Monday, February 8, 2016

See, I CAN cook.

I CAN cook. I don't like to cook. I don't choose to cook, when there are other options available.

Take tonight, for instance. The hubs was gone on a bro date to the movies (he dates this particular bro with far more intensity than he's dated me in years, likely because said date always ends with Buffalo Wild Wings whereas I prefer a little more variety) so it was just me and the girls. Meatloaf was on the menu, but none of us were feeling it. We weren't feeling any of the other $160 worth of groceries that I bought last week either, from chicken all the way down to Pop Tarts.

The youngest - being the youngest - eventually piped up that she wanted McDonald's. The oldest - being a still fairly newly-licensed driver - offered to go and procure said McDonald's. And I - not having to cook or leave the house - did manage to wait until Dots had gotten out of the door before doing a happy dance around the kitchen.

I just don't understand people who enjoy cooking. I mean, you can spend hours in the kitchen, slicing and dicing and chopping, and what you end up with is a messy kitchen and a creation that's going to be eaten and gone. Nothing to show for your work except more work.

I mean, maybe your family would be happy that you cooked something yummy for them. But my family is happy with pizza rolls, and they take 12 minutes in the oven with zero prep time. Just sayin'.

There are certain occasions when I don't mind cooking, though.

  • Thanksgiving
  • Christmas (this is more baking than actual "cooking", though)
  • birthdays (baking again, although certain weirdos in my family prefer pies to cake)
  • Super Bowl (again, not so much "cooking" as "mashing ingredients together in a bowl")
This past weekend presented several occasions for me to make the foods, with a jewelry party that I hosted for a friend, my mom's birthday, and of course, the Super Bowl.

Since I actually MADE FOOD this weekend, I thought, why not be a good little mommy blogger and actually share a recipe or two on the ol' blog? So here are two for your consideration (with two more to follow later in another post), beginning with the...

Let me start by telling you - I do not like cheese balls. Like, before discovering this little sphere of heaven, I would actually shudder and gag a little at the very mention of a cheese ball. Especially the ones that were bright yellow and had little pieces of ick inside and were all covered in nuts - who does that?!

And then I started dating the now-hubby and met his lovely sister, and one of the first things she ever said to me was, "hey, try some of this cheese ball!"

I immediately started planning my escape from this family, but she reassured me that it was actually good, and not like all of those other cheese balls, so I very begrudgingly smeared a little bit of cheese ball onto a cracker and shoved the whole thing in my mouth, hoping that the cracker would cancel out the little tad of cheese ball.

And HOLY COW, IT WAS GOOD. GOOD. As my sweet friend Hayley at The Taxidermist Wife would say, it was smack yo' mama good.

I decided to keep this family after all. I also ate about half of that cheese ball before we left.

Tawni's Chicken Cheese Ball

(2) 8-ounce packages cream cheese
large can of chicken
packet of dry ranch dressing mix
shredded cheddar cheese

So here's what you do. Drain the can of chicken and dump it into a mixing bowl. Use a fork to chop it up a little. Then toss in the cream cheese and ranch mix.

Wash your hands really well, and remove any rings that you don't want encrusted with cream cheese - and then dig right in there and mash everything together. Make sure it's mixed really well, and then form it into a ball. It'll look something like this:

Now dump about half the bag of shredded cheddar on top, and mash it in all around the ball. Really cover that thing, because cheese.

Voila! You could eat it just like this, although I always wrap mine in cling wrap and refrigerate for a couple of hours first, just to make sure the chicken is chilled, etc. Serve with crackers of your choice - our go-to's are Ritz, Club, and Triscuits.

I would show you a picture of the finished product, if I had thought to take one. And um, these things don't last very long around here, so pretty soon, that ship had sailed. Sorry. It's not a bad looking cheese ball, though, as far as cheese balls go. And it is so, so yummy.

* * * * *

The second recipe I had to share is my husband's favorite - there can absolutely, positively not be a Super Bowl without it. Most of you have probably tried this before, especially if you like buffalo sauce and/or spicy things.

Frank's Buffalo Dip

2 cups cooked chicken, shredded
8-ounce package cream cheese
1/2 cup Frank's Red Hot Buffalo sauce
1/2 cup ranch dressing (or blue cheese, if you'd rather)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

YES, all of my favorite recipes include copious amounts of cheese. Now that we have that out of the way...

