So, I knew this lady once who really wanted to be a writer. She submitted manuscripts and articles and had a collection of rejection letters. Surprisingly, I'm not talking about myself. Novel, I know.
Anyhow, I was at church once when the lady approached me to tell me she'd become an official writer (as if the love and process of writing didn't already make her so). She told me she'd been "published" on a website to which she subscribed, and she'd just been paid $0.33 for an article. It was the getting paid that made her official.
Well, I got my very first check from BlogHer today.
I actually received a monetary reward for spending some time sharing my junk with you all. Can you believe it? It's insane in the most awesome of ways.
Not that we can retire on $26.34, but I blog for the love of blogging. Getting paid is a real bonus. The payment was based on readership over the last quarter, so thanks so much for checking in and keeping up. Based on the thought process of the lady I know, I guess it could be said that I'm now official.
Monday, June 30, 2008
So, I knew this lady once who really wanted to be a writer. She submitted manuscripts and articles and had a collection of rejection letters. Surprisingly, I'm not talking about myself. Novel, I know.
Posted by Amanda at 11:46 PM
A little library in the tiny little town just next to our little town opened in the spring. We'd not yet made a trip over to check it out, but while on the way home from a nearby golf course a few days ago, we stopped in for a bit. We dropped in just in time for the kid's craft, which excited Gracie to no end.
Bub, on the other hand, finds group crafting boring, so he tucked away in a corner to learn about mummies. In the time it took for Gracie to glue some die cuts to craft paper, Bub learned just enough about mummies to later scare her socks off.
Ah, brothers -- so thoughtful.
Other than that little excursion, we spent a good bit of time at home this week. I reorganized the laundry room and gift closet, and Katie helped me with some work in the garage.
We've also increased the stock value of our local Blockbuster. More than once this week, we've piled on or around the upstairs sectional for movie fests. I can't remember a time when I've seen so many movies consecutively! While I'm not a big fan of spending long periods of time parked in front of a television, I am a fan of spending long hours lounging around in my pajamas. It's actually been quite fun to catch up on movies we previously missed out on or those we've not watched in a good while.
Today, we went to a nearby water park where it became obvious just how much the kids have grown. Last year, they were too small to be in the pool at this particular water park without floaties and they were far too short to tackle the slide. This year, they walked around with their heads above water and they spent so much time on the slide that they now have plastic burns on their backsides.
Speaking of backsides, Gracie of the Long Torso spent the better part of her day digging a newly-short swimsuit out of hers. Like I said, the kids have really grown.
In other news, Chelsea's back and will jump right into this week's activity. We're going back to Six Flags tomorrow and to a water park with free admission on Wednesday. Thursday will likely be spent cleaning and catching up on laundry before we host family and friends over the holiday weekend and into next week.
At some point in the midst of all our busyness, the girls will be forced to help me brush up on my Nertz skills. Nertz is a card game I used to play with my friend Marcie over gallons of sweet iced tea. Marcie's coming to visit on Monday, and after sending her a smack-talking e-mail, I now feel it necessary to brush up on my game play. Indeed, I believe it's impossible for me to be any more of a dork.
Posted by Amanda at 8:02 PM
Saturday, June 28, 2008
It's not a secret that we're all in love with Babbit the Blue Rabbit. I originally fell in love with his quirky good looks and whimsical charm, and but grew to appreciate how we tend to look at things differently when he's around. He's been on some wild adventures with this family, and he does a fair job of tormenting the children while at home. He serves his purpose well. Babbit is one-of-a-kind, and we're very lucky he lives with us.
Today, I stumbled across I'm a Sew Sew Girl, a blog chronicling the craft of a doll maker. The blog author, Evelyn, is an incredible artist. Included among the beautiful ladies she creates, she makes quirky, whimsical little treasures like these guys (who would, by the way, be great companions for the Babster).
What I wouldn't give for about an ounce of her creativity and talent! When you have a minute, check out her handiwork. I think you'll be equally impressed.
photo credit: Evelyn @ I'm a Sew Sew Girl
Posted by Amanda at 10:09 PM
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
My niece Katie's been in Texas since Sunday. She's such an awesome girl and an amazing help that James told me today we need to look into getting ourselves a teenage girl. I don't know if he realizes they're all full of angst when they live with you full-time -- and since we can't pick one up at Costco, there's no need to clear that up.
