Party Planning

For the past several weeks I've been planning Quinn's birthday party.  I've thought about what kind of party I wanted to give him.  Did I want to go with a traditional theme party, or perhaps a destination party?  Quinn's 6th birthday I copped out and just went to Chuck E Cheese.  Which was just fine with him apparently.  He had a good time and I didn't have to try too hard.  I think I always make a bigger deal out of the parties than even they do.  I mean they enjoy the day and the activities, and the attention, but I think I groove on the decorating and details maybe too much to my own frustration and stress.
This year is no different.  After looking for something to sort of focus the party around I decided on hiring a magician and face painter. 
This decision then led me to figure out how to decorate based on the MAGIC theme.  I found that if you are looking for party decorations that are anything other than licensed cartoon characters you are out of luck here.  OUT OF LUCK!
What I have found here are a lot of companies who are willing to host/decorate/plan the party for you.  For a pricey fee.  I tend to like my parties cheap, but I like to make it look special.
What does that mean?  That means I'm making the majority of my decorations because I can't find what I want.  If I was home I wouldn't have a bit of problem finding oversized playing cards, bunting, top hats, bunny ears, or scarves.  Here?  Nada.  At least I don't have to worry about the venue being large enough, because this house was made for entertaining.
I have been making bunting and huge oversize playing cards.  I'm even making a huge house of cards for the table.  (no congratulations are necessary :))  And of course I'm making the cake.  I don't know what fear I have of store bought cakes.  Could it be that I'm always just slightly disappointed in the way they taste? look? cost?  Could be.  But rather than try to decorate the cake per my usual experiments, and also since I don't have any piping bags, or tips or fondant or anything like that with me (remember I had to bring 13 suitcases with us, and those were the essentials, i.e. toys) so I don't exactly have the proper tools to do it any justice.  Therefore, I decided to enlist the help of a lady who makes cake toppers.   Should be cute, and all I have to do is provide the cake itself.
As for the rest, I'm hoping it goes well.

Shopping Reality

Has anyone else watched the show extreme couponing on TLC?  I'm not sure if the season is still running in the States or not.  I know it was on, at least in rerun, before we left.  Reason I ask is that they have started running the show here in SA on TLC.  I've seen most of the episodes from before, and while I love me some coupons, this show is ridiculous.  I've done some great deals at the grocery store.  But what I notice about the majority of what these folks are buying "for free" are things that aren't really food.  Not to say that I don't appreciate a cheap protein bar or even 500 tubes of toothpaste, but I'm not seeing anything to EAT in those carts.  I have seen carts full of frozen pizzas, and hot sauce, but I never see these people buy produce.  Maybe I'm a food snob, but cases of powerade, and tic tacs do not make anything resembling a meal.
The other thing I have issue with is that at least at home, there are very few grocery stores who double coupons which is one of the important tools to getting some of these awesome hauls on the show.  And surprisingly there are no hateful looks coming at these shoppers when they roll up with 8 carts and monopolize one aisle for 4 hours.  Or that the store smiles approvingly on one customer making 10 transactions just to buck the system and get all their coupons in.
The trick to getting such great deals is that most of these featured couponers have to match a sale item with a coupon that doubles.  Most stores will not double over a certain amount or quantity.  And most manufacturers will not value a coupon for more than a portion of the retail value of the item featured.  So all the "free" items these people pick up are first of all on sale and their store doubles.
There is also the problem of what is known as overage.  This is when the item is less than the value of the coupon.  Stores seldom allow overage.  They will give the value of the coupon but no more.  So in most cases you cannot make money.  The show shows many of the couponers  using this tactic to pay for tax to bring their total down, and pay for items not on sale.  I've not found a store yet who allows this.
So is this show real? Or are they fudging the rules a little to make some of this "reality" a better score?  I'm guessing it's staged.  Like most reality shows.
I was watching an episode today and there was a lady who thought she was doing everyone such an awesome favor by being the "coupon fairy" and leaving coupons next to the products for other customers to take advantage of.  Well that was all well and good until you notice that she completely cleaned out the shelves of the item, and left the coupons where the product was suppose to be.  So yes, thanks for the coupon, but you didn't leave any for anyone else to buy.  Most rainchecks are a pain in the butt to get, so if this gal is using that as an excuse for clearing the shelves, I don't subscribe.
Like I said, I love a good deal just as much as the next guy, but I don't need to empty the shelves so I can hoard everything myself.  Someone else might like to take advantage of the good deal too.
Funny they would show a program in a country that doesn't even know what a "coupon" is.  They just don't have them here.


STAR show, not Star Search

Quinn had an open house today at school.  They call them Star Shows.  Each child hosts their families for an hour during class and is the "star" of their own presentation.  We played a classroom game, Quinn read several books to us, and he even entertained us with his own fictional story.

Now, go back and zoom in on pic #3.  Look at the face on that dinosaur.  Is that not priceless?  By the way, the dinosaur has a sore tooth because he bit into a rib bone, and he has to go to the dentist and that's his owie face.  Brilliant.
And did you notice the sweaty head on the child?  That's because is was like a volcano in the classroom (I know volcanoes are hot because Quinn also taught us about volcanoes while we were there :)) and we were all sweating like we were in Africa or something (hahaha).
It was nice to see him in one of his favorite elements.  He was so proud to show us around, and tell us about what he was studying. 

One of the items on his list of things to cover during the presentation was show us the class fish and explain what he knew about fish and their care.  And the fish took the unfortunate opportunity to begin his death float during the open house while some of the other kids were showing him to their families.  The fish went to the "infirmary" under the sink. Just one more lesson for them to learn about the life cycle of fish, yes?
It's nice that he likes school so much.  I'm glad that he likes this school so much.  Next week he starts swimming in P.E.  Do schools in the US even teach swimming anymore?  I like this school more all the time.

