Monday, August 31, 2009

Tasty Tuesday!

Most schools are back in session, but Little Miss's preschool tends to start up later. Lucky me, I'm the president of the PTO there, and we have a small cadre of volunteers for a number of reasons. In an effort to get things kicked off on a positive note, I invited some of the moms who have volunteered to help out already to my house for munchies and our first meeting.

And of course by some munchies, I made a tomato and avocado salad, brie with dessert sauces, marinated mozzarella with grape tomato skewers, and a hot cheesy spinach dip. Ok, and a few other things. In fact, I just realized that I forgot to put out the truffles. Oops. (See, don't you wish you were part of my PTO?)

It was good. I finished up the avocado and tomato salad for dinner last night, and it's possible that I'm currently snacking on the spinach dip right now as my dinner for tonight. Oh choices, choices.

Cheesy Hot Spinach Dip

3/4 c mayonnaise
8 oz neufchatel, softened (that's the naturally lower in fat cream cheese -- don't buy the plastic fat free stuff. Ick)
1 red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T olive oil
1/4 t Indian chili powder (ok, that's what I have and I love it, but use cayenne pepper or something similar)
12 oz frozen spinach
1 c cheddar cheese, grated (again, don't buy the pregrated stuff)
2 c Parmesan cheese, grated (do I need to repeat myself? I'm not even saying anything about the green can)
Salt and pepper to taste (barely any salt, but the pepper is needed)

Saute your well chopped onion in the olive oil. While it is sauteing, defrost your spinach and squeeze the heck out of it to get out allll the excess moisture. You want nearly dry spinach. Or be brave and lightly chop some fresh spinach and toss it in when the onion is nearly done.

Once the onion is sauteed, add the garlic for about thirty seconds. Then add the mayo and neufchatel. Toss in the spinach and chili powder (cayenne pepper). Stir on medium low heat until it's nice and combined and the neufchatel is totally melted.

Slowly add the cheddar cheese. As in add one small handful at a time, stir until totally melted, then add the next handful. If you don't do this, you'll end up with an icky mess of cheese. Once all the cheddar is incorporated, do the same for the Parmesan.

Once everything is incorporated, salt and pepper to taste. With the salt in the cheeses, you shouldn't need much at all. Serve it hot (keep it warm in crock pot doo-hickey) with fresh bread -- Hawaiian is great, but French is pretty darn good, too. When you run out of bread, tortilla chips make a good substitute. Not that I'd know personally...

This would also be great with chopped artichoke hearts. Or diced fresh tomatoes added at the end. Or other cheeses. Or anything your imagination can come up with, I'm thinking!


If you like me and want me to have the chocolate that I so desperately need, go vote for my pretty banana boats over at Laura's Best Food/Foodie Foto. Please vote for me?

And go visit Grace at Tempt My Tummy Tuesday for lots more goodies!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

I'm Not Always The Sharpest Knife In The Drawer

Truly, I'm not. I know it come as a shock, but sometimes my brain doesn't work quite the way I'd hope that it would.

Take this afternoon for example. I had the new PTO coming to my house for a get together (yay!), so of course I was doing some cleaning and straightening up. You know the drill. That's why I was cleaning the cracks between the leaves in the kitchen table. Because that's the priority when company is coming over in two hours and I've yet to make the munchies I'd promised.

Anyway, I was cleaning the crevices - a chore that I now do on a fairly regular basis - thinking about how this falls into the list of jobs I never thought I'd be doing. I was trying to figure out how I could turn this into a blog post (because, you know, this is where the mind wanders when trying not to be grossed out by the gunk that has made it stuck solidly onto the sides of the leaf. In fact, I think the wee ones owe me a manicure after this one. Be grateful there are no pictures.

As I debated the merits of a top ten list of jobs I'd never thought I'd be doing, I realized that I had already covered #2 wiping other people's bottoms earlier this week.

I sighed and continued scrubbing. I noticed that there were far more crumbs on the side where Mister Man sat than where my husband did. At least with Little Miss sitting at the head of the table, her crumbs stayed on the surface, which is so much easier to clean.

Finally, it dawned on me. Mister Man sits on the side of the table. Where he has cracks for leaves to his right and to his left. Where he can so easily make a mess.


He now sits at the foot of the table, and my husband and I sit near the leaves. I'm a little embarrassed that it's taken me a good three years to figure that one out.

OH! And for all you nice people who liked the banana boat idea I had on Tuesday, Laura at Hey, What's For Dinner, Mom? has a picture of it posted for her Best Food/Foodie Foto contest this week. Can you please take a quick moment and go vote for me? I could really use some chocolate this week. Pretty please?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Where Else Do I Look?

