Christmas Cheer

Come on guys, we’re gonna go Christmas caroling. Won’t that be fun?

Do we get paid for it?

Um, yeah, that’s the Christmas spirit.

We do?

NO!!! How is that spreading holiday cheer if we get paid? We sing outside people’s homes to bring joy to them. We do get cookies and hot chocolate afterwards, however.

img_3140

pjdaddy with my mom and graham and madeleine. Garren is with, who else? Mariah.

img_31431

We had a pretty good crowd show up. It’s funny because we went down the same neighborhood my youth group and I used to carol on when I was a teenager. There was less of us back then, so we were able to be towed on a flat bed and sit on bales of straw. Very cool.

There was probably about 100 people there on this night and it was neat to see all the people come out of their homes so they could listen to us sing. One house, that just happened to be my Godparents’, knew we were coming and had hot cider and brownies waiting for us.

img_3137A photo of the crowd with my family

img_3138Here’s everyone scattering because of cars. Bruce, the guy with the guitar is my old youth group leader and one of the kindest souls you’ll ever meet.

We finished and went back to the church social center for cookies and hot chocolate. It was  a lot of fun. I’m hoping  that it’ll be a good memory for my kids and when they’re older maybe they’ll pass on the tradition to their kids.

Advertisements

December Nights at Balboa Park

I’ve always loved Balboa Park, noooo, not the part where the men hook up for sex in the public restrooms, the part with the museums. Back in my early 20’s they had one museum a month free. Aside from the beach, this was a fun activity for a starving college student.

Another thing that’s really cool about Balboa Park? “December Nights” It was called, “Christmas on the Prado” when I was a kid, but it’s still the same. Santa, The Nativity, The Christmas lights, hot chocolate and holiday cheer.

Pjdaddy and I took the kids Friday night. It was wonderful. We took a 2nd cousin who’s 5, not sure if he’s “removed” or anything because I don’t know how all that cousin stuff works, and we went with some long time friends. We brought the cousin thinking he’d play with Garren, but it turns out he developed a crush on Madeleine and spent the evening walking into walls and being silly to make her laugh. At one point we were in line to see The Nativity and he and Madeleine were having a deep discussion about what were to happen if they got lost, he told Madeleine, “I will never leave you. I am a boy and it is my job to take care of little girls if they get lost.” The people behind us thought it was hysterical. I did too. 

They had an ethnic food fair and an International Christmas Festival at the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages. My kids got to try soda from Sweden, a chocolate dessert from Scotland and my non-adventurous children ate hot dogs from America.

img_3073

You know how many shots I went thru to find one where I didn’t look like a complete and total lard ass? And no, I have no idea why pjdaddy felt the need to spread his legs SOOO freaking wide. Although he has impregnated me 6 times. IYKWIMAITYD. Here’s our family Christmas photo taken in front of a big tree they light up every year. No, it didn’t dawn on me to actually get a picture of the tree.

Our kids got a picture with Santa. We waited in a long line to see him. Interesting how well behaved kids are when they’re in line to see “The Great One”. I didn’t have to behave as I already knew I was getting coal. They have it set up so you can see Santa, but if you want a picture with him, you have to pay $5. Of course if you don’t pay to get a picture with Santa, you get stink eye. I got a whoooole lotta stink eye as kid, after kid, after kid, after kid, after kid went and sat on his lap and my friend Laurie took their photo. In all 6 kids got their photos taken. Santa told them to hurry up and get the show on the road. If he’d actually asked him what they wanted for Christmas he prolly would have told them they’d shoot their eye out, or something to that affect. He did look like Santa however, so I’ll give him that, but that’s it!

img_3093

I’ve never seen Gavin so fascinated with anything as he was of Santa. Unfortunately I didn’t get the photo, but he turned and just stared into Santa’s eyes with pure awe. Santa took every photo with his mouth open. Cotton mouth anyone?

Here’s Graham finding out I want him to sit on Santa’s lap.

img_3087

Ha, just kidding Graham. You can stand next to Santa.

Poor Garren was starting to not feel so well and wound up looking like crap in his Santa photo. To make it up to him, I’ll post a picture of him at the train museum.