Preheat your oven to 350. Throw everything into a shallow @ 1-quart baking dish. Mix well and give it a taste test. Sometimes I'll add more Frank's sauce to make it a little more spicy, but if you're not into the spicy, you may want to add more ranch. Then bake for 20 minutes or until heated through. Stir well before serving with tortilla chips.

Alternative: If you happen to have the Pampered Chef covered baker (like I do), then you can mix everything in the baker, microwave for about five minutes, stir, microwave another minute or two, and you're done. That's my kind of cooking!

I don't have a picture of this dip either, and I'll confess that it looks like an orange, bubbly mess, but it is oh so tasty.

There. Proof that I do, indeed, create edible concoctions from time to time. Let me know if you give either of these a try - I'd love to hear what you think!

This post is linked up at Strangers & Pilgrims on Earth, Tidbits of Experience, and DIY Adulation - stop by any of these for tons of awesome links!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Very Pinteresting.

Okay, I admit it. I have an addiction.

It's not drinking, although a tendency toward alcoholism does run in my family, and some days I'm so over the sibling bickering that I start wondering if just maybe they were onto something.

It's not chocolate, although it has been in the past, and certainly could be again in the future.

It's not even reading, although I love books more than 99.9% of everything else in all creation, humans excluded.

No, I am addicted to...Pinterest.

Fortunately, I am clearly not alone in my addicted state. Ask any mom blogger anywhere, and chances are good that she, too, has succumbed to the siren's call of an endless array of recipes, beauty tips, home decor, recipes, parenting advice, funny e-cards, and did I mention recipes?

But I wonder how many handle their addiction in just the same manner that I do - which is, honestly, creating a board for darned near everything under the sun.

I submit to you Exhibit A:

That, friends, is what 222 Pinterest boards looks like when you zoom waaaaay out so that you can see them all on one screen. 

Those 222 boards are neatly arranged in alphabetical order, from "2:12 Designs" (my now defunct Artfire shop, although I'll still make custom graphics if you want 'em) and "Adoption & Foster Care" all the way down to "Zombies." 

Yes, I have a whole board dedicated to zombies. Because, you know, this is important information to have, and I share because I care.

It's also about categories. I mean, sure, I could have added my 10 zombie pins to my catch-all "LOL" or "Misc (I just like it.)" boards, but when there are ten of them, they clearly deserve their own little space.

This also explains why I felt the need to separate my homeschooling pins into 26 distinct boards, Frontier Girls ideas into 10 boards, photography into 12, and even my bookish boards into nine categories to differentiate between books that I love, books that I need to read, books about certain series, and bookworm struggles.

Y'all. When I was a kid, I aspired to grow up and be a librarian so that I could pretty much live in the library and read every single book on the shelves. I didn't realize how much my clearly superior classification skills would have fit right into that particular career. Alas, that dream did not come to be, and I now have a lovely librarian friend who assures me (rather frequently) that the job isn't the dream that I made it out to be. But I digress.

I have Pinterest boards that I will never use again. Examples of these include Milly's 4th Birthday, Milly's 5th Birthday, Milly's 6th Birthday, Milly's 7th Birthday, and Milly's 8th Birthday. Those ships have sailed. But you know, what if other people out there are planning Candy Land/pig/rock star/Ever After High/Minecraft parties and neeeed ideas? It would be selfish of me to deny them the pins that I so painstakingly hunted down and separated from the pack, n'est pas?

I even - and this is a little embarrassing - have a board called "Pinterest Addict" which is just shamelessly devoted to this habit of mine. It has 28 pins. I'm sure more are coming. Actually, I'm feeling the itch to go and look for some now.

The most important board, though, is the one called "KNOW This (To My Daughters)" and if you are really, truly my friend, then listen to me. Should anything happen to me, please please be sure that all three of my girls know about this Pinterest board, and tell them that it's full of important things that their mom dearly wants for them to know and live by. I'm not even kidding. TELL THEM. Or I will haunt you, probably while you're in the shower. For always.

