Wednesday, November 28, 2012

When the title of "Bonehead" falls on you

One of my more frequent sayings in my house is "THIS is why I can't have nice things".  My kids'll confirm this.  And that statement is usually directed at them.  Because they carelessly throw stuff around the house, breaking items or putting marks on walls and the like.  Because they don't typically think before they start on a project, like painting their fingernails...on my solid cherry dining room table and spilling the remover and not telling me until I go to remove the table cloth only to find, well, let me just say it wasn't a pretty formal cherry dining room table anymore.  They're old enough now that they SHOULD think through the consequences (or POSSIBLE ONES) of their actions and take all precautions to ensure the consequences don't happen (and most assuredly, not to my stuff).

It was I, however, that recently added to my collection of "no longer nice things" by setting a dish from the microwave on my fairly new table.  And the result of my bonehead move?  A table with a scorched finish:
Nice huh?  THIS is why I can't have nice things.  So today, I decided to flip the table around so that you wouldn't see the scorched varnish right off the bat and I had to move my computer to do so. And I said to myself I said..."Self...maybe you can google it and see if there is some kind of fix out there on the interwebs".  So I did.  Specifically, I googled "how to remove milk white varnish stain from wood".  I figured might as well be as specific as I can, right?  And lo and behold the FIRST website to pop up was titled  "DIY: How to remove white heat stains from wood table"  Feel free to check out the link.  I was a tad skeptical that one would remove heat stains with HEAT, but I figured I had nothing to lose and since there was an additional white stain, but much smaller, I'd do a test run with that and see if it worked.

5 minutes later, voila:
This does not make me a be all know all about removing stains from wood.  I'm sure that such an operation CAN be more damaging than the original stain, as stated on the DIY website, but this was a risk that paid off for me. Is it perfect?  No.  The table isn't perfect either, mostly because of my kids.

Which is why I can't have nice things. ;-)

Monday, November 19, 2012


My kids are constantly lamenting my propensity for "creeping".  That's what kids call it.  I  call it tactful surveillance from a distanceI ABSOLUTELY want to know what my kids are doing with whom and where and sometimes, clicking around the internet at sites they frequent gives me just enough information to either allay my concerns, or to throw up a red flag for further investigation.  And honestly, I can't recall any red flags.  It also gives me the opportunity to catch a glimpse of subtle things they've said in conversations that have no frame of reference.

This type of surveillance usually comes from facebook, but instagram and pinterest are also good sites for disseminating information.  

I just need to remember...Karma.  And I see her in action frequently.  MORE frequently since the advent of "cookies".  If you don't know what "cookies" are (besides those little morsels of goodness that are hard to resist and usually take up residence on your thighs, and you can find melt in your mouth versions here and here and here oh, and here and here.  See, no need for a cook book), the simplist version of explaining it is they are a  text file that is set on your computer by a website.  So, let's say you were looking for new appliances online (just SAYIN'...not BUYIN'...yet).  And you went to several different websites.  Well, that information would be stored on your computer by the websites. big deal right?  This should be something "invisible" to you, right?  But did you ever notice how you'll be online and notice that ads come up that COINCIDENTALLY relate to what you have recently looked at.

THAT is thanks to cookies.  I, however, call it creeping.  Because it is very similar to what I do with my kids.  It is someone else looking at what interests me, but taking it a step further and letting me know (it may be subtle for some) that they KNOW what I'm looking at.  Now, this can also be a good tool when tracking what kids are doing (although, I suspect that many are smart enough to delete their cookies so that they aren't as easily tracked, either by you or websites), but I find it a tad unnerving to be reading updates on facebook and see ads for the last 3 sites I have previously visited come up in the advertising bars of facebook.  I should delete the temporary cookies but on occasion I DO stumble upon a site that I don't immediately bookmark and want to get back to it and it IS a reminder.

