Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Make the holidays Fresh & Easy

Saturday brought the first snowfall of the season, and while the kids played outside, I decided to tuck into a nice bottle of red wine (Note: Hubby was dutifully tending to the kids!) and some gourmet food items from Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market.

Fresh & Easy grocery stores currently are providing reasonably-priced, wholesome foods to customers in Arizona, California and Nevada. They offer a wide range of their own brand products and prepared meals that contain no artificial colors, flavors or trans fat, without the hefty price tag commonly associated with healthy foods. Additionally, they carry many top name brand products to meet families' needs.

In addition to high-quality foods, Fresh & Easy also offers around 170 different wines from around the globe, ranging in price from $1.99 to $40 per bottle, with the majority retailing for under $10.

The wine I sampled was The Vine Yard 2007 Cabernet Franc. From Washington's Columbia Valley, this delightful cab franc was redolent of raspberry jam, black cherry and spice. It was not as dry as you would expect from a blending grape and would pair nicely with beef, pork, poultry or even pizza (I enjoyed it with some white chili). At $7.99 a bottle, it's a great little wine to have on hand for holiday get-togethers.

Another great wine for this time of year is the Ogio Prosecco Spumante. I'm not usually a fan of sparkling wines, but I do indulge on New Year's, and this peppy little number definitely fits the bill! At $8.99 a bottle, it easily rivals more expensive spumantes or champagnes and makes the perfect hostess gift!

Speaking of gifts, Fresh & Easy also offers a number of gourmet food items that are attractively-packaged and ready to present to teachers, mail carriers or anyone else on your list. The Sweet Boutique Gourmet Swiss Chocolate Assortment would satisfy the most discerning sweet tooth with 11 different varieties of filled milk, dark and white chocolates. The Sweet Boutique Assortment currently is featured at Fresh & Easy's Kitchen Table, where each week customers can sample and review delicious signature dishes and treats. At $6.99 a box, buy several to have in case your husband forgets to pick up a Secret Santa gift for the office holiday party.

Another item from the Sweet Boutique is the Gourmet Biscuit Collection--a decadent assortment of cookies adorned with rich, Belgian chocolate. My oldest, Sophie, found the miniature, chocolate-covered Tsar cookies especially palatable and has been requesting a few for dessert the past few nights, whereas I prefer the lighter Cristal wafers. This is another inexpensive yet elegantly-packaged gift item priced at $7.99 per tin.

Perhaps the biggest hit of the day was the container of Fresh & Easy Cranberry & Nut Popcorn Clusters. Everyone in the house, from ages three to 46 enjoyed this delightful blend of popcorn, three different nuts and dried cranberries, all perfectly-sweetened with brown sugar and natural maple flavors. Any time I can get my kids to eat a fruit that's not on their "safe" list I consider it a triumph, especially one as humble as the cranberry which is rich in vitamin C and believed to contain excellent infection fighting properties.

For all of my friends out west, I encourage you to make your holidays fresh and easy by scooting over to Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market. I, in the meantime, am savoring the last remnants of my Fresh & Easy goodie basket and have filled out the online form suggesting that the company open a store in Charles Town, WV, where it's nearly impossible to find wholesome, reasonably-priced foods.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A picture is worth '1,000 Artist Journal Pages'

Remember doodling as a child when even if you couldn't spell all of the words you still could tell a story through pictures? They say "a picture is worth a thousand words," yet it seems once we master basic writing skills we forget that.

Guilty as charged.

I can remember as a young girl writing in my diaries and drawing little pictures to illustrate my deepest thoughts and "secrets." Eventually I stopped drawing pictures, but continued to keep journals well into adulthood. After Sophie was born, I took zillions of pictures and kept them in precious photo albums, pulling them out to wander visually through her first days with us. My journaling became sporadic. Then came Max, and there was less time for pictures and writing as I struggled to keep up with a busy toddler, a newborn and a full-time job. Add a third child to the mix, two new businesses, a cat and a messy household and I'm lucky to squeeze out a blog post every now and then.

And that's unfortunate.

I know there's going to come a day when I wake up and find that my kids are grown and I have but a few random blog entries to remind me of this special time in my life. But I have a dear friend who has inspired me to get back on track with my journaling.

Dawn Devries Sokol and I attended college at Arizona State University and worked on the school newspaper together. Dawn is the author of "1,000 Artist Journal Pages".
Art journals are illustrated diaries that correspond with any theme. They can be a record of daily thoughts or dreams and are embellished with drawings, photographs or bits of memorabilia from a treasured or momentous occasion. This gorgeous book is a compilation of journal pages created by artists from around the world. Some are dark, some are sad, some are ethereal, some are funny, some illustrate trips, and some are odes to coffee, foods or a particularly enjoyable meal. All are different and fascinating in their own way and truly inspirational. After poring over this book for hours I found myself itching to journal again.

The holiday season is right around the corner, and it's the perfect time to start journaling or, in my case, to pick it up again. Dawn is offering a workshop titled {12.31} art journal project on her blog which will help you document the holiday season with less stress. As part of {12.31}, you will learn how to create an art journal cover, how to incorporate or "bind in" scraps of paper or poster board and how to prep your pages so they are ready for you to doodle or journal to your heart's content. Once your journal is complete, Dawn will provide a prompt a day to get your creative juices flowing and, since your journal already will be done, all you will have to do is create. The online workshop runs from Nov. 6 through Dec. 31. You can register by clicking here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Maxism #967: "Can you change my name?"

This morning I was in my usual manic state trying to get all three kids ready for school and out the door by precisely 8:06 a.m. I had pulled the kids' uniforms for the day and handed them to each child. When I handed Max his clothes I told him, "Please get dressed and then wash your face and brush your teeth. And be sure to put your pajamas in the hamper."

He took the clothes and then said, "If I do these things for you, will you change my name to M-A-X-X?" Not knowing where this came from or where it was going I did not want to commit to anything, so I merely laughed a bit and said, "We'll see."

When we were finally in the car and on our way, I made a point of telling the kids how well they did getting ready that morning without me having to nag them. From the back of the car I heard Max ask, "So, Mommy, now will you change my name to M-A-X-X?" He also muttered something about a tent and a battery.

"Well, we can't legally, but it could be your nickname," I suggested.

"No, Mommy! I want it for REAL!" he insisted.

Still not knowing what precipitated this all I could say was, "I'll have to talk with Daddy."

When I spoke with Steve later on I told him about the exchange.

"Wow!" Steve said. "I didn't think the tent and the battery had that much of an impact! When I took Max to WalMart the other day, we saw a tent with the name 'Maxx' on it. Then we went to Home Depot and saw a battery with the name 'Maxx' on it. I told Max 'wouldn't it be cool if your real name were M-A-X-X?' I didn't know he would take it so seriously!"

We decided we would tell him he can change it legally when he's 18.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Gotta get a Snack Square!!!!

I don't believe there ever has been a product more perfect than the Snack Square from my friends at mint. sweet little things. In fact, the Snack Square was one of the first embroidery blanks I ever purchased. Its utter cuteness won me over almost instantaneously and set in motion the formation of SuziHomemaker.net, but I digress...the reason I am waxing nostalgic is because I just sent the Homemaker children back-to-school with their brand new personalized Snack Squares and I, once again, was reminded how versatile these little bags truly are.
Don't let their compact appearance fool you, these bags are roomy enough to hold an ice pack, a sandwich or Lunchable, juice box, piece of fruit, two packages of crackers (my kids get hungry at school--gotta feed those HUGE Homemaker brains!), utensils and a love note from Mom! (I kid you not! The proof is in the picture above!) A zip top makes them easy to stuff and two adorable handles makes them easy to carry. Snack Squares fit perfectly into your child's backpack. I am pleased to report that just about every Kindergartner and Second Grader (this year we conquer Smart Start!) at the Country Day School has one of these in their possession--they make excellent gifts!

Not only are they great for packing lunches and snacks, but they also serve a multitude of other purposes. Snack Squares can be used to store CDs or DVDs to keep them cool while in the car. They can be used to carry portable game systems and games. Stuff them with small wine boxes and give them as a housewarming gift. Fill them with toys, balloons and noisemakers for the ultimate goodie bag or stuff them with hot, moist washcloths to use at your next Mary Kay party. Max has one he carries his Matchbox cars in and one for his Thomas trains. The girls use them to store hair bows and Polly Pockets. I have a local preschool that purchases Snack Squares for each new student because they stack so nicely in the refrigerator at school! They also can be used to store breast milk bottles.

