Archive | December, 2011

Extreme Cheapskates and Why This Show Made Me Insanely Stabby

On Wednesday night this week, Twitter was ablaze about a show on TLC called Extreme Cheapskates and people were kind of losing their minds about it. I was all bummed out because we were stuck watching Batman: Arkham City which, while VERY COOL, is not what everyone was talking about.

LUCKY US, TLC RERUNS THEIR SHOWS LIKE THEY HAVE TO MEET A DAILY QUOTA.

Okay, the title SHOULD’VE BEEN Unintelligent Cheapskates That Will Leave You Questioning Why We Let Them Breed.

Sure, there was the guy who retired so he could drive around on his bike and collect loose change all day. And I found a bit of his math to be odd: they routinely go on “financial fasts”, where for a week they spend no money, and they believe they save about $700 every time they do this.

… how many of y’all spend $700 a week? Like, do they not pay any BILLS? If the utilities are due that week, do they just shove them off and say “Yep, saved $200 during that fast!” only to have to pay it the next week? I’m .. I’m just not sure they’re really saving as much as they want to believe.

(Now, they do have some premises that are very sound. They agreed at the start of their life together to set a lifestyle that they liked, and they wouldn’t strive to reach above it. They’re not trying to keep up with the Joneses, and there’s probably a lot to be said for that.)

But when he scrounged for change around town (digging into booths at diners and scraping lint traps and laundromats)(OMG, MY OCD WAS RAAAAGING), he got around $10 that he wanted to spend on a meal for he and his wife. (They were at the end of a weekly financial fast.) So he got what any cheapskate would: two goat heads.

.. goat. HEADS. GOAT HEADS.

ALMOST TEN DOLLARS. Goat heads? You’re an idiot. You can buy three fryer hens. You can buy MANY MANY boxes of mac and cheese. I just .. if I was his wife, I’d have decked him.

But what riled me most was this family in the clip below. She repeated – and repeated, and repeated, to echo it about four times through their segment – that they were a middle-class family with a very good income. I don’t know why she felt the need to say it that many times, but she did. They had six kids, noting that not many families opt for that many children anymore. Okay, true. It helps that they don’t pay daycare for the six kids, but hey! Six kids is still not cheap!

Then she showed the first “extreme cheapskate” method:

Um, okay. So .. homemade, reusable toilet paper. Which … okaaaaay. But y’all, toilet paper is not THAT expensive, and when you have a bucket of used ass-wipes just ripening in each bathroom, it kind of skeeves me out. And a clip was shown of the kids helping to fold said “toilet paper” and there were (not surprisingly!) skid marks ALL OVER THEM. That’s just NASTY.

But even THAT is not what riled me. What riled me is that (again, I don’t know that I understand the math) they are part of a babysitting group where a couple of families take all the kids one night and they rotate families each time. They said they saved .. I don’t remember the exact amount correctly, but .. something like $450 a month doing this. JEEBUS, Y’ALL. Maybe I underpay my babysitters (I don’t), but .. that seems like a lot. (Then again, it might be the six kid issue.)

Okay, I’m getting there.

It’s worth the wait, because you will be riled too.

How she “affords” to pay for her rotation (on their middle-class, really good income) is that they shop at a local thrift mart, where the food is steeply discounted. It is steeply discounted because it is expired.

Like, WAAAAAY expired.

She bought cheese and sauce to make pizzas for the kids, and the cheese was two years expired. TWO YEARS. 2009. She shrugged, but tossed it in the cart. Then they went and pulled greens out of a local park to make a salad for the kids. While pulling, a kid stepped in dog poo, so .. it was a dog-friendly park.

Now, I might be willing to let the whole “here, honey, wipe your ass with this washcloth that they’ve been using on THEIR asses for five years” thing slide if I dropped my kids off there for the night. But if I found out – after the fact – that she fed my children food that was TWO YEARS EXPIRED? KNOWINGLY?

OH, I AM RILED YET AGAIN.

Look, you already have six kids. The two extra kids dropped off for this evening’s festivities SURELY could’ve warranted a trip to a Publix. Or hell! A Kroger! It’s one thing if you choose to feed expired food to your own kids (and OMG, I hope she NEVER lives that down), but feeding it to other children? OH I HATE HER MIDDLE-CLASS REALLY GOOD INCOME FAMILY SO HARD.

Hey, also, HAPPY 2012!

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Recipe: Picante Pot-Roast

Behind this unattractive picture lies a 15 minute meal. Yes, you heard me right.

Ah ha! You’re now not so harsh on the picture, are you? I’VE WEAKENED YOU.

Picante Pot-Roast was one of the first meals I ever kind of derived myself. It was born, as are most amazing things, out of necessity. We are both working parents, and before I’d learned of the glory that is the Crock Pot, I often stumbled into the kitchen after work bleary-eyed but determined that we eat a decent meal.

