Saturday, February 27, 2010

Glamour Puss

One of the toys we’ve recently unpacked, was a pack of make-up Honor got for Christmas awhile back. We’ve added and subtracted to it here and there, and she continues to have fun with it.


Often the makeup ends up everywhere except the face…


Some days, it gets everywhere…


Including on the cat. Although he cannot complain… he self-applied! Pumpkin came up and rolled in the glitter and things – he just had to be in on it, even if he had no clue what we were doing.

I have to say that, for what ever little bit we originally paid for this kit, we’ve got a lot of girl (and cat) bonding out of it… and numerous manicures! (for the girls, not the cat! He’s very patient, but I think that even Pumpkin would draw the line at smelly nail polish!)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cover up

I don’t do a lot of ads on my blog. This is not a professional site; I don’t get paid! However, I occasionally come across a resource that I find handy, and even better, from a reliable company, and I like to share. This is about one such resource which other mobile expats, or anyone who lives in a dusty climate, or has kids, or pets, (etc.) may find particularly handy.

One good thing about being with the State Dept is that you are often provided with furnishings, which means that you do not have to drag around a bunch of heavy stuff in your shipment. The furnishings tend to be pretty much the same everywhere, so you always have some idea what you will be moving to. The problem is, you often don’t get much of a choice, and the furnishings tend to be pretty much the same everywhere… yawn! They choices aren’t always practical for families with small kids and pets. Our last living room set was pale gold (aka, light yellow) and our dining chairs had WHITE seats… I mean, seriously! We try to be neat, but that was just asking for trouble.

In our new home, we have this. I am sure it will look familiar to many:


I think they actually had the gall to label this color as some sort of ‘blue’. It is NOT to my taste, and doesn’t feel nice. To be honest, it is not horrible, in a hotel sort of way, there are definitely worse fabrics(!), but it’s not for me. I don’t want to look at, or sit on, this for the next 3 years!

So I went to, where I have happily and successfully shopped in the past, and yet again I found some nice slipcovers for my furniture. Bonus – it’s in a color I like, and well constructed from a soft and WASHABLE fabric. It isn’t insanely expensive for what you get either. The particular style that I chose, is a stretchy fabric, and the cover comes in 3 pieces, so it fits so much better (and easier!) than most commercial covers. 

The new look…


Much better! Of course, these sofas have thin-ish arms with a roll at the top, which affects the fit, but the stretch of the fabric helps. The back cushions have a ‘T’-shape at the ends, but again, the stretchy fabric fits. When the kids bounce around like maniacs, or the cats have burrowing contests under the cushions, the cover is not completely un-tucked. As much as I like the cosmetic change, and the ease of cleaning slipcovers, I DESPISE wrestling with the darn things! These are very well behaved and easy to straighten out. 

I chose the pique fabric. It’s light weight, so I worried that the cats might scratch through it, but they don’t seem to like the feel of it. They get up inside of the cover on the chair sometimes – which is dangerous to the person in the chair – but they don’t claw at the fabric.

Here’s a back view. The slipcover fits the sofa well, on all four sides.


I thought about buying new throw pillows, but would then have to store the ones that came with the furniture, so I got pillow slips for them instead. It was probably as cheap as buying the supplies and making them myself. They are a bit big… or, more honestly, these throw pillows are darned wimpy… and there were no pillow slips in the stretch pique fabric, so I chose the plush slips, in a wheat color. DSC06051

They’re a little floppy, but now that I have my sewing machine, I can fix that. I may wait until I wash them first.

The fabrics (both) have a bit of a nap. ‘Nap’ isn’t quite right, but it isn’t ‘flat’. There’s a soft texture to it. The pique has a slight knobbly pattern. (You may be able to get swatches before ordering – I’ve not bothered in the past.) Despite the texture, the fabrics do not attract or hold dust, lint, or cat fur… so far, so good.

