Thursday, May 24, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday

This is the last week of school, and it has been a little crazy so far.  This weekend will be hectic as well, with our youngest son playing in a 4-day baseball tournament.  I have a million things to do to get ready for this weekend, so I'm posting the Quick Takes a little early this week...... 
--- 1 ---
 As usual, my youngest son's baseball team played in a tournament this past weekend.   We had an incident where our coaches stepped in to protect an opposing player from injury.  Unfortunately, it resulted in the opposing team being required to forfeit the game.  Sadly, instead of the other team recognizing the error, and graciously accepting the consequences for their mistake, they starting screaming insults and threats at our coaches and boys.  (Their behaviour basically confirmed my suspicion that it was not merely a mistake, but a blatant infraction.)  Poor sportsmanship is never acceptable.  Parents should set the example, but these parents and coaches were leading the charge, so to speak. 
I'm very proud of the way our boys conducted themselves.  At first they stood there staring with their mouths hanging open at the things being said and the way the other team and parents were behaving.  We advised them to just ignore them, and the tournament director spoke about the situation a little bit.  He finished up by saying that in all his years he's never seen a better 8 year old team, one of the best in the Nation.  He then asked them all to pile in with him for a cheer.
Because of the other teams actions, some of us were truly concerned that we just might get jumped in the parking lot or might return to damaged vehicles.  However, as soon as we finished taking pictures of our boys with their trophies, we had an unexpected rain shower.  By the time we reached the parking lot, the last of the other team was finally leaving, and the rain stopped almost as soon as we reached our vehicles.  Once we were safely on our way home, I told my sons that I thought that little rain shower was God's way of telling that other team it was time to go home. 
--- 2 ---
My husband and I have tried our best to teach our sons that you have to be good sport.  Win or lose, be gracious.  If you win, don't be a braggart and throw it in people's faces.  I know it's exciting to win and you should be proud, but you also need to be mindful of other people's feelings.  If you lose, keep your head up, congratulate your opponent and mean it!  Then move on, don't dwell on what went wrong or why you didn't win.  Being negative helps nothing and often brings others down.  If you see a teammate down, bring him up - that's part of being a team.
--- 3 ---
As I mentioned, we'll be playing in a big 4-day tournament this weekend.  This will be a challenge for our boys, not only because we're facing teams who, on paper, seem phenomenal, but we're expecting the hottest temps so far this season.  Obviously, we'll have the usual stuff on hand that I'll call no-brainers:  water, sports drinks, sunscreen, bug spray, eye black, etc.  But there are a few more things that are really helpful that I thought I'd mention.  By the way, I have not been compensated in any way for writing about these products.  Now if they'd like to send me a check or a gift card to two for plugging their products, that would be fine.  (Hint, hint.)
Frogg Toggs Chilly Pads® - These are cloths made from a "hyper-evaporative material" that retains water, but feels dry to the touch.  It helps keep the boys cool in the warmer temps.  Even us parents who are usually sweltering in the stands have been known to borrow a Frog Togg® or two on occasion.
--- 4 ---
An E-Z Up® - let me just tell you, we have huddled up under these things more often than I care to mention.  These are a must-have when you know you'll be at the park ALL.DAY.LONG!  They are portable awnings that are so easy to erect, hence the name.  They come in various sizes and have some optional accessories as well, such as wind shield panels.  We parents sit under them during games at fields with little to no shade.  In between games, we put the boys under these to rest until the next game, etc.  I know at least 3 of us will be have our E-Z Ups® with us this weekend.
--- 5 ---
Mac Sports Folding Wagon - I saw one of these last year at an out-of-state tournament, and I stalked it until I could find out who owned it.  We were at a ballpark where we had to hike a mile to get to our field.  When you're hauling ball bags, lawn chairs, backpacks, EZ-Ups, etc., you either make several mile-long hikes to haul all that stuff or you load up like a pack mule and risk a stroke to carry it all at once.  Me?  If I can't get it all there in one trip, it ain't going.  Turns out the owner bought it at a discount center where I don't have a membership, so I googled that sucker and found one at a local store.  I immediately went and plunked down my money for that wagon.  Hubby had to work the next time we went out of state, and that wagon was tremendously helpful.  I loaded it up, and my oldest son pulled it for me.  How great is that??  Plus, it makes it so much easier to sneak a few drinks and snacks into places that don't allow them.  Eh hem.... Not that I would do such a thing.  Just sayin'.
--- 6 ---
I know it will feel like we're playing on the surface of the sun this weekend, but we have also played in temps so cold, our boys actually volunteered to sit the bench.  The reason they volunteered to sit?  We had Big Buddy Heaters set up in the dug out.  These heaters were a life saver.  I'm serious when I tell you it was approximately 20 degrees that weekend and windy.  We hung a tarp at the dugout to block the wind and placed two Big Buddy Heaters in the dugout.  The dugout was approximately 10 degrees warmer than it was outside.  Of course, we parents were huddled around some heaters as well.  That tournament was BRUTAL.  Brrrrr!  I'm getting the chills just thinking about that weekend.
Caution is advised with these heaters.  They use propane and produce a flame.  Although they have a protective grill, they do produce enough heat to melt things that might get too close.  Ask my hubby - he was so close to one, it actually melted a hole in the track pants he was wearing.  LOL!
--- 7 ---
Have a happy and safe Memorial weekend! 
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Friday, May 18, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday

