need". Luke went as the mythical political creature, "Joe Six Pack". Our Halloween party was also visited by "Joe the Plumber".

Halloween was fun this year! This was Abi's fourth Halloween ever, and I think she has the hang of it now. Here's Spider Girl in all her glory:

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Pullman Fall Fun

There's no time like fall on the Palouse. Here are a few of my favorite pictures of the family this fall.