Monday, January 23, 2012

Toss In Some Raisins

My husband drives me crazy.

Not because he doesn't do anything around the house, or isn't my moral support, or doesn't help with a kids, cooking, and chores- He does all of that. In fact, he's a better wife than I am, simply because he can do everything by the time I get out of bed- and we wake up at the same time.

He drives me crazy because he's a genius. He knows exactly what to do to shut me up.

We have issues as to what exactly constitutes a good breakfast. I think of eggs, waffles or cereal, and he thinks of sticky buns, doughnuts and rice pudding. Homemade rice pudding. He considers it healthier than rice krispies, but then I add that the kids can add bananas to the cereal, thus making it better for them. So the next time I come down to see what they're eating, I see rice pudding- with raisins tossed in.

Now I can't say anything in rebuttal, because the dang pudding had fruit.

Apple pie? Put raisins in it. Bland cereal? Put raisins in it. Life is sweeter (and healthier) when you toss in some raisins. Tastes better too.

Another thing that makes me nuts is that he doesn't clean up after himself when he cooks. Every pot, pan, bowl, and kitchen gadget has been used to make his creations, and he leaves me the mess. I cook, I clean up, he cooks, I clean up. I pointed this out to him several times, and sometimes he would clean up the mess. Sometimes. But then he found a way around it.

He makes me goodies.

This is done after dinner to distract me from seeing what he did to the kitchen. By the time I'm done being distracted, I forget all about the mess and wind up going to bed without stepping a foot past the dining room. Morning comes, the sun rises; and by the time I find out what he's done, he's long gone at work.

Last night was a perfect example.

He offered to make dinner. I foolishly let him, enjoying the time off. We ate dinner while watching a movie, and afterwards he decided to throw something together to snack on. He made something with reduced-down raspberry jam and homemade hot fudge. I didn't even have to move- he served me my little tidbit as I sat on the couch. I was Queen for the Evening, and I reveled in it, foolish mortal that I was.

This morning I came down to find the kids eating rice pudding (with raisins). I just sighed and went into the kitchen. I stopped dead in my tracks. My clean kitchen was no longer- in it's place was a nuclear bomb site, complete with a crusted over rice pudding pot, last night's dirty dishes, and every appliance used to make the stew we had for dinner.

Did I scream? No. Did I howl in frustration? Nope. I just pictured the raspberry chocolate goodies in the fridge, and I'd eat some after I'd cleaned up this mess. And who knows? Maybe I'll toss in a few raisins just to see if it tastes better. He got away with it again, and made me smile in the process!

Yes, my husband drives me crazy, but he truly is a genius. The worst kind of genius too- one that knows when to toss in some raisins!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Budgeting and Breaking of (Homemade) Bread

I've been thinking a lot since my last post, and seriously wondered if my complaints were justified. In my mind's eye I felt we had been proper Scrooges throughout last year, so I dove into the accounts and took a long look at what we spent.

Everything we spent, in fact. Because we are anal enough to actually use our bank card for sales as little a 1.99. It took me three days to organize, tally and separate the good spending from the bad (which is harder than it sounds!), but I've finally finished. And the numbers were shocking.

I can honestly say I had no idea I was having that much fun, or I was that generous at Christmas. Last year was a pretty fun year; I must have complained my way through it and missed out on all the frivolity. But not this year!

I'm breaking out the Yardstick of Really Strict Budgeting, and whacking the snot out of our Finite Financial Status, slapping silly the Income and Payments of Uncertainty to try to make the money stretch like Gumby on a griddle.

Here are a few things I'm doing to cut costs that you can do too!

Bake you own bread. It sounds hard, but it really isn't- just a little time consuming. Most of it is waiting anyway, and you can do other things while it's rising. I've found it better to not use a bread machine. Why? Because I can do four loaves of bread in the oven vs. one loaf in a bread machine- and I don't have to worry about taking that stupid little mixer-thingie out before the bread bakes! I always forget to remove it- then I have a loaf with a hole big enough for a weaver bird to nest in. Besides, with a teenage boy in the house, that one loaf might only last 3.2 seconds. I need to bake in bulk- I just wish my oven was bigger- about the size of Indiana- then I might satisfy Mr. Hormonal Growth Spurt for more than an eyeblink.
One of the benefits to baking your own bread is that great fresh-baked smell that wafts through the entire house. Anyone who's had a bad day walks in and just can't help but smile! That smell ought to be used during Congressional meetings- there would be a lot less arguing.
I don't just mean loaf bread either- you can make rolls for sandwiches or as a side for soup or dinner, bagels take more effort but are a lot cheaper if you make them, and don't forget tortillas- those suckers are easy to store or freeze and are great for making wraps for school lunches- just toast them before packing lunches, and you suddenly become the Best. Mom. Ever. And no preservatives either!

Make your own goodies. Cookies of almost any kind, cakes big and small, soft pretzels, popcorn, krispy treats- it doesn't matter- they'll be appreciated and gobbled up. Just ask my husband who made rice pudding last night and put the leftovers in the fridge to tempt me. Let's just say I did a really good job of cleaning out the fridge this morning. Don't tell him, and I'll share his next batch with you.

