Snoopers Poopers

One of my family’s Christmas traditions growing up was the placement of Christmas gifts before Christmas was here. I’m not talking months before, nor just the day before, but as gifts were bought and wrapped, they were normally placed under the tree with delicate care from my mom. They sometimes appeared as early as 2 weeks before Christmas day.

I loved being in our house for Christmas. The tree was freshly cut, the smell of the wood from the wood fireplace burning, the lights glowing on the tree. None of those colored lights, they were always the classic looking goldish yellow.  A nativity scene placed carefully on top of the piano. Garland wrapped around the stair case railing. It was always so calming. Except on a certain occasion…..

They mood drew me to them. They looked so beautiful, enticing, irresistful….I’d want to touch, just peek, feel anything I could do to get just a little closer. But I had to be careful. I had to make sure I was alone. Otherwise the beautiful moment would end in a snap with a “TRICIA!!!!! GET AWAY FROM THOSE GIFTS!!!!”

Yep, I was the family snooper. I was good at it too. A shake here or there, I knew in an instant what it was and was 99% of the time correct come Christmas day. We always got a few sets of new clothes as kids. My mom either bought them from Nordstrom or the classic, but no longer existing Meyer & Frank and The Bon Marche’. These, she probably got store boxes with them. They were easy targets for my expert fingers. Just a sleeve and a bow, that was it. So easy to unwrap and re-wrap in a way that was completely unnoticeable. CD’s and books were for the simple snoopers, I passed those up for the challenges, the square or rectangular boxes. Cabbage patch kids were easy too. They came in an odd shaped box. Puzzles….I had that down in half a shake. I even taught my younger sister my tricks.

Of course my parents knew what I was doing. They figured it out. I was never caught with an unwrapped gift until Christmas morn, I don’t think. But one year changed the game: when she started hiding the wrapped gifts.

One Saturday, my mom was wrapping gifts in private. My sister and I casually walked into the living room and caught my mom….she had left the coffee table trunk open. Lisa and I looked at each other with huge, excited eyes. What could be in there!?!  We looked over our shoulders and carefully tiptoed towards to trunk. When we peeked in, we were disappointed to see its contents already wrapped! We expected unwrapped gifts! But at least we knew where she was hiding them now. We decided to wait until my parents left us home alone to open that trunk ourselves.

The day had come, we were home alone for hours. Lisa and I rush to the trunk only to find an obstacle in our way…..a lock. Darn it!!! We searched high and low for the key to that lock. Combed my parent’s closet, bedroom, sewing closet, Dad’s workshop, everywhere we could think of to find that key. We probably found keys to locks my parents don’t own anymore. To no avail, nothing we tried worked.

We confessed when we were older about the trunk fiasco.  My mom just chuckled and said, you couldn’t find the key because it was always on me.  She got us there.

Yes, I am a master snooper.  I loved discovering what I was going to get for Christmas or my birthday, and while there was a little piece of me that was disappointed there was no real surprise on Christmas morning, it never made me keep my fingers off those enticing gifts the next year.

I still love to snoop.  However, it is different now.  My husband, daughter and I live on the opposite coast from my family.  Since having Erin, travel during the holidays has not happened.  We just got tired of it. This means a lot of online shopping for both sides of the family.  It’s great because I don’t have to wrap a single gift for those on the west coast.  I just simply point, click, checkout and ship to a family member’s address.  I’m smart about it.  What is for my parents is shipped to a sister’s house and vice versa.  That way, there’s no chance they’ll open a package found on their doorstep that is for them.  My parents do the same for us: point, click, ship.  Almost all of us have an Amazon wishlist.  It just makes it simple for everyone.  If our item isn’t there, it’s in a Google doc sent to each member of the family.  Except, my parents don’t have the extra address to ship to. This means, we get the packages usually with that smiling Amazon logo on the side waiting for us.  Addressed to either my husband or I.  There’s no hiding place in our apartment.  So, the candy is left in the open….just speaking to me…“open me, Tricia. Open me.” I can’t because both of us have received a text from my parents before I can get my hands on it.  And opening a shipped package and closing it back up well enough to look like it was never opened at all is almost impossible.

This year, Amazon ruined it.  Probably not intentionally, but I’ll blame them anyway.  There were two ways they spoiled my snooping fun:

1) Their wishlist: When someone makes a wishlist on, buyers from that list can buy and choose to have the item still appear on the list when the owner’s logs on to their account.  That way the person doesn’t know what was purchased for them  Clever, Amazon!  But, you forgot one thing:  your mobile site does NOT do this!  I stumbled upon this on accident.  I went to check a price on a toy for my daughter.  It was available for 50% off at a different site.  She has her own wishlist under my account. I noticed there was nothing left on my own wishlist and in fact all items were gone. I thought that this had to be some mistake, so I logged on from a real computer. All items were untouched and on my wishlist.  So, Amazon, if you’re reading this, please fix your mobile site!  I already know all the items on my wishlist are bought for me!  Now, there’s no need for me to snoop this year!

