30 November 2015

24-Hour Product Diary

I love the 24-Hour Product Diaries on Millihelen, an offshoot blog from Jezebel. Of course that blog is being closed so there will be no more diaries. I found some good recommendations via the blogs and it was fun to see such personal but helpful information from writers.

I wanted to write my own product diary and have had it on my "blog post idea" list, so here we go on the last day of NaBloPoMo! This is a fictional day because I don't wash my hair every day, and I wear make up even less often. I'll start my diary at night, since I shower before bed. I'm super lazy in the mornings! Sorry for no pictures -- that's how it goes with a fictional day!

10 p.m. - Wash hair with Chi Infra Shampoo and Conditioner, and while the conditioner sets wash body with Aveeno unscented body wash. When I was pregnant with Jane I was extra sensitive to scents and started using this. I've kept it up, aside from a travel size Bath & Body Works warm vanilla sugar body wash that sometimes sees the light of day or sometimes borrowing her Dr. Bronner's baby mild unscented soap. Shave with Intuition razor, the kind with the shave soap around the blade so you don't have to lather up separately. Wash face with Cerave Hydrating Facial Cleanser. Rinse, rinse, rinse.

10:10 p.m. - Comb hair and if going curly put in some Tigi Bedhead Manipulator with a pump of Organix vanilla serum (a tip I picked up from Millihelen!). If I'm blow drying straight I'd wash my hair/shower earlier to not have to blow dry so late. I use Chi Infra products for straightening. On my face I use Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizer "yellow stuff" and All About Eyes cream (my most expensive products). I also use a drop of Acure argan oil in my nose to ward off dry-ness. My mom turned me onto that and it really works. Even though I live in a humid place I still would get nose flakiness and pain but since I've been using this (maybe a year?) that is gone. Maybe I use some EOS lip balm and then hit the sheets. (If my skin is dry I'd use some Eucerin cream, but lately my skin has been OK without it ... also, I am totally lazy.)

7:15 a.m. - theoretically start putting on makeup. This would be about when I'd be getting ready for church, which is the day of the week I always wear make up. I use a BB cream (beauty balm or blemish balm, depending on who you ask) -- right now Garnier and I have a Cover Girl tube to use next just because I had a great CVS coupon. I put it on with a makeup wedge sponge. Then I use a Maybelline eyeliner and Cover Girl Lash Blast mascara (or whatever mascara I had a coupon for). Mascara is the make up I wear most often. I might use a little eye shadow -- basically whatever came free in the last Clinique bonus bag -- and I'd put it on after eyeliner but before mascara. I like lighter, neutral shadows. I also use a Cover Girl clear mascara on my eyebrows to tame them a little (they are wild and I only moderately pluck them). I rarely wear lipstick because I can't get used to the idea and think I look weird with it on, although seeing myself in a picture next to Jane and her cutie pie cherry lips I should maybe try to wear it sometimes!

I own a LOT more make up and hair products (sometimes I'd use a generic mousse to go curly but I'm trying out this new product combo for now), but this is what I've been using lately. All items are purchased by me (or my mom in the case of the argan oil). This is not a sponsored post!

Some Amazon affiliate links used. Using those links to make a purchase (even if not the linked product) should earn me a few cents at no cost to you. Thanks for supporting this blog! (I have never earned any affiliate money, but I keep linking because I find it helpful on other blogs.)

29 November 2015

One Month as a Bullet Journalist

Or maybe it's bullet journaler? The official Bullet Journal website calls them journalists though, and I like that. There's a video on that site that explains the basic set up.

I first heard about bullet journaling on Miss Zoot's blog. She's a super bullet journalist and has perfected the system to work for her. A quick look on Pinterest finds tons of boards and cool ideas for layouts. It's pretty intimidating and inspiring at the same time.

The idea for a bullet journal is that you put your lists in one place. No more floating pieces of paper with notes and to do lists. It's all in one notebook and you create an index and page numbers so you can find lists later. I used to use a Franklin Covey planner (still have it and it serves as my hard copy address book despite being so ginormous), but lately I'd been without a real planning system and relied on assorted lists, calendars and my memory (never a good thing to rely on!).

Also new shirt from my mama for my birthday!
The preferred notebook seems to be a Moleskine or something similar. I didn't buy a new notebook to get started. My mom had given me a beautiful spiral bound hard cover notebook with purple elephants that I decided to use. So far it's working fine, although it isn't as portable as a Moleskine and doesn't have the band or pocket to keep any loose papers. I started off using a "nice" pen but have since devolved to just using whatever regular ballpoint is close by.

I started trying to follow the system exactly - or as exactly as I could with a newbie's understanding. There were only a few days in October when I started, but I did the "calendar" list of days -- just W28 for Wednesday the 28th, etc. And I gave myself two lines for calendar items like appointments or date-specific tasks. After only four days I gave that up and switched back to my normal to do list. 

I use a half page to one page for each day and just list things that need to get done. Some items get repeated because they're really not daily tasks but "do sometime this week" kind of tasks. I also could make a separate "Weekly" list or "Longer Term" list, but I'm still finding my way and think I would lose a weekly list in the crush of daily pages.

I also started with the recommended box for a task, circle for an appointment labeling, then filling in the box or circle when the item is completed (or put an arrow in it if it's moved to another day). I LOVE crossing off things too much that the idea went by the way side and now I just have hyphens for each item and cross through as done. I might try again with the delineation, but for now I'm OK with appointments and to-do's being in the same list.

I also keep a separate pocket calendar for the month-at-a-glance type stuff. I don't have tasks in it, but that's where my appointments, visitors, etc. get written down. I carry it in my purse. I also keep a Google Calendar, which is something Shawn and I share (and have shared with family if they needed to know where we are -- I'm pretty sure my mother-in-law is looking at it daily). 

In addition to the day-to-day lists, I really like having a single place for all my lists and notes. Some of the lists I've made include:
  • Jane's birthday party, 
  • books I want to read, 
  • Christmas gift ideas (until I shifted that to an Excel file to do the math for me!), 
  • health tracking notes, 
  • Jane's classmates' names and their parents' names (as I've learned them -- how weird the school never gave us a class list? pretty weird), 
  • Thanksgiving meal planner, 
  • to crochet, 
  • wish list of things I'd like to buy, 
  • thank you notes needed to write, 
  • blog post ideas, etc. 
The index is helpful. I left about 5 pages for the index because I wasn't sure how much space I'd need. I'm on page 50 now and have used less than one page for the index (numbering starts after the index). I don't index the daily to-do lists of course. I did write a journal entry in the book on Jane's birthday that added a few pages (because while I over-packed for her plane travel I under-packed for me and had nothing to do for big chunks of the travel, especially when Jane had to use my Kindle because her tablet battery died).

I don't put my grocery or Target shopping lists in the book - mainly because I put those on a magnetic pad on the fridge and already have a system that's working to get what I need. I also REALLY don't have a desire to save those lists. But I see the value of ONE SPOT FOR ALL THE LISTS so maybe I'll change my mind later especially if I start training myself to ALWAYS have the notebook with me on my person.

When I was working full time I managed my to do list in a Word doc that I could print out, mark up and then update. I'd break up the list by projects and also kept a separate calendar for meetings/calls. I used my email inbox as a place for reminders, which is something I still do (right now it's full of shipping and purchase notifications because of all my Christmas shopping -- I'm almost done with my whole list and am faced with an s.t. of wrapping, but I'll probably spread that out across the month).