Madeleine insists on having me take photos of her eating all the time. “Mom, take a picture of me eating this.” Mom, take a picture of me eating this.”  I freaking hate pictures of me like that. I picture people thinking, “no wonder she’s chunky, she doesn’t stop eating” . “She’s eating in every picture.” ” COW!”  Issues much?

img_3089

My Godmother, Shirley, was kind enough to buy ALL the kids hot chocolate and a ginger bread cookie.

All the museums were free that evening, but the kids were getting pretty worn out by this time and wanted to go home. There was however, one museum that was required visiting as far as I was concerned. The Train Museum. Garren and Gavin are obsessed with trains and I would be a fool to not hit this place when it was free.

img_3113

Poor kid looks miserable doesn’t he?

We found out too late there was a beer garden, but all in all it was a wonderful evening. Oh, and it turns out they still have free museums on the first Tuesday of the month, but it’s even better now, all the museums are free that day.

Did I mention I’m glad to be back home?

Dere’s Uh Alligator In Dere

We finally made it home to good ole Lakeside, Ca. I drove in with the 4 kids about 2 hours after Thanksgiving had begun. I was really freaking happy to get to see all my family in one spot on return from my sojourn.

It’s funny the things one takes for granted in one’s environment. I remember when we first moved to Florida, pjdaddy and I were trippin’ on how flat it was. Not a hill in site. There was one area in our community called Fort Caroline Hills. HAH! Look at the picture of it.

This is the equivalent of a speedbump in California.

He and I missed the mountains. We missed the view, but mostly we missed the snow and snowboarding. We were really excited to leave the First Coast and return to the Left Coast.

When driving about town I don’t let the kids watch DVDs in the car, because I want them to look at the scenery. The drive across country was completely different. I packed every DVD we owned in the van. I was not going to listen to “are we there yet?” for the entire 2338 miles. DVD players in the car rock. The kids were strapped in their seats and I was able to force musicals down their throat for a good portion of the trip. These kids will be exposed to the classics if it kills me/them. Yes we watched Monsters Inc. but they wound up loving, “The Sound of Music” and “My Fair Lady” and “Annie” and “Oliver”. It was fun to show them that the nun in the first musical mentioned also played Mary Poppins in another movie. I even got to introduce them to Abbott & Costello. They were a huge hit. I’d never have been able to get my kids to sit down and watch these flicks any other way.

On the trip out to Florida years ago I’d bought the two oldest disposable cameras so they could take pictures of their trip and to give them something to do. I found them undeveloped as I packed for our reverse move. I learned my lesson not to develop their photos after I paid for 24 pictures of Tom & Jerry on TV.

I had this fantasy that we’d pull over at rest stops and have little picnics with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and cheese sticks, hard boiled eggs, yogurt and juice. I was going to save money and we were going to eat relatively healthy. Hah, yeah right.

Screw that. We went thru McDonald’s and Jack in the Box’s. I even made them, yes I did, I’m gonna say it, are you ready? Pee in cups. I couldn’t believe it when my dad wouldn’t stop for us to pee on trips and we had to go in cups, but because I’m a kinder, gentler person than my dad, I at least stopped the car. It’s soooo much faster that way.

Luckily we had some fake internet friends Sohos and Count, who graciously allowed us to stay at their home in Houston. They couldn’t have lived anymore on our route if they tried. Hopefully we became real friends after meeting them even though I did steal their USB cord. It’s in the mail, really. Course Count is the man who told my children that if they sang, 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” really loud 3 times in a row they’d be able to fly. I only still love him because he took my kids fishing off his parent’s dock. Sohos couldn’t go because she has to work. She needs to quit so things like that don’t happen in the future.

 

img_2980

The kids had a blast. I wanna have one of those in my backyard.

img_3003How many times have I told you NOT to eat the bait?!?!?!

Graham put his bait to good use.

img_3051

Oh you don’t want me to take your picture Garren? Ok, I won’t. Oh hey wow, look at the bug mommy has on her camera lense!

img_3018SNAP!!! Gotcha sucka.

Count even took us on a little boat ride. Gavin was freakin’, well for about a second.

img_3059

We stayed in Houston for two days to wait for poor pjdaddy to catch up as he was still in Jacksonville painting over tiny hand and footprints on the wall to make our home rentable.

