Sunday, February 27, 2011

I Would Make A Horrible Boy Scout

Mister Man joined Cub Scouts this year. He loves it. I mean L-O-V-E-S it, and yes, he's doing it again next year. Today was a big day for him, as he had his Blue and Gold Banquet where he moved from being a Tiger Scout to being a Wolf Scout. Yay!

And being the great mom I am, I brought not one but two cameras with me. I had my pocket camera as a backup in my purse, and I grabbed my DSLR bag, knowing that I was going to want to switch lenses and use the external flash. Rock on, me.

You know that Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared?

It turns out that I switched purses last night to go out to dinner and neglected to move the pocket camera from one purse to the other. No biggie. I opened up my camera bag to discover my zoom lens and external flash. And no camera. Closing my eyes, I could picture it sitting on my coffee table.


Fortunately, I have my trusty camera phone. It's slow, but it actually has surprisingly good resolution. In fact, you should see the pictures from last night's dinner at Wildfire with the three guys in the group drinking their manly Manhattans from girly glasses with cherries floating in them. Besides the point, oops.

I did what I could, but ... my camera didn't like the lighting or the distance or ... something. This shot was the best of the bunch.

Yeah, because you can't actually tell since the photo is so blurry and bleh, Mister Man is the boy on the far left. I'll be begging other parents (not many cameras unfortunately, as apparently many of us were slacker parents today) for any photos they got of the ceremony.

But Scouting? It's fun. I never did post about his Pinewood Derby experience. I was thrilled when Mister Man showed no interest in winning the races, as I was fairly confident it would not be likely given how competitive I've heard it can be. We let him do the majority of it on his own, the exception being the saw work obviously.

He loved his race car. He decorated it with Legos and let his passion shine through. Definitely not the most aerodynamic, but he didn't care when I pointed that out - more power to him.

But when he came home that afternoon (I missed it, sadly, as Little Miss had two birthday parties I had to ferry her to and from during the Derby), he had a surprise for me. He won third place in the design portion. I didn't even realize design mattered in the car.

He is prouder than proud of his trophy. Next year? He's already decided he wants to make his car look like an AT-AT Walker. I'm working on talking him down from there; fortunately I've still got about ten months to do that!

Pssssst I have a Facebook Fan page Facebook page. Come, like me! And, yes, I'm on Twitter, too - just sayin'.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Karma Is Laughing At Me

Last night, I went to a fantastic charity event hosted by Sassy Moms in the City, WBBM and JACK 104.3FM. It was a benefit for the American Heart Association's Go Red women's initiatives and New Moms, Inc. Needless to say, red dress and red shoes were optional - but obviously suggested.

After doing a quick mental perusal of my closet, I decided a red dress was in order. While I do have a red dress in my closet, it's been... years since I've worn it. It was from a formal in college, I believe. While it does thankfully still fit, it's ummm a little short. And sadly out of date.

No worries. It was just before Valentine's Day. There are lots of red dresses out there!

Or so I thought. And so Melisa thought.

I don't have a ton of time to shop, and I'm not a big fan of shopping, as things don't quite fit the way I think they should fit, which puts me into a bad mood. I hit three stores and quickly discovered that there aren't many stores easily accessible to me that carry a large selection of dresses, let alone red dresses. After conferring with Melisa, I jumped online almost two weeks ago and quickly found four potential dreses.

Four. Whoo, go me! Something's gotta work, right?

Better yet, the free shipping (me online shopping = free shipping and in store returns if I'm buying clothes) would put those dresses to my house in plenty of time for the event last night.

Melisa eventually also found a dress online - a single dress that she ordered. As we compared notes, I laughed, as she paid for slightly expedited delivery and my dresses (four of them, mind you - I would have at least ONE that would be perfect, ha!) were scheduled to arrive a day before hers was.

On Monday this week, her dress arrived. It didn't fit. I felt badly for her, and I vaguely worried that none of the four dresses I ordered would work, but she reassured me - even after having gone shopping with me for a dress for BlogHer and seeing how many I tried on before finally finding one that worked.

Melisa went to Plan B of getting red shoes, which is a whole 'nother saga - truly, you need to go read her post. I'll wait.

My dresses were scheduled to arrive Tuesday, two whole days before the event. On Tuesday, there was a package sitting in front of my door when I got home from the gym. Whoo hoo, they arrived! I quickly scooped up the box and ran inside. I opened it, so excited to see which of my four beauties I'd be sporting at the event.

Inside, I found a twelve pack of toilet paper.

I couldn't make this up if I tried. It was a package I wasn't expecting, and I love receiving gifts, but the irony of this wasn't lost on me.

On Wednesday morning, I looked up the tracking number (again) to see where my dresses were. At 8:21am, they'd tried to deliver them - somewhere in a town I've heard of near me but don't actually know where it's located. They were being "rerouted to the correct address." I heaved a sigh of relief; they'd be here by the end of the day or the next morning at the latest.

On Wednesday, there was no package.

Yesterday, I came back from the gym, and there were two packages waiting for me on my porch. Neither was the size nor the shape of a box of clothing. I sighed and checked the tracking. The arrow that shows the status of packages? It simply had a big RED mark under the "in transit" stage. My hopes sunk. For all I knew, the package was lost - as it was still being "rerouted to the correct address" but now it was red, and red in this place is not good.

