Thursday, December 30, 2010

Another Giveaway!!!

So I'm checking my email while on vacation and discovered that My BlogSpark had sent me items for a holiday cookie giveaway.  I'm a little behind on all of this as we're in Florida (where it has been cold. Boo!), but tonight I thought I'd take a few minutes to share this all with you and give you a chance to win.

I know, I know. This was for holiday baking, but sugar cookies are yummy YEAR ROUND last time I checked, so why not enter and get a chance to have a prize pack sent to you?

What I'm giving away:
One “Happy Holiday Treats” prize pack that includes a package of Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie Mix, a GladWare sample pack and a $25 Safeway gift card (also valid at Dominick’s, Tom Thumb, Randalls, Vons, and Genuardi’s).

How to Enter:
1. Subscribe to my blog (and let me know)
2. Enter with your email address in the comment section and tell me your favorite type of cookie. NOTE: If you don't provide me your email address in the comment, your entry won't count (lots of people have been entering and saying my email is in my profile, but it wasn't, or they enter with no email address at all!)
3. You must be 18 years or older and live in the USA.

I will choose ONE winner via random number drawing on Sunday, January 9th at 10pm CST.  The prize pack will be sent directly to you via MyBlogSpark, the lovely people who sent me all these items to give away.

Good luck!

For great holiday recipe ideas, how-to videos, and tips for hosting your very own cookie exchange, visit While you’re there, be sure to play the new Sweet Memories game that gives you the chance to instantly win free Betty Crocker products!

The coupon, prize pack, information and additional prize pack to give away were all given to me from Safeway, Betty Crocker, and Glad through MyBlogSpark.

Extreme Couponing: When Need to Save Goes Too Far

Did you all see this on ABC news? I missed the show that appeared on TLC the other night, so you'll have to fill me in, but this newsclip makes me shudder. Seriously. The woman with the 40 year supply of toiletpaper freaked me out.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Peppermint patties recipe

I saw this over at, and have copied it below. I really love me some York Peppermint Patties. These look great....but can you REALLY eat paraffin wax and not die? Someone try it and report back!

Peppermint Patties
1 package powdered sugar (2 lbs.–but you’ll end up needing more)
8 ounces cream cheese
Peppermint extract flavoring-several drops

Chocolate Coating12 ounces chocolate chips
1/3 bar paraffin wax (??)

The cream cheese needs to be somewhat soft so that it can be blended easily in the mixer. Mix the powdered sugar, cream cheese, and peppermint extract until thoroughly mixed. The peppermint extract you’ll want to use “to taste.” If you want a stronger peppermint flavor, you can go heavier on the drops, but if you want a lighter flavor, you can do that too. It’ll be important to taste the “dough” to make sure it’s the flavor you want. You will probably need more powdered sugar than the recipe calls for. The dough must be quite thick, since it needs to be firm enough to dip into chocolate.
While you’re mixing up the dough, melt the chocolate chips and wax in a double broiler over another pan of simmering water. Stir occasionally until the chocolate and max are completely melted. I think I often make a batch and a half of the coating to have enough.
Roll out the peppermint “dough” to desired thickness. I find a vitamin lid the size I want it to be, and after washing it, use it to cut out my patties. You may want to cut out one or two and try dipping it to see if the dough is thick enough. If it’s not, you’ll need to add more sugar. Line cookie sheets with wax paper. Dip patties into the melted chocolate with a choice of three items: cake decorating flower nail (my favorite choice!), a fork, or a toothpick. Place the dipped patties on the wax paper, and when the pan is full, stick the pan into the freezer to help the patties harden. After they’ve been in the freezer for 15-20 minutes, remove the pan from the freezer and place in containers. Most of us prefer our patties to be kept in the freezer, because we like them hard, but some may prefer to store them in the fridge.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Disney World here we come!

Am counting down the hours until we board our plane for Florida. Goodbye 2 degree weather (with -25 wind chill), hello balmy 70's. The kids are super excited, and so am I. I'll be glad to get out of this meeting (shhh!) and start packing the shorts and t-shirts.

