Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Ms. Val's Bargain of the Week

As a stay at home mom, I have been volunteering in the boys’ classrooms and school functions since the oldest was in preschool. And I have done it all. I have swept floors, made photocopies, chaperoned field trips, and poured orange soda at classroom parties. I have also sold Otter Pops, decorated classroom bulletin boards with students' artwork, run the snack bar at Field Day, and operated game booths at school carnivals.

Last week, one of the other PTSA moms called and asked if I would be able to help out at picture day. Since I didn’t have school or any other commitments that day, I agreed.

The job they had me doing was collecting payment envelopes, writing the students’ names and photo choices on the outside of a larger, manila envelope, and organizing them by class. I also prepared a group photo form that the teachers needed to fill out. It was very easy work. And as payment, I was given copies of my boys’ class photos for FREE. I was also given a $20 voucher toward the purchase of individual photos.

I didn't expect any compensation when I agreed to work at photo day. But it is a nice little perk.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm due at the school in an hour. Today, I'm working with reading groups in Lucas' class.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Badly Botched Brownie Batch

As suggested by Christopher, I decided to try making a batch of egg-shaped brownies using my Fiesta egg plate. For this, I used Betty Crocker Chocolate Chunk brownie mix. After filling up the egg plate, I had plenty of batter left over to make some in the mini muffin pan.

I checked on the brownies after 5 minutes in the oven. Obviously, I had filled the egg plate resevoirs too high. Big oops! The ones in the muffin pan look pretty good, though.
Since the package directions only give baking time and temperature for regular baking pans, I had to use my best judgement. Well, despite a few fork tests, I left the brownie eggs in too long. Not only that, they were very difficult to dig out of the plate...and that was with the use of non-stick cooking spray.
We ended up eating the brownies. They were...meh. Certainly not the best batch I've ever made. Did I say that? Actually, they were the driest batch I've ever made. The ones in the muffin pan weren't that moist either. Will I try bake egg plate brownies again? Yeah, I think so. In the meantime, I think I'll leave food prep to the professional.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Too Many Balls in the Air.

I'll be back when I get a few projects done and (if) life returns to normal.

Monday, February 19, 2007

For My Brother-In-Law

You're not the only one capable of erroneously draining pools. Even seasoned pool owners--like the one pictured on the left--can forget to replace one of the pipes after removing it for one reason or another.
Here's how the pool looked 5 days ago:

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Ms. Val's Bargain of the Week

This semester, one of the classes I'm taking finishes at 3:00. This means that it's a race for me to be home before Luke gets off the school bus (Kyle attends an after school program on those days). I usually get home first, but not when I have to stop for gas, pick up a gallon of milk, or navigate through road construction. Knowing this, I issued Lucas his own set of house keys.

For a 9-year old, Lucas is quite mature. He'll let himself in the house, fix a batch of microwave popcorn, and watch Cartoon Network for 15 minutes until I get home. For the most part, this arrangement works out alright. But we are talking about a 9 year old child here. Some days, Luke forgets his keys.

This is why we decided to buy a Genie wireless keypad for our garage door. It's a device that you mount on an area near the garage door, and access is gained through a PIN code entered into the keypad. Many of our neighbors have these devices on their homes, and I see their kids using them all the time. It's just something I never thought was necessary until recently.

My first stop on the keypad hunt was the Lowes website. There, they were priced at $37.64, plus tax. OK. If that's what they cost, that's what they cost. I was prepared to go down there and buy one...until Q started nosing around on eBay.

And I'm glad he did. He found an auction for the same item, new in package, with a Buy-it-Now price of $9.99, plus $5 shipping. Now that's more like it!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Wii Are Losing Money!

A few weeks ago, I posted about finally finding a Nintendo Wii for Kyle. If you will recall before Christmas, I wrote about how Kyle had been saving his money for a Wii since before most of the world knew what a Wii was.

