Sunday, July 8, 2012

Five Week Meal Plan

This is for all the ladies on BBC that requested my meal plan.

Some background first.  I’ve tried several methods of preparing meals ahead of time, and this is the one that works best for me.  If this doesn’t suit you, feel free to modify however you need to to make it work.  I’ve tried the method where you actually plan out which meals you’re going to eat on which days of the month or week, but I’m not good at sticking to that plan.  Plus, being pregnant doesn’t make it any easier, because I may or may not be able to eat whatever is on the “menu” for a given day (yay for food aversions!).

What I did is sit down with the Excel grid (it’s also attached to this e-mail) and write in all the meals I make often and don’t need recipes for.  Things like spaghetti, chili dogs, quesadillas, etc.  Then I fill in at least four boxes with “leftovers”, because I know we’ll have them, and that’s a few nights during the month that I don’t have to worry about food.  And of course we like frozen pizza, and it’s great for busy nights, so I put that in three boxes.  Then I look through all my cookbooks (I have probably 200, no joke) and find recipes that we’ve tried, and some that we haven’t, to fill in the rest of the boxes.  I also add at least one side dish to each meal, and bread.  DH also insists that every meal contain meat, so if your household isn’t so specific, you could probably save a little money by substituting vegetarian meals once or twice a week.

One final disclaimer.  DH hates Hamburger Helper, so I found a website that gives you the recipes so you can essentually make Hamburger Helper dishes from scratch.  If you don’t mind Hamburger Helper from a box, you can use that on the nights where I have an actual recipe.  Personally, I think it takes exactly the same amount of time to cook it either way, and I think the scratch recipes taste better.  But that’s your choice.

So once I have all my boxes filled out, I start making a rough draft copy of my grocery list.  A lot of the spices and pasta that I need, I already have as staples in my pantry.  I like to keep at least four different kinds of dry pasta, and I have a separate can pantry where I keep veggies and beans and other canned goods.  So I take stock of all these things while going over each recipe, and write down anything I don’t have.  I call it my rough draft because it gets messy, and I always rewrite it in a better format before I leave for the store.  Once the list is ready, I go to the store and get everything I need.  I only get some of the fresh bread and veggies that I need, because I don’t want stuff to go bad.  I still have to make a trip to the grocery store every week for milk and juice and sandwich bread, so if I need some fresh veggies I’ll get them then.

When I get back from the store, I separate out all the things that can go in the fridge or freezer in their current state and put them away.  I do the same with things going in the pantry or cabinet.  Then I work with the meats that I’m not going to cook ahead of time.  For this meal plan, I set aside two packages of porkchops and two packages of chicken, labeled with the meal they’re part of.  Then I start on the ground beef.  I’m pretty sure my menu used 10 pounds of ground beef, so I separated it out into one or two pound groups, depending on how much I needed for a particular recipe.  Then I cooked it all, put it in pre-labeled ziploc baggies, and put it all in the freezer.  The only thing that needed to be cooked ahead of time that I didn’t do the first week was the red beans and rice, and only because I got tired.  I cooked them the following weekend.

I think that covers the preperation.  The spreadsheet that comes with this document will show the names of the meals and the sides that go with them.  The rice I use is Rice a Roni, and I just pick a couple flavors that sound good.



First, the meals that require little to no explanation:

Fishsticks and french fries – we use the frozen variety, and make ours in our fryer

Chili dogs – I used canned chili with no beans

Hamburgers – it’s up to you whether you make your own patties or buy pre-made

Spaghetti and meatballs – I like to buy a bag of frozen meatballs, because they last for a long time, and you can use them in multiple meals

Chicken patties – I buy the pre-made frozen breaded patties from Tyson.  They come in a resealable package of about 10 patties, and they only take about 20 minutes in the oven.  I like to serve them with Knorr noodles (in a bag) in the butter and herb variety, and frozen niblets corn with butter sauce.

Frozen pizza – obviously this is an easy one

Beef tips and noodles – this is a frozen meal I bought at Walmart (it’s their brand), and it feeds the four of us

Frozen chicken and rice dinner – this was a Stouffer’s meal I bought at Walmart, and it was actually pretty good

Breakfast tacos – I use a pound of breakfast sausage and six eggs.  I cook the sausage ahead of time and freeze it, then thaw it out when I’m ready to make the meal.  Once the sausage is warm in your pan, add the eggs and mix together while the eggs cook.  You can add other things to the eggs and sausage if you like, but my family eats them plain.  DH adds salsa to his taco after it’s made.  Once the eggs are fully cooked, you just spoon the mixture into your tortillas and enjoy.