Totally changing subjects, but on the topic of Christmas, has anyone used for their online shopping? Turns out I had signed up for an account two years ago and never used it. I got a popup that they were running some cash back (although small percents) for online shopping, and I needed to buy DD some new boots. I thought, what the heck. (No, ebates didn't ask me to write this.)

I zipped over to via and bought some baby pink Uggs on sales for $110 (8% back, free shipping and returns---I'm a Zappos girl so this was a real stretch!) and then over to to get some new winter gloves for DS (6% back). I'm slightly skeptical how all this works, but a few bucks here and there is fine with me.

PS: if you know how to protect these suede boots and keep them clean, please share!!

Anyway, I can get used to ebates. I do almost all my shopping online.

Friday, December 10, 2010

This and that

It gets like that sometimes. Everything seems to pile up at once. A dear friend of mine complained my blog had been silent for a few weeks, and thus I was motivated to post a little note to confirm I am still alive.

Here's the rapid fire just the facts:
  • Travelled to SC to visit family for Thanksgiving. Ended up also visiting the urgent care center for Catherine and mommy, who each came down with terrible sore throats (not strep) and congestion. Never even got to see the parade on tv.
  • Got to visit with a college roommate and her family at the zoo, the highlight of the trip for my kids.
  • Drove back from SC to IL in one long day. After a week of illness, so ready to be home.
  • Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody cruisng down I-65 at 75 miles an hour, kids singing along in the back, really kills the time.
  • Got to see the biggest, largest wind farm in Indiana. It was like something out of a science fiction movie.
  • Am swamped at work. SWAMPED.
  • Celebrated William's 9th birthday at Biaggis. Somehow the waitstaff came out singing happy birthday to him holding a cake inscribed: "Have a great time in Arizona."  We're still wondering how they filled in the candle holes so the other private party wouldn't notice it.
  • Haven't bought a Christmas present or sent a card, and we leave soon for Florida. Yikes.
  • It snowed. Wait, that isn't news.
  • Oh, and I now need bifocals. It has come to that. I am officially old.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Can I brag a little? I am so proud of my guest room

It took 5 years to get this far. And with the endless window problems, it seemed it would never get finished. I wanted one room, just ONE ROOM, to be finished. Well, as finished as it can get. I'm a woman after all. I may change my mind (several times)!

So here is it, the transformation! Everything was gotten for cheap except the bedroom set, which is really nice quality from Walter E. Smithe. In fact, I like it so much I think I should have gotten it for my master bedroom! The bedding set is from Walmart, the white matlesse is old and from Lands End. The lamps are from Walmart and the shades are from Target (I have white and red, can't decide!). The rt on the wall are from Kohls on clearance. The curtains are from Target, on sale, for $17 per panel. The iron scroll over the bed is from Hobby Lobby (50% off). All in all, I tried to keep to a budget on this one.

The pink room.

The inspiration room. Furniture by Walter E Smithe.

The finished product (well, still working on the curtains)

Getting rings for the curtains.

Friday, November 12, 2010

GDA: Recharger station for Wii for $5 (plus $5 shipping)

This is going to be a YMMV kind of deal, but my husband just picked up two sets of these for Christmas presents. Kids love the Wii. 

From the website:

Nintendo Wii Dual Remote Charging Station with 2 Hi-Capacity Rechargeable Batteries - Recharge 2 Wii Remotes Simultaneously!