So off we go on the rest of our trip. Our friend Dan Coffey, who seems to show up every time we move, ready and willing to help, showed up again. Weirdest part is he never knows we’re moving……he just has bad timing. He even helped us on our original move from Arizona to Florida following us across country driving our rental truck. Dan followed us this time as well. He coincidentally had to be in California today.

In addition to my “side of the road picnics” I thought I’d have, I also thought I’d take a picture of my kids in front of each state’s welcome sign. It was dark when I left Jacksonville, so it was dark when I hit my first state. Alabama. I didn’t see the sign till too late and there was no way I was gonna make a U-turn and unload the kids for a photo op. Oh well, nother idea down the drain.

About the time we made it to New Mexico, I realized my bottom 3 children had either never seen a mountain or couldn’t remember ever having seen a mountain. What a weird thought to me. The mountains I cherish so much. I was cracking up at how amazed they were at something I took for granted my entire life. My mountains.

We’ve been getting settled in. We’ve taken over my poor parents home until we figure out what we’re gonna do and where exactly we’re gonna settle here.

I took my kids to the park playground I loved as a little girl. There happens to be a lake there and I couldn’t get my kids to go near it for nothin’. I couldn’t figure it out till Gavin points to the lake and says, “Dere’s uh alligator in dere”. It took forever to convince them there weren’t any alligators here in San Diego County.

I’ve been trying to go everywhere and visit everyone since I’ve arrived. I feel like a dog. I need to pee on everything. You are my territory and I will mark you.

On one of our trips today, my bottom 3 kids started gagging like crazy. My daughter said, “oh mom, what’s that smell?”. It dawned on me that I have not smelled that particular smell ever in Florida or even in Arizona, but smelled it often in my hometown growing up. It was a skunk.

Welcome to California kids. It’s good to be home.

Pajama Momma- Doing Lame, Tedious Stuff So You Don’t Have To.

I’ve been trying to figure out ways to cut costs in my household budget. Not just because of the way the gas and food prices have gone up, but because as my household manager it’s the responsible thing to do. I’m trying to play catch up now from some of the more idiotic financial mistakes I’ve made in the past. As a stay at home mom of 4, cutting costs has become sort of a game for me. An obsession.

 I can remember back in the day (last year) when, by the time I bought product, I got out of the hair salon for just under $200 and my hair didn’t even look anywhere near as purty as John Edwards.

I found a really good hairdresser at Hair Cuttery, shocker I know, but this woman has a line waiting out the door for her. If I don’t let her blow dry my hair, it only costs me $13. I also color my own hair now. I wanted to find a way to get my box o’ hair color cheaper.

So I found this chick’s blog, I don’t know how I found it. It’s one of those I clicked on a link that lead me to a link that had me click on another link until I stopped. She has a post called, “Couponing For Dummies”

It was about www.thegrocerygame.com. I was turned off immediately.

I’d done this game when I lived in San Diego. Back then I didn’t care what kind of stuff I got because I was a fast food mom, poor Graham, it was all about convenience. That and I didn’t know how to cook worth squat. Most of the coupons were for crap food. It was also annoying because everybody and their brothersister did the game too, so if I wasn’t up at 4am, everything was gone and I got rainchecks from the grocery store. Ugh, just what I wanted, more paper to stick in my coupon organizer. I was also overwhelmed with the whole deal. I lost interest.

Now, that I’m all growed up, I’m less than impressed with coupons. It’s all crap cereal and fruit snacks, right?

Nope, wrong! 

I decided to peak at the grocery game again because it only a $1 for a 4 week trial. I can’t lose only spending a $1 right? I got the newspaper last Sunday and the first coupon I get is a $1 off Pampers. No Gavin’s not potty trained yet, he’s anal retentive, er penil retentive stubborn. I’m ok with that, he’ll learn, either that or the kids are really gonna work him in junior high if he’s still wearing diapers.

Anyhoo, “the grocery game’s” not just about coupons, it shows you where the best deals on food are in your area by tracking the sales trends for items. It also tells you when and where to apply your coupons if you want them. Just because you get a coupon in this Sunday’s paper, doesn’t mean you should use it that Sunday. It might not be good to use it for 3 more months. You’ll get deals on items like meat and produce and baby items and toothpaste and shampoo and razors and soap. Not just crap food!