Have I convinced you yet? You gotta get a Snack Square! What will you put in yours?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Recipeasy Monday: Suzi Homemaker's tomato-cucumber salad

Reprinted from last August.

4 large tomatoes, diced
3 cucumbers, peeled and diced
1 large Vidalia onion, chopped
8 large basil leaves, chopped
2 medium cloves garlic, minced (or use garlic salt)
Sea Salt to taste
Fresh ground pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons ExtraVirgin Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar

Mix everything together and serve as a side salad or as a topping on grilled chicken, fish or steak. We had ours as a side salad to roasted chicken breasts and put it on Wasa sesame seed flat bread. What a great summer meal!! Enjoy!

Friday, July 31, 2009

500th Internet Sale is close! BIG prizes for winning purchaser!

I'm so EXCITED I can't hardly stand it! Earlier in the summer I alluded to the fact that I was honing in on my 500th internet sale. I had predicted it would come in July, and I am just a few sales off! Could it happen today?

In celebration of this momentous occasion, I am going to honor my 500th sale purchaser with a monogrammed market tote, a Suzi Homemaker tee shirt, embroidered tea towels and anything else I might feel like tossing in the box! Prizes will be valued at more than $100. No purchase is too big, nor too small! Lots of back-to-school items from which to choose, so if you were planning on making a purchase soon, now's the time to do it! Good luck!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Recipeasy Monday: Potato-bacon frittata

I just made this simple, but tasty dish for my father's B-day brunch!

8 oz bacon, cooked and diced
3 cups Simply Potatoes diced potatoes with onions
6 eggs
1 Cup shredded colby-jack cheese
1 Cup milk
1/3 Cup Bisquick
2 Tablespoons butter, melted

1. Spray 10-inch quiche dish or 9" by 9" baking pan with Pam. In skillet, over medium-low heat, cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon from pan and drain on paper towels. Pour off all but 1/4 cup bacon fat from skillet. Add potatoes and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 15 minutes until potatoes are fork-tender. Remove skillet from heat and add crumbled bacon.
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In medium sized bowl, beat eggs, cheese, milk, Bisquick and 1/2 teaspoon salt until well mixed. Pour mixture into quiche dish. Spoon potato mixture on top. Bake 20 to 30 minutes until set. Serve with fresh tomato slices or salsa and sour cream!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Recipeasy Monday: Christi's Frito Pie

One of the easiest recipes ever (it's the most complicated my friend, Christi, can handle!):

3 cups Fritos corn chips
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
2-1/2 cups chili (I make mine homemade, but you may use canned or turkey chili)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Spread 2 cups of Fritos in a baking dish. Sprinkle half the onion and half the cheese over the Fritos. Pour the chili over the onion and cheese. Sprinkle the remaining Fritos, onion and cheese over the chili.

Bake for 15 or 20 minutes or until cheese is bubbly. Serve hot. Garnish with diced tomatoes and sour cream.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Double Applique 4th of July tees by Suzi Homemaker

Every year since the kids have been born I always buy them 4th of July tee shirts. This year, the fourth arrived and I had not purchased the requisite shirts. What's Suzi Homemaker to do? I went through my massive stash of blank tee shirts and scrounged up three white ones for the Homemaker children. I went to one of my favorite design websites, Five Star Fonts, and purchased some of their patriotic applique designs they had on sale.

The one I selected was a double applique design. I hooped the shirt, then, in a second hoop, I hooped the outer applique fabric, stitched the outline, then trimmed the design out. Then I stitched the applique position on the tee and adhered the large applique to the tee shirt with spray adhesive. Then I hooped, stitched and trimmed out the inner applique fabric. Then I placed the tee shirt back on the embroidery machine and stitched the applique position on the first applique. For some reason, there was not stop inserted on the design, so before the machine satin stitched the appliques in place, I had to stop it and position the second applique on top of the first.

They turned out really cute and the kids managed to keep them clean just long enough to snap a picture.

Friday, June 12, 2009

NOVICA.com offers unique handbags from around the globe

I'm about to divulge a secret.

I have an acute handbag fetish.

It started shortly after college with kitschy bags to match every outfit. It gradually progressed into straw bags from France, numerous Kate Spade totes and other designer handbags that are sold with those wonderful pillowcases to protect the precious gems while not in use. My closet is full of those little pillowcases. Once I started having children, my fetish morphed into an obsession with diaper bags--Oilily, Petunia Picklebottoms and, of course, Kates, to name a few. Now that I'm getting away from the diaper bags, I'm starting to feel those inner stirrings once again.

Lucky for me I have found an online outlet to fulfill my desires--NOVICA.com. NOVICA, in association with National Geographic, initially began as a platform for artists and artisans to sell their wares--including home decor items, jewelry and gifts--to a global audience they might not reach in their native countries. NOVICA recently has launched a line of exquisitely hand-crafted handbags from artisans all over the world.

I have been drooling over all of the unique handbag designs and patterns. One of the bags that immediately caught my eye was this lime and strawberry alpaca wool shoulder bag, pictured at left. Made in Peru, the bag's exterior is a rich alpaca wool blend. The interior of the bag is lined with cotton and features a pocket to hold keys or other small objects. The bag closes with a magnetic button.

Another gem, also made in Peru, is this gorgeous brown leather bag, pictured at right. I easily could see myself taking this multi-pocketed bag shopping, with plenty of nooks to hold my keys, cell phone, credit cards and mad money. The chocolate brown leather handbag looks so rich, soft and supple, and the classic style will keep the bag current for years to come.

Tote bags are essential for busy moms who are always called upon to "hold this for me," and NOVICA has plenty of styles to fit the bill. This colorful cotton and hemp tote from Thailand (pictured left) is roomy enough for a day's necessities, yet stylish enough to let sophisticated moms stand out from their canvas-bookbag-wielding counterparts.

What I particularly like about the NOVICA site is that not only do they provide detailed product information, but also they include biographical information about each artist. The alpaca shoulder bag, for example, was crafted by the Yurivilca Family of Peru. The family is led by Don Cesar Yurivilca, considered a pioneer in the field of weaving who earned this designation by taking a departure from traditional weaving practices with his invention of the tapiz relleno technique.

"During my career I have received many awards and prizes, including the designation of Grand Master, but nothing satisfies me more than the love that I receive from my fellow countrymen - the only thing that will keep me going after I turn 80 years old. I hope that through Novica I am able to meet new friends and to also disseminate the art and culture of my country, Peru," says Yurivilca.

I cannot recall a time I ever was afforded a lesson in culture when purchasing a Kate Spade bag, unless you take into consideration eBay write-ups detailing how many times the bag was used on what occasion along with descriptions of wear-and-tear.

My husband, always the pessimist when it comes to my internet purchasing habits, cautioned me that the NOVICA handbag site might exact a hefty shipping fee for these worldly purchases; however, the rates are actually quite reasonable. Normal delivery (two-four weeks) for the alpaca bag is just $3.95; premium delivery (five to 14 days) is $12.95; and the gotta-have-it-now priority premium (four to eight days) rate is $21.95. Of course, rates vary by country, but all are quite affordable.

Much like the swine flu, it seems my handbag addiction has taken on global proportions. However, my ill easily will be cured with a few purchases from NOVICA.com. Now if you will excuse me, I need to get back to my virtual shopping trip.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Busy Bodies Playnasium offers cool alternative for playdates, parties

When we moved to Charles Town from Gaithersburg four years ago, we knew we'd be giving up a lot of the conveniences of the city for a more laid-back country lifestyle. No longer could we walk to Starbucks or easily scoot to a shopping mall or Target to pick up a dress or birthday present for one of the kids' friends. It was a trade-off we were willing to make in order to bring our children up in a safe environment.

What we did not realize, until the kids were of school-age, was that there was a definite lack of facilities or establishments to hold birthday parties or playdates. Whereas Gaithersburg had Chuck E. Cheese and The Little Gym and pottery painting places galore, Charles Town offered little in the way of indoor activities for kids. (We made this discovery when Sophie turned five and we found ourselves trekking to the Frederick Chuck E. Cheese in honor of her milestone b-day.)