Last night, I had just climbed into bed and was picking up my magazine, when the bedroom door was pushed open. I looked over to say goodnight to my husband when I realized it wasn't my husband.

It was Mister Man.

With his pants around his ankles.

Shuffling into my room. And saying not a word to me.

He shuffled over to my dresser and started tugging on the handle to my sock drawer.

Uhhhh, Mister Man, whatcha doing?

I have to go potty, he whined.


You can't imagine (ok, maybe you can) how quickly I hopped out of bed and steered him into the bathroom, opening the toilet for him just in time. And I do mean just in time.

He doesn't remember it this morning, and now I'm a little paranoid about where else he may have ummm wandered in the night. I'm almost afraid to check though.

Friday, August 28, 2009

If You're Happy And You Know It, Clap Your Hands!

I was reading a column a few weeks ago on personal finance from The Motley Fool. Or at least I think it was the Motley Fool. I've just spent the last hour or so searching for the article and failed miserably. I found it last week, but apparently my google skills are failing me right now. If any of you can find this and point me to it so I can link it up, please do.

Anyway, back to my point. Pretend I have one.

Sometimes you read something, and it sticks with you. There was a line in the column that I will unfortunately have to paraphrase that I keep coming back to. It keeps making me think, and it's really powerful to me.

Essentially, the point of the author was that he sold a stock at a modest profit. He locked in that profit, and in order to be happy with what he's doing and -- really -- happy with life, it's important to learn to be content with the return you have rather than regretting if maybe you could have made a little bit more. If you're happy with earning $100 when you sell something, you can't let the fact that maybe you could have made $105 make you miserable.

And it isn't just with selling stocks. To me, this is applicable in so many facets of life. Life isn't about being perfect. It's about learning to be happy with what you have. You don't have to have a bigger, better (fill in the blank).

Can you imagine how different our lives would be if we could learn to be happy with what we have? How much less general crabbiness would be out there. Cheating on spouses would decrease dramatically. People wouldn't feel the need to push themselves into debt.

And that regret we feel after making decisions? Gone. We were happy with the choice we made at the time we made it, and that's good enough. How freeing is that?

I'm doing my best to take this philosophy to heart. It's really hard to do sometimes, but I'm working on it. And you know what? It's making me happy. I really wish I could find the actual article to share with you, as I know I'm not saying it quite right.

Think about it though, and let me know if it speaks to you. Or share with me the philosophy that's sticking with you. I could use a few more mantras outside "No blood, no foul!"

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

And ... He's Off!

Ahhh, the first day of school. Or rather, the first half day of kindergarten.

I'm still working on understanding why the first day is only a half day (or an hour in the case of preschool). The wee ones have been in daycare all day long forever, and it's more confusing to the kids I know to only go for a short time than it would be go just get the regular schedule started.

Then again, maybe I'm more concerned about my own convenience and not wanting to have to find something to do for only twenty minutes before I have to turn around and collect the wee ones again.

Regardless, Mister Man is officially a kindergartner. And he loved it. And he had a good day. Phew!

Boo to whoever broke my unspoken deal that the first day of school will be nice and sunny so we can take our outdoor first day of school photos. I'm filing an official complaint about the deluge today.

I do love the start of the school year, and I know I'm not alone. There are some pretty common reasons why we, as parents, look forward to this, but it's still fun to review them. So without further ado:

My Top Five Best Things About The First Day Of School

5. Oh finally, we're in a routine again. Finally. We aren't up too late, waking up early, eating lunch at odd times, missing needed naps, and the whining and general crankiness that results from being out of rhythm and routine. And I'm only mostly talking about the wee ones here.

4. This means that the horrible hot and sticky days of August are almost over. Ok, except this year when we really haven't had much of that whole hot and humid August thing. I wore jeans today. And it's not the first time that I've had to. I love fall though, and summer weather and I ... not so good of friends.

3. There is just so much potential that is there to be realized with this upcoming school year. The bright shining faces and excitement of the wee ones is contagious. I look back to see all that they did and accomplished the previous year, and I try to imagine what they'll look like at the end of this school year. Granted, much of what I imagine comes crashing down upon me as reality sets in, but I can pretend on this first day, right?

2. I finally have some me time. Or at least I do this year. Last year, I was stupid. S.T.U.P.I.D. I was worried that the wee ones on the bus at the same time would be -- how did I phrase it to the school again? Oh yes -- "just a little too much togetherness for them." And so I requested that Mister Man be moved to the afternoon. So every day, I had a wee one with me. I had zero time just to me. This year, Mister Man is all day, and Little Miss is in the mornings, so I have a lot of time (ok, except when I'm working) to get things done. And to take time for me. And I know I'm not alone in this one!

