Tuesday, April 29

Hitting the Nail on the Head

Chad Klopfenstein on prayer:

Far too often, we go before the Throne of God and we babble.



Monday, April 28

Eye "R" S

I'm beginning to realize something. I spend waaaaay more time on the IRS website than any sane woman should. Yeah, yeah, that's enough out of the Peanut Gallery. You are only allowed to give me grief if you actually know what the "Peanut Gallery" is. So there! Ha!

Now, where was I ... oh, yes, sanity and the IRS. Now that all the whooping and hollering has died down here since we got that nifty little notice in the mail, I've had a chance to think clearly enough to wonder, "Gee, just how much money will that be?"

If you are also wondering, head on over to the nifty little calculator the IRS has set up. Make sure you have a copy of your 2007 tax return handy--they'll have some specific questions that you might need to look up.

Sunday, April 27


There are a lot of different ways to complain about husbands. Probably at least as many ways to complain about wives, too, so I don't really want to go there. Instead, I'm going to borrow a phrase from my time in the South and brag on my husband!

I've mentioned before that Adam is a classically trained pianist. He also does a lot of musical theater. Well, he did a lot more before we were married and had a kid, but I digress.

Adam started last month as the music director for a local theater production of Little Shop of Horrors. He got this job seemingly out of the blue. Again. Since we've been together, he can't darken the doorway of a theater without getting himself a job offer. He's just that good.

As I mentioned, he did quite a bit of work with musicals before we were together. The year we dated, he didn't do any. Shortly after we got married, I saw a notice for a play I'd been wanting to see. It happened to be at a theater where he'd done several shows in the past. While we were there, we ran into a few of his former stage-mates (show-mates? what do you call people with whom you perform?). One directer even mentioned that he'd tried to get in touch with Adam for a production he was working on that fall, but he didn't have a current phone number.

Fast forward a couple of months: the first musical of the season is beginning rehearsals. The music director is going out of town and is looking for a vocal director to come in and teach the cast their parts. Adam is called. He swoops in and saves the day!

Okay, maybe it wasn't quite that dramatic, but still ....

Then there are some political issues between the music director and the owner of the theater. He is kicked off the show and told not to return. Only, he's supposed to be working on the next production as well.

Remember that director we'd run into in the spring? He called Adam and asked him to step in. Another job he got, just for showing up.

After our daughter was born, I asked Adam to cut down on his theater involvement as it required so much time away from home (often 4-5 nights a week for 4 months at a time). I knew he missed it, though, and I never figured it would be something he'd be away from forever. He didn't do any shows for about 2½ years.

The first of this year, he started working with an insurance provider as an independent contractor. One of the suggestions in starting to build your client base (in any business) is to call on everyone you know and find out who may be interested in the goods or services you can provide.

In putting together a list of possible contacts, Adam thought of a couple old theater buddies who owned their own businesses. He didn't have the number for one of them, so he made a call to the theater, asking for contact information.

Within a week, he got a call from the producer of Little Shop with yet another job offer.

Friday, April 25

Frugal Cookin' Carnival

This post originally appeared on By Hook or By Cook.

Glad you could stop by for a visit.

I have just recently begun to plan weekly menus again, so this carnival came at a perfect time for me! I've been very excited to share some of my favorites with everyone. Plus, I figured it would be fun to actually see how much my meals cost per serving, and how that compared to the other participants.

My Haul

Above is the food I purchased to prepare three days' worth of meals, as well as several items from my pantry that I planned to use.

My Menu

Day One
Breakfast: Fruit-Topped Waffles
Lunch: Veggie Calzones
Dinner: Chicken Under Biscuits

Day Two
Breakfast: Hearty Granola (variation)
Lunch: Rustic Hummus with veggies
Dinner: Meatball Subs

Day Three
Breakfast: Chocolate Popovers
Lunch: Spinach Risotto
Dinner: Bacon Vegetable Quiches

Unfortunately, after breakfast on the second day, my daughter broke my camera, so I don't have photos of any later meals.