So - I recommend the bullet journal method if you like lists. It's worth a try anyway, and I'm liking it so far. I'm going to stick with my current notebook for now and maybe after I fill it up and/or fine tune my method some more I'll go for the preferred, smaller notebook.

Have you heard of bullet journaling? How do you keep yourself organized?

28 November 2015

A Habit: One Daily Bible Reading

This year I've been reading through the Bible again with my One Year Bible, New Living Translation. I've used my Kindle Fire, which is nice to make highlights and look back on. I rarely write in real books, including my Bible. I've mostly shifted to reading digitally, but there's something special about a torn up, well-used Bible. I've read through my hard copy of this book at least twice in my life. It's pretty convenient to have the Kindle option for travel, not that I did much this year, but I almost always go to bed with my Kindle in my hand. (I do my reading at the end of the day. Maybe someday I'll shift to morning devotional, but I don't know.)

Anyway, I can look up the things I've marked via the Kindle browser reading app, and I thought I'd record some of them here. I'm (obviously) not finished with the year, but Dec. 31 isn't part of NaBloPoMo, and who knows if I'd remember to do it or even be up for doing it then?! This wasn't as easy as copying and pasting, since rightly for copyright reasons Amazon doesn't let you just copy text out of ebooks. Hopefully I got all the citations correct - let me know if you notice any are wrong.

Psalm 22:14b: My heart is like wax, melting within me.

Exodus 33: 19b: For I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose.

Psalm 36:5: Your unfailing love, O LORD, is as vast as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds.

Psalm 56: 9b: You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.
I remember my Gran talking about this verse some, and how comforting that was knowing our tears are noticed and collected even metaphorically.

Luke 17: 21c: For the Kingdom of God is already among you.
This idea of already here AND not yet is so weighty and doesn't automatically make sense to me. I'm starting to get it, maybe?

Proverbs 15:17: A bowl of vegetables with someone you love is better than steak with someone you hate.

Job 16:16: My eyes are red with weeping; dark shadows circle my eyes.
I cry a lot so I seem to mark passages about tears and crying. But I also marked a few that would be easy to memorize. I was thinking back to the AWANA years (just a few in middle school since it wasn't at my home church but another in my town). Often we would be scrambling just before meeting began to come up with a scripture to memorize. It's the same thing with the heart like wax melting within me. Beautiful and sticks in your head no problem...

Psalm 89:15: Happy are those who hear the joyful call to worship, for they will walk in the light of your presence, LORD.
Once our church started working on the capital campaign, called The Walk, I started seeing and hearing about walking with regards to faith, quite a bit.

1 Peter 3:15b: And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.
I am a big fat failure on this one, so I marked it as a reminder/encouragement/get your act in gear kind of thing.

These are just a few of the verses that spoke to me this year. I also mark ones that I question and that don't make sense. Sometimes later something in a sermon or Sunday school class will clarify some question. On other issues I'm still in the dark. And maybe I'll have to be OK with that.

Affiliate link on the Bible image.

27 November 2015

Disk Digger Solution to Recover Video Files on SD Card

Even though I've officially passed off the responsibility for recording and posting the weekly sermon videos my anxiety remains elevated about the whole thing since the new guy hasn't been successful yet (all my fault)!

One of my biggest gaffes was unintentionally completely erasing a memory card. I had imported that day's video files to the computer already, but of course after the mistaken erasing (I meant to just remove some of the older videos) the files were not on the computer.

SO...

I spent all day fretting and trying different things, knowing that I had an "import complete" message before I removed the SD card from the computer. Finally I stumbled upon Disk Digger, a free piece of software that I was able to use. I think I just did it on my PC instead of the church Mac, and it really was free (unlike a lot of the other utilities that come up with you search for "restore SD card" or similar).

Between every file you had to do two clicks to continue, although the option to pay and do all the files at once was available. I wasn't sure it would work so I didn't try paying. Finally I realized I could just do the last few files in the list (I only needed videos from that day), and it worked.

I was so delighted and a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I've had more video-related anxiety since then, but I'm hoping by passing on the responsibility that will decrease or maybe go away all together. I'll still serve as back-up for recording and processing (the new guy has his own Mac/iMovie so didn't need to use the church computer -- rats!).

So I recommend Disk Digger if you delete an SD card or important file from a drive. And I should probably pay for the full software in gratitude, but a praise-filled blog post will have to do!

26 November 2015

Thanksgiving Cooking, Day 2 and Birthday

This is 35 (and 4)
Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah. You say it's your birthday. Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah. Happy birthday to you! 

I woke up to Shawn singing "Happy Thanksgiving to you, Happy Thanksgiving to you. It's also your birthday, let's celebrate that too!" Sweet. I got to open presents on Thanksgiving, and I'll get to do it again on Christmas in less than a month (!).

Shawn preheated the oven for me, and I put the turkey in just about 7:30 a.m. (My family tradition is to eat at lunch so I keep that going. Mainly I like to get it over with AND I like having the leftovers ready for supper.) Pretty sure I made a mistake by cooking the turkey with the giblet/organ bag, but whatever I did I couldn't find it pre-roasting! The turkey was pre-brined from Trader Joe's ($25 for 12 lbs). And the turkey turned out OK even with that dumb mistake.

Last night I did make my Parker House rolls, a recipe from Bon Appetit, a copy of the magazine I got as a hand-me-down from a friend when she moved. I've made them for a few years now and they're very tasty although a pain in the neck. Timing is hard too because you're supposed to let the finished rolls rest in the fridge for 30 minutes - 6 hours. I just did it overnight, so probably more like 15 hours, and they turn out fine. There's also the rising and kneading time to consider. Delicious.

The turkey cooked while we watched the Macy's Parade on NBC. Jane hadn't seen it before, but we're loosening up on screen time restrictions -- or maybe the better way to say it is that she's at an age able to handle more screen time from time to time. She really liked it, although she set up her table and chairs in front of the TV so she could color and "work" to pass the time.

Not quite a beauty shot, but I promise it was cooked to temperature and looked better IRL
After the turkey cooked for 3.5 hours I pulled it out to rest and baked the dressing (it looks a lot better after being baked). It really tasted good and like "home" for me. I make it a little drier than Shawn's grandma does, but they just poured gravy over their servings to get their preferred consistency.


20 minutes after the dressing went in I added the green bean casserole to the oven. I add sliced water chestnuts to the generic recipe and go overboard with the fried onions. NOM.


10 minutes after that in went the rolls and the sweet potatoes I pre-prepped yesterday.

These were browner in person too -- and also the melted butter and salt added at the end make them taste OMG.
While that was baking I whipped cream in my Kitchen Aid mixer. Super easy, but I didn't think to take a picture. I also didn't sweeten the cream, so we have a lot left! I can always fold in a bit of powdered sugar to up the yum factor even more.

I also heated up some Trader Joe's turkey gravy. I didn't eat any, but the others said it was good. And I will say it was easy -- much easier than creating a scratch roux and finagling the drippings out from under the cooked turkey (kind of a pain for something I don't even want to eat myself - LOL). I don't have a gravy boat, so that is something I have on my list to get before Christmas when I'm hosting my side of the family! I could also use more potholders, and those are things I can crochet. I should make complete holiday sets because I ended up having to use doubled over towels and maybe ruining/marring my table top even though we also had double table cloths on. Drat.


