Friday, October 31, 2008

Treat Night

My favorite part of Halloween, other than when it's over, is when the kids all leave with Robert to go trick or treating and I stay home to hand out candy. That's what I'm doing right now and so far it's a very slow night. That gives me the perfect opportunity to blog a bit.

We bought Ethan's costume today, last minute, at Party City. He really wanted Bleeding Face Zombie or Blood Splattered Zombie Doctor, or Recently Unearthed Skeletal Remains Zombie, but I insisted on a costume that wasn't bloody and didn't have a gory mask covering his whole face. I think the Ninja costume was a nice compromise. Ethan feels a little dangerous and scary, and he's not pretending to have an open chest wound.

It's 17 minutes into Trick or Treating 2008 and Ethan has returned home to dump his full bag of candy to make room for more.

Jonah returned to say it was hard to see through his costume, took it off, and tried to go back out dressed in his regular clothes.

I'm currently holding back the Smarties until the last possible minutes of the night. Maybe I'll turn the porch lights off with a few Smarties left for me. Next year I'm buying only bad candy that I won't be tempted to Dum Dum lollipops.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

It Made a Big Mess

Hey! Look at my attempt at a festive Halloween display. Whatever you do, don't compare it to this one, or this one, and most definitely not this one.

I probably would not have let my kids attempt these haunted candy houses were it not for my creative neighbor I-Shüan and her great ideas. In fact, the title of this post came from my kids who asked me to take pictures of their haunted houses for my blog and told me to make sure I mentioned that "it made a big mess."


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Death by Smarties

The number one rule for buying Halloween candy is this: Do not buy candy you like to eat.

By following this rule, a 5 pound bag of candy becomes much, much less tempting and the chance of gorging oneself, almost non-existent.

This year I broke the number one rule for buying Halloween candy. Maybe my title "Death by Smarties" is a little bit of an exaggeration, but "Sugar-Induced Headache by Smarties" just isn't very catchy.

Monday, October 27, 2008

I Love Fall

I finally put a camera in my car so I could stop and snap a few pictures as I drove around town. The fall colors are stunning. And I'm not using the word "stunning" lightly. I literally am stunned while driving and have to quickly snap out of it and veer back into my lane to avoid going off the road, or worse.
I'm so lucky to live on the edge of the urban growth boundary, and minutes away from beautiful winding roads and incredible scenery. My little camera does not do justice to the beauty.
And in this picture, you can see that Arbor Custom Homes is having some kind of event that requires balloons. Beyond that, the evergreen hills, dotted with yellow and orange just take my breath away.

I drove down Thompson road to see some stunning orange trees with trunks so dark brown the seemed almost black. (These were the trees that almost sent me off the road on Saturday.) Unfortunately, our wind storm last night blew off most of the leaves and they were too branchy to be pretty any more.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Build a Better Mac and Cheese

I can't stand looking at my blog with that spider picture staring me in the face, so I thought I'd share the best mac and cheese recipe I've tried. Ever. Five different cheeses melted slowly in a double boiler make this macaroni and cheese great, but the six slices of thick cut bacon make it amazing.

I got the recipe from I-Shüan and she got it from a magazine. I believe I could eat this macaroni and cheese every day for a week for lunch AND dinner and be perfectly happy.

? Bring it!

Ann's Macaroni and Cheese (with bacon, of course)
Serves 8

10 ounces, sharp cheddar cheese, grated
4 ounces Monterrey Jack, grated
4 ounces Velveeta, cubed
4 ounces cream cheese
1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
1 tsp Dijon mustard
6 slices thick cut bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
salt and pepper to taste
12 ounces elbow macaroni, cooked and drained
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
2 ounces Parmesan, grated

Heat oven to 350. Put cheeses (except Parmesan) in the top of a double boiler and melt over simmering water, stirring frequently. Gradually add evaporated milk, whisking until completely smooth. Whisk in mustard, bacon, salt and pepper. Pour into a 9 x 9 inch baking dish, add macaroni, and toss to coat.

(I actually mixed the macaroni and cheese in the pot I'd cooked the macaroni in. I drained the macaroni and returned it to the pan, then added my cheese sauce. I would NOT have had room to mix it in the 9 x 9.)

In a small bowl combine bread crumbs and Parmesan; sprinkle over the top. Bake until crumbs are browned and cheese is bubbling, 25 to 30 minutes.

Disclaimer #1: The photo above is a random mac and cheese photo from google images. I didn't happen to take a picture of the mac and cheese I made because we all dug into it so fast and now it's gone. But the picture is actually a pretty close representation.

