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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2015 resolutions

Okay, so I need 10 resolutions for me and 5 for me and the kids. This year, I feel like my life has a bit more of a direction, which is definitely what I was searching for last year. The resolutions should be easier to make and mean more. Here we go:

10) Stop smoking

9) Stop biting my nails (for real, this is ridiculous)

8) Go to the gym 3 times a week

7) Eat three meals a day and drink at least 4 glasses of water a day (I need to start feeling better).

6) Publish 100 pieces

5) Graduate grad school

4) Make $350 a week

3) Get a book deal off proposal

2) After school, get a job or increase earnings to $600 a week

1) Finish one of the many books I have floating around that are started and left for dead.


5) Keep them at being nice human beings 75 percent of the time (this is too new for me to trust it).

4) Get them up and ready in the morning quickly and quietly.

3) Make them do chores every single day. Remember to pick chores back up after sickness

2) Have them read every day.

1) Get them over this intense competition.

Okay, 2015. Let's do this.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 Resolution check-in

Every year I do a bunch of resolutions. I write out a nice long list, then never look at it again. Not because I don't want to do the things I set out to do, but because the resolutions are more of a general guideline of where I'd like my life to go in the next year, and I like to forget entirely about what I promised myself, then check back in the next year, and see what I had thought I would do versus what I actually did do.

Usually, I do this a little more privately, but this year I figured what the heck? May as well do it here.

So, here were my resolutions from last year. Below each resolution is how I did. I'm leaving in last year's introduction in because reasons.


This year, I need to be more focused. I need to concentrate on myself (ack, I hate even typing'll see what I mean.) I need to stop wasting time on a bunch of little things, and tackle and complete a few big ones. We shall see.

I'm nervous because 32 is supposed to be my best year. (When I was 16, I decided that 32 would be my best year, and 26 would be my second best year. 26 was the best and the worst year of my life so far. That's the year I had the babies. ... Of course, when I was 16, I also decided I'd die in a car crash at 31. And, so far so good?) CHECK. NO DEATH.


10) Quit smoking.

Nope. I mean, I kind of tried a few times. But definitely didn't quit. 0 points

9) Finish Holy Seed

This is a book I'd started a while back. I didn't even look at it this year. 0 points

8) Write parenting book

Nope. 0 points

7) Get 10 pieces published (not counting Huffington Post or Buzzfeed).

Killed it. I got 57 pieces published in 21 publications, not counting Huffpo or Buzzfeed. 2 points (extra point, because come ON. I killed it).

6) Do well in school

Done. All As. 1 point

5) Live healthier (go to the gym more, and eat better. Stop drinking so much wine, stop eating anything after dinner).

Nope. I got so sick and injured this year that I had to stop going to the gym. I just started going back two weeks ago. And I still eat like shit. And stop drinking so much wine? What was I thinking? 0 points.

4) Read 12 books. (try to read every gd day).

Nope. I still can't get through The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. I've been not-reading it allllll year. 0 points

3) Go to bed by midnight every night, 11:30 p.m. on nights the babies have school.

Done. Being sick and injured all year helped. 1 point

2) Publish REDACTED (again), and write one more novel.

Done kind of. I was able to resell that book, but I only got 8,000 words into the next novel under my pen name before that essay kind of changed my path. .5 points

1) Improve my platforms.

Done. I increased Twitter and Facebook followings by a fair amount and my blog got a lot of hits. 1 point

**Extra** make $100 a week.

Done. Starting in July, I began making money from writing for the first time. In those six months, I made enough money that it comes out to more than $100 a week for the year.

1 point.

So, out of 10 points for the year, I got 6.5. That's a decent haul.


5) Get them to be nice human beings 75 percent of the time (stuck at 40 percent)

Amazingly...DONE. Up until October they were still pretty much horror shows, but after making a lot of big changes in how I parent, I've got well-behaved children right now, and have for two months. What even? 1 point

4) Stop yelling at them. (OMG OMG PLEASE STOP YELLING AT THEM).

Done! One of the huge changes I made in my parenting in October was to stop yelling at them. And I was actually able to do it. 1 point

3) Read to them every day.

I'm going to count this as done. They read themselves now, so I don't have to do this. 1 point

2) Have them do chores every day.

Half done. When they are sick, I stop making them do chores and then I forget to make them start doing them again for a few weeks by accident. But they do them when I tell them to. .5 points

1) Get them to accept that they are different girls and can do different things.

Done...mostly. We still have random freak-outs where one won't eat something because the other doesn't want a snack, or something equally baffling, but compared to last year? So. Much. Better. .5 points.

So, out of five kid-points, I got four. Damn good, I'd say.

Stay tuned for this year's goal list.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The toy haul - Best and worst

Well, it's the week after Christmas, and it's time to look at how the new toys are doing.

At six, for the first time, the heavy-hitting, expensive presents have outranked the cheap stocking-stuffer type gifts.

Most popular presents this year:



Seriously, the girls have been riding for hours every day since. A Christmas vacation saver. For real.

Second place goes to the Kidzoom cameras that also have games and a voice modulator. The girls take them everywhere.

Next up came the karaoke machine, followed closely by the archery stuff which was really just an upgrade from their birthday present of bows and arrows which they loved.

This is loud. We need to buy karaoke CDs. I can't wait. Yay.

Uno has been a surprise hit with three 2-hour games having already been played.

Now for the worst.

Very surprising fails are the tablet video games and the new TV (just a 32-incher). I'm guessing their stock will go up as the bike/puppy excitement wanes.

The walkie talkies would be a hit. If I could figure out how to make them work..

The Play Doh hasn't been touched, and the six-billion-piece Frozen activity sets were happening just long enough for me to have to unwrap the pieces, They now stand ignored.

