Pizza Bake_Apr 27 2009_0006_edited-1This pizza bake caught my attention because I thought it would be easy and I already had all the ingredients.  It was on my monthly menu for tonight’s dinner but I did not leave work until 5:45.  I already had the meat ready from my once a month cooking marathon so I was a little ahead as I had, surprisingly, remembered to take the package of cooked Italian style ground beef out of the freezer before I left for work.  I started the pizza dough at 6:15 and we were eating at 7:10.  Not bad and soooo good.  My family actually said they can’t wait for leftovers.

First: Pizza Dough

  • 3 Cups all purpose flour
  • 1 pkg instant yeast, or 1 tbls yeast
  • 1 cup very warm water
  • 2 tbls oil
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt

Add yeast and sugar to the water.  Let sit for about 5 minutes until the yeast grows.  Add salt and oil.  If using a bread machine to knead (which I recommend) pour all liquid into bread machine pan and add flour, stirring after each cup added.  Knead until smooth about 5 in the bread machine, about 10 minutes if by hand.  Place dough ball in a greased bowl lightly covered and let rise for 10-15 minutes.  While bread is rising-

Second:  Pizza Stuffing

  • 1 lb. cooked and drained ground beef cooked with 1 small diced onion
  • 1 tbls Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp ground oregano
  • 1/2 tsp of thyme
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp minced or powdered garlic
  • 1 tsp sweet basil
  • 1 tbls garlic salt
  • 1-2 tsp pepper
  • 16 oz tomato sauce
  • 3 tbls flour
  • 1 cup or more of mozzarella cheese
  • pepperonis
  • small amount of milk to brush on top and sesame seed to sprinkle over the top

Cook the beef and all the above ingredients EXCEPT the cheese and pepperonis.  Let cool.  Can do this fast by putting in a large baking dish and putting in the freezer.  Not that I did this, not me, I have all the time in the world.

Third:  Roll out the pizza dough into a 14x11 inch rectangle.  Lay dough on a greased cookie sheet.  Place meat mixture down the center third of the dough, leaving 2 inches on each end and cover with the cheese and pepperonis. 

Pizza Bake_Apr 27 2009_0001_edited-1Cut the sides of the pizza dough diagonally 2 inches apart.  I used my kitchen shears which I really hope were clean.

Pizza Bake_Apr 27 2009_0004_edited-1Fold the ends up and then fold the sides over.

Brush with milk and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Place in a preheated 425 degree oven for 25 minutes.

Pizza Bake_Apr 27 2009_0005_edited-1 Yum!!  Just like the picture except that I used homemade pizza dough instead of pre-packaged pizza dough and so mine was HUGE.  I though that it might spread out over the pan while it was cooking. 

Good thing everyone wants leftovers because this could feed an army.

Pizza Bake_Apr 27 2009_0007_edited-1

I think this might be good with some sort of chicken bake.  I have all sorts of ideas.  My husband loved how light the crust was and not heavy at all. 

This was the recommendation Amazon sent to my inbox. I realize that my blog posts are in no way scintillating and a must read but this, a book telling me no one cares about my mundane life, just really makes me want to put pen to paper.
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I did it, I joined Facebook. I am completely amazed at how far I can go into my life's history and find people. I can see where it could be a complete time sucker. But I am drawing the line at Twitter. I just can't do it.

I remember back in the days of AIM and Yahoo IM. All day long, at work of course, I would be instant messaging. One day the owner of my company, Al, asked me who I had sent 350,000 messages to. I played it off like Al was crazy, no way it was 350,000, maybe 150,000 but not over a quarter million I had a job to do so how could I have that much time.

I doubt Al would have been impressed that my typing WPM went from 35 to almost 100 since he was not paying me to type anything. Still it is a skill I perfected while in his employment and I thank him for that opportunity.
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On the way to church last night:

Anna: Can we turn off all our lights tonight for one minute to celebrate Earth Day?

Tony: Remember the ice storm year before last? I think we did our share of conserving energy, a lifetime worth of celebrating Earth Day.

Eight days without electricity in 20 degree weather was our contribution, not that I would have hugged a tree anyway just happy I am off the hook.
Nothing was settled this morning in the hearing to modify child support.  Here is an overview of what happened.  

  • His ex-wife did get a new lawyer.  
  • They now have a scheduling conference order 
  • The judge is making them go to mediation and hopes to not see them back in his courtroom because they will resolve through mediation.
  • Mediation is $200 per hour, per person, minimum of two hours.
  • Her attorney was required to explain all the proceedings to Tony since he was representing himself.
  • Her attorney stated that she has had many cases where the father cannot pay and the judge will tell him to "go flip burgers".
  • Tony said he was completely willing to "go flip burgers" if he has to pay but then there will then be child care expenses that they will both have to split.  
  • Her attorney scoffed at the amount he was ordered to pay originally, saying "$390 is nothing for two kids".
  • Tony agreed that $390 was not much except when you do not have it AND they have joint custody with the exact amount of time and custody for both parents.
  • Her attorney asked if he was behind in his ordered payments and he told her that yes, technically he was BUT he paid $400 in January after losing his job January 7th.  He paid $250 in February and then he filed for a Motion to Modify February 3rd.*
  • She gave him some options for mediators and they have to have made an appointment with a mediator by end of April and they are to have a decision/agreement to the judge by the first part of May.
The good news is that he was not required to write her a check for child support, back or current, today, nor was that brought up.  He does not have to agree to anything in mediation and can take his chances in front of the judge.  

