Recession Mama

{August 28, 2009}   The Reinvention Continues…
–by Carla

As Heather embarks on her new, fabulash career as an interior designer and Katy gets ready to start working on her latest Hollywood hit TV show, I’m here in suburban Dallas, trying not to eff up dinner each night. And so, the reinvention of Carla the Career Radio News Anchor continues…

Yay, the stove's right behind me....mocking me...can you hear it?

Yay, the stove's right behind me....mocking me...can you hear it?

I have made a little headway in the kitchen, but not as much as I’d hoped by now. I mean, I was laid off 9 months ago. You’d think I’d have gotten the hang of being a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom) by now. But I was “baptized by fire” for this venture, so I try to cut myself a little slack every now and then. It’s not like I started out as a SAHM with my firstborn, then eased into baby #2. I woke up one day and was all of a sudden a SAHM of 2 baby boys…with zero experience.

This week, I did manage to cook a few dishes that didn’t end up crossed out on my “Can Cook This Again” list. I whipped up a chicken and rice casserole Sunday that was inspired by the one and only Campbell’s soup can. Yup, I got me some inspiration at the grocery store last week. I thought, “This looks pretty easy…even *I* can’t screw this one up”. And it was pretty ok. My next bit of inspiration came at the checkout line and one of those little books about “fun cooking for kids” or something. You know the ones…food that looks cute and fun and MAYbe, just maybe, your picky, doesn’t-want-to- ever-eat-anything-at-all, toddler will actually want to eat this stuff. So I then cooked up some chicken strips breaded in crushed corn chips and some other stuff. The breading didn’t even smell appealing to me, but whatever, if Toddler Boy eats it…then fine. I also made some Italian breading-coated chicken strips to go with the giant batch of pasta and sauce I’d made earlier (bc I’m up to HERE with chicken most days). If you’re following along (and I am not), that’s roughly 4 semi-successful meals in about 3 days. I also whipped up my always enjoyable Mexican Casserole which is a lot like what ya get at Chipotle…and even *I* can’t screw up that dish. I’ve made baby Dean several home-cooked meals in the Magic Bullet (bless you, PopPop and Granny for THAT Christmas gift)..and last night I cranked out perhaps the greatest banana bread I have ever cranked out. (For the record, baking does not freak me out like cooking does, for some weird reason)


…Not really. See, my palate is accustomed to a certain level of yum that my current culinary skills simply cannot deliver. That is a terrible feeling. Talk about champagne taste on a beer budget. It stinks when you’ve eaten at some of the tastiest places on earth, yet you are serving up stuff that a 3rd grader could cook.

It is nice, though, to cook things that my family will actually eat. My very favorite morning this week was when Donald ate my banana bread for breakfast and Dean had a few bites as well, along with his standard baby grub. My heart was huge with joy. Still is.

And lastly this week, in an attempt to save a little money …since I was accidentally poking the boys with my crazy, out of control nails…I hacked them off myself. A good old-fashioned “Recession Manicure”…

Wow, practical AND sexy

Wow, practical AND sexy

…and the tips of my fingers are STILL numb. TOO SHORT. Plus I sliced open the ring finger on my right hand the other day opening the knife drawer. In all, I had 1 bum thumb and 2 bum fingers on the same hand…all while trying to do all of this cooking …just this week. Not to mention the vacuuming, dusting, laundry, laundry, laundry, baby care (all of it), play dates, time-outs, and the who-knows-whats.

Most days I feel like all the other moms are doing a waaaay better job than me…and that I should be waaaay better in the kitchen that I am, that my house should be cleaner, that I should get out more often and host play dates more often and try to meet other moms more often and lose more of this baby weight …and so on, but I also know that I am doing the absolute best that I possibly can.

I also know that I am having the time of my life. A lot of people really don’t understand that, though. I mean, how can you be happy about having lost your nearly six figure income? Easy…


…I feel like pinching myself because I am living my dream. So what if my cooking stinks right now and money is tight. I’ll learn to cook. In fact, one of my awesome girlfriends …who is very awesome in the kitchen…is organizing cooking classes at her  home coming up soon. I can’t WAIT! (I’m sure I’m not alone on that one…)

…and yes, I do know that there are about 14 different fonts on here. My eyeballs are glazing over. I need a font czar.