In all, the girls had a very excellent Christmas thanks to our generous family members and friends.


Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Children - 2014

Each year, I grab a photo from each month to show my kids' growth throughout the 12 months preceding. It's fun to see the change from start to finish.













For better comparison:

January 2014

December 2014:

A little taller, a little bigger, but really pretty much the same, no?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Recipe - Golden Santa Bread (fail)

Making Golden Santa Bread was sure to be a horrible experiment gone wrong, and my lacking skills didn't disappoint. Labelled "meth Santa" by my friends, I won't be bringing him to any parties for people to nom on any time soon.

To make this masterpiece of modern science, see the recipe below the video.

4 to 4-1/2 cups bread flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup butter, cubed
2 eggs
2 raisins
2 egg yolks
2 to 3 drops red food coloring

  1. In a large bowl, combine 2 cups flour, sugar, yeast and salt. In a small saucepan, heat milk, water and butter to 120°-130°. Add to dry ingredients; beat just until moistened. Beat in eggs until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a stiff dough.
  2. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 350°. Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide into two portions, one slightly larger than the other.
  4. Shape the larger portion into an elongated triangle with rounded corners for Santa's head and hat.
  5. Divide the smaller portion in half. Shape and flatten one half into a beard. Using scissors or a pizza cutter, cut into strips to within 1 in. of top. Position on Santa's face; twist and curl strips if desired.
  6. Use the remaining dough for the mustache, nose, hat pom-pom and brim. Shape a portion of dough into a mustache; flatten and cut the ends into small strips with scissors. Place above beard. Place a small ball above mustache for nose. Fold tip of hat over and add another ball for pom-pom. Roll out a narrow piece of dough to create a hat brim; position under hat.
  7. With a scissors, cut two slits for eyes; insert raisins into slits. In separate small bowls, beat egg each yolk. Add red food coloring to one yolk; carefully brush over hat, nose and cheeks. Brush plain yolk over remaining dough.
  8. Cover loosely with foil. Bake 15 minutes. Uncover; bake 10-12 minutes longer or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Yield: 1 loaf.

For more, check out Taste of Home (not my home, though). They're better at this than me.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Recipe -- Cornish Hens

This year, Thanksgiving turkey was enough for me, and since I've already tried duck (disaster 2011), I thought I'd go for a slightly different bird. Enter cornish  hens. They are so small, I figured they'd be tough and gamy, but I was so wrong. They came out great. I will be making them with this recipe for many more holiday meals.

This whole holiday meal took me less than two hours to make, and since there were only four of us, we still have tons of leftovers. Here's the best recipe I found for the tiny hens.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).

Rub hens with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Lightly season hens with salt and pepper. Place 1 lemon wedge and 1 sprig rosemary in cavity of each hen. Arrange in a large, heavy roasting pan, and arrange garlic cloves around hens. Roast in preheated oven for 25 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a mixing bowl, whisk together wine, chicken broth, and remaining 2 tablespoons of oil; pour over hens. Continue roasting about 25 minutes longer, or until hens are golden brown and juices run clear. Baste with pan juices every 10 minutes.

Transfer hens to a platter, pouring any cavity juices into the roasting pan. Tent hens with aluminum foil to keep warm. Transfer pan juices and garlic cloves to a medium saucepan and boil until liquids reduce to a sauce consistency, about 6 minutes. Cut hens in half lengthwise and arrange on plates. 

Spoon sauce and garlic around hens. Garnish with rosemary sprigs, and serve.

This is just from allrecipes.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

christmas is the pits, family version


no, seriously, i have been refreshing facebook all goddamn day waiting for something to be christmas-y enough to make it feel like i took the --

OH MOTHERFUCKER. i let my kids play in the fucking pouring florida rain because i literally cannot handle any more, and that lasted five stupid minutes. now one of them is wet and crying and won't change because she's playing a game with her sister whom she also wants to kill because she just doused her with shit-filled florida puddle water, but omg game though. also can i dry her dress by hand while she plays the game, and fuck you christmas eve. why did you think you could type on a keyboard at any point during school vacation?

-- anyway, christmas-y enough to make it feel like i took the horrible three-hour flight -- where my kids will have to go to the bathroom four times each and spill their fucking peanuts and cry -- to my ma's where it's probably snowing its ass off. she has no heat so the whole family, all BILLION of us, would sit around in stinky-ass slippers and three goddamn overcoats hoping someone will make a joke that's actually funny soon, and did anyone get uncle tommy whiskey this year?

but, no. my sorry ass is here, looking at stupid "my year has been great" facebook reels while i ignore my filthy, mudtrodden, 90-degree house and think, LIES. ALL LIES.

no one's fucking year was great, okay? for a hot second, i consider lining my sopping kids up in the living room to sing their version of jingle bells because they say whore instead of horse and that is literally the jolliest thing about christmas this year. get them all ready in front of our fake-ass tree with the bulbs on all sideways and only on the top half because we bought this puppy and not related but i'm sure that thing is shitting in the house somewhere right now. probably on the presents we couldn't afford that i tossed under the guest bed that never gets used because ain't no one visiting this hellhole. which is a damn shame since i make a really great disgusting jello mold for christmas. it's red and green and everything, motherfuckers.

at least my dad is texting me lines from christmas vacation. the only christmas movie that means a damn thing.

all i want is a whole pan of fudge i didn't have to fucking make and goddamn lifetime christmas movies where some woman younger than me is convinced she's never going to have my life and she's so sad about it she ruins christmas for everyone until she throws on her expensive purple coat, crashes a bar, gets smashed and meets the man of her dreams and VOILA. christmas fucking saved on the tiny-assed tv screen we have because again BROKE AS FUCK.