Disclaimer #2: If you are too good to use Velveeta, just ignore this recipe. I'm sure you would have hated it anyway.

Disclaimer #3: This macaroni and cheese is not part of any weight loss plan. Translation: It's awesome!

Identify That Arachnid!

Warning: The following picture is super disgusting and gross. Unless you like fat spiders with hairy legs. What? You don't see the hairy legs. Just double click on the picture, but don't say I didn't warn you. (Super disgusting and gross!)

I was standing in the kitchen and saw this thing creeping across the patio today. It was struggling to haul it's giant BE-hind and kinda slow. Robert was able to catch it in one of my good canning jars (and I had to use a good lid too, which will have to be burned after this) so the neighborhood boys could gawk at it.

Unless this is a magic spider that grants wishes and eats moles and gophers in one bite, my guess is that this spider will be in "spider heaven" before the day is out. Sorry if that offends any animal lovers out there.

I'm pretty sure this is a regular "garden spider" and that it looks different because it's bottom is about ready to blow. Must be egg laying season.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Pushing Uncrustables

Several years ago I signed up at to receive products to test and share. The idea is to create a buzz and share information by word of mouth. All of this sharing is done above board. I tell people I get items to try and that I'm supposed to tell people about products I love--it's all on the up and up.

I won't try to impress you with some of the fun products I've been able to try but I will tell you my current "Bzz Product" is Smucker's Uncrustable peanut butter and jam sandwiches.

I have no problem feeding my kids peanut butter sandwiches I buy from the grocery's freezer section, other than the price. A four-pack usually goes for over $3. When I consider the price per sandwich, and that I could make the same sandwich for pennies (I have a Pampered Chef Cut-n-Seal) Smucker's Uncrustables fall into the luxury category.

Every once in a while, if I see a sale, I will pick up a box or two and enjoy a couple days of easy school lunches. Other than that, I make my own PB&J.

When I joined the Smucker's Uncrsutables Bzz Campaign, I received a book of coupons. One was for a free box of Uncrustables (for me) and the rest were 75 cents-off coupons. Believe me, I wanted to use every single one of those coupons myself, but realized that as Bzz agent, part of my job is to "share," so I formulated my plan.

Yesterday morning I saw my kids off at the bus stop, then asked the other moms if they'd like to try Smucker's Uncrustables with a 75 cents-off coupon. Fred Meyer currently has Uncrustables selling at $2.50 a box, which would make one box of Uncrustables $1.75. That's a pretty darn good deal.


You would have thought I was pushing crack with some of the responses I got. Several moms shook their heads and walked away quickly. One said she didn't let her kids have high fructose corn syrup. Another said she didn't let her kids eat white bread. I explained that Smuckers has a Peanut Butter and HONEY sandwich on brown bread, but she didn't seem impressed.

Several moms did actually take coupons, but I think they thought I was weird.

I felt like I needed to explain. I grind my own wheat and can home made applesauce! I feed my kids fresh fruit and vegetables at every meal (except pizza night) and we don't drink any juice with high fructose corn syrup. It's just nice to have a little convenience item that makes my life a tiny bit easier every once in a while. Is that so wrong?

I took my remaining coupons to Fred Meyer and bought 4 boxes of Uncrustables. Maybe the other mom's kids have healthier lunches, but I bet those kids totally covet my kid's lunches.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Awesome and Not so Much

Awesome - Have you seen the price of gas? Regular costs $2.74 at Fred Meyer today, plus I get an extra 15 cents off that with my Fred Meyer MasterCard.

Not So Much - So much knocking and pinging in the engine, I think I'm going to have to start paying for premium.

Awesome - The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Not So Much - Book 1 in a trilogy. Book 2 due out...who knows when! Serious issues left unresolved.

Awesome - Cleaning the house when no kids are home.

No So Much - Finding "berries" from fake Cap'n Crunch cereal all over the house by stepping on them. Now I know why it's called Cap'n CRUNCH.

Awesome - The Smithereens

Not So Much - One of my Smithereens CD's has a $7.95 price tag on it. (When I was a kid, CD's only cost $7.95 and there was an actual key on the keyboard for "cents.") I'm pretty sure I bought it used though.

Awesome - Fall Festival fun at school this Friday. OK, who am I kidding. It's going to be over crowded and not fun with cheap prizes and expensive food that the kids will beg for. What's the Halloween equivalent of a "grinch?" That's me.

Not So Much - I forgot to order the $5 game bracelets by yesterday's deadline and now I'll have to pay $8 each at the Fall Festival. And wait in line.