The search began when the game console was released in November. Whenever I went to Target for laundry soap, I would do a quick walk-by through the video game aisle. Q stopped by Toys R Us everyday on his lunch hour, based on an employee tip that they received daily stock deliveries between 10:00 and 10:30. Sometimes he would stop by Circuit City on the way home.

All the while, I watched the Wii console listings on eBay. I was repulsed by sellers demanding--and getting--$600+ for a toy that retails for $250.

Well, it seems those days of making a killing on a Wii are all but gone. Just for $h!t$ and giggles, I decided to do a completed auction search for Wii consoles. While they're still commanding above-retail prices, the profit margin has diminished greatly.

As of tonight, most auctions ended in the under $300 to around $350 range. One console sold for $450, but it included additional remotes, games, extended warranty, and a host of other after-market accessories. Another auction ended at $280, plus $25 shipping. Which means that after sales tax (for which I paid $20 in AZ), packing materials, shipping costs, and eBay fees, the seller stands to make only $8 to 12...if he's lucky.

But I'm still not happy. I would like to see someone lose money on a scalped Wii deal. I'll be watching, and when I find such an auction, I'll post it here.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Fluffy Pink What?????

I use a Site Meter to monitor traffic on this blog. One of the features offered by Site Meter is the ability to see the Google searches that have brought people here. For the last few months, I've been compiling a list of these searches. The results range from people seeking DIY advice to someone with a sick kitty. My responses are in parentheses.

Apparently, quite a few people are seeking things that are both fluffy and pink:

--fluffy pink slippers blog
--fluffy pink pen
--pink refrigerators for myspace
--pink shoes fluffy blog
--pink fluffy curtain light
--pink fluffy door curtains
--all things pink fluffy clothes
--pink fluffy balls music
--things that are always pink (flamingos, strawberry ice cream, and my toothbrush)
--pink blog maria (Maria can be found here)

Some stopped by for decorating or home improvement tips:

--wood floor "cinnamon cake", "swiss coffee”
--advice on painting white-washed oak cabinets
(Don’t do it unless you absolutely have to)
--painting diamonds how to bedroom
(I was inspired by an idea card at Home Depot)
--mission style bannister stairway
--redo a downstairs bathroom
(Can't be any different than redoing the upstairs bathroom)
--how to redecorate a pink bathroom
(Paint it a different color)
--shabby chic bathroom makeover
--pink bathroom redecorate
--designing a chocolate and pink master bedrooms
(inspiration can be found at your neighborhood Baskin Robbins)
--decorating with whitewashed oak woodwork (Light colors work best)
--black and pink bedroom redos
--master strip paint remover mc bride co
--purple veil paint

A few had some health-related queries:

--hypercalcemia cartoon
--would a shot of cortisone bring down calcium levels
--tell-tale signs of cushing's
--recovery from cushings

Others had me scratching my head:

--wet tush
--scrub loofa bath no soap sweat armpit
--eval kineval games
--luke wadding carols
--siamese cat sick vomit dehydrate high calcium
--navajo thigh spindles
--quinton pinks
--burberry knockoff pink checked pajamas (Why look for knockoffs? If it's not authentic, it's crap!)
--tweety myspace brighton 26
--pitchers of fluffy kittens (Are we planning on drinking them?)

And the rest: (What do you need a link for? Just type the damn thing in!)
--wii shipment (I no longer care)
--wii toysrus shipping
(see above)
--carlos desperate housewives
--betty crocker catalogue liquidations
--munsters house desperate housewives
--clingfree sheets
--swimsuits optional
--mtv cribs foreclosed
--"jump start" battery "fluttering sound"
--most expensive faucet (You won't find it in my house!)
--how to download fonts
--picture of water deep-well in the Philippines (Menchie, Irene, Maria, or Ces might be able to help)
--tequila "leave shyness behind" mp3
--rainbow chiffon blouse anthropologie
--why did betty crocker catalog close
(Let me know when you find out)
--pecan mudslide treat dq image
--harlequin dinner plate dillard's
--oxiclean detergent balls leftover
--redos of kiss songs

How is four half of five?