{June 12, 2009}   It’s Been HOW Long?

—by Carla

Six months ago today, I was laid off from my job as a Dallas radio news anchor.

I may have actually looked a little cuter and way more pissed when I was let go.

I may have actually looked a little cuter and way more pissed when I was let go.

No “Debbie Downer” drama here. Just a few thoughts about how my life has changed in that time. 

The new catchphrase these days seems to be “New Normal”. “What’s your new normal? How are you living your life now since the economy went south?” In fact, ABC News is hitting this theme pretty hard right now and Recession Mama has been talking “New Normal” since we got our cute, little feet off the ground. 

I can say with 100% certainty that being laid off was the absolute best thing that could have ever happened to me. I’m not saying that to snub my former employer or anyone else in the world, I really mean it. I had two smiling faces here at home who needed me. At the time of my layoff, my oldest son was 20 months old and the baby was just 5 weeks old. And although I had never wanted to be a working mom, I had resigned myself to the fact that it was the way it had to be. In fact, I had started writing a book about my experiences, entitled, “…But I Don’t WANT It All: Confessions of a Reluctant Career Woman Who JUST Wanted to be a Mom.”

Here, I describe the moment when everything changed three years ago…

“When I found out we were pregnant (with son #1), I was so SO happy and so nervous and so everything…just like any first-time mom-to-be. And I knew one thing for sure: I’d be quitting my job and stepping back from my career for a few years until the little one(s) went off to school, then I’d make my way back into the workforce. I had it all planned out in my head, how it would go down with the husband, when I told him about my plans. We were on a “babymoon” cruise…I was 3 months pregnant…we were in our stateroom, looking out the porthole when I started talking. I told him that since my contract was almost up, it would make sense to tell the bosses that I would not be coming back because I was going to stay home to raise my child. But things didn’t go as I had imagined in my head all this time. See, in my head, we’d embrace and he’d have tears in his eyes, and I’d wipe them away, and he’d tell me that he couldn’t be luckier than to be with a woman who was willing to give up her successful career…one she has worked so hard for…for so many years, to raise his child…and we’d embrace more, and cry together, then we’d hit the buffet. What ACTUALLY happened was much, much different.” 

I’ll stop there. Needless to say, I became a working mom.

(And for the record, I would never dream of passing judgement on working moms. Remember, I was one. These are my personal thoughts I’m sharing with you now.)

As much as I had tormented myself about going back to work with baby #1, I had completely reprogrammed my brain to BE that working mom with baby #2. Then the universe said, “Naaaaaah…change of plans again” on December 12, 2008.

In the last 6 months, I’ve gone from being a working mom (who was home at 11:30 every morning to spend the rest of the day with her baby boy) to being a stay-at-home mom with 2 kids. BAM…just like that. Talk about on the job training. I went from having a twice-a-month housekeeper…to doing it myself. I went from ordering out and bringing in food and eating out…to learning to cook (and I mean learning everything). No more buying whatever I wanted to buy because I could buy it (not that we racked up credit card was all cash, but that meant no savings). 

This transition has not been all about money, either. It’s been a deeper life lesson.


I was basically bitch-slapped back into reality. And you know what? I have loved every minute of it. That is not to say I’ve been running around screaming, “Yippee, I was laid off! This doesn’t suck at all!” But there is something about this “new normal” that I have been able to accept rather easily. I am glad this happened. It has put everything back into perspective for me…and it feels great.

Happy Friday !

{May 8, 2009}   Busy, Busy, Busy

By Carla

I don’t have any hard facts on this…maybe a giant think tank somewhere will whip up a study that I’ll be able to reference down the road, but it sure seems like we’re all busier than we’ve ever been, thanks to this lousy economy.

I know for a fact that I’m busier than ever, even though I was laid off from my full-time job. Between the 6-month-old baby boy, the 2-year-old old toddler boy, the house, the laundry, the cooking (and yes, building sandwiches does count, thank you), the job training, the freelance work, all the passionate, in-depth writing for this website, and my hair fiascoes, I’m swamped.

There’s no more Suzanne to help me with the stupid mop, there’s no more eating out 2 or 3 times a day, there is even less quality time with the husband because of HIS new chores, including the lawn (no more lawn help).

