Thursday, September 27, 2007

Rating the new shows. Part 1.

Truth be told, I’m not watching nearly as many new shows this week as I thought I might. I have The Journeyman and Cane on the PVR, as well as the first two episodes of the new season of Prison Break. I’m not sure when I’ll get to them because every time I turn on the TV, there’s a new show staring back at me. I did catch 3 new ones last night, though, so here’s my review:
Back to You

Starring: Kelsey Grammar and Patricia Heaton
Premise: Big town news anchor returns to small town station; old anchor has some trouble adjusting.
Mini-Review: Predictable. Okay. Meh.
PVR: Will not record.
Final words: Might watch again when all the good shows go into repeats. Is this the only character Kelsey Grammar can play? Aside from Sideshow Bob, of course, which was sheer brilliance.

Private Practice
Starring: Kate Walsh, Tim Daly, Amy Brenneman
Premise: The Grey’s Anatomy spin-off with the Addison character going into private practice with a bunch of other good-looking docs.
Mini-Review: Did. Not. Like. Lame characters. Lame writing. Lame Addison. Yick.
PVR: Will not record.
Final words: I usually dislike pilot episodes of any show (except Ally McBeal – best pilot ever!) but there’s often enough there that I’ll give it another shot. Private Practice, you have wounded me with your inadequacy. Wednesday night called… it wants the hour between 9 and 10 o’clock back.

Dirty Sexy Money
Starring: Peter Krause and Donald Sutherland
Premise: Principled, upstanding son of deceased lawyer to beyond-wealthy, morally questionable family is asked to step into his father’s shoes.
Mini-Review: Good. Not great. But good. I like the premise, but the characters in the pilot were a little over the top.
PVR: Will record at least the next two shows.
Final Words: I usually like Peter Krause shows (Six Feet Under, Sports Night), so I have some faith that the show will get better as it matures.
How about you? Did you watch these ones? Any that you have seen that I should see?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Halloween is really for the children.

On the weekend, Lisa announced what she wanted to be for Halloween. It was a good idea. She usually has good ideas. Here's last year’s:

Ohhh Homey

I immediately had an image in my mind of how the costume would come together. As usual, though, I thought I would turn to the Internet for some inspiration. My Google search returned the following results:

At least the middle one has the curds and whey. Hey, isn't that third one Little Bo Peep?
What? This isn’t screaming Little Miss Muffet? For a six year old girl? No? I’m in trouble.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Imagine the freedom.

I got hooked on a series on TLC last night called “The Lottery Changed my Life”. It was just story after story of ordinary people who became multi-millionaires overnight. I think most people have probably thought about what they would do; I know I have. I actually believe I will win $15 million one day. Not $5 million, not $20 million, but $15 million. I buy tickets only when the jackpot reaches $15 million or a multiple thereof (e.g. $30 million). Yes, I am a little delusional.

So, what would I do with my big jackpot win? Not what almost everyone on the show did, I can tell you that. I would not:

Buy a Corvette, a Bentley, a Hummer or a Jaguar.
Buy a 10,000 square foot home made of marble.
Fill my giant marble house with statues, suits of armour, Elvis memorabilia or shiny gold things.
Sit around a giant pool all day sipping cocktails (although I might do that occasionally).

For me, winning the lottery would give me the opportunity to have more time for myself and for my kids. I would definitely quit my paying job, but I would still work outside the home sometimes. My dream would be to fix up dilapidated homes in the inner city and sell them or rent them to struggling families. I would make life easier for my extended family and close friends. I would probably live in the same house, but with some improved landscaping and some interior upgrades. We would get a new car, but nothing big and flashy, just new. The kids, of course, would be set for higher education and beyond.

The one thing I would never, ever do again, is clean my house, because I hate cleaning my house. I would hire someone to come in for several hours a week to do things like laundry, housework and general tidying up. That would be my luxury.