You’re in the middle of an awesome game, tension high, adrenaline pumping, and then… Warning: Low Battery!
Don't let the fun stop due to lack of battery power! With this Wii Dual Remote Charging Station, you’ll have everything you need for easy, automatic Wii remote charging and storage. In addition, FREE Rechargeable Batteries are included with this Dual Charging Station. The batteries can charge on the stand without your Wii Remote, allowing for longer game-play. The two battery packs install quickly and provide more than 16 hours of playtime with one single charge. Built into the charging dock are multi-colored LEDs which indicate charging status. The station’s design mirrors the Wii’s clean white aesthetic and will match your console perfectly.
Wii Remote not included
Features Include:
  • Charge two (2) Wii remotes at the same time
  • Slim and portable design
  • High quality, extra-durable 2-hours fully charged and more than 16 hours play time
  • Connection to the Wii's USB port provides the voltage necessary for charging.
  • Input: 5V
  • Output: DC 2.8v-3.0V
  • Charger Stand
  • Two (2) Rechargeable Battery Packs
  • USB power cord
Condition: Brand New
Warranty: 1 Year
Packaging: Retail
Manufacturer: Sakar
Model: WiiDOCK2X

Review: Wanchai Ferry Orange Chicken. I'd give it a B

You get a packet of orange sauce, about a cup of uncooked rice, a packet of seasonings and 4-5 red peppers

I promised I would report back on my box of Wanchai Ferry that I got from My BlogSpark a few weeks ago. The other night I saw it sitting on my pantry shelf and decided to go for it.

Before you get all excited, I'll remind you that this is Chinese food in a box. Expectations were pretty low to begin with.

  • A pouch or orange sauce
  • A pouch of dried red peppers
  • A pouch of rice
  • A pouch of seasonings and corn starch

You provide:
  • Chopped raw chicken breast
  • Optional veggies like broccoli or green peppers. I went with broccoli.

There are a fair number of steps in the Wanchai process, so you need to pay attention. The labeling of the instructions I didn't find super easy to follow, but that could've been me. A couple of tips:

  • Make your own rice. The portion of rice is STINGY. The expectation that this one pouch will make 5 servings was obviously derived from a planet where 1 tablespoon of rice constitutes a serving.
  • This makes TONS of sauce. If you don't make enough rice, you will have some sort of orange chicken soup on your plate
  • Ignore the directions where it says you can use a zip lock bag to coat the chicken. I found the chicken and coating mix stuck all over the inside of the bag. A bowl would have been better, or make sure you really, REALLY pat your chicken dry
  • We ixnayed the red peppers after reading the warning they were "VERY HOT."

Overall: B
  • The product had good flavor, but it was a little overpowering.
  • The kids pronounced it as OK
  • My husband would not recommend ever buying it again, however. I think the lack of rice it came with was a big turnoff. I should have realized this ahead of time but didn't.
  • Paired with another side item, like egg rolls or fried rangoons and enough rice, it is a decent substitute for takeout.
  • At nearly $5 a box, I'd suggest they get rid of the rice altogether and just market the sauce and powder mix on their own for about $2. I can get a huge portion of real Chinese takeout from the local place for $5-$6.

Monday, November 8, 2010

London Broil marinade and cooking steaks that you can chew. Really.

No this isn't MY dinner plate but I did make homemade mashed potatoes!
I make chewy steaks. I admit it. I am terrible at it. It isn't even the method of cooking (broil or grill), it's the selection of the right meat and the right seasonings. I'd rather pay $30 for a steak out than $8 for one at home that no one can chew.

Friends have tried to help me. Like any normal American, I reached out to my 200 "best" friends on Facebook for their advice. The most popular tip had to do with using lots of kosher salt to age the steak and tenderize it.  I tried the "salt it until it begs for water" technique (seen here) last week. This was one of those "we swear this will work" and "take it from me this is GUARANTEED." 


The results were our tongues stuck to the roof of our mouth from the salt taste. I don't care how many times you rinse and pat dry a steak, letting it sit for an hour with that much kosher salt on it is going to leech salt into the meat. My steaks did not turn from super market to "Gucci." Gucci does not make steaks, as far as I know, but they make a lot of leather goods. I'm just sayin'.

So last night I tried something new. I bought London broil and used this marinade from my SIL because I really liked how hers turned out.

Then learned my SIL hadn't used it on London Broil at all, but flank steak. Is this important? I didn't know. I called my mom.