Still, it IS creepy who's watching you.  Or it should be.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Twenty Days

My husband and I celebrated our 20th anniversary on Oct 30th.  It was a Tuesday and we went to dinner with friends.  No huge fanfare.  We had exchanged gifts earlier in the day, with him giving me a card informing me that I had 20 days of gifts coming.  The card was gift one.  There were supposed to be 19 to follow.

I have to tell you, he has very much surprised me.  He set his own monitary limits on the gifts and he has worked diligently to stay within those limits while considering what I might want/need.  OH, OK, he's thrown in a gift here and there to suit HIS needs too (see gift 2 and note that it was the first one to be given...that was by design).

And he hasn't stayed completely on track.  If you include the card (which he said was included), I should have 13 gifts.  I'm on 10 but I haven't received today's gift.  Yet.  He DID warn me that he doesn't think he  can make it to the full 20 (whether that means monitarily or idea wise, I'm not sure) but my oldest daughter scolded him saying he can't NOT make it.  So we'll see what the next 10 days hold. I DO know that there is at least one more coming my way. Either way, he has already exceeded my expectations.

As of today, I have received: 1) a card 2) a long handled stirring spoon (typically, I'd just use a table knife) 3) a bar of Godiva chocolate in white chocolate tiramisu 4) a small bag of Caribou coffee 5) an umbrella 6) a single shot flask key ring 7) a box of 12 Yankee Candle Tea lights 8) a bag of chocolate covered pomegranates 9) a Christmas ornament to hang from my dining room chandelier and 10) a pair of earrings.

I'll be honest and say he has really impressed me.  Not with the caliber of the gifts although they've all been lovely (and I've had to hide the chocolate from my girls), but with actually thinking outside the box.  Showing a little ingenuity.  I don't NEED big expensive gifts.  If we had the money, sure they'd be nice, but the fact that he has continued to the half way point and done a good job is enough for me to say that these 20 long drawn out soul shattering years have been worth it.

So, KUDOS Sparky!  Glad to know you still have it in you.  Although, I'm not sure if you'll EVER top that one gift.  Way back when we were dating. That one might just go down in history as my all time favorite.

Want to know what it was?  HA!  Not.A.Chance. ;-)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Leaked Photos...(Fall Ball 2012 redux)

OH, MY.  It appears photos have been leaked from Fall Ball 2012.  We're trying to get to the the culprit because, as y'all know...what happens at the Fall Ball, STAYS at the Fall Ball.

Until we find the dastardly individual, I suggest you enjoy.  I certainly did!  And if you choose, you can "Cap that pic". GO!


Monday, October 29, 2012

Fall Ball 2012 and Sharin' the Love

Well, another year and another Fall Ball success.  It's funny, the husband and I had a post-mortum after the fact on how it went, was it good, what is left over, what went well.  Here is what he said:  I DREAD it.  Which shocked me a bit but then he explained.  It's the stress of it that doesn't really dissipate until it's underway.  Weeks in advance, you have to pick a date (which really you DON'T pick this date, the date picks you) and hope that people will come.  It's a crazy time because lots of people we know have birthdays around now, or their kids do, or anniversaries (ours).  Then there's the theme.  Will people be too constrained?  Will they think outside (or in the case of Tom Scott, inside) the box?  Then you have to decide on your own costume and make it come together, which adds its own stress.  Then there is the food, the drink, the space.

Over the years I've gotten better at handling the stress.  Mostly because each year I try to adapt.  This year I dialed food WAY back and we still didn't even open one appetizer and the pan of pumpkin bars went untouched.  So I have some work to do there, but what dialing back I've done, has helped tremendously with my stress level.  And I've quit thinking my house has to be completely disinfected before the party.  It's AFTER the party you want to disinfect.

I really do understand the dread though.  You never know if "something better" might come up.  We had that happen one year where half the party didn't show up until really late.  We were left explaining to those there that no, we had no idea why they were late.  The stress knot never really dissipated that year, but luckily there hasn't been a repeat so WOOT!

