Category: Hodgepodge

Uncommon Me

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Okay, so I’m not that great at describing myself in the first place.

I don’t want to say I’m funny, because everyone says people who describe themselves as funny never are. I don’t want to say I’m smart, because I don’t want people to think I’m a know-it-all or use my intelligence to make others feel small.

So describing myself in an uncommon way? That’s kind of double-difficult.

I know music is not necessarily uncommon but you know what, it’s my favorite thing in the world so I’m choosing it.

This is what it looks like in my head. This is me.

Lyrics

I want to be rich and I want lots of money
I don’t care about clever I don’t care about funny
I want loads of clothes and fuckloads of diamonds
I heard people die while they are trying to find them

And I’ll take my clothes off and it will be shameless
‘Cause everyone knows that’s how you get famous.

I’ll look at the sun and I’ll look in the mirror
I’m on the right track, yeah I’m on to a winner.

I don’t know what’s right and what’s real anymore
And I don’t know how I’m meant to feel anymore
And when do you think it will all become clear?
‘Cause I’m being taking over by The Fear

Life’s about film stars and less about mothers
It’s all about fast cars and cussing each other
But it doesn’t matter cause I’m packing plastic
And that’s what makes my life so fucking fantastic

And I am a weapon of massive consumption
And it’s not my fault it’s how I’m programmed to function

Forget about guns and forget ammunition
‘Cause I’m killing them all on my own little mission
Now I’m not a saint but I’m not a sinner
Now everything’s cool as long as I’m getting thinner

Axis of Ineptitude

Looking for the whole list of prompts? They are in text form and image so you can Come Play In May!

Why I Write – Come Play in May (blog challenge)

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This post is part of the Come Play in May blog Challenge. 

I’ve been asked why I blog many times.

Usually I kind of stare at the person and find some question to ask back really quickly so I don’t have to answer. It’s not a comfortable question. It doesn’t have a nice, knee-jerk answer like, “Fine” when someone asks how you are and you just kind of answer because you don’t want to tell them everything going on in your life because you don’t have the energy and you’re pretty sure they don’t want to hear all that mess, either.

Sometimes I answer, “Because.” I figure that one works with my kids once in a while so it might work with a well-conditioned adult, too.

I don’t remember anyone ever really pushing for an answer, and I guess I’m kind of glad I didn’t because the honest truth is not very pretty and it’s certainly not something awesome and upbeat like changing the world.

I blog because I feel utterly alone in the universe and this is a public scream I hope will be echoed and heard by other people like me. I blog because I desperately want to know there are other people out in the world who feel like I do, who live like I do, who make decisions like I do, that need hugs like I do.

People who experience humanity as a big and beautiful and complex arrangement of madness and color. That can see both sides of an issue and really see where everyone is coming from. People who started poor but are working toward a normal, basic standard of living. Or maybe someone who started well off and is now struggling. Or maybe someone who has always been financially stable but has issues in other parts of their life. I mean, it’s not about money or thoughts or intelligence. It’s about having a beaten-down heart that is still absolutely still full of the capacity for love.

Not people who have been through the exact same experiences, that would be boring! People who have beautiful, scarred hearts and callouses on their souls and have looked into the face of grief so big it could crush you or desire so strong it couldn’t be put into words and joy so big it could hug the world.

People who feel all alone sometimes, no matter how many people are in the room. People who are both extroverts and introverts and get tired of everyone labeling themselves so easily. People who maybe want labels but can never find the one that just fits, because if they could just find the right label maybe things would be easier.

I blog because I am sending a message. Life is messy. I am messy. I seek out other messy people who are doing their best to turn their mess into beauty.

So, whether I’m blogging about fitness, food, finances, family, relationships, marriage, or my chickens, it’s really all the same.

I’m doing my best to say, “Hello. Nice to meet you. Here is a story and I would love to hear yours, too.” In the hopes that we might become friends.

 

Axis of Ineptitude

The Bell Curve of Success (or Look How Far We’ve Come)

One of the first periods in my life I remember is Junior High. Sure, there were some memories here and there before that, but Junior High is where I remember riding my bike to school every day (A Schwinn Beach Cruiser) and I remember the corner store, and the airport, and the house, and our neighbors, and my first boyfriend.

In case you’re curious, I moved a lot as a kid so most of my childhood memories look like a montage. Not one of those cool action montages from a movie, but more like when you go to YouTube.com and are excited to see a mash-up video and then it turns out to be one of those totally bogus slideshows with music behind it. My memories are like the dumb slideshow someone made in Powerpoint and sometimes it really bothers me. Most of the time I don’t think about it.

So here is my very first corner store, where I would buy Boston Baked Beans and Lemonheads.

Mission-Market-Collage

In case you’re wondering, it looked pretty much exactly like that when I went there, too. The neighborhood around it has newer sidewalks and has been repaved and I think there’s a Walgreens being built across the street, but the Mission Market remains.

I probably spent an hour on Google Maps this morning “riding” down the streets I rode when I was younger. The drug house that burned down when I lived in town has a really cute house built there now. The yard where the angry dogs and sad children lived was one I couldn’t pick out from all the houses on the block, even though I knew the approximate location.

The house I lived in? Sadly, I couldn’t get Google to show it to me. It was in a cul-de-sac that wasn’t actually a street so the Google car didn’t drive down and get a good shot. I can see it from above on Google Earth but it doesn’t show anything worth sharing. It’s just a roof and a small yard and a tree in front.