I scampered up to my closet to see what I could find to wear. I actually tried on the red dress I already owned, just for giggles. I was right in my first assessment. I tried on two different black dresses. And a red blouse with funky pants. And then I sent photos of each of them to Melisa, knowing she'd give me an honest opinion thirty minutes before I needed to walk out the door.

I wore a little black dress and black shoes - because no, I didn't have time to find any red shoes, either. Fortunately, I had managed to get a mani/pedi earlier in the day after looking at my feet and realizing open toed shoes weren't going to be pleasant if I didn't.

Best part of the mani/pedi? I chose China Glaze, a non-standard salon brand that I figured would be unique. I went with a bright red that had minor sparkles in it, just for fun. So of course, it's the exact shade Melisa chose, too, exact brand.

And that package?

It was sitting on my front porch this morning. It arrived after the event, but I determinedly marched upstairs to try on each of the dresses to figure out which one I would have worn to the event last night. Shockingly, it turns out that I would have worn... none of them.

Silly me for giggling at Melisa's silliness over ordering a single dress, smug in my knowledge that I had four options arriving in plenty of time. Karma set me straight, didn't she?

Yay, I have a Facebook Fan page Facebook page. Come, like me! And, yes, I'm on Twitter, too - just sayin'.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wordless Wednesday


This is why my husband doesn't put away the laundry.

And why I should really go to bed earlier. I didn't notice the mismatch until I was at the gym and putting on my running shoes. Oy vey.

I am also giving away a Progresso Souper You Debut gift pack here.

Oh, and while you're at it, I finally set up a Facebook Fan page for my blog (and corrected the link here - oops!). It's way overdue. Go like me on Facebook if you would so I can get an official username - once I get enough likes. You can also follow me on Twitter, too, if you're so inclined.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Korean Beef - Tasty Tuesday!

I love that the wee ones are open to experimentation. They're the rare children who are into sushi (although I'll admit that it took multiple years of me eating it in front of them and encouraging them to try it - again - before they decided they love it), and they're fans of many Asian flavors, so long as they aren't super spicy. My Miso Chicken is one of their favorites, and this week I experimented with another flavor.

They. Loved. It. Fortunately, I have extra flank steak, so I can make it again soon. It isn't spicy, it's super easy, and I made enough for leftovers for eveyone's lunches - which they happily ate.

It's amazing how quick it was to put together, and the ingredients are all things I generally have on hand. Again, this is one that looks much harder and more fancy than it really is. Have I mentioned that this is my favorite kind of recipe?

Korean(ish) Beef

1 lb flank steak
1 T brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T ginger, fresh grated*
1 T sesame oil
1/4 c dark beer
1 T sesame seeds

Mix the sugar, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, and beer into a container for marinating. I like to do mine in a large plastic container that I can reuse v a zip top bag. I simply use tongs to mix the meat around every hour or so to ensure it's all well-coated and yummy.

Slice your flank steak on a bias about 1/8 to 1/4 inches thick. If you find this hard to do, put your meat in the freezer for a half hour or so, then try slicing it again. That means slicing it against the grain and do it diagonally, so that you end up with wider strips of beef that will be easier to cook than if you cut straight up and down and that will absorb the yummy marinade well.

You want to marinate the flank steak for several hours to allow the marinade to start to break down the tough meat a little bit, in addition to adding all sorts of great taste.



Once the meat is marinated, dinner is just about ready. Cooking is super fast, meaning it's a great weeknight dinner when you want to get stuff on the table fast. Because the wee ones aren't huge fans of lettuce (yet! We keep working on it though), we served it over rice - which fortunately cooks up nicely in advance and stays warm for when we want it.

Heat up a grill pan - or your grill - to about medium high heat. I prefer a grill pan though since the meat can't accidentally slide through the grates, which would drive me batty to waste it. Lightly oil it just to keep it from sticking to start, the meat will release enough fat to keep it from sticking once it gets cooking.

Using tongs, spread out the beef in batches on the pan (or grill) in a single layer. Let them cook for just a couple minutes until you can see the edges turning brown. Flip them with the tongs and grill again for another couple minutes. Add the next batch and keep going until the meat is used up.

Serve the cooked meat rolled in butter lettuce or over rice. Sprinkle it with sesame seeds for a great last touch - toasting them lightly before sprinkling adds a great extra bit of flavor but isn't necessary if you're (ahem) crunched for time.

*Grating fresh ginger is super easy. It keeps for what seems like forever in your freezer, and is super cheap. I simply buy a root, keep it in the bag it came in, and leave it in the freezer. When I need it, I simply pull it out and use my zester and grate it with the zester while it's still frozen. Easy peasy - always fresh and so much cheaper than the powdered stuff that comes in a can.

Enjoy this and more with Blessed with Grace and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday.

I am also giving away a Progresso Souper You Debut gift pack here.

Oh, and while you're at it, I finally set up a Facebook Fan page for my blog (and corrected the link here - oops!). It's way overdue. Go like me on Facebook if you would so I can get an official username - once I get enough likes. You can also follow me on Twitter, too, if you're so inclined.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Just Call Her Winona Ryder Junior...