The Sunday before last it took me the whole day to cut and sort and figure out what the heck I was doing and I started to wonder if it was worth it. I went to the grocery store and got $280 worth of items for $140. This Sunday was a lot easier because I had my coupon organizer and new what I was doing. sorta. 

However, because I’m still a skeptic, I wondered, well, what if I took the list the Grocery Game gave me and compared it to Super Target or Super Walmart and applied the coupons and deals there? Surely the box stores would win, right?

I took the 3 little ones with me yesterday to Super Target to do some comparison shopping with a plan of comparing to Super Walmart the next day. Don’t even bother to say it, I’ll tell you the answer right now. Yes, I do have too much time on my hands. 

Mom, why are we here so long and we aren’t we buying anything?

Mom, are we ever going to leave?

Nope, we’re gonna live here forever. See those tents over there? That’s where we’re sleeping tonight. We’ll finish your schooling in the book section and you can get married in aisle 9.

Mom, I have to go to the bathroom.

NOOOOO! We were just in there!

Madeleine it’s ok if you have Lisa Gavin be your puppy, but please don’t have him play dead in the middle of the aisle. People might run him over.

Here, here’s some chocolate. That will keep you guys quiet, well at least till it hits your bloodstream.

3 1/2 hours and 5 bathroom trips later we left and I tallied the results. The Grocery Game won. Sometimes in huge margins, sometimes by only pennies and on occassion, not at all. But all in all The Game won. Best thing of all? There’s boatloads of haircolor coupons in there. Now I just have to pick a color and stick to it.

There’s no way in hell I’m going to Wal-mart today for any more comparison shopping.

Pjmommy also got a job! Did I forget to mention that? It’s a grueling 6 hours a week. When I got hired I forgot to even ask how much I was getting paid because it’s obviously not a life changing amount. I’m only in it because I can take the little ones with me as I work in the daycare and my gym membership becomes free. I’m also hoping being forced to be there anyways will motivate me to workout more.

I’m tired.

[update] I should clarify that with the grocery game I’m not running to a gazillion different stores. I go to Publix (which is our local grocer) and CVS and they’re two shops from each other in the same complex.

Fishing without a license

Went to the beach to swim (about 5:30p) tonight. It’s nice because we are two miles away, so to jump in before dinner is not a big deal. The waves were a bit choppy but we managed, one wave got me though….I was getting pummeled. I recovered, but once up I felt something wiggling in between the upper half of my suit. What the …..????? I looked down, two fish! I caught TWO. Fish. In. My. Swimsuit. Mom mode kicked in and I showed Brodey and he got to hold the fish and then release  -it was quite neat to see.

After all the excitement, we sat and watched our son play in the sand for about 15 minutes and then it was time to get home. My husband got Brodey bathed, I poured more into my wine glass (from earlier) and then checked email. Time to shower for me and then it happened….. I pulled my suit down in the tub and out flopped another fish! Are you kidding me? I screamed, not sure why?…but I was shocked…Oh my, how long have I been walking around with a fish in my suit, ew! We figured at least 45 minutes. Gross. (please save all your “smells like fish jokes” not interested)

We got rid of it properly though….thank goodness for boys!

[update] as you can tell by the extremely clean shower walls, this is kare-kare’s post, not pajama momma’s

Mars And Venus In The Kitchen

No one can screw up an entire day of cooking better than me. Seriously, no one. I should have my own Food Network Show. “What NOT To Do In The Kitchen, With PJMomma”.

First I ruined my pumpkin cake, then I went on to ruin everything else. See this chili? Doesn’t it look good? Well it’s not supposed to be chili, it’s supposed to be stew, but I forgot to put the can of tomato sauce in. WOOT! WOOT! I rock.

The cornbread would have been pretty good, but the cornmeal had reached it’s expiration date several years ago.  I think I might have used it for a pizza I made in 1992 and then kept it in the freezer to lengthen it’s shelf life. It tasted freezer burnt.

Even though the kids soundly rejected it, I served it to pjdaddy as “chili” figuring the kids were just being picky as usual. And the few beans I’d had tasted fine to me.

I asked pjdaddy how it tasted and he looked like a cornered animal. I could smell the fear in him.

Look, just answer the question. Is it good or not?

*pjdaddy avoids eye contact

It’s fine. It’s good.

