Saturday, January 31, 2009

Lazy Link

I'm just now getting around to looking at all the links of things my sister spammed me with while on semester break. Here's a Monopoly repackaging. I want that.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Friday Five

I love lists. Lists, bullet points, nice rows, and charts... And ellipses. Without further preamble, I give you my Friday list of five random items:

Five things I like to do on Facebook:
  • Be nosy and see what everyone is up to.
  • Play Mob Wars. Yeah, it's another pointless application. But I just giggle to myself whenever my profile gets updated "Shannon just accomplished dealing drugs" or "robbing the jewelry store." And I can count all my earnings and buy up city blocks. I'm going to be a millionaire!
  • Green Patch. Yet another application. But they're so cute!
  • Look at all the fun flair buttons. I'm pretty sure my collection is a definitive representation of me. From "I freaking love coloring" to "I vote for naptime" to "I'm the reason you read Twilight - you're welcome" my virtual cork boardbares my soul to the world. Or Friends and Friends of Friends. Whichever.
  • Add friends. And get confirmations back. I've never been so popular!!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Potato and Broccoli Chowder

Potato and Broccoli Chowder

6 medium potatoes, washed and cut into cubes with skins on
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 12-oz. bag frozen broccoli
1/3 c. flour
1 c. milk
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 c. sour cream
4 green onions, chopped

In large pot, put potato cubes and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to cook for 15 minutes. Drain. Mash about 1 c. of the potatoes and put back in the pot with whole cooked potato cubes.

Add chicken broth, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Add frozen broccoli and return to a boil again. Cook uncovered for about 5 minutes. Turn down to medium heat.

Wisk flour into milk in a small bowl. Add gradually to potatoes, stirring constantly. Continue stirring until soup thickens and bubbles. Add cheese and stir until melted. Then add sour cream and green onions. Cook until heated through.

You can make this as healthy as you want by substituting reduced sodium broth, skim milk, 2% reduced fat cheese, and/or low fat or fat free sour cream. The original recipe called for 2 c. cheese, so you could 'unhealthify' the recipe by adding that back in if you want. :)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


You may have heard advice to stay in stocks during a recession. Obviously if the stocks have temporarily fallen in price, you don't want to get out right now. That's called buy high and sell low. Bad idea. Now is the time to invest more (assuming you're not close to retirement) while stocks are undervalued. I read an article recently saying to look at it this way: The stock market is on sale!!

Who can't pass up a good bargain sale?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Love It Lunes

This week I Yoga, you are relaxing and make me feel all zen-like. You give me a sense of accomplishment when I realize you are not as hard and scary as you looked. I love your warrior pose and your dancer pose. I love your calming breathing exercises. And you give me a workout without the drudgery of jogging or something equally repellent. However, you also remind me of Hogi Yogi. Mmmmmm. Yoga.


(Lunes is Spanish for Monday. Goodness knows we all love Mondays. I justify my usurpation of the Spanish word for the cause of alliteration and by virtue of living an hour away from the Mexican border. Also I took two years high school Spanish.)

Sunday, January 25, 2009


"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Lazy Link

Here's my link for this weekend. Paper Toys from The Toymaker. They look like lots of fun. I may print a few out to keep kids busy on Sunday. Although paper may be a little noisy for church...

Friday, January 23, 2009

Friday Five

I love lists. Lists, bullet points, nice rows, and charts... And ellipses. Without further preamble, I give you my Friday list of five random items:

Five excuses for not posting this earlier this morning:
  • I stayed up till 3 in the morning catching up on season 4 of Lost so I could watch Wednesday's premier episode of season 5 online.
  • I was actually doing housework. Cleaning the laundry room, sorting closets... Shocking, I know.
  • Noah needed my 'help' with Lego Star Wars on the Wii.
  • I couldn't decide on a good list topic.
  • I needed a nap. Did I mention I was up until 3?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Breaded Chicken with Cream Sauce

Breaded Chicken with Cream Sauce
  • 1/3 c. ranch dressing
  • 1 T. milk
  • 1/4 c. dry bread crumbs
  • 6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1/2 c. chicken broth
  • 1 c. half and half
  • 1 4-oz. jar diced pimientos, drained
  • 1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 t. dried basil
  • 1/8 t. pepper
  • 1 t. cornstarch (or thickener; I use Ultra Gel)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix ranch dressing and milk in a bowl for dipping and put bread crumbs in another bowl. Dip chicken in dressing mixture, then cover with bread crumbs. Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat, then brown chicken on both sides. Keep warm in preheated oven.