Max recently turned five and we were frantically scrambling to come up with a venue for his first Big Birthday Party with his friends. Initially, we thought we'd hold it outside at our home, but the weather at this time of year is unpredictable and I was not prepared to move the party indoors, especially considering our basement remains unfinished from a flooding incident. JayDee's Family Fun Center was an option, but it's quite a ways from our house and we were looking to spend considerably less than the cost of their party packages. Someone had mentioned Busy Bodies Playnasium off Augustine Avenue in Charles Town, so I began to do a little research.

Busybodies is in the former location of Small Scholars Preschool and is run by Jefferson County parents Michelle and Kerry Vance. According to their website, Busy Bodies Playnasium is a safe and clean indoor playground and party place for children ages infant through 10. The facility touts 2,300-square-feet of open play area, including a kid-sized crooked playhouse (pictured at left), a separate safe infant and toddler play area, a traverse climbing wall, interactive Velcro and magnetic walls with rotating activities and the piece-de-resistance -- a large inflated moon-bouncer with
13-foot-high slide.

Busy Bodies offers a number of reasonably-priced party packages, including morning Kiddie Korner or Muffin Mania Parties, all the way up to the more elaborate Super Slumber Party which includes private use of the facility from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m. Party packages also offer a la carte accoutrement's such as cakes, ice cream, goody bags, video camera rentals and more.

For Max, we chose to have the private Let's Party package where we had private use of the facility for two hours with up to 15 children. We brought our own cake and ice cream (actually purchased the ice cream from Save-A-Lot just a few doors down from Busy Bodies), decorations, snacks and drinks, and I put together personalized goody bags for each child. All three of my children (ages 3, 5 and 7) and their friends had a blast running around, bouncing in the moonbounce, climbing the rock wall and playing on the whimsical slide. Sophie even requested that she have her next birthday party there--what better endorsement than that of a picky seven-year-old?

When the party was over, and all of the guests had dispersed, Max got to put his handprint on the Wall of Fame.

In addition to parties, Busy Bodies serves as in indoor playground for kids when the weather is less-than ideal. Summer hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday; and 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, with afternoons reserved for private parties. Admission is $6 per one child 9 months to 10 years and $4 for additional kids. Save money by purchasing a monthly pass. Parents and caregivers enter for free and will find a welcoming environment complete with plenty of comfortable seating.

I know we will be spending a great deal of time at Busy Bodies Playnasium this summer when the weather is stormy or just too darn hot to be out of doors. Maybe we will see you there!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Been a while....

...since I last posted. Crazy stuff going on here at the Sew Dojo. For some reason, business has exploded lately and for that I am grateful. It's a rainy day in West Virginia, Carly is home and managed to go down for a nap without too much of a struggle. I am trying to get caught up on internet orders. I think my machine is getting old, as am I--we're both creaking and misfiring more often than usual--we're both in need of some work!

I have had the privilege of working with some great local businesses: Oasis Tans (formerly Hollywood Tans) and the Charles Town Auto Wash. In these trying economic times I feel it is important to support local businesses as much as possible. The people that run these two businesses feel the same way and are calling on locals to help get their businesses off to a great start (Oasis Tans is actually coming out from under a franchise and are in the process of re-branding). Also, I've done some work for St. Joseph Parish School (am looking forward to working with them to provide the students with logo apparel next school year!) and got to embroider the Pink Ladies' jackets for a local production of "Grease."

My obsession with market totes continues. I tried, unsuccessfully, to purchase some totes directly from the manufacturer in China, but wound up getting ripped off--an expensive lesson in why it's some times necessary to employ a Middle Man!

My sweet little boy turned 5 on my 8th Wedding Anniversary! He has turned into quite the little man since beginning Junior Kindergarten at The Country Day School last November! One of his favorite presents he received was a whoopee cushion from his grandparents. He even wrote a song, which includes riffs and phhts from the device as well as some clever lyrics, "Farts like a lady--phht, farts like a man--phht-phht--brrr-rack!"

I've been re-connecting with some friends from college and high school, courtesy Facebook. Am amazed that one of the girls that I worked with on the ASU State Press actually has won a Pulitzer Prize amongst other honors for her investigative reporting. I always knew she would do well. Some classmates have gone to write and publish books, some are practicing law. I hope they all are happy. I am blessed to have been in their company. Some times I wonder what my life would have been like had I chosen to pursue a career in journalism. But then I look at what I have right now and realize that my path was chosen for me and that I am doing precisely what I need to be doing.

Life as Suzi Homemaker might not yield prestigious awards nor fame, but it truly is a reward--and something I have strived for since I was a little girl of Sophie's age. I can't recall wanting to be a reporter at the age of seven (I think that came at age 14), but I do remember wanting to marry a prince and have children of my own. And on that note, Lil' Crowder is up and wanting to cuddle--gotta go get me some lovin'.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Recipeasy Monday: Chicken Noodle Soup

I love to make chicken noodle soup from scratch; however, my two oldest children won't eat it, so here is the recipe for their favorite chicken noodle soup.

2 Cans Campbell's Condensed Chicken Noodle Soup (Shrek, Dora, Cars or Princess variety)

1. Make homemade chicken noodle soup for your husband and youngest daughter. Set aside.
2. Open up 2 cans of Campbell's Condensed Chicken Noodle Soup (any variety) and pour into microwave safe bowl.
3. Add 2 soup cans water to soup in bowl.
4. Cover and heat in microwave oven for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.
5. Remove from microwave and ladle into bowls.
6. Pick out any traces of vegetables or chicken.
7. Add enough ice cubes to make the soup completely cold and serve to two oldest children.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Max-ism #497 "Happy Easter!"

Max is a chick magnet.

One of his favorite sayings is, "The chicks dig me." And it's true.

Just today, we ran into a couple of his girlfriends from school at Chik Fil-A. When we walked through the door, the little girls were squealing, "It's Max!" "Hi, Max!" "Come play with us, Max!"

He gave them a cute little smile and we went about with our meal. A little bit later, the girls were in the playroom and one was banging on the Plexiglas trying to get Max's attention.

"Max! I love you, Max! I want to marry you!" to which he replied, "Happy Easter!"

Totally noncommittal without being rude--the perfect response to such a personal declaration! The chicks are doomed!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Suzi Homemaker to hold 500th Sale Giveaway!

This past March marked the Second Anniversary of SuziHomemaker.net. I am thrilled with the success I have had with my website and my little embroidery business! I have met some awesome people through various social and business networks and I am lucky to have developed a devoted clientele that keep coming back for more personalized gifts! I also am thankful for the community in which we live. Charles Town, WV, opened its arms to the Crowder Crew nearly four years ago and we have been delighted to call this city home ever since!

Amazingly enough, Suzi Homemaker can see her 500th internet sale on the horizon. What better way to celebrate than to give something away? What will it be? Something BIG--an EMBROIDERED Car? Nah--that's already been done...I'm going to have to give this some serious thought...Who will the lucky winner be? My devoted customer in Cali or the one in Texas? My neighbor? One of the moms from school? My mom? Now come on--you know I don't charge my mother for gifts...at least not full retail price! It could be anyone. Only time will tell...

Monday, May 4, 2009

Recipeasy Monday: Quick Roasted Chicken

I have my little bird in the oven right now! Whole chickens were on sale at Martin's this week, Buy One, Get One Free--I loves me some food bargains!

Quick Roasted Chicken
• 1 (3 pound) whole chicken
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
• 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
• 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
• 1/4 teaspoon paprika
• 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Rinse chicken thoroughly inside and out under cold running water and remove all fat. Pat dry with paper towels.
3. Put chicken into a small baking pan. Rub with olive oil. Mix the salt, pepper, oregano, basil, paprika and cayenne pepper together and sprinkle over chicken.
4. Roast the chicken in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Lower the oven to 400 degrees and continue roasting 40 minutes, to a minimum internal temperature of 180 degrees. Let cool 10 to 15 minutes and serve. I'm serving mine with homemade gravy, stuffing and green beans.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Suzi Homemaker Embroidered Menu

Spring is arguably the most beautiful time of year for wedding celebrations and other special events such as Mother's Day, bridal and baby showers and graduations. Why not add some simple, yet elegant touches to your gathering by incorporating embroidery into your decor?