Shawn carved the turkey and we served it on a platter. Much easier to serve than doing it at the table, although I do say the presentation is less appealing. We did the wishbone, and we both wished for the same thing. So hope it comes true! (I won, technically.)


We barely had room for plates, let alone the centerpiece Jane made in Sunday school. But I managed to squeeze it in and light the (thankfully unscented!) candle. Jane and I blew it out together, and I wasn't even thinking that we should make a wish for our birthday month!



The table was laden, we all ate a lot. And then I went for a walk. Dale, Shawn and Jane walked with me for one block and then I kept going until I'd walked nearly an hour. I won't have time or daylight to walk after supper of leftovers, so I'd better be more discerning/eat less!

I'm planning to add up what I spent on the meal all in. I probably won't estimate some of the things I had - like flour for the rolls, mustard and mayo for the eggs, etc. I haven't done the math yet though! I'm guessing $125-150, although that's not too bad for enough food to feed 5 people for at least three meals (and some of the things I bought I still have some leftover like spices, butter, eggs, etc.).

Hope you had a fantastic Thanksgiving and enjoy the long weekend.

25 November 2015

Thanksgiving Cooking, Day 1

More freebie spaces for NaBloPoMo -- just write what you cooked that day. OMG I worked for hours this morning, a bit more this afternoon and plan to make the Parker House rolls this evening (bake tomorrow). And I still have to make supper! (Quick turkey chili and some corn muffins.)

I multi-tasked a lot in the kitchen, but the first completed dish was the broccoli mushroom salad. It's the thing that needed dill, tarragon and basil. I never found fresh tarragon so used 1 tsp of dry instead of 1 TB of fresh. The recipe is from Real Simple, and I have the page torn from the actual issue.


Next to be complete was the cranberry Jello salad, which is an improvised version from our church cookbook using my mom's tweaks to make it sugar free. Instead of marshmallows we use lowfat cream cheese and of course swap Splenda for sugar. It fits perfectly in the crystal bowl Shawn's grandma gave us when she moved from her house to an apartment.


I deviled (or "doubled") 12 eggs, easy peasy. About half of my eggs came right out of their shells and are beautiful. The other half are a big mangled, but they'll still taste great. I put the eggs in cold water, boil, turn off the heat and cover, set a timer for 15 minutes. Then I drain, add ice and shake the hell out of the pot before peeling. I mash the yolks with a few squirts of Dijon mustard and a couple spoonfuls of mayo plus salt and pepper. Sprinkle paprika and DELISH. They're Jane's favorites, and although a bit fatty they are high protein and low (no?) carb.


Next I made a quick pie, which I'm going to use as my birthday cake. No candles, but I'm going to let myself indulge. I did swap Splenda for the sugar, but I didn't find sugar free Coolwhip. This was supposed to make two pies, but I must have had a bigger crust than the recipe called for because I fit it all in one crust. I'll just have to make another at Christmas (was going to freeze the second) if it's as good as I remember. Although I may want a different treat in a month! Recipe by my Gran and in the church cookbook from 1990. You can click this picture to see the recipe.


The last few holiday dinners I've waited on the sweet potatoes until the last minute and then they're always undercooked or just late to the table. I went ahead and boiled and mashed them today and put them in a casserole dish so I can just heat them up tomorrow after the turkey (the plan is pull out turkey to rest and pop in the dressing; 20 minutes later add the green bean casserole; 10 minutes after that add the sweet potatoes and the rolls).


Speaking of dressing I used my Gran's recipe for cornbread dressing, although I leave out the "Accent," once I realized it's just MSG. But the dressing still tastes phenomenal and here's the secret THREE STICKS of butter. Oh-em-gee. Also carbo overload with the cornbread and most of a bag of Pepperidge Farm stuffing. I made two pans but froze one. I'll bake the one for tomorrow and wait until Christmas to bake the other one. My sister makes it better, and she will be here for Christmas, so if we need more she can be in charge of that (although it's a really easy recipe).


Jane and I made the pumpkin pie together, and then I made a second with Splenda (sensing a trend here?). She did a great job measuring and mixing, although we ended up with too much filling for the frozen pie crusts I bought. (I can do a lot of things, but no thanks on trying to make a scratch pie crust.) I marked the sugar free pie with pecans so they're easy to tell apart.


More tomorrow. Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving and lots of success in the kitchen. What's your favorite Thanksgiving recipe/food/treat?

24 November 2015

A Meatloaf Recipe Tweak

A meatloaf mashup on crocheted potholders -
orange and black by Gran, Go Pokes!
Last night I made a meatloaf at my mother-in-law's request. It's a combo recipe from Saveur Magazine (number 165) and my Gran's recipe, which turns out was borrowed from another church friend.

When Gran sent me her recipe years ago she left out a crucial ingredient -- the binder, in her case oatmeal or crackers -- and I could never get it to turn out right. Finally my sister clued me in to my mistake. D'oh! Gran's recipe uses dry onion soup mix for flavoring, so I that taste is always top notch to me although maybe too processed for some. (My Grandma Jane would mix that soup mix with sour cream and serve with real Lay's potato chips for holiday appetizers and oh-em-gee that's some tasty stuff too. Ah, memories!)

The Saveur recipe is tasty and uses cornflakes for the binder, which makes a sweeter meatloaf -- never a bad thing to my taste buds but not the best for managing my health! It also uses a small yellow onion minced, but I found when I use that it's even better to grate it into the loaf so it melts in fully. The easier tweak is to just use the soup mix. The Saveur recipe calls for ground chuck and veal, although I honestly have never bought veal. I've had the best success with meatloaf mix.

I can't always find meatloaf/meatball mix at my grocery store (it's the worst but conveniently located and I'm addicted to the gas rewards), but when I do it makes the best tasting loaf. I think it's beef and pork, but it might have a third thing. Last night's meatloaf was straight beef and it turned out OK, although I could have boosted the binder as it still fell apart a little in the middle. Doesn't affect the taste though!

So the recipe mashup/tweak/what-have-you:

Preheat oven to 350 F.

1 package of meatloaf mix or hamburger (about 1.5 lbs)
2 cups crushed cornflakes
1 egg
1 envelope dry onion soup mix
1/2 can of tomato soup

Mix all this in a big bowl. Mash into a loaf pan, but don't pack too tightly. Squirt on thin layer of ketchup topping (optional but delicious) and bake about an hour until cooked through.

Last night we served with a side of frozen mixed veggies (broccoli, carrots & cauliflower), mac & cheese and Hawaiian rolls. Nom-nom-nom. (After last night I think it will be back to oatmeal binder for a while, although I didn't even eat the macaroni!)

Saveur recommends letting the loaf cool and making sandwiches on burger buns. It really is amazing -- add cheese and regular burger-type toppings WOW.

23 November 2015

Upgrade Her

About a month ago we finally upgraded Jane to a true big girl bed. She had been sleeping in the toddler bed version of her crib for more than a year, and after a round of visits during the summer we decided to do the big switcheroo.

At first she just used the regular twin sheet, the comforter we had on the bed before and her crocheted blankets and handmade quilts that were sized for the crib. But after a bit of searching and thinking I got her a duvet cover from Overstock and sheets from Macy's (on great sale). Wham, bam we had a fully upgraded big girl bed!