i like to watch those movies so at the end when they ride off on a sleigh pulled by stinky, probably almost extinct reindeer (i don't know if that's remotely true), i can laugh, down an entire glass of wine and yell at the box in my house like it gives a shit -- THAT'S NOT THE END OF YOUR SHITTY STORY, DUMBASS!


so i just gloat to myself. just wait, tv heroine. your time is coming.

but i can't even do that because like two hours ago, i have to drag my brood to the grocery store in the pouring rain on christmas eve because we ran out of fucking eggs, and as a stay at home mom for fuck's sake the least i can do is make waffles on christmas morning out of the cheap waffle maker my daughter bought me for christmas with my money as i pretended not to look. we also need milk, and fuck, i don't know, more fucking jello.

then tomorrow i spend my whole day cooking. i got cornish hens this year because i don't know how to make them so when i fuck it up there's a legit reason to get takeout. oh wait. before the cooking, there's the 5 a.m. wakeup call because nothing says christmas like childhood greed that cannot be contained. i'm keeping the vodka straight next to the coffee so i don't forget tomorrow.

and lol my kid 'forgot' to take her sandals off before trying to take off her soaked christmas leggings and since i'm not helping her ass she's fake crying for her daddy because she thinks that makes me mad.

newsflash, kiddo, ain't nothing you can do to make me mad. also, i'm santa, so we'll see who's mad tomorrow.

just kidding though because it wouldn't be american christmas if millions of parents didn't overload their already spoiled brats with the newest frozen gear and games with a gazillion pieces that they'll have to clean up over and over again when those same kids leave that shit all over the floor to go play with a goddamn box or piece of ribbon or something. and as a typical american family, you bet your ass i'll help uphold that tradition.

then i'm going to post all the pictures on facebook and instragram and twitter and everyone will be jealous of my beautiful girls, their awesome presents, and our amazing, through-thick-and-thin love for each other.

which isn't a lie.

but neither is this.

merry christmas, singles.

for serious, this year, you go do whatever the fuck you want. drink one for us families while you're out.

(written in the style of bitches gotta eat, who is WAY funnier and more natural at this than me. GO THERE. READ IT FOREVER. IT WILL MAKE YOUR HOLIDAYS BETTER, I SWEAR).

Monday, December 22, 2014

Recipe: Christmas Jello Shots

These took a while, and tasted...okay. They looked great though, even though I messed up like a million times. Shows it can be saved.

1 3-ounce box cherry gelatin dessert
1 3-ounce box lime gelatin dessert
3 packets unflavored gelatin
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups vanilla vodka
36 dollops whipped cream (for garnish)
36 mint leaves (for garnish)
72 small red candies (or 36 if using just one for garnish)


Lightly coat a square dish with cooking spray, and then using a paper towel, wipe out the dish. It will leave a light residue to help unmold your shots, but it won’t affect the taste.

For red layer, sprinkle half of a packet of gelatin over ¼ cup of water. Allow it to soak in a minute or two. Add one box of the cherry gelatin, along with 1 cup boiling water. Stir until everything has dissolved. Add 3/4 cup of vodka. Repeat the same process to make the green layer.

To make the white layer, sprinkle two packets of gelatin over ½ cup of water. Allow it to soak in a minute or two. Pour in 1 cup of boiling water and one 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk. Stir until everything is thoroughly mixed and gelatin is dissolved. You’ll have approximately 3 cups of liquid. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Pour half of the red mixture into the prepared pan. Place pan in refrigerator to set, about 20 minutes or so. Once set, add 1/3 of the white mixture to the top of the red mixture. Pop any air bubbles and return to fridge to set for about 20 minutes. Repeat with half of the green mixture. Then white, then red, then white again, then green. Allow finished pan to set another 2-3 hours, or overnight.

When you’re ready to serve, gently pull the edges away from the pan, and invert onto a cutting board. Slice into even squares. (Alternately, you can just cut in the pan itself, but it might be harder to remove the first few squares).

Place on serving platter and top with whipped cream, using a piping bag or can. Top with a small mint leaf and a red candy (or two) to simulate a holly leaf.

Friday, December 19, 2014

What I'm teaching my kids about Christmas -- Guest Post

My little girls are still small--1 and 4--and they're into the holiday season. They love all of it: sparkling lights, Advent calendar chocolates, an Advent amaryllis that grows and blooms over several weeks, Santa in a musical snowglobe, the Chanukah menorah, and the Christmas tree with a bright star on top. They love hearing their Grandpa Ira's recorded rendition of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," and they love dancing and singing to Christmas music, especially by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

All these things are part of our Advent/Christmas ritualizing, but come Christmas Day, before (or maybe after) the flurry of presents, I'll add something more. I'll tell my daughters the story of a young woman named Mary who said yes to an extraordinary possibility, even though she could much more easily have said no. I'll tell them about Mary being pregnant with God's Word for nine months, and I'll remind them that Advent is the time when the world celebrates being pregnant with God's Word here and now. I'll tell them the nativity story from the Gospel of Luke, and I'll share with them how Jesus was laid in a manger, a feeding trough, so he could become the Bread of Life.

Advent and Christmas are occasions for joy, and they're occasions to teach my kids about some of the wonders of Christian faith: that God loved humanity so much that God became one of us, that a woman's consent changed the fate of the world, and that the world's salvation became food for those who hunger. I'll remind them that we, too, are part of the Body of Christ, which means we are also called to feed the hungry, and I'll talk with them about the donations I've made to the food bank every time I've shopped during Advent. I'll teach them that Christmas is about receiving the gift of God's presence so we can learn how to make our own presence into a loving gift for others.


