Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What's for Dinner

I am COOKING dinner tonight. Can you imagine? And B is not even home. I told a friend of mine that I would bring dinner over. They're having a sad day because they had to have their dog put down. She was old and frail and deteriorating. Having gone through that with our cat, Adelaide, last year, I know what a downer it is. So I thought I would give them a nice dinner to look forward to.
I'm making Beef Burgundy. It's a recipe from way back in the Moms Online days. I've been making it probably since 1996 or so (at least back in the days when I actually used to cook!) Never actualy met Cheryl, the person who posted the recipe. Her screen name was Nickaduck, she was a message board buddy.
For today, I increased the recipe by one half to feed both the other family and me and the girls. So instead of 2 lbs. of meat, I used 3. Instead of 1 cup of wine, 1 1/2 cups. Etc. etc., etc. With it, I'm making mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls and a salad with greens, toasted pecans and blue cheese dressing. No tomatoes. My friend doesn't like tomatoes in her salad.
This smells heavenly while it's cooking in the crockpot all day! It's also good with rice or with noodles.
"Back in the day" I used to have a specific bottle of wine that I used for this recipe. When I went to buy wine yesterday, I had no clue what kind to get. Any hearty, dry red wine should be fine. Technically, burgundy is a region where wine is produced, not an actual kind of wine. From what I can tell, the red wine is close to pinot noir. A cabernet would be good too. DO NOT USE MERLOT! It makes it a funny grayish purple color. I used a Cote d'Rhone - completely different region. But I like the wine. And I try to use a cooking wine that I actually like to drink.

Beef Burgundy - Nickaduck

Recipe By : Cheryl (
Serving Size : 6 Preparation Time :0:00
Categories : Beef Crock Pot

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
2 slices bacon -- chopped
2 pounds sirloin tip or round steak -- cut in 1 inch cubes
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon marjoram
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 clove garlic -- minced
1 cube beef bouillon -- crushed
1 cup Burgundy wine
2 tablespoons cornstarch
mushrooms -- sliced

In large skillet cook bacon several minutes. Remove bacon and set aside. Coat beef with flour and brown on all sides in bacon mixture. Combine steak, bacon drippings, cooked bacon, seasonings, bouillon and Burgundy in crock pot. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or until meat is tender. Turn control to high. Add cornstarch (dissolved in 2 tablespoons water); cook on high 15 minutes.
Add sliced mushrooms with cornstarch mixture, if desired

Rant of the Day

:::::::rant on::::::Our neighbors across the street have been working on their house since FEBRUARY! Every day, there are at least two -- usually three or four -- contractor trucks. This family has three cars of their own, and they park them on the curb in front of their house instead of in the driveway. So the contractors park in front of my house.
It's a mild annoyance. I don't particularly like having workers hang around every day, but that's okay. But occasionally things get out of hand. Today, they are having gutters replaced. Not only are the trucks parked in front of my house, but they are blocking my driveway and my mailbox. They have stuff strewn all over MY lawn and they are walking on our grass as they go in and out of their trucks.
I just went and spoke to them and they did move their trucks further down the street so they're not blocking our mailbox. The mailman won't deliver if he can't get to the mailbox.
I just wish this endless renovating would be over. I can't imagine WHAT is left to do. Just when I think i's over, the painter trucks, tree removal, plumbers, carpenters, electricians, etc. show up again.
::::::rant off:::::: Have a good one!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Crusade of the Day