Our Pre-Paid Legal (I cannot say enough great things about PPL, I even used it when I was in Oklahoma pregnant and divorcing Anna's dad as a resident of California) consultant said that the purpose of mediation to for her side to say what they want and for him to say what he wants of can do.  They will still have to use the child support calculator and what will be decided is which income it will be calculated on.  

Custody cannot be decided during this Motion to Modify Child Support, so even though they have made other arrangements this past year the judgement will be based on the 182/183 split.  In order for his ex to receive more child support than in my previous post, she will have to get more custody and that would require a separate Motion to Modify Custody to be filed.  

Tony is going to inquire about childcare costs in the area and bring that to mediation.  He did inform her lawyer that he is watching the kids all summer and during the school year he gets out at three and will still be able to keep them.  His ex came back with the argument that they would be standing around for 15 minutes until he got there.  He informed her that is what they do now since the kids go to different schools.  

Let's just say, worst case scenario, that he has to pay based on his last three years average, $252.  In order to do that he would have to get a part time job after school and the kids would go back into daycare.  And let's just say daycare is $400 a month.  His ex would net $52 but we would have to pay $452.  It is crazy and yet that is what she is.  

* My advice to anyone that loses their job or has a reduction in ability to pay child support by more than 10%.  FILE A MOTION TO MODIFY, IMMEDIATELY.  The decision to modify becomes retroactive to the date that you file.  That is why Tony is not paying child support now, based on the legal advice of our previous attorney and PPL, he can take his chance that the judge will decide a lower amount or none at all.  If that happens the decision goes back to the date he filed, February 3rd.  If he had continued to pay her she would either have to give it back, not going to happen, or he would be ahead in payments.  

Even if you do not have all your ducks in a row, FILE A MOTION TO MODIFY and then get all your paperwork and lawyers in order.  It will be worth it and you can file without an attorney.
The Motion to Modify Child Support hearing is less than a half hour away. There are so many different emotions that I feel as the step mom and second wife. I think most people think of the divorced mother struggling to eek out a living with a meager earning and barely enough child support to put clothes on her children's back. And that is if she is lucky to get child support.

But what about the exceptions to this scenario? What about the father that has been ordered to pay child support and never misses his payment? What about the fathers that never questioned the payment as being unfair or too much, but resigned themselves that the ordered payment is just part of the consequences of getting divorced?

That is my husband. He has paid his child support, in cash, every month since his divorce was final. He did not question the amount, nor did he complain about paying his child support. He even paid ten dollars more to round it up to a hundred dollar increment. My husband has paid his ordered amount even though HE is not the one that wanted the divorce, and tried to stay together, but was unable to compete with the new relationship she had started while Tony was at work so she could stay home with their kids.

But the judge didn't and won't care about that. It is just math, at least in the state of Oklahoma, and for that I should be glad. Yes, I could bitch and moan about how she spends the money and how she wants ME to have to pay her now that Tony has been laid off. Yet, she does not want the kids to know that I am the one that is having to support her. She and I have not spoken since we all got together to talk about the future after Tony was laid off. She was very angry, though she never let on while I was there, that their daughter was led to believe that I, her step mom, would be supporting them. Even though that is specifically what the ex said should happen that now I needed to pay her since Tony wasn't working.

I am getting off on a tangent. Back to today's court case.

Tony will only have five minutes or less to state his case. He is representing himself, pro se. Oklahoma has a child support computation worksheet available online. You fill it out and then you use the commutated worksheet to present to the judge and have him sign off and file. Since their kids do not have extenuating circumstance, yet, like braces, medical issues, tutors, competitive sports, and the like that require extra out of pocket money, it should be cut and dry. They both have joint custody with him having 182 nights and her 183. However, since he has not been working he is the day care provider. He will continue to watch the kids all summer and the next two school years. If he has to get a part time job she will have to pay half of the day care expenses, thus taking away from the child support she could possibly get.

The what if today is- what income the judge will use for Tony? Her income has changed from $890 per month when she was a part-time waitress, while they were separated, to $13 an hour since July of 2006. A 35% increase! The child support was calculated and ordered at her part-time salary, below minimum wage. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU ARE IN A RUSH TO JUST "GET IT OVER WITH".

Here is what can be ordered depending on what wage earning the judge uses for Tony:
Unemployment - ($24.64)
Minimum Wage, because unemployment runs out in May - ($29.04)
Based on his previous earnings at a three year average - $282.56
Median Income of what he could make in two years as a Radiology Tech - $134.95
Mean Income of a Radiology Tech - $171.02

All of this worrying could be for nothing. We do not know if she will show up today, if she has a lawyer, or if she will bring all the paperwork that is required to make a judgment. I should know by ten or eleven this morning. Once I am no longer on pins and needles I am going to outline how to create and get a Motion to Modify Child Support Order because not all divorced dads are deadbeats.

I have been busy working and worrying. My husband goes to court tomorrow to modify child support, and buy am I scared. Yesterday was the 15th and the owners of my company were suppose to tell us what our new, presumably lower, salaries were going to be but they have not made any announcements, yet.