There are times when I'm glad I go through the wee ones' backpacks nightly. I rarely miss a field trip notice or a homework assignment - though that isn't to say they don't get lost once I've seen them once. On Friday, I pulled an extra special note from Little Miss's backpack.

Ummm, excuse me?

What meals account? We don't have a meals account. There is no deposit there, so how could it be in arrears?

Little Miss doesn't eat hot lunch. I pack her a healthy and yummy lunch every single day, and never once have I forgotten. She can't eat the hot lunch anyway because she's dairy restricted, not to mention that they are generally foods I don't want her eating anyway. And for $2.50? Yeah, I'm definitely packing her a lunch.

This must be a mistake. There are three girls in her class with her name; somehow this must be meant for one of them, not for Little Miss. Right?

I mean, I know she's brought home her lunch untouched or with just a few bites taken several times, but she goes in fits and starts of eating, so there were no red flags raised, especially since she'd eat her full lunch once she got home from school. After all, she has snack, too, and I feed her a pretty big breakfast. Right?

After fifteen minutes of careful questioning, my little sneak admitted to having eaten hot lunch at school without having paid for it. She couldn't remember how many times she did it or what she ate when she got it, but she knew it was maybe more than one time. She didn't really like what she ate, but ... she wanted to be like the other kids who got hot lunch.

She knew the lunches cost money that she wasn't paying (they have a little "credit" like card that she knew didn't have any money loaded on it that they use to pay). She knew I'd find out. But she did it anyway.

I sent her upstairs to count out $7.50 to put into an envelope to take to school to pay for her lunches, and she's promised to never do it again. I don't know if I trust that, though. And I'm not sure what else I shouldn't trust.

I've already had a conversation with her teacher - who had no idea that she was buying lunch. The teacher is going to pull her card so that she doesn't have this option anymore. I still have to call the lunch staff to explain this to them, however, as pulling the lunch card is not standard practice apparently.

Someone help me through the teen years with her. Did I mention that she's five?

I am also giving away a Progresso Souper You Debut gift pack here.

Oh, and while you're at it, I finally set up a Facebook Fan page for my blog (and corrected the link here - oops!). It's way overdue. Go like me on Facebook if you would so I can get an official username - once I get enough likes. You can also follow me on Twitter, too, if you're so inclined.

Friday, February 18, 2011

File This Under Things I Didn't Need To Know

I've joked in the past that I need to just live in a bubble. I would love to have my little bubble world where every day is 77 and sunny with a light breeze. No smog, no rain or snow, no hot or cold, just ahhhhh...

Of course, that isn't the only purpose my bubble would serve. After watching Restaurant: Impossible a couple weeks ago, I will never, ever eat in a restaurant in New Castle Delaware given what the health inspectors apparently let pass there. Trust me when I tell you that you don't need to go look up that episode.

Then there's my real freak out factor. I detest little creepy crawly things. I live in fear that the wee ones will catch lice that is inevitably going around their schools. The thought gives me the heeby jeebies. But bed bugs? Oh, I can hardly stand to even type the word.

I now check every hotel I stay at for evidence of the critters. I've been lucky that I haven't had any issues to date, but I know the day will eventually come when I'll have to call a hotel's front desk and insist on a room change. They are everywhere, definitely not just internationally or big cities.

The thing that really freaked me out though?

I was listening to news radio on my way to the gym last week as they began discussing how bedbugs have invaded a new space. Apparently travelers are becoming more health conscious. And they're working out while on the road, which is awesome. The part that's not so awesome? Those bedbugs in the hotels are climbing into their gym bags.

Bedbugs are now running rampant in gym locker rooms. Where they can survive for up to a year waiting for a new host. Are you kidding me? The gym is my sanctuary. I can't have bedbugs there. Can. Not.

The only good thing is that I know there aren't many people who use the locker I do (its combination is most often the same one I left it at my previous workout, yay!). But seriously, now I have to worry about bedbugs there, too? My skin is crawling as I type this.

I'm off now to go google search bubbles. I'm going to need to move into one soon. Really, really soon.

I am also giving away a Progresso Souper You Debut gift pack here.

Oh, and while you're at it, I finally set up a Facebook Fan page for my blog (and corrected the link here - oops!). It's way overdue. Go like me on Facebook if you would so I can get an official username - once I get enough likes. You can also follow me on Twitter, too, if you're so inclined.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

If Only I Had More Of A Backbone - Then

I've always been a person who somehow manages to find a way to be happy and deal with whatever comes my way. It serves me well in that I can let go when someone cuts me off in traffic. Or when people commit to doing something but don't quite do it when and the way they say they will. I don't panic often (yesterday's post, of course being an exception), as I know that things will somehow turn out in the end.

While that generally works in my favor, there are times I need to stop living and letting live and make sure my point of view is taken into account and that I change the situtation. When Mister Man was born, it was not the birth I'd planned (although, granted, who really has the birth they'd planned?).

