Friday, August 31, 2012

See. Hear. Taste.

:: SEE ::

Good Food on a Tight Budget - the Environmental Working Group's new guide to eating healthy, whole foods without going broke

:: HEAR ::

Can you cure your allergies with hookworm?

:: TASTE ::

strawberry cheesecake
strawberry cheesecake (recipe at Annie's Eats)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Raingutter Regatta

Similar to the Pinewood Derby, each Cub Scout had to make his own boat to race. Rather than relying on gravity power, however, the boys had to power their boats by blowing on the sail - not too hard or they'd topple over, but not too soft or they wouldn't win.

raingutter regatta
raingutter regatta

raingutter regatta
raingutter regatta

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


 Problem #1

Eli started complaining this summer that he couldn't sleep at night because it was too light outside. We have their windows covered with blackout blinds and a bookcase in front of the window, but apparently that wasn't enough.

(I shouldn't make fun because if I wake up in the middle of the night and someone has forgotten to turn off the computer in our bedroom or the closet light is on or the boys' have turned on the bathroom light down the hall, I cannot fall back asleep.)

He asked if I would make him a sleeping mask like the one I use, but I was feeling lazy and made him make it himself. This was his first attempt at sewing and he whined all the way through it, but it gets the job done.


sleep masks

sleep masks

 Problem #2

Cole's school supply list was extremely specific this year. First off, his teachers requested that he have his very own 2" zip binder (translated as "trapper keeper" for children of the 80s). Those things are darned expensive, even if you sacrifice your values and make a trip to Walmart. As I handed it over to Cole on the first day of school, I said, "You better take really good care of this so I never have to buy another one ever again."

They also requested that he have a soft-sided pencil bag. No, no, the hard-sided pencil box that he used last year will not do. It must be soft-sided. Since I had spent all my money on the trapper keeper, I made Cole dig through my fabric stash, and in only an hour's worth of sewing time, I was able to save myself probably $2.50. We customized it by writing "Work hard and be awesome" on the patch.


Cole's pencil bag

When I'm not trying to save a measly amount of money, I can never convince myself to drag out my sewing machine, but I must admit that seeing the finished product of something I made all by myself is quite satisfying.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

End of Summer

The summer of 2012 is hereby titled "The Summer Eli Was Obsessed with Hide and Seek and Cole Was Obsessed with Video Game Music."

bowlingbowlingbowlingkung fu Rylanat the farmers marketsleeping surferMarblescar showpublic hearing on transitDonkey KongDokey KongDonkey Kongscience museumscience museumscience museum

(1) Bowling

(4) Marbles

Parents are amazing, don't you think? The longer I'm a parent, the more respect I have for my own parents - for example, for not killing me after the 100th time I complained as a child that I was bored.

I keep telling people that my kids are at the point in summer vacation where they've done everything there is to do and are now entertaining themselves by picking on each other.

I am at the point in the summer where I'm twisting my own rules in order to maintain my sanity: Drawing on the computer is not the same as playing games on the computer, so go right ahead. It's okay to play Wii all morning as long as you're playing Family Game Night (because it's sort of like playing board games). You can listen to video game music all day if you want. Just close the door.

Three more days, we can make it!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Music Lessons: Jeremy Messersmith

Must convince Michael to learn this song on the guitar so I can play the violin along with him...


Thursday, August 16, 2012

I've Said My Peace and Counted to Three

 I'm about to get all political. My apologies...

I read this story on Facebook yesterday. It's making the rounds, getting like after like. It made me so irritated that I dreamed about it last night and woke up talking about it first thing this morning:
"Recently, while I was working in the flower beds in the front yard, my neighbors stopped to chat as they returned home from walking their dog. During our friendly conversation, I asked their little girl what she wanted to be when she grows up. She said she wanted to be President some day. Both of her parents, liberal Democrats, were standing there, so I asked her, "If you were President what would be the first thing you would do?" She replied... "I'd give food and houses to all the homeless people." Her parents beamed with pride! "Wow...what a worthy goal!" I said. "But you don't have to wait until you're President to do that!" I told her. "What do you mean?" she replied. So I told her, "You can come over to my house and mow the lawn, pull weeds, and trim my hedge, and I'll pay you $50. Then you can go over to the grocery store where the homeless guy hangs out and give him the $50 to use toward food and a new house." She thought that over for a few seconds, then she looked me straight in the eye and asked, "Why doesn't the homeless guy come over and do the work, and you can just pay him the $50?" I said, "Welcome to the Republican Party." Her parents aren't speaking to me anymore."
Today, I opened up Facebook to post a reply, but I felt like I was personally attacking a friend, who is actually very nice. So I'm posting it here instead.

