SoBo Mama's Tips & Tricks

{March 25, 2015}   Organizing: Schedules

The older I get, the crazier my schedule seems to be.  The monkeys have more going on at school, church, karate, grandparents.  My husband has work obligations and pool league.  I’ve taken on the school yearbook this year, as well as regular 8th grade activities and school obligations.  Hubby and I, now that the monkeys are more self-sufficient, have a lot more social doings as well.

How in the crap do we keep it all straight?

I have a calendar with my Google account on my phone.  It makes the grands nuts, but EVERYTHING goes in that calendar.

I have my paper planner.  I love love love it.  My mother-in-law ordered it for Christmas from a blogger I adore.  I had it printed and spiral bound at Office Depot and it’s probably my favorite Christmas gift this year.

I also keep a calendar in the kitchen, where everyone in the house has easy reference.  The monkeys have learned that if it isn’t on the calendar, it isn’t happening.  Everyone has their own color on the calendar, just my CDO in overdrive, but I love it.

I’ve noticed the monkeys write things now, too.  “Military Ball.”. ” Sleepover with Karate BFF.” They know. They don’t color code, but that’s coming.

Do I still get overwhelmed, over worked, and over extended? Of course.  I’m a mom and I forget to ask for help.  But this system is working for me.

How do you organize schedules?

~ Katie

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{March 17, 2015}   Why I Don’t Hate….

I’m not what one would call a people person.  It takes me a minute to decide if I like a person or not. When I like someone, they have a ride-or-die friend for life, unless they do me wrong.  When I don’t like someone, it’s not any strong feeling.  They’re just not my cuppa Joe.

I’ve been accused of being bitter and holding grudges.  No lie, I can own that. Those feelings I tend to reserve for the most odious offenders, though. And I’ve moved past a lot of that.  I recognize that it’s really not healthy. Hatred gives me a headache, gray hair, and wrinkles.  Hatred causes one to lose sleep and focus.

I do not claim to be perfect.  I’m definitely a work in progress.  I’ll even own the occasional social media spying.  But I only do that to gauge levels of other individuals’ cray-cray.  And when I’m bored.  Better to be prepared, a wise woman told me.  That’ll go away soon, as well.

In general, I don’t feel strongly about non-friends or non-family.  I have enough going on that if someone is not a positive in my life, I view them as a waste of time, and a bother. Hate takes way too much time and energy to waste on the insignificant. Is this cold?  Maybe.  But it works for me.

The past year has been rough, and I don’t want to have negative energy around me and mine anymore.  People I’ve been social with in the past wouldn’t make the cut list today.  I don’t hate them.  There’s just no room in my life for them anymore. And that should be OK.

How do you keep the Debbie Downers away?

~ k

{December 29, 2014}   2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 960 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 16 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

{December 29, 2014}   The Clearance Buggy

Some women love shopping for clothes, shoes, make up.  I love shopping for food and toilet seats.  If I could spend half the day at the home improvement store, I’d be one happy mama.  If I could spend an entire day grocery shopping – oh my!  Are you familiar with the saying about a pig in slop?  Yep, that would be me. 

Groceries are a game, a challenge.  How do I get the most yummy/useful stuff for the least amount of money and still stay within my miniscule budget?  I love it.  I’m always looking for a new way to squeeze extra pennies into my buggy.  The latest trick?  The clearance cart in the produce section.

Fresh fruit and vegetables are really pricey.  I try to buy things that are in season, buying extra on the cheap to can or freeze for later. Recently, I saw a cart at the back of the produce department in my local Brookshire’s, full of produce bags.  Upon closer inspection, I found every bag was marked $2!  Extra ripe bananas, apples, and oranges were my very first haul.

I often tell people Monkey #2 can eat 5 pounds in a sitting. For once, this was a bit of an exaggeration. Banana bread, banana muffins, and applesauce were side benefits of the clearance buggy. Anything to pack the freezer!

Now when we go to the grocery, the monkeys make a beeline for that back corner. They know if the price is right, mommy will bake.

What’s your favorite grocery trick?

~ Katie

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{December 6, 2014}   So I’m Not Mary Poppins

Lately, I feel like I’m trying to swim an Olympic pool filled with jello. I’m getting nowhere and exhausting myself in the process.

I came home from work today and realized what a wreck my house is.  I can’t keep up with the chores like I want to.

I have a totebag full of assessments to analyze before professional development tomorrow, that should’ve been done already, but I’ve been trying really hard to teach.

I have to finish putting together the conference for the Louisiana Council of Teachers of English.  Thankfully, it’s in NoBo so I don’t have to travel. Unfortunately, it’s the day after Grizzly has surgery, so guess where my mind will be?