The "i" and the "v" from five make up the Roman numeral four.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Thursday 13

1. There are 6 items that I must keep in every room of the house: nail clippers, nail file, scissors, Chapstick, a box of Kleenex, and a trash can.

2. I have a bad habit if buying candles and never using them. They're just too pretty...until they become coated in dust.

3. I like wearing big, baggy jeans, and I don't care if they make my butt look big.

4. My boys really enjoy riding the bus to school. And I have no clue why. When I was a kid, I hated it. It was hot, loud, crowded, and mine was always one of the last stops.

5. If it's not Siamese, it's just a cat.

6. Lately, our mailbox had stuffed with more coupon-filled envelopes and circulars. Now, I love saving money as much as the next guy, but there comes a point where all the mail order catalogs, grocery store sale ads, "special offer" flyers, and coupon cards become mere litter, strewn about the kitchen table, countertop, and the front hall console. Yes, I know it's junk mail and should be dealt with accordingly, but the coupons are a great way to learn about new restaurants and shops that have opened up in my neighborhood.

7. Today, I asked Q what he'd like to do for Valentine's Day. His response: "What are my choices?"

8. Since V-Day falls on a Wednesday, we'll probably stay home, and order pizza or Chinese take-out. I can live with that just as long as we can watch something other than TV poker or King of Queens reruns.

9. I have a fanatical interest in anything to do with real estate. There are several houses for sale in the neighborhood, and I have them all on a watch list at

10. If we were to move tomorrow, this is the house I would like to buy.

11. I'm thinking about growing my hair longer. While I still like my current hairstyle (it's very low maintenance), I've worn it this way for over five years. That just seems wrong, somehow.

12. Kyle found this poser in his math book: How is four one-half of five? I'll post the answer tomorrow.

13. Last night, I lost my husband and son to Lost. Tonight, they will lose me to Survivor.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Noises Everywhere

Noises bother me. Not normal, everyday noises. I have a son who plays drums for no less than one hour every day. Headaches notwithstanding, I can handle that. Thunderstorms don't bother me, either. Neither do diesel trucks, lawn mowers, or the sound of Steve Winwood's singing. Just kidding. Steve Winwood does bother me.

No. It's those little, abnormal noises that I find disturbing. The ones that--aside from being annoying--tell me something could be wrong. It's the questionable little bumps, clicks, buzzes, and hums that drive me to the brink of a psychotic rage. And when I lose it, pretty much everyone around me does too. Except for the boys. They think it's funny.

Most of these offensive sounds occur in the car. When slowing down or making right turns, I was noticing a dull thud coming from the back of the car. Is there something wrong with the exhaust system? Did I kick some road trash up into the undercarriage? Nope! It was just Kyle's basketball rolling around in the trunk. No worries--this time.

There are always the annoying little rattles that come from around the dash. Today, I drove myself crazy trying to find the source of a particularly grating, plasticky rattle. I checked the console, glove box, and all the map pockets. No loose items--just a bunch of gas receipts, napkins, and windshield flyers. It turned out that the plastic housing that sits above the windshield had come loose. It will get fixed this weekend.

This exact thing happened when one of the boys' friends dropped a Mighty Bean in the roof well of the Mustang. I drove around for months asking myself "what the #&*@ is that?" I knew there was a loose item floating around the car somewhere. I eventually found it, but it took Luke's tiny little arm to reach down there and fish it out.

None of this stuff bothers Quinton. This is one of the MANY reasons why I refer to him as Prozac Man. He routinely drops his loose change in the cup holder and drives around, blissfully unaware of the jiggling and rattling. In fact, he used to own a car on which the air vent always shook and shimmied with the movement of the car. It never bothered him, but it annoyed me to the point where I wedged a piece of cardboard into the edge of the vent. Cheesey as it looked, it worked. I might end up doing something similar with that pesky windshield housing.