My original reply:
This story reveals a sad lack of understanding about the homeless. Here in North Carolina, for example, about 20% of homeless people have a mental disability (some sources put it much higher at 30-40%), and 20% are children. 30-40% have a serious substance abuse problem. The small number of employable adults that are left are not on the streets because they WANT to be, but it's not super easy to go from homeless to employed when you may not have had a place to sleep the night before, or food to eat, or a shower, or presentable clothing, especially during a recession when jobs are scarce for everyone. If this story were about employable adults who are mooching off the system because they are lazy, I might be like, "Good point." But centering the story around the homeless shows a lack of knowledge, understanding, and a serious lack of compassion that makes me really really sad.
You can stop reading now if you want. The rest of this post is more of my thoughts on this subject, and I tell you what, I have an opinion!

If you feel like reading on, let's consider the suggested scenario of inviting the homeless guy over to your house to do some work in your yard so you can pay him $50. I live in a house downtown, so I occasionally do have homeless or poverty-stricken men come to my door, sometimes simply begging but often asking to mow my lawn in exchange for money. The first time it happened, the thought that went through my mind was sadly not, "Awesome! I'm so glad he's at least trying to work." My thought was, "My kids!!!!" And I very quickly turned him down and shut the door. I felt incredibly guilty about it, but I also felt that it was the right thing to do. Three years later, after discussing the scenario with my more experienced neighbors, my answer is, "The Salvation Army is just down the street. Here's how you get there."

But let's say you're more charitable than I am, and you actually would invite a strange man to work in your yard for $50. Now what can he do with that money? Hopefully, you were generous and gave him food and water, so all he has to worry about is shelter. He can't afford to stay at any of the hotels downtown. He could take public transportation out to the suburbs to a cheaper hotel, but then again, we're saying that the government shouldn't help the poor, so no public transportation. Anyway, he's trying to get out of his homeless situation, so he would rather save his $50. If he's lucky, he'll get a bed at the Raleigh Rescue Mission. More likely, he'll have to find a place to huddle down outside where he'll be warm or comfortable enough but won't be chased off by a cop. He's gotten very little sleep, hasn't been able to shower or shave, and his clothes are filthy (not to mention that he likely has a mental disorder or substance abuse problem - see statistics above), but I'm sure if he can find enough people who will let him mow their lawns (and doesn't get robbed - remember, he doesn't have an address, so he can't open a bank account), he'll be able to get out of his situation soon enough.

Of course if you're more like me and would rather not have a stranger mowing your lawn while you and your kids are in the house, you could always give your $50 to an organization that helps the homeless - providing shelter, food, clothing, and even drug recovery services. I really think this is a great idea. I really do. If you actually do it. But times are tough, the kids have soccer and music lessons, food prices keep going up, and if you live out in the suburbs or out in the country, it's pretty easy to forget that the homeless even exist. I know how it goes; I've been there. I also know how hard it can be for a non-profit to provide services when they're relying on the charity of others, especially during a recession.

Personally, I would rather do the work, make the 50 bucks, and let the government use some of what I've earned to set up safety nets so people don't become homeless in the first place and to collaborate with community organizations to help people transition out of homelessness. I don't believe people who are able to work should get to sit on their butts living off my hard-earned dollars, and I definitely don't think the welfare system is perfect. But getting people out of poverty - and especially homelessness - is more complicated than simply stating, "They need to get a job!"

Sunday, August 12, 2012

My Jesus Sandals

A year ago, I wrote a post at the Green Phone Booth about needing new flip flops/sandals, and a reader recommended Sseko Shoes. I instantly fell in love with the concept - handmade by young women in Africa who need money for college, Sseko sandals combine a leather sole with interchangeable fabric straps that can be tied in as many ways as you can come up with. My sister calls them Jesus Sandals.

Last year, I didn't have the money for new sandals, so I suffered through my old dirty Simple flip flops for one more year. But this year I was able to splurge!

Here are a few ways I've tied my Ssekos:

sseko shoes

sseko sandals

sseko sandals

These sandals are not cheap (relatively speaking - remember I am the Conscious Shopper), but because you can change out the straps and tie them in different ways, you can feel like you have multiple pairs of sandals when you really only have one.