Anyway, about Kate: the child is awesome.
The phrase I say the most (and I mean about 16,000 times a day) is "Hush, Bub," or something to that effect. My little boy is rarely quiet and his near-constant chatter is quite stressful on road trips. While driving home on Sunday, things were no different. Bub chattered on and on and on about anything and everything until Kate said, "Hey, let's play Hushpuppies!" (The game is identical to The Quiet Game, only Hushpuppies included a competition with a cool cousin.) I swear, Bub did not say one word or utter even the tiniest sound for a good half-hour...
and that may be classified as some kind of miracle.
...and to the swimming pool...
...where she came up with this
clever combination of flotation devices.
It came to my attention this week that Katie has never been to Six Flags. Though I grew up in Oklahoma, one of my parents hauled us southward to Arlington at least once every summer, so to discover that someone so closely related to me would stare blankly when I said "Pink Thing" was shocking. Katie's been to amusement parks all over the United States, and I just assumed Six Flags was a given. When I called my mom to tell her about Katie's lack of Six Flags experience, even she was incredulous and asked, "Are you sure?"
We decided there was no way we could ignore such a lamentable situation, so we set her up for a season pass. One thing many people don't realize is that the Six Flags chain offers "Out of Market" season passes. They're available to people who don't live in the state where the Six Flags is located. Just show an out-of-state ID, and a season pass can be yours for one penny more than the day rate. Moreover, because Six Flags parks honor one pass at all parks, Kate can take her pass back to Missouri and visit Six Flags over St. Louis for free. It's a deal that can't be beat!
After a quick breakfast, we set out for the park. Katie and I rode almost all the big coasters while Mom took the kids on the little rides. We met up with one another throughout the day to ride rides we'd all enjoy. We spent about six hours in the park, and it wasn't until the very last ride of the day that I realized I'd failed to apply sunscreen yet again. A day or two spent nursing a burn is a small price to pay for making such a sweet girl so happy.
Posted by Amanda at 9:58 PM
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Waxing nostalgic, James stretched out on the couch to watch Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern featuring foods from the Philippines. Every dish of adobo brought back sweet memories of his mom and the meals she made for him growing up.
Bub sat on the floor and followed along, but after one too many featured meals of balut (duck embryo eaten in the shell), stir fry with coconut grubs, and pork-filled frog bellies, he exclaimed,
"I hate the Philistines. They're gross!"
I don't know about the Philistines,
but I know when we visit the Philippines,
I plan to pack peanut butter in my bag.
photo credit (l-r):
Posted by Amanda at 9:43 PM
In an effort to to right the wrong of higher gas prices, Jack in the Box is giving away free tacos on Thursday!
That's right, free junk food. Wahoo!
This Thursday (June 26), present a valid recent gas receipt at any Jack in the Box and you will receive two tacos free.
Legalities and Whatnot:
Limit of one order of tacos per guest.
No purchase necessary.
Duplicates or copies will not be accepted.
Photo Credit: jackinthebox.com
Posted by Amanda at 8:12 PM
Monday, June 23, 2008
The kids have nighttime VBS this week, which generally puts a damper on dinner plans, so tonight I made a fast and easy meal I found on the Cheap Healthy Good blog. It was so simple and so good, I just had to share.
I previously mentioned the jump in meat prices around here lately, so when Kris posted this vegetarian recipe recently, I knew it was a dish we had to try. Bringing a meatless meal to the table would be an interesting and frugal alternative to the norm, plus the meal consisted of many things already in my pantry, making preparation so simple.
Largely a bean soup, this meal is so cost-effective. I picked up the curry and cumin very inexpensively at my local grocery store by shopping in the section of Mexican foods instead of on the spice aisle. I bought the ginger root and cilantro at Sprouts for next to nothing. This recipe was so delicious that my carnivorous husband said this is a meal I should make more often -- even the kids asked for seconds!