And the Number One Best Thing About The First Day Of School?

I have more friends. More moms who are going through the same thing I am and who don't look at me like I'm insane when panicking over having to find a second lunchbox to send snack in (seriously, SERIOUSLY I need to go buy a second lunchbox? *sigh*) or labeling each individual crayon because that's what our teacher asked us to do. And ohhh the potential for playdates just went up. With kids who are on the same schedule as us. I'm already eyeing up a little boy who loves dinosaurs nearly as much as Mister Man does.

And now? I'm off to go pack tomorrow's snack, lunch, fill two water bottles, and set out the school uniform before I collapse into bed. How's your transition to school going?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Tasty Tuesday!

Sooooo, remember when I told you that I went to Caputo's and they gave me a free bag of bananas? This week, I was walking out the store, and they again asked me if I wanted some free bananas. Sure, I said innocently. And they then put a case of bananas in my cart.

Do you know how many bananas a case is? Any clue? I do now, as the box they provided lists the weight contained therein. Forty pounds. Forty pounds of bananas. That are already ripe.

Needless to say, we've been doing a lot of banana in the house -- plain bananas, banana smoothies, banana bread, etc. And thanks to Melisa, banana boats!


Raise your hand if you were a Girl Scout and remember making these!

(And boo to Dominick's for not carrying caramels anymore. Seriously, caramels is a normal food product. Why on earth aren't they stocked?)

Banana Boats

Ripe bananas
Mini marshmallows
Chocolate chips

With the peel on, slit the banana lengthwise like you would a baked potato, and then push at the ends to squish it open a little.

Add the caramels at the bottom, then marshmallows, and finally the caramels. (And no, I didn't follow my own advice, which is why I was trying to scrape caramel off the tin foil after cooking them. Learn from my mistakes.)

Wrap the bananas in tin foil, leaving a little room on top where the yummies inside the banana are poking out. Place the wrapped bananas on the grill and let them cook for about five minutes.

Remove from the grill, take off the foil, and use your spoon to scoop out allllll the yumminess.


Thanks for the reminder. Now, any more suggestions on what to do with the remaining bananas?

Friday, August 21, 2009

But I Want *THAT* One

Reminder: Tonight is your last chance to enter my giveaway here!


I'm one of those people who knows what she wants. And once I know what I want -- even if I haven't seen it -- that is what I want. This is part of the reason it took us a year and a half to find our home. I have criteria and think about what something should be like, and then I create that magic image. And I'm just not satisfied until I get that.

I sound really spoiled, don't I? Fortunately, this doesn't happen too often.

But this year Mister Man goes to kindergarten. And because we're going to the private school, it's a full day kindergarten, and he needs a lunchbox. Strike that -- I was talking to another mom today who informed me that we actually need two lunchboxes because they bring a snack in kindergarten, and snack has to be in a separate lunchbox.


The snack lunchbox? I really don't care about that one. I'm going to put something together -- a granola bar, a piece of fruit, something -- and all I need to do is have something to contain it.

For the lunch lunchbox though... that's where my problem comes in. I want something that is large enough to hold a sandwich, a side of veggies or crackers or granola or something, some fruit, and his drink. And I want it to be relatively green. I hate the idea of going through 300 plus baggies that are thrown away to encase his food over the coming school year. I want to do something better, better for him (no BPA) and better for the environment.

It finally dawned on me. What I want is a bento style lunchbox. But I don't want a traditional one completely, because I want it to have lids for each compartment so that the applesauce won't spill, for example. And I want the compartments to be removable, so that if I want to only send three things instead of four, I can do that easily.


That lunchbox doesn't exist in the land of Target, Wal-Mart or Lands End. I found something sort of like what I want online at Amazon called Laptop Lunchboxes. But being me (remember that part about enjoying research?), I looked up customer reviews. And I realized that the lid issue is one that a lot of people face. Because only one or two of the five containers have lids. And several people reported issues with the hinge on the lunchbox breaking.

Great. Now I know just about exactly what I want, but with a few tweaks. And unlike my house, a) I don't have a year and a half to find it and b) the exact features don't appear to exist anywhere.

So what's a girl to do?

Well, I'm headed down to Mitsuwa Market to see if I can find something there. And I'm going to go look at Whole Foods to see if I can find something there. I may track down a Tupperware consultant, as it looks like they have something that would work -- including a lifetime guarantee on wear and tear. Of course, the Tupperware lunchbox isn't sold in their online store. That would be too easy.