Tony and I are debating what to do with our tax refund, pay off debt, finish the bathroom remodel in case we have to sell our house, or sock the money away in case we need cash. We are leaning more toward the paying off debt since I know without a shadow of a doubt that is what Dave Ramsey would advise. I made a pretty great spreadsheet detailing our plan of action and I am actually considering posting it for accountability purposes (and maybe to encourage others) but my pride is standing in the way of hitting the publish post button.

I was sent this video and it put the biggest smile on my face and I thought it was awesome- More than 200 dancers were performing their version of "Do Re Mi", in the Central Station of Antwerp. with just 2 rehearsals they created this amazing stunt! Those 4 fantastic minutes started the 23 of march 2009, 08:00 AM. It is a promotion stunt for a Belgian television program, where they are looking for someone to play the leading role, in the musical of "The Sound of Music".

Hopefully, I will have positive news tomorrow after the court appearance for the Motion to Modify and I must write about this process because doing a search on the Internet is pathetic when it comes to unemployment and paying child support. Such completely false stories and useless information that do not support what it legally available, and the steps that can be taken to alleviate court battles and falling behind in child support payments.
Yesterday our town's news stations were covering a tragic death that happened over the weekend. A high school senior girl was shot in the chest early evening on Saturday. As the day wore on, yesterday, more information was being released about how this tragedy happened. What became immediately clear, to me, was that the kids involved were trying to cover their own asses before taking action to save this young girls life.

It made me think about the kind of situations our kids will be in when they grow up and how standing up for what is right, no matter what the consequences will be, is the choice I want our kids to choose. I thought that this would be a story I wanted Anna to know and to understand what choices she will eventually have but what choices I would expect from her.

This story was playing on the radio while Tony was driving the kids home from school yesterday so when I started to tell Anna about it she knew some of the details. I explained to her that as a teenager there will be situations she will get into that Tony and I would not approve of. However, that does not mean she should try and cover it up, but that she should always do the right thing and know, that no matter what, I will always love her. I went on to explained how different this young girl's life could have been, if the minute she saw there was a gun, she left. Or if there had just been someone at that house that would have immediately called 911 the story might have a different ending.

And then we watched a family...

While putting Anna to bed, at the 8:30 commercial break, I kissed her goodnight and told her that I loved her so much. Anna hugged my neck hard and said that she knew, but that even if I loved her to death, if she ever did drugs she couldn't live in our house. I hugged her back and said yes, baby, you are right there are consequences for bad decisions, but I hope you will not make that choice. As I was walking to her door, right before I shut it, she said, and you won't raise my baby either.

The indoctrination is working, "I ain't raisin' no babies".
This is the second time I have made this whole wheat bread. It turned out so perfect the first time I was actually nervous I wouldn't be able to get the same results when I made it again. I was wrong, it turned out just as good. I found the recipe in an old recipe book called Multi-Grains. Tony's mom had it in her collection of old cookbooks that he got after she passed away.

The Ingredients:
  • 1 Tbl brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 pks of Instant Dry Yeast, or 1 and 1/2 Tbl of Instant Yeast
  • 3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup Reg White flour, All-Purpose or Bread flour (I use high gluten white flour)
  • 1/3 cup of packed brown sugar
  • 1 Tbl salt
  • 1/3 cup powdered milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg slightly beaten

In a small bowl, mix 1/2 c. warm water, 1 tbl brown sugar, and the yeast. This will double in size by the time you add it to the dough.

In a small pan mix 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1 1/2 cups of water and place on the stove on medium to low heat. Stir constantly. This mixture will be lumpy at first and will stick to the pan but keep stirring.
As you stir it will get lumpy and stick together but gradually this will smooth out and be like thick wallpaper paste. Should look more like cooked dark grits.
I like to use my bread machine to knead and mix. I could use my Kitchen Aid mixer but that would mean more parts to wash. I like how my bread machine only has 2 pieces to wash, and that it is small and contained. I just use the dough setting but I do NOT let it rise or bake in my bread machine as this would be too much and frankly, I just do not like the taste of bread baked in my bread machine.

Put the cooked whole wheat mixture into a mixing bowl and add the following ingredients in this exact order: 1/3 c. packed brown sugar, 1 tbl salt (can be just a tad short of a full tablespoon), 1/3 c. powdered milk, 1/3 c. oil, 1 slightly beaten egg, and 1 c. whole wheat flour. Mix well.
This will just take a few minutes to make sure all the ingredients are well incorporated.

Now add the yeast mixture. In case you are worried, the cooked wheat will be cool enough by now to not kill the yeast.
Add the remaining 1 and 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour and the 1 cup of white flour. Knead or mix for about ten minutes. My bread machine is timesd for about 20 minutes and I use that time to wash all my dishes and measuring cups. Like I said I really like using it for the pain in the butt part of making homemade bread, stirring and kneading-too hands on when you are busy.

Once the bread is fully kneaded place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a dampened tea towel, or lightly cover with plastic wrap. I place my rising bread in the oven with the light on. Let rise until double in size, normally about an hour but could vary depending on the warmth and humidity in your home.

Once doubled put back in the mixing bowl or bread machine and knead again for just 2-3 minutes. You can also hand knead this for the same amount of time. Let rise again as you did before.
**If time is a factor you can skip this rise and start the process of putting it into the bread pans.**

This is what the bread dough will look like after the second rise. (This is not a twoo-mhore) Divide this into two equal pieces.