As for the wing chairs. Surefit has some lovely fitted covers for what must be the standard style of wing chair. Of course, ours are NOT standard. We have two styles of wing chair, and neither of them are standard… of course not! I measured and eye-balled and guesstimated, etc. It looked hopeless, and like a waste of money. Something HAD to be done though. The upholstery colors on these chairs were even worse than the so-called “blue” stuff on the sofas. The cats like to play on them too, so damage was going to occur without protection. I chose to get chair/loveseat-size throws (70”x140”) to drape over them. It doesn’t make for a perfect fit, but I don’t think I’m likely to find anything off-the-shelf that will. I guess I could have bought 4-5 yards of 60” (or wider) fabric, hemmed it and draped it as a throw, but a good quality (thick, sturdy, washable and soft) hunk of fabric could have cost me just as much. Besides, these are the same ‘chocolate’ color (in the plush fabric) as the sofas – they match. Also, the cats don’t like to claw it (they think it is snuggly though), and again, it is easy to re-drape after kids and cats have had their way with it. (Chairs are smaller than sofas, but I still do not like to wrestle with them.) Not bad.


They definitely look better than before, and I suppose I could get out the sewing machine and make them more fitted… but that would likely require more work to keep it tucked in and straightened out.

I had thought about going for a red or green fabric, but this chocolate, on the chairs and sofas, is neutral enough to go with everything, and yet, not boring. There’s a hint of a reddish tinge to it, which goes lovely with the dark wood furniture that came in the house, as well as our rugs, as we always lean toward red when we rug shop!

This is the third set of throws we’ve bought from Surefit. I washed the previous ones all the time in Cairo (it was THAT dusty there – I had to). They were a different, heavy suede-type fabric – again, I am all about heavy duty when it comes to kids and cats! Also, with Brian dealing with asthma, because of the pollution, I wanted the covers cleaned often. The fabric eventually faded and wore out from such abuse, but I feel I got my money out of it. We’re on our 2nd set of dining room chair covers.  Those get washed constantly too. The burgundy set we have coordinates well with the chocolate color on the sofas… handy, as our living and dining areas are in one big open space, and not separated by walls.

Hmm? What else? The website has a good clearance section, they also run sales… if you want to buy, wait until a ‘free shipping’ sale comes along!… they pack their boxes securely, and orders come with good instructions for putting the slipcovers on (the covers are labeled well for this), and they ship quickly. I’ve seen this company’s products listed on other stores’ websites (for example, I’m thinking that JC Penney carries their products, I could be mistaken) but the selection is usually best at

Ok.. that’s enough community service for one day… guess I ought to go get busy with my housework!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

57 Random Things

Found here first on Expat Mom’s blog, and traced back to my SIL’s blog, here is a thoughtful little meme – a list of 57 random bits about me...

1. Somebody is BBQ’ing today. My father was an amazing grill master. I miss his BBQ. I want a grill.

2. I miss my dad and wish I could call him and tell him this. This March will be the 6th anniversary of his death.

3. March is the month of my wedding anniversary – 18 years this year.

4. I started a career and life of moving around before I turned 18.

5. I miss my home state of Florida – I miss the weather, the wildlife, and the water. Florida is a magical place.

6. I don’t think I ever want to move back to my home state.

7. I do not know where home is.

8. I do not care that I do not know where home is.

9. One day, I would really like to have a home… with a custom kitchen, lots of bookshelves, room for all sorts of crafting, and a huge garden with flowers, food, and maybe even some critters. But not yet.

10. I find it tough to adjust to each new, randomly assigned, home we find ourselves in, but I always enjoy the challenge.

11. I love to craft, and while I enjoy the finished products, I think it is the process, not the finished product, that I like best. I want more time to craft.

12. Having household staff ‘in my space’ annoys me, and yet I love to have the help. I haven’t hired anyone here yet, but will, to give me more time to do what I want to do – for my family, and for myself.

13. TV annoys me.

14. Except for movies and series on DVD.

15. I could have music playing 24hrs a day, except it interferes with the TV watchers in the house.

16. I also enjoy silence and the sounds of life around me. 

17. I’m Pagan, so the life around me is my church.

18. I wish more people were Pagan, or would at least ‘dabble’ in Paganism, to, perhaps, help them learn to appreciate the life around them, whether it is the land, the water, the animals we share this earth with, or our fellow humans.