Last year, my sister was hosting a bridal shower for a friend and she asked me for some ideas for special personalized gifts that she knew her friend would treasure more than the obligatory place setting. I suggested some monogrammed linens that the bride could use on her wedding day, such as lingerie and shoe bags, a hankie with blue stitching to fulfill the "something blue" requirement and linen towels with the married couple's initials on them.

Then a thought occured to me to add a unique touch to the party decor. Not too long ago, Steve and I had hosted a dinner party where I embroidered the menu on a linen napkin, which I then hung on the wall. We decided to take that idea a step further by stitching out the shower menu and then mounting it on a fabric board which we placed on an easel near the buffet. The bride loved it so much that she had it framed for display in her dining room.

Another idea is to stitch the menu on one end of a table runner, which then can be placed on the table or hung on the back of a chair. The one pictured here has a pocket stitched on the opposite side where you can insert a dowel or other type of weight to hold the runner in place. What a relatively simple way to set your party apart--elegant embroidery that adds a sophisticated touch and makes for a treasured keepsake of a memorable occasion.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Identical blankets for identical twins

Perhaps one of my favorite things to create is a custom embroidered minky blanket. I have been told by several recipients that my minky blankets have "magical" qualities that set out to soothe cranky little ones with their cuddliness. For those of you that don't know what minky is, it is perhaps the softest fabric on the planet. I have heard its texture compared to dipping your hand into a bowl of flour. It comes in many varieties (Babycapes are made using several different varieties of minky including cuddle, marshmallow and sherpa suede) and I have used most of them at one time or another while making blankets for treasured babies.

Recently, I was contacted by a customer who wanted me to create two blankets for identical twin girls. After perusing my photo gallery for ideas, and discussing fabric choices, we set about picking the fabrics. The mother of the twins dresses one girl in pink and one in lavender, so we settled on chocolate brown and pink and chocolate brown and lavender minky polka dot with pink and lavender rosebud backing.

Then we discussed design choices and decided that since the fabric was so luxurious we would use a simple, elegant monogram with each girl's name embroidered on top with a single butterfly (see photo above). I created the designs using my embroidery software, then began constructing the blankets. I cut the fabric and serged the edges, then embroidered the designs on the blanket tops. Then I set about assembling the blankets and stitching them together. Minky fabric is very stretchy, making it difficult to sew. The fabric curls and stretches so much, it's hard to keep to a particular measurement. I have found that by adhering lightweight, tearaway stabilizer to the backs of the minky prior to sewing cuts down on the stretch considerably. I also use my walking foot on my sewing machine in order to feed both layers of fabric through my sewing machine more evenly and easily. After sewing the layers together right sides facing each other, leaving a small hole on the side, I remove the stablizer, then turn the fabric right side out. I use a bamboo stiletto to make sharp points in the four corners and then topstitch the blankets using a small zigzag stitch to allow for stretch. The final step is to slipstitch the opening closed by hand.

Once I finished both blankets, I placed them one on top of the other, and, miracle of miracles, the blankets were the exact same size. The finished products are pictured below. Hopefully, these blankets will soothe and comfort Avery and Kinsleigh for many years to come!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Zyma Derm - MIRACLE cure for molluscum

I have to write and tell you about this incredible product from Naturopathix, Inc., called ZymaDerm. ZymaDerm is a homeopathic remedy used to treat molluscum contagiosm. For those of you that aren't familiar with molluscum, it is a pox virus that affects mostly children, although it also can be found in adults with certain immune deficiencies.

This is what I have learned from many sources over the years (this is written from memory, so I have not cited any particular sources--trust me, if you have dealt with something like this for several years, you would be an expert on the topic, too!): Mollusca appear on the skin as flesh-colored, dome-shaped growths--similar to warts or moles. As the name implies, it is highly contagious, especially in young children who have not developed immunities to the virus. It is spread by skin-to-skin contact and has been rumored to spread through swimming pools or contact with gymnastic or wrestling mats or changing pads at daycare centers. It is considered a benign virus which traditionally has been treated, similar to warts, by freezing the mollusca off with liquid nitrogen or "zapping" with an electric needle. Most pediatricians advise against treatments for small children as the cure seems worse than the virus, which eventually will go away on its own.

Max has had a few mollusca over the past couple of years, but he never really paid any particular attention to them unless someone else was paying attention to them. He's had one on his forehead and a couple on his trunk. Sophie had two on her chest of which she was very cognizant. She religiously washed her hands after touching or scratching the bumps to prevent them from spreading and, thankfully, hers are gone.

Poor Carly developed molluscum last summer. She had two very large mollusca--one the size of a pencil eraser--in the crease of her left arm (common since it is a place where the skin rubs against itself). Carly could not keep her hands off of the bumps and I can't say I blame her. To me, it's the equivalent of having a large, ripe whitehead on your forehead--it begs to be squeezed or picked at. I tried diligently to keep her hands washed, but there was just no way to prevent the bumps from spreading. A couple of weeks ago I noticed she had some developing under her right arm. I was not looking forward to the weather becoming warmer as I knew her bumps would be visible and would subject her to ridicule from other children--a couple of Sophie's friends had made remarks about the bumps. Carly could care less if children were to tease her, but I couldn't bear the thought of anyone picking on her because of her "cooties." I was at a loss.

I ran into our pediatrician at school a couple of weeks ago and asked her if she could recommend something as I had been told by our former pediatrician that there was no topical remedy to treat the virus. She told me she had heard of a homeopathic remedy, but was not quite sure of the name. When I got home that afternoon I Googled "homeopathic treatment for molluscum contagiosm" and that's how I discovered the Naturopathix website and their amazing product, ZymaDerm.

According to the website, "ZymaDerm™ is the only FDA approved patented full strength topical homeopathic molluscum formula available anywhere." It is made from thuja extract which is derived from conifer trees. It is non-toxic. The site has some very dramatic "before" and "after" pictures, such as the "before" picture at right. I read through the testimonials and was sold. Not knowing how long it would take to treat Carly's bumps (I would say she has a moderate case of molluscum), I ordered two bottles.

My order arrived on Saturday--two small vials of ZymaDerm and the company also included a body wash which I was to use after seven days of treatment if the molluscum did not appear to be any better. After Carly's bath that evening I carefully applied the ZymaDerm to her bumps. I have to tell you that the product does not have the best smell--it's a very strong, menthol or camphor smell, but I think I would tolerate skunk oil if it did what this product did. After two applications, I am happy and amazed to report that her bumps are almost completely gone! The two especially nasty-looking bumps on her left arm are nearly invisible. This product is INCREDIBLE! I highly recommend it to anyone who is suffering with this virus. If you are not completely satisfied (which I cannot imagine), you may return the unused portion to Naturopathix for a full refund. They have removed all of the risk for you, so there really is no reason not to try this wonderful product. I am so thankful to have found this website and product--it has made a tremendous difference in our lives in a very short period of time.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Recipeasy Monday: Suzi Homemaker's homemade spaghetti sauce

I rarely buy spaghetti sauce in a jar because it is so simple to make from scratch! I have made several variations, one using chicken stock, but I always come back to this easy one. You can add cooked ground beef, turkey, meatballs or sausage if you prefer a meat sauce. You also can add other vegetables, such as sliced button mushrooms, olives or peppers, just add them after the tomatoes have simmered a bit and cook till desired tenderness.

2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1 medium onion, diced
12 Roma tomatoes, diced
1 small jar tomato paste
2-3 teaspoons Polaner's chopped basil (you may also use 1/4 C chopped fresh basil)
1 teaspoon Polaner's chopped oregano
salt and pepper to taste

1. Saute garlic and onions in olive oil until translucent.
2. Add Roma tomatoes and heat through.
3. Add remaining ingredients.
4. Serve over your favorite pasta with a salad and garlic bread.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Recipeasy Monday: Coconut Custard Pie

I've been posting a lot of recipes lately and thought that I would make this a permanent feature on my blog. So now Mondays will be known as Recipeasy Monday!

My mother, Sue Homemaker, shared this recipe with me last week and I ran right out to get the ingredients so I could try it myself. This pie makes its own crust and is prepared by combining all ingredients in a blender.