On a lightly floured surface knead just to shape into a small rectangle. (I cannot believe how dry my skin is. How can I have such oily skin on my face and my hands be the Sahara Desert? Old age, that is how)

I use a rolling pin to get an even layer and my awesome pastry cloth I bought at a garage sale. Love it! The side braces fit over the edge of the counter and keeps it in place as I knead of roll out dough.

To get a good cylinder shaped loaf, roll up, pressing down after each roll to be sure the bread is joined together and there will not be a gap, or air pocket, when the bread bakes.

Karate chop each end and tuck under.

Pinch and press the ends of the bread that was tucked under.

Place in a lightly oiled bread pan making sure the bread stretches to the corners. Let rise again for another hour to an hour and a half.

Once bread has doubled in size brush the top lightly with egg white and place in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30-35 minutes. (it totally looks like a twoo-mhore)

The top will look slightly burnt but its not and it doesn't taste burnt either. Trust me. Though I am going to try cooking this bread at 350 degrees for 40 minutes next time so maybe I can get the same stiff, strong crust with a lighter looking crust.

This is what the bread looks like taken with a flash. See the carmel color?

Once the bread is out of the oven, take the loaves out of the pans and place on a cooling rack for about 20-30 minutes. Or if your husband has been chomping at the bit 10 minutes will be enough time.

I have loved using my bread slicer I got for $2 at the Goodwill Store. It makes perfect slices for sandwiches.
I make bread a lot, my kids will eat it only as toast with butter and jelly because they say it just isn't good for sandwiches or plain. In a way they are right, homemade wheat bread just doesn't hold up, it is normally too crumbly and tastes a little 'off'. However, not this recipe as Anna said the first time she had a piece, "Mommy, this taste just like real bread!" Based on how fast we went through this bread last week it looks like I will be making it again on Thursday.
My work has been experiencing some major changes. The production floor is on reduced hours, 32 per week and we lost 30 employees due to terminations and a few early retirements. Some of the men had literally worked side by side in the late owner's garage before my company took off, forty years ago. Forty years of service, amazing, but still they were working and did not leave their lifelong career on their own volition.

Every couple of weeks we have a town hall meeting with the owners of our company, in front of the paint booth. It has become a slightly dreaded event due to the lay-offs that seem to happen hours before the scheduled meeting, and then what is imminently relayed to us during the meeting. I appreciate that we are kept informed and I do not believe they, the owners, are hiding information from their employees. But still, these town hall meetings have been pretty stressful.

Today we had an impromptu town hall meeting scheduled. Normally, these have been scheduled a few days in advance or told when our next one will be during a town hall meeting. Today we were told via email, mid-morning. I wasn't even sure if I should leave for lunch. What if I was going to be let go? I actually made a joke about this to Lou, like what if I wasn't there and they couldn't find me, would they still lay me off? I doubt they would just forget, I think they would probably just wait until I got back from lunch.

During today's town hall meeting we were told that we might go to a 24 hour work week for the shop floor. Not me, as my job has expanded to the point I could literally be at work for 24 hours straight and still not able to get it all finished. But salaried people, like myself, could soon be affected. Going forward there will be no sick time or personal pay, no 401k match, no profit sharing, and no more pension contribution. We will now be off the entire week after July 4th, additional day on Memorial weekend, two extra days for Easter, and possible periodic shutdowns. All days off will be either without pay or with remaing vacation pay, we can choose. Our pay structure is also being evaluated and we will be notified in April of the changes that will be made, but there are no more details that can be given regarding our change of pay for performance.

I work in a great, and normally very profitable market, that deals directly with oil, gas, and water. We have a strong international presence but this economy just sucks, everywhere. I know other people are dealing with worse, because at least I still have a job even though my husband doesn't. But the uncertainty of the future weighs heavily on me and fills me with anxiety over what is the best solution or direction for our family. It is during this time that I am so grateful I have a relationship with a God that cares, cares about the smallest little detail, and assurance that he loves me. How depressing would it be to not have someone to cry to, to ask why, to ask how, and to give peace and comfort when I need it.

I thought I would share here where my head has been and what my minisucle part of the world is coping with. This is what I am going through but this is not what I am. However, it is a part of my life and it does have a significant effect on me. When I was scared I went back and read the comments people left on The Nester's blog about how they were dealing with this economy. It made it all seem very doable and it was wonderful to read about other peoples challenges and triumphs. I think this is a prime example of why I love blogs, knowing I am not alone. I need my job but if it goes away it will all be okay....we will all be okay.
Remember back in February when I wrote about my cousins and my aunt and uncle coming to live with us from California? (If not they did, on Super Bowl Sunday they arrived) They have moved out. The grand exodus was not under the best of circumstances. Nothing terribly ugly, but not any hugs and kisses either. In fact, only my uncle said good-bye and thank you to Tony and I.

I learned a lot about hospitality, boundaries, and what I consider important to run a smooth home. There were a few things but two instances stood out and became the turning point.

First, we had great weather one weekend and we asked the boys to help move some of the stumps leftover from the 2007 ice storm. They asked if they could do it on Monday or Tuesday because they didn't want to do anything on the weekend. They worked all week and wanted to be lazy on the weekends. Uh, let's just say that did not go over too well with me. I said something along the lines of, you worked all week, you? After a few choice words, they helped Tony move the trunks.