Recipe and Preparation Instructions:
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon minced peeled ginger root
4 teaspoons curry powder
¼ tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp cayenne
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
2/3 cup chopped fresh parsley (or cilantro)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.
Add onion and ginger root; sauté 3 minutes or until tender.
Stir in curry powder; cook an additional minute.
Add tomatoes; cook 1 minute or until mixture is slightly thickened, stirring occasionally.
Add salt, black beans, and chickpeas; stir well.
Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes.
Remove from heat; stir in fresh parsley and lemon juice. Serve warm.
Serve over rice, crispy tortillas, or both. Delicious additions!
Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
277.5 calories, 4.4 g fat, $0.82
According to Kris at Cheap Healthy Good, here's the cost breakdown:
2 teaspoons vegetable oil: 88 calories, 10 g fat, $0.04
1 cup chopped onion: 67 calories, 0.1 g fat, $0.16
1 tablespoon minced peeled ginger root: 5 calories, 0 g fat, $0.06
4 teaspoons curry powder: 13 calories, 0.5 g fat, $0.20
¼ tsp ground cumin: negligible calories and fat, $0.01
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained: 82 calories, 0 g fat, $0.89
1/8 teaspoon salt: negligible calories and fat, $0.01
1 (15-ounce) can black beans: 328 calories, 1.6 g fat, $0.50
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas: 507 calories, 4.9 g fat, $0.50
2/3 cup chopped fresh parsley (or cilantro): 14 calories, 0.3 g fat, $0.66
1 tablespoon lemon juice: 6 calories, 0 g fat, $0.25
TOTAL: 1110 calories, 17.4 g fat, $3.28
PER SERVING (TOTAL/4): 277.5 calories, 4.4 g fat, $0.82
My total cost was slightly higher because we ate our stew with steamed brown rice and some crispy tortillas (corn tortillas quickly browned in a tiny bit vegetable oil). Even with the additions, the cost was less than $1.00/serving, particularly since I bought the beans for a quarter a can. NOTE: I doubled the recipe to feed a very hungry family of five, but on a regular less-hungry day, the four-serving recipe plus rice may have been enough for us all.
Posted by Amanda at 10:55 PM
Saturday, June 21, 2008
It has come to my attention that I'm a bad summer blogger. I wondered the other day where all the time for blogging has gone, but tonight, as I was checking in with my sister, I realized just how busy we've been since Chelsea arrived. We flew home from Orlando two weeks ago today, and since then, we:
- stayed up late
shared novels and spent time reading
had two doctors appointments
spent time laying in the yard
caught up on laundry
watched a Law and Order marathon
played video games
humiliated one another with phone Bejeweled
went to the gym
took a Yoga class
clipped and organized three weeks of coupon inserts
went grocery shopping
made the thrift store rounds -- several stores, several days
took a road trip
spent a whole day dealing with auto repairs
attended a lecture
went to the movie theatre three times
watched three or four movies at home
spent some time teaching and learning in the kitchen
twice went to Six Flags
made one trip to the minor emergency center
Chelsea left yesterday for camp orientation in OKC, so we did all of that in less than two weeks. In fact, we did all of that in about nine days, because for about two days post-Orlando, I did little more than lay on the couch, and for the last couple of days, I've been on the couch again. No wonder I've been too busy to get anything down here!
As for the current laying on the couch, the ER trip was mine due to some really bad blisters on the very bottom of feet. It's dumb, and I don't know exactly how it happened. All I know is having the skin come off the bottom of your feet is a major inconvenience. I'm hoping to heal quickly and to stop hurting myself, to be more responsible about effective time management, and to work harder at not letting the summer sun totally sap all creative energy, so with that, I promise I'll try to be better at being a good summer blogger.
As for life around here, it's been really fun keeping Chelsea. She's such a good girl, and just a joy to have around. She's very laid back and I've had a great time having her here. But she's gone for now, and will be gone for the next ten days or so. As I mentioned, she has camp orientation in OKC for the weekend, and will go back to Tulsa tomorrow to take care of some things for school. She plans to come back at the end of the month, but with moving parents, a smitten young man at home, and things to be done before school in the fall, who knows she'll do. We hope we get her back for the rest of the summer, but we'll see.