This year's theme was books.  And think about it, almost every movie is based from a book so there was TONS to choose from.  I went back and forth and finally decided (because it came together so easily which was an indication that it was meant to be) to be my husband's counterpart.  So here we are, from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Quasimoto and Esmeralda:
I love it when I get the opportunity to repurpose dance costumes that I paid an arm and a leg for.  Most of Quasi's was also recycled but I will tell you, the eye was challenging.

So, the party starts as it always does with a pre-party cocktail with the friends who were in on the Fall Ball from day one, the man in the yellow hat  and Laura #1:
(Just a word of warning, you gotta just KNOW that George WILL be a naughty monkey.  It's in his stuffing.) And as always, they come not just to help us settle our nerves, but always bearing gifts.  This year was our anniversary gift. 
What's hilarious about it is it plays Send in the Clowns.  Ah, but one would need to know WHERE are the clowns.  If you are following our clown saga, which can be found  here and here you'll get the hilarity of that.  Oddly enough, said clown seems to be "missing".  Well, I'm positive it will turn up somewhere, where one least expects it.  But the little music box can be a reminder until it does.

Our pre-party party cocktail this year was an Apple Cider Margerita.  Makes you want one doesn't it?  It was delicious!
So, like last year's party, and the plethora of Charlie Brown's we had, this year's party ALSO included a favorite.  Anyone want to take a guess as to what it would be?  Why Where's Waldo?  of course.  The first to arrive was Waldo with Scarecrow (yes The Wizard of Oz was a book first):
Followed by Waldo and Laura:
And then a pair of Waldos:
Then the Indian in the Cupboard arrived:
With his lovely wife Walter the Farting Dog (she brought the book as proof):
The Dread Pirate Roberts and Buttercup also put in an appearance:
And apparently someone passed George the VSOP.  NOT a good idea:
Where the Sidewalk Ends was cleverly done:
One party goer took things into his own hand.  Literally:

Of course, a book themed costume party wouldn't be complete with out SOME contemporary literature...enter...Grey, Christian Grey:
BUT, the winners of this year's best costume, were Willy Wonka (circa Johnny Depp) and his Golden Ticket(also know as 101 uses for gold duct tape):
And additional pics of most of the women:
And of course, George took a turn for the naughty (yes, we ARE 12):
And then I think someone slipped George some kind of growth hormone in his brandy because next thing we knew:
The Cuban Black Bean soup was a repeat from last year and apparently it was a good choice as it was almost completely GONE with about a half pot of the white chili having been eaten.  And I will say that this WAS a good batch of the black bean.  So, because I'm a giver (OBVIOUSLY) I'm gonna sharin' the love (and the recipe) with y'all.

Cuban Black Bean Soup (From Star Tribune late 1990s)
20 oz dry black beans, rinsed
3 quarts plus 3 cups beef broth, divided
4 Tbs olive oil
3 cups chopped oion
2 cups chopped green pepper
1 large carrot chopped
2 Tbs garlic powder
2 large bay leaves
1 1.4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 smoked ham shanks (I've tried hocks which the recipe called for and I think it's too fatty so I started using shanks)
1/2 cup dry Sherry
2 Tbs balsamic or red vinegar
In a large pot over medium heat combine beans with 3 cups of beef broth (for this part I usually use Tones beef base.  I also don't worry about it being exact but make sure there is enough that the beans don't become dry).  Boil beans covered for 30 minutes.  Turn off heat,  and let stand in pot for one hour.
In ANOTHER large pot (this one needs to be big) saute onions and peppers in oil over medium high heat until onion is translucent and pepper is soft.  Stir in carrot garlic powder, bay leaves, oregano, thyme, red pepper and black pepper.  Combine ingredients evenly and let saute for 2-3 min.  Add remaining 3 quarts of broth (I HIGHLY recommend NOT using the beef base for this, but buying beef stock or broth and using low sodium variety.  The ham shanks will be salty and if you use the beef base or regular broth, the soup may end up salty), the beans and whatever liquid is still in the pot and ham shanks.  Bring to a simmer and cover and cook until ham begins to fall from bones (about 2 hours).  Remove ham from pot, let cool and remove ham and return to the pot and continue to simmer for a total of 3 hours, and at least one hour uncovered.  Just before serving, stir in sherry and vinegar.  My  preference is to serve it over yellow rice (use about 1-2 tsp of turmeric to turn rice a beautiful yellow color). 

