Friday, December 4, 2009

It's always good to have goals.

As an artist, I work best when a deadline is looming before me. No deadline, no drive to get finished. It is sad, but it's true.

I started baking my Christmas cookies. When the first batch went flat and frankly, were not the best tasting, it kind of made my drive to bake them go flat. Instead, I pressed on and made the dough. Of course, it didn't strike me until later that perhaps my baking soda had gone kaput and now I've made three batches of dough -- one a double batch -- to bake in the morning.

What failed? I made a chocolate chip cookie dough base with vanilla caramel balls in it. First, the recipe called for 375 degrees, when 350 F would be just grand enough. Secondly, just the caramel balls alone wasn't enough umpf to carry them through to be a Christmas cookie box cookie. So, I've told Kim that she'll be getting them as dessert with the kids. They are edible, just not the most flavorful.

What is on deck? A double batch of Chocolate Mint Chocolate Chip cookies (yes, chocolate base with mint chips and peppermint extract), standard Chocolate Mini Chip cookies and Apple Cinnamon Craisin Oatmeal cookies. The secret behind my oatmeal cookies is that I use breakfast oatmeal. Yum.

We have plans to have Kim and her kids over for dinner. That has been moved up to 4:30 PM, since the H1N1 shot clinic is from 4-7 PM and not 4-8 PM like we had hoped. I didn't do Thursday cleaning since I was busy in the kitchen, so I'll have to bust it and get the baking done, then cleaning.

So the goals for the weekend?
- Get the batches of dough that I have made baked and hoping they won't fall flat.
- Laundry and bathroom cleaning. Scrub the floors.
- Go through the small pile of things in the basement before Hubs kicks them to the curb.
- Lowe's on Saturday morning to build a Gingerbread House.
- Winter Wonderland at K-'s school with her Santa Shop shopping.
- Festival Choir Sunday evening.

Smiles in my day:
- The librarian recognizing me and asking me where my "other half was." The funny thing was that I knew she wasn't talking about my husband! She told me about their Santa this evening, he was a friend of theirs and he had a real beard. Oh, if I weren't so parentally paranoid about pictures of K- on the internet, I would post this one. It was a luck shot that makes my heart happy.
- The principal laughing at us with the hobby horse unicorn in the school yesterday. He is such a down-to-earth great guy.
- It's confirmed. K- did move up in reading color. :) Her interim report card was good. That makes us happy.
- K- has continued to happily eat her lunch each day. Seems as though I was making a lot of fuss about something that should have been way simple. As is the case most of the time, I was over-thinking it. I have a go simple kid.
- Though my brother is sad about his loss of tools, I forgot that my sister was able to haul out as many as she could get her hands on. She was telling me today that she took boxes with her, knew the expensive stuff to grab and got all the things that she could possibly haul out with her. It isn't all of his stuff by any stretch, but at least he isn't left with absolutely nothing. He keeps reiterating the fact that he is glad that he got out alive. For those of you wondering, yes-- he is trying to get his kids.

It seems that now that the sun is falling sooner, my body seems to want to sleep sooner. Have a great weekend, my friends.

Edited to add:
It was the funky cookie and not the baking soda! The rest of the cookies are coming out fine! Hooray!!!

The end of the day total for baking:
6 1/2 dz traditional mini chocolate chip cookies
7 dz apple cinnamon oatmeal craisin cookies
8 3/4 dz chocolate mint chocolate cookies

I've even set aside 4 dozen cookies (c/m/chocolate and the only caramel cookies from yesterday that made the cut) for Festival Choir practice next week. :)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

People weighing heavily on my heart.

Friends, Jane and Brian, are going to court today regarding their foster children. Though I don't know the details, I know that they are going to court and they are fearful that the outcome might not be as we hope. Their two foster children are darling. I believe both may very well have been with them since birth. They would love to adopt these two children. Something with the birth mother stands in the way, though she is unable to care for them.