Awesome - Bird seed in teacup bird feeder no longer under water.

Not So Much - No birds have come to my teacup bird feeder yet.

Awesome - This article on the Implausibility of the Death Star's Trash Compactor.

Not So Much - The time I wasted reading the article, twice, when I should have been vacuuming up fake Cap'n Crunch berries from the carpet.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tooth Tunes to the Rescue

I may have been able to predict that when I brought home the $10 Tooth Tunes toothbrush with Smashmouth's "All Star" that Ethan would be happy. I could have guessed that there was a chance Ethan would want to take the toothbrush with him to school and brush after lunch, but I never would have thought I would catch him at 7am, in the bathroom, rocking out in front of the mirror while brushing his teeth.

Ethan lucked out at the dentist's office yesterday because while his teeth were covered in plaque, he didn't have a single cavity! The look in hygienist's eyes, however, when she handed me several handfuls of packets of those little pink tablets told me that Ethan seriously needed to improve his teeth brushing habits.

I considered several different ways I could make the teeth brushing experience more enticing and finally settled on Tooth Tunes. I was lucky that "All Star" was one of the Tooth Tunes options because I'm certain I would not have had the same positive response from Ethan if I'd purchased the High School Musical toothbrush or the "Hakuna Matata" toothbrush.

Ethan's renewed interest teeth brushing will most likely last 2 weeks, just like every other "life changing" program or thing I've tried. But two weeks of intense brushing is better than whatever he's been doing up to this point.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Tea Cups

Remember my Goodwill teacups from a few weeks back? Here is what they turned into.
In case you can't tell, this is a teacup bird feeder. I made one for me, and one for each of Robert's sisters for their birthdays.

Good friend Debbie pointed out that this might not be the best bird feeder for Oregon winters, what with the rain and all. Yes, I suppose most bird feeders around here do have a roof. In fact my teacup bird feeder is currently turning into a bird bath as we speak!

But it's so cute! And, it's right outside my kitchen window so I'm hoping to spot some beautiful birds soon.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Some Books

It's time for a post about books. Here's what I have for you today:

You can read "Something Rotten"by Alan Gratz for free until November 30th here. I've read this modern day retelling of Hamlet and thoroughly enjoyed it. Perfect for the Shakespeare-shy or Shakespeare-superfan.

The National Book Award Finalists have been announced and you can find which young adult books have the honor this year at Bookshelves of Doom. If you want to know which adult fiction and non-fiction books are in the running, you can find out here.

Out of the YA books, 3 are not even available yet (grrr) but will be in bookstores and hopefully libraries within the next 30 days. I enjoyed reading "The Underneath" which turned out to be quite a beautiful story after some dark and emotional chapters. (Probably wouldn't read it to my kids though) "The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks" was just fun and fired up my righteous indignation.

Here are the titles of the stack of books waiting to be read. I will have to read them in the order they are due back at the library or in the order I can renew them.

The Cabinet of Wonders: The Kronos Chronicles Book 1, by Marie Rutkoski

The Missing Girl, by Norma Fox Mazer (honestly this book creeps me out a little and I might not read it.)

A Thousand Never Evers, by Shana Burg

Paper Towns, by John Green

A Curse as Dark as Gold, by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Daughter of the Forest, by Juliet Marillier

Dragon Heir, by Cinda Chima Wiliams (yay! I finally got it!)

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins (been waiting for this one forever!)

The Possibilities of Sainthood, by Donna Freitas

My One Hundred Adventures, by Polly Horvath

We Are the Ship: The Story of the Negro Baseball League, by Nelson Kadir

Borrower of the Night: The first Vicky Bliss Mystery, by Elizabeth Peters

So, that should keep me busy for a while. All are young adult and juvenile fiction, except for "We are the Ship" which is juvenile non-fiction and Borrower of the Night, which is adult fiction. I'll let you know how it all goes when I'm done...maybe.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Seaside Revisited

Here, in no particular order, are some more pictures from our Super Sweet Sister's Seaside Weekend. I bet you didn't realize the huge risk we took by putting ourselves in a tsunami zone. Just one of the small sacrifices we moms make to ensure that family scrapbooks are up to date and so darling.

This is a plate of sushi we enjoyed at Tora Sushi Lounge at the corner of Holiday and Broadway. I thought it was as fancy as anything I've ever seen and tasty to boot. Angela said this presentation was quite plain compared to the super fancy sushi she's had. (Well la-tee-da!) I loved it all, but eel is probably not something I will chew on again.