Tacos – I cook a pound of hamburger meat with taco seasoning for these ahead of time, then freeze it until I’m ready to use it.  Then just thaw and reheat the meat, cook your rice and beans, and enjoy.  Obviously if you like to add lettuce and tomatoes, or anything else, to your tacos, feel free.

Leftovers – we call these “biblical” at our house.  It stands for “seek, and ye shall find”, basically meaning “help yourself to whatever is still in the fridge”.  You should do this every so often (once a week is probably best) to make sure that none of your food goes bad before you get a chance to eat it.

Quesadillas – I make these with canned shredded chicken in my quesadilla maker, but you can make them in a skillet.  I just take a tortilla, put some shredded cheese on it (I use the “fiesta blend”), then add shredded chicken and more cheese.  Then I put another tortilla on top and cook it.  For DH, I add salsa when I’m putting the chicken on.  Cook until the tortillas are crispy, flipping when necessary, then remove from the skillet and cut.  I use a pizza cutter for ease of cutting.  Let cool a little, then serve.  I also make Rice a Roni Spanish rice and heat a can of refried beans to go with the quesadillas.  If you’re a fan of guacamole and sour cream, feel free to bust those out, too.

Chunky soup over rice or potatoes – got this recipe from a magazine.  Take a can or two of your favorite chunky-style soup, and pour it in a bowl on top of either white rice or mashed potatoes.

Corned beef hash and corn – this is something my family has made as a cheap and easy meal my entire life.  Buy a can of corned beef hash (make sure the can says HASH, not just corned beef), put it in a pan and add a can of whole-kernel corn, drained.  Cook until heated through, then serve and eat.  The food is already cooked in the can, you’re just reheating it and searing a little by cooking it on the stove.

Here are a few that take a little more explanation:

Poor Man’s Pot – this is one of my personal inventions.  I created it years and years ago when it was just DH and I, and we were really broke.  I just threw together what we had, and it actually turned out pretty good.  It’s been a staple ever since.

One can of black beans, drained
One can of red beans, drained
One can of ranch style beans, not drained
One small package of Kielbasa sausage links
Two cups of cooked white rice

Basically, just throw all the beans together in a big pot, put your sausage on the grill (or on the stove, or in the microwave, whichever you prefer) and then start your rice cooking.  Once the rice is done, add it to the beans and stir.  When the sausage is ready, cut it in to small slices and add it to the bean and rice mixture.  Stir again, and serve.  Easy-peasy.  DH likes to add salsa to his bowl, but I prefer it as-is. 

Red beans and rice – this is an old family recipe. 

Two pounds of dry red beans
One ham steak slice
Onion
Bell pepper
Celery
Salt and pepper

I use two pounds of dry red beans so that I have plenty of leftovers to freeze for later.  Some people soak their beans first, I don’t.  I put the beans in my “bean pot”, add enough water to more than cover the beans, then turn the heat on to get a boil.  Once I have a good boil, I turn the heat down to just above a simmer, put the cover on the pot, and let the beans cook for about an hour and half.  Check on them periodically, in case you need to add more water.  I prefer to have to add water later than start with way too much.  After that hour and half, I add a heaping handful of diced onion, diced celery, and diced green pepper (my cajun grandmother always called those the “holy trinity” of cajun cooking), and the ham steak cut into bite-sized chunks.  Stir the veggies and meat into the beans, and recover the pot.  Check on them every 20 minutes or so, just to stir the beans and make sure they’re not in need of water.  Cook them for about another hour and half (we’re going for close to 3 hours total cooking time), then add salt and pepper and restir.  Taste the beans.  If they’re a little hard still, let them cook longer.  If they need more salt or pepper, add and retaste.  Once your taste-test meets your satisfaction, take them off the heat and serve, or put into containers for the fridge and freezer.  When you’re ready to eat the beans, just make some instant rice (I usually make two cups) and serve the beans on the rice.

Chili casserole – this is a modification on a recipe I found years ago.

One can of chili with beans
One can of chili without beans
One can of black beans (drained)
One can of whole-kernel corn (drained)
Shredded cheese
One package (box or bag) of cornbread mix

In an 8x8 square pan (I use glass), add half of each of the chili cans and mix together.  Then add the black beans and corn, just as much as you think you’d like (I actually only use about half of each can).  Then add the rest of the chili on top.  You can’t really mix it at this point, so I just kind of spread them both out to get a sort of mix.  Then sprinkle the shredded cheese on top (I prefer a colby-jack mix).  In a separate bowl, make the cornbread mix as called for on the box or bag.  Once mixed, pour the cornbread batter over the cheese.  Try to spread it out to cover the entire meal.  When the batter is spread, put the whole pan in the oven at whatever temperature is written for the cornbread itself, and cook for the directed length of time.  When it’s done, take it out of the oven and let it cool for a few minutes, then serve.