The neighborhood looks a lot nicer now. Houses are selling for upwards of $200k on the street. Considering when we lived there our neighbors were heroin addicts with a SERIOUS roach infestation, well, either real estate is just expensive there or it’s been gentrified.

I don’t know anyone I could ask. I’m also okay not knowing.

The point here is that everyone we lived around was poor. My parents might have been the only ones on the block that weren’t over 80 years old or drug addicts. I rode my bike to and from school every day and it didn’t dawn on me it was a “bad” neighborhood. It was just where I lived.

There was the one time the guy in the van asked me to get in and I rode away, but it didn’t dawn on me until years later how pivotal that moment may have been in my life. Maybe it was just a nice guy who wanted to take me and my bike home. I’m okay not knowing that, too.

I’m not sure why we got the same “you can be anything you want to be” speech that the kids in a nicer neighborhood did. Really, no one ever gave us a heads up how much longer and fraught with potential trauma our paths were. I can’t imagine someone in a nice Junior High getting asked by the Spanish teacher out loud in front of the whole class why my last name was different from my mother’s. I mean, what was he expecting? Why did that question matter? Wasn’t I already looked down on enough?

Oh hey! I found a picture of my Junior High!

mission-middle-school

My saving grace was probably getting moved to Illinois to a little suburb outside of Chicago after my Junior High graduation. No one at my High School cared what my last name was. Sure, I had drama coming out of my ears, but it was a different kind of drama.

As a housewife (I’ve started saying housewife because I don’t want some 9-5 expectation to descend upon me just because my kids reach some magical age) I feel like I’ve traveled so far to get here. I mean, we all have traveled so far to get wherever we are. Some paths are more normal or expected than others. I know mine has been a twisting, turning adventure that has spanned from California to New York and even detoured south that one time I almost ended up living in Tennessee with the guy who loved Jimmy Buffet almost as much me.

That I’m able to wake up every morning safe is a blessing I recognize so clearly sometimes. That my biggest fear when my kids ride up and down the block on their bikes is that a police officer might hassle me for not paying enough attention “because bad things happen everywhere.”  That the worst anyone in this town can do is look down on me. I mean, hell, that doesn’t even hurt. I know I have a personality that is not universally loved and adored. I come by it naturally. Wives whining about not having enough control over their husbands is just too petty for me to even register and it’s probably the biggest complaint I’ve heard so far in this town.

The odds of someone coming from where I came from having a stable marriage, not having any illegal substance problems, and having children who are kind and polite? I may as well be president of the United States for the rare air I breathe up here.

I think the best part is I’m able to see it clearly and so will  never, ever take it for granted.

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How and Why One Mom Started Vaping (an e-cigarette love story)

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After re-reading this post for typos and grammar, I feel it sounds like an advertisement or “sponsored” post for vaping or a vape company. It is not. This is an unpaidfor piece based on my experience for the purpose of helping someone who might be int he same position I am right now and wondering if the change is possible and how difficult it might be. I purchased (and was not reimbursed for) the products I talk about owning in this post.

I have been trying to quit smoking for years.

Even during this horrible winter, I’ve stood in front of my house or right at my back door in flip flops and a coat shivering while I puff my way down another dumb cigarette in a couple square feet of shoveled out clear space. I’ve hated myself, I’ve sworn I’ll never do it again, and I’ve tried to keep it as secret as possible. People tell me awful, private stories of their dead loved ones as I wonder how to get out of the conversation without being completely insulting because it seems like I’m the only one in the conversation that knows I’m not going to become a born-again non-smoker from detailed stories of cancer deaths. I mean, seriously, if horrible stories and pictures were going to get me to quit, they would have already.

Then I talked to a super-amazing Facebook friend about Chantix. I talked to her about the side effects and how they affected her and the people she knew who had used it to quit. She felt – even when she got the prescription – no hope it was going to work. She had accepted she would never quit. As we talked about it, she shared she was over 40 days smoke-free and doing fine.

I decided this was the solution. I became absolutely ecstatic about it and convinced Mr. Brickie to join me on this amazing journey to clear lungs and a non-smokey life. He was really supportive and almost immediately joined me in my hopeful feelings about quitting smoking with this wonder-drug. We made doctor appointments and looked forward to getting our new prescriptions and starting our new lives.

The day of our family appointment (we took the kids in for flu shots and immunizations in addition to the magical non-smoking solution) the weather was insane. It took us almost two hours to get to the appointment that should have been about 25 minutes away. We drove past cars in snow banks and a half-turned-over mini bus (all receiving aid already) on what I was thinking of as an Epic Journey to Stop Smoking (I was like Odysseus of the Chicago Suburbs) and when we got there everyone felt like we had just gone though this harrowing journey. The girls talked about how difficult it was to see through the windows for the snow and we held hands on our way into the office and the warmth and salvation that would be inside.

“What?” the doctor asked when I told him I wanted a prescription for Chantix. His immediate reaction was a puzzled, “What?” and when I went to repeat myself he interrupted me mid-sentence to say, “I heard you, I just…why would you want that?” I told him I couldn’t quit and I was just so done and I needed to stop. He told me there was a black box warning on Chantix and that it made someone schizophrenic and that even if he was still handing out prescriptions for Chantix (which he was most certainly not) he wouldn’t give them to me because I would probably kill my family.

