Monday, August 30, 2010

Gearing up... BIG changes ahead

Do you ever have those times in your life when you just NEED a change?!? A change of address, a change of style, a new haircut, a new job? Yeah, well, I'm having one of those times! I need a change of lifestyle! I'm tired of being TIRED. I'm tired of being POOR. I'm tired of BAD HABITS. And mostly I'm tired of feeling completely over-whelmed on any given day with my life! But you know what? I'm not gonna bitch about it, I'm gonna do something. In fact, I'm gonna do a lot and what better time to start than September 1, 2010.

1. After about a month of down time, I will start the kids up with school. This will be the Piggy's first year with "real" school, and the Monkey Man will be cruising into his 5th year of homeschooling (since I started him at 4). He's an old pro now! And lucky for me, he has the ability to be self-directed, doing some independent study while I work with the Little Miss. I'm sure it's going to be a bit of a learning curve for all of us, but especially me. Time management is key and I'm not the best at it!

2. The kids will start all of their activities! Last year I was pretty lax with things, but they are craving more activity and interaction with their core group of friends. So... they will both be participating in a homeschool sport and skate class, Campfire, bowling, and Nature Nights at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center! The Monkey Man will have a monthly science class through the Austin Nature and Science Center as well as weekly science experiments at our local library! The Piggy will take a few of the Nature Center classes as well as a weekly arts and crafts class at the local library! And can I just give a big shout out to my library for offering cool things for my kids FOR FREE! Hooray! We love free! We will definitely be a busy bunch of beavers over the next few months, but that is exactly what they need!

3. I am starting a new menu program to hopefully cut down on our grocery bills!! I admit it, I shop for what sounds good to me at the time, I make sure I have all the staples and I wing it almost every day for every meal! I have a couple of things in mind when I shop, but end up having to go back to the store for little things like cilantro or broccoli or mozzarella cheese! It never fails and it adds up! We have also spent entirely too much $$$ eating out. We are pretty good about eating evening meals at home, but I have planned poorly for outings and errands and have had to grab food on the fly, and there are times I don't plan well for leftovers for Big Daddy to take to work for lunch. It's a huge problem. So not only am I planning for dinners, but lunches and breakfasts as well to hopefully cut back on that unnecessary spending! This is going to take A LOT of planning, and I'm going to have to FOLLOW THROUGH!! It's crunch time and I need to get our monthly budget under control! Mostly since we now have two kids participating in activities that require money and a home business we're trying to launch. Every single dime counts now.

4. This will be the first month implementing our cash only program. From now on, I will budget a certain amount of cash for groceries, kid activities and family entertainment. It is SO much easier to go out and just throw it on the card and deal with it later, which is what bites me in the ass EVERY time! I will now pull cash out every two weeks to deal with the various activities and the groceries. Bills of course, still have to be paid online, but I have those budgeted at this point and know exactly when things will be coming out. One tank of gas per paycheck, unless there is a specific scheduled outing that takes us out of town (like a camping trip or a tour of the Bluebell Ice Cream Factory). So this household is on lock-down for spending for at least the next 6 months to a year! We will have to get a headstart on XMAS shopping this year and get pretty creative with how we pull it off! Fun, fun!

5. Health is a top priority! I will be continuing with my physical therapy as my knees have been feeling SO much better. They're not perfect, but I feel as though I'm not compensating as much and I can climb stairs now with minimal issue!! I NEED to keep this going! My kids deserve to have healthy active parents! I am instituting the evening walk at least 5 nights a week! Big Daddy and I are both on portion control at meals and I'm trying very hard to cut back on the country-cookin' and focus more on healthy choices. I have never fed my family a lot processed, packaged crap, BUT I do have a tendency to fall back on the old stand-by meals that I ate as a kid as they are cheap to prepare and make enough to have leftovers the next day! Maybe it's just time to get creative and re-vamp those meals! I am hoping at some point to purchase bicycles for the entire family. It would be nice to get out and ride the trails! I mean seriously, with Lance Armstrong here, you KNOW Austin has some cool biking trails! Obviously healthcare is expensive so now is the time to get pro-active. The old saying "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" makes SO much sense to me, because honestly, I don't have the time or $$$ to be sick!

6. Burn the TV! Haha! I say this as on the same day I sign up for a free trial membership with Netflix! But we are seriously cutting back on screen time in this house. Obviously a large part of my homeschooling involves the computer and educational programming, but it's the junk TV and games I'm worried about. The kids will each be allowed one hour of screen time a day (they can choose for it to be a movie, the Wii or some non-school related computer time). Once a week we will have a family movie night and Big Daddy and I are going to implement the hell out of the DVR and record the 2-3 shows we love like "Modern Family" and "House" so we can watch late-night TV after the kids are in bed! I'm not saying there can't be exceptions, but night time needs to be family time, not sit-on-our-asses-and-watch-the-boob-toob time! I have a feeling this is going to be the hardest goal of all. My kids are TV watching, Wii playing, computer junkies! And I'll be the first to admit that sometimes all I want to do in the evening is veg on the couch and watch HGTV until I'm damn near comatose, but really? I can't find anything better to do, like read a book or play a game with my kids? We're definitely gonna figure this one out!