The rest of the meals have actual recipes, either from one of my cookbooks, or the internet.  The three home-made hamburger helper recipes on this particular menu are from a website called Chickens in the Road.  I’ve scanned the pages for those meals, and they’re at the bottom of this post.  That covers Cheesy Italian shells, Beef Stroganoff, and Cheeseburger Macaroni.

Meal in One Potatoes and the meatloaf came from a book called Once a Month Cooking.  I've scanned those pages and included them here, as well.  Lemon-Garlic chicken, Golden-Onion Baked porkchops, and Skillet Chicken Parmesan are all from a book called Back of the Box Cooking.  Those pages are also included in this post.  Honey-Mustard Glazed porkchops is from Good For You Cooking.

Chicken Alfredo Rollups and No Boil Baked Penne are recipes i found on Pinterest.  Click their names for links to the recipes.  Mozart Mozarella and King Ranch Chicken are from Cooks.com.  The only difference in my recipes is that i use canned chicken for the king ranch chicken, because it's easier for me to store than buying a whole chicken or even extra chicken breasts.  and i don't use mushrooms.

So here are all the pages of recipes, plus the printout for the 5 weeks of meals.











Saturday, February 4, 2012

A failure and a pizza maker...

Okay, so here’s what happened… (insert believable story here)
Alright, alright, no excuses.  I missed yesterday’s post.  To be honest, I had half of it written, and expected to write the other half last night after using the quesadilla maker, but the hubs threw me off my game by wanting to go out to dinner instead (some bbq place in town had all you can eat ribs).
Since I missed last week’s Fricassee Friday post (no, there is no trend starting here), I had decided to use and review two of my handy-dandy kitchen gadgets this week instead of just one.  But so far, I’ve only been able to use one.  I’ll try to use the quesadilla maker tonight, so I can submit a second kitchen post later this weekend.  Promise.
I’ll be showing you my Pizazz pizza cooker in this post, and my new quesadilla maker in the next.  You might be saying to yourself, “self, why would I need a pizza cooker and a quesadilla maker?  I can make pizzas in the oven, and quesadillas in a pan on the stove.”  And you’d be right (even if it’s weird that you talk to yourself).  I used to do both of those things.  Have for years.  But folks, there’s a better way (do I sound like one of those tv pitchmen yet?).
The Pizazz was hubs’ idea.  I had the same thought as you…why get a small appliance that only does one thing, instead of just putting my frozen pizzas in the oven?  Well, I have an answer for that question.  Several, actually.
The Pizazz is only designed to make pizzas; that’s what it does, and it does it really well.  You have alternating controls to cook only on top, only on bottom, or both at the same time.  This feature really comes into play when using a rising-crust pizza or when making your own from scratch (no, I haven’t done that, but I did read the instruction manual).  Rising crust pizzas need more cooking time on the bottom than on the top, which is impossible to set in your oven.  But it’s super easy on the Pizazz.  See, look:

Regular frozen pizzas are cooked using top and bottom cooking simultaneously.  You just put the spinning tray in it’s spot, put the pizza on it, plug it in, and set your timer.  Usually takes about 12 to 14 minutes for a fully frozen pizza to cook.  Yes, I know that’s the same amount of time you’d put it in your oven.  But here’s a huge benefit.  Instead of using the electricity to heat up your entire oven for one little frozen pizza, you use just enough to heat up a metal tray and a top heating coil.  Much smaller than the one in your oven, fyi.
(I know, the picture isn't super clear...I was using my phone's camera)

So it’s quick, easy to clean (no more melted pizza cheese on the bottom of your oven), easy to store, and works like a champ.  We’ve had ours for probably 5 years or so, and never had an issue with it.  As much as I protested buying an appliance that only does one specific thing, I’m glad I sucked up my complaints and bought the Pizazz.  It was totally worth it.
Okay, there’s one review, and right on its heels will come number two, the quesadilla maker.  Please don’t give up on me, dear reader, I’ll get in the swing of this yet.  Thanks for hanging in there.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Vampires, werewolves and ghosts, oh my!

