Sunday, December 29, 2013

Feeling Humbuggerish

      I was so gung-ho to get our tree up soon after Thanksgiving. It was our 5th married Christmas! We kept things laid back. No rushing or traveling or overwhelming ourselves.

      Here it is still a few days from the New Year and all but my snowman cookie jar is packed away. We have a lot going on in our lives this coming year. I'm not sure if it will be more or less than 2013 but I'm guessing it will fly by just as fast! I feel like I have so much to get done. We'll be moving soon. I'm thisfar away from being done with my associate's degree. We'll have birthdays and holidays and lots of other plans and events. We're working towards getting debt free and we'll make some big leaps this year, I hope, after taking two steps back. By the fall, I intend to start home-pre-schooling Bitty Bug. Sweet Pea will hopefully potty train.

      2013 was a crazy, exhausting year for us. It was a joy with the addition of our little Pumpkin. It was a challenge with balancing family and jobs and school without a network of friends or family nearby. Miracles happened: Bitty Bug potty trained. It was hard with job loss and new jobs and unexpected things. 75% of it is a total blur. I have so many things I want to do this next year. I think I made some resolutions last year. I need to figure out if I actually did and where that list is so I can look over it!

     Christmas may be over but here's to a New Year! I have ~360 days to prepare for all the things I found on Pinterest for Christmas 2014.  hahaha!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Awesome Action Figures - $2 Coupons at Target

      My kiddos have a healthy appreciation of certain comic super heroes and star wars. We love the Marvel Universe, Star Wars, and Transformers action figures that we've found at Target. Just before Christmas Hulk was on sale from $12 to $9.99. They had a B1G1 50% off deal. And, I had two coupons for $2 off. I'm not sure if the sale is still going. It will depend on each store but you can still get the coupons here for Transformers or Star Wars. You should be able to print each coupon twice. The kiddos have Spiderman, Ironman, Hulk, a Stormtrooper, and Anakin so far. Target also has a coupon for the Playskool Heroes. We have a growing collection of those, as well.

       Now, for your viewing pleasure. Here's a picture of the Hulk punching Anakin Skywalker in his smug, baby face.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Oh pacifier, oh pacifier

 Paci, nubby, bub, bink, sucker, nu-nu, mama, tati, pass, lolli, wubby, sassy, dummy, plug, popper, soother, nuk, poppy, kiki, button, boppy, and bubby. These are all the names I’ve heard over the years for the little piece of rubber or plastic formed into an artificial nipple-ish shape that is used by many to console their sweet babies.

     My kids, I think, are odd. They’ve never really taken to the pacifier. I’ve always had some on hand if even only for those times we’re in the car and really can’t stop. Each of them, so far, had a different brand preference, if and when they would take one. One liked soothies or Nuks, one liked playtex, one DID like mams for five seconds until deciding they sucked. (just re-read this. oopsy. pun not intended.)

      Not even my bottle-fed babe really took one but on occasion when she was particularly cranky. Certainly not to the point that any true weaning was ever a thing. But gracious, would it have been nice on those nights where my sweet girl would not go for any method of “sleep training” or “self soothing”. (All of which I have more disparaging opinions on now but it was what it was and that was then.) Even if it just meant she stayed calm and quiet while I held her all night and day!

    With my second, I was hyper-focused on successfully breastfeeding after barely making it a couple months with my first. I did NOT want her having a pacifier in her mouth evaaarrr. Ever. For the sake of my supply and our success. Well, not only did she not really accept a paci but she wouldn’t take a bottle. The two or three times she was offered a bottle she’d only drink an ounce or two and wait out the time it took me to get back from wherever I was and then she’d nurse like crazy. Maybe to prove a point to me? More likely to ensure herself that all was well in her tiny world. Regardless, we made it to 17 months of economical and/or exclusive and/or on-demand breastfeeding.