19. I wish more people, Pagans included, would keep their spiritual beliefs to themselves and amongst their peers. Really. I believe you believe and am very happy for you. More positive actions please, less words.

20. I like words. The written kind, and love books. Sci-fi, non-fiction, military fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery… just about anything goes.

21. I love that our kids love books. Reading is such an important skill, and love of books feeds that ability like nothing else.

22. I wish I had more abilities. I wish my math were better, or my language skills, or my physical abilities. I need to accept that I do know a lot, and everyone has limitations.

23. My knees are bad, and my lower back goes out – both problems gained from military service. I hate that.

24. I am proud of serving my country, and will always have a soft, teary spot in my heart for veterans and people who serve… for our country, and throughout the world. It’s a tough job, but essential. Thank you!

25. I have been lucky to enjoy most of the work I have ever performed. It was very hard for me to quit to be a stay-at-home-mom.

26. Being a SAHM is the best and hardest job I’ve ever had.

27. My family makes me happy – even when they make me sad, angry, frustrated, worried, etc. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

28. Although I often worry that I am not doing things as well as I should… but I guess that’s normal, and it would be worrisome only if I didn’t have that worry.

29. I have extreme worry, as well as rage, as well as sadness, as well as happiness and giddy positivity. I probably should be medicated, but I like me how I am.

30. Except I think I should lose some weight and exercise more.

31. But I don’t care that I no longer have a 20 year old bikini body – I am no longer 20 years old.

32. I rarely wear heels anymore either. Today I wore moccasins and have happy feet.

33. I also wore a black t-shirt. While un-packing, I discovered that most of my wardrobe is black (or denim). Black is my favorite color. Perhaps I should expand my selection? I probably won’t.

34. I find that I care very little what people think of me, but worry what our kids think of what others might think of me.

35. I still do not want to conform.

36. I do not want our kids to conform.

37. Unless they want to.

38. I want some Rocky Road ice cream.

39. I also want a steak… bloody rare.

40. And while we are at it, a frozen margarita.

41. Later on, I’d like a small glass of good port.

42. My dad liked port, but not the good stuff. The good stuff is so much better. Did I mention how much I miss my dad?

43. My dad was an avid gardener, and this year I hope to teach my kids how to enjoy raising food in our backyard. I wish they could learn from their grandpa.

44. I love to cook, and want to learn to prepare more healthy foods from scratch, teaching my kids as we go.

45. I want to learn how to make more un-healthy foods too, like cookies and cakes and other fun recipes.

46. I don’t like most desserts.

47. Good dark chocolate is bliss.

48. I like quality coffee too. Essential bliss.

49. The spice aisle is my favorite place in the grocery store. Can goods and boxes are boring, meats are messy, and produce areas usually stink.

50. Bakery smells are also a favorite.

51. I hate shopping.

52. Somehow, we still have too much stuff.

53. Clutter drives me bonkers.

54. Clutter-y reminders of the places we have been, of our family, etc. are irreplaceable at making me feel at home. (It’s a delicate balance, and we’re not there yet in this house).

55. My favorite philosophy is about balance, “There is no light, without the darkness”

56. I don’t think I am well balanced, most of the time.

57. I am finally coming to believe and accept that I am not supposed to be balanced and in control all the time, life is not balanced or controlled. I’ll do best to just go with the flow.

Hectic, and time flies…

Where has 2010 gone? I mean, I realize we still have a long way to go yet, but it is almost the end of February! Wow… who took my days?

Fortunately, I have some photographic proof of what’s been stealing my time.

We’re still trying to figure out what to do with our stuff, although it is starting to fall into order.


Kids are happy to have their things again.


… and while they still have too much stuff, we’re getting it organized,


and we’re even collecting boxes to hand over to charity – the kids have managed to outgrow a lot of their things over the summer. (We’ll unpack the kittens before giving this stuff away).


In the meantime, what little winter we had…


…that’s sleet falling in the photo up there, really… and the grey hazy stuff on the green, green grass, is the teensiest bit of accumulation, seriously! See, below, icy stuff… cold enough to stick to my t-shirt. (um, yea… it was warm enough to be out without a jacket…) 


anyway… it seems winter has passed. Spring is trying to spring…


This is our almond tree in bloom.