And come Thursday, the first day we really need to send lunches because it's a full day of school? Well, let's just hope I have something for the poor kid!

On the plus side, I did finally find the Crayola Broad Tip Classic Colors markers. In the eleventh store I looked in. I bought literally the last package of those markers in the tri-county area. And had there been two or three packages, I would have bought them all.

I'm so over this school thing. This isn't a good sign, considering I have fourteen more years to go, is it?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Hello, My Name Is Michelle, And I'm A Bad Parent Of A School Aged Child

One more day for the giveaway. Click here to enter before it ends Friday night!


This is my first year really in school. Mister Man is in kindergarten, and for the first year we have more requirements than signing up at the preschool and getting him a backpack.

This year, we have several things required before school starts:
1) He has to have an eye exam. Phew, we did this a couple weeks ago. Except I forgot to take the form with me. And I haven't called them yet. And school starts Monday. What's the likelihood they can fill out the form tomorrow and then fax it to the school? Yeah... I didn't think so.

2) He needs to have a dental exam. I made the appointment for this, so this one is fortunately all on my husband. I dropped the form off with the dentist ahead of time. My husband forgot to take the completed one with him. And has yet to pick it up. Fingers crossed he has time tomorrow.

3) I need to actually sign him up for school. I dithered and dithered about where to go. The half day public school kindergarten that has the convenient bus, or the full day private school option that has differentiated education. I finally decided on the private school in the middle of July. Fortunately, there were still spaces left.

4) I have to buy school uniform for Mister Man. This should be easy, right? Navy pants and navy shorts - just not cargo. Red and white polo shirts with no logos. A pair of gym shoes (not until first grade do they have to have the brown or black shoes). Oops. I waited too long. There are apparently few manufacturers that make polos without logos on them. And fewer still that haven't sold out by the end of the third week of August. Navy pants? That's not so much the problem. But poor Mister Man is going to have to wear pants all year even when the temperatures are into the 90s. Oops. Sorry, Kiddo.

5) And there's the dreaded school supply list. Seriously, I need to save what was on the list this year and just start buying the stuff in early July last year. Have you tried looking for a pack of Crayola broad tip classic color markers lately? Or an 8 pack of non-jumbo Crayola crayons? I finally gave up and bought RoseArt markers and a 24 pack of crayons. I emailed the teacher with my dilemma. She's agreed that I can just pick out the eight colors of crayons and send them in a baggie, but she's insisting that the markers need to be Crayola. I've literally been to eight stores, and they are quite simply sold out right now. Apparently, I know what I'll be doing this weekend.

Oh, and don't get me started on trying to find a lunchbox. In fact, I think that might be its own post. One of my friends is now making fun of me in my search for the lunchbox. And I have four more days now, so time is really running out.

The sad thing is that I have a feeling that even with a year of this under my belt and with the experience of this summer, next year I'll be in the same boat. I'm just not good at getting ready for the new school year. I'm not ready for it to start myself!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

PSA: Do Not Call List

Giveaway is still going on here (until Friday)! I'll wait for you to go enter. Promise.


Tonight, my husband got a random telemarketer call. Again.

You wouldn't think this would be too out of the ordinary, except for a few things. We're on the do not call list. And it was to his cell phone. From a business that neither of us has ever heard of.


This is what the do not call list is intended to prevent. And the law prohibits telemarketing to cell phones. Period.

For landlines, there are also restrictions once you have been on the national Do Not Call registry for 31 days unless you have an existing business relationship (including asking for information from the company/applying for a product), it is a not-for-profit organization, conducting surveys or political polling, or it is a business line being called. This includes collections calls. However, once you have requested to be placed on that individual do not call list, they must add your number and can no longer call. Oh, and no telemarketer can call outside the hours of 8am to 9pm (your local time).

If someone is violating this, you have recourse. Click here. That will take you to an FTC (Federal Trade Commission, the governmental organization that regulates telemarketing) website where you can fill out a complaint form with as much information about the call as you can remember and provide.

Why would you want to fill out this form? First, it gives the FTC an idea of who to go after to shut down those businesses not following the law. Second (and my favorite reason), violators can be fined up to $11,000 -- and no, that's not a typo -- per violation. Depending on how many people they called and how many report it, can you imagine what kind of damage that kind of a fine could do for repeat violators? It kind of makes me smile to think about it.

I rarely get calls on my cell. Very rarely. My work Blackberry, I'll get some more mostly because a Spanish speaking person (making it fun to get off their lists) paid no bills before abandoning the number that was eventually assigned to me. When I get a telemarketer, I do have a very effective strategy though -- when I get a live person.

