Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving Thanks

What a year it's been.

Our lives have changed in ways we never could have imagined. And while there have been some very difficult times, we have so much for which to be grateful. A wonderful family, true love, good health, delicious food, a warm home, and good jobs are at the top of a very long list of things I'm very thankful for.

We also want to thank Deb and Bill for loaning us the boys for an overnight visit, and wish you both a very happy 25th wedding anniversary!  And thank you for hosting our wonderful Thanksgiving Feast.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Happy Birthday to my (Insert adjective here. Choices: wonderful, amazing, awesome, babalicious, thoughtful, warm, kind, loving, sweet, charming, smart, funny, talented, handsome, generous) husband.  Do you realize that we've been together for 30.23255% of your entire life?!  

Kevin, I love you with all my heart and I am the luckiest woman alive because I'm married to YOU!

Here's to the next 30.32355%

Monday, November 19, 2012

of Frugal Living and Clean Freezers

I mentioned in an earlier post that Debbie and I recently had a cooking/stock the freezer day. As we were putting our recipes together, Deb asked me where I was planning on putting our take for the day. Seems like a silly question, right? I mean, of course the answer is 'the FREEZER!'.


Knowing me as she does, and knowing what my poor freezer looked like, it was actually a really good question!

You see I tend to be a freezer hoarder. Well sort of. I don't hoard freezers, but I do have a tendency to hoard items that go in the freezer, which typically results in freezer overload. Last year, this was made even worse because each time I'd buy groceries fully intending to cook at home every night, things would come up and we'd end up stashing things in the freezer and either eating PB&J instead, or grabbing a bite when we were on our way to wherever we were headed - usually the hospital or the rehab facility. When we moved over the summer, I thought I'd get it cleaned out once all of the boxes were emptied and we were settled in. Then, we had a major heatwave and it was just too darn hot to be out working out in the garage.

Alas, I ran out of excuses, so on the Veteran's day holiday this past Monday, I FINALLY got to the freezer and gave it a good, thorough going over. I tossed things that were either freezer burned or past their prime; I washed down shelves and bins; I re-organized where everything is housed. It took me over two hours to get it all done, but in the end, I had such an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction! I just have to share it with you. When Kevin saw it, he claimed that - besides the day we first bought it and got it home - this is the cleanest it's ever been. The sad thing is, he's probably right! Okay, without further ado, here it is: (Deb, don't faint when you see it...)
Isn't it wonderful! I am SO glad to have this task done. It's been on my mind and bugging me for a while; it's nice to be able to cross it off my to-do list - finally! And okay, I have to admit, I went to the store this morning to pick up a few deals and added them to the freezer. But they are all things that we need/will use shortly.

...which leads me to the frugality portion of this post.

I love stocking up on seasonal deals. Especially with grocery prices sky-rocketing, it's nice to feel like I can save at least a little bit here and there by using smart shopping strategies.

My birthday is right around the corner and Kevin wants to cook a special dinner to celebrate (how sweet is that?!). We were talking about it yesterday and he mentioned prime rib (ALWAYS my fave!). As it happened, our local Fresh & Easy stores have prime rib advertised as a seasonal special for just $4.94 per pound. The regular price is $8.99 per pound, so this is definitely a deal. F&E also has a really good spiral sliced ham (think: Honeybaked, but at half the price). It is also seasonally priced at $1.47 per pound. I have one in the freezer right now, but I always like to have a couple of these on hand. They are such a quick, festive, delicious meal - and so easy to cook. Plus, they always yield great leftovers - the ham hock for soup, bits and pieces of ham for soup and scrambled eggs, a slice or two for sandwiches. Mmmmm - all good in my book! A few more deals: celery for just .49 cents; a 10 pound bag of russet potatoes for just .98 cents; fresh green beans, buy 1 bag and get another free. A trip to Fresh & Easy was definitely in order. I stopped by there this morning (since we're off this week - YAHOO!) and did a bit of shopping. I bought all of the aforementioned items and a large stock *filled* with Brussels sprouts all for just ...$42.11! I bought a prime rib that is just under 8 pounds and a ham that's nearly 8 pounds. I was also able to use a $10.00 off coupon - YAY! So, the additions to the freezer from today's take are the prime rib, ham and 2 pounds of fresh green beans. Gotta love those seasonal deals!

My next stop was Ralph's. A few weeks ago I received a coupon for a free pound of bacon. Out of the blue - no particular reason. Sure, I'll take that! I also signed up for a Bzz campaign that includes some new products from the Ralph's Private Selection line. They were out of one of the products, so I'll save that coupon for later. BUT - I did walk away with a 1 pound package of smoked gouda cheese, a jar of tomato and sweet basil pasta sauce and a pound of bacon - all FREE. My Ralph's receipt has a verified total savings of $13.17! Over and above these items, I'd already received a one pound package of Private Selection coffee and a box of Private Selection water crackers as pack of the Bzz kit - also FREE.

