Lemons Into Lemonade

Thursday, June 30, 2011

A few days ago I got a really fun invitation in my email. It was for a press event this morning to see a new cheetah exhibit. It started super early so I made Tyler's breakfast last night and had it in his lunchbox in the fridge so he could eat in the car on the way. He didn't wake up very well so we were late getting out the door. Naturally, there was early commuter traffic. I took a chance and drove the coastal route more than halfway there which allowed us to make great time.

Except, the event wasn't at the San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park, it was at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido. In my defense, though the two sites are no where near each other, the Zoo Safari Park used to be named the Wild Animal Park. We haven't been to either in ages and I haven't wrapped my head around the name change yet. I felt like such an idiot and said as much when I emailed the PR contact to tell her what I'd done. Next time, I really need to read the *entire* email!

I wanted to make it up to Tyler somehow and he loves going to the military base to look at the planes and tanks. Since we were in the lower part of San Diego I took him to the Flying Leatherneck Museum.

We ended up having a nice morning. It was a good way to fix my colossal screwup though I'm sure he would have much rather had his picture taken with a cheetah. 

So I don't feel so alone, please tell me if you've screwed up the way I did?
How did you end up making lemonade?

If you're into military planes check out my Flying Leatherneck Museum Flickr set

Road Tripping, Someday

Monday, June 27, 2011

"For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move."                                     Robert Louis Stevenson

We have friends from Alaska visiting us in a few weeks. They are renting an RV in San Francisco and heading to Disneyland, Joshua Tree and Carlsbad Caverns. With three children under 10. They will be our litmus test. Phil has been wanting to rent an RV for awhile. Since I don't camp, this would be the best compromise.

When my family moved here from Illinois, we drove. We stopped at the Grand Canyon, the meteor hole in Arizona and the Petrified Forest. I was a little younger than Tyler. I don't remember all of the trip but I do remember having a good time. I played my handheld video games that were the size of a hardback book, read, napped and stared out the window. I love those memories.

I know it sounds cheesy, but we really want to get out and see our great nation. Aside from that trip across the US, I don't think I've set foot in more than 10 states. Tyler has only been to two. That's just sad. We want him to see Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier National Park, lightning bugs, see what a real fireworks show looks like, snow falling from the sky and the places he sees on the History Channel.

Travel is something I took for granted. I thought I had plenty of time to do it "when I got older." I had friends who took a family vacation every year. I thought that was the greatest thing ever and wished my family were the same. I missed out on the high school trip to Spain and I still kick myself for it. I don't want Tyler to wish we'd taken him more places.

We're trying to find room in our budget to set aside money for travel. We're starting small with a day trip to Catalina. If all goes as planned we'll be taking our first international trip in two years, two months (not that I'm counting). 

So, Alaska friends, if you're reading this (hi!) please keep in mind that your vacation is setting the tone for my future family outings. If things don't go well, don't tell me, tell Phil. 

How do you fit in family travel? What's the best vacation you've taken together?


This is the last in a series of sponsored posts from Safeway Dairy and National Dairy Month. You have a few more days to play at PackYourPicnic.com for a chance at a trip to a national park of your choice including airfare, accommodations, transportation, a picnic basket and a $200 gift card. Sweepstakes ends on 6/30/2011.

A Post Full of Cheese-y Puns

Friday, June 24, 2011

I have a confession. Maybe more like a secret to share. I haven't had a glass of milk in almost seven years. I can't. It makes my stomach do funny things. It hasn't always been that way. In fact, during my last trimester, a glass of ice cold milk always hit the spot. Same with when I was nursing. I drank milk all the time. 

Tyler self weaned a little after he turned nine months so we supplemented with formula, gradually increasing the amount of milk over water. Between the three of us, we were going through several gallons of whole milk per week. Phil was in heaven because we'd been drinking 2 percent before I got pregnant.