My brother went, by police escort, in the company of my father and my sister's partner, to pick up his belongings from the home that he shared with his children and soon-to-be ex-wife. Not only his wife sell his truck, but also dispensed of $20,000.00 worth of tools. My brother is a mechanic and now has no way of making a living as a mechanic without the tools of his trade. My brother's mother-in-law keeps phoning my parents and harassing them. It's stressing my parents out. My niece and nephew are stuck in between. The upside? My brother got out alive. His wife has continued to abuse drugs so badly that she is now about 120 pounds. (She is about 5' 6" and my guess is that she probably lost 60-80 pounds to reach her reported thinness.)

My lovely friend, Rachael, is having a bit of an aching heart right now. Her sparkly daughter, Hannah, drown during a family outing. Her post just made me cry. In fact, I still am. I can't imagine. If I lived closer, I would scoop Rachael up and wrap my arms around her and that baby she is baking.

I had an acquaintance tell me that she was going in for pre-surgical testing. I thought it was about an injury that she suffered recently, but reading between the confidential lines that she was giving me, it appears as though she is going through some type of breast biopsy to rule out cancer. She asked for prayer. I told her that I would add her to my list.

It appears as though we have another celebrity down. Though I admire him for having not tossed every detail of his life out into the news, the fact of the matter is that he claims transgressions and how many people and children have looked up to Tiger? I know it has nothing to do with the game, but wow.

I haven't dealt well with David Letterman's actions. I was always happy to watch David Letterman if I was up late. Now, I can't stand to look at him.

The wives.

The children.


Do you have anything weighing on your heart that you would like for me to pray about? Feel free to leave it in the comments or click on the e-mail link in the sidebar.

Smiles in my day:
- Interim report cards come out tomorrow for K- and we received a note in her folder today that the teacher is pleased with her progress and does not feel that a conference is necessary at this time. K- brought home a different color book for her 100 book challenge. 6 other children were moved in color, too. I suspect that the move is up, but will find out tomorrow when the report comes out.
- My in-law's giving K- some allowance for having helped wash dishes this evening. They don't do this on a regular basis, but they know that she is saving up money for the Santa Shop on Saturday by doing chores.
- The dress that my MIL sent home for K- for Christmas is stunning. (She found it after Christmas last year.) Truly, the first big girl "gown" she's owned. I'll be hosting a table at the Christmas Tea in a few weeks, and K- will be wearing her very special dress.
- Hubs finished organizing the basement and gave us a tour. He's been off for over a week and has worked his butt off. I was threatening to purchase myself my own set of tools, but he has everything so organized at the work bench that everything is at our fingertips now. Hooray!
- Beating the pants off Hubs tonight on Foosball. We have a tabletop game that we like to play. I get him everytime.
- Our friend, Ford, is out training for his NEW! job. He was out of work for a year and really feeling not his provider worth. My friend, Kim, reports a complete turn around for him. I'm glad to hear this for them. What a Christmas gift!
- My friend, Carolyn, wearing sandals in the cold. I chuckled at her on Sunday, but she said that her feet get hot!
- My new coat. It was on a fantastic sale on Thanksgiving Day. It was marked down to $49.99 and I had a $10.00 off coupon. I needed a heavier coat to wear while walking K- to school in the morning. Not only did it keep me nice and toasty for the walk, but it kept me dry this evening during the cold rains that we've been experiencing.
- K- has a singing part with her friend C- in the Kindergarten Christmas program.
- I have plans to start my Christmas baking today! I'll have to let y'all know the progress tomorrow.
- Snow! We're supposed to get snow! :)

Have a wonderful day!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Works for Me Wednesday: The concept of the three gifts

Since the summer when the "Santa can bring me that" started, we've been discussing with our dear child the concept of the three gifts. Simply put, we tell her that if three gifts were good enough for Jesus, they are good enough for her.

It has forced her to really weed out the drivel of just wanting everything. She wants a Barbie themed Christmas. That's fine. We can deal with that. We have the Barbie Vet, Barbie Doggie Park and the Barbie Glam Vacation House. (I found the BGVHome for $40.00 at Toys R Us after Amazon pre-saled it for less, but never received it and wasn't slated to have it until well into the new year.)