I interrupt the sales pitch to:
a) ask who is calling to be sure I have the name of the company to file a complaint against
b) request that I be placed on their do not call list -- which by law they have to do for ten years
c) ask if they realize they're calling a cell phone (assuming I'm using a cell), which a violation of FTC regulations -- this usually gets some very flustered responses
d) if it is a repeat offender, let them know that I have already requested to be placed on the do not call list and that I am now filing a complaint with the FTC. When I pull out this card, it's generally the last time I hear from a company.

When my husband walked in the room to complain about the telemarketer, I asked what he did about it. He had just hung up on them. He wasn't aware of his alternatives, but once I told him he filed a complaint. I didn't realize this wasn't common knowledge, and I hope that it helps some of you.

But in order for it to work, you have to sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry here.

There are misconceptions against this, as well. This is not a site that telemarketers can go to and purchase phone numbers. Signing up for it will not increase the solicitations you receive. It does take 31 days for your number to be updated by companies using the database, but it will work. And due to new changes in the law, the registry is permanent for the phone number and not just for five years, as when it was originally created. It is safe. It is secure. And it works.

Just ask my now happy husband.

This Public Service Announcement brought to you by an annoyed consumer who got fed up and read up on all the telemarketing regulations she could find once the do not call registry was created.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Tasty Tuesday!

Before I start, let me remind you about a little giveaway that I'm hosting here. Go, enter. Tell your friends. It's super yummy, I promise.


So it's Tuesday again. And again I cooked something yummy this week. And again I have no pictures. This time, I have a good(?) excuse.

We went on vacation last week. While on vacation, I took some photos. After the third picture, I saw the nasty little low battery light flashing. I conserve the battery until I got back to the hotel. Where I realized I didn't have the battery charger that I swear I packed. I used the camera sparingly, but it eventually ran out of batteries. We're home now. And I'm still searching for the charger. It's probably hanging out with my keys.

Anyway, back to the recipes. Even though summer really only just arrived in Chicago, I'm trying to get used to the idea that summer is almost over and school is starting. I made a side dish that is really great for fall and the great fruits that are going to start to become more readily available.

Spiced Cranberries and Apples

2 1/4 c sugar
3 c water
2 c cranberries
2 4" cinnamon sticks
8 apples, peeled and sliced

Combine 1 c sugar and 1 c water in a saucepan and boil for five minutes to create a simple syrup. Add cranberries and boil until skins just pop.

In a second pan, combine the remaining 1 1/4 c sugar, 2 c water, and cinnamon sticks. Boil for 10 minutes. Add apples and simmer until tender.

In a 2 quart glass casserole, place a layer of apples, a layer of cranberries, a layer of apples, etc until complete. Pour syrups from berries and apples over the fruit until covered.

Let stand in the fridge for at least one day before serving.


Find more tasty treats at Tempt My Tummy Tuesday hosted by Blessed By Grace!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Dads Are From Mars...

Moms and dads always have different roles within the family. Our family is no different. Whenever there's a major issue, the wee ones call for Moooooooooooooom! And that's fine. I'm more comfortable taking care of those issues.

Once the bedroom door closes for naps or bedtime though, the story changes. If my husband is home, the wee ones both call for Daddy. They know that they have one shot with Mommy before I start taking away toys, so they store up that shot. My husband... they know he doesn't mean business the same way I do.

Daddy, I have to go potty.

Daddy, Snowy fell down. Can you pick him up?

Daddy, I'm thirsty!

And so it goes.

Last night:


Daddy! I need some help.

My husband heads upstairs to find Mister Man in the bathroom.

What do you need, Son?

Daddy, can you check to see if I'm clean? (Oh, I'm loving hearing this conversation from my spot from the couch.)

Mister Man, do you know who I ask to check my bottom to make sure that I'm clean?

No, Daddy. Who do you ask?

No one. I don't ask anyone. I wipe my bottom, and I can tell that it's clean. And if I have any doubts, I just look at the toilet paper and check.

Well, can you check me too then, Daddy?

Sarcasm is lost on the young. Fortunately, it isn't lost on the Moms who fully appreciate it!

PS Checkout my giveaway for Honey Kix on my review site here.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Shhhh! I Don't Want To Hear It

Sometimes, we all need a vacation. Technically, right now I don't need a real vacation, I just need a momcation. I don't need or want to be away from the wee ones, but ... I need them to just be a little less ummm childlike. For just a little bit. Just for this weekend.

