Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What I am Going to be Reading Wednesdays

Even though I don't think we had near enough summer fun, school started on Monday.  My kid's have more activities during the fall, than any other time of year. It is crazy, but  I have tons of time to read at all their lessons and practices.  

Here's what I have stacked up ready to read:

Silver Star by Jeanette Walls-I love her book Glass Castle and would frankly read the phone book if someone told me she wrote it. Her first 2 books, were autobiographical and I can't wait to see what she can do with fiction. 

The Devil You Know and Vicious Circle by Mike Carey- It is about a free-lance exorcist and Jen declared it "unrealistic but entertaining".  I'm in.  

Ireland by Frank Delany-I think it's about Ireland. My friend Kammy declared herself "obsessed" and it has been so very long since I read a book that I loved, and I really hope I love this one. I wonder if the audio-book is read in an Irish accent?  That would be fabulous.

Fault in Our Stars by John Green-This is my bookclub book. I read it several months ago, but strangely never blogged about it.  Kammy's review here.  It is about 2 kids fighting cancer while falling in love.  Unless you want to look a little mentally unstable, I wouldn't read it in public. 
It is guaranteed to make you laugh, think, and cry.

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers- After watching the trailer of Saving Mr. Banks, I picked it for my book for book club. How good does this movie look?

I also checked out Mary Poppins, She Wrote : The Life of P.L. Travers by Valerie Lawson to do a fact checking (yes I am a big nerd).

And the Mountains Echoes by Khaled Hosseini
 (the guy that wrote Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns).  Honestly, I am not really sure what it's about-probably Afghanistan. After writing 2 such amazing books, I'm hope I won't be disappointed in the third.

Have you read any of these books?  What's on your to read list?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Lentil Chili

So apparently I will do anything my friends will do. We did a cleanse for 10 days this summer.  The rules were that we could eat as many fruits and vegetables as we wanted, as long as we ate twice as many veggies.  We couldn't eat any sugar, meat or dairy, and could only eat one serving of either brown rice or lentils a day.  

I wasn't really hungry, but it did take all the fun out of eating and made me hate raw vegetables.

I combined a few recipes  (mostly this one here)to make some pretty tasty lentil chili and it was the highlight of an otherwise bland 10 days. Here's the recipe:

2 tsp. olive oil 
1 medium onion, chopped in small pieces 
1 bag frozen peppers/onions (fajita blend)
2 tsp. finely minced garlic
 2 T Chili Powder 
1 T ground cumin 
1 tsp. dried oregano 
 1/8 tsp. cayenne
 1 1/4 cup dried red lentils  
( 14 oz. can) vegetable broth + 2 can water 
 tomato paste-small can

Saute onions, peppers, and garlic in olive oil. Add everything but tomato paste.  Cover and let simmer until lentils are soft (about an hour).  You may need to add more water.  Add tomato paste and let simmer 15 more minutes. 

Top w/ Greek yogurt and enjoy.  My family was skeptical  but they liked it-even my husband.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What I'm Reading Wednesdays: 10 Miles Past Normal

I saw this on a list of top Young Adult Literature, so thought I'd give it a read. 

After an elementary field trip to a farm, Janie pleaded with her parents to buy a farm.  Unfortunately, they did and now several years later she, would love to move back to her house in town. Her attempts to be a normal high school freshmen, are thwarted by going to school smelling like goats and by her mom's documenting their adventures in farming on her blog.  

It was a quick read with quirky relatable characters.  It's even fairly clean.  I'd give it a 4/5 stars. 

Here's some quotes: 

  • I kept looking at him sideways as we made our way down the hall, wondering why some people could totally be themselves and still be accepted by everyone, while other people—people who did everything in the world to fit in—were shunned like the runts of the litter.

  • I’ve realized that when you move beyond normal, the road you’re on doesn’t necessarily take you to the land of the abnormal or the weird or the freakish.

Recently divorced Kate, moves into her childhood summer home, "The Nutshell".  Needing money for renovations, she agrees to spy for a local owner of a brewery  to help him discover who is sabotaging his business.  Amidst many misadventures, they fall for each other.  
Standard Janet Evanovich.Predictable and entertaining. 3/5 stars.

I give up on this one-at least for now.  It was my book club book, and I just couldn't read past page 62.  Rumor has it that it gets better. 
 I read "Chasing Lincoln's Killer" by James L. Swanson and few years ago and found that a much better book on the subject. 