Add broth to skillet. Boil on medium heat and stir in browned bits in pan. Stir in half and half and pimientos, boil and stir for 1 minute. Reduce heat. Stir in cheese, basil, and pepper and cook until heated through. Thicken if necessary. Pour over chicken.

I use the sauce for double duty gravy on mashed potatoes. An alternate idea: slice breaded chicken into strips and serve with sauce over pasta.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Bunnies + Twilight = <3

I've been waiting for this ever since I heard they were working on it. I love the bunnies. I love Twilight. With their powers combined...

*sigh* Bunny Love.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Free Tax Answers

Yep, I'm still excited about taxes. I am stalking the mail truck waiting for my W2's to get here.

In the meantime, the analysts at Kiplinger's are providing some free tax advice. You can call in or join the discussion online on January 30th from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST. They hosted one of these on the 13th, and you can read the transcript here.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Love It Lunes

This week I love World's Finest chocolate covered almonds. Oh, almonds, I bought 4 boxes of you at Walgreen's in December when you were on sale 2 for $5. And then I got a $5 rebate back. So for $1.25 a box, I have you. Yummy, yummy candy. (It gets a bad point for price because it was not free, and there's no more rebate for me to go buy more.) I really like the taste of your chocolate, and you have just the right amount on each almond. And I see on the website that you also come in dark chocolate! I have to be careful though. I discovered that I can easily eat an entire box of you in one sitting. Which is bad. Because 1/4th of your box has 35% of my daily recommended saturated fat. Ugh. Now I feel dirty. It's probably just as well that I refuse to pay full price for you. Unless there's another rebate...

Still a win, but a dangerous one.

(Lunes is Spanish for Monday. Goodness knows we all love Mondays. I justify my usurpation of the Spanish word for the cause of alliteration and by virtue of living an hour away from the Mexican border. Also I took two years high school Spanish.)

Sunday, January 18, 2009


“The art of getting riches consists very much of thrift. All men are not equally qualified for getting money, but it is in the power of every one alike to practice this virtue.”

~Benjamin Franklin

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Lazy Link

Tiny things are cool. That's just a fact.

Smashing Magazine has posted some amazing examples of tilt-shift photography. I won't pretend to know what that means. I just know that they take the pictures from a high angle with a special lens, and the result is photographs of real, life-sized stuff that looks like tiny models.

Check it out.

What I find most amazing is the people in some of the shots. They really look like tiny fake model people!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday Five

I love lists. Lists, bullet points, nice rows, and charts... And ellipses. Without further preamble, I give you my Friday list of five random items:

Five movies I can watch over and over. As in, I can watch it and immediately restart it to watch again. (Which is why Pride and Prejudice doesn't make the cut. Six hours is enough for one day. But twelve?)
  • Twice Upon a Time - a movie from the 90s where Beth Sager (Molly Ringwald) finds herself in a parallel universe where salads are fattening, cars have 8-tracks and microwaves, and she's married to an ex-boyfriend. It's just awesome. Also, I like George Newbern, who plays her 'real' boyfriend. And Molly sings jazz. Need I say more? Too bad it's not on DVD yet...
  • Beauty and the Beast - from the Cannon fairy tale series starring Rebecca De Mornay and John Savage (heh). This is the version that I watched when I was younger before the Disney version (which I also love) came out. I love just about every incarnation of the Beauty and the Beast/Psyche story, and something about the nostalgia and music and charm of this one just doesn't get old.
  • Fellowship of the Ring - along with The Sorcerer's Stone, this was one of a very small collection of DVDs I owned when my first daughter, Sarah, was a baby. I had one or the other constantly in the DVD player to get me through nursing all hours of the day and night. Still love it.
  • How to Steal a Million - How can you help but love a classic? I think if I'd been born in the 50s, I'd have had a crush on Peter O'Toole. I'm not sure I don't anyway.
  • Twilight - You knew it was going to be on here, right? I have seen it three times in the theater so far, and it hasn't gotten old yet. It is supposed to be released on DVD around Valentine's Day. Awww!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Baked Penne

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3/4 cup spaghetti sauce
  • 3/4 cup brown gravy
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. rosemary
  • 12 oz. cooked penne pasta
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese

Cook the pork with pressed garlic in olive oil. Add everything else except mozzarella and pasta. Cook on medium heat for 10 minutes. Mix in cooked pasta and pour into a baking dish. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


You know you're living in the Southwest when your son says "Look at the cactus!" and you have to play 20 questions to figure out which one he's talking about. "The little, short round one? The fuzzy-looking one? The tall one that has arms?"

