ahhh, family

As I’m sure is true with many of you, these last two weeks have been a whirlwind of family. Mother-in-law in from Paris, my brother-in-law’s wife and two kids (that he’s been “separated” from for the past year) in from Germany. Trips back and forth between my sister-in-law’s house. Hotel stays on Christmas night. It’s been a lot.

I started back to work today, and I really feel unprepared. My brother-in-law’s family is still here for a few more days and they’ll be staying with us for the weekend. I don’t know how I’m going to do my work-from-home job and entertain these people.

I’m sure it will be fine.

Anyway, I got the most beautiful key chain for Christmas from my friend Megan. It’s AWESOME, but sadly, I keep forgetting to call her and tell her it was my most treasured gift! I got lots and lots of awesome gifts. And most of my handmade gifts went over really well. I know for sure that two of the scarves were big hits and are getting lots of wear.

No strange gifts this year – like the time I got equestrian riding apparel. (I don’t ride.) Although, my mother-in-law did give me two identical shirts – one of which I’m positive was intended for my sister-in-law. When I asked her about it, she said when she finds something she likes, she buys two, but I know the truth. I’ll make sure my sister-in-law gets it. We can wear them on the same day :)

Hope everyone’s holiday was full of joy and that you’re now able to put your feet up and rest for 11 more months!

travails and travels

Our trip was very interesting. Half of it was spent with family – fun and stressful at the same time. It’s hard try to coordinate the events for 12 people and still make everyone happy. Impossible, really. The second leg was spent at Pinehurst – world renown resort with 8 golf courses.

Pros: I got to see my awesome grandma, aunt and her new husband. I got to see my sister and her family. I got to see my Dad and step-mom. The visit with all of these people was too short and too full of activity, but it was wonderful anyway. I got to see UCF beat UAB. I got to spend quality time (although, not enough) with a few old friends.

Cons: My sister and my dad kept using me as a go-between to make plans when they were the ones with strong opinions on what we should be doing. Five days isn’t enough time for a small reunion. The family members who weren’t there were greatly missed.

As for Pinehurst, I will tell my tale in a future post. It was lovely and snobby and beautiful and overpriced.

Needless to say, we’re already making plans for the next vacation. This time, I’m voting for Vegas or Branson Missouri.

Credit Cards

I know the rules. I see the problems. But I can’t seem to break the cycle. We pay them all off, we run them back up, we pay them off, etc. It sure is a slippery slope. Mostly because we’re not saving what we should. If we had less credit card payments, we could save more. Balance transfers and other tactics allow you to save on interest, if you do it right, but they’re just a band aid.

Clearly, spending is the big issue. My husband and I are both impulse buyers with very little use for delayed gratification.

If you’re looking to build credit, it pays to research your options. I like Suze Orman’s books. It also pays to look for best buy credit cards, or cards that offer the best deals. This might seem obvious, but I know lots of people with credit cards high APRs and annual fees. Why? Who knows?

I hope to break this trend with our son. I want him to know all about credit cards and the importance of saving long before he gets to college and everyone and their brother offer him a line of credit. We hope they won’t make the same mistakes we have, but I see that I’m in the same boat as my parents, so what gives?

Book #37 – Looking for Peyton Place

Looking for Peyton PlaceLooking for Peyton Place by Barbara Delinsky. First of all, this book made me want to read Peyton Place, so I promptly added it to my library request list. Second – I’ve read lots of books where the writer was kind of conversing with the reader, but this was the first one that I’ve really noticed. There’s a lot of “You’re probably thinking…” and such phrases. It was a little disconcerting. Other than that, I whizzed right through it. Great characters, more than one good story line. I wish I had already read Peyton Place because it seems that this book offers some insight to the author, Grace Metalious. But the heroine, Annie Barnes, is great all on her own. I like that she is honest and steady and sticks to her word. I also like the effort she puts into her relationships with her sisters – it was a little inspiring. I really should try harder with my own sister.

Maybe later.

Anyway, highly recommended. This is my second Barbara Delinsky read, and I really like her. And in case you’re wondering, it’s not all steamy gossip and romance like the name might imply. There’s also a good Erin Brockovich-esqe storyline that’s excellent. [rating:4]

Book #36 – Summer by the Sea

Summer by the SeaSummer by the Sea by Susan Wiggs. I really should have purchased this one. More great recipes. I even made the rosemary lemonade for a cookout! The story was great – a fast summer read full of romance and good food. I really liked Rosa and (especially) Alex – both for their straight-forwardness and their personalities. Ms. Wiggs does an excellent job at creating believable characters that don’t fall into mind-numbing spirals of missed chances and bad choices. Her characters are smart, likeable, and most importantly – you cheer for them.

And seriously, the recipes are worth the cover price. Now I have to go buy it because I already returned it to the library.

My one complaint, hence the missing half-a-star, is that I guessed the mystery.

Still, highly recommended:[rating:4.5]

Book #35 – The Winter Lodge

Winter Lodge by Susan WiggsThe Winter Lodge by Susan Wiggs. Seriously, I’m so far behind on my book reviews, so I’m going to skip the three I owe (from the 48-hour book challenge) and forge ahead. I loved this book – much more so than the first book of the series, Summer at Willow Lake. But, since I did love the characters, I had to continue on with the series. This book had great pacing, great story lines and especially great recipes. I’m glad I purchased this one rather than checked it out from the library.

The story of Jenny Majesky is told here, as well as cameo appearances from well-loved characters from the first book. I was surprised by the twists of intrigue Ms. Wiggs weaves into the story – which is basically one of family with a little romance mixed in. I’m looking forward to the next installment of the Lakeshore Chronicles.

