Preparing to leave

Ok, I am not sure who else does this except for me. I like to think that most people go to this kind of effort but I am sure I am delusional. I am trying to buy almost nothing this week in preparation for our trip next week. It kills me to think of milk, bread, eggs and other food items growing older here at home while we are out of town. So, I am on a spending moratorium this week. It serves two purposes. One, it cleans out my pantry and fridge and ensures that all of the excess food gets eaten instead of being thrown away. Second, it allows us to take the grocery money from this week on vacation with us to help offset any extra food spending that we might do while we are gone. Even though John and I set a budget for the trip and yes, even put the money into envelopes before we go, it always is good to have extra money in case things are more expensive than we anticipate. And from what I have heard about D.C., food is extremely expensive.

This week I have only purchased a loaf of bread, 1 dozen eggs and dishwasher detergent. The good thing is that the bread and eggs will be eaten before we go on the trip and with as many dishes as we do during a typical day, I can’t go long without dishwasher detergent. But, my list of other items I am out of is growing longer and longer. Today I noticed that I am down to my last coffee filter. I have written it on my list but that doesn’t do anything for getting me a cup of coffee at 3:30 in the afternoon when I am running on empty and need caffeine. I began to look for creative ways to avoid buying coffee filters. First idea was a simple one, I washed out the old coffee filter and reused it. That didn’t work so well, as it kinda collapsed in the basket and got coffee grounds in the coffee. Next time I am going to try using a paper towel and see how that works. There is always the instant coffee in the pantry that I got for free when I hosted a Coffee mate party. The point is that doing a challenge like this is fun and forces you to be creative.

Tonight we are having a clean out the fridge/leftovers dinner. It will make for some interesting dinner combinations but atleast that is food that didn’t go to waste. Take a look around your pantry and fridge and see what kind of challenge you can come up with. It doesn’t have to be so drastic as the one I am doing right now. Maybe you can just try to use up all your different condiment bottles over the next week. It gets you to start thinking about what else you can make with duck sauce and dijon mustard. Let me know what you come up with, I think I have a bottle of Hoisin sauce that needs a new purpose in life.

Spring Break

So, next week is Spring Break and we are heading to the nation’s capital to enjoy the Cherry Blossom Festival, monuments and museums. The kids are super excited! When we were trying to decide where to go for Spring Break, John was concerned that the kids would be disappointed in a destination that didn’t involve a beach or a theme park. Man, was he wrong! Josh and Brittany were both very excited and mentioned several things they wanted to see and do while in D.C. Josh is excited to see the White House and the Declaration of Independence (which I found out today is at the National Archives building). Brittany wants to check out both the FDR and Lincoln memorials (they have been studying both of them in school). Josh even asked if Monticello was far away from and could we go there too! I think it will be an exciting although exhausting week. I have been to D.C. several times while I was a child and only once as an adult (about 8 1/2 months pregnant with Josh) but it is one of my favorite cities in the world. I love the fact that there is so much to see and do and for the frugalista that I am, it is a dream come true since most of the museums have free admission! I will update the blog with pictures when we return – Happy Spring Break!

Time for a little pigskin…

Do you smell what I smell? Is it bacon in the air? Nope, it is the smell of pigskin! The Rodi family entered into a new season in the sports arena – flag football season! Josh had his first practice and game today and it was great to see him out there trying something new. He was a little nervous before he went out there but he quickly picked up what to do and he looked like he had a great time doing it. He is playing in a local league called “i9” that emphasizes having fun during competition,  concentrating on skill building and a new character trait each week. This week’s character trait was listening and next week is encouragement. Josh definitely had his listening ears on this week as he paid attention to his coach’s instructions on how to be on the offense and defense. He even managed to get a tackle (via belt removal) once during the game, which is pretty good since most of the kids on the team are older than he is and he has never played before. I am excited to see him learn a new skill and spend time in a team environment. We are looking forward to a fun football season over the next few months!

Hope Springs Eternal

It is beginning to look like spring outside. It is this time of year that reminds me of renewal and hope. I look around and see all of the flower bulbs bursting forth from the barren dirt, bushes budding and blooming and I am reminded of how we must look in God’s eyes. As we look at our lives and mistakes, we see what once was  – perhaps a life that was not lived to it’s greatest. We look in the mirror and what stares back at us is all the mistakes that we have made and regrets that we have over what could have been. But, what does God see when he looks at us? I think he sees renewal, hope and redemption. Like a tree waking up from a long winter nap, we have potential waiting to bloom. There is hope for all of us – hope that we can begin again and pass into a season of renewal. For some of us, the blooming season may be colorful and short lived. For others it is more subtle but longer lasting. God doesn’t give up hope in us. He sees the spark of what could be and patiently waits for it to bloom into the life that he has meant for us. God has a plan for all of us that is beyond what we can ever imagine living.