So there, my secret is out...and you are welcome to come have a look and follow meif you dare. But I must warn you - my interests are varied. Man, that's actually kind of an understatement. Drop down the rabbit hole into my Pinterest craziness and you're gonna find alpacas, Queen Elizabethduct tape, grammar, Phteven, and even things about childbirth because yeah, once upon a time I was a birth doula too, and that's one miracle that will never cease to fascinate me.

And now, hit me up with your Pinterest links, because I want to steal all of your pins visit you too.

This post is linked up at Dare to Share Saturday and Saturday Sharefest!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Well, poop.

I think that since it's Thursday evening, I can now safely say that it has been a long. week. The to-do list has been ridiculous, the children have been off the chain crazy, the house is a wreck (well, okay, that's really nothing new), I'm having nightmares about our show opening before I've finished memorizing lines, and my patience level through it all has been spectacularly minimal.

But then something happened this morning that reminded could always be worse.

So much worse.

A good friend shared a link on Facebook and, based on the title alone, I absolutely could not resist clicking. I bet you won't be able to resist either.

Are you ready? I dare you to try.

Resistance is futile.

You clicked, didn't you? Oh my goodness, if you didn't, GO NOW. I will wait. 

It is the most hilarious thing I've read in ages. And man, I needed that laugh. I can't wait to read more of her blog.

I also needed the reminder that even though my week has been...not great...well, at least it hasn't been that bad.

Now, once upon a time, I would probably have hesitated to share a blog post about poop. But let's face it, poop is funny. 

And as a wise mom friend once pointed out during a game night (which I have not experienced in far too long and really need to host again, especially being that my house is actually clean-ish at the moment), whenever you get more than two moms together, the topic of poop is going to come up. I mean, it's just going to, right? Maybe we haven't all pooped in our closet, thank goodness, but we all have horror stories to tell. 

And that is why I did not hesitate to share the hilarity with you, my lovely mom friends who inexplicably keep showing up to read my rantings. You're welcome.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Who needs sleep?

That's a loaded question, coming from someone who adores sleep the way that I do.

Let's be real here for a moment: the best part of getting out of bed in the morning is when I can get right back in it. I am not, never have been, never will be a morning person. Any day that I have to be up, dressed, and out of the house before 10 a.m. is a bad day. There are also few things in life that I enjoy more than a good nap, with Sunday afternoon naps being both the sweetest and the most necessary.

On the flip side, I could easily stay awake all night long. I would be absolutely darling at pulling off a third-shift schedule, if only I could get the children and out-of-the-house activities on board.

You would think that after a day like today, I'd be ready to hit the pillow...but no. I require a little bit of downtime in which to unwind first, and 1 a.m. is the first downtime I've had today.

This morning, the girls and I were up bright and early to head to our homeschool co-op. I adore our co-op - the kids are fun, the moms are great, and my girls actually learn a thing or two about writing and science. The only problem is, this gig starts at 9:15. In the morning. I know, I know, that's not early for most of you. But it is for me. And worse, it's early for my grouchy non-morning-people children too, which makes the whole getting-there process a bit of an ordeal.

After co-op, it was errands - hooray, my library fines were only $7.50, and not the $20-ish that I was expecting! (It's a homeschooler thing. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.) Home for lunch and schoolwork and chores. Time to cook dinner and then I was back out the door for rehearsal.

Side note: this show that I'm rehearsing for now? The Odd Couple? It is so. much. fun. The sheer amount of dialogue that I still need to memorize is a little bit terrifying, but when it all comes together, this show will be hilarious. Report coming forth once I actually survive it.

Rehearsal ended at 9:30, and I headed to...the gym. Yep.

I cannot begin to express the magnitude of out-of-character-ness that this is for me. Wanting to go to the gym? After a full day of mom-ness? Staying there until nearly midnight? Weird.

Bonus: there aren't a lot of people there late at night, and I really like that.

Oddly, I've really started to enjoy my gym time at Planet Fitness. Maybe it's because it's the one place that I can actually be alone, but then, I think a little of it is because I'm actually starting to see some progress. I can walk for longer and faster on the treadmill than I could a month ago. I can handle more weight on the arm and leg machines. I still can't do a thing with the elliptical, because that thing is evil incarnate. But progress is gratifying, and that gratification keeps me going back for more.