Now, it isn't that we couldn't afford to do more. It isn't that I'm not having a hard time thinking, "Will that fit into her stocking?" We think that it is important to concentrate on the reason we are celebrating the season. We have lavished many lovely (clearance) items on K-, with the outcome turning into a Hanukkah style Christmas, since she suffered from gift opening fatigue. We have found that our best way to deal with Christmas is to go themed and go small. I mean, last year when she announced, "I want that!" and I realized the commercial she was watching was for shampoo, I knew that we had to nip the "I wants!" in the bud. When I told her that it was for shampoo, she laughed and said, "Oh."

That is what works for us!

Smiles in my day:
- Beginning our Jesse Tree Advent devotions in the evening.
- Julia and I resolved to have a better day. I put forth a very conscious effort to have a much better day with even the most demanding customers.
- Though we have lost our friends as walkers with us in the morning, we're still hoofing it and having a great time. They said it is too cold for them!

Have a great day!

Tales from the Trenches: Agida

Julia discusses agida. State of mental aggravation? Check.

The retail public puts me into a crabby mood this time of year.

Everyone is in a hurry.

Everyone assumes I'm an idiot because I work behind a cash counter.

Everyone assumes that I'm unable to take a price tag off.

Everyone assumes that I can drop the customer that I'm currently helping in order to help them.

Everyone needs every blasted thing wrapped, regardless of whether it is 50 cents. What the heck is up with that? I mean, really. If you don't want to wrap it because it is so small, it doesn't mean that I want to do it anymore. (I'm not kidding about the 50 cent thing. They were erasers.)

Everyone assumes that I know exactly who they are every trip they make past the counter and drop items off because they CAN'T CARRY A BLASTED BASKET TO KEEP THEIR TINY PURCHASES WITH THEM! (Keep in mind that I help other folks as they "add to their pile.") I mean, do you really have to walk by the counter and drop off every $2.00 item individually because you can't be bothered to carry it or a basket to contain your items? I only have so much counter space.

Free gift wrap is just that. I do a beautiful job. Please don't stand across the counter and whisper complaints to your friend because I didn't wrap your Christmas items in red and green. I can hear you. I'm not deaf. When you questioned my use of brown on a Christmas gift, I showed you what I was using and defended my choices. You seemed fine. Your friend told you how gorgeous the $5.00 magnets were that I individually gift wrapped for you.

Do people really need to come to the gallery drunk in the middle of the afternoon? Oh, my favorite is when they fall all over themselves playing with very loud toys in the toy room.

People really need to teach their kids that when they tell them NO they mean NO. If you tell your kid to follow you (we thank you for that, by the way), then you need to actually make them follow you, as opposed to bargaining. You are the parent. They are the child. Wear the mama pants and BE THE PARENT!

They purchased new white paper for us to wrap in. It is like wrapping in crunchy organza. They may have been trying to save money, but I have to use extra amounts of it. I'm costing them more money.

I have a co-worker who has issues with personal space consideration. Keep in mind that I am claustrophobic, so this time of year can put me on edge. The entire counter can be empty and she'll be standing right. next. to. me. Move down, please. I did find a way to work around it. I just need to get ribbon from our drawers instead of off the rods. She has to move down to let me in.

When I leaving Giant Eagle the other day, I noticed the Salvation Army worker silently standing there next to her kettle. I grabbed a buck and put it in, as I was saying, "They don't let you ring the bell, do they?" "No, they don't." SHAME ON YOU, GIANT EAGLE!

And for the top of my venting list today:

To the person in the parking lot of Hallmark,

I stopped by Hallmark to purchase a Star Wars ornament set for my daughter. They didn't have it in stock, so I was in the store for just 5 minutes or less. I just wanted to let you know that as I briefly shopped, you allowed your stray cart to bash into the driver's door of my year and a half old vehicle. You managed to dent my car door in two places because you were unable to take your cart to the corral. There are many in the parking lot. The funny thing? I had three free parking spaces on either side of my car. I don't know how you managed to do it, but now I'll be paying to fix the dents that you left behind. Thank you for costing me at least $100.00 to fix the problem from your laziness.