Mom kindly told me she'd not made a London Broil in 30 years and the last one was so tough she threw it out. Thanks mom!

What the heck, I tried it anyway.
3/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup water
3 scallions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
18 oz lean London Broil

Marinade steak at least 2 hours.

I substituted green onions and let it sit for 4 hours. (I also stabbed it 800 times with a fork, kneaded it like bread and banged on it a fair bit with a meat tenderizer). Sufficiently tortured, I broiled it until rare on high under an electric broiler and then sliced it on an angle, against the grain, PAPER THIN. It didn't turn out really rare despite the thermometer. I'd say it was more medium rare, but I didn't want to over cook it.
And it was good. No it, was REALLY GOOD. And you could CHEW it.  All of us. Even the kids!

You should make this.

Take it from me this is GUARANTEED....

Monday, November 1, 2010

It's the house calling to say pick up some milk

Three service calls later, the guys from the generator company declared the generator is actually fixed. And by fixed I mean that it no longer sounds like a snow blower with too much choke when it attempts (and fails) its weekly test run. This bad boy does a trial every single week for 12 minutes just to make sure everything is working accordingly. It sounds a bit like a 1976 VW beetle stuck in neutral with your pedal to the floor. Don't you want to be my neighbor at 11am every Saturday morning??

In an attempt to rival communications at NASA, my husband the engineer has now integrated this thing into the "network" so that if it doesn't work, it will send us a text message telling us what's wrong. For those playing the "what will the house text message us next" home game, that makes a total of 9 items that could potentially alert us at a moment's notice (smoke alarm, heat alarm, hot tub alarm, back up sump pump alarm, burglar alarm, power failure alarm, generator start alarm and generator failure alarm). I'm sure there are other alarms I'm forgetting, but you get the point. Some women are football widows. I'm a telecom widow. If you can write code for it, it will be done.

You know, of course, that now that we've spent all this time, money and effort to install this thing the neighborhood is guaranteed to never, EVER lose power again....

...perhaps you would like to be my neighbor after all!

And the winner is TattGiff!!

Congratulations TattGiff!

Your Wanchai Ferry and Macaroni Grill dinner kits and $25 Visa gift card are on their way from My Blog Spark.

Christmas trip booked

I am getting a late start admittedly. Amidst major house renovations, things like car rentals, hotel bookings and oh, where I put my mind, get lost in the shuffle. We typically head to Florida during the holidays, and try to squeeze in a trip to Disney World with the kids. The Good Marie books all of these things in September. The Frazzled Marie books them over lunch at work, deciding on hotels based on Trip Advisor, Google Maps, and whoever has the fastest loading web page. It's been that kind of vacation planning.

We typically stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge because the kids like the animals. There are LOTS of them there. Go figure. This year I wanted to do something different, and had my heart set on Wilderness Lodge. I tried to book via Dreams Unlimited, a Disney discounter we've used in the past, but the attendant told me the resort was sold out. We were closed out of the inn. (As the Christian Education Elder for our church I can't ignore the Biblical reference here, though I know full well Mary and Joseph would not have paid that much per night.)

I went instead over to Expedia and lo and behold, there WERE rooms to be had a Wilderness Lodge, and with upgraded views, and at 40% off. My Visa went on FIRE.

So in mid December, the kids and in laws and I will be spending a few days in Disney Magic at the Wilderness Lodge:

I got the courtyard view thank you very much Expedia.

With these pretty Christmas decorations in the lobby:

Surrounded by North Woods ambiance:

Yes my North Woods ambiance includes a pool. A heated pool.

And totem poles:

See, it will be just like taking a Christmas vacation to Canada. Except actually GOING to Canada would have been cheaper!

Sweepstakes winner to be drawn at 7pm CST

Thanks everyone for stopping by. This has been a fun contest and you've all been very generous with your comments.

I'll draw one lucky winner tonight at 7pm CST. Until then, enter as many times as you like. I'll moderate and post comments throughout the day.