I’m a walking acronym these days.  My brain is overflowing with PGP, SLT, RTI, STAR, CCSS, and enough data to choke an elephant.

I really need to get back to good.  Organization, lists, etc.  I’ll get there.  I just can’t expect to be Mary Poppins.

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In the early, NoBo, kiddo-free days of my marriage, my husband and I discovered Pizza Pizza.  There was a Little Caesar’s right by the grocery by our house, and for $8 we could get 2 pizzas, providing our dinner as well as lunches for a few days.  It was lovely. It was filling. It was cheap.

Once we moved to South Bossier, our dining choices became more limited.  First, we had two monkeys and not as much money.  Also, there weren’t many options in our part of town. A diner,  McDonald’s, and a few other fast food options, but nothing too exciting.  Especially since I didn’t care to cross the bridge to Shreveport often.

Our part of town is developing, though, and with more residents comes more shopping and food.  Most exciting for the House of Cheaptitude was when a new shopping center opened less than a mile away and the first store? Little Caesar’s.

A basic pizza had gone up to $5, but they had a great family meal deal, and we started getting these on a regular basis. 

Grizzly and I ran to Caesar’s a few weeks back because we were out of dinner ideas and wanted something quick and easy for dinner.  It was the night of the Homecoming parade and maybe we weren’t the only ones with that plan, but….

1. No more family meal deal. That was the first disappointment.
2. We sat for more than 45 minutes, waiting for a pepperoni pizza and a cheese pizza. Several people came in, visited with the lady behind the counter, got their pizzas, and left in this time.
3. When we got home, our “cheese” pizza was sausage. Monkey #2 and I picked off pepperoni.

I’ll give a restaurant another chance, because anyone can have an off shift. Unfortunately, our Caesar’s has not improved. I’ve actually placed my pretzel crust orders ahead of time and not had any better luck.

Little Caesar’s is now at the bottom of our list of “fast” food choices. Due to poor customer service and value, I’ll give them a score of 1.5 on a scale of 1 to 5.

What is your favorite go to when you need a night off? Have you been extra disappointed in a fast food restaurant?

~ Katie

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{September 28, 2014}   Applesauce Autumn

I don’t recall ever having store bought applesauce as a kid.  I never ate the soupy yellow slop in the school cafeteria that was touted to be applesauce. I’m spoiled.  I ate homemade applesauce.

I remember chunky, not too sweet,  applesauce in quart jars from Gram’s fruit room in the basement. Sometimes, she’d make a fresh batch to go with dinner, and I’d sneak chunks of apple from the dishpan. I wasn’t so slick – she knew exactly what I was doing. And I never saw her canning it, but she must have, because there were always jars downstairs, pretty and golden and full. These days, canning is too much bother and she freezes containers instead.

My absolute favorite was always Great Grandma Sweitzer’s pink applesauce. Was it sweeter? More cinnamon flavored? Or was it simply that it was an infrequent treat? And I may be the only one who really liked it. I never can get Gram to make it for me.

When the weather turns a little cooler, my comfort cravings arrive. I watch for good prices on acorn squash and roasts. And as apples go on sale, I walk through the grocery, Droid to my ear, asking Gram which ones and how many I should get for a batch of applesauce.

Honeycrisps are good for eating, but no good for applesauce, and too pricey by far, she advised yesterday as I strolled through my Brookshire’s.

So I purchased several McIntosh, a few Red Delicious, and some Braeburns.  It takes a variety to get a good flavor, according to Gram.

As forty lurks in the not too distant future, and I’ve been away from home over twenty years, one might think these phone calls unnecessary. After all, I’ve made applesauce, baked Mac & cheese, and acorn squash on my own hundreds of times now. And I probably don’t have to call her every time. (“Don’t you ever write things down, Katherine?” “Do you have your pencil and paper ready?” I always lie and say I do, and she always knows it’s a lie). By this point, I do it out of habit. It’s an extra excuse to call my grandma.  She’s getting older, and someday I won’t be able to call and bother her with silly kitchen questions that I can answer myself or Google. So I’ll do it as long as I can.

So here is the off the top of my head because I never really write it down instructions for easy applesauce:

Easy Applesauce
3-4 varieties of apples, totaling about ten pounds
Sweetener and cinnamon, to taste

Peel, core, and cut your apples into chunks. You can run through the blender, but you may as well buy it at the grocery for that.

Place your chunks into a good-sized pot.  Add some water till your chunks are just barely covered. They should not float.

Bring to a good boil for a few minutes. Turn down and simmer till soft.  I test mine once in a while with my potato smasher.

Once soft, you can mash them easily. Give a taste and start sweetening. With the right apples, it won’t take much.

I live hot applesauce on a little ice cream.  I like it chunky and tangy. You just can’t buy it like that.

We will eat some of it, but I’ll can the rest.  It’s one of my autumn routines.