Meanwhile, we're acquiring one of my other nieces. My niece Katie went to Oklahoma a few days ago to visit my grandmother, but I got an e-mail today with a strong indication that she was very bored. Because I am an eradicator of boredom, we're off to rescue her tomorrow after church. She'll be here through the first weekend in July and will go back to Oklahoma with my brother and his family who are coming here to celebrate the Fourth. After they all go home, my friend Marcie and her family will be here for a couple of days. Following that, I plan to collapse and soothe myself with mass quantities of Skittles.
Completely unrelated to Skittles or house guests, we went geocaching for the very first time today. Our friends Tommie and Amy geocache quite often and have shared with us some of their experiences. James was sold on geocaching immediately (because no boy outgrows his desire to hunt for treasure), but what appealed to me was the fact that after the initial expense of the GPS, geocaching is a fun and frugal way to spend time together. James got a Garmin for Father's Day, so today, we used it for a bit of hunting.
We had a hard time finding a few of the caches, and with my feet in their current condition, I was a little slower than I'd normally be. Regardless, we went on 15 hunts today, and found ten of the fifteen. (The ones we couldn't find were in rural locations near our house, and likely disturbed by nature. All the caches in town were intact.) The kids really loved trading some of their tiny toys for new prizes, and I loved spending a quiet day with my family enjoying some beautiful weather. The experience was so delightful that we've already mapped out a few hunts for the trip home tomorrow!
Posted by Amanda at 10:58 PM
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
I saw him approaching the crosswalk as I slowed to a stop at the intersection. His summer skin glowed, framed by white tee and sandy mop. He pressed the button and waited his turn. As my children bickered in the backseat, I admired the distance he kept from the corner and wondered how many times his mother told him to step away from the curb. "He remembered," I thought, as I watched him fiddle with his skateboard. "Maybe Bub will too."
His eyes focused on the orange hand, willing it to change. When it did, he stepped into the road and continued to stare, looking at the blinking white figure as if he was looking ahead to a waiting friend. He did not look around, but even if he had, the path was clear and the way was his. He was confident in the figure calling him to cross.
In a flash, the SUV came barreling around the corner, racing to make the light, and for a moment, the boy was gone. I gasped. My eyes fell to the wheels making the bend, watching for the expelled viscera of someones blond-haired baby who waited his turn. The suburban mom on the cell phone never hit the brakes, but fortunately, the boy did. He stood waiting, his clothes billowing from the speeding motorist. His head turned along with the car, his face screwed tightly, partly from fear, partly from that 13-year-old need for a comeback. God's grace was evident in the life narrowly spared.
I wanted to cross traffic to take him up in my arms, to comfort him, to wipe away that fear and realization that his life had nearly been ended. But I couldn't. I was in a turning lane with traffic stacked behind me. The light changed and I had to go.
I watched him as I drove away and I wondered how often I'd been that same careless driver. I've never literally come close to killing a crossing child, but figuratively, how often have I, while wrapped up in my own moment or day or situation, nearly plowed over those around me -- people innocently living their lives left in my self-consumed wake?
As the boy became smaller in my rear-view, I became more acutely aware of my gratefulness for grace:
the grace that spared the blond-haired boy on a sunny summer day,
the grace that spares those in my wake,
the grace that continues to spare me.
"Grace is having a commitment to --
or at least an acceptance of --
being ineffective and foolish...
I do not at all understand the mystery of grace --
only that it meets us where we are
but does not leave us where it found us."
-- Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies
"We believe that we are all saved the same way,
by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus."
-- Acts 15:11 NLT
"God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were.
But as people sinned more and more,
God’s wonderful grace became more abundant.
So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death,
now God’s wonderful grace rules instead,
giving us right standing with God
and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
-- Romans 5:20-21 NLT
"Sin is no longer your master,
for you no longer live under the requirements of the law.
Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace."