The stress?  Gone by the first hour.  I counted 28 people, biggest yet.  It is always so gratifying to hear people ask if we're already planning NEXT year's theme.  Why yes, we are.  And if you're lucky, you'll be on next year's invitation list.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Countdown to Fall Ball 2012 is Underway

Our annual Fall Ball is only a short 4 days away.  And since last year's went so well, I'm probably way more laid back than I should be, thinking it will all fall into place, which is NEVER a good plan.

Oh the same questions loom...what is the theme?  Do you have your costume done? What will you be? Is your food all planned? And DID you in fact run out of beer last year?

Books.  Our theme this year is books.  And if you stop and think about it, that means you can be pretty much anything.  Well except some obscure character like a nurse from Dr Zhivago.  Luckily I don't have to worry because pretty much everyone who comes really uses their imagination and makes an effort and the end result is SO worth it.  It's always fun to see where people's minds take them.

No.  I don't have my costume completed yet and NO, I'm not telling what I think I'm going to be.  Mostly because I have something like 3 ideas that I'm working on  and I might end up being whichever of them come together first.  One would even be opposite my husband.  I should probably quit being a slacker and start the narrowing down process.

I had planned on a different menu from last year but too many people wanted a repeat of the Cuban Black Bean soup and who am I to refuse? But when I look back on all the OTHER stuff I made, I'm thinking...HOLY Martha Stewart Batman, you need to figure this out.  PRONTO.  I'm thinking the chicken soup will be White Chili.  I have a recipe that I pulled out of the San Jose Mercury News back in (deep breath) 1990 that I absolutely LOVE and haven't had a bad review of.  EVER.  Everything else I'm gonna wing.

As for beer...silly wabbit.  Of COURSE we didn't run out of beer.  That is Cardinal Rule of hosting parties.  NEVER RUN OUT OF BEER.  So of course we overbuy, which just means we have extra left over.  Which for us means WINNING.  I may serve Apple Cider Margaritas which I found on Pinterest  earlier this month and have already tried out and are AWESOME.  And I think I heard a someone whisper something about jello shots, but, I could be mistaken.  We'll have to see what Saturday brings.

Now, having put everything out there and in perspective, I have my game face on.  Party on Wayne!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

Holy Crap.  July 4th?  Really?  See what happens when EMPLOYMENT gets in the way of one's leisure activities?  Since we're going on 3+ months since last post, I'm going to attempt to sum up.

Dog?  She's still nuts.  But summer storms have passed so she's 'better'.  No, no Thundershirt.  Yet.

The boy?  We sent him off to college.  Only to hear 2 weeks after dropping him off that his college was evacuated due to bomb scares. GRRREEEAAATTT.  That warm fuzzy every parent wants.  I offer only this small piece of advice to make the leaving (especially if it is your first) go more smooth:  TALK to your spouse and make sure you are on the same page as to expectations on how things will go.  Will save you LOTS of tears.  Oh, tears will be a reality, but maybe not so many.  

The oldest daughter?  No longer employed by choice (and I believe she has learned the hazards to her spandex of working in a donut shop).  She's been working pretty hard at dance with the season starting next week.  Oh, she also made National Honor Society.  WOOT!

The middle daughter?  Celebrated her 14th birthday.  Is contemplating if basketball is what she wants to do (and she needs to make a decision quickly).  Has picked up quite a bit of babysitting so I will probably be going to her if I need money.