Highly recommended. [rating:5]

My favorite hamburgers…

My sister and her friend were staying with us all weekend. It was fun and a little exhausting. Thursday night, we went to Hollywood to watch an episode of the new Bill Engvall Show being filmed. (Airs on TBS in mid-July – also starring Tim Meadows!) We had a fairly successful cookout on Friday night, then we went to see some SoCal sights on Saturday. Sunday, they were headed to San Fran for another adventure.

I have to admit that my sister wears me out. We have a somewhat tense relationship, that we both try pretty hard to sugarcoat with niceness. We both had a few drinks on Friday night, and some of the niceness wore away, and the tension flared. Note to self: don’t mix alcohol with sister :) I’d like for it to be more real, but I don’t really think that’s in the cards for us.

For the cookout, I made my favorite kind of burgers…here’s the recipe:

In a food processor, mix:

  • 1 egg
  • 5 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 2 shallots, peeled and cut in half
  • 1 tbsp of dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup (or more) of cilantro
  • 1 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce
  • a shake or two of Tabasco

Pour all that into 2lbs of hamburger and mix with your hands. Make patties and grill. I made this up myself, and I only put measurements on it for recipe’s sake. I really just toss a bunch of stuff in the food processor. This little mix works even better with turkey burgers, because we all know they have no flavor of their own.

Book #32 Just Listen

Just ListenJust Listen by Sarah Dessen. Thanks for all of you that recommended this one! Loved it. Great coming of age story – I especially loved the sisters and Owen. But my favorite part was all the references to other Dessen books. It made me want to go back and reread them. But I won’t. Too many other books to read.

About this book though – it deals with a lot of teen issues: eating disorders, sexual assault, regular angst, anger management, etc. I loved Owen’s little anger management-isms…they’ve proven quite helpful in my much-older-than-teen life.

Another great YA read. Highly recommended.

[rating:5]

SAHM no more?

Update: The interview went well. I liked the people, and I felt excited at the prospect of the job.

Then I came home, and my son gave me the biggest hug, and he wouldn’t let go, and he rested his sweet little baby head on my shoulder, and I thought about how this isn’t going to last forever, and how surly my friend’s teenager is.

sweet little angel

Thanks for reading everyone, and for your words of experience and encouragement!

I recently applied for what looked like the most perfect job ever. I do this every once in a while, just to force me to keep my resume up to date. Well, they called me for an interview. Never mind that none of my work clothes fit (how about four sizes too small!). Never mind that I don’t want to put my son in day care at all. Never mind that I have finally gotten my husband to understand and appreciate the benefits of a stay-at-home parent. We decided that I would go to the interview.

So it’s in a few days and I’m nervous. I have suitable pants, but I’ll have to purchase a shirt or sweater set or something. And I think I kind of want the job. What I really want is for them to say I can telecommute most of the time, so I can just get a babysitter in my house.

If we lived exactly the way we do now – only off of my husband’s pay – we could use my salary to pay off all of our debt in one year. We could plan our second baby during that year, and I could work until I delivered, and then quit. (Man, I hope the company isn’t reading this.) Financially, it would solve everything.

Emotionally, I don’t know if I can handle it. I keep telling myself to stop being a baby, that mother’s go to work all the time, and that there is nothing wrong with daycare. And I do believe those things. But I can’t help but feel like they’re just not going to know when he’s tired or hungry or bored like I do. Are they going to pay attention to him? Will he be happy? The honest answer is that he’ll be fine. He might have a runny nose more often, but he loves other kids, and he’d probably be thrilled to have someone other than mommy and the cats to play with. (The cats don’t give him the time of day.) He probably needs the socialization. And now that he’s figuring out the whole fake-cry-to-get-my-way, it might be better if a stranger stepped in and didn’t fall for it.

But that doesn’t make it any easier.

Book #23 Family Tree

Family Tree by Barbara DelinskyBook #23: Family Tree by Barbara Delinsky. This was an interesting story. A white couple has a baby with African American traits – namely, she’s not white. Although the use of “African American” is kind of cumbersome throughout the book – like I was tripping over the politically-correctness of it – I really liked this book. Also, this is only the second book I’ve read by Barbara Delinsky, and I think she’s known as a romance writer, but I would categorize this more as a family drama. I guess the basic elements of a romance were there, but they were hardly the focus.

The family goes through a lot of turmoil figuring out how the two white parents could have a light-skinned, but clearly not white baby. The mom doesn’t really care – she just loves the baby. The dad cares about appearances, and is torn between loving his new baby, and coming to terms with her race. It’s kind of a mystery throughout the book where the baby gets the genes from, so I won’t ruin that part.

Also throughout the book is the theme of knitting, so knitters will like this book :)

My husband is half Dominican. I always wondered what color our baby would be. My mother-in-law, full Dominican, has beautiful olive skin. She looks kind of Mediterranean. But the people of the Dominican Republic really run the full spectrum of available skin colors, so I was interested to see what traits would show up in our kids. Needless to say, my son will be surprising people with his fluent Spanish, just like his dad does now. There’s a reason all of his friends call him Gringo. I’m lucky to have a family that would accept any color baby without questions. Grandchildren are universally loved in our clan.

Back to the book though, I was a little disappointed with the lack of resolution (or vague resolution) to a side story line about a client the husband was representing – a mother who’s child was in an accident, and she was trying to get money for medical expenses from the biological father. I wish there would have been more to this story, and to it’s conclusion.

Overall, I liked it and read it quickly. Recommended.