I just need to have a tiny bit of peace and quiet before a stressful week starts next week. I know it isn't really possible, but a girl can dream, can't she?

So may I present my list of

Top Ten Things I Could Really Go Without Hearing This Weekend:

10) I think I just had an accident.
9) S/He just _______ (to) me!
8) I'm bleeding!
7) Where's my __________?*
6) What's for dinner?*
5) Oops!
4) But I'm too tiiiiiiiiiiirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrreeedddddddddd to ________.
3) Wahhhh!
2) But why doesn't s/he have to ___________?

And the Number One thing I don't want to hear this weekend?

1) Mooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooom!

* These items also apply to my husband in addition to the wee ones.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Where's Daddy When You Need Him?

Sooo Mister Man is in time out at the moment. Not really, but just in my mind. There are some things that small children do in public that well... I just wish they wouldn't. Little Miss's incident yesterday is another case in point. Maybe both wee ones go into timeout until they're thirty.


Soooo just before bathtime tonight, Mister Man walks out of the bathroom lacking clothes. He's also repeatedly squeezing his te$tlcle$. It doesn't appear to be causing him any pain, but the sight of it definitely throws me for a loop.

I ask him what he's doing, and he looks at me with completely innocence.

You know what, Mommy? I can really tell that I have to go potty badly.

Oh? I inquire with an arched eyebrow, trying to quickly figure out what his grubby little hand is doing and why.

Yep. I can feel how full my kidneys are. When I squeeze them I can feel all the pee in them. I really have to go badly.

I lost it at that point. I collapsed on the floor, dying of laughter. Between gasps, I tried to explain that your kidneys are on your back under your ribs. He didn't believe me. I tried to explain how there are tubes that go from your kidneys to the appropriate place.

And that he is definitely not squeezing his kidneys. And that it has nothing to do with having to go to the bathroom. He now knows the medically appropriate name for that portion of his anatomy.

I'll leave the information about how and when they do fill up to Daddy.

I really do wonder where they get these things. But in the meantime, I'm locking them up until I can safely loose them upon the public without worrying about being mortified by what may or may not come out of their mouths.

Shapes And Figments

Children have the most interesting perspectives, don't they?

Yesterday, the wee ones and I were playing in a pool. We had a little yellow koosh-like ball (remember those?) that we were throwing back and forth and generally randomly playing with. It was -- pun intended -- all fun and games.

The new game became keep away somehow. Little Miss was very upset that she didn't have the ball and insisted that I had hidden it. I showed her my hands to prove that I didn't have it. She shook her head angrily and insisted I did.

Right there! You have it there! she insisted.

No, Sweetie, I replied.

She didn't believe me and reached out to pat at my chest. Convinced, she started remonstrating me that yes, I'd hidden the ball right there. She could feel it, see? It was proof. She started to the try to grab it out of my suit, at which point I held her firmly away from me.

Pumpkin, that isn't the ball we were playing with. That's part of Mommy's body. See, the ball is over here? Do you see it? And look, those lumps are still there. That wasn't the ball.

Mollified, she took the proferred ball.

And proceeded to stick it down the front of her swimsuit, parading around announcing that she looked just like Mommy. Great.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tasty Tuesday!

I am a carb person. I love carbs. I think some of it was spending time in Europe as a child, but to me few meals are complete without some sort of bread. That includes eating pasta with bread, of course. And post-Thanksgiving, I've been known to make sandwiches (more as a child, but still) of leftover mashed potatoes and dressing.

Biscuits are another favorite of mine, especially fresh and right out of the oven. I'm not a huge fan, however, of the taste of overly processed ones, and I love to make them from scratch. When I first sought to do so, I literally could not find a recipe that didn't include Bisquick. And I stubbornly didn't want to use Bisquick, as that seemed like cheating to me.

I whined about this to my mom who looked at me blankly, as she'd never made biscuits in her life. She finally suggested talking to my grandmother who fortunately had one recipe that didn't call for Bisquick - yay!

These are super easy to make, and we rarely have leftovers. They do require a little bit of labor. Personally, I think it's well worth it in the end.

Gram's Biscuits

1/2 c. butter, cold
2 c. flour
1 T baking powder
1/4 t salt
2 t sugar
1/2 t cream of tartar
2/3 c. milk

Makes 10 biscuits

Mix all dry ingredients together in medium sized bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter until pieces are pea sized (if you go more, it won't be fluffy!). If you don't have a pastry cutter, you can use two knives, but go out and buy a pastry cutter. They're so much fun to use!

Add the milk and stir with a spatula until JUST combined. Knead 10-12 strokes with your hands and turn out to a lightly floured surface.