I hope that your vehicle doesn't become victim of someone's negligence like mine did.

Few people realize that there are people out there that take care of their vehicles. We purchase our vehicles and have them forever. I wax mine (no small feat) a couple of times a year, as well as wash it regularly. That particular side of my car has already been repainted twice due to a stoning with a weed eater (and a blown window.) So, thanks. The car isn't paid off yet, though I have two lovely cart dents staring at me every time I get into my vehicle. It's like the knife is being twisted slowly.

I know, I know. It is just a thing. Even so, it irritates me. I park at the back of parking lots and hike into stores. I steer clear of cart corrals and on Black Friday, I even parked at Staples in order to go to Kohl's, clear on down the parking lot.

It's not like I'm a front space taker.

Please put your cart back in it's proper creature home. Oh, and if you do bash into someone's car, at least a note of apology would be nice.


Smiles in my day:
- Leftovers warmed and on the table for dinner when I got home.
- I made it to the post office this morning and the Christmas cards are on their way. So is the package I needed to send out. Little did I know then, but I do believe that the recipient really needs a lift this week. Hopefully the surprise box will make them smile.
- K- writing her first, middle and last name on her paper. Because we sing it to BINGO, she knows how to spell it!
- My dad coming to check out our fuse box. Good news is that everything is fine and I was just being paranoid.
- I cleaned our computer desk Monday morning. Wow. It needed it.
- Taco leftovers for lunch.
- K- actually ate most of her lunch on Monday! It's been forever since that has happened. I bought some shaved chicken lunch meat for her to have a sandwich and made little crinkle cut carrot coins. Both were almost all gone. Hooray!
- I hung the K-'s school calendars up on our kitchen door so that I don't miss another Show and Tell. She was very forgiving about it this last time, but I felt horrible. With this month so jam packed, I didn't want to miss anything. I'd rather have the calendars hanging, then to have my kid miss out because mommy was so preoccupied.
- $5.00 subscriptions to Real Simple and Southern Living Magazines through I was able to purchase a few for gifts!
- Free shipping at Snapfish, so I was able to order a minimal amount of photos with free shipping. It only cost me $2.68! I ordered the picture of the chalky kid hands holding the lime green nicotiana to use as thank you cards for K-'s birthday. Perfect!
- 10% off and free shipping at the Vitamin Shoppe! (We get Hubs' work out stuff through there.)
- More points by buying all that stuff through! That means more gift certificates! I'm saving for Easter for K- right now. Hooray!

Forgive me for my venting. (Tuesday is my day.) Thanks for lending an ear.

Have a great day!

Monday, November 30, 2009

And we're off!

It was like I could hear the gun shot that signals the start of a race. Folks, the season is here.

Our season started off with the Thanksgiving Eve baking o' the pie. Tradition is that each Thanksgiving morning is started out with a piece of pumpkin pie. K- even knows this! Mom told me that I've had pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving breakfast every Thanksgiving except for my first, where I ate Cream of Wheat due to my refusal to drink milk as a baby. (True story. I've always hated the taste of milk and Mom put me on Cream of Wheat at 6 weeks old. And yes, Janeen, I can see you twitching.)

Thanksgiving morning came with the smell of rising rolls in the air. While I baked those, I readied the turkey. That was 7 AM and the stove wasn't turned off until 12:30 PM. Everything was ready for a small lunch, as we were going to my mom's house for Thanksgiving dinner. (Yes, I cooked everything that I cooked so that we could have leftovers!) We hung out there for a few hours. My sister and I divided the newspaper and conquered creating our day after shopping list.

Leland fell out of the highchair and onto a rug, but is fine.

