Monday, April 27, 2009

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Summer Teaser

Well, it was a fantastic weekend for weather here in Pittsburgh! It started on Friday, and it looks like it's going to last through today. The kids really enjoyed it. But here's how it went down:

Friday after school, Becca started. "Can you put up the pool?!?!" (I've promised that we'll put up the easy-set pool that has been sitting in the garage for two years this summer). I told her that I can't put that pool up until their birthdays (end of May).
Then she wanted a smaller pool. Well, it was 4:00 on a Friday. I wasn't ready to tackle any kind of pool. So we compromised on the sprinkler. They were happy. Saturday, I caved. I put up one of those hard shell plastic pools for them. We later found that there must be a hole in it. But they had a great afternoon, bouncing between my yard and my friend's yard. Carefree, almost summer.

Sunday we had a couple of events to head to. There was a christening for our friend's twins down the street, then a communion party for other neighbors at our restaurant. We headed down to the christening. Now, our friends there put in an in ground pool last year. They got it late in the summer, and the kids were in it once. I didn't think that the pool would be open yet for the season. But we got there, and the pool was open. (On a side note, I'm totally jealous of their pool and the set up. It looks like something out of a magazine. They should rent it out for parties.) So, I ran back to the house, got their suits, and they swam for a couple of hours.'s April in Pittsburgh.

It was a great time, and the first time that, as a parent, I didn't have to get in the pool. They were fine just swimming on their own. Nice.

The communion party was held on Downey's House's deck. Because it's not normally this warm in APRIL, we had to sort of scramble to get the deck semi-ready. The chairs still don't match. We don't have any coolers out there yet. We need to do some landscaping. But it went well, all things considered.

So, it looks like our little visit to summer ends tomorrow. Which is OK with me. But I'm glad that summer IS right around the corner!

But if you talk to me in August, I might have something to complain about :)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

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Coming Out of Hiding

Well, my entire life was consumed.

Consumed by, of all things, eight wonderful novels. As I've mentioned, I've been reading the Sookie Stackhouse Novels. Well, for the past week, it's about ALL I've been doing. If you're looking for a good bunch of books, these are a great read!

I have to say, I am totally in awe of people who can write stories like this. The author, Charlaine Harris, has other books, too. And I'm sure I will eventually get around to reading them. I can't imagine being able to sit down and weave the stores, characters, settings, and everything else. And this woman is either an extremely talented, creative and dedicated writer OR she's something supernatural. I am amazed at how she has explored the supernatural, and made up the rules as she went along. Kudos to her!!!

If you don't know, I'm not really casual about anything. When I start reading something and enjoy it, I jump right in, both feet first. I was walking to the bus stop while reading. I stayed up until 2:00 am many nights so I could finish the book I was on. When something gets my brain going, it takes me over. Needless to say, other areas of my life have suffered. The house is a mess, the kids are ready to kill each other, and I haven't blogged (sorry) or tended to any of my other online ventures. As I finished book number eight last night, I had a whole mix of emotions. I was sad I was finished reading about Sookie. I was amazed that I got through these eight books while still feeding, clothing and tending to the kids and the restaurant. I was glad that I was going to go back to 'normal' life. Then it happened.

I went to the Charlaine Harris' website. Yeah, there's another one coming out next month. I pre-ordered Dead and Gone today. No big deal. What's one more book, right? Um, WRONG! If you look under the bibliography on her website, you'll see that there are quite a few books with short stories about Sookie (these stories sort of fill in the gaps). Yeah. Now I have to read those, too. I ordered one from Amazon. There is the great possibility that I will read the collection of short stories, find another author that is fantastic, and discover another five thousand books I want to read.

Oh well. The kids know how to get cereal for themselves.