The Overprotective Mom strikes again. M came home from school on Friday, all up in arms because her teachers told her that girls weren't allowed to bring purses to school anymore. The school already has a rule about backpacks. You can bring them to school, but you have to put them in your locker at the beginning of the day and leave them there until you leave at the end of the day. During the day, in and out of classes, you can't carry backpacks.
But purses have always been a different story, and both MandL have been in the habit of carrying purses during the school year. Girls of that age NEED their purses. Especially at certain times of the month, KWIM?
Well, I thought it was curious that L wasn't told this rule by her teachers. So I inquired at the office this morning when I was dropping off the PTA newsletter for proofreading. The school rule is that girls can carry purses as long as they aren't oversized, like book bags or tote bags.
So I've emailed M's teachers to ask about the new policy. If it's a rule only for their team, then they need to let parents and students know what's expected. I asked for them to put something in writing explaining the reasoning behind the rule and exactly what the rule is.
So, I'm on the warpath, waiting to see what the outcome will be.
Update: M's Science teacher called me tonight. Apparently, a fashion trend towards large bulky purses has become burdensome. The directive to leave purses in lockers is coming from the administration, but isn't being unilaterally enforced as of now. Apparently he called M out of class and spoke to her this afternoon. And she was mortified, of course! He said her purse is "large" but there are many more that are much larger and that she's welcome to bring a small purse to class, but she'll have to leave the bigger one in her locker.
It sounds like the teachers will be talking about it more at a meeting and hopefully come up with a clear policy.
So, I'm satisfied that they *can* have a purse, just not a big one.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

All Quiet on the Home Front

The girls are off at a church retreat for the weekend. B is home, although he is asleep at the moment as didn't get off a ship until 3:30 am. The cat is snoozing.

I'm trying to complete the PTA newsletter. Deadline! Pressure! Thank goodness for quiet house and an empty day to accomplish it.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Overprotective Mother Update: Snark Alert

Just have to share a snarky comment. Last night was Open House at the girls' school. Thank goodness B was home! He went to M's classes and I went to L's. Except for first bell German. They are both in that class together. Their teacher actually told me, "They are so happy to be together!" I thought I would fall over. She's kind of nutty and wacky. But then I asked them about it. L said, "Yeah, I don't really talk to N***** or S**** and the rest of the kids are kind of weird. M's the only one that won't laugh at me when we're practicing our German words.' ??!?!? What? Could it be? They actually LIKE each other finally? Just a little bit? For 50 minutes in the morning?

Okay, that wasn't the snarky part. It was snarky. But off-topic snarky.

The snarky thing is this... The mother, the one who said I was overprotective because I sometimes wait at the bus stop in the morning? She -- or her husband -- did NOT attend Open House. Harumph. (:::::::::snark mode off::::::)

The Other Queen

One of my favorite blogs, Book Club Girl has a new post about Philippa Gregory's newest book, "The Other Queen." There's a video of the author talking about the book and even a giveaway!

I've been a fan of Gregory's books for many years now. A friend insisted that I would love "The Other Boleyn Girl." I was skeptical. I'm not much for historical fiction, it was a big paperback and the cover made me think that it was some kind of bosom-heaving Fabio romance novel. But, I gave it a chance and was hooked. It's the story of Henry VIII and the beginnings of his relationship with Anne Boleyn. It was made into a movie that was released earlier this year. If you saw it, let me assure you -- THE BOOK IS BETTER!

Philippa Gregory has released several other novels about Tudor England since TOBG, and the latest one has just been released. "The Other Queen" is the story of Mary, Queen of Scots. I can't wait to read it!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Overprotective Mom