    Now, here I sit, typing this up and wondering if it’s even coherent. My sweet Pumpkin (baby three) was up ALL night last night. Nursing on and off, fussing, burping, farting, fussing, staring at the ceiling fan in quiet, fussing, cooing, smiling, nursing more, NOT SLEEPING. It was definitely the hardest night in all of these ~2 months thus far. Considering this child has been an excellent sleeper even though he does not let more than 3 hours pass without eating and he’s only had the tiniest smidgen of mixed up days and nights. I don’t know why but that plastic paci gets to be very appealing when your little babe has been on and off for 30 minutes at a time (30 on, 30 off, that is), both sides, for over 6 hours. At some point, my husband just HAD to take over and let me sleep for a full hour while he sang and rocked our very-awake baby at 4am. Thankfully, this little buddy is a peach and he’s pretty content 98% of the time. Just not last night.

      Apparently, the paci he had taken to a couple weeks ago is not his flavor anymore. He acted like I was torturing him by responding with gags and funny faces when I touched a different one (the kind we’d tried originally) to his little pursed lips. I venture to guess he’s going the way of my second in totally denying any soothing from a rubber nub. I guess he just prefers the original pacifier, if ya know what I mean. (Nipple. I’m referring to female, human nipple.) 

     Here’s to coffee, I suppose!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies EVER! (Perfect with Christmas M&Ms!)

     These turned out so great! I'm thrilled. I usually can't stand making cookies because they don't turn out how I like them. I don't like them to be super crunchy or hard. I like a little bit of crispiness around the edge and perfect gooey chewiness on the inside. I decided to wing it with the recipe. Thankfully I wrote it down as I went. Do note that it is doubled. Use half the amounts of ingredients listed or you'll have A LOT of cookies. They are so tasty and so unhealthy!

2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups brown sugar (packed)
4 eggs 
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
2 cups shortening
3/4 cup butter (soft)
5 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
3-4 cups chocolate chips

*don't forget this recipe above is doubled so you only need half of this for a regular batch*

     A few things: 1) The butter needs to be soft. Not hard. Not melted. It just needs to get to room temperature.  2) I didn't use a mixer for these. I used a spatula then my hands. 3) This dough really needs to sit in the fridge or freeze for at least a few hours but overnight is even better. 4) If you need to preheat, go for it. I don't because our current oven doesn't like it.

      In one bowl, add the sugars and butter and cream them together. Add the shortening, oil, and eggs and stir with a spatula until it's all blended together. In another bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Slowly add the dry mixture to the wet mixture. (The BEST way to do this is with your hands!) Finally, add in the chocolate chips.

    This dough is slightly crumbly but it should press together really well and hold it's shape. Put it all on some parchment and let it set in the fridge for at least a few hours. Roll the dough into small balls, press gently for a flatter cookie or leave it round for a puffier cookie. Use a non stick pan or butter it up. Cooking spray is fine too but butter works better, in my humble opinion. (Add M&Ms!!) Bake in the oven at ~325 degrees for 8-10 minutes. They are done when just the edges are golden. The center will still be pretty mushy. Let them sit for 10 minutes or so on the pan. If you try to move them too soon they'll just break or fall through the edges of a cooling rack.

     Oh yeah, and I let my sweet girls help "make cookies" (put the candy on top) and they are really great at it! They have perfect proportioning skills at just 2 and 3 years old.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Young Kids Aren't As Selfish As People Like to Think

      This Christmas season has been different for me. I have such a natural joy in my soul. Honestly. I’m not trying to be a cheeseball. It’s like my perspective of the whole holiday has broadened. My thoughts aren’t so narrow and selfish as they used to be. Though, I have a long way to go still.

     I’m attributing these changes in me to my children. Having three people become the priority in your life over yourself in every way is a challenge but it has the potential to create beautiful change. I hope that’s what it does for me, anyway. Even being married is a learned prioritization of another over yourself. You have to make yourself do it. It's not like that for me with my kids. I wear myself ragged trying to do and be everything for them. Something about having children, at least for me, is absolutely humbling (in the most vividly real meaning of the word) and I doubt I'm the only one to feel that way. I can visualize all of the potential on the paths at their small feet.

     At the same time, I see the inborn ills of humanity in my children. I see greed and vanity and selfishness during this holiday season. As their mother, I realize my whole life purpose now is to guide these small loves of mine to compassion, love, and selflessness. I can’t show these things without learning them myself and all of this is, by far, the hardest thing I’ve ever needed to do.