If you remember, the whole reason I started reading this series was that it's the inspiration for True Blood on HBO. I really enjoyed the first season of the series, and from what I understand, the second season is supposed to start this June. However, the series and the books are completely different. Well, not completely. Many of the characters are the same. But things happen differently. I'm not going to give out any spoilers here, but let's just say I'm curious about what direction Alan Ball is going for the second season. I'll probably enjoy the series. I may quite possibly enjoy it even more, because I'll be so into the differences.

Anyway, for now, it's back to my little spot here in Collier Township, PA and out of Bon Temps, Louisiana. And I'll write more.


My plan is to go on over to my friend Barb's site, Barb's Bookshelf, and post something on the forums over there. Many of the members there use CafePress, Zazzle,, and other POD's (that's Print-On-Demand for those who don't know). They're uber awesome, and make up a large portion of who I like to call my 'online friends.'

And they're frickin' funny!

OK, I'm gonna catch up on some of that housework. The girls are at the neighbor's house, running through a sprinkler. Yup, it's April and it's 86 degrees right now. But I'm not complaining.

Have a gerat weekend!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

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First Taste of Business

Well, it was a fantastically beautiful day yesterday in Pittsburgh. Dare I say, the weather was perfect. I was in a pretty good mood, I didn't have to make my normal Saturday run to the restaurant, and the house was pretty clean. So, I finally gave in to the request that Chloe has been making since January.

The Lemonade Stand.

Chloe has been asking me at least once a week since JANUARY if she could have a lemonade stand outside. When I explained that people don't really want to buy lemonade when it is snowing outside, she offered up the idea of a hot chocolate stand. Well, although that would have worked a bit better, I held her off. There was a weekly lemonade stand inside my kitchen. She would get her small folding chair, and set up the cups and kool-aid on one of the stools for our island. She had three very regular, Tony and Becca.

They had some very grand hopes for the outside lemonade stand. As I cleaned up, I had them draw some pictures for the lemonade stand. We ran a couple of errands, and then came home to make the lemonade (instant, of course!). The plan was to set up their 'Cafe' tent:

We figured that we would cover up 'Espresso' with 'Lemonade.' Easy enough. I head out to the driveway and start setting up the cafe. The frame went up just fine. After a couple of tries (and Becca holding down part of the tent), I got the cover on. Then, it was just like one huge box kite. Since I didn't necessarily want the children flying through the sky through our plan, I nixed the cafe. After taking it down and putting it away, we set up our small plastic table and chairs from Ikea. That worked just fine. They had the ice, the lemonade and the cups. They even put out their gumball machine. Price? Two coins. Yeah, any coins. Although Becca is now realizing that different coins are worth different amounts, Chloe hasn't quite reached that level. So, I asked Becca to just 'go with it.' She also thought that she was going to make $1,000.

They sat there for about five minutes with me being the only customer. I told them that nobody knew they were there...they needed to let everybody know that they were having a lemonade stand. They did great! First, Becca walked down to the stop sign (just past our neighbor's house) and stood on the corner holding up a sign that said 'Lemonade' and had our address on it. Then, she used her loud mouth skills. Every car, every person that she saw definitely knew about the lemonade stand.

They got some customers, and then Chloe headed out for her turn at the marketing. It was very cute. The whole ordeal only lasted about an hour and a half, but they had fun. And they realized that just because you open shop, that doesn't mean you will have a ton of business. I told them what I do for the restaurant, and part of it is making sure people know what's going on, and where we are. Now, they sort of get it.

As a side note, I just started book 7 of 8 from the Sookie Stackhouse novels. I'm loving this series more and more! It is cutting into my snooze time a little, but it's worth it! I'll report on the entire series as soon as I'm done :)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

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Attitude Changes Everything

Sorry I haven't posted in a few days. I went through a little bit of re-discovery. Tuesday I was happy to get back to normal, but the next day I did absolutely NOTHING. (Although I managed to beat my high score on Scramble over at facebook.) I had a big ol' case of the 'blahs.' There was no particular reason I had these feelings. There's the possibility that it was the crappy Pittsburgh weather. But I woke up on Thursday morning, and my attitude changed.