Welcome once again, dear reader, to Theatrical Thursday.  I haven’t managed to see any new movies in the last week (hopefully I’ll get to rent one this weekend), so today I’ll be reviewing two of my current “must-watch” series.
I was annoyed and unsure when SciFi changed its name to SyFy (I mean, come on, seriously? that’s just weird), but I’ve given it a chance because it still airs some of my favorite summer shows (Eureka!).  And boy am I glad I did.
Before giving up our cable box (yes, it was awful…I cried a little) and going back to basic, straight from the wall cable, hubs and I watched a show on the BBC called Being Human.  It was okay, the premise was pretty cool, but it was hard to relate to the British characters (they were no Doctor, if you know what I mean).  Then, out of nowhere, SyFy announces that it’s reimagining the British show for American television.  Awesome.
So we tuned in, and have been hooked from the start.  Watching Josh, Aidan and Sally as they go through their lives (or afterlife, in Sally’s case) as supernaturals in a normal world is an hour each week that I truly look forward to.  The supernatural aspect really adds to the story.  Aidan isn’t just any old vampire (and he doesn’t sparkle); he’s a formerly-vicious vamp who’s been off “live blood” for a while to try to regain control of his hunger (think heroin addict on methadone).  Josh dumped his fiancĂ©e and dropped out of medical school after being turned into a werewolf; he’s melancholic and hopeless, but he has his moments, especially with Nora, his new girlfriend.  Sally was murdered by her fiancĂ©, and is trying to cope with a possible eternity of not really being able to interact with the rest of the world.
The show brings interesting new twists to old supernatural characters.  Aidan can walk in the sunlight without bursting into flames.  Josh definitely isn’t the man who comes to mind when you think “werewolf” (‘cause who can compare with Alcide, really).  Sally has learned that ghosts can sleep, and take over people’s bodies, and even become reincarnated.  It’s easy to become wrapped up in the characters and story, because they’re obviously well thought out, and the intertwining storylines between the three housemates will keep you guessing.  On top of that, the interaction isn’t the whole story.  Each character has their own individual plotlines to follow that may or may not have anything to do with their roommates.  There’s never a dull or wasted moment in this show.
And now, SyFy has followed up Being Human each week with a new series, Lost Girl.  Lost Girl is actually in its third season in Canada, where it is filmed, but SyFy bought the rights to show at least the first two seasons in the U.S., and premiered the series just a few weeks ago.
This one definitely appeals to the “urban fantasy” reader and writer in me.  The story centers around Bo, a woman who can’t help but suck the life out of people around her…literally.  She was adopted, and knows nothing about her birth parents, but finds out in the pilot episode that she’s part of a hidden world that exists under the noses of the humans around her.  Bo is a succubus, part of the fae (think fairy tales, leprechauns, werewolves, etc.) community, and now both light and dark fae want her on their side.
The show hasn’t let on yet as to why she’s so in demand, and keeps alluding to power we haven’t seen yet.  There’s obviously a deep plotline being spun, and hopefully the show will get the audience it needs to play that storyline out.  Throw in some cops who happen to be fae, a lead character who’s strong, female, and very sexual (she goes both ways, people), and a young human thief as a sidekick, and you’ve got yourself a show.  I’ll definitely be tuning in to this one each week, and hope you give it a chance, too.
Disclaimer:  I’d make sure to put any kiddos to bed before turning on either of these shows.  They’re rated MA for a reason.  But it’s a really good reason, and the shows wouldn’t be quite as good if they had to tone down for a younger audience.
So happy watching, dear reader.  Let me know if you have a show or a movie you think I should check out.  I’m always on the lookout for good entertainment.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The first two chapters...

Look at me, posting on time for Wingin'-It Wednesday.  Go me, go me (you can't see me, but I'm doing a little happy dance in my chair).

So anyway, I've decided to post the prelude and chapter one to the book I've done the most writing in (over 12,000 words! yay! only 88,000 more to go...bummer), and the easiest way to do that was to actually create a second blog, that way the long chapters don't tie up the space here on my daily blog (give us this day...).  Also, if the story is in its own blog, the chapters are all right (write) there together and you don't have to go looking for them if you want to reread something.

Here's the link to that blog, where I've gone ahead and posted my writing:

Spacegirl Writes Again

FYI - because of the way blogspot lines up the posts, chapter one is actually on top because I posted it second, so make sure you scroll down and read the prelude first.  Then, please, let me know what you think.  The comments section isn't there just to make the page look pretty (although it does a marvelous job at that, don't you think?).  It actually works.

This book is as of yet untitled, since it’s a work in progress, and the characters are still developing as I write.  I have several more chapters finished, but I’ll wait to post those until I get (hopefully) reactions from any readers.

Please, dear reader, I’m in need of honest critiques.  If urban fantasy isn’t your genre of choice, that’s totally fine and understandable (what’s wrong with you?!), but at least give it a chance to let your friendly neighborhood blogger know what you think of her writing (that’s me, in case it wasn’t obvious).

Check in tomorrow for Theatrical Thursday, when I’ll be reviewing two of my (current) favorite television shows.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tune in for tips and tricks...