The youngest daughter?  Changed dance studios and is taking both hip-hop and dance line prep classes.  Monday's are now very busy.  Moved schools this year to a 6th grade center with ALL the 6th graders in our city.  Not sure if I'm going to like this, but as of 6 weeks in, she's doing fine.

We finished off the summer by boating, taking a long weekend trip to Indiana, boating, taking the whole family to Hells Kitchen for brunch and doing a tour or Minnehaha Falls, boating, dropping the boy at college and boating.  The boat?  It was just taken into get winterized and put away. The husband spent his last night in the garage rubbing it down with a diaper and  I swear, I heard Taps playing in the garage that night.

I'm not sure what to do with myself now.  I stopped working two weeks ago, after I planted our last mum bed and pulled the last annual bed.  I may have some holiday pot work but for now I'm done.  I can now actually PLAN dinners instead of flying by the seat of my dirt encrusted jeans.  And get the house in order.  It's not too bad, because we did most of what I wanted to do before the boy graduated, but I have several bins of clothes that need going through to determine what to consign and what to Salvation Army.  Our closet needs that too.  So, I suspect there's enough to keep me busy.  IF I want to be busy.

Jury is still out on that.

Good to be back.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


I think it was about 2 years ago we noticed it.  And it was probably around the 4th of July.  NOOOOOO...not mine.  That one is on the books, circa 1994 (look it up).  This one is our British Lab's, Remy.

After our last debacle (that's my new word) with a dog in 2004-5 I said..NO.MORE.DOGS.  I am not a dog person.  I was raised with cats and had always had a cat.  But my cousins in Indiana have dogs, specifically boxers, and I knew, back in 2004-5 that this would be  a good choice for us.  So, we got Buster.  The Boxer (yes, cheezy, I'm all for cheezy).  We picked him up with all 4 kids in attendance.  He was a flashy fawn.  Our kids were old enough to realize that dogs required work and, SO WE THOUGHT, they were up to the challenge of owning a dog.  We were sorely mistaken.  And especially mistaken about owning a dog like a boxer that is a high energy dog.  He was quickly house broken, although his crate training was more difficult.  Still, we worked out an arrangement that was mutually beneficial.  When my husband says, no one is walking the dog (in winter...HELLO?) and he is done, I should have taken the hint.  No, Buster hasn't chewed anything he shouldn't.  No he hasn't been anything close to "Marley" like.  Yes, he was fully house trained (with issues only occurring when we changed his food). He just wasn't being given the attention my husband felt was his due, so, imagine my surprise when the first phone call comes in about us having a boxer for sale.  At that point I knew he was serious.  And I said, fine.  NO.MORE.DOGS.

Then, my SIL got herself a British Lab.  He was 18 months and fully trained and OMG he was the perfect dog.  He practically excused himself after farting.  YES...that trained.  We were dog.  And then I made mistake number one.  Sure, honey, let's go down and take a look at the trainer who trained Maverick and see his operation.  Little knowing that he had two dogs who he had recently bred:  one British lab, one British Golden retriever (curly hair...SO pretty).  And of course having gone ALL.THE.WAY down there, let's just get put on the list for the next British lab.

Then, the puppies were born.  We went down to take a gander at them, hoping for a red but the black female (Reba) only threw black and yellow's (the dad being a white yellow Beech).  There were 3 yellow's and 4 blacks.  One of the yellows was considered a runt and put in with the golden because her litter was smaller.  Of the two female yellows, MY preference (even though I did NOT want a dog...but who can look at puppies and not melt?) was for the smaller who had ears the color of cognac, but I was over ruled and the larger, more aggressive was chosen.  Ah....but WE don't get to choose.  The breeder gets to choose based on how we intend to use the dog.  And he chose the smaller, brandy eared dog.  Through all this, I kept saying  NO DOG.  Again, I was over ruled.