Labor started out fine, but I never progressed. I waited forty-five minutes after having been given an injection of pain medication to inquire how long it would be before it took effect - apparently my body doesn't metabolize pain medication normally, and it never worked. When they said my water hadn't broken and they wanted to break it after 14 hours of labor to see if that would help me progress, I didn't question them. They told me that his head was banging against my pelvis and was in the wrong position, but that they would "wait and see" what happened next. I said ok. They said hours later that he wasn't doing so hot and wasn't changing his position, so they wanted to do a C-section. I'd already figured out this was the direction they said they were going, and I said ok. They wheeled me into the hallway then turned me back around again, saying there was an emergency coming in and they'd get to me next. I said ok. Two hours later, I had my C-section and my baby boy, bruised as a boxer. It all worked out. Sort of.

When I was pregnant with Little Miss, my doctor told me that he recommended doing another C-section because I'd had one the first time. I wasn't super comfortable with the idea and wanted to look into trying labor again. A few visits later, still dithering, my doctor told me we were doing a C-section and asked me to choose between two dates. I said ok, still not fully comfortable with it.

When she was ... taken, I didn't get an answer from the doctors about if she was a girl or boy. They were too intent on what they were doing to notice my question. She didn't start out life so hot, but fortunately she rebounded. I had a nasty reaction to the anesthesia both before and after the surgery. Little Miss weighed less than her brother by a pound plus, and she's still a munchkin on the weight chart. I fully believe they got the due date wrong for her and that they took her too early. If I had gone into natural labor, would things have been different for her or for me?

I wasn't comfortable with the doctor, but I was sure everything would be fine and just let it go. I had just moved twenty five minutes on the opposite side of the doctor seven weeks before she was born. The hospital was a full hour plus - without traffic - from where I had moved. I felt it would be too "hard" to change doctors at that point and so let it go.

Once I'd gotten more established, I heard about the hospital that was now closest to me. It was state of the art. The rooms were wireless enabled (most places weren't back then). And they pampered mom - mani or pedi after birth - and they served a surf and turf dinner on the first night of the baby to both parents and on the one year anniversary of the birth. Granted, that's not a reason to choose a hospital, but it would have been a nice touch.

More importantly, the doctor I choose weeks after Little Miss was born, the one who did my post partum checkup, in fact, I loved. The practice made me feel so comfortable. The doctors and the nurses really listened to me and my concerns, and I felt valued. I began to wish that I'd actually looked into closer doctors before Little Miss was born. Then I found out that my new doctor specialized in VBACs. I live with that regret to this day.

I should trust my instincts in those situations. When it comes to my kids, I can't trust that things will just turn out right, I need to push them towards becoming right (within reason, obviously). So when we went to a pediatrician who dismissed my concerns about Mister Man? I found a new pediatrician. When the pediatrician we were seeing later wrong "PARENT WILL NOT COOPERATE" in bold letters on my chart in front of me when I asked him questions about a protocol I wasn't comfortable with for Little Miss, we never went back. We're definitely happier because of it, and I think we're healthier.

If only I'd found my backbone sooner.

This post was inspired by the book "Exploiting My Baby" by Teresa Strasser, this month's book that is part of the From Left to Write book club where we don't review books but rather write posts inspired by them. I received this book free of charge from the publisher as a part of the book club, but there was no compensation, and all opinions expressed are my own.

I am also giving away a Progresso Souper You Debut gift pack here.

Oh, and while you're at it, I finally set up a Facebook Fan page for my blog (and corrected the link here - oops!). It's way overdue. Go like me on Facebook if you would so I can get an official username - once I get enough likes. You can also follow me on Twitter, too, if you're so inclined.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

This Is *NOT* The Time For A Brain Fail

I recently joined a new gym. It's good because it's much closer to where I live and spend most of my time, making it more convenient to get to. It's newer, too, so it has some new fangled technology with the machines and such that make it extra fun to work out. Even better? It's half the price of my old gym.

One of the really cool things is that the lockers have combinations that you reset each time you lock the locker, meaning I don't have to carry an uncomfortable key with me everywhere. And I don't have to worry about losing said key.

Of course, I also no longer have a key. When I nervously mentioned this to my tour guide, she laughed and agreed that they have to come unlock lockers for people a few times a day because they forget the combination. It's no big deal, she reassured me.

My first day at the gym, I decided what my combination was going to be for every time I came to the gym. I wasn't going to be one of those people who needed help, ha! I calmly turned the four dials to my code, closed the door, turned the lock, and spun it to a random set of numbers. I was set.

I returned from my workout and went to my locker. Or wait, did I choose the locker next to it? Or on the other side? Uh-oh, I didn't look at what number locker I had. Yikes! Then I realized that there was only one locker that was in use and locked near where my locker had to be located. Panic averted.

I dialed in my code and hummed happily as I successfully opened the locker. I got out my shampoo and everything I needed for my shower, then proceeded to relock it with the same code. I took my shower and returned - now confident that I knew which locker was mine.

As I stood there dripping in my towel, I plugged in my code. And the locker didn't unlock. I jiggled it a bit, to no avail. I wondered if maybe I had it sideways, but no, that wasn't it. I tried again and again, but I was stuck.

I pondered the likelihood of sideways again. Was my code of 6394

6 3
9 4

Or was it

6 9
3 4

Maybe my hand slipped down naturally as I was thinking 6394 instead of going left to right like a book. I think I need a new code, one that won't allow for this type of confusion with the second and third numbers identical (6334, anyone?). But first, I need to get my locker open.