Winning the lottery would just feel like a great big exhale, you know? No more worrying about whether or not we’re putting away enough for our retirement or the kids’ education. No more arguing about who is doing more housework (I am) or who is failing to respect the budget (he is). In short, it would feel like this:

Friday, September 21, 2007

The frugal shopper.

We were talking about groceries at work yesterday and got around to discussing how much people spend on their weekly food bill. I was astonished by what people spend. My one co-worker, a skinny little twenty-something who lives with her fiancé, spends $150 to $200 on groceries. A week. Another, who has two teenage boys, spends almost $300. One of the students in my office says she spends at least $100 a week, not including ordering pizza with her roommates at least once a week.

I spend between $60 and $80 a week for my little family of five. Granted, the kids don’t eat a lot, so our budget has not changed much from when we were childless. But still, my co-workers were gob-smacked and asked, “do you eat?” We do. I think we eat pretty well. I get it, I’m frugal, but they were all asking me for my “secret”. So, just in case this interests you at all, here’s what I do (and don’t do, I guess).

1. Find the best store. I figured out which store has the best prices, consistently, on my basics (milk, bread, eggs, cheese) and use that as my “main” store.

2. Shop the flyers. I’ll look at the flyer for my main store first and select our meals for the week based on what’s on sale. I also look at the flyers for other stores that are en route to the main store to see if there’s something worth stopping in for. I get the flyers emailed to me.

3. Set a budget. My family gets no more than $12 in meat a week, based on the flyer specials. We don’t eat meat every night (I don’t eat it at all, but the rest of the family does enjoy a good carcass). I spend no more than $6 a week on convenience items for the kids’ lunches (puddings, fruit cups, granola bars, juice boxes). $20 goes to fruits and vegetables. The basics cost about $15-$20 a week (we go through a lot of milk and at $5 for 3-quarts, it adds up).

4. Know your prices. Almost everyone in the discussion yesterday said that they don’t really look at prices, they just buy what they need. If you pay attention to the prices, you will know when something is a really good deal and you can pick up one or two more for the pantry.

5. Be flexible. We eat tons of fruits and vegetables. Carrots, onions, potatoes and other root vegetables (like squash and zucchini), as well as cucumbers are almost always good value. Other veggies, especially peppers and cauliflower, are best purchased when they are on sale for $0.99/lb or less. There’s always one variety of tomato that is on sale; so as long as you’re not too picky if your salad has roma or beefsteak, hothouse or field grown, you can always have tomatoes in stock. For fruits, my limit is $0.99/lb. I don’t get hung up on having grapes/ strawberries/ blueberries every week “because the kids love them”. I get those things when they’re on sale and the kids see them as a special treat. I go to the market for my fruits and veg and my bill has never been more than $20 for the week.

6. Do the math. Whole chickens are cheaper per pound than parts. Frozen concentrate gets you way more juice for your buck than cartons of juice. Big tubs of yogurt are way more economical than individual serving sizes (just invest in a few reusable containers to dole it out for lunches).

7. Bake. See #3 where I say I only spend $6 a week on convenience foods for lunches? This is possible because I bake. Every weekend I make a batch of cookies and a batch of mini-muffins for the lunches. I will also make a pan of brownies or other squares to munch on throughout the week. Baking is so much better that buying the packaged stuff – it tastes better and you can do sneaky things like sub whole wheat flour for all-purpose.

8. Don’t let your husband shop. Homer thought he would surprise me by doing the shopping two weeks in a row. He managed to spend $158 the first time and $137 the next. And! We didn’t eat any better. He conceded that I was, in fact, better than him at shopping and agreed that grocery shopping would forever be my “thing”.

So, there you have it. Lori’s guide to frugal groceries. Now, go! Shop! And spend the money you save on fun stuff. Like clothes, or manicures, or new baking pans.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Overheard at dinner...

We have the best dinner conversations now that Bart is in school. Bart reveals nothing about school unless coaxed and Lisa is anxious to get every single detail.

L: Who did you play with at school today?
B: Kids
L: What kids?
B: A stripes kid and a princess kid.
L: What were their names?
B: Ummm… Stripes and Princess.