The second Christmas after we moved into our house, we recycled our Christmas tree and came home with a small sapling to plant in the front yard. It didn’t look like much, more like a small stick shoved into the ground than a beautiful tree. The first year, it didn’t do anything. It didn’t grown, bloom or anything – it did not even have any leaves on it. John tried to tell me that he thought it was probably dead and that we should replace it. I refused – I believed in that little tree. So, every year for the past several years, I have nurtured that tree. I kept it watered and made sure the kids didn’t break any branches. It grew little by little but it still didn’t bloom or have any leaves on it. I was trying to be patient but even I began to believe that maybe this little tree would never turn into the magnificent tree that I had envisioned it would be. Well, God didn’t give up on it. Today when I got home, I saw that my little tree is covered with buds that will bloom this Spring. The tree that we had doubted would amount to anything has grown into something wonderful.

I am glad that God didn’t give up on that little tree just like I am glad that God didn’t give up on me. I am sure there were times when he just shook his head and waited patiently for me to grow into what he had envisioned. He tended to me even when I thought no one was and nurtured me when I was growing slower than he thought I would. But here I am, like the little tree, with buds of hope springing forth. There is hope for all of us. Hope springs eternal with God’s grace and with his help we can all grow into the person we are meant to be.

Jeremiah 29:11
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Charleston

Brittany and I spent a wonderful weekend in Charleston, SC. A city that is so full of history and great seafood. The weather was perfect and the company was fun. This is the first girl’s weekend that Brittany and I have ever shared. We checked into our hotel, The Mills House Hotel, in the historic district around 4pm on Friday. John and Josh got us settled in and then took us out for dinner. The boys were spending the weekend with the Cub Scouts on the USS Yorktown located on Patriot’s Point in Charleston. Here is Josh showing us the ship:

After dinner, John dropped us off at our hotel and Brittany and I began our weekend as two ladies of leisure. We spend Friday night talking and doing some fun things in the room. We then slept as late as we wanted on Saturday and had a nice breakfast at the hotel’s restaurant (where kids eat free, by the way!). Our first stop on our day filled with fun and lots of walking was down at the Market where we signed up to take a carriage tour of Charleston. This the first time either of us had been on a carriage tour and this was the part that Brittany was most looking forward to. She loves history and animals to anything that combines the two is a win in her book. Here she is with our horses before the ride (the horses are named Sully and Order):

The tour was very interesting and our guide was both informative and humorous. He told us lots of stories about the colorful history of Charleston. We were able to see several examples of the beautiful architecture that Charleston is known for. I let Brittany take all the pictures on the tour using my iPhone and for some reason every picture is either of a fence or a door. I have no idea what my child’s fascination is with both of those but if you ever need a picture of either, let me know, I have about 500 of them. She comes by her interest in the iron fences from me, there is something about them that is appealing, that such beauty can be formed out of something known more for it’s strength. Here is Brittany pretending to be in jail behind a gate near the historic library society:

Of course, you can’t put two women in a city alone and not expect them to do some shopping. Brittany and I are on the unusual side of the female species in that we are not big shoppers. We are more lookers than anything. Brittany had saved up her allowance for the past few weeks and had $20 to spend and of course, didn’t buy anything! Here is Brittany shopping on a street aptly named for her:

The only disappointment was that it was too early in the season for the hotel’s pool to be open. We could see it from our room and even though it looked so inviting, it was closed. Brittany was so disappointed, so when we found a fountain down by the waterfront that allowed people to play in it, Brittany made straight for it.

On Sunday, we decided to take a side trip to Savannah on our way home. The only souvenir that she got the entire trip was a pin from the Juliette Gordon Low house in Savannah on our way home. Juliette Gordon Low was the founder of Girl Scouts and since Brittany is a Brownie (and I am an Adult Girl Scout/Cookie mom) we wanted to make sure to see that at some part of our trip. It was a beautiful house and gardens and we really enjoyed seeing the furnishings and hearing the history of the Gordon family!

Charleston is such a fun city to visit. With all the colleges nearby, it is a good mix of young and old – young residents with lots of hip restaurants and old architecture providing hours of walking. We will definitely make plans to come back again and bring our most comfortable walking shoes. This is a city that has layer upon layer to explore and it was especially nice to get to explore it with my lovely daughter.

Chicken & Mushrooms in Cajun Cream Sauce

Ok, I meant to take a picture of tonight’s dinner and post it here. But, as you can see, no picture. Yes, we ate this wonderful meal so quickly that I couldn’t even get a picture taken first. So, be patient, I will add a picture to it the next time I make it. Sorry!!

Here is a dinner that you would think would not appeal to my kids but actually it is one of their favorites! Be sure to read my notes after the recipe to see how I tweak it to suit my family’s tastes. Enjoy!

Chicken & Mushrooms in Cajun Cream Sauce

8 oz uncooked penne pasta
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, cut into cubes
1 red bell pepper, diced
3/4 cup whipping cream
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. ground red pepper
1 jar (4.5 oz) sliced mushrooms, drained
2 Tbsp. chopped green onion

Cook penne pasta in salted water as directed on package.

