Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Grocery Challenge & Supper Wars - Week 26

Week 26 Shopping:
Whole Foods - $91.70
Publix - $87.24
Total - $178.94

2009 YTD - $3,493.14
Average weekly spending - $134.35

These first two weeks back from vacation are a bit higher, as I'm restocking the fridge & freezer we emptied out before the trip. And, there was the matter of junk food. Publix had both brownie mix and ice cream sales, so it was a good time to restock the items for occasional gluttony. It turned out to be a bit more spaving (spending to save) than spurging though, as the promise of a scoop of ice cream or cold can of yoohoo (don't ask) when we get back home from the pool saved my wallet - and patience - from begging for pricier single serve items sold by our friendly neighborhood ice cream man.

Supper Wars
Meals were fairly simple this week.

Orange Teriyaki Grilled Shrimp Skewers with Jasmine Rice and Broccoli
Father's Day request. Two kids liked the shrimp, one ate under protest. None of them ate the peppers, onions and mushrooms on the skewers. That was anticipated, which is why there was broccoli.

Turkey Tacos, Mango & Black Bean Salad
Still can't get the kids excited about the black beans in salad form. Guess they'll have to be mixed in with the turkey for a while longer. Had ice cold Dublin Dr Pepper with this dinner. No dessert necessary after. (Wish I'd bought an extra three or four cases of the stuff while we were at the soda shop in Texas.)

Chicken Fried Rice
Got a night of leftovers out of this, too.

Spinach & Mushroom omlet, Turkey Bacon, Whole Wheat & Flax Waffles. (No mushrooms for kids.) Turned out to be perfect comfort food on a night we all needed it, too.

Thai Basil Chicken & Sticky Rice
Used thinly cut strips of chicken breast instead of ground chicken, and cut back a little on the red chili to keep from scaring off the kids. Used loads of both Thai and Sweet Basil from the planter. Soooo good. Will post link to recipe soon. Want to make sure I link the one with the step by step photos.

Photo Library Heartbreak

I'm generally not big on the whole idea of revenge. I'm a fan of restitution when it comes to property crimes. But I'm having to fight some serious anger issues at the moment, in light of the thief who hit my house.

I don't care about the television, the cell phone or laptop. That's just stuff, which will all be replaced over the next couple of days. It's the photos not yet categorized and backed up which get to me.
  • The yellow-bellied marmot B1 caught on camera on the Cog Railway, which none of the six others in the group managed.
  • Swarms of ladybugs which turned tree trunks solid orange.
  • The shots taken while bracing themselves against the desert winds at the top of the Capulin Volcano, with mountains far in the distance; or in the snow at the summit marker on Pike's Peak.
  • Mahogany which had been converted into giant, silk-strung ghosts by throngs of green/blue caterpillars.
  • The double rainbow my daughter spotted after the rainstorm on our way into Odessa, Texas.
  • A beautiful shot of Birmingham, taken at 2 a.m. by a child who I thought to be asleep, but was quietly playing a gameboy. (It's quite pretty at night.)
  • The many cool buildings we saw in small towns on our highway driving. Some still in use, and others hollowed out stone and brick shells, like something from a ghost town.
I have snippets of some of these places, taken on the iPhone, but it's just not the same as some of the great shots the kids captured on their cameras.

Between anger about the theft of a part of our lives, and the restless week of sleep, I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to meet up with the fellow(s) and introduce him/them to a few of my other possessions... and yes, being the potential domestic threat that I am, I'm talking about firearms.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Butt Dialing

I've always found this commercial quite funny. The Motorola Slvr on the family plan, which was replaced by an iPhone, was horrible for butt dialing, and had to be kept with the keypad lock on at all times. Always the #1 & #2 spots on the quick dial, too.

It was still a great phone, so became our home phone on the shared minutes plan. No more butt-dialing. At least, not until Spring/Summer, when B1 started sticking it in his pocket on trips with his younger siblings to the park up the street. Until I showed him how to set the key lock, slot #1 (me) and slot #2 (dad) were treated to many, MANY calls featuring the muffled sounds of children on the playground and teens with skateboards or frisbee.

Background story in place, so let's flash forward to the present.

Our house was robbed on Thursday. The @#!*! took our new 42" LCD television and laptop. Called police, was told by the responding officer it was probably someone we know, or an extremely lucky young criminal with great timing. Nothing to worry about from a safety standpoint. A detective would be calling me, but I should call if we had anything to add after talking with B1 (away for the week) and the neighbors.