Years later, I still keep the ingredients for this at the ready most weeks, because it’s also low in gluten and dairy. (More on this later, but .. for a little while at least, I’m trying to give up dairy/lactose because of stomach issues.)

Picante Pot Roast

(Serves 2-3)

  • One pre-packaged tray of  roast in aus jus (they usually weigh 1 lb or more)
    Example of what I’m referring to here
  • 1 C of Picante Sauce (brand/heat is your choice, and don’t feel like brand name will matter)
  • Side dish of your preference

Cook the roast in the microwave according to directions. When finished cooking, slit a small hole in the tray and drain all the juices (au jus!) into a pan. Leave the meat in the tray for now. It will be fine there.

About now is usually a good time to begin preparing your side dish, because it will only take about 10 minutes from this point on till chow time.

Add the 1 C picante sauce to pan and stir well to combine. Heat until boiling. Add the meat and reduce heat. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes or however long you feel like letting it reduce until sauce is thicker and yummier. Serve and enjoy!

There’s so much room for playing in this!

I typically serve it with a couscous because .. well, I love couscous and I would eat it with anything. But I particularly like it with a parmesan couscous because I feel like the nutty flavor cuts the spice a bit. I didn’t have any on hand last night, so we had brown wild rice instead. Also, my mom had given me a bottle of Rick Bayless sauce to try and I used that in place of most of the picante sauce. (I ended up going 1/3 Picante, 2/3 Rick Bayless.) OH WOW. Great sauce, Mom! The heat was nice, but there was so much depth and smokiness to the flavor .. almost had a sweet finish! Think of a quality mole sauce .. it was that nice! Of course, you can buy it at the link above, but I’ve also heard rumor that Target is now carrying the line as well. (I think Mom got it at Whole Foods, which means it was a trip to get there since we don’t have one here!)

It doesn’t make a lot, which is perfect for the nights that it’s Bryan and Tony and I. Tony lives only on cheese sandwiches and chicken nuggets, so Bryan and I get to lick the pan clean!

Hope y’all enjoy that we all spend more time cooking in the new year!

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2011 Wrap-Up.

2010, 2009, and 2008

1. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before? Um, well, let’s see here. I worked repeated and back-to-back 70+ hour work weeks. I helped win my company several billion dollars through four proposals. I tried new meals weekly. But that’s really about it; 2011 was the year of the paycheck, for sure.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I pretty much sucked at last year’s resolutions, which was hard for me. I usually keep tabs on them and do “progress reports” and other lame things, but I didn’t this year. I just had NO TIME. Also, when I got to the end of December? I was a little disappointed that I didn’t do better, but mostly I didn’t care.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? It was a busy year for babies!  Lots of my internet ladies gave birth this year.  Lots of chubby baby cheeks for me to drool over.

4. Did anyone close to you die? We had a fortunate year this year and didn’t lose anyone.

5. What countries did you visit? Austin International Airport.

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011? In 2011, I wished for more grace. Actually, to be perfectly honest, I think I held to that. If y’all even knew some of the work stuff I dealt with this year, you would TOTALLY give me a high-five. In 2012, I would like more foresight. It is really easy for me to settle for instant gratification rather than see the big picture. I’m going to work on this next year (with my four goals, Education, Money, Health, & Pride).

7. What dates from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? In March, news of my first proposal win was released. I was extremely excited. I remember every submittal date like it was yesterday, as well as the long nights prior to submitting. I remember April 26, when our entire valley was devastated with tornadoes, and the week following without power. I remember seeing Bryan onstage in July and being SO SO SO PROUD of him.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? It sounds really silly, as it is totally work-related .. okay, not TOTALLY .. but one of the proposals I worked on this year was for my company to be a prime contractor for the new space vehicle. I took this one proposal EXTREMELY personally (I take them ALL personally, but this one especially) because Tony still – TO THIS VERY DAY – wants to be an astronaut. I told him religiously for years that I would make sure he had a rocket to ride. And y’all: we did it.

9. What was your biggest failure? My health took a backseat in 2011, for sure. From shingles to UTIs to hell if I remember what else, my body constantly begged for my attention and I didn’t always (ever) listen. And because I am too stubborn to “be sick”, I would keep going anyway. Which, guess what? Makes you WAY sicker. Health is going to be a priority this year.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Well, mentioned above. Stomach stuff also. Also, I blew my knee out doing a lunge and it still bothers me. I am getting old.

