SoBo Mama's Tips & Tricks

{January 26, 2014}   Reflection: A Kinder, Gentler Me

Warning: this is not sweet and nice. Read ahead at your own risk.

January 11, 2014

If you’re anything like me, come January, you begin to reflect on the past year.  Where you were, how far you’ve come, and all that.  I’ve taken part of today to read over old blog posts.

This past year has been a rough one.  Maybe the rough patches don’t always make it into my blog – that’s ok.  But looking back, I see things that I did not recognize till it was too late.

And in a way, I prefer not to reflect. But it helps one grow.

I don’t know that all of the changes in my life have been positive ones.  I’m left with more questions than answers.  I’ve been pulled into a mess I never wanted a part of by people who should’ve minded their own business. There have been several people I really loved and respected that have completely let me down.  People I thought were my friends lied to my face, lied to my husband, talked behind my back, and gossiped about my child.  I’ve been accused of “digging for information” (because the lives of middle aged + women are so incredibly fascinating) and shunned because I didn’t choose sides.

I thought I was doing the right thing by trying to maintain all of my friendships.  The drama in question was not my business.

But it’s not theirs, either.

I’ve learned, through a series of events, that I had more liabilities in my life than I ever realized.

January 22, 2014

Those liabilities have done me a favor. I didn’t see it at the time, but now I recognize that’s what they did. By removing me from their lives, and the way they did it, I am able to see their true colors. I see that the friendships I thought I had were nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

Some of that has a bit more sting than I’d like. The Little General asked after me while CrazyMathLady was in from Africa. (My thought is she’s made my welfare none of her business and if she won’t talk to me, she need not talk about me.) And CrazyMathLady is still too closely aligned with Arsenic, et al, for my comfort. She says she’s not going to stop being my friend, even if I stop being hers. I believe actions speak loudly…. 7 years, lost. Of all the Bunco women that cut me loose? I miss the Higher Authority. I always saw her as a grown up version of Monkey 2, seeing the beauty in everyone and everything. Learning the truth about her was rough.

The past year has been one of many changes, and not all good ones. It’s hardened Real Chick. She doesn’t want to let anyone through that tough exterior because she sees that she cares too much and knows she’ll get too involved. She still has a heart the size of Texas and will bend over backward for a friend, but there won’t be as many with that label again. And Pioneer Woman questions things more. She’s less trusting, almost lost. Me? I’m disappointed. I want answers to the questions I don’t want to ask.

In the end, though, this past year has reinforced the Golden Rule for me. It’s made me appreciate the quality friends I have because the quantity was meaningless. It’s taught me that I’m stronger than I knew, better than I knew, and to stand behind my decisions, unpopular as they may be.

So this year is about a kinder, gentler me. This year is about taking care of my family and cultivating the friendships that are blessings in my life. My true friends and my family bring out a better version of me and that’s who I will discover this year.


Crazy Math Lady and I have been friends and colleagues since 2007 when we were both taking a Classroom Management course for our alternate certification program for teaching.  We make quite the odd couple – she’s single, no kids, and does not see herself as creative at all.  I’m kind of the opposite.

We are a dynamic duo.

I love crafting and re-purposing – and teaching.  I’m forever trying to get CML involved in some project or another.  We’ve made some serious progress over the years.  We’ve created cupcakes for Cub Scouts, concocted some amazing cookies just because they sounded yummy, and one night I even convinced her to scrapbook with me (the math chick in her loves the different shapes of the punches!)

In the Fall of 2011, we were both invited into one of those most sacred of southern societies – a Bunco Group.  As neither one of us is the most social ladies, this was a huge step for both of us.  And it’s been an interesting, amazing journey.  We’ve made some incredible friends, including Pioneer Woman, the Little General, the Higher Authority, the Realest Chick I Know….I could go on and on.  It gets us out of the house once a month, socializing with other ladies, and have a good time.  Each month has ended up with a different theme (mine is always pajamas, with some kind of crockpot meal – I’m lazy like that.)  We’ve had Easter Bonnets, White Trash, and Tropical Islands.  We were witches in October and formal with our Little Black Dresses in December.