The second instance, a week later, and the one that spurred the decision for them to all move out and go to my mother's 800 square foot home, happened the next Saturday morning. Our kids had no milk for breakfast. I had made it very clear the weekend before, the tree stump weekend, that they were to supply their own food and use the full size fridge in the garage. I even set up a pantry for them. Our grocery bill went from$350-$400 per month to $750 and instead of giving me money for food I asked that they just supply their own. If I made dinner I would still make enough for them but other than that they were on their own.

So when our kids went pour milk over their cereal and there was no said milk, I put my foot down. It was not ugly, at all, but I was very clear that I was upset and that they had crossed the line. The next morning, Sunday, my uncle came to me while I was having my first cup of coffee and told me they were moving to my mom's. They quickly packed up their stuff and left, very yucky-I can't think of the right words to use.


Our living room got painted.

I love this color green, not a sherbet, not a yellow, just real soft green.

And that stairwell. Well, they sanded all the wallpaper paste off, patched all the drywall, caulked all the moldings, and painted the top blue.
I say having a boarding house was worth it.
The snow was suppose to fall during the wee hours of the morning, like 2am, but it actually didn't start until 9am. It hasn't stopped and it is amazing. The kids want to play in it but because it is 38 degrees outside it is more like white flaky rain than true snow. So we are all inside for the day until the 50 degree weather returns tomorrow.

I have been reading the Tightwad Gazette book and made her version of homemade yogurt last weekend. It turned out perfect, much better than my previous attempt. It wasn't tart, it wasn't runny, and it needed nothing to make it sweet. It turned out perfect and creamy. Since I have plenty of time today I am going to make another batch and will show you step by step how easy it is.

There are only 3 ingredients, milk, dry milk, and yogurt for a starter. Here are the specifics:
  • 4 cups of milk and I used 2%
  • 1/3 cup of dry milk, I spent way too much for this NON-instant, $6.46, and next time I am going to just use regular instant dry milk.
  • 2 tablespoons of starter. Last week I used plain Greek yogurt but this week I am using some of my own yogurt.
Pour in the milk and strongly whisk, until dissolved, the powdered milk. Heat on medium heat until 180 degrees.

I don't own a candy thermometer so I just use this cheap one and make sure it doesn't touch the bottom of the pan. Once the milk reaches 180, about 6-8 minutes on medium-low, turn off and let cool until the milk is 115 degrees. This takes about 45 to 60 minutes, this is actually the most painful part of making homemade yogurt, so that should tell you how easy it is.

Once the milk is 115 degrees, take out 1 cup of the warm milk and stir in your 2 tablespoons of yogurt starter until there are no lumps. Add the milk with the starter back into the remaining warm milk, and whisk all together. Pour into a container, I used three canning jars.

Now this is THE TRICK, place your container(s) of warm milk on a heating pad turned on low. Yes, a heating pad, on low. Then cover your container(s) with a bath towel and grab a soup pot.

Place the soup pot over the towel, which is covering the yogurt, which is sitting on a heating pad turned on its lowest setting. Walk away. Walk away for eight, yes, eight hours. Told you it was easy. The key is a consistent temperature for the eight hours of incubation, hence the heating pad.

After the strenuous eight hours of laboriously making your yogurt, place in the fridge to completely cool. This yogurt is great plain. I don't even like plain yogurt and this is really delicious. But since I can never leave well enough alone, I put a couple of spoonfuls of peach jelly on top.

Seriously, so delicious and totally inexpensive, which is why I tried this in the first place but now I think my yogurt is so much better than any yogurt I have bought in a store. I rock!
Nothing screams awesome parenting like dropping your kid off at school and realizing you forgot it was free dress day. I saw the kids in jeans before Anna did and I actually held my breath hoping she wouldn't notice that they weren't wearing uniform khakis. No such luck. Instead, I spent the rest of the day, at work, remembering how I dropped my baby girl off at school with tears in her eyes and watched her try to be cool and not cry.

Mother of the Year, I am not....but bearer of all mom-guilt, yes, that crown goes to me.
If Obama keeps saying "my first term" are we all going to just assume that he is the President for eight more years? Am I the only one noticing this?
Hello. Remember me? Tired of the Boston Butt yet? I have been tired, very tired or as Tony’s ex-wife has on her MySpace page, tried because she is smart like that.

Things have been happening since I posted last. My job has completely changed and now I am busy. Too busy to write a blog post and after being on the computer all day, too tried tired (he married up) to access my laptop. After I get home I haven't got the will power to do anything else while keeping my butt planted on the couch in front of the TV. My lovely husband is making my home life too easy I guess. He has taken care of everything by the time I get home and I have been taking advantage of having a stay-at-home dad. Love it!

The best part about him becoming a SAHD is that my daughter is different. Not so different that I can pinpoint exactly what it is, but different enough that after I put her to bed I realize we haven’t argued the whole night. She has loved being able to come home right after school. Tony says that she won’t walk next to him when he picks her up but he can tell she totally digs not going to daycare anymore. And Tony has loved seeing all the mom cliques when he goes into the school to wait for Anna. Goes into the school!! Is that not awesome or what? Her own mother drops her off on the corner across from the school because I am too lazy to find a parking spot. Dude, I am so lucky it almost negates the powerlessness I feel when dealing with his ex-wife, almost.