Now that I'm reading through this post, these goals seem SO lofty! Is it even remotely possible for me to pull this crap off? I don't know, but the only way we'll find out is if I jump in and try! And since September is the kick-off of our school season, it seems like the perfect time to kick off some smarter, healthier practices in our home. Wish me luck and I'll keep you posted, that is if I don't keel over in the process!!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Not-Back-To-School Weekend Extravaganza!

Last weekend, while everyone was getting ready for school to start, scrambling around at the outlet centers, looking for back-to-school fodder and taking advantage of the tax free weekend, WE were in San Antonio celebrating our "Not-Back-To-School Weekend Extravaganza"! We dropped the doggies off with friends then hit the road! We got to San Antonio just in time for lunch and happened across this awesome little "mom & pop" shop.
Chicago dogs and Philly cheesesteaks to DIE for! And yes, that's the Philly, with mushrooms, onions and chopped cherry peppers. OH HELL YEAH! So if you are ever in town, and have a hankerin' for a good dog or cheesesteak and you want to support a great local biz owned by a nice woman and her son, then head over to R&B's located on Austin Hwy in the Alamo Heights neighborhood. It will be worth your time!

After we completely stuffed our faces (cuz we seriously ordered WAY more than we should have) we headed down the road to the Witte Museum to check out the Dinosaur George exhibit. What fun! Life-size, animatronic dinos! Obviously the T-Rex was cool, but it was the sponsor sign that really cracked me up! The other part that intrigued me was the model of the "adolescent" T-Rex. They are now thinking that young T. Rex's were covered in a fine layer of down until they reached maturity and shed! How freaky is that? It's like baby T. Rex's were almost cute and cuddly like baby ducklings! Awwww! Can we get one for Easter?
The kids excavating a velociraptor in the "dig site"!
The beautiful view from behind the Witte.
The Monkey Man wanted to try out the "SkyCycle" which is a bike that coasts along a wire that is counter-weighted to keep the rider from falling. He felt like a daredevil!
Obligatory tree pic! You know how I feel about cool, old trees!
The kids checking out their surroundings!
Once we had our fill of the Witte, it was time to make our way to the Riverwalk and check into our hotel. This particular Drury used to be an old bank. The reservation desk is at the teller windows, the old mail and deposit boxes are still in place, the lobby is quite grand with gold crown moulding, marble floors and walls and giant chandeliers! The elevators were so cool! The hallway to our room looked like and even smelled like an old bank building! All of the doors had what seemed to be frosted glass windows like an old bank would have had, but when we entered the room we saw they were solid wood, just the illusion of frosted glass on the exterior! The rooms were very nice and the bathroom was gorgeous! AND when we checked in we asked if we could get a room as high as possible, so they set us up on the 19th floor with a Riverwalk view! The kids were thrilled to look out the windows and see this... After we got everything settled, we suited up and headed to the rooftop pool, yet another BIG deal for the kiddos. "MOM! A POOL! ON THE ROOF!!!!!"


Another Drury perk is the 5:30 Kickback and Happy Hour! Snacks, hell damn near a meal, sodas and popcorn for the kids, and 3 free drinks for the growed-ups! I had a particularly happy hour!
Then it was time to hit the Riverwalk. Big Daddy duck followed by his little ducklings! We treated to the kiddos to the Rainforest Cafe. Personally I hate that place, it's way over-priced and the food is nothing to write home about, BUT the kids LOVE it. AND they have cute t-shirts. After paying way too much $$$ for mediocre food, we continued on our tour of the Riverwalk as the sun was setting. We were almost back to the hotel when Big Daddy heard live music and we followed his ears to a wonderful little open air plaza behind the hotel. There was a jazzy/bluesy band playing old standards and the night was beautiful! I left the kids with Big Daddy and took off with my camera to explore! I came across the San Fernando Cathedral, all lit up and gorgeous!
Then I couldn't help but snap a quick one of the Tower Life Building next to an almost full moon! SWEET.
The kids started to poop out, so we headed back to the hotel to raid the vending machines and call it a night. We had to be up bright and early to make it to Schlitterbahn in time to get a good table in the shade! The rest of our day was spent splashing in the water, hurling down slides and playing with wild and reckless abandon! At least until we were all sunburned and completely exhausted!

And this my friends, is how we spent the weekend before school started! Have I mentioned lately how much I LOVE homeschooling?!?

Monday, August 23, 2010

What I love about Ruidoso...

-We are lucky enough to have a family that is willing to share this little bit of paradise with us!
-We get to marvel at the stunning New Mexico skies!
-We have awesome neighbors!