Friday, October 29, 2010

A couple new Catherine artworks

We took these home from art class on Tuesday. The portrait is an oil one, her first, and she worked really hard on it. I think she learned a lot about lighting and proportions. The second is a work in progress, pastel on sanded paper. I REALLY like her pastel work. I think she has a lot of control over the medium, and well, I just like the way the work turns out. They both had a reference work for them, but only the cat one remains since it is still in progress. Enjoy!



I guess I should add Catherine is only 11.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

GIVEAWAY: Wanchai Ferry and Macaroni Grill + $25 gift card


I received a prize pack this week from My Blog Spark and wanted to share it with you, too! I sometimes get little trial packs of food from Wanchai Ferry/Macaroni Grill and My Blog Spark in exchange for writing about them. I will tell you that I have NEVER tried these two products, but I certainly will and report back. Meanwhile, I wanted to share the information with my readers:

Enjoy an Asian escape with Wanchai Ferry restaurant-inspired dishes by simply adding your own protein to delicious entrees like Cashew Chicken, Spicy Garlic Chicken, Orange Chicken, and Kung Pao Chicken. Or bring the romance of Italian cuisine to your kitchen with Macaroni Grill favorites such as Chicken Piccata and Angel Hair Pasta, Creamy Basil Parmesan Chicken & Pasta, Chicken Alfredo with Linguine, Garlic & Herb Chicken Penne, and Chicken Marsala with Linguine.

So stay in and go all out!® Make your meal an experience by perhaps adding some ambiance with candles and flowers.

For more information and dinner tips, visit and And be sure to follow Macaroni Grill on Twitter and “Like” the Facebook page to keep up with all of the latest news on your Macaroni Grill favorites!

In addition, feel free to print this online coupon for $1.50 off two packages of Wanchai Ferry and/or Macaroni Grill Dinner Kits! 

ONE lucky winner will receive a Date Night prize pack that includes:
  • One Wanchai Ferry dry dinner kit
  • One Macaroni Grill dry dinner kit
  • a $25 Visa gift card!!

All giveaway items were given to me by Wanchair Ferry/Macaroni Grill by My Blog Spark for this giveaway.


How to Enter: 
  • Leave me a comment on what you like to do on a date night with your husband. Dinner? Movie? 
  • Comments MUST be "G" rated. Anything else will be deleted and not count towards the giveaway
  • Enter as many times as you like. 
  • One winner will be drawn at random on November 1st. 
  • PLEASE leave me a way to contact you (email address).
  • USA residents, only
  • If you like my blog, won't you please subscribe?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Post home repair stress disorder

I think this really does exist, because last night, the night of the first real, strong, blowing, gusting like it should come through the brick (oh please not that) rain kept me up all night. Why? Because I am not convinced that the new windows don't leak, or that the generator will kick on if needed, or that the drainage will actually, you know, drain.

2 am I'm up listening, wondering, worrying. How can we KNOW it isn't leaking?

This is crazy. I need to be able to sleep at night.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Dear Generator, why don't you work?

Tonight we're supposed to have high wind warnings, gusts sustained to 55 mph and possible power outages. Now is the time for this whole house backup generator to come into stride. Except we're wondering if it will. We've had the Generac people set the weekly test run on the unit, and each week the unit has not started properly during the test. It starts just fine manually, but the test cycle never gets it going. We've got a call into the installer AGAIN. The whole point of a whole house generator is that it's supposed to start all by itself, not require you to come home and turn it on. Kind of defeats the purpose of it. Oh stand by honey while I run outside during the gail force winds and flip the switch....

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The great house project 2010

Five years of stress and aggravation, temporary fixes, crossed fingers, disappointment, new ideas, new sills and finally new windows. We went with Woodland Windows and Doors in Roselle and they were very good. The crews were knowledgeable, friendly and courteous. They answered our many (many) questions. The only problem we haven't resolved yet is some sash glass is scratched when they painted it (they are taking care of this) and some final touch up paint is to be completed. We are also getting some brass hinges that they did not order correctly.