Ok, seriously? It would be bad enough if I had to walk out past all the exercising people to the front desk to ask them to unlock my locker. Doing it while dripping wet, shamefully tugging my towel to hide more? Ummmm not gonna happen. I took a deep breath and resolved to simply wait in the locker room until another woman entered, then beg her for assistance. It would be slightly less humiliating that way, right?

I began to rue the loss of my key. The key that told me where my locker was when I forgot because someone took "my" locker. The key that unequivocally opened the lock when I tried it. But no, my new fancy gym doesn't have keys.

I gave it one last college try, and amazingly, I felt the lock give a little bit. Maybe I didn't have the wrong code but instead had my gym bag wedged against the lock. I wiggled it and jiggled it and gave a huge sigh or relief and thanks to the heavens that I wasn't going to have to humiliate myself then and there - I could save it for another time.

I am also giving away a Progresso Souper You Debut gift pack here.

Oh, and while you're at it, I finally set up a Facebook Fan page for my blog (and corrected the link here - oops!). It's way overdue. Go like me on Facebook if you would so I can get an official username - once I get enough likes. You can also follow me on Twitter, too, if you're so inclined.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Molten Chocolate Cakes - Tasty Tuesday!

Various desserts come into and go out of fashion on a regular basis. For example, I've been told that cupcakes are overdone and on their way out. And I haven't seen molten chocolate cakes on a menu in a long time. Apparently I'm not the most fashionable, and that's ok. Sometimes foods are just good and fit, so we'll continue to make cupcakes for the wee ones half birthdays, and there are definitely days and times that I'll be making molten chocolate cakes.

Before you non-baker people stop reading, check it out. This recipe has FIVE ingredients. Five. That's it. And it takes seven minutes to pull the whole thing together and another ten to bake it. Seriously, you can do this. It's an easy dessert to impress someone when there's an occasion that calls for it.

Like yesterday. Seriously, warm oozy gooey chocolate? It's the perfect dessert for Valentine's Day. I've had a recipe for it for a long time, and I love making it for dinner parties. It makes between six and ten individual cakes (depending on the size of the ramekin I use), but that's no good for when I want just enough for my family. These aren't something you keep around to eat the next day, after all!

I've been playing around with it for years trying to shrink it so that I can make a smaller batch and have it actually work out. Last night? I did it. Soooo so good. I made two large ramekins, as the wee ones had already gone to bed, but this would easily stretch to three smaller ramekins and possibly four - you'd just need to shorten the cooking time.

Molten Chocolate Cakes

4 T butter, melted
2 oz dark or bittersweet chocolate (72% or higher)
1 whole egg, 1 egg yolk
1/2 c powdered sugar
not quite 1/4 c flour

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

Melt the butter in a very heavy saucepan. While the butter in melting, chop your chocolate so that it will melt quickly.

Remove the butter from the heat, and add the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is melted - making sure the butter isn't so hot that it will burn the chocolate (though I've never had this issue when making it this way). Let the butter/chocolate mixture sit and cool for a bit while you work on the next part.

Get your ramekins out, and butter the bottoms and top really well. You don't want anything sticking! I leave the butter stick in its wrapper, just peeling back the side enough to expose one of the four sides of the stick. With a secure hold, I can quickly and easily butter everything perfectly - and you can, too!

Crack one egg, carefully placing the white into a separate container to save for later (meringue? an omelet?), with the yolk going into your mixing bowl. Crack the second egg into the mixing bowl. If you aren't successful with separating the first egg, put the whole first egg in the mixing bowl - and the second egg becomes your yolk only egg. Voila, no waste - and yes, this is why I do the separated egg first!

Using a whisk, whip the eggs around until they are lightened in color and a uniform consistency - this will take less than a minute. Add the powdered sugar and whisk again until it's well beaten. Like this:

By now, your chocolate mixture has cooled a little, and you'll want to add it to the eggs. Make sure you temper the eggs first so you don't end up with scrambled eggs. Tempering is super easy - just put a little dribble into the eggs while whisking them. Slowly add a little more, continuing to whisk. After you've added about a quarter of the chocolate mixture and gotten it incorporated, go ahead and add the rest, whisking until it's all combined.

Get your flour - and when I say not quite a quarter cup, I mean about this much:

Add it to your chocolate mixture, and stir until it's just combined. Immediately pour into your buttered ramekins.

Place in the oven and bake for 13 minutes - you want the top not really jiggly and just barely starting to crack. (The spots on top show darker in the picture than they actually were; they were just shiny - don't overcook this, or you'll have just a really good chocolate cake. This is why I tell people I'm just making chocolate cake. There's either a really good surprise, or people get what they're expecting!)

When they're cooked, remove them from the oven. Run a knife around the edge to loosen them. Place your plate atop the ramekin and - using your pot holder to hold the ramekin! - flip so that the plate is on the bottom and the ramekin atop. Slowly lift the ramekin, and bliss appears.

Serve immediately. If you're planning ahead (I wasn't), serve this with a little scoop of premium vanilla ice cream. And raspberries. Or just dig in with a fork and mmmmmmmm!

Enjoy this and more with Blessed With Grace and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday!