Note though: If I ever buy them again, I will size down. Unfortunately, Ssekos don't come in half sizes.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

On a Cloudy Morning in August

Two weeks before the start of school...

lazy morninglazy morninglazy morning

Monday, August 6, 2012

Ranch Cake

ranch cake
For my high school graduation, two of my lovely aunts put together a book of family recipes for me. I'm ashamed to admit that I haven't actually tried many of the recipes, but really that's not entirely my fault. Grandma Funk's lasagna? Yes! Great Grandma Backman's lemon bars? Of course! Great Great Grandma Phelps' suet pudding? Um....yum?

My favorite recipe in the book is for Ranch Cake because I absolutely love my Great Grandma Byrd's notes on the recipe:
"When I grew up on a ranch in Montana, we often had a lot of men to cook for. We were too busy to follow a recipe in a cookbook, so we had a standard cake recipe we used to make a spice cake or white or chocolate. We did not have cake mixes at that time. And we did not have a modern stove - just an old coal and wood black stove. When we made this cake, we usually made a test cake before baking it. We put some batter in a small pan or on a piece of brown paper and baked it. If this test cake "fell" we added more flour to the cake batter before baking it."
What I love about this recipe is how imprecise it is - it actually says "2 cups flour (or more)." She also says that they would frost it with a brown sugar frosting "if we had brown sugar" or with whipped cream "because we had so much of it." Can you imagine living in a place where brown sugar is a scarcity but you never run out of whipped cream?

We made the chocolate version of the cake (and it rose just fine with only two cups of flour) and frosted half with whipped cream and the other with brown sugar frosting. Michael and I both agreed that it was good but not the best cake we'd ever had, but Eli says, "We should have ranch cake more often!"

Rylan says...

"For dessert, I want some frosting with cake on it."

Sunday, August 5, 2012

If today were an ice cream sundae

Our internet was out for a week due to a variety of circumstances, and it was just about the death of me. But then when we finally got it up and running again, I sat down at the computer to blog and discovered that I had nothing to say. This happened again tonight when the boys and I sat down to write in our journals. My journal entry has exactly one paragraph and then "um..."

Apparently, life around here has been kind of boring.

So here are a few random things.


Michael is obsessive about watching the Olympics. Seriously, do we need to stay up until midnight to watch beach volleyball again? But the other night when our internet came back on, I was sitting at the computer catching up on life when Michael called to me, "Hey, Erin, the men's diving is on."

I said, "So?"

He said, "It's just that I know you like the swimsuits."

And then I was like, Oh, yeah. I do like watching men's diving...

Isn't he the best husband, ever? :)

(Okay, Internet, I think we have a problem. I just tried finding a picture of the men's diving just in case some poor girl out there didn't know what I was talking about, and I couldn't find a single really awesome shot where they walk around with their butt crack showing. Really, Internet? Really?)

(If I were to print this blog out into a book and show it to my grandchildren someday, would they be completely mortified by this post?)


I have this thing where I hate getting ready for bed. I will seriously waste hours at the computer just to avoid washing my face. I also don't like changing clothes. (I think this means I am not really a girl.) Once I am dressed for the day, that is it. Do not expect me to change out of my dress so I can take a nap on Sunday. I will take a nap in my dress. And then once the dress is all wrinkled, I'll go visiting teaching. But I might choose to wear shoes that don't match the dress if they are more comfortable.


On Friday nights while Michael gambles away our fortune at the poker table, I've been working some more on that Novel No One But Me Will Ever Read, and I keep having this problem where my characters want to curse. I find this fascinating because I personally never say bad words, not even inside my own head. I'm not one of those people who gets really angry and a "damn" slips out. Even in my thoughts, it is always "darnit" and "shoot" and "crap," which shows you just how Molly Mormon I am.

Lately, my boys have gotten big into saying, "Oh my gosh." They have picked this up from their friends at school, and it makes me cringe every single time. This is fascinating too because I don't cringe when adults say "oh my god." It just sounds weird coming out of the mouths of my own kids.

(In case I haven't proven how Molly Mormon I am, I almost never say "oh my gosh." I say, "Oh my goodness.")


Apparently, zucchini is the easiest plant to grow ever, and for the life of me I cannot get one to grow in my garden. I think I'm a pretty good gardener, but zucchini is my nemesis.

Also, pumpkin...Eli brought home a pumpkin seed from school, so of course we had to plant it. The vines have taken over half of the yard, but so far, we only have two pumpkins growing on it.

garden 2012

Canteloupe, though, I can do.

garden 2012


Eli said, "If today were an ice cream sundae, it would have three cherries on top."
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...