I have linked to the recipes I have posted previously. Several of the recipes were new to me, however, so I want to get the kinks worked out before posting them.

My Costs
Since many of the ingredients I used, beyond fresh fruits and vegetables, were already in my freezer and cabinets, I found the cost calculations to be maddeningly imprecise. While I happen to know, for example, that I normally pay about $1.70 for a 5-lb bag of white flour, I'm not really sure how much the raisins left over from my daughter's birthday were or what I paid for the arborio rice I bought several months back when I first read a recipe for risotto and thought I should try it out. Bearing that in mind, I made my best guestimates for my pantry items and took the rest of the prices directly from my register receipts.

My total for the whole three-day period was $30.81. Because my daughter is only three years old, I figured our family size at 2.6 people, so our three-day, per-person cost was $11.85. That averages out to $3.95 per person, per day. We did have a few leftovers, which all together were probably enough for each person to have a single additional meal, for an overall cost of 99¢ per serving.

Do you think you could budget like this all month?
Hmmm ... probably not. This particular menu didn't use many prepared foods, which is fine when I'm able to plan ahead, set menus, bake regularly, and so forth. Some weeks are crazier than others, though, and I don't think we could manage meals like this every day of the year--even if we were tossing in a meal of leftovers every fewdays.

Based on the per-serving price for these meals, our monthly food budget would be about $235. We generally run about $300-$325 per month, when we are watching our expenses. If my only concern were financial, I could probably cut down the food budget another $65-$90 a month. I could spend several hours of my day, every day, making food in the kitchen. I might choose to buy margarine or "buttery spread" rather than real butter (though, for the record, I only pay about $2.25/lb for butter because I refuse to buy it unless it's on sale). I could skip the organics and save maybe 50¢/lb on my produce. But, for me, some things simply aren't worth the sacrifice just to save money.

Wednesday, April 23

Works for Me: Résumé Red Flags

My tips today are especially pertinent for anyone on the job hunt. I was recently reading through a training manual written for HR professionals. I found the section on interviewing potential employees particularly intriguing.

Here are the top seven things your interviewer has been instructed to watch for on your résumé:
  1. Poor spelling, typos, and grammatical errors
    A prospective employer will assume this is your best work. Always use the spell-check feature, but also have several other pairs of eyes looking out for mistakes. As the saying goes, you do not get a second chance to make a first impression.
  2. Several stretches of unemployment
    Most of us have been unemployed once or twice. Some even for many months at a time. But if you have more than one or two significant breaks in your job history over the past 10 years, you may not look like a particularly desirable candidate.
  3. Listing of qualifications without paid work experience
    If most or all of the relevant experience you have is volunteer work, it will not be considered as highly as previous employment. While in some ways, I consider this a form of employment snobbery (I have certainly held volunteer jobs that required a lot more effort and attention than some of my paid positions), it is a fact that generally volunteers are afforded a much greater level of flexibility and freedom than paid workers.
  4. Many jobs in unrelated fields or multiple jobs within a short period of time
    Job hoppers (as these individuals have been termed) may not have much loyalty to an employer, or perhaps there is some uncertainty about what they like to do or where their strengths lie. Or perhaps you are just interested in many fields or have made some poor choices in the past. An interviewer will be trying to determine whether you are worth the risk to employ and train.
  5. Vague descriptions of responsibilities or achievements
    A prospective employee who is vague about his or her previous work may not have done very much worth elaborating, or perhaps is trying to conceal a job that was not as impressive as its title. Be specific about what you did, and especially how your work benefited the company. Whenever possible, use numbers (e.g., "Supervised 7 employees" or "Increased revenue 23% in one year").
  6. Work experience that is disproportionate with level of education
    While it is certainly possible for individuals with little formal education to achieve great success in business, sadly, it is not nearly as common as people padding their résumés in hopes of finding a better, higher paying job. Make sure you list the qualifications which allowed you to advance above what might be expected of someone with your education.
  7. References from companies which are no longer in business
    Many of us have had a previous employer close its doors. However, when the majority of your employment history is comprised of companies which no longer exist, an interviewer may wonder if you are trying to keep him or her from checking your references. In the case that several of your former employers have gone out of business, be sure to have several business references available for potential employers to choose from, such as previous managers in their new positions.
While in most cases, one of these items (or even a few of them together) should not keep you from being considered, you should be prepared to answer questions on anything that may look sketchy to a potential employer.