  1. I'm writing on very little sleep, so this may post may not make any sense whatsoever.  Sorry.  Between my almost 9 year old baby who gets in bed with us in the wee hours almost every night and a mysterious critter that has decided to take up residence under our bathtub, I rarely get a full night's sleep.  If my son is not stealing covers or punching me in the face, the critter keeps me awake with scratching and banging.  Apparently, since I have super mommy hearing, I'm the only one that hears all the racket.  Well, me and our dog, Travis.  It's driving me INSANE.  Hubby thought he resolved the problem on Mother's Day by affixing wire mesh to the floor joists under the tub.  Nope.  Around 3a.m. I punched him and told him that "it" seems ticked off now.  He said, "hmmmph... whatever it is must be pretty big."  Yay.....
  2. Mother's Day was a little different this year.  We normally have a fish fry at my grandmother's after church on Mother's Day.  However, we had the fish fry a few weeks early while my aunt was in town.  So, this year, we went to my grandmother's and just hung out for a while.  Have I mentioned that I don't get much sleep?  LOL!  After we ate, my uncle turned golf on the tv, and I'm sorry but watching golf is like watching paint dry!  While they were all watching the snoozapalooza on TV, I was struggling to keep my eyes open.  I decided to go take a nap.  The next thing I knew, my youngest was peeking into the room, and said, "Mommy, I'm tired too."  So, he curled up next to me and we both napped.  My baby isn't so little anymore - as I mentioned, he's almost 9, and he's growing up way too fast.  For the longest time, every Sunday after church, he and I would curl up on the couch together and take a nap.  This went on for years.  I don't remember when it stopped, but I miss it.
  3. Once I turned 40, things really starting going downhill for me.  Seriously, it's like my warranty expired and all my parts started failing one right after the other.  For example, I learned in a most alarming way that I had high blood pressure - I'm talking stroke potential.  I started having issues with my joints, which led to the discovery that my thyroid was acting up.  Well... you get the drift.  In my right arm alone, I have..... get this tendinitis in my elbow, carpal tunnel and a slight tear in my rotator cuff. Those three issues occasionally flare up separately.  Mother's Day they all three decided to visit.  So, by midday my right arm was essentially useless.   I'm right handed.  Happy Mother's Day to me.
  4. Earlier this week, my youngest received a medal for winning his class' math tournament.  Yay!  Congratulations, baby!
  5. My oldest son had his Spring band concert last night night.  I'm so proud of him.  He did well, and he really seems to enjoy playing the trumpet.  Unfortunately, every time I tried to take his picture, the little snot hid behind his trumpet.  He's in the 6th grade Beginning Band, and they have improved significantly since their Winter concert.  In between songs, the band instructor spoke briefly, and at one point he mentioned band camp.  I have no idea what he said after that because what immediately sprang to my mind was  "one time at band camp....."  (QUICK!  Name that movie.)  Just so you know, my son will not be attending band camp.  Well, not this year.
  6. After the concert last night, I stayed up and finally baked the chocolate chip cookie dough that had been "resting" in my fridge.  Yes, the recipe calls for "resting."  I packaged them up, and brought them to work to sell.  All cookies were gone in 5 minutes.  I need a bigger kitchen.
  7. Luckily it rained last weekend, so my garage sale was cancelled.  Yay!  Unfortunately, that also means, I'm still broke.  Bummer.  This weekend we're back to our normal routine; my youngest is playing in a baseball tournament.  The coaches asked for games after noon, so of course, our  games times for Saturday are at 9a.m. and 10:45a.m.  Gotta love it.  At least this tournament is only 15 miles or so from home, and we'll be home early enough Saturday to tend to some household chores.  Teams will be seeded based on how they did Saturday, and seeding will determine our first game time Sunday.  Hopefully, I'll be able to sleep past 3a.m. for a change.
Have a great weekend everyone!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Bit of Better Butter