This month, in honor of Pioneer Woman’s deployment, Rebecca decided our theme this month is Cuba.  Personally, I don’t know a lot about Cuba except that their cigars are quite coveted. How does one dress for a Cuban party?  Crazy Math Lady and I were clueless.  I asked the Realest Chick I Know if we should all dress as cigars.  To which she said we’d look like, and I quote, “Twelve giant turds.”

Maybe not a great plan.

On the phone with CML the other night, we had kind of decided just to go tropical. The I remembered that somewhere in my craft stash I had iron-on transfer sheets for my printer.  Why couldn’t we make cute t-shirts with Cuban postcards?  That would work.

Except in my decluttering/re-organizing/re-purosing, I’ve misplaced my transfer sheets *sigh*.  Remember how I am such a huge proponent of inventory lists?

Crazy Math Lady went to Family Dollar yesterday to get t-shirts and back up outfits.  Let me just say, the back up outfits are super-cute.  But we still wanted to try the t-shirt idea.  I showed CML some of the postcards I’d found on flickr and we proceeded to create our own versions with handy-dandy puffy paints:

Our version of "Somebody in Cuba" loves Me"The Original Cuban Missile" - I know, it looks like a turd....

I think for a few hours’ work, these turned out okay.  And they fit with the “Cuban” theme, right?  What do you think?

And I’ll probably let you all know tomorrow how I feel about Cuban food.  I told the RCIK that my only experience with Cuban food is watching a pig roast on The Real Housewives of Miami last year….

Any tips??

~ Katie

English: pool party decoration

English: pool party decoration (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


It’s not as overwhelming if I refrain from numbering the sections.


This is the section with all of the information I need for being a hostess. It will include storage locations for specific decor, menus with the necessary recipes or location of said recipes, theme ideas, shopping lists, etc.


Apart from Bunco and the occasional birthday party, I don’t host much of anything anymore that requires much of any kind of thought. But I have always loved to entertain and would like to get back to that.




  • ideas for theme parties/get-together:  I have lot of magazine clippings for this.  In Family Fun Magazine a few years ago, I found an awesome “Pool Party” birthday theme that would work for any summertime kids’ party.  It has ideas for decorations, food, and the coolest cake.
  • guest list with contact info and notes: I will do this because Grizz & I don’t always communicate when we’re inviting folks over to cook out and I never need to invite Real Chick over when Peter Pan is going to be here.
  • recipes/menus, sorted by event:  while Magical Mystery Beans are an ideal side dish when we’re grilling steaks with our friends, they’re not ideal for an Italian-themed meal with business associates.




  • decor: where to find whatever is needed for whatever holiday, along with a list of items to purchase.
  • gifts:  ideas for the different people I have to purchase gifts, along with clothing sizes (particularly for the monkeys)
  • schedule:  where we are expected to be and when.  There is often a lot of confusion with this, although my grandmother always hosts Christmas Eve mid-to-late afternoon and my in-laws have Christmas Day, but it will be easier if we see it on paper.  The monkeys have a variety of church commitments during the various holidays, so I have to consider that when scheduling things.
  • menus/recipes:  if we’re hosting a holiday at the House of Cheaptitude, I want to handle it.  I want to make the casseroles, the desserts, and so on.  It bugs me to be expected to do the potluck stuff that happens most holidays.  I like to host and part of that includes feeding my guests.  If you don’t like my cooking, there’s a Taco Bell up the street, Jack!




  • Baptism/First Communion/Churchy Stuff:  I need a list of things I need and things I need to do.  I like to have a small party at my house for these milestones, including favorite meals for whoever it is and maybe a cake from my girl, Cake Lady.
  • Birthdays:  ideas for cakes, decor, themes, gifts, etc.
  • Graduations
  • Baby/Bridal Showers
  • Barbecue
  • Bunco
  • Poker Night


I wasn’t joking when I said this is the section to make any kind of entertaining at the house come off without a hitch.  Mine is full of magazine clippings!  I’m sure there are other lists to include in this section.


Do you do a lot of “formal” entertaining?  Are you a list maker when you host an event?


~ Katie






Celebrating our middle age!