Ancient History

As I've mentioned several times, television or rather satellite service over here isn't bad.  It's not great, but it's not horrible.  I think we find enough to watch to occupy our tv watching time. Yes, I do believe we could watch less, but we don't have a stimulating social life to attend to so we go with what we have available.
Back to the point, there are about 5 channels available that cater to the kids.  There are 3 disney, nick, and a BBC channel that show kid related tv all the time.  One of the channels shows old Tom & Jerry, Pink Panther, and Hanna Barbera cartoons.  I'm chuffed to say that of all the cartoons on those channels, my kids tend to like these shows and will select them above the more modern cartoons.  I think they see what I liked in them, the slapstick.  Which brings me to my point in a roundabout way.  Do kids today recognize the humor references in those cartoons or are the references of comedians long gone by too archaic?
I was watching an episode of Tom & Jerry the other day with Maddie, yes, I was enjoying it, and I saw a flash of a silhouette of Jimmy Durante in the scene.  I thought to myself, "my kids don't know who Jimmy Durante is".  What a shame.
Do kids today know who Charlie Chaplin, Lucille Ball, the Little Rascals, or the Three Stooges (the REAL ones, not the movie) were?  I'm sure there are parents who indoctrinate their offspring into decent comedy, but overall have we lost comedy history to the generation of Simpsons, South Park and tween crap like Suite Life and Hanna Montana?  They give a nod to the oldies, but then they slap you in the face with their agendas.
I think kids need to know where we came from before the horrible dosh they currently pass as comedy.  I don't think much of it is funny, truly funny.  I've seen many of the tween shows and even with their irritatingly canned laughter they are cheap knock offs of earlier comedy brilliance. Not that the slapstick of the Stooges was intelligent comedy, but they were what they were and they were original.

Not good enough

This just chaps my ass.  Seriously.  I know this is not new news, but after having read that the FDA has confirmed it, I question why, if the fungicide is not allowed to be used on our own produce, how companies that produce juice in quantity are allowed to import oranges from companies that do?  Doesn't that just negate the whole point of regulations?  I don't really care if the levels are below safe, that's not the point really.  Why does no one look at these imports and test against our regulations to hold them to the same "stringent" rules we require of ourselves.  Don't allow the companies here to use foodstuffs from countries who don't follow the same rules, simply because it's cheaper to import or because our own supply isn't sufficient.  Someone is not doing their job correctly.  The same could be said of most of our imported goods.  Toys from China, contaminated foodstuffs from mexico.  No one bothers to check for these "illegal" substances or any multitude of disease until someone either gets sick and they are forced to check them against regulations or someone squeals on another company that their ingredients are less than standard.  A little like closing the barn door after the horse has run off.
Do you as a consumer just turn a blind eye, or do you put a little too much faith in our USDA, or is it the food companies who are sliding it under the door and hope no one notices?
Is it really that hard to buy a bag of oranges (locally, or at least within country) and squeeze them yourself?  Doesn't take that long, and you can avoid all the "additives".
I would guess that there are far more things going into your foods that anyone cares to admit, or put on that nutrition label.  That goes for whole foods as well.  Where were they grown?  What were they grown with?  Food companies don't want you to ask too many questions. They probably have a whole department devoted to evasive measures.
Here in South Africa it is a common sight to have ready made foods available in the grocery.  Half of one of the bigger chains is devoted to pre-prepared meals.  That whole end of the store is food counter and food kiosks.  I'm all for "fast food" but how can I be sure what's actually IN those dishes?  How were they prepared?  Is there some department here who oversees food prep and safety?  I don't know.  I'm sure they are fine, food regulation can be much different than those watching over restaurants here.  I hate being paranoid, but...I just stay away.  Better to be safe and prepare it myself.  I'm far from "crunchy" (no offense to those of you who dislike the term) myself, but don't all the e coli outbreaks, and contamination worry you?  Is it happening more frequently, or are we just finally taking more notice?
I'm afraid our lives of convenience are going to make us ill in more ways than one.
I'll hop off my soapbox now.


Foto Friday

I'm pleased to see that we have our very own partial life cycle multiple times over outside our door.

 We had several of these just emerging on the house this morning.

Word of the Week

Confute: verb. To prove a person or argument to be wrong.

I can't say I've ever used this word in a sentence.  Not that I would ever need to point out the fact that I'm always right.  Right?

Progress takes time

I've been back to pilates for a few weeks now and hitting the free weights a couple times a week, so I'm getting back in the groove.  I feel better overall even if a little sore the day after a particularly tough class. Some of these muscles haven't been worked hard in some years so it's not entirely unpleasant to know they still function. 

I've decided to add another cog to the machine that IS my overhaul.  This week Chris and I have been doing a detox regimen.  So far so good.  It has an added benefit in that I'm also 4 days clean from my second biggest vice, Coke.   Yes, that's coca cola, not crack.  Of course it could be crack for all that, I'm addicted to it.   I haven't been too crazy so far, and I've avoided the caffeine withdrawal so far with black coffee and tea.  And lots and lots of water.
People, if you want to change your life, first step is ditching the pop.  Even the diet stuff, it's horrible trying to get off it.
Next week I'm going back to calorie shifting and I'm bringing Chris with me this time.  We will see how it goes.  I think the calorie shifting is far easier than this detoxing.  And I'm proud of Chris for sticking to it, because it ain't easy for him I know.  He has no willpower when it comes to food.   So hopefully this next phase will be somewhat more satisfying as you get to eat (a lot) and the pounds just melt off.