The process to remove and install them took a crew of 4 to 6 guys working 8 hours per day two weeks to complete. I thought I'd create a little photo montage of the process so you could get an idea of the sheer scope of this project. It was no small thing, in any shape or form. And I am very glad it is done! Goodbye crappy, leaky, miserable Norco windows, hello Marvin Ultimate Casement replacements with low e coating and argon gas fills and 360 degree cleaning sashes. 

The trucks arrive on Day 1

Ripping out the first windows

Windows we never thought leaked actually did.

John standing by with bleach

Nice, new folding hardware!


Bleach. Bleach. Bleach.

My eating area. I like it with the open space actually!

My office windows. This took 8 hours and 6 guys.

Problems unearthed and rectified.

Kitchen chaos.

A room with a very wide view.

French doors no more.

Sub floor disintegrated from water. We never saw this door leak. The carpet was never ever wet.

My garage stall was the staging area. The crew cleaned and vacuumed nightly.

Sometimes we had only two trucks.

Landscapers came by to re seed. Note to self: need bigger roads.

Sometimes we had three trucks.
We also had a whole house generator installed during this time. Because you know, nothing else was going on....

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The next October camping I do will be in Florida

Let's sum up Webelos Unplugged weekend by saying I was cold day and night, and I threw up.

I arrived with a completely overloaded minivan in the pitch black of night to find a roaring fire and most all of the pack already set up. As one of only two women at the event, I got the extra special treatment of having my tent pitched for me by the boys and their dads. This was awfully nice of them considering I had enough gear to ascend Everest. There were about 30 campers at my site, and 300 in all, so it was a bustling place. The weather was actually not bad, maybe low 60's, so by bed time I was actually hot. We'd used ground covers, air mattresses, camping pads, sleeping bags and down comforters. We wore long underwear (silk) and all new, dry clothes. I thought, this will be a piece of cake.

Oh, how wrong I was.

Somewhere in the middle of the night it started to rain. And the wind blew, and being in a polyester walled tent I heard EVERY noise. I was convinced bears or raccoons were outside. I had marshmallows in my tent and the cardinal rule of camping is NO FOOD IN THE TENT. I was yelling shoo shoo go away creatures at 2am. (It turned out to be all the dad's snoring in tents next to us). And I was FREEZING. FREEZING. And I was dizzy (more on this later), and by 6am, when light dawned, I was exhausted.

I trudged up to the shower house (about 100 yards away) and got a hot shower and felt better. William was up and roaring to go. He'd slept great! By 9am were were sitting in our first scout activity, Readyman, for a two hour session.

and then I crashed. I was a zombie. I trudged back to my tent and took a nap, thinking this would refresh me. It did, to some extent, but something wasn't right. Every time I lay down, the room would spin.

By Saturday night, I wasn't feeling well at all. And by 3am Sunday morning I was really sick. Looking back I was having tummy troubles the day before, but the virus kicked in full swing the next morning. After a night spent sleepless and freezing, I managed to drag myself to the shower house and wish to God I could throw up to make the nausea go away. I lay bundling, shivering and shaking on the bench in the shower house wanting DIE. At some point someone called my pack committee chair who was camping and she came to rescue me. Some Pepto Bismol pills, a banana and some soda and I was ok to go back to the camp site. The entire pack had packed up my whole tent and even offered to drive me home. It was about the sweetest thing anyone could do. And of course I felt perfectly pathetic and hated being a burden but what could I do?

It turned out later I was suffering from a double whammy of a tummy virus and Labryntitis, which causes Vertigo, which I get in the winter. Even now, a week later, I am still taking prescription Bonine (used for motion sickness).

I had all the boys write a note to the rest of their den describing their experiences and they all reflected on what a great time they had, so in the end, I am happy we did it. But next time, we camp in Florida.

Here are a bunch of photos that I took:


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