Monday, December 22, 2008

Win a beautiful Ergo!

I have become a bit obsessed lately over baby carriers, spending way too much time scouring the for sale or trade boards on The Baby Wearer website. I have a couple of lovelies coming my way soon, which I will share with you when they arrive. I also have plans to try to make my own DIY carrier... as the Incompetent Homemaker, I'm sure there will be lots of mistakes to tell you about!

In the meantime, I had to enter this contest for a beautiful organic Ergo. I don't have one of these, but I wouldn't mind winning this one. No, I wouldn't mind at all!

Win a Free Organic Embroidered Ergo Baby Carrier Hands Free System
from Along for the Ride

Monday, September 22, 2008

Gah! Clothesline tips over into the swimming pool

...with half my diapers on it!

Imagine the scene... it's a beautiful, hot first day of fall in sunny Arizona. I'm hanging diapers on the line and feel a nice cool breeze float by. It's one of those breezes to appreciate, because it's whispering, "Fall is here, can't you feel it?" The breeze decided to play a trick on me, and took my clothesline right over, right into the swimming pool, dunking all the diapers that I had just hung as I was working my way around the line.

I turned and saw it tip, as if in slow motion, with my outstretched arms too short and too slow to catch the pole. The clothespin bag was inverted and they had started to sink by the time I was able to drag the whole thing up and out.

The dipes are all on the ground in the pic b/c I had to rush around the sides releasing them so they wouldn't pull the whole thing over again. I just opened the pins and let the diapers fall. The casualties are back in the wash right now, the rest that were in the basket are hung (evenly and on the inside lines), drying in the sun like they are all supposed to.

I know what you're all going to say: Space them out. Hang all around. Use the inside lines. Yeah, I know. It was actually pretty funny. So I thought I give you all a chuckle and share.

(Please ignore all the weeds in backyard. It's a jungle back there.)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

C(razy) V(erifiable) S(avings)

I am addicted. To CVS.

Yes, the pharmacy. I've just discovered an insane, obsessed cult of crazed penny-pinchers that shop at CVS for pennies on the dollar. And I've joined them.

Recent conquests:

Spent $3.85
Saved $12.29
Would have been $16.14
76% off

Spent $7.47
Saved $20.79
Would have been $28.26
74% off

Spent $5.12
Saved $ 31.09
Would have been $36.21
86% off

Spent $10.60
Saved $19.00
Would have been $29.60
64% off

Spent $0.94
Saved $23.56
Would have been $24.50
96% OFF!!!!

I've got it all entered into a spreadsheet. That's how nuts this is. I'm getting stuff nearly for free after coupons and Extra Bucks. And not crap either -- name brand toothpaste, lotion, diapers, batteries, pantyliners, ibuprofen, hair care, the list goes on. Stuff we use.

Get started here. Follow along here. These ladies plan out your shopping for you!

Let me know if you get hooked too. We can swap coupons.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Never tell the Kindergarten teacher that you know how to sew

Because sewing projects will be sent home.

Silly me. I filled out the parent volunteer form and checked all the boxes that appealed to my crafty side -- sewing, scrapbooking, cutting stuff up. Since I don't expect to be able to help out in class (infant siblings are quite a distraction), I thought I could do my volunteer stuff at home. Later in the year. After my freelance job is done. I didn't realize that it would be this soon. Oops.

Last week, I was asked to help sew W.E.B. bags. These are book bags that carry the little readers' "Wonderfully Exciting Books," a beginning reading program that the kids use both in the classroom and at home. Each day, the student chooses a book in their reading level (A-J) to practice reading themselves, and a storybook that they read with an adult. These books, along with a reading journal that that parents and teachers use to track the minutes read, go in the W.E.B. bags back and forth to school.

On the supply lists, the teacher asked for 1/2 yard of fabric. Eight pieces of fabric were sent home in my kid's backpack, along with instructions for the bags. I just finished them tonight. They are very simple, and stitched up quickly. The bags are held closed with velcro strips and feature a nameplate on the front (I'm gonna let the teacher use her pretty handwriting to put their names on -- I am not to be trusted with a Sharpie).

So, I took a needed break from the freelancing to get this sewing done. I think they came out fine. I hope the kids like them!