     I see my sweet, spirited Bitty Bug gazing at all the stuff in the catalogs and in the store. “I want . . . I want . . . I want. . .”. I don’t think there is anything wrong with simply wanting things. At just three years old, she is still so innocent and unaware. She just sees these dazzling ads, beautiful dolls, and fun toys and she just inherently has the urge to possess it all. I think there is a problem though when you become unfoundedly entitled, envious, or obsessed with getting more and more. This is fueled early and easily in our society. We are surrounded with consumerism and greed. We let it take us over. I want an alternative experience for my kids but I want balance too. I don’t want to cut out gift giving or go straight to homemade-only presents (honestly, that would be much more work on my part, right now!) I just want to start curbing these gut reactions in my Bitty Bug.

    So, we decided to have our little daughters (Bitty Bug, 3.5 and Sweet Pea, 2) pick out gifts for each other and their new baby pumpkin. I was thrilled with them. We explained to them on that shopping trip that we were “thinking about brother and sister” today and not ourselves. I took Bitty Bug with me and the hubster took Sweet Pea. I just kind of walked around the store and asked what she thought her sister would want or need. “What do you think her favorite color is?” and “Which one of this or this would she like better?” I wanted her to be focused on thinking of someone else. That’s a very big thing for a 3 year old to do! VERY big! She pointed out some things she wanted. She told me about all her dinosaurs (again). She initially wanted to get one thing for her sister but it was way over the little budget I gave her (5 dollars). Then, as we went down one more aisle, I noticed a little dress up purse and pointed it out to her. “What do you think of this?” and she gasped and exclaimed “Look! It’s pink! [Sweet Pea] has that one. It’s pink for her. I have a purple sparkle purse. I put all my crayons in it. [Sweet Pea] wants that one. Yeah.” I was delighted. Same thing for Pumpkin. She saw a wooden, rainbow stacking toy and decided “He will like those colors! He can play with me!”. I know I beamed with pride. It might seem like such a silly thing but she showed so much thought and she was so happy to pick those things out herself. Sweet Pea had picked out things for her sister and brother that I would’ve picked out myself. A little yellow car for Bitty Bug and a tiny stuffed monkey for Pumpkin. Bitty Bug LOVES hot wheels and she also likes the color yellow (second only to pink and purple and sparkles). I don’t know if my 2 year old is really that intuitive or if it’s a perfect coincidence. On Christmas day, I’ll have them give those gifts to each other instead of just putting them under the tree. We’ll definitely do the same thing next year.

     Although, I may be doing shopping the day before Christmas to keep things a surprise between them because Bitty Bug has told Sweet Pea about her pink, sparkly purse only 15 times now. Somehow it all goes right over Sweet Pea's head or she simply doesn’t hear it. Then again, when my sister and I bought each other Christmas presents we almost always ended up giving up hints and guessing what we got each other before Christmas morning!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

That Phil Robertson Suspension is Silly

     We don’t have cable so I don’t have full access all the time to either the A&E network or the Duck Dynasty show but I have seen plenty about the family in other news outlets and on the rare occasion I watched the show at another person’s house. It’s pretty clear what values the Robertson family holds. The anti-homosexuality sentiment has always been tightly linked with Christianity, especially in the mainstream media.

     If we’re going to be real then his statements comparing homosexuality to bestiality might have been disturbing or upsetting to certain people but that's because of their own personal values. There is a broad spectrum of personal values, morals, and beliefs. Every individual falls into a different part of this spectrum. Likewise, every individual is completely mobile on this spectrum; able to move from one end to the other based on their own changing knowledge and experiences. Homosexuality is acceptable to some. Bestiality is, in fact, acceptable to some. Neither are acceptable to others. For those that think neither are acceptable they would indeed be viewed as equivalent. Just as some believe eating all meat is acceptable, some believe eating only some animal products is acceptable, and others believe only no animal product whatsoever is acceptable. It is a completely separate issue, perhaps on a different level than sexuality, but the principle and the concept is the same.