I've definitely been scoring lately and finding some GREAT deals! All of this makes me one happy camper. Having a full freezer and full cupboards makes me - and our bank account! - breathe a little easier.

WOFA Memory Book Event

(This is kinda strange. In looking over my blog, I saw that there were a few items in the 'draft' stage. Hmmm...I didn't even know they were there! I decided to publish this post even though it's about two years old. The subject is actually pretty close to right on time and hey, better late than never, right?! I think I didn't publish it when I first wrote it because I made one of the Memory Books for Deb. If I'd published it, she would have seen it before I gave it to her as a gift. Not good. At any rate, here it is!)

We have a women's group at work - WOFA - and we get together over the summer to have some fun. Well, actually, we get together during the school year, too, but the group was originally designed to maintain contact over the summer. We've done all kinds of fun things! Manicure/pedicure evenings, Bingo nights, movies, and craft days.

In July we got together to make Memory Books. One of our teachers made them with her family and brought them in to show everyone ... and we all fell in love with them! So she decided to host a craft day so that we could all make one of our own. They are so much fun to make! They take much longer than you would think they would ... but then again ... I'm pretty particular about what goes with what, so maybe it just took me longer =)

Anyway - here's a peak at the final results. I'm really happy with it! I guess I shouldn't really say 'final' result - we still need to add our pictures and our comments to the book. So, it's mostly finished ...I need to add a picture to that open spot on the front page.On the pullout card, it asks questions like "What is was your favorite Christmas gift when you were growing up?" or "Where is your favorite place to celebrate Christmas?" We each have a card in the front pocket to add our responses. Because it's such a family tradition, I added a page with our family peanut brittle recipe. YUM! The last page is for more Christmas memories ... favorite Christmas song, favorite Christmas movie, etc.

I loved this WOFA!! I had so much fun! Poor Linda probably thought I'd never leave her house because it was taking me forever! In fact, I ended up bringing everything home and just finishing it up here. She's going to have another Memory Book event in a month or so. I can hardly wait!

Hostess with the Mostest

I admit it. I didn't want to let Hostess slip away without a fight, so I scoured a few local stores and bought a couple of things.

At the first store, the only items left were the donettes; everything else had been swept off the shelves. Not bad though. I love those little powdered sugar donettes! And of course for Kevin, my choco-holic, I had to get the chocolate covered donettes =)

The next store was a bit better. I found the cupcakes, crumb cakes and chocolate filled twinkies. I was disappointed to not find the vanilla creme filled twinkies, but at that point, it was buy it before it's gone, so I did. When I was a child, they didn't even have chocolate filled twinkies, but what the heck. Other than the donettes, I didn't really plan to eat them myself. A box of the cupcakes and the twinkies are a fun 'gifty' for Pat and Drew (which they are very excited about!); the crumb cakes are for Deb; Kevin and I will keep the second box of cupcakes and may or may not eat them. But I'm definitely saving the box.

They're talking about another bakery - Bimbo - buying some brands of the Hostess Bakery. I'm glad to hear that and I hope they do. It's just that ... well, I wanted tangible evidence of the Hostess that I remember.

...and I'm glad I have it; it goes well with the wonderful memories already emblazoned on my heart.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Pieces of Childhood Falling Away

While I was driving to work yesterday around 7:00 a.m., I heard a story on the radio about workers at Hostess Bakery plants across the country being on strike. The story said that the company was giving the workers until 5:00 p.m. to call off the strike and go back to work; if that didn't happen, the company would file bankruptcy and close.

On the way home from work, the same radio station said that the deadline had come and gone, but many of the workers were still on strike. The hold-up, apparently, was between two different unions. The workers from one union settled and agreed to go back to work, but the workers from the second union couldn't come to an agreement, so they maintained their strike. The company stated that, while some workers had returned to work, it wasn't enough to continue with business as usual. What was to happen to Hostess? A final decision hadn't been announced, but it definitely looked bleak.

Wow! I was pretty shocked to hear this news. How could it be so? Driving a delivery truck for Hostess was my Uncle Randy's livelihood for years. I never had any clue how much he made, but it was enough to support he and his family of 6 until he retired. Hostess has been around forEVER; surely they would never really file for bankruptcy! How could they? I mean really, who doesn't have fond memories of opening their lunchbox to find a crinkly cellophane package containing a light, golden cake filled with cream filling?! Ahhh - a Twinkie! Maybe the next day you'd be delighted with a foil-covered, chocolate enrobed Ding-Dong. Mmmm. How could Hostess just cease to exist? I know that people are more health conscious now then they were when I was growing up, and hey, I love a good quality whole wheat bread myself. But still, there's something to be said for freshly made egg-salad sandwiched between two soft, squishy pieces of Wonder bread. Delish!

This morning, the final decision was splashed all over the news: curtains for Hostess. They confirmed that they were filing for bankruptcy and closing their business.