For more tips to improve your life, visit Rocks in My Dryer.

P.S. Anybody know how to edit my blog template so that the bullet images show up for unnumbered lists only? I got it!

Tuesday, April 22

Chicken Under Biscuits

This post originally appeared on By Hook or By Cook.

This is a healthier version of chicken pot pie, using low-fat whole wheat biscuits instead of a traditional pastry crust.
click photo for larger image       
½ c flour
½ c whole wheat flour
1 t baking powder
1T butter
1/3 c ice water
  1. Stir together flours and baking powder.
  2. Cut in butter until fully combined.
  3. Add water, mix only until dough comes together.
  4. Cover and refrigerate 20 minutes to 1 hour.
2 c chicken broth
2 large chicken breasts (1 lb total), cubed
1 c corn
1 c peas
1 c diced carrots
½ c chopped broccoli florets
½ c diced red peppers
1 t thyme
½ t rosemary
salt & pepper to taste
½ c milk
2T flour
  1. Bring chicken broth to a boil. Add chicken, vegetables, and herbs.
  2. Simmer for 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
  3. Pour in milk and sprinkle flour over the top of the pan.
  4. Stir well to ensure flour is evenly distributed throughout.
  5. Pour into a 10” pie pan with high sides, or a 2 qt casserole dish.
  6. Roll or pat crust into a 9” circle and place in baking dish atop chicken mixture.
  7. Bake at 400° for 12-15 minutes or until crust is golden brown.
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size ¼ of pie (354 g)
Serving per Recipe 4
Amount per Serving
Calories 247 Calories from Fat 46

% DV
Total Fat 5g
Saturated Fat 2.5g
Monounsaturated Fat 1.5g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Cholesterol 77mg
Sodium 766mg
Total Carbohydrates 18.5g
Dietary Fiber 3.5g
Sugars 6.5g
Protein 32g


Sunday, April 20

Fruit-Topped Waffles

This post originally appeared on By Hook or By Cook.

While this isn't the best D.A.S.H. recipe I've created (too much butter--check out that cholesterol content *shudder*), it's not too far off the plan. If you're careful the rest of the day, you can make it work. I haven't worked much with applesauce or other oil substitutions, so if you try that, definitely let me know how it works.
click photo for larger image       
1 c flour
1 c whole wheat flour
½ t salt
1 T baking powder
1 t sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 c milk
¼ c butter
12 strawberries (½ lb)
48 blackberries (1 pint)

· Stir together dry ingredients until well blended
• Add eggs, milk, and butter, mix well
• Bake in waffle iron according to manufacturers instructions
• Top each serving with 3 strawberries and 12 blackberries

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 2 waffles (199 g)
Serving per Recipe 6
Amount per Serving
Calories 237 Calories from Fat 35

% DV
Total Fat 4g
Saturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 1g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Cholesterol 123mg
Sodium 304mg
Total Carbohydrates 41.5g
Dietary Fiber 6.5g
Sugars 7g
Protein 11g


D.A.S.H. Serving Information

Each serving contains:
1 grains serving
1½ fruits servings
2 oils servings

Wednesday, April 16

Pretty Links

For those of you who regularly visit this blog or By Hook or By Cook, you may have noticed that I recently added some buttons to show off my blogs with a little more pizazz.

I'd seen buttons like these on several crafting blogs and websites, but I'd never really gotten around to making some for myself until this past weekend. I'm very happy with how they turned out.

If you link to me, feel free to use these buttons for more pretties on your site, too. The html code is in the box below each button, so you can simply copy and paste.