Kate is the married mom of two precocious tots. When she's not chasing them or dancing around them or singing at the top of her lungs with them, she likes to drink coffee, make yummy food with her hubby, edit other people's writing, pray, and write edgy pieces on religious topics. You can check out her blog, Thealogical Lady, at (And, for the record, that "a" in "Thealogical" is no accident.)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Wrapping presents – A whistle stop tour of how to do it neatly -- Guest Post

I know Darlena has posted before about not being able to wrap presents neatly; I never used to be able to either, but I've learned by observing others, and I once wrapped a round cake tin into a perfectly square package without using a box or any cardboard reinforcers, so I've been on both sides of the fence.

Sidenote: I know that a post like this would be infinitely better with photographs, however, what I have in gift wrapping abilities, I definitely lack in getting technology to talk to each other, so although I took some photos, I have no idea how to get them on to the computer (yes, in this day and age!), and therefore I'll just need to paint that verbal picture. Also, for all of these, I'll leave adding ribbon, bows, tags or other embellishments for after, but think about what you want to go with what – if you have a busy paper pattern, for example, you'll probably want a plain gift tag, and no ribbon.

The biggest tip I can give regarding wrapping is to use enough resources – enough paper, enough room to spread out, enough equipment, enough concentration, enough tape, enough time. Most people that I've seen do a bad job of wrapping presents don't allow themselves nearly enough of these resources.

I have found that by far the easiest place to wrap presents is on a dining table/large desk. Clear it off properly first, don't just bunch the clutter up – but if that really isn't possible, the floor is easier than the bed, in my experience.

What equipment will you need? Obviously, paper. Get plenty of it. More than you think you will need, by about half. Paper is often reduced in January, so you can stock up ready for next year – but make sure you have somewhere to store it where the ends don't get damaged, because otherwise you'll lose any savings in cutting off the damaged pieces. A 12''/30cm ruler is essential, as is a pencil. Tape, obviously, and scissors to cut it if you don't have a dispenser; although with tape, I find that more pieces, shorter in length, works a lot better than trying to get one long piece to behave itself. There's no reason to have a piece of tape longer than about 2'', in my experience. For wrapping certain items, elastic bands (later covered with ribbon) are also invaluable.

My secret weapon for cutting the paper, though? A letter opener! Or use the blade of a long pair of scissors if you don't have one.

Make sure you allow enough time, too. 20-30 minutes per parcel, and if you're wrapping both a box and its lid, count them twice. Break the wrapping up into a few chunks if you can, or at least take regular breaks.

If you can, depending on who else is around in the house and what you need to keep secret, try and separate your wrapping by the type of parcel – oblong or square box; soft items (scarf, jumper, etc); bottles; small, awkwardly shaped items (costume jewellery, chocolate coins); round boxes; boxes with lids that you're wrapping separately; etc, because you'll need a different strategy for each.

For oblong or square boxes, orient the box so that the design on the wrapping paper is the correct way up when the box is the correct way up too. Use your ruler to measure the width of the parcel (in the direction of the roll of the paper), and then divide that in half.

To figure out the width of paper to cut, line up the edge of the box with the edge of the paper, roll the entire parcel over and mark where it gets to with your pencil. Then add on the half value you calculated earlier, and mark that again. Move the present out of the way and extend the line a little – make sure to use your ruler to keep it straight, at right angles to the top and bottom edges.

Turn the paper over (so the pattern is now face up), pull extra out and fold it back on itself. When you see the second mark you made, fold the paper down and use the edge of your ruler to make a smooth crease. Use your letter opener or the blade of your long scissors to cut along the crease between the two layers.

Move the roll of paper out of the way, and repeat the process for the other direction, but you don't need to add on the half measurement.

Widthways, bring the paper about ¼ of the way across the present and, if possible, tape the paper to the present. Roll the present tightly in the paper, making the corners crisp, and tape down starting in the middle and working outwards. This should also be about ¼ of the way across the present.

For the edges, there should be just enough paper to cover the length of the box, with no excess. Orient the present the correct way, press the paper at the edges down, making sharp creases down the sides. Fold the sides in and the bottom (which should be a perfect triangle by now) up, and make sure to fold both sides before you tape either – this is the key to getting them to look neat, and adjust them if you need to.

For soft parcels, the process is similar, but because they don't really have a 'depth' the way oblong parcels do, you will need to add extra paper on to the height when measuring from the bottom to the top of the paper – an extra 5cm/2'' should be enough. Just make sure that when you fold the triangles up, you leave a small gap (1cm) between the present and the fold. I don't really know why this matters, but it really makes a difference if the fold isn't right next to the present for soft items!

For bottles, the easiest way to do it is if you're sending two: pull out a long length of paper, lay the bottles across the long edge neck to neck, with a large gap between them. Roll up across the height of the paper (or part of it), fold in and affix the ends, and then carefully twist the bottles away from each other, and bring them down next to each other so the twisted paper makes a handle. Then just tape the two bottles together for stability and the job's a good'un.

For just one bottle, and for small awkwardly shaped items, the technique is the same, but use different sizes of paper. Cut two squares that are each big enough to wrap the gift, and lay them on top of each other at an angle. You could use three layers, but that may be bordering on wasteful. Put the item in the centre and gather the paper up around it; secure with an elastic band. To make this easier, wrap the elastic band around your finger a few times, and then slide over the edges of the paper, rather than trying to loop it over multiple times, which is likely to tear the paper. Then poof out the top bits until it looks nice – make sure they top pieces are not too short. This technique looks especially good if you use tissue paper for the inside layer and wrapping paper for the outside.