-- Romans 6:14 NLT
Posted by Amanda at 1:07 AM
Monday, June 16, 2008
For Father's Day, James decided he wanted to go to College Station. We primarily go down during football season, but his brother's new Chick-fil-A franchise was finished in the spring and a construction delay prevented us from making it to the opening. James felt like it's been long enough, so he took off a couple of hours early on Friday, we hit the road, and we drove straight to Freebirds to meet Jerald for dinner.
On Saturday morning, we visited the restaurant. Then, we took the kids to Research Park on campus because second to our teaching them about the Lord Jesus Christ, we teach them about Aggie tradition.
At least our priorities are in order, right?
From there, we went to see Kung Fu Panda at a new-ish and super cheap movie theatre (so cheap, in fact, that Chelsea and I went back later to see The Happening -- a movie worth little more than the $4 we spent to see it). Let me just say that I LOVE Jack Black as an animated panda and I laughed louder and harder than any kid in the theatre. That's right -- I'm not ashamed of my seven-year-old sense of humor.
Afterwards, we drove out to the winery where James worked when we met. We've not been out in over eight years, so it was nice to see how much the property has grown and how much it's stayed the same. The kids were quite disinterested in all of our recollections, but they had a great time taunting the turtles in the pond. Before we left, we had a chance to visit with the winemaker and his wife and to update one another on our respective lives.
Later that day, the writer of a blog I stalk commented here (and on her blog) saying that she spotted me in the gift shop, which was pretty distressing considering that I spent at least 43% of my time there yelling at my kids. (All vocal elevation was meant to protect children and turtles, and while she promises she didn't hear any yelling, I'm pretty sure she's just being nice.)
We went back to the house where Jerald pulled out the smoker and made dinner for us all. While the menfolk cooked, we messed around in the cow car.
We came home again on Sunday, but not before James opted for Freebirds again for lunch. Once home, he spent his Father's Day afternoon alternating between hanging out with the kids and dozing on the couch with the US Open on in the background. Happy Father's Day, James! We love and appreciate you!
Posted by Amanda at 6:01 PM
Friday, June 13, 2008
We've had a fairly uneventful week. It literally took a couple of days for me to get back into the swing of things, what with the grocery shopping and with the regaining of energy. After a couple of days, though, we were all ready to being with the summer fun.
Chelsea is here for the summer, and so far, we're all enjoying ourselves. Well, my family is enjoying having her here, but she's a teenager, so I can only guess that she's having a good time. When she comes down for short stints, we always do it up and take her all over the place, but with the plan for her to be here most all summer, I'm having to exercise some discipline and adjust my thought that hanging out together is not enough, when I know realistically that it is. Some of my sweetest memories are times I spent doing nothing with my Aunt Laura or Aunt Ruby. Chelsea's so level-headed and doesn't need constant entertainment. It's me having a hard time shifting my mindset of viewing her as a family member instead of a guest.
So far, we've avoided extravagance and limited ourselves to things that we would already do, like going to the pool and using our season passes at Six Flags. We've done a bit of shopping, played video games, and swapped some novels. I've been teaching her a few things in the kitchen (like how to make guacamole and mashed potatoes) and she'll play Bunko with my group on Monday. We have plans for some weekend road trips, group classes at the gym, and trips to the library, and other than that, we'll just hang out.
It's been sweet to watch Gracie emulate her and love on her -- it's like having a brand new big sister. Bub really couldn't care less about Chelsea being here, but having someone else to entertain Gracie leaves more time for video games and pogo stick bouncing. As for James and I, we always have fun with Chelsea. James keeps telling her she was our kids' age when he met her for the first time and she tolerates his wandering down memory lane. I'm enjoying our great conversations. She is a real blessing, and I just love having her here. I'll be sad when the day comes that she goes home for good.
Posted by Amanda at 2:22 PM
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Posted by Amanda at 6:36 PM
I'm having a very difficult time adapting to non-vacation life. When the sun streams into my window in the morning, my first thought is making my way to water, and for some reason, the bathtub doesn't cut it. Even James felt lost when he woke up Sunday morning. It's funny how quickly we adapted to non-home living.