She fell out of bed once, although I didn't see her out of bed she was just crying and hysterical and said she'd fallen out by the time I got in there. It was traumatic since Shawn was gone, and I didn't know how to install the rail that was given to us by a former coworker along with the twin bed. I just put the crib mattress on the floor to catch her if she should fall again, which she didn't. Now we have the rail and it's a little more secure for her and no further problems.

Such a a big girl! It means we have one fewer sleeping spot, but at Christmas we'll have to break out the old air mattress!

22 November 2015

Disappointing People

The church website redesign is basically complete except for a few tweaks that the guy we're PAYING to work on it has to complete. It's been nearly two months since we launched, and he hasn't found the time to finish up. We already paid his invoice, including some extra time for these items (he estimated 2 hours, so seriously how could he have not found two hours to finish in two months?!). I finally heard from him that he's out of town/not working at all this week so...

One of the things I needed his help on was mobile-friendly email templates. We're still using Constant Contact, which is fine/everyone knows how to use, but it's an additional expense to Business Catalyst, which is supposed to be our all-in-one solution for web and email marketing needs. It would be if I were savvier and/or if this technical contact had time to complete the work.

Every time I try to modify the mobile-friendly templates that came with our website theme I manage to mess up something that makes the email look fine on a computer but not big enough text on a phone or tablet. That may have to be enough for the Advent devotional guide emails that start next Sunday because I can't use Constant Contact for those without creating individual daily emails that BC can create automatically because I have the content set up as a blog to post daily. I've got to set those up this week - I was just waiting for the template, but it looks like I'll have to figure out a solution myself OR just be OK with a mobile un-friendly template.

Disappointing people works both ways.

Today I "passed the camera" for doing the church's sermon videos. A new member has an IT background/job and is willing...so quick as a wink -- literally two Sundays after he joined -- he's now in charge of recording and processing videos. Of course there's an issue with the sound on this week's video, which for the life of me I don't know how to fix. But I have a lot more grace for him about it than I did when I was responsible for screwed up videos. So we'll see how it all shakes out, but I definitely feel like I disappointed this guy by not helping him get the video to have audio. Argh.

During the web redesign I was in contact with a number of people trying to get updated content. Most ignored the request and we still have the same text and photos as we did before. If they're OK with it I'm OK with it. But one guy took the request VERY seriously and has come back to me several times with additional changes and re-thinking the picture he wanted me to use, etc. I laugh at his bottom line that "colorful is better," which is something I've heard from several non-web people so maybe it is true. In his case he wanted to replace a green-heavy photo of trees with a pink/orange-heavy photo of a sunset. That was fine with me, but I am pretty sure green is a color too. Oh well. It was something that stuck with me, but I think we're good with that page for now.

I almost made it through Sunday school today without being offended, but at the end the teacher decided to start talking about Syrian refugees in very negative terms and I just walked out. Shawn stayed (I also really had to go to the bathroom) and told me some more of what was said including "video doesn't lie." LOL! I don't know how to handle this, since I'm so diametrically opposed to the class viewpoint. I want to study Scripture, but I don't really want to hear hate and fear mongering presented as the correct and only way to interpret the Word. My bleeding heart is extra sensitive these days (and I know that many conservative Christians agree with me about the need to help and welcome refugees). I don't know who disappointed whom in this scenario, but it was stressing me out so I tacked it on here.

21 November 2015

Description of A Saturday

I am quite tired, and I'm running low on motivation and blog post topics. I thought I'd catalog my day to explain why I'm tired.

I woke up pre-7 a.m., which sucks because I could have stayed in bed for at least a little longer. On weekdays I am a total zombie and could sleep SUPER late, but I always get up for school prep. Theoretically I could go back to bed after Shawn and Jane leave, but 1) I usually have some work to do and 2) after breakfast and being awake/upright I'm not sleepy anymore.

So by about 9 a.m. today I had finished a load of laundry/started a second, eaten breakfast, gone to vote (#teamJBE despite being very opposed with some of his positions I am much more in line with him than the other choice, Darth Vitter) and a made quick trip to Trader Joe's for the Thanksgiving turkey. I also got some Harvest Blend tea that a friend recommended and some turkey gravy since the turkey I bought is brined and the drippings would be too salty for regular gravy (plus, am I capable of making real gravy?).

After flipping some laundry and clearing out the fridge a little I hit Winn Dixie for the BIG shop. I got all the side dish ingredients, dessert ingredients plus food for suppers this week and special in-law food (their type of cereal and 2% milk). It was an enormous list -- a full handwritten printer page with two columns. I found everything except tarragon and basil, which I should have picked up at Trader Joe's. In the grand scheme that's minor, and I will have more chances to check other stores. I think Whole Foods usually has all the fresh herbs you'd ever want. (Those and dill are for a broccoli-mushroom salad that I like and is carb-friendly...I'll write about the Thanksgiving menu/dinner outcome later this week.)

That shopping trip took about an hour and was stressful, mainly because of the checkout process. Every week I stress about packing groceries, because I'd prefer to do it myself. I was thinking how nice it would be to have a shopping buddy to load the groceries onto the belt for me so I could bag my own groceries. The Winn Dixie cashiers/baggers are so bad at that part of the job. I have a set of reusable bags that are LABELED with that goes in where, and I still get boxes of cereal in my frozen food bags and the cold stuff in the bag marked for jars and cans. Blurgh. I didn't have enough room for all the groceries in my bags so I still got a good dozen plastic bags, and our stash is overflowing.

I swung home, unloaded groceries, flipped laundry and then we headed to Red Robin for my birthday burger. It was tasty, and they actually took off Shawn's burger from our ticket, which was the  more expensive one. SO there's a pro tip -- you can get any burger for free with your birthday reward, not just the basic one, which is what I ordered and expected would be the only free option. (It was super delicious those and I love that relish, so I regret nothing.) Jane had a reward too for her birthday this month, BUT it expired on November 15 and you had to print an email to use it. The email said "you can only look at this offer twice so have your printer ready" so I didn't read it carefully until I was ready to print (to PDF since I still don't have a computer connected to a printer thanks to the fine folks at Dell Hell ... advanced resolution/expedited team myself my ASS). So that was a bust.

After a delicious lunch we went to the movie theater for The Peanuts Movie with Jane. She has seen a few movies in the theater, and this one came out so close to her birthday we knew we wanted to go see it as a treat and keep the celebration rolling. She liked it, although some of the Snoopy flying parts were scary to her! I didn't like that the "little red haired girl" didn't have a name, and the idea of romance among little kids is weird for a movie theme I think. The theater was crowded though, but we were there early enough that we had good, middle-of-the-theater seats.

Now we're home, and I'm finishing the laundry. It's been a nice cool, rainy day. I hope that doesn't keep people from the polls and voting -- you don't miss work for rain so why would you miss this?

20 November 2015

Stocking Stuffers 2015

I am starting to think about Christmas and buying things here and there, especially for Jane's stocking. I wrote about some of the things I put in her stocking last year.

I've been stocking up (get it?) on little giftie items, and I had some good finds at CVS of all places at the end of the summer. I got some bubbles and a jump rope and other summery things that are thankfully still mostly usable here in southern Louisiana during December. (And if not they're still fun to open and she can use them when spring rolls around in January - HA!) I meant to check out Halloween clearance to see if I could find any small goodies that would be appropriate for a stocking (or maybe even to stuff Easter eggs in March), but I never made it to a store in early November to check it out. D'oh!