“Uh….I wouldn’t kill my family.” I said.
“Like a mama hamster.” He said.

hamster-bebehs-delicious

I got a little sniffly because I’m sure he didn’t realize he was dashing my very important dreams. Like telling a 12 year old she won’t ever meet, much less marry, Justin Beiber. I totally interrupted him in the middle of his whole “people with anxiety absolutely cannot take that medication even when it didn’t have a black box warning” to whine like a frustrated child when I said, “Then what am I going to do?”

“Get an e-Cig. They have the same quit rate as the Chantix anyway and they won’t make you kill everyone you love.” (My doctor is hilarious and a totally decent human being and even kept me from losing my children and getting arrested that one time. I know I’m making him sound like a jerk but he was laughing when he said the stuff about killing everyone. He didn’t (mostly) really think I’d kill my whole family.)

I was all, “You mean like a blu?” and he was like, “Yeah or whatever, just get the nicotine in without the other crap and even if you can’t quit doing that it’s a hell of a lot better than regular cigarettes.”

I had tried an e-cig years ago when they first got all popular and they looked like cigarettes. It was heavy as all get out, you couldn’t hold it between your fingers, and you had to sort of unscrew the two pieces to be able to take a drag that was remotely near the way it works with my regular smokes. I blew out atomizers (the little heating elements that turn the nicotine liquid to vapor) and it became an unsatisfying, expensive hassle really fast.

I did some research and found that the new e-cigs (or e-cigarettes) have a little hole at the tip to allow for the airflow so you didn’t have to partially unscrew them and you wouldn’t blow out the atomizers as fast. They were a little lighter and with some finagling I could hold one between my fingers.

This is When the Whole Thing Gets Interesting

I was searching for tips and tricks (like I do with any new product) and found out people were replacing the absorbent material in the little cartridge with Lipton tea bags so they would hold flavors not offered by blu. I was curious so I did some YouTube searches on this e-Juice he was talking about in that video.

It was like being dropped into the middle of some Alice in Wonderland scenario where people are puffing clouds like the caterpillar and talking about flavors like Afternoon Tea (flavor: black tea, cream, and sugar) and Unicorn Blood (flavor: strawberry & milk) with the option of having multiple levels of nicotine.

People are smoking out of things that look like mini-hookahs. It’s crazy. The colors and the styles and the YouTube videos of people making their own coils and modifying these things like Xzibit on that show where they put Xbox consoles and big screen TVs in Honda Accords.

Here is one of the beginner videos I saw that made me feel like I might be able to do this thing:

I gotta tell you, there is a ton of lingo and learning it all is tough. But the cig-alike is what a blu is and he shows a lot of different styles and there are a lot of links in the comments so it might help if you’re looking for that kind of thing. Also, you can search YouTube for vape, vaping, vaporizers, and then just put “review” or “beginner” and you can find information that’s helpful.

Back to the multiple levels of nicotine. I think it’s important because when we tried this a few years ago we got the “High” level of nicotine and it gave us headaches (and him a stomachache) almost immediately. It was really a rousing non-success. They even come with no nicotine at all in order to be able to wean yourself off of the drug. I think they came with no nicotine back then, too, but it wouldn’t have mattered because you have to get the vapor in order for your brain to stop bugging you to smoke a cigarette. The smoke, for me, is more important than the nicotine.

One of the most prevalent arguments I’ve run into is that with the fruity, candy flavors they are targeting kids. You know, the way being able to buy whipped cream and birthday cake flavored vodka…oh, wait….that’s right, they aren’t. Also, while I’m not going to tell you that when they’re 18 I want my kids to start vaping (I don’t want them to put anything unnatural in their bodies) but if it’s a choice between tobacco and it’s thousand grody ingredients and vaping there really isn’t a choice.

I was talking to my cousin last night and asked her to visit a vape shop with me (A vapor lounge, it’s called…so chic…lol) so I could check out the flavor bar and try some new flavors. She was a bit hesitant because she kind of got the vibe like I was trying to get her to quit smoking (I wasn’t) but I had a thought and said, “No one likes the taste of tobacco. It’s comforting, it’s what we’re used to, but man, if I could snap my fingers and make my analog cigarettes grape flavored, who wouldn’t do that?”

So she’s at least willing to go with me, so that’s cool. I just don’t like to do new things alone. Mama hamster anxiety levels make it pretty much impossible.

We started with a kit that included a complete little setup and Mr. Brickie and I chose a grape flavor to start our journey with. Try it out without telling anyone so if we hated it we wouldn’t be seen as failing at quitting yet again.

This is the video I’m going to be looking into next if we decide to move on from the eGo-T we are currently using. We have three tanks running right now.

  • The iClear 16 tank has an 18mg nicotine grape flavor in it.
  • The Kanger Pro Tank has a 6mg nicotine level cherry in it.
  • The Kanger Mini Protank II (v2) has a 0mg nicotine-free watermelon flavor in it.

The only one I can smoke as long as an analog cigarette is the 0mg watermelon. The others would give me a headache far too quickly. We got the three levels so we can switch as necessary to make it through the cravings we are anticipating (but may not happen) more easily. The key to success is being prepared, right?

As for Mr. Brickie’s tummyaches, they are gone now. It might be due to how the eJuice is made now or it might be because it has a higher Vegetable Glycerin (VG) content to Propylene Glycol (PG) content. (Video on PG vs. VG | Good description I found on a Website)

So You’ve Been Poor and Smoking? You Awful Person!