Welcome to Tuesday, dear reader.  Yep, that’s right, Monday has finally moved on, and we’re one step further into the week.
I was hoping to start teaching some neat crafts this week, but as you can see from Sunday’s blog (because you did read Sunday’s blog, right?) my craft table is currently drowning under a sea of miscellaneous debris.  It became a “catch-all” in the garage, especially after we emptied out our storage unit and brought all that crap home.  “My side” of the garage now contains less than a quarter of the actual square footage in said garage.  But it’s okay, we’re saving money by not having the storage unit, and making money by selling some of the stuff we were keeping in the storage unit (anybody in the market for a brand new electric double oven?  anybody?), so I’ll hang in there and slowly but surely get my crafting area back to its former glory.
So, since I don’t have space to make things, I thought that for today’s Teachin’ Tuesday post, I’d share 25 clever ideas to make life easier.  Some of these you may love and use, some of them may not apply to you.  That’s one reason I’m including so many; everyone can find at least one tip or trick in this list to help in their own lives.  These ideas came from an e-mail I received last year, and most of them sound amazing.
1.  hull strawberries easily using a straw 
 (seriously, so easy!)

2.  rubbing a walnut over scratches in your furniture will disguise dings and scrapes


3.  remove crayon from your t.v. or computer monitor with WD-40
(anybody have kids? write this one down...you will need it eventually)

4.  stop apples from browning in a lunch box by securing them with a rubber band

5.  store bed linen sets inside one of their pillowcases so there won’t be any more hunting for a matched set
(I know, right?!  simple, but brilliant!)

6.  amplify the volume of your phone or mp3 player by placing the device in a bowl

7.  re-use a wet wipes or anti-bacterial wipes container to store plastic bags
 (these work GREAT in the car)

8.  use baby powder to get sand off your skin easily

9.  attach a velcro strip to the wall to store soft toys

10.  use wire to store gift wrap rolls up against the ceiling, rather than on the floor
(seriously, another simple yet brilliant space saver)

11.  find tiny lost items like earrings by putting a stocking over the vacuum hose
(no more low-crawling through the house looking for that earring back!)

12.  make an instant cupcake carrier by cutting crosses into a box lid

13.  pictoral directions on how to fold a fitted sheet!
(finally, someone gives us directions we can follow!! you know you needed this)

14.  use magnetic strips to store bobby pins, tweezers and clippers in the bathroom

15.  put shoes into plastic shower caps before packing to stop dirty soles from rubbing on your clothes
(and these are free at most hotels)

16.  use a muffin pan, plastic cups and magnets to create a craft caddy
(the magnets go inside the cups to keep them in place)

17.  bread tags can be used as cord labels

18.  bake cupcakes directly in ice cream cones for easier eatting
(can't wait to try this one out)

19.  microwave your own popcorn in a plain brown paper bag
(we use an air popper, but this would work, too)

20.  install a tension rod to hang your spray bottles

21.  turn your muffin pan upside down and bake cookie dough over the top for fun cookie bowls
(cookie bowls! you could fill them with ice cream...yum)

22.  freeze aloe vera in ice cube trays for soothing sunburn relief

23.  create a window-box veggie patch using guttering
(trying to get hubs to let me do this...gutters are super cheap and easy to put up)

24.  use egg cartons to separate and store your Christmas decorations

25.  rinse fresh strawberries with vinegar before you put them in the fridge to keep them from molding
(did this, and my strawberries lasted over 3 weeks in the fridge with zero mold!)

There you have it, dear reader.  25 great tips and tricks to use around the house.  I’ve tried some, and have several more that I can’t wait to have the opportunity to use.  Hopefully these ideas will help you, as well.  And then there will be a purpose for you having visted here today.
Stay tuned, friends…I’ll be posting a chapter of my novel-in-progress tomorrow to see if I get any feedback.  Until then, keep a smile on your face, and another in your heart (bleh, I’ll try to come with something cool to use at the end of my posts.  It just hasn’t come to me yet.).

Monday, January 30, 2012

It's my sexy body, I'll do what I want...