But we're home, and we're adapting. What I'm not adapting to is returning to higher prices. When we were in Florida, the price of gas was slightly higher than here, which was to be expected in the middle of all things Disney. When we came home, we thought there would be a momentary break in expenses, but we were wrong. Gasoline at the station near our home is now at $4.00 a gallon.
When we went to the grocery store to stock the condo in Florida, the lady working the deli counter was telling me about how quickly the price of cheese increased. She then asked about food prices where we were from, and I was able to honestly tell her that I'd not personally experienced a big jump in our food costs. At that point, they'd remained fairly stable. Night before last and again yesterday while restocking our perishables, I was proved wrong. Some of the things I buy are still about the same price, but for the first time, I experienced the dramatic increase in beef and was astounded! I paid two times the price I'd normally pay for the same cut of meat.
I know I'm not alone in these struggles, and I know I'm very fortunate to only now be feeling the pinch in my wallet. In fact, CNN.com features an article today about Making Creative Budget Cuts to Combat High Food Costs , so again, it's a very common issue.
I'm already a coupon shopper, so that won't be a change for us. In fact, I'm very excited to teach my niece (who's spending the summer with us) the way of the coupon. Already she's helped with clipping and organizing, and today, we'll be making our way to CVS and the supermarket. (I hope she sees what a difference a little time and planning can make and that I'm not met with frequent eye-rolling and heavy sighing. She is a teenager, after all.)
Beyond that, one of the things the article mentioned was gardening at home. I love that idea, and would love to learn how to plant a garden or do some container gardening. With the increasing prices at the grocery store, I'm highly motivated to learn. Until then, I'll keep buying my produce at Sprouts, which generally offers fruits and vegetables at half the cost (or less) of national chain stores (and Wednesday is double ad day where twice the produce is on sale). Additionally, the article suggested buying locally, so for meat and milk, I think I'll look into buying directly from a farm, looking for something locally with the Local Harvest Database (though won't those prices be higher now because of the small farmer passing along his increase in expenses?).
What about you? Are you spending more and getting less? What new things are you doing to combat rising costs?
Posted by Amanda at 10:25 AM
Monday, June 9, 2008
It freaks me out how spot on these things often are. Seriously, I feel like someone's spying on me. Except that I rarely live a "slow" life.
You Are Sunrise
You enjoy living a slow, fulfilling life. You enjoy living every moment, no matter how ordinary.
You are a person of reflection and meditation. You start and end every day by looking inward.
Caring and giving, you enjoy making people happy. You're often cooking for friends or buying them gifts.
All in all, you know how to love life for what it is - not for how it should be.
Posted by Amanda at 9:29 PM
Sunday, June 8, 2008
We had such a great time in Florida, but are so glad to be home again!
After such busy days, we've spent our Sunday recouperating. The kids are playing video and card games, golf is on the TV, the fan is humming in the background, and we're all laying around on one couch or another. The most activity we have planned for today is picking up food to grill for dinner.
Thank you for keeping up with our travels!
Posted by Amanda at 3:04 PM
Saturday, June 7, 2008
After Busch Gardens, Babbit went to Treasure Island
where he stayed in a suite on the beach.
He loved the view from the Master Bedroom.
In fact, we all did.
After breakfast, we headed out to the water.
"Stingrays? Outside of a zoo?"
Babbit wished he could join in the fun.
We enjoyed the beach at Treasure Island far more than Cocoa Beach.
The water was clear, the sand was soft,
the beach was much less crowded, and there were "treasures" everywhere.
At midday, we went to The Pier at St. Petersburg.
We rode a trolley...
...checked out multi-seat bicycles...
...had a seafood lunch on the waterfront...
...saw a magic show...
...and fed the seagulls.
After all that, Babbit checked out the selection at the ice cream shop
(where James lost his debit card in the narrow slit behind the machine).
We finished our time in St. Pete's
by taking advantage of a free boat ride in the basin.
Babbit wonders what it would be like to attend a church
that has as many life vests as hymnals.
Off to the Airport
Boarding the Plane
Babbit the First Class Rabbit
So Glad to be Home!
Posted by Amanda at 5:38 PM