What are some of yours?

~ Katie

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Starting back in April, I demanded politely requested a weekly date night with my husband.  Although I think he hated was hesitant at first, it’s a routine we both count on now.  We’ve tried a few “new to us” restaurants, a few favorites, and revisited some we’ve not been to in years.  We’ve had a picnic by the river and experienced the fine cuisine at TK’s Tavern when he’s running late for Friday pool league.

This week has been crazy with a capital C.  Back to School Night, karate, etc.  He’s got several jobs he’s trying to finish, which adds several hours to every day.  I really expected this week he’d go to pool while the monkeys and I chowed down on leftover fried rice (yum!!!). But he called after work with “What are your thoughts on dinner?”

While I’m tearing the house apart, desperately searching for Monkey #2’s karate pants is not the best time to ask me this. 

And still, we were running behind.

“How about Arby’s? Its on the way.”

I love that place.  Their little ham and cheddar sandwich is cheap. The jamocha shake is amazing. And we spent less than $20. On a dinner on date night! The kitchen was a little on the slow side, but the food was worth it.

I have figured out through the experiences over the past few months that it’s not really about the food.  It’s the time together, without the monkeys, to talk and catch up and laugh and flirt. Do I love going to the pool hall practically every Friday? Not every week, for sure. But do I love the alone time before? Yes.

So, while it’s a routine, and you can set your watch by it, our date night dinners aren’t about the food. I think we’d do just as well with Little Caesar’s and Red box.  As long as we get that it’s quality time, that’s what is important.

How do you make sure to squeeze honey time into your schedule?

~ Katie

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I’m having anxiety because my freezer meals are dwindling.  A few weeks back, I decided to throw some more meals together.  I’ve seen “Cheeseburger Soup” recipes, but have yet to try one, or even look closely at them.  For my Burger Soup, I just threw things in my gallon sized ziploc  that appealed to me.

Freezer to Crockpot Burger Soup
1 lb. browned ground meat – venison in my house!
1 pkg. frozen mixed vegetables
1 pkg. frozen skillet potatoes
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can beef broth
1 can water
Season to taste

Label, lay flat, and freeze.  Crockpot low 6-8 hours. It would be awesome with some shredded cheese.  I actually added a bag of tater tots upon arriving home, as well as some sliced cheese.  This thickened it too much, and we ate on it for three days.  Obviously I need to tweak a little!

It was easy, filling, and satisfied my freezer filling desires for a minute.  What are you doing to feed your freezer?

~ Katie

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I wasn’t really raised in the south.  I moved here when I was almost 16, but over the past 20+ years, I’ve adopted some very southern idiosyncrasies.  My monkeys do not refer to grown ups by their first names – it’s “Mr. Shawn, Mrs. Mia,” and for those very close family friends “Aunt Janice, Uncle Karl.”. We say “yes, ma’am. No, sir.” We bless our McDonald’s value meals.  These aren’t things I grew up doing, but have totally embraced.

A little more difficult? Weddings and babies.  Southern women love love love weddings and babies.  I do, too, truth be told.  But I love love love them from a distance.

A little over a week ago, September 4, our family was blessed with a new addition. Grizzly’s “baby” brother and his sweet wife were joined by baby Tiger Bite. They were on my mind and in my prayers all day and evening. Due to a C-section, it was Saturday before they left the hospital. I didn’t go visit. Do I love them any less? Absolutely not. I don’t like hospitals or crowds, Monkey 2 is too young to go in the room, and Grizzly was out of town. I’m beyond excited to have a new nephew to spoil! But I’m OK with waiting a minute.

As for weddings, they tend to stress me out. I’ve been a bridesmaid in several. Expensive dresses and up-do’s for a 15 minute ceremony, dealing with bridezillas and in-laws, and excessive drama in general. I much prefer being a guest, so I may come and go at will.

One of my best friends married on the 12th, and I’m over the moon for her. Her new husband is young, adorable, and head over heels for her and my little buddy, Soccer Star. I wanted to throw her a shower, attend her bachelorette, etc., but when she said it was a JP wedding with just their parents, I honestly breathed a sigh of relief! Had she needed me there, I’d have stopped whatever I needed to for her. But it was still a weight off my shoulders. A wedding can wreck the best of friendships.

Am I the only weirdo that loves weddings and babies more in theory than in real life? Maybe it’s my aversion to crowds and excessive financial expenditures? And it really isn’t that I dislike either in reality. I just prefer to keep a safe distance.

Btw, BFF and Tatman are now happily married and honeymooned, and I did finally get to love on that sweet lil nephew of mine, Tiger Bite. Totally worth the lack of my immediate presence.

So, seriously, am I the only weirdo?

~ Katie

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et cetera
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