11. What was the best thing you bought? Hm. You know, I have no idea. I do like my car, though. It’s nice to be able to drive around without your car getting confused about which gear it should be in.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration? You know what? My sister. This year has held a lot of changes for my sister, and she has turned out to be the most amazing adult. I mean, obviously, she’s been an adult for awhile now, but she has handled herself with such grace and compassion (compassion! FROM JENNI!) that I’ve been kind of gobsmacked by it.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? 2011 has kind of been the year that has proven that people are who they are, to their core. No amount of well-wishing or hoping will change that. People will be who they are, and sometimes, you just have to wake up and see it.

14. Where did most of your money go? “Mortgage and daycare.  Daycare is such a rapist.” – 2009.  “SURPRISE, 2010 WAS THE SAME!” – 2010.   I’m sure you’re shocked that my answer will be “SAME HERE, 2011!” I selfishly started punching my 10-key the other day to look at our finances sans kids. DON’T EVER DO THAT. YOU WILL WEEP.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Oh, Austin and The Blathering. Which, WOW, what an amazing weekend with amazing people and the food! It’s really easy to be down on the trip because of the way I got home (30 HOURS IN AUSTIN AIRPORT, Y’ALL), but the rest of the weekend was so incredibly amazing. And next year? IT’S IN THE CRESCENT CITY!

16. What song will always remind you of 2011? .. the theme song from “Calliou”? I KNOW, RIGHT? It’s a lame, lame situation, but Bryan and I only know about new music when Jack asks us about it.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder?
b) thinner or fatter? (I’m stronger.)
c) richer or poorer?

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Enjoying time off. I made a point to take a couple of days off after every submittal, but I filled them with chores. I never really know how to let myself rest, and it’s such a travesty. It’s nice to be in a clean house, and maybe I can only REST in a clean house, but .. it’s okay if I ask for help on those, right?

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Guilt tripping myself. I spent a LOT of time at the office this year, and I cannot TELL you how many times I missed bedtime with Tony AFTER a morning where I’d left before he was awake. It started to gnaw at me as a mom, that I was rarely at home, rarely with my kid for just down time, and the little What-Ifs are just cruel, cruel hobgoblins.

20. How did you spend Christmas? Um, honestly?  I spent Christmas resenting our custody situation.  Like, big time.  Like, it caused a horrible blow up on Christmas night.  I spent Christmas according to another household’s calendar, and it will be the last time that happens. – 2010 Um, guess what? IT WAS THE SAME THING! Granted, there wasn’t the big blow-up on Christmas night, but still.

21. Did you fall in love in 2011? Every year, man.

22. What was your favorite TV program? I had the kind of year that INSISTED on mindless, useless tv when I actually had time to watch it. So I LIVED for Real Housewives of Wherever and other stupid petty stuff. Seriously, I had no time for anything that required brainpower for 3/4 of this year. Now, in the last two months, I’ve started watching Friday Night Lights and Parenthood and Breaking Bad and HOT DAMN if those aren’t great shows.

23. This question has been deleted because it’s SOOO teenage emo Xanga shit. 

24. What was the best book you read? Divergent, hands down. We all poured through it and loved it. I also read Graceling while stuck in Austin and it was okay. Oh, and I’ve gotten through the first three Harry Potter books (LOVE!).

25. What was your greatest musical discovery? I’ve pretty much given up on discovering great music. I just don’t have the time or the patience with all the BAD music out there. So instead: this is the year I actually started discovering John Doyle’s staging of Sondheim musicals. (I AM LAME.)

26. What did you want and get? A new car, which pretty much trumps anything else.

27. What did you want and not get? Except an iPhone.

28. What was your favorite film of this year? Um, Bridesmaids. It’s suddenly become very gauche to say that you enjoyed that movie, because it’s “not funny” according to lame-ass hipsters, but y’all, that movie was FUCKING FANTASTIC. And I don’t drop the F-bomb often anymore. I have not laughed that hard or that much in a LONG time. I cried massive tears of laughter in the theatre. And was so so so proud that it was WOMEN being that funny. In your earhole, Jerry Lewis.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I turned 31 this year, and we managed to have a small birthday dinner at our local sushi joint with a bunch of friends and it was fun and we laughed a lot.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? “A 25th hour in the day.” – 2008.  “Ditto.” – 2009.  “Hells yes, gimme some of that.” – 2010. “WHERE IS MY HOUR, FATE?” – 2011

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011? Layers and the ability to move. Also, FLATS. I have come to the realization that heels are no longer doable for me. It’s all TOMS and CROCs from this point out, y’all.

32. What kept you sane? Pretty much this.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? I have really come to appreciate celebs that don’t take themselves too seriously. So Johnny Depp, Ryan Gosling, and any other star of a meme that can play along with it wins my heart.

34. What political issue stirred you the most? Oh, all of them. And I don’t really talk politics on here because it is your American right to believe what you believe, but I am .. disappointed in my elected administration. I think they had support of massive, epic proportions, support for HOPE and CHANGE, and .. I just am not satisfied that either of those have been delivered.