2) Amazon’s boxes: I’ll go ahead an say it.  I’m getting a Kindle Fire HD.  Yep, so excited here!!!  It arrived yesterday, thanks to Amazon’s fast shipping!  Yet, one thing they failed to do with their Kindles is PUT THEM IN A GENERIC AMAZON BOX!  That’s right folks, my Kindle Fire HD came with it’s shipping label applied right to the Kindle’s own box!  Now, I understand the reason for maybe not wanting to wasting a box and more packaging material, but during Christmas season? Really!?!  It wasn’t too hard to snoop on that!  Maybe Amazon can make sure that orders taken from someone’s wishlist or at least during the Christmas season could be shipped in generic boxes so that Master Snoopers everywhere can keep up with their beloved hobby during this Holiday season.

So, the Kindle sits in the worst spot: on top of our dresser, in plain sight.  Texts were sent to both my husband and I with orders that it was to be unopened and wrapped until Christmas day. I should have never told my Mom that it came in it’s own box. BIG MISTAKE.  Now, she’s got my husband keeping me accountable! It’s fun to be a great snooper, but these sticky fingers ache when it means there is something under that tree you REALLY want to play with NOW that you know you can’t.


The Leftovers

Living on one income can be difficult. Especially when you live in one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. So, when I combed over the library options at our last MOPS meeting, I stumbled upon a book titled, 1/2 Price Living by Ellie Kay. The book had a lot of great tips for families who are transitioning from two to one income. It did give me some helpful tips that I hadn’t faithfully used before.

Another source that has helped me, or rather suggested in not so encouraging words, to try to save more is my dear husband. As I purge the moldy peppers and a few other items from the fridge on occasion, his usual spoken line is, “you shouldn’t waste so much food.” On one hand, he’s right, I shouldn’t. On the other, he’s wrong: I’m really not wasting much! His “helpful advice” normally just reminds me to clean the fridge when he’s not home and take the trash out right away so he never notices!

However, 1/2 Price Living did get me on a recent kick: save as much as you can because our one income budget only goes so far….even when it comes to food.

So, what do you do with that left over taco fixings when you don’t want a left over taco? Make omelets! I’ve been doing this for a while and the taco meat gives the omelet a great taste. It’s already seasoned so no pepper required for these eggs. Almost all the other fixings are already standard options in omelets: tomatoes, olives, avacado, onions, green peppers, etc. Trust me, it really does taste good. Just ask my mom, she started doing this after I mentioned it. 🙂

Friday,  I set turkey aside (in the freezer), we didn’t eat it. My toddler refuses to eat the same thing for 3 meals in a row and we offered turkey for lunch already that day. However, I did have some veggies from earlier in the week, so keeping up with our “Friday Night is Pizza Night” theme, I made cucumber, asparagus and black olive pizza.

So how did it turn out, you ask?  The reviews were not too shabby!

What creations do you like to make with your leftovers?

I’m Sort of Thankful

My Mom is a Master Gardener. She seems to have learned a lot about different plants including fruits and veggies. While we were visiting my family a few weeks ago, I got the chance to learn a little bit about parsnips. Parsnips are white colored and look like a carrot. They feel like a carrot. They are from the same family as a carrot. Parsnips are not rare. Lots of people have heard of parsnips, although much fewer have cooked them or tried them. I stumbled upon a recipe in a parenting magazine that called for parsnips. I decided to put it on the menu for Thanksgiving this year.

Monday afternoon: Erin wakes from her nap and we seize the opportunity to hit the grocery store for our Thanksgiving ingredients. On that list: parsnips. I was surprised to see a full parking lot when we arrived. It was only Monday, but apparently many people take that day off to grocery shop for Thursday. My game plan changed: get the items you know their location to and get out. A toddler, does NOT save you money while shopping. I would come back later that night for the rest.

First stop, produce: couldn’t find the pre-cut butternut squash (lazy I know), oh well, I’ll be back. Scallions, apple’s, and russet potatoes were all quickly placed in the cart and checked over by the kid. Oh, how could I forget asparagus….I do need to cook dinner that night too. Next up before leaving produce: parsnips. I see parsnips in the corner just above the carrots. But I stop because they look like white carrots, I don’t see anything else that looks similar, but I’m crunched for time and there is a produce guy right next to me. “Excuse me, sir. Where are your parsnips?” His finger points me to what I was looking at just a second ago. I grab 4, put them in a bag and move on. At check out, I am greeted by a young looking kid. Probably early college or high school. The parsnips glide towards him on the belt. The 30 items before him seemed like a breeze. He had all his produce numbers memorized. As he takes the parsnips and places them on the belt, he gives me an odd look as if he had no idea what they were. I told him “parsnips.” The older checker walks past and yells out the code to him. Ah, she knows parsnips!

The parsnips safely made their way home, and are lovingly placed in our crisper (really, I don’t know why this drawer exists. It doesn’t make it any more crisp, nor does it keep it crisp…hey we rent).

Thursday, noon: I pull out the parsnips to prepare for my parsnip potato pancake recipe. I get a wiff of them as I open the bag….they smell like carrots. I wash them and take a bite: it IS INDEED a CARROT! So not happy with our grocery store!

So, thanks to Waldbaums, we ate white carrot and potato pancakes today. For that, I’m sort of thankful. Lesson learned: don’t trust your grocery stores produce dudes and always smell your veggies before purchasing.