Celebrating our middle age! Pioneer Woman & the Queen of Cheaptitude

Real Chick and I have been having lots of conversations lately as I try to get my brain sorted out.  I find it ironic that I go to the most hot-tempered, outspoken,(did I forget brilliant?) REALEST chick I know to calm me down and help me situate my thoughts, but it is what it is.  Do as she says, not as she does.  One of the pieces of advice she has given me (and they are her wise husband’s words, actually) is that sometimes you have to look at your circle and figure out which people are liabilities and which are assets.  Your friends should complement you, and help you become a better version of yourself – as you should do for your friends.

Examining my life in this way has brought me to the realization that I have a lot of liabilities weighing me down.  On the other hand, I am a firm believer that everyone comes into our lives for a reason.  Some of those people are there  for a short time, to teach a quick lesson.  Others, like JeepnMom, are lifelong fixtures you can’t get rid of if you tried!  (Just kidding!  I love love love JeepnMom and can’t wait to see her again!!)  But we take something away from every relationship we form in life, no matter how brief, no matter how insignificant the lesson.

One of the people in my life that I truly consider an asset is Pioneer Woman, one of the Bunco Babes.  She really inspires me to be a better person.  I know that nobody’s life is perfect, but Pioneer Woman really has her poop together.  She balances her husband, teenage son, career, keeps a beautiful home (Southern Living Magazine, anyone?) – and makes it look easy.  I know it’s not, but like I said, she has it together.  She’s incredibly thoughtful and considerate, always doing or saying the perfect thing for any situation.  (And let me just say, if she ever invites you over for dinner, do not turn her down.  She’s a phenomenal cook!)  She puts a lot of thought into things before she speaks, which is something I need to work on.  She keeps our entire crazy group of friends grounded, centered, as much as she can.  She gets everyone in our group.  That’s some kind of talent!

Like me, most of the time, Pioneer Woman likes to have her own space and hates being the center of attention.  (Blame Real Chick for this post)  And with her deployment swiftly approaching, she’s getting a lot of extra attention focused squarely on her right now.  But she’s always telling me to expand my comfort zone.  Time to take her own advice – we are focused on you right now because we love you, you’re an integral part of all of our lives, and we’re going to miss you so much!

Today is Pioneer Woman’s actual birthday and I hope she’s having a great one.  She deserves it.

Thank you, Mia, for being an asset, for inspiring me, for making me want to be a better person, and mostly for being my friend.  Be safe and come home in one piece.  We’ll see you for October Bunco.

~ Katie

Halloween Bunco

Greek Bunco

Bunco Beach Party - Pioneer Woman has musical talents!

Babes in Bonnets

{January 21, 2013}   Recipe: Crockpot BBQ Meatballs

Saturday was my Bunco night and with all of the cleaning, I didn’t have time to get to the grocery like I had planned.  I asked Grizzly to go to the grocery with me to buy a couple of bags of meatballs.

“Why don’t you make some meatballs?” he asked me.

Okay, good point.

This is what I did:

I thawed the packages of meat and threw them in a mixing bowl together.  Wearing rubber gloves, I mixed all the meat together.  It was really squishy so I added bread crumbs until the meat started to stick together.  I used a small Pampered Chef scoop so the meatballs were the right size.

The most time-consuming part was browning the meatballs.  Something about putting them in the crockpot completely raw did not appeal to me, so I did brown them.  I sprayed the crockpot with nonstick spray, added some barbecue sauce (I used Joe Horn‘s Bayou Classic) and layered in the meatballs.  Two bottles of barbecue sauce was not going to fill the crockpot, nor does all of the sauce come out of the bottle.  After emptying the bottle, I like to add a little water to the sauce bottle and swish it around.  Then the water goes in the crockpot.  It thins the barbecue sauce a little.  I covered the whole mess and set the crockpot on high for 5 hours.  Everything cooked all the way through, which was my main concern.

Common large shelf display of Maull's BBQ sauc...

I’m really glad it worked out, because I’ve been craving a meatball sub!

By the way, I had a half of a jelly jar of apple syrup in the fridge and I actually put some of that in, too.  Sometimes adding grape jelly to a spicy ketchup helps to tone it down, so this was an experiment that I hoped would work and this did.

What’s your favorite party recipe?