The sun was shining, and I had a new peace. As I was drinking a cup of coffee that morning in my kid-less house (they were at school), my brain started thinking what my life would be like if I had all the money I ever needed. I imagined my bank account just overflowing with cash. You want to know what I figured out? My life really wouldn't be much different.

Sure, I would buy more stuff, and possibly go more places. But my daily life would be pretty much the same. I would still be getting up in the morning. I would still be getting the kids to school. There would still be toys to clean up, laundry to do, birthday gifts to buy and dinner to make. I would still live in this house, drive my car and drink the same coffee. Yes, if I had a crapload of cash, we may not own the restaurant anymore, but I'm not so sure about that. I mean, it's like our child right now. Most likely, I would still have that hour or so in the morning to catch up on restaurant work. Yeah, I could hire somebody to do the grunt work. So I might get a couple more hours to myself each day. But what would I do with that time? I'm sure for a month or so, I would just enjoy the fact that I HAD some time. But I would start some project and get involved in something.

And I'd be back to the same place.

So, I've reached another plateau of happiness. Acceptance is good. I'm really not a worrier. So, if we're low on cash one month, I actually handle it pretty well.

That's not to say that I wouldn't take some cash if it came along.

Mama doesn't NEED a new pair of shoes, but I sure wouldn't mind a few. And hardwood floors. Ooooh, and a maid to do the scrubbing. (Yeah, I don't scrub all that much. So again, money wouldn't really change my life, but it might make my house more clean!). I think my kids have felt this new calmness. They've been great the past couple of days. We've had fun, and we haven't really done anything special.

Yup, it's all about the attitude :)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

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Ahhhh....Back To My Controlled Craziness

I feel like this is my first day back to my so-called normal life. It feels good. We got through spring break. The Easter Bunny came. The taxes are done (and getting mailed today). Today is a day of sweeping, mopping and catching up on laundry.

I don't know why the holiday threw me for such a loop. We had three solid days of coloring Easter eggs. The weather wasn't awful, but it wasn't nice enough for the kids to play outside all day, either. Everything just took a little bit longer with two kids around. Becca headed back to school today (with tears, of course).

I did federal, state and local tax returns for three different people. This is the first year I dealt with TONS of business write offs, K-1's and what not. Because of that, I had a couple extra glasses of wine at Easter dinner. I felt it a little the next day.

So, here I am, back to normal. Back to homework tonight. Getting Downey's House ready for summer and (hopefully) the surge in business with the deck getting ready to open. Quite honestly, I don't really have a topic for today's post. Just wanted to share the fact that I'm feeling pretty peaceful. Even though my normal life consists of running around, I've gotten used to a certain level of craziness. Which makes me think...

What will I do when the kids have flown the nest? Yes, my house will be a little more clean. I'll enjoy a little more reading. But I already have the feeling that I'll be a little bored.

Well, and much more rested.

So, for the next few days (or weeks...or until a child pushes me over the edge) I'm going to enjoy the hell out of them. I enjoy their ages. I enjoy their humor. And then there's the cuddles and the kisses.


Thursday, April 9, 2009

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Should I Save My Sanity or Save My Money?

Well, today is day 2 of spring vacation for Becca. I'll tell you, it couldn't have come at a worse time. Or maybe the timing of my vacation was wrong. Either way, let me tell you what's been going on.

We all had a great time in Florida, and it was a week of family togetherness. We got home late on a Tuesday night, and Becca had school the next morning. I think she was still asleep as I got her on the bus that morning. When she got to school, she found that her regular teacher was out, and she had a substitute. When she got home that day, she cried that she didn't want to go back to school. I knew she'd have a bit of an adjustment getting back into the groove, and figured she had a little bit of extra troubles because she expected to see her regular teacher. Thursday came, and there were more tears when she got to school. There weren't any in the car that day, but lots of complaining. Friday, she stepped on the bus with big ol' tears of drama. Monday and Tuesday, same thing. Tears. Lots of them.