I am pondering a comment that M made to me today. First, some background. The girls' bus stop is at the end of our street. It's not a far walk, but it is a walk. I can see the corner from our house if I look out an upstairs window. All through elementary school, we (either B or me or both, depending on our schedules) walked the girls down to the bus stop each morning and met them there each afternoon. If it was raining or cold, we drove them down. We waited with them until the bus picked them up each day.
Starting in middle school, we still went with them in the mornings (usually I was meeting my neighbor to go walking after they got on the bus), but we let them walk home by themselves in the afternoon. I still pick them up if the weather is bad. In 7th grade they started going up to the bus stop themselves, but I watch from the window. So far for 8th grade, they are going on their own and I still watch from the window. But if I am going out at the same time the bus comes, say to yoga or the gym, I drive up at the bus stop with them.
I have to know that they get on the bus safely. It's just a thing with me. I just can't rest easy unless I know they're on their way. Sometimes the bus schedule is erratic. On more than one occasion the bus has been late, or not come at all, and I've had to drive the kids to school.
For another thing, our neighborhood is swarming with contractors every morning. It seems every other house has a landscaper, painter, carpenter, tiler, exterminator, roofer or other worker at their house during any given day. That's a lot of strangers in and out of the neighborhood. It makes me a little nervous sometimes. So I just like to have a visual that the kids get on the bus.
There is only one other kid at our bus stop. Since 3rd grade, she has always come to the bus stop alone. Her parents leaves for work before the bus comes. If it's raining or cold, she stands in the rain or cold unless we invite her to sit in the car with us. And yes, I have driven her to school with the girls when the bus never arrived.
Well, M mentioned that this girl, said, "My mom said that the reason your mother is so overprotective is because you are her only kids."
?????? I'm so overprotective? Because I make sure they get off to school in the morning? This mother doesn't know anything about me except that I occasionally wait with the kids at the bus stop! The girls have never socialized with this particular girl because, well frankly, they don't like her. Back in 3rd grade, she and M had some conflict - she actually hit M during a kickball game in PE. And her lack of self control is still evident in 8th grade. The first week of school, she took a writing assignment out of another boy's notebook on the bus and proceeded to tease him about it and then rip it to shreds.
I'm going to be stewing about this all day. I don't know why I'm letting it bother me. I know that I'm not overprotective. We give the girls plenty of age-appropriate freedom. But we do insist that we know where they are (generally the swim club or a friend's house) and that they have a cell phone with them.
I feel like this mother is in judgement of me somehow. It's that old working mom vs. stay-at-home mom defensiveness. That somehow she is saying "She has nothing better to do than be neurotic about her kids" because I start my mornings by getting them off to school even though they're 13. That she is critcizing my parenting in some way.
Okay :::::::inhale:::::::exhale:::::::: I have better things to do than worry about this. Like pick up L during her lunch bell and take her to get a smoothie because her jaw is aching from her orthodontic work and she can't chew. And call the school district office and order a copy of their English text book so they don't have to cart that mammoth hardback book back and forth to school. And work on the PTA newsletter.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Friday Feast

Okay, I didn't quite get this up by Friday. So we'll call it Monday Morsels this week.

What is the weather like today where you live?

HOT! Hot and summery. The girls were at the pool all day (last day that it is open for the season). We had a taste of fall earlier last week, but it felt like summer all weekend. I am not complaining, though, considering how bad things are in Texas.

On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being highest, how career-minded are you?

What type of window coverings do you have in your home? Blinds, curtains, shutters, etc.?

Shades on most all the windows. Vertical blinds in the family room on the sliding glass door. Pretty much valance type curtains on all the windows. The only room that has drapes is one window in my bedroom.

Main Course
Name something that instantly cheers you up.

My cat.

How many times do you hit the snooze button on a typical morning?

None - I don't wake up to an alarm.

Answer these about yourself by posting a comment - or answer on your own blog and leave a link!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

What Will I Do?

My (latest) favorite make-a-meal place is closing down at the end of the month. This is the third one in the last year. Boohoo. A little history: I'd started patronizing a "meal-preparation-center" a couple of years ago. It's a place where you go and make dinners, and then keep them in the freezer until you're ready to eat them. This was such a lifesaver for me. I like to cook, but I HATE making dinner. I hate trying to think of what to make. I can't plan ahead to save my life. I never had the right ingredients on hand. I was annoyed when the girls complained about what I made. And so often I was away from home during the pre-dinner preparation window.

So this was truly a good solution for me. I'd stock up on 8-12 meals at a time, which would last us about a month. (We eat out a lot, and I don't really cook a full dinner when B is working and not home for dinner.) Most of the meals took about 30 minutes to prepare, but they were quick and easy and complete -- I didn't have to remember to buy tomato paste or cilantro or teriyaki sauce. And it worked out to be fairly reasonable - about $20-$25 a meal. It would cost me about the same to purchase the groceries to make those meals. (Sure, I could spend less on groceries, but not to make the variety and quality of food that we got.)

For a while, business seemed to be booming. Five of these meal preparation centers (MPCs) opened within months of each other. But now they've started dropping like flies. First, one changed to only pick-up, ready-to-eat meals. Each week they have 2 choices. Not what I'm looking for. Then the next one shut down their local store and consolidated with a store in another location, one that's too far and too inconvenient for me to do very often. Then the latest, my favorite, announced this week that they are shutting down. Boohoo.