My brother felt the need to continue to give my sister and me "wet willies" even though we begged him not to. I didn't think it was funny the first time, but the continued "willying" really took my nerves to the end of where they could possibly be. He prepared a plate of leftovers for home, then went off roaming somewhere. I added a note to his plate (under the foil and in a plastic baggy) that said, "My dearest brother, Please know how much I love you. I could have messed with your plate of food, but I didn't. Realize that I thought about it, though. Love, Amy." To think, he never called me about it. Hopefully, that will end his "wet willy" adventures. Unfortunately, he's 6'4" and I'm about 5' 3/4". It's not like I can successfully tackle him.

Thanksgiving evening, my in-law's stopped over for pie. Their dinner had been later than anticipated, so they were with us for about 40 minutes, but it was nice to have them stop in.

When they left, I hopped in the tub and got myself into bed. 3 AM sure comes early!

My sister ended up here at 3:45 AM on Black Friday morning. We stopped by Circle K to get caffeine, then we were off. We went to Kohl's, found what we needed, then stood in line for an hour to check out. No kidding.

We went onward to Target. We were there 1 hour after they opened and almost all of their opening sale items were gone. No big TV that I was going to pick up for my in-law's. (Since I was out!) No $3.00 appliances. (My sister wanted a cheap coffee pot for the garage.) We found a few odds and ends. The line reached around the store. I remembered something, though. I sent my sister to the end of the line and went to the jewelry counter. The kind cashier was cashing out small orders. I called my sister. "RUN!" She did. We were in and out of Target in 39 minutes. The line? 5 minutes or less.

After Target, we decided to hit Walmart. I seriously have to say that I hated my Walmart experience. Things they had advertised ($3.00 jammies or kids jogging suits) were no where to be found. I mean, not a display or anything. The items I purchased were end cap castoffs. I found two Star Wars sweatshirts for K-. One had a smudge of dirt and the other was crammed into a display of men's pajamas. Another item I picked up was Barbie on a bike. My sister found some things, then we went to stand in line.

Folks, never allow me to pick a line if you are ever shopping with me. It is like I always choose the short line at the Department of Motor Vehicles. You know the one! It is for farm tractors or specialty vehicles.

Oh sweet love of all. I ended up behind a family that had three full carts. They were overflowing. It looked as if they were there at start of sale. I figured that it would go quick, since a chunk of what they had were in big boxes. My sister and I talked. We people watched. Then we started really watching. We didn't really notice what was going on until they started checking the girl out in front of me. The family had developed a discard pile on the floor at the beginning of the belt. I noticed that in that pile was a half consumed Starbuck's beverage. (Not paid for, of course.) The girl had the cashier run a subtotal after every item. Then she was switching things. She didn't want this. Well, maybe she does want that. "You overcharged me." Her credit card was declined. The coworkers started moving in closer. I noticed a guard standing 5 feet from the girl, with her hand ON her gun. (No, we weren't in a back alley Walmart.)

The girl and her family were trying to trip the cashier up and walk away with merchandise that confused the lady enough to think that the girl had paid for it.

I admit that before I realized what all the people were doing, I finally said, "Oh for God's sakes! Can't you make a choice?!" The girl was about 10 feet from me and I doubt that she heard me. I couldn't take it anymore! My mom called at the same time telling me about snow, she couldn't see the ground, where were we . . . I said, "Mom, I really don't care about snow. I have 4 wheel drive. I'm stuck in a line at Walmart with a girl that can't seem to make a decision and my nerves are SHOT!"

After the girl left, I'm sure with a line of Walmart employees tagging her, the cashier apologized. I apologized and explained that I couldn't understand what was going on, but I knew it wasn't her fault. She said, "Everytime they come in, they do this."

A known family. Hmm.

To note, I've never had a Black Friday experience like that ever.

My sister and I decided that we were done. We had to go to Lowe's to pick up some items for the men in our lives and we were going home. I picked up an apology poinsettia for my sister. It was on sale for 99 cents. She asked why? "Don't ever let me choose a line again." "But, you did so well at Target!"