What have you been reading?

Monday, August 19, 2013

My Kid's Allowance System

I have probably used about 85 different sets of job charts and allowance systems during my stint as a mom. Most of them don't work for me, because I am lazy and inconsistent and they end up being more work for me than the kids. I think I have finally developed a system that works well for the inconsistent lazy type of mom that I am.

Here's my "Mommy Command Station".  I thought about staging it for the pic, but it an effort to keep things real, this is what it currently looks like.

Hanging on the wall, is an allowance jar for each kid.  At the beginning of the month, I put $30 into each jar.  We've tried different amounts and putting it weekly instead of monthly, but this works the best for us.
These are the kid's jobs.  Pretty basic.  Mostly they just need to practice good personal hygiene habits and pick up all their junk. Any day that they go to school without doing a job, they lose $1.

 On Saturdays, they each have some additional chores that take them about 30 minutes (although if you ask them they would tell you that I make them work all day).  I divided up these jobs into zones: upstairs, downstairs, and bathrooms and listed very detailed instructions for each zone. I put each list in a page protector, so they can check off each job with a dry-erase marker when completed.  They rotate jobs each week.  If they fail to complete these jobs, I will take $3 from their jar.  

If they complete an extra job like mowing the lawn.  I write the date the work was completed and the amount I owe them and stick it in the jar. 

At the end of the month, we settle up.

They pay 10% to the Lord, 50% to savings, and 40% for spending.

What works for you?

Friday, August 16, 2013

School's Clothes Budget????

School starts around here and I am woefully unprepared.  I haven't not purchased a single school supply or back-pack.  My kid's also need some school clothes and I thought I would seek out some advice from my fellow moms about budget.  First let me tell you about my 3 kids:

Daughter- 15 year old: hasn't grown in years and has a closet full of clothes, but some of them are from 6th grade and new clothes are fun.  Between lifeguarding and babysitting she has a lot of spending money which she spends mostly on clothes.  I still buy her stuff now and again, and told her I would buy her 2 new shirts for school and a pair of running shoes.  I also pay for her swim team uniform. She thought that was fair. I also usually buy the fabric when I sew for her.

Son-12 years old: has grown about 6 inches and gained 40 pounds in the past year.  He needs pretty much everything. He doesn't care about clothes and was perfectly satisfied with the $10 Old Navy jeans and $5 I bought him at the outlet mall. What the kid does care about is shoes.  He is obsessed and can spend hours looking at them online. (I don't get it).  Because of him, we instituted the $100/year per kid on shoes rule.  Since he never spends his money, he has quite a bit save up and wants to be the above "pre-owned" shoes off ebay for $120.  It's his money, but this seems a little silly and the "pre-owned" part grosses me out.  Teenage boy feet are nasty and I wouldn't want to put my feet into something that had teenage boy feet in them.  

Son-8: He is almost 9, but still wears a size 7.  His closet is full of clothes he's had since kindergarten. We're hoping at some point the kid has a growth spurt.  He doesn't care about clothes, but he's been hanging out w/ his brother and he now thinks he needs expensive school shoes too.  However, kid sizes are about half as expensive, so I wonder if that's fair to have the same budget as his brother.  

So I was just curious how you work oyur clothes budgets to be fair in your family.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What I've Been Reading Wednesdays

We have had a lot going on this summer, and I have hardly been reading at all.  Here's what I have read:

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Unseen Guest by Maryrose Wood. This is the third in a series which I first heard about from my friend Kammy.   Miss Penelope Lumley is a 15-year old orphan hired to be a nanny to three children that were literally raised by wolves.  The writing is borderline genius and manages to be both clever and silly.  This would be a great book to read aloud.  My only criticism is that I feel certain mysteries have been drug on too long, and I am ready for them to be revealed: What happened to Penelope's parents, where did the children come from, is Lord Fredrick some sort of werewolf or the children's true father? 

Jekel Loves Hyde by Beth Fantaskey-
My friend Alicia recommended this book as no-brainer escape book.  It did not disappoint. It will not change your life, you will not learn anything, and you will not be a better person because you read it.

 When I explained the plot to my husband, he thought I was kidding. Two teenage descendants of the infamous Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde team up to compete in a chemistry scholarship competition and  to cure the Hyde family curse.  3 stars

I am currently struggling through Killing Lincoln for book club.  So far it reads way too much like a text book and I am bored, but I'll let you know if it picks up.

Have you read anything good lately?