(NB: the Hannah Montana bag does not belong to my child. Although I did hide it from her while I was working on it, because she would want it for herself!)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Fresh, Easy, New

I guess it's ironic that I got so excited about the debut of this new grocery store in town, and then never went after it opened. I even called a British-American friend in California to gloat that I would soon have a version of Tesco near me!

Yet each week for the last several months, the $5 coupons have entered my home, and left in the recycle bin, expired and unused.

Each week, I would see the coupon, tell myself that it was time to visit, and then forget. A couple of weeks later, I was lamenting the expiration date. Meanwhile, my friends raved about the store, making it a regular destination. I was still clueless. Until today.

Wow. I was impressed. I had heard that they have next-t0-the-door family parking spaces, good prices on organics, a nice variety of store-brand items, and yummy bottled dressings. I had also heard about over-packaged meat and produce wasting plastic, and an excess of prepared meals for lazy, I mean, busy people. What I found was an orderly store, with all the basics at eye level and good prices. The lack of visual clutter makes most other grocery stores look like gimmicky one-ride theme parks designed by Kraft & Kellogg's marketers.

They seemed to have everything we needed today. Plus lots of stuff that the kids tried to sneak into the cart but got caught and vetoed (gummi bears, chocolate powder, corn dogs). There were some protests, but we bought other stuff they like, so everyone was satisfied.

Finally, we found that all the checkouts are self-service. The girls loved helping bag the groceries, and an employee came by to give us additional coupons. I can't believe I bought seven bags of groceries for $42!

We will definitely be going back. If it weren't for the cubhouse, I might not have to shop at Basha's any more. (Well, except our Basha's has a Starbucks too. I still have priorities.)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Hot Sauce

A quick story... so you know that my kitchen is jinxed, because I am not the only perpetrator of foibles here.

A beloved family member who is staying with us was cooking dinner while I was feeding the baby. After the baby was done, I went to serve dinner to the kids -- spaghetti with meat sauce, their favorite. It looked odd, but I didn't think anything of it, because I trust her cooking.

A moment after diving into the spaghetti, M commented, "This is hot." E started waving her hand wildly at her face and motioning for something to drink. I was looking at the sauce in the pot, confused. Why did she put peppers in it? Are those... jalapeno seeds?

Then it dawned on me. She didn't use the jar of spaghetti sauce I bought the other day. I peeked into the recycling bin.

There was an empty jar of Pace Picante Sauce at the bottom of the bin I had just emptied this morning.

After I picked myself up off the floor and found my breath from laughing hysterically, I served the girls plain noodles and put aside the meat sauce. Needless to say, we're having tacos tomorrow.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Monday, July 14, 2008

Disappearing Mango Sorbet

This week we received a bunch of beautiful, ripe mangoes in our Bountiful Basket. Mmm, I love the tangy, tropical aroma of mangoes (despite being chastised by Barbara Kingsolver to consider their long-distance journey as a waste of fuel merely for one's visceral enjoyment). After reading Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I've started to look for local produce and take the amount of energy "calories" of my fruits and veggies into consideration when shopping.

But we did not choose these mangoes. They chose us, by virtue of leaping themselves into our co-op basket.

There were these beautiful mangoes on my counter this afternoon, begging to be put to proper use and not be left to over-ripen (as their sad tropical kitchen neighbors, the black bananas, had). My oldest child came to me with sagging shoulders and a wanting expression. "Mom, can I have a snaaaaaack?"

Sure, I thought. I could whip up a lovely banana frappe with fresh mango. However, the bananas were beyond rescue. Poor things.

The mango, on the other hand, was juicy, succulent, and in season somewhere in the world (I've heard that you can't give away mangoes in Hawaii in the summer, they are so plentiful that they drip from the trees and no one wants more). We even have a relative with a mango farm in Mexico... however, lacking an import license, they can't bring them over the border.

Then the light bulb turned on: sorbet!

Here's the recipe that my kids liked so much that it's just about gone already. In one afternoon, we have each had three bowls. That's why it’s called "Disappearing" – if you have mangoes to make disappear, this will help.

(I adapted this recipe from Cuisinart's cookbook and cut the sugar in half—if your mangoes are ripe, this is sweet enough.)