Home, shower, tuck in my night owl children who are still awake because, you know, homeschoolers again. Time for bed...but...I just need to check this one thing online first! And here I am.

Every day isn't quite as busy as this one. Co-op is only once a week; rehearsals will end and the show will end and the next show will come along; sometimes I go to the gym early - it just depends on what funky schedule the hubby is working on any given week. We manage to keep a loose schedule - I love having a plan and sticking to it. But I'm also learning to be more flexible, and do what I have to when I have to, in order to get it all done.

Even if it means staying up all night when I don't have to be up early the next day.

P.S. - This post is linked up at the Works for Me Wednesday and Wonderful Wednesday Blog Hops. Go check them out to find all kinds of amazing blogs other than mine! ;)

Friday, January 29, 2016

Mama Bear

I have always been fiercely protective of the people I love. Even back in elementary school, when rotten little boys' best insults came in the form of "yo' mama" jokes, my quiet, bookwormish little self would get fighting mad and threaten to rip them apart if they said it one more time.

I've never been one to stand up myself, mind you. But say something or do something to a family member or friend, and the claws came right out.

Becoming a mother did not help this tendency.

During Rachael's first hours on earth, I wanted to rip out my IV and gouge it into the throat of the nurse who was pricking her heel for the requisite blood tests. You make my baby bleed and cry, I make you bleed and cry - it seemed perfectly reasonable. (I didn't do it. But I really wanted to.)

When Amelia spiked a fever at just two weeks old, warranting a trip to the emergency room, I may have actually growled at the doctor who wanted to perform a spinal tap on my teeny baby. They coerced for hours; the answer never changed. And two days later, when we were still there and they refused to discharge her despite her fever being gone and no reason for it ever found, I threatened to remove her IV myself and leave anyway.

Her pediatrician called me "adversarial." Now we attend the same church. I still can't bring myself to be friendly when I run into him.

Today, our foster daughter - who I'll just call "Dots" for blogging purposes - called me from school in tears, with severe pain and swelling in her right side. I picked her up and headed straight for the doctor's office. Worried about her appendix, they sent us to the hospital instead.

Now, Dots is terrified of needles. She pales at the mere thought of getting a shot, she has to have a hand to hold for a finger stick, and I've seen her very nearly pass out onto the floor during a blood draw. So when the topic of labwork came up today, her otherwise pleasant demeanor took an immediate nosedive. After four sticks in her arms with no good vein found, she was...well, not being pleasant to the nurses who were trying to take her blood. She told them that could try one more time, and that was it. (She will be an excellent Mama Bear someday.)

Although she freaked out more than a little at the idea of a needle in her hand, I reassured her that it wasn't as horrible as it sounded, and it worked great.

But once put my child - whether she's my child or not - in a situation like this, and someone will inevitably incur my wrath. In today's instance, it was the Physician's Assistant (PA) who grumped into our little cubby and immediately told Dots that she'd need a pelvic exam - something that she was not physically or emotionally equipped to handle today. She immediately told him that that would not be happening, and I confirmed her opinion. At that point, he started questioning us - asking, "what do you want for me to do for you then? How are we supposed to know what's wrong with you? If you already know what's wrong, why are you here?"

He left just before my claws and fangs appeared...but then, he came back. And he came back at Dots' worst - when she was crying and terrified of the needles attempting to find a vein in her arms. He grumped back in and started criticizing her for not being more calm...and that's when Mama Bear appeared in all her glory.

I wasn't rude. I detest rudeness. But I was firm. And maybe just a hair louder than usual.

And I told him to GET. OUT.

He did. And he didn't come back. Lucky for him.

Don't mess with Mama Bear, people. Especially don't mess with her kids.

Dots is fine, by the way. It wasn't her appendix. Being a reliably crappy hospital, we still don't have definite answers, but knowing what it isn't is a load off for today.

* * * * *

In an interesting side note, here's a pic of me in one of my favorite roles to date. 

Last summer, my girls and I performed in Shrek: The Musical.

I, of course, was Mama Bear.  :)

Monday, January 25, 2016

Snow Rest for the Weary

The last week has certainly been abnormal. That's saying a lot, coming from a household where "normal" means absolutely, positively nothing.