Look close and you may see a couple of bees as well.


As for the roses, they never stopped blooming all winter, and it looks like the geranium are now trying to join them. These white roses have a very sweet scent too.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Built-in Frames

We love to do arts and crafts, but what to do with the crafts once we complete them? Fortunately, this house comes with some built in frames.

We have a couple of interior doors with frosted glass windows – not bad, but rather plain.


There… now this is much better!


A Girl and her Ninja

Honor and Ninja Cat have a special bond. All three kitties are sweet and loving, but Ninja and Honor are close. Ninja usually sleeps with Honor, helps to wake her up in the morning, ‘helps’ with dressing and getting ready, and often comes looking for me in the afternoon, meowing questions as if to ask whether or not the school bus is here yet. Coming home from school time, is an exciting time! She’s a big ‘help’ with homework too.

Ninja LOVES all of Honor’s little toys. We often hear “Ninja! Bring that back! It’s mine!” drifting across the house from where-ever they are playing. Fortunately, Ninja is good about returning toys to where she finds them.

Honor is Ninja’s favorite ‘big cat’ and she plays and wrestles with Honor just like one of her siblings.


Ninja doesn’t like to be picked up – sorta how Ramses was. I guess some cats are ‘up’ cats and some aren’t. Like Ramses, she loves to be loved on and to snuggle, but do not pick her up and carry her around… unless you are Honor. If Honor picks her up, Ninja will either tuck her head onto Honor’s shoulder and cuddle, or will curl into a ball, holding her tail in both paws, and nibble at the tip. Too cute! I haven’t got a good photo of her doing it, yet, but here’s one with her curled up contentedly, trying to catch her tail for nibbling.


Sometimes, either because Ninja was off somewhere else, busy or asleep, and Honor just happened to shut her door with Ninja on the wrong side, or, if Ninja gets a bit too demanding and Honor puts her out, I’ll come down the hall and find a sad little kitten standing at Honor’s door. Sometimes she’ll just sit there quietly and patiently, waiting until Honor comes out, but sometimes she’ll start meowing to be let in, and will do so until someone opens the door for her! (even when she is bugged by her big brother, she stays focused on Honor!)

They really adore each other, and Honor is very patient with Ninja’s attack snuggles.


I think it is so very good for kids to have pets to love, and to be loved by.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Copper Age – mystical, otherworldly art for you!


I look forward to every installment of Brynneth N Colvin and Tom Brown’s intriguing webcomic about the town of Hopeless, Maine. I am enthralled with the tale of the runaway orphan Salamandra and her new friend in the Personal Demons story, and cannot wait to follow along as she finds her way through life. Looking forward to page 35!

Bryn’s story-telling is captivating in its own right, but luckily, her words are paired with Tom’s magical artwork, and now the image above, of the two girls contemplating their future, is available as a free download for decorating your desktop. Click here, the wallpaper of the image is currently the first one in the Copper Age gallery (I just linked to the gallery so you can enjoy more than one of Tom’s pictures!).

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Not joking around

(a ramble from the geeky side… virtual parenting)

browser based mmorpg

So, after getting Brad and Brian hooked on this MMORPG called Sect (you can click on the icon above to check it out, and yea… it’ll give me some credit if you play, but not enough for me to be pushing it – just being honest!), and as I’ve played my first character up to a fairly high level, I started a second character, which I meant as a joke!

Back up a bit… for the non-gamers: In this game you must fight with other players, hoping to kill them and offer sacrifices to your chosen deity in order to gain favors… it’s set in a destroyed sci-fi future scenario… visualize it… it makes sense (sort of)… Anyhow, it’s a text based game, nothing graphic or we wouldn’t let the 9yo play. When you get down to the bare bones of it, it’s just a numbers thing and I have no problem letting the kids play a game like this that makes them think in math. Honor doesn’t play this one, yet, the numbers and multiplication/estimating/predicting required to play well is a little bulky for a 1st grader. The most basic way to explain this game is you must gather resources by fighting or completing missions, buy items which boost your stats and improve your income, and hope for the best when you click to roll those virtual dice – the odds of course, being weighed by the choices you make with your stats. Turn length is limited by energy points, which are also part of your stats. Stat points, which must be earned, and are rare and precious things, you try to allocate in such a way as to promote your character’s strengths. All points are limited and refreshed only after (real) time has passed. You do NOT want to waste your energy, as you don’t get it back once it’s gone, and accomplishing tasks within set times will earn you bonuses.