I also have some extra Play-Doh from the "Doh Glad You're in My Class" birthday giveaway, so those will be going into her stocking and really filling it up. I have bought a few things from the Target dollar spot too -- cute glitter bows (what am I thinking?!) and a small stamp set (REALLY, what am I thinking?!). I'm also going to put some of the things I bought for our trip to Oklahoma into the stocking. I WAY over-packed for the plane and the wedding itself. Jane was good on the flights with her tablet and headphones, plus a toy or two. And at the wedding she just used a 50 cent notebook and a new box of ultra-washable crayons to entertain herself for about an hour. I don't think she'll mind me reusing a couple of the Imagine Ink Mess Free Marker books (mostly from Target at ~$3 a pop) -- they're still brand new and she didn't look at them too closely so should be good for the stocking.

I'm starting to think about gifts for her too. I love the idea of something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read. But what she wants is a giant dollhouse or Elsa castle or $400 drive-able plastic car. Uh... I did buy a cash register that I've had on her Amazon wish list for a while when it was 50% off yesterday. I'm excited about that one, so it could count as a want, because she plays pretend shop a lot.

For something to wear I'd LOVE to get her a pair of Thomas PJs. She had some when she was little, but they fit before she knew what Thomas was and now she's a big fan. I can only find pajamas in size 4T, and those don't fit her that well. She's just tall, and I'd hate to buy something that she can only wear for a few weeks before they'd really not fit anymore. SO - if you happen to see any regular sized (S, M, L) Thomas pajamas let me know! Otherwise maybe some other style of bigger PJs for her "something to wear," although really she has enough to make it through the winter from what I bought on various outlet mall shopping trips. And she already has a gorgeous dress she can wear for Christmas thanks to the wedding we went to earlier this month!

Reading is easy, as I've placed an order with Scholastic and can always buy more books and have ideas on her wish list. I'm thinking about this compendium of George and Martha books. We've read all of them from the library and love them. So funny. I asked Jane if there's a book she'd like and she said "a short Curious George," so we'll see about that too.

Jane is finding her "wants" by looking in catalogs. It's so funny because she just circles everything basically, and she leaves off some things I know she'd really love. She also just got a ton of gifts for her birthday, so it's hard to think about giving her MORE. That's the peril of an end-of-year birthday I guess. She has enough cushion that I'll be able to get back into gifting mode no problem. But that might be harder on my wallet if I could get better deals now.

Shawn has a few things still to give her from his travels to China and Norway this year, so those will be good (and maybe some could fit in her stocking?!).

She doesn't really NEED anything because if she needs something I pick it up. So I may have to think on that one some more. I did get her some new hair elastics -- the tiny plastic kind to pull up just part of her hair -- and I'm going to save those for her stocking and they're a need. I'll also throw in a new toothbrush and one of the several toothpastes from the linen closet (I do that in Shawn's stocking too -- his is always pretty skimpy!).

Do you have any other good ideas for little girl gifts or stocking stuffers?

Some affiliate links used.

19 November 2015

Reading Maniac

2015 Reading Challenge

2015 Reading Challenge
Mari has completed her goal of reading 100 books in 2015!
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I made a goal this year to read 100 books. I met the goal in late September, and since then my reading has slowed to a glacial pace. And I haven't been doing anything to make up for the time -- it's not like I have a huge crochet project, work or something.

I read mostly on my Kindle Fire, and almost exclusively with library books. I love our library system full stop, and the Overdrive system is great. If there's a book I'd like that they don't have I can request it. I've only done it two or three times, but every time I'm reading what I want within a few days with no direct cost to me. It's a great way to spend our taxes, in my opinion. And there's no digital or physical detritus building up because the LIBRARY keeps all that. (There are very few books I feel like I need my own copies of, despite owning way too many physical books myself.)

Before you think this reading challenge was intellectual, let me say that a good chunk were fast reading brainless things, including the entire Sookie Stackhouse series -- my favorite was Dead in the Family because I *loved* Eric, probably because I also watched the first few seasons of True Blood via Amazon Prime and a couple more via DVD checkout at the library. I could only watch them while Shawn was out of town (he is NOT a fan) so I never finished seasons 6 and 7 -- it was getting really ridiculous anyway. Hubba, hubba Alexander SkarsgĂ„rd.

Not sure if I'll do a reading challenge next year, although I did like the accountability and tracking of adding the books into Good Reads as I finished them. I still have a few books on my list to finish before the year is up -- and some Christmas-y type books that I read every year I'm not sure I should count.

What have you been reading lately?

18 November 2015

At Your Own Risk

Driving on campus is perilous, and I do it at least five times a week to pick up Jane from school. This week I also dropped her off two mornings while Shawn was home with repair-type people.

First are the pedestrians - college students who are paying no attention. I can usually manage to be safe when they're in the crosswalks lollygagging, listening to music and staring dumb-facedly into their phones. But it's when they randomly step off the curb into oncoming traffic that I have panic attacks.

Sometimes you can get caught at a class change, mainly on MWF because we pick up at 12:30 and that's a class start time. Then you can be stuck behind several cars as a flow of seemingly hundreds (probably just dozens) of students ambles along slowly.

Second there are the bikes, and I think they're worse. Some bikers act like vehicles, i.e. obey the law, and others ride on sidewalks, shoot out into cross walks or simply ride in the street going the wrong way. My heart has dropped on many occasions worried about hitting someone.

Because that's the thing -- I don't want to hit anyone with my car! I don't want to be slowed down or inconvenienced, but mainly -- I don't want to hit anyone and want us all to get where we're going safely. I am impatient at the best of times, but I need to start giving myself extra cushion time and being OK if I'm not in the parking lot right at 12:30 -- we have until 12:45 to pick up, and oftentimes they're not even ready until closer to 12:40.

I remember being on the other side of the equation when I was working on campus and had to cross a busy street. State law requires stopping for pedestrians in a crosswalk. I shook my fists OFTEN at cars speeding down Nicholson Extension as I tried to cross, including when I was 9 months pregnant.

I guess the bottom line is people are the worst -- either as pedestrians or drivers. And all I can do is try to NOT be the worst and be a civil and courteous driver. But it sure frazzles my already frayed nerves.

17 November 2015

Reactions

In April I read Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving and Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans. I cried my contacts out when I finished it, and I took some notes as a response at the time, thinking I would blog about it sometime. NaBloPoMo is a perfect opportunity, right?

My favorite parts were the personal stories - I am nosy and will read minutiae about almost anyone's life. I loved the honesty. I've read Evans' other books and regularly read her blog. She writes some great stuff. I admire her and wish I could be as bold and clear in writing about my faith, not to mention so articulate. She's a great writer.

Although my core beliefs haven't changed the way hers did I can identify with Evans' journey and story so much. I am still United Methodist, but my political leanings have done a 180 as my faith has developed, deepened and my understanding grown. I am so lucky to have grown up in my open denomination and to have had such role models of faith - especially my mom and Gran.

I also read Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why by Bart D. Erhman around the same time, so my notes are on the same page.

A lot of that book was kind of duh, big red truck stuff -- obviously the way manuscripts of any kind are passed down and copied down will introduce errors. But I don't doubt that Scripture has God's word. How else would we have it so many years later? God is big enough to speak even through errors and using fallible people.