I know that being poor and smoking makes people mad.

Many people have done their best to tell me what’s what about how much I spend. I even have a couple apps for that, even though it’s in my budget and I already know the amount.

First, my habit costs Mr. Brickie and I less than a dollar a day … combined. I have been rolling my own for years. For us, quitting means spending more money than smoking. Either in munchie food, soda pop, a nicotine alternative, or whatever other thing we do. Unless I was perfect and amazing and just quit and nothing else changed, even temporarily.

Yeah, if that were possible I would have done it already. Trust me, I tried.

For me, for my husband, we started young and there’s this thing called “addiction” that is so easy to ignore if it hasn’t been personally experienced. Some people can quit and be a little bugged and persevere and suddenly think everyone else can, too, because they did.

But now that’s changing. We feel really good about this. When we took our first few puffs of the grape flavor we didn’t touch a regular analog smoke for over an hour. It was a revelation. We were satisfied without smoking. From here out we will probably only buy the 0mg nicotine because we only have the two with nicotine for the occasional craving to just get past it. We have this all planned out for maximum potential success.

That being said I can’t wait to order the juices that taste like Swedish fish and Starburst. You don’t have to be a kid to love candy, just ask anyone who looks at a martini menu!

Other Resources

If you are considering vaping, try to find a local shop by searching Yelp for Vaporizer (You are going to run into a lot of head shops, y’all…just roll with it. Nice people, even if you look like the a minivan driving mom like I do.) and I cannot recommend the E -cigarette Forum highly enough. I’ve learned so much in a short time with them and they are so nice. Seriously. Great people.

The YouTube channels of IndoorSmokers, GrimmGreen, and pbusardo have been so helpful. I’m sure there are others I just haven’t found yet.

On Twitter? Look for #vape #vaping or #ecig #e-cig to find some more information.

Last But Not Least

There are a lot of vaping stores online. Some are good, some are bad, some sell legit stuff, some sell clones or knockoffs. Make sure you know what you’re looking for or do a search for the store name and “review” to make sure you are ordering form somewhere legit that will ship before the turn of the next century. These searches are how I originally found the e-cigarette Forum in the first place. Lots of reviews, lots of people helping people.

There are a few published studies I also read before making this leap. I do not plan on listening to any voices who make their money from tobacco, because I have no use for that kind of bias in opinion. (Of course, if someone from the ACA, the AHA, or the ALA published the results from a scientific study I would totally read it and listen.)

If you would like to check out an extensive list of the studies that have been published on vaping and e-cigarettes, you can visit that site which has links to all of them. If you would like to read up on current policies, legislation, and myths you can find that kind of thing over at CASAA.org.

I don’t plan on taking this thing into stores or restaurants. There is too much controversy and not enough knowledge for me to take that kind of risk. When I go somewhere, I will just leave it in the car and have it outside the car if that’s necessary. I have a sneaking suspicion it won’t be necessary for very long at all.

I really think this is going to work. I am so happy and relieved.

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February Wrap-Up and March 2014 Predictions

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I was feeling all deep and smart today so I decided to make my own quote. I hope I didn’t completely steal it from somewhere else. It sounds kind of like the end of the Rocky Horror Picture Show song at the very end of the movie. It’s also possible I just have the last word of that song stuck in my head, which kind of happens every time any quote or sentence ends with the word meaning.

If you’re not someone who has seen Rocky Horror, I’m so sorry I just did that to you. My grandmother loved that movie so I saw it a lot when I was younger. I had a very odd grandmother.

February Was Rough but We Made It

Thank you all for finding this blog and reading it and I promise I’ll do my best not to let you down in March. My goal is a post a day and I’ve done a pretty good job sticking to that. If you have any questions for me, please, get in touch via email or Facebook or Twitter and I’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have. I tend to do great when I have some kind of prompting to work with.

I’ll be doing the budget post with the actual copied and pasted spreadsheet budget on the first Sunday of the month, so in two days you’ll have what my budget looks like, this is more kind of a reflection/prediction so we can all kind of place bets on what’s going to happen! I mean, not real bets, you know how I am about gambling (even though I’m fine if you partake) the stress would kill me.

How Did February Go?

Oh we did pretty good this month. Just today the elliptical went out the door for a cool $300. Sure we bought it for like a thousand when I had money and thought I loved cardio but from here on out it’s all kettlebells for me. The 15lb. one I have was less than $20 shipped and the next size up is less than $30 shipped. That’s a great value for weight training and add in some free YouTube videos and I’ll be working out for a fraction of the cost of other methods.

Selling the elliptical means that with unemployment we will have enough to pay the main bills for the month. This does not mean we will stop trying to bring in extra money – oh heck no! – but it does mean there isn’t that cold feeling in the pit of my stomach while I look. That metallic feeling of cold desperation won’t hang over my search for writing work. It is a very nice feeling not to have.

There is always the lingering, small hope of the weather that looms. Mr. Brickie did work two days this month I think. Days he went to with a spring in his step and a happy heart. He really loves his job. Even though it can be a really rough start I cannot recommend the trades highly enough. That man worked in marketing for years and I seriously thought he was lazy and had no ambition and would nag him like a prize pony.

Now that he’s doing this work? He never forgets a Union meeting, can’t speak highly enough about the people he works with/for, and takes pride in his work.