So, we brought Remy home (EVERYONE else thinks she was named after a Remmington gun.  I happen to know she was name after a bottle of Remy Martin...but SHHHHHH).  And she has been a good..NO, a great dog.   In 4 years, she has had ZERO accidents in the house (we have her bell trained...which has its own challenges).  Seriously.  ZERO.  She went through a brief period as a puppy where she chewed a corner of a wall, but it has been repaired and she hasn't repeated the incident.  She does seem to have a fetish for the girls' underwear but as long as they manage to get them in the hamper it's a non issue (yes, you  can safely assume what you're thinking).  She doesn't get on the furniture.  She knows her station.  She will stay at "heel" on a walk without a leash.  She is a GREAT dog (and coming from a non-dog lover, that's an accomplishment). But, she is probably more my dog than anyone else's.

Back to the story...about 2 years ago, shortly after the 4th, neighbor kids were setting off "extra" fireworks in the back yard.  I was out with her and she was fine.  Then, all of the sudden, she started having issues with loud noises.  It was weird...she was fine one day, then the next she was a quivering mess if she heard a loud noise. Then we pin pointed it to storms.  Storms with thunder. Now, it has progressed to the point where she acts like a barometer.  It can be clear as a bell, and she'll be in a state and we'll all be scratching our head trying to figure out her issue and within an hour a storm will roll in, complete with lightening and thunder.  Our "duh" moment.

The fourth seems to be especially tough on her.  First, this year it's hotter'n hades (100+ with heat index) so she's already panting.  And everyone over 10 is lighting off bottle rockets (including my 11 yo) so now she's a quivering mass of fur.  I had meant to get her a thunder shirt.  YES...I am the least likely to believe in stuff like this but I have tried using some simple OTC meds on Remy (Benedryl/Melatonin) with minimal effects and I'm thinking that this might be what she needs.

Right now, she's a mess. She's curled up in our shower (or she uses the kids' bathtub).  We put the fan on her so that it would (hopefully) eliminate some of the sounds of tonight. I'm not willing to unnecessarily drug her and I'm not willing to give her up.  So, we're gonna get the Thundershirt to see if it works.

Because, it's heart breaking seeing a British Lab...who is trained at gunshots, looking like this:


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Hello????...Anyone out there????

Holy Mother of Pearl!  I knew it had been a while since I had last posted but I didn't realize that the last one was way back in May!  I mean, I knew we were busy but not THAT busy.  And I'll fess up, I have posts going through my  head daily but I always have to stop and it appropriate?

The lack of posts should be telling. :-P

So, like May, we're going to do a run through of June.

Softball(or sweatball) games begin:  June 4
Last day of school:  June 6.
First day of anti-psychotic drugs: June 7 (and FYI...they don't work.  Ask my kids)
The boy's graduation party:  June 8*
The boy graduates from high school: June 9 *sniff*
Checking account officially empty as we attend last graduation party:  June 17
Dance starts back up and any chance of money actually residing in checking account decreases to zero:  June 18
Basketball and the whining of WHO will be DRIVING her the mile to the camp begins:  June 19
I, officially, became the mother of an adult:  June 28

So, as you can see, life has been crazy.  And while I'd love to say that things will now settle down a little, that would mean I would have to let the evil half of me that refuses to accept reality a foot hold and well, life is tenuous enough without HER in control.  On our radar for the next couple weeks is:

Freshman orientation at NDSU: Jul 9
Election judge training class:  Jul 10
Church camp, Dance camp, Cousin camp...a veritable plethora of camps to be attended in July. And don't even get me started about August, which is usually my month to kick back and slowly prepare for school.  Not this month.

And through all this, I'm still working.  Not like the first couple weeks but enough to mean I now have to PLAN going to the grocery store.  I haven't had to do that in 13 years.  And I don't dare ask my children to make a grocery list as you can just imagine what it would include.