There was actually snow in the forecast, which is nothing more than a four-letter word to some, but is a hot commodity to me. I love me some snow. I love watching it fall, I love seeing everything blanketed in white, I love snow angels and snowmen and throwing snowballs at my husband at my kids, and yeah, I'll admit it...I love a good reason to stay at home for a few days.

So early in the week, I made a stinking grocery list (I hate making a grocery list) and stocked up on enough food to feed a small army. $140-ish later, I realized that I had stocked up on exactly enough food to feed a small army breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but *gasp* had neglected to stock up on snacks for in between.

And it so was that on Thursday evening, mere hours before the first predicted snowflakes were to fall, we found ourselves at Walmart.

It is a darned good thing that I had included milk and bread into my breakfast and lunch plans, because there sure wasn't any to be had on that night!

And on Friday morning, we awoke to this:

Beautiful snow, covering the ground, and more still falling. We knocked out a little bit of schoolwork (poor, unfortunate homeschooled kids rarely get snow days) and then settled down to doing...not much of anything. And it was glorious.

Until my kid decided that it was TIME.

Yes, I spent an hour of my snow day carefully applying PURPLE hair color all over her beautiful blonde head. She had been asking for purple hair for months, and we'd kept putting her off.

You can't be in (insert name of whatever shows we were doing at the time) with purple hair, we said. You can't go swimming with purple hair, we said. Not our best argument, being that the pool had been closed for quite some time already, with months to go before it reopens. What will Papa say?, we said.

Don't do it, her friends told her. You'll look weird/freakish/emo/intimidating, they told her. Just do a strand or two, they told her.

But she persisted...for long enough, and through enough objections, that I finally figured she really, truly knew what she wanted. And so, we went purple.

And you know what? She ROCKS it. Like, she's the rare individual that is actually, truly pretty with purple hair. Lucky girl. And I am jealous, both because I could never rock the purple locks, and because I'd never have the nerve to try - and certainly wouldn't have had the nerve at her age, in the midst of all the awful middle school drama.

So, rock on, my lovely.

Unfortunately, the purple "stuck" best at the roots and has already faded a lot from midway down, leaving her with an unintentional ombre effect that we'll attempt to annihilate soon with still more purple.

Once the purple-fication was complete, it was time to head back out into the snow. The girls (mostly Rachael, Milly was a little bit chicken) loved sledding down our hilly driveway...

...and Milly reprised her role as Pattie Cake in The Homecoming quite nicely by making a gorgeous snow angel in the front yard. Sans hat or gloves because, you know, she wasn't cold...

After going nowhere for three days - did I mention how lovely that was? - the hubby finally busted out of here with the help of his truck this morning. He went to the store for a few staples (more milk, more bread) and somehow found himself at the hardware store, where he picked up two new sleds to make up for last year's huge sled with a crack in the middle. The girls adore these little blue numbers and promptly started racing down aforementioned hilly driveway, using Daddy's truck tracks as "lanes" for their sleds. Milly claims that her sled is faster; I haven't had the heart yet to tell her that it's likely because it's pulling less weight. 

They love their sleds so much that we were even outside in the dark earlier this evening, still racing down the driveway. One more reason why I love the snow: I don't get to see my girls play in it nearly often enough!

And now, it seems as though our version of normal is preparing to return. Hubby has returned to work, and I sure hope his truck (Old Unreliable) starts when it's time to come home in the morning, because none of the other vehicles will make it out of our driveway yet. Temperatures will be in the low 50s tomorrow, so I'm sure enough will melt so that I can make it out by tomorrow night - and it had better, because rehearsal waits for no one.

Public schools are closed again tomorrow, so the oldest gets another day off...the homeschooled ones will wake up to schoolwork ready to be completed, though. And the house - largely neglected during the course of my "weekend off" - certainly needs a little attention.

But all of the work to be done was worth it - I so needed a winter break.

Monday, January 18, 2016


Surely I'm not the only mom that actually looks forward to Mondays? And it's not because the kids head back to school or anything, since only one of my three goes to public school (and that's mostly because you're not allowed to homeschool foster children in our state.)

Weekends just throw our routine all out of whack. And for a person who doesn't really have/want/thrive on routines...I sure do like my version of normal.