We’re constantly whizzing around all day long, busy, busy, busy…too busy to stop and think about just how busy we’ve become. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. Probably good. Busy is good. What’s the old saying…idle hands are the devil’s something or other? And I always thought I was busy back THEN…back when I was riding the gravy train, working full-time. Nope. This is worse. Much worse. I mean much busier.

Do you know how busy I am? (Go ahead….I’ll wait……………………………………..thank you) I’m so busy, I’m bringing you this “Best Of” segment today. It’s one of my favorite posts to date and one I think is worth sharing again, even if it shows my orange hair again. Who cares. Enjoy: (click on the link below..but you knew that)

I Am So Much Better Looking In A Bull Market

Katy Sez: My friend, Sarah, doesn’t look like someone who clips coupons, right?


I mean she’s cute, blonde, and outgoing! She’s also really great at cooking, crafts, and throwing wicked awesome parties. So, why does clipping coupons have such a stereotype attached? Well, let me have her explain how she got started doing something that normally you think cheap old ladies do.

By Sarah

I’ll come right out and admit it: I am a coupon clipper. I carefully cut them out of newspapers and magazines, I print them out from the Internet, sometimes I get them in the mail. Go ahead and chuckle, roll your eyes at me, have your vision of a shuffling old woman in a housecoat and let me know when you’re finished… Now think of the money that I have in my wallet that you don’t! I don’t claim to be an expert clipper, but I’m happy to share a little bit about what works for me.

My coupon use didn’t start with the recession; I’ve been doing it for years. I didn’t inherit the habit from my parents either, although I come from a family of bargain hunters. My mother was only an occasional coupon user during my childhood. However she is/was frugal and fastidious about knowing which grocery store had the best produce prices and which one had lower prices on dairy, etc. Once a week we would zip from store to store for the different bargains to stock the fridge and pantry. My father wasn’t a devoted coupon clipper either, although he was quite the deal hound. He loved a store called “Canned Goods Plus,” which sold – canned good, plus some other stuff. It was a dimly lit building next to an Ames department store and most of the goods were dented or on the verge of expiration (Christmas candy in July, anyone?). For him it was not about stocking the pantry, it was finding odd items for cheap. He ended up cluttering the house with things that we didn’t need – which didn’t actually save money at all, but what I learned from his spending habits is a whole different ball of wax.

During college I wasn’t much of a clipper either, you don’t find that many coupons for ramen or macaroni and cheese in the USC student newspaper. It was post-graduation, when I found myself jobless and completely confused that I started clipping coupons. I needed a task that made me feel like I was contributing to the household beyond cooking and cleaning as my roommate kept us afloat financially. Buying the Sunday Los Angeles Times and poring over the deals offered by manufacturers and local stores was like a research project, figuring out how to stack weekly specials with coupons that were good for months in order to get the most bang for our buck.


Now that I’m employed and more secure, I still savor the weekly clipping ritual. About once a week, usually on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, I will settle in at the kitchen table with the newspaper, my scissors and beaten-up purple plastic coupon organizer (gotta get a new one) and go to work. Flipping through the circulars, I’ll cut out coupons for products that we use regularly, both familiar and unfamiliar brands. Sometimes I’ll clip a coupon for a new product, if it sounds really interesting or useful to me. I try to avoid clipping a coupon just because it seems like such a good deal! I learned that lesson when I found myself tempted to buy things just because I would save money on them – not because we needed or really wanted them. It’s easy to fall prey to that temptation, whether it’s for a high tech cleaning gadget or fancy gourmet chocolate. I’m not against splurges, but doing that regularly cancels out any concept of frugality. Saving $2 is great, but if you weren’t going to buy the product originally aren’t you still spending more money than you need to?

I learned to be open to different brands as well. Just because your mother always used Best Foods mayonnaise, that doesn’t mean you might like something else for which you have a coupon. You’ll never know unless you try and since you’re trying to save money, it’s the perfect time! However, if you find a brand that you love, don’t force yourself to buy an alternative just because you have a coupon. We always buy Cottonelle because that’s what my roommate prefers and I’m not about to argue about it. I just check around to see which store sells it for the best price and stock up when we’re there. Similarly, I prefer Fair Trade coffee, for which there are rarely coupons, so I’m sure to get it when I’m at Trader Joe’s because it’s consistently cheapest there.

Tomorrow: Now that you’ve got all these coupons, what do you do with them?

et cetera