Roll to 1/2" thickness and use a 2 1/2 c glass to cut into biscuits. You can reroll the dough to get all ten biscuits. For the glass, I like to use tall tumblers because the opening is the size I like to make my biscuits, but this isn't that particular. To keep the dough from sticking to the glass, dip it in flour periodically.

Bake at 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Enjoy! And no, there aren't any pictures. Remember what I said about not having leftovers? Oops.

Enjoy more fun recipes at TMTT with Blessed by Grace!

Sunday, August 9, 2009


I was with my mom and the wee ones at a kids' maze the other day when she turned to me and remarked that the helicopter parenting really started early. I gaped at her briefly, taken aback. I looked around and thought for a moment before replying.

To me, it didn't seem like helicoptering. I have horrid images of the helicopter parents who don't let their children have any independence, who never let them become their own people. I've read the articles about the parents calling bosses demanding to know why their children were passed over for a raise, the ones who help their children do the research for college papers, those who have forced many colleges who have deans dealing only with the annoyances of the helicopter parents.

By God, I've even laughed (from my verrrry far away vantage point of having a five year old as my oldest child) about the idea of having an orientation at college just for the parents. Really, college is for the children. Why on earth do the parents need their own program? Help the kids unload their boxes into the dorm, take them out for dinner, and give them a hug and a kiss good-bye.

But perhaps my superiority is merely an illusion of my far away vantage point. As my mom so eloquently pointed out, when she was a child, there were no parents constantly there telling them how to play together. They either figured it out or didn't... and socially that is where they developed.

In the maze, parents were constantly walking up to the netting to scold their children (me included, when Mister Man used his foot to shove a younger child down a slide and then again when he tried to climb up the slide instead of just going down it). A child would periodically come out crying, and the mom would sooth away the tears.

For me, that's where I draw the line. "No blood, no foul" is my mantra now with the wee ones. They may come out crying about a child who was hitting them, but they need to figure out how to keep the child from hitting them, and they aren't truly hurt. My thought was that (especially for Mister Man who needs the help with the social cues) if I were to model and give him pointers on the correct behavior he should have and then let him use that knowledge to help himself shake off the inevitable dings and scrapes of childhood rather than crying "bully" each time, I would be fostering the independence in him that I so badly want him to grow into.

My mom's words shook me though. Is me going up there or calling him out of the maze each time he makes a misstep taking the wrong path? Should I let him falter, so long as he isn't really causing injury to another child?

Today, there is a different criteria for parents. If I let my child run wild, you know the other moms will be whispering behind their hands about me. We strive to teach perfect gentlemanly behavior in all our children from the earliest age by instilling our rules into them -- the constant "don'ts" and "nos" they hear incessantly. Is it really any wonder that so few children will introduce themselves anymore? That children don't so easily instantly bond and start a game but are more shy in expressing themselves so often?

Knowing that neither of the wee ones will hurt another child and will always look after each other (I did hear him say to another child that he wouldn't do something to Little Miss because she's his sister and he loves her), I finally sat back to watch.

And slowly, the games integrated more children. The messy game of tag where I'd pulled Mister Man aside a few times evolved. It became a game of ghost in the graveyard - though not one I'd recognize from my childhood. That evolved into hide and go seek before it was time for us to leave.

And there was not a tear shed by a single child. The sounds were the raucous laughter and shouted instructions of children playing their own self-directed games.


I really don't want to be a helicopter parent, for both my own sanity and that of the wee ones. I want them to grow up socially adept and respectful of themselves and others. I don't want to be that mom with those kids.

I'm not sure where the balance is, but I think I need to sit back just a bit and let the wee ones enjoy playing. Maybe.

Where do you fall on the helicopter scale?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

2 + 2 = 5

It's amazing the things that children pick up on, even when they're things that aren't said. They have their own perceptions of what happens and why. And sometimes, it cracks me up.

Yesterday, we were playing outside in the afternoon because I was watching a friend's two boys and I couldn't stand to playing inside with them anymore. Those of you with three boys in your house, wow. I'm just glad no furniture was broken - and these are relatively well-behaved children, too. They're just so active all the time.

Anyway, point being that we were playing in the front yard when a car pulled into our driveway. I was mildly confused, as it wasn't their mom's car, and it was early for that anyway. Then a wave appeared from the car. It was Daddy. Not in his car.

So Mister Man asked the obvious question.

Daddy, what happened? How did you break your car this time?

I tried to stifle my laugh, I really did. The kid has a point though, as my husband does seem to be the king of his car breaking for silly reasons -- like basketball hoops falling on it -- necessitating loaner vehicles.