Disappearing Mango Sorbet

2 cups mango chunks (approx 3-4 mangoes)
¼ cup sugar
½ cup water (you could substitute mango nectar or pineapple juice and leave out the sugar)
juice of 1 large or 2 small limes

Process ingredients down to a puree in a food processor or blender. Add to ice cream maker and freeze according to machine’s directions. Serve immediately and ENJOY!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Damn, she's good

On occasion, I catch up with Soulemama and her blog of pretty, crafty things. I just saw her new creation, the Gratitude wrap. Oh my gosh. I have to make one of these for myself. Having just celebrated my son's baptism, where he received a pile of thoughtful, precious gifts from dear family and friends, I have a pile of thank-you notes to write on his behalf. I usually stuff a box of cards in my already overstuffed purse to take with me and scribble out "grazie" while waiting at dance or swim class. Now, I can make myself a cute, slim little pocket organizer to carry my supplies around and feel happier doing it.

Amanda Soule, you inspire and humble the rest of us!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Crafty goodness

The spoils of another craft swap among friends:

(Left to right) Front row: felted pincushion and pins accentuated with shrinky-dink decorations; felt needle book; another felt needle book; pincushion in a hand-painted wooden box. Back row: hand-dyed gold playsilk; homemade lavendar and olive oil bath fizzies in a cute box; decoupage vase. Not pictured: my own craft, a crocheted Java Jammie (oops, forgot to take a picture--I will next time I make another).

I love this new tradition in our tribe!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Sewing lessons and clothespins capers

Thank goodness for that rare, long baby nap!

Yesterday, while Baby C was taking one of his long naps to recover from an outing (after we had a shopping misadventure at the children's resale shop... more on that later), I decided to sew up a clothespin bag for my outdoor clothesline. Desperate times call for crafty solutions, and I had scored the last package of clothespins at the 99-Cent Store (there was a run on the clothespins while we were there, with three other customers and two employees involved, racing around the store to find them--who got to them first? My smart but rambling grandmother-in-law!)

Anyways, with Grandma watching intently, I got out some fabric, and tried to wing it through a clothespin bag, which I immediately screwed up. She asked, "What are you trying to make?" I told her, then she quietly came over and showed me how.

Man, I love her!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Fruity crocheted fun

Last week we made a trip to Wildflower Diapers for some cloth diapering supplies. Hubby was completely taken in by the selection of natural toys, including a German baby rattle that he says he had as a child (we bought one for Baby C). He and my two older kids also went crazy for a set of crocheted fruits, veggies and other foods. I claimed to be able to reproduce them, and so I have...

I also made a crazy banana, but it is already lost in the house somewhere. I think I'm going to try to make an eggplant, bunch of grapes and a carrot next. The string bag was also very quick to make but it didn't come out as big as I had visualized.

I think I know what I will make for Christmas presents for our nieces!

Coming soon

A reminiscence of a Super Bowl hot dog diaster from college days.
The most recent event that filled my kitchen with smoke (it was supposed to be key lime pie).
Something about how my kids are still talking about the burned pizza (and telling EVERYONE. Repeatedly.)

I'm back (sort of)

The recent hiatus was due to the extreme brain laziness of the end of pregnancy, and then the extreme lack of any meaningful work besides caring for a baby... but now he's almost two months old and I have started cooking and crafting again. Which means foibles are sure to follow!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Crafty Thrifty Tea Party

Mix-and-match tea set from Goodwill: $2.99.
Strawberry fabric on sale after Christmas at Joann's: $1.99/yard.
Fried egg scrap fabric from Joann's remnant bin: $1.
Two little girls playing tea party all day: Priceless.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Sometimes the changes least noticed are the most significant

This is what we got in our Bountiful Basket two weeks ago.

It's gone... we ate it all. Really. (Okay, except for half of the cabbage... I don't like cabbage and have had a hard time cooking with it.)

That's an amazing accomplishment for our family. We eat well, but I tend to overbuy veggies from the supermarket and end up tossing half in the trash because they spoil too soon to be used or too late from being forgotten. Now that we are buying from this co-op, it's really transformed our meals.