As for the ‘joke’, often, when attacking other players, you’ll hit them to within a couple points of zero (dead), and that’s it. You’re not allowed to attack the wounded, put them out of their misery, and rack up another sacrifice point for your chosen god. Instead, you’ll get this annoying message that says “Your opponent is nearly dead already. Let's fight him later.” … very frustrating! I don’t want to “fight him later”… I want to finish him off now! There are perks to be gained. Now! Not later. I got tired of my “opponent” being “nearly dead” and untouchable. I figured that other players might feel the same way, so I decided to create a fighter to be an actual ‘touchable’ opponent.

Trouble is… my new fighter, Nearly Dead, has turned out to be a tough guy. Not to mention, lucky as all get out. This ‘whipping boy’ joke I started him with… he’s not into that. Not at all. He has proceeded to kick virtual behind from the moment I turned him loose. Winning fights, snagging loot in quantities beyond anything my other character could ever imagine, increasing stats and acquiring gear and real estate in ways that ought to be illegal. You do not have to “fight him later”, he’s real (virtually) and ready to fight right now… but doing so is probably a very bad idea… his reality, not the one I thought he’d have… and yes, I like his version better. Is it silly to be proud of a over-achieving collection of electronic data? Well, I am.

Oddly enough, this makes me think of my real, and not so blood-thirsty, offspring. As a mom, most things usually wrap back around to my real kids somehow. My Nearly Dead fighter guy has made me think back, way back, before the kids were born – I had these ideas of how our kids would act, what they would look like, how we’d teach them and how they’d learn, how they’d relate to us and each other, etc. Ha! How naive! Nope. Instead, each came into the world with their own agendas and plans for world domination… all I get to do is boost their stats, devote energy wisely, and provide them with what I think are the proper tools, using what little time I am given within this ‘turn’ as their mom, then my role is to merely stand aside as they play their own games… because, well, they will. No joke.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Not much going on

We have been dealing with strep throat the past week – not too terrible, as yes, it can be(!), but missing school, lacking energy, etc. We didn’t accomplish much last week, and now, the whole weekend has sped on by. We spent a lot of time working on the house yesterday and things are looking so much better. It’s hard to move into a home with less storage, and fewer rooms and closets! It still boggles my mind that there isn’t a single linen closet for sheets and blankets, or a shelf to be had in any of the bathrooms for towels. There is plenty of room for furniture to hold these things but we’re used to built-in storage, so, of course we haven’t got any, and it makes unpacking, well, confusing – where to put this stuff until we have places to put stuff? Thank goodness for sturdy cardboard boxes! I’ve been making temp shelves all over the house. We’re getting there. Our electronic toys have made it safely and the kids have been playing wii again. One antique desktop, that was on its last legs anyway, may be toast… it functions, but barely. Not having an office/craft room/workout room is awkward too. We have space to get all this set up, lots of it, but organizing it is tricky. It’s wonderful to see it all coming together.

Today, the kids made valentine cards for their friends and classmates. They also helped me cut out and frost some yummy heart-shaped cookies to go with the cards. Too bad they were sick last week and had to catch up with all their cards today. They really wanted to take over the whole of the cookie operation – and I would have been happy to let them, my heel was sore and standing was tough – but I had to bake, while they cut, colored, and stickered, their cards. They were both very independent with their work, and big helps when it came to the cookie making. It was fun. No pics as my hands were too messy to touch the camera for most of the day!

Anyway, because I haven’t been posting much lately, let me make it up to you with a video of some naughty kittens…

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Are YOU Awake?!