She's tried saying she has a stomach ache. She misses me. She misses her blanket. I gave her an old necklace of mine, and told her to hold it when she missed me. Helped a little. But now we have this week of vacation, and I think it's going to start again on Tuesday. Ugh. So, that's my update on Becca. I'm sure all will be fine, but it will be another week of complaining and fake stomach aches.

As for the title of my post, I want to talk about Aldi. I think I've mentioned the store here before. I love that store! And no, this isn't a sponsored post and I'm not getting anything to post about this store. Yesterday, I took the girls and did a grocery trip. I got an entire cart full of groceries and it cost 85 dollars. The cart was pretty full, and I even spent $10 on those
vaccuum space bag thingies
and three bucks on some fresh flowers. I've never had a problem with any of their groceries (Well, scratch that. I did have a problem with some hand soap - the pump didn't work. But that could happen anywhere). Even though they don't have a bunch of name brands, their cereal, snacks, frozen items and produce suit me just fine. I feel darn proud of myself when I come out of that store. Saving money makes me happy. But the kids have to shop with me when I'm there.

I have to say, they were VERY well behaved yesterday. I think they may have reached the point where I don't have to yell at them the entire time, and they stay close to the cart. Chloe has her job of putting things into the cart, and Becca helped me decide what to buy. Just six months ago, though, it would have been a different story. They would be grabbing things to put into the cart, begging for toys and candy, and getting in the way of the other shoppers.

And that's the strength of the Eagle's Nest. If you're not local, I'll let you know that Giant Eagle is one of Pittsburgh's large grocery chains. My store (and many others) has a child care center called the Eagle's Nest. It is a room for the kids set up with video games, toys, crayons and tv's. One wall is all windows, so you can peek in, and they always seem to have enough adults for the number of children. Putting the kids in the Eagle's Nest is almost like having a 'Calgon, take me away!' moment. Drop them off, grab a cart, order a Starbuck's and leisurely stroll through the store. I can read prices. Look at ingredients. Take recipe cards. Be picky about my fruit/meat/veggies. It's actually relaxing. Until I get to the check out.

I literally pay twice as much when I'm at Giant Eagle. Really. Now, there are some things that I will only get at Giant Eagle. Steaks, fresh seafood, bakery goods. If I need any of those things, I stop in quickly and head right back out. But sometimes, just sometimes, it's nice to have an hour to myself to do my shopping.

I've been very, very good about getting my groceries at Aldi. Because Chloe is at preschool two mornings a week, I can sometimes even sneak it in while I'm all alone. Giant Eagle knows what they're doing with that thing! I think I'll save that for the summer. When they're both here. All the time. For three months.

I'd better start saving my cash!

Space Bag Combo - Set of 6 (1 XL, 2 Large, 3 Medium)

Monday, April 6, 2009

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Hey - POD'ers...Add Your Blog

This is for all of my Print-On-Demand friends. I created an aggregator for any blogs that have to do with the Print On Demand business at blog aggregators by Just another way to get all of our blogs in one place, and hopefully up our traffic count. So, here's the address of what I created: It's easy peasy to add your blog. Just click that link and on the right you'll see an option to add your blog (of course, you'll need to start an account). Once there are a few members, I'll add a widget on this blog that shows posts from members. There's also a badge you can put on your blog, too!

If you have other blogs, it was super easy to set this aggregator up. Let me know if you start one realted to a different topic, and I'll post it here!

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Weekend Re-Cap

We had a fun weekend. Well, on the surface, anyway. It's hard to balance all the balls I have up in the air. Restaurant, kids, t-shirts, affiliate marketing, making the house look like it's not a pig sty. This weekend, we did a lot of stuff with the kids.