My step kids will soon be coming home right after school too. Just as soon as his 30 day notice at the sitter's is up. What a cluster that turned out to be, which could have filled many blog posts, and probably will. They will all be home with their dad for the entire summer. You would think that would make the ex happy but uh, no you would be wrong. Hello, family court. Good times, good times.

One of the biggest changes in our family has been in my extended family, my family from California. We have had a Grapes of Wrath, in reverse, and now two of my cousins, 21 and 24 year old male cousins, are living with us. My uncle is staying with my mother 45 minutes away but in March, when my aunt leaves California, they will both be moving into our house. The boys each have their own rooms; one is in the guest bedroom downstairs, and the other in my sewing room-that never was sewn in-upstairs. I think my aunt and uncle will stay in our living room that we currently use as the kids playroom/Wii area/storage dump/just go put it in the living room, room. We are going to paint it this weekend and I will have to clean the carpet due to all the kids that have eaten in that room.

With all the changes we have not gone out to dinner once, lunch yes but dinner no. Since this was suppose to be a cooking blog I am going to list links to some of the recipes that were in constant rotation around this here boarding house. Personally, I have loved all the changes, all except the divorce saga drama, but that is another post all together. (If I had time, and wasn’t so angry right now, I could really tell a story but I have horrible grammar anyway much less if I was/were to write while pissed off)

The Best Stroganoff Evah

Tri-Tip in the Crockpot

Creamy Chicken and Noodles (kids and cousins LOVED)

The soup that brings 50 hits a day, Taco Soup

Sunday dinner with family has been the traditional Pot Roast with my mashed potatoes that are better than my grandma's or aunt's according to my cousins. Someday I will share my secret.

Simple, easy, no brainer, Crockpot Chicken Burritos

My cousin heard me say I was going to make this and he told Tony that he doesn't think he will like it and is afraid I will get mad but he doesn't like beans and he for sure hasn't ever had a lentil, Moroccan Lentil Soup. Oh, he will eat it because I have found out that if they are hungry enough they will eat anything and man, oh man can they put away some milk.

This marinade is perfect for many meats and I have used it to marinate a ham the night before we smoked it. It was the marinade for the already smoked ham we had on Christmas Eve that was Thee Bestestess Ham I have ever had. I like ham, I guess, it just is a little salty and not really my thing.

At Tony's previous employer, for the holidays, he was able to choose a turkey, a ham, or what he thought was a Boston Butt. However, when we unpacked the quote-unquote, Boston Butt, we were looking at a bone-in, already smoked ham. It smelled like ham and there went my idea of a pulled pork dinner extravaganza for Christmas Eve. But not to be discouraged, we marinated it overnight anyway, cooked it on low for four hours, and then mixed a brown-sugar rub commonly found on a spiral cut honey baked ham. It was delicious! I wanted to eat it for every meal, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack. I bought brown and serve rolls and we finished off all the leftovers as mini-sandwiches.

Annnyyyywaaay, I went and bought an actual Boston Butt pork roast, which is not part of the pig's butt, but actually part of the shoulder area. And did you know that a Boston Butt is cheap? When we did our Sam's Aldi comparison we bought a large piece at Sams and cut it up into smaller pieces. Okay, the marinade already. I used the marinade I wrote down while watching Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. My friend, Sherry, told me that you can look up some of triple Ds recipes on the website but I haven't done that yet. So I have no idea what the exact measurements are. I just use equal parts for most of the ingredients.

1 cup loosely packed brown sugar
1 T. Celery Salt
1 T. Garlic Powder
1 T. Dried Mustard
1 T. Ground Ginger
1 T. Black Pepper
1 T. Rosemary
1 1/2 tsp. Liquid Smoke
1/4 cup Worcestershire
3/4 cup Cider Vinegar
1/2 cup Soy Sauce
1/2 cup Vegetable Oil

Whisk all together.

Place the Boston Butt in a large ziploc bag and fill with the marinade. Place in the fridge overnight.

In the morning place in the crockpot on low for 8 hours. Add the marinade sprinkle with garlic salt and a large sliced onion. Serve as sandwiches, over a baked potato, or all by itself. Like I said I have no idea what the exact measurements for the marinade is suppose to be, but I have used it several times as directed above and it was perfect.
Before I get any emails about how unsafe a trampoline is without the safety net let me just say this. I don't care. I am heartless, mean, and do not care about the safety of my children, because if I did I would have a net, helmets, knee pads, and a first alert necklace portrayed in the picture. But they had the best time! Tony and I watched from the warmth of our living room while Anna and the neighborhood kids tried to jump in the snow and ice that had accumulated on our trampoline. They decided to do this after walking the creek behind our neighborhood and trying to use a sled on our street's 20 degree incline.

They had to work together to get into an upright position because if one person stood up the ice would make the other two slide toward the middle. They were falling, screaming, and laughing the entire time while I just silently prayed no one got hurt.

Every once in a while the three of them would get up and there would be a couple of quick jumps. I found out later they also had the feeling of suspense hinking the trampoline was going to break through. But they spent the majority of the time rolling around and while trying to keep the snow and ice from going down their pants.