I thought I was. I mean, I started off a little slow this morning. I hit the snooze button one too many times, and then, instead of getting up and hustling a bit to catch up, I stumbled around distractedly. I did manage to get the kids up, aimed in the direction of warm clothes (it was 32F here this morning – cold for us!), and directed to get done what needed to be done for the first school day of the week. That’s a proper start. As I made my way back to our room to get myself ready, I realized that there was no way I’d manage a shower in a reasonable length of time. I had a later shower yesterday, and wasn’t feeling too grungy, so I decided to wait. I dressed warmly myself, got the kids packed, fed, and on the bus. I straightened up beds, gathered laundry, etc. Routine morning stuff. I was even functional and alert when people showed up to do some work on the house this morning.

I thought I was awake.

Finally, I got a quiet moment and decided to have a shower… which I probably didn’t need, but we’re still going through boxes and kicking up dust, you know how it goes, so to clear my sinuses more than anything, I thought some hot water sounded refreshing.

Well, silly me, I left the bathroom door ajar, knowing full well the kittens were in psycho mode – which any cat owner can tell you, happens 2-3 times a day, usually followed by ‘nap mode’ and is randomly interspersed with food times and ‘normal play mode’ and cuddle events. But, this was, literally, psycho time…


Pumpkin and Ninja spent a few minutes at the end of my tub, seeming to seriously consider joining me in the shower… I mean, I’m not allowed to bathe them without some horrible feline language being used, but I suppose volunteer washings might be acceptable. They backed out of it this time though, and left.

… or so I thought.

No. Pumpkin, silently and out of my sight, got up on the sink, and took a flying leap at my shoulder through the shower curtain. Can you say…


Yea… I about jumped nekkid out the window. Fortunately, Pumpkin didn’t have his claws out. He did a Ninja – he jumped, hit my shoulder, and bounced back to the sink… three times! The second time, he fell into the tub and got fairly soaked… and, silly me… I thought that was the end of the game because he hates wet… so I guess that is why the 3rd attack surprised me almost as much as the first.

I am fully awake now. No doubts.

And speaking of my little psycho-kitty, he is curled up in my lap, looking all sweet and innocent.. and OMG! Pumpkin?! Did you just fart… ack!

And it’s only noon… how’s your day going?!?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


So, I wanted a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, except when I want PB&J, what I really want is peanut butter and nutella, but it’s easier to say PB&J. Anyway, I headed to the kitchen for lunch… and there was no bread, so I was sad.

And, I didn’t want anything other than PB&J (aka PB&N). I was reeeeaaally hungry – for PB&J. Sad, starved, and at a loss as to what to do. I opened the fridge, because that’s what you ALWAYS do when you find yourself confused in the kitchen. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for your car keys, or wondering what time it is, or looking for your kid’s homework assignment, if you are in the kitchen and searching, you MUST open the fridge. The answer is always in the fridge. And it was this time too… right there under the little shelf drawer that you’re supposed to stash your deli meats or sliced cheeses in. Eggs. I didn’t have bread. I didn’t have time to make bread. But, I did have time to make crepes! And PB&J/N goes amazingly well on crepes!

Here’s an easy recipe:

3-4 eggs

2 cups milk

1 – 1.5 cup flour

1-2 tbsp sugar (optional)

dash vanilla (optional)

Whisk it all together. The batter should be very, very thin…. something between ‘milk’ and ‘heavy cream’ (I can’t think of a better analogy). The recipe is very flexible – I suggest 3 or 4 eggs because eggs come in different sizes. Play with the recipe and find what you like best… it’s hard to go wrong!

In a medium pan, melt a bit of butter, then pour a thin layer of batter. About 1/2 cup. Fry until top is solid, then flip to brown the other side (about 30 seconds).

Pile crepes on a plate, place on table. Provide peanut butter, nutella, jams, syrup, fruit, etc. and stand back! Or, if you make these in the middle of the day for yourself… like I did!… then no worry, the leftovers keep very well in the fridge for a couple of days. They make great afterschool snacks, and are also good for breakfast.

btw, for a lovely lesson on nutella – which was posted (or maybe I had just read it then) on a day I had made this treat for my family for breakfast, please go visit Forty Two.