Around six o'clock, I received a text from a number I didn't recognize about Michael Jackson's death. I figured it was a misdial, and went on with my evening. A couple hours later, and several miles away, dad received two calls in a row, of the background noise variety. Thinking it might be work or kid related, he called back, and got a young man who denied making the calls. I was asked what - if any - business/personal finance activity I'd done on the stolen Dell, in case it was someone going through our data. (None - it was the kid computer.) I asked for the phone number. It matched the earlier text message I'd received.

That's too large of a coincidence for me. Especially when you take into account the discovery that the home cell phone was missing from it's normal spot on the shelf right next to the table where the laptop had been lifted.

There was no activity on the phone after the time we left for the pool on Thursday, so whoever took it wasn't using it on our plan. When I called the number, it went straight to auto message, no ringing. Our two numbers were stored in the phone, not on the sim card.

So here's what we're thinking:

The @#*%! who took it replaced the sim card with his own (or gave/sold to a friend), but didn't think to wipe the actual phone memory. When he sent a text about MJ's death to the #1 contact on his card, it sent it to me, the #1 on the phone. Later that evening, while out & about with the SLVR in his pocket, he butt-dialed the #2 stored on the phone. There haven't been any more mysterious phone calls, so the return call on Thursday probably tipped him off.

Left a message with the Sandy Springs police Friday morning. Didn't hear back from them, so did a Reverse Lookup on the phone number. Got an actual name and a residential address in Decatur. Makes me think the "really lucky" option is the case, if this is the @#%*!, and that he probably works at the road construction site less than half a mile away.

Still haven't heard back from the police, though I've called again. Either they're calling my home number, which doesn't go to anything until I visit the at&t store, instead of the cell number I left in the message, or my little non-violent home invasion is far down the list of priorities.

Either way, if they don't hurry, the inexperienced young criminal who robbed my house is going to get away with it. And next time, he'll know to wipe the phone before using it or giving/selling to a friend.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Grocery Challenge Catch Up

Missed getting the last couple of weeks up before vacation, so am putting up stores & totals without the full shopping lists. Full lists and "try something new" menu will restart next week.

Week 21 (5/17 - 5/23):
Trader Joe's - $60.32
Costco - $86.94 (Stock-up trip)
Trader Joe's (bike) - $23.03
Total - $170.29

Week 22 (5/24-5/30):
Publix - $32.34
Little Euro. Bakery - $8.29
Publix - $59.33
Total - $99.96
This was an experiment in standard supermarket shopping. Prices good, but some of the food, especially produce... meh.

Week 23 (5/31-6/6):
Whole Foods (bike) - $30.25
Publix - $31.73
Whole Foods - $49.81
Total - $111.79

Grocery spending (as of 6/6/2009): $3,239.90
Average weekly spending: $140.86

We were on the road for Week 24 and Week 25. The restaurant meals we ate were officially part of the vacation budget, so don't figure here. I did pick up travel food at Trader Joes before we left, and again in Colorado at Safeway before we headed out for the trek back home.

The little bit spent on peanut butter pretzels, olive oil popcorn, juice boxes, baby carrots, apples, babybel cheese wheels, dried fruits and nuts provided us with a few picnic lunches, helping us avoid greasy fast food meals and more expensive "healthier" restaurant alternatives. Also saved quite a few whining rants - I mean requests - for the pricey snacks while we were refueling the van.

Week 24 (6/7-6/13):
Trader Joes - $33.13

Week 25 (6/14-6/20):
Safeway - $41.17
I'm totally spoiled by Trader Joe's prices on bagged fruits and nuts. The list of items purchased for the trip home was quite close to the list for the trip out, but the cashews, pistachios and almonds in the little canisters cost quite a bit more than my usual $5.99-$8.99 baggies at TJ's.

Grocery spending (as of 6/20): $3,314.20
Average weekly spending: $132.57

I'll post a few of the memorable "try something new" meals in our ongoing Supper Wars this weekend, after I see if I can dig up recipe links. If not, I'll type them up and post. Yes, a couple were that good.

Applewood bacon, heavy cream, strawberries...

How's that for a shopping list?

Only things we need from the store today.

Maybe I should have put need in quotes. After all, I don't "need" the strawberries, I want them.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


...we're gone for 2-1/2 weeks, and the house is fine. Four days after getting back home and into our regular routine, we come home from the daily trip to the pool to a missing 42" flatscreen and laptop.

Somebody walked into the family room through the one door I didn't think to check on the way out of the house, and braved a loud, 85-lb dog.