Oh, goody, look at that.  It’s Monday again.  Happy, happy, joy, joy (a little old-school reference thrown in there, raise your hand if you’re too young to get it…okay, put ‘em down, you’re making me feel old).  Again, nothing against Monday as a day, I just hate having my weekend end because it never feels quite long enough.  Isn’t there a holiday coming up or something?  No?  Bummer.
So I fell off the proverbial wagon last week, and missed a couple blog posts.  And last night’s post was hardly up to par.  But it was the best I could do, considering the environment in which I found myself.  Dinner was eaten late because the kids napped too late in the day, and because the hubby insisted on watching the first two episodes of Dexter while the kids were asleep.  It’s a good show, don’t get me wrong, but there are a million productive things I could have done during those two hours other than watch television.  And then the kids were grouchy and tired, and so was the hub, so I was dealing with that, too.
But I digress (get used to it).  Manic Monday posts are a place for me to rant if I want to, and today, I want to.  It’s not a mega-rant, just a little one based on some stuff I’ve seen online recently.  I cruise Yahoo occasionally for random bits of news and entertainment “news”, and have happened upon two separate articles in the last two weeks discussing the trend of mothers in Hollywood getting tattoos.  The articles don’t bother me a bit; they’re fluff, and seem to be supportive of these stars getting inked.  What gets under my skin (pun totally intended) is the rude comments made by some other readers of these same articles.
People can be so hateful and disrespectful when their identities are concealed by avatars and fake personal information.  It’s really a sad thing to see in this country.  But it really pisses me off when these mean-spirited, close-minded commentators start going on and on about the kind of “trashy” people that get tattoos.  And I take their insults personally, because I have two tattoos currently, and hope to get several more, and I don’t for a second consider myself a trashy person.  I don’t think anyone that knows me would consider me trashy, either. 
There’s a very distinct difference between someone who gets tattoos because they commemorate something or have a true meaning to that person, and someone who gets a tattoo “because everyone else has one”.  Both of my tattoos mean something to me, and I believe that’s the way it should be.  I’m not going to say that someone who gets a tattoo on the spur of the moment is trashy, because that’s not a fair assessment of their character.    They may be a truly nice and compassionate person; I just think they probably made a bad decision.  Aren’t we all guilty of that at some point in our lives?
Here comes your history lesson for the week:
Tattoos have been around as long as mankind has used tools.  For thousands of years, tattoos have served as “amulets, status symbols, declarations of love, signs of religious beliefs, adornments and even forms of punishment”, according to researchers at the Smithsonian.  Tattoos can be dated back to 5,200 BC.  That’s a long freakin’ time.  Archaeologists have found tattooing tools used in ancient Egypt, and mummies with tattoos.  In Egypt, women were tattooed to protect them during pregnancy and childbirth.  As reported by ancient Greek writer Herodotus, "tattoos were a mark of nobility, and not to have them was testimony of low birth” among the Scythian and Thracian peoples, two lands near Greece.  Tattoos were common among Romans, as well, until Constantine came to power and made Christianity the officially accepted religion of the country.  Tattoos have also been found on preserved bodies of ancient South Americans, American Indians, and Canadians.  So it wasn’t relegated just to Europe and surrounding areas.
Tattooing has also been popular in China, Japan, Polynesia, and New Zealand for literally thousands of years.  The word tattoo actually comes from the Polynesian word “tattau”, which means “to hit”, a description of how their tattooing process works.  So pretty much every inhabited continent on this earth has a long history of its people receiving tattoos.  Which means every person alive today has tattoos somewhere in their family tree.
With that said, anyone who starts talking about how “trashy” tattoos are needs to grow up, get a life, and read a little effing history.  Tattoos don’t make people trashy; trashy people sometimes get tattoos.  How dare you lump me in with people simply because we both made the decision to get permanent marks on our skin.  I’m a mother of two with a great job at an engineering company, working in an office every day.  And most people around me don’t know that I even have tattoos.  And that’s my choice.  My tattoos are for me, not for the world.  I don’t mind sharing them, and I love that I have them, but I know that for what I want to do with my life, there’s a time and a place to show them off.
And it doesn’t bother me that my kids know I have tattoos.  My tattoos have meaning to me, and my kids will understand that when they’re old enough.  And if they come to me (after they’re 18, of course) and want me to go with them when they get their first tattoo, I’ll feel honored that they included me.  I’ll coach them on taking time to decide what they want on their bodies (if they want anything; I certainly won’t pressure them into getting any tattoos…unmarked skin is just fine, too), because whatever they pick becomes a permanent part of them.  But I won’t discourage them from getting inked, any more than I’ll encourage them to do so.  Getting a tattoo is a personal choice, and everyone should get to make that choice for themselves.
So yeah, it makes me angry when I read some ignorant comment about how low-class and trashy tattoos are, and that people who get them are trashy and low-class, too.  Tattoos are an ancient and beautiful form of self-expression, and anyone who doesn't get that can kiss my tattooed ass.

(these are my two current tattoos; and no, I don't actually have a tattoo on my ass, thanks for asking)



Sunday, January 29, 2012

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa...

What's that?  You don't speak Latin?  And you're not Catholic?  Then I guess you'll just have to use the Google machine and look it up.

So I missed a few days of posts.  Life sorta of snuck up on me.  The weekend passed me by before I realized what had happened.  Bummer.

So here's what I'll do for you, dear reader.  I'm going to use two different kitchen gadgets this week, and I'll post about both of them.  That'll cover my missing Friday.