     What I find fascinating is that he also mentioned sleeping around in the same quote in equal comparison to both bestiality and homosexuality but no one is freaking out about that. I would think more Americans would be upset with that (because it is applicable to a much higher proportion of people) than the not uncommon homosexuality and bestiality comparison. In fact, in the context of his statement the order of offense was homosexuality, then bestiality, then sleeping around. If you take it literally and want to attribute higher offense to the order of his words than sleeping around, not bestiality is the worst of these.  Why isn't anyone freaking out over that??

     Regardless, Phil Robertson is a self-acknowledged bible-thumper. He is a Christian. His family is Christian. They live based on the teachings of Christ and the truths found in the Bible. They have all been open about their biblical beliefs from the beginning. His statements, whether anyone agrees with them or not, are derived from the Bible.

     Furthermore, he made very clear in a separate statement soon after his full perspective regarding this issue: "I myself am a product of the '60s; I centered my life around sex, drugs and rock and roll until I hit rock bottom and accepted Jesus as my Savior. My mission today is to go forth and tell people about why I follow Christ and also what the Bible teaches, and part of that teaching is that women and men are meant to be together. However, I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other.”

     With these statements, he confessed to having been what he now views as sinful. He was not condemning or damning anyone. He was stating what he accepts to be true. That homosexuality, bestiality, and sleeping around are sins.

     In the end, A&E should have left it at “Robertson is not our representative. We do not share his opinions, values, or beliefs. We choose to air the Duck Dynasty show despite these differences. We will continue to support homosexual group A, B, and C as we have before.” or what have you and left it at that. One thing A&E and the Duck Dynasty show will be getting out of all of it is a whole lot of publicity.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Finally getting the hang of Christmas baking

     I love baking. I had to learn to enjoy cooking but I have always enjoyed baking. Cake, cookies, brownies. Yesss. I wrote my own recipe for brownies when I was a teenager. That's how much I love brownies.

     We probably spent more time in the kitchen making stuff at Christmastime than the rest of the year combined when I was growing up. Shaped sugar cookies, breads, buckeye balls, chocolate dipped pretzels, chocolate chip m&m cookies. Yes, yes please! Now that I'm all grown up and have my own kitchen and my own stuff I continue to make many of the same things we made when I was a kid. My kiddos seem to enjoy it just as much as I did! Even at their sweet little ages I try to let them help and learn as much as they can so they can have fun making things for their own families some day.

     It never fails though that even with all I was taught over the years I am continuously learning things in the kitchen. The little tricks and tweaks that made my mother's and grandmother's foods taste like heaven on a plate. But gracious, half the time, I feel like a moron for not realizing some things sooner.

       Like, you know, when you make a bread (like pumpkin, banana nut, or zucchini) you should mix the dry ingredients separately from the wet, mix those together, then add in your mushy fruit or nuts. It all blends better that way and you're much less likely to get a blub of flour somewhere. OR, if you let the pumpkin bread get nearly done and the top center is still mushy there is a solution! You can turn the temperature down and press some foil around the edges of the bread pan just over the loaf and like magic, after a few minutes, it will firm up.

      As I discovered yesterday, homemade biscotti is actually NOT that hard to make at all! (Making it uniform and pretty may be another story.) It just takes some time and some hands-in-the-dough-squishing. About an hour and a half in the oven. You can have whatever type you want and it's way cheaper than buying it in a can from the store. I used this simple recipe and added in some chocolate chips. I have more than will fit in my favorite cookie jar.


     Isn't it the cutest cookie jar ever? I've had this thing for 8 years now. My sweet husband chose this for me. I remember telling him Frosty the Snowman was my favorite because we almost never got snow in Alabama. He gave it to me just before he went back home (3 hours away) after we saw The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe together. It was the first Christmas present he's ever given to me! That feels like it was a million years ago now.

     Another thing, I've learned that in place of a double boiler (because it is necessary for the safety and prosperity of chocolate) you can just put a bit of water in a skillet. Then, put the chocolate you intend to melt in a regular saucepan and place that inside the skillet full of water. Yay for no burnt chocolate! Yay for no wasted space in my small cabinets!