I am also giving away a Progresso Souper You Debut gift pack here.

Oh, and while you're at it, I finally set up a Facebook Fan page for my blog (and corrected the link here - oops!). It's way overdue. Go like me on Facebook if you would so I can get an official username - once I get enough likes. You can also follow me on Twitter, too, if you're so inclined.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Valentine's Surprise

I've lamented before how Mister Man's Asperger's means that he just doesn't get things sometimes. He doesn't care about the things that to me you would want to care about - and admittedly there are times it drives me nuts. Little Miss, on the other hand, has a personality that just draws people to her, and things come naturally to her. She's lucky in that things tend to come easy and right for her.

Last night, I - the star parent of the week - realized that the wee ones needed to write out Valentine's cards for all their classmates. I set each child down and explained what they needed to do. I placed the class lists for each of them on their homework desks and pointed out how they needed to write a valentine to each classmate using the list I provided. I suggested they mark each name as they do it, and I showed them where to write the to and the from.

Then I walked into the kitchen to make dinner.

Little Miss bounced into the room less than five minutes later. Mommy, I'm done! she squealed with delight. I wasn't surprised that she had managed to write out all 23 valentines in less time than Mister Man wrote out his 16. I continued setting the table while waiting for Mister Man to finish.

As they finished dinner and cleared up their places, I popped into the homework room to gather up the valentines. I peeked at Little Miss's first valentine and saw that she'd spelled her name wrong. And the student's name wrong. I looked at the next and the next - over half of them had misspellings. Bad misspellings. She was trying to phonetically spell names after looking at the list to see who was next. Oh, and she had forgotten one of her friends.

I called her into the room and pointed out again how to fix the valentines - checking the spelling versus the list, writing carefully to make sure no letters were backwards, and oh I don't know - counting to make sure she hasn't missed anyone. After every card, she'd run over to me to check it. Most of them were right after that, but some she had to check again to make sure she'd spelled them correctly - again.

With dread, I walked over to Mister Man's desk. And there I saw the class list open with a very neat X next to each name. And one name crossed out, because apparently the boy had left the school last month. Every card was written neatly, and he'd even done the teachers' cards. Somehow, he knew to use the big cards for the teachers, something I'd forgotten to mention - and the Little Miss completely missed.

I smiled to myself, realizing that I need to not underestimate my boy. No, things don't necessarily come easy to him, but with some cues, he'll figure it out and do just fine. It's a lesson I need to take to heart - and I couldn't ask for a better Valentine's Day present.

(And yes, those are homemade crayons that we put onto each card with a Happy Valentine's Day! label. Silly me, I didn't do the math to think about how long it would take to make 40 of those suckers when you can only make four at a time. Fortunately, I have an awesome husband who took on that job!)

I am also giving away a Progresso Souper You Debut gift pack here.

Oh, and while you're at it, I finally set up a Facebook Fan page for my blog. It's way overdue. Go like me on Facebook if you would so I can get an official username - once I get enough likes. You can also follow me on Twitter, too, if you're so inclined.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

An F For Me In Homework This Week

I love the wee ones' schools. They are at different schools for different reasons, and both are very strong schools with lots of support and "extra" things that make them awesome. Both wee ones are currently involved in reading programs - albeit very different ones with very different structures and rewards.

Sometimes, the extras for the wee ones mean I have homework, too. Both the wee ones had occasion to dress up this week. In costume.

I am the mom who goes to the costume store to find a costume for my children. I can't imagine actually managing to create and sew a costume for the wee ones for Halloween. And no, I am not creative enough to simply find things for a costume at home. I'm just not that person, and I'm ok with it.

First up was Mister Man who had to dress as a 100 year old man for the 100th day of school. Are you kidding me?

Fortunately, he has corduroy pants. That helped. I wanted to make a potbelly for him (thank you to someone for that suggestion) by tying a pillow to his tummy; he was having none of it. Ditto with trying to make a hump for a hunched over old man. Fortunately, I found a plaid shirt that looked sorta old man-ish. Ish.

I was planning to put baby powder in his hair to make it look grey, as well. He wasn't happy with that idea at first, as he's the child who refuses to have the baby powder at the barber because it irritates his already roughed up neck and makes him itch more. Once I explained it was only going on his very thick hair, he was good with it. That said, I assumed I had baby powder I had received in a baby kit somewhere (I never, ever used any). Apparently, either I never did or I tossed it somewhere along the way. Instead, he went as an old man who's a big fan of Just For Men.

The coup de grace that actually made it sort of work? As I was checking my parents' house for any snow damage after the blizzard a couple weeks ago, I discovered a walking cane in the basement. Score!

Little Miss was even more fun. She was supposed to go as her favorite word. Ummm yeah. Her favorite word? I was afraid to even ask her what it was, knowing it would be a nightmare to try to create a costume. Fortunately, Twitter to the rescue, as a few friends graciously provided me with some dumbed down suggestions that even I could create.

Little Miss's costume? She went dressed as a tree. I even made leaves. That said, the leaves started to fall off as we put on her coat. Oops. I explained to her that she was simply a deciduous tree (look, new vocab word!) whose leaves were falling off as it went from summer to fall to winter. Thankfully, she bought it.