There are still a couple of places left around town. But they are part of national chains and a lot of the food is pretty processed -- using already frozen ingredients or things I can't really identify. The places I'd patronized previously were independent, local places, using fresh ingredients and with a chef doing the prep work.

So, what will I do now? I might have to actually *cook* dinner every night! Eeek!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Your Birth Verse

I thought this was neat. You enter your birthday and it generates a scripture verse based on the numbers. For example, mine is John 10:29, "My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand."

Try it for your own birthday, and then leave a comment and share the verse!


Saturday, September 6, 2008

Hanna Update

8:14 am: Getting windier and there have been some downpours. Power went out about 6:30 am but came back on by 7:30.

10:30 am: Rain has stopped, but still some wind gusts. Power has flickered a couple of times but has stayed on. We're getting bored. L just woke up. The girls don't know what to do with themselves since the swim club (their social hub this summer) is closed. B is playing Guitar Hero.

1:30 pm: Pretty much a done deal. Still occasional wind gusts. Everyone is being way lazy.

3:24 pm: Power is off again. The generator is running so we have tv and wifi. And a functioning kitchen, so we can cook dinner. Not that I'm planning to make dinner. It's CORN -- Clean Out the Refrigerator night.

8:34 pm: Neighbors came over to hang out. They don't have a generator. Just as they rang the doorbell, the power came back on. Everything is clear now. B and I went for a walk about an hour ago. Lots of debris (leaves, sticks, pine needles) everywhere, but all looks good. One of our neighbors had a tree fall down and crash down on another neighbor's shed. Hasta la vista Hanna!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Friday Feast

I am copying this from my friend's blog: Is It Morning Already?

When was the last time you had your hair cut/trimmed?

It was mid-August. I get it cut and colored every six weeks. I never leave the salon without scheduling another appointment.

Name one thing you miss about being a child.

The freedom from responsibility... knowing that my parents would take care of things.

Pick one: butter, margarine, olive oil.

On toast: butter. For cooking: olive oil.

Main Course
If you could learn another language, which one would you pick, and why?

Probably Italian. We became friends with a family from Rome while they were stationed here for a couple of years. We're hoping to go visit them next summer.

Finish this sentence: In 5 years I expect to be…

Healthy, wealthy and wise.

Hanna is Headed Our Way!

Tropical Storm Hanna is supposed to make an appearance this weekend. Not much is expected, just storminess ... rain and wind. And it is supposed to pass rather quickly because Sunday is supposed to be a lovely day. This morning started out quite sunny and nice, but the clouds are thickening up now and I expect the rain will start by the time the girls get off the bus.

The last time we had a hurrican threat was 2003, with Isabel. We didn't have any damage, just a power outage that lasted several days and lots of debris everywhere. The kids missed a whole week of school, though, and ended up having extended days for the second semester of school.

We have a generator now, so even if the power goes out, I'm not too worried. Our generator runs everything in our kitchen, family room, and master bedroom/bath. So if we lose power, we won't be suffering too much, except for a lack of air conditioning!

Hanna is not the last show of the season though; I'm worried for those in the path of Ike next week.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Confessions of a Shopaholic

Last night I saw a preview for the movie of Confessions of a Shopaholic. It looks like it won't be out in theaters until next year, but I am looking forward to it. I enjoyed the book -- and the follow ups (Shopaholic Takes Manhattan, Shopaholic & Baby, Shopaholic Ties the Knot, Shopaholic & Sister). Sometimes it's weird when books are made into movies -- the book is always better! But this looks like it will be cute. I hope that it will be appropriate for the girls to see also.

BTW, I saw the preview while watching the premiere of the new series, 90210. I used to love the original show ("back in the day" - how did I get so old?), but I'm not sure what to make of the new one. Definitely racier. One of the first scenes shows a guy sitting in a car with a girl's head in his lap, ahem. Nothing explicit shown, just implied. The girls want to watch it, but I just don't know. Still have to think about it some more. I wish there was a way on the DVR to edit out that scene!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

First Day of School

It's the first day of school! Here are some pictures. We have a tradition of snapping some pictures before they leave for the bustop.

8th graders!

And now some pictures from past years:

3rd grade

4th grade

5th grade

last year - 7th grade