L: Who do you play with in the class?
B: Everyone and no one.


L: Are there any bad kids in your class?
B: No. Just real kids.
L: So, you don’t have any Chinas in your class?
Lori & Homer (in unison): WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?
L: All the Chinas I know are bad in class
(Editor’s note: she has had exactly one Chinese kid in her class, ever. He is bad, though.)


L: Did you learn any new songs today?
B: Yeah.
L: What songs?
B: I don’t know. Learning songs.
L: Did you sing the “Counting to 20” song?
B: No.
L: The “Ears Hang Low” song?
B: No.
L: What songs, then?
B: Mom, tell Lisa no more questions today. I’m thinking.


B: Tomorrow I’m going to sit with my friends on the bus.
L: Mom, he wants to sit with the big kids at the back. He doesn’t even know them.
B: I do know them, they’re my friends.
L: If they’re your friends, what are their names?
B: Dora, Ming-Ming, Diego, Tyrone and Bob.
L: Those are cartoons!
B: Yesssss. Cartoon friends. Told ya.


I feel like Supermom today. As I write this, I have a roast with vegetables in my crock pot. By the time we get home, it should be cooked to perfection and ready to eat. Roast Beef. On a Tuesday. This has never happened before in my house. Never.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Why so cranky?

Man, I’ve been a downer these last few posts.
Waahh… I can’t get the stains out of my clothes
Waahhh… Bart fell in the pool
Waahhh… I hate my clothes
Waahhh… I took a sucky picture

I’m not really feeling all that cranky, so I’m not sure why this string of cranky posts.

I love fall, with its crisp air, warmer clothes and BAKING.

Beck posted a great gingerbread cookie recipe, which I made on the weekend. I cut them into little hearts, butterflies and circles and decorated them (the circles had happy faces). They turned out great and the kitchen had that great fall fragrance. I discovered a new product for decorating cookies, which I loved:

Best $5 I ever spent – no mess, no fuss, put it in the fridge until next time.

I also went shopping last night and bought some new clothes. I took Laural’s suggestion and tried on a ton of items, even those I wasn’t sure I liked. I managed to find three pairs of pants that I really liked (all grey or black based, but still…) and one sweater (also grey). I know, pathetic. I tried on lots of things with colour, even some blouses with ruffles and puffy sleeves. There’s a reason I don’t have trendy clothes. They look RIDICULOUS on me. I have an “athletic” build (broad shoulders, small boobs, small waist), so pretty things look pretty silly on me. I’m okay with that, though. The sales associate suggested I try “Petite” sizes for tops, which I did and they fit much better. So Sara – now you have to go out and buy some new stuff!

Bart had his orientation for Junior Kindergarten yesterday. We started out by warning the teacher that he is not like Lisa (who was in her class 2 years ago). Lisa was quiet, a good listener, knew all her letters, numbers and some three-letter words before starting school… a teacher’s dream. Bart… well, Bart’s a nice boy; a little high energy; tends to live in his own head. Weren’t we surprised then, when he aced all of the little tests she gave him. He sorted the little bears without hesitation. He put the story together with a beginning, middle and end. He correctly identified all the numbers and letters she showed him, he printed his name and he SAT DOWN for the whole test (at least 10 minutes)! This is the same boy who does stuff like this:

Oh, you can’t see what he’s pumping up? Let’s have a closer look:

Yes, that’s a plum. He saw some bigger ones at the market and thought he’d pump his up a bit.
As you can see, no need to be cranky. Life is good. I have cookies and clothes and a nutball son who I will be sending on the bus for the very first time tomorrow (eek).

Monday, September 10, 2007

This is my life.

I hate being photographed. I’m not hideous or anything, but I am overly critical… of my hair, my skin, my shape. Every time I see a picture of myself, I quickly look away, or critique it mercilessly. It drives Mike crazy and he makes a point of saying “don’t delete it” every time he takes a picture of me. I do make a point of getting pictures of me with the kids. I have very few pictures of me with my mother when I was young and I wish I had more.