Anna was not very successful with that task due to her affinity to making all jeans low-riders. Her pants were completely covered inside and out with snow and ice and I still had to drag her into the house to warm up. Hot chocolate with marshmallows did the trick.
No school, no work, no driving about town but we still need to eat. These mini meatloaves are super easy and very good, even for people that are not particularly fond of meatloaf, me. They take only three ingredients: 2lbs ground beef, 1 bag/box chicken stuffing, and 1 egg.

Mix all three, count 'em three, ingredients together and spoon into a muffin tin.

Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes. Time varies due to your comfort with the 'doneness', is that even a word? of hamburger meat.

Freeze the leftovers as individual portions in sandwich bags put in a large freezer bag. Perfect kid meal and just the right portion. Plus each person can doctor their meatloaf as they wish with BBQ sauce, ketchup, or just plain. The chicken stuffing mixed with ground beef is so good even I can eat this without doctoring it up. Condiments are my reason for eating.

Before I even start this post if you are interested in an apples to apples comparison please read Shannon's post on shopping at Aldi. She does an actual worksheet comparing basic items she regularly buys at Walmart and what like items cost at Aldi. My post, well I did write down the things that I generally buy at Sams, but uh, I forgot to write what Aldi cost breakdown (oz,lb $) was. But, I do still have my receipt. So this is for you April because you are so sweet and have all three near you and for you, LouAnn, the Aldi pioneer, to give Aldi a second chance because they take debit cards now. No more loading up your rented basket only to be turned away when you pull out your MasterCard.

Our shopping trip was not quick, it took some time. We started at Sams to price the meat and bulk items, breaking them down into cost per units (don't do this, look to the bottom and in tiny print you will see it-learned this on our return trip, DUH....) and then we went to Aldi. We dragged Anna along and she only perked up once, when she got to retrieve the quarter from returning the grocery cart at Aldi. I let her keep it and then told her we were going back to Sams.

Here it is:
Cereal is must buy at Aldi. Most kid cereals are all $1.29 and their brand of Special K and more adult cereal was somewhere around $2.49.
  • Frosted Shredded Wheat was $1.79
  • Apple Cinnamon Cheerios was $1.89
  • Bag of Mozzarella Cheese Sticks was $2.89
  • Bag of baby carrots was $.99
  • Sour Cream was $.89!! and not the tiny tub
  • 8 0z block of cream cheese was $.99
  • 4 sticks of unsalted butter was $1.99!!!
  • roll of sausage was $1.89
  • boxes of instant Mac-n-Cheese were $.35
  • 8 whole English Muffins were $.99!!
  • Large bottle of Vegetable oil was $2.29
  • 1 lb. bag powdered sugar was $1.19

But meat, for us, was less expensive at Sams. I say for us because if you could not afford to buy meat in bulk for $20 then Aldi would be a great place. But per pound for meat prices, Sams is better. Here are the prices that I wrote down from Sams:

  • Boston Butt, $1.68/lb
  • Brisket, $2.90/lb
  • Chuck Roast, $3.29
  • Ground Beef 80/20, $2.68, but in the 10lb tube $2.48
  • Bone in Chicken Breast, $1.79/lb
  • 6lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts/2.16lb, it is cheaper to buy the fresh cut and then wash and lay on wax paper on a cookie sheet in the freezer and freeze individually. The non frozen breasts are bigger too.
  • 25lb bag all purpose flour, $.31/lb
  • Sugar, $.52/lb
  • Non-Instant Rice, $.43/lb or $.05/oz
  • Instant Rice, $.84/lb
  • Uncle Bens, $.11/oz
  • Ramen Chicken Noodle, $.16/bag
  • Mac-n-Cheese, $.61/box

Does this mean I am going to actually do a price book? I don't think so but I definitely think I might as well put a few singles in a pile and light them if I don't continue to shop at Aldi. I just think it would be nuts not to. Because Aldi is not near us and the closest one to us prompted my husband to wish for his concealed weapon permit, it is not very convenient. However, since last Saturday, a week later, all we had to buy at the large grocery store .25 miles from our house was milk.

By the way, a full week of Tony staying home and I still love it. So incredibly nice and Janelle, Anna is very excited to spend time with him. Monica, your career change is exactly like Tony's, he is enrolling for both, radiology and RN, and whatever comes first is what he will do. Hope this little bit of comparison shopping info helps. If there is something you want me to check at Aldi's for you let me know and I will on my next visit.

Several years ago, while working at Montgomery Wards buying office, I read the book Who Moved My Cheese. It became apparent that I was more of a sniffer mouse even though I am a control freak. The ability to accept change and continue to find different ways of doing things has helped with life's challenges. Being a single mother, moving, getting married again, job changes, and now, deciding that our family will be a one-income family for the next two years, will put my self diagnosed personality trait to the test.

We have decided that my husband will not look for another job within his previous area of expertise but instead he will pursue an education in the health care field. He has not made a decision on which particular field of study he will pursue; but plans on making that decision this week after speaking with advisers at the various schools in our area. His graduated with a B.S. in Biology so we are hoping many of his credits will transfer and be applicable to a RN degree or Radiology. He hopes to find a part time job at one of the local hospitals and possibly receive a scholarship or signing bonuses.

I do not know all the details but as he hammers out his options I will have a clearer picture. But I do know he is taking this opportunity to make a significant career change and I could not be happier for him. Seriously. I have had this complete feeling of elation that things are going to be so good for us, hard and difficult, but content and happy.