Thank you to the indulgent Tora Sushi Lounge server who snapped our picture, but evidently she does not know about the "zoom" feature. (That's us, I promise!)

This is the selection of taffy at The Buzz on Broadway. You get to sample a free piece each time you come in, and we came in a lot. (Oh, that reminds me...I still have some fudge left!) While it's nice to have a giant selection of taffy, I have to admit, most if it tastes the exactly the same.

And check out this lovely lady. I couldn't resist snapping a picture of the mosaic mannequin with the plastic shopping bag skirt in one of the boutiques we browsed in. So trendy, but plastic skirts will probably be out of style by spring (sad).

These bird houses were perched on the side of highway 26, probably about 20 miles from highway 101. There was a lock box for money if you wanted to take one. I think they were $15 each. (Does anyone remember?) So cute, so rustic, but those tin roofs will slice your finger right open if you are not careful. We did not buy one on this trip. Maybe next time.

And finally, the enduring symbol of Seaside: The broken sand dollar. Because who ever found a whole sand dollar on the beach at Seaside? OK, I found one once, but I had to look a long time and then I think it broke right after I got it home and made a big mess in the house. So, my advice: take a picture--it'll last longer.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


I had to give myself a little pat on the back today. I remembered! I remembered someone's birthday! I know, this is so unlike me.

The anomaly of me sending a well-timed birthday card is an array of tiny miracles all piled up on each other, the first of which is that I actually had a card to begin with.

I had a card and I set it out several days ago so as not to forget the special day. Then, today--two days before the special event--I actually filled out the card. Filled with genuine, sincere, well-thought-out sentiments it was.

Having and filling out a birthday card is a good start, but the real test was to see if I could get the card into the mail box on the appropriate day, before the mail lady came for pick up. I'll be the first to admit my astonishment that I actually did this.

I was pretty proud of myself. No one was more deserving of birthday greetings than my intended recipient. (Well OK, there are plenty of deserving people, but is the most deserving person that was born on October 16, that I know personally.)

You can imagine my surprise and utter disappointment, then, when I went to pick up my delivered mail today and found, in my box, the very birthday card I'd so lovingly sent.

What the...?

Did I not address it correctly? I know it's been a while since I sent a card, but I didn't think I'd forgotten how to address a card.

No, the address was correct. The problem was this...

At least our mail lady was kind enough to leave that encouraging little smiley face. Or is that a laughing face?

Anyway, this just goes to show that pride does indeed go before the fall. And if you are reading this and recognize yourself as the potential recipient of a birthday card, it should be there a day or two late.

That is if I can remember to stamp it and put it in the mail box before 11 am tomorrow. Otherwise you might want to give me a few more days.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Super Sweet Sisters Seaside Weekend


I don't want to get braggy and make you feel bad about your weekend, but our Sister's Beach Weekend was, in a word, totally awesome. (OK, two words...whatever.) I had such a great time, I hardly know how to begin explaining the greatness of the whole thing.

One thing I learned this weekend was that for some people who don't have time to read long things, my blog can sometimes be a bit tedious. So I'm going to break this fabulous weekend down into an easy to digest list, like they have in Women's Day or Reader's Digest. (This one's for you, Angela!)

Ten Great Things About Going to the Beach With Your Sisters and Sister-in-Law

1. Clear blue skies and sun, sun, SUN!

2. 37 flavors of fudge.

3. 97 completed scrapbook pages, 1 knitted scarf and dozens of crystal baby bracelets.

4. Jim Gaffigan on the iPod. (Hot Pockets!)

5. Sleeping in, or not.

6. Going in those cute little stores with the all the cute things that your kids would surely break if they were in there with you.

7. No kids! (love you kids.)

8. Sushi for dinner

9. Tips on how to get free things from Walgreens....and...
10. Funky slash cute matching bracelets. Bah!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Good Question

Today after school, Jonah asked, "Mom, why do people seethe?"

I figured I could not have possibly heard him correctly. Since when do first graders have a vocabulary that includes the word "seethe?" Could he have meant something else?

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"You know," he said, "when people are so mad that they are madder than mad and their face turns all red."

I guess first graders do have a vocabulary that includes the word "seethe." At least my first grader does.

Jeff Kinney, You're a Genius!

First Jeff Kinney gets 8 to 10 year old boys to read with his hilarious "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" books. Now he's getting them to write with "Diary of a Wimpy Kid Do-It-Yourself Book."

Kinney's latest offering features Wimpy Kid Greg Heffley, who inspires kids to keep their very own "not diary" by giving writing prompts and plenty of "fill-in-the-blanks." There are even partially completed comic strips where kids can either enter the dialogue or pictures or both. Sweet!