2 cups milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup Bisquick
1/4 cup butter, cut into pieces
4 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup shredded coconut
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Lightly grease a 9 inch pie plate (preferably deep dish)**
3. Combine all ingredients in a blender, cover and beat on high for 15 seconds.
4. Pour into pie pan and bake approximately 50-55 minutes.
5. Refrigerate after cooling.
**If using a regular 9 inch pie plate, place the plate on a cookie sheet prior to adding the filling.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Enter to win personalized market tote from Suzi Homemaker, Mom Made That

It's time for a GIVEAWAY! I am so excited about these shallow market totes that I had to give one away! Just visit my retail site and select which color market tote you want to win then head on over to Mom Made That, leave a comment and you will be entered to win. Additional entries are given for blogging or tweeting about the giveaway and subscribing to Mom Made That. Contest ends at 6 p.m. CST on March 31! Now git!

Suzi Homemaker's Pan Seared Tuna and Warm Roasted Vegetable Salad

This is one of my favorite dinners! The vegetable dish can be made using practically any vegetable and is suitable for meals year-round, just use seasonal veggies(cooking times may need to be altered if using root vegetables). Look how pretty these veggies look! They're just waiting to be cut up and devoured!

Warm Roasted Vegetable Salad
4 cups broccoli florets cut into bite-sized pieces
6 Roma tomatoes, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 small red onion, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 small yellow onion, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 small yellow squash, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch slices
2 bell peppers, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 small package white button mushrooms, quartered
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper
1 T. Dijon mustard
1 T. balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1/4 cup slivered fresh basil

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine vegetables, garlic and oil in large casserole dish; toss to coat.
2. Sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.
3. Bake vegetables 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. (May take longer if using root vegetables or potatoes)
4. Meanwhile, whisk together mustard, vinegar and hot pepper sauce in small bowl until smooth. Stir mixture into hot vegetables; toss to coat. Sprinkle salad with basil; garnish if desired. Serve warm alone or over rice.

Pan Seared Tuna Steaks
2 1-inch thick tuna steaks, either fresh or thawed
1 T olive oil (or use cooking spray)
Lime or lemon juice
McCormick's Montreal Steak Seasoning

1. Heat oil in skillet until hot.
2. Rinse tuna steaks in water and pat dry.
3. Sprinkle both sides with lime juice.
4. Generously sprinkle both sides with Montreal Steak Seasoning
5. Place steaks in hot skillet and pan sear until desired doneness.
Serve with lemon juice, tartar sauce or Asian Sesame Soy Salad dressing and warm roasted vegetable salad on the side.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Having a good cry

My hubby is out of town for a few days so I thought I would take this opportunity to have a good cry--a good, guffawing, snot-slinging cry that comes from the bottom of my feet and works it way all the way up to my head and out my eyes, nose and every other escape route. Every once in a while, I need this to cleanse my system and my soul. And it's not often that I am afforded the opportunity of performing this ritual without worrying the kids or freaking out my husband.

Times are tough everywhere. I am trying to put on a brave face and have been doing an okay job, at least I think, but every once in a while I succumb to the need of having a good pity party with myself as the Guest of Honor. I have so many good things in my life to be thankful for--a wonderful husband, three great kids, my loving parents, a beautiful sister and her family, terrific friends--I am so appreciative, but sometimes I am overcome by great sadness.

Our country is in dire straits--good people have lost their jobs, their homes, their belongings, their faith, their lives--what is going to become of us? I am hopeful that our new President and his administration can turn our economy around, but it seems things are so far gone that that might not happen for a very long time. Unemployment is at an all-time high, the stock market and all-time low, morale is abysmal at best. I, like, countless other moms and dads, worry, worry, worry what the future holds for our country, our families, our children.

I am not an economist, nor a politician, nor a theologian, but I am somewhat intelligent and can read the writing on the wall and it is not a good story. I don't know if we need more government intervention or Divine intervention, but what I do know is that things have got to get better. What can I do to make a change, a difference?

I know some people are perpetual optimists and would argue that it is not all so bleak--that there are shiny moments in an otherwise gray existence--but that is not what tonight is all about for me.

I am so grateful to have found a church where I can go and pray and spend peaceful moments with my husband and kids--an escape, much like the tears I have shed this evening.

Tonight, I will cry. Tomorrow, I will hope.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Cherry-Pineapple Crap (Cobbler) Recipe

A friend of mine made me this after I had Carly. She is due to deliver her second child next week, so I was reminded of this special time in my life and this delicious recipe. She made hers with just the cherry pie filling, but I added the pineapple chunks (reminiscent of a dump cake). You may use any pie filling you like--it's super easy to make and super yummy!

1 can cherry pie filling
1 20 oz. can pineapple chunks, drained
1 C flour
1 C sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg, beaten
1/2 C (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted in microwave

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Mix together pie filling and pineapple chunks and pour into 11 x 7 x 1.5 inch casserole dish. Or you can use individual casseroles.
3. In a bowl, mix all dry ingredients.
4. Add beaten egg and mix together until crumbly.
5. Spoon mixture over pie filling.
6. Pour melted butter over top of crumb mixture.
7. Bake at 350 degrees until top is brown and bubbly.
Serve alone or with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. When I had just had Carly and was nursing 24/7, I ate this yummy concoction for breakfast.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Darn Leprechauns!

Well, those wee men caused quite a raucous at our home this evening. It seems Max and Sophie have been learning quite a bit about St. Patrick's Day and Leprechauns at The Country Day School this week. This morning, Max announced he was going to catch a Leprechaun at school today, but, in retrospect, it seems the Leprechaun caught him.

Now, I check the kids' backpacks every night and pull their daily folders, remove papers, go over agendas, etc., but this evening, I was thrown for a loop.

At one point, and I don't know why, Sophie went into Max's backpack and found that there was ranch dip smeared all over the inside of his backpack and on his folders. I swear it was not there this afternoon. Max was just squealing, "It was the Leprechauns! We tried to catch them at school! They peed green glitter in our potty!"

Okay. The kids get a hot lunch on Mondays that includes carrots and ranch dip, but I emptied his backpack yesterday and there were not any carrots nor ranch dip to be found. Also, my routine is to empty the kids' backpacks when they get home from school, and I adhered to that routine today and found nothing amiss--I swear there were no carrots nor ranch dip to be found!

Sophie and Max were so excited and very pleased with the assessment that Leprechauns had caused some commotion that could not be directly attributed to them. I thought they would have been afraid (I am more than a little freaked out!), but yet they were very pragmatic about the somewhat strange occurrence.

I, for one, am glad this day is over. As much as I love St. Patrick's Day and a little mischief every now and then, I can do without the extra shenanigans and mess!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Suzi Homemaker's Cashew-crusted Mahi Mahi

I have been trying to eat more fish, but it's some times hard to find a good, simple recipe that's quick to prepare. Here's one for mahi mahi.

2 mahi mahi fillets (fresh or thawed)
lime juice
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 C corn starch
1/8 C coconut milk (I use light coconut milk)
1/4 C crushed cashews

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a glass baking dish.
2. Rinse mahi mahi fillets and pat dry. Sprinkle with lime juice.
3. In a shallow dish, combine corn starch and cayenne pepper. Dredge fillets in corn starch mixture on one side. Shake off excess.
4. In another shallow dish, pour coconut milk. Dip the floured side of the fillets into the milk.
5. In another shallow dish, place the crushed cashews. Dip the floured/coated sides of the fillets in the nuts and place fillets cashew side up in baking dish.
6. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until fish is white and flaky. (I also put the fish under the broiler for a few minutes to toast the nuts.)
Serve with pesto noodles or herb seasoned rice and a salad.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Day 10: Love is unconditional, unless...

It's been hard to get back on track here after dealing with the kids being sick, but I swore I was going to stick with this, so here's to making a concerted effort to stay on task!

I have been dealing with PMDD for the past couple of days and have really noticed a drastic change in my behavior, especially my irritability. My fuse has been pretty short and I have been pretty rough on the kids and I even have snapped at Steve a couple times. I think he is especially disappointed--he's been enjoying having the kinder, gentler Suzi around.