I haven't decided how to make up for Saturday, yet.  Maybe I'll submit a second post later tonight with some blast from the past pictures.  We'll see.

As for today, this post will contain some brief updates to my 2012 goals.  Here's where I am so far:

Goal 1 - be a better role model for my kids
Progress - we're instituting a swear jar in the house, and I think the hubby may go broke in the next week

Goal 2 - get back in shape
Progress - it doesn't feel like much yet, but I'm down 5 pounds in the last two weeks

Goal 3 - stick to a budget
Progress - I've budgeted through the next 3 months, and I think we'll at least make it that far  :)

Goal 4 - finish a novel
Progress - I'm 10,000 words into one of them, and have most of the plot and characters set up for a second

Goal 5 - have another baby
Progress - we're not even going to start trying til next month

Goal 6 - spend more quality time with my kids
Progress - we went to the Snake Farm yesterday, it was super fun!



Goal 7 - make progress with my scrapbooking
Progress - none yet, haven't had time to set stuff back up as of yet, but I'll start planning for it next month

Goal 8 - take E to church
Progress - we went to mass Saturday night  :)  and actually made it through the whole thing!

Goal 9 - read 26 new books
Progress - I'm on page 301 of 416 of Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison, book number 1; so far, it's really good

Goal 10 - organize my side of the garage
Progress - haven't had much time to work on it yet; here's what I'm fighting against




Goal 11 - make and keep a schedule
Progress - I've actually started writing things down in my planner again, so I consider that a positive first step

Goal 12 - live the life God gave me
Progress - this one is the hardest, and I'm working on it...it'll take some time

 So that's where I am, dear reader.  Making progress, even if it's slow.  I'll make up the missed posts, I promise.  Unfortunately, right now I have to go take care of a crying toddler.  It's late, and he's tired, which means lots of tears and noise for no real reason.  Yay for parenthood!  :)


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Love me some Jess...


Do you ever feel like watching television has become a chore?  There are so many “real-life” shows on now, from cop dramas to military dramas to more cop dramas.  T.V. has become so heavy, it’s almost disheartening to watch these days.  If I see another dead, bloated corpse, or beat-up teenage prostitute, I might actually scream.

Thankfully, there are actually some shows that are simply enjoyable to watch.  One of my favorites is The New Girl.  It stars Zooey Deschanel, sister to Emily Deschanel of Bones fame.  I enjoy her as an actress anyway (loved the Wizard of Oz miniseries she was in!), and when you pair her light-hearted, good-natured, lovingly-naive character Jess with the mish-mash of her endearing male roommates, you get a show that makes me glad I have a television to watch.

The show is poignant, without being melodramatic.  It’s a comedy, and knows it’s a comedy, so it doesn’t pretend to be something else.  You fall in love with the characters, and their interaction are so seemless and perfect you’ll find yourself wishing you lived in their apartment.  That’s how t.v. should make us feel.  We get enough crap and death and destruction in the real world.  We don’t need it for our evening entertainment, too.

Don’t get wrong, I love a good CSI episode (Vegas or NY, never Miami), and I’m a sucker for Alex O’Laughlin (Hawaii 5-0, in case you didn’t know – how dare you not know, btw) in a wet t-shirt.  You’ll find me glued to the set to watch Castle and Beckett every Monday (when will these two finally connect?!), and I wouldn’t dare miss Booth and Brennan on Thursdays (pregnant what?).  But it’s nice to have nights when I just get to laugh, and watch characters whose jobs don’t depend on other people dying, you know?  

There are other shows on t.v. right now that leave watchers with a warm–fuzzy  when the credits roll (raise your hand if you love Big Bang Theory!), but there’s just something about New Girl.  I can’t explain it, but trust me; watch the show, and you’ll find yourself humming…

Who’s that girl? It’s Jess!

…with a smile on your face.  Happy watching, dear reader.  And here’s to smiles.  There just aren’t enough of ‘em in the world today.

A story of starfish...


I know, I know, I missed the first Wingin’-It Wednesday.  The easiest day of the week, and I dropped the potato.  But can you blame me?  It was hot.  Seriously, though, fell asleep with the kids while trying to convince them to fall asleep.  I honestly don’t know which of us fell asleep first.  My life is so exciting, I know you can hardly contain yourself.  Try though, because otherwise you make a mess.  And no one likes a mess (okay, some people like a mess, but those people are on a special show called Hoarders).

Anyway, I’ll make it up to you today, dear reader.  I’ll post the Wednesday blog (the one you’re currently reading) AND the Thursday blog before midnight tonight.  I tried to get them done during the daylight hours, but you know how life goes.