Experience Imagination

By Hook or By Cook

Now doesn't this make you want a button of your own?

Works for Me: Frugal Teeth

I've discovered a little something that makes a big difference as I brush my teeth.

First, some background: I don't like many toothpastes; mint and I are not always on speaking terms. In addition, I have a rather overambitious gag reflex, which requires delicate introduction of foaming cleansers, particularly to those hard-to-reach back teeth.

With these points in mind, may I present my recently acquired knowledge?

Squirting the toothpaste on the brush before you get it wet increases the foam-factor and allows you to use less paste with no drop in overall cleanliness.


Really, I'm just trying to save you all some money.

For more tip-top tips, visit Rocks in My Dryer.

Tuesday, April 15

The Biggest Sucker You've Ever Seen

Cheer with me (hip-hip-hooray), the tick has left the building!

I wasn't quite sure what to expect at Dr. P's office this morning. She hadn't mentioned what she would do exactly and I hadn't thought to research it before we went. She came in to the room with a plastic-wrapped fine-pointed tweezers and sharp-tipped scissors, which she proceeded to poke into my daughter's neck for the next 10 minutes. All of us were incredibly proud of how quiet and still my little girl stayed. Dr. P even kept telling her how much easier she was making the procedure.

Finally, after breaking into four bits, the head was removed. After all that good behavior, my daughter was rewarded with a lollipop as big as my hand. Nurse Jamie brought it in and suggested we may want to limit her to one lick a day.

Monday, April 14

Visions of Sugar-free Plums

Adam bought me a lovely wire basket filled with non-dairy candy as a surprise for Easter. I so appreciated the effort he put into reading the labels and trying to make sure it was all stuff that wouldn't make me all stuffy. Unfortunately, I ended up with a basket-full of candy that I didn't find particularly appetizing. Since it really is the thought that counts in this case, he gets an A+ for effort.

I did mention to him that much of the candy was not really to my taste. I'm tactful that way. He suggested I put together a list of my favorite candies, so next time he decided to surprise me, he'd have a reference guide. Then he'd be sure to get me something that I could appreciate the thought and the gift.

Meanwhile, about a week ago, we decided to start a weight-loss plan together. It's rather an interesting concept, since I don't know where we put our scale. On the other hand, I guess when my pants start falling down, I'll know I'm headed in the right direction.

My love, eventually when you can buy me candy again, here's what I like, in no particular order ...

Jelly Belly Jelly Beans: Buttered Popcorn is my favorite, but I like almost all the flavors.
Reese's Pieces: Peanut Butter Cups are okay in a pinch.
Dove Dark Chocolate Promises (we have a coupon for these)
Swedish Fish: I like the red ones from the bulk bin. The prepackaged ones are too soft and squishy.
Toblerone: Milk Chocolate, not Dark Chocolate
Strawberry Twizzlers (this is your fault)

Holiday-specific candies
Easter: yellow Peeps (the chicks, not the bunnies)
Halloween: candy corn pumpkins (plain candy corn is okay, if that's all they've got--I prefer the ones with the chocolate layer to the regular ones)
Christmas: chewy peppermints with the Christmas tree in the center

That's all I can think of right now, but if more come to mind, I'll add them.

Sunday, April 13

Isn't It Ironic, or Oh, Ick!

Apparently, on one of our romps in the wooded area around the house, my daughter picked up a tick. It attached itself right at the back of her neck in the hairline. I found it just as Adam was dishing up dinner.

We googled "how to remove a tick" and found several reputable websites. The instructions on each of them were pretty similar:
  • Grasp tick near the skin with blunt tweezers and pull gently without squeezing the tick (huh?)
  • Pull the tick straight out without twisting or bending
  • You may need to hold the tension steady, but the tick should release its hold in 3-4 minutes (!?!)
Anybody ever tried to gently hold a tweezers closed against the skin of a wriggly preschooler without twisting or squeezing the ¼-inch parasite attached below her skin? Yeah, it worked about that well.