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I am having another type of reaction -- to mosquito bites. The weather here is humid beyond belief, which is expected in Louisiana but not necessarily in late November. It's also warm -- yesterday we neared 80. After a bunch of rain a couple weeks ago while were in Tulsa tons of dormant mosquitoes rose up from hibernation in the ground and are EVERYWHERE. They're fat and slow but require constant vigilance to kill them if you stand outside at all.

On Sunday afternoon we went to a preschool friend's back yard birthday party. It was fun, and we had gorgeous weather. But I was chewed alive by the bugs (oh, and Jane got quite the shiner/skin abrasion under her eye on the bouncy house -- she's fine though). Two days later and the itching is unbearable at times -- mainly on my arms and hands, but there's also some bites on my B00Bs! The bites flare up -- itch and swell -- and then die down and cycle around. I've been using After Bite (kind of like this), which is basically a baking soda solution, It stings a little but helps. It's just ugh, and certainly sends me back to the bedbug era - oh-em-gee.

(Affiliate links used)

16 November 2015

Copyright Issues and My Church

I have strong feelings about copyright law. I'm not an attorney, but I AM a writer and care about proper credit for published work and maintaining rights. My church doesn't see things the same way I do. And I'm not sure if I should say anything, and if so what.

Last Sunday, 11/8, a performance of a piece of music from a worship service was recorded and published on Facebook (although not the sermon of course...I think my blinding rage is turning to eye-rolling annoyance, so that's progress). I have recommended against doing this without getting permission first, but that advice went unheeded. Not that I'm surprised about that. 

There are mechanical licenses that can be obtained to grant permission to broadcast music recordings from worship services. I think we obtain permission to perform pieces during the services, so maybe that covers the re-broadcasting permission too and I'm overreacting. But I don't think so because when someone asked me about it before copying the music director and I wrote back with my "don't do this unless we get permission" she didn't chime in with "we've already got permission through these performance licenses." SO...

We're also doing an Advent devotional this year, and someone had the bright idea to make it a daily email. Guess who got to figure out how to implement that idea? That's right, me. But I figured it out (I THINK), even though using the new website content management system doesn't make anything easy. (In retrospect I should do like Upper Room and make a separate Blogger Blog with FeedBurner to manage the auto-emails, but I've already got this set up so we're at least going to try it out.)

Anyway, for the devotionals we asked members of the congregation to write, and some did. (I actually wrote two, and Jane drew a picture.) But we didn't get enough devotionals to cover all of Advent. So for the days without a church-specific devotional the associate pastor just pulled out some of her favorites from other published Advent books.

Uh...

I'm concerned that we don't have permission to use the three or four devotionals that are not church-specific, and I'm not comfortable sending out an email from our church claiming someone else's words as our own even if we do cite the book it originally came from. I did raise this issue with the associate pastor to ask if we had permission to use them. No response, so I probably won't get one unless I push it again.

It's entirely possible I'm overreacting in either or both cases. What do you think? Should I say something more? Let it go? I don't work there but I am involved.

15 November 2015

Gift Ideas for a 4-Year-Old Girl

Jane got a lot of great gifts for her birthday this year, so I thought I'd catalog her favorites as a gift guide for people looking to shop for a 4-year-old or gift guide for preschoolers. (Some affiliate links used, but not all.)

Jane got some great books yesterday, Make Way for Ducklings and This Book Just Ate My Dog. Books are always a safe bet for Jane, and we didn't have a copy of either. She got other books and a National Geographic Little Kids subscription. I highly recommend mag subscriptions as gifts for kids because it encourages reading and gives them something fun in the mail each month. We also really like High Five, and Disney Jr. is OK (I pay for both of those).

A great toy that she got was this Minnie Mouse magnetic dress up doll. It's similar to her Minnie Mouse snap-on dress up doll (from a consignment sale last year), but definitely the magnetic one would be easier for littler hands to manipulate. I also got her a Melissa & Doug mermaid magnetic dress up doll on clearance at Target that has been a big hit too. It's basically the same idea (and I should have saved it for Christmas or just the gift closet/to give to another friend for a birthday).

Thomas toys are a safe bet for Jane, although your mileage may vary from kid-to-kid of course. One thing to be careful of is noting which type of track the train is for. We have a wooden train track, but some of the trains I've bought her (or even requested on her wish list) aren't the right size for that track. They're still fun to roll around on the floor, especially her favorite characters, but kind of a dumb move on my part. I'm not sure if they make all engines in wooden track versions, and they're probably more expensive. Grandma Dale hit a two-fer by getting her a Thomas book! And Gingie got her a right-for-wooden track Annie and Clarabel that have been seeing a lot of play on the expansion pack of track we got her.

Jane is also VERY into outer space. I got her this space book, and we've been reading a chapter at a time. She got a neat space floor puzzle, and yesterday a friend gave her a lantern/starlight projector thing that is really cool, especially in a dark room.

Jane loves Frozen, even though we haven't watched the movie very recently. She got a Frozen book and a game that has been a lot of fun. It's basically Trouble with the Frozen characters and a few extra rules. I wasn't sure if Jane would be into it, but she loves it. And Shawn and I don't mind playing with her (unlike some of the other games -- not a big fan of Candyland or Chutes & Ladders).

This bath building block set has been really good too -- different than the usual bath crayons that make a mess but everything dries easily since it's just foam blocks. She also had a great time decorating this Melissa & Doug jewelry box and storing a necklace that came with her new Sofia costume, which was a gift from Aunt B.

Art supplies are always smart, and Jane got an assortment of stickers and sticker books plus this cool Color by Dot book that we still need to crack open, also from Aunt B.

Basically my kid is spoiled and got a lot of really great presents from lots of people who love her. The best gift is probably an investment in her college savings fund, but it's hard to recommend that when it's so fun to shop and get a more immediate gratification from her as she falls in love with a toy or book and plays with or reads it nonstop.

Maybe I should also do a post from Jane's wish list. That includes a $400 ride-on car and huge Barbie dream house (we don't even have any Barbie dolls!). We'll see how desperate I get as NaBloPoMo rolls along.

Happy shopping!

14 November 2015

An "Everything" Birthday Party for a 4-Year-Old

Jane didn't really talk about her birthday party much during planning. But sometime this week she started saying she wanted an "everything" party. That's a really good thing because that's sort of what I was planning -- a hodge podge of decorations and low key playing with her friends.

I got an email about free shipping for Halloween goodies from Oriental Trading. I already had my Halloween giveaways (and I have so many glow bracelets left over it's ridiculous -- thanks to super rainy weather at our church trunk-or-treat), but I did need things for Jane's party so I took advantage. I got 12 Minnie Mouse balloons, 48 blue and pink regular balloons (only one dud in the bunch), and a Doc Happy Birthday banner. I also got blue with white snowflake punch balloons (a la Frozen) and birthday bubbles (just because) to put in pink treat bags as thank-you-for-coming-gifts. I found Hello Kitty napkins on clearance at Target (52 cents per pack!), where I also got some sparkly pink plates.


I also got a cute craft from Oriental Trading -- a flamingo with legs that look like a 4. It was pretty simple, and we used glue sticks to put it together. Arts and crafts wasn't the main focus of the party. Basically playing together with all Jane's too-many toys was the best part. We could have gone outside for bubbles and chalk, but it never seemed necessary and was just as fun to hang out inside.