If you have something long and thin like a pen box that would be fiddly to wrap up as an oblong, or you have any kind of tube, the best way to do it is as a Christmas cracker. Wrap the length of it as you ordinarily would, but leave plenty of room at the ends (the exact measurements will depend on the size of the parcel). Secure with elastic bands as above.

For a round item (a tin of biscuits, that cake tin I mentioned), cut a very large square of paper, put the item in the centre and bring diagonally opposite corners in and tape; there should still be room between the item and the paper at this stage. Once the corners of the paper have all been brought in, repeat with the corners of the new shape, to give a square parcel.

To wrap up a box with a lid, it depends on if you only want the outside wrapped up (do it like an oblong box but only include enough paper for the three sides you want to cover, and the same with the lid), or if you want to wrap up the insides too. In that case, the technique I recommend is the one shared by Jen at I Heart Organising in this post on drawer dividers:

This would also work to wrap up boxes with lids that do not have right angle corners, I think – just use multiple strips, and overlap them.

Good luck!


Katie Grosvenor is a writer and guest contributor to

Budgeting Blues: How to Save Money Now - S Post

Inside every budget are opportunities to save money right now. The budget area that offers the greatest flexibility for savings is food. If you have plans to make a big purchase and want to find ways to save money, cutting back on groceries is one way to find hidden cash quickly. Here are some tips that help address your need to save money now. 

Short-Term Money Goals

Every month, in addition to income, your budget reflects expenditures. These include items such as your car payment, car insurance, groceries, and money spent on eating out for lunch and dinner. Let's say that your goal is to cut short-term expense. So let's look at a few tricks that help you save money on groceries.  

Groceries and Food Costs

Image via Flickr by Jaro Larnos

Groceries: How and where you shop for groceries impacts the price that you pay for food. Be willing to shop around when you buy groceries. Check out dollar stores. They sell name-brand groceries that you know and trust. They can sell items cheaper because they buy entire lots that are in damaged crates. Just the crate is damaged, not the food or other items. So dollar stores offer outstanding value on most food items. You can still shop at your favorite store for items that are on sale. 

Coupons: Coupons save customers billions of dollars each year. Get your share of that savings. The best and easiest source for coupons near you are Valpak coupons. Those are an entire envelope stuffed full of savings. Use them. There is an expression: "Crumbs make bread." What that means is that little savings add up to dollars. Twenty-five cents off here and 35 cents off there add up to cold hard cash that stays in your bank account. Coupons work. 

Eat Less Expensive Foods

Image via Flickr by SammyJayJay

Cheaper foods are just as delicious as more expensive food. When you buy groceries, the packaging drives up the cost of the food. Learn to cook food yourself and stop paying for packaging. Boxed foods have inflated prices because of the packaging. Instead of using a box of starch for dinner, learn to cook different types of rice. Vegetables like potatoes are easy to cook. Even mashed potatoes take very little effort to make from scratch. 

Choose foods that we consider "Paleo." You don't have to follow the Paleo diet, but that diet does target foods that are often less expensive. Dried beans, lentils, and grains such as barley are inexpensive and healthy. Learn to follow the produce and fruit season. By buying vegetables and fruits that are in season, you save money. When something is scarce, the price goes up. When vegetables are at the peak of production, their prices drop. How and when you buy food is important. 

Pack Your Lunch

A PBJ is not as glamorous as a burger and fries, but it costs a lot less. If you spend $10 on lunch every weekday, then you spend $50 each week. That adds up to $2,600 a year just for lunches. You'd like to have $2,600 in your savings account just about now, right?

You don't have to eat PBJs everyday to save money. Coffee is another treat that adds up quickly. How much do you spend on your $4 mocha habit? Twenty dollars a week if you have one Monday through Friday. That adds up to $1,040 a year. Those little things add up quickly, especially if you have a significant other. Make sure that you sit down as a couple and agree to make a few lifestyle changes. Be open to trying new foods and different brands. 

Buying groceries is one of the biggest areas where people can save the most money. Changing how you shop for groceries takes practice. You get tired, or you don't want to cook. Learn to use your freezer. It is just as easy to make a second lasagna as it is to make the first. Set yourself up for success by planning ahead. As an added plus, you can apply what you learn here to other areas of your budget too. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Toys are an Important Part of Childhood - S post

Birthdays and holidays are just not complete without toys. What child has opened a package of clothing, mumbled an insincere thank you, and dug around for the next package, hoping to find some fantastic toy they can enjoy in a make-believe fantasy. You might also find that most adults also enjoy delving into the fun-filled world of a child.
Military essentials are always a fun part of any child's collection of toys. Army tanks, dart guns, and camouflage equipment, such as helmets and jackets are necessary parts of any war game. Toy camo binoculars can help them spot the enemy and prepare their plan of defense. Figurines of Army men ready to do battle against the enemy are set up in strategic fashion to be victorious. Toy Army knives can be worn on their belt to help them feel prepared to meet their foes.

Children can use their imagination to assemble and build their own equipment and defense modes and then destroy them, only to begin again. Whole army sets can provide hours of fun for a child who likes to pit their expertise against an imagined scenario. Additional soldiers are always necessary, as some get lost or destroyed in all the excitement.

Want a nice indoor activity? How about a World War II deck of playing cards? This encourages the child to develop strategic plans and develop memory games for times when outdoor play is not an option.

With easy to complete online orders, you can create many different army sets for your child to enjoy. Maybe you feel your little one needs to get away from the screens that their eyes stare at for hours on end. Retro toys are making a comeback, such as a B-2 bomber toy set and plastic army men. Young boys love to use their imagination to play Army games with their friends and siblings. This gets them off the couch and out enjoying nature.