I know it sounds silly, but hearing the news broke my heart. Granted, I've not had a Hostess Twinkie in over 30 years but still, knowing that I could have one if I wanted to, well ... it made it seem like all was right with the world. Know what I mean? Now that it won't be there - well, it makes me feel like a piece of my innocence has fallen away. A lovely piece of my childhood is gone. POOF! Just like that, vanished into thin air.

Call me sentimental, but when things that have brought me wonderful memories of pure joy disappear, it makes my heart ache. It makes me long for a time that was sweeter and more gentle. makes me miss my mom and dad.

As if losing the iconic Hostess Bakery weren't enough, I read another article today that indicated Sears was all but bankrupt and the rumor is they will be liquidating soon as well. Great. Another beacon of my childhood years on it's way out. When I was a child, Sears is 'where America shopped'. And we were the all-Americans who shopped there. I can't tell you how many school dresses (um, no pants as, by mandate of dad, they were not allowed for years to come!), and winter coats and summer play clothes were purchased at Sears Pasadena. And how many of you remember walking into Sears and being hit with the powerful aroma of fresh popcorn? In our store, that section was on the upper level. If we were very lucky, we'd head up there at the end of a shopping trip and mom and dad would treat us to something yummy. I wanted popcorn, Deb wanted non-periels (you don't need anymore clothes!), and dad would get a quarter pound of cashews. At that time, mom wasn't much of a sweets-eater, but now and then she'd indulge in chocolate covered peanut clusters. I swear, sitting here thinking about it, I can almost smell that popcorn right now.

The moral of the story? If there is one, I suppose it would be to enjoy what you have in your life while you have it. Having treasured memories - of people or things that meant a lot to you - will make it less painful when they're gone. least that's what I'm hoping.

Cooking for the Freezer

Last Saturday we had girls day at Deb's. During the week when we talked about it, we kind of hemmed and hawed about what we should do for the day. Shopping? Always a possibility. But no, that costs money. A fall festival? Nope, not much going on that day. The boys baseball game? Yes, but something else first.

We decided that it would be really productive, not to mention beneficial, if we each chose a couple of simple recipes, made biiiiiiig batches of said recipes, and stocked our freezers. YEP! We have a winner!

Deb chose meatloaf and quiche. I chose soup and pasta. We each shopped for groceries ahead of time, met at her house, and began the cook-a-thon.

We mixed and measured and chopped and poured. Stirred and ladled and cooked and cored. Packaged and labeled - no time to be bored! (Sorry for that ... I just got started and couldn't make myself stop ;o) When all was said and done, we each came away with 3 bags of meatloaf, mixed and ready to bake; 2 leek, ham and cheese quiche; two pans of chicken and sundried tomato penne; and a big stock pot full of beef barley soup.

Spending time together, filling the house with a warm, homey aroma, and filling our freezers with 8-10 time saving, delicious dinners. All in all, not too bad a take for about 4 hours worth of work!

Love you, Deb!

Sunday, November 04, 2012


...that's what a hamburger's alllll about.
Last year on Halloween, Kevin and I stopped by In'n'Out for dinner before our trick-or-treaters arrived. While we were in line to get our food, the most adorable lil' guy went up to the window with his parents and he was dressed like an I'n'O employee for Halloween. Spectacular! It's the perfect costume: Iconic, easy, and something that all of our kids at school can identify with. Brilliant! When we approached the window, I asked Kevin to ask the guy for two of their paper hats - which he willingly obliged, and our costumes for this year's Halloween celebration were born.

While going through things at the house this past summer, I ran across two large safety pins - a distinctive part of the In'n'Out uniform. A couple of weeks ago, I hit my favorite thrift store and found a red, square table cloth and cut it in half so we could each fashion an apron. Kevin found the I'n'O badge template online and printed them out for us to add that realistic flair. A white shirt and white pants completed our look.

From the moment we got to work, all of our kids at both of our schools loved the costumes! They kept telling us all day that they wanted a double-double, or a 4X4, or they wanted their burger animal style...and don't forget the fries. Lemonade, rootbeer or a shake...quite the dilemma. Our costumes were a major hit.

Sometimes it really IS the simplest things in life that are the best.

...and yes, I do want fries with that - thanks! ;o)

Happy Halloween!

I don't recall Kevin and I ever carving pumpkins together, which means, of course, we haven't carved pumpkins in over 12 years! We've bought pumpkins with the intention of carving them, but never actually made it to the carving stage.

Well this year, we finally made the effort and got a little 'pumpkin gut' on our hands (charming terminology, don't you think?)

Thankfully we didn't carve them too early. In fact, our timing was just right; we carved them Tuesday night, lit them for our trick-or-treaters on Wednesday, and by Saturday morning they'd grown hairy and my little punkin' had sunk-in'.

No matter, we had a really fun time carving them, then seasoning and roasting the seeds. After the jack-o-lanterns were complete, we sat down to a snack of warm, freshly roasted pumpkin seeds and some nice, cold apple cider. Mmmmmm.

I just love fall, don't you?