Spray large skillet with nonstick cooking spray. Heat skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add chicken; cook and stir until no longer pink. Add bell pepper; cook 2 minutes. Stir in cream, cumin, ground red pepper and mushrooms; cook until thickened, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain pasta. Serve sauce over pasta. Sprinkle with onion. 5-6 servings.

Tiffany’s notes: (these changes just make the recipe work better for my family and budget)

  • reduce the chicken to 2 breasts
  • sub green pepper unless red bell is on sale,
  • guess at the amount of the cumin and red pepper but probably less than since the kids are eating this too
  • use fresh mushrooms if I have them in the house
  • normally forget to buy green onion but it is really really good if you can remember it

Technology

Taken with John's iPhone!

Well, technology has finally caught up with me. Last week was a big milestone for technology updates in this house. Since we have been doing Dave Ramsey, we have put everything on hold. Now that we are on Babystep 4, we are able to loosen up the budget a little and introduce some technology back into our lives. First? We got cable tv back in January. We were actually fine without having cable but the cable company went up on the internet rates and it was only $7 more each month to add cable to the “package”. The kids were thrilled, they have missed mindless shows that don’t teach them anything valuable.

The next two steps in our technological evolution happened last week – John and I both got iPhones and I got a new laptop. Hello, world, nice to meet you again! Let’s start with the iPhones. Wow! I don’t know who the genius was who invented these little babies but that guy should get a holiday named after him. I find myself using it all the time for everything – checking email, texting my friends, listening to podcasts and surfing the internet. I have to keep checking to make sure I am not overextending my data plan which is my fear. I don’t want tot see a bill show up in our mailbox for more than the national debt because I needed to see what was happening on Facebook.

My laptop has also been such a blessing. We have planned and waited for over 2 years to get a new computer just for me. This is the first time I have had the luxury of buying a computer that was meant for me. In the past, I have always gotten John’s hand me down computers. The Mac that I was using before the laptop was affectionately called “Bernie” (as in Bernie Mac the comedian) and was as around 9 years old. In computer years, similiar to dog years, 9 is elderly. I was expecting Bernie to start getting a subscription to AARP any day now. The kids and I would complain all the time about how slow Bernie was getting but we knew that it was only a matter of time before Bernie would retire and a new kid would move in. So, last Friday, we went to pick up “Mary” (as in Mary Mac, from the children’s rhyme). Mary is a spunky young thing and it is still taking some time for me to get used to. I love how fast she is but I have a few problems using the track pad – not permanent problems, just some new things I have to get used to.

So, the Rodi’s are beginning to keep pace with some of technology. We still don’t have GPS and I have no idea what “bluetooth” is but we are much more advanced than we were last year. Just like our financial plan, our technology plan has to happen in baby steps. Who knows what is next?

Crazy morning

Do you ever have those morning where you wish you could just rewind and edit out all the bad parts? That was my morning today. Actually, it would have been way worse but John was gracious enough to take the brunt of it.

The trouble began when my 6 year old showed up in my room while I am getting ready to complain about his sister refusing to share the bathroom. He was in no mood to be reasonable and wait, especially since he was wearing one shoe and the other one was somehow trapped in the bathroom. So here I am with wet hair steaming down my back listening to my little man moan and complain about something that is going to be a problem for the remaining years that he lives with a sister. How do I tell him that she will always hog the bathroom? That was she gets older, it will only get worse? I finally talked him into waiting outside the bathroom door for her to come out.

Then we go downstairs and find all the windows open and Barkley and his crate outside on the patio. It seems that John came downstairs and found the dog knee deep in mess (I am sure you can imagine what kind, I probably don’t need to gross you out with the details). The smell was overwhelming which is why the windows were all open. I appreciate John being considerate and taking care of the smell but it was very chilly this morning so the house was freezing from the windows being opened. I bundled up in a coat and tried to push through.

Then Josh argues all during breakfast that he doesn’t want to eat, doesn’t want to wear his shoes, doesn’t want to wear his jacket – blah, blah, blah. I am sure you are seeing a theme here. It was all I could do to remain calm and breathe. Just breathe.

We finally get the kids on the bus and sweet patient John changes his work clothes and bathes the dog for the second time in two days. He had just bathed him last night because Barkley had decided it would be fun to roll around in a mud puddle in the backyard. After bathing the dog, John discovered that he had tracked dog poop onto the carpet upstairs which led to another clean up.

The morning ended with me driving John to work since he ran home from work yesterday and didn’t have the time this morning to either run or bike back to work. This was actually the most pleasant part of the morning.

I survived all of this without any breakfast or coffee since my goal was to run this morning (it is Wednesday, after all, and as you all know, I am a stickler for my schedule) and I can’t run with anything in my stomach. I tried to be be patient and calm this morning. I prayed to God to give me wisdom and understanding for dealing with both Josh and the dog. Well, God gives us what we need when we need it and this morning he gave me a calm husband who took care of most of the mess.

So, life is not all sunshine and rainbows….at least today mine wasn’t.