Saturday we went to breakfast with the Easter Bunny and an egg hunt. The girls had a great time. They had pancakes (their favorite), got to see their two cousins, and completely made out at the egg hunt. They each found three tickets, which entitled them to prizes. Chloe got a big and two small prizes, and Becca got 2 mediums and a small. The prizes were stuffed animals. My kids LOVE stuffed animals. There is a strange addiction there that I have yet to break. They were also very nice to their cousins. When I suggested that they each give one stuffed animal to their cousins (because they didn't get any tickets) they didn't even flinch. I was a proud mama. They were truly happy to make their cousins happy.

Then it happened.

We left the egg hunt and headed to the restaurant. We sat in a ton of traffic because of the inbound Parkway West closure this weekend. Becca started. "I'm jealous because Chloe got a bigger bunny than me!" Blah, blah, blah. Seems that every time we do something fun, the crabbies come out right after. We made it home, she complained some more, and eventually ended up on time out (I think it was for hitting her sister).

So, we wake up on Sunday and it's our day to go to the circus. The girls were excited. We all get ready and head down to the arena. They had fun watching Tony squirm as he saw the clowns outside mingling with the crowd. As we walked in and started going up the ramp to our seats, there was a vendor selling light up toys. Tony and I gave each other the "should we get these" look, and we bought one for each kid. The vendor says "twenty four." Twenty four? Dollars!?! I clutched my heart as Tony dished out the cash. We went in, found our seats, and walked around on the floor for a bit. They were offering elephant rides, pony rides and a big bouncy-slide thing. I entertained the thought of buying them tickets. I walked over to the ticket table and found it was SEVEN DOLLARS A TICKET! Pony ride for seven bucks? I don't think so. Big bouncy slide (the same one they have at many local festivals for $1 per ride)? No. I may have parted with fourteen bucks for the elephant ride, but the line was enormous. We bought a 'family pack' of tickets, which included a drink and hot dog for each person. We went and got our food (and those tickets were worth it, BTW), stopped by the cotton candy booth, plunked down 8 bucks for cotton candy, and headed to our seats.

The girls enjoyed the show. It seemed to drag a bit, but I'm glad we went. We bought more food. Pretzel, pop corn, peanuts and fries. As I emptied my wallet of cash, I was at least happy that we were all together, having fun. The girls were most excited about seeing Spider Man. He came out during the second half of the circus and did a little acrobatic ditty. They were happy, so I was, too. Spider Man made a second appearance with the clowns, but he was sort of like Elvis. Trim, muscular and svelte the first time you saw him. notsomuch the second time :)

Of course, as soon as we got in the car, Becca was complaining that she didn't get to go on the bouncy slide. Ugh. I about freaked out. I told her that I may not EVER take her to do anything fun ever again, because she just complains when it's over.

Yeah...that's my stellar mom moment of the weekend.

Tony could tell that I was just over this behavior. When we got home, he took the girls up the street for THREE HOURS!!! I had three hours to myself, and I was totally awake. I cleaned. Yeah, not the most exciting or relaxing thing to do, but it made me feel better, and I enjoyed it. I think Tony feels bad that it's going to be just me and the chicks for Easter vacation...and it looks like it's going to be too cold for them to play outside.

So, I had a full 'mommy' weekend. The restaurant was slower than usual because of the traffic situation. I have a clean-ish house (there was no scrubbing involved). I worked a little bit on my new affiliate site. It still has a long way to go, but I'll get there. And I had a request for a t-shirt design. I set up a store a while back, with all intentions of putting a bunch of designs in it. But then we, you know, bought a restaurant. So, I haven't worked on it much, but I have done a few special requests. Here's the one I did this weekend:

Peace, Love & Baseball Organic Toddler T-Shirt

I still haven't gotten it up on Zazzle, but maybe I'll do that now. OK...I think I've babbled enough for now. Next post? I think I'll touch on the fact that Becca is crying every morning because she doesn't want to go to school. Yeah. Fun.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

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I Want a Grown Up House

I've told you how I actually DO like my house. Now that the kids are (sort of) growing up, my mind has started to drift towards my fantasy of living in a clean, nicely decorated home. At this EXACT moment in time, I'd settle for clean. But I do have visions. Visions of beautiful hardwood floors. Of coordinating drapery and pillows. Someday (yes, someday...I keep telling myself) the girls will be old enough to appreciate the fact that this is MY house. And I would like to keep things finger print, marker, crayon and kool-aid stain free.