I remember the first time I poured myself a tall glass of milk and things went sour. I was so surprised. I switched us back to 2 percent thinking it would help but it was the same. Talk about heartbreaking. Since then I've tried soy and almond milk and just can't stomach the taste. The weird thing is, I can have cereal if I keep the milk ratio low, I can drink lattes and mochas, I always use half and half in my coffee and have a yogurt almost every morning. None of that bothers me. 

Now, before you go feeling sorry for me, let me say I have found my work around and it pleases me greatly. Cheese. I can eat cheese until the cows come home with no problems whatsoever. And boy, do I. Our fridge is always full of cheese in various forms: blocks, shredded, string, slices and snack sticks. If we're having a meal I can remotely get away with sprinkling cheese on, I will. My favorite thing to serve when we have guests is a fruit and cheese plate. Give me a hunk of cheese and some crackers and I'm a happy girl.

I should probably make an effort to find out the reasons behind my milk intolerance so I don't go another seven years without it and I'm sure one day I will. But for now, please pass the cheddar. 

This sponsored post is part of the #SafewayDairy National Dairy Month campaign. Visit PackYourPicninc.com daily through 6/30/11 for a chance to win a trip to the national park of your choice.

Motivation, Thy Name is iPod!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I made Tyler an offer today: if he finishes this workbook, he can have my old iPod Touch. He'll only use it for games and music and I have the in app purchaes turned off. I don't mind him having it as long as he follows the rules: no sneaking to play after lights out, he has to ask before taking it to a friend's house and no taking it to school.

It seems to be working. He's already done 15 pages. When I told him we'd go to the library today for the summer reading, he asked if he could take the workbook with him.

"I will get that iPod!"

We'll see how long his enthusiasm lasts. I'll post updates as the summer goes on.

How Could I Not?! | (Almost) Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I had to buy this for the title alone! It was in the dollar bin.

From the cover: "She can have any pair that money can buy...but the shoes she really wants are priceless."

Apron Strings: To Cut or Not to Cut?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Lately I've been feeling some tugging on my apron strings. Tyler is pulling, asking for more independence and trust. I'm a little afraid to give it to him, but also conscious that I don't want my own fears to infect him. I don't want him to second guess himself or not trust his instinct because he hears my voice inside his head.

A few weeks ago at after school pickup, he asked if we were walking home and was disappointed when I said no. Then he asked if he could walk home alone. Of course my first thought was "hell, no." But my clever boy played me like a violin. "You could drive along next to me." I didn't have a good reason to say no to that. Darn him for being so smart.

I thought about it for a few seconds and said yes before I changed my mind. We went over checking the driveways to look for cars backing out, what to do at the crosswalk and which way I wanted him to go to get to our neighborhood. I had him wait for me at a point just beyond the school's driveway.

I pulled the car around and waved. He set off. I'd let him get a little ahead and then catch up to him. I was hoping I wouldn't make the light at the intersection so we could go through together, but I did. I pulled over just across the street and craned my neck to watch him cross. Seeing my little guy on the busy corner brought a mix of emotions. I was anxious, proud, scared of the other driver's and happy he was following directions so well.

After he made it through the crosswalk I went home and waited for him. When he walked up the driveway, he was grinning ear to ear.

"That was fun, I want to do it again!"

Phil and I talked it over and he's OK with Tyler walking home if some of the other parents agree, too. We'd feel better if Tyler walked home with a buddy. I was all set to to agree and tell Tyler he could start walking home at least one day a week. He's going to be in fourth grade and will turn nine just after the new school year starts. 

But then I saw a story on my local news about a nine year old who was run over and pinned underneath an SUV. He owes his life to his backpack and bike helmet. Now I'm back to my original, "hell, no" with a side of, "not in this lifetime." I told Tyler, actually I apologized, that he doesn't have the same childhood we did. When I was a kid we roamed, didn't check in with our parents and didn't need to have pre-arranged play dates. I wish Tyler could experience being a kid the same way we did.

I know I have to let go. It's time. It's the right thing to do if I want Tyler to be self reliant and independent. But dang it, I'm not ready! My apron strings are fine just the way they are.