If you remember the fun days you enjoyed as a young child outside running around with your best buddy, you can now help your child feel the same joy as you did. You can select toy guns that make no noise or ones that vibrate or provide clicking sounds. Your child can set up towns or campsites and build towers that they can knock down. You can provide them with animals, people, or robots. You and your child can use your imaginations to come up with anything you want. Coloring and cartoon books are also good options.Free shipping may be offered on some online orders over a certain amount.

Now that your interest has been piqued, you can go online and find some of the many products at, it can help keep your child enjoying his playtime for years to come. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

In which Facebook tells me my kids will kill a dog


Lovely Facebook.

I realize most people use the social media platform to show the world their ideal selves, throw up their highlight reel. I use mine more like a blooper reel, to  be honest, and for the most part, that serves me well.

I don't care if people know my house is sometimes messy, or if my kids sometimes misbehave. I make mistakes, and I post about those. I fail in the kitchen, in the home, in trying to be fashionable, in writing, in life. And I post about it. Because I'm a real person and I just don't have the energy to put my best foot forward. Sometimes I don't even have a best foot, it's true.

That said, just because I share things that aren't all roses and sunshine all the time, doesn't mean Facebook friends know me any better than they know anyone else. They certainly don't know me better than I do.

That said, I got a dog a few weeks ago.

Before I got this puppy, I had done a lot of research online, finding the right match for our family. I'd been looking since October. I also have had and trained a few dogs in my lifetime, though none so small (he's a Chorkie, and will top out at 8-10 pounds) and none while I had a family.

Facebook, though, didn't know that. Facebook only knew that I posted a picture of the little guy along with the status: "Going to see this little guy tomorrow. If all goes well, we'll be getting a puppy."

This was enough to set the social medium on fire, apparently.

Amid the squeals of omgcutepuppy, there were a few concerned yet respectful comments inquiring as to whether I knew what I was getting into with a puppy. Understandable. As much as I share on social media, I hadn't found reason ever to go into my history with dogs, or even (aside from one comment months before) to indicate that I was researching puppy options for the family. I put those fears to rest with a brief explanation. Then I got this comment:

"How long are you home everyday? Aren't you gone quiet a bit with grad school? And doing other stuff. A small dog that is going to top out at ten pounds most can't really go more then two hours with out bringing them outside when they are itty bitty puppies. With two kids who can go from fine to freak out in two seconds a small puppy could easily get hurt,or a broken bone or worst case dead are you prepared for them to fight over a puppy and how to handle that? Also asking which is better to house or crate train makes me think you have not really 100% thought this through and you're just thinking omgPUPPY. And while they may look cute I also don't think a yorkie corgi mix is really a good mix for your family. You could end up with a nightmare nuerotic dog real quick. Please look more up on both breeds and search around for puppy classes and if you really do plan on impulse buying a puppy and get it to puppy classes ASAP. And I hope you're not paying a ridic amount for basically a mutt."
So much wrong with this comment. Not that I have to defend my life or my choices, but I'm not gone hardly at all. I'm home basically always. I thought crate training meant training the dog to go to the bathroom inside. Crate training and house training were the same to me. So, yes, got me on misuse of terminology. Not a Corgi mix. Not an impulse buy. And for someone so concerned about the apparently downtrodden and horrid life this dog is about to have, that last line calling him a mutt and not wanting me to spend money (ie: ensure I make a commitment to this decision) stands out as odd.


How about we deal with this: "With two kids who can go from fine to freak out in two seconds a small puppy could easily get hurt,or a broken bone or worst case dead are you prepared for them to fight over a puppy and how to handle that?"

I'm sorry, but no matter how well you think you know me, Facebook, it is totally inappropriate to imply my children would kill a dog. They are six. They're not going to tear it apart like a stuffed animal because they can't control themselves.

This was my reply at the time.
"Thanks. I'm home all day. My kids won't break the pup's bones either. I've bought and trained dogs before, as well. Though they were 25-40 American Eskimos. My kids also won't fucking kill the dog."
I figured that would be it. Thank you for your slightly inappropriate concern, here's why it's not valid, have a good day. Nope. More puppy drama ensued (puppy drama, Facebook. Are we serious?)

I was unfriended and then a status was made about how my home isn't stable and said ex-friend wasn't going to stand by while I let a puppy into this house.


You're right, Facebook. This is clearly a dog fearing for his life, daily.

I made a few statuses about it myself, because when you're fighting on Facebook over a dog, you can't let such an important topic drop, amirite?

The first status just let Facebook know that while I appreciated its concern, I simply didn't tell the medium everything, and rest-assured, I pretty much had a handle on my life at all times, as wacky as my statuses may sometimes seem.

Thankfully, most of my friends have good senses of humor, and I got these types of responses:

"Good lord is this over the fucking DOG? Buy the dog, fuck anyone who thinks you're under qualified or over paying. Can you take a dump without everyone commenting on the size/shape/color?"

"Hang on, I have lots of relevant advice for you. I would hate for you to make a decision for your family without my super important input you didn't ask for."


We continue to have fun with it. I let everyone know I also have a fish they didn't know about and everyone clutches pearls in jest. Someone asks me if we're breaking up.

"Well, I guess that depends on whether you think my kids are big enough assholes that they'd straight kill a dog.
If yes, we may have to go our separate ways. But don't worry. I'll pick up the check. Right after I impulse buy a puppy that I never researched until right now when I posted about it."
And I'm just putting this comment here because it makes me laugh:

"like how have your kids ever come across as aggressive puppy tossing cage fighters? Sure they have their twin moments, but even that seemed like when they were younger like all kids. They don't come across as unruly maniacs who would grab a dog by one end and pull it in half. They seem p level headed from how you discuss them."