Some of you may scoff and say, "Geez, that's not all that much to use up, we go through twice as many fruits and veggies in two weeks!" Well, you're way ahead of me on the green-wagon train. I start meal-planning with lots of ideas that fizzle out when it gets to five o'clock and I realize I forgot to defrost meat that day. As much as I want to eliminate convenience food from our pantry (and arteries), I still have a schedule that often puts me in front of the freezer digging for breaded fish bits or TJ's meatballs to put on top of 10 minute pasta.

This month, however, has nearly transformed my cooking routines. Now that I am not shopping for veggies on the spur of the moment, but rather forced to plan meals that take advantage of this new bounty, I have been more creative with my feeble attempts at culinary genius (or rather, competence), have wasted much less in the process from storing to leftovers, and have served meals that are more fresh and more homemade-from-scratch than ever before.

I'm still not always successful at these attempts (see above comments about cabbage--the pathetic "slaw" served to my family was met with thumbs-down, tongues-out reviews and afterwards dumped in the trash). However, the other things that came out of my kitchen this month--from the assortment of carrots, potatoes, onions, lettuces, corn, apples, citrus and berries--were all approved and requested again. My personal favorite so far was a Chicken Pot Pie. Mmmm, comfort food, soooo good.

Tomorrow's basket order will include three pounds of heirloom tomatoes and a half-pound of aged white cheddar cheese. Hubby has already put in a request for homemade tomato soup and a cheese sandwich. I hope I get this one right!

Any suggestions for canning tomatoes would be welcome. May your weekend also include a bounty!

Sunday, January 20, 2008


Yesterday's haul:

A fancy-schmancy sewing cabinet

Prenatal Yoga cards

A new 12" covered chef's pan

$35 Joann's Gift Card

A box of used items from my mom's kitchen* - a stained coffee mug, a trivet, a pair of Christmas ornaments, a spatula (all in her latest "theme" obsession -- gingerbread men) and a three-in-one peeler. At least the peeler is cool.

A pair of pretty freshwater pearl and jade earrings from hubby's sweet auntie.

Phone calls from my parents and my sisters (apparently my bro forgot again). An email from "Borders Rewards" with a coupon. Hugs from my daughters, along with a delicious dinner of my mother-in-law's tacos, rice & beans, plus a delicious disaster of a chocolate cake for dessert.

It was a pretty good day.

Here's to my three-dozenth year!

*(I am all for saving the earth by recycling and reusing... however, my mom's gift rubbed me the wrong way. She lies and insists that these items are "new" [so that she doesn't seem as poor as she really is], she buys lavishly for herself [yet complains about not being able to afford to buy presents] and then wraps those things up for other people when she is at a loss for a gift, and expects praise and compliments on her good taste when the stuff comes out of the box dirty, used, dusty and totally ill-suited to the recipient. If I make an off-hand comment about this neurotic behavior, I am then the most ungrateful daughter in the world to not appreciate her "generosity." Huh.)

Food Processor Lesson #642

Very important to remember: when incorporating liquid to a mixture in the food processor, add the liquid last, not first. For example, when chopping up frozen berries for sorbet, it is best to process down the berries first then add in the water slowly. Filling the processor bowl with two cups of water and one cup of frozen mixed berries, then turning it on, will result in pink water spewing out of every crack of the food processor all over the machine, kitchen counter and your clothes.

Better yet, for this type of recipe, use the blender.

In thanks for reading this blog, I will share the recipe that taught me this lesson, created by yours truly.

Lemon-Berry Sorbet
Created by Your Incompetent Hostess

1 1/2 cups water
1 cup lemonade concentrate
1 cup frozen mixed berries
1/2 cup sugar

Combine berries with lemonade concentrate in food processor or blender. Chop until smooth. Slowly add in water and sugar. Transfer mixture to ice cream maker. Turn on ice cream maker, for about 25 minutes until mixture is frozen to consistency of soft-serve. Eat immediately. Delicious with a little vodka mixed in at a "Girls' Night In" party (as I was told).

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

You know your kids watch too much tv when...

You know your kids watch too much tv when they recite the entire script of infomercials back to you at random moments, like in the car on the way to school.