For the first Wednesday blog, I decided to share a story with you, dear reader, that animal rescuers have to tell ourselves over and over again.  I was inspired to share this by those stupid ASPCA commercials with Sarah MacLaughlin in them that always leave me in tears.  I usually change the channel or leave the room, but I couldn’t find the remote last night and then both kids were transfixed by the “sad animals”, as E calls them.  She told me last night that they were sad “because they don’t have a mommy”.  If that doesn’t pull on your heartstrings, you probably don’t have a heart.

So here goes (mind you, this is my adaptation, everyone tells it just a little differently).

A woman was walking along the beach when she noticed a man walking her direction farther down the sands.  The man would walk a few steps, stop, bend over and pick something up, then throw it out into the water.  The woman was curious, so she walked towards the man.
As she got closer, she realized the man was picking up starfish from the sand, and tossing them back into the ocean.  The woman approached the man, who stopped walking when got close enough to speak to him.
“Excuse me, sir, but what are you doing?” the woman asked the man.
“The tide has gone out, and these starfish are stuck on the beach,” he responded.  “If I don’t throw them back into the ocean, they’ll die.”
The woman was stunned.  “But there must be hundreds of starfish on this beach alone, not to mention all the starfish on the thousands of beaches all over the world.  How can you possibly expect to make a difference?”
The man reached down, picked up a starfish, and tossed it into the salty water.
“It made a difference to that one,” he said.
This is based on “The Star Thrower”, by Loren Eiseley, and it tells the real reason why so many people get involved with rescues and charities, and why people become social workers and volunteers.  If you worry that you can’t make a difference, you never will.  You have to stop yourself from looking at the whole picture, and focus on the one detail you can change.  If you make a difference in just one animal’s life, or one child’s life, then you’ve changed the world.

We don’t have a lot of extra money these days, so we’re very limited on what we can do to help.  But I’ve learned that there’s always something you can do.  We share our home with 3 beautiful rescue dogs, and one semi-psychotic rescued cat.  Allow me to introduce you.

This is Copper:



Copper was found with his mother and 6 littermates abandoned in the backyard of a house in Austin after the owners moved out.  Yep, that’s right, they moved away and left their dog and her puppies because they didn't want them.  Luckily, a neighbor saw the dogs and called a rescue group who came and picked them up.  Copper, his mom, and his siblings lived with a foster family until the pups were weaned and ready to be adopted.  The rescue group found homes for all of the puppies and their mom.  Copper came to live with us.

This is Charlie:



Charlie was dumped in front of our house in McQueeney when she was just about 8 weeks old.  We never found out where she came from, so she stayed with us.  Charlie has her issues, but she’s a sweet, loving dog.

This is Marla:



Marla was picked up in the street in Austin when she was a little pup.  She was all alone, with no collar or tags, so she was taken to Town Lake Animal Shelter.  We saw her pic online, and fell in love.  We went to Austin, filled out our adoption paperwork, and after the customary checks, took Marla home.  No matter what people may tell you about pit bulls, they’re actually really great dogs, and Marla takes more abuse from the kiddos than either of the other two, and she loves it.  E drags her around the house by her collar, and Marla goes along for the ride.

And this is Kodi:



We found Kodi when she was about 5 weeks old.  She was all alone in the yard at a storage facility, and crying loudly.  I couldn’t help but pick her up and take her home.  She was a bottle-baby, and we weaned her onto canned kitten food.  We were supposed to find a home for her, because the hubby “doesn’t like cats”, but after a few weeks it was obvious she was a part of the family.  She’s a little nuts sometimes, and doesn’t like a whole lot of people, but when she wants to be she’s very affectionate.

So those are my personal rescue stories.  I also help out with home visits for rescues, and with transports.  It’s amazing how hard people will work to get a dog or cat into a good home.  I’ve picked up dogs from San Antonio that were headed to Michigan and Florida and Ohio.  I’ve also been on routes with dogs coming from rescues out of state to be adopted here in central Texas.  It’s a wonderful thing to be a part of.  And all it costs you is a few hours and a couple gallons of gas.  If anyone is interested in becoming part of a rescue/transport group, please let me know.  I would love to pass your name on to some of the groups I volunteer for.  We’re always looking for people in new areas, to make the transport runs easier and to be able to transport to new places.

So there you have it, my first official Wingin’-It Wednesday post.  I’d like to point out that I didn’t actually intend for it to be this long, but apparently I had a lot more to say on the subject than originally anticipated (and I cut myself short, to be honest; I could talk about rescue for hours).

Don’t worry, dear reader, I’ll make sure the Thursday post isn’t quite so long (1200 words, are you kidding me?!), and I’ll keep it more uplifting (ok, at least not quite so serious).

Preview for next week…maybe the first chapter of one of my novels?

Stay tuned!  Theatrical Thursday is comin’ atcha!