It’s been a little sketchy this month because it’s been so cold and we’ve all been cooped up together in the house and I sometimes feel like Jack Nicholson from the Shining and want to kind of mutter, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” as I wander around the house, but I think the family is safe. For now. *grin*

How Is March Looking?

I have to say March is looking interesting. The whole month can’t be bitterly cold, right? Watch me as I go find my husband to knock on his head and say, “Knock on wood!” sometimes I seriously have the sense of humor of either a really young kid or someone with just a really bad sense of humor. He laughs, because he has to and we are married. It stopped being funny years ago, I promise.

The thing is, if he starts working…even one day out of the week knocks him back out of the unemployment system. It’s better if he works, of course, because money and hours toward his next bump in apprenticeship, but it adds another layer of “stuff only unemployed people deal with” hassle as he has to go back into the unemployment office the day after he works if the next day is crappy again to sign back up again. It’s amazing how much time it takes, overall, when you consider we get enough in a month to pay the car payment.

I am not complaining about receiving unemployment benefits! Some people don’t qualify at all, others don’t get as much as we do. I’m not whining, far from it, I’m only stating the reality of having to go in person when the system is all online for people applying for the first time. See, again, I’m not complaining because with the whole system moving online you better be good at using a computer if you want to apply for unemployment. You also better have access to one.

Even for people who can go use the one at the library, you still have to get to the library and it’s baby it’s cold outside. If a person doesn’t have a car to get there they have to walk. I sincerely hope everyone who has to walk to the library has proper shoes, socks, and winter apparel because if not they are going to end up being bitterly cold.

Our inconvenience is nothing compared to people who have to go through all that just to get to a library to use an application system that takes me over an hour because it’s set up in such a way that there are questions for every possible situation and you have to determine which ones are right for you and which ones aren’t and if you make a mistake you’ll just get denied. I can’t imagine how difficult it is for someone who is not computer savvy to navigate the whole thing. Plus, the application has a time limit. They say it’s for security but I kind of think it’s to add one more layer of pressure on to people who might already be feeling under the gun having to figure out this whole computerized system all of a sudden after losing a job or being laid off or running out of work, which already makes you half-crazy with stress.

But enough about my crazy conspiracy theories about how the state uses stress and technology to make people give up and thus save a bunch of money. I’ll put my tinfoil hat right over here by the Time Life Mystery book series I got that one time. I’m kidding, I don’t have the book series. I do still remember the commercial though.

The part I remember most vividly was the woman in the Midwest (probably because I, too, am in the Midwest) feeling the sharp pain. I wondered if I hurt myself if my mom would feel it.

My great-grandmother always swore she woke up from a sound sleep, sat straight up, and said her brother was dead when he died in WWII though, so she would scowl at you if you made fun of the commercial. She wouldn’t say she believed in the stuff, though. She liked to kind of hang out in the middle ground and keep an open mind without actually picking a side.

I get that from her.

I am predicting March is the month where Mr. Brickie starts bricking again with the bricklayers doing the laying of brick. As the weather gets warmer, his work schedule will become more full. Honestly, if he works a full two weeks in March it would be beyond our wildest expectations. It’s all going to depend on the weather.

Our next court date in Chancery court is supposed to be in March, but we haven’t gotten any paperwork from the mortgage company’s law offices or from the Chancery court itself. I’m not sure what’s going on there, but I’ll let you know when I find something out.

Do you have anything big or interesting coming up in March? 

bird-end-fin

Easy 30-Second Homemade Shampoo with Great Lather

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If you’re into steeping herbs and being a rock star and taking your time, you want my full recipe for How to Easily Make Your Own Shampoo With Great Lather! If you don’t have time for that, this recipe is inexpensive and works beautifully.

I sometimes don’t find out one of my kids is out of shampoo until she’s hollering from the shower and when that happens, this is my go-to recipe.

Stuff You Need

  • 3 oz. Liquid Castle Soap (I use Dr. Bronner’s Lavender)
  • 1 oz. Aloe Vera Juice (not gel – make sure it’s 100% pure)
  • 1/4 tsp. Jojoba oil
  • Essential oil (Optional: About 20 drops. I don’t use it because it makes my head itch.)
  • A cup of water

I’ve used a shot glass to measure the soap and aloe vera if I couldn’t find my little anchor “measure some ounces” thing that looks like a cup but isn’t. You can use a funnel and pour all ingredients directly into your shampoo bottle. (I’m still using an old Suave shampoo bottle.)

Tilt the shampoo bottle back and forth a few times to mix it all together and you’re DONE.

Enjoy your soapy, lathery, amazing homemade shampoo you made in 30 seconds for about $1.20 a bottle.

I don’t use a conditioner or even vinegar as a rinse anymore. I find it’s just not necessary since my hair has been shorter. If you have long hair, stick with a vinegar rinse.

Quick Note: Depending on the time of year I will use less or more of the Aloe Vera Juice. If you use the whole ounce, you’re going to have very soft hair. The less you use the more texture your hair will have. So you’re on this scale where you either have very soft, smooth hair or you have less soft and smooth hair but more volume! You make the call.

Chicken Nugget Recipe (or, Let’s All Try Not to Get Salmonella!)

IMG_3185We had some chicken thighs hanging out in the fridge for a while (my “as snotty as they sell at Walmart” brand) and even though a very lovely, dear, kind, almost nun-like lady is shipping me an extra meat grinder for my KitchenAid, my cooking instincts told me this meat wasn’t going to last that long.