Last week was crazy busy. Here's a recap.

Monday - accidental audition (see previous posts.)

Tuesday - early celebration of the hubby's birthday. He is now 42 and I have no idea how I came to be married to such an old man.

Wednesday - hubby's actual birthday, which meant that I bought him lunch. Headed to church to teach my class of wild and crazy first graders, but sneaked out early for callbacks (see Monday.) Came home, sat down, and clicked "refresh" on the Theatre Guild website until the cast listed was posted. Panicked.

Thursday - company meeting for the show, which basically consists of giving them money (for t-shirts, scripts, etc) and reading through the script. Y'all. This show is hilarious. I am not exaggerating one bit when I tell you that I had tears rolling down my face while I was trying to read, I was laughing so hard. I don't know how in the world I'll ever memorize all of these lines, and especially how I'll do this show without laughing all the way through!

Friday - what did I even do on Friday? Oh my gosh, now I'm losing days. Oh yes, I went to the grocery store, because Friday was pay day and we were out of absolutely everything. Note to self: clean out the back of my van. It was like grocery Jenga trying to cram everything back there, and crackers fell out on my foot when I got home and opened it back up.

Saturday - first real rehearsal - just me and the other half of the Odd Couple, Olive. I love that the director sat us down first thing and talked us through really examining our characters' thoughts, frames of mind, and motives. Then we got to work...flopping across chairs, chasing each other around the stage, and yelling a lot. It was fabulous.

On Saturday night, we went to a party (at "Olive's" home, which is gorgeous and made me want to come home and clean...I didn't do it, but I did think about it) for the cast of the last show that we did, The Homecoming. It was great seeing everyone again...I think this should be a thing after every show. If you've never been part of a community theatre group, I highly recommend it. Even if you're not a singer/dancer/actor, there are so many other ways to be involved - selling tickets, working backstage, etc - and it really does become a second family. That, as much as the shows themselves, keeps us going back for more!

Side note: I tried a new Pinterest recipe for this party, and I'm so glad I did. It's always a little scary trying a new recipe when you're taking it to a social gathering to share before you've even taste tested, but this one worked out great:

These were sooooo good. Moist and chewy and fudgy and ohmigosh, I'm going to go finish off the few that were left as soon as I'm done with this post. Milly helped me make them, and they didn't take long at all. I did have to bake them for an extra five minutes to get the top layer nice and browned, but then they were absolute perfection. You can find the recipe on this blog: Living Beyond Measure

Sunday - technically the first day of this week, but I'm going to call it the last day of last week, because this is my blog and I can do that.

We woke up to SNOW! Now, I spend 364 days a year wishing for snow (365 days on leap years), and very rarely get it. On the one morning that I didn't want snow...snow. Thankfully, it was warm enough that it didn't stick to the roads, and church proceeded as usual. Because... Milly was baptized this morning! I am so proud of my girl, and so happy that she made this decision. She looked fearless in that baptismal in front of hundreds of people, and came bouncing back to our seat afterward in her poofy white dress, white sweater...and black combat boots. Because, you know, that's my kid. Bless her, she's going to be the rebel in any situation.

Gene also did a great job baptizing her. I would give any amount of money if I had a blooper reel to show you of him rehearsing his 'lines' in the days prior to the baptism. In our church, it goes like this:

Baptizer: (Name), have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?

Baptizee: (affirmative response)

Baptizer: Based on your profession of faith, I baptize you my (brother/sister/daughter/whatever) in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.


I've heard this enough times that I knew it ver I texted it to him early in the week, giving him plenty of time to read and re-read in preparation. And he practiced...and practiced...and practiced...and still didn't *quite* have it down on Saturday night. He was terrified. Shaking and stammering and it was so, so funny. (This is why he leaves the whole theatre thing to us girls.) But he absolutely nailed it on Sunday morning. I was very proud.

And now it's Monday. I've cleaned my bathroom and done very little else. The girls begged for a day off from school, which is only fair since the public schooled one (whom I still have not given a blog nickname) didn't have school today either. Maybe I'll hit another productive spurt later on this evening...but if not, that's okay too. Days that we get to stay at home without a laundry list of errands and things to do...well, they don't roll around very often. So we are being bums and enjoying it to the fullest.