Whoever it was unhooked the cables and cords from the television and picked up the remote from the coffee table. Left the xbox 360 completely alone. Then they must have noticed the laptop which couldn't be seen from the (locked) kitchen door on the carport. That was simply unhooked from the surge protector and taken away with the mouse still attached.

Must not have walked through the rest of the house, as I don't see anything else missing. The officer who responded was pretty certain we're physically safe, as he thinks it was probably a younger offender, since they were careful to take the things they'd need to use both items right away, and didn't go through the rest of the house.

On the phone with insurance now, and should hear from the detective tomorrow.

My initial thoughts are:
  • Thankful nobody (including Peter T Dog) is hurt.
  • Sad about the photos the kids have copied over the 4-6 weeks. Without the Flickr uploader working this week, I was unable to get them backed up. I wish I'd copied them to my computer with the vacation photos.
  • Disappointed in the kids, for not locking the back door when I told them to; and in myself, for not following behind them to check.
  • Anger at the thought that I now have to wonder about every teen, lawn guy, contracter and construction worker from the road project by the park. And, I have to wonder if it's bad to be predictable by following a set routine. Oh, plus wonder if dropping our 42" projection television off at Goodwill might have been the tipoff for this act, and not some random crime of opportunity.
Now, to fix some brinner and make a catalog of everything else... after I go put the lock on the bikes. Yes, the stable of bikes had just been moved back out to the carport yesterday, were not locked, and are all still siting there.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Home again!

Took a detour on the way home from Colorado. Spent time in New Mexico and Texas, and took some extra time to wander an hour - or four - off the interstates.

I'm working through the mountain of laundry, restocking the pantry & fridge, and organizing photos. Will begin posting some of our "off the beaten path" gems (to borrow a segment from Slamdunk) in another day or two, along with regular topics. There's the best rootbeer float of my life, delicious BBQ, stunning scenery, cattle roadblocks... and more.

Until then*, here's a snapshot from Pike's Peak. We rode the Cog Railway up to the summit. Went from sunny summer to big old snowbanks in an hour. (iPhone photo, as I'm still sorting the images from the two cameras.)

*To be honest, I'm stalling. Haven't been on a run since the GOTG 10 mile over a week ago. It's been almost three weeks away from the bikes. I'm relying on the 15 year old and the Xbox 360 to keep the younger two busy tomorrow morning, while I go for a two hour ride. Love the children, but need the mental health break.
Will take them swimming or out for a hike after lunch, lest anyone think I'm letting them become complete couch potatoes.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Still on the road, but off the interstates

Now that the Garden of the Gods 10 Mile race is finished, I'm taking some time to save all the photos stored and cameras & iPhone. We're in Colorado for another day or two, then head south into New Mexico before turning east toward home.

We spent a few days in Nebraska and Kansas, without spending a single moment on the interstate. It is lovely country this time of year. Green as far as the eye can see. Much better than our last long visit, in the middle of winter, during heavy snow & wind.

Sunset in Kansas on Monday night (Photos by DD)

Alma, Nebraska - running out the extra energy at park across the street from grandparent's house:

Alma is a wonderful little town. Many people ride bikes to get around, because everything is close and the roads are safe. Kids riding bicycles and walking everywhere. Children swarming over the playground equipment before going to the summer programs at the library. It was wonderful to see whole families walking to the park. It's not something you see in Atlanta. Families at the park, yes. But that's after they've loaded up in the SUV/minivan and driven there.

The multi-use lakeside path which runs the whole length of town made the perfect place to get in some maintenance miles while we were there. Plus, the start was only a block from the house, so no cars were involved in getting there.

Great visit with grandparents and great-grandparents. If not for the upcoming race, we might have stayed another day or two. As it is, we're looking forward to going back out next summer. (And I'm looking forward to leaving the three children with Grandma & Grandpa for a week. But that's next year.)

We're at the other grandparents' now, and are spending a few days doing many touristy type things.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

On the road

We're three - or is it four? - days into our cross country trek. The kids are doing great. The drive has been lovely, even when the weather hasn't been so great. Driving with the three of them by myself is not anywhere near as bad as I'd feared. The DVD player isn't going full-time, and there have been long stretches where there isn't a single video game in play. Audiobooks and a license plate spotting app on the iPhone (Spotters) have kept kids far more entertained than I'd imagined.

We're up to 32 states, including one of the two we never thought we'd see. When we were climbing out of the van at the Riverfront parking in Saint Louis the other morning, what should pull up in the opposite space but a suburban with Alaska plates. That was number 20, I think. We hit 25 states before crossing into Kansas, which meant it was time to stop at DQ for blizzards. Next milestone is 40 states, which we'll probably hit by the time we get into Denver.