I decided to suck it up and just this one time use my super-amazing 2 cup chopper attachment that my KitchenAid immersion blender came with to process the chicken thighs into mush.

IMG_3186“Why would you be putting raw chicken into your immersion blender attachment?” I can hear someone ask. Not you, someone else. Someone far less cool than you. “Because I want to smear raw chicken on as many surfaces as possible, of course!”

I mean, life just isn’t fun without an element of danger. Right?

Oh. You probably want to know why I would be making my meat into mush in the first place. Well I was on Pinterest (I know, right?) and there was this recipe and it looked really good. You can find her Better Than Fast Food Chicken Nugget recipe here. She’s really good with a camera, too, so enjoy those glamour shots. You’re not getting that here. I use pictures to illustrate a point and so I use my iPhone camera. They’re not going to have writing on them but really, they get the point across.

After you stick the chicken thighs into the chopper they look like this:

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I put some chopped onions from the freezer and some minced garlic from the fridge into each round of chicken-whirring to try and kind of, I don’t know, enmesh the flavors into the raw chicken. Also, it made it smell less like raw chicken and that’s kind of a bonus right there.

The next part is the part that all you “I hate touching raw chicken” people are going to cringe about. It’s okay. I used to be one of those people, too, until I bought non-latex kitchen gloves and now I can touch whatever I want and look like a cast member of CSI while I do.

You have to make your chicken-mush into nuggets by taking some and smooshing it into a vaguely nuggety shaped glob.

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After that, you plop the little buggers into a bowl of lightly whisked egg-yolk. I do the separating of the whites and the yolks by hand, which I find super easy (especially with my magic golves of not-grodiness.) Immediately put them into a plate or bowl with a mixture of bread crumbs and parsley. (My breadcrumbs are Walmart generic and my pretty darn good parsley flakes are the Aldi brand.) If you check that link above to the original recipe she uses homemade breadcrumbs.

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I don’t live in a world of homemade breadcrumbs. I bet she does crafts. I will probably construct a complete fantasy world where she lives being amazing. All because of homemade bread crumbs. Words have power.

Okay, quick interlude. I know how to make homemade breadcrumbs. It’s just the thought of even having bread that went stale or letting bread go stale. I mean, my family growing up only let bread go stale on Thanksgiving and eventually my great-grandmother was like, “I don’t have time to wait for this bread to go stale on its own, let’s put it in the oven at like one degree for a hundred hours because that will save time.” You know what saves time for me on Thanksgiving? Bags of breadcrumbs. That’s just who I am.

So now that we’ve gotten my confessional out of the way, let’s move on to the part where I slowly kill my children by feeding them fried foods in an attempt to make sure they are greasy and fat when they get older, thus making me less likely to become a grandmother too soon.

We use peanut oil. I don’t know why, it was Mr. Brickies idea. Something about a smoke point. He probably said more but after smoke point I started giggling and making “Dude, Where’s My Car jokes.”  I put about a half inch into the pan. Also note I’m killing my family by using a dented nonstick pan because carcinogens or chemicals or something.

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Here they are, fresh from the oil right before I pat them down to get the excess oil off. They were crunchy and sort of tasty. The salt/pepper/garlic/onion didn’t really season it enough for my liking. I thought they were mostly bland. Which makes them great for dipping, just like a real nugget. I think. I’m not sure if that’s actually the point.IMG_3192

Side dishes were broccoli and homemade creamed corn. It was actually leftover regular corn but I put a splash of half and half and some flour in it and no one realized they were leftovers. (I’m not kidding.) I guess maybe I’m not trying to kill my kids if I’m insisting on two vegetables every night.

Oh wait, I made them homemade honey mustard for dipping. Honey, Miracle Whip, and Dijon Mustard. (1/2C Miracle Whip, 1/2C Honey, and 1/4C Dijon Mustard). It was tasty.

Here’s a recipe rundown if you want it:

Stuff You Need

  • Chicken Thighs (I think I used 2lbs. Mr. Brickie ate leftovers from everyone else. I could have used 1lb. and been fine but he’s a growing boy or something I guess.
  • Onion or Onion Powder
  • Garlic or Garlic Powder
  • Parsley
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Breadcrumbs (however you want to make that happen)
  • Egg yolks (I saved all the whites and am making them into scrambled half-eggs in the morning for the girls for breakfast. Waste not or you’re dumb. Or wasteful.
  • Frying Pan
  • Oil
  • Paper towels

Grind up the chicken, spice up the chicken, make patty, dip in egg yolk, flop around in breadcrumb/parsley mixture, fry it up.

Watch your kids look at you as if you were the most amazing human being in the world because you made chicken nuggets and that’s pretty much the height of human creation in the mind of the average 8 year old.

Don’t worry. This isn’t turning into a food blog. I’m just sharing what’s up while I try to formulate an update about the budget that doesn’t make me look like a giant tool and an even more giant failure. It’s coming. Soon.

Crock-Pot Ground Beef Stew Recipe Madness

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The past few nights have been rough.

I would watch the preschooler during the day while Mr. Brickie worked. Then, Mr. Brickie would come home and take care of the kids while I worked.

Needless to say, he hates this arrangement.

When we first got together he was all, “I’m so liberal when it comes to relationships. ehrmagherd I would never have a problem with you working or doing whatever you wanted to.”

If he was the deep, introspective, know-thyself type he would have said, “I really don’t want to have a problem with you working but I will always be naturally happier when I am the one working and allowing you and our children to have leisure time. Also, until I can afford to provide a maid for my precious and wonderful family, can you keep the house clean while you’re at it?”