Friday, August 2, 2013

Wedding Present

Someone contacted my etsy shop asking if I could make some long-distance love pillow as a wedding present.  I momentarily forgot how long it takes to hand-paint pillows and that I only like doing stuff like this for people I love and not for $.   

I hope the happy couple liked it.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Making A nightstand: Guest Post by Home Decor by Eva

Hello there! My name is Eva Stephen (owner: I am absolutely honored to be writing a contribution as a guest for Tales of a Trophy wife. Sharing my thoughts to Tara’s readers is indeed a pleasure. I hope you will enjoy my handy yet crafty DIY woodworking. Here it goes, T!

DIY Woodworking: Making a Nightstand
Wood is the most pervasive building material around.  It’s used to make buildings, for art, and for the most functional things in our lives from shelves to doors to tables.  The material is beautiful, sturdy and can be very simple to work with.  Wood also reminds us of the living breathing thing it used to be, and daily inspires creation of something it’s never been before.  Today we are going to make a nightstand because it’s a simple project to start with, yet you can get really creative in the design and execution.  This project is designed to help you get started with wood working and make it clear just how easy it can be when inspiration strikes!

Wood nails (if you don’t have than visit Wickes to see a great collection)
Sand paper – both fine and for raw wood
Hammer (or Hatchet) can be found at Clas Ohlson online store.
Need a new mattress or duvet to go with you fabulous nightstands? Check out the selection at Shop4Furniture.

How To:
The Local Hardware Store or Lumber Company
1.       To save money ask a staff person where the broken or unsellable pile of wood is.  Hardware stores and lumber companies inevitably have an area where damaged wood is saved and sold for very cheap.  If it’s a small hardware store the pile will be smaller, if it’s a lumber company I’ve seen massive amounts of this damaged wood to choose from.  I chose a beautiful Cedar plank and a painted thinner plank that they charged me $5 for.  This is a normal price for a damaged piece of wood, you get incredible deals.

2.       Figure out the dimensions you will need for the different pieces of the nightstand after settling on a design.  Measure this out on the lumber, and use a pencil to mark the wood with a notch.  Ask the lumber staff to cut the wood down for you.  Usually for only a couple pieces they will waive the charge for cutting.  I had them cut the Cedar into 12 inch pieces for the two shelves, one 26 inch piece for the back, and 26 inches for the legs made from the painted wood.  Base your dimensions on how much space you have around your bed, and what you fancy for a design to be the most functional for you.
3.       You’ll find all the other materials you need at the hardware store. 
At Home

1.        Always sand raw wood before you start the project.  Use Raw Wood Sandpaper to start with.  Focus on the areas that may have damages and could give splinters.  Sand those down really well, and then give the rest of the raw wood a once over.  Use your Fine Sandpaper to then go over everything again.  Always sand with the grain of the wood.

2.       Some of my wood pieces had some damages on them.  Strategically place these on the underside of the shelves for example.  I also used a piece that had a really beautiful wood knot for the top shelf to show off the character.

3.       The following picture is the shape we’re going for.  I find it’s much easier, especially as a beginner, to have someone lend you a hand for this part.  We’re going to attach the back to the top shelf.  Place one of the 12 inch pieces perpendiculars to the ground.  Have your helper hold the back parallel to the ground with the shelf at the top of the back piece.  Set the nail with your thumb and pointer finger at the base of the nail on the wood.  The most important thing is to drive the nail in straight.  If you start off or if the nail goes crooked, start over right away by pulling the nail out.  Use the hammer to strike the head of the nail firmly, but not so hard you swing and miss.  Safety first!  Drive two nails in evenly spaced apart for the first shelf.  Repeat for the lower shelf.

4.       The back and shelves should now be firmly attached.  Now we’re going to attach the two side pieces, one on each side.  They need to be spaced toward the front otherwise the nightstand will be off balance.  The more toward the front the planks are, the better balanced the night stand will be.  I thought this struck a balance between the design I wanted and structural integrity.  Drive in two nails per shelf on the side pieces using the same technique as before.
5.       You can see that even with the same size pieces there are multiple formations you can make!  This is a his and hers set.  The original design is good for me because I like to have a lamp at the bedside and I have room for books underneath.  The other design is great for holding more books because it’s a little more sturdy, but it can’t hold a lamp unless it’s tall and skinny.  I also added some neighborhood flowers in old beer bottles and canning jars which is a nice colorful touch!