I have no idea what's going on in the world, but I can discuss in detail the little details which make Artemis Fowl an amazingly fantastic and super cool evil kid genius, along with his progression to amazingly fantastic and super cool not-exactly-evil kid genius. We're listening our way through the first three books of the series, since they were bedtime reading a few years ago. Books four & five were more recent, so we'll be able to skip forward after this to the latest in the series, The Time Paradox.

There's a lot of photos stored on the cards of the two cameras the kids are using to document the trip. Shots from Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri and Kansas - but I'm just not quite up to getting out all the cables and chargers tonight. These are a few of the shots from the iPhone. I'm on the Dell, so the photos are as-is...

Heading through Tennessee, somewhere north of Nashville. The kid who's a fan of big construction projects and anything to do with cars and motoring loved driving all the miles on roads cut through the rock.

Heading over to the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. The kids had seen photos, and had heard about it when I read The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson jumps out of the Arch during a fiery battle with a monster from Greek mythology), but the size of the actual thing outdid the image they'd built in their heads. It's been about 30 years since the last time I'd been up in the arch, so it was fun to go as an adult.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Gotta run!

Today is National Running Day. I'd have known it sooner if I'd taken the time to read Runner's World when it came in the mail two weeks ago, instead of at the pool yesterday.

There's pages of tips on how to participate (get out and run), find running groups, and how to get started. There's probably not time to get to one of the official runs today, but I will be hitting the pavement for an Easy 3* later this morning, right after I get back from the dentist.

*Easy 3 describes my distance and pace in this case. It's actually one of my previously tough hill runs, which I never used on an easy day. The hill training I've been doing for the Garden of the Gods 10 Mile may not get me through the race course in the mountains all that quickly, but it sure has made running through my neighborhood easier.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Hi. My name is Joy, and I'm a Discovery Channel Addict.

And History, Military, Science, National Geographic and Travel Channels. I blame the oh-so-convenient DVR with dual tuners, which allows us to record two shows at once. In high definition. And the oh-so-wonderful Comcast HD OnDemand service.

It started a few years before the DVR, with the occasional special on ancient battles, siege weapons or metallurgy, with seasonal binges of Shark Week, ancient Rome or Egypt, and engineering wonders.

Then, we saw frozen chickens being fired from an air canon at plane windshields. Mythbusters became a family viewing event. The one night each week where we'd break normal school year bedtimes and pile in front of the television... picture The Simpsons opening.

Knowing there wasn't possibly enough time to follow everything, shows like Dirty Jobs, Survivorman, and Anthony Bourdain had to be limited to the times when viewing marathons coincided with rainy weekends.

With the advent of the dual tuner DVR, we could get those previously limited shows, and more, to watch whenever we want. The good news was that the kids didn't have to stay up late on a school night to see Mythbusters. The "bad" news was the growing list of programs we wanted to - and could - watch. Bizzare Foods w/Andrew Zimmerman, Cities of the Underworld, Man vs. Wild. Alaska Week was added to Shark Week for those seasonal binges.

And now... Doing DaVinci, Pitchmen, Out of the Wild, The Detonators, and as of last night:

Expedition Africa. One episode, and I'm completely hooked. Heck, with spitting cobras, crocodiles and Masai warriors, we all are.

Nooooo!!!! It's summer, so it's time for SciFi/BBC America series. Torchwood, Doctor Who, Eureka, and the new Warehouse 13 in place of Stargate Atlantis. I don't have that much ironing to do, unless I can convince the children to start wearing linen.

Oh. Lest I forget, Spike TV has a show called Deadliest Warrior. You know that close to friendship ending bout of bickering you could start as a kid by asking who would win a fight between _______ & _______, usually filled in with superheroes? Well, Deadliest Warrior fills in the blanks with warriors throughout history from all over the world, and answers the question. Weapons experts, biomechanical experts, emergency/trauma doctor, and a guy to crunch the numbers and run the simulations. Ninjas vs. Spartans? Shaolin Monks vs. Maori Warriors? William Wallace vs. Shaka Zulu? The first season played back to back Sunday afternoon, finishing with terrorist vs. terrorist - IRA vs. Taliban. I haven't watched it yet, but all four episodes we haven't seen are waiting behind the glowing yellow lights on the HD DVR.

I'm looking forward to Ninjas vs. Spartans. The kids are pulling for Vikings vs. Pirates to be the next episode we watch. Is it wrong to be watching the forecast and contemplating adding "one full day of rain each week" to the prayer list?