35. Who did you miss? It sounds silly, but my grandmother. She passed away in April of 2010, but I .. I know she’s with me a lot. She visits me in my dreams a lot.

36. Who was the best new person you met? I don’t know the right way to put it into words, but .. hiring back into the company that I left in 2010 was the best decision I’d ever made. And people had a chance to look at me with fresh eyes, and vice versa. And I finally felt like a worthy part of a team, you know? I wasn’t just the little girl that they watched grow up, get married, have a family .. I became an asset with a skillset that was worth fighting for. That’s a cool feeling.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011. Tony became unexplainably obsessed with Dr. Seuss’s Oh, The Places You’ll Go this year, and we read it every night that I was home for bedtime. The entire book is a big ole life lesson that is nice to read. Almost daily.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

“Witches can be right,
Giants
can be good.
You decide what’s right,
You de
cide what’s good.
Just remember –
Someone is on your side – our side –
Someone else is not.
While we’re seeing our side,
maybe we forgot –
they are not alone.
No one is alone.”
“No One is Alone”, Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim

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My Beautiful Family. Or Rather: My Family and the Photographer Who Made Us Look Beautiful.

I was bemoaning the fact that we had no family portraits taken this year (or last year! WOE!) and one of my friends piped up and was all, “Hey! Lemme help you!

And the clouds parted and the angels sang, and glorious sun-kissed pictures emerged.

We were all at Aunt Gee‘s house for a cookie-making party, so I hastily noticed all the boys had charcoal-and-red striped thermals, so I called it “a theme” and scrounged for something for Bryan and I to wear. And thus we got some pictures.

Note: four year olds can’t smile naturally.

Also note: eleven year olds can’t control their body.

Note the last: THE BLUE EYES ON THESE BOYS.

Diana did an amazing job of making us all look like we’re totally cool, loving folks. Her lens is MAGIC, is what I’m saying here.

Even Batman was impressed.

Many thanks to Diana for capturing such a fun day! If you’re local in Huntsville and looking for a photographer, Diana is available for a limited time – she’s due with a baby girl in about nine weeks!

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The Glitter of Christmas is Herpes-Like

We had a lovely Christmas, in spite of everything.

We kept saying that to eachother – “in spite of everything” – because it felt like this year kept TRYING to screw up our holiday. Like, fate was against us. From custody issues (AGAIN! SECOND YEAR IN A ROW!) to an emergency trip to an ER for a cat-scratch IN THE EYE, it seemed as if the holiday was doomed.

But the reality of it was that Christmas magic is as pervasive as the glitter from the cheap-ass wrapping paper I bought. Which is to say: everywhere and all-encompassing. Bryan detested that wrapping paper – and look, I hate wrapping period so no paper makes it MORE enjoyable – and it shed like a nervous cat and no tape stuck to it and it was just a bad choice on my part. But I’ll be damned if it didn’t look MAGNIFICENT under the tree.

Mysterious follow-up #1: custody issues are just always hard. Always. And really, ours only pop up over the holidays. Blessing and a curse. Either way, it was a hectic and short holiday with all of us together, but still. Magic was had.

Mysterious follow-up #2: child is okay and his eye is healing nicely. The cat .. well, if it were solely my choice, the cat would’ve been gone that day. It’s the second time in two days she’s scratched the hell out of him and drawn blood, but .. it’s not solely my choice is what I’m saying here. We’re looking into .. other options. But I’m not up for the hate mail associated with some of the options, so .. we’re handling it.

IN FAR MORE INTERESTING NEWS, BUT NOT REALLY: I literally have not had a bowel movement since the morning of the 24th. I’ve eaten about 2746 meals since then. I AM IN PAIN. I am bloated to the point that I hold my belly and waddle with second trimester skill. I have taken THREE Ex-Lax tonight, had EIGHT cups of coffee today, and have had 1/2 cup of salt water. NOTHING IS MOVING.

Y’all, I cannot call my doctor because I can’t poop. That’s just DEGRADING. And yet? I MUST POOP.

Also, we took Tony to eat at the Waffle House where Bryan and I shared a cup of coffee in December of 2004:

He wasn’t a fan at first (“GUYS, WE CANNOT EAT HERE.”), but I think he enjoyed himself. Bryan and I just looked around and giggled. Can’t believe it’s been seven years now.

Best present this year: Aunt Gee and Dude gifted us a night out. A great gift card to our local “premiere” movie theatre, a gift card to the gourmet restaurant in the shopping center outside of it, and an overnight babysitting gig. BEST PRESENT EVER AND I WANT TO REDEEM IT A MILLION TIMES.

I wish I had some sweeping summation of the holiday for this post, but the reality of it is this: we are all still covered in sparkly holiday glitter and we kind of like the glow.

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