An example of my stellar behavior happened this morning when I was packing lunch for the kids. I made the mistake of asking them what they wanted. Well, Max was saying "cheesy puffs," so I thought he meant cheese puffs. I grabbed the bag of organic Cheetos and he just screamed, "No!" So, then I got Cheetos crunchy and he screamed, "No!" again. I just kept yelling at him, "What do you want? What do you want?" and he was crying and saying, "Cheesy puffs." I took the bag of Cheetos and threw them on the counter and they bounced right off and hit Sophie on the head. I finally got it out of him that he wanted that nasty Puff 'n Corn, but not without a lot of tears and screaming. What a jerk I was. I think I need to revisit some of the earlier challenges.

This isn't even what I set out to write when I sat down at the computer, but there it is. I guess I view this as my Confessional where I'm truly held accountable for my actions...so, back to the topic at hand. If love is unconditional, then I guess I should not place conditions on my behavior just because I may not be feeling 100 percent. For example, I will be kind and loving unless I am premenstrual, in which event, anything goes.

Pretty crappy logic.

I am lucky that the kids are too young to place conditions on their love for me or I fear I would have lost them by now. If I continue down this path, they are going to learn these behaviors and I don't want that for them. I want theirs to be a happy, loving, innocent existence for as long as possible. I've got to step it up here and get back on track for the sake of my kids, as well as my husband.

So as my friend, Angie, did recently, I am declaring a do over. Tomorrow I will do something special for everyone in the family--something that shows them I love them just because and not unless...

Monday, March 2, 2009

New market totes, other goodies being added to retail site

While attending the Atlanta Gift Market back in January, I was able to track down a couple of different vendors for the collapsible market totes that were so popular over the holidays. These are so roomy and great for hauling stuff to parties or for packing snacks for long road trips. A friend of mine uses one of hers in her guest bath and has it stocked with plenty of clean towels. There are so many uses for these versatile bags. With Mother's Day coming up, I'm sure you will find many welcoming recipients. I have plenty of these in stock in black, brown, red, bright green and royal. There are a few prints left over from Christmas, but they are going fast.

Additionally, I found a vendor for some shallow, double-handled market totes. These have two mesh pockets on the inside to stash keys, coins or other small objects. They come in some really cute patterns, too, such as the brown floral pictured here. I'm putting together a nice gift basket for a friend's housewarming party (shhh--don't tell!), which I'm going to fill with some applique/embroidered tea towels, a bottle of wine and some other goodies.

Prior to attending the Market, Sophie had asked if I could make her a tote bag in which to carry all of her Webkinz. Well, wouldn't you know, I stumbled upon this very thing, created by Meredith of Jackpopz. I snatched up a bunch of them to sell on my site and stitched one up special for Sophie. The Jacecase, pictured here, is large enough to hold six large-sized Webkinz (wouldn't you know that Sophie got a few more Webkinz for her birthday, so now her Webkinz will have to take turns in the carrier). Coming in April is an adorable camo backpack from Jackpopz that will hold large-sized Webkinz and it also has little holders on the straps for Matchbox cars. I can't wait to get my hands on those.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The look of love: Days 7, 8 and 9

After a disastrous Day 6, I finally had a couple of good days. For days 7, 8 and 9, I thought I would combine the challenges in one post as they all were closely related.

I've been thinking a lot about love and how people relate to one another.

I recently read the book "The Shack," by Wm. Paul Young, and in it, there was a particular passage that had a profound impact on me. The book is about a man named Mack whose youngest daughter is abducted and brutally murdered while on a family vacation. Several years after the girl's disappearance, Mack receives a note, apparently from God, asking him to return to the abandoned shack where the murder took place. While there, Mack comes face to face with the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. They have taken on human forms--and not necessarily how Mack pictured them. The thing that struck me in particular was how Mack observed how the three communicated with each other--they thoroughly enjoyed each other's company and gave each other their undivided attention--they demonstrated pure love for one another.

This gave pause for me to think of the couples or people I knew who actually treated each other with the love and respect as the Holy figures demonstrated in this book. I recalled a time when I was visiting the Mennonite family who sold me my commercial embroidery machine. The husband and wife treated each other with such great love and respect and showed such pure enjoyment for one another, that I began to crave it (the it that is love) in my own relationships.

I thought back to the early days of my relationship with Steve--when we were so in love with each other that we overlooked each other's faults--before the trappings of life began to weigh heavily on our relationship. Why is it that we lose sight of the very things that brought us together and start to nitpick at behaviors or habits that have no relevance? Why can't we just cherish the true, beautiful gift of love? And it is a gift--one that eluded me for so very long.

I remember a time when Steve and I were engaged and we were at a party dancing and laughing with one another. Afterward, a friend of mine came up to me and gave me a big hug and kiss and said how much she enjoyed watching me enjoy my fiance--how our very apparent love had touched her. So I had it--we had it. Well, darn it if we're not going to get it back!

So, the challenge for the past three days tasked us with coming up with lists of positive and negative attributes of our spouse. The list of positives by far outnumbered the negatives. And the list of negatives that I came up with were so very minor, that it hardly was worth it to write them down, tho it did make me realize how inconsequential they were in the grand scheme of things.

I not only made sure that I told Steve how much I appreciated the fact that he always was in a good mood, but I also set about showing him how much I appreciate and love him--the ol' "actions speak louder than words" scenario.

We took the kids to a neighborhood restaurant and pub the other night to listen to a friend's band. I let go of all of the stress and irritants that seem to be constant companions of late and just really enjoyed my family. When Steve spoke, he had my undivided attention. We laughed and joked and kissed and held hands. I looked at my children with love instead of ire--the way they deserved. You might say we had it going on. It made for quite the enjoyable evening.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Day 6: The downward spiral continues

I'm a little behind with my writing due to a pinched nerve in my neck, but I have managed to keep up with my challenges--at least I have read them. It is ironic that my neck got hurt right when I was to address the issue of irritability and how it affects relationships.

I just erased a couple of paragraphs where I discussed how I've been under a lot of stress lately and tried to justify my bad behavior because I have not been sleeping well and I'm not feeling good. The truth is, I'm ashamed right now. I had been resting with a heating pad this afternoon while Max and Carly were playing with one of Max's friends. Steve left a while ago to go pick Sophie up from a friend's house. He told me Max was to clean up his room or go to bed.

Well, I made the mistake of going up and checking on him and I was sick at what I saw--his room looked like a trash heap. They had dumped out the hamper and all of the baskets I used to organize his toys, books were everywhere, a map of the United States was ripped in half, everything had been pulled out of the closet. I lost it and just started screaming at my little boy. It kills me when my kids don't take care of their things--perhaps my biggest pet peeve--but does that justify my bad behavior?

I consulted the book to see if I could parse some explanation for my actions and there it was: deficiencies. I have not been getting enough rest, good nutrition nor exercise and it's beginning to take its toll. I need to take time out for myself-- apply margin to my schedule--in order to relieve the stress and break the cycle of irritability. I am happiest when I am exercising regularly, sleeping well and eating right. I have not been taking care of myself, which translates into not taking care of my family.

I really thought I started out this challenge strong--I had a few really good days, and thought I would just cruise through. But I guess old habits die hard. I have a lot of work to do. I want to get to the point where I react to adversity with love, not anger. I'm not there yet.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Day 5: Love is not rude

Today's challenge found me asking Steve the three things that cause him to be irritated or uncomfortable around me. I was really nervous to ask him this because, let's face it, it's hard to hear any criticism about ourselves.

I emailed him, told him I was working on a project. He told me he would email me when he got back into his office. A couple hours later he called to say he had emailed the list and said that it was hard to come up with three things and he hoped I wasn't mad at him for what he wrote.

I had not expected this response from him. I thought he would have a hard time whittling down his list.

Here is what he wrote:

Here's my response...this doesn't mean I love you any less!

1. You sometimes think that your priorities are my priorities...like when you get into your house cleaning mode.

2. There are times when I call you to tell you I'm going to be late and you get this completely disappointed voice which makes me feel like crap.

3. I don't think you realize that golf is my release and I like spending time with just a few of my buddies. It would be great if you just told me to get out and play sometimes.