The first half of the book is filled with prompts and ideas while the last half of the book contains blank lined pages for more detailed, original entries. The middle of the book has several pages of, hilarious color comic strips.

I found this book at Costco for under $7 and it worked as a nice incentive for Ethan to finish his homework early yesterday. I could hear Ethan in his room laughing until after 10pm and I had to tell him several times to quit reading and writing and go to sleep. He set his alarm for 6:30 and got up to read and write some more, until it was time to go to the bus.

So, I have to ask: Jeff Kinney, what's next? Ending world hunger? Finding Osama bin Laden? Making a better tasting Brussels sprout?

What ever it is Jeff does next, I can't wait.

Next Wimpy Kid book comes out January 13, 2009.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Are You Opposed to Long Term Wealth?

A morning phone call...

Me: Hello? Hello? (no response on the other end and I start to hang up.)

Telemarketer: (a split second before I hang up...) Afton?

Me: (bringing the phone back to my ear) Yes?

Telemarketer: I'm calling about an application you filled out on line about making income from home.

Me: Oh, actually, I never filled out an application. A while back there must have been a computer virus or something that...

Telemarketer: (cutting me off) Let me just ask you this question. Are you opposed to long term wealth?

Me: Yes, actually, I am. Thanks for calling and have a nice day! (click.)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Coat Conundrum

Remember the amazing Columbia coat deal I found at Goodwill last week? Evidently it was a waste of money. When I offered to get Ethan a coat to wear before he went to stand in the rain at the bus stop, he announced he would not be wearing a coat all year long. (This is his goal.)

Then he produced a book and demonstrated how he planned to use it to keep the rain off his head.

OK, moving on to boy #2.

I pulled Jonah's rain coat out of the closet and helped him to put it on. Jonah complained that it was too small. The coat is 3 years old and I suppose it's about time to pass it on to Isaac--if it's not already too small for him too.

I went back to the closet and found a perfectly respectable hand-me-down raincoat and put it on Jonah. This time the coat was too "orange."

Next! I pulled a coat from Ethan's closet that was clearly too big for Jonah, but it was a nice neutral color and Jonah was satisfied once I rolled the sleeves up.

So now it seems I will need to purchase a coat for Jonah and the one I bought for Ethan is obsolete. It's safe to say I'm coming down from my "Goodwill High."

Friday, October 3, 2008

A Treasure Hunt

I'm a little hesitant to post TWICE in one day. I feel I have a responsibility not to overwhelm you all with the many amazing things I have to say.

But, I'm breaking my rule because I had so much fun at Goodwill today. I was only there for a short time because Isaac was with me and while he is an excellent shopping buddy, I didn't want to push my luck and wear him out. Also, I didn't use a cart and so I couldn't carry a whole lot of stuff.

I went in to Goodwill just for some porcelain teacups and saucers. I'm doing a project! (More on that later...) On my way to "Dishware" I passed "Children's Coats." A great looking Columbia jacket caught my attention. It was in really, REALLY good shape and it was Columbia! For $13! I grabbed it even though the size was 14-16. Ethan can grow into it.

Next to the teacups. A nice little selection and I found exactly what I wanted. Mission accomplished...or was it?

I couldn't leave Goodwill with out browsing the books. (Well, that and paying for my stuff.) I used to peruse only the grown up books, but last time discovered many great offerings in the kids book section. I found "Crispin" by Avi (a Newbery Medal Book) and also by Avi, "The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle," a Newbery Honor book.

I wasn't sure about the Charlotte Doyle book because you know what they say about boys reading books about girls. I thought it sounded interesting enough and maybe I could sneak-read it to the kids and get them hooked before they realize that a girl is the main character.

Buying awesome $13 coats and Newbery books for $2 and $3 makes me really happy. Projects with teacups make me happy too...but more on that later.


I'm getting ready to go for a 3 day scrap booking retreat to the Oregon Coast with my sister-in-law ans sisters. Yay! It's going to be so much fun and I hope to get a lot completed on the kid's albums.

In preparation, I've sorted through 9 months of photos to select around 60 pictures that I will scrapbook. (Some of these will be ordered in multiple...)

Now is the part where I upload all the photos to Costco's website and order them to pick up at my local Costco. (Come on Costco, don't fail me now!) Unfortunately, Costco's website is either super busy or just messing with me. It has been "loading photo uploader" for 5 minutes. I even logged out and logged back in and I'm still waiting forever

Gotta order these pictures Costco!

I guess I'll try back later in the afternoon.