So, given my distaste for pictures featuring moi, imagine my horror when I was asked to have my picture taken for something at work. I was given no notice, and it was on a day when we were moving some boxes and furniture, so I wasn’t exactly dressed in office attire. I didn’t even ask where the picture would be posted. I suppose I imagined it in some obscure little newsletter or scrapbook.

I arrived at work Tuesday to find that it accompanied the top story on the university’s web site. If you typed in the university’s url on Tuesday, my picture would pop up. Tuesday, the day after Labour Day. The day when every student logged on to get the calendar of events for Frosh Week. Did I mention that the picture was HORRENDOUS! I’m not the only one who thought so. People were saying “nice picture” in that drippy, sing-songy, sarcastic way mean people have. My hair was naturally bad, but the worst was that I looked huge. There were two other guys in the picture who were short. They were standing further back in the picture, which made them look smaller and me like giant. I looked beefy too. Thick arms, thick legs… beefy. I was mortified and I was thrilled that the story had dropped off the front page by Friday.

Enter Saturday. I was at a soccer tournament with the kids and several people told me they saw my picture. Really? Hmm. Why would they be looking on the university’s website? Then someone clarified; the picture was in the newspaper. What? Are you kidding me? Sure enough, we picked up the paper on the way home and there was my big beefy self, smiling like a moron in a giant colour version of the picture. Kill me now.

This is how my life works. It would never happen that I would take a good picture and have it plastered everywhere. I will never run into someone from my past when I look good. No, I’ll run into an old crush when I’m make-up free, wearing a baseball hat with three screaming kids in tow. Just imagine all the people who saw that awful picture and commented “time has not been kind to her.” I want a do-over. WAAHH!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

First day of school, first day of school!

Well, it was Lisa’s first day of school. And the first day of “Frosh Week” where I work. Sadly, I’m sitting in the same crappy clothes I’ve been wearing all summer, not shiny new clothes that would normally accompany the change of a season (I know fall doesn’t officially arrive for a couple of weeks, but for me, September = fall). Sara wrote a great post about changing over the kids clothes for a new season, which made me wonder when I stopped getting all new stuff every season, donating the old stuff to a younger sibling or a worthy charity.

Now, I find myself buying clothes that are:
1. Not too trendy (so I can wear them for years);
2. In basic colours (I have so much grey, black and khaki, it’s stupid); and
3. Practical (Ew. Just, ew.)

I’m living vicariously through my children (really, just through the girls), who always have trendy clothes and cool footwear. Between me, my mom and my aunt (who finds AMAZING deals on the cutest kid clothes), we have bought Bart 17 new shirts, 5 pairs of pants, 2 pairs of shoes and a couple of new shorts to start school next week. Lisa has 12 new shirts, 2 new hoodies, 7 pairs of pants, 3 dresses and 3 pairs of shoes. Maggie pretty much lives in hand-me-downs and gifts from my mom and aunt, but they’re nice and cool and new to her.

I remember my mom bought a new winter coat when I was in high school and she commented that she had bought the last one 15 years earlier. What what what? I couldn’t BELIEVE that she could wear the same thing for that long. But now, I kind of get it. I don’t think I have anything that old in my closet (yet), but I do have some dinosaur jeans and sandals that are pushing at least a decade.

Part of the problem is that I hate shopping for myself. I don’t like trying things on, I hate paying full price for anything (thanks Mom!) and sales associates drive me crazy. I don’t read fashion magazines, so I never really know what’s “in”. My strategy in the past has been to point to a nicely dressed manikin and ask for my size in all the pieces that make up her outfit. I’m not exactly of manikin proportions, so the strategy, while good in theory, falls apart in the change room. I usually end up in Winners (like TJ Max in the US), picking out black pants and collared blouses in a variety of boring colours. Most of the time at work, I look like a sharply dressed man on casual Fridays.

So, like I was saying “first day of school”. Yay! Lisa, by the way, looked awesome!