So tonight I’m giving us both the evening off. I am not going to work and I already have dinner in the crock pot so I don’t have to cook and he doesn’t have to cook.

Tonight’s Dinner: Slow Cooker Ground Beef Stew (a variation)

First, you’ll need to get some stuff out and lay it all over your counter. Or not. I cook that way because I just want to have everything at the ready when the cooking starts. I put things away when I’m done using them, so there’s really no extra mess with this method. Feel free to substitute willy-nilly as long as you sniff your herbs first to make sure the flavors match up and won’t come out like crap.

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Stuff List

  • Marjoram
  • Sage (don’t really use this, I mixed up the bottles. I thought it was the…
  • Thyme
  • Salt
  • Pepper (Mine is Great Value because I’m hoity toity like that!)
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • A pound of ground beef of whatever kind you want.
  • 4 peeled and diced potatoes.
  • Can of Cream of Mushroom soup (or you can use homemade)
  • Corn, carrots, celery, onions, garlic, tomatoes, broth (I use fresh celery and garlic, process the onion with the cup attachment on my 2 cup immersion blender and get chopped garlic in a jar and my corn was from a can. My broth was a cup of water and a beef bullion cube. I used a can of diced tomatoes. You do you.)

Brown the ground beef in a pan. I know it seems stupid to use pans and cook so you can put some stuff all up in a slow cooker and then have to wait four hours after you already cooked in order to see the fruits (or stew) of your labor but you know what, I assume the original recipe calls for it that way because of some food-borne disease. I don’t mess with red meat.

While the meat is browning shake some spices on it. All the ones you took out (hopefully no sage but if you made the same mistake as I did just go with it). Remember, marjoram is powerful, powerful stuff so use a light hand for shaking. Keep sniffing the pan. When it smells awesome you can be done. Keep going until the meat is brown.

At this point, I take the beef out with a spoon and plop it right over into the Crock-Pot insert thingy. I leave the grease in because it’s flavor and really, there’s just not that much. I put the garlic, pulverized onion, carrot slices, pulverized celery (I threw that stalk in with the onions. I was SO over chopping after that carrot) and garlic in the grease in the pan and let it kind of sweat/cook/marinade/hang out for five or so minutes until the flavor is all over them and then I dump that whole mess into the Crock-Pot.

Next you dump your can of corn, can of tomato paste, diced potatoes, cup of water, and bullion cube in the crock. It looks something like this.

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Gross, right?

Three hours later it looks like this:

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Still not looking like the belle of the ball, but a lot more like stew than that first picture would lead you to believe.

The finished stew looks like this:

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It smells divine, and it’s like potpourri for three rooms of my house right now. Also, it’s making me really hungry. We are going to serve it with biscuits and call it a day.

Prep time on this was around a half hour and cook time is going to be six hours on low. Everything is safe to consume once it’s in the crock pot (because you already browned the beef) and I’m pretty sure the entire six hours is just to cook the diced potatoes.

So when my husband gets home I get to be all, “Oh, hey babe, guess what I did. I scheduled zero writing jobs for tonight and started dinner at, like, eleven this morning. Feel loved yet?”

He will. I promise you he will. He will tell you it’s because he was cold all day (he works outside most of the time) and is really looking forward to stew. You and I know better. It’s because I accidentally married someone who wants to be all traditional and junk.

There are far worse problems to have.

Winter is Coming and Planning is Afoot

snow-footprintsThe weather has taken a turn.

Mortar is freezing on the bricks, frost is settling on equipment, and work is slowing down at an ever-increasing pace. We are fast going into the season of no work for the outdoor skilled laborer.

While most of Mr. Brickie’s coworkers have put away some cash for this time of year, we have not, because Mr. Brickie just got this job in June and has been working on and off getting from training to a company where he could have a long-term future. The foundation is strong and will support our future, but the start was rocky and this, our first winter, is going to be a testing ground for both our mettle and our patience.

Basically, we’re hoping this doesn’t end up with us going all Donner Party and killing each other to survive our own rampant insanity. I mean, if the wine runs out I can’t possibly be held accountable for my actions now, can I?

While going on unemployment is always a possibility, we are trying to hold off on that option as long as possible. It would be better to make more money – above the table – and be able to claim that when tax time rolls around. So here are the pros and cons of the current situation as well as the current plans.

These, as always, are subject to change drastically and without notice because while I love planning, when things change I have to be able to change the plan quickly so we stay on track.

Pros

  • Mr. Brickie can apply for LIHEAP again tomorrow. I keep saying, “Fourth time is the charm!” like it’s going to be a new thing. It is totally not ever going to be a new thing. I still hope they finally let him apply because it’s taking everything in me not to yell, “Why won’t they just let her shop!” because it keeps reminding me of Pretty Woman and the scene where they won’t let her shop in the nice boutique and then I want to laugh and laughing at my husband and telling him he reminds me of a prostitute who isn’t allowed to shop on Rodeo Drive is not supportive.
  • He was home early and I got hugs earlier than anticipated.
  • We posted more things online to sell. (This is a potential win in the money department & the decluttering department!)
  • We are in a “get it done” mindset and there is no slacking happening. This is probably the biggest pro we have going for us.
  • I might have him here with me while the kids are on winter break for two weeks. This means I can go hide in the bedroom when they drive me batty and he is kind of obligated to take care of them. (Of course, because I’ve said that out loud, you can be sure he’ll have a job by the end of the week and I will be here and it will be Lord of the Flies and I’m totally Piggy, y’all. Totally.)