For food we Jane asked for "Angel Cake." She'd never had angel food cake to my knowledge, but that's what I made. I used a box, because that's how I remember my Gran making it, but every box I found just called for adding water. And I know I remember Gran having to beat egg whites and keep the beaters and bowl completely dry. Maybe mixes have changed since then? Anyway, it came out beautifully. I sliced two packages of strawberries (out of season, but part of Jane's request) and whipped too much real whipped cream. It was delicious though, and I enjoyed using my Kitchen Aid stand mixer for that. Easy peasy.

Jane was mad that I baked the cake without her, so we also made some back-up cupcakes that were equally tasty. (I also wasn't sure if kids would like angel food cake, but they did!) I made buttercream icing, and I tried to dye it with raspberry juice. I hadn't microwaved enough frozen raspberries to make a difference so the frosting just stayed white. I did dip each cupcake in crystal sugar so they looked sparkly and pretty (a la Frozen). We also served strawberry and vanilla ice cream. YUM!


I also served some snacks during the beginning of the party (always send the kids HOME on a sugar high, never hop them up at the beginning). I had a flash of brilliance (at least what counts for brilliance to me these days) and decided to arrange cheese cubes in the shape of a 4 and have fruit around as the "background." Similar to the rainbow I did at Jane's second birthday party. Last year we strung balloons on a string and taped it up to the wall in the shape of a 3. This year she got cheese. It didn't last as long! (Those 3 balloons lasted for months!) Anyway, the 4 of cheese turned out a lot cuter than I expected ... and I bought WAY too much cheese so I have three blocks left. (I realized how much cheaper it is to cube my own ... aren't I a thrifty one? Uh ...) We also had an assortment of crackers, water and lemonade. No one drank any lemonade! I got some butterfly crackers that were adorable, and I think Jane ate most of them!

Jane had a great time, and she was given lovely gifts from her friends. I think the kids and parents had a nice time too. We invited four friends since she's 4 years old -- and I still stressed out about how many people were in my house at once because of siblings and parents. (Total was 7 kids, including Jane because two siblings stayed home napping, and 7 adults including me and Shawn -- 14 doesn't seem so bad I guess.) We had plenty of food, and Shawn's going to be eating ice cream and drinking lemonade for a while! I am exhausted, as I stood up a lot more than I'm used to (should start standing more as a rule!) and the pre-game prep and post-game cleaning were draining.

But everything's back in order, we have 50+ balloons still hanging around so the celebration will continue for a while longer. I love my big 4-year-old Jane, so the whole thing was worth it.

13 November 2015

God Loves...

We go to a Sunday school class at our church. Over a year ago we switched from one that had a lot of just slightly older than us couples that didn't include much Bible in the lessons to a class with mostly decades-older than us couples who directly study Scripture. Both classes are fine, but I am pretty sure I have more to gripe about with this one, although I'm staying the course for now.

As far as I can tell everyone else in the class is very right-leaning and conservative. That's cool, and I like being exposed to ideas different than mine. But some things are hard to swallow, especially when we completely disagree on Scripture interpretation. I also don't like their parenting advice (lots of spanking, for example) or the majority opinions on racism and justice (but that's another post). Pretty much every week there's something I don't agree with - minor or major. It makes good conversation fodder for Shawn and me, so I guess that's something.

A couple months ago there was an incident that left me in tears and obsessing through the week. I didn't write about it at the time because it was raw (and I wasn't really writing/it was right around the time of the Maker Faire). I'm not sure if dredging it back up now is a smart idea. But hey, it's NaBloPoMo, and I gotta write something! (It also puts into perspective my current rage/annoyance about the missed sermon video, being patronized by others and feeling my church volunteer work is really not valued ... but it doesn't eliminate that fury, unfortunately!)

We are studying the Bible using N.T. Wright's New Testament for Everyone (affiliate link). We were in Matthew 5, and one of the questions was something like "How do you reconcile and make friends?" I wrote and said something about remembering that the person I'm reconciling with is loved by God too. I was mainly thinking about being reconciled with others in the class when they say things that are so totally off the wall to me.

I got severely smacked down because the teacher and others in the class vehemently said God does NOT in fact love everyone. And it turned into this whole lecture of Satan still at work (as if I don't believe in evil because I believe God's love is stronger), and I got so upset I started to cry. It was really embarrassing.

Someone even said, "What good would it be to be a Christian if everyone were blessed the same and all were going to heaven?" I almost blew my top but didn't -- since I was already about to weep openly.

I know they're thinking of ISIS and "the other" people, but it just upset me beyond measure to think they're saying God does not love all of his creation. God's love is limitless, and I don't know how it works.

But they were acting like they do know for sure, even though the teacher said "I don't get to decide who is, it's not up to me to judge. That's above my pay grade." While obviously acting like he DOES know and gets to judge.

It was just ugly and I ran out crying after the closing prayer even though they wanted to keep talking about it.

The teacher emailed, apologizing for making me cry but not really for the main point. It took me more than a week to read the email and then reply, and only then after I'd talked to our pastor about it. I think eventually the teacher agreed with me that God does love people, even those who reject him. I think his vehemence might have been a semantics/vocabulary issue. (And points to a lack of respect for opposing view points, I think.)

In his email he tried to use the Prodigal Son parable to make his point -- saying that if the younger son had stayed away instead of coming back he would have always remained separated from his father. Yeah, duh. But that doesn't change that the father still loved him and wanted him to come back (making my point).

The conversation with our pastor was helpful, and he recommended some books and was nice about it. I didn't skip any classes, even though I really wanted to. I have a flair for the dramatic at times. I also came across this blog post, People We Shouldn't Love, the same week of this blow up. Its timing was providential, as it was making the points I couldn't articulate.

12 November 2015

Gotcha Journalism

I'm not an editor, but ... sometimes I play one from my living room couch.

(And I have two journalism degrees so I'm qualified for arm-chair editing, right?)

I watch the 10 pm news a few times a week, and I always get agitated by at least one story. Local TV journalism is always really weak. Even when we were in NYC it was a joke. But Baton Rouge is ridiculous to new degrees.

Recently here there was a story about some football player meeting with an NFL coach. The player didn't live in Baton Rouge anymore but was in town because he was being questioned in connection with a crime. The reporter camped out at the restaurant and got a waiter to give him information about what the player ordered to eat. It was the weirdest thing because 1) WHO CARES and 2) what a weird invasion of privacy. I get that he's a public figure, but how does knowing he ordered steak (or whatever it was) advance the story? They even broke into other news to show (LIVE!) the guy walking out of the restaurant. Crazy.

That's just one example I remember because it's so ridiculous. But I roll my eyes with great frequency if I do watch the news. Usually I just want a weather report, so I should just look online and go to bed earlier!

11 November 2015

TIBTIL: Squeezmo

A few weeks ago I came down with a cold. I wanted to drink something hot in the morning but coffee was unappealing. So I turned to my trusty electric kettle and Community Coffee tea bags. It's been good to get back into a tea drinking state of mind, but I didn't like wasting the last juices from the tea bag (or burning my fingers trying to squeeze out the last bit).

I searched Amazon for tea bag squeezers. There are a lot of types, and I was thinking I would get something metal like a tiny pair of tongs. But then I came across Squeezmo Tea Squeeze (affiliate link), and I've been very happy with the purchase. It's a Thing that I Bought That I Love.