I went home, dropped some things off and decided to do another tour. I found items that I bought for K- cheaper, so I took others back and Hubs was loving on a Stainless Steel water bottle that I bought at Kohl's. He wanted one for his stocking. (A not so subtle hint.) Long story short, I ended up at home at about 11:30 AM, feeling as if I had put in a full day.

Hubs and K- were putting the Christmas tree up. They got it lit and passed it on to me. First, I took a short nap.

I started the tree, but admit that it rolled over to Saturday, too. K- and Hubs worked on the lights, which took all day since our mama dear seemed to be having some illumination problems.

Saturday morning came and I started working on the tree. After what added up to probably 9 hours or more, the tree got done. Later in the evening, Hubs noticed that I made the front of the tree so dripping in ornaments, that he needed to tie it to the wall since it had a pretty pronounced lean forward.

For the balance of Saturday, we worked together and managed to decorate the rest of the house. We did a really awesome job!

Our evening ended with us curled up, watching National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. I was so spent, that I fell asleep before K-.

That brought us to Sunday morning. It was our last door greeter morning, so we had to be there at 8:30 AM. Since the Festival Choir sang in the morning service, we had practice at 9:15 AM. I ended up skipping Sunday School, as I would only be there for 15 minutes anyhow. When church was over, we met up with Kim and her husband, as we waited to pick the kids up. They'll be coming over for dinner on Friday, then we'll be going to get the kids their second installment of the H1N1 shots. (K- is beyond thrilled. Add much sarcasm, please.) I left Hubs to fetch K- as I tried to score K- a Star Wars ornament from Hallmark. (More on that story tomorrow.)

On my way home, I decided to loop past Walmart to return a handful of items. I waited and waited, then had a guy line jump right in front of me. Apparently, he had waited before and needed to even exchange pants. It kind of irritated me, but I felt really bad when Walmart gave me an additional $9.96 in refund. You see, I accidentally purchased a Blue Ray disk of Wedding Crashers for Hubs the other day (call it extremely tired), it went through at $10.00 instead of the $2.00 DVDs and we don't have Blue Ray anyhow. It returned at the price of $19.96 and before signing the receipt, I called it to the attention of the sales associate. He told me that it was Walmart's fault, there was nothing he could do about it, he appreciated my honesty, but he was still going to give me the extra money because he couldn't fix it anyhow.

So I picked up some groceries we needed.

I came home, had a bite of lunch, then started to tackle the Christmas cards. I absolutely HAD to have them done this weekend. K-'s birthday is December 20 and I include the birthday invite in with the cards. It is a personal goal to get them out Thanksgiving weekend. (Or at least complete in this case.) I'll stop by to post them on my way to work.

But the printer gave me fits.

I couldn't get the font to download properly and I spent a lot of time on it.

In the end, the birthday invites look okay, though I wished that I had the Star Wars font. That's fine. They are done and Hubs was impressed. K- likes them. They are the only two that matter, right?

I've been cooking this weekend and admit that I've really enjoyed getting back into the kitchen. We ate Thanksgiving Thursday, Friday and Saturday afternoon. K- and I couldn't take it anymore, so I made us turkey tacos (from ground turkey) and refried beans and cheese. We had that after church for lunch, too. Sunday evening was turkey meatloaf and couscous. Hubs liked it so much that he went for seconds. K- and I still have enough of our half to have it again this evening for dinner.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings will be gift wrapping nights. (I haven't a box wrapped though my shopping is done.) Thursday my goal is to start my holiday baking. I'll let that roll over to Friday, too. I figure that if I can give Thursday and Friday of a few weeks, I'll get my baking pounded out. Saturday is Lowe's and the Santa Shop for K-'s school. She's been busy doing many chores and being extremely helpful so as to earn money to shop with.

We had to institute a new fine system with K- though. I keep seeing her sneaking the sucking of the thumb. I told her that for each time we see her sucking her thumb when it isn't bedtime, it is a quarter fine. So far, she owes us one quarter. She cried and cried. We've got to break her of it. She only does it now when she is tired, but we really need to ditch it altogether eventually.

My smiles for the weekend are included above. Hope that you have a great week!