My kids think they need:
The Go-Duster
The Betty Crocker 100-piece Cake Decorating Kit
Blendy Pens

My kids think I need:
The Craft-Lite Cutter
The Buxton Bag Organizer
Life-Alert (I'm not sure what they are trying to say about my age with this one.)

Maybe since I am an Incompetent Homemaker, I should get my kids the Go-Duster...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

All-Day Bread

A new recipe I perfected this week:

Around 9 am, take an excellent recipe like this one for Oatmeal Sandwich Bread. Load all the ingredients in the bread machine pan (don't leave anything out! whew!). Place the bread machine pan in the bread machine. Set the bread machine cycle to "Dough."

About an hour later, wonder how the bread is doing. Run back to the kitchen and look in the bread machine to find a bubbling mass and notice that you did not yet turn the machine on. Turn machine on.

When the buzzer sounds the end of the rising cycle, open the cover and notice that the bread didn't rise. Warm the oven slightly, place the dough in a bread pan, put the pan in the warm oven and cross your fingers.

Entertain a friend who has stopped by while your dough hangs out in the pan for an extra long period of time in the oven, not rising. Just before the end of the rising time, get ready to leave the house. Ask friend how to rescue this poor loaf that now needs to bake but can't start yet because you have to go pick up a child from school and can't leave the house with the oven on. Friend advises putting the bread outside where it is chilly so that the yeast growth is arrested. Follow her advice and go pick up child.

When arriving back at the house, surmise that you can warm it back up and maybe help it rise a little more by putting back in a warm oven. After another 30 minutes in warm oven, give up and bake the bread according to the original instructions. By dinnertime, remove bread from oven and present it to family as Dense Oatmeal Toasting Loaf for breakfast the next morning.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Bag Lady

It's a disease, a fetish, an affliction... whatever you call it, I am a packrat. However, I have a mission--to reduce the amount of clutter in my home before this babe arrives in three short months.

Today, when sorting through a drawer in the bench seat by our front door, I found 14 (fourteen) bags stuffed in there. Tote bags, mini-backpacks, a discarded purse, accessory bags from various diaper and work bags, even two plastic library promotion bags.

That's just a start. I am afraid to think of how many bags I would find if I go around the house pulling them out of all the other closets and drawers where forgotten or unused bags are stuffed and stashed.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Choices, choices...

"Hello from,
Thanks to the recent purchase(s) you made in the Home and Garden store at, you are eligible to receive a one-year subscription to your choice of "Bon Appetit," "Domino," or "Gourmet" magazine (valued from $10 to $15).
"To receive your one-year subscription, please click the link below, which will direct you to a secure form at Amazon where you can sign in to your account, and sign up for your subscription.
"What's the catch? None. We're happy to provide our customers with the benefits of partnering with great publishers. There is no charge for this offer, and there is no automatic renewal."

I am tempted by all three. Such beauty, creativity, inspiration inside! I can't decide!

Which would you choose? Why?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Spot the Flaw

A gold star to anyone who can see my mistake in the following project photo:

This was a last minute Christmas gift for my second-grader's best friend. I was crazily stitching it up before delivering at the end of the last day of school before Winter Break. I didn't realize the mistake until I was laying it out for the photo! (That's a clue.)

So I ripped out a few inches of sewing, fixed the problem, re-sewed and wrapped it, just in time to take it to school. The look on the little girl's face was worth the rush!

I also made one for my daughter, so she and her BFF have matching tote bags. The inspiration was also from the latest craft swap, courtesy KM-S. Thanks, my friend!

(Here's the tote bag pattern, in case you like it.)

Sassy Shirt Shopping Sacks

I promised several people that I would post pictures of this soooo simple craft project when I was done. Well, with all the crafting before Christmas, and the cleanup after, I just got back to my t-shirt project.

My friend Marie introduced me to this idea at our last craft swap (which is such an amazing ritual, I highly recommend it for your group of friends). She used the Martha Stewart pattern, and I found the t-shirts at Goodwill (I love thrifting!).

The project took me about $1.50 and 5 minutes per bag. I liked the sassy tees, but it would also be a lot of fun to use fabric markers or paint and let your kids decorate the bags too!

(Sorry about the photo quality, I am not a photographer! Also, the mini sewing machine on the left is my daughter's. Mine is under the purple tee next to it.)