Next year, I've learned the teachers provide a list of vocabulary words for us to choose from. Disguise? Cyclone? I'm pretty sure I'll be hitting Twitter again for help.

The wee ones were happy with their costumes, but I have to admit I'm a little ashamed, especially as I saw students with age lines drawn in with makeup (ohhhh, good idea!) or dressed in full on costumes like a present and the like. Not my best parenting week.

I am also giving away a Progresso Souper You Debut gift pack here.

Oh, and while you're at it, I finally set up a Facebook Fan page for my blog. It's way overdue. Go like me on Facebook if you would so I can get an official username - once I get enough likes. You can also follow me on Twitter, too, if you're so inclined.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Cheerios Valentine - For The Birds

It is cold here in Chicago. It's cold enough that we no longer have to send winter gear with the wee ones because they are no longer sent outside for recess. It's a mixed blessing.

On top of that - literally - came the blizzard that has buried everything. Driving home, a hardware store has a sign reminding us that birds are starving right now because their food supply is hidden. Little Miss had a great idea to help them.

With Valentine's Day around the corner, they've been crafting it up in kindergarten, and she's been trying to find ways to do something similar at home. She suggested that we make a valentine for the birds because they need someone to love them this winter.

After we discussed the inability of birds to read, we tried to figure out what they'd like. We decided to make a valentine for them out of Cheerios shaped like a heart - because we thought birds might maybe recognize shapes. After we scratched our heads for awhile, we hit upon it.

I found a white ribbon that we used to string Cheerios. We quickly discovered that it was far easier with our ribbon to use a piece of tape to make the end more conducive to stringing, just like a shoelace. Little Miss had a blast putting it together.

Once we'd strung our ... lots and lots of Cheerios (we started out counting, but we gave up after we lost count a couple times), we found an open place in our yard where we knew birds fly. We very carefully arranged it into the shape of a heart, and then we waited for the birds to come snack at their very special valentine.

So what are you doing special for Valentine's Day?

I am also giving away a Progresso Souper You Debut gift pack here.

Oh, and while you're at it, I finally set up a Facebook Fan page for my blog. It's way overdue. Go like me on Facebook if you would so I can get an official username - once I get enough likes. You can also follow me on Twitter, too, if you're so inclined.

In the interest of full disclosure, Cheerios sent me two boxes of Cheerios and a spring themed gift pack that really makes me wish it were spring now. There is no compensation involved as a member of the Cheerios Blogger Circle.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I Had To Wrestle It From Her Hands

Little Miss has the attitude in life that if you can do it, she can do it better. While this will serve her well later in life, it's also the source of much frustration as the younger sister. Understandably, she doesn't get why it's hard for her to do things that her bigger brother (and Mommy and Daddy) can do so easily.

Reading is a perfect example. While she could read if she tried, the fact that she's the only one in our family struggling with it means she doesn't even want to try. If she can't be the best...

We've been working our way through the Bob Books (which I highly, highly recommend to anyone who is trying to figure out how to encourage a child to read and get more comfortable doing so). I feel like we've been reading them for what seems like years. She'll go through fits and starts where she wants to do them and learn to read and tries hard and then weeks where she won't even look at them because they're too hard and she doesn't know and why won't Mommy just read them to her?

I know she won't go to college not reading, though, and she'll figure it out at her own pace, so I don't worry about it or push her to read the books when she isn't into them. That said, she knows the rule in our house is that she can't get a library card until she has finished the Bob Book series.

Last night, I mentioned to her that her kindergarten class was going on a field trip to the library. Again. She asked if she could check out books if she had her own library card, and yes, she can. Her school has parents send in the cards, and then they manage book checkout at the library. It's pretty cool, and it's yet another reason why I love love love the school she's attending.

She thought about it for a moment before looking up at me. Mommy, I want a library card tonight.

Ummmm, ok? Well, Sweetie, you have homework we have to finish before we can read any of the Bob Books. And you do realize that we have to finish Set 5 and then the two sight word sets we have, right? That's a lot of books.

She nodded determinedly and lost the bad attitude about the homework she'd been moping about for the twenty minutes since she'd gotten off the bus. Within ten minutes, we'd finished all her homework - a genuine miracle.

Forty minutes later, we'd finished Set 5. The Sight Words books were all that were left. We were both delighted to discover that those books were super easy, Mommy. This is just easy peasy book reading and not more advanced than the Set 5 we'd just finished. I'm not sure how, but we just finished the last of the sight words books (there were ten in each of the two sets) before it was time to eat dinner.

Mommy, I finished them. All of them. I can read now. Let's go to the library right now! she exclaimed excitedly, bouncing in every direction around me.

Sweat Pea, we need to eat dinner. If you finish you dinner and we have time before bedtime, I will take you. Otherwise, it will probably have to be this weekend, do you understand?

Shockingly, she sat down and ate her meal with gusto. She drank her milk with nary a complaint (and ohhh now that we're back to rice milk, do we hear complaints on a daily basis, although adding cinnamon to it helps). We trooped into the car and the six degree night with a windchill south of sanity.

Little Miss proudly signed her name to her very first library card last night. She promised to take good care of the books she borrowed with her own card and to be responsible for any fines she might incur - although I'm pretty sure she didn't know what that last phrase meant. It didn't matter. She'd agree to give away her Lotso bear if it meant getting a library card at that point.