Not only will you save a lot of money doing all this, but the homemade stuff tastes better.

Stretch what you have. Pasta, rice, potatoes or leftover veggies can make a meal go a long way, but since I refrain from eating anything with wheat flour, my choices are a bit more limited. I still make meals with pasta or bread, but I switch my portion out with rice, potatoes or vegetables. Soups, stews and casseroles are great one pot wonders, and there's very little cleanup afterwards. If you have canned soups, stretch them out with a little more water and add rice or pasta (or milk and potatoes if it's a cream soup). I've made one can stretch to feed all four of us this way (at least when the kids were younger), or use that cream soup as a sauce for a big pile of pasta or rice- and watch your family make it disappear. Gumby on a griddle, I'm telling you!

I might just take this one step further and see how long I can live out of my pantry and freezer. Any fresh stuff I would buy, but what kind of wacky concoctions could I come up with if I did this? I'll keep you posted if I do!

In the meantime, I'm going to bake some fresh bread before my husband comes home- maybe the bread will distract him from wanting any pudding....

Monday, January 16, 2012

Called on the Carpet

The term 'getting called on the carpet' originated from (at least in my family) very bad house pets who did a no-no on the rug. Our beloved pet would then be called in and told in a very stern voice (with a lot of pointing to the offending mess) that they did a Very. Bad. Thing. Then they were sent off with their tail between their legs, while we grabbed a bucket and scrub brush with a lot of hot water and soap.

But it's a whole lot worse when a friend calls someone on the carpet, and that someone is you. And no, I didn't do a no-no on the rug- but I did do a Very. Bad. Thing. I didn't even realize I was doing it until she said something.

Well, she didn't actually 'say' it- it was a private message I'd received on Facebook. Basically, she told me what she thought I was doing wrong, and that I'd been doing this for three years, and she was tired of me doing it, and though she was going to remain civil, we couldn't really be friends anymore. At first I was defensive about what she said (after all, I never do anything wrong- but don't ask my husband to confirm that), but after reading her message over a few times, I realized that I had indeed been guilty of her accusations, at least in part. The other part was simply misunderstandings, and the lack of information she had for some of my actions.

So I wrote back, filling in the missing blanks without giving excuses, and apologized for what I could. Then I left the ball in her court. And if I had a tail, I would have tucked it between my legs and hid under the kitchen table.

What was the reason for her message? I complained too much. I know it sounds small, but after three years of hearing me go on about the same subject, I just plain got on her nerves- it's as simple as that. And here all I thought I was doing was sharing conversation. At least until I confirmed things with my husband.

One great thing about my husband (that also makes him a pain in the patootie sometimes) is that he isn't afraid to tell me the truth about myself. When I asked him 'Do you think I complain about ________ too much?' I'll get a most honest and poignant 'Yes!' from my spouse. Sometimes I'll get a 'No', but it isn't often.

I admit, I have a bad habit of complaining about things. Most times I can turn it into something funny, but all in all, the basic, bare-bones of the joke is a complaint. So my friend-who-is-no-longer-a-friend actually did me a favor by telling me. I just wish she had said something three years ago- then maybe I could've salvaged this relationship.

There is no pause button, no Twix Bar last-minute saves, no Do-Overs when you screw something up. At least concerning relationships. However, apologies can be made and broken relationships fixed if both parties are willing. And if both parties aren't able to make amends, you need to let go and learn from your mistakes.

I don't know if we'll ever be friends again, but I hope to be. Both of us need a little work though- I need to work on keeping my conversation more positive without complaining, and she needs to work on not waiting so long before saying something to me.
I don't mind people telling me they don't like something I'm doing- to each her own, and everyone will disagree with everyone else at one point or another- just don't wait until you're so frustrated that you want to sever the relationship! Tell me. I'm a big girl- I can handle it. I might not like what you have to say, but I promise I'll walk off and think on it. And if it's something I believe needs changing, then I'll change it.

If not? Well, we either work through it or walk away. It's as simple as that.

Politeness can be a great asset, but it can also be a hindrance. Sometimes you need to step up and call someone on the carpet if they're doing something wrong. Even if that someone is me. I can't change if I have no idea I'm doing something wrong, after all.

Don't be afraid of the truth- it might hurt, it might make you mad, but if what your friend/husband/coworkers are all saying the same thing, then it's probably true. Then do what you can to make yourself better. I'm not saying you should change just for those around you (people pleasing doesn't make anyone happy in the long run), but choose your battles and change the parts of yourself that will make you a better person. Ask questions, get answers, and become a better person.

Before someone calls you on the carpet.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Going Bananas! (In More Ways Than One)

Today is the day when things are supposed to settle in and go back to normal. Why not last week, you ask? Because I just happened to be born two days after New Years and dagnabbit, I had to keep the house cleared up for my big birthday dinner with my friends, courtesy of my husband, Roland the Wonder Chef.