Okay, how many of you grew up trying to say the following tongue twister or something similar:
Betty Botter bought a bit of butter.
The butter Betty Botter bought was a bit bitter
And made her batter bitter.
But a bit of better butter
Makes better batter.
So Betty Botter bought a bit of better butter,
Making Betty Botter's bitter batter better.
I remember laughing with my mom and grandmother as I tried time and time again to say this tongue twister.  I'm showing my age I suppose.

As I mentioned in my 7 Quick Takes last Friday, I made some homemade butter.  For some reason, I couldn't get my pictures to upload for the Quick Takes.  I think I've figured out the problem, I'm going to attempt to provide the instruction and the pictures.  I actually found the easy instructions on a blog called Crunchy Betty.  She has all kinds of neat ideas and recipes for everything from laundry detergent to shampoo.  I think I may try homemade shampoo next.

Anyway, with the butter, I used heavy whipping cream that you can buy in any supermarket.  She suggested using unpasteurized, but I just used what the store had, which of course was pasteurized - ultra in fact.  Since I was just trying this out and didn't want to make a big batch of something that could potentially be dreadful, I just poured about a cup of cream in a container with an airtight lid.  I then handed the container to one of my sons and said "shake."  He shook it for a few minutes, then got bored and handed it off to his brother.  Brother soon got bored as well, sat the container on the counter and snuck out of the room while I was distracted.  Luckily, they had already shaken the container so much that the cream was at the whipped cream stage.  (They shook it vigorously for probably a total of 5 or 6 minutes.)  With just a few more minutes of shaking, the whipped cream quickly turned to butter.  When I opened the container, this is what I saw.  You can see that the butter and whey have separated.  BTW - you can use a blender or food processor for this as well, rather than shaking.

Pour off the whey and remove your butter.  I know there are probably a ton of things you can use this whey for, but I haven't researched any of that yet.  Instead, I used it in my coffee the next morning.  The butter is certainly edible at this point; however, the recipe that I use suggests you go one step further; an ice bath.  Crunchy Betty noted that in her experience, the butter spoiled faster if you didn't go through the ice bath process to remove as much of the whey as possible.

For the ice bath, just get a bowl containing water and ice.  Obviously, the cold will help your butter firm up just a bit.  Press the butter against the side of the bowl or squeeze it in your fist, squeezing out as much as the whey as you can.  You'll notice the water will turn cloudy with the whey.  You'll change the water and ice and continue this process until the water remains clear.  It won't take as long as you might think. 

Once the water in the ice bath is clear, you can stop there and you'll have unsalted butter.  However, if you prefer salted butter, this is where you should salt to taste, which is what I did.  It's so yummy.  You can make larger batches and freeze the butter if you wish.  See how easy it was??

Now I'm craving some homemade rolls!  Yummy!  Enjoy!

"Praise the Lord" and Pass the Sunflower Seeds

Here's another not-so-good cell phone picture from baseball (sorry Jamie, but thanks for sending it to me.  LOL!)