~ Katie

{November 24, 2012}   An Explosion of Flavor

Growing up in Michigan, my great-grandmother had a farm with berries, beans, and I don’t even know what all else.  Summertime meant trips to Grandma Z’s to pick whatever was in season.  And pick.  And pick.  Tipping and tailing green beans is not the way a pre-teen wants to spend her free time, but I realize now those were invaluable lessons.  I’m not going to jump up and down in excitement over a day in the summer sun in someone’s garden, but I can do it.  I’m not afraid of hard work.

The monkeys have not had this experience.  Berries and popcorn come from the grocery, not from Grandma Z’s acreage.  Tomatoes are picked by someone else and bought at the Farmer’s Market.  They live in a world of instant gratification.  And I think it’s time to change that.

My cheertastic friend Peggy and I took the monkeys to a Pick-Your-Own farm back in June.  Blueberries ripen early in Louisiana and I wanted them to have a taste of my childhood.

Not the greatest plan ever.

We got a later start than I had wanted and it was hot as Hades.  After barely covering the bottom of a berry bucket, Monkey 1 decided it was time for a break.  Monkey 2 kept telling me how hot and tired she was.  I had sweat in crevices I didn’t know existed, but I was going to tough it out and show them.

We ended up with about 5 pounds of blueberries by the time we gave up for the afternoon.  Blueberries and three lemonades cost me about $7 and lunch at Pepe’s.  I consoled myself with the idea that it would have been so much more expensive at the grocery.

That weekend, my little family would be heading to Michigan, so I stuck the bag of berries in the freezer, with the idea I’d use them for something later in the summer.

Fast forward 5 months.

I’ve been doing some cleaning and reorganizing and those blueberries are taking up real estate.  Yesterday I had made some jelly and I started thinking – why couldn’t I use the blueberries for jelly?  My canning cookbook did not have a very doable blueberry recipe, so I’d have to get creative.

Have you ever heard of Champagne Blush jelly?  Here is a link if you’re interested: Yum.  It calls for bottle raspberry juice, but why couldn’t I use blueberry juice?

Um, how do you get blueberry juice?

My five pounds of blue yummy came out of the freezer to thaw.  I dumped the entire mess into a colander in a big mixing bowl and started sorting.

Instead of using a potato masher, why not process in a blender?

I understand that you can squish the heck out of berries with a potato masher.  I’m a little lazier than that so I busted out the blender.  Then I cut a pair of panty hose and pulled them across a mixing bowl to strain the pretty purple juice for the jelly.

Except the hose had a hole in the toe.

So my smushed berries mixed back in with the juice.

And I decided it would be ok.

This is the modified recipe I used:

  • 3 cups blueberry juice – or, if your straining backfires, mush
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons pectin
  • 1 1/4 cup champagneEnglish: Making blueberry jam. Blueberries (wi...

I combined my mush, lemon juice, and pectin, stirring constantly, and bringing to a boil.  After it reached a hard boil, I added the sugar.  Return to a boil.  After the concoction has been at a hard boil for one minute, remove from heat and stir in the champagne.  Skim any foam – the air bubbles are bacteria magnets.  Fill your jars and process in a Waterbath canner for 10 minutes.

The original recipe says it will make 6 half-pint jars, but with my mush, I ended up with 7.  Also, when blueberry mush starts to boil, it spatters.  Everywhere.  My kitchen currently resembles a crime scene.

Blueberry spatter is all over my stove, microwave, and walls – but boy, does this mess taste good!

And when DH came in from the woods, he asked me “Did you have some trouble with the blueberries?”


I’m a rule-follower from way back, so modifying a jelly recipe is a little out of the norm for me.  I’m excited about the outcome, though!  The berries were not super-sweet Michigan berries, but the champagne really brings the flavor out.  I already have visions of serving this with cream cheese and crackers at my next Bunco.

Again, I had all of the stuff I needed on-hand so no extra out-of-pocket expense – yay, me!  And I’m using up stuff that has been taking up space.  With these 7 jars, I’m thinking it was under $1/jar, but there is a reason I teach ELA and not math!

Do you ever experiment with jelly recipes?

~ Katie

et cetera
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