So, for now, we're attempting to enjoy the horrific temps (upper 90s with HI into the 100s), if that is even possible, by spending as much time as possible on the boat.  Occasionally with the kids but usually, they choose not to join us.  Tomorrow, the girls have consented to bless us with their presence.  Pray that they can, for just one day, put aside their petty squabbles and make it a wonderful day.

I'd hate for them to know I'm counting (63).

*the boy requested pulled pork.  I recommend NOT doing 50# of it.  It will be WAY too much.  And yes I wrote it all down.  But it's a moot point cause the dancer has decided she wants a sundae bar for her graduation party.  Given the amount of work I put into the boy's, I'm seriously considering it.  Good thing I have 2 years to decide.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012 sorta just slipped by...

I've had many posts going through my mind and I actually have a couple drafts (that are very deep), but I had no idea it had been over a month since I had last posted.  So, this is going to be a recap of the month of May.  Stay and read, or move on...but here goes.

May started with what May always starts with for us:  the combined dance recital and prom day.  ALWAYS a fun day for a parent who needs to be at two places at one time.  Luckily, this year the recital times changed and there was an early 1030 recital time that worked better for us and allowed us to see to both events.

My girls were fabulous: 
My oldest daughter's costume was a dance to "Be Italian".  Her second dance was a "Bollywood" dance.  The costume was more fun than the difficulty of the dance but she did great with both.  My youngest daughter's costume was her tap dance to "Singing in the Rain/Umbrella" montage that they did with full sized umbrellas.  Her second dance was to "Country Girls Shake it for Me", and was a lot of fun.  And of course middle daughter was there to cheer on her sisters.

From there we raced back to town in order to get the boy's flowers and see him in his tux.  Before it started raining.  Unfortunately, we didn't quite make it before the deluge.  Luckily only we got wet.  He had pictures at friends' house and they sent us pictures.  It DID stop raining before the Grand March at the high school so we got to see many of the Junior and Seniors in their finery.  Like the boy and his stunning date:
The next week, I got a call asking if I could start work a week early.  WHAT?  Work?  Yes, in a masochistic twist, I volunteered to help a friend whose landscape company wasn't fully staffed and needed temporary help installing annual beds at commercial sites.  Not being busy and having an opportunity to earn a little money (especially with recent expenditures and a child graduating), I jumped at the opportunity.  It meant we would have to alter some well established schedules (as I had to be AT work by 630am) but we figured it was short term (although full time) and we would make it work.  Little did I know that nothing really prepares your body for 10-12 hours of that sort of physical activity.  The saving grace (or at least I'm looking at it that way) is that there was no break in activity which meant that my body didn't get the opportunity to REALLY hurt.

I am going to take a moment to delve into work ethic.  I look at my own kids and how the behave in our house and I will be honest and say I'm a little afraid that I have failed them with regard to a work ethic.  They will, when asked, help with chores but will also typically do only what is asked, will do as little as they think they can get away with doing.  My HOPE is that they are only this way with us (which of course makes me sad...I will of course throw out the platitude that "A job worth doing is worth doing well" regardless of whether it is in our house or outside of our house).  I mention this because after a week of installing beds, we had help in the form of a college student who has worked just as hard as the  more mature team members.  It could be that she is following our lead.  Or it could be that this is who she is.  Regardless, it gives me hope for my own children, although I WILL continue to nag about the jobs they do at home.

Then we had the annual spring fling. AKA salad night.  This was our 7th and I think I am really getting better and better at this.  Even though I wasn't sure I would be able to muster the energy after working a 12 hour day on Friday, running to the stores to do all my shopping and attempting to get as much prep work done on Friday as possible, I was sure I would be EXHAUSTED by Saturday.  I was, but it was a good exhaustion.  I also miscalculated on how much time I would have.  I thought I had done enough prep work on Friday night to have to only do a few things on Saturday but OH BOY was I wrong.  I was getting in the shower 20 minutes before the party started.