I know I said my son was on a hand-picked travelling team.  That's true.  Most of the team also plays league during the week in a small town not too far from home.  Unfortunately, two of our teammates live a few hours away, and just aren't able to play league with us during the week.  So they play league in their own hometowns.  Playing league in this small town provides the opportunity for our players to gain experience in positions they don't normally play during the weekend tournament ball games.  Pretty smart, huh?

Before a game, our coaches will usually pull the team aside, give them a few words of encouragement/advice or whatever and will typically conclude with a prayer.  Prior to our game last Thursday night, both teams joined hands on the pitchers mound and said a prayer.  Afterward, they all piled in, and on the count of three said "Praise the Lord."  At least I think that's what they said.  It's nice to see this.

Friday, May 11, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday

  1. Hellooooo Friday!  I'm so glad to see you.  What took you so long?
  2. Monday didn't start off so well.  My youngest son played baseball all weekend, so naturally my oldest son was with us.  We all completely forgot that he had a Social Studies project due Monday morning, or maybe we were in denial.  We ALL knew a week ago when this project was due.  We made numerous comments over the past week, you know - if you don't do this, you can't go here.  Yadayadayada.  Did we follow through?  NO!  Did said project get done? NO!  There was much yelling, crying and gnashing of teeth, and that's when I decided to go to bed.  Hubby put the boy in charge of doing the research on the computer while he went to the other computer to print pictures for the project.  That was a mistake.  As soon as hubby left the room, our oldest promptly crawled onto the couch and went to sleep.  Basically the pictures that hubby printed were the only part of the project that was completed.  Duh, DAH! DAH! Mom, to the rescue Monday morning.  I kept the boy out of school that morning and we worked feverishly on the project.  We finished it in a few hours, and I checked him in at school just in time for his lunch.  I can't totally blame our son.  Maybe we should lead by example instead of teaching him to be a procrastinator, and maybe we should follow through with consequences consistently when we tell him he has to do something or else....  This parenting thing is HARD.  Don't judge me.  There are only two weeks of school left.  Lord, please help us get through it.
  3. This weekend will be our first weekend without baseball in a while.  Whatever will I do?  Well, apparently I'm a glutton for punishment because we've scheduled a garage sale.  I hate having garage sales, but I sure would like to be able to park in my garage again.  Plus with all the traveling we've been doing for baseball, the extra money would come in handy.  Eh hem..... sponsorships are certainly welcome. 
  4. I baked a batch of cookies a few weeks ago and shared some with a friend and her family.  She liked them, and said she thought I could sell them.  So, I baked a double batch Wednesday night, packaged them up and sold them at work Thursday for $1 per cookie.  I'm delighted to say all cookies were sold in less than 2 hours.  I made $34 for the baseball travel fund which now has a grand total of (drum roll please)........ $34.  sigh!
  5. I've recently been researching ways to live more frugally without having to sacrifice anything, you know like air condition, cable, cell phones.  After all let's be realistic here - those are necessities!  I live in the south, and air conditioning is definitely a MUST!  Anyway, I made a batch of homemade liquid laundry detergent inspired by the Duggar family recipe.   This detergent cleans as well as any store bought detergent I've used.  I love Gain laundry detergent, but I die a little inside each time I pay $15.47 for a gallon at my local Wally World.  I try to use coupons and stock up when it was on sale, but still.  I calculated the cost of this homemade liquid soap recipe, and it works out to be $2.10 per gallon, and it makes 10 gallons.  TEN GALLONS.  That's a savings of $133.70 right there folks!  I don't really know how quickly I'll go through ten gallons as I've never really paid attention before.  But, let me tell you I do a TON of laundry each and every stinkin' week!  I don't know how a family of 4 can create so much dirty laundry.  To quote one of my favorite bloggers, Delilah at Confessions of a Semi-Domesticated Mama, I'm losing my mind one load of laundry at a time.
  6. I'm not what you would call crunchy or anything yet, and I don't really ever see myself going that far either, but...... I also made my own homemade butter the other night.  Folks it was so darned easy, I can't believe I haven't tried it before.  I just poured some heavy whipping cream into a container, handed it to one of my boys who had energy to burn, and said "shake it."  (There are actually a few other steps besides just shaking, but it truly was easy.)  It is so yummy, and something I will definitely be doing again.  Now if I could just get my father in law to milk his goats, I could make some queso fresco.  But he says they aren't "milking goats."  I didn't realize there was such a thing.  Oh well....  I'd upload some pictures of the butter-making process, but I can't figure out why they're not loading.  If the truth be known, I'm so computer illiterate, it's laughable.  I can't believe I decided to start a blog without anyone here to hold me hand. 
  7. Did I say TGIF??  Have a great weekend everyone!