Cons

  • The Saturday after Thanksgiving was straight-time pay. We thought it might be time and a half because of Thanksgiving.
  • The car payment has to be put off. This means my plan for how to pay my bills this month is still in effect, but with one less bill.
  • He only worked 4.5 hours today.
  • He won’t be working tomorrow or Saturday.
  • Next week isn’t looking so great, either.

The Plan

  • He has responded to several Craigslist ads under the “gigs” section.
  • He went back to that painting place that fired him for being sick to see if they needed help. (They might have dumped him, but when he was working there they paid on time and via direct deposit and on the books. Win, win, win. It made sense to go back there first.)
  • Posting things for sale will be ramped up to warp speed.
  • Get in contact with clients that are past due and see if we can get something on the books before the end of the year.

Not paying the car payment was a big deal. We were about $50 short. That’s it. Even though it’s a total bummer that we were so close and yet so far, it also means we don’t have to have a big win to be able to pay that bill. A couple things sold or a client check comes in and we’ll be in the clear for another month. We have multiple active ways we are working to make up the deficit.

We can hope the LIHEAP appointment is a “fourth time’s the charm” situation. I’d cross my fingers but I’m typing and then you wouldn’t be able to read what I wrote because spell-check can only help so much when you’re attacking your keyboard like that cat who played the synthesizer in that 80’s band. Keyboard Cat was in Devo, right?

In super-good news, even though things look sketchy in Excel, I’m managing some seriously good holiday vibes and keeping up with things around the house. I feel like I should be at 100% already, but Mr. Brickie is kind enough to remind me that I was in the hospital from the gallbladder attack and the month before that I was diagnosed with bronchitis and pneumonia. “The thing where you think you should be all better already is all in your head.” He says. (Stupid logical husbands, right?) He says being tired is my body is telling me I need to be careful with myself. I really hate when he’s right, because it means that I can’t just demand myself out of being tired, no matter how much I try.

You know what I’m talking about, right? When you have been sick and you just randomly decide one day after a perceived appropriate amount of being sick time you should be better already so you talk mad smack to and about yourself in your head trying to belittle yourself into getting up and being a rock star? I can’t be the only one. I try not to do it because I’m attempting to be a mature adult, but I still fall into the habit of trying to convince myself I’m just faking it and it’s not really that bad and really I’m just being lazy and it’s time to get up and do something productive right now! 

Mature adult me is drinking tea and recuperating little by little and in the meantime I keep the house more and more clean as time passes.

Random Fact: You can tell how I feel by looking at my house. Right now the floors are staying swept and the counters and dishes are clean. That’s how I know I’m at about 80%. When I’m at 100% there is mopping and organizing.

There has not been mopping and organizing in a while. Lucky for me, the 4 year old loves to use the wet Swiffer on the floor, so it’s still staying pretty decent!

I’m curious, are there any kooky or interesting ways you’ve made money to make up a deficit in your budget? 

How We Are Paying Our Bills This Month

dollar-signSo, as I mentioned in my last post, we have more bills than we have money due to the unexpected insurance payment.

After some discussion, Mr. Brickie and I came to the conclusion that the best way to handle the bills this month was in order of priority. You know, as opposed to order of due date.

The water bill (which is a little over two hundred dollars) is going to have to wait. Waiting means we’ll be taking on a forty dollar late fee. We don’t see a way around it. If we don’t pay the insurance by the last day of the month, we just don’t have insurance in December. There’s no backdating, just a lapse in coverage. We can’t risk that. Far better to pay a late fee on the water bill.

The car payment will also have to wait. We can pay it up to ten days late without a late fee or a ding on our credit. (Stay tuned, soon I’ll be talking about why we don’t give a rat’s about our credit because we are about to destroy it in a big ol’ ball of flames.)

So, the order we are paying bills in is as follows:

  1. Insurance payment ($495)
  2. Water bill ($200-someting)
  3. Car payment ($495)

There’s also an Internet bill in there that’s $68 but I think that pretty much be paid at any time. I’m not paying anything until that Insurance gets paid, however. Just in case something else comes up. I’m not risking the Insurance for anything. I have too many kids that like to jump on things, off of things, from thing to thing…it’s just too risky to not have the coverage.

I have this amazing spreadsheet I created (don’t get too close, I might accidentally hit you while I’m flailing around to pat myself on the back) that tracks Mr. Brickie’s hours so I know how close he is to his next level of apprenticeship (translated: about a $4/hr. raise). About a week ago I decided to add a tab and track how much take home pay Mr. Brickie gets for how many hours he has worked. That way, when he tells me he’s worked 29 hours (like he did last week) I can check the spreadsheet and know – to the motherloving penny – what his check will be come tomorrow. I went through every past paycheck and have a pretty good overall view of what most typical paychecks look like.

More information equals better planning.

According to my plans, I should have enough by the end of this month to pay for the Insurance  and either the water bill or the car payment. The other payment (whichever one it turns out to be) I should be able to cover with the next week of pay.

All I want is to get back to having a thousand dollar emergency fund.

I think I have to rely on my tax return for that. Not a pretty prospect.

That being said, I’m thankful beyond belief I’ll be able to pay all my bills, even if some get paid a little later than others.