Oh no, hell no. I know what fine means. If I ask him how an outfit looks and he tells me fine, I might as well go naked. Tell me what’s wrong with it so I can either fix it or not bother making it again.

I think if I were to scramble up some eggs and have a tortilla with it, to balance out some of the salt it would taste good.

Ok, so what you’re saying is it’s too salty?

Look, you just don’t “get” me. No matter how bitter and salty it is, I’ll eat it because I know you spent all day making it and you poured your heart into it.

I will confess that actually made me laugh, but I still needed to find out what exactly he felt was wrong with it.

So it’s salty and bitter?

No, no, it’s just salty. And look, we saved $5 by me not making a trip to Arby’s.

Hah, it’s not worth the effort if we only saved $5. And you’re killing me. Why did we have to go through this entire conversation. Why tell me it’s bitter if it’s not?  Just flippin tell me it’s too salty!

We saved more than $5 because I’ll eat it again tomorrow.

No, I don’t want you to eat any more of it if it doesn’t taste good.

No, it tastes fine.

Ok I give up. I’m surprised the deer aren’t lining up in my backyard to have a go at the salt lick I call dinner. I just hope I can cook better today with Elvis Costello.

If any of you are “real” cooks, can you look at this recipe and tell me if it’d still be too salty even if I’d remembered to put the can of tomato sauce in? It seems to me, two bouillon cubes in addition to the envelope of taco seasoning would make it too salty anyways.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. rump roast or lean stew beef
  • 1 envelope taco seasoning
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes, Mexican style
  • 1 small can green chile peppers
  • 1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • two beef bouillon cubes or equivalent granules or base
  • 2 cans (15 ounces each) red kidney beans; rinsed and drained
  • Shredded cheddar cheese

Preparation:

Cut beef into 1/2-inch cubes. Toss with taco seasoning and add to slow cooker. Add the tomatoes, chile peppers, tomato sauce, onion and bouillon cubes. Cover and cook on low 6 to 9 hours or until beef is tender. Add the drained beans and cook until the beans are heated through; around 30 minutes. Serve topped with the shredded cheese and other toppings, as desired.

Warning: Do NOT Listen to Reverand Horton Heat While Baking!

You will be in the kitchen gettin all rockabilly with your bad self and you will not pay attention to what you’re doing and you will put 3 tablespoons of baking soda in your pumpkin cake instead of 3 teaspoons.

Your children will run from the table screaming and the dog will not even touch it. Your 2 year old will bring a water bottle to you and say, “put in the mouth, mom. put in the mouth.” Ok, he knows full well how to put water in his mouth. I think he was making a point because as soon as I put it in his mouth, he tried to gargle.

Thinking my kids were insane to not enjoy my mom’s recipe I tasted it myself and shot my blood pressure through the roof.

Damn, it was such a pretty cake too. It fell out of the pan. It was moist and was a great color.

For future, I’m just gonna have to put Simon & Garfunkel on instead. It’s easier to concentrate and measure and pour properly listening to them sing about the comeon’s “from the whores on 7th Ave” than it is to hear the Reverand sing about his, “Big Red Rocket of Love”.

For anyone that wants the recipe, when made correctly, it is divine. My mom used to make this when I was a kid, either with bananas that were on their way out, or pumpkin. I’m  not generally a fan of banana bread because I find it to be usually too dry for my tastes. It’s bread. This recipe is more of a cake and it’s nummy.

Banana/Pumpkin Bread Recipe

This recipe makes two loaves.

3 cups sugar (evil white processed sugar)

1 cup oil (I use coconut oil, it’s spendy, but it’s good for you, most “vegetable oil” is soy and I’m not a fan of soy the way it’s prepared today, processed and unfermented)

2/3 cup water

4 eggs

2 cups pumpkin or mashed ripe bananas

1 teaspoon cinammon

1 1/4 teaspoon salt

3 TEASPOONS baking soda

3 1/2 flour

1 cup chopped walnuts

mix, add nuts and bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes use 2 9 inch bread pans

I may not have gotten a picture of the cake, but I got a picture of a “really cool city” cool is subjective in this case.

please try to ignore how the dog has beaten the hell out of the door in the background. He’s bound and determine to get into that room and have a showdown with the trash truck through window. Oh yeah, he’d totally kill that truck if I’d only give him a chance.