How old were your kids when they started walking home from school?

Calling All Campers | A Little Help?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

My husband comes from a big family. He has cousins, aunts and uncles I haven't met yet and we've known each other almost half our lives. Every summer, a whole group of them come here to San Diego and camp at a beach near our house. They've been doing it for years (I was pregnant the first time I met them out for dinner). Tyler and I spend the every day with them. Their visit is something we look forward to and plan around every year.

But. I don't camp. I don't like tents. I don't like sleeping on the ground. Phil's family has an amazing setup they have perfected over the years. They make the whole outdoor living thing look easy.

The whole campsite is this organized
Occasionally, I've been tempted to change my mind and spend the night. Then the sand in my butt starts to itch and I happily pack up and head home for the night. Well, I may have to suck it up because this year, Phil reserved a space for us too.
Phil and Tyler and the remains of the moat the kids played in all week
We have a tent and that's about it. So, I need all your frugal camping suggestions. What foods should I buy? How should we cook said food without a grill? I have no clue what I'm doing. Help?

Two Vegetarian Picnic Sandwiches | Saying Goodbye to a Friend

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My very good friend M is moving to the other side of the country. We met training for the 3 day. She's one of those people who totally 'gets' me and we hit it off right away. We have so much in common, we can talk for hours and we have the same taste in shoes. I'm so sad she's leaving. The little kid in me is stomping her foot and saying, “it’s not fair!” over and over again. 

A few weeks ago, I decided I wanted to do something special for her and invited her on a beach picnic. I wanted to take food that would travel well, be easy to serve and would be budget friendly. To me, there’s only one perfect picnic food that meets all those requirements: Cheese!

I love, love, love cheese. Especially now that I have braces. No matter how uncomfortable I am, I can always eat cheese! I put together a great menu centered around cheese and crackers. If you plan to take cheese on a picnic, look for hard cheeses like an aged gouda, cheddar or parmigiano reggiano.

For dessert, I took fresh berries and some frozen whipped topping. I also made parfaits with chocolate pudding, whipped topping and crumbled chocolate chip cookies. They were divine!

M and I didn’t have the whole day to spend at the beach so I kept our meal light. But, if we’d had more time I would have made sandwiches. She’s a vegetarian and I would have needed something both of us could eat. Here are two easy sandwich recipes (with cheese!) that you don’t have to be vegetarian to enjoy that work well for picnics.

Apple Cheddar Panini

Whole grain bread
Low fat honey mustard
2 thinly sliced apples
Thinly sliced cheddar

Lightly and evenly spread honey mustard over bread. Layer apple and cheese slices. Lightly coat a panini press with cooking spray (I’d use my George Forman or cast iron skillet). Grill each sandwich for 3-5 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before packing.

Black Bean and Lettuce Cheese Wraps

1 15 oz can black beans
¼ c chopped chives or onions
½ c cooked brown rice
⅓ c Italian salad dressing
½ c crumbled Feta cheese
Boston lettuce leaves, washed and dried

Set beans and chives in separate small bowls. Combine rice, dressing and cheese in a third bowl. Lay the leaves flat and fill with rice mixture and then top with beans and chives. Or, combine the rice mix, beans and chives in one container and the lettuce in another so the wraps can be assembled onsite at your picnic.

The only silver lining about M leaving is that she's moving to Boston and I love that city! I'm sure I'll be able to come up with a reason to visit.

*While we were at the beach I made a short video to toast our friendship. It looks like I'm about to propose because M is trying not to cry! This is part of a series of sponsored posts for National Dairy Month and PackYourPicnic.com.

Sookie Stackhouse and Star Island | What I've Been Reading

Thursday, June 9, 2011

I'm one tired chick, but it's my own fault. I've been staying up way too late reading. In preparation for the new season of True Blood, I decided to start the series by Charlaine Harris that the TV show is based on. 