The menu was changed only slightly.  Last year's  Chicken Pear and Pistachio didn't really go over that great so I removed that one and replaced it with a Chicken Spinach salad with a Warm Bacon dressing that went over REALLY well.  I had someone tell me that their favorite was the bacon/bacon salad.  As if I had to figure out what he meant.  I also added a fruit salad to the mix, which was a recipe from my SIL but I kicked it up a notch by adding chopped crystallized ginger making it phenomenal.  The drink de jour was a Black Swan which I found on Pinterest and those who indulged seemed to love.  Appetizers included the marinated tomato on grilled bread, black bean salsa and the new one this year:  shrimp ceviche.  I was a bit nervous about this because it is basically raw shrimp that is "cooked" in lime juice (the acid cooks it, there is no heat involved), but it turned out great.  A definite keeper.  Dessert was dialed back to double chocolate brownies and walnut brownies.  Observation:  men seem to like nuts more than women. I happen to be on the side of men on this one.  We had a few moments of threat of rain, but for the most part any severe weather held off.  Polish horseshoes were played.  The myriad of kids thoroughly enjoyed the trampoline.  With a final head count of 24 I believe we can call it another spring fling success.

May 23 the youngest turned 11.   With all of the end of year activities, we have put off celebrating her birthday until after the graduation party is over, but she did get a dinner out at her favorite place:  Chilis.  Since it meant no cooking for me, I was SO good with that.  I always feel bad about her and her next sister as their birthdays are at the end and beginning of the school year when things are the craziest and they tend to get gypped when one does a side by side comparison to what I have done with the other two.  I will probably be making their "deprived" younger years up to them in their late teens when the older two are gone.

And now that the month is winding down, we are gearing up towards graduation.  The invitations have been sent and here is where I am going to insert a whine.  We have received many invitations and all (except ours) are calling their graduation parties "Open House".  And this is my issue.  How in the world is one to even ATTEMPT to prepare for refreshments when you have no idea how many people will be stopping by?  OH, I get that many people are there to do a quick stop by (and especially kids, who will be hitting as many grad parties as they can...and there will be THREE in our neighborhood that night) but still, we have sent out about 60 invitations.  The boy posted it on facebook and of the 200+ invites, there are 88 "goings" from which we expect maybe a third.  We also did not call ours an Open House but rather a Grad Party for which we requested an RSVP.  We have gotten maybe 10 responses. 

The plan is pulled pork, asian pasta salad, potato salad, cole slaw, various bars and a cake.  We have chosen to skip doing his HS colors and are doing the party in his college colors.  I think once I have pulled this one off, I will be partied out.  For a while.

Of course, the food is only a part of the graduation party "season".  The real impetuous behind hosting a grad party is to actually be forced to get your house in order.   I  painted my kitchen, living room and hallway this spring.  Hosting Easter at our house helped me make that happen other wise I would be in full on panic mode.  Since I knew that graduation was looming, I attempted to get ahead of the curve by starting my "order" last summer.  Instead of waiting for this spring, I split my perennials last fall.  Which necessitated having to remulch our perennial area.  To that end, I had 10 (actually it ended up being closer to 15) yards of dark brown mulch delivered on Monday last week, praying I would have the energy after working 10-12 hour days to get it spread.  Luckily our installs are winding down and I was finished with work on Friday at noon so I was able to make a little headway.  The pile of mulch, she started like this:

Saturday it rained all day so there would be no weeding/mulch spreading.  Sunday after church, the husband and I joined forces and made headway.  Monday we finished it off.  I think that was the fastest we have ever completed it.  The end results...well, we are VERY pleased.
And that pile of mulch?  Well, now it looks like this: 
We finished around 2 yesterday afternoon and rewarded ourselves with steak on the grill with friends.

To say it was a busy month is a bit of an understatement.  But I am feeling a bit more confident about being ready for the boy's party.  Talk to me again in10 days and see if I'm still there.