I came home from work today to a spotless house, all the laundry done, and all the beds changed and remade. Wow! The only thing I asked was for me to keep the cooking and the vacuuming. But tonight I was so happy and felt so good coming home to a house that didn't need cleaning up that I relented and told Tony the vacuuming is all his.

The other HUGE thing for us is Anna is leaving daycare and she will be staying home with Tony. Just writing that makes me tear up. Since I divorced while pregnant I have never had the opportunity to stay home with Anna. She has been in daycare since she was four weeks old. We told her last night about all the changes and that Tony would be picking her up from school and staying with her. When she heard that she squealed and did a little jump while hugging Tony. Of course, Anna being Anna, immediately takes it to the next level saying that now Tony could come eat lunch with her and then take her to the little cafe all the SAHMs go to Tuesday after school.

Changes are definitely going to take place in our household and the cheese might stink at times but surely all the reading of frugal blogs I have done will now serve a purpose.

I have much more about dealing with the ex-wife, not pretty, and the Aldi versus Sams, versus Wal-Mart price comparison we did Saturday. But I am going to go over our new budget with my husband and talk about our new awesome future. Two things, thank you so much for the emails and comments, thank you, thank you!! and Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal is $1.29 at Aldi!!!
My husband lost his job today. His company had a major layoff today, laying off 187 employees out of the remaining 225 from the previous lay-offs. I think everything will be fine and I am channeling Scarlett O'Hara because I will think about it tomorrow, tomorrow meaning this weekend. We have been waiting for his company to close and he has been looking for a job since last May. The leads and interviews he has had have been put on hold until sometime in 2009, if the open positions make the budget cuts. We will see and we will pray and Tony will find something.

Then, this afternoon while returning from lunch, one of my co-workers called my cell to tell me they were reducing employees at my place of business. Supposedly, 35 were to be let go and 12 had been fired so far. They also asked some long time employees to take early retirement. Within minutes I lost my lunch, what a waste of $8 that I might not have again. I was scared, really scared.

At 3 o'clock we had a company-wide meeting. It looks like, for now, I still have my job. Things will be changing and there will be mandatory vacation days but at this time my department is safe. Our 14% sales growth last year will not be rewarded with a profit sharing check.

I thought my next post might be about my job and my new position back to international buying. However, I had no idea that today, January 9th, my family will be doing its own re-organization.
Oh my gosh! This was so good and so easy. I think the hardest part was looking for the Golden Mushroom Soup. Seriously. I found this recipe and it had almost 5 stars out of over 1250 reviews. How could that many people love beef stroganoff was my first thought and then I saw the small list of ingredients and was very surprised. How strange something that this many people thought was good was made without a large mixture of spice and flavors. I made it, but as is my compulsion I added to it.

Oh, and I doubled it the second time I made it. It is so good as leftovers and you might think this is sick, but I put some of the gravy/sauce on mashed potatoes, oh wow!

2 pounds cubed stew meat
2 cans Condensed Golden Mushroom Soup
1 largish onion diced
2-3-4 tabls of Worcestershire (this stuff is so awesome I always add more)
1/2 water
8 oz of cream cheese (the first time I made this with just 1lb of meat I still added 8 oz's, sshh don't tell my lactose intolerant hubbie)
couple of dashes of Garlic Salt (1 tsp?)
couple dashes of Hot Paprika (see I just can't believe this would be good without some sort of kick)

In the slow cooker stir in all the ingredients, except the meat AND the Cream Cheese, together. Once combined add the meat and mix together.

Cook on Low for 8 hours. Cut up the cream cheese into cubes just before serving and turn crockpot on high. Stir the cream cheese in until all combined. You might have to put the lid back on and leave for 10 minutes.

Serve over egg noodles. Or mashed potatoes, I won't tell anyone but I would really like to not be alone in this.

We had a great New Years Eve Party. We had twelve kids. Are you jealous? It was actually very smooth. At my twentieth high school reunion I reconnected with Sherry, my friend since fourth grade. During the reconnection I found out that she comes back to Oklahoma every year after Christmas. Well hello! We had to get together, with everyone. Well, most of us made it some could not come due to family obligations and just plain old life. But we had a great time.

Tony, took this picture and I was trying a new pose that I read about to be more attractive in photos. Instructions were to pose to the side, chin down, eyes up, shoulders back, and chest out. I think I nailed it. I might not be a model but I tried, and he noticed, wondering out loud, what the hell was that look? But of course there is always the one person that is not ready so in the above photo I cropped her out and I think she would thank me. (love you!)

Here is the second picture taken after my husband asked who I was trying to impress with the first photo. Uh, him of course. Our kids had a great time eating, playing the Wii, playing hida and seek, and generally running through the house. Sherry has four boys and Cheryl has two. My stepson is in heaven when Cheryl's kids come over and our girls think they are Brittany Spears/Hannah Montana/ICarly/Zoey101 when Sherry's boys are around.

And shock of all shocks. My sister actually came to my house for more than two hours! She brought her 2 year old daughter, Margaret, who she put to bed at 8 p.m. Amazing. I loved having Kelly here and it was so nice to hang out with her. My good friends Sonja and Dave stopped to say hello and left yummy peanut brittle and candied pecans, that we ate in one shot. They had another party to attend, a party sans 12 kids, imagine.