In the past two weeks I've read through the first three books (Dead Until Dark, Living Dead in Dallas and Club Dead). I checked out the fourth, Dead to the World, yesterday and I think I'll be finished with it tonight. The fifth, Dead as a Doornail, is reserved at the library and I should have it in a few days. I've heard the books and the series referred to as Twilight for grown ups. Since I didn't read the Twilight series, I can't confirm, but based on what Twilight haters have said, the comparison makes me laugh. 

While I was waiting for book four, I read the new one from Carl Hiaasen, Star Island. A former co-worker turned me on to his books and I've really enjoyed going through his body of work. If you saw the Demi Moore move Strip Tease, it's based off his book (which I have a feeling is way better than the movie). I like that he has the same character pop up in different books. Hiassen also writes young adult books. I've read both Hoot (which was a movie, too) and Flush. They're cute. Tyler didn't get through Hoot, but I think if he tried again and saw the movie he'd like it. 

I've already read the June book for my book club (Something Borrowed, loved it) and I have Breathing Lessons in my library queue (Anne Tyler, I really enjoy her work). 


What's on your nightstand?

Put Your Library on Your Smartphone | Works For Me Wednesday

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Hello, my name is Melanie and I'm an addict. A book addict. I know, I know. You're probably thinking there are worse things to be addicted to. I wholeheartedly agree. The problem is, I tend to buy the same book multiple times.

My library has a used book store. They're my dealers. I stop in every time I'm in the area. OK, sometimes when I'm not, too. I can get trade sized paperbacks for $2.50 at the most but I generally stick the $1 cart. How can I pass that up? I can't, that's how. But, I get so excited I can't remember if I have a title at home or not. I've probably spent about $15 buying repeat titles. $15 isn't alot in the grand scheme of things, but that's 15 books I haven't read, wasted.

When I came home with my second copy of Women on the Edge of a Nervous Breakthrough, I got so mad at myself I knew I had to figure out something. I was going to write all my 'To Be Read' titles in the notebook I carry in purse, but this 2011. It took me a minute to figure out a solution, but I'm pleased with the results. 

There are 14 photos total

I took pictures of my book stash, put them in a folder on my computer and uploaded them into the photos section of my iPod. If I had a smartphone it would be a little easier, especially when I bring new books home. But, since I always have my iPod with me, for now the system is working. I scrolled through the pics the other day and they saved me from bringing home See Jane Date. Again.

I hope this Works For Me Wednesday trick helps my fellow 
literary addicts!

Mom, You Sure Do Love Coupons

Monday, June 6, 2011

I assumed Tyler has been absorbing the importance of coupons because of how often he sees me clipping, getting inserts from the neighbors and using them at stores. But, every now and then I see the opportunity to have a teachable moment and reinforce the lessons I'm trying to teach him.

When we were checking out after my awesome Albertson's trip yesterday, he made the statement about my coupons and I said, "absolutely, I love my coupons. Did you hear the cashier tell me what my savings were?" I had him look at the receipt and do a little math.

I've told Tyler before that part of my job is to take care of him, his dad and our house; and I include making sure we're using money wisely and saving wherever we can as part of taking care of everyone. I said he should start thinking of coupons the way I do: as another type of money and not just pieces of paper. Those pieces of paper save us money we're using for other things, like the breakfast we had yesterday at Mimi's Cafe with some of his hockey teammates.

Some of my big fears for Tyler is that he will leave home not knowing when to match his shoes with his belt, not knowing how to do laundry and iron, make a few basic recipes and not knowing how to manage money.

When I talk about things like that with him, I get eye rolls and impatience (please tell me I'm not alone!). I try to explain things in terms he relates to. Sometimes I think I'm getting through. Like the time we found a boxed set of a series he's reading for $3 at the library book store and he was just as excited over the deal as I was. But other times, I wonder if he's only hearing and not listening.

I've been using coupons for awhile, but not as seriously as I have in the past few years. My mom uses them too and I grew up watching her. But, she doesn't do it to the level that I do and she didn't really explain what it was about, why she used them and how much she saved. I really hope it sinks in with Tyler. Financial savvy-ness is one of the best things I can have him absorb (but I'll be working on the shoes and belt thing, too.)