Here are our favorites:
  • Barrel - the 'short round ones' are low enough that the kids can see them well. They have pretty yellow-y orange flowers on them. They do have vicious fishhook spines on them though, so the 'no touch' rule for cacti is especially important.
  • Cholla - the 'fuzzy' ones come in 'teddy bear' and 'jumping' varieties. Pieces can drop off, dry out, and roll away from the main plant, so these are cacti you have to watch out for while taking walks. And don't be fooled by the 'fuzzy' appearance; the spines are barbed and very difficult to remove one you've been impaled.
  • Ocotillo - the 'long stick-y' cacti are my favorite. They have beautiful red flowers on top of clusters of long 'wands' of cactus pieces. It's featured in Sarah's shadowbox project.
  • Organ Pipe - lots of pipe-sized columns just make a cool-looking cactus.
  • Prickly Pear - the 'round' one is another favorite. They look cool with their round plate-like segments, they have pretty flowers, and get dark purple fruits that you can use to make jam!
  • Saguaro - the 'tall one with arms' is the quintessential cactus. It's probably the first one you'd picture. I had to snicker when they show 'Phoenix' in the Twilight movie...with fake cacti.
And while we're on Twilight (when am I not?)'s a creosote bush. It's not a cactus, but it is a common desert plant. I need to try the 'rain simulation' experiment. I love the smell of rain!

In case you were wondering, my son was pointing out a saguaro.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Pear Budget

I'm trying a new paradigm in budgeting this year. I'm using someone else's spreadsheet. (gasp)

I know. But I came across the Pear Budget on the Get Rich Slowly finance blog a couple months ago. You can enter data online for a fee or download the spreadsheet. I was reluctant to abandon my 12-worksheet monstrosity, but the Pear spreadsheet was so pretty, I knew it was the work of someone who loves spreadsheets as much as I.

When I began designing my own masterpiece, I was working in the finance department of the local newspaper and had no children. I had all kinds of time for detailed records, trending charts, and analysis reports. 6 years and 3 children later, I've been finding it ever harder to find time for updating.

When I'm feverishly entering receipts twice a month, it gets difficult to keep details like 'light bulbs, batteries, new sippy cup' in the Housewares budget. And despite telling myself that I would need these details for analysis, I have yet to go back and do a breakout comparison of restaurants vs. babysitters in my Entertainment budget. As a matter of fact, the only details I have gone back for are tax deductible expenses (donations, tax preparation software, business expenses). Everything else just comes down to a final 'over budget/under budget' number.

So it is with trepidation that I leave behind my comforting minutiae and test drive a new spreadsheet. I can always go back...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Love It Lunes

(Lunes is Spanish for Monday. Goodness knows we all love Mondays. I justify my usurpation of the Spanish word for the cause of alliteration and by virtue of living an hour away from the Mexican border. Also I took two years high school Spanish.)

This week I am loving my Wii Fit. Ah, Wii Fit. You were my coveted Christmas present. You greet me every day before getting down to business. You are a little chatty, and it sounds like you're surprised every time I step on you, but you tell me I'm a Yoga Master and provide cheering and catchy music. I have no choice but to break out into a victory dance at each new achievement. If only my husband would stop beating my slalom high score...

As you can see, the good points far outweigh the bad points, and the Wii Fit is a clear Win!

Sunday, January 11, 2009


This is awesome:

"Prosperity is when people buy things they can't afford, recession is when they stop doing it."

~H. E. Martz (Wall Street Journal, February 1963)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Lazy Link

If you have kids, this is an awesome activity. Interview your kids with the same list of questions each new year and see how they answers change. Check out Amy's Blissfully Domestic blog for a sample list of questions. I like her idea for a self portrait as well.

I'll just let you know, you might want to put down some of your own notes for a 2-year-old. It's hard to get an answer that fits, as evidenced by Karen's answer to "What are your wishes for this year?" The wall.