Aggressive puppy tossing cage fighters. I die.

Okay, so we all have our fun, the other status that I can't see because I was unfriended is going on, and it's all about how I seriously should NOT get a dog because it spells doom and I'd just be the worst pet owner.

Yup. Totally the worst. This poor creature.

Anyway, I could have let it drop. But, I mean, how often do you get to participate in puppy drama? I'm guessing it's once in a lifetime. So I made one more status. Your typical, searching-for-validation-even-though-it-couldn't-be-farther-from-necessary post.

"I mean, like, there's a difference between brutal honesty and alleging someone's six year old, fairly competent (if emotional) kids will kill a dog, amirite? I think I'm right on this one. Just saying."

I got almost 200 comments validating me when I didn't need to be validated, because I play Facebook. I like validation. I like statuses. I like comments. I like conversations. I also appreciated the level of pure ridiculousness we had reached.

I mean, I'm busy a lot of the time. But when I'm not, you can find me on Facebook, fighting for my right to own a dog.


So, in conclusion, when you go to comment on someone's status about something you know all the stuffs about, take heed. Maybe the person also knows what they are doing. Maybe their kids actually won't kill a dog.

Always remember, Facebook, you're not my mom.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Recipe - Bacon Cheddar Meatloaf

Every time I buy bacon, I never know what to do with it. We love it, but just can't eat a whole pound or whatever they give you. This time, I used the extra in a meatloaf, and it came out great! (Okay, it doesn't look so great, but trust me. And maybe leave it in 10 minutes less than I did.)

10 slices bacon
1/3 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
1 pound ground beef chuck
1 (8 ounce) package shredded Cheddar cheese
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Place bacon in a large skillet and cook over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until evenly browned, about 10 minutes. Drain the bacon slices on paper towels. When cool, crumble into a large bowl.

Mix ketchup and mustard in a bowl.

Thoroughly combine 1/4 the ketchup mixture, ground chuck, Cheddar cheese, eggs, bread crumbs, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and black pepper with crumbled bacon in bowl; pat the mixture into a 5x9-inch loaf pan. 

Spread remaining ketchup mixture evenly over top of meatloaf.

Bake in the preheated oven until the meatloaf is no longer pink inside, about an hour.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Shopping for fancy dress -- Contributor post

I’ve known about my husband’s office holiday party since early November. It’s at a swanky downtown hotel. The invitation specifies semiformal dress.

I translates this as “suit and tie” for him and “cocktail attire” for me.

I’m going to throw up.

Me: Short, postmenopausal round with chubby retail feet and roadmaps for legs. My hair is streaked gray. I’m starting to jowl.

Wardrobe: Work uniform, jeans, t-shirts in the summer and long-sleeved t-shirts or turtlenecks in the winter, hoodies, sneakers. I usually pull my hair back with a clippie. I always wear fake gold hoop earrings because I tend to lose anything that’s real.

A few years ago, at my husband’s urging, I splurged on two “just in case” outfits – two tweed jackets, two matching tops, two pairs of matching pants, two pairs of matching shoes. I haven’t worn any of them in over a year, maybe two.

Clothing makes me anxious. Oh, I can window shop and say that X is cute or that’s a really nice cut/design/color, but you have no idea how anxious it makes me. I can’t afford nor can wear most off-the-rack clothing with any kind of panache. Younger overweight me’s vomit-inducting body anxiety eventually exchanged itself for full-blown panic attacks in the middle of our local mall or refusing to attend whatever-it-was because I needed this particular item and I didn’t want to spend the money or admit that I was THAT size.

I’m nowhere near as overweight now but the anxiety still clings. Nowadays I treat clothes shopping as a military mission. Browsing makes me anxious because what’s the use of browsing if most clothing, nice clothing, doesn’t fit you, especially if you have a disappearing waistline?

Jeans, t-shirts, sneakers. It’s easy and I don’t have to think about it.

So back to this holiday party. One day my husband and our housemate tag with me to Expensive Department Store With The Widest Selection Of Evening Wear.

I’m automatically drawn to the sleek uncluttered dresses made for six-foot stringbeans crooning standards in a Las Vegas nightclub.

They steer me toward the separates. “You’re smaller on top than the bottom,” my husband whispers.

“The trouble with tops,” says our housemate, “is that they’ll fit her at the waist but the shoulders will be too big, or vice versa.” She picks out several spangled tops and sends me into the dressing room.

This makes me feel like a sausage. Hate the color. Too low cut. I’d need a strapless bra (ack, MONEY) to wear this, Spanx (SPANX? ME?!?) to wear that. Too tight, too short-waisted, I’m swimming in this, too tight…

I feel queasy and sit down.

An hour later I’m staring at the floor trying not to cry, piles of shiny sequined bedazzled fabric at my feet.

They eventually find a top while I stare at the floor: It’s an explosion of rich red lace with beribboned roses sprinkled with small red sequins here and there. My husband knocks on the dressing room door and hands it to me.

Oh god no, it looks like something my GRANDMA would wear! No…wait a minute, it’s got some give. Oh, OK, it’s not THAT low cut. Three-quarter sleeves, narrow black ribbon makes it sort of peplum which means it’d give me waist, maybe? Hmm.

I slide it on and peek at myself in the mirror.

Ohhh, I LOVE this color! It’s not too low cut. It’s…holy crap, I HAVE A WAIST! OK, the shoulders are a little big, but maybe…if I pull it down like this maybe?

I keep gazing at my reflection as I turn one way, then the other. I don’t hear our housemate knocking at the door. She exclaims in delight and leads me out so my husband can see. He beams.