So, sometimes when I need to escape, I look at the nice things I would like. I found this website that's full of fabric shades, valances and curtains. After fantasizing a bit on this website, my heart yearned to be in a grown up place!!! I really do spend a lot of my time at home. And how cool is that site? Pick the fabric, make it perfect. I'm gonna have to start making some more money in order to afford my fantasy. But that's OK, I'll work on that. Right now all the curtains I have in my house are from Target. And they're not looking too swift. What is it with kids and curtains? They wipe their hands on them, twirl around in them. They've even tried to use them like Tarzan to swing on.

Maybe I've figured something out here. ::insert lightbulb:: If I get ALL valances, the kids couldn't destroy them. Well, I guess it's not that they COULDN'T, but it would be much more difficult. So, maybe I can start on my fantasy. Just gotta make some more cash. I got this far. I turned dreams of having a family, moving into a bit house in a nice neighborhood and owning a restaurant into reality.

I think I can handle curtains.

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One Ticket to My Past, Please

First, let me say that I'm sorry for not posting over the past week or so. I truly got on vacation mode. Good thing I was actually on vacation. I relaxed. Really relaxed. I swam. Tony and I actually went OUT and had appetizers and drinks. I also plowed through three books while on vacation (more on those later - The Sookie Stackhouse novels - love 'em). And you know what else I did? I posted some old pics on Facebook.

Now that was fun. Because I was at my folks' house, there was a treasure chest of old photos. I tried not to be TOO embarrassing. Well, not to anybody else, anyway. I really don't mind embarrassing myself. At all. Anyway, here are some of the pics that I posted, for your viewing pleasure.

I actually posted the entire class picture, but I didn't want to step on any toes here on the blog. But, do you see that? Would you like to compare Look at Chloe:

Now, there's a 3 year age difference here, and I was limited to whatever pics I have on my laptop ('cuz I'm comfy on the couch, here), but there really is a crazy resemblance. I mean, she does have my genes and I shouldn't be surprised. So, here is what she may look like in 17 years:

My entire family thought I looked like Joanna Kearns in this picture. I guess I sort of do.

So, where have I been going with this? Well, since being on Facebook and catching up with lots of old friends (from grade school and high school), I've been reflecting a bit. To be quite honest with you, there are large chunks of grade school and high school that I don't remember. I mean, I remember the big things that happened, and if somebody tells a story I may remember some of the smaller things. But I don't remember the details. And I'm fine with that. I've never been one to dwell on the past. Ever. If I'm looking at old photos, my brain might dance there for a while, but I've never been a 'Coulda, shoulda, woulda' kind of girl. My focus is always on the future. (So much so that I sometimes forget to enjoy the present). And I like it that way.

There were a bunch of us commenting on a photo from high school, and the conversation turned towards what we would have done different in high school. I'll be the first to admit...high school wasn't all peaches and cream. And my first instinct is that I would have not worried about boyfriends and spent more time with friends. But then I realized that if I didn't go through EXACTLY what I went through when I was younger, I wouldn't be the person I am today. If I didn't date the people I dated, befriend the people I befriended, go to the parties I went to, have ALL of the relationships I've had...I may be different right now. And I like me. Yes, there are some things I would like to improve. But all in all, I'm good company for myself.

And hopefully I'm good company for you! So, it's now 2:30 am. I've had four hours of sleep already, and I think I'll head up for 3 or 4 more.

That whole 'improve' thing. Definitely want to improve my sleeping schedule!!!!