Once she had the library card, she held it in front of her like a beacon, proudly announcing to everyone crossing our path that she was the proud owner of a brand, new library card that she got just tonight because I can read! It was pretty cute. She bounced up the stairs to the children's area where she accosted a librarian to determine what books she should bestow the honor of being the first books to come home with her very own, brand new library card.

Two minutes later, she'd selected two Biscuit books she was confident she could read with no assistance from me, and we were on our way. She checked out her books all on her own using our way cool self-checkout technology.

(Ignore the tongue sticking out thing. She fell in school today and bit her tongue hard to the point she was sent to the nurse because the teacher couldn't stop the bleeding. It's sensitive, still, so she's been sticking it out in a misguided effort to get it to heal faster.)

Once the books were officially hers, I reached over to pick up her library card to put it into my wallet. No dice. She swiped it from beneath my fingers before I could grasp it. Mommy, that's my card, not yours. It took a full five minutes of discussing with her before she'd finally turn it over. I actually had to show her where in my wallet I kept Mister Man's library card before she'd agree that I could hold onto it for her because that is my very own card now, Mommy. Because I can read, and I finished the Bob Books, and I got my own library card. I can use it to check out books, and it belongs to me.

Welcome a new reader to our family!

Oh, and while you're at it, I finally set up a Facebook Fan page for my blog. It's way overdue. Go like me on Facebook if you would so I can get an official username - once I get enough likes. You can also follow me on Twitter, too, if you're so inclined.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Homemade Bagel Dogs - Tasty Tuesday!

I love the Super Bowl. I haven't actually seen it yet. Or at least not 90% of it. Why? As much as I love football (and this is why I DVR it), I love hosting my annual Super Bowl party, more. This year, we had somewhere in the neighborhood of 25-30 people, and it was a blast. Hosting that many people of course means that I have to provide food, and I did my duty - cooking from 9am until the first guests were arriving.

Was it worth it? Absolutely. The surprise hit of the night appeared to be my homemade "bagel" dogs. I can't buy the real ones because they now have dairy (Little Miss is again off dairy), but these ones taste better and are super easy to make. I made 72 of them, and there were maybe eight left at the end of the night. So fun. But shhhh, don't tell me about the commercials because I haven't seen most of them yet.

Homemade Bagel Dogs

1 package all beef Kosher hot dogs (mine come in 8 packs)
1/3 c water
1 t yeast
pinch sugar
1 t olive oil
1/4 t salt
1 c flour (or less if it's not at all humid - flour needs to be adjusted based on the humidity in your house)

Place 1/3 c hot (but not steaming - just really warm to the touch) water into a bowl. Add the yeast, sugar and oil. Add 1/2 c flour and stir well to combine. Add the salt and stir again. Slowly add more flour until it comes together and doesn't stick to your fingers. Knead the dough for 10 minutes until it is smooth and nicely pliable.

Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel, and let it rise for an hour.

Cut the hot dogs into three pieces per hot dog (giving you 24 total, if you use my kind of hot dog).

Gently punch down the dough. Break off ping pong ball sized pieces, and roll them in your hand. Flatten slightly with your thumb. Pick up a piece of hot dog and roll the dough around the hot dog. Use your fingers to pinch it together at the seam and then to spread it so that it covers the entire length of the hot dog.

Repeat for all 24 hot dog pieces. As you finish each bagel dog, place it on a sil pat on a jelly roll pan. Once they are all completed, cover the pan with your kitchen cloth and again let them rise for an hour.

(See, much more puffy now - they're ready to be cooked!)

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Remove the towel and bake them for 10 minutes until golden brown and yummy. Serve warm - some people will want ketchup and/or mustard, but they're pretty darn good all on their own.

Enjoy this and more at Tempt My Tummy Tuesday with Blessed With Grace!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Wait, I Don't Get It....

Every month, the fifth graders from Little Miss's school put together a newsletter with creative writing, interviews, polls, random factst, and the like. They also always incldue a page of jokes. Knowing how much Mister Man loves a good joke, I made sure to pull out that page this month and save it for him.

Yesterday, I was doing my best to clean everything I could before the hordes descended for my Super Bowl party. Mister Man, I pointed out. Did you realize that there's a page of jokes for you just sitting next to your place at the table?

Cool! Thanks, Mom! he shouted enthusiastically.

I smiled from the kitchen where I was busily preparing food for the party, waiting to see his reaction from the grade school jokes - some of which were actually somewhat funny.

What's your favorite homemade food? came the first joke a few seconds later.

I paused. I'd read through the jokes when the newsletter had first come home. Not only did I not remember the answer to that one, I didn't remember the joke at all. I glanced at my husband who shrugged; he didn't know the answer either.

I don't know, Sweetie. What's the answer? I asked curiously.

Mexican food! he stated, proudly.

Ummmm, Mister Man, that's a teacher interview. The jokes are on the other side of the paper, I replied, doing my best to hold back the flood of giggles threatening to overtake me.

But hey - that's proof that I read the newsletter cover to cover, right?

So what did the envelope say to the stamp?
Stick with me, Kid. We're going places.

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