That's my 3.... LOVE YOU

I am not going to debate or argue any of these points. Reading this list made me realize that Steve loves me unconditionally--he accepts my faults and there are many--I know. And as I look at the list, those are examples of my selfishness--one of the key components of rude behavior. Number 1 - I want him to be on the same page as me. Number 2 - I am disappointed because it means I have to deal with the children and the house alone for that much longer. Number 3 - Why should he get to have fun and relax--what about me? So on the surface his answers seem benign, but when I delved deeper, his answers struck a painful chord. A real eye-opener.

Steve said he would be afraid to ask me the same question.

He also told me he knew what my project was. He asked, "What day are you on?"

I am somewhat relieved as I had been feeling like I was sneaking around or lying to him. Every time he would come into my office while I was writing, I would quickly turn off the computer as if I were hiding some secret correspondence with a lover when in all actuality it was my secret correspondence to him.

So now we are on this journey together--as it should be.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Day 4 marks the return of Mean Mommy

Today's challenge, had it stood apart from the others, would have been relatively easy to accomplish; but for the fact that I still was incorporating the previous days' challenges, I must admit, I failed miserably.

Today we were to contact our spouse and ask them how they were doing (Steve and I do this several times a day anyway, so this was no big deal). I knew he had dropped off a bunch of shirts at the dry cleaners last week, so I asked if he wanted me to pick them up.

"That would be great! Thanks, Baby," he said.

So, I went and picked up his shirts, no problem. This is an area of our marriage in which we excel. We've always talked several times day and are usually very courteous and helpful if one of needs the other to run an errand. My failure today came in the treatment--or shall I say mistreatment--of my children, especially Carly.

Carly is two and 3/4 and she requires a lot of attention. Unlike the other two, who are perfectly content to play by themselves without incident, Carly needs almost constant companionship and supervision--she commands it. If she doesn't get it, then she sets out to do anything and everything in her power to achieve it.

After going to the dry cleaners, I took Carly to the grocery store, where, of course, she wanted to ride in one of those awful carts that has the plastic car on the front. (Whomever invented these things needs some serious counseling because only a sick individual would put these contraptions out for public consumption.) I tried to shop quickly before Carly got restless. By the time we got to checkout she had five-fingered a bag of Puff 'n Corn, a box of Ho Hos and some tampons. I took a deep breath and returned everything, with the exception of the Puff 'n Corn which she clung to for dear life when I tried to pry it from her hands. When we wheeled out to the car, I opened the door to the minivan so she could get inside and she darted out the other side of the plastic car and ran out into the parking lot. I screamed at her to come back, but she just started laughing this sinister laugh and running away. I was fearful she would get hit by a car, but she was oblivious to any potential harm. I finally grabbed her and dumped her unceremoniously into her car seat.

Things got worse. All afternoon she was getting into everything and destroying stuff around the house. While I was putting groceries away, she was pulling crackers out of the pantry and dumping them on the floor. She got into the refrigerator and opened up container after container of yogurt which she proceeded to dump, half empty into the kitchen sink. I left the room for a minute and came back to find she had stabbed a banana with a paring knife--I don't know if I should have perceived that as a threat or not, but I was exasperated. At one point, she had gone into my sewing room and removed all of the spools of thread from my sewing cabinet and was stringing them around my bedroom. When I tried to get the thread from her, she took off running and dumped the evidence along the way, all with her signature semi-evil laugh.

By the time we went to get Sophie and Max from school, I had had it. Carly had taken off running around the courtyard at school (a no-no) and the other two were chasing after her. I stood defeated. After we got home it did not take long for Mean Mommy to emerge. I was putting lunch bags away and going through folders, when Max and Carly appeared in the kitchen without any clothes on. Little piles of clothes and kid funk started to appear all over the house. I started screaming. I'm pretty sure at one point that my head spun around and pea soup was shooting out of my mouth and nose. I yelled and yelled and yelled. By the time I was done I was exhausted and the kids were just ignoring me--it seems they have gotten used to my rants, even though I had provided them a few days of respite.

I felt horrible. I felt as if I had just undone all that I had accomplished thus far in the Love Dare Challenge. I apologized, but I'm not sure that was enough. All Carly had wanted was to spend time with me. I realized if I didn't change this pattern of behavior that soon none of my children will want to be around me. I don't want to live life that way. I really need to do better here.

I am praying for a good Day 5.

Being selfish -- Love Dare Day 3

Today I screwed up a bit.

I hadn't read the challenge completely and thought that I was supposed to do something nice for my husband and not be selfish. He had the day off for President's Day and we had discussed on Friday spending the day together since Sophie and Max would be in school and Carly would go to day care (she goes just one day a week).

Well, Sunday evening he had mentioned that he had to run to Baltimore for a side job he was doing and thought that I could accompany him and then we could go to lunch. I started thinking of all of the orders I had to do for my embroidery business and told him I didn't think I would be able to get everything done that I needed to if I went with him (it would have meant three hours in the car plus whatever time we spent at the job site and at lunch). I could tell that he was disappointed, but instead of making the concession, I stayed at home to work.

I vacillated all day, beating myself up one minute and then trying to justify my actions--it was the one day I could devote to my business without interruption from the kids. I had just about convinced myself that I was not being selfish, that I was being responsible, when I sat down and read more closely the chapter in the book for Day 3. I pretty much failed the questionnaire.

Do I truly want what's best for my husband? Well, of course. That's why I am doing this challenge.

Do I truly want him to feel loved by me? Again, a given.

Does he believe I have his best interests in mind? Oh, dear...

Does he see me as looking out for myself first? Uh, yeah...

Alright--so I blew it. I could have put my orders off (I was turning them around within a few days rather than the week to two weeks stated on my website), and gone with Steve--it should have been a simple challenge, but I complicated things by being selfish. I realize the purpose of this challenge is not to punish ourselves, but to show true love to our spouses and children. I resolved to do better the next day.

Then I looked at the challenge and realized I was supposed to buy something for Steve to show him that I was thinking of him. Shoot! It was already 8 p.m. What could I possibly buy and how could I sneak out of the house without anyone knowing I had left?

Without hesitation, I grabbed the keys to my car and snuck out the front door. Steve and the kids were in the basement cleaning up. I drove to the HandiMart outside our neighborhood and purchased him a Powerball ticket--he had just this afternoon told me he was going to win Powerball one of these days, "It shouldn't be too hard--I think they say the odds are 72 million to one." Good ol' Steve--always the positive thinker.

I snuck back in the house. Mission accomplished. I went down to the basement and handed him the ticket.

"Where'd you get this?" he asked.

"Oh, I had to run and get some aspirin for my hip, so I thought I'd get you a Powerball ticket," I explained.

"Thanks," was all he said.

That's it? I thought. Rather than say something like, "Gee, I thought you would be a little more grateful that I bought you something," I held my tongue.

Then I thought of how Caleb in the movie "Fireproof" could not believe that Catherine didn't even thank him for the coffee he had made for her or the pitiful flowers he purchased for her, once again, making it about him instead of his wife. Then I realized that it wasn't about me getting praise for doing something nice--it was about Steve--a small, small gesture to let him know I was thinking of him.

"Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves" (Philippians 2:3).

Lesson learned. The day was not a total loss.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Kindness in a skillet

Today's Love Dare was accomplished with a skillet of Hamburger Helper, which my husband loves, but which I find barely palatable. I consider myself an above average cook and am always trying out new recipes or creating new dishes, and while Steve enjoys most of my creations, I get the most satisfied reaction from him when I stick with the basics.

Today I made an effort to stick with the basics of love--patience and kindness.

I have to provide a little background. I was in an abusive relationship for several years while in college. After escaping that, I found myself bouncing from one bad relationship to another wondering why I couldn't maintain one that was decent and loving. The reason (which I discovered after years of therapy) was that I didn't love myself.

I would make such an effort to please my partner that I became a doormat--never wanting to complain or give any reason to rock the boat. When my partners became bored with Little Miss Perfection (and it's inevitable when you don't allow someone to get to know the real you), they started to take advantage of me. Rather than sticking up for myself, I set about to be even more perfect--my rationale being they couldn't possibly leave me because I'm so nice and I do so much for them.


So after therapy, I began asserting myself, loving myself. I was looking out for number one. That's when I met Steve. He got the real me. But as our relationship progressed, I still was looking out for number one. More so after we got married and had the kids. I began keeping score, comparing everything I did for him as opposed to what he did for me. Why should I do his laundry when I have to do not only mine, but all of the kids' laundry, as well? Why should I have to do most of the cleaning when he contributes to the mess as well? But that is not an accurate depiction of our relationship, because it only takes into account the physical acts that we perform for each other, not the emotional ones.