It took several attempts, and finally the body broke away from the head (the tick's, not my daughter's). We called our pediatrician, Dr. P. She said if it didn't look infected, we had no reason to take her to urgent care, but just leave it alone and stop by her office in the morning.

After reassuring my little one that Dr. P was not going to cut off her head, so, yes, she would still be able to talk, we sat down to dinner. Each of us munched a few bites, but no one had much appetite. Adam quipped, "I've found the best new diet. It's called the Tick Diet. You just imagine a tick boring into your child's neck and suddenly you're not very hungry anymore."

It's funny; I wouldn't have figured an April Sunday that started out snowing would have gotten even ickier.

Saturday, April 12

I've Gotta Try This

So Blogger has some new features in beta--including the one I've been waiting for: scheduled publishing! I often have a chunk of time to work on my blog, but don't want to overwhelm my loyal readers (Hi, guys!) with four posts on one day, then nothing at all for the next two weeks.

For the past couple of months, I've been trying to write posts as I think of ideas and have time, then just wait to publish them until it's been a few days or the appropriate day of the week comes. Unfortunately, sometimes I forget or get busy on whatever day I meant to log on and hit "Publish" so my posts get put off for a week or three.

But now, with Blogger in Draft, I can be writing this post while my daughter takes a much needed nap on Friday afternoon and it will (I trust) show up promptly on schedule Saturday morning, while I hope to be sleeping in or having a lazy morning over my puff pancake.

Here goes nothing!

Friday, April 11

(Not) Completely Lost

***updated below***

No, this is not a post on the popular television show. My problem is much simpler, I think. I was trying to add a nice little button to my sidebar to make it easy to subscribe to the feed for this blog without having to scroll all the way to the bottom of the front page.

I've messed with my sidebar before, so I was expecting this to be a quick mission with results that would satisfy my inner urge for immediate gratification.

Alas, 'tis not to be.

I clicked on the "Layout" tab in Blogger, but there does not seem to be an option to add additional widgets anymore. The best I can do is edit and rearrange the ones I already have.

Anybody know if this is a temporary quirk or a permanent change?

I went ahead and added the link, but the perfectionist in me is really frustrated that it isn't spaced properly.

Sigh. Thanks for letting me share.


Hooray! Problem solved.

Wednesday, April 9

Works for Me: Thank You Pictures

I got this idea from a woman at our church who recently had a baby. We brought over dinner along with a small crocheted teddy bear. When she returned our casserole dish, her Thank you note was a printed photo of her daughter with the bear folded over into a card. What a great idea!

I've also started to do this with the grandparents. It works just as well, I've found to send the photos by e-mail with a special note about how much the little munchkin has enjoyed her presents. It's also a nice way to show off what you bought with a gift card.

For more hints to make life easier, visit Rocks in My Dryer.

Tuesday, April 8

Profound yet Simple

I read this tonight:
Grace does not make me feel less; it makes me feel more worthy. Even though it accepts me in spite of what I am, shadows and darkness, it accepts me for what I am, a rather unique creature of rather unusual worth.
~Lewis B. Smedes, Shame and Grace

Saturday, April 5

Name That Tune

Last night in the car, Adam and I were on the receiving end of a lovely serenade. I've done my best to render the words phonetically, a la Purple Kangaroo:

We-ah pumkin? We-ah pumkin?
Heah I'm am*. Heah I'm am.
Howa day, seh? Ve-wew, I fink.
Wun away. Wun away.

For those of you who aren't quite fluent in Threeyearold:

Where's pumpkin? Where's pumpkin?
Here I'm am*. Here I'm am.
How are day, sir? Very well, I think.
Run away. Run away.

And, just for reference, the real words:

Where is Thumbkin? Where is Thumbkin?
Here I am. Here I am.
How are you today, sir? Very well, I thank you.
Run away. Run away.

*This is actually a pretty recent corruption (or "grammatical improvement" if you want to get all technical about it) of her original rendering "I'm ahuw" (I'm are).