Baseball Teaches Valuable Life Lessons

Our youngest son is on a hand-picked USSSA travelling baseball team.  This is a group of very talented, amazing little boys, and we love them all.  The parents don't totally suck either, so that's a plus.  Just kidding Elite family - we love ya'll too. 

We started the Spring Season as the only 8AAA pitching machine team in the State.  This limited our playing options.  We would either have to seek out "open" machine pitch tournaments that would allow a AAA team to play, travel out of state anytime we wanted to play or skip our last year of pitching machine and move up to play with the 9 year old teams in kid pitch or live arm as we call it.  Our coaches made the decision to forgo the last year of machine pitch to play with the 9 year old live arm teams.  We knew playing up would be tough, but we felt the boys were up to the challenge and it would give us an advantage next year when we'll be a true 9 year old team.  Besides, if you don't challenge yourself, you don't improve.  Right?

The boys have done better than we could have imagined.  Not only are we playing with the 9 year old teams, we're beating them.  Consistently.  We were jokingly told the other day that we may be the only 8AAA team in history that gets bumped up to 9AAA.  So last weekend, we decided to ratchet up the challenge just a little.  We entered a tournament where the 9 year olds and 10 year olds were in the same pool.  That meant that our team of 8 year olds (some having just turned 8) would be playing 10 year old teams.  WOW!  Let me tell you, these boys stepped up to the challenge!  We should have won the tournament (thankyouverymuch Mr. Umpire), but ended up with third.  A few bad calls resulted in us having to go extra innings against a big 10-year old team, and we ended up losing by 1 run. 

Sorry about the crappy cell phone picture, but would you just look at the size of that catcher compared to my baby in the batter's box!  When our boys saw those big 10 year olds walk by, many eyes got really big and mouths fell open.  They were intimidated for sure.  Not for long.  Once our boys stepped on the field it was GAME ON!  Our boys fought and fought with Rocky-like heart and determination.  As our coach said, our boys proved that whomever is in the other dugout better be ready to play no matter who they are.

After the game parents of the other team and general onlookers came up to us and our boys and commented on what an amazing little team we have.  One nice gentleman even offered to house our team should we ever play in his town.  Our boys did the usual shaking of hands, good game routine at the end of the game.  However, after we packed up all of our gear and were leaving the park, a few members of that 10 year old team approached my son and a few others and offered their hands again.  A few parents even clapped as we passed.  What a nice group of folks.  Obviously, that day our boys earned something more valuable than a trophy; respect. 

So, the lesson:  Never give up.  No matter how bleak or hopeless things may seem, never give up. Dig deep and fight!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Hello! Is Anybody Out There?

I've toyed with the idea of starting a blog for quite some time.  I love to write, but I'm sure my English teacher will visibly cringe should she ever stumble upon this site.  My writing is more of a stream of consciousness, rambling kind of writing.  No doubt, my writing style or lack thereof will drive some of you crazy.  I apologize in advance.

I'm creating this blog in an effort to document our crazy life because, well...... I suck at taking pictures and doing the whole scrapbook thing.  I actually take pictures, but that's where it stops.  I'm an epic failure when it comes to actually printing those pictures and organizing them in some sort of cohesive manner.

I have no idea where this will go - will it be solely a mommy blog?  Doubt it - I'm not so good at that either.  I'll probably just post whatever is on my mind and heart that day.  If I manage to gain some followers other than family along the way, I'll be truly amazed.

Okay, that said....