Rufous Hummingbird (this particular little dude rules the roost with an iron wing!)

Mule deer

Mountain Blue Jay

There are 3 species of woodpecker around the cabin, this one is an Acorn Woodpecker and it's the largest of the three. The other two are Hairy Woodpeckers and Downy Woodpeckers.

Bitchy squirrel! This thing chattered and bitched at me every time I went under its tree!

Female grosbeak

Chipmunk! I love these guys! Most of the photos I have of them are of their tails as they fly out frame at the last nanosecond!

-We have some rude neighbors too, but even they're pretty awesome!

"Ummm, excuse me, but you are a little too fat to be climbing on that rail!"

"Ummm, hello! That's our trash! Could you please stop tearing it up and put it back where you found it!"

-Ruidoso happens to have the best cherry cider I've ever had!
-We get to take advantage of all the fun stuff the area has to offer! (But I'll have to touch on those in upcoming posts!)

Friday, August 20, 2010

My Obsession with Old Dead Trees

I'm not exactly sure how it started, but I have had somewhat of an obsession with huge, majestic dead trees for years! Each one seems to have its own energy. And I always wonder, what happened to them. Did they die of old age? Was there a fire? A drought? Lightning strike? Infestation? How did they become the skeletons of the forest? During my recent trip to New Mexico I found quite a few of these wise old trees and felt privileged to take their photos and share them with you!

On the road up to the Sierra Blanca ski slope.
On the way down at sunset.
The following photos were taken at Grindstone Lake just outside of Ruidoso.
This was something I had certainly never seen before!

And although this was not the most impressive dead tree I ever saw, what was sitting on it was beyond impressive!
Old dead trees RULE!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

First Dollar

It seems kind of silly, but what the hell? I made my first official dollar this past weekend with my photography business!!! It felt great and I'm gonna frame the damn thing! My aunt suggested that I should get one of those shrines that you find in Thai restaurants to promote my prosperity! If you know where I can find one please let me know! But for now, I just feel lucky that I'm moving forward with my business and it's something I LOVE! I always swore to myself that when the time came to re-enter the workforce that it would be on my terms, doing something that I enjoy. So SCORE!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

So what do you on a Sunday afternoon in 100* heat?

You adopt a Muppet!
Welcome Sir Roddy the Kissyface (aka Rowdy Roddy)! He came to us through From the Heart Animal Rescue, which is the same rescue organization that we went through when we adopted Otis Potis. He was found running scared on the shoulder of Highway 71 out by Bastrop. A good Samaritan pulled over and literally scooped him off the busy road. She planned to keep him but sadly her Borzois decided he looked like a rabbit and tried to kill him, so she contacted From the Heart and they agreed to foster him. I noticed his pic a couple of weeks ago, but we weren't ready to adopt before our vacation. When I got home and saw that he was still available I inquired as to his temperament and house-training, both of which checked out. I took the kids to see him at a FTH remote where boy and dog bonded immediately! I talked Big Daddy into taking Nigel and the kids down to check him out the next day. Approximately 2 hours after arriving, we were headed home with our newest addition!

He is certainly NOT the type of dog I would have necessarily chosen for myself, except for that face! I've never been a fan of wire-haired, ankle-biters, but when you've got another dog and two small children, you HAVE to go for personality and temperament and he surely fit the bill! He's a fun little guy, just enough of a puppy to be bouncy and fun, but old enough not to be a complete shit! He's pretty small, less than 10 lbs but he has spunk. Then again, he's a terrier, they're known for spunk and moxy! Sadly he came to us full of fleas and worms, but that's been remedied and all is well. Now if Nigel can get a grip and realize he IS the dominant dog and Roddy isn't challenging that, things will be fine. I suppose I can't expect them to establish pecking order in 2 days! To close, here is my favorite picture to date, Sir Roddy the Froggy-Legged!
Oh and have I mentioned how great it is to adopt! Support your local shelters and rescue organizations, they are full of wonderful dogs in need of homes!

Monday, August 9, 2010

What Nigel did on vacation...

I had someone recently tell me that if you posted pics of your pet on your blog, you would instantaneously lose all credibility! Well I say, "Bah wizzers on you guys!" Nigel went from a sad sack shelter dog to a much-loved part of our family and if I want to post pics or stories about him, I will. Why, you ask? Because Nigel rocks! So without further ado, this is what Nigel did on vacation!

He slept the entire way to Ruidoso.
The first thing he did was chase one of these...
He hung out in his "spot".
He spent some quality time with his Daddy! Awww.
He chased one of these...
He hung out with his boy.
He played in the creek.
He kept an eye out for trouble!
And he REALLY wanted to chase one of these, but we didn't let him!
He laid low in the tall grass.
He raced in the white sand,
and played with his girl
and he was happy!
He basked in the glory of his surroundings
and left his mark on the world!

He kicked back and relaxed with his Mama.
Then he slept all the way home!
The End. I officially have no credibility!