Steve is a good man and an excellent father. He always has treated me with love and respect. He is rarely in a bad mood and he often times has reason to be. He is kind to me. I realize I am the one who needs to even up the score emotionally.

In "The Love Dare," the authors quote a passage from the Bible describing a woman whose husband and children praise her. "She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindess is on her tongue." (Proverbs 31:26) I want to be that woman to my husband and children.

And so, today, kindness was on my tongue, along with a little overly-salted Hamburger Helper.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Love is patient, love is kind

I am participating in the "Love Dare Challenge," along with some other great women at OurLoveDare.com. I thought I would share some of my posts here.

I am not a patient person. So it stands to reason that I don't like to be late.

Several weeks ago, we were getting the kids ready for church and, as usual, the morning had slipped away and I was frantically trying to get the little ones ready and out the door so we would not miss any of the service.

I was standing in the foyer barking out orders, as is my usual routine.

"Sophie, put your shoes on!"

"Max--did you brush your teeth?"

"We're going to be late! Carly--where's Carly?"

"Let's go, guys! Come ON!"

"Steve, can you please help me get them ready?
Heavy sigh and overly-dramatic eye roll...

We made it to church, got the kids settled in their classrooms and went in to listen to the service. I was smiling and trying to look the part of Mother of the Year, when the Pastor started talking about how we present ourselves to the public as opposed to how we present ourselves in our own homes. How some people appear to be good Christians, always greeting others with a smile, giving of themselves, going above and beyond to lend a helping hand, and then turn around and are the exact opposite at home.

My heart sank. I realized I was a hypocrite. I was giving the best of myself to the community and saving the worst for home. I love my family, so why would I treat them so poorly? Love is patient, love is kind, yet I realized I violate those core principles on almost a daily basis.

When Steve and I got into the car after church, I apologized to him. I told him that what the Pastor had said really hit home. He, too, had been struck by the message and we both vowed to do better--to treat each other with the love and respect we as family members all deserve.

Over the next few weeks, I did better, but I still did my share of yelling.

So, on this, the first day of the Love Dare Challenge, it seemed only fitting that I had to address one of my biggest demons--impatience.

The day started out beautifully--Valentine's Day and Steve had surprised me with a dozen roses, fresh coffee and a pepperoni roll (my favorite West Virginian delicacy). The kids were bouncing off the walls, excited over their cards and eating way too much candy. The morning went by too fast as usual and pretty soon it was time to go to Sophie's basketball game, which meant getting all three kids ready and out the door.


I didn't know if I was going to be able to hold it together, but I did. I didn't yell or issue commands like a drill sergeant. Instead I was encouraging the kids to get ready, asking them if they needed help getting their shoes and coats on--it was oddly very pleasant.

Even at the game when Carly and Max were off being every bit two and four, I remained calm. If they started to do something wrong, I asked them nicely to stop. They didn't always listen, but at the times they deviated, I re-directed them or took them out of the auditorium so they could calm down.

I did everything the way a loving person should--the way my family deserved.

And it felt really good.

My hope for this challenge is that I will strengthen my already strong marriage and foster true love amongst my children. I'm hoping they will forget all of the times I have yelled at them and that they will feel secure in my love for them--that they will know that love is forgiving, understanding and patient.

It was a good day.

Day 2 -- bring it!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Basement floods again

I cannot believe it, but our basement has flooded for the sixth time since our home was built not even four years ago. I am sick over this and very angry at our builder (Richmond American Homes). This was our dream home and it has become a nightmare living here. Once again, Steve and I had to haul out the kids toys (the basement is their play room), mop up all of the water and dry everything out. Steve had put all of the towels and blankets outside to dry out and, as luck would have it, we got a big rain last night and are now being treated to wind gusts of 60 mph. This morning I had to run all over the yard and collect the towels and bring them inside. I'm washing my third load.

I do not understand why this keeps occurring. We do not live in a flood plain. We complained to our builder (Richmond American) after our Big Flood on Mother's Day last year when we lost all of our Berber carpeting and padding, our bathroom tile, hundreds of dollars worth of Suzi Homemaker inventory and most of the kids' toys. Of course, they said they were sorry for our loss, but not their problem since our warranty expired two years prior. We have a sump pump and a hung sewer. Richmond American encouraged us to use their insurance company when we financed the house. The mortgage company neglected to tell us of a little clause that stated sump pump failure was not included with our policy--we had to purchase extra insurance to cover that. Now, don't you think had we been made aware of that clause when we purchased our insurance that we would have purchased the additional coverage since we have not one, but TWO PUMPS?

The house flooded once before we moved in, twice while we were under warranty and now three additional times since we've been on our own. Can anyone think of a reason why this keeps happening other than that Richmond American built us a substandard, overpriced home?

I did a little research this morning (which I wish we would have done prior to building with Richmond American), apparently there are MANY other dissatisfied Richmond American home buyers out there, with issues ranging from flooding, to mold, to improperly installed roofing tiles, to the builder's failure to properly install passive radon removal systems, to improperly installed floor joists (this resulted in a bathtub falling through a ceiling), ... the list goes on and on and on. These are homeowners from around the country.

I need to move on to a happier topic--Sophie's birthday and all of the wonderful trappings that go with that. But I will leave you with a link to check out. Please do research on your builder before buying a new home. I wish we had--it would have saved us a lot of grief and money.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Honest Scrap Award

Regina from My Life With Little Girls was kind enough to bestow this award upon me. From what I have read, this award is given to bloggers who write from the heart.

The rules are as follows:

a) List 10 honest things about yourself.

b) Pass the award on to seven bloggers whom you feel embody the spirit of the Honest Scrap.

Here is my list of things (a.k.a. neuroses) in no particular order:

1. I cry at least once a day, whether I am happy, sad, angry or frustrated. I cry at commercials. I cry watching "A Baby Story." I cried during the Super Bowl, both during the "Star Spangled Banner," and then at the end of the game. There is nothing I can do about this--I am convinced it is hereditary.

2. I used to be painfully shy. I could not walk into a room without being totally self-conscious. Speaking to someone out of my small, inner circle of friends just did not occur without a lot of stuttering or blushing.

3. I decided to go to school at Arizona State University, way across the country where I knew not a single soul, to get over aforementioned shyness. It worked. My senior year, I was editor-in-chief of the campus daily newspaper and had made a lot of great friends (tho I still sometimes find myself feeling shy in certain social settings).

4. I secretly wish I was 30 again (tho I would still want to have my wonderful husband and three gorgeous kids). I just wish I still looked like I did and had the energy I did when I was 30.

5. I'm afraid to go to the dentist. I go, but not without a lot of anxiety. I'm always convinced my teeth are falling out. The dentist assures me they're not, but that I am brushing too hard. I don't even like it when they clean my teeth. The latex gloves make me gag. I'm gagging right now just thinking of it.

6. I don't like to play games--not card games, board games nor video games. I would much rather sit and have a conversation with someone or just sit quietly. If I go to a party where they are playing games, I'll sit on the sidelines and just chit-chat with everyone instead of playing.

7. I have a diaper bag fetish. I've been in search of the perfect diaper bag since I had Sophie almost seven years ago. It does not exist, although I came close with a bag I designed on 1154 Lill. My diaper bag days are nearly over and I am trying to come to terms with that fact.

8. I am an EXCELLENT dancer. I don't know how I acquired this skill, but people are always amazed when I start moving on the dance floor.

9. There are some kids at Sophie and Max's school that I don't like. If I hear of one of them being mean to my children, that's it. They're on my List. Some others make it just because they annoy me. Especially whiners. I know--I am horrible.

10. I have a foot fungus. I got it from sharing a shower with my husband. I keep treating it, but until he buys into the fact that he has the fungus (he insists it's dry skin), it will not go away.

Now for my seven Honest Scrappers: Amy from Mom Spark; my buddy, Dawn from D-Blogala; Angie from 5 Vinez Monkeys; Gina from A Wrestling Addicted Mommy; Kristle from Stir Crazy; Heather from A Daycare Life; and my girl Jen from Lost In Eden.