Just in case you're curious (and so I can toot my horn a little)
1 trail mix
1 box Albertson's brand oatmeal
2 Ronzoni Garden 
2 Ronzoni Smart Taste
2 Ronzoni Healthy Harvest
10 Knorr Rice sides (4 of the taco flavor from the Mexican Lasagne)
4 Ragu pasta sauce
2 gallons of milk
1 multi pack of baby carrots
1 rotisserie chicken

Before coupons: $70.53 
Actual spent: $20.33

Cheap End of Year Teacher Gift | Frugal Friday

Friday, June 3, 2011

I posted this on Facebook a few days ago, but now that my order arrived I wanted to share it here. I bought the book, Things Cooks Love: Implements, Ingredients, Recipes off Amazon because it was so cheap I couldn't pass it up. I'm so glad I did! The book is gorgeous. It's a hardcover from Sur la Table. It has 330 pages. It's all about different kitchen gadgets like cast iron skillets, tagines, braisers, dutch ovens, mattones and a whole bunch of other things I've never heard of but now want to own. 

Pardon my sub-par photography

The book is broken down by Asian, Mexican, French, Indian, Italian, Iberian and Moroccan cuisines. Each section has recipes with what to make with the various cooking tools. I'll definitely be copying a few things before I give it to her! The price has already gone up since I bought it, but having it in front of me I can definitely say it's worth the current $4.09. I had something else to buy so it shipped free. Even with the free Super Saver shipping, I ordered it Wednesday and it was delivered today. It was such a bargain, I feel I can even splurge on a cute apron or something similar.

*Affiliate link

Shop the Bulk Bins and Be Green | Frugal Friday

I know that shopping from the Bulk bins is a money saver. The bins are one of the things I like most about shopping places like Henry's. I get a lot of things pretty regularly: Phil's sunflower seeds, granola for Tyler, a variety of trail mixes, pretzels and some dried fruits. The savings buying in bulk as opposed to traditional packaging is noticeable. But I started to feel guilty about all the plastic bags I was bringing home so I cut back a little. Luckily I subscribe to every daily deal site out there and a few weeks ago I took advantage of one from Deal Pulp for two sets of reusable produce bags. I love them! I'm kicking myself for waiting so long to invest in them.

I bought 2 sets of 6
They are from Esse and so far are holding up perfectly. I haven't had to wash them yet. If they fall apart I'll let you know. I get compliments and questions every time I use them. While I'm no where near the family who generates almost zero consumer waste, we are trying to be more mindful and those plastic bags were a real sore spot with me. I have my own reusable bags for grocery's and have almost completely cut out bringing plastic bags home from store. Now I can continue to save at the bulk bins and feel that I'm still doing my part for the environment.

Do you have any more green grocery tips for me?

UPDATE: Score! There's another daily deal site I just read about, SaveMore, that is offering a $10 credit for new sign ups. They have Esse bags $20 for $8! These could be free with your credit depending on what you order (just pay $3.95 shipping). Fantastic! I bought two of the Produce 6 Packs at $11.95 ea. So, for just under $8 you can get two great teacher gifts. Buy two $10 grocery cards and you have two gifts for $14 each!

Thanks, My Frugal Adventures!

*Not a sponsored post. I think the bags are great. If you plan to order your own bags from Esse try code DEALPULP25 for 25% off. I don't know how many people can use it, but it was printed on my receipt to share.

Questions Kids Ask

Thursday, June 2, 2011

This morning Tyler asked me, "Mom, is Zoe a mammal?" I wasn't even out of bed yet, let alone fueled with my first cup of coffee. I had to reach way back and try to remember the technical definition of a mammal before I could respond. 

Our Fur Baby
Of course, after I dropped him off at school I turned to Google to make sure I'd given him the right answer. 

What out of the blue questions have you gotten lately?
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