Saturday was spent with my husband prepping a meal for six women, and all I was asked to do was buy his ingredients, chop some veggies and stay out of his way. Dinner was served on his grandmothers fine china, but we never found the matching silverware- you see, I had decluttered and it got stored away somewhere, not to be found until we both die of old age. So we used the everyday silverware. No one noticed.

The meal was lovely, with a raspberry vinaigrette salad with almond slivers, shrimp bisque, half a roasted herbed chicken, complete with broccoli, green beans and a potato latke (potato pancake)- then for dessert we were served a raspberry fudge cream cake. All of this was made from scratch- not a single can was used in the entire process- and we all ate our fill as we talked about women stuff.

It. Was. Awesome!

He even did the dishes afterwards! It took him that night and most of the afternoon the next day, but he did it all! It took him so long because he used about every cooking vessel we own, as well as most of my kitchen gadgets. I just stayed out of his way and let him do what he does best. After 15 years of marriage, I know better than to stick my rear in our little two-butt kitchen while he's there- especially when he has the kids helping! It was like a well-oiled basket of ferrets in there- they knew what they were doing, but all you saw was chaos!

And the house managed to stay fairly neat the entire two weeks. It was a miracle of elephantine proportions, but also in part because we shoved all the extra stuff in our bedroom. The staff from Hoarders should be calling us any minute now! I have to do gymnastics to get to my dresser, and the same goes for my husband (um, I mean he has a hard time getting to his dresser too!) We don't let the cats or the kids in there for fear of never seeing them again.

I was planning to tackle the bedroom today, but I'd forgotten about a blessing we received late last week. We were offered a ton of bananas, and since they were ready to go a little too ripe, it was the perfect time to make banana bread. I put them in the fridge until after my birthday dinner, fully intending on making some yesterday after church.

But God said Sunday was a day of rest, and my body let me know that if I remotely did anything physical it would hurt me, so I listened and took a nap.

Today is the day everything should get done, and the only thing I've accomplished was making enough banana bread to feed a small country. I haven't touched the bedroom yet (my room tackling was more of a nudge), and I still have to make pizza dough for dinner. And now I see I have to get my daughter before she decides I've abandoned her and goes off to live with the neighbors. After all, they just got a puppy!

Still I managed to get a lot done, just not what I expected to. This used to drive me nuts, but now I just roll with it. In this case, I just make banana bread and pizza!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Stop Saying, Start Praying!

Every New Year I find myself making a new list (okay, not so new- more like an addendum) of my resolutions. I usually make them easy to achieve, just so I feel good about myself, sharing my list with friends and making comparisons. But this year, things will be different!

I'm not making a resolutions list- instead, I'm making a prayer list. This is a list of the things I need God to work on for me, since there is no way humanly possible for me to do them- at least not without His help.

1. Please heal my thyroid. I have a thyroid that's slower than the government. I want one that works right so I don't have to take any more of these stupid little pills every day. Not to mention a properly working one will also keep my hair from thinning, my body from fattening, and my mind from freezing up like a ten year old computer.

2. If it is Your will, please let us get a new house. The rental we've been living in is getting mold from bad plumbing issues, we need to go hunt teddy bears to make fur parkas to guard against drafts, and I could really use some extra space to hide from these people who think I'm here on the planet to serve their every need. Okay, so I am there for that, but it would be nice to have a door with a lock on it so I can read a book past the second sentence without being interrupted.
Oh, and a laundry room on the first floor. And a kitchen the size of a small state. With a mortgage of two hundred dollars a month. But I'm just letting God handle the details- right now, I'm just asking for the house, and the means to get it, thank you!

3. Give me the strength and willpower to keep the house clean and organized. God is the only one who can do this- I've found out I'm as good at this as a sloth is in running a marathon. I have as much natural ability for cleaning as a horse does with typing. All I want is the energy to keep maintaining what I've cleaned so far, and declutter everything else before I die. God might have to make me live longer to do this though!

4. Please give us the budgeting skills and business savvy of Bill Gates. We don't need to be bazillionaires, but being thousandaires would be a nice change! Help us to use the money You have given us through work and skills to prosper enough to help others- and to get that house we want.

5. Make me what you want us to be- and give us a few hints. I know you have Big Plans for me and mine, but just give us an inkling as to where you need us to be and what our jobs are. And don't be subtle either- I usually don't recognize hints very well.

6. Help me to be more patient. And while I'm asking for huge miracles, I'd like a pet unicorn too. A white one with a purple mane and tail, please.

I have no idea what God has in mind for me this year, but it is going to be awesome! The changes that have happened in just the past few months has been an eye-opening experience, and He has opened my heart to all kinds of great stuff. I've lost weight (almost 30 pounds!), had a major attitude adjustment, and have been working (and succeeding) in many of my negative self-talk.

I've stopped talking, and started doing. And guess what? I'm getting positive results!

God is good- and He is good all the time!

So...what's on your prayer list this year?