Suddenly my mouth feels very dry because OMG, I actually own a bona-fide evening-type fancy top…|ME?!?!?

Then there’s the tale of the skirt for this top, but I’ll save that for another time.


Kathi Bourke is a guest contributor on Parentwin.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

When did I become a daddy blogger? -- Contributor post

You could say that a lot has changed in my life over the past five years; if you did, I would counter by saying that you have a real knack for understatement. When I divorced, I was certain that I was never going to get into a serious relationship, let alone ever get married again. And kids? If you could have heard me talk about the prospect of having kids, you’d have realized that I just wasn’t cut out for fatherhood.

And yet, here I am, engaged to be married to the first girl I had a serious relationship with, and staring down the barrel of fatherhood. Times two. Twins. And instead of freaking out about it, I’m absolutely loving it. People have been telling me for years that as soon as you find out you’re going to be a parent, everything changes. I thought it was just a cliche, maybe a collective delusion. Well if so, I’ve joined the collective and I’m just as pleased as punch about it.

One thing I never expected to be, though, is a daddy blogger. Or is it Daddy Blogger? Either way, I wouldn’t have thought that I’d be one of them; suddenly, though, my future kids are all I can think about. I can’t stop myself from wondering what it’s going to be like to see their tiny smiles and hold their tiny hands and see their first steps and hear their first words. It’s sappy, I know, but there it is.

It even led me to start a comic strip of sorts, all about the babies. I’m not kidding. I was driving around one day and I imagined a conversation between the twins in utero; when I got to my office, I superimposed the conversation on ultrasound images of the babies and posted it on Facebook. And then I did it again. And again. Thus was born Teh Bebes. Here’s the first one (you can find the rest at

I know this single-minded obsession with the babies is Nature’s way of getting a self-centered human male to sit up and pay attention to an important shift in the winds of his fate. I tend not to be the most observant person in any given room, so I appreciate the evolutionary assist...but does it have to be all-consuming? I can’t seem to have a conversation anymore without slipping in a mention of my status as a father-to-be. I know it’s obnoxious, but I can’t help myself.

I worry that it’s only going to get worse from here on. I worry that I’m going to start writing articles where I discuss the benefits of cloth diapers and attachment parenting and how to make your own baby food from organic vegetables. I worry that I’m going to be the person at the party that everyone avoids unless they have a question about the best method for getting baby vomit off a silk tie. I worry that my corny jokes and odd sense of humor are only going to get more corny and odd.

Mostly, though, I worry that my newfound interest in all things baby is going to make me a less interesting person in general. I’m hoping that at least my kids will think I’m interesting. In the meantime, this is me: embracing fatherhood in my early forties, embarking on a new journey, and giving in to the compulsion to document and share it every step of the way.


Jerry Kennedy is (in no particular order) a fiance, stepdad, writer, actor, director, singer, and web dude living in The Greatest City In the World, Sacramento, CA. His hobbies include reading, skateboarding, falling off his skateboard, drinking, karaoke (especially after drinking), and making love at midnight in the dunes on the cape. You'll find his irregular ramblings about life, the universe, and everything at

Monday, December 8, 2014

Ask a Teacher: What should I send for the school food drive?

It's that time of year again. Your child's school has either already started or is about to start collecting food. How can you make this a good experience to help your child appreciate the spirit of giving? How can you not be running around at the last second throwing together a bag of canned green beans and canned pineapple? Here are some things that most shelters and food banks need so you can help out the most.

1. Formula - A lot of people tend to forget that babies need to eat, too. It doesn't need to be a fancy name brand, but if you remember to pick up soy or one of the other special versions, that won't hurt either.

2. Baby food (NOT glass jars) - Speaking of babies eating, they eventually need more than just formula. While you might have been a master of Baby Led Weaning, baby food is a necessity for many families. Plastic containers are better and aren't likely to shatter in your kid's backpack when they take it to school.

3. Canned meat - Things like canned chicken can be really helpful. Eating protein can help people feel fuller longer and not everyone is a vegetarian.

4. Spices - It gets old eating food without spices. Even when you're down on your luck, you deserve a little deliciousness in your life.

5. Juice - People need to drink something and juice can provide some helpful nutrients. Also, there are kids with them sometimes and they deserve a treat drink every now and again.

6. Shelf stable milk - Milk is a HUGE part of my children's diet. If we are ever down on our luck and in need of help, this is the number one thing we'd need as a beverage. I know most families are the same as us.

7. Cereal - Cereals are a quick and easy breakfast. Add in some shelf stable milk and you can help a family have a balanced breakfast.

8. Snacks - Popcorn, granola bars, anything shelf stable that is good to munch on. People get hungry in between meals. Having a little something to snack on is important.

Remember there are two main reasons schools do these drives. First, to help the community. Without these drives, many food banks and shelters would be without the resources to help everyone. Some are STILL without the resources to help everyone even with the help of the schools. Second, it's to help teach your children about compassion and to give to those who are going through a bad time.

If your school does not have a drive, see what you can do to start one. If you're looking to do something different, I would highly recommend a coat drive. In some schools, you'll find kids waiting for the bus in nothing but a pair of school pants, t-shirt, and sweatshirt in freezing temperatures. They're not being foolish, they just don't have a coat. Our entire district has done a coat drive for the last couple years and it has been very successful. Helping out whenever you can is a great lesson to teach your children.


Emilie is a high school English teacher with two children. She holds a Bachelors in English and a Masters in Secondary Education. After completing student teaching at an urban, Persistently Low Achieving (PLA) school, she was placed at another PLA school in the same school district. Her Ask a Teacher column can also be found over at Teaching Ain't for Heroes.



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