Basically it's a silicon sleeve or pouch, a little bigger than a tea bag and it has a spout. You drop in the bag, squeeze it and then pour the tea back into your cup. The Squeezmo holds the tea bag, which is great because I don't have those little tea saucers hanging around. If I stop the brew soon enough I can get two brews from one bag -- talk about a cheapo! (I can also add a pre-used bag to a new bag and get a real wallop of a tea in my second cup.)

It's dishwasher safe, which is nice, although I don't wash mine after every use. I got the Raspberry Splash color, because there was no purple option.

10 November 2015

Birthday Flowers

Our church does a thing where people can put flowers on the altar in memory or honor of someone. When I realized Jane's birthday would be a Sunday this year I signed up for that week. Later we got the invite for my cousin's wedding on the same weekend, but I kept the slot.

Happy Birthday Flowers
I ordered flowers from the recommended florist because they have a key to the sanctuary and can deliver without someone be there. Ca-ching.

I hope the florist kicks back to the church or.makes an annual donation or something because damn. I spent more on the flowers than all her other gifts combined. And flowers die!

I only gave the instruction to "use pink," and pink they are. I still don't have a receipt because the florist has no website or email ability and didn't want to spend the 49 (?) cents to mail it to me. The florist said she would drop it at my house if she happened to be in the neighborhood. LOL. More top notch customer service. Good grief.

The flowers were gorgeous, and I was able to borrow a key to pick them up on Sunday afternoon so Jane could have them on her birthday. A good thing too since some were already wilting by Monday.

I don't think I will be signing up for another slot, although if I do I would buy Trader Joe's flowers and "deliver" them myself. Seems reminiscent of my Indiahoma-style wedding when we diy'ed the flowers!

09 November 2015

Doh Glad to Be a 4-Year-Old's Mama

Yesterday was Jane's fourth birthday. It's basically a free space in NaBloPoMo because obviously I can write on and on about my love for Jane, the speed of time since her birth and her latest antics. I could even fill space with what drives me crazy about parenting. But the annoyance of church stuff, the travel and utter exhaustion from a quick weekend wedding trip led me to hold until today.

Suffice it to say that I love Jane more than I could explain. It's hard to believe four years have passed since she was taken from my body. There are too many antics to list, but she's picking up lots of new phrases from her classmates like "Aw, man!" and "What the heck is this?" (We're trying to nip that last one in the bud, but it's better than "Goddamnit!" which was one she learned from yours truly...)

Last night I put together some class gifts for Jane to give her friends at school. I think cupcakes/sweets are overused and not the best way to celebrate, so we did Play-Doh gifts. I hope the class will still sing Happy Birthday and celebrate Jane without a sweet treat. With 17 kids in the class there will be 16 other cupcakes throughout the year -- plus the Halloween candy and other holiday party treats. Maybe I should have caved and sent something sweet. But it has to be store-bought, which would mean extra processed and really not good for growing preschooler bodies. Hrm. (I already don't love the institutional food they serve the kids and overcharge us for.) A kid whose birthday was last month send home an entire treat bag with candy, cookies, chips and plastic toys IN ADDITION to a cupcake-type treat during their snack. I can't be that extravagant! But I can send in a non-food treat.

Jane's teacher last year gave play-doh with these cute tags for Valentine's Day (I think it was Valentine's), and I thought it would make a good, easy, affordable treat for the class. I found this Play-Doh Super Color, 20-Pack on Amazon for $11 (affiliate link). I didn't realize the tubs were small, but that turned out OK. I panicked for a bit thinking there were more than 20 kids in Jane's class because they've had a couple additions. Of course they've never provided a class list (ugh), so I also bought a full-size pack of 4 from Walmart that we didn't end up needing. I'm sure Jane will enjoy playing with that at home and the three leftover small tubs, and we can even use it with her current doh as an activity at her party this weekend.

Attaching the labels was a bit tricky because I needed Shawn to be able to transport everything to school without wrinkling the labels. I should have made my own at a perfect size for each tub. Normally I would have, but again, the exhaustion from the travel was too much. Poor planning on my part, as I should have done this all last week. But the labels worked fine, and I ended up just taping them to the tops of the cans and then stacking them in a Zulily box with some extra cardboard between them. (Hooray for over-shopping online!) In a perfect world they would have been smaller, printed on sturdier paper (cardstock?) and attached with a darling, perfectly tied ribbon. Obviously I do NOT live in a perfect world...

I'm excited to hear how the day went and if it seems like her friends like the doh. Jane thought it was a good idea, so that's probably all that matters.

Happy birthday to the best 4-year-old fuet-n-toot that I know!

Testing out an "Amazon Native Ad" here for Play Doh stuff (just because I went to get that affiliate link for the doh pack like I bought). Let me know if it bugs you, and I won't do it again. (I'm not sure I will anyway. I've never made any money from Amazon ads ... or any ads actually.)

08 November 2015

Smoke Out My Ears

I was going to tweet about this, but couldn't figure out how to shrink it down to 140 characters. Then I remembered I needed to write a blog post today and I can use as many gee-dee characters as I want. AH.

A very minor church snafu has me all riled up and upset. I am IRRATIONALLY mad, blaming everyone (including myself) and full of rage about the whole thing.

I am responsible for recording, processing and posting the weekly sermon videos. Since we were out of town this week I asked someone else to please record. OK, no problem. This person is NOTORIOUSLY unreliable, but she is a video expert and can work a camera (I've had problems in the past with people not being able to make the camera work).

Unfortunately the battery I had left had somehow worn itself down -- despite being FULLY charged when I left it. Instead of recording the sermon like I asked she spent battery power on recording (copyrighted) music performance, which she then posted (against copyright, I'm sure -- there's another thing no one listens to me on) and "saved" the rest of the battery for these testimonial things they just HAD to record this week and this week only -- basically her side project. And she said she had plenty of battery left when she was done (so I assume she could have recorded the sermon anyway).

So she texted me all this -- first she asked me where the extra battery is while I was on the plane. This part is on me and is most certainly my fault because it was still at my house from when I took it to charge last week... and I didn't take it back during the week mainly because I wanted control of batteries and know which ones were fresh. Then she said that the pastor had told her to "not worry about filming" and for "Mari to not worry either."

STEAM RISING!!!

I basically told her I was disappointed but not surprised she didn't get it done and if I want something done I have to do it myself. I never get to see the sermon if I'm not there to record it.

Then she went and whined to the pastor, so HE texted me to clarify that he was the one who told her not to record. He wanted to be sure there's "no misunderstanding." I haven't responded to either crazy message -- BOTH of which are laced with faux niceties I've come to expect in the South -- "how are you feeling?" "how was your vacation?" (vacation my ass).

There IS NO MISUNDERSTANDING. This person (again) didn't do what she said she'd do. Full stop. Why she didn't do it is irrelevant to me.

Maybe I will feel better tomorrow, but honestly if I "shouldn't worry about it," then I am ready to turn in the computer I use to edit video and wash my hands of the entire thing. The upset has spilled over into everything else -- I was short with a waitress where we ate lunch and mad at Shawn about the stupidest stuff.

Travel and exhaustion make me even more irrational, I know. We didn't sleep well last night because other people at the hotel kept screaming in the hallways, including some obscenities. Jane slept through it but none of us got enough sleep before our ~5:15 a.m. wake up.