If you don't have kids, you could do something like this for yourself. The answers might not change as much over time, but it might be fun to look back next year and see that in 2009 I thought my name should be Linda Carter.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Friday Five

I love lists. Lists, bullet points, nice rows, and charts... And ellipses. Without further preamble, I give you my Friday list of five random items:

Five Favorite Freebies (so far) this month
  1. Barbara's Organic Cereals samples
  2. Quaker Rice Cake samples (for healthy resolutions!)
  3. Total Cranberry Crunch cereal sample (I love cereal, especially cute little sample boxes)
  4. Max's Magical Delivery DVD (fitness DVD for kids - healthy resolutions for all!)
  5. Campbell's Select Harvest soup - instructions here

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Chicken & Dumplings

Brr! Cold winter evenings call for nice, hot comfort foods. This one is pretty easy with my lazy short cuts.

Chicken & Dumplings

4 cups water
4 bouillon cubes or 4 tsp. instant bouillon
1 bay leaf
4 pieces of chicken
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 small bag of frozen mixed peas and carrots
2 cups Bisquick mix
2/3 cups milk

Boil chicken in water with bouillon and bay leaf for 10 minutes. When chicken is cooked through, remove chicken and shred or chop. Discard bay leaf. In a separate bowl, stir 2 cans of water into the condensed soup. Add to the remaining broth and bring to a boil again. In another bowl, stir together the Bisquick and milk. Drop by small teaspoons into the boiling soup, stirring occasionally. When all the dumplings are boiling, return the shredded chicken and add the frozen vegetables. Let everything simmer for 5 minutes or until everything is heated through.

Unfortunately, we ate all the soup before I could find my camera. No picture this week, sorry!

Recipe caveat: I only loosely measure things, so you may need to adjust seasonings or add water for your tastes.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Why the Desert is Cool

Because it's winter, silly. Ha. I kill myself.

Yes, even in the desert, winter's fingers creep in. When the sun goes down, temperatures plummet. We may have been enjoying 75-degree weather during the day, but nighttime drops to the 30's. Okay, you readers huddling inside away from the snow and subzero temperatures can stop glaring. I realize the winters here are pretty mild. It's not my fault my blood has thinned and turned me into a pansy.

The real reasons the desert is cool:
  • Awesome sunsets
  • The Coolest thunderstorms and lightning
  • No shoveling snow
  • Bella loves the big open sky and the smell of creosote
  • Heated outdoor pools, swimming year round
  • Old West history - OK Corral, Tombstone, Boot Hill Cemetery...
  • Stephenie Meyer lives here
  • Sunny park weather
  • Real roadrunners (and coyotes!) in the wild
  • Long growing seasons
  • It's one letter away from desserts...
What else?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

No, not that time. I'm not that far behind on my blogging posts. It's Tax Time. Laaaaaaa!

This is the time of year when spreadsheet aficionados everywhere fill in the last numbers for the year and prepare to count the returns. Just the thought of those lovely tax credits warm my cold little accounting heart.

Here are a few tax tricks for anyone who may be a little less thrilled when they see those beautiful white envelopes bearing W2 forms.
  • The TurboTax people are offering free answers to tax questions in January. The questions have to be related to the 1040 tax form or a few business forms. They only answer federal - not state - tax questions. And you can only submit one question per customer. Enter your question at and a tax expert will call you back with an answer!
  • You can still make tax-deductible contributions for 2008 to your Traditional IRA up to April 15th. The annual limit for 2008 was $5000. If you were good little bunnies in 2008, you can start putting in your contribution for 2009! The 2009 limit is still $5000 for the year or $416.66 per month.
  • The IRS has some help for those affected by economic downturn. Check out the site for some What If scenarios.
  • Start gathering your records now.
  • Double check your forms (The IRS says that mistakes on Social Security numbers and math errors are the most common mistakes taxpayers make).
  • Efile your return - the online forms will alert you to those math errors.
  • Get refunds by direct deposit in your bank account. Much faster than waiting for a check in the mail!
  • File early. Don't wait until April. If you have someone else prepare your taxes, they'll be swamped the whole month. If you file for yourself, it will take much longer to get your return.
  • Try not to rub it in too much to those around you that you're already done. In February. And already counting your money.
I can't wait!!