This time, it wasn't technically broken. But the power steering had a leak (and apparently my husband had known about this for months but just hadn't felt like having it taken care of - grrr), a ball bearing was going in one wheel, and three other not hugely major but definitely needing attention items.

Oddly, these kinds of things (knock on wood) only seem to happen to his car. Smart kid though.

At least my husband had the grace to blush before denying that he'd broken his car.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Ahhh, The Sleep Of The Innocent

Last night, I peeked into Little Miss's room to see if she had either of the cats sleeping with her. And I had to capture evidence of her sleeping. Fortunately, the flash only made her stir and didn't actually wake her up.

How in the world can that be comfortable?

Do you notice that she's sleeping with her knees off the ground? I don't think I could do that if I tried.

And Bugs? Right on her face. Then again, that is my Bugs that I got when I was two years old from Kiddie Kingdom, so who wouldn't want to snuggle with a carnival cheap thirty year old stuffed animal?

Poor Snowy is smooshed underneath her. This is obviously not a case of the Princess and the Pea.

I do know that she's my daughter though, since she's got her hand up by her head just like I do each night.

And as I look more closely, I can see that she's been playing with her lamp again. I'm going to have to have a talk with her about that. At least the monkey isn't hanging from it this time....

Monday, August 3, 2009

Tasty Tuesday!

We have a tradition in my house: every birthday, the person celebrating the birthday gets to choose what to eat. We had three birtdays this weekend, so I've been doing a lot of cooking and baking! Little Miss chose grilled pizza. And my husband chose "some kind of marinated chicken."

Okie dokie. I can have fun with that.

Enter Lime Time Chicken -- which was really good, especially with the kiwi salsa I made to accompany it. It sounds odd and looked a little weird, but it was the perfect accompaniment. Plus, it is one of my favorite kinds of meals: it looks fancy and tastes great but requires minimal work.

Did I mention that the wee ones loved it, too?

Lime Time Chicken

1/2 c lime juice (~4-5 limes, juiced)
1/4 c olive oil
2 T honey
1 t dried thyme
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 chicken breasts

Mix all the ingredients for the marinade into a bag. I heat the honey slightly in the microwave first to be sure that it mixes well with the rest. Shake until it's well combined. Add the chicken. Let it sit in the fridge for a few hours.

Remove the chicken and grill. Only turn it once! I served it with rice and the kiwi salsa below (yes, we're still finishing off the case of kiwi I brought home -- nearly done!).

Kiwi Salsa:
2 T lime juice (I used the juice of a whole lime)
1 T oilive oil
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 t honey (again, heat it in the microwave)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 t curry
1 t cumin, toasted and ground
hot pepper flakes to taste
6 kiwi, chopped
1 small red onion, diced

Mix all the salsa together after you whip up the marinade, then let that sit in the fridge so the flavors meld. Don't cut the kiwi too small, as you don't want mushy little bits of kiwi that fall apart into nothing. Serve it over the chicken above.

Enjoy more fun recipes at TMTT with Blessed by Grace!

(See, pics this week -- aren't you proud?)

So This Is What Happens When You Get Older

Phew - I'm almost done with birthday-palooza. I hate to say it, but I think I'm partied out after this weekend. Seven parties in three days, plus one more tonight and one tomorrow. I'm getting old!

But so is Little Miss, or so she informed me on Saturday.

Me: So do you like being four? Does it feel any different today?
Little Miss: Yes, I feel different.
Me: Really, what feels different?
Little Miss: My tummy.
Me: Your ummm tummy feels different today?
Little Miss: Yes!
Me: How does your tummy feel different?
Little Miss: I don't know. It just does.

Well, ok then.

And a few minutes later, unsolicited:

Little Miss: Mommy, my arms also feel much longer and stronger now that I'm four, too.

So now if you want to know whether you're getting older or not, just check out your arms and your tummy. It's foolproof according to Little Miss!

And yay, she had fun at her birthday party!

Mister Man decorated the birthday cake for her (dairy free cherry with chocolate icing, per request) with her dollhouse toys. They had pizza just like we did -- I thought it was sweet that he chose the doll and food that looked like her.

Notice that he also put a begging cat into the tableau. I swear our cats are better mannered than this one!

For the party at the salon, we had ice cream cone cupcakes that were quite yummy -- or so I was told. By that point, I was done with cake!

Little Miss and her friends all had their nails painted, hair done, and played fun games like freeze music (or whatever it's called) and Simon Says.

Her favorite present, of course, was the dairy free chocolates that Mister Man and I bought for her. We're raising her right!

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