And I have apparently passed this rampant distaste for mystery noises on to my first child. One night, Kyle complained that he couldn't sleep because "there's a noise downstairs". That "noise" turned out to be the humming motor of
Jango's water fountain...that she never uses.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Ms. Val's Bargain of the Week

This week's bargain is an item I bought last year--the Fiesta egg plate. I refer to this as one of my "pity purchases" because I bought it during Quinton's lenghty hospitalization. During this time, I often used online shopping as a way to quelch my nighttime loneliness. It was either that or binge on Baskin Robbins chocolate and peanut butter ice cream. And I decided that I'd rather be broke than fat.

Anyway, I bought the plate during the early days of the Betty Crocker catalog's going-out-of-business sale. The price of the egg plate had gone down to $14.99 (regular retail was around $40). At that price, color choices were diminishing fast.

I decided on the Seamist color for several reasons. For starters, I felt it would complement the yellow, white, and paprika red in deviled eggs. It would also look nice on an Easter table. Also, at that point, the only things I had in Seamist--which had just become retired--were a 4-piece place setting and an individual creamer.

Besides, the egg plates were already sold out in Cobalt.

Today was the first time the egg plate got used. Q--always looking for reasons to make a special meal or treat--made deviled eggs for our Super Bowl snack. They'll probably be gone by halftime.

Friday, February 02, 2007

For Menchie...

...who very astutely theorized that Jango is "big":

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Thursday 13

1. I have been on a bit of a laundry kick lately. I've been washing clothes everyday whether I need to or not. I simply can't stand have a half-full basket of dirty clothes sitting in the hall.

2. I do not like wearing a jacket in the car. I don't care how cold it is, either. I'd rather blast the heater and fry out my occupants than wear a jacket.

3. Kyle made up a nickname for Jango: Puppy-Cat. Apparently, my son seems to think our cat acts like a dog. True, she does love to play fetch, talk, and she's fiercely loyal. If she was 15 pounds lighter, I'd probably carry her around in my purse. :-)~

4. Lucas told me that I make the best dinners: tuna casserole...chili...and burritos (fresh tortillas and beans made from scratch).

5. It was a banner day around here when I found Kyle his Wii. Q had been the one going to Toys R Us everyday on his lunch hour. He even had Kyle's birthday cash in his wallet at the time. Oh well. I'll use the "Wii money" for groceries.

6. Kyle's been spending all his free time playing Wii Sports. The game menu has a little chime in it that sounds just like our doorbell. I really need to learn the difference between the two sounds before I drive myself crazy answering a door with nobody there.

7. We've had a few days of rain this week. And I was personally able to guarantee it would happen. On Tuesday, I wore my favorite shoes, I carried a suede purse, and I wore an outfit that didn't match my umbrella.

8. Q's favorite show is 24. I can't watch it. That show is not fluffy enough for my liking. I prefer a mindless, campy soap opera where women slap down the harlots who are pursuing their husbands, drinks get thrown into faces, and the antagonist routinely get pushed into the pool fully clothed.

9. I must admit: my feelings get a little bit hurt when Jango sleeps on Q's side of the bed instead of mine.

10. I'm in the process of redecorating the living room. For the last few weeks, it's been sitting half done. I hate that.

11. There's no such thing as too much love, too much chocolate, or too many dishes.

12. Yesterday, I encountered a couple of guys trying to sell magazine subscriptions to people in a strip mall parking lot. I promptly report them to the store manager. I've done this many times before, and I'm sure I'll do it again. Aside from the fact that one of these guys once approached me while I was sitting in my car--frightening the $#!% out of me--I once got burned on one of their little magazine deals.

13. I am very picky about the way the dishwasher is loaded. Whenever Q does this chore, I usually come along behind him and correct his work. I do appreciate his efforts, however.