     Now I can make pretties like these lovely red velvet cake balls with "Christmas sparkles" (quoting my three year old) without wanting to smash things.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Last Minute Gift Ideas for Your Favorite Nerd!

Check these ideas out! There's even some great deals! They are sure to bring a smile to your favoritest ever nerd. Just be sure you choose the right obsession fandom. No two nerds are alike!

(I take no responsibility for your choices based on this page. Know your nerd before buying for your nerd.)

World of Warcraft and Starcraft 2 - the Black Friday prices on these two popular games are officially good through January 1, 2014!

This adorable robot tea-infuser. Want. (Also, there's a monkey.)
Credit: Amazon and Kikkerland

ThinkGeek has 25% off plus free shipping on orders in the US! The geeks (and nerds and fan freaks and dorks alike) will smile!!! (ends Dec 16). Great stuff is always on clearance sale too!

Just trust me. This.

Or this pretty with these pretties.
Credit: Amazon and The Noble Collection

Star Trek Catan. Because ruling the world needed to be cooler. (It's a board game, dear.)

Captain America literally saving things. Or . . . Domo.

Lego City Advent Calendar: this one or this one

Even better! Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar: 2012 or 2013 (Looks like 2013 is out stock almost everywhere. Sad day. Check your local Walmart or Target though!)

Cute or creepy!?

Basically, any of these.

Stuff for their wall: inspire, tell time, lighten things up, and prettify.
Credit: Zazzle and Bin Gifts

Some friends for that tea-infuser.

For your very own superman.

For the not-quite-smarty-pants. (Get it? Get it? I'm so funny.)

A fancy subscriptions to feed their favorite hobby: Gamefly

 And the best stocking stuffer ever (besides cash and diamonds, obviously).

Friday, December 13, 2013

Glade Winter Collection Deal!!

     I love the Glade candles. They are long lasting and smell amazing. I used plenty of their autumn scents and the winter collection has been out for a few weeks now. I was able to get the 4oz candles for under $2 each PLUS the $5 gift card.

Check your local Target ad to be sure but at mine there is a deal for buying 5 of the 2.99 glade winter collection products and getting a free $5 gift card.
     To do the same . . . search the Target coupons for "Glade". There are a variety. Now go to Coupon Network and do the same thing! These are coupons for $1 off two. You can use the one for $1 off 2 "Winter collection" (doesn't specify spray, candles, wax melts) on any of the products and there are item specific coupons as well. When they print you will see the difference between Target and Manufacturer in a bold black block at the top of each one. Depending on which items you want you can save several dollars.
Apple Cinnamon Cheer + Sparkling Spruce

Monday, December 9, 2013

We Survived!!

    Yes! Not only did we survive our road trip for the holidays but my finals are over too! I'm in 100% Christmas mode now. I've all ready made a few loaves of pumpkin bread. I also attempted fudge.

    Here's the recipe  that I've been using for pumpkin bread. I just substitute one can of pumpkin for the legit, fresh pumpkin. I also splash in a good bit of allspice and extra cinnamon.

     And . . . for the second time in my life I totally ruined what is supposed to be an easy thing to make. Lame. I even gave the muck a second chance to sit in the fridge and become something magical overnight. Utter failure. I said many fudge-related words over the fiasco last night. I really wanted some fudge dangit!! It turned out like a burnt-chocolate, oily, melty tootise roll mess. Crap. It was a pile of crap. Even my three year old opened the fridge this morning and I kid you not (I wouldn't make this up) she says "That's not supposed to be in there, mama! IT goes in the POTTYY!" She sounded pretty offended.

(Yeah, I was so traumatized by the first failed attempt it took me over 10 years to try again. I'm sticking with normal baked goods. No more candy duds for me.)

     In other news. I'm an Auburn fan. In case you didn't know that! So, I'm pretty happy. Iron Bowl and SEC Champs!

Anyway . . . I'll be posting more cheery, festive junk in the next couple weeks! Just as soon as I get over that fudge I'll be baking up a storm too . . .

Speaking of storms . . . I hope everyone is enjoying the ice and snow more than I am!! Let it go! Let it go! Faaaar awaaaay.

The end.